Chapter 41 - Baby Zlatan
"Anybody home?" Mila asked and pushed open the door. She knew the answer already. Jess had asked them to come over only a few hours ago.
"Hey, come on in!" Ray greeted them in the hallway, and Mila reached up to give him a hug.
"Congrats!" She let go again and handed him the handful of baby blue balloons they had brought. She kept the present from London to give to Jess in a moment. "Where is he?"
"In the living room with his mum." Ray practically beamed. Then he looked at Jonathan behind Mila. "Hey Jon."
"Hey." Jonathan seemed a little uncomfortable. Yeah. The two of them still weren't on hug level, though Mila had a feeling it wouldn't be long now. "And congrats." He handed Ray the gift that he had clearly wrapped himself, but still not let Mila in on. She wasn't sure why, but somehow he had seemed embarrassed or shy when she had asked him about it, so she had let it go.
She took off her strappy sandals and watched Jonathan kick off his sneakers, before the two of them joined Jess and the little one in the living room. Ray followed close behind, tying the balloon ribbons to the crib in the corner.
"Oh my God, he's so cute and tiny!" Mila exclaimed at the sight of the newborn asleep in his mother's arms. "And congrats again." She bent down to give Jess as much of a hug as possible without crushing the baby between them. He didn't make a sound.
"Thank you," Jess said with a fond look at the baby boy. "He just ate, so he'll probably be asleep for a while."
Mila glanced at Ray. He had the same fond expression in his eyes when he looked at the baby - and at Jess - that she did.
"We bought you a little something in London," she continued and held up the present that she and Jonathan had bought so many months ago. She had bought much more for her nephew since then, but she wanted to give it little by little.
"In London?" Jess frowned and was unable to take the present from Mila, while also holding the baby. "You wanna hold him?"
"Can I?" She put the present on the coffee table and sat down in the couch next to Jess, excited to get to hold him for the first time.
"Sure." Jess reached the baby boy over to her. He was wrapped in a white blanket with blue and green cars on it, and he was wearing a white beanie with light blue stripes.
"Won't he get too hot in all this?" She knew nothing about babies, but the rest of them were sweating like crazy these days.
"No, newborns lose heat really fast," Jess explained and helped Mila adjust her hands and arms to hold him in the right position. Something cold, like metal, brushed over Mila's naked arm, and she instantly looked at Jess' hand.
"You're wearing a ring!" she exclaimed with wide eyes and watched Jess' face turn into a big smile when she looked up at Ray.
"Yeah, I thought it was time to make an honest woman out of her," he said with a shrug, though the smile on his face told Mila that he was anything but casual about it. He was in love with both Jess and their little family.
"I guess congratulations are in order!" Jonathan said, and for a moment Mila thought he was going to give Ray a hug. He didn't. Instead, his eyes flickered and finally settled on hers. She gave him an encouraging smile, and Jess clearly read something else into it.
"Oh my God!" she exclaimed and widened her eyes. "You guys are also..."
"Uh, no." Mila shook her head. It's not that she hadn't thought about it, but they weren't there yet.
"No, we're gonna let you have that one to yourselves," Jonathan said with a small smile and looked at Mila again.
"Hm," Jess continued. "It would've been nice to get married alongside my best friend, though."
"But won't you?" Mila looked from Jess to Ray. It was a different kind of best friend, but Mila had no doubt that the best friend title in her own life belonged to Jonathan now. She hoped the same applied to Jess and Ray. "And would you really wanna share that day with anyone else"
"You're right," Jess chuckled. "I wouldn't. And yes, he is my best friend." She looked up at Ray, who had begun unwrapping the present from Jonathan. Then she reached out for the present on the coffee table. "You bought this in London? When were you in London?"
"Uh..." Mila tried to hide a smile. "Back when we weren't supposed to be in London together."
"Oh, you mean back when you were so morally corrupted that you sneaked around with our boss behind everyone's back?" Jess asked with a laugh.
"That would be just about right." Jonathan chuckled and then focused on Ray, who was done unwrapping a shoe box.
"Nike? Really?" Ray exclaimed with a look at Jonathan. "You know I prefer Adidas."
Jonathan gave a small laugh and looked around for a place to sit, but then Ray opened the shoe box and held up the contents, and Jonathan hesitated. Mila was as curious as anyone. He had spent quite a few nights in the garage lately, and she had a feeling it had to do with whatever was in the box.
"Little kites?" Ray asked with a frown and a small smile. Then he put down the shoe box and adjusted the thing in his hand to hold on to four blue ribbons of the same length. The ribbons were attached to a star, probably made of wood, and painted with a blue that looked suspiciously like the one on the walls in Logan's bedroom. The star carried six little blue and green kites hanging from thin threads, and Mila felt a pang of longing for the day when Jonathan would create something like that for their own boy or girl.
"Oh, that's so cute!" Jess exclaimed and then looked at Ray, who obviously didn't know what to say. For a moment the silence was sort of awkward. Then Jess started unwrapping the gift from London, and while she and Mila were focused on that and on the baby, Mila saw out of the corner of her eye that Ray gave Jonathan a hug. She glanced at Jess and met her eye, but none of them commented on it. It was easy to tell, though, that Jess was just as thrilled about it as Mila. It had taken them long enough.
"How're Marcus and Aisha doing?" Jess asked, probably trying to make the silence less awkward. "I told Marcus they're welcome to stop by. I haven't seen Aisha since she stopped working at MasterMinds."
"They're doing pretty great." Mila watched the newborn in her arms. "There's been none of that breaking up and getting back together all the time that he had with Gina. I think Aisha's really good for him."
"I'm glad to hear that. But she knows what she wants. She would never lead him on like that."
"No, she wouldn't. And our parents like her, so that makes the family reunions a lot more fun." She glanced at Jonathan, who had finally sat down. He and Ray were talking football. If she wasn't much mistaken, they were talking about the season tickets that Marcus rarely used.
"Have they met Logan?" Jess continued. She knew already that they had met Jonathan on several occasions.
"They have. And my mum more than hinted that Jonathan would be too old for more of those if we didn't get started soon."
"Oh, I can easily imagine." Jess gave a laugh. "Well, you'd better get started, then."
Mila rolled her eyes at Jess and then looked at the boy in her arms again.
"I'm not too old," Jonathan complained and looked from Jess to Ray. "And the father of your newborn is older than me, just sayin'..."
"Only six weeks!" Ray argued.
"Well, but are you too old?"
"I hope not." Jess looked at her son with a fond smile. "I want more of those."
"Can you have them with no more than one year apart, please?" Jonathan asked teasingly and made Mila look up with a curious smile. "Makes it so much easier to find a substitute while you're on leave."
"About that..." Jess grew serious. "I won't be coming back."
"You won't?" Mila asked, and the smile on Jonathan's face subsided a little.
"No." She looked from Mila to Jonathan. "I'll hand in an official resignation, of course, but now you know."
"Does it, by any chance, have anything to do with..." he trailed off.
"Yes, it does." Jess reached over to give his hand a small squeeze. "It's just a bit too awkward."
Jonathan gave a huge sigh and then smiled a little to himself. "Well, I guess I won't go down in history as the man who knew how to keep his employees on. I mean, first Louise..." He glanced at Mila. "Then Ray, then Aisha, and now you? I'm beginning to feel like it's personal."
"It sure is," Jess said with a chuckle. "But if no one else has left, I'd say you're not doing too bad."
"No one else has," he stated with a small smile and looked at the baby boy in Mila's arms. "I think it's my turn to hold him."
Ray took the newborn and placed him in his arms. He was still sound asleep, and the fondness in Jonathan's eyes when he looked at him almost took Mila's breath away. No, they weren't ready yet - she wasn't ready yet - but someday...
"Have you agreed on a name yet?" she asked and looked back at Jess.
"No, not yet. We've talked about a few, but we haven't agreed on one."
"Lots of people choose their grandparents' names these days," she suggested. "Is there anything there? Ray, what're your grandfathers' names?"
"On my mum's side, it's Zachary."
"Yeah, so we're not naming him after Ray's grandpa," Jess said. "The other one is still alive, and it would feel a bit strange to name him after someone who's still here."
"Well, I can't tell you what to do, of course, but I'd appreciate it if you'd pick something else than..."
"Don't worry." Jess squeezed her hand. "We would never call him that."
"Thank you." A lump appeared in her throat as so often before. If only she hadn't cared anymore.
"How're you doing?" Jess asked quietly, when Jonathan and Ray began talking baby names, and one of them mentioned Zlatan. Mila didn't know much about football, but she was pretty sure she had heard the name a few times when Jonathan had watched it on TV. "I mean, about that."
"I'm okay." She looked away. "I still get nightmares, but not as frequently as right after..."
"You're still seeing someone about it, right?"
"Yes. I probably will for a long time to come."
"What about..." Jess glanced at Jonathan.
"He had a few sessions. He seems to be doing fine. He doesn't worry too much about what could've been."
"No, I guess that's more you and me."
"What about Logan?"
"They still have someone over to talk to him regularly. He had nightmares for a while. But I think he's doing really well now. No permanent damage done."
"That must be a relief."
"Yeah." Mila looked at Jonathan again, and though he and Ray were still talking football baby names, he glanced back at her and gave her a smile. It still made her heart flutter, though he probably didn't even realise.
Mila and Jonathan didn't stay long, as Jess was tired, and the three of them probably needed some family time. Zlatan was only two days old, as Ray so eloquently put it, earning an eye-roll from Jess, who most definitely didn't agree on the name. Jonathan chuckled. He certainly agreed.
"You know, I've never been a bridesmaid before..." Mila trailed off as she gave Jess a hug in the hallway. Baby Zlatan was in his crib back in the living room.
"Very subtle," Jess said sarcastically and hugged her back. "But we haven't decided on anything yet. I don't think it will be some huge church wedding with bridesmaids and groomsmen and everything."
"But if it will..."
"You'll be maid of honour."
"Thank you!" She let go of Jess again. "Please, don't be pregnant when we throw your hen party!"
Jess gave a laugh but didn't comment on it.
"See you at football practice tonight?" Jonathan asked Ray and made Mila want to lash out at him. That was just plain stupid under these circumstances.
"Yeah, you don't mind, do you?" Ray looked at Jess, who just rolled her eyes at him. "Nah, I'd better not," he continued and glanced back at the living room, though he couldn't see the crib from the hallway. "Maybe next week."
"Alright." Jonathan gave a teasing smile and then looked at Mila, when he was done putting on his sneakers. "Ready to go?"
She nodded and took his hand, saying her goodbyes to Jess and Ray.
"You didn't actually expect Ray to come to football practice tonight, did you?" Mila asked when they were back on the road. Jonathan was driving as usual, and she was scrolling through her Facebook feed. She reacted with hearts on all the pictures of baby Zlatan. A few months ago she never liked or reacted to anything. It hadn't been safe.
"Of course not." He reached over to take her hand. "Do we need anything from the store before we go home?"
"I don't think so. Do we have time to go for a walk?"
"Sure, I don't have anywhere else to be the next two weeks."
No, neither did Mila. Well, except they had to pick up Logan in a couple of days' time, so he could come and spend the rest of their holidays with them.
It didn't take long before the suburbs turned rural. Jonathan knew exactly where she wanted to go. They had spent quite a few summer evenings walking in the forest, with and without Logan. Even though she wasn't alone with them right there next to her, it still recharged her, and she knew that Jonathan enjoyed the peace and quiet, too. Sometimes they brought his parents' dog, so Logan would have someone to play with. He had asked for a pet for a long time now, and Mila had been just as excited as the boy, when Jonathan had finally given in to getting a cat. They hadn't picked one yet, though. They were going to, when Logan joined them in a few days' time.
"You know, I'm thinking about changing back my name on Facebook," she said after a while. They were almost there. "I mean, it's been a long time since I added a profile picture..."
"A really nice one, I might add," Jonathan said and glanced at her with a smile. Yeah. He was in it. She was standing behind him with her arms around his neck and her chin on his head. Marcus had taken the picture and said something about his 9mm and a shovel, so Jonathan was rolling his eyes in the photo, and Mila was laughing.
"Yeah. It is," she agreed. "But I think I'm ready to change back my name, too." Jonathan let go of her hand to turn the car down the gravel road to the forest. He didn't comment on it. "What? You think it's a bad idea?"
"No, it's just..."
"If you're gonna change your name, anyway, why don't we make it Westwood?" He glanced at her and then focused on the road again.
What? Mila's heart beat a lot faster like all of a sudden. Was he asking her to marry him?
"Is this because Ray popped the question to Jess?" she asked instead of replying. Her heart was racing when he parked the car in the roadside right at the brink of the forest.
"No, silly, it's not." He took off his seatbelt. "It's because I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
"But why now? Why today?" If this was just another part of their silly feud... "Why right after you found out about Ray and Jess?"
"Okay, believe it or not, but I've actually been waiting for you to talk about changing your name. It may be stupid, but... I thought it was sort of original. It's got nothing to do with Ray. We're long past that. But if you're not ready, then we'll wait." Jonathan sighed and reached into the pocket of his jeans shorts. "But I've already got the ring, just in case you don't believe me." He pulled out a ring - no box - and showed it to her as if it were no big deal. It was. It was a huge deal. And the ring was really pretty. Simple, but pretty. Just as she liked it.
"You're just carrying it around like that?" she exclaimed, her heartbeat still much too fast. "Jonathan, what if you lose it? I hope it wasn't expensive!"
He just chuckled and put it back in his pocket with a shrug. "It was a little expensive."
"Oh my God, I'm ruining the moment, aren't I?" Mila covered her face with her hands. Her cheeks were burning. "I'm so sorry!"
"You're not ruining it." He took her hand again. "But you know how you could make sure to save it?"
"Was that a yes, you know or a yes, you'll marry me?"
"Both." God, she felt stupid. She totally ruined it.
Jonathan reached over to kiss her, and only then did it occur to her that he had been nervous. His warm lips pressed gently on hers, until she separated them a little and let her tongue brush over his. He put a hand on her neck to pull her even closer, and the heat shot through her at the intensity in his kiss. If they hadn't been in public, she wouldn't have broken away from it.
"Did you..." She cleared her throat and pulled a little away. "Did you ask my parents first?"
"No." He chuckled and brushed his thumb over her hand. "But your dad did say out of the blue a while ago that I had his blessing. And Marcus told me the same thing right after we started dating. Before we moved in together."
"Oh, God, no! My family totally pressured you into this!" Mila exclaimed, though she knew it wasn't true.
"Totally." He gave her a teasing smile and got out of the car. She followed his example and reached out for his hand again as soon as she was close enough, but he reached into his pocket instead and took out the ring again. "I should probably..." he trailed off and looked at her hand. "I mean, unless you think it's ugly. Or you don't wanna wear a ring. Or..."
"Jonathan, I love it," she assured him and let him put it on her finger. It was rather discreet, and it could easily pass for a regular ring. He knew her too well. But her heart was still hammering when the ring was on her finger and he looked up at her again.
"You might wanna take it off when you're with Jess." He gave her another kiss.
"We promised not to steal their spotlight, didn't we?"
"Oh. Yeah. But she knows me too well. She'll figure it out."
"Let's just give it a shot, anyway. I'd hate for Ray to think I did it on purpose."
"You'll never stop competing, will you?"
"Probably not." Jonathan gave a crooked smile and took her hand, brushing his thumb over the ring. "But I sort of owe this to him."
"What do you mean?"
"If he hadn't tried to beat me to it back then, I might still have been waiting to make a move."
"You should tell him." She laced her fingers with his. "He loved the mobile, by the way."
"Yeah, I noticed."
"It was a really sweet thing to do."
"You know what I love?" Jonathan said and stopped to face her again.
"Among other things."
She let go of his hand to give his chest a gentle slap, but he caught it again and pulled her close for another kiss.
"Always so romantic." She rolled her eyes and kissed him back.
"I thought you knew that by now." He sighed happily and took her hand again to walk on. "But I guess you still don't know my type."
"Oh, I do." She laced her fingers with his again. "And I happen to love your type."
"That's fortunate, 'cause I happen to love your type."
Mila smiled happily as she watched the butterflies flutter around in the tall roadside grass. Inside, the bubbly feeling had returned, and she held up her hand to take another look at the ring. It was perfect. He knew her too well.
A/N: Alright, so just how cheesy on a scale from 1 to 10 was this? I'll be posting a separate story from Jonathan's POV in a short while, so make sure to follow to get the notification e-mail. :)
I'm currently editing the first book in a new series about the quirky Detective Inspector Tybalt. He's arrogant and a hypocrite, but he's also adorably ignorant, and I love him to bits. The genres are romance, friendship, crime, murder mystery, and #ownvoice autism (you probably wouldn't call that a genre, but still). If you want a notification when I post the first chapter, make sure to click that follow button! :)
Thank you to everyone who's read this far, followed me or the story, favourited me or the story, and, of course, to everyone who's left reviews. I'm grateful to each and everyone of you for taking the time to even consider it. Without you, this would've been sort of a lonely ride.
Oh, and I promise you all, I've learnt to write shorter chapters. Much shorter. No more 11k-word chapters again. Ever. XD
Love you guys, and please stay safe! *heart*