Chloe: Revisiting History
“Michael, I’m sorry.” I couldn’t stop crying. This was what I’d feared. This was the reason I had avoided the Benningtons as soon as it was announced that Michael was getting married. “I can’t do your wedding. Please, don’t ask this of me.”
“That’s why I’ve stayed away from you and your family since your announcement. I can’t do your wedding, Michael. If you’ve ever considered me your friend, please, please, please…” Damn. What a mess I’d created.
“OK. Calm down. Once you’re of sound mind and you clean up your snotty face, let’s continue this conversation.”
I stopped crying immediately. Michael was right. We were in the middle of a very classy restaurant, and here I was bawling about not wanting to plan his wedding. Was I really in my thirties, whining like a toddler?
I blew my nose, cleaned my face, and made an utter embarrassment out of the both of us. “All right. I’m good,” I told a laughing Michael. “Don’t laugh at me. Now people are looking at us because you’re laughing so loudly.”
“Oh? They’re looking at us because of me?” He laughed even louder. “I’ve missed you, Friend.” He stepped around the two-top, sat next to me and pulled me in for a sweet hug. “I don’t think I’ve laughed this hard in a very long time.”
“Glad to be of entertainment,” I spoke grudgingly. I had to admit, my crazy show was over-the-top.
“Chlo-No, when I spoke of a wedding, I was talking about Grandfather’s wedding, not my own.”
“What? Grandpa Harry’s getting married? What the hell? Why didn’t anyone tell me about this? I didn’t even know he was interested in anyone.”
“Calm down.” We, or better said, I, was attracting attention again. “Can you leave Paris for a few days?”
“Yeah. When did you need me to go back to London?”
“As soon as we finish our meal and it’s not London we’re heading to.” I must have looked completely baffled. “We’re headed to LA.”
“What?” I was so damn confused. “OK. I’ll start eating. You start talking.”
“Grandfather is lonely. He has been for a long while, and I’d like to do something about it.”
“I agree but what can you do?”
“Roland Ascot died a few years back.”
“I heard…” I saw where this was going. “You’re brilliant, Michael! I love how much you love Grandpa Harry.” There was something indefinable in his eyes when I made this statement. “I’m in. Tell me what you need me to do.”
That’s how we ended up in Los Angeles, sipping an Arnold Palmer in Jake and Emily’s backyard.
“I cannot believe how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other, you jetsetter, you.” After many heartwarming hugs, Emily and I were in each other’s company again. “Thank you again for the wonderful birthday presents for the kids.”
“Did they like them?”
“Are you kidding me? Ellie wears her designer yellow dress any chance she gets. Being in uniforms at school, her choices are limited during the school week. As for James, he’d been saving up for the Lego Star Wars Death Star, so you can imagine his surprise when it landed on his doorstep.”
“I’m thrilled they like their gifts. James’ gift was easy, but Ellie’s gift took a little searching. There aren’t too many proper dresses for that in-between age. It’s either too frilly or not enough fabric.”
“There they are now.”
Four stunning kids walked toward us. Elizabeth Reid, with her jet-black hair and piercing blue eyes, looked sixteen more so than her real age of twelve. She appeared tall for her age, but it was hard to get beyond the beauty. She was gorgeous! James Reid, the oldest, had the most serious look of the four. He was tall, lean, and classically handsome. He resembled his mother as his sister resembled her father.
JR reminded me of a football player. Though he was a year younger than the twins, he was almost as tall as James, but looked to outweigh him. He was solidly built, looked more like James’ twin than Ellie did, and had a huge grin on his face. Anyone would feel instantly comfortable with this kid. The youngest was absolutely adorable. If I remembered correctly, he was less than two years younger than JR. He was a replica of his father and his sister. Emily, the superwoman that she is, accomplished the feat of having four kids within four years of one another. It made me almost swoon thinking about the chaos.
“Kids, say hello to Mr. Bennington and Miss Darcy,” Jake introduced us.
“You can call us Michael and Chloe,” Michael said.
“Chloe?” Ellie asked and flailed her body at me.
“Loee?” James questioned and joined in the hug.
“Eeee?” JR added and placed his arms around all of us.
“Who’s she, Mom?” Ian had no clue who I was, regardless of the birthday gifts I’d sent every year since his birth.
“Don’t I get a hug?”
All three kids stopped and stared at Michael until Emily said, “Remember Mr. Bennington? He lives in London and he was here with his grandfather for Grandpa Roland’s funeral.”
We could all tell they had no clue, but they courteously gave him a hug.
Emily told the kids to get their homework done so we could all enjoy the evening together, and like good kids, they whined, argued, protested, and bickered with one another before leaving for their rooms.
“They’re so beautiful, Emily.” I sighed watching them walking away from us. “When did they grow so big? I can’t wait to talk to the kids after they’re done with their homework.”
“By the look in Ellie’s eyes, I could tell she wants to talk to you, too. She always says, ‘Chloe’s job is the coolest job, ever! I’m going to ask her if I can be her apprentice.’ Of course, it’s said right before she tells all of us she’s going to be a heart surgeon like all the Reids on this block.”
“I’d love to have her as an apprentice! Send her my way one summer.”
“Maybe after you’ve married and had a kid or two, I’ll send all my kids to London to babysit for you,” Emily winked.
I had missed Emily. We became friends when we discovered that she and the duke were neighbors in New York. Since then, I had made it a point to keep in touch with her. Whenever there was a wedding in LA, Emily met me for lunch or dinner. She always invited me to stay with the family at their home, but I’d always declined. Something about Reid Place still made me uncomfortable.
Suddenly, all this happiness made me sad. I was thirty-five, alone, and lonely. I hadn’t been on a date in months. I felt like an old maid. I was too old for marriage and a family now. Even if I were to meet a man, marry right away, and try for babies, there was no guarantee I could produce children.
This was what I had been avoiding. I didn’t want to be surrounded by other people’s love. It was when I felt their happiness, that I felt my loneliness.
“You all right?” Michael whispered. “You want to get out of here?” I shook my head no. “I hope you enjoyed your twelve-hour nap on the plane, Chlo-No. You and I have a lot to discuss tonight.”
Groan! I purposely slept on the plane to avoid this talk. It helped that I hadn’t had a good night’s rest in months. Maybe I could stay at Emily’s instead of heading back to the duke’s LA home.