The same span of time that I had lost inside a prison.
It was amazing how much had changed.
Thad had shaken off his singleness, had found the man of his dreams, had started his own family.
Colson had become a Henchmen. He had found a woman who made his family complete. Jelena went from the cutest little girl to the most beautiful young woman. Who could dance like a swan. Or kick your ass if you looked at her wrong.
I had a strong, amazing, unexpected support system of fantastic female friends who could seem to sense when I was at my wits end being shacked up with all the kids, and show up at my door with coffee, with new craft projects to keep the kids busy, and would sit with me, having adult conversation that solidified the brain that started to go to mush when all it had to think about was diapers and laundry and if the new show the twins were into was mildly sexist or bully-promoting or not.
There were the men too, a whole new, giant group of brothers. The kind who would change the oil in my car without having to be asked. Who all showed up on the day when a giant swing set arrived, ready to get it all together. Who all happily watched the kids when the girls all wanted to go train at Hailstorm.
And, of course, then there was the best of all the men.
At least in my little opinion.
It was hard to believe it had been a decade. It felt like last month when we had been cuddled in bed after our first night together, eating brownies right out of the baking tray. Just last week that we shopped for houses and watched a stick tell us our lives would never be the same.
He’d been right there in the room, letting me nearly break his hand as we welcomed Rune into the world.
He’d dried my cheeks after an epic meltdown when, suddenly, at just three months, Rune refused to breastfeed any longer, and we needed to switch to bottles.
He’d wrangled Jovie in front of him while I worked on Zora, both of us carefully styling their hair as quickly as possible.
He would sit up with me after we put all the kids to bed, exhausted, but not ready for sleep, wanting some adult time to just exist.
In the mornings, we would take our coffee out to the front porch while Carver played in the gated living room, waving as the bus took Rune, Zora, and Jovie to school.
We’d created a life from what had felt like – at the time – impossible odds.
We’d become the couple I never thought I could have.
We’d become the parents the world had denied us.
He’d been the man I hadn’t even let myself dream about.
So much had changed.
And I was so incredibly thankful.
“Bitch,” Thaddeus said in a low voice, hip free of his new daughter, “what in the actual fuck are you wearing?”
Well, some things stayed exactly the same.
And for them, I was thankful as well.