Three Years Later—‘Maybe, Baby’

Marco really is a beautiful little boy. I know every mother says that or at least thinks it about their own child, but in Marco’s case it’s true. Just last week, I was approached by a woman who said she was a scout for a modeling agency, and that she was sure she could get plenty of work for him: catalogues, magazines, even TV commercials.

She was pretty pushy, and couldn’t believe that I wasn’t interested in making money out of my two-year-old son. I took her card out of politeness, but I really wanted to tell her to shove it where the sun don’t necessarily shine.

My language skills have plummeted since my marriage to a certain potty-mouthed former-Marine named Sebastian Hunter. Two and three-quarter years of marriage haven’t managed to curtail the habits picked up from his ten years in the United States Marine Corps. He swears like a drunken sailor on shore leave—and he doesn’t even notice he’s doing it.

But I think the fact that Marco is starting to talk and understand whole sentences, might have a more salutary effect than all of my nagging. But I’m not holding my breath: if Marco drops the f-bomb at Kindergarten, I’m blaming his father.

My eyes must have glazed over because the model agency woman was staring at me like I was simple. But then she spotted something behind me, and I saw her suck in her stomach and stick out her boobs.

I could almost predict what she’d seen. Right on cue, I heard Marco’s happy whoop as Sebastian scooped him into his arms.

“Papa! Papa!”

Hearing my son using those words was a bittersweet experience. Now I was a mother, I missed my own dear father so much more. We named our son after him.

“Hey, little man!”

And I turned around as Sebastian plastered a loud, squishy kiss on the top of Marco’s head, causing him to laugh and squeal.

“I can see where your son gets his looks,” said the agency woman, her gaze ravaging Sebastian’s body.

I couldn’t blame her for looking. I’d long suspected that half of the mothers in the park came here at this hour to enjoy the scenery: and I wasn’t talking about the wonderful view across the beach toward the ocean. I was talking about 6’2” of solid muscle, sculpted abs, broad firm pecs, an ass you could bounce a quarter off (which I knew for a fact, having spent an enjoyable pre-baby afternoon doing exactly that), all topped by a face so beautiful that I was used to people stopping to do a double-take. I’m biased, of course, but it was no exaggeration that men and women were drawn to Sebastian’s ridiculous good looks.

But the best thing, the absolute best thing, was that he was always smiling. Happiness radiated from him. And because there was a time when it seemed like he’d never be happy again, each smile was a small miracle, a special gift, and I treasured every one of them.

The agency woman was still eye-fucking my husband.

“Have you ever done any modeling?” she purred, one hand raised as if she wanted to stroke his stomach. “Because I was just telling the nanny—clients would pay a lot of money to use photographs of you and your son in an advertising campaign.” She laughed lightly. “Obviously the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.”

The nanny? Good to know that my son’s looks had absolutely nothing to do with me. Although, to be fair, he did look far more like Sebastian than me. Except for his eyes. Marco had my eyes: brown. Well, I called them brown, Sebastian called them hot chocolate, which always made me laugh. His own eyes were a remarkable shade of blue-green, that seemed to change like the color of the ocean.

Sebastian shot me an amused glance as he balanced Marco on his hip, transferring his weight to his good leg.

Even though he’d worked hard to retain a high level of fitness, his injuries from Afghanistan still bothered him; more so when he was tired, or when the weather was particularly cold.

But today it was hot and sunny, and all he was wearing was a small pair of running shorts, his chest and shoulders glowing with sweat. Delicious.

“Yeah, I do modeling,” he said, looking straight at the agency woman as she started to drool. “But only in private … for my wife. Hey, baby.”

Then he leaned down to kiss me, and the agency woman looked as if she had been wading through dog poop in her $600 Laboutins.

“Oh. You’re the mother.”

I raised my eyebrows at her but she didn’t even have the courtesy to blush. She shoved another business card at Sebastian and threw the words, “Call me!” over her shoulder.

“You gonna bitch-slap her, Caro?” he asked, nuzzling my ear, “’cause you really look like you want to right now.”

“Not at all,” I said, primly. “I’m modeling good behavior for our son.”

He smirked at me. “I love it when you’re good, baby, but I love it even more when you’re bad.”

After that encounter, it was nap time. Marco slept soundly while I was thoroughly fucked by 190 pounds of prime manhood.

Sebastian called it ‘practice’. What he meant was that we were hoping to conceive baby number two. He didn’t say it, but I knew that he hoped Marco wasn’t going to be an only child. Sebastian had grown up alone and he didn’t want that for his son. Thank goodness he’d met Ches and the Peters’ family when he was 13. It was the only time he’d known what a real home was like—until now.

But unlike my impossible-to-wear-out 30-year-old husband, I was 43; having a toddler running around who was learning how to get into everything, was exhausting enough. We’d been trying for another baby for the last year. I was beginning to think it would never happen.

It wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t, but still, I hoped.

Every month I’d be disappointed when my period started. Even this morning, my heart pounding like a subway train in rush hour, I’d peed on a little plastic stick. I was two days late, and I had my fingers crossed, my eyes crossed, although not my legs crossed—obviously.

Not Pregnant.

The words on that little piece of white plastic haunted me. I wanted to cry but then a little golden-haired bundle of cuteness tugged on my leg.

“Beach, mommy!”

I’m instantly smiling.

I was supposed to be working on an article for one of the nationals about wounded service men and women learning to surf. But the sun was shining, and my walking, talking, loving son wanted to go to the beach. I shut down my laptop, and was a willing accomplice to his desire to sit on sun-warmed sand and paddle in the ocean.

Besides, my deadline was still several days away. And over the past three years since Sebastian and I had met again, I’d learned not to take these precious moments for granted. Work could wait; even work I greatly enjoyed.

I picked up my beach bag that was waiting by the front door, ready for action. It was a sort of mommy’s version of my journalist’s grab bag for emergency evac. But instead of passport, solar-powered phone charger, first aid supplies, dried food, water, flashlight, and pocket knife, I now carried baby wipes, mints, sun screen, cell phone, swim diapers, pail and shovel, a towel, some water and a snack, wallet and three baseball caps. Today we’d only need two because Sebastian was in the city working at the gym, although only for the morning. He didn’t usually work on a Sunday, but he was doing it as a favor for one of his clients.

Over the last two years, he’d really started to build his business as a personal fitness trainer, specializing in people who’d suffered traumatic injury, including loss of limbs. Not all of his clients were ex-military. One 19-year-old he worked with had lost a leg in a motorcycle accident, and another was born without the lower portion of his left arm.

Sebastian had lost 17% of the muscle from his right thigh, and was left with femoral nerve dysfunction, which could be very painful at times. He’d also been shot in his shoulder and had diminished motor skills in his left hand. You’d hardly know it to look at him, although when he wore his running shorts, the ugly scar covering the upper portion of his right leg was hard to miss.

He’d been very self conscious of it at one time, but now it didn’t bother him when people openly stared. I was more likely to be annoyed by their curiosity than he was.

A couple of months ago he’d starting volunteering as one of the instructors for the Wave Warriors Surf Camp at Virginia Beach. So every other weekend throughout the summer, we were making the seven hour drive south and joining in with the other ex-services families. I’d gotten to know some really amazing people, some of whom were the focus of my article.

And Marco loved it. He was turning into a little surf rat, taking after his father in so many ways. They even shared the same crazy mop of blond hair, although Sebastian was threatening to shave his off again, saying it was getting too long. I’d begged him to keep it, but I wasn’t sure how much longer I’d win that battle.

As far as the surfing went, the long-term plan was for Sebastian to start a similar surf camp for veterans nearer to home.

But right now, we were waiting on even more exciting news. His work with disabled people had been noticed, and the gym manager had put Sebastian’s name forward to be a personal trainer at the Rio in 2016 for the US Paralympics team. Essentially, he’d be helping athletes to use the on-site equipment, although it was a job that was more about kudos than pay. He’d been learning Portuguese via an interactive online program in the hope that this would help his application, even though it wasn’t a requirement. He was picking it up easily, which was very annoying, as my own language skills were severely limited, but damn, I was proud of him, too.

If he got the job, I was planning to join him for at least one of the three weeks he’d be there. At first, I’d been reluctant to agree to go, not wanting to be a distraction while he was focusing on something so important. But then he said he’d been away from me long enough during the ten years we were apart—a comment that filled me with guilt, almost as much as it made me swoon. We were undecided on whether Marco would come with us. If not, Ches and Amy had offered to take him. But Sebastian wanted his son with him, and I suspected he’d get his way. I found it hard to say no to him, a fact which he exploited shamelessly at times.

Once a year, we made a point of traveling out to San Diego to spend time with Sebastian’s best friend, Ches, and his family. Not only that, but Ches’s parents now lived on the west coast and I thought it was good for Marco to have a chance to experience what it was like to have grandparents. Sebastian was estranged from both his mother and father, and I hadn’t heard a word from my mom in 13 years. We’d never got along, and my divorce from David gave her the excuse she’d wanted to cut me out of her life. I knew she was still alive, but that was all.

I didn’t want Marco to miss out on anything, and Ches’s parents, Shirley and Mitch, treated him as part of their family, and Sebastian had always been a second son to them. I wanted to make sure we kept as much connection as was possible even though we lived 3,000 miles apart.

I loved living at Long Beach. It was near enough to urban life, but also had a real small town community vibe about it. And very importantly as far as Sebastian was concerned, it had a good-size surf, with waves coming off the Atlantic that provided long, workable rides.

While Marco and I were strolling toward the beach, I texted my girlfriends to see if they wanted to come and join us. They enjoyed driving out from the city, leaving behind the frantic bustle to have some quality beach time. They also enjoyed ogling the local surfers as they dove through the blue-gray waves, their perfectly toned bodies rippling in the summer sun. Let’s just say they enjoyed the window-dressing.

Things were changing in my group of friends. Nicole had started dating some high-powered Swiss banker, so they only saw each other every couple of weeks. It wouldn’t have suited everyone, but it seemed to work for them. Jenna was still happily single, but Alice had recently become engaged to a fellow professor at NYU, an archeologist who was currently away on a fieldtrip in Peru.

It was rare that the four of us got together these days, so it was almost like old times, except for the fact that Marco was making sandcastles next to us.

Sebastian joined us an hour later, thankful to be back from the madness that was NYC. He scooped up Marco to go for a swim, which meant having Marco’s chubby arms fastened around Sebastian’s neck as he swam up and down.

“It’s almost indecent how hot your husband is,” sighed Nicole. “And seeing him with Marco, I swear my ovaries start doing salsa moves.”

I laughed. “Thinking of joining the club, Nic?”

“God, no! I’ll leave motherhood to you, Lee. You’re a natural—you make everyone else look bad.”

I snorted. “Hardly. It’s an uphill struggle sometimes, and I’m not getting any younger.”

Alice looked at me sympathetically. “Still feeling broody?”

I sighed. “I don’t know. Yes, no, maybe. Sometimes I think … well, if it’s meant to be, it will.”

Jenna patted my arm. “Whatever happens, Lee, you’ve got Sebastian behind you. That man completely adores you.”

“Yes,” agreed Nicole. “Actually, it’s rather nauseating.”

We all laughed, and the subject was dropped.

 

The following Monday, Sebastian texted me to say he’d be late home. His Afghan friend, Atash, had asked him to drop in after work.

Atash was a near neighbor. He and his family were refugees from Lashkar Gah in the south of Afghanistan, one of the few Shi’a Muslims in Helmand Province, a largely Sunni area.

Some people thought it strange that Sebastian was friends with Afghans, when it was people from that nation who’d caused his life-changing injury and killed two of his colleagues in front of him. But Sebastian never blamed individuals; his hatred was saved for the politicians who’d let it happen.

But I’d been waiting for hours, watching the lasagna I made slowly desiccating in the oven, and Marco had to go to bed without Daddy’s goodnight kiss. He was very grumpy about that, and I thought it might be tantrum time. I had to promise that Daddy would sneak in and kiss him when he got home. Marco was satisfied with that. Just about.

When I finally heard the front door open and close again quietly, it was nearly 11PM.

“Hey, baby,” Sebastian said, tiredly.

He slumped down next to me on the couch, his limp more pronounced than usual, and I curled up into his side.

“Is everything okay?”

He sighed heavily.

“Yeah, I guess. I’ve been with Atash and his family for the last four, God, five hours.”

He rubbed his forehead, and I started to pull away, meaning to go to the kitchen and get him something to eat.

“Later,” he said, tightening his arms around me. “There’s something I need to talk to you about.”

“Okay,” I said, cautiously.

His serious tone was making nervous, but then Sebastian’s smile quirked up one side of his beautiful lips.

“It’s nothing bad,” he said. “Not really.”

“So what’s up?”

He leaned back and closed his eyes, settling me onto his chest. As I felt the steady rise and fall of his warm body, I began to relax again.

“Atash has a cousin—some sort of second cousin 37 times removed,” he began.

I had to smile. Working out Atash’s family relations was an impossible task.

“He’s arrived in the US and landed on Atash. They’re kind of cramped there already … and he has this kid with him … another distant cousin, or something; I don’t think he even knows how they’re related. Anyway, her parents were killed during an IED explosion in the market at Now Zad. Caro, she doesn’t have anyone really, and she’s only three. Her name is Sofia.”

“Sebastian, what are you trying to tell me?”

He opened his eyes and gazed down at me.

“We have room here,” he said, softly.

“What? You didn’t! You didn’t make any promises, did you?” I said, pulling away from him.

“Not exactly…” he muttered.

“Then exactly what, Hunter?” I snapped.

“I just thought … well, it would be good for Marco to have a big sister, wouldn’t it? I mean, I know that you could still … but she needs a home now, Caro. You should see her: she’s so cute, with all this long, brown hair and big brown eyes. She kinda reminds me of you.”

His smile was wistful and I felt my heart miss a beat.

“So… what does that mean? What do you think is going to happen? That’d she’ll come and live with us for a while? What happens when Marco becomes attached to her and then she just leaves? There are laws in this country, Sebastian. You can’t just go around taking children from their families!”

“I know that, Caro,” he said calmly as my voice began to rise. “We could … help … maybe … adopt her? She needs someone, baby. Sure, she’s got Atash’s family, but they’re busting at the seams there, and she needs something secure. Fuck knows what she’s been through already. She lost her parents … she saw them die.”

My heart went out to that lost little girl, but I had to be practical here, because God knows Sebastian wasn’t going to be.

“Do you even know if they’ve entered the country legally? And Child Services need to be informed so…”

“Fuck that! I have no idea and I don’t care. Rules aren’t for us, baby. They never were —not when it really matters, not when the law is shit and makes no fucking sense.”

His words stung me. I wanted to cry out and yell and say, No! There are consequences. Look what happened last time—we lost 10 years! But I didn’t. I couldn’t.

“She needs us now,” he stressed, gripping my shoulders. “Baby, you’ve got so much love to give. You’re an awesome mom. You’re amazing with Marco, so fucking patient. We can do this, Caro. We can give her the home she needs.”

“Does she even understand English?”

“No, but that won’t be a problem. She’s Pashtun—I can talk to her.”

“There are rules! We’d have to apply to be her adoptive parents and that could take a couple of years and…”

His eyes sparkled. “So that’s a yes?”

“It’s a maybe,” I said tentatively, feeling angry at being bulldozed and guilty about being the sensible one. “This isn’t something we can go into without really thinking it through.”

“So we’ll go see her tomorrow,” he said, pulling me into another hug.

“I said maybe!”

But I knew I was losing the battle. The truth was, I didn’t want to win it, but I had to be sensible. Taking on another woman’s child—I didn’t know if I could do it.

That night, Sebastian made slow, sweet love to me, whispering hot, dirty, passionate words in my ear, worshipping me with his body. At times like this, it felt like life had a greater meaning than the two of us, than our small family. It was hard to explain, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to try and see how the magic worked.

Sebastian fell asleep quickly that night, but I lay awake for hours, thinking, wondering. I tried hard to keep the practical problems in front of me: lack of space in our little bungalow for one, adoption procedures for another. Maybe I was too old to be approved as an adoptive mother. I just didn’t know. And there was a good chance that Child Services would think Sofia would be better off with another Afghan family, people who shared her culture and religion. But if we did go ahead, it would undoubtedly help that Sebastian spoke Pashto, but still … were we the right family for her? And how would Marco react? The only child, suddenly presented with a ready-made sister?

My eyes widened as I realized that I’d already thought of Sofia as his sister.

I watched Sebastian sleeping for a long time.

Moving as quietly as I could, I rolled out of bed.

“Where’re you going?” he murmured, sleepily.

Darn Marine! He slept like a cat.

“Bathroom,” I whispered.

He grunted something inaudible and rolled onto his side.

Instead, I headed for my laptop, stopping briefly to look in on Marco.

He looked like a tiny angel, a cherub, his face flushed from sleep, one arm flung over his head. My heart skittered, and I pulled the door to, but not closed.

I flipped up the laptop’s lid, and switched it on.

I was journalist and I needed facts: they were my bread and butter.

The bottom line was that in order to even have a child see a doctor it would need to be under our insurance or else pay out of pocket. If we wanted to add Sofia to our insurance, we would need a birth certificate or court documents. The same held true for going to school. We would need to have proof of custody or guardianship or a birth certificate in order to register her. So technically, Sofia could live with us for months, but not long term. We would need to make arrangements to adopt her and start the process immediately.

I batted the idea back and forwards for hours, unsure what to do, finally crawling back to bed and falling asleep a couple of hours before dawn.

I was woken too early by some small person yanking on my arm, wanting pancakes and a glass of milk.

Sebastian sat up yawning, and exhausted as I was, I couldn’t help but appreciate the beauty of his hard body, tousled hair, and sleep-softened face.

“Let mommy rest, buddy. She’s real tired.”

He pulled on his running shorts and a t-shirt, discreetly tucking his morning wood away, before taking Marco by the hand, their voices disappearing in a quiet murmur.

Of course, I couldn’t get back to sleep, and in the end I got up and showered, my body still half asleep, my mind whirring.

When I staggered into the kitchen, Sebastian was halfway through burning a batch of pancakes. Okay, they weren’t completely burned, but perhaps just a little darker than I would have made them. His cooking skills had only improved slightly. Very slightly.

I took over while he poured milk into a sippy cup for Marco, and made us coffee. I felt his warm hands circle my waist as I stacked the pancakes.

“So, any thoughts?”

“Lots of them, and all confused.”

“Oh, okay.”

There was a world of disappointment in those two words.

“But I think we should go and see her—see Sofia—as a family.”

“Really?”

I turned to face him and his eyes were lit up with surprise and pleasure.

“Really? You’ll go see her?”

“Yes, but it’s just to say hello. Nothing more.”

I said the words, but inside it felt like that once we’d seen her, there’d be no going back.

Marco picked up on Sebastian’s excitement, and went running around the kitchen yelling and shrieking at a piercing level. He laughed even louder when Sebastian pretended to chase him, and I left them playing hide and seek with the kitchen furniture.

Dear God! If Sofia did join our family, I was in danger of having two toddlers, and one grown-up kid who was more work than the rest of them combined. I couldn’t help smiling at the thought.

A sister for Marco. Our daughter.

I gave myself a good talking to for jumping the gun, but the nervous excitement was bubbling up inside me, too, as we reached Atash’s house.

Two men I didn’t recognize were sitting on the steps, but they seemed to know Sebastian, calling out a greeting. He replied, “As-salaamu’ alaykum,” and I smiled and nodded as we walked inside.

As usual, organized chaos flowed through the small house. Children ran screaming happily, and the babble of voices filled every room. Sebastian hadn’t been joking when he said the house was splitting at the seams. Atash’s house had become an informal community center for the local Afghan population. A good number of them seemed to use it as a staging post to start their journey to other family members spread across the country.

Atash came to greet us, offering the ubiquitous sweet tea. We both accepted, even though I couldn’t stand the stuff, my teeth aching just from looking at it. Sebastian tolerated it better, but had perfected the practice of making one small cup last as long as his visit entailed.

Marco ran out into the tiny backyard, completely at home, mingling happily with the other children, uncaring that they spoke a different language. Maybe when you’re a child, that’s the only language you need.

Sebastian nudged me.

“That’s her. The one sitting by the fence.”

A small girl in a dowdy brown shalwar kameez was pushing her hands in the sandy soil and making a dusty pile in front of her. Her hair was long and loose and her feet were bare, a pair of tattered flip-flops lying next to her. Even though she was a year older than Marco, she didn’t appear much bigger.

She glanced up suddenly, and her huge brown eyes made me catch my breath. She looked so lost and alone, such an adult expression of suffering on her small face.

I could help myself. I went over and sat next to her, kicking off my sandals and making my own mud pie next to hers. She watched me seriously, then continued to make her pile grow, her hands and nails filthy, like mine.

“Sofia,” I said quietly, not looking at her. “That’s a pretty name.”

There was the tiniest pause, when she heard her own name.

I talked quietly, chattering about nothing in particular, until Marco came and plopped himself in my lap.

Sofia’s eyes widened, and after a moment’s thought, she reached out to touch his gold-colored hair.

Marco squirmed and blinked with one eye scrunched up. Without warning, he launched himself at her, squashing her mud pie completely flat then laughing like a small hyena.

And that was it. They were up and running around the garden together, squawking and chattering, each with their own childish babble.

Sebastian came and sat down in the dirt next to me.

“What do you think?”

I shook my head slowly. “I think I’m in a lot of trouble.”

He put his arm around my shoulder and pulled me in for a hug.

“Guess we’ll be in trouble together then.”

“Guess we will.”

 

Of course, it wasn’t as simple as that. Child Services were horrified by the informal way everything had happened, and threatened to take Sofia away. But by then, she’d been living with us for six weeks and had settled incredibly well. And yes, I admit it; we’d deliberately dragged our feet informing them. They continued to be quite threatening for a while, but I played the journalism card, and then the refugee card on Sofia’s behalf. Sebastian threw in the vet card as well as the work he’d done in the local refugee community, and in the end, they had to admit that they didn’t have any better alternatives to offer her. A fact that we already knew.

Her formal adoption would take much longer, but to us that was merely a thin strip of red-tape.

Marco loved his new ready-made sister and she seemed happy, as well, although there were times when she was too quiet and we wondered what heavy thoughts and memories troubled her.

She had night terrors sometimes, but that was something we understood, having lived through Sebastian’s PTSD as well as my own grim, clouded souvenirs of war.

We’d decided that it was important for Sofia to know as much about her own culture as possible, so we spent even more time with Atash and his extensive family. Not only that, but Sebastian spoke to her in Pashto, so she wouldn’t lose her language. I spoke to her in English, and she seemed to grasp that distinction very easily. Soon, she was chattering away in both languages. Marco took it all in his stride, but surprised us one day by calling Sebastian ‘baba’—the Pashto version of ‘daddy’. It seemed likely that we’d have two bi-lingual children on our hands.

Sofia had been with us for three months and I couldn’t have been happier, but then something else happened that sent my well ordered world spinning on a different axis. Again. And I blamed Sebastian. That man had always been trouble. God, I loved that about him. One of the many things.

Marco and Sofia were safely corralled, playing in the backyard. Sebastian was in the living room doing sit-ups, a sight that very nearly distracted me from what I had to say.

I sat down on the edge of the couch, more than a little anxious.

He grinned at me as he caught me checking out his abs. Alright, I was counting them—and possibly imaging running my tongue over them.

He winked and did another ten crunches before I got up the nerve to speak.

“Sebastian, we need to talk about your … about your disability money.”

He stopped immediately and scowled.

The money he’d been given for his injuries had been gathering dust in a bank account, untouched for three years.

“For fuck’s sake, Caro! You know I don’t want anything to do with that. It feels … I just can’t.”

“I know, but we’re going to need it. Now we have Sofia.”

He sighed.

“They’re just kids, Caro. They can share a room for a few years.”

“Yes, but I think we’ll need somewhere bigger than the bungalow before that.”

“You need an office, baby. I know. Maybe I could build something in the yard and…”

“No, Sebastian. We’ll need another bedroom.”

His eyebrows drew together in a frown. “Why? What did you do?”

I took his hands in mine and smiled at him. “It’s more what you did.” Nope, the penny wasn’t dropping. He continued to look at me blankly; I was going to have to spell it out. “I’m pregnant.”

His eyes widened. “Holy fuck!”

“Quite. And if I remember correctly, that’s what I said at the time.”

He gave a happy shout of laughter and picked me up in his arms, whirling me around. Then he put me down as carefully as if he were handling glass.

“Fuck me, you’re amazing!”

“You’re pretty amazing yourself, Sebastian. You’re so great with Marco and Sofia. You think you can handle another one?” I laughed a little anxiously. “Three kids under the age of five.”

“Yeah, that’s really something.”

He shook his head disbelievingly. “Everything’s changing so fast.”

My heart clenched painfully.

“Too fast?”

“Fuck, no! It’s just more … more than I ever dared dream of. You, Marco, and then Sofia. Now this. It’s so fucking amazing, it scares me. I feel like I don’t deserve to be such a lucky bastard.”

That was so typical of him, and I was going to spend the rest of my life proving that he deserved every good thing that happened to him.

“You’re everything I ever wanted, Sebastian. Thank you for giving me this wonderful life.”

His eyes became glassy, and his arms tightened around me.

“I love you, Caro.”

“And I love you, Sebastian. Sempre e per sempre.”

It was time to begin the next chapter in our lives.

 

THE END

 

The vets’ organization mentioned in this bonus chapter, Wave Warriors, really exists, so if you’d like to support them or find out more, please go to www.wavewarriorssurfcamp.org. A UK charity offering the same opportunities is called www.surfaction.co.uk

Thank you for reading Caroline and Sebastian’s story. I hope you’ve enjoyed their journey.