“God, this brings back memories, doesn’t it?” Clara asked with a small laugh as she took another sip of her beer.
“Hmmm?” Jocelyne took another long drink from her glass before speaking. “What do you mean?”
Clara gestured at the bar in front of them. “Sitting at the bar together at your Bruder’s wedding.” She smiled. “Different circumstances, of course. And different Bruder, but…”
Jocelyne couldn’t help but chuckle. “And one of us just gave birth too! Major déjà vu…”
It felt nice to be able to joke about that night without getting embarrassed or upset. She could still remember a time where the mere thought of Luc and Hazel’s wedding was enough to bring her to tears. Maybe I really am moving on…
“God, can you believe Auggy’s married now?” Clara shook her head in amazement. “Or whatever the hell they’re letting them call it.” She corrected herself, rolling her eyes. “I still remember when he was in diapers.”
“Me too.” Jocelyne agreed, marveling at just how fast the years had flown by. “It’s crazy, right?” She paused for a moment, sighing softly. “I just wish Luc was here to see it. He’d be so happy.”
“I know.” Clara agreed softly. “But hey – maybe he is here, in a way. You never know.” Her lips curled into a slight smile.
For a moment, Jocelyne thought back to that strange night she’d heard her brother’s voice. The memory still gave her chills. “Yeah, you never know.”
The two women sipped their drinks in silence for a few minutes after that. Jocelyne didn’t mind the lull in the conversation – she took the opportunity to savor the sounds of the wind in the trees, the happy chatter of her family, and the soft music flowing from the stereo speakers as the reception continued on.
It was her aunt who finally broke the silence. “This is a really beautiful wedding, isn’t it?”
Jocelyne nodded. “This venue’s gorgeous.”
“Well duh.” Clara stuck her tongue out. “This is where Florian and I got married, remember?”
She laughed. “I do. So clearly Gus and Noah share your good taste.” Jocelyne smiled. “And I like that they kept it so small and intimate… But I’m really glad they still invited Elliot.” She added. “That was nice of them.”
“Of course they invited him. He’s family.” Clara shrugged, smiling.
“You’re right… I guess he is.” She smiled softly and glanced over her shoulder for a moment, her eyes scanning the small crowd of people in search of her ex. Jocelyne had barely spoken to him all night, and she couldn’t help but feel curious about what he was up to.
It was as though Clara had read her mind. “He’s over there.” She gestured off to their right.
Elliot sat in the corner, alone at a table with Gus’ friend Emma. Hadn’t they been sitting at that same table together the last time she’d searched for him? That was nearly two hours ago already.
Clara let out a small laugh. “Jeez, they can’t take their eyes off each other, can they?”
“I think it’s nice.” Jocelyne smiled. “It’s been ages since Elliot’s been interested in anyone… And Emma’s a total sweetheart.” She could feel Clara eyeing her intently for a few moments. “What?!”
“Nothing.” Clara smiled innocently at her. “It’s just funny. Here you are practically playing matchmaker for Elliot… But what about you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You know what… Or who, rather.” Clara winked at her. “The silver fox over there who’s been eyeing you all night.” She nodded over Jocelyne’s shoulder.
She didn’t even have to look to know who her aunt was talking about. “Oh my God, Clara!” Jocelyne felt her cheeks grow warm.
“Don’t worry.” Clara continued casually, pausing to take another sip of her drink. “No closets around. I checked… Though Florian and I found a really nice spot in the bushes when we went for that ‘walk’ earlier…”
“Sorry. TMI?” She asked innocently. At last, Clara set her drink back on the bar and her face turned serious. “Okay, okay. All joking aside… Talk to him, Jocelyne! This is your chance.”
She shook her head. “I can’t.”
“Bullshit. Of course you can!” Her aunt insisted. “What the hell are you so afraid of?”
Jocelyne opened her mouth to reply, but stopped herself. It was an excellent question. What WAS she afraid of?
She thought back to all the hours she’d spent with Mark over the past year. She thought of how warm and safe and whole she felt every time she was with him. She thought of her conversation with her grandfather. She thought of the guilt she’d carried for so long. She thought of all the times she’d pushed Mark away.
And she thought of those whispered words that still echoed in her mind – “Be happy, Joce. Please…”
Jocelyne bit her lip nervously and, for a moment, she almost felt like she’d gone back to being the shy young girl she once was. “I… I mean, I…” She sighed. “Do you really think I should?”
“Yes!” Clara cried, almost annoyed. “We’ve all spent nearly a year watching the two of you eye-fucking each other every moment you’re together. Just put us out of our misery already.” She teased.
Despite her nerves, Jocelyne laughed softly. “Okay, okay. I’m going!” She downed the rest of her drink, took a deep breath, and headed over to the small table where Mark sat.
His entire face lit up at her approach, and Jocelyne felt her stomach doing somersaults at the sight of him. He was so handsome in his suit. Almost too beautiful for words. It took a moment for her to find her voice.
“H-hey Mark.” She mumbled awkwardly. “Having fun?”
He nodded enthusiastically. “This is great. And I’m so happy for Gus and Noah.”
“Me too.” She hesitated for a moment before continuing. “Um… Mark? Do you mind if I, uh… talk to you?” Jocelyne stumbled over her words.
Mark furrowed his brow slightly in concern. “Sure. What’s up?”
Jocelyne fell silent for a moment, trying to figure out what to say. How could she even begin? Just tell him how you feel. She told herself firmly.
So she took a deep breath, and just let the words come out. “Mark, I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry.” Jocelyne repeated. “For… everything. But I guess mostly for being such a bitch ever since I came back to Windenburg.” She shrugged her shoulders slightly, embarrassed. “You’ve been nothing but wonderful to me throughout this whole thing. Moving back home, taking care of Zayne… And all I’ve done is push you away again and again. I don’t even think I ever thanked you for everything you’ve done. And I’m sorry.”
Mark shook his head. “You’ve had a lot to deal with, Jocelyne. I get it. And it’s –”
“Please, don’t tell me it’s okay.” Jocelyne interjected. “It’s not. I know it isn’t. I wouldn’t be apologizing if it was.”
This time, Mark did not immediately reply. “Well, thank you.” He said at last. “It means a lot. And for the record… I’m sorry too.”
He laughed softly. “Do you want a list?” Mark’s laughter slowly died away. “I’m sorry for all the things I should have apologized to you for years ago.” He continued seriously. “And I’ve been trying so hard to make up for them.”
“Well, you have.” Jocelyne assured him. “Seriously.” She smiled. “And I’ve been thinking a lot lately about that offer you made me last Christmas. Do you remember?”
Mark nodded. “About starting over?”
“Oh.” Jocelyne did not miss the hopeful glimmer in his eye as he spoke.
“So I was just thinking that maybe… I thought we might, um… I guess I…” Jesus Christ, Jocelyne. She cleared her throat. “I guess what I’m getting at with this whole thing is… Do you wanna dance?”
Mark’s lips stretched into a smile. “I’d love to.”
Jocelyne fought back a flurry of butterflies in her stomach as she rose to her feet and followed Mark toward the dancefloor. She felt excited and giddy in a way she hadn’t felt in a long time. And as they headed toward the dancefloor together, Jocelyne couldn’t help but take in the sights and sounds of her friends and family enjoying the evening just as much as she was.
Gus and Noah, sharing a tender moment as newlyweds…
River’s laughter as she danced around on her father’s feet…
Clara chatting happily with her mother as baby Aurora slept soundly in her bassinet…
Elliot dancing with Emma, looking at her the way he’d once looked at Jocelyne all those years ago…
Zayne giggling along with his cousins as Jonas told them silly jokes and riddles…
Tobi, sober and happy as he held his wife close to him at the edge of the dancefloor…
It was beautiful.
After so many months of hardship and pain, they were all so free. So peaceful. So happy.
And, as Mark took her in his strong arms and they swayed together beneath the stars, Jocelyne realized something –
For the first time in many years, so was she.
*high-fives the three remaining crewmembers of the SS Marklyne* Kudos for not giving up! 😉 Didn’t you notice the SS Marklyne is a submarine? And it has resurfaced at last 😛
And that’s a wrap on the child arc 😮 What a sad, depressing ride 😛 Thank you all for putting up with that heavy section of the story, and onward we go to the teen years (the “real” start of Gen 5… This whole arc was very much tying up loose ends from Gen 4).
Our next chapter will be Saturday — prepare for a time jump! 🙂