A small groan passed Phoenix’s lips as his eyes fluttered open. His mind still felt so foggy… it was like he’d barely even slept at all.
He swung his legs over the side of the bed as his eyes took in the unfamiliar surroundings. Where am I? He wondered for a moment. He certainly wasn’t back at his apartment. Or at his mother’s house. Or his father’s either…
“Hey, baby.” Gigi’s voice broke through the confused and muddled thoughts that clouded his mind. “Feeling better?”
She was standing beside the dresser, where she appeared to be folding up some of their clothes and putting them away.
It was then that it finally hit him. Holy shit… We’re in Brindleton Bay!
The past day still felt like such a blur…
Saying their tearful goodbyes to their families at the airport. The seven-hour flight across the Atlantic (which neither of them managed to sleep through). Their long and boring layover in New York…
And finally arriving in Brindleton Bay.
They’d met up with their new landlord as soon as they’d arrived to collect the keys to the small rental home they’d be staying in. It was a beautiful and cozy vacation house, really meant for beach-goers. But Phoenix knew it would be much more comfortable than any of the apartments around campus. Especially for poor Gigi, who’d be sitting at home all day while he was in class.
Nearly the moment they’d stepped through the front door of their new home, the two of them practically collapsed into bed. The jet lag was so much worse than Phoenix had imagined it would be. As excited as he was to finally be there, he had wanted nothing more than to get some sleep.
And thankfully, he’d been able to. But how much, he wondered?
“What time is it?” He asked his wife through a heavy yawn.
“Around six, I think. We were out for a few hours… I just got up a little bit ago to get changed and put some stuff away.” She explained.
Phoenix pulled his phone from his pocket to see if she was right about the time. Oh shit. His eyes widened as he glanced down at the screen.
Five text messages and three missed calls… All but one of them from his mother.
“Damn it… we forgot to let everyone know we made it here okay, didn’t we?”
Gigi bit her lip guiltily as she took a seat beside him on the bed. “Whoops…”
“I’ll just text them.” Phoenix assured her. “We can call in the morning.” It was already midnight back home… much too late to give anyone a call.
Damn. Time zones suck. Yet another thing they’d be forced to get used to.
Gigi nodded in agreement. “They’ll understand that you didn’t get a chance tonight… Especially since they know how excited you are to be here! Can you believe it, baby? We’re here! Just like you dreamed of.”
Phoenix’s lips curled into a smile. “Mmm… And with my beautiful wife too… Can’t get much better than that.” He leaned forward to brush his lips against hers.
“So now that we’re finally here, what do you wanna do?” She asked.
He shrugged in reply. “I figured we’d lay low tonight, maybe go do a little exploring tomorrow?” He still had a couple weeks before classes began. Lots of time to get to know the area… And, with any luck, maybe some of the people too.
His wife let out a small sigh. “Phoenix, come on! We’re in the US for the first time ever! We’re living out your big dream… and you just wanna sit around at home?”
“We’ve got the next two years to get to know this place… I’m tired.” Phoenix laughed softly.
“And you’ve got all night to rest up! And besides, if you wanna get used to the new time zone, you need to get on a normal sleep schedule, right?”
“I guess, but…”
“Plus, I’m so hungry, and we don’t have any food here yet… Can’t we at least go get some dinner?” She batted her eyelashes as she spoke.
Phoenix knew there was no way he could win. There never was. “And I’m sure you’d come up with some kind of excuse why we can’t just order delivery, right?” He laughed softly.
Gigi nodded, a playful smile on her lips. “Bingo.”
He sighed softly. “I guess finding dinner wouldn’t hurt.” He replied at last. He was pretty hungry. They hadn’t eaten anything since their layover in New York that morning. “And maybe exploring the area could be kinda fun…”
“Yay!” Gigi giggled and gave him a soft kiss on the cheek. “I already laid out some clothes for you… Just in case.”
Phoenix couldn’t help but laugh. She’d known exactly how the conversation would end, just as he had. “Alright, let me hop in the shower and we can go.”
The sharp, salty sea air tickled Phoenix’s nose as he and Gigi made their way down onto the docks. So much for finding dinner… Still, he knew the detour would be worth it. The light of the slowly setting sun glistened off the surface of the water, and there wasn’t a single cloud in the beautiful blue sky. It was perfect.
“Woah.” He muttered softly as his eyes took in the breathtaking view before them. “This is amazing.”
“It is.” Gigi agreed. “It’s gorgeous. So different from back home too…”
Phoenix nodded. “Still can’t compare to the Bluffs though… Not that anything ever could.”
His wife smiled. “Never. I might be a little biased though… That is where my amazing husband and I had our first date, so…”
“Are you sure it was the Bluffs?” Phoenix teased. “I thought it was in the closet at Ansel Wickens’ party…”
Gigi smacked his arm playfully. “Hey! I thought we both agreed to never speak of that again.”
He just shrugged. “Well, we had to start somewhere, didn’t we?”
“Guess so…” Gigi laughed softly. “It’s so crazy to think that we might not be standing here right now if I hadn’t bribed Alyson into pairing us up for that stupid game.”
Phoenix’s eyes widened as a small laugh of surprise passed his lips. “Wait, wait, wait… You’re the reason we ended up in that closet together?!”
“Surprise?” Gigi smiled almost guiltily. “I was a drunk, horny teenager with a huge crush on you. What did you expect?”
“I dunno… I guess I always thought it was ‘fate’ or something, y’know?” He admitted. “Destiny, or whatever.”
She laughed brightly. “I don’t believe in any of that crap.”
Gigi shook her head. “Not really… I guess I believe in making your own ‘fate’ though? There’s no magical force out there that’s gonna make these kinds of things happen for you. Once you find what you want, it’s your job to reach out and grab it and make it happen.” She reached out one of her hands, brushing it along the rough surface of his cheek. “And once you have it, you never let it go. Ever.”
“Well, when you put it like that…” Phoenix replied, smiling softly. “I guess I get what you mean.”
She finally lowered her hand from his cheek, reaching into the pocket of her jeans. “Phoenix, there’s something I’ve been meaning to give you…” She said quietly as she took his large hands in hers. “Here.”
Phoenix felt the cool touch of metal against his left ring finger.
“We’ve already been married almost four months… Might as well make it official.” Gigi smiled.
He looked down for a moment at the simple gold band on his finger as a wave of warmth washed over him. “It’s perfect.”
“You really think so?”
Phoenix nodded as he pulled her in for a quick kiss. “I do.”
“Everything was so crazy with the move, I decided to wait til we got here.” Gigi explained as they broke apart. “It felt right.”
“It does.” He agreed. “And I’ve been wanting to get one for you too… But like you said, things were just so crazy. Plus, I figured I’d wait til we could pick something out together… I really wanna make sure it’s something you’d like. Whatever ring you want, we’ll make it happen.” He promised
“How did I know you’d say that?” Gigi asked with a giggle.
“Because you know me better than anybody?” Phoenix asked, smirking slightly. “Just like how I know you totally have a secret folder on your computer full of ring pictures you’ve been dying to show me…”
“Oh my God, you peeked!”
“Nah, I’m just that good.” Phoenix insisted, still smiling.
“You are.” Gigi agreed, standing on her tiptoes to press her lips against his once more. “The best.”