“Hey babe,” Bellamy said, poking his head into her garage turned studio. “I’m taking the kids down for some ice cream. So if you come out and find the munchkins missing, we’re going for the sugar high.”
Clarke just stared at him. Still a little bit in awe that he was there. That he was who he was. That he was watching her kids, as well as his own nieces, without even being asked. He’d shoo’d her into her studio to paint, simply because he knew how much she loved it. When she was married to Finn, he’d rarely watched his own kids, always thinking his time was too valuable, always off on his important adventures saving the world. And here was Bellamy, history professor, who’d rather spend hours playing with a bunch of little kids than doing the serious work of academia.
She opened her mouth to say something, she wasn’t sure what, but Bellamy just smiled, descended upon her to kiss her passionately, and said, “I’ll bring you back a scoop of mocha chip.” He was getting ready to swoop away again when she grabbed at his sleeve and held onto him.
“I love you,” she said, because she wanted him to always know how she felt, after she left him to marry Finn ten years ago, even if he still had a hard time saying it back sometimes.
He pressed his forehead to hers and she felt his indrawn breath. “I’ll show you how I feel about you tonight,” he promised.
Clarke curled her fingers into his hair and smiled. “You always show me how you feel, Bell.”
He kissed her again and broke away when they heard a bunch of little girls screaming.
“BELLAMY!!” Leo hollered, never very good at wrangling a bunch of little girls, being an 8 year old boy, and having no patience for them.
Bellamy laughed and pulled away. “I’d better go before one of them attacks him.”
“My money’s on Penny. She’s as fierce as your sister.”
“Don’t you sell out Violet. She gets her killer instinct from you.”
Clarke snorted. “Yeah, that’s me. Commander of Death.”
Bellamy pinched her side and she yelped, threatening him with her paintbrush full of oils.
“You scare me for sure. Maybe it will be the little one who brings your son down with her sweetness and kisses.
“Sophia definitely gets that from Lincoln,” Clarke said.
“BELLAMY!!” Leo called again.
“I’m shocked that you don’t think she gets her sweetness from her uncle,” he grinned.
She snorted. “Okay there, sweetness. Remember my mocha chip or you will regret it. And go save my son.”
“Yes sir, Commander of Death.”
Clarke rolled her eyes and threw her paint rag at his retreating back. She heard his laughter as he gathered up the kids and stuffed them in his car for the ice cream run. She couldn’t stop smiling.
Bellamy had been living with Clarke and her kids for three months and everything was blissful. Violet thought Bellamy had hung the stars, possibly literally, as he would take them out into the backyard and point out the constellations and tell the stories of how they’d been placed up there by the gods. Leo, being 8, and a whole two years older, considered himself above such fantasies, but still managed to follow Bellamy around whenever he was home and not working in his office. The office that he’d carved out of a space in the attic. Clarke had felt terrible, relegating him up to the third floor unfinished space and it’s steep staircase (really a ladder), but after he had renovated it, it had become the coziest spot in the house, with the angled roof and dormer window and ranks of bookshelves. Clarke was almost jealous.
Except he loved it when she curled up on his cozy chair to work on her sketches or read while he was writing at his desk late at night after the kids went to bed. If she fell asleep there, he’d rouse her with a kiss and guide her down the stairs and into their bedroom and make love to her, so softly, so sweetly, it felt like a dream.
Bellamy Blake was a dream.
She knew it was just the honeymoon phase and soon the little problems of daily living would sneak in and the things that they’d once thought were endearing would turn annoying. She knew that they’d get sick of having each other around and tired of being on their best behavior. That he’d want her to back off and give him some space and she’d get resentful of the time he spent on his work. Right? That was what had happened with Finn, after the kids had come and life had gotten too real.
But the kids were already there, and life was already real and grown up and they were already managing the bills and schedules and jobs and all that boring, dull adult stuff that had made Finn roll his eyes and tell her to figure it out. But Bellamy had never done that. He’d pushed her to make sure they were clear about finances, making sure that she was taking care of herself and her kids, and he was contributing fairly to the household, even though she had been the one to set everything up. Because he didn’t want to take advantage of her. That’s what he said. He was looking out for her, all the time. And it made her want to take care of him. And that would end at some point, right? Like it had with Finn?
But she’d never felt this way with Finn. She’d never felt this at peace, or accepted, or relaxed. She never felt like Finn had her back, she’d always been there for Finn, but could never depend on him to be there for her. But Bellamy was her partner in all things.
Clarke shook herself out of her day dream, she was supposed to be painting, not sitting here playing with her engagement ring, thinking about Bellamy. It was definitely a honeymoon period, right? Nothing could actually feel this good and last? No one could be as perfect as he was.
When her cel phone rang she jumped, already sliding back into her daydream. She shook her head and answered.
“Hi mom, whats up?”
“Nothing,” Abby said. “Nothing.”
Clarke read the nerves in her voice. She was feeling too good to let her stress her out. She decided to head it off. “If you’re calling to tell me that you and Marcus are getting serious, it’s okay. I already know. I will gladly accept him as my step father. He makes you happy, and you deserve some happiness.”
Abby laughed, taken off guard. “Well thank you Clarke. That’s the first time you’ve ever…never mind. I’m glad you can accept Marcus, but that’s not actually why I called, although your reaction, well, it just confirms my decision.”
“What? What decision?”
Abby took a deep breath. “Well, before your father died, when we were having those issues with Finn…”
Clarke felt her mood drop. When Violet had just been born, her parents and Finn had had a falling out. No one had ever really said what it was about. They didn’t want to worry her, it was nothing, but Finn had made it clear that he thought her parents were meddling and judgmental and he didn’t care to be around them. There had been so much tension around it that it had just been easier to… not visit them in New York. To not invite them to DC. To just… not.
“…And we decided to change our wills.”
“Huh?” This was not where Clarke had expected this conversation to go.
“You should have gotten a good deal of your father’s estate when he died, Clarke.”
“I thought it went to you, as his wife,” Clarke said. She hadn’t cared about money. She had only cared that she’d lost her dad, when they’d been estranged. The familiar pang shot through her. “I didn’t want the money, mom. Although Finn was pretty angry.”
“Good,” Abby said. And the word was more vicious than she was used to hearing her mother speak. “Then we were right to keep your inheritance in trust until we were sure.”
“Sure of what, mom?”
“Sure that you and the kids would actually get it,” she snapped.
“That’s what it was all about, Clarke. Finn wanted us to bankroll his global adventures. He actually thought that you would follow him around the world saving everyone, with babies tied to your hip. And we weren’t going to pay for him to uproot you and the kids to feed his ego.”
It had been his plan, she remembered, and she’d been relieved when he’d stopped talking about it, even if it mean he was distant with her. But still. “You did that without telling me?” Clarke asked, a little shaken. “What if that had been my goal, too?”
“Clarke, did you want to travel the world with two babies?”
Clarke didn’t say anything and her mother didn’t belabor the point. “I didn’t call to bring up water under the bridge. I called to tell you that I’ve talked to the lawyers and signed all the papers. The money is all yours.”
“Yes. Your father’s entire estate. I never needed it. I never wanted any of it. I have plenty. This is for you. This is for you to start over. You can do whatever you want with it. Never work again. Buy a bigger house. Have a huge wedding. Travel the world with Bellamy… if that’s what you want,” she paused just in case. Just in case she really had wanted to travel the world with Finn. Which she hadn’t.
“Money,” she said again.
Abby sighed with relief, it seemed. She had been holding onto this for so long. Clarke could almost not believe it. “Yes, Clarke. Your inheritance. It’s all yours. Free and clear. You are a wealthy woman.”
“I want to go back to school.” The words came out of her mouth without conscious control.
“Oh,” Abby said with delight. “You want to try med school again.” Clarke could hear the smile in her voice.
Clarke stared at the paintbrush that was still in her hand. Cerulean blue. Like the sky. Like hope. “No. I want to go to school for art.”
There was a pause on the other end. “That’s great, honey.” Her voice was different now. Almost like it was full of tears.
“You don’t think I should?” she asked, like a challenge almost, remembering the discouragement she’d gotten when she considered taking art when she first went to college.
“No,” Abby said. “Oh, honey. No. I think it’s great. Art has always been something that made you happy. And I’ve seen your paintings. I do follow your instagram. They’re beautiful.”
“Octavia made me join.” Clarke didn’t know what to say. She might be in shock a little.
“You should do it. You should go back to school for art. It’s a great idea.”
Clarke laughed. She didn’t know why. “Because you gave up on me being a doctor?”
There was another pause. She could almost see her mother cocking her head at her sternly. “Because it makes you happy and you deserve to be happy.”
“I am happy, mom,” and all of a sudden she was crying. “I’m so happy. I don’t believe it I’m so happy.”
Her mom was silent for a while. “That’s all I ever wanted for you, honey,” she said. And after settling a few details, they said goodbye.
When Bellamy came home with the girls in tow, Clarke was sitting, silent, in shock a bit, on the couch. He handed Clarke her mocha chip ice cream while the kids went outside to play.
“Hey, you okay?” he asked as he sat next to her, a hand on her knee.
She looked at him. And she didn’t know what her face said to him, but he looked more worried and squeezed her knee. “Clarke, everything okay?” He leaned in.
She didn’t know what to say.
He wrapped an arm around her shoulder and held her close to him. “Tell me,” he said softly. She could tell he was worried.
She shook her head and huffed out a laugh. “We’re rich.”
She watched his face. The incomprehension. As if the words she said didn’t track. He blinked at her.
She laughed again. This time for real. “We’re rich, Bellamy. Rich.”
She took his hand off of her knee and started playing with his fingers. He had a new cut from his latest woodworking project. She loved the calluses on his fingers. “I’m getting my inheritance from my father. I wasn’t expecting it. They’d been holding it in trust until Finn…”
“Until Finn went away. Oh my god, Bellamy. My parents though Finn was trying to steal my inheritance. They thought he was a gold digger!”
“What’s happening here?”
Clarke turned in her seat, taking his hands in hers. “They were holding my inheritance in trust until they were sure that Finn wouldn’t get it. And now it’s mine. Everything my father had. The savings, the property, the investments.”
She laughed. “Me? Us. We’re rich.”
He shook his head. Disbelievingly.
“What do you want to do, Bell?”
He laughed. “Have meatloaf for dinner? That one with the sauce you make?”
She fell into his lap then, wrapping her arms around his neck and tipping over the other side of him on the sofa, until she’d pulled him down on top of her. He wrestled his elbows up until he was propped above her. She combed his hair back from his face with her fingers. “I think I want to go back to school to study art studio.”
He breathed out a laugh. “Yeah? That’s great. Really you should. I’d love to see you taking your art seriously. But mostly I just love to see you doing something you love.”
“Really? It’s not too unrealistic? My mom thought at first I wanted to go back for med school.”
He snorted. “Med School? No way. She’s still thinking of you as a kid.”
“It used to be my dream. But my dream got taken up by living and now it doesn’t fit. Should I feel sad about that?”
“I don’t know, Clarke. I got my dream. Doesn’t quite seem real.” He kissed her so softly then. And she knew he meant her. She cupped his cheek in her palm. Her heart could barely fit in her chest. “Is this real? You’re rich?”
“You always knew I was rich. You used to mock me for being a spoiled princess, remember?”
“But that was a lifetime ago and you stopped being rich. And you were having such a hard time.”
“And you had a hard time growing up and you stopped struggling and got more secure. Things change.”
“No, I always feel like I’m struggling, even when I’m not. That never changed.”
“Well now you’re marrying into old money. Gosh. I don’t even know what it’s like to be an adult with money. As a kid I took for granted. Anything I wanted I got.” Clarke slid out from under Bellamy and shoved him to sitting. “What do you want Bellamy Blake? I’ll give it to you. That’s what I want to do with my money. I want to give you that feeling.”
He laughed and looked up at the ceiling. “There is absolutely nothing I want that I don’t have right in this moment. A job I love. A comfortable home. The kids. You. This is everything.”
She nodded and tucked herself up under his arm. “Yeah. It’s pretty perfect. I figure we’ll get past this honeymoon phase soon and you’ll get sick of me or I’ll get frustrated with you or we’ll get tired of this pack of kids or something will happen.”
“I would tell you nothing will happen, but something always happens.”
“My god what is wrong with us? This is a banner day and we’re sitting here waiting for the apocalypse.”
“You know,” he said, pulling her into his side and nuzzling her ear. “I’m so happy with you. Maybe we suffered enough. Maybe now we get the happily ever after story.”
She turned in his arms and kissed him deep and long. When they pulled apart for air, she ran her fingers down his cheekbone. “I’m not sure I believe in happily ever after. But we’re happy right now, and that’s the best story I can imagine.”
He smiled wide and bright and she was dazzled. “I have a good story,” he said and the smile turned dangerous as his hand slipped under her shirt.
“MOM!!!” came the yell from outside. They both jumped.
“I forgot they were out there,” Clarke said.
“UNCLE BELLAMY TELL VIOLET TO GIVE IT BACK!!”
“I got all wrapped up in you. I’m going to be a terrible step father.”
“Yeah right.” She snorted. “You’re the best dad and uncle ever. And you’re going to be the best husband, too.”
“God,” Bellamy panted and kissed her hard.
The screaming started again.
“WOULD YOU BRATS STOP MAKING SO MUCH NOISE!!! MOM! BELLAMY TELL THEM TO SHUT UP!!!”
Clarke and Bellamy cracked up and pulled each other up off the couch. The kids barreled into the kitchen squabbling and bickering.
“Still happy?” Clarke asked Bellamy.
“So happy,” he said, before running to separate Violet and Penny before they got into an epic battle. Clarke sighed happily and followed him, ready to lay some peace down, whether they liked it or not.