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Chapter Eighteen

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Libby asked for the fourth time.

The kids had returned to their toys and music, only now they were enjoying them from the backseat of the Explorer, oblivious to the conversation going on in the front.

“I’m positive this is a good idea. It has to happen sometime, and today’s as good a day as any,” Tully said. “Trust me, honey, they’re going to love you.”

After Tully had changed they had talked to the kids together about what they wanted, then spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool, grilling burgers before the sun set. They were cleaning up when the phone rang, and Alma had invited them to Sunday lunch. Before she said yes, Tully talked it over with Libby, trying to convince her to join them.

When Tully called her mother back and told her to set another place at the table, she sat back and answered the litany of questions that arose from having someone new in her life. Alma seemed satisfied when Tully finally explained that Libby was as different from Jessica as a trout was from a catfish.

“If it helps keep your mind off it, let’s talk about something more important,” Tully said.

“Meeting your mother ranks up there, if you ask me.” Libby smoothed down her simple sundress with her right hand and clutched Tully’s hand with her left.

“Not as important as what I’m thinking about.”

Libby swiveled in her seat so she could study Tully’s profile, enjoying her relaxed smile. “What are you thinking about?”

“Our first date. It should be something memorable, don’t you think?”

“That’s true.” Libby lifted Tully’s hand and kissed her knuckles, laughing when she heard retching noises coming from the backseat. Bailey had obviously spotted what she’d done. “We’ve been to dinner and lunch a bunch of times, but that was before you really noticed me.” She kissed Tully’s hand again.

“You must be delusional if you think I never noticed you. You’re like a triple chocolate sundae someone places in front of you. The willpower not to take a bite might last longer than you think, but hell if you don’t notice it sitting there.”

“Nice way of putting it. I don’t ever think I’ve been compared to ice cream before.”

“I was talking more about the temptation, but back to what we were discussing. For what I have in mind for our first date, I’m glad we’re headed to my parents’ place today.” Tully turned into her folks’ long drive and stopped in front of the house. “Libby, would you like to go out with me next Saturday night?” Tully put the truck in park and leaned closer to her.

“I’d love to.” Libby gladly accepted the sweet kiss that Tully placed on her lips, then just as quickly groaned.

“Ooh, Gran saw that one,” Bailey said a bit too gleefully.

“Just remember something, Bailey Bean,” Tully said.

“What, that I’m going to enjoy the teasing that’s about to begin?”

Tully turned fully in her seat and smiled. “Not by a long shot, kid. You should remember that, at sixteen, your first date shouldn’t be too long in coming. Unless I’m wrong, Libby and I’ll be there to greet this lucky person, and today will be in the forefront of our minds. Right, darlin’?”

Libby kissed the side of Tully’s head before looking back at Bailey. “Count on it.”

“Ralph, we should’ve thought this over before we told them how we didn’t mind them going out.”

He laughed as he opened the door and jogged up the stairs to greet Alma.

Until then Alma had been content to stand and watch what was happening in the vehicle. Libby certainly seemed more affectionate than Jessica. The size of Tully’s smile when Libby kissed her temple released the knot of worry Alma carried around for her. From the time she was born, Tully had been extremely giving of herself. When she’d brought Jessica home, the first thing that jumped out about her was how standoffish she was. Life was too short not to enjoy the simple things like holding someone’s hand.

When Tully walked around to the passenger side and opened the door for Bailey and Libby, Libby immediately reached for Tully’s hand.

As Alma hugged Ralph she smiled, relishing her feeling of joy. She had always wanted Tully to have as much happiness as she could cram into her life, and her daughter hadn’t seemed very fulfilled while she was with Jessica.

Then Alma opened her arms to Libby and hugged her. “I’ve been waiting for you for a very long time,” she whispered in her ear. She held her just long enough, then moved to greet Bailey and Tully.

“Mama, you jumped a little ahead of me here, but this is Libby Dexter. Libby, my mother Alma.”

“Sometimes if a woman has to wait on you, Tully Badeaux, the world could come to an end. Am I right, Libby?” Alma laughed at the cute blush that colored Libby’s face. “Tully, why don’t you show Libby around the place, and Ralph and Bailey can stay and help me. Your father’s across the street fixing something, so make sure to stop and tell him to get up here and clean up.”

“You want me to do that, Gran?” Ralph asked.

“Sure, take Bailey with you and make sure to watch out for cars on that road.”

“If you need help with lunch, Mrs. Badeaux, I’d be happy to pitch in,” Libby offered.

“I’ll get you all to myself soon enough, honey, so enjoy some time with Tully. Take a walk and I’ll be happy.”

Tully took Libby’s hand and headed to the row of oak trees in the backyard, where she pointed out the large bayou across the main road into town and the lake out back. The large violet water lilies scattered across the surface gave good cover to the fish Gaston had stocked the shallow lake with for his grandchildren to enjoy. A swing that he had made when his children were little hung from the tree closest to the water.

“See, you were worried over nothing. My mother loves you already, I can tell.”

“She’s really sweet.”

After they’d settled on the swing, Libby gazed out at the water, thinking that although she was happy Alma liked her, she really wanted someone else to love her.

Not too much time had passed since they had admitted their feelings, but Libby already knew how strongly she felt about Tully. She wondered how Tully would react when she revealed the depth of her feelings.

Tully stretched her arm along the back of the swing, then moved closer to Libby. She remembered sitting here alone with Bailey about a month after she was born. Jessica had stayed in the city, not liking the country, much less her family. Tully had first talked to Alma about her sexual orientation here and had held her children in this swing to talk to them about their futures for the first time.

“I’m glad you came with me today,” Tully said.

“At the risk of sounding totally sappy, I’m glad for every moment I spend with you.” Libby pulled Tully’s hand over her shoulder and kissed the palm. “It’s beautiful out here. I can see why you like coming.”

“That it is, but that’s not why I wanted to bring you.”

The swing swayed gently as Tully pushed them with her feet, Libby having folded her legs under her so she could lean farther into Tully.

“Why did you, then?”

“I’ve done some of the most important things in my life right here.” Tully moved Libby so she was almost resting across her chest. “I’ve learned that life consists of certain moments. I tell the kids all the time that how you handle those moments produces everlasting consequences.”

“Do you think overall you’ve handled those moments well?”

“Obviously they couldn’t all be good, but most of them turned out for the best. I have the love of my parents and family, I have my children, and because of you, I have the opportunity for a second chance. It’s maybe too early to say this, but I love you.”

“Could you say that again?” Libby pressed her lips to Tully’s neck and seemed to stop breathing.

“I love you, Libby. You might have been alone for a long time now, but you never will be again, if you don’t want to. If you’re not ready, I’m not going to push.”

“Oh no, you can’t take it back now.” She raised her head and quickly kissed Tully. “I may be your second chance, but you’re mine too. I’ve been waiting a long time to hear you say that. I love you too.”

“I’ll have to add to my list of firsts out here,” Tully said before she kissed her again.

“What do you mean?”

“My first kiss.”

“I would’ve thought—”

Tully kissed her for a long sweet time. “Nope. I always thought the first person I kissed out here should be special. And you are.”

“Thank you for sharing that with me, but I don’t understand why Jessica wasn’t that person.”

“That’s easy to answer. Though we were together for a long time, she detested spending time out here with me.” She waved to encompass the area. “Not out here, but coming out to visit my family. Granted, she and my folks are worlds apart, but she never really tried to build a relationship with them.”

“I’ve only spent a few minutes with your mom, but I don’t think you’re going to have the same problem with me. Any woman who raised you has to be special enough for me to want to get to know her,” Libby said before she moved back to Tully’s lips.

They sat and swung together until Alma came out to find them for lunch.

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