Stroking her cheek, Brodie whispered softly, “I love you.”
Her heart swelled with all the emotions it always did when he said that and she whispered back, “I love you, too. I’m so grateful I’ve got a second chance.”
“You deserve it, Sophia. I never believed for a single second you wouldn’t get your miracle. This is only the beginning.”
“It’s a pretty beautiful beginning,” she mused as the sun disappeared behind a single white cloud and reappeared again a few moments later.
“Sure is.” He squeezed her thigh, and she chuckled. It was a simple exchange, but it caused her heart to swell until it could burst with love and hope for their imperfectly perfect future together.
Sophia stepped outside and party cannons erupted, making her jump out of her skin.
“Mum,” she yelled as the confetti rained down on her.
“You didn’t think we’d let you leave without saying a proper goodbye, did you?”
It was coming up to seven am, and the sun was still rising on the horizon. All of her friends were gathered at the doorstep to wish her well.
“Did you know about this?” she whispered to Brodie.
“Of course, I did,” he winked.
“I made you this,” her mum said. Passing her a chunky scrapbook with a gingham bow wrapped around it.”
Mel shook her head. “This one’s empty. It’s for you to fill with all of your new adventures.”
Sophia squeezed the gift to her chest, and Mel smiled at her daughter with eyes full of pride and joy.
Glancing around at the crowd, Sophia was surprised to see both of her brothers close by.
“Austin, I can’t believe you came.”
“How could I not? We’re family,” he shrugged, and she lit up from the inside out, knowing exactly how much it took him to say those last two words.
She held out her arms, and he embraced her in a slightly awkward bear hug.
“Enjoy the bay,” she told him. He nodded, stepping out of the way to allow Robbie to step in and squish his daughter in a tight hug.
“Keep your wits about you,” he warned his daughter. “I’m only ever a phone call away.”
“I know, Dad,” she squeezed him back.
Emmet eventually cut in and looked Sophia straight in the eyes. “What the hell am I going to do without you?”
She felt her eyes smart with tears, but she refused to let herself cry. Getting upset would only make things harder and she was one hug away from changing her mind about the whole situation.
“Get better,” she ordered. “And keep Brodie in check.”
“Yes Ma’am,” he saluted, making her laugh.
“You’ve got this.” She bent down and hugged him one last time, wishing with everything she had that he was out of his wheelchair next time she saw him.
When it came to her friends' turn, they all piled in and squeezed her in a loud and frenzied group squeeze.
Surfacing, they erupted in laughter when Paige looked at Lennon with despair and said, “Why the hell are you crying? You’re going to see her in a couple of weeks.”