Robbie looked at Ryleigh and grinned. "You look wonderful." He spoke as his sister appeared in a white sundress, with different coloured flowers printed on it and a sunhat on top of her red locks. Her green eyes looked at him and a smile plastered her pale face. Even in all this chaos sometimes she wished that she was looking for someone else, someone she shouldn't be looking for but always did.
She couldn't think of him any more. It had been five years. She'd sworn when she'd found David never to think about him again. He was gone. Obviously he hated that she'd admitted her true feelings and fled so he didn't have to face a teenage crush any longer.
"Thanks. Now you gunna tell me what this get together is all about?" She asked.
"Nope. Mom and dad just wanted everyone over, you know?" Robbie grinned. Robbie was 5 years older than her, at 25. He was still single and still in town though he wasn't the carefree troublemaker since his best friend had left. No. Robbie had settled down a bit, though he still hadn't gotten himself a job and was still living at home. Ryleigh at 20 had at least moved out and in with her boyfriend last month.
Ryleigh had always been the good one. Never any trouble. She had been a grade A student and was still at college studying to be a nurse. But she had her life planned out. And her boyfriend had been a part of that for the last two years.
"Everyone as in me, you, the boyfriend, the boyfriend's family and all of our friends?" Ryleigh asked confused.
James put his hands in his pocket. "Yep. That's right." He grinned.
Ryleigh shook her head. "Something is going on and I intend to find out. You're all lying to me. I know when I'm being lied to." She told him, not angry, but not impressed either as she tried to think of possible reasons as to why her parents had gathered everyone to a 'garden party and barbecue' with the good weather.
"Can't mom and dad just have a party?" James sighed.
"Not with all these people here." Ryleigh commented, moving into the crowd and looking for the person who was the culprit. The boyfriend. She had a feeling that he was up to something, especially as he'd been acting suspicious all week. He had something to do with this party and she was going to find out. Ryleigh had him wrapped around her little finger. Surely some sweet talking would get him to spill the beans. If not, she'd approach her father. She had him wrapped around her finger too.
With a plan in her head, Ryleigh went fishing for her suspects, hoping to find them and get an explanation.
It had been quiet day on base. One reason simply: it was May. The day two hundred men and women would return home whilst others would be remembered. Despite the warm weather, a large portion of the entire military service would gather amongst in the square, officers and high ranking soldiers would gather in their best to pay respects to the fallen. Jacob stood on the right side of his own squad, beside two other sergeants and their Captain. A short two hour service then a quiet plane ride home. Of course he was excited, it would have been great to see everyone again. Perhaps not everyone though. A heavy drum beat began and everyone watched. A single soldier, resting against another for support, rose the first of many three flags. The boy must have been ninteen at least, though to be in such a state was terrible. As far as Jacob had knew, it had been a simple car crash. Civilians involved too. Poor thing must have been heart broken. Jacob turned with his superiors and saluted, waited until the flag had risen completely before dropping his arm.
It was a further few hours before him and some of his closest friends were climbing on board a larger plane. Anyone who wasn't nervous was an idiot and a liar. Jacob fumbled with his phone for a while, hovering over the simple word 'Message'. Maybe he should let Ryleigh he was coming home. They hadn't spoken in so long though, what was he supposed to say? He sighed and flicked through his friends. Robbie was a better choice. They'd spoken occasionally, telling stories and dealing with horrors when they occur. Jacob had stopped replying after one incident whilst out, knowing he hadn't wanted anything to do with what happened. He tapped the screen and stared down at the empty message box.
Hey buddy. Long time no speak, ey? Haha, look, I know it's sudden and I'm not fully sure if anyone will want to know, but I'm on leave for a couple of months. Won't be home til the weekend mind, got a few tests to go through but I guess we could go out and grab beers.
He'd never asked about Ryleigh. Didn't know if he was allowed. After what she'd said to him before he left, after what Robbie had said to him. They'd always known it was what he'd wanted to do and his family had always encouraged him. It was what his family did. Raise the flag in the back garden, participate in politics, visit the memorials and show their respects.
By the time Jacob finally returned home, he'd received a good result from the doctor and was clearly relieved. He'd known a few who probably wouldn't be allowed back into service. There had been a few on the plane who would never be allowed back into service and yet he knew more who would return with him later in the year. He arrived home and let himself in. Both his parents were home and so were his brothers. They embraced and spoke happy words, congratulating him on this, that and the other. It was nice to truly have their respect. Clearly, now he was equal to the Doctor and the Business Man Come Politician.
"Hey, Robbie and Ryleigh's mum spoke to us the other day. You should surprise them. I doubt they've told Ryleigh." Jacob's brother Dean smiled. He was the second eldest and the Doctor of the family. Jacob agreed and headed over. He hadn't bothered to change. The royal blue of his uniform made him feel confident, smart and he certainly felt good looking. A short half hour walk and he was on the doorstep of Ryleigh's house, hat underneath his arm and his Air Force markings scattered about the jacket. He knocked and waited, nervous and a little twitchy.
Unknowing completely as to who was standing less than 500 feet from him, David moved through the crowds. He'd already spent a good while going over the whole thing with his parents, her parents, the brother and the grandparents. Lord knew he was sick of all the waiting and the whispering. He greeted a few people as he went by and occasionally checked his pocket. He spotted Ryleigh and frowned at her face.
"What's wrong?" He asked, kissing her cheek. "You looked determined and I'm a little scared." He teased, taking her hand for a moment. He glanced around for a second and spoke once more. "Your brother said anything? He's not fantastic at keeping very important things hushed." He walked her away from the loud noise of gossiping elders and giggly children. He managed to guide her on the patio, raised slightly, giving a good view of the garden. The wooden panelling and white paint had recently been renewed and the plants clearly had been tended to. He passed a glance over to his parents and within seconds, everything went quiet. Voices became whispers and words became hushes. Soon, everyone was looking at them both. He took Ryleigh's hand and kissed it gently.
He looked her in the eye and dropped to one knee. With one hand, he continued to hold hers, whilst the other removed the small white box from his pocket. The entire thing was silk, white, smooth and clean. He opened the box and displayed a simple, perfectly clean, white gold ring. Embeded within the metal was seven white diamonds, six smaller ones and in the middle was a larger one. "Ryleigh Hannah Summers, will you marry me?"
Robbie had been surprised to get the text from Jacob earlier that week but decided not to reply. To hell with him. Thinks he can just drop off the face of the planet leaving him receiving a few texts here and there. At first Robbie had been soft and replied to Jacob. He didn't talk about Ryleigh though. Robbie had seen their flirting and he'd seen Ryleigh's broken heart when Jacob had left. She'd gone to his place every day for two years just to make sure he was okay, hoping for some word that he'd mention her. He wasn't going to let Ryleigh go through that again, especially after she'd finally healed and found David.
So Robbie had deleted the text and focused on getting the party together for David and Ryleigh's big moment. The perfect moment. He doubted Jacob would show at the house, especially when Robbie hadn't replied to the text. And this was perfect. Okay so David was rich, and a snob, but he seemed to love Ryleigh and she was happy, that was the main thing. Even with his tendency of having to have everything perfect. It was annoying, but Robbie would get over it. At least it wasn't him having to live with him. Ryleigh on the other hand, she was wild and messy and a pocket full of fun. They'd only moved in together last week, and Robbie didn't know how David was going to cope with it all. It would probably be a laugh though to hear how she was driving him insane.
With that, he turned to watch as Ryleigh was led to the patio by David.
At that same moment, Harrison, a family friend was in the kitchen preparing the champagne for everyone for when the proposal was over. He had no idea that everyone was there so when he heard the door go he went and answered it, grinning. "Hey, you're just in time! They're all out the back in the garden waiting for him to do it. Go out there and watch before you miss it. I'm just getting the champagne ready." Harrison assumed that Jacob knew that it was the proposal, why else would he be here?
"I knew it! I knew he knew what this was really about! And you do too! Both of you have been sneaking around this week. Everyone knows but me. So tell me!" She ignored the kiss to the cheek but let him take her hand. She wasn't mad though. Even when she was she couldn't stay mad for long and she let him walk her up to the patio. Ryleigh's family didn't come from money, but they'd gone all out on doing the house up for this occasion themselves. They didn't feel right that David should spend all the money because he was wealthy.
She was shocked to say the least as David got down on one knee and took out the ring. Of course marriage had sometimes come up. But she hadn't expected... Wow. The ring was magnificent. When she'd thought of being proposed too, which Ryleigh had often dreamed of, she'd expected more than just the 'will you marry me' speech. Ryleigh was a big day dreamer and a big romantic. She'd imagined a wonderful speech. The disappointment didn't show on her though, she was just too in shock at the fact that he was proposing in the first place.
And just as she was about to say something, she looked around and saw Jacob. Her heart slammed into her chest, something which it should have done at David's proposal. All the feelings she thought were dead and buried came back in seconds. This was supposed to be about David's proposal but in seconds she was grinning and shouting Jacob. He was back. Ryleigh ran straight over to him and threw her arms around him.
"Jacob! You're home! Why did no one tell me?" She grinned. "Come and meet David. And then tell me everything. I want to know everything." She hugged him a second time. "It's so great to have you home!"
She immediately took his hand dragging him over to where David was and a now furious Robbie was standing. Ryleigh saw David and immediately felt guilty and despite the feelings that suddenly came with Jacob's return, Ryleigh knew if Jacob hadn't appeared she'd said yes. That couldn't change now.
"Of course I'll marry you, David." She told him, taking the ring from him and putting it on her own finger. "David meet Jacob one of my best friends. Jacob, meet David, now my fiance." Ryleigh hoped to keep this as unawkward as possible. This was probably nothing like David had planned his proposal to go.
Jacob shuffled on his feet, his eyes darting over his appearance in the window. Of course he'd changed over the years, he was taller, broader, stronger. Hell, his hair was short and he no longer looked like he'd laugh at any moment. He was still his old self, his friends would have confirmed that. Yet his stature and presence was stronger, he wasn't the runt who was failing in school. Now he was someone that mattered, someone who saved lives and did whatever it took. He did love his job, more than he'd ever thought. From a young age, Jacob had been so keen to be a pilot, Robbie and Ryleigh had both been there when he got given his first set of glasses. He was heartbroken. Now he no longer cared, he was the difference between life or death and it felt great.
By the time the door opened, he'd checked from head to foot, adjusting his tie, his jacket, his lapels, his shoes and his trousers. Just in time for what? He stepped inside, smiling and greeting the man at the door. His footsteps almost echoed through the house as he walked out towards the back. He was terrified, of course. Knowing that though, it felt time was grating slowly by, each second lasting so much more than it should have. He headed into the conservatory and out through to the backyard. He could see Ryleigh, she'd grown, in more ways than one. He could easily see everyone else, but it would have taken him a few more seconds to realise exactly what was happening.
By the time he did realise, it was too late to do anything. There she was, running towards him, completely ignoring the poor guy kneeling before her. He wasn't entirely bothered that he'd walked in on perhaps the most wonderful moment of any couple's relationship, they were far too young anyway. Jacob passed a smile as she headed towards him, time slowly speeding up once more until she hugged him; which had felt like a train after such fear.
"Hey." He smiled, wrapping his own arms around her waist. He lifted her slightly and laughed. "I'm surprised Robbie didn't tell you. I've been home since Memorial Day." He placed her back on the ground, fulling aware of the four eyes that were almost burning him. He followed her up and tried not to act like he didn't care.
Daniel, within seconds of Jacob's arrival, had already started pacing. He wasn't impressed and he certainly wasn't happy. This wasn't going to plan and even he knew that. He felt a little comforted knowing that Robbie was here. It was plain that the sibling wasn't at all impressed with the fellow who'd just arrived. After the small interaction between the two of them, neither was he. Who was this man thinking that he could just pick her up like that? Best friend or not! He glanced over at Robbie and frowned.
"Should I be worried?" The question was quiet, whispered almost.
David returned himself to the smiling man he was before and held her hand as she took the ring once more. As soon as his hands were free, they resumed the uncomfortable and unsettled hand movements he did when things weren't perfect. Usually he started again when he felt like this, but what could he do now? He simply held out a hand to Jacob and smiled. "Pleasure to finally meet you." His tone was professional, completely.
Jacob tried not to act put off by the entire thing. He took David's hand and shook it.
Robbie was burning holes in Jacob alright. Of all the things he could do right now... A few people were even looking concerned that Ryleigh had ignored David's proposal and gone and hugged another man. That was not what a woman did. And especially David's side of the family had started to whisper about if Ryleigh was really that good for David, after all he was planning to marry someone not of his stature. They loved Ryleigh, but seeing this display made them question things.
"He broke her heart. Ry forgives too easily. I'd be worried. Make sure she doesn't forgive him. She shouldn't." Robbie whispered back as they came back over and Ryleigh introduced them the men. She had no idea, due to her naivety and happiness, that there was tension.
"I'm so glad you're back. Isn't this great. The four most important men are back in my life, you, David, Robbie and Dad." Ryleigh realised that everyone was still watching them. "Hold on. Let me leave you boys together. I better go show everyone the ring." Ryleigh was all over the place. She knew that she loved David. She did. But Jacob... He'd been her first love. Her only love really. He had a special place in her heart and she suddenly felt really guilty that everyone had kind of missed the ring and congratulating them.
So Ryleigh went to the parents on both sides and started gushing over David and the ring he had given her. That seemed to relax his side of the family at least.
"Isn't it gorgeous?" Ryleigh asked David's parents who nodded their agreement. They weren't people who lied to hug. They did all the kisses on the cheek in greeting like the French and all that, but at least she got to hug her parents and show them the ring. She felt bad that David wasn't by her side though getting the congratulations with her. That's how it should be, right?
"I can't believe he proposed! It's perfect." Okay so it was a little lie but she was trying to fix her mistakes and ease her guilt.
Robbie on the other hand looked at Jacob. "What the hell are you fucking doing here, Jake?" He started now that Ry had disappeared. "What part of me not answering your text did you get? Why would we want you here? Ryleigh might have forgiven and forgotten that you just went off and left us behind, but I haven't. And I'm not going to just forgive and forget. Now get out of here. You've messed everything up enough."
At least David didn't have to appear as the bad guy if he didn't want too. Robbie was doing a great job at that.
The moment Ryleigh left was terrible. Jacob could name a hundred moments at least that had been more enjoyable than the one that faced him. He looked David up and down and stopped on his hands. Each was wringing the other, rubbing backwards and forwards as if he were washing them. It was a familiar sight. A fair amount of soldiers did it. He wriggled his fingers a little bit and looked away. At least before David noticed. The man was clearly uncomfortable, not that he blamed him. This was probably the bloke's worst nightmare.
He raised his hands and tried not to shout back. "Your mum invited me. I'd thought at least one of you would be happy, not that that matters." He shrugged it off a little and brushed the top of his hat. "You knew me well enough to know my joining the forces was inevitable." He looked over at David once more, who was watching Ryleigh move about the crowds. The man was almost pale.
"Excuse me.." David muttered before disappearing off the patio and inside the house. He hated bothering his parents and Ryleigh with his issues. He could feel eyes on him but it was to be expected. He hurried through the house and made his way into the bathroom. He turned on the tap and started washing. It helped. It made the friction against his hands less painful.
"You don't have to be so much of an ass. It's not like I'm planning on wrecking anything else. They're a sweet couple, if not a little strange." Jacob shrugged off the thought once more and turned to look over at the crowd. "If that's what you were thinking." He added, glancing over at him. Jacob may have been an uncaring, moraless pig in his teenage years, it was something he'd grown out of. He wasn't going to steal Ryleigh away.
Robbie glared at Jacob, letting David leave. "You've already ruined it, jackass. The best thing you can do is fucking leave. Ryleigh might have been happy to see you but David and I will change that. You just fucking left us without a word. We knew you were going to join but just to leave without telling us... That was low." He told him. "Now leave."
The way Robbie looked at Jacob was full of so much hate and anger. But that was Robbie these days. His parents put it down to the fact that Jacob had gone somewhere with his life and Robbie had been left on his own in this town still going nowhere. They'd tried to get him doing things but Robbie still had no idea of where he wanted to go or what he wanted to do.
It was one of the crowd members that saw David disappear into the house and told Ryleigh. Her guilt was just piling up today. "I'll be back with David in a minute." She smiled, telling some of David's family that she'd currently being showing the ring too and catching up with. With that she moved back up to the patio, smiled and waved at Robbie and Jacob, blissfully unaware of their little outburst and went to find her new fiance.
Carefully she knocked on the bathroom door figuring he was in there. That's the only reason to go into the house unless it was for a drink, and they had outside drink stands that his family had organised for the guests. Plus, the door was locked. "David... It's me... Can you open up? I'm sorry for been an idiot earlier. Everything was all just a surprise. You proposing, Jacob returning... I just didn't expect it all. You're not mad at me, are you?"
"You can't even just let her be happy?" He asked, glancing between Ryliegh and the patio decking. "You don't even understand how difficult it was, your sister pours her heart out at you on the day you'd got the whole leaving thing planned, giving you a reason to stay, some way for her to beg. That's the reason i didn't say anything." Jacob still wasnt shouting, he wasnt going to drag the attention from his friend even if Robbie wanted the whole goddamn party to hear. He glanced over at him and raised a hand defensively once more. "I'll leave, but you'll still be the one who admitted wanting to ruin his sister's happiness. God help the day you get a girlfriend. Careful you don't whack her one for being happy." He brushed down his uniform and looked Robbie up and down. He clearly hadn't gone anywhere. He was realived in a way.
He stepped down from the patio, chatted to a neighbour for a moment before heading inside. He could feel Robbie's eyes still burning yet by the time he turned round, it was their dad. The man had always scared him. He was taller and stronger and his booming voice was enough to scare grown men. The amount of times he and Robbie got into trouble, only to have his dad begin to scream at Robbie for it. The last thing he wanted was that.
David washed, then washed. He dried his hands and quickly set about washing them again. Why the hell had that asshole gone and ruined everything!? She was supposed to say yes, they'd hug, kiss, dance between themselves. He'd already looked at venues, hoping to find the perfect one. After all that had gone wrong, he easily felt everything would go wrong with their marriage from now one. He fumbled with the tap once he'd heard Ryleigh. "I'm not mad at you." He replied, washing the skin once more before unlocking the door. He stood for a moment and turned back to the sink. It took a lot to not do it again. He gave up after a second. His hands dived under the water again and he washed heavily.
"It wasnt you, baby. You know what it's like, it's not like I can just start over. It wasnt even perfect the first time." He let his hands soak under the water, the tops of them tingling for how they'd been made raw and exposed. "I can't be mad at you." He leant against her and kissed her head, washing his hands once again.
"Oh, I understand. She pours her heart out and you treat her like shit. She went to your house every day for two years. Did you know that? Two years she spent going over to your house and making sure you were still alive, hoping to hear something from you to her. Nothing. Not a word. You're just shit. You treated her like shit." Robbie didn't have a problem shouting. It made everyone watch and see that this proposal had not gone to plan at all and Robbie was putting the blame on Jacob.
He finally let Jacob go, happy that the man was going to leave.
Robbie's father soon caught up with him though in the kitchen. "Jacob." He nodded waiting for the man to turn and look at him. "I know you and Robbie often got into trouble before but it's good to see that you've gone and done something with your life. Something good. I wish Robbie would do the same. You didn't ruin this, just so you know. I heard what Robbie said."
Ryleigh sighed as she saw David washing his hands over and over. He had to stop. She'd seen it a few times. It needed to stop. It was like he was OCD or something. "It was perfect for me." She grabbed a towel and turned off the tap, pulling David away from the sink wrapping his hands up and drying them. "They're clean, okay? I'm sorry for messing your proposal up. I guess you had it all planned out. I know how you like to plan things. Now, come on. Let's go and see your family. I think they think I spoiled your big moment. Please? I can catch up with Jacob later. This is our moment right now."
With that she kissed his lips. "And the ring is beautiful. Thank you." She smiled.
Hearing his name come out of that mouth, he'd almost bolted at the sound of it. It was like turning around after every single officer watched burn the flag. He stammered a little and ran his head for excuses. He was almost dumbstruck when he heard approval. "I-er, thank you." He set down his hat on the table and felt a whole lot better about the situation. Jacob one. Robbie none. "Did Robbie tell anyone I was back?" He asked after a second, adjusting his tie again then looking back at his best friends' father. He hadn't expected Robbie to tell anyone, yet they'd have heard from his own parents. It'd be flag high and strong at the news, although half mast on Monday.
David couldn't imagine how she felt. He knew his parents hated him getting like this. The amount of people they'd sent him to just find out he was a perfectionist. Part of him wondered if it was the stress from work. He knew he was pushing himself way too much. Watching Ryleigh take over, taking care of him in this simple way was the reason he had proposed. He smiled a little and watched. "It wasnt your fault. I hadn't really thought that would happen. Your brother said he wouldn't bother coming so I didn't factor that in." The soft towel was heaven against his already enflamed skin but it was Ryleigh that calmed him. "They like you, don't worry." He smiled and took the towel from her. A short amount of time spent levelling it out and he turned to her again and kissed her back.
"I'm sorry for worrying you." He kissed her forehead and lifted her left hand to look. "I wasnt sure, the lady in the shop said it was a good idea but I think I should have found out for sure." He kissed her knuckles and guided her back outside. He looked away when they walked past Jacob, especially since that man had ruined the entire day. He took her hand into his and walked towards his parents, being congratulated on the way. By time they reached his parents, his father was a little red faced and his own mum looked like she wanted to leave. She hugged him on arrival and look disapprovingly at the red colour of his hands. "David, please see Dr Tyler." She muttered, holding them up and looking the skin over.
He pulled them away and gestured to Ryleigh. "Sorry. You look lovely, sweetheart. You'll look like a diamond yourself when it comes to the big day. You'll have to get down to Morilee, they're dresses are stunning." He glanced back at Ryleigh and shook his head. She didn't have to go to the most expensive store in town or have one talor made or in fact spend money on a dress at all. She could wear jeans and a tshirts to him, she'd still look good. Though a perfect dress would stop him spending an hour in the toilet. His father outstretched a partially drunk hand and shook his son's tightly. "Well done. Well done to you both."