Today was the park dedication and Ben was trying to get both himself and Cole ready and not forget anything. Cole wanted none of it. “Hey kid. At least you don’t have to wear a tie!” he said to the fussy little boy.
“Down Daddy!” he cried.
Ben put him down after he got his shoes on him. As he finished getting himself ready, he thought about the past 3 weeks since his dad had swooped in and saved the day. That’s what it had felt like anyway. With just a couple of phone calls it was planned and done and Ben’s grow room was no more.
Ben had no idea how much stress he had been carrying around worrying about the plants and having to take Cole with him on those awful deliveries. The relief was immeasurable.
He wished he had known two years ago that his dad could have helped him. His mom said Dad’s bar was 100% legitimate, but he wasn’t so sure that was true. It had been entirely too easy for him to ‘take care of business,’ like he did this every day. He didn’t want to know.
After Ben got ready he sat down and Cole, true to form, climbed up in his lap. Ben’s smile came easy. “So now you like me, huh?” he said to Cole.
“Tell me stowy Daddy,” he said.
Ben pulled him into his lap. “We don’t have much time. We have to pick up Pia. I’ll tell you a secret but you can’t tell anyone. Pia is going to start living with us pretty soon. Would you like that?”
Ben laughed. He didn’t figure he understood what he meant. But it was okay. “Go get your book and I will read it,” he said and helped him climb down.
While he waited on Cole to bring a book, he thought about Sofia. After he had put on his ‘big boy pants’ and told her that Nick knew about Jesse, she called her brother. They had come to terms with everything. She said he had been sweet and supportive and not judgmental.
They cried together and then laughed. Jointly, they decided not to tell her parents what happened. There was no need as it would only upset them – and she was fine. Better than fine.
She did call her folks and told them she and Jesse broke up and that she was now dating Ben. She let them know that things between them were serious. Thankfully, her parents didn’t know about Ben’s reputation and were thrilled she was dating him. They knew him and his family well, having been friends with Leroy and Kaitlin before they moved to Willow Creek.
Ben was both excited and nervous about the dedication First, he was excited because Lillie May was coming. Nick and Rachael has graciously offered to pick her up and take her back and he was looking forward to seeing them.
Ben had taken Sofia to visit Miss Lillie a few more times. When Ben told her they were dating, she hugged them both and promptly had one of the nurses take a new picture for her wall.
Second, he was nervous because he planned to propose properly to Sofia and give her the engagement ring he had bought. He opened the black velvet box that represented his future and thought about Grace again. The rings they had exchanged belonged to Grace’s parents. Those were now in a safe deposit box for Cole.
The one he bought for Sofia was a simple solitaire diamond. He couldn’t wait to surprise her with it and see it on her finger.
How fitting that he would honor Grace today. He would say one final goodbye. Then he would formally propose to the woman that had captured his and his son’s heart.
His mom made them dinner and was setting it up in the clubhouse. They would go there after the reception so it would be a surprise. He just had to be sure he didn’t lose the ring in the mean time.
Ben wiped the tear that had snuck out the corner of his eye and picked up the little black box from the counter and put it in his pocket. Then he reached down and picked up Cole. “Come on Buddy. We have to go get Pia. We are going to tell everyone in Willow Creek what an awesome mother you had. She loved you so much. We were both lucky to have had her in our lives, if only for a short while.”
”Get Pia?” parroted Cole.
Ben smiled. “Yeah, get Pia” he said and hugged his his son again before they left.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Ben and Sofia were putting the final touches on everything when he looked up and saw Nick and Rachael coming down the walk pushing Lillie May in her wheel chair. Casey and Emma had come with them. They were all happily chatting and taking in their new surroundings. The warm feeling of love that rose in his chest upon seeing his friends surprised him. He had missed them more than he had realized.
When Cole saw his great-grandmother, he abandoned the toy he was playing with and ran to her as fast as his little legs could carry him. Kaitlin, who was quasi in charge of Cole for the evening, had to stop him from climbing in her lap.
Similarly, when Sofia saw Nick she flung herself into his arms. Then they spent a few minutes together talking privately before Rachael got her own hug. Sofia and Rachael had become friends over the course of the past three years that she and Nick had been dating.
Ben went straight to Emma. He loved Emma. She was one of the best friends he had outside of Nick. He hugged her and thanked her for coming. She got emotional knowing they were going to dedicate the park to Grace.
After everyone spent a few minutes getting reacquainted, they heard Leroy calling on the bullhorn that the dedication ceremony was about to begin.
Nick pushed Lillie May, the guest of honor, next to the podium. Once everyone was seated Leroy began and gave a short speech talking about Grace Ramsay and who she was and why they were naming the park after her. Lillie May was crying. She wasn’t the only one, there wasn’t a dry eye in the park.
“Are you okay Ben?” whispered Sofia as they watched.
He quickly wiped his eyes and gave her a little smile. “Yeah. I love Miss Lillie,” he said softly.
Sofia looked away. “Grace too,” she mumbled under her breath.
Ben heard her and put his arm around her pulling her tight. “Stop it Sofia, I love you,” he whispered. Please not this again, he thought. Not tonight.
The crowd started clapping making him jump. It was almost time and his heart was going into overtime. He caught his mother’s eye and she winked and gave him a private thumbs up.
Everyone went and grabbed food and sat down to eat or simply enjoy the park’s amenities. Ben grabbed Sofia’s hand. When they walked past the food, she asked him where they were going.
“It’s a surprise. I have something to show you in the clubhouse,” he said. He had seen Nick watching them leave. He told Nick what he was going to do so he wouldn’t wonder where they were. They all planned to meet up at the local bar later to celebrate. He was really glad Nick had come around. It would have been so much harder if he hadn’t.
Ben could have kissed his mother. She had outdone herself. When they got to the private room, everything was ready. The table was set with a single rose, two glasses of chilled champagne and their roasted chicken still steaming. She brought in flowers and had soft music playing through the speakers.
Sofia gasped. “Oh Ben. This is for us? What about everyone else?”
“Yes, this is for us. This was our project Pia. We should have a special, private celebration. Please let’s sit down and enjoy.”
As they sat down to eat, Ben couldn’t help but admire the beautiful woman sitting across the table from him. Last time they had sat in this room, he thought his world was falling apart when she told him to get rid of the plants. He was glad he was going to take that bitter memory away and replace it with one he hoped they would always remember.
After they ate, Ben reached over and took Sofia’s hand. “I love you. You look absolutely beautiful tonight.”
“I love you too. Are you happy?” she asked.
“Very,” he said.
Sofia sighed and took a drink. Ben took the opportunity to pull the ring out of his pocket and sit it on the table.
He pushed the little black box towards her. “Sofia, the only thing that will make me happier, is for you to be my wife. I love you. Cole and I, we need you in our lives. You make everything better. Please, marry me – us.”
Sofia was smiling, obviously surprised by the ring sitting on the table between them. “I said yes before. And I will say it again Ben. I love you too. Both of you. So yes, I will marry you.” She started to reach for the black box.
“Wait….” said Ben and snatched the box off the table.
“You are taking it back?” she said horrified.
“I want to do this the right way.” He got up and motioned for her to join him.
Sofia smirked up at him. “What are you doing?”
Ben took her hands. “Sweetheart, I am trying to get this perfect.”
He knelt down on one knee. He heard Sofia stifle a snicker. He didn’t care. “Sofia, darling, I love you.”
He took the ring out of the box and presented it to her, looking up at her like a little blue-eyed puppy dog in love. “Will you marry me?”
Sofia laughed. “Ben you look so cute on the floor. Baby, for the third time, yes. Yes, I will marry you. I will be the best wife and mother I can be. Now, pleeeaaase. Let me have that ring!” He handed it to her. As she slipped it on her finger she whispered, “It’s beautiful.”
“I love it Ben. It’s perfect. Just like we are together.”
“I have tiramisu at my house…” he said, with that same grin still on his face.
Sofia burst out laughing. “I love you so much!” she said.