To Have and To Hold
By Michaela Bray
Date: October 9, 2020
Ch. 22

Dinner was always a festive affair whenever the twins were present and tonight was no different. Sarah had made everyone’s favorite for their anniversary dinner — rosemary chicken for the twins, pot roast for Barry, and peach cobbler for Casey.

“Luckily, James got away without being seen,” Jon finished with a grin. The boys had regaled the family with tales of university life, punctuated by occasional bursts of laughter from the rest of the family.

Casey, however, kept the excitement of her news largely to herself, choosing instead to laugh on occasion at the humorous stories and pick at her food. When their father took notice, the entire conversation at the dining table came to a grinding halt. “How about you, Casey? How was your day today?”

Unused to being the center of attention in the family, Casey blinked warily. “Oh, it was okay, Dad.”

“I know that blush!” James crowed. “Little Casey’s in love!”

“Now, why would you think that?” she smiled.

“Well, you’ve been mostly silent the entire dinner and you keep smiling to yourself.” Jon winked at his twin. “I say we check out whoever he is that’s got our little munchkin’s attention and lay down the rules.”

Their father, however, looked stern as he surveyed his daughter’s profile. “Is this true, Cassandra?”

“A little, Daddy,” she replied mischievously. She caught the twins’ eyes and winked conspiratorially.

Barry Townsend blinked at the reply. His daughter was rarely evasive and she almost never had that odd little sparkle in her eyes. He cleared his throat and glanced at his wife, who was keeping a straight face. “Well, do we have a name?”

“William,” she replied offhandedly, taking a bite of her chicken. Casey inwardly laughed at the bewildered looks on her family’s faces.

“William who?”

She laughed and winked at her father. “William Sheffield, Daddy. He just signed my college admissions letter this afternoon and sealed his place in my heart forever.”

“Oh.” Her father’s face visibly relaxed before stretching into a wide grin. “Well, that’s my girl! Congratulations, sweetheart.”

Her mother’s face broke out into a relieved smile. Everybody knew that the Townsend men were a little protective of the youngest member of their close-knit family. The twins had even promised her before leaving for university that if anybody dared to play with Cassandra’s heart, they were going to exact bloody vengeance on the poor fool and then some.

“Well, I guess that’s another cause for celebration.” She stood up and got out the peach cobbler. She gave Casey a hefty serving and winked. “Our college girl needs all the dessert she needs.”

“Thanks, mom. I just didn’t want to steal the spotlight.”

Sarah rolled her eyes. “Nonsense, my love. You hardly speak enough as it is. Now, eat up that peach cobbler. We all know how you love that stuff.”

“I thought all girls loved chocolate.” Jon grinned at Casey, his mouth filled with cobbler. She just giggled at his antics and took a bite out of her dessert. Although she had first been shocked by the oftentimes atrocious table manners her brothers showed, she knew it was all in good fun.

“Of course we all like a little chocolate every now and then.” Their mother slid a meager serving of dessert into their father’s plate. Barry gave his wife a pleading look but she refused to budge a bit. “It’s so very good for the heart, especially on Valentine’s Day.”

Their father rolled his eyes. “On Valentine’s Day, chocolates will save your life,” he told the boys. “So you better have a stash of them ready before the entire male population buys out the stocks.”

“Oh, like the way someone had to travel two hours just to get some?”

“How was I to know they’d run out of chocolates and flowers on that day?” her husband grimaced.

Casey giggled at the playful banter between her parents. She hardly had any recollection of her mother when she was young and she wasn’t quite sure if the atmosphere had been as cheerful as it was now that Sarah and the twins had come into their lives. She was fairly certain, though, that she wanted to have the same relationship her father shared with her stepmother. The brief glances those two gave each other at odd moments, the way Sarah touched her father’s arm… It would be lovely to have that kind of bond with someone for the rest of her life.

She never got tired of the story of how their parents fell in love, either. It was almost like something copied straight out of a romance novel that it was sometimes hard to believe that two such practical and seemingly unromantic people could have been involved in it. She sighed and took another bite of peach cobbler.

At sixteen, she was oddly not interested in any of the boys at school. Nor did she feel anything special for any of their male acquaintances. Oh, there was that brief spark every once in a while but never like the fluttery feelings her cousin, Megan, described in full detail.

She sighed and took another bite of her peach cobbler, smiling at the exquisite blend of flavors in her mouth. Dessert always had a way of making her feel better and Sarah’s cooking was the best cure for troubled thoughts.

Love would come at its own time, she decided with a thoughtful smile. If it’s meant to be, then it will come. And when it does, it will be perfect.

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