A/N: This is a long update. I crammed a lot in here, but I never felt like I was at a stopping place until I got to the last line. I hope you enjoy it despite the longer read. I felt like the end justified the means to get there. Also, I want to thank Styxlady for the use of her 11th generation heir, Mia Moss (w/o green skin), and for one of her spares, Cedar Moss.
Of course I said yes to Franklin when I got over my shock at the proposal. There was never any doubt in my mind that I would marry him. Even though I wanted to get married right away, Franklin and I decided on a long engagement.
First, I didn’t want to confuse my wedding plans with Roni’s. She and Enrique were only a few months from their wedding. I was supposed to be a bridesmaid. I didn’t think I could plan my own wedding while helping her with hers.
Also, Franklin suggested that we live together before getting married.
“Isn’t that sort of modern?” I teased when he invited me to move in with him. “You’re supposed to be Mr. Old Fashioned.”
“In this, I think modern is best. It gives us a chance to really find out if we’re doing the right thing, and as a bonus, I get to wake up next to you every day. Is that so bad?”
Sometimes I questioned whether or not Franklin really wanted to get married. He was still sensitive about Sheila’s betrayal. He knew I loved him, but I think some part of him was expecting me to break off our engagement. Moving in with him was no big deal. I knew I wasn’t going to call this wedding off.
Soon after Roni’s wedding and my move into Franklin’s cute little beach house, Franklin and I both got a shock.
“Mr. Churchill,” one of the paparazzi caught us outside the courthouse one day after work. “Have you heard that the mayor will not be running again next term? Are you considering the position?”
We had heard the news about Mayor Williams. Franklin hadn’t really considered running for mayor, but I was intrigued by the idea.
I waited until after one of the many parties Franklin was always invited to as a representative to bring up the subject. The issue had come up among the guests, but Franklin had been non-committal.
When we got home, I said, “You should do it Honey. You’d be a fabulous mayor. And if you’re serious about running for Governor, then it would be good experience. You’d learn how to manage budgets, policies and ordinances on a smaller scale and no one would accuse you of being unable to do the same thing for the whole state.”
“You really think I should run?” I saw the genuine look of interest and excitement in his eyes. I grinned hugely and nodded.
The topic of Franklin running for mayor consumed us and everyone around us. We couldn’t go out for a simple date without it being brought up by a reporter or even the wait-staff at the restaurant. Although he was interested, Franklin had yet to commit.
Finally I called him on it. We were leaving the Rose Room when I asked him to give me a straight answer.
“What’s holding you back Franklin? I thought you really wanted to go far in the political world.”
“I do Lil. You know I have lots of ambitions to be governor and maybe someday to run for president. But don’t you think now isn’t the right time?”
“Now’s the perfect time. What’s holding you back?”
“Well, our wedding, for one thing. I know you’ve started planning it. If I run for mayor, I won’t be able to be much help. Also…um…there is the issue of my campaign manager.”
I understood Franklin’s concern about our wedding, but I was sure we could manage to plan it and still have him run for office. However, I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant about his campaign manager, Ross Trippie. “What’s Mr. Trippie have to do with you running for Mayor?” I thought Franklin and Ross were good friends. I know that Franklin had been grateful for his help on the last campaign.
“Ross is working for a new candidate right now. Malcolm Harold. He’s a young graduate, but he has some promise. He’s running for the other local representative position. Ross thinks he could make a run for presidency when he’s older. He needs the right person to manage him, and Ross is hoping to be that man.”
“What about Ross’ assistant, Ms. Sheppard?”
“She’s going with Ross. She doesn’t want to become a campaign manager.”
“Oh. I guess that is a problem, but I think we can find someone.”
“Actually, I was thinking you could do it…but you’re busy planning the wedding.”
I was nearly speechless I was so shocked at Franklin wanting me to to be his campaign manager. “Me?” I squeaked. “Run the whole campaign?”
Up until that moment, I had been an intern for Franklin and his assistant. Yes, I had always wanted to manage a campaign and maybe someday run for office myself, but I hadn’t expected it to come so soon.
It took a lot of convincing, but finally Franklin wore me down. He said he wouldn’t run for Mayor unless I agreed to become his campaign manager. Since I knew he’d be terrific, I had to agree. So our wedding was put off for nearly two years while we focused on the mayoral race.
We actually used the engagement in our bid for election. I felt it was tacky, but the paparazzi wouldn’t let it alone and we found out that the public loved our story. I hadn’t planned to even bring it up, but we’d announced the engagement in the paper, so it was well known.
“When are you and Miss Fields getting married, Mr. Churchill?” I think it was the fourth or fifth time he was asked before Franklin got sick of saying, “We wanted a long engagement.”
This time he answered, “I promised Lila a huge wedding if she gets me elected Mayor. That’s why she’s working so hard on my behalf.”
It was a joke that could have gone south really fast, but the reporter who asked the question was smarter than the average vulture in his profession. He knew that if he spun this negatively, the story would flash fast and wild, but die off just as quickly. If he spun it positively, he could milk the story over a long period of time. It would sell tons of papers for his publisher, which is always good. From that moment on, neither Franklin nor I could go anywhere without people asking us about the wedding. We both tried to keep our responses short and talk mainly about the campaign, but that wasn’t always easy.
You’d think we were like Prince Harry and Kate Middleton the way the people of Elmira City reacted to our story. I would have felt dirty letting their infatuation with our love story win us the election if I didn’t know that Franklin was a better candidate than his opponent. I figured we would have won anyway because of our policies and issues. This way not only did we win, but we won with the good will of all of our constituents. Our opponent couldn’t even conduct a smear campaign against Franklin because the public just wouldn’t listen. It was great.
Franklin was elected by an overwhelming majority, and six months after he took office, we celebrated our wedding in the park in front of all of the citizens of Elmira City. How could we not hold our ceremony in public when the wedding is what gained the public’s favor in the first place?
Things settled down after that. Franklin and I were very busy once he was mayor. He’d given me another promotion…I was one of his political advisors now. It was a lot like being a campaign manager, except now I was actually managing his mayoral governance. I liked to tease him and say that he only married me because I was such a great assistant. Essentially that was still my job description.
My teasing never failed get him to stop thinking of work and focus on me. Despite our busy schedules at work, we still made time for each other. Franklin said I kept him young and sharp. “I never feel my age when I’m with you, Lil.”
“Good, ‘cause I like you all young and chipper,” I teased.
Because Franklin was significantly older that me, I didn’t want to waste any time starting a family. We’d talked about kids before we were married, but then we got involved in work and hadn’t really discussed it since, so I brought the subject up over breakfast one morning.
“Franklin, I know we haven’t really talked about this lately, but I think now is a good time to start a family.”
He choked on his waffles. “But we just got married!”
“Over a year ago. You’ve been Mayor for two years. In two more, we’ll be starting your campaign for governor. I figure now’s the perfect time to start a family. By the time we need to campaign again, the baby will be old enough that leaving him or her with a nanny won’t be so bad.”
“A baby, really?” Franklin got a sort of bemused expression on his face, and I figured he was picturing himself as a father.
“A son…or a daughter,” I said, and Franklin smiled.
“I always wanted a son, but I never thought I’d have one. I’m too old.”
“No you aren’t! If all of your equipment still works you’re not too old.” I gave him a naughty look. “And I know for a fact that your equipment is in fine working condition.”
Ok, so I was deluding myself. Franklin was a very healthy man, but he was older and his body was slowing down. While he could still father a baby, the fact was that his sperm count was significantly lower than a man half his age.
Of course we didn’t find this out until we’d been trying to have a baby for a year. It was almost time to start Franklin’s campaign for governor. It would be difficult to be pregnant during Franklin’s campaign, but I could hire an assistant to help me. I wanted this baby more than I wanted to do my job. So we went to a specialist, Dr. Mia Moss, who basically told us it was possible to do things naturally, but it would be faster to try for in vitro fertilization.
“Basically we fertilize one of Ms. Field’s eggs with one of your sperm. Once we have been successful, Ms. Fields will be implanted with that embryo using the in vitro method.” Dr. Moss explained exactly what the process for in vitro fertilization was. She broke it down in terms of the procedure, the risks, and the cost. “It is costly, at times painful, but the risks are fairly low. With current advances in medical science, this procedure is most always successful,” she assured us. Then she left us to consider our decision, but there really was no choice to be made.
And it was all worth it when Dr. Moss confirmed that we were indeed successfully pregnant several months later. “You’re going to be parents,” she smiled at us. I started to cry, and I thought Franklin was going to faint.
We decided to throw a baby shower/announcement party along with Franklin’s birthday. If he’d had his way, we wouldn’t have celebrated his birthday at all, but I insisted. I did agree that I would only invite our friends and family.
Is it crazy to throw a baby shower when you’ve just found out you are pregnant? I didn’t think so. I was so excited about being pregnant that I just had to tell everyone. Roni and my other friends were very happy for us. Roni already had two children and she let me know that they were thinking of having another.
“I’m so happy for you, Lila. I know you and Franklin must be thrilled. I just wish you had had an easier time. But now you’re going to be a mommy. I can’t wait to meet your little baby.”
Keenan was happy for me, too. “Wow, Lil. I wish your mom could be here. Glenna and Sunny would have loved it that you are having a baby.”
I smiled sadly. “They were talking about adopting before Sunny died, remember?” Keenan nodded.
“Where’s Tonia today?” I asked Keenan about his long-time girlfriend. Last I knew they were living together. Considering that Franklin and I waited a long time to get married, I tried really hard not to tease Keenan about not wanting to commit. He and Tonia had been together for nearly as long as the two of us. I am not sure what his problem was. Or maybe it was hers.
“Tonia couldn’t come. She’s visiting relatives in Riverview.” Keenan looked down and away and I wondered if there was more to it than he was saying.
“Well, I’m glad you could be here. I wish we lived closer. Are you a detective now?”
“Actually, I’m thinking of leaving the police force. I’m thinking of going into private security. I’ve had a few other opportunities as well, but I’m not sure what I’m going to do.”
This came as a shock to me. I always figured Keenan as more of a scientist than a cop, but he loved his job. I was surprised that he wasn’t still pursuing forensics. I didn’t feel like it was the right time to ask, so I just wished him the best and moved on to talk to the rest of my guests.
After everyone left, Franklin asked me if I had a good time at the party.
“It was fun. It was good to see everyone, too. We are so busy all the time.”
“We’re going to be a lot more busy when the baby comes. It’s hard to be working parents.”
“I know, but we’ll manage.”
“I hope so. I wish I could have pushed off aging just a bit longer,” Franklin worried. “I’m going to be confused as this kid’s grandpa.”
“Franklin,” I assured him, “You’re too hot to be a grandpa.” I ran my hand over the muscles in his arms, abs and back. Maybe he was a bit softer than he used to be, but being mayor doesn’t leave a lot of time for working out. He was still more fit than most men half his age.
“I love you,” I told him, and then I proved to him how young he still was.
The baby arrived safely, something I was forever grateful for. At the end, I had been really worried that after all that Franklin and I had been through, we would still end up without a baby. But it was a breeze. And we brought home our little bundle of joy. We named him Thomas James Fields after two presidents, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. I hoped that he became a strong, intelligent and capable man like both of his namesakes.
Franklin couldn’t have been a more proud papa. He looked at the life that we had created and told me that he loved me. I could tell that he was profoundly moved by the experience of childbirth.
At home, Franklin was an attentive father. He helped me feed the baby and take care of him whenever he was able. Unfortunately, with his campaign for governor heating up, he wasn’t home as often as we both wanted.
I didn’t mind. I wanted him to win the election. Although I was on maternity leave, I did all in my power to help him while I was at home. Mostly this meant that I was making phone calls and scheduling Franklin’s appointments. I wanted to do more, but I wasn’t ready to hire a nanny for the baby until he was a little older.
In my absence, my assistant, Cedar Moss, the nephew of Dr. Mia Moss, had to take over a lot of my duties. We were lucky that he was good at the job. Still there were some things that I needed to do myself.
One such duty that I had to do myself was appear with Franklin at the benefit for the United Family Foundation, a group specializing in helping orphaned children be placed in adoptive families. This was a cause I believed in passionately. The Foundation was started by my Grandma Jeri just before she died. My uncles, Aaron and Nick, managed it using the funds from her estate.
I reluctantly left little TJ in the hands of a babysitter. Franklin and I headed to the Underground Twilight Ballroom, which was where the benefit was being held. Both Franklin and I spoke at the event. I spoke on the behalf of the Foundation as one of Jeri Fields’ relatives. Franklin spoke as the Mayor of Elmira City.
“Nothing in the world is more important than the well-being of a child,” Franklin began his speech. “As a new father, I have come to realize that this is the ultimate truism anyone can believe in. When a child has no parents, he or she is left adrift in a world that can be cruel and heartless. That is why we must do what we can to assist children to be adopted into families who will love and care for them, who will guide them into become successful and productive citizens.”
Franklin continued passionately encouraging donors to help raise money to reduce adoption costs, to provide medical care for orphans, and to assist with legal fees for parents wanting to adopt who were unable to pay for it.
“Sometimes the loving home is available, but the cost of the adoption is outside of the family’s means. Should money prevent parents who have room for a child in their hearts and home from adopting? Adoption should not be the privilege of the wealthy. Money is no indicator of love and affection,” Franklin said.
The whole room erupted in applause. And in the thunder of the audience’s enthusiastic support, we didn’t hear the man leap out on the stage and run toward Franklin. We were so focused on my husband, the Mayor, that the man seemed to appear as if by magic, and he was already at Franklin’s throat.
It took a split second for the audience, and myself, to react, and in that second, my world fell apart.
“Vampire!” someone screamed. I could barely hear it over my own scream as I watched Franklin’s lifeless body hit the stage.
The vampire looked up at us, eyes glowing feral green and face covered in my husband’s blood. Everyone was panicking, screaming and trying to get out of the room. I rushed toward Franklin as the vampire leapt up and dashed through the crowd inhumanly fast. He pushed people out of his way and was out the door before I reached the spot where my husband was laying.
His eyes were still open, sightless. And there was so much blood. His throat, where the vampire had fed, was a mass of meat. I took one shuddering breath before I surrendered to the blackness that reached up to take me away from this horror.