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23 | THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM
‘Who’s at the door at this time?’ Nearly 1am, Tallulah, Rocks and Caroline are back at Rock’s grandmother’s home, they where they filled her in on the dastardly dinner. They are just settling in when someone presses the bell.
Rocks looks through the peep hole, ‘Rocco?’ She opens the door. ‘You alright?’ He looked like he’d walked over in the rain that started shortly after JJ brought dinner to an unceremonious end, as if the weather was in cahoots with her mood.
‘Is JJ here?’
‘No. Isn’t she at the hotel?’ She stands aside to let Rocco, his brothers in law and JJ’s brothers in the house. All are wet. Nobody thought to carry one umbrella? They have several with the concierge.
‘She’s not they’ve looked everywhere in the hotel for her.’
‘Did you track her phone?’ Caroline and Tallulah are already on their phones.
‘She didn’t take it with her.’
‘Do you think she would have gone back to New York?’ Rocks asks.
‘Her passport is still here.’ Rocco runs a hands through his head, this is not what he intended for the holidays and quite frankly he should have headed JJ’s worries about having the family around for the holidays but he wanted to have a memorable Christmas. More fool him.
‘When she left the dining room did the staff see where she went?’
‘Yes, back to our suite.’ Rocco’s answers the question scrolling through his phone for the millionth time, as if expecting her to ring.
‘Did she change?’
‘Yes. Either that or she’s out there naked.’
‘She’s in the village. She must be.’ Tallulah says
‘Maybe she went for a run.’ Albert, Rocco’s brother-in-law says, ‘she loves to run.’’
‘Not in the rain.’ Jason replies.
‘Well, people need to do crazy things sometimes.’ Tommy says.
‘Okay I’ll alert the village search team.’ Rocks says already on her phone to put out the alert.
‘You have a village search team?’ Rocco’s other brother-in-law asks.
‘Of course we do. For times like this?’
‘And how often do you have times like this?’ Tommy asks.
‘Never so it’s high time they got to work.’ Rocks reads the message that comes through her phone. ‘They’re here, we’ll split into two groups.’
The rain is pelting down hard but the search team appear undeterred. Martin is also involved in the search, no one has the heart to tell him what to do with himself, though most would like to. He was on his way out when one of the concierge informed him of his missing daughter.
Torches in hand, raincoats, and wellies on, the two teams split up to look for their missing friend.
JJ wishes she hadn’t run this far but she was too wired especially after that fucking dinner, she needs to run the stress out her system but the rain started and at first she did not mind, but she doesn’t know these woods well. Sure she’s taken a turn somewhere because she kept coming back to the same spot. A round hut in the woods. In the horror movie there would be something waiting to kill her in the dark so she sits outside it, despite the rain. She very much welcomed the rain it gave her room to think.
After leaving the dinner table she’d gone to their suite, changed out of her evening gown, into her running clothes and decided to go for a run, sans phone. It felt like a good idea at the time and she thought she would be back before midnight but she lost her way. As with everything in her life, she’d lost. Rocco must surely be done with her now. All this time he knew about Barnaby. He must’ve felt so betrayed when she did not tell him about her past engagement. What an absolute fool she’s been, and now she is going to lose the man she loves above all else, a kind-hearted and generous man who always wants to make peace for her happiness. She knows this holiday is more for her than him, he wanted her to make up with her parents, patch things up with her father especially and bring them closer, her ever loving peacemaker-
‘JJ!’ Rocco spots her fluorescent pink running shoes a short distance away. He’d know them anywhere, she has had them for over two years despite buying a new pair for her every year, she kept coming back to these. He hurries over to her.
‘Rocco!’ Thank God. It isn’t only him, her sister Fen, Penelope, Tommy, Rocks and some other people she does not recognise are with him too.
‘Are you okay?’
‘Yes. I went for a run and got caught in the rain and couldn’t find my way back.’
‘And you didn’t think to tell anyone you were going for a run?’ Tommy says, if anything had happened to her he would never have forgiven himself, because he is part of the reason the dinner ended the way it did.
‘I needed to clear my head.’ She averts Rocco’s face too embarrassed.
‘We were worried about you.’ Rocco raises her chin to look at him.
JJ looks down at her feet, ‘I’m sorry you were worried.’
‘Of course, we were worried about you. I’m sorry.’
‘You have nothing to apologised for Rocco. I should be the one apologising.’
‘For what JJ?’
‘Everything. Dinner. Barnaby. My father.’
‘I don’t care about any of that. I love you.’
‘Even with everything? You still love me? You don’t want to break up with me?’ She wipes her tears that get enveloped by the raindrops.
‘I’ll never want to break up with you, you’re my girl. I told you, you’re my ride or die for life and beyond.’
‘Marry me.’ JJ blurts out without a thought.
‘WHAT?’ They’d forgotten they have an audience, who were privy to every word said.
‘What did you just say?’ Rocco is sure he misheard.
‘Look, I’m a mess as you’ve gathered for the last nearly a decade that you’ve known me, I’m an emotional mess, I come with baggage and I am probably never going to know what position you play on the team-‘
Rocco laughs a little, ‘third baser as you like to call it.’
‘Leftie third baser.’ JJ corrects him in her wrong term, ‘but I know also hit seventy home runs this year and ended with a point three hundred and eleven batting average.’
‘Damn sweetheart.’ Rocco didn’t know she knew his stats, it is just one the things he shrugs off in their relationship.
‘I pay attention.’ JJ says with a smile.
‘JJ there you are. We have-‘
‘We have a proposal unfolding.’ Rocks informs Caroline who just arrived with the other search party including JJ’s father.
‘A proposal?’ Jason asks, he too confused as to why they are standing in the rain having found JJ.
‘The bottle line is,’ JJ continues, ‘I love you, not because of the position you play or your stats on the field, but because of who you are, the man who would wait up all night setting up a silly surprise for the girls in the morning, who would put getting best plié in daddy and me ballet right up there with winning the platinum glove, the man who would help me open up a hundred flower petals right before taking to the field. The man who told me I was pregnant with Roma even before I knew it and who let me freak out for however long, certain he was going to be all in. Just like you were from that start, like you have always been. I love you Rocco. Will you marry me?’ JJ affirms her questions.
‘You’re really asking me to marry you?’
‘Yes, she clearly is.’ Fenmore says, and the others laugh.
‘Are you going to answer the lady’s question so we can get out of the rain?’ Rocks inquires, just as thunder bolts through.
‘Yes. Of course I’ll marry you.’ And there, he seals them with a kiss. ‘Third time’s the charm huh.’
‘I’ll bet it is.’ Penelope whispers.
‘Let’s get married tomorrow.’ JJ says.
‘We’re here, our families are here, so why not.’
‘I think we can get the vicar to do it. Is the church is free tomorrow Rocks?’
‘It is and I would love to bless you two in marriage.’ An elder gent says.
‘There’s your answer.’ Someone says, making everyone else laugh again, the vicar is also part of the search party.
‘Are you serious?’ Rocco isn’t sure she is.
‘I am.’ JJ on her tiptoes kisses this man she has come to love so much and so deeply for nearly a decade of her life. ‘You are my ride or die in this world and the many worlds to come. It will always be you Rocco Rossi.’