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Chapter 9: Coming With Terms
Ace woke up to somebody poking him on the forehead. When he opened his eyes he saw green. He blinked trying to focus his eyes. When his vision became clear he saw the read-headed girl poking him. When she noticed that his eyes were opened she giggled than hid behind the coffee table so that he couldn’t see her. Ace could help but smile at the little girl’s straight forwardness but shyness and the same time.

Hailey poked her head up just far enough so that she could see over the table. When she saw the Ace was looking at her she hid behind the table again. Ace got up and pretended that he didn’t know where she was and walked over to the kitchen where he began the coffee machine. Hailey ended up coming out of her hiding spot and now sat at the table looking at Ace curiously.

“Who are you?” Hailey asked with her cute little voice.

“I’m a friend of your mothers. She asked me to stay over last night. I hope that doesn’t bother you.” Ace said not totally sure how he should handle the little girl. Hailey just shook her head ‘no’ and then looked at him expectantly. For some odd reason Ace knew what she wanted.

“So, what do you want for breakfast?” Ace asked.

“Pancakes!” Hailey said excited.

“Okay, let’s see if I remember how to make them.” Ace said. “Do you want to help me make them?” Hailey was already waiting by the countertop ready to start her first cooking lesson. Ace just laughed at her.
!@#$%^&*()!

Sara woke up to the smell of bacon which hadn’t happened since she was living at home. She got up and found her head pounding at just the small sound of her feet touching the ground as she walked over to her closet. After she got dressed for work she noticed the sun out side and screeched. She was late for work, really late.

Sara rushed out of her room still trying to get her shoe on but stopped after she saw the state of her kitchen. It was covered in flour but she couldn’t help but laugh when she saw her daughter throw another handful of flour at the man flipping the pancakes.

Ace turned around and found Sara laughing at him as another handful of flour found his face. He glared at the girl on the countertop who was also covered in flour but all she did was start giggling behind her hand.

“Well, I tried to make breakfast.” Ace shrugged. Sara came over to him and brushed his hair which was dusted with flour and now he looked just as old as time itself.

“I’m sure it tastes wonderful, but I’m late for work.” Sara said heading for the door again but Ace stopped her.

“No your not.” Ace said. “I already call Jackie who called in sick for you. And don’t tell me that your head isn’t pounding because I know it is.”

“Thanks.” Sara said as Ace handed her a glass of water and some aspirin. “But I hope that you plan on cleaning this up.”

“Of course.” Ace said. “But first let’s have breakfast. It’s almost ready.”

Sara picked up Hailey who was covered from head to foot in flour and started to clean off her face and hands. Ace was finishing up the last of the pancakes and placing them on the table.

“Sorry about the mess.” Ace said as they started to eat. “But Hailey wanted to help.” Hailey just smile innocently up at him with her green eyes twinkling. They looked so familiar to Ace but he couldn’t place them.

“I hope you don’t always try to impress a girl by messing up her kitchen.” Sara remarked. Ace just laughed shaking his head as he continued eating. The pancakes had a little too much flour in them but they were still good considering that a three year old did most of the work.

After they all finished eating Sara made Hailey take a bath and Ace started cleaning up the kitchen. When Hailey finally finished her bath Ace took a shower next and Sara decided that calling Jackie to thank her would be the nice thing to do.

“So how did it go?” Jackie said on the other side of the line.

“How did what go?” Sara asked already knowing the answer.

“Come on! He called me from your house. Are you trying not to tell me that you aren’t as easy as me sometimes?” Jackie accused.

“He slept on the couch for your information.” Sara said then got to the reason why she called. “I just wanted to thank you for calling in sick for me this morning.”

“Aaaanndd…”

Sara took a deep breath knowing she was going to regret this. “And for hooking me up with such a sweet guy. You were right I had fun.”

“Now was that so hard?” Sara just huffed into the phone. “So, when’s the next date?”

“He hasn’t asked yet but he’s in the shower now so maybe he’ll ask me before he leaves?”

“The shower?” Jackie questioned.

“He made breakfast and Hailey threw flour at him?” Sara explained. “Oh, I got to go; he’s coming out of the shower.”

“Good Luck.” Jackie said before hanging up.

Sara just finished cleaning the dishes when Ace came out of the bathroom. He defiantly looked better without white hair.

“So, head stop pounding yet.” Ace asked as he sat down on the couch

“It’s much better.” Sara replied joining him. “Thanks for taking me home last night. I was pretty drunk.”

“You don’t have to thank me.” Ace replied. “It was my pleasure.”

Ace and Sara sat in silence for a couple of minutes before Ace finally decided to voice what they were both thinking.

“Look, I’m not going to beat around the bush. I like you and I would love to get to know you better so I was kind of hoping that you would go out with me again.”

“I thought you would never ask but…” Sara said while looking at Hailey who was playing in her room.

“We can bring Hailey along if you want.” Ace said knowing what she was thinking. “I’ve grown quite fond of the girl actually.”

“Well, it would have to be something that a three year old could do.” Sara said trying to think of something that they could do with a three year old.

“A picnic at the zoo.” Ace suggested. “I’m sure she would love it. Plus, wasn’t it me who told you that a man wasn’t worth your time unless he understood that your daughter was the first priority?” Sara nodded. “Truth is, it should be his first priority as well, unless of course he has his own children.”

“I like the way you think Mr. Williams.” Sara said.

Sara, Hailey, and Ace all went to the zoo the next weekend. They all had a great time, especially Hailey. She had never been to the zoo and was fascinated by all of the animals that she had never seen before. Her favorite animals were all of the beautiful colored birds. The orange, green, yellow, and red birds would even fly up to you if you stood still enough. Ace and Sara could never get Hailey to stay still long enough but a particular red one perched on Ace’s shoulder every time he stopped walking.

“Oh, you have such an adorable little girl.” A woman next to Ace said after seeing Hailey chase some of the birds into flight.

“She’s not…” But for some odd reason he couldn’t say that she wasn’t his daughter. Even though he had just met Sara and Hailey a few days ago he already felt like this is where he was meant to be. But she wasn’t his daughter and Sara wasn’t his wife so he should tell the truth but before he could the woman walked away with her son who was dragging her toward another bird.

A week later you could find Ace either at Sara’s apartment watching Hailey or at the café were she worked. Their relationship was starting to grow into something more serious and Ace knew that he would do anything for her if she asked. He couldn’t imagine leaving again. He might have actually found the piece of him that he was missing all these years, but did Sara feel the same way.

Of course she did. Sara didn’t know what about Ace that she loved but he reminded her of Hailey’s father in so many ways. All of his bad habits, his old ways of chivalry, and just the way he looked at her made her think that she couldn’t have found a better man to take care of her and her daughter.

Hailey never really understood that her father wasn’t alive and the truth is that Sara had never really told her. She just said that he had left and wasn’t going to come back. She wouldn’t understand what death meant and Sara didn’t want her to experience it so early in life either. But about a month after Ace came into their lives Hailey did something that broke Sara’s heart and made it fly at the same time. It proved just how much Ace was influencing their lives and how close Hailey was becoming with her mother’s new boyfriend.

Ace was staying over the night like he had been doing for the past couple of weeks. They had just lain down in bed when Hailey could be heard screaming. Sara was used to this. She has had nightmares ever since Sara could remember but what came next Sara wasn’t expecting.

“Daddy!” Hailey screamed. Ace gave Sara a questioning look as if asking her if Hailey meant him. In truth Sara didn’t know but Hailey had never known her father, maybe she didn’t understand when Sara said that he wasn’t coming back or maybe she did and just thought that Ace could be her dad. They had been getting really close lately. “Daddy!”

“I’ll go…” Sara started but Ace interrupted her.

“No, I’ll take care of it.” Ace said getting up and putting his shirt back on. Ace made his way to Hailey’s room wondering why Hailey had decided to call him ‘Dad’. “Hailey.” Ace entered her room to find her crying on her bed. “Hailey, what’s wrong?”

When Ace made it to her bed she flung herself on him. He held her close as she cried on his shoulder. Ace was just starting to get frustrated that he couldn’t help the girl when her crying calmed down enough for Ace to make out a few words that were on her mind.

“Your not going to leave me are you?” Hailey said.

“Of course not Hailey.” Ace said still holding her close trying to let her know that it was the exact opposite of what he wanted to do. “I’ll never leave you.”

“But what if you didn’t have a choice?” Hailey said. Clearly Sara was wrong about Hailey not understanding death. She understood perfectly but still didn’t believe that her father was dead. “I had a bad dream.”

“What was your dream about honey?” Ace said trying to get to the bottom of her clinginess. She still had not let him go and didn’t look like she was going to let go anytime soon.

“You were fighting someone. It was dark so I didn’t see your face but I knew it was you because of your voice.” Hailey started to explain. “You said a funny word and then their was a red flash of light. Then something horrible happened. The other man said a funny word ‘like abra kadabra’ and then a green light hit you. You didn’t get back up.”

Ace stared at the wall in front of him and pulled Hailey even closer to him. He knew what she was describing but how could that be. He had never told them anything about his past and Sara had never told him about hers. It was an unspoken agreement that they wouldn’t discuss the past. But then how could this little girl who wasn’t even born yet know about his past.

“I promise you Hailey that will never happen.” Ace reassured her. “I’m never going to put myself in that danger again. Not unless it meant your or mother’s safety. I love you and I love your mother. Nothing is going to change that and nobody is going to take me away from you two. That’s a promise.”

“I love you Daddy.” Hailey said giving the man that she will look to as her father the rest of her life no matter what happens in the future or no matter who her father really is. Nothing will change that and nothing will come between them including her mother.

“I love you to Hailey.” Ace whispered back.

But Sara, who was standing in the doorway, had no intention of separating the two. She could only think of one person who would be a better father to Hailey and that was her real father. Hailey will still, one day, know who her real father was but for now the man in front of her would be her father and Sara wasn’t going to stop that. Hailey needed a father and Ace was the perfect one for her. He was so much like her real father and Sara couldn’t see her future without him in it.

Everything was moving really fast but Sara couldn’t help but think that this was just how it was suppose to be. Everything that they did together felt so right as if they had been doing it for years. But there was still something that kept them one step away from each other, their past loves. They never really talked about them but lately they had been popping up in their minds a lot. Perhaps to remind them that they were still in love with somebody else or they just felt insecure. Sara was afraid that if she moved on to another man she would forget about him and she didn’t want that. But he would still want her to be happy and she was happy and she was happy with Ace.

Ace looked at Sara, one hand propping his head up; the other playing with her hair. Sara just looked back wondering what he was thinking. He looked deep in thought about something, like he was trying to sort out his feelings just like she was.

“Sara…” Ace said finally coming to a conclusion. He didn’t know why he was going to do this but for some reason it just seemed right. He took a deep breath and tried again. “Sara, I know this might seem sudden and I would understand if you said no but I have to ask you… Will you marry me?”

“What?” Sara said. That had got her attention. Did he just ask her what she though he asked her? Or was she dreaming?

“Forget about it…” Ace said lying back down next to her. “It’s too soon… It just felt right.”

“No.” Sara said intertwining their hands and balanced above him waiting for him to continue. “Give me one good reason why and I will.”

Ace looked down and their intertwined hands then back up into her waiting eyes. “That’s why.” Ace said but Sara just gave him a confused look. “Whenever I look into your eyes, my heart skips a beat. Whenever I hear you laugh, it’s the most wonderful sound I’ve every heard. Whenever I see you cry, my heart breaks. And whenever I see you smile, my world is right again.” (Cheesy, I know.)

Sara didn’t know what to say. She felt the same way but her heart belonged to another and it wouldn’t be fair to Ace if she couldn’t love him the same way he loved her. Or could she?

“I’d do anything for you Sara.” Ace said. “I would jump off the edge of the earth if you asked me to. I love you.”

“Ace.” Sara interrupted him. “If you want to marry me then there are a few things that you’re going to have to except about me. I’m still in love with Hailey’s father and that is never going to change. It wouldn’t be fair to you if you expected me to love you and only you because I can’t. A part of me died with him and I’m never going to get it back.”

“I understand more than you think.” Ace said. “A part of me died with my first love also, but the only time I’m happy these days is if you’re around. The reason why I traveled so much before coming here was because I was trying to find myself, trying to find the part of me that left when she did. I found that here, with you.”

“Let’s just think about this Ace. Give me some time and then ask me again.” Sara said with her mind racing with the idea of loving someone else.

“Alright, love.” Ace said kissing her softly. “Now, let’s go to sleep.”

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