June felt a pinch in her heart. And Mick did, too.
“Please,” he said. “I love our children. I need our children.”
He was picking the lock on her heart like a burglar at the front door. Almost, almost, almost, and then, “I’m ready to be the dad they need,” he said. Click. It slid open.
June took his hand and closed her eyes. Mick kissed her on the cheek. “Mick …” she sighed.
There, in her pajamas, Mick still in his suit, June moved her mouth toward his and let him kiss her. His lips were full and warm and tasted like home.
When Mick pulled back to look at her, June looked away but took him by the hand. She led Mick into the bedroom. They fell to the bed, as June pulled Mick onto her. They rushed as they clung to each other, their hearts swelling as they moved, their lips pressed against each other, their breath one breath. They both were under the same spell, that delicious delusion that they were the two most important souls to meet.
This was what June had ached for, every day since he left. The feeling of his attention on her, the way he moved his body with hers. He touched her in just the way she had grown desperate to be touched.
Mick fell asleep soundly moments later, complete. June stayed awake the rest of the night, watching his chest move with his breath, watching his eyelids flutter.
When morning came, she felt as if the next chapter of her life was starting, the part where the family lives happily ever after. As June started preparing breakfast, Nina woke up and walked into the kitchen.
She could not quite make sense of the sight before her. Her mother was making eggs and toast for this strange man seated at the table. He was in trousers and an undershirt, drinking a cup of coffee. He looked eerily familiar and yet she could not place him.
She asked what she did not know. “Hi,” she said. “Who are you?”
And Mick, undeterred, smiled at her and said, “Hi, honey, it’s Daddy. I had to go away for a little while. But I’m back now. Forever.”
Jay rolled up his trash and walked it over to the garbage can. “I have an idea,” he said, with a grand pause.
“So spit it out,” Kit said.
“When was the last time we were all riding together? Like, actually, all of us,” he asked.
So often now things got in the way of the four of them just being out there on the water. Jay and Hud were traveling all over the world and Nina was always on some shoot. But they were all here now. They all had the afternoon free.
“I’m in,” Kit said.
Hud nodded. “Me, too,” he said. “Family shred.”
Nina looked at her watch. “Let’s do it. The waves are great at my place. We can head there. Especially since I can’t stay out too long; the cleaners are coming. I should be there to let them in, make sure they’re all set.”
“Can’t you just leave the door unlocked with a note?” Jay asked.
“No, I mean, you know, I should greet them. Make them comfortable.”
“Make them comfortable? They are going to clean your house,” Jay said. “You are paying them to make you comfortable.”
“Jay …” Nina started. But then that was it. “Are we gonna hit the surf or what?”
“Fuck yeah we’re gonna hit the surf,” Kit said, offering a high five to Hud, who took her up on it.
The four of them cleaned up their lunch and said goodbye to the staff and made their way to their cars.
It would be the last time they all surfed together. Even though Jay did not know what would happen over the course of the evening—did not know just what awaited them all—he did know that.
Mick’s life came into focus for him during the summer of 1962. He was on hiatus from touring. His new record was already in the can. And he had moved back in with his family.
Every day, he woke up with the satisfaction of being the man he meant to be. He was paying the bills and buying June and the kids whatever they wanted. He took June out for romantic dinners, he read stories of heroes and soldiers to his boys.
Still, his daughter held a piece of herself back from him.
Nina was not charmed by Mick like June was and she was not aching for his presence quite like the boys. But Mick remained determined to win her over. He would tickle her in the living room and offer to sing her to sleep at night. He would make her cheeseburgers on the grill and make sandcastles for her on the beach. He knew, over time, she would soften.
One day, he believed, Nina would come to understand that he was never leaving again.
“Marry me, Junie. One more time, this time forever,” Mick said to June in the dark one night after they’d made love quietly, as the rest of the house slept.
“I thought last time was forever,” June said. She was half-joking, and still angry, but entirely happy to be asked.
“I was a boy pretending to be a man when I married you the first time. But I am a man now. Things are different,” Mick said, pulling her toward him. “You know that, right?”
“Yes,” June said. “I do.” She’d seen it in the way he kept close to her, the way he never stayed out late, the way he drank half a pot of coffee in the morning to get up with the kids and almost no booze at night.
“Will you let this new man marry you?” he asked, pushing the hair away from her face.
June smiled, despite herself, and gave him the answer that both of them knew was never really in doubt. “Yes,” she said. “I will.”
• • •
That September, June and Mick remarried at the courthouse in Beverly Hills with the kids by their side. June wore a pale blue sheath dress with white gloves and three short strands of pearls around her neck. Mick wore his signature black. When the judge declared them married again, Mick grabbed June and dipped her, planting a kiss on her lips. Theo, Christina, and the kids watched as June laughed with her whole body, so delighted to have once again given him her soul.
“Be the man you tried to tell us you were,” Christina said to him, just after the ceremony.
“I am that man now,” Mick said. “I promise you that. I promise to never hurt her like that again.”
“Them,” Christina said. “Never hurt them like that again.”
Mick nodded. “Believe me,” he said. “I promise.”
As the family walked out of the courthouse, Mick winked at Nina and grabbed her hand. She smiled just the tiniest bit in her lavender dress, so he lifted her up into his arms and ran with her through the parking lot.
“Nina, my Nina! Cuter than a ballerina!” he sang to her, and when he put her down, she was laughing.
Afterward, Mick and June did not leave for a honeymoon but, instead, drove home to the beach. They said good night to Theo and Christina. June heated up a leftover casserole for dinner. Mick put the kids to bed.
June took off her dress and hung it up in the closet in a plastic garment bag, dreaming of giving it to her daughter one day. It would be a physical testament to second chances.
June was pregnant before the year was out. And by the time Katherine Elizabeth Riva was born, Mick had stayed for so long, been so doting, that he had even won over tiny little suspicious Nina.