He nodded. “We all think it’s time. This home has been a place of new beginnings for us, of laughter, of love.”

“But also of a lot of pain,” Mama said, giving me a small smile. “And we think it’s time to start again. To find new places, new sights. It’s time for us all to let go of the past and find our future.”

I didn’t argue with them, because it felt way past due, but still there was a sadness that came with the idea of letting go of the house that saved me from myself.

The house sold in fifty-five days after it was listed on the market. Brooks and his band went off to Los Angeles to start rebuilding their music, and I promised I’d meet him out there once everything was in order with the house.

On the final day of our move, the sky was dark and rain fell over Harper County. Two U-Haul trucks were parked in our driveway, and we’d been loading up the trucks for hours. When the last box was packed, I asked my parents for a few minutes to say goodbye.

My once packed room was emptied of all of the history. My hand fell over my heart as I listened to the raindrops pound against the windowsill. I wasn’t certain how to begin to say goodbye. The ache in my chest was reminding me of all the moments those walls brought me. It was the first place I learned what family meant; it was the first place I fell in love, and no matter where life took me, that yellow bricked house would always be home.

I was on the verge of tears when I heard my favorite five words. “You okay today, Maggie May?”

“You’re supposed to be in LA,” I said, smiling as I turned to see Brooks standing there with his hands behind his back. His hair and clothes were soaking wet from the rain, and he had the biggest smile on his lips. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, you didn’t really think I’d miss saying goodbye to the house that gave me you, did you? Plus”—he stepped into my room, brought his hands from behind his back, and held up the dry-erase board with his words written in permanent marker—“I made a promise to a girl a few years back, and I think it’s time we cashed in on it. I want to show you the world, Maggie May. I want to take you on the biggest adventure of your life.”

I smiled, walking over to him. What he didn’t know was that he was the biggest adventure of my life. He was my favorite journey, my anchor that always led me home. He placed the board on the floor and took my hands into his.

“I’m ready for that. I’m ready for our lives together, Brooks. I want you, and only you, for the rest of my life. I’m ready to let go of this place now.”

He smiled. “Are you sure?” He glanced around the emptied space.

I curved into his body as he held me close.

I bit my bottom lip. “Maybe five more minutes,” I whispered.

He kissed my forehead, and softly spoke. “Let’s make it ten.”

When it came time to leave, Brooks grabbed the dry-erase board and held my hand as we walked out of the house. The rain was still falling heavily, and I started to hurry toward the car, but Brooks made me stop. “Maggie, wait! I forgot to tell you the only requirement to my promise of helping you complete your to-do list.”

“And what’s that?”

He flipped the board over, and I read the words.

Marry me.

“What?” I chuckled nervously.

“Marry me,” he repeated. Water crystals dripped down his nose and slid to the ground.

“When?” I asked.

“Tomorrow,” he replied.

“Brooks.” I laughed taking his hands into mine.

“And the day after that. And the day after that one, and the one after that, too. Every day, Maggie May. I want you to marry me every single day for the rest of our lives.” He pulled me closer to his body and the chilled rain somehow felt warmer in that moment. In that moment we became one unit in the pouring rain. His skin on my skin, his heart beating with mine, our souls linked together from that day forth. He grazed his lips against mine, and softly spoke. “Say yes?”

I squeezed his hands twice.

And we kissed beneath the rain.

That was it.

That was the big moment. That was what my father always told me would someday happen. Brooks was the moment I’d been waiting for all my life.

This time is forever.

Ten Years Later

“It’s too loud,” Haley shouted from the front row of the arena. She’d just turned six two weeks prior, and it was her first time seeing The Crooks live in concert. Brooks and the guys were celebrating their twentieth anniversary in the arena center fifteen minutes away from our house, and Haley asked if it could be her birthday present.

“It’s not too loud, you’re just a baby,” Noah mocked his younger sister.

“No, it’s a bit loud,” I replied. I reached into my purse and pulled out a pair of pink soundproofing headphones, and placed them on my daughter’s ears. “Better?” I asked.

She smiled wide and nodded. “Better.”

As the lights began to fade, Haley and Noah both started jumping up and down. When the band entered the stage, the kids seemed seconds away from losing their minds. Their eyes were wide with wonderment as they stared up at their papa.

Their hero. My love.

“Hey, Wisconsin,” Brooks said, wrapping his right hand around the microphone. “If you have ever been to one of The Crooks concerts, you know that we’ve never opened a show with a speech, but tonight is a bit different. Tonight marks the twentieth anniversary of the band, and tonight we are back in our home state to celebrate. So the guys and I thought it would be best to dedicate this show to the one person who made our dream come true all those years ago. There once was a girl who uploaded a few videos online, and she was the reason The Crooks were discovered. Hell, she even named the band.”

“We love you, Maggie!” the twins shouted in unison.

“Love you, sister,” Calvin said, smiling my way.

“They’re talking to you, Mama!” Haley said, amazed.

I kissed her forehead. “I know, baby. They are pretty amazing, aren’t they?”

She sighed, stars in her eyes. “Yeah, Mama. Daddy’s amazing.”

“So the first song isn’t a song by The Crooks, but it only seems fitting to perform this hit on a night dedicated to my heart, my soul, and my best friend,” Brooks explained. “This is an oldie, but a goodie, and I welcome you all to sing along. This is “Maggie May,” by the amazing Rod Stewart.”