Chapter 25

       When Michael awoke the next morning, he surveyed Symphony as she slept. He was still reeling from the information she had revealed to him. She wanted a pretty home, a husband, three puppies, and five squishy babies. The term 'squishy' made him giggle inwardly. He couldn't believe he had finally found his dream woman. Someone sweet, classy, and caring; she was the complete package for him. And though he was excited about their future, he still felt a little afraid. He couldn't bear to be hurt again.

       But despite his fear, he wouldn't let it stop him from taking a chance. He was head-over-heels in love with Symphony, and it was time to pop the question. The only thing that had him feeling a bit apprehensive was her unwillingness to tell him what had made her upset. And though there were plenty of times when he didn't feel like discussing something as well, this was different for her — she usually had no problems telling him what was on her mind.

       When Symphony came home from the studio, he noticed that her usually bright eyes were dim, red, and puffy. Though she had lied and told him she hadn't been crying, he wasn't upset. He just wished she would tell him what happened. But asides from that, he had a gnawing feeling that Nicolae was the cause of her tears. She hadn't mentioned him at all when they were discussing the break up of her band. If the bastard had hurt her in any way, he'd deal with him accordingly. He'd let no man hurt her and get away with it.

      Missing the warmth of Michael's body, Symphony rubbed the space between them on the bed. "Michael?" She murmured sleepily.

        "I'm right here, sweetheart," he replied softly, taking her hand in his.

       As her eyes fluttered open, a satisfied grin formed upon her face. "Good morning," she spoke hoarsely, feeling completely relaxed.

       Michael smiled. "good morning. Did you sleep well?"

       "I did. Thanks for the full body massage. Your hands are incredible," she giggled. "You should be a professional masseuse."

       Trailing his finger along her thigh, he smiled and said, "only for you, Beautiful. These hands are only for you."

       Symphony yawned and said, "they better be... Or else."

       "Oh. Is that a threat?" He smirked, slipping under the covers with her.

       Rolling on top of him, Symphony gave him a small kiss on the cheek and said, "maybe... I'm just letting you know in advance."

     Michael frowned. "Come on, Symphony. You know how much I love you. You're the only woman that I desire."


       "Sorry, Michael, I know. But I want to be sure I'm your one and only."


       "It's alright, baby. I understand, and you are. There is no one else in this entire universe I want to be with more than you."


      "I feel the same, sweetheart. My heart belongs to you."

         Later that morning, Michael and Symphony had taken Shadow out for a walk at a nearby park. As they strolled together hand in hand, Symphony suddenly realized she had forgotten to tell Michael about the letter she received in the mail. She was super excited to perform with the prestigious 'Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra,' but she would only do so if Michael traveled to France with her. The performance was slated to take place the weekend of her birthday, and she couldn't bear to spend it without him.

        When they reached an open field in the middle of the park, Michael bent down to let Shadow off his leash. "You know the drill, don't run too far away," he spoke in a gentle but firm tone.

       As the two kept a close eye on the rambunctious puppy, Symphony turned to Michael and said, "Hey, sweetie. How would you like to take a trip to France with me? I've been invited to perform 'Claud Debussy's Greatest Hits' with the 'Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra.' Since my birthday is next Sunday, and the university is closed the following week, it'll be the perfect time to take an extended vacation together. The event organizers said they would foot the hotel and airfare cost for me and a guest!"

        Michael yelped excitedly, lifting Symphony off of the ground. "Wow! That's incredible! Congratulations, sweetie. And yes. I'd love to go. But please let them know we will not need their accommodations. I'll take care of it."

      Symphony groaned in protest. "Are you sure? I don't want you spending money if you don't have to."

       Pressing his index finger to her lips, he caressed them gently and said, "stop... Let me handle this. You're my lady; I'd like to treat you."


***

        "Good morning, Ms. Foster. How are classes going?" President Myers spoke cheerfully as he shuffled a stack of papers.

       Feeling on edge, Raven let out a shaky breath before answering. She had never been called to his office for a private meeting, and the whole ordeal had her on pins and needles. She had lied on Michael and feared that President Myers had somehow found out. As she quickly calmed herself down, she smiled and said, "They're going well. Thanks for asking, sir."

       After shaking her hand, President Myers sat down behind his desk and said, "That's great Ms. Foster, please have a seat. The reason I called you here today is that it has been brought to my attention you and Dr. Black have been in a relationship of sorts, is that true?"

       Raven stuttered, not knowing how to answer the question. "Who told you I was in a relationship with Dr. Black? And by the way, this is an extremely personal question to be asked."

       "Look, Ms. Foster. I'm not trying to get involved in your personal affairs, but I need you to answer the question honestly."

        Clapping her hand to her forehead, Raven shook her head sideways and said, "I report him, but now I'm the one being attacked?"

       "No one is attacking you, Ms. Foster. I'm just asking a question. So once again⁠ — were you involved in a relationship with Dr. Black?"

        Raven sighed. "Yes. I was. But not anymore. We stopped seeing each other a few months ago. But what does this have to do with me reporting him?"

       With a neutral expression on his face, President Myer's cleared his throat and said, "Thank you for answering my question, Ms. Foster. Based upon what you've told me, I'd like for you to be aware that workplace relationships are not prohibited here at Peabody, but I do expect all faculty and staff to be respectful in their dealings with one another. And with that being said, I wish you a good day."

       Feeling completely blindsided, Raven didn't protest. She knew she was in the wrong for the things she had done and was grateful she hadn't landed herself in deeper trouble. From now on, she would have to be more careful in her dealings with Michael if she didn't want to get suspended, or worse — fired.

       As Raven rose from her chair, she mustered up a smile and said, "Thank you. I wish you a good day as well, sir."

         After Raven left President Myer's office, he updated the notes he had been keeping on Raven and Michael. His meeting with Raven hadn't been based solely on what Michael had told him, but more so as a collective whole.

        But unbeknownst to the two, he had been aware of their relationship for quite a while. He had been the president of Peabody for over thirty years, and there wasn't too much he didn't know concerning his faculty and the campus overall. But since both Raven and Michael were excellent educators, he wanted to give each the benefit of the doubt.

      Later that afternoon, Raven decided to head home early. With the news of her being pregnant and President Myer's stern warning, she had developed a pounding headache and needed to get away from the university.

        As she lay in bed, her brain trailed off to her and Todrick's argument from the night before. He had demanded she take an early paternity test to determine the baby's father. At first, she thought about having an abortion. She didn't want to bring a child into the world she didn't want in the first place.

       But after having an in-depth conversation with herself, she began to change her mind. She was now having second thoughts on keeping the baby but knew neither man would claim a child that wasn't his own. Raising a child would be no easy task, and she didn't want to do it alone.


***

      "Hello, Elizabeth! How are you?" Michael spoke energetically, unable to contain his happiness. He was eager to tell her of his plan to propose to Symphony and was bursting at the seams with excitement.

         Pressing the phone closer to her ear. Elizabeth smiled. Hearing the excitement in his voice made her sit on the edge of her seat. It had been a long time since she heard such glee from him. "I'm doing fine, dear. How are you? How is Symphony?"

         As Michael's brain wandered off to Symphony's mentioning of the big family she wanted, he smiled softly to himself and said, "We're fine. Well, better than fine. I'm going to propose to her this weekend."

       Feeling taken aback, Elizabeth shrieked. "Oh, wow! That's amazing, dear. I'm so happy for you. Now I'll finally get that God-baby I've wished for."

       Michael chuckled. "I think you'll get more than just one God-baby. Symphony told me she'd like to have five babies but then doubled the amount. Guess I'll be getting those thirteen kids I've always wanted. God, I wish I were younger — I hope I can keep up."

      "Oh, you'll be fine, dear. You're still a young man," Elizabeth spoke in a reassuring tone. Whenever Michael spoke about not being able to do certain things due to his age, she couldn't help but laugh. Though Michael had a few injuries, he could still out-run and most certainly out-dance many people half his age.

       Twisting his lips, Michael sniggered and said, "now you and I both know that's not entirely true, but I'm up for the challenge. I just hope she says yes to my proposal. It would shatter my heart if she turned me down."


       "Oh Stop that, Michael! Symphony loves you. After spending time with her, I immediately knew she was the one for you. And you love her cooking more than mine."


      "Elizabeth... Please. I'm sorry. Are you ever going to let that go? I still love your cooking."


      "Oh, I'll have to think about it."


      "Really?"


      "Michael! I'm kidding. As I stated that night at dinner— I'm glad she cooks for you. It's about time you stop eating that 'KBC' you love so much."


     "KFC! Not KBC."


      "Whatever, dear. You need good home-cooked meals. Especially now! You'll need extra strength to keep up with all the kids you and Symphony are sure to have."


     "From your mouth to God's ears... Well, I just wanted to tell you the good news and wish you Happy Holidays."


      "Thanks for calling me. I wish you two Happy Holidays as well."


      "Well, I'll let you get going now. You two enjoy and don't forget to call me on Christmas... Love you and take care."


      "Thankyou! I love you more. We'll be sure to call."

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