Chapter 17

As they approached the front gate. Sparkle took notice of how dark it was and that 'Neverland' was virtually in the middle of nowhere.
   "Michael, where are your lights?" She teased.
   "Off! When we get inside, I'll show you my electric bill."
   After stepping out of his SUV, Michael instructed Bill to bring their luggage up to the main house while he showed Sparkle around for a bit.
     On the ride over, she was amazed to see that many of the trees were lit up in thousands of twinkling lights.
   "Wow! This is beautiful." 
   "Oh this is nothing, let me show you the amusement park!" He replied excitedly.
   When they arrived at the park, Sparkle stood in awe. Every single ride and sculpture had been covered in soft glowing lights.
   "This is amazing, sweetheart! I can see why you love it here so much."
   Pulling her close in his arms, he looked her deep in the eyes and said, "Though many lights surround us, I'm holding the most beautiful and brightest of them all." He smiled, dipping his head to kiss her.
  When they finally broke their kiss, Michael reached inside of the golf-cart.
   "I wanna show you something." He said in a mischievous tone.
   Without warning, all of the lights went out.
   "What happened, Michael? What happened to the lights? She nervously shrieked.
   "Haha! Inside of the golf cart, there is a button that shuts the lights off and on. Neat, isn't it?" He laughed.
   "Yes, sweetheart... It is." She replied, feeling a little tired.
    Letting out a loud yawn, Sparkle stretched her arms and blinked her eyes.
   "I love it out here, but I think we should retire to your chambre monsieur." She spoke seductively in her best French accent while wrapping her arms around his neck.
   "Hmm... Can you speak like that the next time we make love?" He groaned as he bit her ear softly.
   "Mais Bien sûr." She cooed in response to his question.
   "OK... Let's go!" He shouted enthusiastically.
   Even though Sparkle was a bit tired, they still managed to make love four times that night.
   Twice in his bed, once in the shower, and once on a makeshift bed on the floor.
   "Is this soft enough for you? I can get more blankets and pillows." He asked concernedly as they lay in a spooning position in front of the fireplace.
   "I'm ok baby." She replied quietly, feeling deliciously sore from their 'love-making' marathon.
   Nibbling on her shoulder lightly, he asked out of the blue. "So-- Where do you see yourself in the next five years?"
   Being taken aback by the sudden question, Sparkle cleared her throat before answering.
   "Oh... I don't know to be quite honest, but whatever I'm doing, I hope that you'll be by my side." She replied tenderly.
   Feeling his heart constrict, Michael closed his eyes and sighed.
   "I hope so too, baby! I can't picture my life without you."
   Turning to face him directly, she lightly traced his chiseled jaw with her index finger.
   "You're so beautiful Michael, I can't picture my life without you either."  
   Shifting himself on one elbow, Michael stared at her intently.
   "What if I was to ask you to marry me?" He spoke candidly.
   "I'd say yes."
   "Even if I didn't have a ring?" He frowned, as he played with a lock of her hair.
    "Aww... Of course, Michael. My answer would still be yes!" 
   "So...will you?"
    "Will I what?" She replied coyly.
    "Be my wife?"
    Lifting her hand towards his lips, he kissed the tips of her fingers.
   "I know this might be a little too soon, but when you know, you know." He smiled.
   "I know just exactly what you're saying, Michael." She replied softly.
   "So-- I guess that means we're engaged now?" He chuckled.
   "Y-Yes... It does baby, but I don't want this to be a rushed marriage."
   "So, you're asking for a long engagement?" He replied, not sure of what she was exactly asking.
   "Precisely! I have a career, and you are most certainly busy with yours. We live two hours apart, and you're always traveling. I'm not saying this can't or won't work, but we need to figure out some things first." She said in a more serious tone.
   "I understand and agree. Don't worry, Sparkle... I know that we have a lot to discuss before moving forward." He replied with a reassuring smile.
   Michael loved Sparkle as he had never loved any woman before. Even though they had only known each other for a short time, he knew that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

***
   "Don't peak!" Michael exclaimed while covering Sparkle's eyes.
   "I'm not! And what are you up to?" She fussed in return.
   When Michael uncovered her eyes, she gasped at the massive Christmas tree standing in front of her.
   "Ta-DA!" He chimed!
   "Oh, Michael! It's gorgeous!" She beamed with joy.
    "Well, come on! Let's decorate!" He cheerfully announced.
   After the tree was fully decorated, Michael and Sparkle stood back to investigate their work.
   "Wow! Look at our first Christmas tree." She gushed.
   Pulling her close to him from behind, he wrapped his arms around her. "We didn't do too bad. This looks great!"
   "We make such a good team, baby." She smiled, looking up towards him.
    For the next few days, Michael and Sparkle enjoyed spending time alone together at his ranch.
   With no set schedule, they planned their days as they went along.
   But soon, they had to head back into the city to celebrate Christmas with her mom and prepare for the 'Christmas charity ball.'
   He wished that they could return to Neverland after Christmas, but it made no sense, considering that the ball was near her condo in downtown L.A.
   "Do we really have to go?" She exclaimed sadly, not wanting to leave the ranch.
   "But baby... We'll be back in a few days. Let's get going! Per usual, Bill is waiting for us." He laughed.
    "I'll miss you, 'Neverland.' She exclaimed dramatically.
   "Come on, Sparkle! You're so silly, and your mom would kill us if we didn't show up for Christmas." He laughed.

***
Christmas Day 1991

"Merry Christmas, Mom! We're here! Sparkle shouted.
   "I'll be right there! Make yourselves comfortable. Carol replied as she peaked her head out of the kitchen.
   When Michael sat down on the couch, he pulled Sparkle into his lap.
   "I've meant to ask this for a long time now, but where is the rest of your family?"
   "Oh... My mom and I don't have much family. When my mom was born, she was abandoned at the hospital by her parents and grew up in multiple foster homes throughout her life until she turned eighteen. Since my parent's divorce, she's the only blood family that I have." She spoke sadly while looking down.
   Tilting her chin up, Michael kissed her sweetly. "You know... some-day we'll have our own little family." He smiled.
   "Aww, That's a sweet thought." She replied, kissing his lips in return.
   "Ahem! at the rate you two are going, I'm estimating a grand-baby around September." Carol exclaimed when she walked into the room, startling them both.
   As the night wore on, Carol and Michael got to know each other better.   
   He felt very much at ease with her, just as he did with his mother.
   After exchanging gifts, Carol told them something that made both of their hearts leap.
   "I had a visit with Dr. Stevenson the other day, and he says that I'm a good candidate for the surgery. I'm still afraid, but I have a feeling that I need to be on this earth a little while longer." She smiled.
   As tears filled Sparkle's eyes, she hugged her mom tightly.
   "When is your surgery, Ms. Carol?" Michael asked curiously.
   "Oh, baby, you don't have to call me Ms. But I'm scheduled for January tenth. She replied.
   "Sorry but it's a form of respect, I hope you don't mind." He replied politely.
   "I know, baby! What a nice and respectful man you are."
  Motioning Sparkle over, Michael got down on one knee when she stood before him.
   "What are you doing?" She gasped.
   "I want to propose to you properly." He smiled.
   Taking her hand in his, he began to propose. "Sparkle, will you marry me?"
   "Yes, baby! For the second time, of course, I will!" She laughed.
   "But this time, I have a ring." He replied as he produced a black velvet box.
    "Oh, baby, it's magnificent!" she sighed in awe.
   Michael had given her an 'heirloom heart' diamond encrusted engagement ring.
   As Carol's eyes filled with tears, she hugged them both and asked to see Sparkle's ring.
   "Oh, it's beautiful, baby. I'm so happy for you two." She said, dabbing tears away from her eyes.
   For the rest of the evening, the three listened to Christmas music and enjoyed the dinner that Sparkle's mom had prepared.
   "Wow! Ms. Carol! Banana cream pudding is my favorite! You're an excellent cook."
   "Thanks, Michael! Well now that you're my son-in-law. I can make it for you whenever you like."
   "Thank you, Ms. Carol. You're going to be a great mother-in-law!" He exclaimed cheerfully.
   Sitting down next to him, Carol pulled him into a warm embrace.
   "Michael... Please call me, mom." She replied happily, as she softly pinched his cheek.

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