It was tough. Really, really tough. I won't lie and say that I didn't struggle with the urge to talk to Aubree every free second. But I kept myself in check, and it did become easier over time. I still don't fully understand why that was such a problem for me. I simply loved her so much that I was literally addicted to her.
As soon as it was feasible, I got the hell out of LA and moved in with Aubree. I hated to leave Cal, but he started spending his time off either with Traci or his family in Australia. So it all worked out. I do miss my band mates when we aren't touring or making new music, but they're only a FaceTime away.
It wasn't long after I made the move that one of my most cherished moments ever happened. I busied the kids outside while Aubree got some work done. While we were alone, I let them in on a little secret: I was going to propose to Aubree. That was, if they were okay with it. Well, you would have thought I told them we were going to Disneyland. They couldn't contain their excitement, and I had to remind them that it was going to be a surprise, and I needed their help.
I took advantage of Ash's question-asking habit and told him that if he asked his mom if she would marry me, I'd buy him his very own pint sized bass guitar. I also may have promised a private lesson with the bass god himself, the one and only Calum T. Hood. He was all over it. I tried to make a deal with Molly, too. Her job was to present the ring after Ash asked the question. But she didn't want to make a deal. She just wanted to do what was asked of her. She was just like Aubree in that way. She never wanted anything for herself other than to please other people.
I was going to do the whole get-down-on-one-knee thing and ask properly, too. But I thought Aubree would appreciate it if I involved the kids somehow. I also thought she would prefer a simple proposal at home to some exuberant act in public. I wasn't sure if it would go as planned or not, as Ash was a talkative little dude and couldn't keep a secret to save his life. But I was learning that bribery went a long way with kids.
I was a little nervous, but mostly excited. The kids surprised me by playing along as though we weren't up to anything.We had just finished our dinner outside on the patio, and Aubree and Molly brought out the dessert. That was Ash's cue to ask the question. Things didn't go exactly as planned, but it all worked out in the end.
Ash asked neither of us in particular, "So, I was wondering, are you two going to get married or something?"
My heart rate began to speed up instantly. I looked over at Aubree to see her reaction. It was the same as mine. We were both trying to not smile too much at such a "random" question.
Molly scolded him. "Ashton Xavier Johnson!" She was scolding him for not asking the question properly, but Aubree didn't know that. She probably thought it was because Molly didn't think Ash should ask us such a question.
Ash realized his mistake and his eyes darted to me. He looked like he may burst into tears and it broke my heart. "It's okay, buddy." I winked at him and rubbed his little blonde head so he'd know that I meant it, and his face relaxed. "I've kind of been wondering the same thing." I then turned to Aubree. "So, Mommy. Are we going to get married or something?"
Aubree blushed and look back and forth between the three of us nervously. She stuttered, "I-I, um, I don't - Are we?" She rarely didn't have an instant answer for Ash's many questions. It was endearing the way she didn't know what to say.
I cleared my throat and stood up to walk over to Molly. Her face lit up when I held out my hand. She knew what that meant, and she reacted quickly, removing the necklace that held the ring, which she had tucked under her shirt.
While I unclasped the necklace with shaky fingers to slide the ring off, I watched Aubree. She sat motionless, staring at me with a gaping mouth.
I tried to act more confident than I was and hoped she didn't notice how nervous I'd gotten when I knelt down and took her hand. On cue, Molly and Ash stood beside me.
I had to take a deep breath and clear my throat again before I could speak normally. "The three of us would love to make our family official. What about you? Will you marry me, Aubree?" I had nothing planned to say, but I thought that was all that was necessary.
All I saw was on Aubree's face as she looked at the three of us was pure love. I could tell she tried so hard to not cry, but she failed. The kids were staring at Aubree expectantly, and I thought Molly was going to burst she looked so excited.
Aubree nodded her head at first, then she said, "This family is my world. The only thing that could make it better is marrying you. Yes."
Keeping in line with how Aubree and I prefer things, the wedding was a no-frills event, held at our home, with only our closest friends and family in attendance. My family flew in a few days early, which was great. And of course Traci and Calum were our maid of honor and best man.
Aubree had met my family once before, when she went with me to Australia. She was so nervous about what my mum would think about her, because of her age. But it didn't mean anything at all to Mum. She welcomed her with open arms, and they got along so well that I think Aubree spent more time with her than me. And of course everyone fell in love with the kids, as I expected they would.
For a while we didn't make any major changes. We lived a normal life as much as possible and did normal couple things. We still do, even though it can sometimes cause a scene, depending on where we are. But here in this little town, it's easy to be normal. A few people know who I am, but no one ever runs up to me asking for photos, even when I have to make the occasional run to the local Dollar General store for milk or what not. Probably because it's mostly older people who live here. Aubree offered to move wherever I felt most comfortable. But I wouldn't trade this location for the world.
Though we're still in the same town, I did eventually talk Aubree into moving to a new house because it was a necessity. We simply outgrew the other one. We built a new house a little further out in the country, with a gigantic yard for the kids to play in. The house isn't a mansion or anything, but it's large enough for a family of six, which is how many of us there will be soon.
We didn't waste any time trying to get pregnant after we got married. I'm still a little young to be having children by a lot of people's standards. But we both knew that we wanted to expand our family long ago. We just had to figure out how. We settled on IVF, and by the grace of God, it worked the first try. Two embryos were transferred and they both implanted successfully. We've been so fortunate that Aubree hasn't had any complications, other than some horrible morning sickness, which she said was normal for her. It's getting close to the end and I can't fucking wait to meet the little guys in just a few weeks.
The touring schedule has slowed down quite a bit, as many fans are growing up and losing interest. But that's the natural order of things. And considering my situation, I'm not going to complain about it. I know Aubree would take care of all four kids by herself if she needed to, and not complain once. But I'm honestly looking forward to my new responsibilities.
Though we don't have another tour planned just yet, we're still writing music all the time. We meet up in various locations for a few days at a time, instead of spending weeks in LA. We often meet in Nashville, which is very close to me. And Aubree and Traci usually tag along so they can spend time together. Sometimes it occurs to me what an amazing thing fate is. My wife's best friend is dating my best friend. I mean, how perfectly aligned did the stars have to be for everything to work out like this? It's just crazy.
There are no words to describe how happy I am. I can't get over how blessed we are. It wasn't that long ago that everything fell apart. Now, there's not a single important thing in my life that isn't perfect. It took a little while to stop expecting the other shoe to drop. But now I wake up every day grateful for all that I have and tell my negative thoughts to take a fucking hike. I have everything I've ever wanted, and I'll never let anything take it away from me.