Three weeks later on the eve of her birthday, Holly is in her bedroom packing up the remaining items that aren’t too visible. As she packs a stuffed dog into one of her duffle bags she hears the muffled shouts of her parents arguing downstairs. Every time she hears it she still gets a sickening feeling in the pit of her stomach just like she did when she was five years old. Because every time she heard the beginnings of an argument it was bound to turn violent. “One more night,” she mutters to herself as she grabs her clothes from the drawer and packs it in another suitcase. Suddenly the bellowing sound of shattered glass rings out in he ears making her stop. Her breathing hitches and she feels nauseous as more sounds of shattered glass and shouts come from below. A knock is at her closed bedroom door before Kenny’s head pops in. “Sis, can I come in?” She smiles at his calming presence. “Sure bro.” He comes in, shuts the door, and sits on the edge of her bed, which at the moment is the only empty spot on her bed. Kenny looks around the room, “It’s startin’ to look empty in here,” he mentions. She shrugs as she packs some tops in her suitcase. “Not bare enough, I need to move more stuff out of here by tomorrow morning before mom notices.” “I can help you, I got my permit and my truck. Besides, mom and dad will be in Santa Monica till late tomorrow night anyway.” “Not with the way it sounds out there,” Holly says motioning towards the door where the commotion is still going on.

Kenny rolls his eyes, “You know mom and dad, violent one moment and tame the next. Our whole childhood was always like that…well except for you, you were on the stage.” “Not sure if I got the long or short straw on that one,” she says with a smirk as she zips up one bag and sets it down by her dresser. “How’s Michael feelin’ knowing you are moving in tomorrow with him?” “He seems really excited at the idea,” she remarks absentmindedly going to her dresser. “And you?” he probes looking at her with interest. Holly stops and looks at the remaining clothes still in her dresser thinking, she turns around with a conflicted expression. “Honestly, I’m nervous. I’ve never lived with a man before outside of you guys and what if we can’t stand how the other lives?” “Yeah, but you said yourself that it’s just temporary.” “True, but it could ruin our relationship.” Holly grabs more clothes and starts to pack them in another suitcase. Kenny turns himself around to face her. “Well, would you like your teenage brother’s opinion?” Holly smirks, “Always bro.” “You two seem to really like each other, and Michael’s known you for years now so that means he isn’t sick of you yet,” he adds jokingly with a chuckle. Holly rolls her eyes, “Oh ha-ha.” “No, but seriously, I’d say just enjoy this time together, you never know what it may bring.” Holly stops and stares at him with a skeptical eye. “You know for sixteen you certainly are very wise,” she remarks rumpling his hair. “Hey, hey, watch the hair,” he warns putting the jelled pieces back into place. “Oh excuse me Mr. Cool, can’t touch the precious hair.” “Hey, can I get Michael on the phone and ask him to move you in tonight?” He jests with a smirk. Holly sticks out her tongue at him. “You know what you can do with that attitude of yours?” Holly adds back with a returning smirk. Kenny laughs, “We always joked like this even when we were little, remember?” “Yep, always, Abby never wanted to join in I remember. Speaking of which, where has she been, I haven’t seen her the last couple of days.” He shrugs as he watches her pack up some knick-knacks on her dresser and gently places them in a box. “You know Abby always the loner of the family, but I know for a fact she’s been hangin’ with a group on the west side of L.A.” “Are they a good or bad group?” “It’s debatable. I heard they use a lot of coke.” Holly rolls her eyes as she folds up the box and goes to zip up her last suitcase, “Great another addict in the family, that’s exactly what we need.”

Holly flops down beside Kenny wiping the sweat from her face. Her parents are still screaming downstairs, which is beginning to make her head throb. “At least you get to break out of here tomorrow,” Kenny remarks gesturing to the bags and boxes by the door. “But I have to leave you though,” Holly adds with a sigh as she rubs her thigh. “Oh, I’ll be fine, I got my permit and truck, I can escape whenever I need to.” Kenny smiles trying to cheer her up but underneath he still will feel the void of her presence at home. “True, plus you have the apartment if you ever need it. Hey, don’t you have your new friends down by the beach?” Kenny takes a gulp at her words. “Uh yeah, I have those friends to pass the time with.” Silence passes between them as Holly flops back on the bed and looks up at her white ceiling with her mind racing with thoughts of more packing and tomorrows move. “Hey, sis…” Holly looks up at him and smiles, “Hey bro…” He looks at her with a solemn face, “You would love me no matter what, right?” She looks at him with a quizzical face, “Of course, always and forever.” “Even if I wasn’t like everybody else?” Holly sits up and looks at him. “Ken where’s this coming from?” He shrugs and looks down at his leg that is swinging back and forth on the edge of the bed. “Nothing, just thinkin’ that’s all. Listen, I’ll help you move tomorrow morning, just get up me when you’re ready. Night sis,” Kenny adds before he kisses Holly on the forehead and leaves her for the last night in her family home.

Holly lies back on the bed looking up at the ceiling once more. The moment is surreal for her. For the first time in her life, she truly feels like an adult knowing she is going to be living with her boyfriend and then by herself. All those years of dreaming to be on her own and in charge of her destiny are now starting to happen and she is unprepared for how nervous she feels and is quickly wondering if she will be able to handle it? She would never admit this to anyone but moving in with Michael gives her more anxiety than if she was just moving into her own home. Holly’s ultimate fear is turning into her parent’s relationship with Michael. Ugh, the thought alone makes her stomach curl. She rolls onto her side and slowly lets the drowsiness from the night takes over her till she falls into a peaceful night sleep.

“That’s the last load,” Holly announces as she puts down the last bag on the living room floor of Michael’s apartment. “Thank God!” Kenny says with a relieved sigh as he sits in the chair to catch his breath. He looks up at Holly with annoyance, “How the hell did you accumulate so much stuff?” Michael smirks as he sets down more bags of hers, “I see that cursing runs in the family.” Holly rumples Kenny’s head, “Hey, you offered to help, now you must suffer from your generosity,” she jests with a smile. “Sis!” Kenny says as he fixes his hair. Michael smiles at both of them before he looks over at Bill coming in from the elevator with a box, sweat is pouring down his face. He staggers to put the box down in the living room and looks at all three of them. “Thanks for leavin’ the elderly man in the parkin’ garage!” All three of them bust out laughing as Michael goes to pat Bill on the back. “We knew you had a handle on it,” he jokes. Bill pulls out a handkerchief from his back pocket to wipe the sweat off his face. “Will that be all, Holly?” “Yeah, that’s it, thank you so much, Bill.” “Go rest, Bill,” Michael says as he leaves the room leaving the three of them alone.

Kenny rubs his hands up and down on the armrests, “Well, I should get going and let you two lovebirds alone.” “You don’t have to leave right away,” Holly remarks as she watches him get up from the chair and smile. Kenny shakes his head, “No, sis, it’s time for me to go,” he looks at Michael, “you take good care of her Michael, otherwise I will be forced to break every bone in your body. You’ll be forced to sell newspapers out of a van for the rest of your life,” Kenny adds with a smile. Holly rolls her eyes and mutters an “Oh my God.” Michael laughs, “Don’t worry, I will treat her like a queen. Now if you need anything at all, don’t hesitate to come here to stay, you are always welcomed here.” “I appreciate that, Michael.” Kenny looks at Holly and can feel a pang in his heart. “Give me a hug sis.” As he hugs her, Holly breathes in his scent of double mint gum and root beer making her smile. “You take care, bro, and you call me next week to tell me how midterms went.” He pulls back and nods, “I will. See ya guys later, and happy birthday.” Holly crosses her arms as she watches him walk to the elevator and get in, giving her a wave before the doors shut. She sighs out as it’s done now. Looking over Michael is leaning against the couch armrest grinning from ear to ear. She smiles at him.

“What?” She asks. He shrugs, “I’m just excited, roomie.” Holly giggles, “Yep, it’s finally official now.” Michael walks up to her and grabs her by the waist, pulling her to him with a joyful look in his eye. “No regrets?” He asks. “Not yet,” she jests. Michael pulls her in for a kiss that is long and slow, her lips are soft and subtle to him making him feel weak in the knees. Finally, after weeks of talking and planning the day is finally here. He pulls back to rest his forehead against hers, “Happy birthday again.” She smiles, “Thank you, finally legal…to do everything.” Michael gulps. The word holds so much promise that is stomach does a backflip. What was once foreign and forbidden is now open and acceptable and he is excited. No more does he have to stop himself from kissing her too long or too deep, no more does he have to worry about holding her hand in public, no more does he have to stop thinking dirty thoughts he has for so long tried to put out of his mind even if he can’t act on it right now. “How does it feel to be eighteen?” Michael asks as he grabs her to sit down with him on the couch. Holly crosses her arms and begins to giggle, “Well, I feel the same way I did at seventeen, except now I can buy cigarettes and scratch-offs.” “I’m sure that gives you a thrill,” Michael adds with a chuckle. “But seriously,” he says. She sighs and looks at him. “Seriously, I’m free.” “From your mom?” She nods as she looks down at Michael’s hands where she rubs his knuckles in soft lazy circles.

Michael can tell by the look on her face that she is thinking about her family and since it’s her birthday he wants her to have a fun day where it’s memorable. Now it’s time for his surprise. He looks down at his watch and sees where it is only eight a.m. and the day is still young. “Now I know you said you didn’t want anything for your birthday but are you up for a little adventure?” Holly smirks, “I know your adventures and they ain’t little,” she remarks. He grabs her hand to get her off the couch, “C’mon you’re gonna love it. Bill, lets hit the road!” Bill emerges from the hallway with a sigh. “You two are goin’ to kill me,” he remarks as he pulls a set of car keys out of his back pocket. “Well if are going on the road then I’m using the bathroom,” Holly remarks walking towards the bathroom. As Michael hears the bathroom door shut he walks over to Bill with a smile, “You put the bags in the car?” “Yep packed and ready to go. I didn’t feel comfortable grabbin’ Holly’s,” Bill clears his throat, “unmentionables, so I had her own security guard do it.” Michael chuckles and grabs Bill by the shoulder, “That’s being a good sport. Shhh, here she comes.” The thought of surprising Holly makes Michael giddy with excitement. “Ready to go?” he asks. She smiles, “Only if you tell me where we're going.” Michael rolls his eyes, “It’s a surprise! Now come on! The last one to the car is a rotten egg!” Michael gets a head start on her where Bill walks slowly behind them shaking his head with a smile, muttering under his breath, “Such children.”

In the car, Holly is leaning into Michael where they are holding each other hands. The beautiful morning L.A. sun has now disappeared and rain is beginning to beat at the windows. Holly nuzzles closer to Michael as she continues to scan outside to gain a sense of where they are headed. Michael looks at her and chuckles. “Keep looking, but it won’t help ya.” “Come on, just give me a hint.” “No.” “A tiny hint?” “No.” “A teeny tiny little hint?” “Why can’t you just enjoy a surprise for once?” Just relax.” “Oh if I truly relaxed I think I’d faint. If you tell me I’ll do anything for you.” Holly raises her eyebrows with a smirk. Michael smiles and feels hotness from his cheeks. Bill looks in the rearview mirror, “Don’t fall for it, Mike! That’s how they always get you.” Holly playfully gives Bill a glare before looking back at Michael. “Please…” “Oh alright. The hint is that you’ll love it. Happy?” “That’s not a hint!” “Well, it’s the only one you’re getting. Now sit back and relax because we're almost there anyway.” Miles, roadway, homes, and people go by as Holly sits back and impatiently waits for what Michael has in store for her. Even when she was a little girl she never enjoyed the anticipation of surprises, but with Michael, she realizes she will have to get used to him, the king of surprises.

Inside Michael is giddy with anticipation at Holly’s surprise; hopefully she’ll enjoy it just as much as he will. As the airport sign approaches in the distance Michael tries as hard as he can not to give up the surprise. He looks over at Holly to see a look of confusion plastered on her face as Bill pulls onto the airport ramp and on the tarmac where a little jet plane awaits. When Bill stops the car in front Holly looks at Michael with shock. “What’s this?” she asks. “An adventure,” he says with a smile as he grabs her hand and opens the car door. “I can’t believe this!” She exclaims as Michael pulls his jacket off and puts it over her head to protect her from the rain that is now beginning to pour down. As they get inside the plane Holly looks around to see two flight attendants, pilot, and co-pilot standing there with hands in front of them smiling away. Taking some wet clinging hair off her cheek she extends her hand with a smile. “Hi, it’s nice to me you all.” A young attendant who looks in her younger twenties is all smiles and giggles when she sees Michael behind Holly, making Holly not jealous but amused. “Hello Mr. Jackson, I’m Marcus your pilot and this is Seth he will be your co-pilot. If you would like to take your seats we can get going,” an older gentleman who is going grey on the sides of his head says warmly. Everyone scatters as Michael and Holly take their seats by the windows as Bill comes up with two overnight bags in hand before handing them off to the giggly flight attendant. “Are we staying overnight?” Michael smirks and remains silent as he buckles his seat belt. “Michael…” Holly whines. Michael laughs, “You’ll find out soon enough.” Holly sighs and looks out at the wet tarmac as rain continues to come down from the dark and gloomy sky.

“You know, I was born on a rainy day, just like this,” Holly murmurs still looking out. Michael looks across from her with surprise, she has never talked about a topic like this before. “Really? I never knew that.” “Yep, they actually called a state of emergency in Houston that day because of the rainfall. Dad always joked the state of emergency was for me and all the impact I was gonna make in the world.” Holly giggles thinking back to those days when she was very young when she felt the happiest at home – before the money, the fame, the fighting, and the drinking. Michael can’t help but laugh at the saying, “My little own force of nature.” The airplane intercom sounds on with a squeak. “If everyone is seated we will begin our journey to Orlando, Florida.” Holly looks at Michael with a happily surprised face as the pilot continues. “It is currently a high of eighty-four degrees, sunny with a slight breeze blowing in from the Atlantic. Our approximate arrival time should be in five hours if this rain cooperates with us up in the air. Until we reach a cruising altitude we ask that you please remain seated. Until then sit back and enjoy the flight.”

Holly is smiling from ear to ear as the plane starts to move forward on the tarmac. “Orlando, that’s where we’re going!” Michael can’t help but join in on the smiling, “Surprise!” “Oh my God! If we weren’t going down the runway right now I’d kiss you.” “I’ll take a rain check,” Michael says before adding, “I have something very special planned for us down there…I’m taking you to Disney World.” Holly’s mouth drops open with shock, finally, her childhood fantasy is complete. “Please tell me you aren’t joking.” “Believe me I don’t joke about Disney and I know you never were able to go as a child so I thought I’d take you and make your eighteenth birthday memorable.”

As the plane begins to gain speed and races down the tarmac Holly grabs on to her belt completely taken back by Michael’s thoughtfulness for her birthday knowing she was denied that luxury when she was little. As the plane lifts off the runway and into the air Holly’s stomach still gets butterflies every time. Michael looks across at her with a smile as he observes her watching out the window where the city of L.A. begins to grow smaller and smaller. For the first time in his life, he feels comfortable with someone off stage, and it is all because of her. Hopefully, this little adventure will help them get closer and learn more about each other. “I’m very lucky to have you,” he says with an adoring smile. She looks at him and gives him a blush, tugging a strand of long blonde hair behind her ear, “No, I’m the lucky one,” she corrects. As the plane levels out to a cruising altitude, suddenly, the giggly flight attendant appears over to Michael with a large smile that almost looks like it might crack her face. She stands in front of him demurely with her hands in front of her swaying back and forth. “Is there anything you would like Mr. Jackson? Can I get you anything at all?” Holly looks at her with amusement again knowing what she is trying to do and how Michael is completely blasé to the face. He looks up at her before looking over at Holly. “Yes, I would like for you to serve Ms. Williams first since it’s her birthday.” Miss Giggles looks over at Holly with disdain as Holly looks up at her with a smirk.

Fives hours later they land in Orlando International Airport with a car waiting for them outside. Bill walks over to Michael and Holly before the airplane door opens stretching his back and yawning. “You guys want to head to the resort first or magic kingdom?” Michael looks at Holly, “Ask the birthday girl.” “Oh, can we go to magic kingdom first? I want to go see Mickey Mouse! I’ve always wanted to see him.” Holly says with a smile that nearly makes Michael’s heart skip a beat. She is usually so mature and sassy that to see her giddy and childlike it is refreshing for Michael to see another side to her. “Alright then let’s go see Mickey!” As soon as they step off the plane the humidity hits them in full force making both of them break out in a sweat. The sound of plane engines roar in the distance and palm trees sway as they step into the cool air-conditioned car as Bill puts the bags inside the car. “I’m so excited!” Holly exclaims as she gives Michael a quick kiss on the lips. He looks at her intently before touching the side of her face before giving her another kiss. Both of them have their eyes closed feelings each other’s lips move other the others making it feel like they are the only two people in the world. The way that their lips mouth over the others feels so familiar yet exciting making both always want more. When Michael pulls back he gives her a lazy smile. Neither one is startled as Bill gets in the driver seat and starts to drive. Holly puts her head back on the headrest looking at him as she watches how he grabs her hand and kisses it softly. “Can I ask you something?” “Anything,” he says giving her full attention. “Are we staying in the same room tonight?” “Well, it is a suite.” “So not the same bed?” She asks with a whisper. Michael searches her eyes momentarily wondering what she wants to hear. “I’m not going to put demands on you,” Michael whispers back.

Holly inhales and looks away out the window as they go over a bridge where a river sits that has many boats sitting idle and others zooming back and forth. She looks back at him and smiles weakly. “I guess we’ll figure it out later.” Inside she is confused and nervous. In her mind, she doesn’t feel ready to have sex with Michael, especially today, and since nobody has formally sat her down for the birds and the bees talk. Sure, things have been eluded and comments have been made, but nothing concrete has ever been discussed with Holly. To her the idea of sex seems completely foreign and mysterious, but how can she ever bring such a topic up to Michael? He smiles warmly back before kissing her hand again, “Whatever you decide I’ll respect.” Inside Michael can feel panic setting in as they get closer and closer to Disney World about staying in the same bed with Holly. He doesn’t feel like he is ready to take such a large step with her so quickly, but maybe tonight they will be able to figure it out and he can finally tell her what he feels about the subject. He looks over at her as she observes her surroundings in such an innocent and curious manner, her eyes fluttering from one thing to the next. Inside he just hopes he can control himself.

“Oh my goodness, it is even more beautiful than I imagined!” Holly exclaims as both of them walk slowly up Main Street towards Cinderella’s castle with small disguises to ward off attention. “I feel like I’ve stepped into a fairytale!” She adds with glee as they walk closer. Michael can see the wonderment on her face as she takes in every breathtaking detail of Disney and its splendor. “Can’t you just feel the magic everywhere?” Michael asks with a smile as he holds her hand, swinging their locked hands back and forth. “You still want to see Mickey first?” “Michael there’s so much to take in that I don’t know where to start,” she remarks honestly as they pass by groups of people making it to the front of Cinderella’s castle. She looks up at it with wonder at its scale and grandeur. “It’s just so beautiful…” she marvel’s.” Michael laughs before tugging on her hand, “C’mon, we got things to do!”

The afternoon is the definition of perfect. From the rides, the meetings with the Disney characters, to the shows, Holly and Michael have nonstop laughs and smiles. Throughout the day Michael kept watching as Holly reverted back into a young girl without a care in the world and only enjoyed what was in front of her and did not ponder on tomorrow. To see the pure joy and happiness on her face was worth every dollar spent and special autograph written to get her special treatment. Today was her day; whatever she wanted to do he let her do it with some guidance on what she should not miss out on. This is was the first time he could see that she possessed the same childlike wonderment that he did and how they both connected on the same level of magic and amazement. Inside he feels like his heart is going to bust with joy and his stomach is full of flutters as he stands back and observes the unguarded nature of Holly today.

Later that evening they stand on a bank undisguised just outside magic kingdom looking up at the sky as fireworks illuminate the dark sky of reds, yellows, purples, blues, and greens. Together they stand there holding each other in the others arms with awed faces as Disney music plays along with the fireworks. As the show ends the claps and cheers can be heard from the people in the park as Holly continues to watch the last string of light disappear into the sky leaving nothing left but stars. She looks over at Michael with widened eyes. “Wow…just…wow.” Michael smiles and holds her close. “I know, wasn’t it great?” “I don’t think there is a word in any dictionary for its description,” she remarks as she looks over at the lake beside them that gives them castoff winds creating a chill. Michael can feel goosebumps start to appear on her uncovered arms. “You wanna head back and get warm?” “This day has been so nice I don’t want it to end though…” Holly remarks as they start to walk in the direction of the resort. Michael looks back quickly to see Bill trailing behind them at a distance checking the surroundings. He holds her close. “I know, but we have all of tomorrow morning and afternoon, besides, we still have the rest of tonight.” She looks over at him with curiosity. “To do what?” Michael’s chest feels like it is beginning to constrict. “Holly, I think we need to talk about something.” “Uh oh,” she says with a deep sigh as she looks ahead, internally trying to remain calm at the uncertainty of his words. “You know I absolutely adore you, Holly,” he begins. “Don’t sugar coat it, Michael. Tell me what you are feeling.” “Well, I’m not so sure if I’m ready to move as quickly as you are in our relationship.” Holly stops walking and looks at him with confusion before she finally connects the dots, crossing her arms. “Oh, you think I want to sleep with you.” “Don’t you?” Holly giggles, “Not really…I mean not yet. Everything is moving so fast that I’m not mentally prepared for that yet.” Michael’s pride as a man feels slightly hurt as he grabs her hand and they continue to walk. He feels relieved yet disappointed all at the same time, giving him so many conflicting emotions that he has never had to deal with before.

“You still don’t seem satisfied,” Holly observes, as he looks solemn. “It’s just you know that I’m involved with my religion, and they don’t really encourage sex before marriage…” “Oh…” Holly says staring off into space. She always knew about his faith and how devout he was but never about this. He looks over at her, “Does that bother you?” “I mean, I guess not. It’s like you told me, we’ll just make it up as we go along, and we need to both relax on these technicalities. Just so you know I have no problems sleeping in the same bed with you without doing anything weird with you.” Michael smirks and chuckles, “Weird?” Holly teasingly bumps into his shoulder. “You know what I mean.” They walk silently for moments with only the sound of the crickets and ducks quacking as noise in the background. “Can I ask you something?” Holly asks with a bashful tone that it makes Michael curious. “Anything.” Holly bites her lip before looking at him. “So you’re a virgin then?” Michael looks down at the stone walkway in embarrassment. “Yes,” he mutters looking back at her. “Huh…” “What?” “Nothing.” “Surprised aren’t you?” “Well kind of, I mean I just assumed…” Michael stops walking to face her now. “You just assumed I slept with Diana, hadn’t you?” “The thought had crossed my mind a time or two, yes.” “Well rest assured you’re wrong. I’m a gentleman, Holly; always remember that because I don’t randomly sleep around with women. When we do, I want it to be special.” Holly looks at him, her breath nearly halting. “Does that mean you’re going to marry me one day?” “Mr. Jackson and Ms. Williams look over here!” A man shouts out at them breaking them out of their conversation. They look over and see a bunch of men with cameras starting to take pictures of them. Holly shields her face from the blinding light of the flashing bulbs. Bill comes rushing over to them to take them to the nearest entrance of the resort away from the press. The press is shouting so many things at them that it makes Holly and Michael’s heads spin, but the only thing they can catch is “Are you two dating?” Once they are inside and away from them Bill looks at them with a serious face. “Well, it looks like you two are now going to be the hot topic of conversation for the entire world.”