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  “You did it, Callie,” Momma cried when she found me outside of the building where my graduation had just been held. I watched as she let the tears fall and not even try to wipe them away.

  “Mom, please stop crying,” I said to her with a smile. I knew how proud she was of me. I was proud of myself too. It wasn’t easy but I managed to get two degrees even with all the extra responsibilities I had that others didn’t.

  “Momma,” I heard my daughter, Maddy, yelled as she ran straight to me and wrapped herself around my leg.

  “Chipmunk!” I yelled and bent down to pick her up. “Were you good for Pawpaw and Gigi?” I asked her as Daddy took her from me and gave me a hug. Maddy nodded her head yes and sent me a big toothy smile. I laughed. Her smile was my favorite thing about her. I loved nothing more than seeing her smile.

  “We better get going. Everyone will be at the house before us at this rate,” Momma said drawing my attention from Maddy.

  It was nearly a half-hour drive from Atlanta to my hometown, Brownston, and with Momma telling Daddy to slow down every five minutes, it felt like hours.

  When we finally pulled up in front of my parent’s house, there were already people there. My Gigi had stayed behind to finish making all her famous pies that everyone in town loved. She was standing at the door greeting Dr. Mayford and his wife, Mabel, when I walked up with Maddy in my arms.

  “Callie, congratulations,” Dr. Mayford greeted me. “And miss Maddy, you look like you have grown three inches since I saw you,” he tickled her under the chin making her giggle.

  “I did,” Maddy smiled. She wiggled signaling for me to put her down and she ran into the house most likely on her way to the backyard where everyone would be.

  “Slow down, Maddy,” Momma called after her as she walked up behind us. I sent a smile to the Dr. and Mabel before squeezing past everyone to make sure that Maddy didn’t get herself into any trouble. At three, she had a tendency to do that and more.

  When I had made it out to the backyard, I scanned the area and found Maddy dancing with my younger sister, Anna. Maddy loved Anna so much because she was always down to have fun with her. They spent a good amount of time dancing. Anna had done ballet from the age of five and she now taught Maddy twice a week. I was thankful that she did it for me for free. I was thankful for all my family truly for helping me with everything since I told them I was pregnant with Maddy.

  I spent the next several hours talking to everyone that was at the party, which was nearly the whole town. My family has lived in Brownston for seven generations. My family was one of the five families that started the town. The Maddox’s, Barton’s and Barker’s were the only ones left still in the area. Maddox and Barton were the local law firm a joint venture between Daddy and Earl Maddox. They had known each other for all their lives their wives too which in turn was how I originally met Colt Maddox. While growing up in a small town made everyone feel like family, the Maddox family was who we were closest to. Family vacations every summer together, Thanksgiving was always at our house, Christmas Eve was at theirs. We did everything together. I missed Earl and Tanya not being here to celebrate but they were in L.A. for Colt’s graduation. Daisy was here though, representing for the Maddox family and being my best friend.

  As I zoned out and thought about my life and how blessed I was for the people that have been a part of it, I smiled because everyone had been there for me and supported me. The whole town. They say it takes a village and I had the best Village there was.

  “Can I have everyone's attention, please,” Daddy shouted. Everyone turned in his direction and he turned in mine. “Callie. Come here,” he waved his hand in a ‘come here’ motion. I shook my head. I hated being the center of attention. I felt two hands on my back and turned to see Daisy and my older brother, Gavin pushing me in Daddy’s direction. I rolled my eyes followed by a sigh. No one was going to let me stay where I was. “There she is,” he beamed as I approached him, and he threw his arm around my shoulder.

  I smiled up at the man that had spent the better part of his life, raising me and then helping my raise my daughter. He stood over a half foot taller than me. He was paler than most people in Georgia were due to him always staying indoors working. His hair was darker than mine, but we had the same brown eyes that looked like milk chocolate. He was my hero and I loved and respected him for all her had done for me and my siblings.

  “I just want to congratulate my beautiful daughter on her graduating,” he looked at me. “Getting two degrees while working and raising my adorable granddaughter...” he continued but Maddy cut him off.

  “That’s me!” She shouted making everyone laugh.

  “Yes, Maddy bug, that’s you,” he laughed. “I could not be prouder of you for everything you have accomplished and I know you are going to have all your dreams come true,” he raised his glass and turned his eyes toward the guests. “To Callie.” Everyone raised their glasses and repeated after him. I kissed Daddy on the cheek and whispered a ‘thank you’ and an ‘I love you’ before walking away from him. I saw Daisy standing on the wooden deck by the back door and smiled at her when she waved. She held up a shot glass and I knew where her thoughts were headed. I shook my head with a smile and started to walk toward her.

  Before I even made it three steps, I was stopped by my Gigi. “Callie. I know you have more people to speak with, but I wanted to give you your graduation present. You know I will probably go take a nap soon,” she smiled at me. I loved my Gigi. She had been the first person I told when I found out I was pregnant with Maddy and she had supported all my decisions that happened afterward. “Here,” she handed me an envelope. I looked at it knowing she liked to give me lavish gifts, I wondered what craziness this could be. “Open it,” she waved her hands at me when I looked at her. I opened it and saw a check for fifteen thousand dollars.

  My eyes widened. “Gigi! I can't accept this,” I told her holding it out for her to take back.

  “Yes, you can,” she pushed my hand back to me. “I’m investing in you. This will help you start your business. Working from home will be a blessing for both you and Maddy,” she smiled at me. I shook my head.

  “You have already done so much for me,” I looked at her with tears in my eyes. When I turned eighteen a month after Maddy was born, Gigi decided that she would take Momma up on her offer of moving in with her. Momma had been begging her to move into the pool house, so she was closer to her in case anything happened since my granddad had passed away five years before, but she chose my birthday to finally agree. When she did, she handed me the keys to her house and told me that me and Maddy could move in whenever and do whatever we wanted with it. When I tried to refuse, she told me that it had been my granddad's wish that I live there with my family one day. I couldn’t say no to that, so I took the keys and moved out the next week.

  “I would willingly do more if I knew you would accept it,” she patted my cheek. “Your granddad would be so proud of you,” she smiled at me. I felt a tear fall down my cheek and she wiped it away. “Oh, a brighter note...” she sent me a wicked smirk and I held my breath. “Did you hear about a certain someone finally making it?” She wiggled her eyebrows. I knew who she was talking about. I nodded my head breathing deeply. “Are you going to tell him then?”

  “I have been thinking about that since the announcement,” I sighed. “The point if keeping it a secret was so he could reach his dreams without any distractions. He has done that so, now it’s time to tell him. I know he will be mad, that isn’t my fear.” Gigi’s eyebrow raised when I paused. “I don’t want him to think that I am telling him now because of his success.”

  “Oh, dear,” she cupped my face. “It will all work out just fine,” she smiled at me. She pulled me into a hug before walking away and letting me continue my way to Daisy.

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