She was going to have a boy.
Sitting across from her aunt, Aaliyah stared in shock for a minute before smiling. “Are you sure?”
Frowning and clearly offended, Chinwendu Ijendu, her uncle’s wife, snorted. “Of course I am sure. I do not make mistakes.”
Aaliyah had come to France for a photo shoot for her latest movie: Telltale Signs. Her mother’s family was back in France and she was staying with her uncle, Chizoba Ijendu and his wife in town, rather than the castle. There were too many memories there that she was not ready to face yet. She had spent two weeks trying to come up with a subtle way of asking her aunt to do a reading for her. Eventually, Chinwendu walked up to her and offered one.
So here they were, in Chinwendu’s sacred space, sitting across from each, talking babies.
Clasping her hands together, Aaliyah smiled apologetically, “Sorry Wendy. It’s just – Antonio has wanted a boy for a while now. I’ve been a little anxious to give him one, but I’m terrified of raising a boy.”
“I understand, love. Raise him like you will the girl, with love and everything will be fine.”
Aaliyah frowned, what did that mean? “What girl, Adeya?”
Aaliyah’s aunt smiled. “Why are you really here, child?”
Cringing, Aaliyah said, “I need your advice and your help. I think Rae might still be here – on a spiritual level.”
“She is. You will not let her go and so her soul is stuck here until you do. As I understand it, your friend, Janelle, has told you about the work they are doing in Appaloosa. It will work, somewhat. Be careful, it will not be what you wanted. She will not be the same.”
Aaliyah gasped and stared at her aunt with wide eyes. How did she know about Janelle’s phone call? Aaliyah frowned again, not the same? But if it meant getting her daughter back –
Chinwendu stared at Aaliyah with a soft smile on her face. Her face expressing all the compassion and love she felt for this niece of hers that never followed the rules or the good advice of those wiser than her.
Sighing, Chinwendu got up and walked to the counter. Pulling together some herbs and oils and other things that Aaliyah didn’t want to think about, she poured everything into a beaker and sealing it up, walked back towards Aaliyah.
“When you do it anyway, I want you to mix this with some juice and have her drink it. She will need it to soothe her pain.”
“Pain? What pain? Who will need it…Rae?” Aaliyah whispered that name, not daring to hope that her aunt was telling her that she would have Rae back.
Frowning, Chinwendu shrugged, “There are a lot of small girls in your life Aaliyah, past, present and future. You will need to be careful. Your heartache has only just begun.”
Aaliyah understood on some level that her aunt was trying to warn her of something. But the thought of having Rae back eclipsed all other thoughts or concerns. She was having a boy and she would have her Rae back. Everything else she would deal with when they happened. Right now was a time to celebrate.
“Thank you, Aunt Wendy. I love you,” Aaliyah said with a yawn. She was so tired lately. This pregnancy was taking a lot more out of her than the previous two. She had to remember to make an appointment with her doctor when she got back home. Aaliyah leaned over and hugged her aunt.
Sighing, Chinwendu hugged her back. “The young never listen,” she muttered.
Aaliyah arrived back home really pregnant. She was seriously considering switching jobs. Having children was work enough, adding a 9 to 5 on top of that was just torture.
Walking into the house, the first thing she noticed was the mess. How exactly could one man and a toddler make this much of a mess?
Dropping her keys in her purse, Aaliyah called out for Antonio. He knew she was coming home today and she had so much to tell him.
“Antonio, I’m home.” Silence. Not even Darling, who usually met her at the door, seemed to be interested in her return. Frowning Aaliyah walked into the living room and stopped short.
Sleeping on the floor was her Darling; the surprising thing was the large black Doberman that was laid out on the couch. “What the h-”
“Lia, you’re home. I was out back. Didn’t hear you come in.” Aaliyah turned around to find her husband, soaking wet, dripping in the hallway.
“Antonio, were you aware that there is a huge dog sleeping on our couch,” Aaliyah asked in a whisper.
“Yes. Why are we talking like this?” Antonio whispered back.
Aaliyah pursed her lips. “Who does that dog belong to, Antonio?” She was tired, her back hurt and she was quickly losing her sense of humor and her patience.
“That’s Rufus, the puppies’ daddy.” Antonio walked over to Aaliyah and started to message her shoulders. He always seemed to know just what she needed.
Feeling the tension of the day melt away under his hands, Aaliyah thought over what Antonio just told her. “Wait, puppies. As in, Darling’s puppies? As in, she had her babies without me? The little wench! After everything I’ve done for her, she couldn’t wait a month?”
Aaliyah couldn’t see him, but she knew Antonio was laughing at her. “I’m sure she tried babe. Do you want to see them?”
“Four! And for that monster of a dog? And here I was complaining about two from you.” Aaliyah shook her head and stretched. Hmm, Antonio had magic fingers. Turning around she hugged her husband. “Yeah, I’d like to see them. Where did you put them?”
“In the garage; it was the only place big enough.”
As Aaliyah followed Antonio to the garage, she asked, “Why are you wet?”
Antonio chuckled and turned to wink at her. “Puppies get dirty. Four puppies get dirty really quickly.”
Laughing, Aaliyah said, “Oh. I see. You know you have clean all this up, right?” She motioned to the wet floor, the scattered baby books and the dog toys strewn around.
“About that. How do you feel about getting a butler?”
Aaliyah was still laughing when they reached the garage.
“Antonio. Oh my God, they are so tiny!”
Antonio grunted while shaking his head. “Little but messy and exhausting. But you know who loves them? Adeya. I swear most of the mess happens when I let her play with them.”
“I can’t wait to hold her.” Aaliyah looked over at Antonio and grinned. “I have the best news, babe. But first, I want to hold my baby.”
“Well, she’ll be up in another hour. In the meantime, can I get a proper hello, please?” Antonio pulled Aaliyah into a hug and gave her a kiss. “I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you more.”
Aaliyah spent the rest of her pregnancy teaching Adeya to walk and talk and learning how to cope with six dogs instead of one. Shelby, the little minx, kept having sleepovers with Rufus and it soon became apparent that he was a stray. Not one to keep lovers apart, they opened their doors to him.
Life was good and Aaliyah soon pushed her fortune telling session with her aunt to the back of her mind. Before she realized it, the day came where she had to call Antonio and ask him to bring her to the hospital.
“Hey Ashley, can I speak to Antonio please?” At this point in her life, Aaliyah knew the drill of having a baby with Antonio. The fact that he went into the office today knowing she was close to her due date would eat him up. She wouldn’t even think about leaving the house without him. He would flip out.
“Hey Lia, what’s wrong?” Antonio sounded so anxious. Oh, he was going to be so mad.
“It’s time. I’ll call a babysitter while I wait for you to come home.” Aaliyah held her breath, waiting to hear the panic.
“I’m on my way,” Antonio said and then hung up.
Wow. Okay, that was a first. Calm Antonio was a new experience for her. Aaliyah held up the phone and shaking her head, dialed the babysitter’s number.
On June 23rd, Aaliyah gave birth to a beautiful baby boy who she named after her husband and thirty minutes later gave birth to a gorgeous baby girl named Sarah.
Aaliyah may have “forgotten” to tell Antonio that he was having a son, but she was surprised by Sarah. No one knew about the little girl who hid behind her big brother in all of the ultrasounds.
Fortunately, their families were more than willing to help furnish the house with things for two babies – especially Antonio’s family. They were not a part of the celebrations for any of the previous children and so they used this opportunity to shower him with gifts.
Aaliyah could tell it was a little awkward for him but Antonio deserved the outpouring of affection and she was glad that he had a brother to hang out with to celebrate the birth of a son. Bem and Aaron managed to get themselves invited and before Aaliyah could protest, it turned into a Manfest. Four grown men sipping apple nectar and laying on floats in the pool discussing God knew what. She could only laugh.
Bem also used that opportunity to tell the family that he and his wife, Julissa, were expecting their first child, a boy.
Aaliyah’s mother was ecstatic at the news of more grandbabies and started working on Aaron about his fiancée, Alexandra.
Soon after the birth of Antonio Jr. and Sarah, Adeya aged up and was ready to go to school. Aaliyah baked a cake and celebrated the day at home with her husband, her children and her dogs. She was very happy to see her daughter grow up well, but it was a bittersweet day for her as well. Rae did not live past this age, and call it paranoia, but Aaliyah refused to make a fuss or even go out for that entire week.
When after a week, there was no catastrophe, Aaliyah started to relax. Adeya was not Rae and she decided to make a conscious effort not to compare Adeya’s life to the life Rae could have lived.
Cecelia spent a great deal of time at the house that summer, and Emilio and his family officially moved into town. It was great having family so close and Aaliyah and Lanya bonded over their children and their love of redecorating.
As the twins became toddlers and the years flew by, Aaliyah felt a restlessness that she couldn’t put her finger on. She’d put her career on hold to raise her three children and didn’t know whether this feeling was because of her job or something else.
When the phone rang one Fall morning with a man from Appaloosa asking to speak to her, she immediately remembered her aunt’s word. It will work…but she will not be the same. Aaliyah’s world shrank to just the voice on the phone. This was the moment she’d been waiting years for.
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Torres. This is Dr. Brian Gates. I am calling from Appaloosa Medical and Science Facility. I’m sure you’ve heard of the trials we’ve been running the last few years on the recently departed. As a previous resident of Appaloosa, we wanted to offer you a position in our trials. Would this be something you’d be interested in participating in?”
“Yes. I’d be willing to participate.”
Two hours later, Aaliyah sat in front of the computer, filling out the forms that Dr. Gates sent her. This was where the restlessness stemmed from. She was so nervous and excited that she misspelled her name on the forms, twice. This was finally going to happen!