Aaliyah looked over at her father. He hadn’t said a word to her since she sat down thirty minutes ago and that was okay. She just wanted to be near him.
Adejola clearing his throat startled her. “How long are you planning on staying, sweetheart?” Her father’s hoarse voice betrayed the emotion he was trying to hide from her.
“I don’t know daddy, however long you need us to be here.”
Adejola reached over and grabbed Aaliyah’s hand. “The children start school soon, Lia. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.”
“Oh daddy, will you be alright here by yourself?”
“Hon, I’ll be fine, and Bem is staying, so I won’t be alone at all.”
Aaliyah frowned. “Bem has to stay? Why?”
“The succession runs through your mother’s line. Now that she’s gone, her heir will be crowned.”
“Is he ready for that Dad?”
Adejola sighed. “I think he is. I hope he is.”
“You would think I’d be used to losing loved ones by now.” Aaliyah just wanted to curl up with her husband and fast forward until the pain went away. But that wasn’t how the world worked. She had four children to take care of and really needed to pull herself together.
“If you ever get used to something like that, that’s when we need to worry. She was your mother, it’s ok to cry.” Antonio hugged her tighter.
Pushing away from Antonio, Aaliyah ran a hand through her hair. “Okay, I’m done; seriously, I need to get a grip! I have to go shopping with the kids for school supplies and you need to bring Rae to see Dr. Gates.”
“She’s been a little jittery lately. Your aunt sent over another recipe this morning. She calls this one Ambrosia; said that Rae was on the verge of a new beginning. I would call Aunt Wendy a lunatic, but she has been right so far.”
Aaliyah smiled up at Antonio. “Shhh, she probably already knows you’ve thought it.”
Antonio blanched and Aaliyah couldn’t help but laugh. The fact that she still could laugh made her appreciate her husband even more. He was the one that got them from France to Cape Verde, while she went into coma mode after getting that phone call from her father.
Ironically, Rae also did a lot to help her function. Just looking at her and having her first-born hold her hand helped. Rae gave her hope that perhaps her mother would find some peace.
Leaning up for a kiss, Aaliyah said, “I love you.”
“I love hearing you say that.”
Aaliyah playfully smack him on his shoulder. “Don’t get cocky Mr. Torres.”
“Who, me? Never, Mrs. Torres.” Antonio quickly kissed her and then left to start his day.
Smiling, Aaliyah went to wake up her brood and get ready for a long day of shopping with her children.
She hoped with Adeya starting junior high school and the twins starting elementary school, she would be preoccupied with enough kid stuff to help her cope with her mother’s passing.
The years flew by and Aaliyah soon realized that keeping busy and living one day at a time really did help with the pain. A lesson she learned the hard way the first time around with Rae. The pain of losing her mother was still with her every day, but it got easier.
After five years, Bem was finally crowned King and was trying for his second child. Rae had turned sixteen the day before and the house was little somber. She still looked the same as when she was six. Today was Adeya’s birthday and although everyone was happy, the celebration felt like a betrayal somehow.
“Happy birthday Ade!” Everyone congratulated Adeya on turning sixteen, but all Aaliyah could do was watch Rae. She was smiling along with everybody else, but Aaliyah knew her daughter well enough to see the sadness in her eyes.
Every night before she went to sleep, she repeated the wish she made at the well, “I want my daughter back as she should be. Complete and well and alive.” That was five years ago and nothing had changed.
Turning around, Aaliyah almost bumped into her sister. “Oh, hey Kandy. How are you doing?”
Kandy looked up at Aaliyah and placed her hands on her stomach. “I’m going to have a baby.”
Aaliyah jaw dropped. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“I’m pregnant. Jason and I are expecting a baby.”
“Oh my goodness. This is wonderful news!” Aaliyah pulled her sister into a hug. “After everything that has happened with mom’s passing and Bem having a hard time with this ascension, we really need some happiness.”
Aaliyah wrapped an arm around her little sister and turned around to watch the rest of her family. Yes, a new life was just what they needed around here.
The next morning Aaliyah was cleaning up and putting away some of Adeya’s art supplies when she heard some thumping coming from upstairs.
“No rough housing with your sister AJ! It’s too early for that!” Aaliyah yelled up at the twins. Everything AJ did, Sarah did too. She might as well have had two boys.
“Hey mom.” Rae said softly from behind Aaliyah.
“Good morning, Rosie. Did you have a…” Turning around, Aaliyah stopped mid-sentence. Standing in front of her was her eldest, except she was different.
“Say something mom.” Rae stood in front of Aaliyah, smiling, as if nothing was wrong.
Aaliyah pulled Rae into a hug. “Is this really happening? You have skin and hair and you are alive! How did this happen?”
“I don’t know. I woke up this morning and tried to come downstairs and I banged into the wall.”
Aaliyah started to laugh. “I’m always telling you to use the door.”
“I banged into that too!”
Aaliyah laughed even harder and squeezed her daughter. “This is a miracle. I might never let you go.”
Rae put her head on Aaliyah’s shoulder. “I missed hugging you mommy,” she whispered.
And that is all it took for Aaliyah to start crying. “Oh, sweetheart, I missed hugging you too.”
Finally pulling apart, Aaliyah stroked her daughter’s hair and absentmindedly said, “This is exactly what I wished for.”
Rae frowned at her. “What do you mean?”
“Just talking to myself, sweetie, don’t mind me.” Aaliyah smiled at her.
Aaliyah and Rae walked into the kitchen and saw Adeya at the table, sketching.
“I’ll make you some breakfast, honey,” Aaliyah hugged Rae one last time and walked over to the stove.
At the sound of her voice, Adeya looked up from the picture she was sketching. When she saw Rae she screamed in excitement. “O.M.G.! I knew it would happen. I just knew it!”
Adeya ran over and hugged Rae then pulled her over to the table she just got up from. Lifting up the chair she knocked over in her excitement, Adeya sat down and ripped out a piece of paper from her sketch book.
“Okay, so ever since you told me about the genie –”
Aaliyah, who still couldn’t quite believe this was really happening, interrupted her daughter. “What genie? What are you talking about?”
Both girls looked up at her, frowning. It was Rae who responded. “Remember the lamp I found the first time we went to Egypt? Well, it had a genie in it. I set her free.”
If someone had told Aaliyah, sixteen years ago, that they’d freed a genie – she would have laughed in that person’s face. But she’d learned in her lifetime that there was more in this world than she would ever fully know or understand. So she just nodded and said, “Okay, I’m just going to let that one slide for now.”
Adeya continued, “Well, ever since then, I’ve been trying to figure out what she meant by the riddle she told you. I knew in my heart that it had something to do with you becoming flesh and bone again, I’ve just been stuck on this one part.”
Adeya wrote something down on the piece of paper and read it aloud, “‘When it is needed the most, at the time of death and rebirth, the daughter shall be as she was, the sister shall be happy, and the body restored.’
“When you told me she said that the three wishes were already made, I figured she meant the wishes we made at the wishing well in Lucky Palms. You wished for a body and I wished that you were happy.
“After grandma died, I thought it would happen then, because of the death part, but when nothing happened, I figured it was because we still needed mom or dad to wish you back to the way you were. But we haven’t gone back to the well since.” Adeya frowned then, “I guess I was wrong about that part, since you’re back to normal now.”
Aaliyah cleared her throat and Adeya and Rae looked up at her. “Actually, I made a wish at the wishing well too. While you two were getting back in the car, I wished that Rae would be like she was.”
While the three of them stared at each other, Aaliyah thought back to that day. She had seen her daughters making wishes at the well and couldn’t resist doing so herself.
Aaliyah remembered standing in front of that well, hope flaring in her heart, willing to do anything to get her daughter back the way she was meant to be.
Adeya’s laughter pulled her out of her thoughts and she focused on the pancakes that were starting to burn.
“Jeez, mom, I wish you had said something sooner. I’ve been trying like crazy to get us back to Lucky Palms!” Adeya shook her head, still chuckling.
“And here I though you just really liked the place.” Rae smirked and pulled the paper towards her. “Even if mom was the third wish, why did it take so long for it to happen? She made that wish at the same time we did.”
Aaliyah was thinking the same thing. “Read it to me again,” she said.
Rae repeated the riddle, frowning down at the paper.
Aaliyah mumbled the words and suddenly thought of Kandy. Laughing, she said, “It’s the rebirth part. There had to be new life and that’s what was missing.”
Adeya started shaking her head. “But who has new life?”
Aaliyah smiled, “Your aunt Kandy. She’s having a baby.”
Adeya grinned, “Well, there you have it. That about wraps it up, doesn’t it?”
Rae looked up, the frown still on her face. “Yeah, with a tidy, neat bow on top. All this feels too good and too convenient to be true. It can’t really be this easy.” Rae looked at Aaliyah. “Can it?”
Aaliyah plated the pancakes and walked over to her daughters. “Rae, it’s been 16 years. There is nothing about this that has been easy. Let’s just take this one day at a time and be grateful for this blessing we’ve just received.”
Putting the plate down, Aaliyah brushed a strand of hair out of Rae’s face and kissed the top of Adeya’s head. She was beyond grateful for this moment and would enjoy every single day that was given to her to be with her children.
“Now eat up and go get dressed. Your father will be back from his morning run soon and I’m sure you want to tell him the news.” Aaliyah smiled to herself thinking of Antonio. He was going to freak out.
As Aaliyah walked into Rae and Adeya’s rooms to get the laundry, she heard someone cursing and walked into the girl’s bathroom. “What is coming out of your mouth young lady?”
Rae was standing in front of the mirror. “Sorry mom. I’ve been trying to figure out what to say to dad when he gets home. I wish he was at breakfast, so I wouldn’t have to explain to him again about how I became a ‘real girl’.”
“Rosie, you’ve always been a real girl. This is how you were meant to be. Being a ghost was the anomaly, not this. It will be fine sweetheart; your dad will be thrilled.”
Sighing, Rae looked at her reflection. “I hope so.”
As she walked out, Aaliyah said, “Just make sure you don’t use those cuss words!”
By the time Rae was dressed and ready to talk to Antonio, he’d been home for half an hour. Giving her daughter an encouraging hug, she pointed Rae in the right direction.
Aaliyah looked out the window and watched as Rae approached Antonio. Aaliyah could see in his face that he didn’t recognize her at first.
As Rae started speaking, Antonio’s expression went from mild interest to confusion to shock. And then the real fun began. They started speaking at the same time and Antonio’s face was pure joy.
Watching them talk and seeing her husband get the news brought it all home for Aaliyah and she started to cry again. Her baby was alive and well and back the way she should have been. Aaliyah grinned and wiped at her tears. Antonio looked up and saw her at the window, so she gave him a little wave.
Wrapping his arm around his daughter, Antonio and Rae started walking towards the door. Aaliyah could hear the twins thumping around upstairs and she knew that Adeya was painting in the study. The front door opened and she heard Antonio’s laughter and Rae saying, “I love you more.”
Leaning her head against the window, Aaliyah closed her eyes and smiled.