“Girls, I just want one more picture. Is that so much to ask for?” Aaliyah grabbed the camera from Antonio and started snapping candid photos.
Aaliyah smiled as she took one last picture. Today was Adeya’s wedding day. She still couldn’t believe that her daughter was going to be Mrs. Noe Song.
When Adeya first came to her and asked if Noe could come with them on vacation, Aaliyah thought nothing of it. But as the weeks passed by, she started to notice just how close the two of them were. Worried that her daughter was getting in over her head, Aaliyah had mentioned her concerns to Antonio.
“I don’t know if I’m comfortable with them being in close quarters for a whole summer.” Aaliyah glanced over just in time to see Noe kiss Adeya.
“They’re good kids, sweetheart. It will be okay.” Antonio rubbed the back of Aaliyah’s neck and gave her a kiss. “Now help me finish unpacking and stop staring Noe down.”
Aaliyah grunted and mumbled, “I’ll stop staring when he gets his face out of my daughter’s, how about that!” Even though she had her concerns, she turned around and walked into the house.
Aaliyah had been right to be concerned, but for the wrong reasons. Noe and Adeya had indeed gotten closer and on their last day at Great Bear Mountain, he proposed to Adeya. No one was more shocked than Aaliyah had been, but she could do nothing but watch as Adeya said yes. Even if she had wanted to protest, the look of pure joy on her daughter’s face would have stopped her. Adeya really loved Noe and that was all that mattered.
◊ ◊ ◊
As Aaliyah finished getting ready, she thought about where they’d been this time last year.
Last Spring, Antonio had come down with a severe case of Lama Pox. Aaliyah spent all her days at the hospital and the doctors worried he wouldn’t pull through after he complained about pain in his abdomen. Lucky for them all, Antonio was in good health otherwise and after a few weeks, his vital signs stabilized.
That scare was the final straw for Aaliyah. Apparently, Antonio contracted the disease while working in an old dilapidated building on the south side of Starlight Shores. She’d had enough of the crappy luck her family had and was ready to start fresh. With Adeya and Rae graduating high school and going off to college and Sarah and AJ starting high school the following year, Aaliyah decided it was the perfect opportunity to move.
◊ ◊ ◊
Snapping back to the present, Aaliyah stared at herself in the mirror before deciding the wrinkles wouldn’t go away no matter how much makeup she put on. She patted her hair and declared herself ready. Turning around she saw Antonio staring at her. “What?”
“I was just thinking of the first time I saw you. You’re even more beautiful now than you were them.”
Aaliyah smiled at her husband. “And you still know what to say to make me feel like the same twenty-something year old. How did I ever get so lucky?”
“I’m the lucky one.” Antonio walked over and kissed Aaliyah softly.
Closing her eyes, Aaliyah leaned into him and breathed in his cologne.
“We are now part of the College Parents Club. Our babies are leaving the nest.” Aaliyah could feel the tears welling up, but she forced them back. There was no way she was going to reapply already. “I knew I should have gone with waterproof.”
“What did you say?” Antonio looked down at her.
“Nothing. Rae said she wanted to go to Appaloosa University since they have such a great equestrian program.”
“It’s a great school. We should have gotten her a horse years ago.”
“I’ve been watching her with Dune and she’s very good.”
“Just like her mother. Now let’s go. We don’t want to be late.”
The day was clear and beautiful and the turnout was more than anyone was expecting, especially since the announcement had been made only a month before.
Adeya had wanted to get married before she went off to college in the fall and Aaliyah was instantly reminded of her own rushed wedding and had a brief moment of panic. She could not go through that process again, not in her condition.
Fortunately, Adeya and Noe had everything under control and on the day, all their friends and family showed up to support the young couple.
The ceremony went off without a hitch and Adeya was pronounced Mrs. Noe Song.
As Adeya and Noe were being congratulated by the guests, Aaliyah felt a sharp pain in her abdomen.
“Oh come on. You’re not due for another two weeks,” Aaliyah grumbled to her stomach. Making her way towards Antonio, she pulled out her cell phone to call the hospital to let them know she was on her way.
Antonio looked up at her as she approached and without Aaliyah having to say a word, he knew. “Seriously? The baby’s not due for another two weeks!”
“That’s what I said! I guess she didn’t want to miss the celebration.”
“Well, she’s going to miss it and now so are we. I’ll go get the car and tell Rae.” Antonio kissed Aaliyah and went to find their eldest daughter.
“Such is my life.” Aaliyah rubbed her stomach and smiled at the guests who were looking her way.
Soon enough, Antonio was back and they were headed to the hospital.
Kaitlynn Ijeoma Torres was born three hours later and both mommy and baby were pronounced in good health and were released from the hospital two days later.
Antonio and Aaliyah looked at their beautiful daughter while they waited for a taxi.
“Aaliyah, this has to be the last one. I’m planning on retiring this year and I’m getting too old to have children running around.”
Aaliyah looked at Antonio and started laughing. “Because I made her all by myself? You have some nerve Mr. Torres.”
“It’s time for some grandkids, my love. Okay?”
“Grandkids. Dear lord, can you imagine being called Gran and Gramps?”
“Don’t even throw that out there into the universe, Lia.” Antonio pretended to shudder.
Aaliyah laughed even harder.
There was a man in her garden. Looking over her balcony, Aaliyah waved to her husband as he tended the garden and took seeds and samples for their new home.
Looking down at his grey hair, Aaliyah though back to the first day she met him. She had lost many people since then – her parents, Darling, Rae and she’d almost lost him. But the joy that she’d experienced with him made it all okay. Who knew that a love like theirs could ever exist? There really was nothing you couldn’t do if you had someone who loved you by your side.
Turning around to finish packing, Aaliyah let herself remember all the places they’d been, all the homes – and hotels – they’ve lived in; the circumstances that had brought them to this place. She trailed her fingers along the walls as she made her way down the hall to the stairs.
Passing by the second floor landing, Aaliyah traced the circular burn mark that AJ made on the railing during his chemist phase and chuckled to herself when she saw the hole right next to it. Never to be outdone, Sarah had created a small bomb out of sulfur and chewing gum. Aaliyah had lost at least five years off her life with that little stunt.
Aaliyah looked at the walls where the outline of paintings could be seen. She knew what painting each outline used to be. Adeya had started painting at six and Aaliyah had started hanging her art up when she turned seven and it became a tradition to add a new one every year.
When she got to the front yard, she heard a whinny and saw Dune stamping around excitedly. Rae had always been good with animals and she was a fine equestrienne.
Of all the places they’d lived – aside from maybe France – this house had been their home. Turning around, Aaliyah took one final look.
“Lia, come on, we have a plane to catch!” Turning to the side, Aaliyah saw Antonio waving at her, holding the baby.
“Goodbye,” Aaliyah whispered before fully turning around to walk towards the car. “Babe, if we’re late, they’ll wait!”
Antonio laughed, “Says the Princess to the pauper.”
Reaching the car, Aaliyah smiled and kissed her husband. “It’s your jet.”