Jonathan remembered this was a happy day and pushed the anxious thoughts of that future conversation out of his mind. He called his daughters downstairs to give them an official tour of their new home. It was cheesy, and he knew it, but they began outside. They walked around the beautifully manicured lot and “ooohed” and “ahhhed” about the new amenities like the pool and covered porch.
On principle, they walked around the partial wrap-around porch from the back to enter the front door.
“On the left, we have a small, full bathroom, and to the right, we have a little gym!”
They went upstairs.
“I thought it was kind of random to put a couch there, but it’s growing on me.”
“It’s a nice chill-out spot,” Aubrey said.
“You’ve seen Oliver’s room…
“Across from him is Aubrey’s room. Your bathroom is next door, but you’ll have to share with Oliver when he’s older.”
Jonathan kept his eyes on his now middle child as she inspected her new room. It wasn’t much bigger than her old room, but he was so glad to give her even an extra square foot.
She was grinning from ear to ear. “I love this bed!”
He knew she would be excited about having a full sized bed.
“The next door is us, and Maya you’re next to us.”
Aubrey gasped. “You guys have a fireplace? And a TV?”
“Nice, huh? Maya, because you’re older, we gave you the room with a bathroom in it.”
Maya didn’t say anything, but her face said it all. Jonathan loved how happy she was.
“Ugh,” Aubrey yelled. “She got a closet!”
“Aubrey…you’ve gone without a closet for this long,” Jonathan said. “It’s not a big deal, ok?”
“I know,” she said with a long face.
They went back downstairs for the end of the tour.
“I call this the secret room because you’d never know it was here.”
They walked through the door next to the bar.
“This office is for everyone, but since we all have computers in our rooms, I think Maya should have first dibs. And, now that you’re working, maybe you’ll want to work from home. Here’s a nice quiet place away from everything.”
He glanced at Aubrey who looked like she was trying not to be jealous.
“Thanks, daddy,” Maya said. “This is so great!”
They spilled into the living room and joined Skyla on the sofas–they had already checked out the downstairs while they waited for their parents to return from the hospital.
“So…what do you think?” Jonathan asked.
“I love it,” Maya said.
“It’s really nice,” Aubrey said. “At first I thought it looked really big from the outside, but it’s not so big on the inside.”
“It’s cozy, right?”
When he first saw the house, he was a little disappointed by the tiny bedrooms. They were only slightly bigger than what they all had. He knew he wasn’t going to be able to get much for the price range they wanted to stay in. But, after another look, he came to appreciate the small rooms. The house gave them the space they so desperately needed while still keeping them close.
“That’s a good word for it, Jonathan.”
“So,” Maya began, “I have some news…”
His body tensed up, and he and Skyla glanced at each other.
“I got a promotion!”
Everyone gasped and congratulated her.
Jonathan jumped up and grabbed her. “That’s so awesome, Maya! I’m so proud of you.
“So what’s the new role?”
“Cool! I don’t know what that is, but I know you’ll be amazing at it.”
She was all smiles. “Thanks, daddy.”
“Gosh! We have so much to celebrate today! We’ve gotta get everyone over here.”
He whipped out his phone and began calling all the family members.
“I’ll make dinner,” Aubrey shouted.
“That’s great, honey. Thank you,” he said.
Everyone was so excited to hear about the house and the baby. He couldn’t count how many times he said, “it’s a boy,” and, “we’re so happy.” It was true. Within a few minutes, the Pruetts, the Mumbachs, and the Gyles began trickling in.
“Can I talk to you for a second?”
“How are you? Where’s Carlee?”
“She’s, ummm…well, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”
A wave of panic rushed over Jonathan’s body. “Oh my goodness, is she ok?”
Juliana chuckled. “She’s fine! I didn’t mean to make it sound ominous. She’s just at home…with my husband…”
He gasped and his eyes shot open. “Husband?? When did all of this happen? Why didn’t–”
“Uncle Jonathan…let me just tell you what happened.” She was halfway laughing. “I needed a break, so I left her with mom and went to a party. I saw him, and…” She sighed with a sappy grin. “…I don’t know! I just…”
Jonathan smiled. “I know exactly what you mean. The first time I saw Skyla…there was just something about her. I was only a teenager, but I knew she was the one for me.”
“I’m so glad you get it! Mom thought I was crazy. I understand why, but I’m glad you understand.”
“So, what’s he like?”
“I think he felt the same way too because he immediately asked me to dance. He was such a great dancer, and he seemed like a fun-loving guy. Anyway, I wanted to know more about him, so we left there and went for a walk and just talked.”
Jonathan loved the light in her eyes while talking about him. He wanted all the not-so-little ladies in his life to find healthy, meaningful relationships and was glad her child didn’t prevent that from happening.
“We talked about the books we’re reading and stuff like that. I can’t explain how, but I was really falling for this guy. I wanted him to know my situation up front, so I told him about Carlee and Akira.”
“You married him, so I’m guessing he was receptive.”
“He was.” Her eyes began to water. “He was so interested in her! Like, he wanted to know her name, how old she was, how she was doing, what she looked like, who watches her, and even if she sleeps all night. To be honest, it was kind of weird, but I was glad I hadn’t run him away.”
“Right? So anyway, it was getting late, so we agreed to go home but go out the next night. We got dinner, and he asked me about Carlee again and I just felt so…I felt like he was genuinely concerned about her. It was crazy, but I asked him if he wanted to meet her. He was so excited.”
Jonathan couldn’t stop smiling.
“We went home after dinner, and he picked her up and started talking to her. He said, ‘You don’t know me, but I’m a friend and I will protect you as best as I can.'”
He handed her some tissue.
“That did it for me. I mean like, we had this crazy vibe going, and he loved my child? It was strangely awesome…. That’s when he did it.”
He gasped. “He proposed right there?”
“Kinda. He said, ‘Juliana…I know you feel what’s going on.’ Of course, I did. ‘We need to be a family.’ I agreed. He still had Carlee in his arm. He took my hand with the other and went to my mom. He said, ‘Mrs. Gyles, my name is Karim Assaoui. I would like to marry your daughter.'”
“What did she say?”
“She looked at us like we had four heads.”
“I explained how I felt about him, and he chimed in about his feeling toward me and Carlee. She still felt weird about it, but she gave us her blessing.”
“So when did this happen?”
“Last week. We didn’t want to wait and plan a big party, so we just went to the arch at the museum. Me, him, and Carlee.”
She had the biggest grin on her face.
“Gosh, Juliana! I’m so happy for you! Love comes in all kind of ways. No one has to understand it except you and him.”
“Thanks, Uncle Jonathan. I know you’d understand.”
“So how’s it been? How are you adjusting to married life?”
“It’s been great! He has a good job with regular hours, he’s so great with Carlee and she really does like him a lot, he helps my mom, and he’s just so protective of all of us. It’s crazy. I trust him.”
“That’s awesome. I can’t wait to meet this guy.” He embraced her once more. “I’m so happy for you…and Carlee!”
“Thanks, Uncle Jonathan.”
“I guess we better get back out there before they think we got abducted or something.”
As they exited the office, Jonathan’s eyes scanned the room and realized one person was missing. “Hey, Mark…where’s your mother?”
All the conversations in the room ceased, and he felt everyone’s eyes on him. Mark’s face fell, and Jonathan got an uneasy feeling in his gut.
“I was waiting for a better time to tell you…”
It felt like every hair on his body was raised, and his body began to tremble. “No…”
“She died this morning…. We were going to tell you tomorrow…you know, after we knew the baby had arrived and you were all moved in. I’m sorry, Uncle Jonathan.”
“I’m really sorry.”
“I understand, Mark. I appreciate your concern.”
He didn’t want to find out that way, but knowing his sister died immediately after it happened certainly would have put a damper on the birth of his son and celebrating their new house.
“Excuse me, everyone.”
He went upstairs.
Goodbye, Juliette! We miss your sass already.