Jonathan and Skyla got away as soon as they could to rush home and gather the girls to go to his sister’s house. Janessa sent him a text saying she and Juliana had just arrived home from the hospital. He couldn’t wait to meet his great-niece and see how her mother and grandmother were doing.
“Hey, grandma,” Jonathan said and embraced his sister.
Janessa always kept a thin, toned frame, but she felt so frail to him then. Her once rock hard muscles were so soft, and she seemed even thinner than the last time he saw her. He squeezed her even tighter and tried to push away thoughts of his sisters nearing the end of their lives. The juxtaposition of them being the same vibrant girls he grew up with and old ladies was awkward. He should have been right there with them. He dodged that bullet once and wondered what it would be like to be old and near death.
“How are you, little brother? You look tired.”
Behind them, Maya met Juliana coming out of the bathroom.
“Hey… How are you feeling?”
Juliana snorted. “Remind me to ask you the same question after you’ve just had a baby.”
They chatted for a minute while Jonathan and Janessa got caught up.
“So,” he said, “You feeling all right about…everything?”
“Hmph! I want to wring her neck! I’m not mad at the boy at all. I didn’t teach her to be so irresponsible!”
Jonathan snorted. “Yeah, I hear ya. Well…at least you have a grandchild now…right?”
“That is the only bright side of this. Maybe Juliette will stop gloating now.”
“HA! You must know a different Juliette.”
As they continued their conversation, the young ladies retreated to Juliana’s bedroom to chat in private and see the baby. They sat in silence for a while before Juliana noticed something wasn’t right with Maya.
“Nothing,” Maya said with obvious frustration.
“Come on, Maya”
She huffed and narrowed her eyes. “LIFE SUCKS!”
Juliana thought there would be more where that came from, but there wasn’t. “…that’s it?”
“Look, if you’re still mad about Akira, I said I’m–”
“Stop apologizing to me! I’m tired of people apologizing to me!”
She got up to meet her new cousin.
The baby began to cry when Maya stepped in front of the bassinet.
“She’s probably hungry,” Juliana said. “Can you feed her while you’re over there?”
Maya scooped up the child, a bottle, and fed her cousin. There was something magical about a newborn that temporarily staved off her foul mood.
“Well, aren’t you precious!”
She liked the way holding a baby felt. Motherhood was something she knew would eventually be in her future, but she never thought about until then. Could she go for being a mother sooner rather than later?
“What’s her name?”
While Maya fed Carlee, Juliana went back to the living room to face Jonathan. She knew he was disappointed in her for not being safe, but she also knew it was just because he loved her so much. She wanted to introduce him to her daughter. He was still taking to Janessa when she came out.
“Hi, Uncle Jonathan.”
He paused his conversation with her mother and followed her into the room.
“Heeey, kiddo! How are you?”
He threw his arms around her.
“Maya, can you give us a moment?” Jonathan asked.
“But, I wanna hang out with Carlee.”
“Carlee will be here. Go talk to your aunt,” he said with a firm tone. “You haven’t seen her in a while, ok?”
Maya growled and exited the room.
She stood in front of her uncle nervous about what he wanted to say but humbled that he cared so much. He didn’t have to take such an interest. She had a great father who loved and cared for her, and eventually, parents die. He didn’t need to keep looking after her like this.
“Uncle Jonathan…I don’t need another lecture from you. I know I was stupid, ok? I don’t want to be reminded again.”
“I’m not here to preach, kid. I just want to make sure you’re all right…and let you know you can talk to me…”
“I know. I appreciate it.”
He had an odd smile and had a faraway look on his face.
She chuckled nervously. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“You’re all grown up now. You both are… It’s just odd for me.”
The air in the room was a bit awkward, so she introduced him to the baby. “You wanna say hi to Carlee?”
He grinned. “Of course I do!” He crept over to the bassinet, picked up the infant, and cradled her. “Hey, little lady! Can you say hi to Uncle Jonathan?”
Juliana giggled at his high pitched voice but was comforted by her baby’s squeals. What wasn’t to like about him? She hoped he could be a positive father figure in her life just as he had been for her until she got married–if she got married.
“Aren’t you just so cute? Yes you are cute!”
His baby talk voice was ridiculous and made Juliana laugh. She wondered if he used to talk to her that way.
“You’re going to be smart and sweet just like your mommy…”
Hearing his indirect compliments made her realize that although she was an adult, she was never too old for fatherly love. She appreciated him and decided he could impose on her in that way as much as he liked.