Sheda looked around the airport, trying to remember exactly how she got here. How they had gotten here. Hours ago she was looking at Tony, standing in front of their ocean-view window. They were getting ready to go out to dinner. The hotel phone had rung. The front desk said she had a call from her mother. Instantly Sheda thought of her younger sister, Amiella. Her mother’s voice sounded different, strained and far off. She could barely make out the words she was saying except for, “I’m sorry.” Her mother’s voice was replaced by a man’s – a deep voice, void of emotion. Something about Amiella and her baby. They needed to come home as soon as possible. Tony was at her side when she hung up the phone. Sheda remembered telling him that he needed to book a flight back. Immediately. “I think there is something wrong with our baby,” she had told him. “Amiella’s dead.”
The next few hours were a blur, yet somehow, they were at the airport. Their flight would begin boarding soon. Tony and Sheda had barely spoken since the phone call. He had held her after she hung up the phone. Just like he help her now. She was still so confused. Her sister had been doing well. She had a new psychiatrist, who worked with her to balance out her meds. She was still seeing her therapist weekly. She had even mentioned the possibility of getting a new a job. One that required a little more from her. Sheda knew not to get her hopes to high, but everyone had noticed the improvement in her sister.
“Come on,” Tony had said squeezing Sheda’s shoulder, “we’re boarding soon. Here,” he handed her a pill. Sheda was a nervous flyer on a good day, but so much had happened, so much more than they even knew about, that Tony could feel her shaking throughout her body. Sheda took the pill with her chocolatey caramel latte Tony had gotten for her, decaffeinated known only to him. It was the first sip she had taken. Tony helped his wife up as they called their boarding number. She was asleep before take off. Tony thought about what they knew, what Sheda was able to process and relay. Something was wrong with their baby and Amiella was dead. Tony couldn’t understand, were the two related or were they doomed. Tony held his wife’s hand as she slept. He couldn’t bear the thought of anything being wrong with Charolette, but he could understand the loss of a sibling. While he couldn’t make it better for Sheda he could be there to support her. At least until they knew more.
Sheda opened her eyes as the plane pulled in to taxi. She couldn’t believe they were home already. They had only been in Aruba hours ago. But then they had gotten a call, the call that her sister was dead. Sheda wondered if her baby was okay. She knew the man she had spoken to had mentioned something about her baby, but she hadn’t been sure what exactly he had said. She turned her cell phone on as Tony grabbed their carry ons from the overhead. The hotel concierge felt for them. They said they would mail their luggage back for them. Tony took her hand as they walked through the gate and headed to the exit.
“To your parents then,” Tony asked taking his phone out of his pocket.
Sheda nodded. Her thoughts were moment to moment, trapped in a loop between the call and where they were. She hadn’t realized they would have to think or plan once the plane had landed. Tony got them a ride. They were going to her parents’, “maybe we should call them?”
“I’ll do it,” Tony replied, “once we’re in the car.”
Sheda nodded again, “thank you,” she whispered.
Tony watched as his wife sat in the car. He had a feeling it was all hitting her. Unlocking his phone, Tony secured his seatbelt, and called his the landline at his in-laws. His mother-in-law picked up. She already had a bed made up for them, and some leftovers in the fridge. They would be there in another 30 minutes. She ended the call before he could ask any questions. Tony told his wife he had spoken to her mother, her parents were expecting them, but they hadn’t mentioned Charolette. They stayed quiet the remainder of the drive. Tony caught a few tears rolling down Sheda’s cheek, but she was still composed. He was afraid of what would happen when they reached his in-law’s and were able to understand everything that had happened.
It didn’t take as long as Tony had hoped for, upon seeing her mother, standing in the doorway already sobbing, Sheda followed suit. Leaving Tony to deal with the driver, she ran to her mother. By the time Tony had left the driver and grabbed the bags, his wife was sitting on the couch, her mother standing over her with one arm delicately touching her shoulder.
“Oh, Tony,” Sheda said, interrupted by a fresh tears.
“What is it,” Tony asked?
Sheda watched as her husband’s bravdo faded away, he too was looking around the room as she had been her mother walked her inside.
“Sit, sit,” she heard her mother saying.
Tony sat next to her on the couch. Instantly they found each other’s hands. Her mother began talking, though Sheda couldn’t remember how. Maybe she had just lunged into it. Her father had been working in the garage. Building something, something for – he had been building something. There was an accident. That old jerry-rigged contraption he was always using, Alice had told him countless times he needed a new one. Harold was going to be fine. Her mother’s voice dropped and began evolving to the voice Sheda had heard on the phone. But he was in the Emergency Room. Alice couldn’t bring Charolette. So she had called Amiella. Amiella had been doing so well. So well.
Alice paused for a minute to remember her daughter as she was the last time she had come over to the house. She had ran over, they had spent the day talking, laughing, baking, disagreeing on television shows. She had even stayed for dinner and washed the dishes after.
So she called Amiella and told her what happened with their father, and asked if she could bring Charolette by, just for the night. Who else but Harold would be working in the garage at eight o’clock at night. Of course, Amiella had said, she loved her little niece. She told me to call her with any updates. They had rushed Harold into surgery by the time I had gotten there. Alice had forgotten to call Amiella. It was late in the evening. She texted her. Alice couldn’t leave the hospital. It was the crack of dawn before she had any idea of what was truly happening. She called Amiella, she didn’t answer, but then again it was early. Alice sucked in air, and shook her head. She couldn’t delay the hardest parts any longer. There had been complications with Harold’s surgery. He was under strict surveillance, those first nights, they weren’t sure he was going to make it. Alice kept updating Amiella via text, hoping that her husband would be okay. Trying to make sure the issues with the insurance were straightened out. On Monday she had slept at home for the first time in four days. Tuesday morning, she had woken up to a call from the police. Amiella had been found dead in her apartment. They asked Alice as the next of kin to meet them at the precinct. Alice said she was on her way over to get the baby. The officer didn’t know what she was talking about. “There’s no baby here, Ma’am,” he had said. Alice hung up the phone and made it to Amiella’s apartment in record time. It was one of the reasons she had taken it. Under somewhat forced agreement, just in case.
Alice stopped again and looked at the faces of her daughter and son-in-law. She wasn’t sure she was doing this right, she wasn’t sure of anything. If only Harold had been here. Sheda looked at her mother, instantly fearing the worst, “mom,” it came out as a cruel whisper. “Mom,” she said again louder. In a whirl of words it all came out: her baby was not dead, but in critical condition. They had found her in the fridge. There was a half drunk bottle of wine in her crib. Sheda had stopped breathing. She felt Tony pull her closer, bringing her back to the moment. They had to get there, they had to see her. They had so many questions. Sheda jumped up from the couch and ran to the downstairs bathroom. Alice and Tony looked at each other as the sounds of her dry heaving carried into the living room. Alice went to the kitchen to make some tea, Tony went to check on his wife.
Alice waited as the tea water boiled. In a matter of days their worlds were irreparably changed. Harold would be okay, but not without damages done. Her younger daughter was dead, and without meaning to had taken the peace from under her whole family once more. Alice wasn’t sure if they would be able to pay the toll. Unbeknownst to anyone, Tony and Sheda would face the rest of their lives, knowing their second child was conceived around the same time that their first child was fighting, and failing, for its life. Alice heard Tony and Sheda talking, trying to figure out how to move forward when the kettle whistled. She wasn’t exactly sure what a cup of calming tea was going to do for anyone, but Alice poured three cups anyway.
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