Chapter 12: Blooming Roses
Today was the day. Aaliyah lay in bed waiting for the alarm clock to go off. She barely slept the night before. Too excited to sleep, she had roamed around the house, muttering to herself and watching her children sleep. Now she lay awake listen to Antonio’s steady breathing and wondering how she was going to tell him.
He had no idea she was going to Appaloosa with Rae’s ashes this afternoon. The one time she tried to bring it up, he’d been furious.
Trying to fix the computer, Aaliyah had casually brought up the phone conversation with Dr. Gates.
“No. We are not messing with my daughter’s ashes Aaliyah. And that’s final.” Antonio had been adamant about it.
“She’s my daughter too and I want her back. Why won’t you even think about it?”
“You don’t mess with the dead. Can you imagine my parents coming back, or my birth parents, for that matter? They were my age when they died. Let the dead rest in peace.”
“That’s just it Antonio. Rae’s not at peace. How can you not feel her?” Narrowing her eyes at him and brandishing the screwdriver like a weapon, Aaliyah continued, “You are not keeping me from getting my daughter back. That’s final!”
Antonio said nothing else and just picked up Sarah and walked away.
That was last week, and Antonio was still not ready to listen. How could he not understand what this meant to her? Well, she would just do it without him.
The alarm finally went off and Aaliyah got up to tend to her children and get ready for her trip.
Aaliyah watched as Adeya walked out the house. “Have a great day Ade.”
“Haha, very funny mom. Bye!” Adeya waved and ran to the bus.
Aaliyah walked to the kitchen to eat the breakfast that Ms. Kasey, their butler prepared. The fact that Antonio convinced her into getting a butler still made her shake her head. She had to admit, however, that having an extra set of hands around the house was very welcome. She’d spent her whole life trying to stay away from the rich, famous and royal lifestyle, just to end up marrying a man who was richer than some small countries and extremely comfortable in that lifestyle.
Sighing, Aaliyah grabbed a plate of French toast and sat down to eat. Before she could take a bite, one of the twins started to cry.
She heard Antonio shout, “I got the baby, eat your breakfast!”
Smiling, Aaliyah picked up a fork. Hmmm, she loved her husband. Even when he was being unreasonable, he still managed to be sweet and caring.
After a long day, Aaliyah finally landed in Appaloosa. Heading straight for the Science Facility, Aaliyah couldn’t help but feel slightly nauseous, but she was also excited. After years of mourning, she was finally going to get her baby back.
Reaching the reception area, Aaliyah was greeted by a very pretty brunette. “Hi, I’m here to see Dr. Gates, please. My name is Aaliyah Torres.”
The woman smiled up at her from behind her desk. “Good evening, Mrs. Torres. Just take the elevator up to the fifth floor, Dr. Gates is expecting you.”
The woman handed her a visitor’s pass and pointed out the proper elevator banks.
Aaliyah was so nervous her stomach was in knots. She wished Antonio were here with her and felt very sad that he was so against this idea.
Reaching the fifth floor, Aaliyah stepped out and saw a man waiting for her.
“Hello, Mrs. Torres, I’m Dr. Gates. Welcome to my lab, we are very excited to have you here. Now if you’d just follow me through these doors. We’re going to try and change your life.”
“Call me Aaliyah please. If you’re going to do all that, you might as well call me by my given name.”
Dr. Gates smiled. “Aaliyah it is then.”
The entire process took about three hours. Aaliyah was shown to a room filled with knick-knacks to keep a waiting person busy and was left to wait.
Finally, Dr. Gates stepped into the room, looking grim.
“Please tell me it worked doctor.” Aaliyah looked up at the man who held all her most fragile dreams in his hands and felt a sudden chill up her spine. Her aunt warned of this. She should have listened.
“I have good news and bad news, Aaliyah. The good news is that we managed to capture your daughter’s ectoplasmic shape and reawaken her conscience. She is aware of who she is, where she is and what happened to her. However, we were unable to reproduce her body.”
Dr. Gates looked at Aaliyah and frowned. “I think a large part of the problem is that we didn’t have a body to start with, just some ashes. There essentially was nothing for her to come back to. I’m sorry, Aaliyah, we did the best we could.”
Aaliyah just stared at the doctor for a minute. How could she have her daughter back if there was no body? “Where is she, may I see her?”
“Of course.” Dr. Gates left for a moment and came back in with something that looked like Rae but wasn’t.
Trying to hide her shock, Aaliyah put her hands to her lips to hide her gasp and took an unconscious step back. She was staring at the ghost of Rae.
“Mommy?” Rae’s ghost said, her voice ringing with a slight echo, as if she was speaking from inside a long tunnel.
“Oh my sweet Rosie. What have I done to you?” Aaliyah moved forward to hug her but stopped short, looking over at Dr. Gates. “Can I touch her?”
“Yes, of course. She’s solid enough to feel, although that comes and goes depending on how hard she’s concentrating. It will take some getting used to, but she can do all the things a normal person can do, eat, sleep, play and live a normal a life as possible.”
Aaliyah looked down at her daughter and pulled her in for a hug. If she closed her eyes, it was just like hugging the real thing. She suppressed her urge to cry and with one final squeeze, let Rae go.
“Come on honey, let me take you home.”
Once they were outside the Science building, Aaliyah called for a car to take her and her daughter home.
When Aaliyah got home, Antonio and Adeya were nowhere to be found and Darling and Rufus were missing too. Assuming they went for a walk, Aaliyah showed Rae around the house, realizing that everything would be new to her.
“This is the guest room and this is Adeya’s room. It will be your room too.”
Rae looked up at Aaliyah with a frown on her face. “Will she like me?”
Aaliyah felt her heart constrict. “Of course she’ll like you. She already likes you. She loves you.”
Aaliyah had sat down with Adeya and explained to her what was going to happen. Aaliyah was so nervous, but she shouldn’t have been. Adeya only smiled and said, “I can’t wait. I love Rae, mom. She used to come and play with me, when I was little, like Sarah. Do you think she will want to share my room with me?”
The tears had come then and thinking about it now, looking down at her sweet Rosie, the tears were back. She reached down and pulled Rae into a hug.
Aaliyah spent the rest of the evening introducing Rae to the toddlers, who seemed overjoyed at this new playmate and waiting for the other half of her family to get home.
When they finally came back, Antonio took one look at Rae and his lips thinned out in anger. He kissed her on the forehead and murmured something to her before turning around and walking upstairs.
Adeya peered at Rae and grinned. “You look just like I remembered. How come you stopped coming to play?”
Rae shrugged. “I never stopped, you just stopped seeing me.”
Darling was beside herself with happiness. She kept running around until Rae reached down and rubbed her belly.
Aaliyah smiled at the display but glancing up the stairs, she felt her mood turn sour. Antonio was not pleased.
Leaving the girls downstairs, Aaliyah went to look for Antonio and found him watching the twins sleep.
Glancing up at her approach, Antonio stared at her impassively.
“Hey.” Aaliyah walked over to him and looked down at A.J. sleeping.
Looking back down at his son, Antonio said, “Hey yourself.”
Aaliyah sagged a little in relief. He was finally speaking to her.
“Are you angry with me?”
“No. I’m angry at the driver who killed our baby and placed us on this path. But I could never be angry at you for wanting our daughter back.” Sighing, Antonio reached out and brushed a stray strand of hair back from Aaliyah’s face. He leaned down and kissed her softly.
Aaliyah reached over and hugged him. She was so lucky to have this man in her life.
Antonio placed his forehead against hers and asked, “What happened? Why didn’t you tell me you were going?”
“You were so angry and you wouldn’t speak to me. I thought you would try to stop me.” Aaliyah let the tears she’d been holding in all day loose. “She’s our baby but she’s not. We’ll have to find some other way.”
Antonio wrapped his arms around her and pulled her in closer. “I love you so much Aaliyah.”
“I love you much, much more Antonio.”
That night, as Aaliyah tucked in her children, Rae sat up and asked, “Could I sleep in your room tonight mom? It feels weird not being in there anymore.”
Looking over at Antonio, who shrugged, Aaliyah nodded at Rae. “Of course sweetie.”
Aaliyah woke up, feeling too warm. Looking over, she saw Rae sprawled on the bed, with Antonio nowhere in the room. Leaning over, she realized the heat was coming from Rae. She was way too hot. Hearing the door open, she glanced up to see Antonio walking in with a glass of water in his hand.
“She’s burning up, I thought I’d get her some water.”
Before Aaliyah could say anything, her phone started to vibrate. Shrugging at Antonio’s questioning look, Aaliyah answered the phone. “Hello?”
“Hello Aaliyah. This is Chinwendu.”
“Oh, hi Aunt Wendy. Is everything ok?”
“I’m calling for you actually. Do not give that child anything to drink when she gets that hot. Do not wake her up if she is sleeping. If she wakes up on her own, put her in the shower, otherwise, give her the potion I made for you before she goes to bed at night, every night. I will send more when you run out.”
“How did you-”
“Ah, Lee, do not ask questions you know the answers to. Tell your family I said hello. Goodbye now.” And Chinwendu hung up.
Aaliyah stared at the phone for a while before hanging up.
“That was Aunt Wendy. She says hello and not to give Rae the water.”
“What? How did she know -” Antonio stopped midsentence and shrugged, putting the glass of water down on the dresser. Aaliyah smiled at him and scooted out of bed.
“She said we just have to wait.”
Antonio walked over and put his arms around her. “I’m going to assume that our lives will never be the same, what with a ghost for a daughter and all.”
Aaliyah looked up at Antonio and smiled. “Nope. You can chuck normal right out the window.”
Antonio laughed softly, “We were never normal, Lia. You’re a princess who gave up her crown and I’m an orphan who just found out he has hundreds of family members. Normal we are not.”
Clearing her throat, Aaliyah asked, “So, who gets to tell the family that Rae’s back?”
Antonio grinned down at her. “We’ll do it together. Like we should do everything, okay?”
What did she do to deserve this man? Aaliyah nodded.
Rae took a lot of showers. Aaliyah soon realized that Rae’s body temperature rose at the same time every night. The potion her aunt gave her helped and Rae never got as hot as she did that first night, but Aaliyah called Dr. Gates anyway. She needed to know what was going on.
“Hello Aaliyah. How is everything going with Rae?”
“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I think something’s wrong. She gets really hot at night around eight o’clock and she’s constantly taking showers. I’m assuming it’s to cool off.”
“I was afraid something like that would happen. Aaliyah, I think that Rae is experiencing her death every night. You said there was a car explosion, right? I believe that her body temperature is rising to what it was when she died that night. There is nothing I can do to stop this from happening – has she expressed being in pain of any kind?”
Aaliyah’s heart felt like it stopped beating. Rae was experiencing her death every night? She’d brought her daughter back just so she could relive dying?
“No,” Aaliyah whispered hoarsely. “She hasn’t said anything about pain and she sleeps through the night. She just gets very hot.”
“Well, that’s a relief. I will see what I can come up with here on my end to stop this from happening. Keep me updated with what’s going on with her, ok?”
“Of course doctor. Thank you for your time.”
No problem, Aaliyah. Any time. Goodbye.”
Aaliyah decided that home school was the best option for Rae. And after talking it over with Dr. Gates, he sent over some learning packets for Rae and she enrolled in some online courses through his Science facility.
The Torres family fell into a comfortable, if not exciting, pattern. During the day, Adeya attended school in town while Rae took her online classes. Aaliyah and Antonio would watch the twins together in the morning, and Antonio would work for most of the afternoon when the nanny came in to help Aaliyah.
It wasn’t an ideal situation, but it worked for everyone involved and Rae was connected to other individuals like herself through Dr. Gates.
They were a quasi-normal family and that worked for them.