I place my suitcases on the doorstep. Home sweet home. But I am here for a reason that is far from sweet. Had never thought I’d be coming back home for a dead brother and sister-in-law. People say good things happen to good people but bad things happen to good people too.
My brother was a good man. His wife was too. And they did nothing wrong. So, why did God have to take their lives so soon?
I skipped the funeral because my mother never called me. Never gave me the news. I was busy finding people like I always do as a private investigator. And I never knew what was happening back at home.
“Aunt Ri,” the door opens revealing my five year old niece Leia. How do I look at her and not cry? She probably thinks her parents are out on some business. Little does she know that Allen and Carol are never coming back home.
“Leia, sweetie.” I lean down so that she can wrap her arms around my neck then pick her up. My mother comes out of the living room and smiles at me. All her smiles are for her granddaughter. There is not a hint of happiness in her eyes.
Mom embraces me. “Ariadne, it is good to have you home for Christmas.”
I give my mother a tight-lipped smile. “Hey, Mom.” Our greeting is awkward. I am furious at her for hiding this from me but I know it is selfish of me to behave this way since she has lost her family too.
“Honey,” Mom guides Leia away. “I think your favourite cartoon show has just started.”
“Oh, yes!” Leia dashes into the living room, her skirt flailing in the air.
I drag my suitcases to my room. Mom follows me upstairs. So, we are going to have this conversation now. On the Christmas Eve. Wasn’t ready for this. I take a deep breath then face her. “What have you told her?”
“I haven’t,” Mom replies gravely. I can see she is trying to hold up. “How do you think I am going to tell my granddaughter that her parents are dead? I had to send her away to your Uncle’s on the funeral day.” She breaks down.
I wrap my arms around her and hold her tightly. “I’m sorry, Mom. I know how hard it is for you to manage alone. I am here now.”
“I know and I am really happy. But this isn’t your life.” She wipes her tears away. “You have a job, a fiancé and a whole life out there.”
“Mom, please can we talk about this later?” I abruptly state. “We have to tell her,” I say quietly. As hard as it is, we can’t keep this from Leia. She’ll hate us for not telling her. Now, she is young. She doesn’t know how much it hurts when your loved ones hide the truth from you. Once she grows older, it’ll hit her like a blizzard.
“Maybe we should wait till Christmas is over,” Mom tries to convince me.
I shake my head sadly. “Mom Christmas isn’t going to change anything. I’ll go get changed. We’ll talk after dinner.”
Dinner consists of steak, spaghetti and baklava in dessert. Mom glances at me nervously knowing what is to come. It is inevitable after all. I wish Jonah were here with me. His presence always gives me confidence. But his flight is supposed to arrive tomorrow. And I know he can’t just magically appear here like a miracle even though it is Christmas time.
“Where are Dad and Mom?” Leia asks in her sweet voice.
“I am sorry, sweetie but they aren’t coming home.” I try to keep myself calm but inside, my sub-conscious is screaming and is going crazy.
Leia’s sparkling blue eyes meet mine. “Why, Aunt Ri?”
Such a simple question and what a difficult answer. “Come with me.” I take her up to the terrace to see the stars.
“Do you see those?” I ask leaning down beside her. She nods firmly. “Your Mom and Dad are the new stars.”
“Aren’t they coming back?”
I shake my head. “No, sweetie. They are with your grandfather now. And I bet they are watching us now.”
“But I’ll never see them again,” she says dejected.
And I want to hit my head or revert time for that but I can’t. “Just close your eyes and you can see them.” She closes her eyes quickly. “Do you?”
“Mom and Dad are smiling.” She opens her eyes and embraces me tightly. She doesn’t yet understand the whole situation but gradually in years she will. “I love you, Aunt Ri.”
“Love you, too.”
Mom finally guides her with her to their bedroom. I go back to the living room and lounge on the couch. My eyes fall on the Christmas tree which has been decorated with lights and stars. There is an envelope hung on one of the leaves. I pick it up and open it.
This year I want to visit the winter carnival with Dad and Mom
I sigh and put the envelope back in its place. Sometimes you just have to make wishes come true.
“Merry, Christmas, Aunt Ri and Grandma!” Leia squeals in excitement. She doesn’t realize that we were worried she might be upset and not want to celebrate.
“Merry Christmas!” I reply grinning. After I found her wish letter last night, I quickly called and made some arrangements for our trip today. “Go get ready. I’ll-”
There is a knock on the door. Leia quickly rushes to the door and opens it. “Uncle Jonah!”
“Hey, sweetie,” Jonah kisses her forehead. His light brown hair falls on his forehead which Leia brushes away giggling. “Where is your-” he spots me then comes over and embraces me. “Merry Christmas, love.”
“I missed you too,” I say laughing.
He then turns to Leia. “Why aren’t you ready yet?”
“Why?” Leia asks curiously.
“We're going to the winter carnival,” I say smiling. “You, me and your Uncle.”
She jumps up and down in excitement. “Yeah! Santa fulfilled my wish.”
“No,” Jonah says glancing at me. “Your fairy godmother did.”
I know it's going to take Leia days or years to accept that her parents are gone but maybe with time she can learn to accept us as a family. Because as long as Jonah and I are there, we will make sure Leia leads a happy and healthy life and never feels as if there is a void in her life. We will become the parents she needs and deserves.