"Wait for me to come home." (2)
I got out of the hospital yesterday, and now we’re staying at our grandparents’ penthouse. Everyone is busy, either cooking or setting up the long table. While close family and friends arrive, I help Célina fix her hair with April and Ros, of course. The three of us are inseparable after that incident. Beth, D, and Lea are busy with either work or home life. I understand, so it’s okay. Dion is out and entertaining everyone with his music while everyone else chats and catches up. My cousins wrap me with hugs and pepper me with kisses when they arrive, and all of us laugh and talk. When food is ready, everyone gathers at the long, very long table and grandpa stands up to say a few words. He thanks everyone who is still here with us in the room and out there who couldn’t make it, to everyone we have known and lost, he also acknowledges me for being brave at the time of troubles, and lastly, he gives Nate a special mention for saving me in that chaos.
After dinner, Nate finds me sipping mountain dew on the balcony. “Just like old times, huh?”
I turn around to smile at him. “Except, this time, the decorations aren’t fairy lights.”
He chuckles and then sighs as he sits down next to me. The music and chatters inside are muffled as we sit in silence, listening to the beeping cars below. “I’m sure Ryan and your Nana are proud of you.”
I hum and try to smile as I hold back my tears. “I hope so.”
“You’ve got a book deal!” He smiles, raising his cup to the sky. “Thank you, Ryan, for being my best friend throughout those years. You were the greatest mate one friend could ever ask for.”
I raise my glass with him as I feel my eyes well up with tears. “Yeah, you are literally my knight in shining Italian shoes!”
We laugh. Mentioning the name of my saviour may be a sore subject, but what Ryan left us was vast and lasting memories. Nate and I are forever grateful for that.
He clears his throat, “You know when I was reading your journal to you? I was hoping that you could see your memories playing in your dreams.”
I smile, “I heard you,” and laugh a little. “April was the one who demanded you continue, didn’t she?”
He nods, “Yeah, and I don’t think you’ll believe this, but Célina was crying her eyes out. We were all so worried.”
I cover his hand with mine and giggle at the thought of my sister crying. I sigh but my lips arched into a playful smile. “Let’s not go there, shall we? We’re here now,” I say as I make him look at me. “We’re here, and that’s what counts.”
His lips purse into a shy smile, and then he nods. “You’re right.”
My smile goes wide as I remember a piece of memory. “Do you know the reason why I had a crush on you?”
He shakes his head and laughs after he sipped his drink. “Not really, but I’ve been wondering about that all these years!”
I lightly hit his arm as I laughed. “It’s because whenever you looked at me, you would smile,” I say, remembering our middle school life. “You were so shy, and I thought it was adorable.”
He puts down his glass and fishes out his phone. He scrolls through the photographs and then shows me a low-quality one. I looked closely at it, and the background was on the foot of the grand staircase of the middle school building. I was in between Nate and April! I don’t remember this picture at all!
“Oh my god, we look so young here!” I gasp and look more closely at the picture.
He laughs. “You pulled April in the frame.”
I shake my head, “That’s so cute!” we chuckle as he pockets his phone back. “Please send me the photo later!”
He smiles, but this time it is more serious. “Okay.” He sips his drink once again and breathes audibly. “You were my first kiss.”
“And you were mine,” I grin at him. “Technically, you weren’t, but with the messed up timeline...” I trail, and he cracks up, rocking back. That’s when I realize, with a smile playing across my face, we really are just friends. We beam contentedly at each other.
My mum and dad step on the balcony to get some fresh air. Mum sits beside me, and dad stands on the other side of me. Nate leaves us, and then dad sits next to me. “You know Mari? You are a lot like my mother.”
I tilt my head and smile at my dad, remembering Nana Charlie. “Well, dad, she would sprinkle a lot to me since she practically was the one who raised me!”
Mum laughs. “No, it’s not just that, but you’re brave and sweet and a smart mouth.”
The three of us share a laugh at the fond memories of Nana. She was a big part of who I am, and I cradle the necklace she gave me. “I wrote about her parents’ love story aboard Titanic and posted it online.” I share and remember the sketches my great-grandmother drew. I now realize why Jace looks oddly familiar. It’s because he looked like one of the gentlemen my great-grandmother knew. I believe his name was Henri. I shake my head before my mind gets sucked into wandering again.
“I feel like I was there too when I was reading the letters,” I share with my parents. “I can’t believe my great-grandmother used to paint on the easel I am using!”
Dad smiles, reminiscing, “Yes, she spoiled me rotten! She wanted me to have a kid who would inherit her skills, and what do you know?” and he gave me a one-arm hug, tickling my cheek with his stubble. I pushed him away.
My mum giggles and places a hand on my knee as she says, “Yes, oh, grandmamma Sierra was a doll. Reading the letters through your writing makes me remember about her and your great-grandfather.”
Dad gives mum a lovely smile as they look deeply into each other’s eyes.
It’s the very first time my mum read my story. “Thanks!” is all I could say.
“Give me the link,” dad says, “I might read it, even though I know their love story.”
I laugh. “You don’t have to, dad!”
“Then I will share it,” he kisses my head and carefully pats my hair. “I’m so proud of you, Mari. I love you, kiddo.”
Mum hugs me. “I love you so much too, even if you get on my nerves.”
I laugh. “I love you guys too,” I confess. “And devour it. You won’t be hearing those words from me anytime soon.”
They laugh again before leaving me with my thoughts. After a while, I re-join my family and friends with their laughter, stories, and countless, numerous banters. I smile at what lies in front of me, the love and hate filling inside the living room of my grandparents’ home. Here, with all the people who love me for who I am, I am content at everything. I sip my drink and start to think about what I should write or draw next since tomorrow will be an unknown adventure I will explore. My life is a blank canvas waiting for me to fill it with words and colours, and I am excited to start fresh with all the people I love.