I stood in front of the vast picture windows overlooking the glittering city of night. A smile grew across my face as I heard the sweet cooing of the little baby in the arms of my favorite student, and now niece, as they descended the staircase. Anaia, my former student, was stunning! Her long, brown hair was pulled back into one braid; her bright brown eyes glistened with happiness as a smile stretched across her face. She looked the same as she did when she was in high school! But, there were a few differences such as she was one of the city’s best neonatologists, she was married to her soul mate, my nephew, Robby, and she was a mother of a beautiful little girl named Kareena.
I quickly met her at the staircase with my arms outstretched for the baby and as I cradled her in my arms, I could smell the fresh scent of a bath and baby lotion. She was wide awake - her eyes looked hazel and her full head of black hair swirled so gently on her little round head. I unwrapped her blanket to find that she was wearing the yellow, soft onesie with little rabbits on it. Her fists were balled up as she tried to say something to me.
“She is absolutely beautiful!” I said softly with excitement. I kissed her forehead twice and looked over at Anaia. She stared at her little three-month old daughter with a smile of accomplishment.
“Thank you, Auntie Ell,” she said and looked up at me. “Sorry I didn’t meet you at the door. I had to feed her and get ready. Time just flew!” She looked around and frowned. “Did Robby pour you a glass of wine at least?”
My eyes were on the baby. Her long eyelashes fell softly as she closed her eyes and she sucked on her yellow, cloth rabbit that was part of the outfit. I didn’t notice that Anaia had left until she sat down next to me with red wine in two clear glass, long-stemmed wine glasses. I looked up at her and raised my right eyebrow.
“I can drink a little,” she laughed, “It won’t hurt her, Auntie Ell. Trust me!”
She took Kareena from my arms and snugged her inside of a tan rocker/sleeper. The baby cooed with joy and held on to her little rabbit as Anaia blew kisses to her. To start the rocker, Anaia gently tapped it, sat back and looked over at me.
“Thank you for coming, Auntie Ell,” she said and reached over for a hug. “Did you have a hard time finding us?”
“No,” I said with a chuckle. “I remembered to put your address into the GPS. By the way, this house is gorgeous!”
I heard heavy footsteps on the maple wood floor approaching. I turned to find Robby, with his boyish grin, carrying a tray of vegetables, cheese, fruit, crackers, and dip.
“Thank you,” he said and placed the tray down in front of us. He sat down in the lush sofa adjacent to us and offered to serve me, but I wasn’t hungry yet. He had on jeans, flip flops, and a green t-shirt. Anaia, on the other hand, wore an olive green ribbed knit bodysuit with blue jeans. She had her body back despite having a baby a few months ago.
“We both designed it,” Anaia said. “Robby, did you show Auntie Ell around?”
“Of course, I did!” he smiled and gave her a small plate of vegetables and dip. He got up and walked over to Kareena, picked her up and held her in his arms. He looked lovingly into his daughter’s eyes, kissed her lips, her forehead, the top of her head. “My little princess.”
Anaia looked like she was falling deeper than ever as she stared at her little family. Robby looked at her, bent down and kissed her lips softly. He smiled again at his baby and put her back into her sleeper.
“I’m making you guys something special,” he laughed and clapped his hands together. “It’s not finished yet, so make sure you eat a little something while you’re drinking. I got the recipe from this Italian couple when I traveled to Napoli for a story. They told me that if I made this dish for my wife, she would never leave me.”
Anaia rolled her eyes. “Please.”
Robby gave an excited squeal as he disappeared down the vast hallway leading to the gourmet, spacious kitchen with granite counter tops and steel appliances.
I laughed. “I haven’t heard that squeal since he shot that video of himself with his groceries.”
Anaia laughed. “That was a long time ago Auntie Ell.”
It was a long time ago; Anaia and Robby had come a long way. There were times in their budding relationship that I was nearly in tears. In the early years, when they first met, it wasn’t too positive. Anaia immediately liked what she saw, and Robby was cautious - very wary of wanting to have a girlfriend, especially one who lived so far away. There were other obstacles such as the 400 miles between them and Anaia’s traditional Indian family who did not approve of any man for their daughter unless the man was of their culture. All through the ups and downs, I was their cheerleader - I had this deep, divine feeling that Anaia and Robby belonged together!
“Robby and I wanted to give you something,” she said as she got up and walked across the vast living area in her bare feet and picked up an envelope propped up on the small baby grand piano that was played by Robby. I was glad that he still played the piano, since he played it so beautifully when he was younger. She handed it to me. “Don’t cry, Auntie Ell.”
Anaia knew better than to tell me not to cry! I cried over the phone when I heard that she had gone into labor and I saw photos of the baby on her mother’s Facebook page! I was in Canada at the time at a writer’s conference. I cried at their wedding. I cried when Robby proposed to Anaia! I just cried - I am an emotional person!
I opened the card and batted my eyes to prevent tears from falling. Robby came in and slid himself on the couch, behind his beautiful wife. With my peripheral vision, I could see him give her soft kisses on her neck as I read the card carefully. The front read “Thank You.” Inside, Anaia’s writing sprawled across the blank card. The words “If it weren’t for you...we wouldn’t have met...your undying love for us to be together...we’re so happy...we love you...we owe this all to you...” And...cue the tears! Robby was the first to jump up and hug me tight, and then Anaia.
“Look inside, there’s something else,” Robby said like an excited little boy at Christmas. I saw another envelope and there was a round-trip ticket to Barcelona, Spain. My favorite place in all the world!
“Thank you for everything,” Anaia said softly. “I have never been so happy.”
“Yeah, Auntie Ell,” he said in a gentle, yet serious tone. “I know I was stupid at the beginning. I would have missed out on this blessing. If it weren’t for your persistence, I would be alone and...”
“Stupid,” Anaia chimed in.
Robby said dinner was ready. Anaia picked up baby Kareena and I excused myself to the bathroom to dry my tears. Their happiness was my Heaven - but as I said before, the road to their happiness was hell.
You see, Anaia and Robby didn’t meet under normal circumstances - they didn’t meet in college, or on any online dating site. It began one day when Anaia asked me if I had a nephew who modeled. I asked, in return, how did she know that, and she proceeded to tell me that another student had mentioned it. I am always proud of my family, specifically my nieces and nephews, and I opened a social media page to show her photos of Robby.
“Oh,” was all Anaia could say. “He’s hot.”
However, something happened one day that supernaturally ignited. It was after she had graduated high school, during her second semester at the university. We kept in touch. She promised me before graduating high school that we were to keep in touch. I helped her with her papers, and she came into the school to help me tutor a few of my students. It was wonderful to continue our friendship. However, there was something about Anaia that struck me as different – it was something so deep that I had to sit still and listen to my heart.