Forever Young

A slight glimmer of sunshine reaches through the window of the nursery and gently touches Heidi’s sleeping face. I can hear her soft breathing; it puts me in a trance.


Heidi’s caramel colored skin is perfectly flawless, as is everything else about her.


Leaning myself into the white door frame that Levi had designed in preparation for Heidi’s arrival, I daydream. Levi had spent the previous year designing the home of our dreams. Everything must be lightly colored, as that supposedly invited positive vibes into our lives.


Levi had chosen Hawaii of all places to live in. He believed that it was to set a tone for our future, and with him being an interior designer, he loved the jobs that Hawaii offered him. We spent our whole lives up to this moment earning a good wage and working hard so that we could make this move and have Heidi. Working at Kapiolani Medical Center as a Pediatric Surgeon has been another goal of mine that I have been blessed to achieve. The atmosphere of the hospital is what truly opened me up to the idea of being a mother.


I was always worried about all of the thing that could go wrong with babies, and so  I never took the time to think about all of the good things. All of the heartache that I saw mothers go through at work when I had to tell them that the surgery was unsuccessful or when I diagnosed their children with life-threatening diseases, would never compare to the looks on their faces when they saw their baby’s toothless smile, or heard that youthful hum come from that tiny angel’s lips. I wanted the feeling of someone else’s soul mended into mine.
Snapping back into reality, I realize that the most beautiful view I’ve ever been lucky enough to witness is right in front of me. The material things are gorgeous, I must admit, such as the thin white curtains hanging sheepishly in front of the six always semi-open windows which look out into the clear, salty sea. The white crib sitting against the far back wall with a coral colored mattress and the fairy lights that glowed sleepily above it were also stunning. Not to mention the perfectly placed and complementing colored white rug that lays on top of the light gray floors that run all the way through the second story of our house. These views are all beyond incredible, but not all of the beautiful things in the world could measure up to be even half as beautiful as my daughter, Heidi Claire Kalani.


Almost as if on cue, I hear Heidi shift around in her crib. She reaches for the tight black curls atop her head, but before she can, she meets my brown eyes with her bright green ones. She smiles with the three teeth she has: two on the bottom and one on the top. She giggles.


Let me tell you; her giggle. It’s the most heavenly sound. If I had a choice between seventeen million dollars and hearing Heidi’s giggle, there would be no question in my mind that seventeen million dollars was passed up on.


Reaching her hands toward the sky, she whispers “up, mama,” and up she goes.


Downstairs, we find Levi painting the ceiling of the living room.


“Good morning, ladies,” Levi says as Heidi claps.


Heidi cheers every time Levi talks, like she is his biggest fan.


“Ella,” Levi calls as he steps down from his ladder, “you look stunning this morning.”


“Levi, I just woke up. My hair is in a terrible bun, I’m wearing my Stanford stuff, I don’t even-” Levi cuts me off with a quick kiss on the cheek.


“Goodness, El,” he crinkles his forehead, “you’re always breathtaking to me.”


It’s crazy that even after knowing Levi since the seventh grade, he still has that childlike effect on me. With Levi, I’ve always had butterflies. They definitely didn’t stop after we got engaged. As a matter of fact, they probably got much more frequent. With Levi, I blush like it’s the first time he called me “cute” all the way back in middle school.


Looking down at the floor, I tell him thank you. Then, with a idiotic smile stuck on my face, I venture into the corner of the living room and kiss the top of Heidi’s head and place her in her vibrantly colored play pen.
Rosewater tea and toast are the two things in the world I could have for breakfast every day of my life and never get sick of. Every morning I wake up and immediately start cooking for myself.


After my toast pops up, and I jump a bit like I usually do. I scooch myself on top of the glossy marble countertop and begin to eat.


As I sip from my tea mug, I take a look around me. I put all of my faith in Levi’s home decorating skills and it truly paid off. All of the stainless steel appliances complimented the white tile walls and pearl-colored hardwood. The large glass dining table that seemed to fit perfectly in the middle of the room was solely accompanied by six ridiculously large cushioned chairs and a single orchid in a very abstract vase right in the center of it.


This is the life I have always dreamed of.

-

Two weeks have passed and Levi decided to work on a surprise playroom on the lowest level of our house for Heidi.


Upstairs, Heidi is wearing a white lace dress with a golden belted middle so that she can't rip it off of herself whenever it frustrates her. She is rather infamous for the Christmas Party incident.


At my mothers house in Seattle four months prior to today, Heidi was seven months old. Heidi was wearing these stunning white leggings with a red onesie underneath, a white bow headband on top of her tight poofy curls, a little cover-up jacket that had a small pearl button at the top, and the low-top Nike shoes Anastasia, my sister, had brought to us at Heidi's baby shower. My niece, Alana, who was thirteen at the time, asked to hold Heidi. I, of course, complied and handed her over. About four minutes later, while I was having a very heartfelt conversation with my sister about her medical experience, as she was a pediatric surgeon as well, but at the Mayo Clinic, I hear something in the back corner of my mother’s living room smack the wall, followed shortly after by glass hitting the tan wooden floors. I turned around to see Alana chasing after Heidi, who was throwing each article of clothing off one by one. After she completed this task, she decided to crawl around in just a diaper and one shoe, which was not hers. I stood up and slowly made my way over to where she was clumsily trying to get to so that I could corner her and pick her up. Heidi stared at my mouth as I scolded her, drool covering her entire chin and dripping onto her chest and belly. When we turned around, I saw my mother making her way towards us. She reached out for Heidi and immediately seemed to forget about the whole situation. It was a very helpful learning experience for me, though.

 

Heidi is now sitting outside on the patio. That was Levi’s very first project around the house. He and I both fell in love with the location of the house: right on the shore of the main Hawaiian island. Heidi stood up and flattened out the front of her dress and began to walk over to the swingset that she cried for in the aisle of a market I took her to. I watched her from a distance, sipping down the rest of my Starbucks coffee. Heidi grabbed onto the rope and tried to pull herself up, obviously failing. She slid back down onto the dirt and yelled for me to come and help her. It seemed that as soon as I did, she got bored with the back and forth motion so she pointed between the trees at the glistening ocean waves. That is where she wanted to be.
Once Heidi was free to run from me and the swing, she decided she couldn’t get there fast enough. She was stumbling through the trees with her chubby legs going faster than I had ever seen them go. She is so ambitious.


Once we arrived on the white-sand beach, Heidi turned around to face me and reached her arms up for me to hold her. When I lifted her, I made my way to the water and sat down on the shore, completely soaking the back of my white fabric shorts. Heidi immediately got sick of sitting on my lap, so she climbed off and began stomping around in the sandy sea, copying the melody of How Far I’ll Go, a song from Moana, but not quite getting any of the words correct. After about ten minutes of this, Heidi began squinting and shielding her eyes from the harsh Hawaiian sun, which I took as a hint that she was done with the outside for now.


Back inside our air-conditioned home, it was nearly one p.m. and Heidi needed a nap. I put her in a black knit onesie and kissed the top of her head as a sweet dreams wish.


I go all the way into the basement to see Levi. He speaks but does not turn around to face me.


“Hello, gorgeous,” Levi says, “Is it one already? Is Heidi asleep?”


Even though I know he can’t see it, I hold up the baby monitor that I listen to Heidi’s even breaths on.
“She is out like a light,” I answer.


“You know, El, I've been thinking a lot recently and I am so thankful that I get to have this family with you. I know it’s cheesy, but I’ve been daydreaming about this since we were just little kids,”  he says as the sets the roller into the light pink paint.


“I thank God for you every single day, Levi Ashton Kalani.”


Levi stands up, still facing the wall, and wipes his hands on his pants: classy. He then turns and walks over to me and puts me in the tightest hug that makes me realize just how lucky I am to be able to call this family my own.


We are startled by the sound of Heidi crying through the baby monitor, so we walk to the main floor landing together where Levi tells me that he has it under control and to just stay downstairs and relax.
Once on the couch, I set the baby monitor on the end table, but turn it up just in case. I hear Levi hushing Heidi because she had only been asleep for about twenty minutes. I can almost envision Heidi staring at her father wide-eyed and ready to listen to anything he had to say. Heidi was asleep in a matter of minutes. Levi could work some miracles.


Later that day after giving Heidi a bath and taking her to the market with me, where she cried out until I bought her a bag of grape, I lay in bed reading a poetry book called Love & Misadventure. I open the book to a dog-eared page and begin to read:

Before I fell
in love with words;
with setting skies
and singing birds-
it was you I fell
in love with first

The words of this poem seep deep down inside of my body, my eyes begin to get heavy with the want of slumber.


It's around 9 P.M now and i'm in heaven listening to Heidi's even breathing and all at the same time, captivated by the beauty of Lang Leav’s words. I want to stay awake for a while, but because i’m on call tomorrow and the relaxing sounds all around me, I fall asleep much sooner than I want to.


I wake up to the sound of Levi snoring next to me. I laugh quietly to avoid waking him up. What I don't hear is Heidi. I sit up and rub the sleep from my eyes and grab the monitor to see if it's on. It is. It should be picking up every noise she makes, that was the whole reason I even bought it. I made my way to Heidi's nursery, my pink socks with octopi on them barely making a sound as I did so.


It may seem dramatic, but I am experiencing that thing that mothers talk about; the “something isn’t right” feeling.


The baby monitor is now on full volume, and I can hear the sounds of the waves crashing against the shore. And I can hear the mobile connected to the ceiling singing a sweet lullaby. I can hear everything. So why can’t I hear Heidi?


Picking up my pace, I realize just how large and inconvenient my house truly is. Sprinting past the banister of the staircase that leads to the unfinished third-floor of my house, I feel my eyes cloud up with fear. I grab the silver door handle to Heidi’s nursery and slowly turn it. I am afraid for what I may find on the other side.
Or what I won’t find.


I push the door open and begin to walk towards where I had laid her to rest the night before.
And there she is. In her crib. Untouched.


I bite my newly french-manicured index finger and press my forehead against the wall. A tear finds its way from the corner of my eye down my cheek, and onto my toffee colored shirt.


I sloppily stand up straight and decide to make an exception of my rule: never wake a sleeping baby.
But Heidi doesn’t wake when I pick her up and place her against my chest. She doesn’t move. I pull her away from my body and examine hers.


I place two fingers at the base of her neck and feel for a pulse. It never comes.
I cannot find the energy to scream. I only pull Heidi towards me and sink to my knees. I weep into the mess of her hair and lean over her as though to protect her from all of the things I never thought possible. Till now.
-

Guilt.


That is the only emotion that I have been able to fathom for the last week.


My reason for being is no longer here to keep me going, and she may have been if I were to have stayed awake just as long as had I wanted to.


But I didn’t. And I will eternally pay the price for my actions.


Sleeping is not an option of me recently. Over the past week, I have laid awake at night with Heidi’s baby monitor right next to my bed. I don’t know why. Maybe hoping for the sound of her laugh as she played with the toys in her bedroom. Maybe the sound of her crying when she trips and falls. She was so clumsy.
Every second of every day the sound of her calling me “mama” slips further out of my grasp. And all the same, I find myself drifting away from the sea of humanity that continues on all around me.
And the world keeps turning.


I still go to the market and think about all of the foods Heidi would like to try. In every child’s eyes that meet mine, I see Heidi. And that gives the the smallest hint of hope.


But hope is not enough. Hope: is not my baby.

-

My black lace floor-length dress is suddenly the most pathetic thing I have ever seen. Levi is picking up flowers at the local shop to put on Heidi’s burial site, so I am stuck alone with thoughts. Perfect.
Walking past the stairwell of the second floor of my house, I stare at the door that leads to the room where nothing is the same. I haven’t gone in there since that morning. But for some unexplainable reason, I found it a smart idea to go in now. Possibly for closure? Doubtful.


I open the door and I immediately get a knot in my stomach that seems to fill the whole room. My blood pumps faster at the smell of the room I once loved.


Heidi always had this thing with mirrors. She was obsessed. She could try to touch her own fingertips for hours if I would’ve let her. So being the soft man that he is, Levi installed a wall of mirror, from baseboard to ceiling. I take a moment to really examine myself.


In the reflection, I see a young face filled with sorrow. My full lips have turned raw from all of the times I have to bite down on them to avoid crying or saying something I may regret later. I see my dark skin with even darker circles under my eyes, giving me an “insomniac-with-serious-emotional-problems” look. The only thing thing that I even recognize about myself is my hair. My thick black hair that goes all the way down to my hips has always been the same. I stand at a solid five feet and seven inches tall with a dimple on either cheek. I used to love the way I look; a real beauty queen, but seeing myself now only makes me sick.


I reach out as if in doing this I can grab onto what little is left of my soul, but what comes from this instead is a breakdown.


I smash the palm of my hand into the very middle of the mirror and watch it shatter. It reminds me of my life; Heidi’s death being the palm and the rest of the world falling apart at her feet being the shards of glass.
Looking down at my black stilettos, I see blood on my foot and realize that I have glass in my hand. I press my back against the wall and grab my shoes one-by-one and throw them at various objects across the room.
I feel dirty. I was preparing for my daughter’s burial wearing Louboutin's and a Saks Fifth Avenue dress. I begin to tear that off of me too, surly ripping it in the process. I calmly lay on my back and stare at the ceiling where the words “Heidi Claire Kalani” are written. Smiling to myself, I realize that Heidi looked at this every single day of her life.


The doorknob turns. Levi walks in and sees me laying on the floor in a pile of glass shards staring at the ceiling and I can sense the worry on his mind, rightfully so.


Sliding glass shards away from a spot directly next to me, he lays down and looks above at the same thing I see.


I find it interesting to ponder the idea of looking at the same sky as people. I used to have a friend who lived in New York, New York, and we would often talk about how intriguing it was that when we looked into the vast space of the night sky, there was the possibility that we were looking at the same stars. Now my perspective is even more clouded with possibility. Is it possible to see the same stars from heaven? Is Heidi looking at the things that I can see? The thought of her looking over us comforts me and I turn my head, still laying on my back to face Levi.


“I’m sorry that I destroyed the mirror wall,” I whispered, not quite finding my voice, “I didn’t know who was looking back at me”.


“I know exactly who you are,” Levi responds, just as quietly. His eyes light up a bit more than I’ve seen in the last eight days and he says, “I want you to hear something.”


As I follow Levi into the hallway, I say, “I have to make a detour, I’ll meet you downstairs.”, and I walk into my bedroom and put on a pair of Nike running shorts and a matching shirt - just for right now.


Downstairs I see Levi eating a granola bar and reading the back of a CD, I move towards the couch and have a seat. He pops the CD in and sits next to me as the first beats of a song begin to play.


“It may sound stupid,” Levi says as he wraps his arm around my shoulder, “but sometimes you can just find that one song that connects with what is going on in your life. It will shock you everytime it happens. But Ella, I want you to know that I’m broken-hearted, too. But that I will never, ever, abandon you when things get rough. I miss Heidi, and my heart aches for hers, but you’re what I have, and you’re who I love. That will never change even though other things always will.”


May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift

May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
And may you stay forever young

-

As you would guess, the burial service was filled with people who brought flowers and prayers and love. Heidi loved flowers. Memories were also brought to the burial, so we decided it was the best option to share. Eleven months turns out to be plenty of time to love someone.


We were, Levi and I, pitied. It’s hard to maintain good composure when everyone is worried about your wellbeing. We received money, cards, and everything money could buy from our friends and family; rich, or poor. We didn’t need the money. Although, I had been off of work for quite some time now because of a vacation and then Heidi’s sudden infant death. Levi had his hand on my waist the entirety of the service, because without that hand, which acted as some sort of temporary glue, I would fall to pieces.


The casket was a real heart-breaker. The size of the casket represented, to me, the lack of life that she got to live,the lack of love she got to experience, and the small piece of me that was left after she had passed.
The burial was beautiful, of course, but I would much rather that it never happened.
-

I sit on the floor of my shower with my head between my knees and sob. It’s the only place where I can just let go and allow my emotions to dig their way into my very being.


Levi and I have decided that it’s best for me to go back to work starting tomorrow; as a distraction. It’s hard, though, to have to be around the thing that destroyed the strong woman I once was. Nothing is the same.
We are so easily shattered, as humans, I mean. Everything is our kryptonite. Death, the most inevitable part of this Earthly experience, is the scariest thing imaginable. What comes next? Is there a better place in the clouds, or another just like this one? Is it black nothingness? So many unanswered questions for something that we all experience. If there is one thing in this world that I know for a fact, if nothing else I’ve been taught is the truth, it’s this: love is the one sanctuary you have. When everything else is chasing after you and threatening the life you made for yourself, love is what will save you. Love is the only thing that matters.


As I ponder these ideas wearing a towel in front of the large bathroom mirror, I hear Levi tap on the door and whisper my name.


I open the door and step out of the steamy bathroom so I can look up at Levi, who is six feet and three inches tall. He asks to speak to me and my heart beats fast.


I always seem to get anxiety whenever anyone asks me to talk, for fear that an uncomfortable situation is about to take place.


And this is exactly what happens.


Levi leads me downstairs into the living room and sits me down on the couch. I raise a questioning eyebrow towards him.


“We’re stuck,” he states simply.


“Our child just died Levi, what do you expect?” I respond bitterly, “at least you aren’t as inconsiderate enough as to suggest that we try again.”


He looks at me seriously, “Ella.”


“Levi, no. Absolutely not. I’m not ready, nor will I ever be. Our child stopped breathing in her sleep. She used to smile and laugh and she’d called me “mama.” But then she died. She died even though I have all of the training to save her - I could have saved her. But I fell asleep,” I ran out of breath at the mention of trying again, “so, no. I’m saying right here and right now that there will not be another baby in this home. End of discussion.”


About halfway up the stairs I turn around to see Levi. He is sitting on the couch miserably with his head in his hands.


“And if you don’t like that, feel free to leave.”

-

Levi left early the next morning. I figure that if he can't handle me at my worst, he definitely doesn't deserve me at my best.


But I miss him. I miss the sound of his laugh and when he bit his lip thoughtfully as he painted the walls or ceiling. I miss that he would never ask me to cook for him because he had more respect for me than to treat me as a servant. I miss our memories.


I love him, but i'm too broken to be with someone who wants the opposite of what I need, yet it still hurts to not wake up beside him.


It’s been two months and still; nothing from Levi.


The house we built from nothing to everything is no longer sacred.


This house is no longer home.

-

As I lay on the couch with my hair in a ponytail and a long flannel shirt with some slippers, watching Dr. Phil, I hear a knock on the door. I sulk over to it, dragging my feet. I look out the peephole and see Levi.
I open the door and examine him: he looks rougher than I do. He has stubble on his jaw and chin, his curly black hair is disheveled, and those beautiful green eyes that could light up the whole night sky were now filled with sadness. I pull  the door open wider and step to the side.


“Ella, I don’t want to pressure you into doing anything you don’t really want,” he says as he steps into the dimly-lit living room.


“Then don’t,” I whisper, closing the door softly behind him.


“I miss you,” he says, his voice deathly low as he strides so close to me that I begin to make out the cologne he's wearing.


“I know,” I breathe out right next to his ear.


“Do you miss me?” he says as he pushes a piece of my hair that fell out of my ponytail behind my ear.


“Yes,” I say in something that probably is too quiet to be considered a whisper, “and I want you back home, but I can’t marry you.”

-

I’ve been sick every day for the last week. Levi has been home now for over two months. I know exactly what’s happening, which makes me want to vomit even more. This had to be some kind of joke, but I couldn’t know for sure, so I go to the hospital.


At the Kapiolani Medical Center, everyone smiles at me, asks me how I am, and treats me like a goddess.
On a daily basis, I get calls from other pediatric surgeons asking me questions. All I want is to come back to work.


When they check my belly for any problems, they use the best machines and lather the ultrasound gel on. They look in my eyes for any hint of emotion when they find the exact diagnosis that I have been fearing. I can’t look at anyone for fear of breaking apart.


Just like that, Sylvia, another pediatric doctor takes my hand and tells me that I’m pregnant. That is the last thing I remember before the world gets hazy.
-

I wake up in a hospital bed in a different part of the same hospital. Levi is here with me, he seems elated at this news. I pull my hand away from his, he knew what he was doing the whole time, even though he also knew that I wasn’t ready.


“Please do this, Ella,” Levi said, “for us.”


“I hate you for this. You knew I was too hurt and you still pressured me.”


“Ella, I know. There’s nothing that we can do now. We can’t go back in time.”


“I can think of plenty of solutions,” I icily say.


“Ella, do not say that. This is my baby, too.”


“Yes, Levi, this is your baby. So you want this child to be loved, right? And you think that by giving me this baby, even though I have made it extremely clear that I’m not ready, I’ll just magically accept them and live happily ever after? No, Levi. No. Here’s what’s going to happen: I’m coming back to work every day. I’m getting checked once a week, if not more, to see if this baby is healthy, and you’re paying for every single thing. I’m going to stay at a hotel for awhile while you redo Heidi’s old room for this baby. I love you Levi, but you hurt me and pushed me while I was openly not ready.”


“Okay,” he smiles, but it’s not genuine, “I love you.”


“I know.”

-

At a market, buying raspberries, I bump my belly against a fruit stand. I’m so big now, much bigger than I was with Heidi at eight months.


The baby barely moves, but there is still a heartbeat, so nothing can be that wrong.


Levi has asked me day and day again to come back home, so just this morning I told him I’d be there at three p.m. He said that he would make dinner for us. I know very well that there is nothing worth eating in that refrigerator as long as he has been in that house alone, so here I am, buying some nice food to enjoy tonight in case Levi makes some not-so-good dinner.


A feeling I have never experienced washes over my stomach and I ask someone nearby to take me to the hospital. I must be going into early labor.


Once I reach the hospital, Sylvia lays me on the bed, puts my feet up and starts asking questions about what I was going when I got this sharp pain. I tell her that I was planning on going back to the house tonight to meet with Levi again.


“It’s about time,” she winks.


“I’m not so-,” another sharp pain pounds my stomach from the inside and I squeeze my eyes tightly shut and grip the bed rail.


“Okay, we have to do this now, Dr. Kalani.”


“I doubt that after all that has happened he will propose to me, so it’s still Dr. Bradley,” I huff out in between screaming from pain.


I wanted Levi here, like he was when Heidi was being born.
Wait.


“What time is it?”


“It’s 3:15, Doctor.”


He should be coming to find me any minute. Since I’m not in the perfect condition to go anywhere, I know he will become worried if I’m not home soon.


Sweat pours down my face as I hang tight onto the bars next to me. This pain was like no other. Imagine being swiftly kicked in the stomach with a steel-toed boot over and over again, and then multiply that pain level by one hundred, and now you can understand what I feel.


I hear the door open and Levi rushes to the side of the hospital bed to grab my hand. I open one eye to look at him, because if I open both I may lose focus on mediating this agony in my lower stomach area.
“You look beautiful,” Levi tells me as he encloses my hand in his.


I blanch a bit and look into his eyes, they tell me a story. They tell me that he is my soulmate, that if nothing in the world seems to be going right, always keep him with me. Never let the person who wouldn’t change a thing about you slip away, because you will regret it.


“I love you. I love everything about you, Levi.”


“I love you, too,” he says shaking his head at me gently with soft eyes, “I’m so sorry for everything that I put you through. I just need to know right here and right now if you’re ready for this child.”
“As long as I have you.”


“I’m so sorry to interrupt, but I believe it’s time that we introduce a new baby into the world, how about you two?” Sylvia cheerfully interjects.


Levi and I look at each other and smile.


“Absolutely,” we say in unison.


About forty minutes later, I was pushing with all of my might so that I could finally meet my newborn child.
A few weeks ago, I had decided that in fact, I did want to know the gender of my baby.
I was having a baby boy.


“If this baby is half as beautiful as the two of you are, he will be the most handsome boy on this planet,” Sylvia says to us which makes Levi kiss my hand.


As I watch her face, I notice a slight change in tone. When she announces that he is crowning, her smile fades a bit. Im overthinking. It’s probably nothing, she’s just focusing.


But she looks at Levi worriedly, and there is no mistaking this expression. Something happened. My baby is not crying, and I ask why but no one will tell me. Levi sits on the stool next to the bed and plants his forehead on the bedrail.


“Dr. Lixie, I’m afraid your baby did not survive birth. Would you like to hold him?” Sylvia motions her head in the direction of my son.


“Yes, please.” I whisper.


My heart hurts. All I wanted was a fresh start, and now: this. I know I’m supposed to be grateful for what I have but the one thing in this world that was supposed to heal my wounds is now just another scar added to the growing amount.


He feels cold in my arms. I touch his cheek with my fingertip. A tear from my cheek drips onto his belly.


“Find the girl with the green eyes, she has skin like you,” I say gently to the body I carried in me for months, “tell her that you’re her brother, and she will be shocked. Kiss her for me, okay? And tell her I’m sorry for all the times I didn’t say my ‘I love you’ before she went to sleep. Hold her tight to your chest and tell her you will protect her. I hope you have an ocean to play in while you’re in the stars. Be gentle my babies, please. I’ll see you eventually, but I’m not ready yet.”


I kiss my unnamed child on his bluish colored forehead and tell him goodbye. I cover my face with my hands and vibrate with the most intense feeling of hopelessness I have ever felt. Sylvia spreads gel onto my belly to check for anything else like internal bleeding.


“You guys are never going to believe this,” she choked out while staring that the ultrasound screen, “there’s still a heartbeat.”


My head whips up and I turn the screen towards me. Sure enough, there she was. A baby girl who was hiding from view the entire duration of my pregnancy.


“It’s going to be harder this time, beautiful lady,” Sylvia says, shining faith onto me with every word she speaks, “but this time there is a heartbeat, this baby will be yours for the rest of your life.”


I push in shock, I still stare at the now-black screen of the ultrasound system. This is a miracle.
Since Heidi died, I have had nightmares about this exact scenario, but now that it’s a reality, I know exactly how it makes me feel.


It gives me purpose. Yes, I am a surgeon, and yes, I save lives. But what is all of that worth if you go home to a big beautiful home with nobody to love? There wasn’t one. I have all the reason in the world now, though.
As I push, I run my empty hand through my tight curls that were now soaked with sweat. And that’s when I hear it.


The cry.


Her cry is so beautiful it makes me bite my lip in utter amazement. Here she is.


She is happily bundled in a blanket with her eyes closed. She is a perfect baby. Levi leans in to take a closer look at her. She looks so much like Heidi. Her skin is the exact same dark tone as her sisters once was. Her fingers grasp onto everything that comes nearby. I can already tell that she will be someone who can love anything.


“What do you name someone as beautiful as her?” I ask Levi, still in utter shock at the lack of flaw on her face.


“What about Vera Heidi Kalani?” I suggest.


“Vera,” he tries out, “perfect.”

-

I walk into Vera’s lavender painted room, which used to belong to Heidi, Levi following directly behind me. We lay on the floor in the very center of the room staring at the ceiling where the name “Vera Heidi Kalani” is written, replacing Heidi’s name, in a elegant cursive font. There is no white space on the ceiling because Levi had printed at least three hundred pictures and placed them all around her name.Some pictures were of Levi and I when we were younger, but the most lovely pictures were of Heidi. Pictures never really did do any justice to her beauty, but they are all we are left with. I turn and look at Levi, who is already staring at me.


“Marry me, Ella.”


My world stops turning, and the room around me disappears if only for seconds. His beautiful smile has been next to mine the majority of my life, and I remember how I felt when he appeared at the hospital for that very traumatic experience, and how lucky I felt that I was able to consider him mine.


“Of course I will marry you.”


He stands and offers me a hand, I take it. We stand tall next to the flowing white curtains we decided to keep from Heidi’s old room setup, the sunlight glowing only on our faces. Vera stands in her crib and calls to me, “mama,” the most beautiful word. The love of my life pulls me close to his chest and kisses my forehead, and all of a sudden I see perfectly clear.


No, this is not the life that I used to dream of. But this is my life, and I wouldn’t change a single thing.






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