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The façade of Stella’s emotions lingered upon the borderline of sorrow and agony. In a world remote from reality, she swallowed the truth that still faltered in the air. Her heart pulsed to a chronic rhythm and she could feel the beat at the ends of her fingertips too. She could sense her neck throbbing heavily, her sweat glands producing drops of sweat that then trickled down the side of her face. Wounded from the words that drifted into her ears, she felt numb. The whole world seemed to be spinning without her, leaving her secluded from the rest.
Ray suppressed the tears within himself. Stella had never seen him weep, and he didn’t ever want her to. He was afraid that if she did, she would know her dad wasn’t as strong as she had thought. He was faintly quivering, but Stella wouldn’t have been able to notice. His heart merely broke as he prudently whispered the words to Stella, his parched throat serving as a hindrance. He could perceive from the emergence of a tear that hers had too.
Ray’s receding hairline had been evident lately. His off-black hair spurred up and in the back, it was just a blunder of grey. When Stella was young and they had just been new to the town, nobody had considered Ray to be her father. With her straight auburn hair and her tan tone, Stella looked nothing like him. It was Adelaide who she resembled. Both with their striking French features, you could easily distinguish the mother-daughter relationship.
Adelaide was still in the shadows about the whole situation. Ray decided it would be best to break the news to Adelaide later, considering her disapproving feelings towards Charlie. But Adelaide wasn’t that callous to think of the situation as anything other than tragic. He was aware of the delicate opinions of the two women he loved, but Adelaide was wise enough to let them pass for a bit just to console her beloved daughter.
Settled beside his little girl sobbing heavily into his lap, Ray reminisced to the morning his new baby was perched on his arm. The morning he had longed for from the day he and Adelaide knew. That tiny girl, only minutes old, was the reason for his living, Ray had decided.
“What should we call her?” Adelaide had whispered from her hospital bed, perspiring greatly yet carrying with her the most gratifying grin Ray had ever seen. She startled Ray, as he thought she had been deep asleep after hours of hell.
“We never talked about it, did we?” Ray admitted.
“No, we never did.” Disappointment swathed Adelaide’s pale face.
“Her eyes—look at her eyes. They’re beautiful.” The baby cradled in Ray’s arms perked the sides of her lips upwards. Her glittering hazel eyes were as lucid as the waters of the Caribbean; dazzling and beautiful, like the girl herself.
“Stella,” Ray professed without a doubt. The baby giggled in his arms, as if she approved of the name.
“Ste-ll-a,” Adelaide articulated, her heavy French accent thwarting her pronunciation. “Why Stella?”
“My great aunt’s name was Stella.” Ray gazed into his daughter’s eyes, grunting with a small chuckle.
“I remember every year, I would look forward to her stories during her yearly visit. She used to—“Ray paused, trying to recall the distant memory. “She used to tell me about the stars she saw. That was her favorite thing—star gazing. I was always so—you know—fascinated by it. I remember she once told me that her name meant star.” Ray had never told Adelaide this story. He had never told her how his aunt was the most inspirational woman he had ever met. He never told her that he was the way he was because of Aunt Stella.
Stella used to reek of cigarettes when she’d visit Ray. A repugnant trait, but one Ray hardly seemed to mind. She was always poised with a sense of—magnitude. The way she’d strut and talk had an air of elegance to it. Her essence had a sense of class to it—something Ray highly admired.
“She was important to you, no?” Adelaide knew Ray better than he thought she did. Perhaps her days at the clinic were time-consuming and her minutes with her husband were limited. But what Ray was oblivious to was the fact that Adelaide knew everything about him, just as he had taken the time to learn everything about her.
“She was,” Ray faintly murmured. He was on the verge of tears, Adelaide could perceive. “I’ve always valued her. I think our daughter will be special like her. And look at her eyes—“He placed the child in Adelaide’s hands. “They’re like stars.”
Adelaide genuinely smiled at her daughter. Stella. She slurred the syllables off of her tongue. Stella. Stella, my daughter.
Stella’s starry eyes glittered as they gaped up at Adelaide. Stella. It was perfect.
The tiny child they held on that day was now bawling into Ray’s lap. His little girl grew up to be mature, fall in love, and now have her heart broken. Nostalgia struck Ray like a bolt of lightening. What had happened to the days when they would play catch in the backyard? Those days when Stella would wear her magenta tutu and twirl across the wooden floors. When Stella would measure the progress of her growth in comparison to Ray, who was a skyscraper taller than Stella was.
Stella and Ray’s hearts were attached by a string. When one of them broke, the other one did too. At that precise moment, Ray’s heart divided into two, an excruciating pain in his chest. His little girl was hurt; so was he.
“Is he really dead, Daddy?”