[Mahlena wrote this short story. Share with a friend. 🙆🏾]
“They found an aunt last time. This time, there’s no one.”
“In this country. There are two more islands full of relations.”
“Do you want to say no?”
“I want this to be the one. The two.”
In the front seat of the parked hybrid sedan, Thatcher checked her watch. “We have no definitive answer until finalization, which takes two years, on average.”
“Do you think someone from the Dominican Republic could come here and claim them?” Sawyer worried from the driver’s seat. “Or from Dominica?”
“They were born here in the U.S., but it’s possible. I also don’t want them bounced around to three more homes while they wait for the search to be completed.”
Sawyer stared out the window at the quiet houses on the palm tree-lined street. “I can’t imagine anyone else caring for them as much as we do. They’re so huggable, even when they get tired and grumpy. Remember when they fell asleep on the swings? Drool at the bottom of their adorable, chubby cheeks.” He rested his forehead on the steering wheel. “I don’t want to lose them.”
Thatcher climbed out of the silver car. “Let’s take a walk.”
Sawyer joined her on the other side.
She grasped his left hand, her finger sliding next to his diamond striped wedding band. “You’re supposed to be the smiley face emoticon in this family. I’m the serious emoji.” Thatcher scrunched her nose and mouth like a sour lemon. “You’re Hope for the best. I’m Plan for the worst.”
They maintained a slow pace as they circled the block.
“What are you most afraid of?” Thatcher asked.
“What’s something that makes you happy?”
“Being here with you,” Sawyer said. “This walk is helping me calm down. I remember seeing you come down the aisle. You looked so beautiful.”
“Makeup, hair, and lighting.”
Sawyer stopped. He held her face. “You are beautiful. Why don’t you believe that?”
“What else made you happy about our wedding?”
Sawyer kept moving along the sidewalk with his spouse. “The night before the ceremony. After the rehearsal diner, when we all trekked from the hotel restaurant to the beachside villa that your cousins and my siblings insisted on staying in together.”
“The dance party!”
“How did it start again?”
“Sal was flipping through the channels on the living room TV, and Finn saw the Dance ‘til Dawn remake playing on HBO. Then Enrique said he had better moves that the 20-somethings on the screen playing teenagers at senior prom, which he demonstrated for us in the kitchen.”
“My little brother loves being the center of attention,” Sawyer opined.
“Then when Polly came downstairs with Sid and saw Enrique voguing in front of the refrigerator, she recognized him from the Atlanta ballroom scene.”
“What was Polly yelling at him? March Madness? It was basketball related.”
“‘The category is NBA All-Star realness.’” Thatcher stepped over a fallen branch. “Because, as Douglas informed us, Enrique is a legend at the balls for winning the athletic-themed trophies.”
“Yet he never won any when we were in school.”
“I doubt your cricket matches had a runway component.”
“If so, we would’ve had more fans in the stands,” Sawyer surmised.
“Then Enrique told Polly, ‘The category is Caribbean Queen.’ And Polly strutted up and down the staircase, fanning herself. Then Finn said Polly and Enrique should do this down the aisle.”
“And Enrique pointed at the other six people in the room and said they should all vogue down the aisle, after you and I jumped the broom at the end of the ceremony. And they all looked at you,” Sawyer said, “not me, waiting for a response. And you told Enrique, ‘you better bring your choreo’!” He laughed. “And they did! It was amazing. Especially when Pepe Junie joined in at the back of the train, posing along with the rest of our wedding party.”
“You forgot something.”
“That I wished we would have gone back to our room earlier? I was exhausted from traveling 3000 miles to interact with our family members all day.”
“No, the rain.”
“Yes, it rained,” Sawyer recalled. “Didn’t stop till the next day. The concierge provided umbrellas.”
Thatcher looked at him, astonished. “We had to move the entire wedding inside!”
“Oh yeah. We were supposed to get married outside.”
“On the beach! The entire event had been set up on the sand the night before—with the linen tablecloths and the Chiavari chairs and the floral canopy—and our wedding planner had to scramble with the hotel staff to recreate the whole seaside experience in a spare ballroom.”
“But we pulled it off, with the heavy lifting of Cerise, the best planner ever. And most importantly, we were married.”
“Exactly!” Thatcher exclaimed. She and Sawyer had almost come full circle around the block. “For months, you and I and Cerise had prepared this whole event meticulously.”
“Down to Sal and Enrique’s bespoke tuxedoes, Finn and Sid’s tailored dresses, and the raspberry cupcake tower. And it was mostly orchestrated by you and Cerise, but go on,” Sawyer said.
“We had a blueprint for our wedding, but we couldn’t have predicted how it unfolded, due to circumstances beyond our control.”
“I.e., our relatives.”
“And the weather. But did you have a good time?”
“It was the best day of my life.” Sawyer swung their arms. “I would have gotten married in a swamp full of alligators with you.”
“Good thing I was in charge of the location.”
“I understand what you’re saying.” Sawyer and Thatcher were back where they started. He leaned back against their car. “Whatever happens, we’ll be okay.”
“Yes, because we can figure it out. Together.” Thatcher gave him a long hug.
After she let him go, Sawyer asked, “Is it almost time?”
Thatcher clicked the trunk open. She pulled out two bright yellow rolling duffle bags, one small and one ginormous, each monogrammed with a capital I.
Sawyer followed her lead by hauling out a similar pair of duffles in lime green, each monogrammed with a capital C. “Do you think we have enough bags?”
Thatcher pushed the four empty pieces of luggage to the curb. She ransacked the open trunk. “I brought all of our reusable shopping bags, just in case. No trash bags. I don’t want them to feel like they’re…” She looked over her shoulder at him. “You were joking.”
“These things are huge!” Sawyer rolled the big ones up the driveway of the nearest house.
Thatcher toted the smaller pieces behind. “Kids have a lot of stuff.”
“We could fit both of them and their stuff inside one of these.”
He stood on the doorstep with his partner. “Are you ready?”
She pressed the doorbell.
They listened for the approaching footsteps.
The door swung open.
Two toddlers, both with training pants peeking out from their shorts, flanked either side of the placid woman positioned in front of Thatcher and Sawyer.
The younger child clapped and smiled at the adults entering the doorway.
“Isabel, Chava,” the woman said, “Mommy and Daddy are here.”
[Who do you know with adorable, chubby cheeks?
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