Bella heard commotion in the adjoining bedroom in the middle of the night. “Rog,” she said, poking at him, “Rog!” He rolled over and opened one eye. “I think Charlotte’s in labor.”
“How in the world could you possibly know that?” he groaned and rolled over. “Go back to sleep.”
“Because I heard them talking. She’s never awake at this hour, unless she is just coming home from work.”
“Maybe she had to pee. Don’t pregnant women pee a lot at this stage?”
“They do, but…” he cut her off.
“She still has 4 to 5 weeks to go. She’s not in labor, darling. Go to sleep.”
Reluctantly, she rolled over, but she did not sleep. When the sun came up that morning, Travis rang Bella’s cell phone.
“Bella? It’s Travis. We’re at the hospital, Charlotte went into labor last night. She and the baby are doing well.” He purposely hid the twins from her, on Charlotte’s request. She wanted to see Bella’s face when she realized there were two babies.
Bella smacked Rog, even though he was still sleeping. Drowsy and confused, he gave her a dirty look. “What?” he asked.
She covered the phone with her hand. “Charlotte is at the hospital, Rog! She had her baby last night! I knew it!” When a mother knows, she knows, she thought. “Congratulations, you two!”
“Thanks! Charlotte thinks we’ll be home in the morning, and she’s very tired. There is no reason to rush over.”
“We will see you when you get home, then!” Bella hung up the phone and smacked Rog again. “I missed seeing that baby born, thanks a lot.”
“It wasn’t like they were going to let you in, Bell.” He rubbed his leg where she had smacked him. “You know, that smarts.”
“I’m sorry. I guess I don’t know my own strength.”
“You’re forgiven,” he said. “Now will you please let me sleep, woman?”
She laughed and kissed him. “Move over, I’m cuddling in with you.”
The next morning, Charlotte and Travis came home, each one of them was holding a bundle wrapped in pink. What in the world? Bella thought as she watched them approach.
“Oh, you had twins!” she squealed, as she took the baby from Charlotte. “Oh Charlotte, you guys outdid yourselves. They are perfect!” she cooed over her baby granddaughter.
Travis handed the other twin to Rog, who looked at her. “I’m in love,” he said, cooing at the other baby. “Charlotte, princess, you did a good job!”
They brought the babies up and put them in the same crib together until Chris could come help Travis retrieve the other crib from the attic. And then, the ugliness began when Charlotte suggested that Travis call his parents. From what Bella surmised, his mother wasn’t happy, for whatever reason, that he had called about the babies, or that they even had them to begin with. He was pretty angry when he hung up the phone, and declared that his family was dead to him. Charlotte had implied previously that Travis’ family, and his mother specifically, was stuck on the other side of the accident that killed his ex-girlfriend, and they hadn’t accepted he was moving on.
After the new parents went upstairs to nap, Bella and Rog sat outside by the pool, watching the sunset over the water in the distance to the west. “I can’t imagine what that poor young man has endured with his family since that accident,” Bella finally spoke. “They sound a few crayons short of a box, if you catch my drift.”
“Charlotte mentioned to me they act as though Amy is alive, and that Travis is cheating on her with Charlotte., or that he owes her some kind of faithfulness.” He shook his head. “I tried not to listen to his conversation, but his mother was yelling. It was hard not to hear.” Rog had heard Elizabeth Jones call his daughter a tramp, not once but a couple of times. But he knew better, and he’d seen that particular brand of crazy before.
“Did she still sound angry with Charlotte?” Bella asked as she sipped a glass of nectar.
“Irrationally so, yes.” He shook his head again. “I think if it wasn’t for our daughter, he wouldn’t be alive today. That boy didn’t sound like he cared either way.”
“I think you’re right,” Bella agreed. “She saved him in so many ways. I’m thankful for him. He’s a good husband to her, and he’s going to be a phenomenal father.”
“He saved her, too. She has come out of her shell since they’ve been together. She knows what she wants, and she isn’t afraid to chase it. Much different than the scared teenager she was after her accident.” Rog smiled. “We have two brilliant kids, who picked wonderful mates, and three beautiful grandbabies. Life is bliss, don’t you think?” Rog said, sipping his nectar and holding his hand for her to take.
“I do,” she said, taking his hand as the sun slipped below the horizon.
Jen’s cell number came up on Bella’s phone. “Hey Jen!” she greeted happily, to dead silence on the other end.
“This is Jen’s niece, Crystal. I saw this number in her favorites as we were cleaning out her home….”
“What happened to Jen?” Bella felt tears forming in her eyes.
“My aunt was found last night in her house after she didn’t show up for a dinner reservation with my dad.”
“ Oh, no… no no no!” Bella couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“That’s why I called you. We knew the people in her favorites list would be important to her. But yours was the only number we found. I thought you would want to know.”
Bella shook with sobs. “Thank you,” she managed to reply before she dropped the phone. Rog was in the greenhouse fertilizing the plants, and Charlotte was at work. Travis had taken the girls to a doctor’s appointment, so she was all alone. Overcome with grief, Bella screamed a pitiful wail as her heart shattered yet again. Her sister Bree, her grandson Nick and now her oldest and best friend in the world had left her.
Rog felt weird as he was watering the plants. It was his phone vibrating in his pocket. A fall alert was detected on Bella’s phone. He dropped the hose and ran for the house, taking the steps as quickly as he could. When he got to their bedroom, Bella was laying on the floor, shaking and crying.
“Hey, what happened, darling?” he asked as he sat on the floor with her, placing her head in his lap.
“Jen…” was all she could say. And Rog knew immediately what she meant.
“Oh, baby,” he said, stroking her hair, holding back tears of his own. “I’m so sorry, darling.”
“We… were… having… lunch…” she cried, speaking between sobs. “…tomorrow.” She had told Bella she had a doll for Danae and was going to bring it to The Tower for her. “Rog, she can’t be gone! I’m not ready.” He held her and let her cry, rocking her in his arms.
Bella approached the podium at the Binder Clips Center, delivering the eulogy for Jen Crawford at a public ceremony. Jen’s contributions to the city over the course of her career at the agency were numerous, and Bella had the distinction of being the best-known client she had ever signed, despite her short run in show business.
“Jen Crawford has been my best friend for most of my adult life,” Bella began, “but I was too wrapped up in my own little world to recognize what a treasure she was to my family, to this city, for many years. And now, she has gone like so many before her to the next life, wherever that may be. Jen Crawford leaves behind a legacy of friendship, love, and loyalty. She took a chance on me when no one else would, after the passing of my mother, Destiny Hill. After the rumor mill began its relentless attack on my character, Jen stood with me, regardless of what anyone had to say because she believed in me”
“It was because of Jen that the biggest nightmare of my life ended when she inadvertently cracked one of the longest cold cases in Shores history with the tip that brought down Alexis Rockwell. It was Jen’s friendship, love, and support that got my family through the recent loss of my son’s little boy, Nicholas. She was always there first to lend an ear, the first to offer a hand, the first with a kind word.”
“Jen never married, and if you would have asked her, she would have told you it was because I met Rogelio first.” She paused when the crowd laughed. “But she knew him long before I did.” Her loving gaze shifted to where Rog sat, and she winked at her adoring husband. “She was always fond of him, and in some ways, I believe that Rog was one of the biggest reasons she and I were so close. It was our love and mutual respect for the man who continues to amaze me every day that bonded us together as if we were sisters.”
“Jen leaves behind her brother, Matthew and niece Crystal, hundreds of friends and colleagues the city over, and her adopted, extended family… mine. She was loved as she will be missed. Deeply and truly.”
Bella’s speech was met with thunderous applause, and Rog was among those who were on their feet. “You did her proud, darling,” he told her as she wiped tears from her eyes.
“I think I just want to go home, baby,” she said. “I am tired of funerals and I’m tired of loss.” Her head rested on Rog’s shoulder as he held her.
“As you wish “ he replied as they walked to Jen’s limousine, one last time, for old times sake.
Bella was having trouble sleeping as she wrestled with the all too recent death of her best friend. Jen was only a few years older than her, and her own mortality was staring her in the eyes. She wasn’t ready to leave.
“I’m not done loving my family yet, Rog,” she said out of the blue one morning after Charlotte had gone to work. Danae and Darcey were playing together in the spa room, and Rog was reading the morning paper. “I don’t want to go.”
“I’m afraid, darling, when the Reaper comes, there’s nothing we can do about it.” Rog had only seen the Reaper a few times, but he knew it was a ruthless and merciless being. Time waited for no sim, even the ones with a great desire to survive.
“Promise me, Rog, that we’ll go together. I don’t want to face a day without you in it.” Bella’s eyes flooded with tears. “Promise me.”
“I can’t make that promise, darling. You know that.” His heart broke to know she was so tormented. Death was a natural and normal process. “I would make sure of it 100 percent if I knew I had any control over it, love.”
“Not good enough,” she cried.
“I don’t know what you want from me, baby.”
“Don’t leave without me.” She remembered her mother’s last months of life, and the empty shell of a woman she became without her love. Bella wanted no part of that emptiness.
An early morning call at the gate the next day summoned Charlotte to answer it. Two Shores police officers stood waiting to enter. Uh oh, was her first thought. Answering the call box, she asked, “How can I help you this morning?”
“Is this the St John residence, Miss?” one officer asked.
“Yes, my parents are the St Johns.”
Before she could ask, the second officer spoke. “Miss, is your mother Bella Atwood?”
“She is,” Charlotte confirmed.
“Miss, we have word from Appaloosa Plains Police that her sister, Bianca, was found deceased in her home last evening. Bella Atwood was listed as her next of kin. Would you please tell her?”
No, she thought. I will not break that woman’s heart again. “Sure, thank you, officer.” Charlotte hung up the phone. She sighed. Aunt Bee.
Softly, she padded upstairs and knocked lightly on her parents’ door, a sense of dread sat in the pit of her stomach. “Mama? Are you awake?”
Rog was reading, while Bella slept peacefully beside him. “Come in, princess,” he called to her.
She opened the door. “Daddy, I have more bad news.” She walked to the bed and sat down at Rog’s feet. “Aunt Bee passed away last night.”
He rolled his eyes and sighed deeply. “Not again.” Bella stirred at the commotion in the bedroom and saw Charlotte sitting with Rog, looking crushed.
“What’s wrong, honey?” Bella asked. Charlotte nodded at Rog.
“Mama, Aunt Bee… she is gone.” Charlotte walked to Bella’s side of the bed and sat with her, putting her arm around her as she cried.
“Bianca, no!” Bella cried. “I can’t take any more bad news.” She covered her head and sunk back beneath the covers, sobbing.
“I’m sorry, Mama,” she consoled. She looked at Rog. “I have to get Danae and Darcey up. Do you want me to drop them at daycare today, Daddy?”
“No, sweetie, I’ll take care of them today,” he told her. “They might be your mama’s only comforts.”
Charlotte nodded and left the room. Rog dug back under the covers with Bella and curled himself around her lovingly. “Darling, I’m so sorry about Bianca.” He kissed her heaving shoulders.
“I’m next, Rog. I’m next,” she repeated. “I can’t take one more loss. Not one. Please, don’t die before me, I’m begging you.”
He shrugged his shoulders. “I have no control over that, my love.” He kissed her again. “I’ll do my best, though.”
Rog woke early and arranged an impromptu bouquet of lilies on the dining room table, with a card that simply read, “Loving you forever.” On his pillow, he left a note with one more single white lily, placed carefully with love. He gazed upon his sleeping wife, and his heart swelled with happiness. It was their 50th wedding anniversary.
He quietly closed their bedroom door as he checked on Danae and Darcey. Still sleeping. He took a book from the shelf and sat to read for a while. In the bedroom, Bella awoke to the sweet scent of lilies and turned for Rog. An empty spot where he usually slept. But she noticed the lily and smiled. Every anniversary since their 20th had a flower on his pillow with a simple love note. She had a whole box of notes and cards he had given her through the years, stashed under her bed. She picked up the flower and held it to her nose, enjoying the aroma. Her fingers, now achy with arthritis, unfolded the note, which read:
My dearest Isabella,
Fifty years ago today, you changed my life and rocked my world. I couldn’t imagine a day without you, my love. You have had my heart since we met, and you will have it until the day I die. I am still so very much in love with you.
Thank you for a life well-loved, my sweet darling.
Forever yours, Rog
As she read the words, happy tears streamed down her cheeks. She gently wiped them away, smiling. Once again, he took her breath away, and she loved him more than she ever had. She had to laugh, though, at his use of her real name. He had not even known about it before Charlotte’s daughters were born.
She tiptoed out of the bedroom and peered down the hallway. He was still reading, completely absorbed in whatever the story was, and she smiled at him. He sensed that someone was watching him, and he looked up at her. “There is my darling,” he beamed. “Happy anniversary, my Bella.”
She went to him and hugged him, laying a smooch on his lips. “Thank you for my sweet love note, baby.”
“You’re welcome, my love,” he replied, holding her close. “I know this year, we won’t have The Tower for our anniversary dinner, but I thought of the perfect place.”
“Oh? Please, pray tell!” She was excited. He always made such awesome plans for their anniversary.
“It, my dear, is my surprise. But don’t worry, I will leave you hints throughout the day,” he teased.
In the next room, Danae was babbling happily. “I guess I’m up,” she said, entering the room and plucking her youngest grandbaby from her crib. “Darcey is still sleeping. I’m going to feed Danae.” Charlotte had been on call the night before and was still sleeping.
“Alright, love,” he answered. “I’ll keep an eye out for the other munchkin.”
Bella’s heart fluttered when she saw the flowers on the table. Danae spotted them and pointed. “Fawwers!” she said excitedly and clapped her hands.
“That’s right, sweetie pie! Flowers!” Charlotte was doing a phenomenal job with her babies, despite holding down a full time, very demanding job. Sometimes, Bella didn’t know how she did it. She sat Danae in the high chair and gave her a small bowl of baby food, which she fed to herself. Bella walked back to the table and saw the card attached to the bouquet and read it, her heart fluttering. Ten minutes later, Danae was still picking at the cereal bits in the bowl, and Rog padded downstairs with Darcey in his arms, giggling up a storm as he tickled her belly. “Are you done, baby girl?” Bella said to Danae as she lifted her from the chair, kissing her cheek.
“Thanks, love,” Rog said as he sat Darcey in the high chair and wiped the tray quickly before serving the baby a bowl of the same cereal and fruit. “Charlotte must be wiped out. I know her emergency came in late last night, and I didn’t hear her come in until around five.”
“Yes, I thought I’d let her sleep. She doesn’t have to work this morning.” Bella helped Danae into the bathroom and sat her on the potty chair. “You’re such a big girl! Good girl!”
“Me do!” Came the reply, as Danae clapped. “Me do!”
Travis shuffled down the steps and to the coffee pot. “Charlotte is sick,” he announced, having been awakened by the sounds of his wife throwing up violently in their bathroom. “She is vomiting upstairs.” He poured a cup of coffee. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to the stadium today. I know it’s a special day for you guys. Happy anniversary!”
“Thank you, Travis. Are you sure? We can call a sitter, I think we have plans tonight,” Bella smiled as she winked at Rog.
“Yes, Charlotte and the girls are my responsibility. I’ll take care of them tonight. You two go and have fun. You deserve it.” He sipped the cup of hot brew and sighed. “She is so sick. Ugh.”
“Any chance she could be pregnant, Travis?” Rog asked, being nosy. “I don’t mean to intrude, but it’s a possibility, I’m assuming.”
“Nope, her last cycle was just a week ago, and she tested negative.” They had been trying to have another baby, with no success. “She thinks she had something questionable at work during the emergency shift.”
“Ah yes,” Rog nodded. “The mystery burrito.” It was a running joke during the overnight shift, but apparently, last night’s mystery burrito was making itself known to Charlotte.
“Can I get her some tea, Travis?” Bella asked, at the ready to jump and steep some ginger tea for her, but he stopped her.
“No, she says she needs to get whatever demon she ate out of her belly.” He laughed at her description. “She has a way with words.”
Travis cleaned the twins up and changed their clothes, and brought them upstairs to play in their bedroom. Bella and Rog had the house to themselves.
Rog whispered the first clue to Bella out of the blue. “Banana pancakes.”
“What?” She replied.
“Your first clue. Banana pancakes.” She shook her head. What in the world, she thought. She smiled at him, wondering if maybe he was going a little senile.
Her second clue was left on a note in a conspicuous location. It had one simple word: “Jen.” Now she was doubly confused.
The third clue he texted to her on her phone. “Verde Park.” She thought she might be starting to figure it out. So far, every clue had to do with them dating.
The final clue was the clincher. “Off-strip.” Wow, she thought. We haven’t been to that little place in years. And then she wondered if it was even still there. Sure enough, he drove them right to the spot where they had been regulars, long before the kids were born, long before they started dining with Jen at The Tower.
They both had always loved this little out-of-the-way place. There was no dress code, no snobby celebrities would even be seen there, no worries about anything except each other. It was the perfect place to spend their 50th anniversary.
“This place hasn’t changed a bit,” Bella remarked. “Just like old times.”
“We have very good memories here, my darling,” he replied. “I just wish we were as young as we used to be.”
No one felt that more than Bella. “I’m not ready to leave, even still. I want to enjoy those grandbabies.” But she knew time was not on her side.
“Me too, darling,” he said. “I wish we had our whole lives together all over again. There isn’t a thing I’d do differently. Except for Estevan. I wish I’d never heard of him.”
“You and me both, my love. I wish I would have taken my promise to my daddy a lot more seriously. We might not have had that problem.”
“Well, I know you kept the main promise. That’s all that mattered.”
“I gave my heart to him too quickly. I didn’t know him at all.” She shuddered. “It would have saved me a lot of heartache.”
Rog nodded. “Let’s not talk about that creep anymore. He’s gone.” The dim light made her eyes sparkle. Even grey-haired, she was still beautiful to him. “Would you care to dance?” He asked, standing to take her hand.
“I thought you’d never ask,” she responded, a sweet smile on her face.
A couple of years later, Charlotte and Travis welcomed their third child into the family. Even as a baby, Devin had a full mop of black hair like his daddy, and he was the apple of Rog’s eye. The twins loved him and doted on him every chance they got. The girls were in elementary school when the baby came. They were about six years older than Devin.
Now that the girls were a little older, Charlotte relied upon them to help her to do little tasks with Devin rather than Bella. She knew her Mama was having a hard time getting around and didn’t want her to fuss more than she needed to with childcare. Besides, the children were Charlotte’s world, and she was a very hands-on mother.
“When do you two have time for each other?” Bella asked Charlotte one night as she changed Devin’s diaper. “You’re both always on the go. How do you sneak alone time in?”
Charlotte blushed deeply. “Mama! I can’t believe you’re asking me about that.”
Bella laughed. “You act as though you’re totally innocent. With three babies, I know you’re active, princess. I just want to make sure you’re making time for Travis. He’s a very handsome man, and I’ve seen women around town drooling and fawning over him.”
“Yeah, I’ve noticed that, too. But I would trust Travis with my life, Mama. I know he wouldn’t cheat.” Charlotte finished dressing Devin and sat with him to nurse him.
“That’s good,” Bella affirmed. “Keep him close to you. He loves you so much.”
Charlotte smiled. “He has no idea how much I adore him.”
Travis returned home from work with a big fat raise and promotion that night. “I’m now officially the top-paid player on the team,” he announced.
“Sweetie, that’s fantastic!” Charlotte beamed. “I’m so proud of you!”
“How proud?” He winked at her. Bella smiled coyly at both of them.
“I’ll get Devin to sleep. You two go have fun.” Bella said as she scooped up the squirming toddler, kissing his face.
“I’m pretty proud of you.” Charlotte wrapped her arms around him. “Let’s go for dinner tonight.”
“Sounds great,” Travis said. “Thanks for taking the baby, Mama. We’ll be out for a while.”
Bella waved at them as she sat in the rocking chair, and rocked her youngest grandson to sleep.
Rog and Bella were in bed, watching the snow falling outside their bedroom window and listening to their grandchildren play downstairs. Her hair, now snow-white, was still silky, thick and lovely. Rog ran his fingers through it, and buried his face in it, kissing her. He relished the feel of her still baby soft skin, how it felt against his. Her face was still the epitome of beauty, and it amazed him how young she still looked to him. After well over fifty years together, she still made his heart flutter. He kissed her neck and whispered, “In case I haven’t told you in a while, my darling, I love you with all my heart.” He kissed her shoulders, wrapped his arms around her waist and snuggled in close behind her. “I mean it, baby.”
“Mmmm, I love you too, Rog.” She was enjoying the attention he was giving her. “What’s the occasion for such a beautiful confession?” The love they shared was always spoken, but the way he said it that morning felt different, almost urgent.
“Just because,” Rog said, smiling and enjoying the scent of her hair. It still smelled like green apples, and he loved it. “But let’s just stay here this morning. I want to be with you today.” He twirled a lock of her pure white curls around his finger.
“Rog, you’re scaring me,” she answered, stiffening involuntarily. “Your tone is different. What’s going on?”
“The truth is, darling, I’m not feeling well. And if I meet the Reaper today, then I want to leave this world knowing I was here loving you and nothing else.”
“The Reaper?” Her eyes widened. “Do you need Charlotte to come take a look at you?” Bella was legitimately worried.
“Nah, there’s nothing she could do for me, darling.” He felt weak, almost too much so to get up out of bed. “If it’s my time, then I want you here with me, love.”
She cried into her pillow. “It can’t be your time, Rog. I don’t want you to go. I’m not ready!”
Pulling her close, he kissed her neck. “Please don’t cry, darling,” he said tenderly. “I don’t want my last sight of you to be in tears.”
She rolled over to face him. Gently, he wiped the tears from her face and kissed her. “Darling, just hold me and stay with me. I love you so very much.”
Bella wrapped herself around him, snuggling in close. “You can’t leave me here, Rog. Please, honey… please don’t go.”
‘Shh,” he said. “Just hold me.” He stroked her hair, the words ‘I love you’ on his lips repeatedly.
They fell asleep together, their bodies intertwined. A strong odor woke Bella several hours later, and she saw a dark, shadowy figure looming over Rog.
“NO!” Bella screamed. “You can’t have him!” She shook him violently, but he did not stir. “Baby, no! Please,” she begged the Reaper. “Please don’t take my love from me.” The Reaper said not a word, but looked at her with pity, his harrowing laugh sent an icy chill down her spine. With the stroke of his scythe, Rog was gone, and where the Reaper stood was a white urn trimmed with gold between two black, sooty marks. The spot on the bed where Rog had been laying next to Bella was suddenly empty.
Charlotte and Travis heard her scream and ran for their bedroom. The anguish was evident. Bella was pale white, sobbing, calling his name softly. Rog’s urn sat prominently on the floor, accompanied by the Reaper’s black footprints. The pungent smell of death permeated the air. It nearly made Charlotte sick.
“Oh Mama,” Charlotte wept. “Daddy no…” Travis held her as tears rolled down his face.
Danae and Darcey both ran up the steps. “Mama? Where are you?” Darcey called.
“With Nana,” she replied, crying. “Pop Pop is gone, my babies.”
Both twins appeared in the door at the same time and saw Bella weeping before Rog’s urn. “Mama, I’m sorry,” Danae said, running to her and hugging her. Darcey went to Bella and wrapped her arms around her Nana, trying to comfort her.
“Let me go,” Bella begged as Charlotte looked her over. “I’m nothing without your dad. Please, just let me go.” Her violet eyes, usually vibrant and sparkling, were sunken and nearly lifeless, and her normally beautiful skin looked as though she had been ill for a very long time. But Rog had only been gone for five days.
“Mama, please come downstairs and be with us,” Charlotte replied. “You still have a family who loves you. Your grandbabies, Mama. Me. Travis. Christopher…” Her words trailed off. Her pleas were making no difference.
“Let me go, princess.” Bella was adamant. She didn’t feel well, and she didn’t want to leave her bedroom. The sooty black marks on the carpet remained. Rog’s urn still stood where the Reaper had left it, untouched.
“Mama, you haven’t left this room since Daddy died.” Charlotte looked at the full bottle of heart medication on her nightstand. “Have you taken any of this since the doctor prescribed it?”
“No,” Bella replied weakly. She hadn’t eaten and had only drank a little water that Charlotte had brought to her. She knew this would happen to Bella when her father died, but she didn’t expect her to decline so quickly.
“I’m not going to make you take them, Mama. I’m not going to force you to stay where you don’t want to be.” Charlotte’s heart broke into pieces. She wasn’t sure she could handle losing both parents within a week’s time.
“Thank you, princess. I know it will be tough on you and Travis, but I… I can’t be without him.” Bella breathed a labored breath. “I’m lost. I don’t remember how to live without him. You’ll understand someday.”
Charlotte gathered the twins downstairs, and Travis sat by her side. “Girls, Nana isn’t going to make it through the day,” she said, holding back sadness. “She wants to see you all, and say goodbye.” Devin was too young to understand, but he always wanted to see Nana. “I’m going to bring your brother up first.” Danae and Darcey huddled together, trying to figure out what to say. They had never done anything like this before.
Charlotte brought Devin to her and set him down on the floor near her bed. He stood and looked at her. “Nana?” he babbled.
“Hi sweet boy,” Bella said in a raspy voice. “You be a good boy for your mama and daddy, okay?” The boy nodded and reached up for her to pick him up. Charlotte lifted the boy and put him in Bella’s lap. She snuggled him close and kissed his cheek. “I love you, sweet Devin.” Charlotte choked up as she retrieved her son from Bella, as the effort to hold him seemed too much for her.
“The girls will want to see you, Mama. They’re coming up in a minute.” She knew the twins were crying, trying to figure out what to say to her. Charlotte knew they didn’t have much time to waste, so she encouraged them to see her immediately.
Danae and Darcey walked timidly up to Bella’s bedside. Darcey knelt on the floor and Danae sat on the bed with Bella and hugged her. “Nana, I love you so much. Thank you for everything you’ve taught me. I will never forget you.” Danae wept as she hugged Bella.
Trying not to cry, Darcey stood and hugged Bella. “I love you, Nana. Take good care of Pop-Pop, and tell him I love him, too.” Darcey broke down crying and hugged Bella.
“I will, sweet pea. I love you both,” Bella told the girls. “Be good for your Mama and Daddy, they love you so.” The twins nodded and each hugged her one last time. They walked from Bella’s room, their sobs filling the hallway.
Charlotte and Travis were the last ones to see Bella alive. They both sat and held her hand, and Charlotte sang to her softly as she took her last breath of life. The Reaper crept in quietly, interrupting a tender family moment. Charlotte looked at him, tears in her eyes, and said, “Take her to my daddy.” The Reaper nodded and took her, leaving behind an urn of white alabaster and gold. Travis held his wife tightly and they cried together as Bella left with the Reaper, and a second set of black, sooty marks appeared on the carpet by her urn. Rog and Bella were together eternally, never to be parted again.
Up Next: Charlotte Destiny St John