This story needed a happy ever after. So I have given it one.
I loved Ropo like no writer is allowed to love her characters. I loved Sallie too. Todd, I really didn’t know. He was just there. So this sequel helps me know Todd. And I have discovered that this is a little family I will always love. Here is to the ‘future’. Enjoy.
From the very first day he landed in Oslo, Todd knew how very wrong he had been.
He had thought he could come here and forget. Forget Ropo, forget Sally, forget Boston, forget the past 4 years. He had been so wrong.
Some of it had to do with the children of Oslo. There were so many children here. Those population experts with their theories on Scandinavia’s aging population had probably not taken Oslo into account. Everywhere Todd turned was a little girl smiling and clapping her pudgy hands, a toddler throwing a tantrum so fierce his parents turned red, a newborn asleep on the shoulder of her father…
Or maybe they were all ghosts. He wouldn’t have been surprised to find out they were all ghosts. He had stopped putting anything past fate.
He checks up on Ropo through old friends. Every other week, he calls Kolade or Mina. Once a month, he calls Maami, Ropo’s mother in Nigeria.
“How is she?”
“She is Ropo, Todd. She is okay.” That was Kolade everytime. Mina’s response was mostly angrier.
“Dude, you are a sorry husband. How do you even live with yourself?” She would yell and drop the phone before he could get another word in. Todd would have been worried if he called Mina one day and found her nice or sympathetic.
He also paid a private detective in Boston to keep tabs on her. No daily stalking or anything sordid. He didn’t need to know if she was eating Kashi’s for breakfast or sleeping with someone else. He just needed to make sure she was eating something and was okay and not in harm’s way.
Last month, he finally let his mother visit from Malmo. He had not seen her since they buried Sally in her little grave in Forest Hills, Boston.
“How much longer Todd?” She had asked as he let her hug him for too long as he dropped her off at the airport. He had not answered. What was he to say? ‘When I am healed.’, ‘When I have forgiven myself for letting Sally die?’
He was a sorry husband, he knew. In losing Sally, he had forgotten how to hold on to Ropo.
It is raining in Oslo on the last Friday in July. It is a gentle rain, the type Ropo loved to make love in. He misses their love making. Especially the beginnings of it. He misses her body. He smiles to think of how Ropo had worried about losing her attractiveness to him after the baby. He never told her but the truth was that the stretch marks that came after made her even more beautiful and the smell of her breast milk did things to him he couldn’t explain.
He had found a consulting job with a top architect within the first month of coming to Oslo. It paid ridiculously well for a man that had no use for money these days. He sent most of it to Boston, to the trust fund they had set up for Sally. It is foolish he knows, saving money for a future that will no longer be but he can’t stop himself.
It is lunchtime so he runs out of the office holding a newspaper over his head to grab lunch at the Thai restaurant a block away. It is another of those foolish things he does. Newspaper versus an umbrella. Later when he tells the story, he will blame the rain. But he will know in his heart that it was what it was, rain or sunshine, umbrella or newspaper.
On a good day, the girl he bumps into wouldn’t have stood out to him in anyway. She is beautiful and mysterious in the way biracial children are. You want to ask which parent is responsible for the hue in her skin, the perfectly formed cusp of her mouth, the wildness of her name. She is also strange in the way most teenagers trying to find their way through the cold streets of Oslo are. Tattoos, rings, black clothes, heavy makeup…
“I am sorry,” He apologizes to her in Swedish.
“It is okay,” she answers with a smile. She has no umbrella and Todd suddenly feels helpless because the newspaper is useless to him and would be useless to her as well.
“I am sorry,” he repeats again, unable to take his eyes off her. Her Swedish is perfect and makes his heart swell with pride.
“It is okay Papa,” She answers again softly.
He never thought he would hear himself addressed that way again but here they are. He starts to weep in the rain.
“Don’t cry. It is raining already. Too many tears aren’t good for the world,” She tells him wisely.
He nods his head, letting his child console him.
“She is on her way,” The girl tells him. “It is time now. When she comes, remember to tell her Sallie with a ‘e’ said hello?”
He nods again at the instruction/question, and when he can’t help himself, he grabs her in an embrace so tight he would have been worried she would suffocate if she were human but he knows an angel can take it. When he finally lets go, she squeezes his hand. He closes his eyes for a few seconds and when he opens them, she is gone. He doesn’t go back to work. He spends the rest of the day, walking the streets of Oslo, searching for her.
It is raining again when he wakes up the next day. He is prepared this time and walks happily to the office with an umbrella where Ropo is waiting for him, drenched.
There is some gray in her hair that wasn’t there when he left. He holds her for the longest time and then he takes her home where he undresses her. It feels like it was forever since they last tried so he takes his time, kissing her tears and stretch marks. When finally he moves over her, he tells her “Sallie with an ‘e’ says hello.”
They no longer grieve for the future because they know it now. And when you learn to let go of grief, you can sow seeds for a new future. They conceive a new future that very night.
Song of the day: Meghan Trainor – Like I’m Gonna Lose You