Come on… Mari thought impatiently. It can’t be much longer now… Can it? She could feel the weight of the cell phone in her back pocket, still and silent as she waited impatiently for the call. Poor Colette had been in labor for nearly twenty hours, and it had been nearly three since Tobi’s last update on his wife’s condition. But he seemed to think it was close… And Mari prayed that he was right.
She felt almost like a little girl again, waiting anxiously to open her presents on Christmas Eve. But this will be better than any old present. She reminded herself with a smile.
Mari was brought rather abruptly back to the present by a loud cacophony filling the air in the tiny music room. She could not help but wince slightly as the unpleasant sound reached her ears.
“I messed up again! The exact same part!” Florian slammed his hands on the keys in frustration, filling the air with another dissonant blast. “I suck.”
Mari could not help but chuckle slightly at the boy’s outburst. He’s so much like me… “You most certainly do not ‘suck’.” She assured him with a smile. “How can you? You’ve got me for a teacher, after all.” She teased.
The little boy was not amused. “I just don’t get it. I know what the notes are! F E D C.” He reached out and played the series of notes for her. “I can do it right now. Why can’t I do it when I play for real?” Florian sighed softly and looked helplessly at his piano teacher as he spoke.
Mari reached out gently, placing her hand on his shoulder. Florian had been her student for nearly four years now, since he was just seven years old. And though he was always quite eager to learn, his problem was always the same.
“What do I always tell you?” She asked kindly.
The little boy hung his head low. “I know.” He replied softly. “I think too much.”
Mari nodded. “Honey, music is… Well, it’s probably about 20% thinking and 80% feeling.” She explained gently. God, I hope he doesn’t realize I totally pulled that out of my ass. For a moment, she struggled to keep a straight face. “Every song tells a story.” She continued. “Every single one. And that’s what you have to feel when you play.”
“A story?” Florian bit his lip. “I… I don’t know if I can do it.” He confessed. “But I guess I’ll try.”
“Good.” Mari beamed at him. “Now try it one more time, okay? But this time don’t think about it. Find the story. And feel it. I know you can do it.”
The boy nodded. “Find the story.” He repeated. “Okay.” And with that, he closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and began to play.
Less than three measures into the piece, the sound of a high-pitched electronic melody filled the air, interrupting Florian’s performance. He stopped playing and looked up at Mari curiously.
Oh my God! Could this be it? She felt herself bursting with excitement as she pulled her phone from her pocket. “Hello?”
“Mama!” Tobi’s warm voice called out. In the background, Mari could just barely make out the high pitched wailing of a newborn. “He’s here! And he’s perfect!”
Mari felt a warmth wash over her at his words. “Ahhhh!” She burst out laughing as the uncontrollable cry of delight escaped her lips. “That’s amazing! I’m so proud of you, sweetie. How’s Colette?”
“She’s fine.” She could hear the smile in his voice. “Everything’s fine. She did great. Grab the kids and head over, okay? Papa and Stefan too. I can’t wait for you to meet him.”
“Me neither.” Mari’s smile widened. “Give that beautiful baby a kiss and tell him we’re on our way. I love you.”
“You too, Mama.”
Mari felt practically giddy as she returned her phone to her pocket. “Jonas!” She called into the study.
Her husband was already waiting in the doorway for her. “I heard.” He cried excitedly. “I’ll go grab Stefan and the kids.”
Florian looked almost amused as he watched Mari walk back into the room. “She had the baby?” He asked.
Mari nodded happily. “I’ll call your Mama when we’re in the car. We can drop you off on the way to the hospital.”
“Oh.” The boy’s face fell. “Yeah… okay.”
“What’s wrong, honey?” Mari’s brow furrowed in concern.
“Clara, you don’t need to bring that with you.” Jonas’ voice echoed from the top of the stairs, calling both Mari and Florian’s attention.
“But it’s not for me, it’s for the baby!”
Mari could hear Stefan’s deep, booming laugh as his voice joined the others. “That’s very thoughtful of you. But he doesn’t need it. Trust me.”
She could almost picture her daughter rolling her eyes. “Okay, fine.”
There was the sound of small footsteps, the closing of a door, and then finally heavy footfalls as Jonas, Stefan, Clara, and the twins descended the stairs.
“Hats and gloves, too!” Jonas called to the children as they raced for their coats. “It’s cold out there.”
Stefan poked his head in the music room, giving his mother’s young student a small smile. “Aren’t you coming, Mama?” He asked.
Mari did not immediately reply. Instead, she glanced back down at Florian.
“I really think I can do it, Mari.” The boy said softly. “Can’t I have just one more chance?”
She hesitated, just for a moment.
“I’ll meet you there.” She said at last, giving Stefan a warm smile. “I’ll be right behind you guys, okay?”
The surprise was evident on her son’s face, but he did not question her. “Okay.” He agreed.
“And don’t forget to call grandpa and vovó on the way.” She reminded him as he headed back into the front entryway. “I think they’re still with Uncle Paolo.”
In less than a minute, the three children had been shuffled off to the car, and the house was silent once more.
Florian looked up at her curiously. “But… aren’t you going too?”
“I am.” Mari agreed. “But first, I believe someone owes me a flawless performance of Für Elise.”
The little boy’s eyes widened. “Flawless?!”
Mari let out a small burst of laughter. “Well, yeah! Less flaws than last time, right?” She winked at him.
“Ha-ha, very funny.” The eleven-year-old shook his head at his teacher, but gave her a small smile of gratitude.
Then he closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and began to play once more.
Tobi gave his wife a quick kiss on the cheek as they looked down into the bassinet at their newborn son. I missed this. He thought, smiling to himself. The joy of looking at his child for the very first time. The soft warmth of a newborn wrapped in his arms. The feeling of pure and unconditional love.
And being surrounded by that love, too… His smile widened as his gaze fell on his parents and in-laws as they talked excitedly amongst themselves.
“I’m so glad you made it in time to be here for Colette.” Mari smiled at Amelie as she spoke.
“Me too.” Colette’s mother replied, returning the gesture. “But those idiots at the train station gave me such a hard time with my tickets – I was afraid I wouldn’t.”
Diego shook his head and let out a soft chuckle. “Nah, you would have walked here if you had to.”
“Good point.” She laughed.
“Do you know how long you’ll be in town?” Jonas asked kindly. “Jocelyne and Lucas are practically beside themselves about you being here.”
Amelie shrugged. “At least a few days. Hopefully more, if I can.”
“Well I hope you’ll at least come by for dinner tonight.” Mari turned toward the other woman as she spoke. “When we sent mãe and dad back with the kids, I let them know we might have a few extras for dinner… Diego and Rachelle, you’re both welcome too. And you can bring Simone along – We can even talk about getting her started on some lessons, if she’s still interested.”
“We’d love to come.” Rachelle smiled warmly. “And she’s definitely interested. Though she keeps flip-flopping between violin and piano…”
“Can’t help much with violin.” Mari shrugged. “But let me know. I could give you my friend Humberto’s number. He’s always taking new students…”
“Would you look at that…” Colette whispered. “Do you remember the first time around? What a mess that was?”
Tobi almost laughed. “Yeah… Who would have thought that in just a few years it’d be like this?”
Despite his joy at seeing them get along so well, Tobi felt a strange twinge of sadness as he took in the sight of his children’s grandparents laughing and smiling together. Though Josh had only been part of their lives for a few short months, Tobi felt that he deserved to be there too. It might be too late for him to ever feel like my father… But maybe he still has a shot at being a grandfather. He thought hopefully.
But as his gaze fell on his mother’s smiling face, Tobi felt his heart sink even further. He loved seeing her like this – warm, funny, happy, and so kind. She’d even been the last to arrive at the hospital because she wanted to give a struggling student the chance to finish his lesson.
That’s her. He thought sadly. That’s my Mama. Not the angry, bitter woman she’d been during Josh’s first visit. And not the meek and sorrowful one she’d been during every visit since, either. And if Josh was here now… Well, Mari wouldn’t be. Not really, anyway.
Tobi missed his biological father every time he went away. But I miss her more. He realized. If only there was SOME way they could…
His thoughts were interrupted by a loud peal of laughter from his mother as Diego chuckled heartily beside her.
Colette gestured down toward the sleeping baby and shushed them scoldingly, though her hint of a smile betrayed her true feelings. “Sorry.” Diego mouthed from across the room as Mari covered her mouth to suppress more giggles.
Tobi shook his head, unable to hide his own smile. Though it had been several years, he still remembered how horrible things used to be between his mother and Diego. And look at them now. He thought to himself, amazed. If they could do it, then maybe…
Tobi did the best he could to chase the thought from his mind. There was no point in dwelling on ‘what-ifs’, or looking ahead to the future. Not now. Take it as it comes. He told himself. Focus on right now.
And for now, well, all he could do was wait.