The next few days brought difficult news.
Aunt Abby had passed on.
Uncle Chaim and little Hans spent the day with them after the funeral. Victoria still had no idea what possessed them to adopt a son so late in life. What would become of Hans if Uncle Chaim died and the poor kid was orphaned a second time?
Hans might have been thinking something like that himself. He was quiet and sullen for most of his visit. Not that you could blame him.
Victoria did her best to draw out her little cousin, and he did begin to loosen up. He told her about the new, smaller home that he and his father were planning to move to now that Abby’s celebrity lifestyle was behind them. He seemed to be excited about that part at least.
If something happened to Uncle Chaim, Hans would be welcome here, Vickie decided. Even though they hadn’t had nearly enough time so far to really get to know him, he was still family.
After the funeral reception, Vickie started feeling queasy.
A test quickly proved that the problem wasn’t something she ate.
She and Jonah hadn’t talked about children, but they hadn’t been terribly careful either. With her long unsuccessful love life, she hadn’t let her self think much about children. Making plans for them seemed like begging fate to crush them. She knew she wanted children, though hadn’t realized quite how much until she felt the surge of joy in discovering she was pregnant.
Whatever Jonah thought, she was ready to be a mom. More than ready, even.
So then she had to find out what Jonah thought.
“Have you ever thought about… having children?” she began nervously.
“I’ve thought of having them with you,” he admitted. “I hope that’s something you want when the time is right.”
“What if the right time was right now?”
“You’re pregnant!” he gasped.
“Is that good for you?” Vickie asked.
“Good? It’s wonderful! Um, that is if it’s good for you.”
He wrapped his arms around her and held her close, and Vickie decided to go all the way.
“If we’re going to have a baby together, would you like to do it as husband and wife?” she asked. It might not be the most romantic proposal, but she’d really always valued straightforward honesty more.
Jonah laughed. “I have already pledged myself to you in the strongest way of the merfolk,” he said, “but if it makes you happy, we’ll do it the landwalker way too.”
He let her take his hand and kneel to slip a ring on his finger.
Andria squealed with glee at the news.
“I gave up on hoping that I would life to see any of my kids get married or have my grandchildren. Now both at the same time!”
Vickie and Jonah decided on a small simple wedding, and Andria didn’t try to talk them out of it.
“Your father insisted on a big church wedding, and really one of those in a lifetime is more than enough,” she said. She did, however, insist on baking a big wedding cake.
Since there wasn’t a fancy dress, a gourmet reception, or even really a venue, plans came together quickly. It was a good thing too, since they were racing the clock against the baby.
Then, on the night before the wedding, Andria walked out to get the mail and started to feel light.
Vickie, Jonah, and Winston dashed outside as the Grim Reaper made its appearance.
“No no no no no!” Vickie shouted. “You can’t do this! You can’t take her now!”
Grim’s hood turned toward her for a moment and shrugged. Obviously, it could do anything it liked. Only Grim knew when Andria’s time was to go.
Andria, however, looked into the void of the Reaper’s face and grinned. “You’re just the fellow I wanted to see!” she said. “I picked this just for you!”
She reached out her hand, and in it was a hideous, spiny, black flower.
The Grim Reaper paused, then reached out with a bony hand to take it.
It stared at the blossom in silence, twirling it between two skeletal fingers. Then it made a sound, an inhuman grating sound, deep behind its hood. Vickie gasped and covered her mouth with her hand.
That sound turned out to be the Grim Reaper laughing with delight.
It raised its hands in a broad, sweeping gesture.
Andria rose into the air.
And when she fell back to earth, she was flesh and blood again.