"Julia? Is that you? My, you've grown up since the last time I saw you! When was that? Three months ago?" Denise exclaimed after seeing Julia walk towards her from the airport terminal. She spread her arms out wide to embrace Julia.
"Denise!" Julia exclaimed in return. She started to shuffle toward Denise faster, dragging her large suitcase behind her. She finally made it and dropped her belongings dramatically. Julia allowed Denise to wrap her arms around her, just like her own mother would. She took in Denise's scent and was instantly comforted, no longer fearing what was in store.
"How is my little Ocean Child?" Denise asked, using Julia's nickname that was derived from "her" song.
"Oh, I'm tired. But excited! How's Mama Jonas?" Julia and Denise, ending their embrace, giggled at her nickname.
"I'm excited too. The whole family is excited. We've been waiting for you to visit for sometime now."
Julia felt her cheeks turn pink. "Well, where are the boys?"
"They're back at the house. Less chaotic."
"Let's go, then. I'll help you with your bags."
And the two girls walked out of the airport with their arms linked. They looked just like mother and daughter.
Denise pulled her Range Rover into a driveway in front of a large house. The house was much larger than anything Julia had expected. "Wow," she remarked.
"I know. Isn't it something?" Denise asked while she opened her door.
"It sure is."
"I bet the boys are about to explode from excitement." Right when Denise said that, the front door swung open and closed with a bang.
"Julia!" a chorus of male voices yelled.
Julia snapped out of her trance and remembered why she was there. She quickly got out of the car and ran towards the commotion. She saw Kevin, Joe, Nick, and Frankie barreling down a steep sidewalk to her. It was the one thing that could have taken away all the sadness she'd felt for so long. Seeing the boys in their T-shirts and Converse sneakers made her feel like she was her old self again. She didn't want to let that feeling go.
Joe made it to her first. He ran toward her and wrapped his arms around her shoulders, pulling her toward him tightly. Julia instinctively wrapped her arms around his torso and hugged him like she would never let go. Just like she used to. He smoothed down her hair as she started to laugh uncontrollably. "Joe!" she finally exclaimed. She couldn't think of any other words to say.
"Hey, what's so funny?" Joe asked Julia.
"I'm just... really happy," Julia croaked out of her throat. She shook in Joe's arms, who started to laugh too.
"My turn!" Kevin said, pulling Joe and Julia apart. Kevin pulled Julia against him, wrapping his arms around her shoulders, just like Joe had done. It was so comforting. Julia immediately felt a sense of home and comfort.
Julia saw Frankie out of the corner of her eye. "Hey buddy! You've grown!" Julia let go of Kevin and knelt down to hug Frankie.
"We've missed you," Frankie said into her ear.
"Yeah, it hasn't been the same," Nick said.
Julia looked up from where she was bending down. Nick looked at Julia with his hands shoved in his pockets. Nick, her best friend. He smiled a crooked smile and Julia grinned. She stood up and threw her arms around Nick. Nick wrapped his arms tightly around Julia. He was taller than she remembered. His voice sounded deeper too.
"It hasn't been the same," Julia finally said, repeating Nick. She let go of him and looked at all four of the boys.
"Duh. We're living across the country," Joe said.
"Oh, thanks Joe," Julia said sarcastically, throwing Joe a look. "Speaking of, how can you guys live out here? There's no trees!"
"Or snow," Kevin added.
"I miss the snow," Frankie said.
Julia ruffled Frankie's hair. "Aw! You're going to see it again soon, Frankie." She noticed the boys staring at her. She stood up straight. What? She was worried that there was something on her face.
"We're just so happy you're here!" Nick said, pulling Julia into another hug.
She laughed. "I bet I'm happier to see you guys." She ended the embrace and wrapped her arm around Nick's waist.
"Nooo," Joe said. "We missed you more."
Kevin crossed his arms across his chest and nodded. "It's true."
"Oh, you guys. You're going to make me cry," Julia said, beaming. She was actually trying to will her tears of joy away. "But really, I've missed you the most." She laid her head on Nick's shoulder.
"Ok, you win!" Joe said, suddenly bounding up the steep sidewalk to their front porch. "Come see the house!"
"Yeah!" Nick exclaimed, taking Julia by the hand. He ran after Joe, dragging Julia along behind him. Julia could hear Denise laughing at them as Kevin and Frankie ran after them.
On the way through the foyer, the group passed a stunned Kevin, Sr. "Hi Kevin!" Julia exclaimed as she passed.
"Hey Julia!" She heard him call after them.
Finally Joe stopped. "This is the living room," he said, waving his arms around. They were standing in a very large room with big windows. Everything was decorated white: white walls, white couches, white carpet... You get the picture.
"As you can see, we don't really use this room," Kevin added.
"I think we could, but Joe couldn't," Nick said, a smile playing on his face.
"Hey, I'm offended," Joe said dryly.
Nick laughed and looked at Julia out of the corner of his eye to see if she was laughing too. She was.
The boys showed Julia the rest of their house. She was amazed at how big it was. She used to think their houses in Wyckoff were big, but they were nothing compared to this house.
"There's one more room we have to show you," Kevin said, looking at his brothers.
"What's that?" Julia asked, thinking of the laundry room or garage. By that point, the group had navigated to the second floor.
"Follow me," Kevin said. He walked down the hallway. Julia felt odd that the boys were following her closely, watching what she was doing. Kevin stopped just before he reached the end of the hallway. Julia watched him in bewilderment. He reached up toward the ceiling and took hold of a chain that was dangling in front of his eyes. He pulled. The chain brought down a small staircase leading to another level of the house.
Julia looked at all four brothers, bewildered. "An attic?" she asked.
"Well, why don't you go see what's in the attic, silly," Joe said in a funny voice. He nudged Julia from behind. She turned around and looked at the brothers suspiciously before starting up the stairs.
When Julia was all the way in the attic, what she saw took her breath away. The walls were painted yellow (her favorite color). A canopy bed stood against the wall on the far side of the room. The words to "Julia" were painted on the ceiling, the letters looping around in one continuous stream. The hardwood on the floors shined and had clearly been polished. On the nightstand next to the canopy bed were two pictures: one was a Jacob family picture taken a few years before. It was from their family vacation to the beach. The three of them had on blue jeans and white T-shirts. Julia's father stood in the middle and Julia and her mother stood on either side of him, their arms wrapped behind his back. The three of them look so happy together and sport wide, toothy smiles. What really makes the picture is the setting sun over the ocean in the background. The second picture was of Julia's father and herself. It was taken when she was about eight years old. Her father is shown sitting in a chair, playing his guitar. It's clear that he's into the music he's playing at that moment. In the picture, a young Julia is sitting in front of her father on the floor, cross-legged. She's looking up at him with such admiration that you'd wonder what this mad did that was so great.
There was a window seat facing the front yard. Yellow and white pillows were placed on the cushion. On the wall, next to the window seat, was Julia's favorite part of the room. Covering the wall from floor to ceiling were pictures of Julia with the Jonas family over the years. Pictures with Denise, pictures with Kevin Sr., pictures with Kevin, Joe, Nick, and Frankie, and pictures with all of them together. The pictures ranged from Julia's birth to the last time she saw them a couple of months ago.
Julia looked at the room, taking everything in while her mouth hung open. There were no words she could even think of that could describe how she felt at that moment.
"You guys..." she finally croaked out, tears coming to her eyes for the millionth time that day.
"Do you like it?" Nick asked.
Julia's jaw dropped even more. "Like it?! This is unbelievable!" A tear trickled down her cheek.
"Then why are you crying?" Frankie asked.
Julia wiped the tear away. "Because this is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me." Julia moved into the attic a little further. "But what is this for?"
"So you can stay with us whenever you'd like," Kevin answered.
"You'll always have a home here," Joe said.
Julia grinned as far as her cheeks would allow. "I wish I could hug all four of you at one time!" she exclaimed, bounding down the steps into the boys' arms.
After Julia hugged and kissed each one of them as many times as she thought was needed, she entered her new room. She didn't even have her luggage in there yet, but she would take care of that later. She moved to the bed slowly, not wanting to mess anything up. She pushed back the canopy and sat on the edge of her bed, looking to the nightstand. This, inevitably, is what made her cry the most. She picked up the picture of her father and studied it, holding it close to her face. Julia hugged the framed picture to her chest as a few more tears leaked from her eyes. Finally she looked at the picture again. She kissed her index and middle fingers and placed them on her fathers face. "I love you daddy," she whispered.