Kelee Kingsly stepped from the plane and was greeted by the brilliant St. Pala sun, which instantly warmed her body. She slipped on her shades as she descended the stairs of the plane. The heat was welcoming compared to the thirty-degree chilly weather she left in Manhattan, New York, three hours ago. She stepped down onto the hot black tarmac. The intense heat made her skin tingle, causing beads of sweat to form on her upper lip. It was a little after one
, the hottest time of day. A cool breeze coming off the ocean whipped at her shirt, making the heat bearable. The scent of raw sea breeze mixed with jet fuel invaded her nostrils, bringing back memories of her native Jamaica. St. Pala wasn't much different from Jamaica; they both had great people, food and weather. No matter which Caribbean island Kelee visited, she always felt like she was coming home once she stepped foot on the hot tarmac.
Kelee made her way towards the entrance of the arrival building along with her fellow passengers, who consisted of natives and tourists. Inside the cool terminal Kelee made her way through a sea of natives and tourists to baggage claim. Fifteen minutes later she saw her four large suitcases coming around on the conveyor belt. Kelee always overpacked, it was just her style. She tended to change clothes a lot depending on her mood. She was only going to be in St. Pala for a few months, or until her niece was born.
Kelee was struggling to get her first bag off the belt when a young man was kind enough to help her unload her cases onto a cart. She thanked him, and made her way towards customs. She frowned at the sight of the long lines. She hated the wait that came with exiting customs, and from the look of the lines she knew it would be another thirty minutes before she could exit the barely cool airport.
“Kelee.” She heard her sister's voice. Kelee scanned the mixture of multicultural faces for her sister's. She heard her name again and followed the voice. She spotted Lori waving her over to the far end of the customs desks. She smiled and waved back, excited. Kelee hadn't seen her sister in three years. She maneuvered her cart through the crowd, focused on her sister.
Lori was the taller of the two at five ten. Kelee was a mere five three and had always envied her sister's height. They both had their father's cool bronze coloring, but had inherited their mother's long thick hair. They also had their mother's light brown eyes, accentuated by high cheekbones, small round noses, and full lips. The resemblance between them was uncanny. Unlike her sister, who wore her hair in natural twists, Kelee wore hers bone straight, falling down the middle of her back.
Kelee's eyes fell to Lori's protruding belly and she squealed in joy. She hugged and kissed Lori. It was so good to see her big sister; she had missed her so much. The sisters held on to each other for what seem like a lifetime. Kelee rubbed Lori's belly, smiling. She couldn't wait to be an aunt.
“I can't believe yu' here,” Lori exclaimed, tearing up. Kelee hugged Lori again, taking in her fresh floral scent. It felt good to be close to her.
“I'm glad to be here,” Kelee responded.
“Yu' are stayin' until the baby's born?” Lori asked with a stern look.
“Yu' know I will.” Kelee smiled and kissed her cheek.
A huge smiled consumed Lori's face. “Good, because I need yu'.”
“Yu' got me.”
“Ladies.” A customs officer walked over to them. He was tall and thin with a ready smile.
“She's with me,” Lori told the officer and he nodded, offering his assistance by pushing Kelee's cart towards the exit. Kelee was thankful she wouldn't be searched. Getting through customs without the hassle of being searched was one of the perks that came with being married to the minister of tourism of St. Pala, which Lori's husband was. Lori was well known on the island, for her high-profile community activities.
The receiving area outside was filled with people awaiting visitors and family. Lori's driver waited for them by a large SUV jeep. Kelee helped her sister into the middle seat, joining her as the driver collapsed the backseat and loaded up her cases. The sisters held hands, catching up as they made their way to Lori's home on Rose Hill. Rose Hill was one of St. Pala's upscale neighborhoods, overlooking the splendor of the city of St. Pala below. Kelee had always loved the view of rolling hills and city nested in the valley. The last time she was in St. Pala was four years ago, for Lori's twenty-fifth birthday party. This time she was here for the birth of her niece.
“Mom called this mornin'; she wants yu' to call her,” Lori told her. “She said she hasn't heard from yu' in months.” They were on the back veranda overlooking the pool, sipping iced teas.
“I know. I hope she's not too mad at me.” Kelee wrinkled her nose.
“No, she just needs to know yu' OK,” Lori said, rubbing her belly.
They were very close as a family, even with their mother living in London, England, for the past ten years. She had relocated to London after their father's death of a massive heart attack to live with their aunt Kay, who was also a widow. While they were in three different places, they made it a priority to visit each other, and if that wasn't possible they kept in touch by phone. She had the phone bills to prove it.
Kelee hadn't talked to her mother in two months. A sense of guilt filled her. She had always made it a priority to speak with her mother every two weeks. Two weeks turned into months; she owed her mother a call with a big apology.
As an interior decorator and stylist Kelee was well known in New York for her impeccable sense of style. Her flair for mixing modern with a touch of the classic had sealed her reputation and placed her in high demand. Her present clientele consisted of celebrities and some of New York City's elite. She had a lucrative growing business that was starting to demand that she hire permanent help. She had a guy named Ian who worked with her part-time. Ian had a remarkable eye and they worked well together. It was time she made him full-time. It would allow her to take on more clients and get some much-needed time for herself. Kelee had been working nonstop for the past two years and hadn't had time for a vacation or family. She didn't want to miss the birth of her niece and had decided to take the time off.
Taking a break from unpacking, Kelee called her mother. She answered on the second ring.
“Mama.” Kelee smiled into the phone, loving the sound of her mother's voice.
“Kelee,” her mother said, excited.
“I'm sorry I didn't call, I was so busy getting ready to come here,” Kelee told her mother, as she clutched the phone to her ear. She moved to the window and opened it. The cool evening breeze fluttered through the curtains bringing in the scent of the hibiscus flowers beneath her windows. Kelee took a deep breath, appreciating the fresh, fragrant scent.
“So, how long yu' stayin' in St. Pala?” her mother asked.
“Until yu' grandchild is born.”
“I wish I could be there.” She could hear the regret in her mother's tone. Kelee knew how excited her mother was about being a grandmother and not being here was hard for her. Her mother's doctor had warned her about traveling for a while after she had broken her hip a few months ago.
“So yu' spendin' Christmas in New York,
?” her mother asked. Kelee had spent last Christmas working. She had made plans to go to England but had to scrap them. Her client at the time needed his apartment redone for his annual New Year's Eve party. Kelee had completed the job on time, but was unable to join her mother in England for the holidays.
“I haven't made any plans for the holidays yet,” Kelee told her.
“I'm comin' to St. Pala for Christmas; come see me?” She could hear the plea in her mother's voice. Once again guilt consumed her.
“I'll try.” Kelee collapsed into the armchair by her bed.
“I want to see yu',” her mother demanded.
“I want to see yu', too. I'll try my best to come back,” Kelee promised.
“OK.” Her mother sounded pleased. “So how yu' boyfriend doin'? What's his name again?”
“We broke up.” Kelee frowned. She had put so much faith into her last relationship and it had ended badly.
“Why? He was so nice.”
“He was too nice, to other women.”
“Dog!” her mother came out with, which made Kelee grin.
“Yu' got that right.”
Her ex, Jon, was African/Italian American, and very handsome. He was an investment banker on Wall Street and a woman's dream. Kelee had walked in on him spreading his charm to his next-door neighbor. She had calmly taken whatever things she had at his place and walked out. When he had called apologizing, she told him never to call her again.
“Don't yu' worry. Yu'll find a nice man one day,” her mother comforted her.
“I'm not looking. I've decided to give men a break for a while.”
“Good for yu',” her mother said.
Kelee was grateful for her mother's support, which was the one thing she knew she could always rely on no matter what the situation. They spent the next half hour catching up.