94 Days After the Heist of the Bank of Spain
“You look like a beautiful princess, Mama.”
Raquel was standing in front of the mirror, finishing off her makeup, and she turned to see her daughter enter the room in her rose-colored dress. She smiled and held out her arms, motioning for her to come closer. Paula approached her with adoration on her little face.
“Thank you, cariño,” she replied as she softly touched her daughter’s cheek. “But, you are my gorgeous princess.”
“It’s fairy princess!” she corrected as she gave a twirl, showing off the skirt of her dress. “And I got it from you, Mama.”
Raquel chuckled. “It better be from me!”
“Of course! Sergio always tells me that,” she said matter-of-factly.
Her heart warmed with the child’s words. Since they came back from Madrid, Sergio has been even more attentive to their family than before. Always finding time to spend with Paula and showering her with gifts.
“Really? And what other things does Sergio tell you about me?” she queried.
“He told me you have saved him countless times and that our family is the best thing that has ever happened to him,” Paula stated matter-of-factly.
“It’s true. I have saved him many times before. Remember that one time he nearly burned our kitchen down when he tried to make a roast chicken?” Raquel chuckled.
Paula laughed. “Yes! We had to make do with stir fry and eggs that night, and Sergio barely said anything throughout the meal.”
“At least he tried, right?”
The little girl was trying not to laugh and shook her head.
“We’ll have to train him to do better, then.”
“Mama, can you teach me how to cook and bake, too? I want to make something special for Sergio on Father’s Day.”
Raquel felt her heart constrict at her daughter’s respectfulness. “Of course, carino. Sergio loves paella, maybe I can teach you to do that.”
“Yes, please! Oh, thank you, mama! I can’t wait!” she exclaimed as she hugged her mother. “I’ll go find abuela now. See if she needs any help getting ready.”
“Okay, baby. And keep an eye out for Sergio, as well. We don’t want him fleeing the country now.”
Paula smiled and nodded at her before leaving the room.
Raquel once again gazed at her reflection in the mirror. She breathed in a calming breath. She was wearing a simple white dress that wasn’t too body-hugging, just enough to show the curves of her body. It had short-capped lace sleeves and a tasteful, plunging neckline with the same material. She smoothed the bodice, her hands stopping at her abdomen. She smiled.
Ring. Ring. Ring.
She glanced at her ringing mobile phone laying on the vanity. It was an unknown number calling.
Curious, she answered, “Hello?”
A deep voice came through the tiny speakers of her phone, “Inspectora, qué lleva puesto?”
She couldn’t help the huge smile forming on her lips as she heard his words that have become a staple in their teasing.
“I’m surprised to hear from you, Profesor. I thought you had forgotten about me.”
“I could never forget you even if I tried, Inspectora . You never once left my mind.”
“Huh. And in your mind? Was I chasing you?” she bantered.
“You and I both know you’ll never catch me.” He stated confidently.
“From what I can remember, I once had you tied up to the ceiling.” Raquel reminded him.
“You must be imagining things, Inspectora. Although, if that’s what you’re into, I can be kinky for you if you want me to be.” He teased.
She could hear the flirtatious tone in his voice.
“I’ll keep that in mind then, Profesor. ”
“You still haven’t answered my question, Inspectora . Que lleva puesto? ”
“Well, I’m wearing a white dress…”
“Simple enough,” he urged for her to continue.
“... although I don’t think the color is quite appropriate for the occasion. It is frowned upon for a bride, you know,” Raquel continued to keep up with the charade.
“Oh? Why is that?” Sergio jokingly gasped. “Are you no longer a virgin before your wedding night?”
Raquel rolled her eyes at his words. “You could say that.”
“Would you like to explain further? I assure you I’m very curious as to how your pre-wedding rendezvous went.”
“Let’s just say that said rendezvous resulted in something surprising.”
“Hmm, now you really have my curiosity piqued, Inspectora.”
Raquel heaved a breath, strengthening herself for what she was about to confess.
“Sergio,” she said nervously, “I’m pregnant.”
There was a momentary silence on his end of the line. Then came the rustling of clothes and quick steps echoing on the tiled floor. Suddenly, Sergio came bursting through the door with the phone still held to his ear. Disbelief and delight etched on his face as he looked at her.
“We’re going to have a baby?” he asked incredulously into the phone.
Raquel could hear his breath hitch with emotion even through the small device in her hand.
She bit her lip and gave him a nervous smile. She silently nodded her head with confirmation as a lone tear slid down her cheek.
She couldn’t say more before Sergio rushed to her and wrapped his hands around her waist. He lifted her off the floor and swung her around, his joy emanating from his beaming smile as he looked up at her in wonder.
He lowered her back down to her feet and proceeded to cup her face in his hands. Raquel could see that there were tears swimming in his eyes before he finally kissed her. Ever so softly. Ever so sweetly. It was always like this with their kisses. It felt like Sergio poured his entire soul into every kiss. Savoring the taste of her. As if she were to evaporate into thin air at any moment.
“You never cease to surprise me, Raquel. How could I ever be so lucky to have found this much happiness with you?” he whispered as he leaned their foreheads together.
“I never thought I’d find happiness again either, Sergio,” she whispered back. “But after everything we had to go through… All the inconsequential fights… All the hurt we felt in our journey… We deserve this happiness.”
Leaning back to look her in the eyes Sergio said, “I love you so much, Raquel. More than words could ever say.”
“I love you, too, Sergio. So much,” she proclaimed. “But you better find those words for the ceremony. We don’t want to see you embarrass yourself out there.”
“What if I just promise to tell you all of my vows when I make love to you all night?” He said as he kissed her cheek and down to her neck. “When you’re finally my wife. My partner for life.”
“Hmm, that does sound nice.” She murmured as his lips teased her sensitive skin, and laid kisses just above her breasts. Raquel held the back of his neck and tugged at his hair to get his attention. “But we still have to show up and say something. We dragged everyone here to see a wedding. Let’s not disappoint.”
Sergio smiled mischievously. “Fuck everything.”
“Sergio, be serious! I want the people we love the most to witness you finally get chained to me,” Raquel laughed and tugged at his hair again, “Besides, there was a reason why we didn’t sleep together last night” she reminded him. “It’s bad luck to see the bride before the wedding!”
“Vale, vale. I’m going.” He kissed her again before suddenly crouching in front of her, his face directly aligned to her abdomen. He gently placed his hand on her and caressed her stomach, “I can’t wait to meet you, my love.”
Raquel bit her lip to prevent the sob building inside her from coming out. She delved her fingers in his dark tresses, making him look back up at her. His eyes silently conveyed all his love for her, and their little but growing family. He took her hand and kissed her palm.
Sergio then stood up and walked to the door. He turned around, “But don’t forget, inspectora , I am a very lucky man.” He smiled mischievously and winked at her, exiting the room.
Not even a minute passed when her phone started ringing again.
She answered with a silly smile on her lips. “What now, Sergio?”
“I just called to say I love you, mi inspectora.”
1 Year Later
Raquel’s pregnancy was both joyous and harrowing. Their private doctor cautioned them to be very careful considering Raquel’s age. There was always the fear of losing either her or the baby, silently looming over their heads like a typhoon ready to tarnish their lives.
When the day of the birth came, Raquel was rushed to have an emergency C-section. They were told that this puts her at a higher risk of complications. In the situation they were in, Sergio wasn’t allowed to enter the operating room. He was pulling his hair out as they waited for the doctor’s update. His mind went a thousand miles a minute, praying that the worst possible scenarios will not play out in reality. He prayed to every god and deity he didn’t even believe in, to save both his child and the love of his life.
After what felt like days of waiting, the doctor finally came to give them the news with a neutral expression. Sergio’s heart leaped to his throat and he felt it stop beating. The doctor stood before him and took off his mask. Sergio held his breath for whatever news was to come that will surely change his entire life.
When Sergio finally entered that hospital room, he rushed to Raquel and cried at her bedside. He tenderly touched her face and she slowly came out of her slumber.
“Sergio,” she whispered as she weakly raised a hand to his face.
He instantly sobbed some more, holding onto her hand on him.
“Sergio, you’re scaring me. Why are you crying? Is the baby-”
Just then, a nurse and their doctor came through the door. The nurse was holding a squirming bundle of blankets, a bright smile on her face as she looked at Sergio and Raquel.
“Hey, mommy. Here’s your baby girl. She’s been asking for you,” the nurse said, handing the baby to Raquel.
A breath hitched on Raquel’s throat and then a sob as she held their baby securely in her arms. She looked up at Sergio who had the same expression as hers.
Sergio gazed down on their child for the first time and he could instantly see the resemblance of Raquel’s beauty in her features with his dark hair. He didn’t know “love at first sight” could happen to him twice in his lifetime, the first one being Raquel, and now with their baby girl.
“What will we name her?” Sergio finally spoke up.
Raquel was thoughtful for a moment before replying, “What about Verónica?”
Sergio smiled brightly, “Bringer of victory?”
She nodded enthusiastically.
Sergio lightly brushed his fingers on the baby’s cheek, “Hello, Verónica, mi amor.”
It’s been two months since Raquel gave birth to their healthy and beautiful daughter, Verónica . Paula was ecstatic to meet her sister. She was adamant to spend all her free time with her, always willing to be by her side and read to her.
Sergio was the epitome of an attentive father. He would always volunteer himself for baby clean-up. He made sure to take care of their house and kept everyone fed so that Raquel didn’t need to move a muscle and just focus on Verónica.
The whole afternoon, Sergio spent all his time preparing for Christmas Eve dinner with Paula aiding him, as per Raquel’s insistence. He gladly took up this offer with the promise from her that she won’t come in and boss them around in the kitchen. He and Paula had a great time making the family dinner and even recreated Raquel’s famous paella.
Raquel was pleasantly surprised to note that the father-daughter duo didn’t set their house on fire and actually made an amazing dinner. They all sat down around the dining table as Verónica slept soundly in her cot beside them. Many funny anecdotes flew around the conversation concerning Paula and Sergio’s day. And soon enough, it was soon Paula’s bedtime. Raquel stated that she needed her quality time with her girl, too so she went and helped Paula get ready for bed while Sergio and Marivi stayed behind to clean up after their meal.
The next morning, Sergio woke up to Verónica fussing in her crib next to their bed. He stood up and went to get her. He cradled her to his chest and gazed adoringly at her for what felt like hours.
“Is she hungry?” Raquel, having just woken up, asked from the bed.
“She must be. I woke up and little madam was fussing.” Sergio said as he walked back to their bed and settled Verónica in the waiting arms of her mother. He watched Raquel bring down one strap of her nightgown to expose her left breast and the baby latched on hungrily on her nipple. This was a sight he will never get tired of. And he wasn’t looking in a sexual way. Raquel always looked so serene and contented whenever she breastfed Verónica. So nurturing and loving. He thought back then, that having a child would change their dynamic but, seeing them now? They were stronger together than ever before.
Sergio scooted closer to them, placing one of his arms around Raquel’s shoulders and kissing her hair. He breathed in her calming and familiar scent. “Raquel…”
“Hmm?” Raquel hummed in question.
“Have I properly thanked you?” he asked.
Raquel turned her head to look at him. “Thank me? For what?”
Sergio smiled shyly. “For loving me for what I am? For marrying me? For giving me a family? For saving me from a life of utter sadness? The list goes on.”
“Sergio, you never have to thank me for any of that. My love for you is unconditional. Just like how I love my mother and our daughters.”
“I’m just so grateful for everything that happened to me, to us, ever since I fell in love with you. You taught me how to love, Raquel. And how to really live.” Sergio stated. “I know me saying “I love you” every day will not be enough to express the love I feel for you, but I would still do it until the day I die.”
Raquel gave him a watery smile as tears slid down her high cheeks. She brought her free hand to the side of his face and pulled him in for a kiss.
“I love you, too, Sergio. So much,” her voice breaking with emotion.
Sergio leaned his head to hers and hugged her tighter to his body.
A few minutes later, Paula came bursting through the door with an air of excitement. “Mama! Papa! Merry Christmas! Vamos! It’s time to open gifts!”
Sergio and Raquel chuckled at their boisterous child practically jumping up and down before climbing into their bed and crawling towards her sister. She placed a soft kiss on top of the baby’s head and whispered, “Merry Christmas, Verónica.”
Raquel beamed at her daughter and then up to Sergio. Her beautiful family.
She said in wonder, “It’s a merry Christmas indeed.”