You're Gone
By: Jacqui Beres

He stared at the picture of the two of them. It was taken last year. His beloved was in a nightshirt and her dark brown hair was full of Christmas bows and a huge smile spread across her face. She loved Christmas. Julianna loved to make people happy, she went crazy when it came to shopping for others. She never thought about herself, only others.

It was how they met. He was teaching at the dojo and she had come to him, worried about a friend of hers. The friend, Amanda, had been a victim of a crime. What kind Julianna would not say, but she wanted to know if he would be willing to help her friend. He was immediately entranced with her. She was gorgeous, long dark brown hair that curled, expressive brown eyes, a slim figure. However, her inner beauty made him ask her out to dinner.

He was elated when she accepted with a secret smile. A smile he would see many times in the coming years. He took her to his favorite restaurant, and together they started to forge a bond.

When his grandmother passed away a few months later, she was there, holding him, telling him that life would go on, that in time it would not hurt so much. He held her and sobbed, for maybe the first time, not forcing himself to be strong for the rest of his family. For once, he let himself be comforted by someone else, instead of doing the comforting.

During that time, Julianna was never far from his side. He began to open up to her as never before. He told her about his father, and the pressures of being the eldest. How much he had depended on his Grandmother Rosa, and how she was supposed to be there forever. He told her everything, and she did the same. It was during that time that he knew this was his other half, the woman he wanted to marry.

Absently he wiped the tears from his cheeks. The day she had consented to be his wife was the happiest day of his life. He had taken her back to their favorite restaurant and in the dessert; he had the chef place the ring, his grandmother's ring. He had been so excited that he was sure that she was going to guess what was going to happen. When she found the ring, full of chocolate cake and fudge sauce, she started to cry. Immediately she put it on her finger, leaned over, and kissed him.

She kissed him again when she became "Mrs. Rocky DeSantos" in front of both their families and friends. This time he was crying, but no one held it against him.

Together they forged ahead in their life. He was working at his dojo, and she was an elementary school teacher. Kindergarten. Those first two years of marriage had been hard on both of them. While he was used to having others around, thanks to his large family, Julianna had troubles sometimes. Though she never stopped loving him, it was an adjustment to suddenly have another person living with her.

They made it, and the day that she came home, slightly weepy and looking utter miserable, would be forever engrained in his mind.

*"I'm pregnant."*

He had stared at her before throwing his arms around her and spinning her around until she threatened to throw up. Then he had kissed her and did not stop. He could not wait to tell his friends and family. He was going to be a daddy. Him, who had helped his mother raise his six siblings.

Nicolas Adam was born in the spring. The moment he first laid eyes on his baby boy, he could not speak. Julianna had given him the most precious gift in the world, and he could not even begin to thank her. But she knew, she always knew what was going on in his head.

The next year she gave him another baby, this one, Amanda Rose. Named after her friend that had brougth them together, and his beloved grandmother. This birth had been hard on his Julianna, her eyes were tired and scared. The baby was underweight and the doctors feared the worst. Rocky knew that she would pull through, both of them. They were his girls, and both were stubborn as him.

He was right. They both pulled through, and for the family, life went on.

*And now this.*

A week ago, he had come home late, to find his Julianna already in bed, and sleeping fitfully. He took her in his arms and she seemed to rest. He fell asleep with her in his arms, and whispering "Te amo." When he awoke, she was gone. Dead in his arms. The coroner told him that is was Acute Septic Meningitis, and there was nothing he could have done differently. This disease had to run its course; there was no treatment.

His Julianna was taken from him. He did not know what he did to deserve it, but he was grateful to have the eleven years he did have with her. He savored those memories as he gently packed her things away and readied them to be donated to charity. Both he and his children had taken what they wanted to remember her by. He had kept her wedding dress for Amanda, but absolutely refused to let Julianna be buried without her ring. That was hers and hers alone.

The End