Another two months later.
Today was the day, the last inspection to say whether or not all our hard work had paid off. Macey, Zoe, and I watched as Valarie talked to the health and safety inspector from the balcony. He had walked around the entire building with his measuring tape and torch, his clipboard tucked
under his arm and pen behind his ear as he went over every nook and cranny in this place.
We secretly called him the birdman. His nose looked more like a beak, his beady little eyes too far apart. Macey snorts when a gust of wind has him clutching his toupee. It was chocolate brown and not even close to the greying on the sides of his head. Valarie watched over his shoulder as he wrote on his clipboard on the front lawn, giving the place one last scrutinizing look before shaking his head in disbelief.
He tears off the piece of paper and hands it to Valarie, who stares at it. He walks over to his red sedan and climbs in while Valarie stares at the form.
“Come on, we should go see what birdman says needs doing this time, “ says Macey. Zoe and I went to retrieve our kids from our room, who played happily in their playpen with their blocks. Scooping up Valerian, I set his feet on the ground, and we carefully walked down the steps to the ground floor. He started walking earlier than expected. Last month he just stood up and took his first steps. He was pretty smart for his age.
Valarie is still standing in the yard, staring up at the Hotel. As we approached her, a look, I couldn’t decipher painted her face.
“He said four rogue women would never accomplish anything on our own without help, ladies, “ Valarie says, and I sigh, wondering what he has told her needs fixing.
We stop beside her and look back at the huge building. No more peeling paint, the exterior white with blue and light grey trims, the hedges cut to perfection, the roof painted a deep grey, flowers hung from the top, and flowers along the hand railings. It looked like a brand new place.
I lost track of the number of times doubts rained down on us, but now standing out the front looking upon the building a year later. I realized all the blood, sweat, tears, and frustration, and anger when people refused to help, were all worth it. Four rogue women with no future, no help, and just pure determination gave this run-down Hotel a new life.
Every callous, every blister, every cut and graze was all worth it, every sleepless night. It all paid off, and seeing the look on Valarie’s face was priceless. She was a tough woman, with an even tougher exterior, yet not even she could hide her emotion as we stared at what we accomplished.
“So, what’s the verdict?“ I ask, staring at our hard work.
“The verdict, ladies, is we are now open for business,“ Valarie says casually.
“Well, we will get it done. We can- “ Macey starts to say before stopping. I look at Valerie, her lips tugging up at the corners, and Macey looks around me at her. It took a few seconds for her words to register.
”Wait, you said?” Macey asks before stopping.
”I said we are open for business; we did it, girls, ” Valarie says, and we all erupt in squeals of joy, jumping up and down excitedly. Macey Howls loudly, and we join her.
It must have been a sight from the road to see four women standing near the road howling at the sun and cheering, but we didn’t care. We did it. We did the impossible. But most of all, we proved to ourselves that we could do anything with a bit of determination and probably stubbornness, hard work.
We had proven to everyone who said it was impossible that they were wrong and that we were more than just four rogue whores with an unrealistic idea. That unrealistic idea was now real and standing in front of us, showing us we were capable of so much more than anyone believed of us.
Laughing and walking back to celebrate with the kids, we talked about advertising and hiring. I had an idea. I ran that idea past Valarie last month, and now we only needed a chef for the restaurant when things kicked off.
Four rogue single mothers made this place what it is, so sticking to that, we decided that everyone we hired would be rogue women. A hotel owned and run by rogues, the cities less desirable. Valarie loved the idea, so Macey, Zoe, and I went to every community center and put out word last month that Valarie was hiring.
The next day the lineup went halfway down the street. It was hard work interviewing everyone, but once we opened, we had fifty staff on rotational shifts. All that was needed was a head chef. But for now, Valarie and I would have to make do , Valarie was an excellent cook and had been teaching me, and that would have to be good enough until we find someone.
Walking into the restaurant, Valarie walks out back to grab a bottle of wine while I hold the glasses.
Hearing a cough, I pause, looking out the doors leading to the storerooms.
”Are you okay, Val?” I ask before I hear more coughing.
”Val?” I ask while walking into the storerooms. I see Valarie hunched over, having a coughing fit, the worst one I had seen her have as she gasped for air. The wine glasses slipped from my hands, shattering on the tiled floor when I saw her collapse.
It was like watching everything in slow motion as I saw her clutch the steel shelf, her hand covered in blood. Valarie turns to look at me, no doubt to tell me not to worry when she coughs again. Blood sprays from her lips and dribbles down her chin as her eyes glazed over, and she was falling , her skin pasty and covered in a cold sweat. I screamed as I saw her tumble to the floor as I raced toward her trying to get to her in time, but she crashed against the floor.
”Valarie ! ” I shriek as I clutch her, her hand weakly grabbing my arm as I pull her head into my lap.
“Call an ambulance,“ I scream out. Valarie starts choking, her hand clutching my arm as I turn her head so she doesn’t choke on her own blood while she gasps for breath.
“Hang on, Val, help is coming, “ I tell her as Zoe races in, grabbing Valerian as he walks out and nearly walks over the broken glass. Zoe holds both babies, clutching them as she looks on in horror as Valarie lay gasping for air. Macey is talking frantically on the phone to emergency services while I look down at her in my arms.
“It’s okay, you’ll be okay,“ She says as she gasps. Tears stream down my face as I hold her hands.
Holding the hands of the woman who had the biggest heart in the world. I admired her strength, a woman I saw bigger than life and gave me a home. My heart broke when she squeezed my arm, trying to comfort me even though she was the one that needed comforting.
“They will be here in twenty minutes. They are flat out, “ Macey says, pacing. Twenty minutes? I knew it would be because she is rogue; no one cares for rogues, not even the health system. Valarie turns her face to look up at me and smiles sadly.
“Where is Valerian?“ She gasps, barely audible, and I look over at Zoe.
“He’s here,“ I tell her. Macey grabs him bringing him over so she can see him. Macey stops next to her, kneeling next to us.
“He looks so much like his father,“ Valarie tells me; I nod, wiping the tears that were dripping off my chin.
Valerian pats her arm, not understanding, and Valarie smiles. I move her hand for her so she can touch his little foot that was beside her, she closes her eyes, and I see a tear slip down her cheek.
“I am so proud of you girls,“ Valarie croaks out, and we all nod, all of us crying and blubbering messes as we watch one of the most inspirational women we know suffer.
“Don’t speak like that; you will be fine. Help is on the way,“ I tell her. Valarie coughs; more blood spills from her lips that were a bluish tinge. Zoe hands me some paper towels, I wipe her mouth with shaky hands.
“Not this time Evie“ She replies. My lips quiver, and my heart breaks at her words because deep down, I knew it; I just didn’t want her to go. I knew I should have pushed harder for her to see the doctor. Biting down on my lip to try to stop it from trembling.
“Listen to me, Evie, I need you to promise,“ She says, and I shake my head.
“I will listen when you’re better, then you can tell me, then I will promise you anything,“ I tell her.
“Look after my grandson for me, you promise me that, you promise not to let my son break you like his father did me“ She gasps.
“What?“ I choked out while trying to hold it together and failing terribly.
“The eyes, he has my son’s eyes, you look after him for me. You fight for him, promise you will fight for both of them, “ She says before coughing and sputtering. She grabs my hand harder as her body starts heaving violently.
”Shh, shh, hold on, Val, ” I tell her, hugging her and holding her when she stops, her body expelling what little air was left in her lungs, blood splattering across my shirt and arms.
”I promise , ” I whisper into her hair, and I kiss her head just as I hear the sirens racing up the street toward us. Zoe races out to get them when I feel her hand fall limp on my arm, and I know she is gone. Her head rolled in my arms, falling back, pulling away I looked down at her. Her face was slack, and the color had gone as she lay limp in my arms.
Paramedics rush in with Zoe, who stops in the doorway, and I look at her and shake my head. The paramedics race to work on her. I got out of their way and took Valerian from Macey as we watched helplessly while they tried to revive her. Ten minutes they worked on her, and I handed Valerian to Macey;
she followed Zoe out and to our room to comfort her.
A few minutes later, a man rushes in wearing a tailored suit. I knew instantly it was her mate. He stops in the doorway, and I immediately see the resemblance between him and Valen’s, his son. That was also when I noticed his amber eyes were the same as Valerian’s. He stood there staring down at her as they kept trying to revive her. Eventually, they stopped. There was no bringing her back.
He falls to his knees, clutching his dark hair and falling apart. He did this; this was his fault. I knew I didn’t have to tell him because he knew it too. I watched as he broke and felt nothing but numb.
Valarie gave me so much and had been my rock for so long. Now she was gone because of the man falling apart in front of me. All because he refused to mark and love her.
Wiping my tears, paramedics were on the phone with someone when they brought the stretcher in. I watched as they wheeled her out, thinking of what she told me and promising myself I would not let him kill me as his father did her. He will not take my son as her mate did to her. I will live for Valerian; I won’t let history repeat itself.