Zach lay with his head propped on his elbow watching Kendall sleep with their baby snuggled close beside her. It was hard to believe that they were once again at the casita and celebrating their first wedding anniversary. He stroked the baby's cheek with a gentle finger and smiled to himself as he reflected on what had been the happiest year of his life, and how they had made it a point to spend a few days of each month at the casita around their anniversary.
He considered the day he had found out that Kendall was pregnant and the immense joy he had felt. They had spent the night in each other's arms watching the sunset over the desert and making love under the brightly lit stars. It was at that moment that they made a promise to spend time together at the casita as often as possible. After spending a few days there, they had returned to Pine Valley to face Kendall's mother with the news of her pregnancy – a prospect that she found to be daunting despite having the man she loved by her side.
Bianca had agreed to remain in Pine Valley until they broke the news to Erica whose initial reaction was a combination of anger, relief and concern. Her dislike for Zach was readily apparent, but she was glad to hear that Kendall had not developed a serious medical condition. However, she was deeply troubled at the thought that Kendall was having a Cambias child after what Bianca had suffered. It took the combined efforts of Kendall, Bianca and Myrtle to calm Erica from her initial reaction. Zach had taken some time alone with Erica to assure her that his promise stood and Kendall would be released from their marriage whenever she wished, although Kendall was not happy that he had done so. Finally, after several weeks of continued strained relations between Kendall and her mother, the younger woman had faced her mother and given her an ultimatum to accept her husband and coming child or stay out of her life – and although Erica did not handle ultimatums well, she was at least civil to Zach while she remained watchful for any sign that Kendall was unhappy or abused. Kendall was mollified only after Zach promised Kendall that he enjoyed an armed truce with Erica, and the best part of their relationship was in irritating the other.
Shortly after returning to Pine Valley, they had moved into their renovated loft and sold both condominiums – at the same time divesting themselves of the last reminders of Ethan's reign of terror. The fresh start in a new home was just what they needed and they had fortunately purchased a loft with plenty of room for the baby. Perhaps one day they would consider purchasing a traditional house and yard for their growing family, but it was not a priority with their nomadic lifestyle. Until the doctor had restricted Kendall's ability to travel late in her pregnancy, they had spent a lot of time traveling between Pine Valley, Las Vegas and Europe in overseeing their business interests and enjoying each other's companionship. Zach had loved introducing Kendall to his world, and they had the opportunity to spend more time with Bianca and Miranda in Paris.
Kendall had gone into labor a week after her due date, and Zach was by her side throughout her labor and delivery. Bianca had also kept her promise and returned to Pine Valley to be with them as they had planned when Miranda was born. The sisters finally had the opportunity to experience childbirth together and to bond on another level through their children.
Zach resisted the urge to kiss Kendall in her sleep while remembering the joy he had felt when he first held his daughter in his arms. She was so perfect and tiny and beautiful, and she had looked at him with wide eyes as if she knew that he was her father, and that she already owned his heart and his soul. He had never felt such immense love for anyone at that moment as he did for Kendall and their baby – and the love had grown by leaps and bounds each day of her life.
They had decided on a name for the baby soon after finding out they were having a daughter, but had kept it to themselves until after she was born. After Kendall received a loving and unexpected gift, they were certain that the name they had picked was meant to be and grateful that Bianca had agreed to their choice. The day after she was born, Kendall and Zach gathered Bianca, Erica, Jackson and Myrtle Fargate with them to announce their daughter's name. Before they could make the announcement, though, Myrtle gave Kendall a letter that she had been holding for many years.
Just as Mona Tyler had left a letter with Nick Davis for Bianca when she had her first child, she had left a letter with Myrtle for Kendall. It was a gift that Kendall never expected and tears came easily to her eyes before she even unsealed the envelope. Zach and Jackson stood away from the women and observed their reaction to this message from a woman they had all loved so much… and Zach remembered his promise to Mona at her gravesite on the day of Ethan's funeral and was glad that he had been able to keep it, silently promising that he would continue to do so with his own daughter as well.
Kendall's voice shook as she read aloud the missive from her grandmother that had been written during a time of turmoil with Erica:
My darling Kendall. If you are reading this letter then I was unable to be with you when you gave birth to your first child, but I am watching over you as best as I can. I hope that this means you have finally found the love that you have searched for so long. I do not know what life holds for you and your mother, but it is my fondest hope that you have found peace with each other and can share the joy of this occasion together. I know that the circumstances of your own birth bring you pain, and I am sorry for my part in that pain, but I have always loved you even when you were far from us all. I will always be grateful that I was given the opportunity to love you in person for at least a little while. Hold your child close to you and give it all the love that you deserved. It will not always be easy, but I promise you that even the bad times will seem like blessings as your child grows to adulthood – as I treasure all the time that I was blessed by you. I have faith in your ability to be a wonderful mother and raise a child that you can be proud of. Before I end this letter, I want to share some words that sustained me during the most trying times of motherhood. They always remind me that I wasn't alone. The almighty was always with me. Remember -- 'The greatest and the least, the weak and the strong, the rich and the poor, in sickness and health, in joy and sorrow, in tragedy and triumph, you are all my children.'
Kendall finished the note on a sob, recognizing the final quote as the same words that Mona had used in her letter to Bianca. She embraced Myrtle and thanked her for her love and care before embracing her sister and mother as well. As Zach cleared his throat, she had smiled at him and held out her arms for the baby he was holding. Once she was nestled in her mother's arms, Kendall looked at the expectant faces surrounding them.
"With Bianca's blessing… and Zach's complete agreement… we have decided to name our daughter after grandma as well. Her name is Mona Grace Slater," Kendall told them softly.
Even though Bianca had known they were going to use Mona's name for the baby, even she had not known the baby's full name until that moment… and Erica had not known it at all. At the announcement of her name, Erica burst into fresh tears and hugged Kendall and the baby close to her and Jackson had turned to Zach to shake hands. That moment had been a turning point in Erica's relationship with her son-in-law – which would always be antagonistic due to their personalities, but tempered by the love they both bore Kendall and baby Mona.
Zach smiled as he watched Kendall sleep with their baby daughter, mindful of how fortunate they both were in finding each other and making a life together… and looking forward to many more anniversaries that would be spent at the casita, raising their family, and sharing their love.
As the baby stirred Kendall opened her eyes and caught her husband's gaze. She asked softly, "What are you smiling about?"
He kissed her tenderly before whispering, "Just thinking about us."
Thank you to KB and CS for your help and guidance as this story took on a life of its own. It was difficult to leave this little Zendall universe, but it was time... and at least in this one there is a happily ever after for Zach, Kendall and baby Mona.