Fourteen years later, sitting in the same café were they had met with her four year old daughter Lisa who was focused on using her tongue to catch the cherry on the large glass of butter pecan and strawberry ice cream in front of her, Maya sighted him at the far end of the café, the one that got away. Her eyes took him all in, he hadn’t changed; he was still the most gorgeous man she ever laid eyes on. Then she noticed him reach across on the other side of the table to kiss another, almost as gorgeous as him, dressed almost like him, spotting a nice looking afro, and killer beards. The way he kissed him affectionately and they both gazed into each other’s eyes shocked her and answered a question she had held inside ever since the day he handed her, her heart. He was looking at him exactly like she used to look at him. She remembered his beautiful eyes, light brownish with gold flecks, it stood out from his chocolate-colored skin, it was his most distinctive most beautiful feature. It now dawned on her why he couldn’t love her. Not the way she had loved him. He couldn’t love her kind. He just wasn’t built that way. She didn’t know whether to feel relief or to curse nature, for making something so beautiful, that she would never have.
“Mommy, can I have a cho-co-late chip cookie?” Lisa asked in a sing-song voice, interrupting Maya thoughts.
Maya glances down at the adorable doe-eyed four years old seated next to her. She is dressed in her favorite green dress and swinging her feet playfully above the ground. On her arm is a cute Barbie band-aid.
“No sweetie, you have to finish your ice cream quick, we have to go pick up your sister from piano lessons and daddy from the airport. You may have a cookie after dinner, but that’s not a promise”.
Lisa went back to tackling the mountain of ice cream in front of her she had insisted she could finish. It was Lisa’s favorite ice cream and Maya owed her for being strong while they took her blood at the hospital earlier in the day.
Laughter from across the room drew her gaze back to the lovers at the other end of the café. Her thoughts drifted back to him again.
See, she had met him here fourteen years ago on her twenty-third birthday. It was her first year in the new city after graduating from college, and she had just started working as an administrative assistant in a popular advertising agency. She had come in to pick up ice cream on her way home, she hadn’t made any friends yet so she was going to eat her ice cream and sing her self a happy yet lonely, birthday song.
He had walked into the café with his sister Maria. Maya immediately recognized her from the university. Although they weren’t in the same department, Maria always said a friendly hi to Maya. Today was no different as Maria introduced her to her brother, Ken. It was Maria’s birthday too and he was treating her to her favorite ice cream. His smile was so captivating Maya couldn’t help but smile back. She had felt a spark then. Now that she thought about it, it was obviously one-sided, because here she was, married to another and there he was seated and loving exactly the same type of cream in her salad that she did. Who would have thought Ken was gay.
They all had hung out after they met in the café lots of times afterward. They had a great relationship, her, Maria and him. Then as months went by it became more just him and her as Maria traveled a lot. She fell in love with him but she always had this feeling that he treated her like a little sister. No matter how many hints she gave him that she wanted more, even when the hints turned to her making a fool of herself. She was a beautiful girl and any man would want her. Just not him. He was different. Now she knew why, but why did she still feel betrayed?
Back then the same-sex relationship was frowned upon. She thought maybe because of his family’s reputation, he had kept a low profile about his sexuality. Maybe that was why he couldn’t love her the way she loved him. Maybe if he had shared his secrets with her, things might have turned out a little different, just maybe. They had been such good friends and so close to each other that people always assumed they were together. On the night of his twenty-sixth birthday, they had too much to drink and they ended up in her bed together.
It was the best night of her life.
Till he broke her the next morning, saying it was a big mistake. She couldn’t forget his last words to before he walked out of her bedroom.
“I care for you too much to make you resent me Mia, and I don’t want both of us to be hurt in the end. This was a mistake”.
Well, he still hurt her in the end because she was already in love with him. If only he had told her, maybe she won’t be keeping this huge secret that will end up hurting him too. When the offer to be transferred to a completely new city came in, she jumped at it. She had only informed Maria two days before she was to leave. Though neither Ken nor she had told Maria of what happened between them, she knew Maria had suspicions about her hasty exit.
Three months later after she moved, she had found out she was pregnant with his child, she had wanted to tell him, but she didn’t want him to feel trapped, after all, he had called what happened between them a mistake. She had called to tell him after she gave birth to their beautiful daughter, but he never picked, and he never returned her call. She was so hurt again, she promised herself she never would again. She stayed in the city even after the new office kicked off to build her career and raise their daughter Amber, who not only got her father’s beautiful eyes, which also resulted in her name but most of his traits. She met Lucas her husband five years later, they only dated for a few months before he asked her to marry him. She agreed because she knew he was in love with her and adored Amber. Who wouldn’t? She was the most beautiful child, as beautiful as her father. Now they were so close, like two peas in a pod, he was almost closer to Amber than his own biological daughter.
Maya always found a way to avoid topics relating to Amber's father and his whereabouts, even though she told Lucas all about him when they were dating, he realized it was a painful subject and never ever brought him up. When Lucas informed her about the great job offer in the city where she had run from, she was reluctant to move at first. After a little persuasion from Lucas and realizing it would not just be a great chance for Lucas but for her and the girls, she agreed to move back.
Maya was still thinking of how much Amber and her father had so much in common just as the so-called Amber came rushing into the Café door, all her thirteen year old beautiful long self looking exactly like a mini version of her father, her two new friends Zoe and Adanna followed nosily behind, as Amber shouted immediately she spotted me and her sister from across the room;
“Mommy, Mommy, can I go to the movies with Zoe and Adanna after we pick up Daddy from the airport?”.
Almost everyone in café turned to know what the raucous was about, including Ken and his lover. Maya's heart skipped a bit as soon as she noticed him look at Amber, then his eyes darted towards the figure she was calling Mommy. He did a double-take as soon as he recognized her, his eyes moved back quickly to Amber as she got closer, past where he and his lover were seated and headed towards her. Maya could bet he got a good look at Amber because she noticed he stood up abruptly and froze, his eyes never leaving Amber’s passing figure. She knew right away that today was not going to end up like she expected it to. She would have to answer questions she has dreaded answering for thirteen years.