Danika was about a block away from Café Tranquillité when her sister Freya texted. She briefly glanced at it, but barely read the words. She picked up pace. It was a cloudless summer day and the heat pulsed on Danika’s bare skin. Drops of sweat dotted her forehead and she thanked the gods who created sweat-proof mascara. One more corner and she would escape the heat and enter a safe haven of air conditioning and coffee.
A group of five teenage kids were just coming out from the café, iced drinks in hand and chipper chatter all around. They were oblivious to the world, to Danika slipping through the double doors before they closed behind them. She plopped onto the plush armchair across from Freya, a pretty girl-next-door with round blue eyes that screamed “help me please”. Her chestnut brown, waist-length hair and her tendency to dress in pastel colours and lace added to her soft demeanor, but Danika knew better than to underestimate her. Danika, in contrast, had a short pixie cut she dyed light pink since her parents’ divorce. The shaved sides revealed a slender rose tattoo behind her left ear, thorned stems sprawling down towards her neck, two rose buds about to bloom; the fully bloomed rose had tints of red, the rest of it black. Her own eyes were almond-shaped and dark brown, a feature she disliked. She took solace in wearing black; it was easy to mix and match, and she trusted that it always looked good even if she didn’t feel it. Although open to different types of fabric and styles, everything had to be black—and not just any black—the same black. Danika would like to say her clothes were all #000000 black, but in reality it probably was something like a midnight black. Freya once asked how she knew they were the same black, to which she responded, “I just match whatever I’m wearing that day with what I’m about to buy. There’s no mistake once you put it side by side.” Despite their differences in style, Danika and Freya began shopping together two years ago and had not done so apart since. Shopping now took double the time, but neither of them wished to break the bond they’d discovered since the first day they met.
“Well…? What’s the occasion?” Danika picked up the cup and saucer in front of her and sniffed.
“What do you mean, what’s the occasion?” Freya shifted in her seat, “It’s a hot chocolate.”
Danika took a sip, it was cold. “We never meet here. We always came together,” she looked up from her drink, “And your text was so weird.”
Freya scratched the nape of her neck. She watched Danika take another sip, the light pink lip gloss softly imprinted on the rim just barely noticeable. Their eyes met for a moment and the corners of her lips lifted ever so slightly.
“Hi there! My name is Kara, may I take your order?”
Danika looked up at the waitress and down at her hot chocolate, then across the table at Freya’s drink. “Umm.. I think—”
“Oh, we’re fine, thank you,” Freya said, her hand moving the cup closer to her.
The waitress nodded and resumed clearing tables.
“What the heck?” Danika ran her hand through her hair, “Okay, stop fidgeting and tell me what it is. You’re making me nervous.”
Freya sat up straighter, “Sorry, sorry. Look, I’ve never had a sister before and I think we’re getting on pretty well…”
“Oh my god, Frey, I love you but are we really doing this?”
“Let me finish!”
Realizing the gravity of the situation was beyond her expectation, Danika fell silent. Her brows furrowed as sad thoughts tapped into her mind and fleeted away. Did I do something wrong? Is she sick? Is she leaving? Are mom and Chris breaking up? WHY IS SHE TAKING SO LONG?
As she snapped back into the present moment, she realized Freya had continued her profession of her love and their relationship. It can’t be bad news. In the corner of her eye, she saw the waitress returning, and so were the droplets on her forehead. What if she’s had enough of me, like dad and Dom? The pounding of her heart added to the distraction from Freya’s words, but she tried her best to concentrate.
A shadow casted over them both.
“What did I miss?”
Danika looked up to see a tall young man, his brown hair cropped short like her own, a friendly smile on his chiseled face. He looked at her and his smile faltered for the briefest moment.
“So… I was working up to this…” Freya said, “Meet Joshua! The boy I’ve been telling you about!”
“Newsroom boy...?” Danika said quietly, her mind putting a face to the 2-month collection of Freya’s giddy stories. A face so comfortably familiar...
Danika couldn’t stop staring at Joshua. Those intense green eyes, the way they seemed to only relax when he smiled; those pale pink lips, how she’d thought they seemed to never go dry every time she kissed them; and that scar on the left side of his temple, the one he earned in a fight defending her seven years ago. Josh.
Memories flooded back, some repressed, some long-forgotten. Seven years ago, when her parents filed for divorce, Danika got angry. She was angry at her parents, angry at her brother Dominique, angry at the world. Her father had been abusing her mom mentally and emotionally for years. Danika was too young and innocent to notice until the damage boiled over and her mom demanded a divorce. Dom was older and he checked out, leaving Danika to pick up their broken mother. The divorce took a long time, and so Danika acted out. It was so long ago, she still had her wavy brown hair that she liked to wear in a long ponytail. Maybe Josh wouldn’t even recognize her at this point. She recognized him, he had barely changed. That same scar looked larger than she remembered. Seven years ago, she picked a fight with the bullies at school. One day, when she wasn’t paying attention, they ambushed her next to the gym. Lucky for her, she was waiting for her boyfriend at the time and he showed up just in time to block the attack. Or at least two swings before he took a bat to the head. He had to have 10 stitches to patch that up… and it still scarred.
… Danika, Danika…
“Hey, are you alright?” Freya asked, her hand on Danika’s shoulder.
Danika looked at her and then back at Joshua, his hand stretched out waiting for her. She stared into his eyes, searching for some sort of recognition. He looked down at her, his face friendly. Maybe he doesn’t remember. She stared harder, willing her thoughts and their history into those piercing green eyes. For a moment, she sees it. His smile changed. He was still smiling but she knew it wasn’t a smile for Freya’s sister, but a smile for Danika with the ponytail. She couldn’t quite explain it, yet she knew. He nodded, “Hi.”
“Hi, I’m Danika. Nice to meet you.”