Blooming flowers, green trees, I used to love this season. In fact, it's my favorite season because I get to show off my pink dresses instead of hiding them in coats or cardigans.
But today, I dig my simple midi black dress at the back of my closet, the one I always wear on April 5th.
She would be five this year.
For four consecutive years, this day fell on working day. This year, it falls on a Saturday.
My best friends must have realised this too that's why they flied here early this week, just to be with me. What would I do if they're not in my life. I would've died if not for them.
"Hey," Hugo sounds stressed on the other line, "I'm sorry if I'm disturbing you on a weekend but-"
"It's okay, just about to have brunch with my friends. Why? Is Pao okay?"
"She's going to her friend's birthday party today and I'm supposed to take her there but uhh-"
He doesn't need to say anything else because we've done this too many times, "I can go with her."
"Thank you so much Elle! This thing came up and I really can't ditch it. Owen's busy today so, you know I won't bother you if it's not important right? I'm so sorry, Elle."
"It's okay, we'll have girls day today. I don't mind." I really don't. If there's anything I look forward to in my life, it's those days that I get to spend time with her.
And I'm grateful Hugo and Owen trust me enough to bring her out for our girls day almost every weekend. Even if it's just two hours of lunch and nail painting.
After picking up the little girl in her pretty pink dress, we went to her friend's house for the birthday party. I've pushed back the brunch to accompany her then around lunch time, both of us join Kimmy and Cleo at Owen's restaurant.
To be honest, I like his branch in London better but the one in New York is not too bad. Fully booked since months away, I'm glad I have a special ticket to come by anytime I want.
"Oh wow, I like your dress!" Cleo compliments her as soon as we arrive at the table.
She smiles sheepishly as she politely replies, "Thank you. I thought I'd match with Tia, but she wears black today." Just like that, the smile turns into a frown.
It's sweet really, when every time we plan to go out she'd wear pink just to match with me. Or sometimes other colors if I tell her beforehand. But mostly pink since most of my wardrobe is in that color.
"I want chicken pie too, please." Yes, she definitely adores me too much that she'd copy anything I do or eat or own.
I should be flattered but at the same time afraid if I'd give her bad influence. Though Owen and Hugo welcome it since she has no female figure considering there are only two gay dads and five older brothers.
"Papa!" She suddenly shouts in the middle of the restaurant when we're enjoying our food. Kimmie and Cleo turn to him then look at each other, sending coded messages that I am very familiar with.
Owen hasn't been at the restaurant much the entire time we've been friends here in New York. He seems to focus on Pao, her precious diamond that he chooses to stay at home and be with her. Though once or twice a month he'd go to the office for the monthly meeting or any important matter.
So to see him walking towards us in a sharp black suit, black dress shirt, and black tie, with matching black shiny shoes, on a Saturday, my whole being vibrates knowing he hasn't forgotten about our daughter. He's mourning too.
Because he never gave away even one hint that he still remembers her. He never told Pao she has an older sister, he never told Pao I used to be his wife, he never mentioned anything about our past to anyone. At least not in front of me.
And that 0828? I never asked him about it. I brushed it off thinking it probably meant nothing, just an easy-to-key-in numbers.
"Papa why are you here? What are you doing here? Are you working?" Pao is being her usual chatterbox as he leans in and kisses her forehead.
"Hello ladies," he nods his head as a respect to my friends before turning to his baby girl, "Yeah I'm working today. Did you have fun at the party?"
"Yesss!" Pao squeals in excitement as Owen shoves her off her seat and takes her on his lap, sitting on the empty seat next to me. She keeps on blabbering about the party to Owen while my friends are trying to communicate with me using their eyes.
Yes, he's still hot.
And no, he's not straight anymore. He's somebody's husband for God sake! Stop it guys. Drool on the available, single, ready to mingle men, leave the poor married man alone!
"Why didn't you tell me you and Tia are gonna wear black! I wanna wear black too!" She pouts and crosses her arms on her chest.
Owen awkwardly looks at me as I return the same to him. Both of us remain silent until Cleo jumps into the conversation, "But I'm wearing red, and Kimmie wears blue. We can be rainbows. Red, blue, pink, and black."
"There's no black and pink in rainbow." Ahh, this four year old is clearly too smart for her age.
"I'm gonna start my IVF next week."
I swear his neck almost snapped by how fast he turned his head towards me. He is such a protective father that he'd always keep his eyes on Pao whenever we're at the playground but now, he's staring at me without even blinking.
"My gynae told me my egg count is lower compared to last year. She suggested I should do it now if I really want a baby."
He doesn't say anything but the shock has subsided. Though he still looks at me without minding about his daughter so I turn my eyes to the girl. She's still playing with her nanny at the playground.
"It's been five years. I think I'm ready to do this again."
He sighs, but a second later he stretches his right arm and pulls me into a hug, gluing my face right to his chest. My one traitorous tear escapes as he rubs my back with his hand.
We remain silent in the same position until I've gathered some courage to distance ourselves again.
"Cleo will stay with me until the whole thing ends. So in case Hugo or you can't make it for Pao's ballet class again, and I'm too tired because of the treatment, it's okay. We've got Cleo to pick up Princess Pao." I wink at him to lighten the tension between us but he's not having it. There is still worries on his face.
"Oh come on! Don't you miss Estelle the Lioness? Estelle the whiny?" I bring out all the nicknames he used to call me when I had mood swings back then, both during the treatment and my pregnancies.
"Estelle the Sex Maniac."
I laugh too loud remembering how I actually chased him during my second trimester. I was so uncomfortable during the first trimester that when I felt a lot better during the next trimesters, I harassed him into sex almost every day eventhough he's too worried to even fuck me, afraid if he'd shake the baby out.
I smile seeing the small curve on his lips, "Hope we won't see her again. Because Santiago is out of the picture."