Family . . . I have always thought I knew the dynamics of a family, but given the fact that I never had a conventional one – my point was moot.
Was he really that confident that I would acquiesce the second to his order, without any arguments?
To hell with him!
I’ve had been living my life just the way I wanted it – him, without breathing down on my neck and me, enjoying my freedom best suited to a successful bachelor like me – but he just couldn’t stay put for a while. He very much felt the need to disturb me in any way he wanted and make my life a living hell without giving me any respite.
Padre sure knew how to manipulate people around him and his corporation darn showed how successful he was with his craft. He basically summoned me to New York without telling me any reason and I almost gave him the middle finger if not for my mother who more or less implored to my softer side.
Now, he’s directing me to leave my comfortable life in Italy – away from mom and my own business – in return to handling his chain of hotels. Did he thought I was crazy enough to leave everything I worked hard for in exchange to his millions if even billions? Yeah, he thought alright. What did he say?
“It’s time you own up to your name and embrace the fact that you are a Reifsnyder all throughout. I’m giving you a month’s time to wrap up everything in Italy and live here in New York. You are my only heir and I expect you to continue my footsteps and our heritage.”
Wow. He was really something, ordering me around, talking about expectations, and at the same time giving me an ultimatum – the best father ever. He didn’t even ask or wonder if I was willing to go through his plan, he just assumed.
Well, he had another thing coming for him if that’s what he thought.
I walked out of his daunting office without a glance. Too pissed off to think of doing anything else to distract myself, I grabbed my camera from my car. There’s nothing more calming for me than capturing images and bringing it out to life. Slinging the professional camera on my shoulder, I hardly prevented my mind from venturing into another reason why I hated my father with such ferocity.
I could not help but scowl at the beautiful lady in front of me as she didn’t seem to have any sense of direction. Seriously, I told her to steer the boat to the left but she inadvertently directed it to the right and now, we seemed stuck here in the middle of the lake. She had an amused expression as she smiled apologetically but then changed to that of a sly, but at the same time sweet innocent smile of hers.
“Okay let me row the boat alone sweetheart,” as I sighed clearly frustrated.
“Fine,” she chirruped clearly relieved that she didn’t have to hold the paddle, which according to her was heavy. “It’s was your idea to rent a boat so don’t complain.” as she gave me a challenging look.
Yup it’s my idea and now I’m regretting it . . . but I don’t ever regret approaching her.
“It looks to me that you’re into water sports or something then honey,” she teased me and she seemed to like riling me up and seeing me control my outburst for this stranger in front of me.
I closed my eyes briefly, taking a break from shooting daggers at her directions as we were still in the middle of the lake.
She’s teasing me and man she had charms. I could not hold on to being annoyed with her because seeing her smile made me feel like I accomplished something.
Right now she’s far from that woman I saw earlier...the woman I saw yesterday who seemed to have been caught in the middle of the crossroad trying to decide where to go. That’s the downside of having options but sometimes, without options life sucks more.
I could definitely sympathize with her.
That’s one of the reasons why I, a guy who could drown my misery with a bottle of whiskey was here strolling in the park. I mean, could I get any manlier with this? Instead of going to bars and clubs or doing some man stuffs to relieve myself of my building frustrations about my father, here I was rowing the boat to get a woman to talk to me.
When I saw her last night, when I saw those pictures of her, I had this urge of seeing her again and I would not even confess what I did last night.
I had a hunch that she would come here again and I was right.
Curiosity led me to this.
“Okay, sweetheart why don’t we start talking about yourself then. Humour me please while I enjoy paddling this boat all by myself,” I said sarcastically to humour her instead but her expression changed and her face became diffident, and I worried for a moment there if I said something wrong. She really has a lot on her plate and she’s hesitant on telling me.
“I won’t judge,” I urged her as I made a promise sign.
She sighed and then blurted out the question I wasn’t expecting.
“Do you have a child?”
I gaped at her. My mind short-circuited for awhile and I almost shivered with fear. With how tumultuous my relationship with my father was, having my own kid was the last thing on my mind.
“No. I’m not that careless. What does it have to do with your situation?” I asked seeming confused as to where our conversation was heading.
“Are you planning to have babies in the future?”
“I – don’t know,” I considered her question even though it made me uncomfortable. “Yeah, maybe in the future but not at the moment, I am somehow enjoying my bachelor life which would not be for long now,” I stated abstemiously.
I mean having a baby is a big responsibility and I have lots of those right now.
“So are you a bachelor going to be engaged, I suppose?”
“Hell no!” I answered abruptly with voice raising an octave, clearly abhorred by the idea. I wouldn’t dream of being tied up to someone else. Having my imperious Padre was enough, grazie mille.
She snorted. “You clearly are going to be in the very near future based from your reaction.”
“Why is the table turning suddenly? You’re supposedly the one to share your life’s greatest dilemma and not me,” I reasoned pointedly.
“I thought you’re going to share yours too,” She replied matter-of-factly.
“Well, yes later but right now it’s your turn. Ladies first as what they all say.”
“Wow that does applies to this also?”
“So . . . ?” I prompted obviously brushing off her question as she was clearly stalling from telling me what was going on with that pretty head of hers.
Wow. Man, I just realized that I was willingly ready to listen to a woman’s whims.
This is not so good...but I like it. This is crazy. Shit.
“I’m planning on having a baby.”
She did not just say that, did she? I almost choked on my saliva as I stopped paddling.
What am I supposed to say? Wait...she’s taken already? My chest suddenly constricted from that thought and I didn’t know why.
“So, what’s wrong with that? Just tell your boyfriend or your husband that you wanted to have a smaller version of yourself. I don’t think that’s complicated enough.” I was having a hard time masking my disappointment if ever she’s taken already. Merda! I should have thought this through before I decided to be a nosy bastard.
“Err...I don’t have a boyfriend or a husband,” as she looked away from me somewhat embarrassed and I was glad she turned away. I didn’t want her to see me letting out a sigh of relief.
Why was she embarrassed if she’s single? I didn’t have a clue as female’s head are always complicated. Just look at my beloved madre, still loved the heck of my father even though she was only second best after his damn hotels. I stopped a long time ago understanding her feelings for him.
“Then start dating or hooking up with someone,” I suggested. Shit! Did I just say that?
“Funny how people are giving me the same advice in a day.” She snorted and rolled her eyes. “If it’s that easy, then I would not be here sharing this with you instead I’ll be in a bar hooking up with some guys,” she said dryly.
I furrowed my eyebrows considering what she just said.
“Okay, so spit it then. Tell me what’s bothering you really,” I urged her while I was expertly paddled the boat through the waters of The Lake.
“I’m going to have a baby through artificial insemination,” She breathed after some hesitation.
What the hell? I stopped rowing the boat and looked at her like she’d grown two heads in a matter of seconds. I opened my mouth but nothing came out so I closed it.
I opened and closed my mouth again but I seemed at a loss for words. I looked like a floundering fish for sure and she was laughing at my expense right now.
I narrowed my eyes at her as the corners of my mouth tugged upwards. She’s just teasing me, I thought to myself.
“You’re shitting me, right?”
It took her awhile to compose herself. “No, I’m serious though,” she told me while smiling and when I gazed deeply in those mesmerizing eyes of her, I knew she was serious.
I furrowed my eyebrows and finally I sighed. “You’re crazy,” as I shook my head.
This is unbelievable, women and their weird and crazy brains.
“So I’ve been told,” She just snorted but I could see the determined glint as she stared back at me.
What should I do with this kind of conversation? Should I encourage her or put a damper on things instead? Surely there’s a reason. Yeah, ask for her raison d'êtres.
I was momentarily distracted by the mere fact that I was talking to myself. It’s weird man.
She has plain chocolate-brown eyes alright but they surely were expressive. Those were the ones that drawn me to her in the first place. I was walking aimlessly last night and aiming my camera to random things around this park when it captured her. It was a wistful memoir of a woman staring straight across the statue in front of the Bethesda fountain with her hair being swayed by the cold night air amid the mists of waters from the fountain. It was just another hit and miss shot but when I zoomed in, I had to do a double look between the photo and the woman standing a few meters across from me.
I only had one adjective for it...beautiful. Lei è bella.
And right now I couldn’t believe that I was talking to her and nonetheless with a sensitive topic for sure. Am I such a jerk to pry on her private and personal matters?
But I was too far gone now to pretend that nothing with those things she said mattered. In fact, it boggled my mind and I knew that there’s more to what she’s letting on. This was a bizarre subject for me to talk about and I was not an expert with talking emotionally with a woman, well except with my mother, but that’s a subject for another discussion.
This was crazy. How many times do I have to mention that word?
But if craziness was all it took to spend time with her, then so be it.
Right now, she’s passing what she just told me as some casual occurrence like it’s natural for it to happen, but she couldn’t fool me. Her eyes told me other things. Behind her strong and determined facade of I-don’t-care-what-you-think-of-me, was the woman full of insecurities and uncertainties. I haven’t had a clue as to why women always feel that way so maybe I should ask my own dear mother about it but right now, I had better things to decipher.
I lied, okay. I never did tell a stranger my problems.
“You know, I once told a stranger my problems and it felt good. I felt some release and felt like the big elephant in my chest was finally out. You should try it you know, talking to someone who will not judge you because they don’t know you.”
“Let’s then agree on the terms of not mentioning each other’s name and on the value of confidentiality. I can tell you my problems and I can also listen to your qualms. Is that a deal?”
Imagine the brouhaha it would do if I did it, I mean my status back home in Italy would make it very impossible. I just read something about it somewhere and it just came out my mind when I decided to make her talk to me. It was a blind shot but nonetheless effective. I made up my mind to enjoy her company before my life gets crazier here in New York. I was keeping a low profile for now until that dreaded time of announcement my dear father threatened me.
Wait, was I really considering to acquiesce to my father’s order of living here in New York? Merda!
“Will you care to share what warranted this decision?” I asked politely without giving away that I was momentarily distracted. I didn’t want to come out too strong and overbearing that she would run for the hills.
Her eyes shifted to anywhere but mine and I could see wariness and indecision in those chocolate-brown eyes of hers that she tried so hard to not show.
“You don’t have to if you’re not comfortable,” I amended trying to give her an option and some breathing air.
What I’ve learned so far with spending so much time with my mother was that you don’t want to force women in doing things they don’t like or you’ll regret it. They’ll either cower back to their hard shells, or you’re going to hush a crying lady, but the worst is dealing with a mad tigress.
She smiled at me softly and gently with gratefulness layered in those eyes and it smacked me hard. The vulnerability projected did something strange to my body that I froze in the middle of paddling the boat. I was overwhelmed with the passion of protectiveness towards her.
She sighed loudly. “I’m finding the right words on how to tell you without seeming outrageous but I cannot find them other than saying that I was sick.”
Sick!? That’s the first word that registered in my stilled brain. I have enough of that word for these past days!
That was my initial thought as my jaw hardened. I had the urge to punch something but instead ran a hand through my now messy hair and even the calming rhythm of the water around us could not salve me. I almost forgot where I was or whom I was with as I lost my thoughts to my own misery if not for the smell of sweet vanilla in the air. Then I blinked and there in front of me a woman with her swaying hair in the air. When I gazed at her eyes, my breath caught up in my throat and my own bad mood deflated suddenly like when a balloon is pierced. Those eyes melted my heart when I saw the raw vulnerability and fear in those and the abrupt surged of protectiveness almost knocked the breath out of me.
That moment alone made the decision for me.
I composed myself and gave her a reassuring smile, and I almost yanked or grabbed her hands which were twisting nervously in her lap but I controlled myself. I didn’t want to frighten her at all. Then what she said earlier really registered in my mind. ‘I was sick.’ And that eased out the constrictions I felt earlier. But my heart thudded with for a different reason.
Then again it hit me. I was worrying for this stranger of a woman in front of me but I’m not the least bit fazed.
“Will saying ‘I’m sorry’ makes you feel any better?” I asked her earnestly.
“No,” as she sighed loudly. “It wouldn’t change anything but I appreciate it.”
“You’re okay now though, right?” I just had to make sure.
A soft smile graced her smile as she tilted her head and nodded. Just like that the dullness in those eyes was replaced by the twinkling lights.
I figured then and there the sunlight within her that she constantly fought hard not to extinguish. And in that moment, I so wanted to protect and brighten it more. Just like that my admiration for her notched up.
“Can you be my date for tonight?”
I’ve never been asked by someone to be their date with that amount of vulnerability and insecurities. Usually women who were interested on me would stride with confidence and flirtingly asked me out. But she was very different. She once again looked anywhere but me. But when she finally looked up, the insecurities and fear of rejection were showing up on her eyes but in a blink they were gone.
I admired her, for despite the uneasiness I could hear in her voice, she managed to square her shoulders. I admired her will to be courageous, to win against those self-depreciating thoughts she acquired while battling over her condition. After she told me what really happened to her, I couldn’t imagine a teenage girl going through what she braved for.
There’s nothing more attractive than a vulnerable but brave woman.
And now, admiration’s keeping me here by her side.
It was bizarre, for somehow I found myself the strength I needed to win my own battle I was struggling right now.
She must have interpreted my pause as a ‘No’.
And who could say no to those eyes?
“Are you sure? I mean do you trust me?” I asked thoughtfully. I wanted her to be confident with her decision. We’re basically strangers to each other even though it didn’t feel like it at that moment. But I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t happy with her asking me out. I would be saying ‘Yes’ the instant but I didn’t want to be seemed too eager.
“Yeah, I guess considering I already spent a few hours with you.”
“You guess huh, well in that case I’m honoured to teach you and let you experience the dating thing sweetheart.”
It was one of the most spontaneous things I did recently considering the current situation I was in. Being with her - riding the carousel and biking, and just the fact that I was holding her hand - were like the sweet escapes I needed.
I didn’t know where it started but I couldn’t seem to let go of her hand. I couldn’t let her slip out of my grasp and then I started worrying about the limited amount of time I had with her. Eventually the night will end and we’d be back to our own reality where she and I didn’t exist.
Because I wanted her to know me better, as odd as it was for at the end of the night our separation’s inevitable, I decided to bring her to my two most meaningful places here in Manhattan.
Cielo’s like my mother’s playground whenever she was here. It’s like a heaven to her and that’s where the name came from. I wanted her to have some taste of Italian cuisine, so without informing Bert, the manager, I dragged her along to the restaurant.
The staff seemed surprise to see me entering without my buddy Matthew and instead tugging a woman inside the restaurant with nonetheless our casual clothes that were sort of out of place considering the amount of high-profiled people dining there. One meaningful look at the receptionist made her scramble off to her feet and arranged our table. I caught a sight of old Bert standing by the corner and shaking his head in amusement, giving me a thumbs-up sign and I reciprocated him with my own crooked smile as Andrea and I walked up the stairs to the second landing, while some costumers were eyeing us curiously with raised brows.
Bits by bits, I learned a lot of things about her as she started opening up to me as I told her some of the anecdotes in my life. That’s the thing I learned about her: when you open up to her, she’ll open a page in her book and let you in; when you tease her, she’ll tease you back. But I could feel her reservations which were normal I supposed, considering the fact that we just meet a couple of hours ago, so we’re basically still sort of strangers to each other.
After our great time in Cielo, I decided to bring her to my own sanctuary that didn’t fail to relax me at the end of a stressful day. I came to that place almost every day since I arrived in the city a couple of days ago. It was just very stressful for me these past days with the meetings with my father and the rollercoaster of emotions associated with it.
I brought her at the top of the Reifsnyder Hotel where the beautiful rooftop garden was located. The garden was a private place as what my father’s instruction and for special people only and with my status, it was always free for me and I liked it.
The fact that I was showing a lot of important things to her had me worried.
Not for this beautiful girl with me but for me.
I was worried and scared for myself because of the fact that it was so easy for me to open up to her and to let her into my life.
What happened to basking in the glory of bachelorhood?
We had a lot of fun talking in there, and I could see her relaxing and temporarily forgetting whatever it was on her mind when I saw her sitting on that bench having a distant look.
When you willed the time to go faster it just went like a lazy turtle, but when you wished for the time to stop so that you can savour the moment, it just flew by without you noticing it. I was cursing for whoever controls the time when my moment with my Bella on the rooftop came to an end and she was going home already. I just wished I knew her name already but that would violate what we had agreed earlier.
Because I just couldn’t let her go yet, I decided to walk her home. She disagreed at first but I could be persuasive if I wanted to and besides, I already knew where she lives. That sounded like I’m a creepy stalker. Well, last night didn’t feel like it, the voice inside my head insisted and I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to share with her what I did last night.
I sighed inwardly. I just really needed her name and it was making me crazy to think about the thought of just letting go of this beautiful night. I couldn’t help but stare at her face, a minute longer when the time for goodbyes was in front of our faces already. The whole walk from the hotel to her apartment gave me enough time to decide and that encounter with some drunken men earlier solidified my decision.
This is not the last time we’ll see each other my Bella, I told myself as I tried to memorize her face. I chuckled when her face reddened as I traced her face with my thumb.
“I had fun tonight. I’ll see you around then my Bella.”
When her lips parted as I traced her jaw, the urge to kiss her was too much for me so I dropped my hand on my side. I couldn’t do that to her, can I? That’s what I’d been asking myself as I saw her sauntered inside the lobby of the building and waved her hands at me. I stuffed my hands on my back pocket, trying to control myself.
Every step she took was a step away from me, and I didn’t know what to do with it. I just had an incredible date with an equally incredible woman and I just stood there in front of the lobby of her building letting her slip away from me. Dio, what was happening to me? Then it occurred to me, we had a date and we’re still on a date until she enters her apartment and closes the door. So with a renewed strength, I almost ran inside to the building hoping that she’s still there and when I saw her waiting for the elevator door to open, I could never be happier.
“Bella,” I called when I was only a few inches away from her. My voice was husky with the anticipation of what I would do next.
She twirled around and her beautiful brown eyes widened in bewilderment at me.
“We forgot the most essential part of the date,” I told her as I stared at her deeply.
“And what is that?” she asked confusedly.
I could see the wheels on her brain turning on with the furrowing of her brows, so before she could think too much and before I lost the nerve to do what I intended to do, I take a bold move.
“This,” was the only word I could utter as I descended my lips on hers. It was that moment our lips connected when I realized what I’d been missing since to complete me. And I swore I felt electricity coursed through my body.
You know that fleeting moment of realization when that thing you most wanted was just at the tips of your fingers, threatening to slide out of your grasp at any instant so you needed to savour it when you still could, before it floats away? That’s what I’d been feeling.
I cupped her face in both my hands and made circular patterns along her cheeks and just kissed her gently. It was a sweet kind of slow kiss and I didn’t feel the need to deepen it or thrust my tongue into hers for at that moment, at that simple yet intimate moment, everything in me unravelled and made me into this whole new person. That was such some cheesy line, man you’re losing your damn head.
I felt a stirring at the bottom of my stomach when she responded to that kiss and that had me gasping for air as that simple action sucked me in deeply. I should be afraid but I found myself eager to be pulled even to the unknown realms if it means being with her.
This is really dangerous! But I ignored that voice.
But time is something we humans cannot by design control.
As the elevator door opened, it’s for me the closing of the most special day. But how could I complain when I knew it’s the start of something new I have yet to discover?
No words were spoken between us after that, and as I stared at her backing away to the open elevator with a bashful smile on her lips, I knew that she brought with her something of mine, but strangely, I didn’t feel any emptiness.
Would it feel weird to say that I felt completeness after that for the first time? You are already not in your usual self, man.
So I looked intently at her for too long until the elevator door closed, wondering why this stranger woman elicited a turmoil of emotions inside of me. Before the door completely closed, a plan was firmly formed in my head.
I had a goofy smile on my face as I sauntered out the building of her apartment, but a single phone call temporarily erased it all and my plan to be forgotten.
“I’m on my way to the hospital now,” I hastily replied, almost cursing and with a faster beating heart as I didn’t have time to make sense of whether it was from the kiss, or for the news I just received as I hurriedly got in a taxi.
But before the chaos ensued, I promised myself one thing.
I was going to find her again.