It Must Be Love
Maria awakened her senses to the smell of freshly brewed coffee and the sweet smell of pastry. With her eyes half open, she levered herself on her elbows, wondering how she had managed to fall asleep when the night had been that of absolute torment. But it seemed exhaustion had been more powerful than desire.
Rubbing what was left of sleep from her eyes, Maria inhaled sharply and fully opened her eyes to see Leon pulling on a shirt with a smile on his face.
“Good morning,” he greeted. “I hope you still like having breakfast in bed,” his eyes slanted to the tray on a small table. Steaming coffee, orange juice and what seemed to be croissants.
She admired the gesture which resulted in the quirky smile that tipped her lips. “I do, but you didn’t have to,” she softly said, reflecting on the days in the past when he would wake her up to breakfast in bed and gentle love making after. As hard as it was to forget the past, she also found that certain reminders sparkled joy deep down within her.
He shrugged. “I wanted to,” he said, moving towards the tray, where he took it up and placed it beside her on the bed. “Eat up.”
Maria glanced at the tray and tentatively reached for the coffee, where she took a needy sip. Closing her eyes at the sheer pleasure that the taste of the warm liquid brought, she released a satisfied. “Mmm.”
She opened her eyes to find Leon with a smug smile on his face.
“You remembered,” she stated.
“Black and with three cubes of sugar. Of course I did,” he pointed out rather proudly.
She smiled, finding satisfaction in his declaration. “Thank you,” she said, taking another sip of her coffee, but paused when she realised he wasn’t eating. “Aren’t you going to eat anything?”
He appreciated her concerned gaze. “Nah,” he made a face. “I’ll just continue watching you eat.”
Although finding it a bit awkward, she couldn’t ignore the empty pit in her stomach that demanded to be filled. And plus, how could she ignore the sweet taste of the croissant, mixed with the almost overpowering effect of the coffee. Within minutes, she was through, leaving an empty plate with just a few crumbs and a mug with coffee barely covering the bottom.
“Good girl,” Leon complimented. He always liked when women ate, always hated when they were too cautious about what they ate or the possible calories that they would ingest. He had been happy when six years ago, he had found that Maria was not such woman; she ate and she loved food, but then again, Maria could never be compared to other women. At least, that was what he thought.
He got up and walked to his laptop – clearly he had been doing some work before she had awoken, considering the fact that it was open.
“What time is it?” she asked suddenly.
Her reply came in the matter of seconds. “Almost nine thirty; I’ve got to head into town to take care of some things before we head up to the lake house. I hope you don’t mind staying here with my mom until I get back,” he explained with his eyes still dutifully strained on his laptop.
Maria threw the covers from her lower body, swinging her legs off the bed. “No, I’ll be fine.”
He spared her an intent glance. “Are you sure?”
She nodded, moving slowly towards the balcony directly in front the bed, which had the huge double doors as entry. Hugging her shoulders despite the warmth of the morning, Maria carefully walked on the outside.
The coolness of the wind against her skin felt refreshing and the view of the huge garden and lawn below was simply astounding. Maria closed her eyes and heavily breathed in the freshness of the air– not the polluted city air she had lived in, in New York. This was clean and unadulterated oxygen.
“Nice, isn’t it?” Leon’s firm voice came.
She instantly nodded. “Very… What encouraged this spot?”
“I was heading to a charity auction with an old friend of mine when I passed the sign that said ‘For sale.’ Of course it didn’t look at all like this when I first saw it but I don’t know, something about the place captivated me…I don’t know if it was the sereneness of it, but I loved it. I immediately got in touch with the owners and transformed it into this; I thought it’d be big enough for a houseful of children someday.” Maria could see the admiration in his eyes and hear it in his voice as he spoke with so much pride for his undoubtedly exquisite home.
Her heart skipped a beat at the mention of children. It was something they often talked about years ago. Maria had said she wanted two and Leon insisted on four – maybe five of replicated Maria’s with the personalities and looks that matched hers. It seemed so strange to them now; years had passed without a single communication method among the two, but somehow fate gave them hope that while things may not have happened at the time they had planned, it still could, regardless of the gap.
“I’m proud of you,” she said softly and for a brief moment their gazes locked until Maria decided to break the contact by looking away.
Leon cleared his throat. “Likewise,” he smiled. “I better get going so I can be back in time to head up to the lake house. I’ll try not to be long.”
A heartbeat of silence passed before Leon lowered his head and pressed his lips to her soft cheeks. Heat suddenly flooded Maria’s body, leaving the redness at the place where he had kissed.
He was gone in the next second, just like the kiss but his presence lingered behind in the form of his musky and heady perfume.
After Leon left, Maria went downstairs to find his mother humming and skipping through a magazine.
“Oh!” she exclaimed when she saw Maria. “At one point, I thought you were hiding from me,” she chuckled. “Good morning.”
Maria smiled as she approached the woman and sat on the cream colored sofa opposite her. “Good morning.”
Sarah placed the magazine to the coffee table, crossed her legs and leveled her gaze at Maria.
“You know you broke my baby’s heart all those years ago,” she began coolly, smile still in place.
Maria swallowed, feeling the knot that suddenly tightened in the pit of her stomach. “I’m sorry. I guess it was all some misunderstanding,” she cleared her throat.
Sarah chuckled. “You don’t have to get all nervous dear. It happens – heartbreak is a part of life. You can just imagine how I felt when I found Sean cheating on me, it felt like someone was slowly using a blade to rip open the vessels of my heart. To hear that your husband is cheating on you is one thing, but to find him straddled to the bed post in furry pink handcuffs, is another thing,” she laughed lightly, ignoring Maria’s widened eyes.
“I felt lost and completely void at the time, but how could I ignore close to a hundred text and voice messages daily, asking for forgiveness. He did a lot of crazy stuff to encourage me to forgive him and of course I didn’t right away, but I found that in order for me to make myself whole again– be happy, I had to put back that missing piece of puzzle in place. I didn’t realize that until some weeks ago… and I guess the point I’m trying to make here is, people will make mistakes, we will make mistakes but a mistake or two does not define who we are, it is the knowledge we gain from that mistake, that does. You’ll be surprised to know what a strong emotion love is…it’ll make you do things that you never thought possible.”
Maria smiled, reflecting on her life, or rather the relationship she had with Leon.
“You know, Leon was never himself after you guys split. He got so immersed in his work that I thought it would lead to his demise. He no longer laughed or made anytime for his personal life, the spark he always had in his eyes, was gone but I saw it again last night. Thank you.”
Maria only smiled, thinking that regardless of what transpired after Leon reentered her life, she felt happy to see him again, to touch him, to experience the love she once thought was lost.
She still loved him, she realised, in fact she had never stopped loving him.
The strong revelation of her heart, left Maria breathless even though her body was still and her mind was the only thing running. Her palms suddenly felt sweaty and her throat constricted as she tried to fathom the desires of her heart.
A soft chuckle jerked her from her thoughts, she flashed her head towards Sarah, who was smiling with a gleam set in her eyes. “You’re just realizing that you still love him, aren’t you?
How did she know? Maria panicked. “Yes,” she said, almost breathlessly.
The elderly woman nodded. Simply nodded without saying anything else.