They were sitting outside a small café and having lunch when she saw him. He came out of the bookstore across the street. He was thinner now than he’d ever been even during those months when he’d been training for the Boston Marathon. She’d heard he was sick, that the prognosis wasn’t good, but this was the first time she’d seen him in a long time.
At first, just after they broke up, they would see each other at an occasional road race. One time, early on, they saw each other in the grocery store. Her cart was loaded down with all the food necessary for a huge Thanksgiving feast. Both Michael’s and her parents were coming as well as Michael’s older brother, his wife, and their three boys for dinner.
Everyone wanted to see the new house she and Michael had spent months renovating and had finally moved into. Located right across from the park, it could now be described, in one of those glossy upstate real estate guides, as a stately brownstone with a gleaming marble fireplace, shimmering hardwood floors, and luminous stained glass windows. When they had purchased it, the home had simply been listed as having a good location and a solid foundation but in need of tender loving care. She and Michael quickly discovered that even the foundation wasn’t sound.
All Nathan had in the basket he carried was a container of vanilla yogurt and a pink bottle of a generic upset stomach reliever. She wanted to stop and ask him how he was, but Nathan just nodded at her and walked past, his long, loping stride quickly taking him away from her. She felt the baby kick then and she placed her hand on her stomach.
They had been lovers for over seven years, a year less than all the time she’d been married. In fact, she’d met Nathan on her first wedding anniversary. Michael was away in
As she made her way through the park, she noticed that the tulips were beginning to blossom. They came in all colors--orange and red, bright yellow, lavender, a pale white. Their heavy heads swayed in the warm May breeze. At one point, she was so captivated by the sea of colors that she ran right into Nathan, who, in response to her apology, asked her if she wanted to go for a drink.
They went to O’Malley’s up on
After that, they met one or two times a week at Nathan’s place. When Michael was home, she said she was going running, she had errands to do, she was meeting a girlfriend for a drink. She became quite adept at lying.
She lied to Nathan, too. She told him she wanted to leave Michael, that she was unhappy in her marriage, that she wanted to be with Nathan. At first, he didn’t pressure her, but then when she told him that Michael wanted to have a baby he began to argue with her telling her if she did that she would be trapped forever.
“Are you crazy?” he asked. “I thought you wanted us to be together.”
She didn’t answer him. Instead, she knelt before him and began to unbuckle his pants.
The day she found out she was pregnant she told Nathan she didn’t want to see him anymore, that it was over between them. He didn’t look at her. Instead, he stared out the restaurant window and just watched the snow fall. She didn’t tell him about the baby.
When the Isabel was born, everyone remarked how much she looked like Michael, but she couldn’t see it despite how many hours she studied her child’s face with its long black lashes, straight nose, and arched eyebrows.
She cried a lot and everyone attributed it to her having the “baby blues,” but that wasn’t it at all. She missed Nathan, especially the way he’d made her laugh when he told her about how an old girlfriend and he used to eat Chinese food while they were naked in bed. She loved the story because she couldn’t imagine herself being so free. As soon as she was finished making love, whether with Michael or Nathan, she pulled on one of their shirts which always fell to the middle of her thighs.
For years, she longed for Nathan. Sometimes, when Michael was touching her, stroking her, moving inside her, she had to keep herself from calling out Nathan’s name. She believed she’d made a mistake, but one day just after Isabel’s sixth birthday, she realized that she didn’t miss Nathan anymore. That was the same day she recognized that her child had same half-smile as her old lover.
Now, as she watched Nathan cross the street and turn left going up towards the Cathedral of All Saints, she couldn’t help but noticed that he seemed to have trouble walking. He limped as if his left hip bothered him.
Michael reached across the table and took her hand. “What’s the matter?” he asked.
“Nothing,” she lied, just the way she had all those other times.
MARIA POLLACK has had short fiction published in The Detroit Jewish News, The Little Magazine, The Loyalhanna Review, Wings, Quantum Tao, Art Times, Urban Desires, Lily, The Angler, The Green Silk Journal, The Picolata Review, Word Riot, EMG-Zine, Blue Print Review, Chick Flicks, Boston Literary Magazine, The Late, Late Show, and The Ghost in the Gazebo: An Anthology of New England Ghost Stories.