Authors: Rhonda Marks
, how’s Javier?” Elise peered expectantly over the rim of her coffee cup in her friend’s direction.
Nitika simply stared down at the pie before her and said nothing. She didn’t have anything to say really. The block was still on her phone, so she had no idea if he’d tried to call or not. “Don’t know.
Haven’t heard from him lately.”
Carefully setting down her cup, Elise reached out and smacked Nitika on the hand.
“Ow! Whatcha do that for?” she asked, rubbing the sore spot.
“Because I know you did something stupid.
Tell me now!”
Still eying her friend cautiously, Nitika scooted out of her reach. “He hasn’t called lately.”
e went a week without calling—”
“So let me guess, you blocked his number.
Or stopped returning his messages.”
Nitika opened her mouth to explain herself but gave up without trying. Instead she nodded her head. Elise didn’t understand her position. She needed to protect her child.
And her heart.
“Isn’t he in Europe? Spain?”
“Well, maybe he was in a location that didn’t have cell service. Ever think about that, Sherlock?”
“Aren’t we Ms. Sarcasm today?” Nitika stood and walked over to the stove and picked up the teapot. After topping off their cups with hot water, she filled the pot and turned on the flame to heat it again.
“I wouldn’t have to be if you acted right.” Elise paused for a second before speaking. “He’s not your father, you know. Nor is he any of those losers you dated.”
“I just can’t take the chance, Elise. Tesia is going to be better off—”
How is she going to be better off, Nitika? The child loves her father. Don’t do this to her.”
“I can’t have a man in her life
who doesn’t do what he promises.”
“I can’t believe what you’re saying. This man had no obligation whatsoever to come forward and help you and Tesia. He could have gone on his merry way and ignored the request to see if he was a
stem cell match for her. He could have stayed anonymous like he was assured when he donated his sperm. But instead he stepped forward and gave Tesia the gift of life a second time.”
Choking back tears, Nitika began to tremble. What had she done? The second best thing to happen in her life, and she’d screwed it up. A man she now knew she loved with all her heart, and she was acting like a teenager.
She sprang up and ran to her home phone, quickly undid the block and performed the same operation with her cell. A slew of ‘missed call’ messages cascaded down the screen, making her heart sink further and further into her belly. He had tried to call!
She slumped into her chair and cradled her face in her hands.
What had she done?
“Look who’s here, Mommy!” Nitika whirled around in her seat and found her daughter walking hand in hand into the kitchen with Javier. He was here and by the look on his face he was not happy with her. And she didn’t blame him one bit.
“Hey, Tesia,” Elise said a little too brightly. “Let’s go to your room and play for a while.”
“But my daddy just got here!”
Love Bug,” Javier said as he stooped down to give his daughter a hug. “Daddy will come up after he’s done talking with mommy, okay?”
“Okay.” Elise took her by the hand and Tesia skipped out of the room. Nitika licked her lips and ran her hands down the front of her pants. What was she going to say to him?
“Hello, Nitika.” Javier took a seat and coolly eyed her.
. Would you like something to—”
“I couldn’t reach you.
Home phone, cell phone. I thought something was wrong with Tesia.”
“I’m sorry. It’s just that when you
didn’t contact me, I thought—”
“You thought I was doing the same thing to Tesia that your father did to you, right?”
She lowered her head and turned away from him. The scraping of his chair made her quickly look up. “Where are you going?”
“To say goodbye to my daughter.
I’ll be in touch regarding visitation.” With that, he turned and headed for the stairs.
“Wait!” Nitika sprang from her chair and grabbed hold of his arm. “Please, let me explain.”
“What’s to explain? You placed me in that same box with your father and the other men who broke promises to you. Instead of giving me the benefit of the doubt, you wrote me off as another liar.”
“I’m sorry. It’s just that I don’t want Tesia to suffer like I did.”
“That little girl upstairs is my heart. I may not have had her in my life as long as you, but that doesn’t mean I love her any less.”
Her voice quivering, she replied,
“You said you’d call me every day.”
And I did, until we travelled to my host’s villa in the mountains. There was no way I could contact you from there.” He again started for the stairs, leaving Nitika staring after him. Suddenly he stopped and turned to face her. “The ball is in your court, Nitika.”
Those words hung in the air as she watched him climb the stairs. What was she going to do now?
you ready to go?” Nitika peered up the staircase and shook her head. Today was Tesia’s first day back to school and the child had changed her clothes three times already. “Baby, pick an outfit and get downstairs. You need to eat before we leave.”
Nitika smiled as she put the finishing touches on their oatmeal and poured steaming cups of hot chocolate. It had been a long, hard struggle, but her baby was in remission and cleared to interact with other children. Three months ago she thought this day would never come.
Three months ago she had no idea that a man she now freely admitted she loved with all her heart would walk into her life, either.
And now it’s been two long weeks since he walked out that front door and gave her an ultimatum. “The ball was in her court.” But she had no clue how to play the game. Or if she wanted to do so at all.
She’d placed so many barriers around her heart over the
years, she honestly didn’t know how to remove them. Protecting herself had become second nature, just like getting up each morning and combing Tesia’s hair. Anyone who dared to breach her barricades were quickly rebuffed and sent packing.
So why’d she let Javier get so close? Everything would be just fine now if she’d simply kept her heart and libido under control.
Part of her wanted to say the hell with him and go back to living like she had before, focusing all her energy and attention on Tesia’s well-being, ignoring her own longings. For a man and a loving relationship. For peace of mind. For a normal life without the burden of distrust weighing her down.
In the back of her mind she knew that she could have all of that and more if she simply allowed Javier to step inside her heart. But fear of what could happen blocked the door to their possible happiness.
She knew that the only one who could open that door was her, and she needed to make a decision soon. Javier still came around to see their daughter, barely tossing a word in her direction when he walked in the door. Truthfully, she couldn’t blame him. By the expression on his face, he was hurting just as much as she. And she held the key to end their suffering, or maybe a new beginning for them all.
Tesia bounded into the kitchen with a wide smile on her little face, cutting Nitika’s too-bad-so-sad session short. Today was all about her
baby and her return to school. She’d have plenty of time later to think about herself. Yeah, plenty of time.
“So, has she come around yet?” Antonio stabbed a piece of calamari with his fork and popped it into his mouth.
“No,” Javier said glumly. He took a sip of his soda and cast his gaze in the direction of a family sitting near their table in the restaurant.
The father joking around with his daughter while the mother fed their son. Pain gripped his heart thinking how that could be him and Nitika if she wasn’t so stubborn.
It hurt him to the core
every time he went to her home to see Tesia. He had to keep repeating to himself that she needed to make the next move in their relationship. She needed to get over her mistrust and see that he only wanted the best for all of them.
“So what are you going to do about Tesia? Have you considered getting a court order for visitation?”
“For right now I’m holding off on that. Nitika lets me come by anytime to see her.”
“But will that continue?” Javier shot his
brother a dirty look and Antonio held up his hands. “I’m just asking, bro.”
Javier blew out an exasperated breath. “I’m sorry. I should
n’t be taking out my anger on you. It’s just that I don’t understand what’s going on in her head.”
“Well, the attorney in me has to advise you to get something in writing. You don’t know when or if things will get better between the two of you. And I can see how much you love that little girl.”
Emotions clogged Javier’s throat, making him set aside his fork and bow his head. A few months ago he was focused solely on his job and climbing the proverbial corporate ladder. While he still loved his job, he now had another goal in life; to become the best father he could be. And if a certain woman would let him into her life, a good husband.
“You’re right, Antonio. I’m going to give her another week to come around.”
“I’m betting that she will,” his brother said as he lifted his glass. “To your future happiness, little brother.”
The pair clinked glasses and took healthy swigs of their drinks. Javier prayed that his future included both of his girls.
That would be his path to happiness.
Nitika smiled and waved goodbye to Tesia as she was swallowed up by a group of giggling little girls. Despite some major misgivings on Nitika’s part, her baby was attending her first sleepover. Ever. She gave Tesia her meds before leaving home and left a long list of instructions for the girl’s mother, just in case.
“Don’t worry, Nitika,” Ellen Dunn assured her with a pat on the arm. “I’ve got everything under control. And I’ll keep an extra eye on Tesia.”
“Thank you so much. And if you need anything, I’ll be home, okay?”
Now go and do something for yourself. You deserve it.”
Nitika turned and slowly walked away, her mind in a whirl. Was Ellen right? Did she deserve anything for herself? Was she worthy?
The question scrolled through her head like a movie marquis as she drove home then pulled into her driveway. She cut the engine but did not get out. Although she’d planned on catching up on work with Tesia away, she suddenly wasn’t in the mood. She needed to talk with Javier. Get this, whatever they have or had, straightened out. Her pulse quickened just thinking about seeing him.
As she turned the key in the ignition and put the car in reverse, her back-up signal dinged, indicating something was in her path. A quick look in the rearview mirror made her gasp. Javier!
As if he had all the time in the world, he walked up to her driver’s side door and leaned over to talk with her through the open window. “Hello.”
“Hello yourself,” she said breathlessly.
“I, um, came to pick up Tesia to take her out for a bit.” He peered into the backseat and frowned. “Is she still at daycare?”
I just dropped her off at one of her friend’s house. They’re having a sleepover.”
Disappointment appeared on his face and he swiped his hand down his handsome face. “Guess I’
ll be going—”
“Wait,” she said a little too loudly as she hopped out of the car. “I mean, I don’t know what I mean.” His expression changed to one of confusion now. “Would you mind coming inside so we can talk?”
He dipped his head and locked his car doors with the remote. After she hit the button for the garage door, they slipped inside the house and into the kitchen. Nitika was keenly aware of him following her. She could feel the heat radiating off his body mixing with hers.
“So what did you want to talk about?” he asked while leaning against the doorframe.
“Have a seat. Please.” She began to wring her hands as she paced back and forth. “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.”
“Us. You, me and Tesia.” She dared a peek at him and found him staring at her with a stern look on his face. He wasn’t going to make this easy for her. Not that she had a right to easy.
She took a deep breath, lowered her head, and let her heart do the talking for her, hoping he’d understand. “I’m sorry for my actions, for doubting you. You’re definitely not like any other man I’ve met and I was wrong for lumping you in with them.
“It’s just, you know, hard to recognize the good in a person when all you’ve encountered throughout your life is the bad.” She stopped and dared to look at him. Her pulse quickened when she found him within inches of her, a slight smile on his face.