"She's all grown up."
I stared towards the shrinking line ahead of me. I couldn't bring myself to face them. The promise I made many years ago and my dogged decision to honor that promise kept me from acting out the desire to just embrace them.
This was not part of our agreement.
The world was too large we had thought then, and my leaving the place where we 'happened' should have eliminated the possibility of us meeting like this. We aren't supposed to meet again. We had decided to pursue different paths that would insure the remoteness of the chances of us ever meeting again.
Who am I kidding? The world is a small place.
More so in the present when every citizen is mobile and the restrictions of travel are fading every moment.
I should have been prepared for this but the truth is, no one is ever trully prepared. Even when they chose to forget and convince themselves...
Behind me, I heard her rapid breathing. A pall of silence had settled, the atmosphere around getting heavier by the moment. Nyssa squirmed between us. Doubtlessly, her mother held her in a tight grip. This was harder on her mom, it seems.
"Mmm." It was barely a whisper. I could sense the sad pain behind her answer.
Sofia was never really that strong. She wore her emotions on her face and voice. A delicate flower, she was. It makes you want to hold her, to protect her. I swallowed the anger that welled in my chest as I recalled the past which pulled us away from each other.
Suppressed emotions tugged at my heart. I ached desperately to hold her hand which irritated me. I thought that I am past those feelings... but my hammering heart and clammy hands proved otherwise.
I was still in love -
I hated that as much as I liked it.
"Where's John?" I regretted the question as soon as I uttered them. Maybe I want to hurt her.
I heard her sob quietly behind me. I chided myself for opening such a touchy subject. I made an effort to turn around and comfort her but I stubbornly held fast as soon as my body started to turn. I feared for my own control if I gave in. I bit my lip. It's better this way, I reasoned.
I felt Nyssa break free from her mother's grasp. Sofia was definitely crying. She was weak when she cried. I can remember clearly those moments when she dropped things when she gave in to her tears. I grabbed Nyssa as she squirmed past me. The little girl looked up at me, disappointed that she was unable to escape.
I smiled sheepishly at her. She gave me an exaggerated pout then smiled in resignation.I loosened my grip on her but gave her a slight squeeze to remind her that she shouldn't get away. I welcomed the distraction.
Nyssa gave me a small nod in understanding. Looking at my daughter who didn't know me took me into another train of thought.
Is she really my daughter. Legally, her papers wouldn't list me as her father. That honor would be John's. I swallowed the resentment that realization drew out.
And I was never there for her. Does that give me a right to her?
What makes a man a father anyway?
I have no answer.
I felt a sudden warmth on my back. Sofia had leaned on me, her head nestled on the small of my back. A soft grip on my coat anchored her. I felt her rapid breathing through my clothing and her silent sobs sent waves of melancholy through my body.
My mind warred with itself.
The world once more dissolved into a motley swathe of grayness...