“Love you, Honey, and goodnight,” Theo said before pulling his body closer to his wife, June and hugging her.

“Love you,” she replied, settling in his arm and within seconds, they were asleep.

About five years ago, while a tall, curly-haired twenty-one-year-old Theo sat on the white and yellow public bus, another traveller stood beside him. She was about his height, and her braided hair perfectly fit her features.

“Can you hold this for me?” she asked him.

He looked up from his phone and quickly dropped it into his blue-striped waistcoat pocket to relieve her of the several books in her hands.

“Thanks,” she said and sat beside him.

They introduced themselves, and when they arrived at the bus’ final destination, he offered to carry the books to the next bus she was about to board. She accepted his offer, and they exchanged numbers with her, promising to buy him a coffee or something for his help. 

Later that day, he called her, and about three years later, they were married, and their son, Sam, was born the following year.

Sam was a peaceful baby. Well, except for when he was hungry. When Sam was hungry, the entire fifteen-floor apartment complex seemed to hear his voice. Then, when his hunger was gone, he would play with anyone and anything, including his toes.  

Theo thought Sam’s features were a photocopy of June, and if he took anything of his, it was his appetite. However, the first time Theo’s grandmother saw Sam, she said to him, “You look just like your father when he was a baby like you.” Theo wanted to agree with her, but her eyesight had gotten worse throughout the years, and there were no baby photos of his to support her claim. The photos were gone because a house fire destroyed them when he was about five.

When Sam was about one year old, Mary, one of Theo’s older cousins by his father’s side, was visiting from out of town. June was talking with her mom on the phone in the kitchen, and Theo had rushed to the washroom a few minutes earlier.    

As Theo returned from the washroom, his socks’ feet made no sound on the smooth, light, grey carpet. His aunt was sitting on the long pink and white flora chair in the living room. Her back was to him, and she was playing with the baby, who was playing with his colourful stacking toy.  

Theo’s lips parted to announce his return when his aunt said in a low voice, “If I didn’t know better, I would say that you look a lot like your daddy’s best friend.” Theo froze, and a few seconds later, June entered the room.

Theo went through the rest of the day like a zombie, but his mind traced every interaction he remembered between his best friend, Nigel and June.  

Nigel and Theo became friends on the first day of kindergarten and remained that way. Nigel was and still is like a magnet to the opposite sex, but his relationships rarely lasted more than two years.  

Why is that?  Theo wondered.

Later that night, or rather, earlier the following morning, after feeding Sam a bottle of breast milk from June, he quietly studied his sleeping son’s features. June was written all over him, and maybe a little of Nigel? Maybe Nigel’s pointy ears? He yawned.

This is crazy, he thought. I should just ask Aunty what she meant.

Theo sat in a dark blue upholstered rocking chair in Sam’s room. A fluorescent wall nightlight lit the room, and Theo smiled at his son. He carefully got up and gently returned him to the white pine crib Nigel gifted them. Then Theo returned to his bed.

After slipping under the covers with June, with her back to him, she whispered, “You are so good with him.”  

“Nah, he’s just easy to please, that’s all.”

“Just like his dad,” she breathed before soft snores escaped her.

Two afternoons later, Theo, dressed in dark grey jeans and a burgundy long-sleeve sweater, sat on Nigel’s black leather couch. Pizza and barbecue chicken wings were on the oval glass and chrome table in the living room of Nigel’s studio apartment.

“Are you okay, man?” Nigel, dressed in a brown sweater and black pants, asked. He sat in the same chair as Theo, with a cushion between them.

“Yeah. Why?”

“Since you came over, you seem a bit off. Are you sure everything’s good?”

“Yeah, yeah, man,” Theo replied before biting into the mincemeat pizza in his hand.

A replay of the One Day International cricket match between Australia and India was on the black and grey TV in front of them. 

“Okay,” Nigel said before putting the tin of pop in his hand to his lips.

“Man,” Theo said as an ad came on, “When are you going to settle down and have a family?”

Nigel laughed.

“When the time is right. It’s not right, right now,” he replied.

“Why not? You have girls falling all over you since kindergarten.”

He chuckled, then, looking down at the drink in his hand, said, “Yeah, but none of them ever look at me the way June looks at you, and that’s what I want, and I’m willing to wait for it.”

Theo searched Nigel’s face for a few seconds before nodding, then smiling; he grabbed the cushion between them and hit him on the arm.

Nigel laughed, the ads ended, and the cricket game was back on the TV.

Although he did not forget his aunt’s words, Theo buried them deeply in his mind as several years passed and his son grew older. Theo was rushing home from work a few days after Sam’s sixth birthday when his friend Nicole texted him. She wanted them to grab a coffee, but he asked for a rain check. However, at her insistence, they met up at Henry’s Cup.

Henry’s Cup was busy but not packed with customers when Theo and Nicole arrived simultaneously. They both ordered carrot muffins and coffee, then made their way over to a table with a view of outside. Nicole worked in the mall selling hair products and was still in her working clothes, which were a white shirt and a black skirt. Her once curly hair was straightened long ago, and make-up graced her beautiful face. 

Theo’s lips parted, his young face suddenly aged, and he struggled to form words.

“What did you just say?” he finally managed to ask.

“I’m sorry, Theo,” Nicole said, “but I couldn’t let another year pass without letting you know. Sam is not your son. You’ve raised your best friend’s child for six years!”

                                               To be continued

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *