My upcoming book, Soul Tie, explores the disastrous consequences of poor decisions in life. The protagonist, Tamara Castellan, suffered emotional neglect during childhood and, as a result, made a hasty marriage choice.
In this scene, Tamara and her step-daughter Kateryna step out to the coffee shop to escape the stultifying atmosphere of their home life. They encounter Gil Payne, Tamara's associate whom she believes she should have married.
As Kateryna and I strolled through the front door of the Regent thirty minutes later, my long-time dream finally came true. Gil was seated alone next to a frosty window, sipping a steaming cup of coffee.
He smiled in greeting and waved us over.
"There's Dr. Payne," Kateryna informed me needlessly. My heart skipped a beat as we stood next to him a moment later.
"How wonderful to see you both," Gil began, quite pleased. His fond demeanor and the kindness in his eyes were like a door opening to another world. "I'd be delighted if you could join me."
Nodding happily, I followed suit with Kateryna as she slid into the other side of the booth.
"Can I buy you a cup of coffee, Tamara?"
I laughed. "Thank you."
"Kateryna, let me guess. Hot chocolate?"
She nodded enthusiastically. "Yes, with lots of whipped cream, please."
The server appeared, and Gil ordered our drinks and instructed her to put them on his tab. He wore a light scarf around his neck and his red plaid jacket. As he engaged in small talk with Kateryna, I began to experience a tremendous aching in my heart. This was how life should be, I knew. A pleasant closeness enveloped us, and Kateryna's face fairly glowed under his solicitous attention.
It made me all the angrier at Blaine for his emotional desertion, especially of Kateryna. I planned to walk away, but Kateryna would suffer from years of deprivation. A thought suddenly occurred to me. As a child, I had endured what lay ahead for her.
But of that, I could not assume blame. Kateryna's fate was fixed even if I'd waited and later met and married Gil. She would not have even had me, not that my troubled presence provided much solace.
Kateryna spoke naturally and smiled under Gil's calm communication, and I wished he were ours—mine and Kateryna's. I wished we could go home with him to his beautiful, faded yellow two-story house with the worn couch cushions and live with him forever.
I momentarily imagined that Gil and I had our own baby—a little brother or sister for Kateryna. Several months prior, I had dreamed I was pregnant with Blaine's child. In the dream, I had begun to scream. Upon awakening, a tremendous sense of relief filled me, not because I didn't want a baby but because the thought of being tied to Blaine for another eighteen years left me horrorstruck.
"A penny for your thoughts," Gil remarked, rousing me from my reverie.
I sipped the coffee that was now before me to hide my shame. If Gil only knew! What would be his reaction? Fortunately, he would never know, or I'd surely lose his precious friendship forever. "I was thinking about babies," I replied truthfully.
"I see." A baby was seated nearby and making a fuss, and Gil looked over momentarily.
"Do you have any children?" Kateryna asked him.
He turned back to her with a smile. "No, unfortunately. I'm afraid I'm an old bachelor."
"Is that like an old maid?"
Gil laughed. "Yes, I suppose so."
How inequitable it was that Gil would probably never be a father! The disquieting thought bothered me to no end. I wanted him to be a father. He, of all people, should have been a father. But his wife had perished in a car accident, and in the ensuing years, he'd lived alone with no children to console him.
And I might never have a baby either, I realized. After I left Blaine, how likely would I ever marry again? My heart had transformed into a leaden ball in my chest. Every man I knew, Gil excepted, was not in my mind marriage material. None of my friends were what I considered to be happily married. My parents had divorced, and my mother's second marriage was the most dysfunctional I'd ever witnessed.
Gil didn't ask me if I planned to have a child, nor did Kateryna. No one ever did, now that I considered it. Perhaps they all sensed what a debacle my marriage indeed was.
"Have you decided what your plans are after you graduate?" Gil asked. His brown eyes twinkled behind his glasses.
"My father says she has to quit school," Kateryna informed him. "He thinks she's too busy."
Gil's expression quickly changed, and he grew concerned. "Well, I don't think you should, Tamara. I know it's not been easy, but you're almost finished. In my experience, students who withdraw from the program rarely return. With all its responsibilities, life can overtake our best intentions."
Gil was the only person who had advised me not to quit. He, alone, had my best interest at heart.
"I'm not going to withdraw," I told him. "I'm going to finish and then find a meaningful job. That's why I put myself through all this effort in the first place."
"Good for you," he said, smiling again.
Kateryna nodded in agreement, hand wrapped around her warm cup. "When I grow up, I'm going to get a Master's degree, too, just like my mommy!"
It was the first time she had ever referred to me as her mother.