I just purchased a blue dress and a black and red flats. Success. I’m pretty proud of how fast I’m able to finish this mall trip and to reward myself, I think I’ll get some ice cream. Double Dutch sounds good, I can taste it in my mouth already.
Coming to the ice cream stall towards the center of the mall, I see three men standing with their backs on me, ordering their own favorite flavors. The first guy is a large, potbelly man counting change from the vendor, eating his pistachio ice cream. The other one in an orange shirt just received a chocolate cone. The third one… Oh, shit.
The third one is a tall man with short, brown hair, in a white polo shirt with black piping that I know all too well. My feet want to turn around but it’s too late. He turns his head and smiles, looking at me.
“What are the odds?” he says, his eyes widening in surprise.
“Hi James,” I reply dryly, as dry as an over baked cupcake. Maybe I’d have meringues instead of ice cream. Yes, meringue is good. I do not wait for him to say anything again and try to walk past him but he grabs my hand confidently, like we’ve agreed to meet here all along.
“Just one sec. Colleen!”
A little girl about three years old runs in our direction and excitedly receives the ice cream from his uncle. Colleen is the daughter of his oldest sister. I knew this because he has been posting her photos on his Facebook wall from time to time. He bends to give her some tissue and I find the opportunity to retrieve my hand.
“So you’re babysitting?” Damn, I shouldn’t have stayed to chat. I should have bolted. IDIOT.
“Yes, Marga’s out with the girls and Colleen won’t go with anyone else except his favorite uncle. Right, Colleen?” She looks up to him and nods, violet streaks of the ube ice cream staining her face. “So what are you up to?”
I lift my shopping bags and finally will myself to go. “Bought some stuff. Anyway, I should go. Have fun with Colleen!” I didn’t wait for him to respond. I turn my back and walk as fast as my feet will take me, not once looking back, keeping my arms close to my body the first few seconds to make sure they aren’t up for grabs from James’ long, perfect basketball player reach.
As I take one step after another, my heart hammers like crazy. I’ve not seen or heard from him for quite some time. Why the hell do I have to stumble upon him right now? Damn. I shake the unnerving feeling off and head towards the bake shop with the meringues. I pick a pack of six and head for the counter. My meringues get scanned but before I hand my payment to the cashier, two small hands, grab my free hand. Shit. Are my hands that long and wide for everybody to grab?
“Mommy! Mommy! Can I get a cookie?”
“You have a lovely daughter,” the old lady at the cashier tells me. Jesus Christ. Do I look that old to have a three year old daughter? I swear when I see James I will punch him so hard in the face. I tell the cashier to hold it and get Colleen a cookie.
“Where’s James, Colleen?” She points to my left and I turn.
“Hi, sweetheart.” He comes in the store, grabs one of Colleen’s hands and kisses me. KISSES ME. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. “Let’s go and pay for your cookie and Mom’s meringue.”