I’d know her anywhere. I was taken aback by how much she’d changed and yet remained the same. She had filled out a bit more. Her hair was longer. But when she turned and smiled, I saw the same woman I’d fallen in love with four years ago.
I moved closer to her and began to extend my arms to embrace her, but I stopped once I noticed her right hand was being occupied by a smaller one. The hand belonged to a little girl with wild, curly hair and bright brown eyes. My heart stopped. She was beautiful.
“So how are you? What are you even doing in this area?” she asked.
The little girl tugged on Quinn’s hand and gazed up at her. Quinn scooped the child up into her arms and rested her on her hip. I was mesmerized.
“Congratulations on the wedding.”
“Thanks. Had to grow up sooner or later, right?”
“I guess so. I know you made her so happy. She’s a great woman. Don’t goof.”
“I’m trying. How did you-?”
“I heard from a mutual friend of mine and her’s. Kelly.”
I looked away for a moment. She knows Sam’s friends. I knew better than to have invited her to the wedding. Even if I could have found her. She moved out of the complex and quit her job at the restaurant. After the day I showed up at her apartment unannounced, we avoided each other for weeks. I wanted to talk to her but every time I’d see her, it was clear that she didn’t want to communicate with me any longer. Then one day, she was gone without a trace and I had no choice but to continue with my own life with Sam. I loved Sam and wanted to finally be who she deserved. Within the next two years, we moved in together, got engaged and got married. It all happened very suddenly but Sam was happy, so I was happy. Quinn was gone and I assumed she was moving on with her life just as I had. Three years passed since I’d seen her last.
My attention was drawn back to the child. I couldn’t help but stare. She peeked at me, then hid her face in her mother’s hair.
“Thank you. She’s all I’ve got.”
“What’s her name?”
“McKenzy. But we call her Mac.”
“Hi,” she said in a small voice.
“How are you? Its nice to meet you.”
She stared at me. A thoughtful look spread across her face. She must have been about three years old. Just then, my heart stopped. Was I crazy?
Her name could barely escape my lips. She looked me in my eyes then looked away.
“You have a wife.”
“Is this my child, Quinn!?! You’ve had me living my life in the complete dark for the past three years! I was thinking that you just wanted things between us to end, but you were running away with my flesh and blood?!”
“I didn’t run away. I found out after I decided to leave. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?!”
“Because what good would it have done, Ryan? You weren’t leaving her. I didn’t want my child to be a scapegoat for a coward.”
“Yes. If you weren’t afraid to be honest and to take a risk, you would’ve left her. But you were comfortable. You married her, Ryan! You made your choice.”
“You made it for me!”
“I just knew what would happen before you did. That’s all.”
I looked at the child again. My daughter. She was a spitting image of Quinn. But I could see myself in that face. How could Quinn possibly think that what she’d done was okay?! To just vanish and have my child without me ever knowing? I wanted to scream. I wanted to cause a scene. I wanted to take my daughter into my arms and cry. I looked back at Quinn and tried to keep my emotions in order. I noticed a locket hanging from her chain. I’d given it to her as a gift on her birthday years ago. I hadn’t thought much of it and it was the only gift I’d ever gotten her. She never wore it when we were still speaking. She had said she was trying to find a picture to put in it. She noticed where my attention had gone and opened the locket to reveal what she had finally put in there. There was a photograph of she and Mac on the right side and on the left a photo of she and I. We didn’t take many pictures together. In fact, we didn’t take any at all except for that one photograph. She’d found one of those disposable cameras laying around her mother’s house and brought it home to finish whatever film was left over. She said she didn’t have enough real pictures and she wanted to start a photo album that wasn’t only accessible through Facebook. But I never knew if she got the picture developed or not. That day was the happiest we’d ever been. We spent the whole day laughing. That was the day I knew I loved her. That’s when it wasn’t just an affair anymore. I felt myself getting chocked up. This was all too much.
“I won’t ask for anything from you. We’re fine. No money is needed. I just want you to be happy. That’s all I ever wanted for you. And you are. One day, when she’s older, I’ll tell her everything about us. How her mother and father made some mistakes but in the end there was a beautiful product of those mistakes. If she wants to find you and have a relationship with you, and vice versa, then I will not be in the way of that. But right now, I don’t want her to be the reason that your life possibly falls out of place. “
“Sam can’t have children.”
“Oh my God, Ryan.”
“We found out a few months ago.”
I touched the little girl’s hair. I fucked up.
“I never stopped loving you, Quinn.”
“Maybe if you hadn’t started at all, you’d be better off.”