A week away from the wedding, mom was busy with preparations. She had asked for my help confirming the final head count. She needed it to finalize the dinner reservations and guest seating arrangements. I was seating in her office, when the phone rang. It was Mariana on the phone. She asked mom if she could stop over. She was already on the way and would be there in a few minutes. Mom said it would be fine.
Mariana arrived a few minutes later. She seemed upset. Mom asked her what was wrong.
She said, “Maritza has been in an accident. She was at work when a shelf fell and hit her head. She collapsed on the floor. The paramedics took her to the emergency room, and she is undergoing surgery as we speak. I am on my way there right now, and since I had to drive by here, I figured, I stopped in and tell you, personally.”
Mom exclaimed in disbelief, “Mariana, I am so sorry to hear that. Let me grab my purse, I will ride with you to the hospital. Genevieve, follow us in my car. I will ride with Mariana; she should not be by herself at this time, OK?”
“OK, mom, I will. Mariana, what about the baby?” I asked.
“We don’t know.” Mariana said with a slumber look in her face.
Mariana looked devastated. This was to be her first grandchild. She had no idea if the baby was all right.
Mom drove Mariana to the hospital. I followed them. On the way, I thought about Maritza, the baby, and Arturo. No matter what my feelings were for Arturo, I needed to be supportive. I could not imagine what it was like to possibly lose a child, even if it was not born yet. Arturo must be devastated. His fiancee is in surgery; her life is on the line. The baby’s life depends on her survival. I was getting ahead of myself.
We arrived at the hospital and walked up to the surgical floor. Arturo and his dad were there, already. Mariana and mom walked up to them. I stayed behind. I could see them talking and how upset they were. A few moments later mom came over and filled me in.
I heard mom say, “Maritza is still in surgery. The shelf cracked her skull. When she arrived at the hospital, the baby was still alive.”
“Mom, that is awful, but at least the baby is alive,” It was all I could say.
We both sat there, quiet. Neither of us could speak a word. Mariana came over and sat with us. The three of us stayed silent. I could see that Mariana had been crying. Her eyes were swollen and red. A few minutes later, Arturo and his father, Gerardo, walked over and sat by us.
The wait was unbearable. We were all growing impatient. Mom and Mariana were talking to keep themselves occupied. Gerardo was reading the newspaper and Arturo was watching the news. I was browsing through a magazine.
Gerardo got up and said he was going to get coffee and then added, “Would you all like to join me?”
Mariana did not want to go, so she asked if he could bring her some back. Mom decided she would stay with Mariana. Arturo did not want to go, either. I agreed to go along with him.
Gerardo and I went to the cafe and bought coffee and muffins for everyone. We each had our hands full on the way back.
“I hope this coffee tastes as good as your dad’s.” Gerardo said, as he smiled.
Gerardo was tall like Arturo. He was a well-spoken man. I had known him since the day I was born. It had been a while since I had seen him.
“Genevieve, you are all grown up now. You have turned out to be a beautiful young lady.” He said as we were getting in the elevator.
“You know, Arturo, always, asked about you. I think he had a crush on you for a while.” He looked at me and winked.
Gerardo was making nervous conversation. I could see that he was worried.
I tried to lighten the conversation and replied. “I think we all get crushes on those we grow up close to, but it took Maritza to bring real love from Arturo.”
“You are wrong, Genevieve.” He was saying as the elevator’s doors opened.
Arturo was standing in front of us.
“Dad, the surgeons were just here. The baby and Maritza are going to be fine.” Arturo was speaking in between tears of joy, “She will be in the recovery room for a few hours. They are putting her in ICU for a few days. She will be in a medically induced coma, to allow her to heal.”
Gerardo placed the coffee on the table, went over to Arturo, and hugged him. I could see the relief in both of them as they embraced each other. Mariana was breathing in relief.
“Mom, I need to go. Did you want to stay with Mariana for a while longer?” I walked over to her and asked her.
“I want to stay, would you mind coming back later to pick me up.?” Mom asked me hoping I did not mind.
“I won’t be able to. I have a deadline to complete and a meeting afterwards. Maybe dad can pick you up later.” I did not mind, I just did not want to see Arturo.
Arturo got up and said, “Maritza is not going to be awake for a few hours, I need to go to her apartment and get her clothes and personal items that she will need for her stay here. Since your house is not far from there, why don’t I take you home and your mom can keep her car here?”
“What a splendid idea.” I heard Mariana and mom say at the same time.
“You don’t have to go through the trouble. I am sure that dad won’t mind picking mom up, later.” I politely declined Arturo’s offer.
I knew he wanted to take this opportunity to explain what I already knew. We had not spoken since that day at the Cafe. I did not want an explanation. Last thing I wanted at that moment was to ride in his car alone with him. I had resigned myself to the fact that this was an impossible situation, and that we could not be together. As much as it hurt, and as much as I loved him, his life was with Maritza, not me.
“Genevieve, go ahead and ride with Arturo.” Both mom and Mariana demanded at the same time.
“Urgggg,” I said under my breath.
“Arturo, I guess you will be my chauffeur. Lead the way, and I shall follow you.” I playfully spoke.
I could see him smile triumphantly. He got his way. There was almost a smirk on his face.
As we were walking towards the car, I caught a glimpse of his face. He realized I was looking at him and turned to me and smiled. He seemed pleased.
“I am so sorry for what you are going through. I can’t imagine.” I said to him, and continued, “You must be relieved that they are both going to be fine.”
“Yes, I am relieved that they are.” He answered back.
He opened the door to the car, and let me in. He walked to his side, opened his door and sat down. He put the key in the ignition, started the car and sat back.
“Aren’t we going?” I asked.
He said, “Not yet. There are so many things I need to tell you, but don’t know where to begin.”
He leaned over and turned towards me.
“I need to say how sorry I am for not calling you. That night, after I saw you at the cafe, I went over to Maritza’s apartment, and I told her I did not want to go through with the wedding. I told her that I did not love her. I told her that I had my doubts and could not see myself spending the rest of my life with her. Maritza then told me that she was pregnant. She cried and begged me not to leave her. She said she could not have a baby knowing I would not be with her.” he continued explaining. “When she told me that, I could not leave her. I had to do the right thing and stayed with her.”
I interrupted him, “I understand. There is no need for an explanation. I admire you for doing the right thing. A child is the responsibility of both parents. Don’t worry. Just focus on your new life.”
“Thank you for understanding.” He said as he turned around.
The ride to the house was quiet. Neither of us said anything else, until we reached my street.
We were a few houses from home, when he spoke, “Genevieve, I do love you. I wish the circumstances were different.”
I sat silent. I could not respond. It hurt to hear him say he loved me. It was a bittersweet moment.
I did not tell him I loved him. Instead, I thanked him for the ride, and said good-bye. I stood at my door and watched him leave. I did not go back to the hospital after that day. I stayed away. It hurt to see him. It hurt to love him. It hurt to let him go.