First Dates

Maria called William out of the blue one Monday morning. They hadn’t seen each other in forty years. The years gone by had brought sweeping changes but William concluded that it wouldn’t hurt to meet her. They decided to see each other in a small café.

William arrived first, unsure of himself but sitting patiently with a newspaper in hand. He looked over the current events section. Avoiding the obituaries had become a pattern over the years, not wanting to see familiar names printed within the pages.

Maria’s hair was streaked grey and William wore a hat to cover what little was left on his head. She appeared from nowhere, surprising him just the way she had years ago. He didn’t take her hand and they didn’t hug. She simply sat in front of him, a large smile appearing on her face. It hadn’t changed in the slightest over the years.
“You want ice cream? A scoop of vanilla and a scoop of chocolate, wasn’t it?”, William asked, embarrassed that he still remembered her tastes.
“How on earth do you remember that?”, Maria said, bursting out laughing in pleasant surprise.
“I’m old, but not senile.”, he replied, grinning.

It was freezing outside but they removed their coats and sat across from each other, digging their spoons into the glass bowls.
“I never thought I would see you again.”, he said abruptly. The cafe was full but had fallen silent.
“I didn’t know if you would ever want to.”, she said.
William looked down into his bowl, swirling the strawberry shortcake with his spoon.
“Why didn’t you ever call earlier me then?”, he asked.
“I couldn’t wait forever, William. You were always around but never really there. I could never get through to you. I told you what I wanted but you didn’t move fast enough.”, she replied, ashamed but shaking herself into a stern posture.
“Why did you choose this place to meet?”, he asked, knowing that they had been on their first date there decades ago.
“I just thought it was a nice place that we might both know.”, she replied, searching his eyes for any hint of his memories. They sat in silence for a few seconds before they tried speaking. They stumbled over each other’s words and went quiet again.
“I can’t believe they’ve stayed open so long. Everything else has gone out of business from our days in school.”, he said, looking around.
She dropped her gaze to the floor. She didn’t care about businesses.
“I used to bring my kids here.”, William said, trying to change the subject.
“Me too!”, she said, almost shouting in delight. “But my husband is gone now, and my kids hardly ever call. I’m always chasing them just to hear their voice.”, she said.
“I’m sorry to hear.”, he said. “I never got that far.”
“You never got married?”, she asked.
“Never. Got engaged once but never married. Don’t regret it one bit. I’m happy having my kids but relationships….”, he said, stopping himself and laughing.
Maria looked away saddened.
“I’m sure you made a good dad.”, she remarked.
“You think so? I’m not really the patient type.”, he said, putting his hand on the table and looking at their reflection in the cafe window. The wrinkles on his face pressed together as he smiled.
“I’m happy to be able to see you after all these years.”, she said.
“You going to finish that?”, he said, pointing to Maria’s bowl of ice cream.
“Glad to see you haven’t changed a bit”, she said, laughing and shaking her head.

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