“I’ll pay child support, but I never want to hear from you or that girl again,” Dario said.
He picked up the last box of his belongings and headed for the door.
“That little girl?” shouted Silvia as she followed him. “As if you had nothing to do with the creation of our daughter.”
Dario deposited the last box in his SUV. He was about to get in when Silvia grabbed his arm.
“You’ll never be happy if you leave us, Dario.” Silvia’s eyes filled with tears. “You will live in regret for abandoning your family.”
Dario couldn’t look Silvia in the eye as she removed her hand from his arm. He looked down, but Silvia’s pregnant belly was as accusing as her stare.
“Goodbye, Silvia,” he said.
The woman watched in amazement as Dario walked away. They had only been married for three years, but they had known each other since college. They used to work in the same coffee shop. When their relationship became serious, they dreamed of owning their own coffee shop someday.
Dario had changed since then. Lately he was constantly frustrated and took it out on Silvia. Now that she thought about it, her marriage to Dario had been going downhill for over a year.
“Maybe it’s better that he’s gone.”
Silvia put a hand on her belly.
“It’s not what I wanted for you, honey, but having no father is better than having a bad one.”
Silvia’s face filled with tears as she climbed into bed. As much as she tried to convince herself it was for the best, Dario had broken her heart.
She would have to build a life for herself and her daughter without him. She didn’t understand how he could be so cruel. He abandoned them as if it were the easiest thing in the world. Maybe he had never loved her as much as she loved him.
Meanwhile, Dario turned up the volume on his radio and sped down the street. He felt all the stress of having married too young melting away. He would no longer have a nagging wife or screaming babies.
He was free at last. Dario had big ambitions for his career at the coffee distribution company he worked for. In recent months, his boss had wanted him to take on more responsibility, but Silvia had forced him to decline the offer because she didn’t want him to travel so much.
Dario decided to call Gary, his boss, first thing in the morning. He would travel all over the country if necessary to succeed. Maybe he could find a good woman on his travels, one who wouldn’t nag all the time and get pregnant unexpectedly.
“First, I deserve a celebration,” Dario said.
He parked in front of the first bar he saw and went inside.
“A round for everyone on me,” Dario said to the bartender. “I just became a free man.”
Dario did his best to forget about Silvia for the next few years, and he succeeded. He adopted the philosophy of “work hard, enjoy just as much.” He traveled the city for his company and spent his nights frequenting bars and clubs.
He had been on many dates and had started relationships, but they had all ended badly. One of his first girlfriends, after Silvia, intoxicated his entire family after making them a clam pie. Dario’s mother had to be hospitalized.
Another of his girlfriends was too smart and competitive. She had joined him and his friends in a game of general knowledge and had torn them all apart. Dario still had memories of her slapping the table with her palm when she knew the answer to a question. He had never felt so embarrassed.
His most recent relationship ended when he discovered how much the woman spent on fancy cosmetics and makeup. He saw the price of a bottle of shower gel, blocked her number and avoided the places he knew she frequented.
“It’s hard to find a good woman these days.”
Dario turned to his boss, Gary, who had invited him for a drink that night.
The man, who had listened to his employee describe all his disastrous relationships, gave him a wry smile.
“Try to put yourself in my shoes,” said Gary, “I have a son with my old wife at home and a sweet mistress who also has a daughter.”
“You have a daughter with your mistress?” asked Darius.
Gary burst out laughing.
“Nothing like that. The girl’s father abandoned her and her mother. She was ready for me to come along and be the man of the house, you know what I mean?”
Dario laughed, but his heart wasn’t in it. He didn’t like the direction the conversation was taking and didn’t understand why it bothered him to hear Gary talk about his lover like that.
“Don’t look now, but I think that lady over there wants to get to know you better,” Gary said to Dario jabbing him with his elbow, and pointed to a dark-haired woman at the opposite end of the bar.
Dario and the woman looked at each other and smiled. She was gorgeous. He was quick to buy her a drink. At Gary’s insistence, he spent the rest of the evening with the woman, Margo. They arranged to meet the next day for a walk in the nearby park.
It was a beautiful day. Margo and Dario were talking as they strolled along and discovered that they had many interests in common. All was going well until a screaming little girl ran toward them from the bushes.
“Help me!” the little girl screamed. Tears were streaming down her face.
“Mommy is not waking up. Something’s wrong with her.”
Darius bent down to ask the little girl what was wrong, but Margo stepped forward.
“Ugh, don’t you hate little kids?” she asked Dario. “Stop whining, you little brat, and go away. You’re bothering us and we don’t care about your squealing.”
Dario was surprised by Margo’s attitude. For a moment he saw himself reflected in her, making him feel ugly.
“I think our date is over, Margo,” Dario said.
He left her standing in the road and turned to the girl. The woman’s nasty words had frightened her and made her cry even more.
“You’re nothing but a disappointing loser who ran away from his responsibilities, and that’s all you’ll ever be.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll help you,” Dario told the girl. “Take me to your mom.”
“She’s this way,” the girl said pointing to the bushes behind her. She took Dario’s hand and led him to the other side.
“She’s this way,” the girl said, taking Darius’ hand and leading him across.
A picnic blanket was spread out on the grass next to the bushes. A woman lay on top of it. Darius bent down to check her pulse and gasped when he realized he knew her.
Dario immediately called the ambulance. As he waited for them to arrive, he gently lifted the unconscious woman in his arms.
“Silvia, wake up,” he said, stroking her cheek.
“How do you know my mom’s name?”
Dario looked at the little girl. She had her mother’s hair and freckles, but her green eyes and pointy nose….. Dario had green eyes and his nose was pointy. She was the right age, too.
“I knew your mother a long time ago,” he replied. “What’s your name?”
“Adora. Mom said she chose that name because she loves me so much.”
The paramedics arrived and took Silvia to the hospital. Dario and Adora left with them.
The girl was sleeping when Silvia woke up a few hours later. Her eyes widened when she saw Dario in her hospital room.
“Is she my daughter?” he asked, pointing to Adora.
“Yes,” said Silvia, looking at him with narrowed eyes. “What are you doing here?”
“She’s beautiful,” the man said, sighing deeply. “I’m here because Adora called me to help her because her mother wasn’t well. I didn’t know it was you, nor that she was my daughter. It seems fate has brought us together again.”
Silvia snorted, “I appreciate the help, Dario, but you can go back the way you came.”
“What if I don’t want to?” he asked. “I know I was terrible to you years ago, but I truly believe we met again for a reason. Please let me make it up to you for abandoning you. I’d like to meet Adora.”
“Get lost,” the woman said as she sat up. Then she pressed the button to call a nurse.
“Today it’s all apologies, but how long will it take you to realize that being a parent is a lifelong commitment? You can’t just walk in and out of our lives on a whim, Dario.”
“I won’t,” he pleaded, “Please, give me a chance! I’ll prove to you that I’m not the same man who left you.”
“A leopard doesn’t change its spots,” the mother said, glaring at him. “You’re nothing but a disappointing loser who ran away from his responsibilities, and that’s all you’ll ever be.”
Dario stared at Silvia. Her words had struck a chord in his heart. He had never realized what it had been like for her to raise Adora alone. In all this time, he had never thought about the impact his decisions had had on her.
When the nurse arrived and escorted Dario out of the room, he did not object or complain. He had come to an important conclusion about his life and the person he had become. It was clear to him now that he had taken a wrong turn in his life.
He couldn’t stop thinking about Silvia and Adora. He was determined to make things right. When the mother got out of the hospital, Dario went to see her.
“What do you want?” asked Silvia when he came to the door.
“I want to tell you I’m sorry,” he said, kneeling on the porch. “I made a terrible mistake when I left you. I realize now that there are no perfect women in the world, but you’re the best I’ve ever known. I was a fool to lose you, and twice a fool to lose my daughter too.”
Silvia folded her arms.
“I told you you’d never be happy, but it’s too late to come crawling back. I’m in a serious relationship.”
Dario looked at her dumbfounded. It hadn’t occurred to him that there might be another man. He didn’t know what to say, but the biggest surprise was yet to come.
“Is everything okay, baby?”.
Dario jumped to his feet when Gary appeared in the doorway. He called Silvia “babe”; did that mean she was the mistress his boss had mentioned that night at the bar?
“Get out of this house, you worthless cheater!” said Dario grabbing Gary by the arm and pulling him toward the porch.
“Are you out of your mind?” said Gary pulling away from Dario. “If you don’t leave right now, I’m firing you.”
“Tear up my contract and burn it! I’m not leaving here when I know you’re using Silvia and playing her for a fool. If she doesn’t want to come back to me, she deserves better than you.”
Gary flashed a cruel grin.
“I hope you like life on the street because I’ll make sure no one in this industry will hire you. How will you live then?”
“I have an idea,” Dario replied.
“What the hell is going on?” shouted Silvia.
“He’s married,” said Dario pointing at Gary. “And he’s been using you all this time. He doesn’t care about you at all.”
The woman turned to Gary, but he was already leaving. He ignored Silvia’s pleas and left.
“Well, at least he didn’t abandon me while pregnant,” Silvia said, shaking her head.
“I’m sorry, Silvia, for all of this. Everything that has happened is because of my bad choice. Please, I beg you to let me make it up to you.”
Silvia studied Dario. He was beginning to think she would agree when she turned her back on him and walked in.
The man decided to try one last time. He arrived at Silvia’s house and convinced her to drive with him into town. He parked in front of an empty store and opened the door.
“Remember our dream of having a coffee shop?” he said, stretching his arms out into the open space. “I’m going to build it right here. I want to go back to those days when you and I shared our hopes and dreams of a common future, but with the wisdom and gratitude I’ve acquired.”
He walked over to Silvia and took her hand.
“Please give me another chance to be the man you and Adora deserve, a man you are proud to have in your lives.”
Silvia scanned the room.
“All right. You can have a second chance, but it won’t be easy, Dario. There’s a lot of pain between us that needs to heal, and you have yet to prove that you are the man you claim to have become.”
Dario agreed. He built his coffee shop and made Silvia a co-owner. Over the next few months, he treated her and Adora like queens and strove to regain the trust and love he had broken years before. Eventually, Dario and Silvia remarried and raised their daughter together as a happy family.