A gust of wind whipped through the pines, creaking like an old rocking chair as Maria, 64, went to fetch her husband, Carlos.
“I shouldn’t have let that man out …. He’s 71 years old, and I wonder how he has the energy of a teenager after work. What was the need for him to go out for a walk on this cold night?”
Carlos taught history at school and loved to walk in the park every day after work. Or so Maria thought until she decided to go looking for him one day.
“I hope he doesn’t get up to any mischief again,” the woman thought.
But to her horro Carlos was in the park, embracing a beautiful young woman, while watching the mist cover the mountains, unaware that Maria was right behind them.
“How could you, how could you do this to me again,” Maria was shocked, tears welling up in her eyes. Carlos had already broken her heart once twenty-five years earlier by cheating on her with a waitress who worked at a café he frequented.
“You promised you wouldn’t do it again and I trusted you blindly. But you broke my heart again,” she sobbed. Carlos turned and noticed that Maria had started to run.
“Honey, wait…honey, it’s not what you think,” he ran after her, but the woman was too heartbroken to believe his excuses.
Suddenly, Carlos stopped chasing after his wife. He turned around and helped Amanda, the girl with him, call a cab. Was Amanda more important to him than his grief-stricken wife?
The older man had no choice and, deep down, he knew Maria would change her mind once he revealed the truth.
The cab arrived and the young woman hugged Carlos again before leaving. He said goodbye to her and hurried home to confess something to his wife, but there were more surprises waiting for him.
“Maria, honey, I’m at home…I need to talk to you,” he shouted as he marched from room to room, looking for his wife.
But she was nowhere in sight, not even in front of their favorite spot near the fireplace, where they enjoyed hot drinks on rainy nights.
“No, it can’t be…please don’t leave me without knowing the truth, honey,” he ran upstairs to check if his wife was in the room.
She used to lock herself in the bedroom and cry alone whenever they fought and argued. She had done it several times before, even when Carlos confessed his infidelity years before.
But this time, the man did not find the bedroom door closed. It was wide open, and it was almost empty. Maria had left with her belongings. He called her, but her phone was off. Carlos panicked.
The weather turned rough and it started to rain. That reminded him that Maria loved the smell of rain as it fell on the earth.
He grabbed his walking stick and an umbrella and dared to go out into the heavy rain to look for his wife. He looked for her everywhere.
“She must be at her parents’ graves,” he thought and went there, but Mary was not there. “Where had she gone then?”.
Carlos was soaking wet from the rain as he boarded a bus and headed for the nearby town. It was his wife’s hometown, and he doubted she had gone to her old cabin in the woods.
It was close to midnight when Charles stood shivering on the threshold of her front door, restlessly pressing the bell several times. Moments later, the door opened and Maria came out.
“Why did you come here? I’m old and ugly. Go to her. You don’t need me anymore. Men like you never change. I’m ashamed that I trusted you and didn’t divorce you when you were unfaithful to me twenty-five years ago.”
Warm tears streamed down Carlos’ wet face, and Maria could not immediately realize that he was crying.
According to her, her husband was a cunning man who only knew how to break her heart. Things had been different that day, but she wasn’t about to listen to Carlos.
“Honey, it’s not what you think. I love you and I’ve never cheated on you again,” he sobbed.
“So who is she? I saw you hugging her and leaning on her shoulder. What was so funny that made you both laugh? Was it a joke or something more?”
“Please allow me to explain. I’m sure you’ll change your mind after you learn the truth,” Carlos insisted.
Although Maria was no longer willing to believe him, she gave him a chance and invited him in.
“Go ahead, what are you going to tell me? Are you going to tell me that you didn’t cheat on me and that she’s not your lover? That she’s ‘just a friend’? Come on, honey, I know you better than you do. I’ve been your shadow for forty-three years, who is that girl?”.
Carlos swallowed his fears and spoke….
“The girl you saw me hug today is my daughter!”.
“YOUR DAUGHTER?” said Maria in shock, wide-eyed and nervous.
“Yes, honey! Amanda is my daughter. She was born out of my relationship with Samantha, the waitress I met twenty-five years ago. When Samantha told me she was pregnant, I was startled. I didn’t know how to deal with it.”
“Then she told me it wouldn’t ruin my marriage because we were never really in love. It was just a one-night stand. She decided to raise her daughter alone and I promised to help her.”
“I never cheated on you again. Samantha recently died and her daughter is struggling to raise her young son with leukemia. She lost her husband and is out of work.”
“She was having a hard time paying rent and was struggling to make ends meet, so I helped her from time to time because I wanted to be her father, not a stranger.”
“I wanted to take her home and introduce her to you, honey. But I was afraid of how you would react. I wanted to ask you if my daughter could live with us.”
“She lives in a mobile home near the cafe we visit often. This is not how her life was supposed to be. It’s my fault. My one mistake that night ruined three lives.”
“Why didn’t you tell me this before? How could you keep such a horrible truth from me?” Maria broke down.
“Honey, I was afraid you would leave me. I couldn’t imagine a life without you. And I didn’t want to break your heart anymore.”
“You already broke my heart, and you better be prepared for what I’m going to do now,” Maria said angrily to Carlos, who had no idea what the next day had in store for him.
The man woke up to find that his wife was missing again. Then he found a note on the bed.
“See you at the house. I have something important to discuss and it will change our lives. Don’t be late.”
As fear and anxiety struck his heart, Charles returned home to find Mary sitting on the couch. He walked in and what he saw next shocked him.
Amanda was also sitting on the couch and the two women were hugging each other.
“You’ve come home, finally!” exclaimed Mary with tears of joy fogging her reading glasses. “I was angry when I saw the two of you hugging.”
“But my anger turned to joy as soon as you told me Amanda was your daughter – she’s my daughter now, too!”.
“I always cursed fate for not giving us a child. But my heart is pleased and light today. God answered my prayers, and now I am a mother and grandmother!”.
Charles couldn’t believe Mary had just said that and stood speechless before her, conveying his happiness through tears of joy that flowed down his wrinkled skin.
“I may not have had a child, but I still have a mother’s heart. Amanda and her son Johnny will be living with us in our home – they are family!!!”.
The storm in Carlos’ life calmed down and he no longer regretted his past bad deeds. He and Maria accepted Amanda into their family and did everything they could to help her live a more beautiful and peaceful life.