It all starts when Lucas Friar is offered a job. Not just any job, though. A job in Texas. A job that’s approximately 1,743 miles away from New York City. It’s also a job that’s approximately 1,743 miles from Maya Hart.
When he first tells Maya, she laughs, “You’re kidding, right?” But his face says otherwise. “Wait, you aren’t seriously considering accepting the offer, are you?”
“I’ve already accepted, Maya,” he tells her gently, squeezing her hand in his. “One of my former professors recommended me for the position, and the pay is amazing. I couldn’t turn it down.”
“What about me?” she asks, taking her hand from his and crossing her arms. She pinches herself repeatedly, thinking, This is just a dream, you’ll wake up and laugh at such a crazy idea. Lucas isn’t moving to Texas any time soon.
Brows furrowed, Lucas responds, “I assumed you would come with me. We were planning on moving in together soon, anyways.”
He reaches to take her hand again, but she moves away from his touch. Shocked at her reaction, he inches away from the blonde, a chasm beginning to grow between them.
“Lucas, you do realize that I have a life here, right?” she snaps, clenching her fists in her lap. “I have a family, friends, a damn job. I can’t just uproot my life.”
“I know,” he says slowly, thoughts churning in his head, “I just–well, I thought you’d want to come with me. We love each other. I’d planned on spending my life with you.”
The anger inside Maya quickly boils down into sadness and heartbreak. “I do love you, Lucas,” she begins, tears welling in her blue eyes, “but if you actually take this job, if you actually leave, then we’re done. There can’t be an us if you’re halfway across the country.”
“Then I guess we’re over,” he says simply. “I can’t turn down this opportunity. I’d never forgive myself. Maybe one day you’ll understand that, Maya.”
She’s so shocked that she doesn’t even realize he’s left until the door slams. Then the floodgates open and sobs wrack her tiny body. Tears stream down her cheeks, dripping onto her chest.
Maya cries so violently she ends up making herself sick. She runs to the bathroom, barely making it to the toilet before she vomits.
But the burn in her throat is nothing compared to the pain of her broken heart.
On autopilot, the woman gets up from the floor to brush her teeth. As she looks in the mirror, her disheveled reflection shows her mascara stained cheeks and post-vomit session hair. Normally Maya would fix herself up, make herself look presentable, but she can’t bring herself to do it.
It’s not like she has anyone to impress anymore.
Before she starts crying again, she decides to make a call. She finds her phone and goes to her favorite contacts. Before long, she’s greeted with a chirpy, “Peaches! How’d it go? I’ve been thinking about it all day!”
She takes a deep breathe. “I didn’t get to tell him, Riles. We just broke up.”
“What?!” Riley screeches, her tone dripping in shock. “Why? I thought you all were happy.”
“So did I,” the blonde muses. “He accepted a position in back in Austin without talking to me about it. He just assumed I’d go with him.”
The other woman’s gasp can be heard through the phone. “That’s terrible. I’m so sorry, Maya.”
“I wish I could go with him,” she says honestly. “It’s not like I can. I’ve worked too hard to get my teaching job to just leave.”
“I agree with you, but what about–”
“The baby?” Maya finishes for her. The awkward silence is an answer enough. “He’s not going to find out that I’m pregnant. He doesn’t need to know. When he chose the job over me, he lost his right to know about my life. Plus, I was raised by a single mom, and I turned out okay. At least I think I did. We’ll make do.”
“Peaches, do you want me to come over?” Riley asks, concerned about her friend.
“You don’t need to do that…” she answers, trailing off. “But if you want to, I wouldn’t be opposed to eating ice cream and watching Friends in our pajamas.”
Her best friend laughs and it’s the first time Maya smiles since Lucas told her about the job offer.
“Okay, I’ll grab a few pints of Ben and Jerry’s and head over. Be there in thirty?”
Maya responds, “That works. Thank you, Riles. I love you.”
“I love you, too. Everything’s gonna be alright.”
The blonde lets out a breath, “Let’s hope.”
When she ends the call, she drops her hand to her still-flat stomach.
I guess it’s just me and you now, kiddo, she thinks, rubbing small circles. Everything’s gonna be alright.
On a scorching day in the late spring, Maya gives birth to a beautiful baby girl after an incredibly long labor. She has wisps of dark blonde hair and her mother’s piercing blue eyes. The first person to hold her after her mother is Riley.
“She’s perfect, Maya,” the brunette whispers, holding the newborn in her arms. “Did you pick her name?”
She nods, looking at the sleeping baby in her friends arms, “Lucy Jane Hart. Lucy means light, and this little one is the light of my life.”
Riley says, “I love it. She’s lucky to have such a great mom.”
“I hope you’re right. I really, really hope so.”
While this moment occurs in New York, Lucas is returning to an empty apartment in Texas. He’s had yet another boring day at work, and every part of him misses Maya.
There have been several nights where he’s had a few drinks and almost called her, but even when he’s drunk he can’t forget her words.
If you actually leave, then we’re done.
And Lucas left. He made that decision. With each day that passes, his mistake becomes more and more apparent.
As he opens his first beer of the night, he says to nothing, “I miss Maya,” and wishes she was there with him.
At the same time, Maya holds her daughter and says, “I miss Lucas,” and wishes he was there with her.
But neither knows they’re thinking the same thing, and they go on with their lives. One day at a time.
Almost six years later, Maya hears the words she never thought she’d hear.
“Lucas is back,” Farkle tells her over the phone. “He’s literally on his way to my apartment as we speak.”
It comes as such a shock to her body that she finds herself doubled over her classroom’s trash can, throwing up her lunch. Luckily it's after school hours, so she won’t have any curious middle school students asking, “Miss Hart, are you okay?”
(Because her answer would be no, Miss Hart is not okay.)
“Maya,” she hears through her cell. “Maya, are you still there?”
She wipes her mouth with the back of her hand, picking up her phone to answer him. “I’m still here. I just threw up everything in my stomach.”
“Shit, Maya,” he says with a sigh. “I knew you wouldn't be excited, but I didn't think you’d react that badly.”
“Tell me about it,” she mutters. She hadn’t thrown up since her morning sickness days. Maya’s generally a healthy person. Except when she finds out the father of her child is back in town. That easily upsets her stomach. “Is he back for good?”
“Yes. He’s transferring to a vet’s office in the city,” Farkle tells her. “He asked to stay with us for a few nights, he can’t move into his apartment until Monday.”
“Oh, fuck,” Maya curses. “He’s gonna want to see me, isn’t he?”
“He’s already asked about you. He didn’t waste any time.”
A blush spreads across her cheeks and she’s immediately thankful to be alone right now. “Dammit,” she curses again.
“Uh, Maya,” he says, “You do remember what day it is, right?”
The woman’s eyes trail to her desk calendar. Thursday. What’s so special about Thurs– “Fuck, you all have Lucy right now!” she remembers. Riley always watches the five year old at her and Farkle’s place so Maya can stay at the school and finish up some work. “Wait–you said he’s on his way now?!”
“That’s what I said.”
“Shit! He’s gonna know she’s not yours!” she rambles, grabbing her bag. “I’m leaving the school right now. I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
“You’ll probably get here right before him.”
“Oh, I will be there before him,” Maya promises, exiting the building. She hangs up the phone and books it to the Minkus-Matthews apartment.
When she arrives, she’s drenched in sweat and her feet are on fire. Silently she curses herself for picking style over comfort when it came to today’s shoes. The wedges seemed like a great idea this morning.
Letting herself in, Maya calls out, “Hello?”
Seconds later the pitter-patter of tiny feet can be heard. Lucy crashes into her mother, nearly knocking Maya down, greeting, “Mommy! You’re early!”
“I just missed you so much!” she tells her, stooping down to her level. The little girl beams at her, ecstatic at the surprise.
“I missed you, too, Mommy! I had so much fun at school today!” she tells her, jittering with energy.
Maya laughs, wondering exactly how fun a day of first grade could be. Nonetheless, she replies, “I can’t wait to hear all about it, little bug. Where’s Auntie Riley and Uncle Farkle?”
The girl grabs her hand, leading her through the apartment. In the kitchen she finds the couple, where they are speaking in heated whispers, undoubtedly over Lucas’ impending arrival.
“Peaches!” Riley says, still greeting with the childhood nickname. “How was your day?”
“It was great until I got the news,” she says, letting out a sigh. She looks around to see what Lucy’s doing, but she’s too busy showing Farkle her new book to eavesdrop. “I’m scared, Riley.”
The woman’s face falls. “I’m sure it’ll be fine, Maya. Plus, it could be good, you know,” she tells her, then her voice drops to a whisper, “Meeting her dad.”
Maya shakes her head, “I don’t know, Riles. It’s always been us. Lucy’s never even asked about her dad. Anyways, he may not even want her.”
The brunette narrows her eyes, “You know that’s not true. He will do everything for her once he finds out. Plus, Lucy will start asking about him sooner rather than later.”
As much as she doesn’t want to admit it, she knows she’s right. Lucas isn’t the type to abandon his own daughter. If anything, he’ll want to make up for nearly six years of lost time. And Maya also knows that he’s going to be heartbroken that she never told him. But she’ll cross that road when she comes to it.
And just because Lucy isn’t curious about her dad now, doesn’t mean she won’t ever be. Maya knows that from experience.
When the doorbell rings and interrupts her thoughts, she nearly collapses. Oh, god, I’m seeing Lucas Friar for the first time in almost seven years, she thinks, taking a deep breath and exhaling.
“I’ve got it!” Farkle calls out, headed towards the door. A curious Lucy attempts to trail behind him, but Maya quickly gets her attention.
“Lucy, honey, come here!” she calls.
The little girl walks over, “Yes, Mommy?”
“We’re gonna head home soon, do you have all your stuff together?”
She pauses, thinking about the question. She shakes her head, “Nope. I will get all my things.”
The woman smiles. “Thank you, baby girl.”
Quickly Lucy runs off to do as she’s told.
Moments later, a new voice nearly stops her heart. A voice that she hasn’t heard in nearly 7 years, but still causes her knees to weaken, and her cheeks to flush.
“Wow, Shortstack, you’ve barely changed,” Lucas walks into the kitchen, setting his bags down on the tile.
Heart pounding rapidly, Maya replies, “Same goes to you, Ranger Rick.”
The tension in the room could be cut with a knife, but Riley swoops in to hug him. She easily distracts the man from his ex-girlfriend. The brunette badgers him with questions about his time in Texas and his new job here.
Maya almost thinks she’ll be able to sneak out without him noticing, but then her lovely daughter barrels into the room, huge backpack engulfing her tiny body as she yells, “Mommy, I’m ready to go!”
Lucas turns around, looking at the child, then up to the blonde, “Maya, you have a daughter?”
“Yes,” she answers, holding her daughter close to her. She bends down, introducing her little girl, “Lucy, this is Lucas. He’s one of Mommy’s… old friends.”
“Hi,” she sticks her hand out, “Nice to meet you, Lucas.”
Stooping down to her level, he smiles and shakes her tiny hand, “Hi, Lucy. Nice to meet you, too. How old are you?”
“I am five–but I am almost six!” she answers, very excited about her upcoming birthday. “I will be six on May 15th!”
“That’s very soon. I can see why you’re excited.” He looks back up to Maya, then says, “She’s beautiful, looks just like you.”
Somehow, her cheeks flush an even brighter red as she says, “Thank you, Lucas.” She grabs Lucy’s hand, “Let’s go, little bug.”
“Okay!” she says, grinning. “Bye, Lucas! Bye, Auntie Riley and Uncle Farkle!”
Before they head out, Lucas comes up to her, “Maya?”
“I was wondering, um, maybe--if you’re okay with it? Could we, uh, have dinner sometime? Catch up?” he asks. “But only if you want to!”
Maya is slightly taken aback by the offer, but still finds herself saying, “Sure. Shoot me a message–my number’s still the same.”
He smiles, “Great. See you around.”
“Yeah. See you around,” she replies, then shuffles her daughter out the door.
Once they get outside and head towards the subway, Lucy asks, “Mommy, why is your face so red?”
The woman blushes even more. “Just hot, sweetie. Let’s go home.”
“So why didn’t you all tell me that Maya has a kid?” Lucas asks his friends after she leaves.
Farkle shrugs, “It’s not like it really came up in conversation. You didn’t ask about her until today.”
“Is the–is the father in the picture?” he questions. He didn’t even think about her not being single when he asked her to dinner. (Not that this dinner has to be a date, by any means. But he really, really wants it to be a date.)
“No,” Riley answers quickly. She looks uncomfortable as she goes on, “They broke up before she found out she was pregnant. He never found out…”
“Damn,” Lucas replies, rubbing the back of his neck. Every part of him knew Maya would’ve moved on from him, but he never would’ve imagined that she had a child. Hell, based on the age of her daughter, she must’ve moved on almost immediately.
The brunette adds, “Well, she’s doing great. Maya’s a great mom, and Lucy is a great kid.”
“I can imagine,” he comments. Pasting on a fake smile, he changes the subject, “What about you all? The wedding is soon, yeah?”
The couple launches into details about their impending nuptials, but even seeing the immense happiness on their faces isn’t enough to distract his own thoughts.
When his transfer got approved, his first thought was just Maya. Maya is in New York. He’s back in New York. Lucas hoped that things could back to how they were before. Before he left her for a job that he hated.
But Maya has a daughter, a beautiful little girl that is the center of her life. She won’t drop everything to go back to the man that broke her heart. Besides, she may not want him back anyways.
But I still love her, he thinks. I never stopped loving her.
“Alright, little bug,” Maya sing songs, brushing out Lucy’s wet hair, “It is definitely bedtime.”
The young girl frowns, “Do I have to?”
“Yes,” she nods, kissing the top of her head, “you have school tomorrow, and Mommy has to work. So, it’s bedtime. Go brush your teeth so I can tuck you in.”
Lucy obliges, running off to the bathroom. While she’s in there, Maya gets a call from an unsaved number.
“Hi, Maya. Can you talk right now?”
Lucas’ voice comes as a slight shock. She hadn’t expected him to contact her so soon. “Oh, hey, Lucas,” she responds after a moment of silence. “I’m getting ready to tuck Lucy in, can you wait a few minutes?”
“Shit, sorry,” he stammers. “I can call you back or–”
“No, no,” she tells him. “It’ll just take a few minutes. Stay on the call, okay?”
He agrees, and Maya leaves her phone on her bed. When she gets to Lucy’s room, she’s already in her bed, waiting patiently.
“Okay, little bug,” she says, taking her seat on the edge of her bed. The blonde starts tucking the blankets up around her daughter, then plants a kiss on her cheek, “I love you, Lucy. Sleep tight, baby girl.”
“I love you, too, Mommy,” Lucy tells her, snuggling into bed.
Maya picks her favorite teddy off the floor, then hands it to her. She gives her one last kiss, saying, “Good night.”
Before she leaves the room she makes sure the night light is on and switches the rest off. When she gets back to her own bedroom, she picks up her phone and asks, “You still there?”
“Yeah,” Lucas answers. “I wanted to… I wanted to know how you were doing? We didn’t really get to talk earlier… And it’s been a long time.”
“I’m good, I guess,” she says, walking out of her bedroom and to the kitchen. If I’m gonna talk to him, I’m pouring myself a glass of wine, she tells herself, grabbing the bottle from the fridge. “I keep busy. I’m still the art teacher at our old middle school, and being a single mom isn’t exactly easy.”
He laughs, “I can imagine she’s a handful. But she seems wonderful, Maya. I can’t get over how much she looks like you. She’s your twin.”
Taking a big gulp from her glass, she says, “Thank you. She’s perfect. I can’t imagine life without her. I didn’t know my life was missing something until she was placed in my arms.”
“I’m glad you’re happy,” he tells her. “I’ve thought a lot about you.”
Without thinking, she replies, “I’ve thought a lot about you, too, Ranger Rick.”
“Really?” he asks in disbelief. “I figured you hated me.”
Maya takes another sip of her wine. “I could never hate you. You know that.”
Lucas’ deep breath can be heard through the call, “You had every right to.”
“I did,” she agrees, “but I never once hated you.”
It’s not a lie. Even throughout her entire pregnancy, the late night feedings, and the days where she just wanted someone to hold her, Maya never hated Lucas. She couldn’t hate him, he gave her Lucy. But, she had missed him. She would’ve done anything to have him back by her side.
“Do you think we could do dinner this Saturday night?” he asks, “I wasn’t sure if you had a sitter, or if you even wanted to.”
She laughs, “I’d love to. It’ll be nice to have some company that isn’t five years old, or a middle school student, or a stressed couple planning the wedding of the century.”
“They really are going over the top, aren’t they?” Lucas jokes. The Minkus-Matthews’ wedding won’t be one to miss. “So–Saturday at 6? I’ll text you the address.”
“As long as my sitter is free, I’m in,” she says.
“Great. I’ll let you go now,” he responds. “Bye, Maya.”
“Bye, Lucas,” she says, then ends the call. She downs the rest of her wine, then calls her best friend. As soon as Riley answers, Maya greets with, “I think I just agreed to a date with Lucas Friar.”
“Mommy, why do you look so fancy?” Lucy asks, watching her mother carefully apply her nude lipstick.
“I’m going to a fancy dinner, so I have to look fancy,” Maya answers, pouting her lips in the mirror. Naturally, the girl imitates her, causing the woman to chuckle. “Are you excited to spend the night with Nana?”
“Yeah!” she exclaims, bouncing on her heels. “Nana and I are gonna make sketti and meatballs! Then we’re gonna watch a movie!”
“Wow!” she enthuses, pushing a loose curl out of Lucy’s eyes. “It sounds like you all are gonna have so much fun.”
Maya sends her off to put her shoes on, and she slips her heels on herself. Checking her reflection, she smoothes out her dress and checks her hair one last time. She’s wearing a deep red halter dress that hugs her curves, paired with her trusty black pumps. Once she’s ready, she heads out with Lucy in tow.
After she drops Lucy off at her mom’s place (with the promise of having her in bed by 8:30, but Maya knows Katy is a sucker and will let her grandbaby stay up way past her bedtime), she hails a cab to the upscale Italian restaurant. When she arrives, she immediately spots her date, and her knees go wobbly.
Lucas looks good. He’s wearing a navy blue suit, which is Maya’s absolute weakness. She greets him with, “Well, you still clean up pretty well, Cowboy.”
“Thanks, Shortstack,” He grins, looking her up and down, “You look gorgeous, Maya.”
Her heart feels like it could burst out of her chest, but she tries to ignore the feeling. “Thank you, Lucas.”
Their hands brush together as they walk into the restaurant, but they both pull away quickly, blushing.
(Maya hopes her blush isn’t as bad as she believes it is, because she feels as red as her dress at the moment.)
(Lucas thinks the exact same thing as he gives his name for the reservation.)
They’re taken to a secluded table near the back. “Enjoy your dinner, Mr. and Mrs. Friar,” comments the hostess.
Maya wants to correct her, but she decides to keep her mouth shut. Once she’s out of earshot, she laughs, “Awkward.”
The man chuckles in agreement, grabbing the wine list, “Red or white?”
“Hmm,” she ponders, tapping her chin in thought. “Red.”
When the waiter arrives, he orders a whole bottle of Cabernet for the two of them– the price nearly makes her faint, but he doesn’t seem phased. Before the wine even makes it to the table, Lucas apologizes, “Can I just go ahead and say I’m sorry? Because I am so sorry.”
“For what, exactly?” she responds, busying her hands with the dinner napkin in her lap. She can only imagine where this conversation will go.
He lets out a deep sigh, “For being so stupid all those years ago. I never should’ve accepted the job offer without talking to you first.”
The blonde says, “It’s okay, Lucas. The past is the past. It’s not like we can go back and change it. I’ve gotten over it.” No I haven’t, she thinks.
“I wish I could,” he admits, rubbing his hands together. “You know, I ended up hating that job. Biggest regret of my life.”
Sensing his distress, Maya reaches across the table to grab his hand. Instantly, she feels him relax. She tells him, “We’ve all made mistakes, even me. We’re only human.”
“Yeah, but I don’t think your mistakes led to losing the love of your life,” he comments, rubbing his thumb across her hand.
My mistake led to our daughter growing up without a father, she thinks, but doesn’t voice. There’s a time and place for that conversation, and it’s definitely not right here, right now. “Well,” she starts, “I’m here now, right?”
He nods, “Yes.”
“So you didn’t completely lose me,” she points out. “I could’ve turned down this offer. I have lots of shows I could be catching up on right now. There are plenty of medical dramas waiting for me to binge.”
Lucas laughs a true laugh. It’s a sound she’s missed so much, something she’s wanted to hear again. “Thank you for coming, then.”
“You’re welcome,” she responds. “Okay, so it’s been almost seven years. A lot can happen in that much time…”
“Yeah, like you having a daughter. I can’t believe you have a kid,” he teases, then quickly adds, “Not that it’s a bad thing, by any means. She’s adorable, I’m just still shocked, to be honest.”
Maya fakes a chuckle. If only you knew she was yours, she thinks. “She’s wonderful. I may be biased, but she’s the smartest almost six year old I’ve ever met. I put her into kindergarten when she was four–even though everyone told me she was too young–and her teacher said she’s ahead of most of her classmates. So they’re pretty sure she’ll be offered a spot in the accelerated program in few years, but there’s no guarantee–” then she stops and throws her hands up, saying, “Oh god, I’m rambling about my kid. I’m being the worst date right now.”
This time, Lucas grabs her hand to calm her down. “It’s fine,” he laughs. “At least you have something to talk about. I have nothing.”
“I’m sure you did something interesting in the past seven years.”
“Seriously?” she asks, “No crazy vet stories? Crazy farm stories? Crazy date stories?”
He chuckles at the last question. “I had a woman bring me her duck that was actually a chicken. I didn’t live on a farm, my apartment was downtown. Definitely no memorable dates.”
The wine arrives and the server takes their order. Once he leaves, Maya takes a sip of her wine and says, “So no dates, huh?”
Shaking his head, he replies, “There were dates, but nothing special. No one made it past the third date.”
“Hmm,” she hums, taking another drink.
“Have you dated anyone?” he asks, then realizes his mistake. “Shit–you have a kid. I’m an idiot.”
Yes, Lucas, you are an idiot because you haven’t even realized that she’s yours! she thinks. You went to school for eight years to become a veterinarian yet you can’t do the math to realize you’re the father!
“I’ve done the same as you, really,” she says, and it’s the truth. There were a few men, and one woman, but nothing worked out. “I’ve always been focused on Lucy, so I haven’t worried much about dating.”
He takes a moment to refill her empty wine glass, then says, “If you don’t mind me asking, why isn’t Lucy’s dad in the picture?”
“I never told him I was pregnant,” she answers too quickly.
“Riley told me that much, but why didn’t you tell him?” he quizzes curiously, sipping from his own glass.
Avoiding eye contact, she says, “I–Uh, can we not talk about that right now?” Immediately, he goes in for the apology, but she interrupts him, “Don’t be sorry, it’s just not my favorite thing to talk about.”
“Understandably so,” he agrees. The Texan turns the conversation around, “Tell me about your job. I know you’re at our old school…”
The rest of their date goes by without a hitch. They talk without asking the wrong questions, enjoy a great meal, and leave together–nearly drunk after purchasing a second bottle of wine.
(“The amount of money you spent on this meal would make my bank account cry,” she comments as he signs the bill.
He just waves it off, tipping the server substantially for dealing with them.)
“Come back to my place with me,” she offers, stumbling against him as he attempts to hail a cab. “Lucy is with my mom. Staying all night.”
He takes a moment to respond, making her think he’s going to say no. However, he eventually agrees, “Okay,” leading her into the cab.
The entire ride to her place Maya stays pressed against his side, while Lucas keeps a hand on her thigh. The touch is enough to bring goosebumps to her skin and heat up her cheeks.
Once they arrive to their destination, she leads him up to her apartment. Before she can even get her key, he has her pressed against the door and they’re kissing.
It’s hot and heavy, as if years of being apart has built up to this very moment. Perched on her tiptoes to reach, her fingers find their way to his hair. He tastes like red wine, and still smells the same as he did seven years ago.
Breaking apart to breathe, they rest their foreheads against each other. The first to break the silence is Lucas. “I’ve wanted to do that since I saw you in that dress,” he discloses, caressing her cheek. “You look so fuckin’ hot in it. But, you know what?”
“What?” she says, breathing heavily.
“It’d look better on the floor,” he says, lips brushing the shell of her ear.
“That’s the most god awful thing you’ve ever said,” she says, unlocking the door. “But it was kinda hot.” Dragging him by the tie, she takes him to her bedroom. She turns around, “Unzip me.”
“Gladly,” he obliges, taking his sweet time and admiring the view, running his knuckles down her spine. While she slips her dress and heels off, Lucas sheds his suit jacket and shirt.
“You still have way too much clothes on,” she comments, reaching for his belt. She removes it, throwing it carelessly. As she goes to unbutton his slacks, he stops her.
“Are you sure we should be moving this fast?” he asks seriously. “We had a really messy break up and I don’t want to fuck up our relationship aga–“
“Lucas, I want you to fuck me,” she states, “Right now.”
He crashes his lips onto hers, then says, “I’m more than happy to oblige.”
The next morning Maya wakes up with a terrible headache and a worse feeling in her heart. She had sex with Lucas last night (absolutely amazing sex, but that’s beside the point), but she still hasn’t told him about Lucy. The guilt is tearing her up inside as she watches Lucas sleep, snoring quietly.
I’m about to ruin everything, she muses. Once the truth is out, he’ll never forgive me.
Maya rests her head against his bare chest, aimlessly running her fingers up and down his torso. Slowly he stirs, wrapping his arm around her to hold her close.
“G’morning,” he mumbles, pressing a kiss to her hair. When she doesn’t respond, he asks, “You okay, Maya?”
“Yeah–well, no, not really.” She sighs, “There’s something I need to tell you.”
“What’s up?” he asks, nonchalant. His fingers are threaded through her hair, playing with the golden strands. Just like he would all those years ago.
“Have you thought about how old Lucy is?” she asks.
“Five but almost six,” he answers, quoting the child, “Her birthday is coming up, May 15th, yeah?”
“Right. Now, when did you move to Austin?”
“September will mark seven years. But, Maya, what does that have to do–” then he stops. His fingers still in her hair, and that’s how she knows he’s figured it out. “Wait, is she, y’know, mine? I’m her…”
Nodding slowly, Maya finishes his thought for him, “Yeah, you’re her father, Lucas.”
For a few moments, they lay there. No one says anything, they just think. When he finally breaks the silence, Lucas sits up in bed and asks, “Did you find out you were pregnant before or after I left?”
“Before. I thought I may have been for about a week before you left, and I took six pregnancy tests to confirm it. I’d bought a little yellow onesie that said I love Daddy! to surprise you with. I was so excited, Lucas. My life was finally falling together. I had a good job, great friends, an amazing boyfriend, and as crazy as it sounds, I was so happy to find out I was pregnant. Yeah, she wasn’t planned, we weren’t married, hell, we weren’t even engaged. It was okay, though, because we were happy. So happy. Except everything changed when you came over and dropped a bomb on me.” Maya pauses to breathe, wiping away a tear that’s threatening to escape.
As she continues, her voice begins to falter, “I didn’t tell you, then you left. I went through the entire pregnancy alone, save for my mom and Riley. Morning sickness, weird cravings, the first kicks, and swollen ankles. All of it, by myself. It was so difficult. There were days that I just stayed home and cried my bed all day, wishing you were there with me. God, I just wanted you to come back. There were nights that I was going to call, but then I remembered what I said. ‘If you actually leave, then we’re done.’ And you left me. I wanted to hate you, but I couldn’t. I never could, because I loved you too much.”
Once the words leave her mouth, she feels as if a huge weight has been lifted off her shoulders. She’s waiting for Lucas to scream and yell at her. She’s preparing herself for him to blow up, but that’s not what he does.
The first thing he says is, “God, Maya, I wish you would’ve told me. There is no job in the entire world that is more important that you and our daughter.” He pauses, then repeats himself. “Our daughter. We have a daughter…”
“Yeah, Lucas, we have a daughter. She’s perfect, so smart, and the most important thing to me,” Maya says, tears dripping down her face. “I wish I wasn’t so stupid. I should have told you sooner. You missed almost six years.”
He replies, “If I would’ve known, I would have dropped that job in a heartbeat. Being a father is so much more important than some job. I would have loved to watch Lucy grow up. And I would’ve been there for you, Maya. Every craving, doctor’s appointment, anytime you cried. I could’ve been there if you would have just told me.” He takes her hand back into his, softly rubbing circles on it.
“I know,” she admits. “It was selfish of me to keep this from you. Lucy deserves to know her dad, and you deserve to know your daughter.”
“Can I, then? Get to know her?” Lucas asks, a hopeful gleam in his green eyes.
The woman gives him a small smile, “Of course you can. I won’t keep her from you anymore, promise.”
“Thank you,” he says, squeezing her hand. “Can you tell me more about what I missed? Like, when she was a baby?”
Grinning, Maya starts, “She was such a good baby. She was always super happy, but had to be held at all times. If you put her down, you’d get an earful. I had to put her in a sling on my chest in order to get anything done…”
Minutes turn into hours as Maya catches Lucas up on his daughter’s life. He’s full of questions, and she’s (mostly) full of answers. He learns about all the firsts in Lucy’s life.
“No. Also her favorite word.”
“A pumpkin. She spit up all over the costume.”)
When stories aren’t enough, Maya shows him pictures. She shows him her favorites, Lucy dressed up on her first Christmas with a bow wrapped around her little head, her first finger painting experience, and her first day of Kindergarten. With each missed memory, Lucas laughs, smiles, even cries a bit.
After seeing pictures of Lucy over the years, he asks, “When can we tell her?”
Maya pauses, “That you’re her dad? We could tell her soon…”
“How about… tonight?” Lucas proposes, “I’ve already missed enough time, Maya. I really want to be in my daughter’s life.”
The suggestion doesn’t come as much of a shock. Maya knew he’d want to tell Lucy soon, but she didn’t expect tonight. “Well…”
“I can take you all out tonight,” he suggests. “Dinner, on me. We could tell her after?”
She ponders on his offer. Though it’s sooner than she’d anticipate, it wouldn’t be a bad idea. “Okay,” she answers, then adds, “but you have to let me take the lead. I don’t want to shock her too much.”
“Deal.” Lucas grins, planting a kiss on her cheek. “Thank you so much, Maya, for letting me become involved in her life. You really have no reason to let me in after what I did to you.”
She smiles, then pecks him on the lips. “It’s the least I can do. She’s just as much yours as she is mine. You have every right to be in her life. I’m sorry I kept you away before.”
“Stop apologizing, the past is the past. I’m ready to focus on the future,” he tells her, taking her hands into his. “Speaking of the future, what about our future?”
“What about it?”
“C’mon, Maya, you know what I mean. Last night was amazing.”
“It was,” she agrees. “But it doesn’t have to mean anything. We’d been drinking.”
He sighs, then replies, “But it did mean something to me, Maya. I haven’t stopped thinking about you since I stepped off the plane into New York. If--if you want to, I want to be with you. Again.”
She knew this would come eventually. But it came sooner than she expected. “Lucas…” she trails off, thinking. “I don’t know.”
“We can try,” he offers, squeezing her hand in his. “We can try to have a relationship, and if it doesn’t work, then we’ll just be friends.”
Maya stays quiet for a moment, thinking. She wants to be with him, she really does. However, Lucas left her once before, he could surely do it again.
But at the same time, he knows about Lucy now. He seems so excited to be a dad, and be there for them. And, God, did she miss him. So many times, she has wished to be in his arms again, feel his kiss, hold his hand. Now she’s being given that opportunity again. That’s why she says: “Okay, let’s do it.”
Lucas grins, then dives in to kiss her. “You won’t regret this, I promise,” he says, holding her close.
Maya smiles, feeling happier than she has in a long, long time.
Later that night, Maya finds herself shaking as she attempts to braid Lucy’s hair into two plaits. It’s about an hour before they plan to meet Lucas for dinner, and she hasn’t felt this nervous to do something since she was in labor, about to give birth and change her life forever.
“Ow!” Lucy shrieks when Maya accidently tugs her hair too hard. “You hurt my head, Mommy.”
She kisses the little girl’s head, apologizing, “Sorry, baby, but we’re all done now.” She puts the finishing touches on Lucy’s hair, adding tiny bows to the end of each plait.
Lucy hops out of the kitchen chair, twirling in her dress. “Do I look pretty, Mommy?” she asks, batting her long eyelashes.
“You look beautiful, little bug,” Maya answers. Since it’s a special occasion, she let her wear her favorite pink dress. It was a gift from Riley, and cost more than someone should spend on a dress that’s somehow going to get paint and dirt on it within an hour. It never fails to amaze Maya how fast an outfit can get destroyed by a five year old.
Just as she finishes getting ready herself, Maya hears a knock at her apartment door. She goes to let Lucas in, and even in just jeans and polo, he looks good. “Hi, cowboy,” she greets, pecking him on the cheek before Lucy can see.
“Shortstack, long time no see,” he jokes, stepping into the small apartment. It’d only been a few hours since he’d left, just enough time for Maya to pick up Lucy from her mom’s apartment and get her ready.
“Ha-hur,” she teases with a wink. She calls for her daughter, “Lucy! Are you ready to go?”
The tiny blonde comes barreling into the room, knocking into her mother like usual. “Hi, Lucas,” she says, waving.
“Hi, Miss Lucy,” he tells her, stooping down to her level. “Are you excited for us to go to dinner?” She aggressively nods her head, beaming at him. “Well, we better head out!”
Quickly, Maya grabs her bag, and they head out to hail a cab, Lucas giving directions to the kid-friendly restaurant he picked out for dinner.
The whole ride there, Lucy talks up a storm. She tells Lucas all about her first grade teacher, friends, and even about the class goldfish.
(“His name is Rocko,” Lucy tells him, grinning widely. “I helped pick his name!”)
Once they enter the restaurant and get seated and order their food, Maya gives Lucas the look. Go time.
“Lucy, hon,” Maya starts, getting her daughter’s attention. “Mommy wants to talk to you, can you listen for a few minutes?”
The little girl immediately pauses her coloring on the kid’s menu. “Okay, Mommy.”
Maya takes a deep breath, and then feels Lucas grab her hand beneath the table. She smiles briefly at him, then says, “You know how your friends have a Mommy and a Daddy?”
“Not all my friends,” Lucy replies smartly, “Jamie has two mommies!”
The two adults laugh. “Yes,” Maya replies, “some people have a Mommy and a Daddy, or two Mommies or two Daddies.”
“But I only have a Mommy,” she says. “You always said I don’t have a Daddy.”
Maya’s heart breaks a little. “Well, Lucy, you actually do have a Daddy…” her voice starts to shake as she finally gets the words out, “you see, honey, Lucas is your Daddy.”
“Really?” Lucy asks, eyes lighting up. “I have a Daddy? Can I call you Daddy?”
She catches Lucas wiping away a stray tear before grinning, answering, “I would love it if you called me Daddy, Lucy, Only if you want to.”
The little girl beams, “Okay, Daddy. I want to.”
When Lucy was born, Maya never would have imagined that she would hear her daughter call Lucas her dad. She thought it would never happen after the way she left things with Lucas. However, years later, she’s hearing just that, and it is music to her ears.
“Lucy, I do have a question for you,” Lucas says, and Maya is unsure of what is to follow. “If it is okay with you, I want to spend more time with you and your Mommy. Would you like that?”
“Hmmm,” Lucy thinks, “I would like that. May I please color now?”
Maya snorts, only her daughter would be more concerned with drawing than finding out about her father. Typical five year old. “Yes, Lucy. You can color.”
While their daughter turns back to her art, Lucas turns to her, “Well, that went well.”
“As well as we could expect,” Maya answers, leaning her head onto Lucas’ shoulder. “You know, you’re a parent now. Your life is about to change forever.”
“Correct, Shortstack: We’re parents. Bring it on.”
“Challenge accepted, Huckleberry.”