We grew up in the same neighbourhood. Lived in a small town and life was simple when we were kids. Our dreams were just as small as our town was. Nico was the youngest of three boys. His brothers worked at the family car dealership, the only one in our town.
There was something different about Nico during our years in high school. He no longer wanted the dreams of a small town anymore. He often spoke of how he was going to make it out of our small town and become someone in the big city someday. Although I did not know how he was going to do it, I believed him, I could see it in his eyes. He never really challenged himself in school; his grades were average, and he hated sports. There was nothing really outstanding about him on the surface other than his looks, thanks to his Columbian grandfather.
Nico had very few friends and thinking about it now, we spent most of our time hanging out at his house. The other reason was that his mother always called me over to taste some of her baking and for girl chats. I also really needed company; it was lonely at home. My sister and I were 3 years apart, after high school she got married and my parents welcomed their first grandchild last summer.
I really admired Nico’s mother for raising her boys and looking after her family home. But this was not how I imagined myself in the future even though she always told me that I would make a good wife someday.
Nico decided to take a gap year after high school to figure out what he wanted to study. His parents did not object, to them he was going to join the family business eventually anyway. One day Nico came knocking at my door, he was leaving town for three weeks. A friend of his had invited him to his uncle’s place in Allegra. I could see the excitement in his eyes, I wished him well and he left. It is not like I was going to miss him anyway. Okay the truth is, I was going to miss him more than he could ever know, I loved him. This was the last time I saw Nico, until years later.
I enrolled at the local community college to study journalism. At that time, I was not sure what I was going to do after college with that qualification. All I know is I was not ready to settle down, I needed to explore life a little more. One day, just like Nico’s dream, I was going to make it in the big city.
After getting my college degree, I started applying for jobs in nearby towns. I wanted to move away from home and away from my small town. Jobs were hard to come by especially with no experience. I finally caught my big break, well not by many people’s standards anyway. I was to start a job at a small publishing company as an assistant to the editor. My parents were a little worried but knew that there was nothing they could do to stop me from leaving.
My new employer provided me with a month’s free accommodation as part of my contract since I was new to the area. I quickly realised that my job required me to assist the editor with her schedule, in other words looking after her diary. Though I was a little disappointed, nothing could beat being at home. With my first paycheck, I moved into an apartment within walking distance to the office. Small, semi furnished, this was enough for me.
Rose and Max
Rose was the sweet old lady from downstairs. She was that nosy neighbour who knew everything about everyone. The only reason I put up with her was because she was the only person I trusted to look after Max and my apartment whenever I was out of town. To be honest the real reason was because she was the only one who cared that I existed in the whole building, oh and Dave the plumber (let us leave Dave out of this for now).
All thanks to her I was able to settle in with much ease. Even though she made it her business to know what went on in our building, she had a good heart. I ended up telling her my life’s story, not sure why but Rose had a way with people. Rose also let me into her world a little bit. She was a widow, lived with her only grandson and volunteered at the animal shelter.
One weekend she took me to the animal shelter to experience the amazing work that the volunteers did. I came back with Max; he was 4 months old at the time. With the intention of keeping him only for the weekend, I was heartbroken at the idea of sending him back. I kept him. With all my heart, I have loved Max since the day our eyes connected. He is the best dog in the entire world.
It had been raining every day for the past few days and today was the first day with some sunshine. After taking a few days off work, I wanted to spend time with Max. I had been working non-stop and he felt neglected. Between walks in the park and a play date with Rose’s two dogs, we were going to spend some quality time together. Unfortunately, that did not go according to plan. I decided to take Max for a walk first thing in the morning fearing that this beautiful weather would not last. Lots of rain had been predicted for the rest of the week.
The bus stop
The walk was not pleasant for me, it was cold and muddy. Max was simply happy to be outside with some fresh air. I decided to rest him, so we headed for the bus stop. The morning was quiet with not much traffic on the road. We sat down for a while watching people go in and out of the coffee shop across the road. My mind must have wandered, I got startled by the loud hooting of the car parked next to the bus stop.
Nico. Suddenly I felt like that teenager back in our small town again. Why does he have this effect on me even after all these years? I could not move, I felt glued to the bench. Nico had not been in my life since the day he came to tell me he was leaving town for three weeks. Although I thought of him often, I decided to carry on with my life. He opened the car door and started walking towards Max and I as if in slow motion.
Even though he was suited up, to me he was still my Nico from the small town. He set down next to me as if he had never left. His presence felt familiar, I could be myself around him. Up to this day, I do not remember the first thing he said. All I wanted to know was how he found out where I was.
He later told me that my parents and his mother had kept him up to date. I wondered why he had not contacted me directly if he was that interested in knowing what I was up to. After Nico left our small town, he went on to become a photographer. He seemed content with his life. He had so much to tell me about his world travels with lots of photos to show off his work. Nico had made it big in the city in his own way just like he wished when we were growing up. I was genuinely happy for him.
I did not have much to share, he knew everything, my promotion to the Sales team, Max, Rose, and Dave the plumber. We must have talked for what seemed like forever, from our childhood memories to everything else except for the real reason he was here. Even though he made his usual jokes and we laughed a lot, I could tell he was holding something back.
Suddenly his phone rang, he looked at the screen, but did not answer. He told me it was time for him to hit the road. We both stood up to say our goodbyes and he hugged me tightly. He then whispered these words “Kat, I think I found the one.” Before I could say anything, he was gone. It felt like I got wind knocked out of me. Reality suddenly hit, Nico was never mine in the first place, but I loved him. I do not know how I got to my apartment, thankfully Max and I were safe. Grateful to have Rose in my life, I sat down to have a cup of tea with her homemade butter scones. Just like the last time, I had to go on with my life without Nico.
My week had not gone as expected, everything that could go wrong at work did go wrong. Anyway, I was happy to put this misery behind me and take a well-deserved rest. Also looking forward to catching up with my girls over drinks at Chinos on Saturday.
Too exhausted to run the bath, I took a quick shower. No time to waste, I really needed as many hours of sleep as I could fit in. I closed my eyes just for a second and suddenly the doorbell rings. Who could it be at this hour? But then I quickly remembered that I promised Rose to walk the dogs in the morning, she was coming around to remind me again.
I jumped out of bed, grabbed my gown from the chair and straight to the door with the intention of getting rid of Rose as quickly as I could.
But instead, there he was, Nico at the door, the guy that I have loved all my life but could never be mine. The reason I am still single at 33, in my eyes he is the standard. I had not seen Nico since that day at the bus stop, 5 years ago. Why was he back here again after all this time?
To be continued….