Four weeks. Maya sighed and searched for her phone to leave Dre a message. She knew she should have called first. It was just – she’d really hoped he’d be home and okay with her stopping by. She didn’t want to be alone tonight and he was so good at making her forget…
She turned around to stare out at the rain falling onto the ocean. Drops into a bucket.
“Maya?” Andrei’s voice sounded from behind her and she turned to see him standing on the deck of his boathouse.
“Hey. I was just about to leave you a message.” She held up her phone as proof.
“What are you doing here? Is everything okay?” He frowned and walked over to her.
“What? Oh, everything is fine. I was in the neighborhood and just thought I’d check to see if you were home. But you’re just getting in, so maybe I’ll call you later or something.”
He looked at her for a moment before looking down at the puddles forming at their feet. “Would you like to come in, Maya?”
Yes! She would like that a lot. But… “I don’t want to intrude.”
“I’d really like it if you came inside.” He stepped closer to her and she couldn’t think of a single reason why she shouldn’t go in.
She’d never been inside his home before. He opened the front door and led her past a living room and into the kitchen. Pulling out a dishtowel, he handed it to her. “You’re soaking wet.”
She glanced at the towel blankly; she hadn’t felt the rain hitting her skin at all. And until he said it, she hadn’t even realized just how cold and wet she was. “Thank you.”
He watched her for a minute, concern written all over his face. “You should really get out of those wet clothes.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” She held onto the towel but made no move to use it. Her eyes moved around the room but she wasn’t tracking. She felt so – lost.
“Stay here,” he said and walked away from her. A few minutes later, he came back holding a large shirt. “Put this on. I’ll throw your clothes into the dryer.”
She started to undo her shorts but he stopped her and pointed her towards the bathroom. She followed his direction and walked into the small room to change.
Maya stared at herself in the mirror. What the hell was she doing here? She couldn’t just barge into someone’s home like this. She was clearly crazy. Clearly. And he’d let her in.
She closed her eyes. Think. She just needed to think. What was she doing? What was she hoping to get out of this? They’d been on three dates in four weeks. Did that mean they were dating? Did she have the right to do that to him? She would start treatment in three days. What would happen then – she’d say, “Sorry, I have to go fight for my life for the next year. I’ll call you next September?”
She lowered her head and sighed. Why did she have to bump into him a month ago? And now, here she was, trying to pretend everything was okay when it wasn’t. She looked up and stared at herself again. “Pull yourself together! It’s been three dates. He’s never asked for more and you have nothing to give. But you can enjoy what you have. Just go out there and wing it. What.the.hell! Right?”
She took a deep breath and opened the bathroom door.
“Hey.” Maya walked towards Dre sitting on the couch. He’d changed out of his wet clothes and into pajama bottoms.
He looked over at her and smiled. “Hey yourself.”
He reached for the remote and turned the TV off while she walked up to the window and looked out at the dark but calm sea.
“The rain stopped.”
He got up and walked to stand beside her. “Yeah, it did.”
“Sorry about earlier. I was having a moment.”
“No worries. We all have those, right?” He shrugged.
Before she could say anything else, Andrei leaned over and kissed her. She was taken aback, not because it was their first kiss, they’d done that on date two; but because she hadn’t expected it. To be honest, she’d thought he’d find some way to politely ask her to leave.
He pulled away just as suddenly as he’d leaned in. “Sorry, you just look amazing in my shirt.”
She smiled and pulled him back towards her. “Don’t be sorry. Just do it again.”
And he did. She sunk her hands into his hair and held on. This was why she’d come here. She’d hoped and prayed for this. Just one night where she could forget about what was coming. She wanted to get lost out at sea and not worry about the world creeping in to remind her of what was going to happen to her body.
She wanted to show this man who made her laugh and looked at her with lust in his eyes how beautiful she was. How perfect she was, before the doctors ruined it in their battle against the cancer. She wanted validation and he could give it to her.
Grabbing her hand, he pulled her towards the stairs and she followed. If nothing else, she would have this night. Screw tomorrow and screw the cancer. She climbed the stairs and she had no doubts.
When Maya woke up early the next morning, she was mortified to find herself wrapped around Dre’s body. Jerking back, she looked at him. He was so peaceful in rest, so young. Nothing like he was awake. How old was he? Twenty-four? Jesus. She rubbed her eyes and looked over toward the windows. The sky was sunny and perfect, but she knew that wouldn’t last long. In the course of three weeks, the weather went from cloudless and sunny all day, to constant rain. Welcome autumn in Isla Paradiso.
She pushed the sheets down and swung her legs over. She had to find her clothes and head home. She didn’t regret last night, but she also didn’t want to overstay her welcome. It was one thing to seduce a man on a dark and stormy night, but in the bright light of morning? He’d just want to know how long it would take her to leave.
She headed downstairs to take her clothes from the dryer. She took a quick shower and changed back into her shorts and shirt. When she walked out of the bathroom, she bumped right into Dre.
“What?” She frowned at him.
“It’s the afternoon. Hungry?” He walked over to what looked like a cabinet and murmured something. A few minutes later, a plate of sandwiches materialized.
“What the hell is that?” She walked over to the cabinet while Andrei placed the plate on the kitchen table.
“It’s a food processor.”
“Food…this thing can make food?”
He laughed and waved towards the plate. “Yup. Brother invented it. Makes decent food too. It’s like a 3D printer, but you know, better.”
Maya frowned as she studied the processor. Interesting. “What did you – it – make?”
“Fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Food of the gods.” He sat down and waited for her to grab a plate and sit across from him before continuing, “You left bed early.”
She looked down at her plate, “Yeah. I didn’t want to wake you and I should be heading home anyway.”
“What if you spent the day with me?” He took a bite of his sandwich and looked at her.
Maya felt her mouth dry out and she placed her sandwich down. “I can’t do that, Dre. I’ve already barged into your life enough as it is.”
“I was going to call you and make plans anyway. You coming to me just saved me the trouble. We can take the boat out and go swimming.”
She smiled. Isn’t that exactly what she’d wanted the night before? To escape and just be with him? She nodded and took a bite of her sandwich. “Okay.”
They spent the day leisurely. If she wanted to go somewhere, he would move the boat and she would either swim or fish or just lie out on the top deck and sunbathe. She caught her first fish that day, he grilled it, and they had a great meal.
It was the most fun she’d had in a very long time. Not once did she think about Monday and what that would mean for them. She hadn’t told him about her cancer or what was going to happen to her and she’d decided that she wouldn’t. Before she left, she would end things with him for good. It would be the right thing to do. It wouldn’t be fair to ask him to be part of that process, they’d only known each other for a month.
While he drove the boat, she sat beside him and looked out the window. “It’s so beautiful.”
He smiled and glanced at her. “Yeah, it is. The ocean has been all over the world and it has so many stories to tell. You’d be surprised at the things you can find at the bottom of an ocean floor. It’s wild.”
“Will you show me one day? The ocean floor, I mean?”
He bent and gave her a quick kiss. “Absolutely.”
She didn’t know why she’d said that. There would be no, “one day.” After tomorrow, she would have to go home and get ready. She would never see Andrei again.
Later that evening, while they danced and kissed like teenagers on the top deck, Andrei asked, “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?”
They’d been drinking, otherwise she would have never responded how she did. “Wherever you are.”
He stopped moving and pulled her closer. “Maya…”
She tucked her head into his neck, hiding her face. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say that out loud.”
He chuckled and she felt the vibration in her own chest. “Don’t be sorry. Just kiss me.”
She raised up on her toes and kissed him gently, shyly.
Maya looked at Dre’s reflection in the mirror. She would smile if she could. The day before had been great and the last two nights even better, but she had to go home today. The dream was over and it was time to go back to the world of doctors and hospitals.
Andrei got in the shower while she finished brushing her teeth. It was weird how comfortable they were with each other. Four weeks, she’d known him for four weeks and already they moved around his home like they’d been living together for years. She would miss him.
Dre got out of the shower and wrapped a towel around his waist. Maya just leaned back and stared. She could watch him all day.
He looked up and smiled. “What do you want to do today?” When she didn’t say anything, he frowned a bit. “What is it?”
“Dre, it’s time I go home. I have things I have to do, you know, in the real world.” She gave him a smile, hoping she didn’t look too sad.
“Oh.” He nodded slowly. “Okay then. Can we have breakfast first though? Then I’ll take you home.”
“That would be nice.” She watched him thoughtfully as he walked out of the bathroom.
Maya was renting a beach house on one of the smaller islands of Isla Paradiso. She usually had to take a water taxi to get to the mainland. Andrei was going to bring her home instead of dropping her off at port. She would pick up her car from his place in the morning.
She was sitting out on the top deck when she heard Dre cursing. She’d learned a lot about him in the last two days. One thing was that he cussed like a sailor. She smiled and went to see what was wrong.
He pointed towards a small beach area full of people. “Sea traffic. Looks like they’re all headed over there. You want to make a quick pit stop?”
Grinning, she nodded – anything to prolong their time together.
Once they made it to dry land Maya walked over to one of the people milling about. “Hey, what’s going on?”
“Happy meeting, traveler. It’s the Festival of St. Raphael! Have you come to celebrate?”
She smiled. “St. Raphael? I guess so, but isn’t he an angel?”
The man laughed. “You know your mythology. Yes, he’s an archangel but he’s also the saint of healing, the blind, physicians, nurses, happy meetings and travelers.”
“Wow, they packed a lot in there.”
“Yes. Yes they did. So each feast day we meet up and get married.” He laughed at the shocked expression on her face.
“I’m sorry, what?” She spoke to the man for a few more minutes and found out his name was Charlie. Charlie explained that they had mock weddings, to honor Raphael. Mostly strangers met up, but sometimes lovers would come and actually tie the knot. It was cute and fun.
Maya walked over to Andrei. “Hey, do you want to get married?”
He laughed, “I don’t know if I can do that.”
She smiled and shook her head. “Not for real, to commemorate the feast of Saint Raphael.”
She explained what they needed to do and Dre’s smile turned into a grin. “Let me get this straight, you want to fake marry me in front of all these people to celebrate the feast of an angel?”
“Yes.” Saint Raphael was the patron saint of many things, including healing. What could it hurt to send up a small offering to him in the hopes he would look after her and her doctors tomorrow?
That was easier than she thought it would be. But she shouldn’t have been so surprised. He was always like that. Laid back and very accommodating. It was as if he knew how important this weekend was for her and was going out of his way to make it special.
“Excellent, now, to find a wedding dress.”
She pulled him towards the small shack up the hill. It was a one stop wedding boutique. The place was tiny, but it had dresses, tuxedos, and shoes. Dre opted out of dressing up, but she wanted to go all out. This wedding may not be real, but her chances of ever getting married were slim. Not just because of tomorrow, but she doubted she would ever find the right man.
As she looked over at Dre idly flipping through some men’s shirts, she sighed. Given a bit more time, maybe they could have gotten to this point for real. Cinder had been wrong about him. He was a good man.
She pulled a few items out at random and turned to face him. “I think I’m ready to try on some dresses. You want to come help zip me up?”
“I look like I’m going to shady night club.”
“You look hot.”
“I think this is the one.”
“No. Not even on Halloween.”
“Well, what do you think?”
“I like it. But a bit too formal for a beach wedding.”
“You know this is just pretend, right?”
“I take pretending very seriously.”
“I think you just like helping me zip up.”
Maya turned around, smoothing down the final dress. She hoped he liked it; it was her favorite so far. When she didn’t hear any snarky comments she looked over at him.
He was standing right in front of her, eyes hooded. “This is the one.”
“Yeah.” He leaned down and kissed her lightly. “Let’s go get married.”
She placed her hands against his cheeks and leaned back a bit. “Thank you for this; for the entire weekend actually. It was just what I needed.”
He didn’t respond, just grabbed her hand and headed to the cash register to pay for the dress.
Standing in front of the crowd, staring into Andrei’s golden eyes, she wished desperately for it all to be real, that St. Raphael actually existed. Please, if you’re listening, help me get better.
When the Officiant asked for the rings, Maya was surprised that Dre had them. She looked at him but he just smiled and said, “Very seriously.”
She suppressed a laugh and all of her sad thoughts went away. Soon enough, it was over and well-wishers mobbed them. Quite a few people thought they were a real couple. Andrei didn’t seem bothered by it, so she just smiled and said thank you to everyone.
They were one of the last to get married and soon someone rolled out a giant cake. The rest of the evening, they ate, drank and danced. It was a great way to end the weekend.
“You know, I’m not actually hungry, Maya.”
Maya looked down at the plate of hot dogs she’d just made. She wasn’t hungry either. “Sorry, I’m just nervous.”
They stared at each other for while and then Andrei got up and walked around to stand in front of her. “Wedding night jitters?”
He smiled down gently at her and she let out a shaky laugh. This was their last night together. Soon, she would have to tell him she couldn’t see him anymore. She would have to say goodbye. Dre reached down and took her hand. He didn’t say anything, just held her hand.
“Shhh, it’s okay. Truth? I’m a bit nervous too. Silly, right?” He tugged on her hand to pull her closer. “What the hell, we’ll just wing it.”
She blinked up at him. What did he just say? He turned around, her hand still trapped in his, and made his way down the hall. When confronted with two doors, he looked back at her.
“The one on the left,” she directed.