Chapter 1
The Meetings

"I Just Gotta Get Out Of This Prison Cell
Someday I'm Going to be Free, Lord!
Find Me Somebody to Love"


After getting back into the comforts of my little apartment, my courage started to thaw a little. I still vividly remembered everything that had happened the night when I trudged up the hill, but the overwhelming adrenaline seemed to tone down as a week fluttered by. However, frequent flashbacks of the painful breakdown at the hill finally made me realize that I must open up to someone. Sam was gone now, and he had been for nearly ten years.

I found it a little funny that not a day would ever pass by, without yours truly thinking about him someway or other. They happened randomly, but I had to admit that I was starting to forget, bit by bit. Then again, I had always been a master at putting up walls, guarding myself and pretending to be happy.

Even after a decade, I hadn't moved on from the trauma completely, but I knew I had to sooner or later.

The feelings of gaining some sort of redemption and closure started when I was rummaging through old drawers and I accidentally unearthed my old journal in my cupboard. I would invoke all my thoughts into the yellowed pages back when I was a vulnerable teenager. All the feelings, hopes and writings that should have lasted a lifetime had horribly and unjustifiably been snatched away from me during a moment of desperation. Even now I still hated myself and became irate at my deceased friend for the weaknesses we both showed at never facing the demons of the past.

It was too late now, I thought to myself dolefully. The echoes of pasts would perpetually haunt me but then again, many people had gone through something similar in their lives. The lonely scoundrels who preyed at women at the bars, forgetting their wives and families to embark upon their lust were visible examples of how emotionally warped we all were in some ways. When I used to sit alone at bars and devoured alcohol, I had witnessed several acquaintances desperately trying to have one-night stands with strangers. It clearly showed me that I was not alone in this. We were all battling to find a little bit of solace in this world.

But I couldn't derive satisfaction in that way anymore. I did not even want to go through that road again. Those were truly my greatest moments of succumbing to weakness, desperation and recklessness. I now had more important, pressing things on my heart, rather than consume alcohol and forget everything. I had my two beautiful, adorable twins.

I still hadn't been able to pinpoint the exact time when I came to this position where I started feeling so utterly lost and helpless. It couldn't be one particular night, I was realizing now. It had to be an accumulation of multiple things happening simultaneously during my childhood and later on, which ultimately made so emotionally closed off and guarded. Or maybe I never realized how much I truly loved my friend. Perhaps, nobody could ever truly forget the first person they ever felt a connection with, who made them indescribably happy, despite the crashing heartaches.

Due to my lackadaisical way of life during and after university, coupled with drinking now and then, I only found a couple of odd jobs where I could work. Thankfully, after two stressful years, I managed to save enough money to have my own place, so I quit them and started working as a receptionist at an IT office five days a week. It was during that time I slowly made the greatest decision of my life and had the kids. Also, least the town where I started working was really far away from the traumatizing echoes of past. I was incredibly thankful about that.

But I became too wrapped up in my comfort zone to actually take the time out and smell the roses. I still cherished many dreams and hopes, which I wanted to accomplish now that my children were here. I wanted to secure their future; I wanted to do something meaningful and change their lives. I wanted to move on, be happy and feel…like my younger self again. Feel the way I used to, once upon a time.

My receptionist job provided me with a sufficient salary to get by and since I usually did one shift during the morning, I could spend the rest of the day with the kids. But I knew I had to start working twice as hard to invest in my children's future. After all, the kids would soon go to school, then college later on and I really wanted to do something for them. I didn't want to go through life, pretending to be a ghost. I was no longer depressed, but something was still missing. With a shadow of past constantly tugging at my heartstrings at lonely times.

I was aware that I had been running away from everything for too long and putting up facades and walls inside my heart. But the trip to my hometown and seeing how even the lowliest of creatures had moved on with life and were now happy made me desperate and determined to do something. If I wanted to change my life—like they had changed theirs—I needed to go out there and chase after it, instead of hoping that life would someday bring it to me. With this thought, I became determined to meet the father of my children, despite the thousands of voices inside my head telling me not to do so.

The week after the plan had formed into my mind, I entered the IT office with thousands of emotions playing inside me. Although in the harsh light of the mornings, I became more aware of the thousands of complications of meeting the guy, I kept on telling myself that I had nothing to lose. If the whole meeting ended up being a waste of time, at least I could go back to my life, without wondering otherwise. I knew that was an understatement, but then again there was a chance that something good might come out of it. I was quite determined to find out. For the first time in my life, this felt like an opportunity that I could easily grasp. The odds weren't completely against me, I hoped.

'Hey, Sylvia,' a voice spoke out, interrupting my thoughts.

'Hey, Gary,' I greeted the red-head as I sat at the receptionist desk, plastering a slight smile on my face.

Gary was one of the savvy, tech-guys at the IT office. For the last three years since I had started working here, I always witnessed Gary being friendly and happy with everybody, even during mornings. I didn't really talk too much to people at the office—simple 'hi' 'how's life' conversations were good enough to suffice. Meeting people outside was another dilemma I tended to avoid; I also didn't have much time or energy, either. Anyway, Gary always greeted me in the morning with his everlasting friendly smile, always ready to strike up a normal conversation with me even when I hardly showed much interest.

Maybe in an ideal world, Gary and I might have been some sort of friends.

But then again, he was younger than me, with a tendency to party hard all the time.

'Everyone back today?' he asked, rapping my desk lightly.

If I hadn't known Gary for all these years while working at the IT office, I might have thought he was slightly interested in me. But he happened to be gay. Also, he liked talking with everybody—a quality I both envied and could not help but distrust.

'Yeah,' I replied softly. 'Uh…look, can we grab some coffee afterwards?' I asked him as I started fixing the odds and ends on my desk. The atmosphere at the IT office wasn't really lax at all, and I couldn't afford to lose my job by chattering with one of the staff. 'I have to ask you for a favor…'

'Oh, honey, I know you love me, I know you care,' he whispered in a sing-song voice that sounded like the Justin Bieber song, I believed. I was not too sure. 'But I'm gay…'

'It's really important,' I interrupted, a little too vehemently. I had to admit, I was getting really excited, not to mention anxious and nervous, about the whole thing. Even just the idea of finally being with someone—even if it might not happen—was making me jittery.

'Oh, okay,' Gary replied, his smile immediately vanishing and getting replaced by a cautious, astounded look. I didn't talk too much with Gary, and I hardly ever initiated the conversations, so it certainly must have come across as a surprise that I was seeking him out for help.

So during lunch, Gary and I strolled off to a nearby Starbucks. After ordering two cappuccinos to go, we headed off to a nearby park and sat down. He watched me curiously as I took small sips and started contemplating about the whole idea in my mind.

'Uh…you are very efficient at…technology, right?' I asked, beginning the conversation.

'Very much,' he answered, grinning largely, but I could see surprise flash across his face.

'Um, you see this guy.' I suddenly took out the only picture I had of the father from my jeans pocket. Not sure why I kept it though, after so long. 'Can you find out…whatever you can about him, if it's not too much of a problem? You see…the matter's quite urgent.'

I waited for the resounding, suspicious 'no' that I felt I would get.

'Oh my God, he's so hot!' Gary exclaimed dramatically after a few seconds of scrutinizing the old photograph. That wasn't entirely true, but the father of my children was definitely better than average-looking, even though he must have been only twenty-one or something during that time.

I fumbled with the only lie I could think of, 'Um…he used to live in my neighborhood…we are like—'

'Is he your childhood sweetheart you've lost and now you feel like destiny is pulling you together for the best romantic happy ending in the entire world?' Gary asked breathlessly, his eyes bulging out of his sockets. 'Oh my God, this is such an epic love story—I can't breathe—' Gary started to hyperventilate.

I almost wanted to laugh a little at Gary's blatant childlike manner, but the mention of childhood sweetheart indirectly wiped out any traces of a grin forming.

'Um…something like that,' I lied, with edginess in my voice. 'He's…just…a neighbor I would talk to now and then. And I need to meet him.' I sighed, whispering, 'It's very urgent. It's a bit of a complicated matter. You know, it has to do with a bit of land-buying at my hometown. He used to be…quite a close friend. But it was a long time back. We were just two kids. I don't even remember his name anymore. Ancient history…'

'Oh, I'm sorry,' Gary immediately piped up, looking very earnestly at me and completely believing my lies. 'It's just—I get carried away by romance and…love. I just…I am a huge romantic. And…yeah.' He laughed a little nervously now, looking a tad bit embarrassed, as he continued, 'I am a great matchmaker too; I got all my friends married off.' He grinned proudly at me, and I smiled slightly in acknowledgement.

'I see,' I answered tonelessly.

'Don't worry, I will look him up for you,' he said, smiling warmly. 'I—' He looked as if he wanted to say something more, but at last decided not to. 'I will definitely tell you tomorrow. It won't take too long.'

'Thank you,' I said, nodding at him.

'All for love,' he said dreamily.

I quickly departed, without a further glance. I had to admit that I was surprised that Gary had agreed to do this. I certainly would not have done so if someone random shoved a picture under my nose and asked me to find information—it would definitely make me feel suspicious. But then again, Gary and I had been amicable acquaintances for over three years. He was a few solid years younger than me and judging from past experiences and impressions, I had already learned that he was quite idealistic and naive. Despite his offer of help, which I was incredibly thankful for, it still irked me that he didn't even get a little bit paranoid after I basically asked him to help me stalk a guy. Why were most people so prone to being reckless? Or was I the only who seemed to psychoanalyze everything and was too cautious for my own good?

Maybe in Gary's world—maybe in most people's world—they probably thought of this as helping someone.

But I didn't.

I was still scared and suspicious.

The next day, Gary came up to me during lunch break, looking quite happy and proud.

'It took me so little to find him!' he immediately burst out the moment we two were alone at the lunchroom. 'I cannot wait to tell you. It's amazing!'

'Right,' I muttered, struggling to hold onto my composure.

Gary smiled. 'His name is Jack Davies.'

'Jack Davies,' I affirmed, muttering the words for the first time in my life.

'Yup, Jack Davies,' Gary answered, shrugging. 'He lives two towns away. His looks deteriorated just a little…little bit. But he still looks pretty—' Gary sighed in admiration.

'Is he gay though?' Gary suddenly sprouted at me. 'Your neighbor?'

'W-what?' I asked, feeling panicked as the new thought hurled its arrows at me. 'Uh…no?'

'Oh well,' Gary said warily, looking slightly crestfallen. 'Happens all the time. Most of the guys I like turn out to be straight.'

'Okay,' I muttered out uneasily. I couldn't help liking him somewhat though, but at the same time, found it unbelievable and strange at the way he could so easily talk to people without holding back. Having a laugh at himself, without any care in the world. The concept seemed almost foreign to me.

'And your neighbor or used-to-be neighbor is a musician now.'

'Hmm,' I sad, contemplating. I had always been intimidated by large crowds, unless consumed by so much alcohol that everything seemed hazy. I started to have a sinking feeling. The father of my kids must be quite a self-confident man, I realized. I wondered if my twins might end up having some love for music and playing instruments when they grew up.

'He plays in a band,' Gary continued in a dazed voice. 'Sounds so hot! They are actually going to be playing a gig at the town. At the Ramon Park. And uh…that's pretty much I know.' He finished the sentence with a sweeping gesture of his hand.

Another suspicious thought suddenly burst into my mind.

'You sure though?' I asked helplessly. 'All the information is correct?'

Gary looked shocked at this accusation.

'Yeah,' he protested immediately. 'It's all correct! You can check his Facebook profile. Twitter. Google plus. My Space. Youtube. And the band's Facebook page too! Everything's there!'

'Thank God,' I breathed out. 'I—I'll check…all of them.'

I couldn't believe that Gary had gone to all these troubles for me. It just seemed…unbelievable. But then again we were office acquaintances; and maybe…he liked doing all these things. Or it amused him enough to pass the time.

'Okay,' Gary said, still looking slightly shocked.

Maybe he was too much of an idealistic person to believe that everyone thought along the same page as him.

We waited for a few seconds in silence, until I gathered up the courage and asked Gary an evasive question, 'Um…do you mind me asking you something?'

I had to say that was one of the rarest times I had ever asked him something directly.

'Okay,' Gary asked, now looking a bit concerned.

'Um…have you ever…do you know anybody who has kids but don't know the father?' I asked tentatively.

'Oh plenty,' Gary answered, shrugging his shoulders. He didn't look at all perturbed by my sudden question. 'Sad, though, isn't it? When the guys act like jerks and leave the women to take care of the children? But then again…too much drama involved to be one-sided about it, you know. Like I have to tell what happened to my friend—Jill—oh that guy was such an alcoholic, so depressing—she was lucky to have escaped him—like oh my God, what was she thinking—but not all are like that. Like I met this other guy yesterday; he already told me he loves kids—'

I hastily tuned Gary out.

But I decided that maybe after sometime, if things went and felt right, I might just end up inviting Gary now and then for a cup of coffee. At least to express my gratitude.

The next day, the twins and I traveled to the town where Jack Davies was staying temporarily with his band for some gigs. After checking the band's profile page, I found that it was a relatively unknown band, though they had been playing close to three years now. They focused mostly on old school rock covers and compositions. The fact that Jack was a musician made me feel uncertain. I had never really been close to anybody who was very confident when sober. I tried to calm down by repeatedly reminding myself that I had a mission to accomplish. His profession was hardly a factor worth worrying too much about.

The train journey lasted up to nearly three hours. I kept the twins busy by drawing pictures with them and reading them stories, though they did start getting restless by the time evening approached. I had already booked a room at a motel where the three of us would stay for the night. I was honestly not sure what Jack's reaction would be or even how long it might take to convince him that he had two kids.

I kept on telling myself not to get too sad if he just left. I hadn't really put myself out there, too much, during the last couple of years. Alcohol did make me forget the memories for a particular period of time, but I'd never dared to get too close to anybody else, both physically and mentally. I was really hoping that this guy—the father of my children—would not be like that. I wanted him to be different, single and the sort of man who liked kids and was willing to embrace change.

Mostly, I was really curious about why he had done this. My reason was simple enough—I loved kids and I wanted a family. I wanted to feel happy again. What could his reason be? Did he have any faintest idea that a woman somewhere had gotten impregnated with not only one but two kids? Judging from the photo I had of him, Jack Davies was very young when he had donated the sperms, possibly at the third or fourth year of university. Why would he do something like this during that time? What was the main reason?

'Mom!' Jim whined suddenly. 'What will we do all night?'

'Well we are going to have some chicken burgers for dinner,' I said enthusiastically as I ruffled his hair fondly. 'And milkshakes and French fries…no vegetables today.'

'Mom, Mom, I want to—I want to have a fish burger,' Jim suddenly called out. 'And apple sticks.'

'Really?' I asked skeptically, raising my eyebrows.

Pete giggled softly from the other seat.

'Yeah…' Jim replied. 'I—do.'

'What are you going to do with it?' I asked, a little sternly, but my mouth twitched involuntarily. I really had no idea what mischief went around inside Jim's head.

'Uh…grow trees.'

I shook my head, but smiled nonetheless.

After reaching the dreary seaside town and checking into the motel, I took my kids to a nearby fast food shop, where they devoured the burgers I ordered and played with their ketchup. I watched them wistfully, too nervous, scared and excited to have a single bite. Maybe because for the first time in my life, I was actually chasing something that hardly made any sense and at the same time felt strangely real.

It was nearly nine o' clock at night by the time I managed to put the kids off to sleep and I headed out of the motel, making sure that the doors were locked. I could not help but feel extremely worried about leaving my kids alone. I became determined to at least exchange phone numbers with the father of my children, so that maybe tomorrow—if not tonight—we could have a big enough talk, with my kids close by.

Even though I hadn't eaten anything till lunch, I could not help but feel nauseous as I stood only twenty feet or so away from where the father of my children was possibly standing.

It was easy to find the park where the gig was happening and it only took ten minutes to walk from the motel there. Fortunately the show ended before I had gotten there and the band was alone now, except for a few women standing. Dressed in make-up and kohl, they looked like groupies. The band wasn't all that famous, but now a thought crept onto my head, wondering whether the band members were the ones who slept around. I wish that wasn't the case.

'Uh…um, do you know where Jack Davies is,' I asked one of the women tentatively, who was standing a bit near me.

'That one,' she said, pointedly, before turning to her phone.

I went near, almost gaping as I looked at the guy sideways. The guy was an utter Goth. I was transfixed and shocked; the fact that father of my children was a hardcore Goth with piercings and tattoo spun inside my head repeatedly.

'Hey, you okay?' the Goth asked, staring at me as I gazed at him with a shocked expression on my face. He had quite a thick voice, but it wasn't Jack. He didn't resemble anything of that old photo.

'Yeah, I'm f-fine,' I stammered in relief.

'Alright,' the Goth said, a little uncertainly.

I stood there in front of him in silence, before I finally found my tongue, 'I am looking for Jack Davies.'

'Yes?' And Jack Davies, in all flesh and bone, suddenly sauntered close to me and stood approximately two feet away, looking at me curiously.

'Uh…yes?' Jack repeated uncertainly after a few seconds.

I suddenly realized that I was completely breathless and I was staring at him like he was some sort of a hallucination. I couldn't even put into words how much the twins looked like him, and how staring at me with just his almost-black eyes was making me feel very tingly and excited. I was extremely surprised at the way his mere presence felt so overwhelming. His looks had certainly deteriorated: the youthful face wasn't there anymore and lines were etched haphazardly across his face. He looked very much wary and tired. But my heart started beating faster than it had ever done before.

'Oh,' I managed out after a few moments of silence in a very squeaky voice. 'Okay. Um…hi.'

He just nodded casually, looking away, before speaking in a deep voice, 'Hello.'

I started panicking to get his attention. 'I'm sorry but you look—they look—so much—' I suddenly felt an insane desire to touch him.

'Um…I'm sorry but I have to take this phone call now,' he said, looking at me for a split second before glancing away. He suddenly fished out his vibrating phone from his jacket and started bantering with someone, who seemed to be one of his close friends. But he was talking in quite a soft, almost pleasant voice. It sounded quite friendly, I had to admit.

'Uh, man, yeah, I will be coming. No, you don't have to order drinks for me. No, seriously—it's fine. Uh, no, the show was pretty…bad. We kind of stuffed up. I'm afraid that gig was way better. Way better than today. Drake needs to get his priorities right…things are looking pretty bleak.' He suddenly let out a large sigh, 'God knows how we long we can carry on like this.'

I waited quietly as he continued speaking.

'Yeah, I'll be at the coffee shop tomorrow. We'd catch the interview at ten, afterwards. Really you still don't know the coffee shop? The one that I always go to? The one where I took you once? Yeah…that sounds a bit gay, doesn't it, sorry? It's Berry something—yeah, on the corner of 25th street, yup, that's the one.'

I couldn't help but stare at him continuously. He looked so amazingly similar to the kids. There could be no mistakes. His hair was longer than normal, but not too long, and it was flopped across his forehead in the same messy way my twins' hair flopped. I completely became tongue-tied. Never in my life had I ever imagined how much my kids were going to look like their father. I somehow always assumed they looked mostly like me. It was hard to digest my new revelation now.

'No I'm not doing anything important, the show just ended,' Jack was saying now, giving a small guffaw. I almost wanted to laugh a little. Here, I was standing there waiting to tell him the biggest epiphany of his life. 'I guess, there are a couple of…, you do what you want to do! They are probably hanging around for Drake. Okay, I'll catch you later.'

Jack took an abominably large time to put the phone back into his pocket. He seemed surprised to still me standing around.

'Uh…Drake is not here,' he said, finally looking at me, with a quizzical expression. 'He went off with somebody else, the last time I saw.'

'Oh,' I exclaimed, wondering what he was going on about.

'Yeah…unless you want an autograph or some thing like that, you can go…too. He may give it to you afterwards.'

'What?' I asked, flabbergasted.

'I don't know, it charms the ladies or something,' he told me, shrugging lightly. 'Helps to create a fan-base. His words, not mine. Don't ask me, though,' he said smiling softly and half-guiltily. 'I—have no experience at these kinds of things.'

'No, I was actually—I—I need to talk to you—'

'Yo man! Come on!' a voice suddenly called out as a guy approached. I jumped as Jack gave the guy a fist-pump.

'Oh, you got here…pretty fast,' Jack said. 'Then why did you call?'

'Woah, stop interrogating,' the guy immediately retorted.

'Fine, let's just go, and then later…'

'You finally want a one-night stand after years of messed up celibacy?' his friend asked, in a half-amused voice.

'Nope. I am completely fine,' Jack said, smiling nonetheless as if it was a passing joke between his friend and him. 'I have to go home, practice and…. I don't even get why we are going to bars if we end up just eating.'

'Uh…I try to get laid.'

'Try,' Jack countered, smiling again.

'Shut up.'

'Wait!' I panicked. Oh my God, was he just going to leave like that without even giving me a chance to talk? Without thinking, I grabbed his arm. His friend suddenly gave out a hoot, 'Did you finally get a girlfriend?'

Jack looked at him unbelievably, shaking his head and then at me in a very apologetic glance. 'Uh…I'm sorry. I…kind of forgot you were here. Honestly. God, this is quite embarrassing…' He trailed off. I realized he was embarrassed that I had heard him talking with his friend.

Jack cleared his throat, saying, 'Yeah I'm really sorry. Um…what do you want?' he asked quite politely.

'It's really important. It's—I am a recording executive.' I knew I was lying extensively, but I could not seem to stop my mouth from springing out the words. 'And I'm looking for… singers.'

'I am a drummer,' Jack replied, looking slightly flustered.

'Yeah that too,' I fumbled. 'So how about you give me your number and I contact you like tomorrow? Cause I am leaving… tomorrow. And I need to talk to you about it urgently.'

'I…actually got a job at a recording studio at another town, which is kind of a big deal, but thank you for the offer, nonetheless. You are really…' Jack cleared his throat audibly. 'I am kind of flattered, really…but I don't do…um, other stuffs. At all. It's kind of all—music.'

'Cause you are not a guy like the rest of us,' his friend snapped, rolling his eyes.

'Yeah, sure,' Jack mumbled, smirking a little. 'Let's just chalk it up to morals and my past and leave it at that, okay?' he said, looking at me, as if trying to get across a meaning. 'Nothing personal. Nothing personal at all.'

I stared at him blankly.

'Okay,' the other guy said, sounding disgruntled. 'Why can't they ever ask me?' he muttered to himself as he started walking away.

'Okay, nice meeting you, I gotta go. Um...bye,' Jack said, and before I knew what was going on, he started sprinting off at fast speed. He caught up to the other guy in no time, giving him a reassuring thump. Both of them soon disappeared into the darkness.

I felt quite exhausted and disappointed when I entered the motel later on.

Should I just pack up my bags and leave with the kids? I wondered, as I poured myself a glass of water.

But then again, I had come such a long way.

The painful memories once again started to brim on the surface. I hastily racked my brains hard, trying to think of something else.

A thought suddenly flickered to my mind. Jack had said that he was going to be at a coffee shop tomorrow. I decided that I would just show the kids to him because it seemed like I couldn't talk to him any either way. He seemed quite dejected today, considering the conversation he had with his friend, so he might not believe me if I went alone.

Maybe tomorrow would be better, I told myself reassuringly, as I flopped onto my bed. Maybe I could talk with him properly.

I sighed as I sank into my bed. After hours of restlessness, I finally fell asleep.

Tomorrow morning, I managed to wake the twins up pretty early, promising that they were going to get some scrumptious breakfast if they behaved and stayed close to me instead of running away. It was pretty easy to find the coffee shop Berry. It was a quaint little one, tucked into the corner of the streets, and located a few blocks away from our motel.

In the calm morning, I felt more hopeful than last night as I entered the coffee shop.

It was completely full inside. My kids already started to get restless.

'Oh Mom, can we borrow your makeup?' Jim asked excitedly.

'Now, why would you want that?' I sighed, looking for a space to sit.

'We will tell you it's sugar—' Pete blurted out as Jim started glaring at him.

'And I will lick it, right,' I said tightly, but couldn't stop the smile tugging at my face.

The twins saw it and started whispering voraciously amongst each other.

I suddenly spotted Jack's profile at the corner of the shop. He was sitting alone, his head wrapped in his hands, looking utterly dejected. I knew immediately that he had a terrible hangover.

'Uh…why don't you two sit here?' I said, pointing to an empty table that a couple had just left. 'And I'll order you some pancakes and ice-cream.'

'Oh, Mom, chocolate chip! Chocolate chip!' Both of them screamed out in unison.

'Sure,' I said, quickly giving the orders to the waitress. 'Okay, just sit here, while I go and talk to this friend of mine.'

'Mom, I want to go feed the ducks,' Pete suddenly quipped in his small voice. 'There are ducks in the…park.'

'I want to feed the ducks!' Jim yelled. 'Mom, let's go fee—'

'Yeah, sit quietly now then we'll go,' I said, ruffling both their hairs simultaneously to calm them down.

The waitress came up with the pancakes and the two were so astounded by the sheer size that they immediately tackled the food in silence. Sighing, I got up and forced myself towards their father. He didn't seem to notice at all, so I gathered my courage and promptly sat down at the chair opposite him.

'This seat's taken, sorry' he said, staring at me in a glassy way. He suddenly squinted back, 'Hey, aren't you the—'

'Hey, I met you yesterday—'

'Yeah, you are the…recording executive,' he said, staring at me suspiciously. 'Right. Um…hi?'

'Yeah that was me—'

'How do you know I was going to be here?' he said, his voice rising a bit. He suddenly flinched and let out a soft moan, clutching his head. 'Oh God!'

He stared at me for a few seconds in silence, then let out a breath, saying forcefully, 'I really do not do those kinds of things, like you know…it's just the way I am. Sorry.'

'Okay,' I sad. I felt very uncertain now. I had no idea how was I going to ease into the conversation. The entire thing seemed to play so much better when I was just left to imagine. 'Uh…can we talk?'

He stared at me for a long time in surprise and then finally muttered, 'Huh? Uh sure…can it be a bit short, though? I kind of have an interview…and a bit of a severe headache. Chugged down a bit too much at the bar. A moment of weakness.' He smiled to himself slightly after this.

I wondered vaguely whether he was a kind of person who talked too much or always explained his actions.

'Okay…you are a drummer?' I started asking, twisting my hands. My voice shook slightly as I opened my mouth. 'How long were…how long have you been playing?'

'Um…high school, middle school, sometime during that,' he said, staring at me avidly.

'Um…do you do you live here?' The questions sounded so ridiculous. Just tell him, a voice whispered inside my head.

'Sort of,' he replied shortly, his voice straining just a bit. 'Um…if you don't mind me asking, what's with the… questions?'

My heart started thumping loudly; I didn't know what to say anymore.

'Look, I am really flattered…close to that, actually. But I'm not really looking for anything right now. I've got a career to take hold of and some other stuff…' He stared at me knowingly, hinting that I just left him alone.

I felt defeated. I just had to tell him now.

'Okay,' I began, taking a deep breath. 'Remember once…when you donated sperms?'

'What?' His expression flickered to uncertainty as he stared at me open-mouthed. 'What did you just say?' He looked like he couldn't believe what he just heard.

I couldn't go on anymore. I felt completely at loss right now at the way his gaze was penetrated at me. How was I supposed to tell him?

Jack suddenly exhaled loudly and leaned closer to me.

'Okay…who are you and what are you saying?' he finally asked me curiously in a tone of disbelief. He looked almost fearful to know my answers.

'Ah, see, those two kids over there,' I fumbled.

He momentarily stared at them before turning to me with the same blank look.

'What about them? Um…I really don't have time to babysit—'

'Well, they are…you are the father of my children.'

A long, uncomfortable silence ensued while Jack just stared at me extremely blankly.

'Yes,' I said, breaking it.

He now stared at the kids across the room in the same blank expression.

'I did not see this coming,' he finally muttered to himself in a very emotionless tone. He looked dazed.

'Well, they are—'

'They look like me too,' Jack continued, still talking to himself.

'Yeah, they are your kids,' I finished. 'I had your picture from the hospital so….'

'I—' Jack interrupted me quickly, gulping down. His voice now started rising very loudly, 'But this is crazy! You were not supposed to tell! Or even know!'

'Hey calm down, man,' a waiter spoke out, suddenly coming near our table. I realized that the conversations at the coffee shop have decreased a little. 'I am so sorry, miss, hopefully the date will end better.' He glared at Jack who was now standing and staring at me with an extremely flustered gaze.

'No, no we aren't on a date or anything,' I whispered out very softly.

'Yeah, I'm sorry,' Jack finally said, shrugging his shoulders and dropping his voice low as he sank into his chair. He looked extremely strained though, as if he was about to burst out any moment.

'Look, I—' he opened his mouth and then closed it again, looking extremely unnerved. A bunch of emotions played across his face: disbelief, shock, anger and…lastly fear. 'I—don't know what to say,' he finished lamely. He started shaking his head repeatedly, 'I...I was...I was so…young and I needed the money. But…how did you even know about me?'

'My… friend found you,' I answered softly.

'I'm…I have a career. I have a family—' he shook his head repeatedly. 'I can't—I can't—I need to confirm and ask the hospital and I just—I'm sorry—but I can't. I…don't know. I'm just—'

He fell into silence, looking away from me.

'I should go,' I finally said, getting up. My heart had already sunk right to my feet. He had just made his opinion very clear to me. It was very likely he had a girlfriend and other kids too. Why had I come to him? Why had I let myself believe he would be different?

'W-wait,' Jack stammered. 'Why did you come?' he asked very curiously.

I said nothing. It's too pathetic, I realized, the reasons why I came. Too complicated

I blinked, feeling inexplicably hurt.

'Why?' Jack pressed on, his voice warming as he stared at me. 'Is—are you guys in t-trouble?' his voice cracked; he looked incredibly worried. 'Financially? Or any other type of trouble?'

'Mom,' Jim cried out, coming near me. 'We finished breakfast.'

'Can we go feed the ducks now?' Pete chirped.

Jack's expression froze when he saw them.

The resemblance was too striking. He looked too shocked to utter a coherent sentence.

'Yeah, I'm sorry.' I started to stammer out apologies, even though at that moment, all I felt was a huge hollow feeling in my stomach. 'I just—wanted—they wanted—I shouldn't have—you have a life. This is the last time. I didn't mean to intrude. Or anything…Bye.'

I quickly took both of my kids' arms, although my hands felt like lead, and tried to usher them out of the coffee shop as quick as possible.

I stood there for a few seconds outside, clutching the twins' hands, almost as if on support. I felt so disillusioned. I should've expected this; I should've known it wasn't going to be that easy. But…that didn't stop me from feeling the pain either and realizing the gravity of the situation. That he would never be mine or my kids to have. He already belonged to somebody else.

I turned my head around slightly, almost wishing he would just come after me or try to talk to the kids. Anything. But he just sat there, brooding, his hands clutching his hair. He didn't even spare me a glance.

I sighed. That was the end of it, I realized miserably. The end of the hope and the chasing.

'Uh…Mom, don't cry,' Jim said as Pete hugged my legs as if trying to comfort me.

I just realized that a few tears had started rolling from my eyes. I quickly rubbed them away, putting on a brave smile as I took the kids' arms and said, 'Let's go to the park.'

We headed off to the park and I immediately collapsed into one of the benches. Thankfully the twins became too busy riding on the swings to notice me. I couldn't stop cursing at myself for being so stupid and naive. What was I thinking? I kept on asking myself. Why did I come? Why? Why did I believe something good would happen?

I realized that the main reason why I was feeling so disillusioned was because I had badly wanted him to be different. I almost convinced myself he would be different. I realized, with a pang in my heart, that no matter what age I was in, rejection still hurt with a razor sharp pain.

'It's just…for once it should've just gone the way I wanted it to!' I whispered to myself, as I thought about what had happened one week before. I knew I was wallowing in self-pity again, but it was still devastating to realize that the one guy who I just wanted to get to know was the one whom I was never, ever going to have. The hope that something good was going to come out of meeting him, that something exciting might have just happened in my life for once had all crumbled away. I felt exhausted.

I shouldn't have met him, I told myself woefully. I should've just accepted face and tried moving on. Alone.

The father of my children was out of the picture, I was sure.

But I was proven wrong, one week later. I still hadn't completely started feeling okay about meeting him; in fact, my pain seemed to have intensified as I kept on replaying the entire incident on my mind the following week. I was starting to feel thoroughly depressed again; it seemed like everyone, even the stranger who was the father of my kids, had moved on, while I was the only one just hoping and reliving the past. It was the first Saturday night after I had made the ill-fated trip. A storm had started brewing and thunder was rumbling loudly when I suddenly heard a loud pounding on my apartment door.

Jack was standing right there as I opened the door, a very determined expression across his face. I just realized that we both owed each other tones of questions and explanations.