He’d known her for two months now. As far as he was concerned, those two months had been some of the best in his life. As the doctor walked into the room, he felt her squeeze his hand.
He struggled to look at her, seeing the tears that tipped her lashes. His heart broke as he looked at her. The doctor opened her mouth to speak, and at her words, he felt all life leave his body.
Chester was twenty-five when he married Mindy, his high school crush. She’d been the head cheerleader in his school, and Chester had wanted her to be his for the longest time.
As he left for college, she remained in their small town and studied as a nurse. When he came to visit his folks for Christmas, he learned that she’d been taking care of his grandpa, who’d been ailing.
There had always been a tiny spark between Chester and Mindy when they were young. Seeing her after almost five years, and without the barriers of high school, sparked that once dormant flame into a roaring pillar of fire.
Chester and Mindy began going out and, some months later, tied the knot on a sandy beach in North Carolina. But what was supposed to be a happy married life quickly devolved into chaos.
Although there was love between Chester and Mindy, trouble shadowed their marriage. It all started when Chester’s work took him out of the country for a few months.
He got a call from one of his friends that his wife wasn’t being truthful to their vows. Of course, when Chester got back home, he confronted Mindy, which resulted in endless fights that culminated in a nasty divorce.
The divorce left Chester a husk of his former self. Although he kept his professional life in check and even rose to great ranks in his field, his personal and romantic lives were in shambles.
Chester had truly loved Mindy with everything within him. He couldn’t believe she ruined such a good thing like that. He’d hoped to forgive and forget with time, but his hurt only worsened as the years passed. Well, that was until he met Ana.
When Chester met Ana, he was in his fifties. More than twenty years had passed since his brief marriage to Mindy. Although he didn’t know it, he was fully healed from the pain the marriage brought him.
Things were different with Ana from the get-go. While there had been an explosive attraction between Chester and Mindy from the moment they met with Ana, there was a slow burn that Chester savored.
Ana and Chester met at a convention where Chester’s company had been one of the organizers. Although the girl couldn’t be more than twenty-five, the way she carried herself drew in Chester like a moth to a lamp.
She was dressed professionally, with a blend of class, intelligence, and presence that Chester had never seen before. As the convention came to a close, Chester knew he needed to invite her for a coffee.
The following month blurred faster than Chester could remember. He’d been on several dates with Ana, having fun as they explored every restaurant, fair, cinema, and convention in their city.
Although everything was perfect between them, Chester became a little concerned about something crucial in their budding relationship.
For all the time Chester and Ana spent together, the only romantic thing they’d done was hold hands and share some hugs.
Chester remembered how he rushed things with Mindy twenty years past and wanted to take things slow with Ana. But then disaster struck as he was driving to see her for their next date.
Chester had been deep in thought, trying to figure out how he could explain to Ana why he was taking things slowly with her.
He didn’t see the car flying toward him at the intersection. He only came to on the cold tarmac with blood gushing from his head and a bone jutting out of his left forearm.
Chester woke up in the hospital with a teary Ana by his side the following day. A doctor stood above him, a metallic board in hand and a solemn look on her face.
The doctor explained everything that happened, detailing that Chester had been involved in a gruesome accident, and if it weren’t for Ana, he wouldn’t be awake that morning. But she also revealed something else that made Chester’s lips part.
“You lost a lot of blood, Mr. Reginald,” the doctor began. “The hospital has been in dire shortage of blood, so we needed a donor.” Her eyes flitted over Ana, “She called your phone as the EMTs brought you in, and we informed her of your situation.
When she heard you needed blood, she volunteered immediately.” Her eyes turned away, and as if forcing herself to speak, she added, “While we were doing some preliminary compatibility tests on both your blood, we discovered something.”
Coming closer with her board in hand, the doctor said, “We found remarkable resemblances in your blood. And when we ran a DNA test, we discovered you two are related.”
She presented her board, and though her lips continued moving, Chester couldn’t hear anything. His ears buzzed, and his eyes stung. They were related. How?
Chester had been an only child. He also knew and was pretty close to all his nieces and nephews. Whatever the doctor was telling him was either factually wrong, or she was pulling some sick prank.
But as Chester pondered the situation, trying to figure out what was happening, he realized something that made his mind pause.
The doctor said Chester and Ana were related. She didn’t specify how. What if Chester was interacting with his little sister or cousin?
He knew his parents well, but that didn’t mean they didn’t have secrets that they kept from him. But Ana was too young to fit the description in his mind. He quickly scrapped that idea from his mind.
Ana sat before him, her teary eyes avoiding his. Chester tried to sit up and failed. Was Ana one of his nieces that he didn’t know about?
He was about to speak when she shook her head at him. She asked the doctor to give them some privacy, insisting that she needed to tell Chester everything by herself. With a curt nod, the doctor vacated the room.
Ana took a deep breath before her trembling lips curled. “How do you feel?” she asked in a small voice. There was worry in her tone.
“I’ve felt worse,” Chester answered lowly. There was a pain in his throat when he talked, a scratchy, uncomfortable agony that made him wish he had no throat to begin with. But he wouldn’t let it stop him from understanding what was happening. “What did the doctor mean?” he asked.
Ana stood up, inhaling as she’d done after the doctor left. She tried to smile again. “Wow,” she said, wiping her eyes with the pads of her forefingers.
“The results say you’re my dad.” Her voice broke as she detailed the report. She wiped her eyes again, her tears flowing freely. “I don’t understand it. Not any of it.”
The news hit Chester like a freight train, and he spent the next few minutes reeling from it. He tried to formulate words, but his mind wouldn’t work. His tongue was thick and immovable, and his vocal cords were unresponsive.
He was still gathering his wits when memories barraged him. He remembered his past, and all the confusion within suddenly turned into anger.
“Your dad?” Chester stammered. He remembered how twenty years past, he’d found someone he believed he loved. He’d given her everything only for fate to declare them incompatible.
After two whole decades, he was finally in a place where he could put himself out there again. Against his expectations, he’d found someone that made him feel alive again. Now fate was here to repeat history.
“I know how it sounds,” Ana said as she sat back down. “I have spent the entire morning trying to make sense of everything.” She wiped her eyes as her other hand squeezed Chester’s fingers as she’d done when the doctor started talking.
“I talked to my mom about it,” she said. “Not directly. I just asked a few questions and filled in the rest.” Her speaking gave Chester the impression that she’d figured out everything herself.
When Ana and Chester were together, Ana shared that a single parent raised her. She always talked about her mom as her rock, a woman who had been thrashed over and over by life but had emerged on top.
She described her mom as having a complicated past, a time that still held power over her. As Chester looked at her now, something clicked.
Ana had once revealed that her mom had been married once. The marriage didn’t last long, ending in a very bad divorce. She described the time after the divorce as the worst for her mom, who was still recovering.
“I am a product of an unfruitful bond,” Ana had once said. Everything she’d ever said now made sense to Chester. Ana was Mindy’s daughter.
As Chester tried to make sense of everything, he realized he’d never asked Ana about her mom’s name. “Is your mom’s name Mindy?” he croaked, and Ana sobbed.
Chester’s heart sank. That was the only confirmation he needed. He watched as Ana cried. He couldn’t even comfort her, emotions banged against each other within him, and the pain from his accident kept him rooted. He didn’t know that the most challenging part of this disaster was yet to come.
Through grueling chest and neck pains, Chester sat up and hugged Ana. He held her tight, not as a lover but as a dad seeing his daughter through a difficult time.
But as he held her, letting her sob over his shoulder, he realized one thing he’d failed to acknowledge from the beginning of their time together: it would save them from the barrage of heartache waiting to fall on them.
Throughout their interactions, the bond between Chester and Ana had been strong. But it hadn’t been romantic.
Looking at her now, it made sense why he was stalling their physical relationship. Something within him had struck a fondness for Ana. But it wouldn’t let him view her through a romantic lens. Hugging her now, he smiled, thankful that he’d listened. But did Ana feel the same?
Afraid of what she felt, Chester pulled out of the hug and asked her what was on her mind. She replied that in all her life, she’d always wondered what her dad was like.
She would never have guessed that she would go on dates with him, know him as a person, and love spending time with him. But was she romantically attached?
Ana confessed that in their time together, what she felt for Chester was a strong bond that transcended the romantic level. She’d tried to think of him as a romantic partner many times, but it didn’t seem to work.
She was glad he didn’t put any pressure on her because despite liking him very much, she didn’t want anything romantic with him. And now to find out they were father and daughter.
Watching her speak and seeing her tears dry as her chirpy, happy, and arresting self came to the fore made Chester smile. Ana was so much like Mindy. But her heart and mind were even more intriguing.
A daughter, he sighed. He squeezed Ana’s hand and struggled down until he kissed it. Although he didn’t hate Mindy anymore, he wished she hadn’t hidden this from him. Would she be open to meeting him and perhaps talking things over?
Chester asked Ana if she could organize a meet-up between him and Mindy. After a few weeks of physical therapy, he joined Ana at a restaurant where they met Mindy.
She was changed, livelier than she was when they divorced. She seemed happier too, and Chester was glad for her. He didn’t scold her for hiding Ana from him, only thanked her for raising her well. Now the three meet weekly, with Chester and Mindy enjoying their time as friends who went through a dark past but came out stronger. Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.