It was a slow night with few clients, maybe she couldn’t make much money but it was ideal to process everything that had happened in the last days. Zoe looked up at the sky as she felt the first drops of rain begin to fall.
"I think I'll call it a day." Zoe said goodbye to her coworker.
The rain began to fall hard, making her completely wet when she reached the groundfloor, that’s the moment she put her eyes on the person who was walking by sidewalk.
"Devin." She called softly.
The man had stopped when he saw her leaving the building.
"Hi," he whispered and for a long moment that was the only word emitted between them.
Zoe looked to her left, watching the passing cars. The dawn was coming and people began their daily routines.
"It's a bit early for a walk," she told him as a way to break the awkward silence.
"I couldn’t sleep, so I went out to clear my head a bit."
He’d said it simply and without accusation but the woman couldn’t help but feel a knot in her stomach. The sad look he was wearing didn’t help her calm her conscience.
Devin seemed to realize that the comment had bothered Zoe and tried to justify it.
"It was a complicated week at work."
She smiled sadly at him, but didn’t say anything else.
The rain had stopped, he amused himself by closing his umbrella to avoid her gaze.
Zoe took advantage that he’d lowered his eyes to watch him closely, the years had been good with Devin, he’d some gray on his sideburns and some wrinkles around his eyes, but instead of being a detray it had only added more charm to his presence. He was still a handsome man, a handsome man who still made her heart skip a beat.
"In couple of days it's the twins' birthday."
"Oh I know, they've reminded me it at least a dozen times," he said with a chuckle, it was soft but real.
Ramira and Franco had taken the habit of calling Devin frequently and the man in return called them at least once a day. Every time the house phone rang, Bellandra hid in the bedroom and the twins fought over whoever was answering first.
"I was going to call you to arrange how you wanted to spend time with them for their birthdays. Normally we make an intimate celebration between us, I would invite you but... "
"Bellandra," he said in a sad voice.
"Bellandra." She nodded biting her lip. "Devin, I know that..."
He silenced her by shaking his head and she felt a lump in her throat.
"I was thinking about many things in the last few days, and first of all I want to apologize for the way I treated you that day."
"Please, let me talk, yes? I need to say this. "
She nodded as she felt her eyes get wet.
"I still believe in what I told you that day, I had a right to know about them, but it was not the way to treat you. I was also thinking about what you said and you're right too." He sighed for a moment and took her hand.
"We're both wrong. And the circumstances..."
"They were always against us." She finished the sentence.
"But I think the best thing now is to look forward and try to solve the mistakes we both made."
Zoe thought she was listening to something more in the man's sentence but she preferred to not look to deep into it right now.
"Yes, it's time to look forward." She said with a smile to which he corresponded.
Bellandra was awake when her mother arrived at the house, she heard her from her bed even though she hadn’t been able to sleep all night. She got up without making any noise so as not to wake up her siblings and felt the fatigue from the lack of sleep settling on her body.
There were still a few hours before school but she’d already given up on finding some sleep. She silently approached her mother's room, she found her asleep but her little brother had already woken up, Bruno was sitting in his crib.
After feeding Bruno, the girl began to discard the drinks that her mother had created the previous day but suddenly she found herlsef with one in her hand.
She stared at it, she’d never tried one and was curious about the flavor. If she tasted just one her mother would never find out.
By the time the twins woke her curiosity had increased.
"What are you doing, Bell?" She heard Franco's voice.
She looked at him sideways as she took another sip.
"Bell?" Franco call her again but she continued with her discovery.
She chuckled. Discovery.
"It's time to go to school." Franco told her, but she ignore him again.
"Bellandra." Ramira whispered a few steps away from them.
The girl didn’t listen to her either. The twins looked at each other worriedly.
"Better you change ‘cause the bus will be here soon." She said with a slurred voice while drinking the concoction.
A few minutes later only Franco and Ramira walked towards the vehicle while the teen continued to drink.
Bruno's cry woke her from her necessary sleep, Zoe looked at the clock and realized that it was still early. The crib of her youngest son was empty so the woman deduced that her eldest had taken care of the little one before going to school and that the babysitter arrived. Shee smiled heavily thinking that she was putting too many responsibilities on her daughter's shoulders.
The crying continued strongly, so she didn’t wait much longer to see what was happening. What she found leaving her room was an image that she didn’t like at all.
Bellandra had not noticed her presence and was still absorbed in the drink in her hand. Zoe frowned and walked to where Bruno cried incessantly a few steps away from the teen.
Zoe bit her lips as she took Bruno in her arms, breathed deeply before approaching her daughter, who had already noticed her.
"Is there something you want to tell me?" She asked in a voice that didn’t lead to misunderstandings.
"Bellandra," she said firmly.
"What?" The girl asked defiantly.
"Don’t talk to me in that tone." Zoe started to raise her voice. "This is not something I expect from you."
"And what do you expect from me?" She said screaming as a tear began to roll down her cheek. "To change Bruno's diaper? Cook the twins dinner or help them with homework?"
"To accept a man who has never been in my life?"
The desperate cry of her daughter made all the anger she felt leave in a moment.
"Bell ..." She said stunned.
Almost on inertia she turned around and put Bruno on the floor. Maybe it was a cowardly reaction, but she didn’t know how to deal with that situation.
"Mom..." She heard Bellandra calling her and when she turned, her heart twisted in her chest. Her daughter was reaching out to her, as if looking for an anchor.
"Honey." She whispered as she took her in her arms. "Why didn’t you tell me about how you felt?
"Sorry I didn’t realize I was pressing you on so many things." She said hugging her tightly, while her throat closed. "I'm so sorry."
For long minutes, Zoe soothed her daughter's cry, whispering softly and stroking her head. When Bellandra's cries had subsided, she took her face in her hands and looked at her closely.
"Go take a bath while I make you a coffee."
Zoe stayed outside the bathroom until she heard the noise of the shower, went to her room to put on some comfortable clothes before starting the coffee machine.
Maybe it's not the time for introspection but what had happened had shaken her deeply. She looked to her right to where her drink bar was, the work she had was something she loved to do but no more than her family.
She heard the bathroom door open, minutes later Bellandra appeared wrapped in a bathrobe and with her cheeks still flushed with alcohol, the effect hadn’t yet passed completely.
The girl took the offered cup avoiding her mother’s eyes.
"Honey, I want you to understand that I’ll not allow something like this to happen again." She said in a firm but gentle voice. "I don’t want you to take any of the drinks I prepare again, are you listening?"
"Yes, mom." The girl replied still without looking at the woman.
Bellandra yawned and her mother smiled slightly.
"Come, let's sit down to the couch and watch some TV."
"Hmm, mom, I was thinking about going to sleep, I my head hurts and..."
His mother interrupted her with a laugh.
"If you think you're going to go to bed and sleep until the hangover is over, you're wrong. You'll hold it until the night."
Zoe looked at her daughter's miserable face and almost regrets it, but she would have to be firm, even though there was an emotional reason for her daughter's bad decision, she had to learn that all acts have their consequences.
"What will be interesting at this time on TV?
"Mom, please, I’m really sleepy."
"And I really told you that you're going to have to put up with it. Now help me decide what we can see, perhaps something light where you don’t have to think to much so your headache doesn’t get worse. "
Bellandra looked at her with narrowed eyes. "Why are you making fun of me?"
"Consequences, honey, consequences." She said touching her nose.
Bellandra defeated, blew out a sigh and turned on the TV just when a show of entertainment was beginning.
Both women watched the first part of the program mostly in silence, Zoe lost in thought and Bellandra trying not to fall asleep.
... In more interesting news, Devin Ashton spoke with one of owr paparazzi at the exit of Prumbob Pictures, the favorite artist of this city was kind enough to answer some of his questions. And what he had to say is very juicy!
Zoe looked at her daughter and took the remote to change the show, but Bellandra stopped her by placing a hand on hers.
"Devin, Devin, some questions for Informal Mornings, how true are the rumors of the end of your engagement to Caroline?"
Zoe watched as Devin's eyes had landed on the camera before answering.
"They are true, Caroline and I are no longer engaged."
"What happened?" Asked the excited voice of the journalist asked. "There was a third in part in this? It is for work?"
"All I'm going to say is that this break-up was in common agreement, but nothing more."
Zoe watched as her daughter looked at the screen carefully, in the background the reporter tried to keep Devin talking about the issue, but realizing that the man would not answer anything else on the subject he change of question.
"Then can I ask you if you could confirm another rumor?"
Devin frowned but nodded slowly.
"Is trut that you have been in talks to be part of the new prime time show that is currently in production?"
The man seemed to relax slightly and smiled at the camera.
"It seems that nothing escapes you." he said laughing. "It's true, in fact I just signed the contract."
"Wow, Devin Ashton on a TV show. You have always been a movie actor, what has led you to consider this part of the career?"
"The project is very interesting and very well developed to begin with." He said as he looked back at the camera in all seriousness. "But sometimes, there comes a time in life where you have to think about the priorities you have, what is more important. And at this moment my priority is here in Bridgeport."
"And what is that priority?" The journalist asked excitedly.
Devin just smiled before getting into the car.
Bellandra put her hand to her chest while her eyes were still on television, the reporters on the floor were beginning to speculate what Devin Ashton's priorities were about.
Zoe turned off the TV, her eyes had wet a little but she tried not to let any tears fall.
"Mom..." She heard her daughter whisper.
"Devin was talking about us?" She continued in the same whispering voice.
The woman looked at her sweetly.
"Yes, I don’t need him to confirm it to me to know that he was talking about you."
Bell opened and closed his mouth several times, finally emitting a long sigh.
Zoe pulled her daughter towards her and hugged her, Bellandra took advantage that her face was hidden in her mother hair to speak.
"Soon it’ll be the twins' birthday and if they want to invite him, I ... I ... well, it's their birthday and they can invite who they want."
The woman smiled sofly.
"You know I'm very proud of you, right?” She said in a gentle voice. “Not counting what happened this morning, of course."