Carmen considered herself a strong woman, and in most areas of her life she was. But when it came to Hugo Villareal, her strength and resolve were questioned. After she kicked him and Imane out of her house that night, he didn’t stay away. He kept showing up under the guise of spending time with his son. Carmen felt betrayed, but she wouldn’t deny her son a relationship with his father.
During Hugo’s visits, Carmen would stay out in her garden. While out there, she could hear her father and son laughing and talking and playing. Hugo’s amazing ability to understand Rodrigo’s babbling made her smile and warmed her heart in spite of her best intentions.
Carmen: So much for keeping things cool between us. Is there anything more attractive than a man who is a good father?
On one such visit, Hugo stayed at the house longer than usual. Carmen finally ran out tasks in her garden. Once she came back inside, they got to talking, and one thing led to another.
Then it happened again.
Carmen felt like a full blown floozy. She didn’t want to consider herself to be quite at mistress level yet because at last she kept turning down his requests for them to hang out in public. It was one thing for them to take Rodrigo to the park together. It was something else entirely for him to ask her on a date.
Hugo was insistent though. After she turned him down for a date, he tried again but claimed it was something more casual.
Carmen might turn into a stupid pile of mush when it came to this young man, but at least she was smart enough not to aggravate his vampire wife by having a romantic breakfast with him at one of Windenburg’s or Oasis Springs’s most popular restaurants.
She should’ve known her dalliance wouldn’t stay without consequence for long though. It was only a matter of time before Carmen found herself back at a familiar location with a familiar look on her face. And she had no one to blame but herself.
Carmen thought back on the last handful of days. She couldn’t pinpoint exactly when she’d gotten into trouble. She was just doing her best to raise her son Rodrigo, newly aged up to toddler, as a kinda-sorta-single mom. She managed to find a good work-life-hobby balance. The best example was that her painting skill was getting higher everyday.
Her paintings were selling for high amounts of money, and she was able to put some money into the house, adding cabinets in the kitchen, and setting up Rodrigo’s room with some of the latest toddler amenities. He loved his new car bed, and the smile on his face assured Carmen the price she’d paid for that bed was worth it. That and the fact that he actually like bedtime. Bedtime was their favorite because they got to explore magical worlds together as she read him to sleep.
Hugo was over so often that Rodrigo was essentially being raised in a two parent house. He was happy when he had both his Momma and his Papi there to tuck him in at night. Sometimes it almost felt her son was having the childhood she wanted for him. He was such a happy child, always exploring the world, almost always in a good mood. He was her little angel.
Rodrigo had also become enthralled with Carmen’s garden. He liked to come outside while she was working and try to find her among the plants. He was always so delighted when he could spot her in between the trees.
Carmen thought about difficult mornings when she had to wake Rodrigo sooner than she wanted to so they could have breakfast together before she had to head to work. In those moments, it stood out that Hugo didn’t live with her. He was a big help, but he couldn’t be there 100% of the time.
She wondered when Hugo slept. Between caring for his own family at his house, working, spending time with his
son nephew, and of course spending so much time with her and Rodrigo, the hours just did not add up. She wanted to ask Hugo about it, but that felt like prying, and she didn’t want him to think he should start confiding in her like they were in a real relationship, so she dealt with feeding and clothing a toddler by herself each morning.
One he was awake and out of bed, Carmen leaned down to hug her son. “You know I love you very much, don’t you?”
“Yes, Momma,” said Rodrigo, “I love too!” His half-formed sentences were getting better, and Carmen knew it was only a matter of time before this life stage was over. She was happy she didn’t have to miss any of it.
Carmen put Rodrigo in his high chair and gave him breakfast. She scarfed down her own food then got up to do some quick housework while he was still eating. Her first task was to repair the always-breaking speaker over the table.
She didn’t finish the repairs as fast as he finished his breakfast. Rodrigo was not happy to be left in his high chair.
“Just a little longer, chocolate drop,” said Carmen. “Momma is almost done, okay?”
Rodrigo wasn’t old enough to give a proper response to her reasonable request, so he let his tears do the talking.
Some days were easier though. Rodrigo was surprisingly easy to potty train. He seemed to be fascinated by the potty. Every time he had to go, he would say, “Momma, I potty!” That usually meant Carmen had only a handful of minutes to get him into their tiny bathroom and situated on the potty.
Potty training was even easier when Hugo was there. When his visits and potty time overlapped, Carmen was sure Rodrigo would get it right the first try without a messy accident. She allowed herself small moments to feel like a happy family when the three of them were crammed into the bathroom for potty time or bath time.
Those family moments were more than enough to convince Carmen she’d love Hugo forever. And now, more than ever, she was acutely aware of how it wasn’t a good idea to get so entangled with him. She would have no regrets, but she’d finally learned her lesson. Hugo had given her a wonderful son who’s smile was bright enough to light the darkest night.
He was about to give her two more.
“Rodrigo, come meet your brothers, Marco and Mauricio.”