It was Saturday morning and Andrea was at the nursing home visiting Mrs. Alvarez, dear woman whom she met through her grandmother. After her grandmother passed away, Andrea continued to visit Mrs. Alvarez who was always delighted to see her. She was in a wheelchair and although she was ninety years old, her mind was a sharp as ever. She reminisced a lot about her life in Buenos Aires and was always telling Andrea, to “go and visit. You will fall in love with it.”
Mrs. Alvarez moved with her family to Canada when she was a teenager. She went to University of Toronto where she met her future husband, Miguel. Miguel was from Madrid. After dating for six months, they got married. A year later, they had Mateo and then, three years later, Isabella. Isabella now lived in New York with her husband and their three children while Mateo was here in Toronto. He was still single.
It was four years ago when Andrea met Mateo the first time. She and her grandmother were in the courtyard enjoying the lovely weather when Mrs. Alvarez joined them. Mateo was pushing her wheelchair. Mrs. Alvarez introduced him to them, her face beaming. Andrea smiled at him and when he reached over and shook her hand, they eyes met and held for several minutes. He didn’t say much but was very pleasant and Andrea warmed to him immediately.
Since that first meeting, they had been seeing each other at the nursing home. Sometimes she would still be there when he visited and she would observe him with his mother. His attentiveness toward the elderly woman was so endearing. He was a bit reserved, not much of a conversationalist but he was very knowledgeable and she found herself enthralled any time he said something. His mother doted on him. They were very close.
“Mateo will be stopping by this afternoon as usual,” Mrs. Alvarez said now, interrupting her reverie. “I will be sure to give him the slice of this lovely cake you baked.” She was still eating her slice, clearly enjoying every morsel. The crumbs fell on the napkin spread neatly in her lap. “I used to love baking. Miguel was always complimenting me on my baking. He particularly loved my lemon squares. And Mateo, he loved my banana cake. Sometimes, I baked Argentine sweets and desserts like Arroz con leche which is a rice pudding and Cubanitos which were chocolate covered biscuit rolls. Yes, the kitchen always smelled of baking.”
Andrea smiled. Mrs. Alvarez was always going off on a tangent. She had grown to love this dear lady and cherished their time together.
“My son loves you, Andrea,” she said suddenly, startling her. “Yes, I can tell just from the way he looks at you.”
Andrea sighed. “Then why has his behavior toward me changed?” Lately, he seemed distant with her and whenever he showed up and his mother was not in the room, he would make some excuse and leave. It was as if he didn’t want to be alone with her. Once when they were alone, she reached out and touched his arm, he pulled it away as if she had burned him, his expression darkening. He mumbled something and left the room, leaving her standing there, hurt and bewildered. The next time she visited his mother, she told her about it and the old lady didn’t seem at all surprised.
“He thinks you’re too young for him,” she said now.
Andrea looked at her in frustration. “I’m not that much younger than him,” she protested. “I love him, Mrs. Alvarez. I want to be with him.”
Mrs. Alvarez smiled. “I know, Querida. Don’t give up. When two people are meant for each other, things will work out.”
Andrea stood up. “I have to go now,” she said reluctantly. “I am sorry that I didn’t get to see Mateo this time. I was in the area and thought I would visit you earlier than usual. Please say hello to him for me.” She pulled on her jacket and her satchel. She went over to Mrs. Alvarez who had by now finished her slice of cake and took up the napkin which she tossed in the garbage bin. Then, she hugged the woman and kissed her on the cheek. “I’ll come by again during the week. Enjoy the rest of your afternoon.”
Mrs. Alvarez patted her on the shoulder. “You too, Querida.”
Andrea left the room and the nursing home. She walked out to the bus-stop and waited for the bus to take her to the subway station. As she sat on the bus, all she could think about was Mateo and how much she wished he would stop running away from his feelings. She had half a mind to go over to his place now and confront him. She glanced at her watch. It was twelve-thirty. He usually visited his mother around four. She would be at his condo in about half-hour. Yes, she made up her mind to go there and face him. Her heart somersaulted at the thought.
Thirty five minutes later she stood outside of his door, nervous but determined. Taking a deep breath, she rang the doorbell, praying that he was home. A sense of relief washed over her when she heard the lock slide back and the door opened. Mateo stood there. A tentative smile touched her lips and then it faded when she saw the expression on his face. “What are you doing here?” he asked.
“May I come in?” She didn’t want to have this conversation in the hallway.
He moved aside to let her go in. After closing the door and locking it, he turned to her, his eyes wary as they met hers. “Why did you come?”
“I needed to see you,” she said. “Why are you so cold towards me, Mateo?”
He muttered something in Spanish and raked his fingers through his hair. “Cold towards you?” he exclaimed, his expression darkening. “When it comes to my feelings for you, cold isn’t the word I would use.”
“You’ve been distant with me lately and avoiding me. I want to know why.”
“You want to know why I’m acting the way I am. It’s simple. You’re twenty-eight and I’m forty-three.”
“What does age have to do with anything?”
“For me it has to do with everything.”
“So, you are saying that you would rather see me with someone closer to my age?”
He closed his eyes then and a pained expression came over his face. “It would kill me to see you with someone else,” he muttered tightly.
She took a step toward him. “Mateo, I don’t want to be with anyone else. I want to be with you because I love you.”
He opened his eyes, raw with the unbridled passion that shone in them. Reaching for her, he pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp. “Yo también te amo! I love you too,” he groaned before he bent his head and kissed her. She dropped her bag and threw her arms around his neck, kissing him back wildly.
For a long time, they stood there, exchanging passionate kisses until he raised his head and whispered, “Spend the rest of the afternoon with me. I’ll call Mother and let her know that I will stop by and see her tomorrow. I don’t think she would mind when I tell her that you’re here.”
Andrea smiled. “I think you’re right.”