It was a Sunday and Livia was in the shopping mall, sitting on one of the benches, watching the shoppers when she spotted Darren. They were old neighbors. They went to the same schools and university. She had always had feelings for him but she remembered how a mutual friend once told her, “Forget about Darren, Liv. You’re not his type.”
The remark hurt but perhaps, she was right because the only girls Darren seemed interested in and dated were light-skinned black women, white and Hispanic women. Being dark-skinned and sporting an afro, she didn’t stand a chance. Even at school and university, he didn’t hang out with her. He said hi whenever he saw her and asked about her family but that was the extent of their conversation and interaction. They never walked home from school together or interacted when on the university campus. They weren’t friends or even acquaintances. As far as he was concerned, they were just neighbors, nothing more.
She didn’t expect him to do anything now but say hi, ask about her family and then continue on his way. That was if he even noticed her sitting there. He was alone. And as usual, he looked gorgeous. Her heart ached. How she wished she still didn’t carry a torch for him. She remembered the day when he moved out of his family’s home and went to live on his own after getting his first job. She missed him very much and stopped by his house to find out from his mother how he was doing. She found out that he was living in London and that he had a girlfriend. That crushed her, but what did she expect?
When he visited his family over the Christmas holidays, her parents and she were invited for dinner. Once, his girlfriend, a blonde was with him. Livia tried very hard not to be resentful towards her. It wasn’t easy, though. It was hard seeing him with her just as it was hard him seeing with the other girls at school and university. Nothing had changed. She still loved him and he still saw her as nothing more than the girl who lived next door.
Her heart skipped a beat now, when she saw him approaching her. She wished she had checked her face and hair in her compact mirror as soon as she spotted him. She could only hope now that her makeup and hair were fine. She stood up.
He smiled. “Hello, Livia,” he greeted her. Then, to her surprise, he hugged her. “You look great.”
Nonplussed, she replied. “Thanks. So-so do you.”
“It has been a while since we last saw each other.”
“Yes. The last time we saw each other it was on Christmas Eve at your family’s house.”
“Oh, yes. That was last year. It was nice seeing you and your parents. How are they?”
“They’re fine. How have you been?”
“I’ve been good, busy. What about you?”
“Are you waiting for someone?”
“Have you had lunch?”
“Good. Have lunch with me, then.”
“Just the two of us?”
“Yes. There’s this new Greek restaurant which recently opened. It has received a lot of good reviews. Would you like to try it or would you prefer to eat somewhere else? Lunch is on me, by the way.”
“The Greek restaurant is fine with me.” Frankly, she didn’t care where they ate. She was thankful to be having lunch with him, period.
They walked to the restaurant which was situated on the upper floor of the mall and were shown to a corner table. After they had ordered their drinks and food, he asked her, “So, are you living on your own?”
“Yes. It’s nice living on my own. I wasn’t sure that I would manage after living with my parents for most of my life but I did. It’s nice being independent, having your own place.”
“Yes, I know what you mean. So, are you still working at Masterworts Productions?”
“Yes, I am.” Livia was surprised that he remembered where she worked. “What about you, are you still with Boxthorn Enterprises?”
“Yes. I was promoted to Director.”
“Congratulations. That’s great. I can imagine how thrilled your girlfriend. I’m sorry, but I don’t remember her name.”
“Judi. Yes, she is.” A pause and then, “What about you, Livia? Do you have a boyfriend?”
She shook her head. “No, I don’t.”
“I’m really glad I ran into you,” he said quietly. “I’ve been hoping that I wouldn’t have to wait until Christmas to see you.”
He was just full of surprises today. “I’m very glad that we ran into each other too. And it’s really nice having lunch with you. I-I hope we can do this again soon.”
“Are you free on Saturday evening?”
“Have dinner with me.”
“What-what about Judi?”
“There’s no harm in two old neighbors having dinner together, is there?”
“I–I guess not.”
“Good. I’ll pick you up at seven.”
They exchanged phone numbers and she gave him her address. When lunch was over, they parted company.