Nile Andrews had my eyes. Or I had his. When his eyes met mine as I stepped into the restaurant, I could see that he noticed it, too.
I was more nervous about this than meeting Glenda. I’d never had a father. I didn’t know what that felt like. What a meeting with the man whose sperm gave me life would even be like. My first question had been, did he really want to have this meeting? The answer was clearly yes. He’d boarded a plane to Atlanta hours after I’d called him that morning. He said he could meet me at seven at this restaurant. I had been surprised by his desire to come here so soon. I had even expected him to make excuses.
“Hello, Della,” he said as he stood up and held out his hand for me to shake.
“Hello, Nile,” I replied, slipping my hand into his. He was tall. Glenda had said he played basketball and I could see why. His hair was a dark color that contrasted greatly with his blue eyes. He was a handsome man. I could see what Glenda’s teenage heart had seen.
“I’m so glad you wanted to meet me. I’ve been waiting for that call since Glenda let me know she found you.”
He hadn’t wanted me. But he’d been a seventeen-year-old boy. I couldn’t hold that against him. It wasn’t like he had been an adult who had made the decision to give me away. He hadn’t been old enough to be a parent yet. Not really.
“I like Glenda,” I said simply.
Nile grinned and he sat down after I did. “Yeah, she’s something else.”
There was a tenderness in his eyes that surprised me. He had loved her once. It had been young love but he had loved her. It had been real. And somewhere deep down it had never really gone away for him. Glenda didn’t get that soft look in her eyes when she talked about Nile. She admired the man he had become and said his wife was gorgeous and perfect for him. Nile reacted differently.
“I guess she told you about what happened,” he said.
I nodded. “She did. I understand. You were both young.”
He studied me a moment, then shook his head. “You look so much like her. It’s amazing. But you got my eyes. My other girls don’t have my eyes. They got their mother’s. But you got them.”
His other girls. He hadn’t called them his girls. He hadn’t made them sound exclusive. He had said other. Something in me warmed. In his mind I was one of his girls. I didn’t know him. I hadn’t even known about him until a few days ago. But he had always known I existed.
“Did you know that I was a girl . . . before you heard from Glenda?”
A frown creased his forehead, then a small smile touched his lips. “Yeah. She told me. After you were born she told me she held you. That you were perfect and that she’d given you away. I got drunk that night. Real drunk. Wrecked my dad’s car and almost lost my scholarship. I went a little self-destructive for a while. I was a kid myself but I kept seeing this small baby whose face I had never seen, and I knew she was mine. But I’d never held her. I’d never been able to kiss her.” He shook his head. “It was the hardest thing I’d ever experienced. Then Glenda moved. Without a word of explanation she was gone. I didn’t see or hear from her for over thirteen years. Then one day she called me. She wanted to find you. I didn’t want to. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to see you, because I did. I was just afraid to see her. She, uh . . .” He cleared his throat and tugged at his collar. “She’s my one that got away. You never quite get over that one.”
I felt like pointing out that she hadn’t gotten away, that he’d sent her running, but I didn’t. That ship had sailed. They were both married with kids. “What are your daughters like?” I asked. I had never had siblings. Not ones that I remembered. To know I had half siblings in this world was hard to comprehend. I was curious about them. I wanted to know if they were anything like me.
Glenda’s daughter was young but she had a free spirit. She’d told me I looked like a princess. She asked me if I could fly a plane and told me that one day she was going to fly planes. I had been fascinated with her. All her long blond hair, like her father’s. Her name was Samantha but they called her Sammy. I liked knowing she was my sister. That what she was could have been me. I could have been like that as a child. I could have been so free. Knowing she would get a chance to live her dreams and have a family around her that loved her made me happy. It made the heaviness on my shoulders ease.
“Three of them are difficult but they’re fun too. Jasmine is the oldest by one minute and fifty-six seconds, and she doesn’t let the other two forget it. Jocelyn is the middle child and she’s the most like me. She plans to be a basketball star. Then there is my baby, July. That’s the month I met their mother. She’s what warms me when I need it most. July is the perfect name for her. She’s also the sweetest and most forgiving.”
“They all have J names,” I said, smiling at the idea.
“Their mother’s name is Jillian.”
I liked that. “I would like to meet them,” I said.
Nile’s smile grew. “I would love that. So would they. I told them about you after I got the call from Glenda. Jillian already knew about the baby . . . about you. So, she stood behind the idea of me meeting you. She would like to meet you too.”
“Okay,” I replied.
The server appeared and we ordered our drinks and Nile asked if I wanted an appetizer. I wasn’t really hungry at the moment so I told him no. Once the server left he turned his attention back to me. “What was your life like growing up, Della?”
This was a question that Glenda hadn’t asked me. I had been prepared for her to ask me but she never did. Because of that, I had let my guard down with Nile. He was different. He wanted to know. He wasn’t afraid to hear the answer. I could tell that Glenda was afraid of the truth.
“It wasn’t easy. I wanted to meet you because I needed to know what the people who created me were like. I needed to know I was going to be okay. But I’m not ready to share my past with you. Honestly, I don’t think you want details. If I were you, I wouldn’t want to know.”
Nile’s face paled at my words and his jaw worked back and forth. I picked up my water and took a drink. I was more honest with him than I had planned on being. But the words had come out without a filter.
“You’re wrong. I want to know,” he said in a quiet tone.
I shook my head. “No, you think you do but you don’t. And I don’t like talking about it. I’m still working through some things. Meeting you and Glenda and seeing with my own eyes that you have healthy, happy children is what I need right now. It eases fears that I’ve lived with a long time.”
Nile leaned his elbows on the table and studied me. “You’re scaring the shit out of me,” he said.
He had no idea.
“Nile, I want to get to know you. But I plan on taking that slow and doing it when I can deal with it. One day I’m sure I’ll be ready to tell you about my life. Until that moment, I don’t want to discuss it again.”
He took a long, deep breath through his nose, then nodded. “Okay. Fine. But the father in me wants to fix things.”
He wasn’t my father. He was someone else’s but he wasn’t mine. He just provided the sperm that helped create me. “The male in you wants to fix things. Not the father in you.”
He started to say something and stopped. A smile broke across his face and he leaned back. “Who is he? The man who wants to fix things for you?”
I fidgeted with the napkin in my lap. “I’m not talking about that, either.”
“Why not? Did he hurt you?”
I shook my head. “No, he never hurt me.”