Demands grew on Patrick’s time, a job he loved and two children. Patrick knew dividing his time meant he neglected the homegrown plants. As he grappled with dead plants, flies and weeds hassled him. He struggled to remember what life was like before he was a father. Patrick wished he knew where Charlotte was, and what had become of her. Eliza hired a private investigator, but they had turned up nothing. Was Charlotte erased from the world? The girls never asked why they had no mother. He was their world, but they would be starting school, and Patrick wished he had answers. It would not be easy to tell them Charlotte and Caleb abandoned them.
His train of thought grew stressful about how he would explain their parent’s absence. The phone continued ringing and he could no longer ignore the vibration in his pocket. A work colleague wanted to send Patrick on a date. His friend was visiting from Salvadordra. Since Patrick was single, he thought they might be a match. Patrick knew the colleague’s wife, renowned for being jealous, disapproved of female friends. The likely outcome was they would meet; she would be out of his league and polite. After a pleasant evening, Patrick would take her number. Whenever he called they would be too busy for anything further. So why did he have butterflies? Luliana tilted her head. While having Nanny Hannah was exciting; she wondered why Patrick needed to tidy his beard.
Patrick swallowed, smoothing his hair, trying to look unruffled. Daciana decided to cry and beg him to stay; she clawed his shirt, wiping her tears and nose. The older toddler was going through a clingy phase. Patrick spent hours trying to settle her in the evenings. Food continued to make her feel unwell; the doctors were unable to explain her complaints. He arrived late, eyes landing on a tall, slender framed woman in her mid-30s. Short black hair, milk chocolate skin, and hazelnut eyes. If there were ever a moment Patrick wished he could freeze, it would be that first impression. The part of the date before he opens his mouth and she realises he is not worth her time. His palms felt sweaty, brushing them against his trousers with an apology. The woman lowered her eyes; a shy smile; her name was Leticia London.
They stood awkward; Patrick cleared his throat. How long did she plan to stay and should they indulge in popcorn during the movie. She let slip a giggle, unsure how to connect the two questions. Of course, she planned to stay for the film and longer-term, she was looking for work in Newcrest. Their mutual friend seemed adamant, arranging for her to meet his single friends. Patrick’s shoulders dropped. Leticia saw restaurants, clubs and bowling; no one asked if she was staying; or if she would like popcorn. None seemed as nervous as Patrick to be in her company. He was unclear if this was good; Leticia shrugged, unable to give him any genuine reassurance. The popcorn, however, was a definite. He offered his arm. Being a proper gentleman was unnatural for Patrick, but he wanted Leticia to feel special.
The movie bored; the papers wrote five stars. This implied a substantial plot, fleshy relatable characters and nail-biting action sequences. Patrick worried he was alone in his view. He sneaked glances at Leticia’s profile, admiring the curve of her nose. She yawned, fingers tapped against the chair arm, and the popcorn bowl empty. Leticia caught his eye, her elbow nudging his and pointing to the exit. movie patrons grumbled as their heads bobbed, disturbing the view. Patrick breathed heavy, relieved to discover daylight and ordering coffee. The barista raised an eyebrow, agreeing the movie was overblown nonsense.
Patrick pressed a coin into Leticia’s hand as she searched her bag. She had not played the arcades since she was a child. Leticia bobbed, rolling her eyes to the ceiling, the side of her mouth curled into a cheeky smile. A bet, any question personal or otherwise. Patrick stared at the machine confused. The flashing lights and electronic sounds pretend to be space engines. He dropped the coin, and the screen went black. From the bottom, the four-gun ship appeared, each manned by one player, with scores tallied. The aliens flashed across the top. Patrick tweaked his joystick, too slow for the quickening pace. Leticia racked up the total destroyed, a triumphant cheer. She hugged him, a surprised look on her face; she stepped back, embarrassed at her actions. Patrick had attempted to close the gap again, but her flustered apology made him wait. There would be time for romance. Patrick filled with hope as Leticia headed home; she wanted him to take her to the movies again.