Looking down at the two stunned looking faces, her uncle smiled and went on “You were here with your mom few months ago. Right?”
Still stunned, Richie nodded.
Uncle Stanley smiled at him and offered his hand in a greeting. “Your mom always talks about you at church. She is so proud of you!”
Richie shook the older man’s hand and smiled.
Stanley looked back at Melody “You know his mom too! You helped her with the Christmas Toy Drive last year.”
Shocked, Melody looked from her uncle to Richie and back “Wait a second, you mean Joan from church is Mrs. Sambora?”
Both Richie and her uncle smiled and nodded.
“Wow!” she exhaled, “This IS a Small World!”
“Sometimes its even smaller then you think, Kwiatuszku!” said her uncle and re directed his attention to the plates he just placed on the table. “OK, who gets what?”
Richie eyed both plates suspiciously and sniffed at the one closest to him “Mmmm, this smells good! What is it?”
Melody pointed to the plate next to her “This is Golabki, or stuffed cabbage. The one next to you is Klopsiki z kasha gryczana, or meat loaf with buckwheat on the side.” she explained. “You can pick which ever one you like or we can share both” she offered.
Richie nodded and reached for the plate with meat loaf on it.
“Bon Appetite!” said uncle Stanley as he walked towards the kitchen.
They ate in comfortable silence, till Richie cleared his plate and sighed reclining in his seat “Wow! This was good!”
Melody smiled at him, wiped her mouth with her napkin and pushed her plate aside “Told ya, everything is good here!’’
Richie smiled and nodded “I guess now I know I can trust you. I just wish you would feel the same about me.”
“What do you mean? I trusted you to pick the restaurant!” she smirked at him.
“Yes, you did. But you still did not tell me anything about yourself” He pouted. “Guess I’ll have to see what Ma heard about you…”
Melody sighed “OK, what do you want to know?”
“Well.” He said “For starters, tell me about Nic’s father.”
“Not much to tell” she started, then looked up into his warmly glowing chocolate eyes, nodded and went on “He was a Chief Surgical resident, who unbeknownst to me had an on going bet with his friends that he’ll have any new student nurse that comes to their unit. I was that young and naive student nurse, who was stupid enough to fall for Michael’s lines and lies. He asked me out, wined and dined me, then told me that I just made him believe in ‘love at first site’. We ended up in his apartment, and in his bed.” Melody sighed and looked at Richie again…
He reached across the table and took her small hands into his big ones, gently rubbing his thumbs over her knuckles.
“Please, go on!” he urged her quietly.
“Well, to make the long story short… Michael dropped me off at the hospital the next morning and proceeded to ignore me after that. I thought that I disappointed him in some way… so I did not pursue him. Few weeks later, after I realized that I was pregnant, I approached him again and told him of my condition. He insisted on drawing my blood and sent it to the lab himself to confirm it. When the result came back positive, just as I told him it would be, he gave me $500 and told me to ‘get rid of it’… I couldn’t….” A tear escaped from her eyes and started a slow trek down her cheek.
Richie leaned forward and gently wiped the tear away. “What a prick!” he breathed out. “So what did you do?”
“Well, I did the only thing I could think of doing… I went home and told my parents. Even though they let me know how disappointed they were in me, they supported my decision to keep the baby. They also contacted their lawyer who started a child support petition. Of course Michael demanded a paternity test, even though he knew he was my first…” she sighed as another tear escaped “When Nicole was born, and the test confirmed his paternity, our lawyers worked out a child support agreement. My whole family, my parents, Aunt Anna and Uncle Stanley and my grand parents, all pitched in and helped me in the beginning so I could finish college and get my nursing license. After that, I worked nights to support us and put all of his payments in a trust fund for Nicole.” she smiled “Now she has a nice college fund.”
“Wow!” said Richie “How old were you when you had her?” he asked gently.
“Nineteen.” she whispered.
Richie just shook his head “Jesus! At nineteen, I couldn’t even take care of myself! Let alone take care of a baby and finish my education!”
“Well, like I said, I wasn’t alone. I moved in with my grandparents, and my mom and Aunt Anna took turns helping me and teaching me how to take care of Nic. Aunt Anna is Nic’s God mother, and since she and Uncle Stanley never had kids… Nicole became the center of their Universe.” She smiled “I bet Uncle Stanley already put together a goody bag for her”
“So she has him firmly wrapped around her little finger, just as Ava has me?“ laughed Richie.
“Yep, pretty much!”
“And what about Michael? What kind of relationship does she have with her father?”
“Nicole never met her father. He made it very clear that he was not interested in any custody or even visitation rights. Apparently he was engaged to be married when our encounter occurred. Nicole was born while he was away on his honeymoon.” She sighed and shook her head. “The last time I saw Michael was when he handed me the money for the abortion. All contact after that was through our lawyers.”
Richie was about to ask her something else, but was interrupted by Aunt Anna coming to clear their table “How was the food?“ She asked Richie and smiled.
“O, it was as delicious as my mom’s and nana’s cooking!”
Anna smiled and nodded “I’ll remember to tell that to Joan tomorrow in church! Now how about some coffee?”
He looked at Mel, who nodded in agreement. “Yes please!’’
Anna placed two cups in front of them and went to retrieve a coffee pot. She was immediately replaced at their table by smiling Uncle Stanley who was holding a plate with a slice of cheese cake with one birthday candle. He placed the plate in front stunned Richie and lit the candle.
Richie shifted his gaze from the candle to the beautiful woman seated across from him, whose green eyes were sparkling brighter then the birthday candle, and raised an eyebrow.
“Happy Birthday!” she said and blushed.