It was spring. The birds were chirping in green trees and on power lines and the sun was shining on dew-laden grass and metropolitan glass windows. But it was a terrible time for Mr. Tavery Smith. Sometimes tragedy brings people closer together. Other times, it tears people apart. In the case of Tavery and his daughter’s grandmother, it did the latter.
Tavery had been the star football player in high school. With his skills in the sport, he procured a scholarship to a fine college where he studied commercial architecture. Close to the end of his schooling, he went to a party. Being youthful and unwise, when he woke up the next day, he barely remembered anything from the night before.
Two months later, after graduation, he received a text message from a girl who was in the same class, a Becky Sanders. Her message said they needed to meet, right away. So they did. And to Tavery’s surprise, Becky was pregnant. She claimed the baby was his but he wasn’t fully convinced, again, he didn’t remember anything from that night. Seven stressful and conflict-filled months passed, and little baby Grace was born.
When Tavery saw her, he had no doubt Grace was his little girl. Not because the two of them shared the same dark skin colour and Becky did not, but because of her eyes. After a few minutes, those precious eyes opened and Tavery began to cry. She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
Her mother, Becky, came from a broken home. Becky’s mother wanted nothing to do with the illegitimate child and her father was estranged. She had nowhere to go and no income to support her little miracle.
Tavery sat next to her hospital bed and looked at the two women before him: Grace and Becky. One he loved, the other… let’s just say he and Becky didn’t get along. But he didn’t even think twice about the words that came out of his mouth.
“Becky, would you two move in with me? I’ll support you and pay for every bill you have. I can’t imagine living without Grace. And that way you can raise her with my help. My apartment only has one room, but I can take the couch.”
Although she didn’t care for Tavery much, Becky had no other option. “Yes,” she said.
The days turned into weeks and the weeks into months and then years. Tavery and Becky never fell in love, never went on dates and never even held hands. But they were raising their little miracle together, in a strange form of plutonic unity. Finally, on the eve of Grace’s second birthday, the relationship between Tavery and the “white girl he had messed around with” as his mother had put it, ended.
Becky was driving with Grace to the supermarket and was struck by a vehicle making an illegal turn. Becky was killed instantly and Grace was left alone in the car, unharmed.
So despite the beauty of the spring season and the bustling of the city, Tavery felt as if his life were falling apart.
It was one week after the death of Becky that Tavery’s company decided not to allow him any more time off for dealing with his personal matter. When he told them he needed more time to sort things out and make sure Grace had care during the day, they let him go.
It was one month after the death of Becky that her mother, Grace’s grandmother, began the legal process of demanding full custody over Grace.
Yet, it was one month after the death of Becky that Tavery met Hannah.
It was in a coffee shop near the courthouse Tavery had begun to frequent as he met with his lawyer to prepare for the custody battle. He didn’t sleep much those days so he bought himself a coffee every time he went down to the office. He approached the door to the cafe at the same she did. He opened the door for her and smiled as she thanked him. He thought to himself, she is beautiful. He stood behind her in line, they ordered their drinks, and both left without saying a word to each other.
The next week, when he had gone down for a meeting with his lawyer, he stopped in at the same coffee shop and saw she was already in line, just a few folks ahead of him. After ordering, she turned her head toward the door and saw Tavery. They both smiled at one another. But again, they left without saying a word.
Tavery couldn’t help but think about this dark-haired woman who had her hair tied back and wore a suit. He was unemployed and spent most of his time with Grace since the death of Becky. But the following day he asked if his mother could watch Grace while he went down to the courthouse. He didn’t have an appointment there: he wanted to go to the coffee house.
He made sure he arrived a few minutes before the time he had the day prior. He peered around the corner and saw she was sitting at one of the tables outside. When Tavery rounded the building and approached the coffee house, Hannah shot upwards and walked toward the door.
“Hi,” Tavery said as he opened the door for her.
“Oh, it’s you!” she replied. Her voice was firm but lightly pitched. “What a happenstance. It’s Tavery right? I-I heard the barista say it one time,” she said with a nervous stutter.
“Yeah, and you’re Hannah?” Tavery asked with a smile as they entered the coffee house.
“Yeah.” She entered the line. She grabbed the edge of her jacket sleeves and tapped her hips with her fists nervously.
“So,” Tavery began, “you work nearby?”
Tavery’s brow twitched. He was surprised she didn’t take the opportunity to introduce her career. She was obviously a woman with a focused career by the way she dressed.
“Uh-” he stuttered. “I’m currently unemployed, but I have a Master’s in architectural engineering.”
“Yeah? Sounds like you’ve got a lot of free time then, huh?” She hunched over when asking the question; which she later hated herself for looking like such a dork, as she had thought.
“Well, not really,” Tavery replied. “I, uh-” Tavery didn’t know what to say so he was grateful when the barista interrupted them to take Hannah’s order.
“Medium house blend, please,” she said.
“Cream and sugar?” the barista asked.
“Black’s good.” She blushed a little after saying that in front of Tavery.
Tavery stepped beside her and ordered his cup of coffee while reaching for his wallet. “Large house, please. Eight cream. And I’ll pay for hers too.”
Hannah burst out into laughter. “Eight cream? Really?”
“‘Black’s good,’ really?” Tavery mimicked her voice in jest.
The two of them shared a laugh. His was deep and soft the room while hers was high pitched and pierced the ears of everyone in the cafe. She quickly bit her lip and held back her laughter.
“I’m kidding, I’ll take two and two, please,” Tavery said to the barista while handing him cash from his wallet.
Hannah and Tavery got their drinks at the same time.
“Do you have time to sit?” Tavery asked.
“I’m so sorry, I really wish I did, but I have to get back to work.”
“No worries, I’ll see you here again, I’m sure. What do you do for work?” Tavery asked as the two of them walked toward the front door.
“I work nearby,” she replied with a quick smile. “Thanks for the coffee, Tavery. I’ll get the next one, okay?” She turned and headed down the sidewalk.
“Okay.” He stood outside the cafe and watched as she walked away, her tied back hair bobbing up and down from the bounce in her step.