Broken Lighters

The coffee shop was empty. It was closing in a couple minutes and time was running out. He had waited for several hours, but the realization was sinking in fast; she wasn’t coming. With a quick glance at this phone, he packed up his things and thanked the girl behind the counter as he made his exit. There was a chill in the air, but it was the wind that stung his cheeks. Wrapping a scarf around his neck, he watched his breath crystallize in the wind.

“Damn you,” he whispered into the cold. “I shouldn’t care anymore.”

Smoke circled around him outside the bar, as he watched the sun set. It was a beautiful sight, and one he was glad he hadn’t missed. The door opening behind him shifted his gaze. A young woman, about his age, seemed to have a similar thought process: alcohol equals the need for a smoke. Not meaning to stare, he tried to return to the sunset in the silence, but the colors had faded to a starry night. He turned to find her patting down her coat with an unlit cigarette between her lips.

“Need a light?” He asked with a slight smile.

“I have one someplace,” she insisted, digging deep into a pocket.

He noted her with interest, waiting patiently for his offer to be accepted. His heart fell when she managed to pull out a green lighter. She flicked it several times, but it refused to cooperate.

“Fuck,” she muttered.

“Need a light,” he asked again.

“Yes,” she sighed. “That would be amazing.”

He pulled out his lighter and offered the desired flame. As she took the light, he studied her features. Stunning green eyes and luscious pink lips wrapped themselves around the cigarette. She was beautiful, and he couldn’t stop watching her.

“Thanks so much, she said after a deep inhale. “I needed this.”

“Rough night?” He tried to start a flowing conversation.

“Kinda. My boyfriend is being a dick, but nothing out of the norm.” She laughed carefully, taking a quick glance over her shoulder.

He took note of the glance. Not wanting to pry, he figured she would add details if she so desired, so silence came between them.

“Why do men have to be such assholes?” She blurted after several moments.

“I can’t answer that, as I do my best to not be an asshole. But, I guess, it depends on your definition,” he replied with a long thoughtful draw.

“Some men get so mean when they drink, or even when they don’t drink. I just don’t understand the attitude issue,” she sighed as she lifted the cigarette to her lips once more.

“That’s their own problem, and they shouldn’t be dragging others into that mess,” he said. “Especially beautiful women as yourself.”

His off-hand comment made her blush and her attempt to hide it was amusing to him. He had commented to merely extend a compliment in the moment, but he also knew he was right from the look he had earlier when he was giving her a light.

“You seem like quite the gentleman,” she chuckled.

“I do try,” he replied, flashing her the biggest smile he could muster.

“Well, thanks for the chat,” she smiled, flicking the embers from her cigarette.

“Hey, no worries. I enjoyed it. You take care of yourself, okay? Don’t let him beat you down,” he wagged a finger in her direction.

She flashed him a side smile and nodded before heading back into the bar. He finished his own light and looked at the rising moon behind him before following her inside.

Shoving his hands into his pockets, he dug out a beaten-up pack of cigarettes and a broken lighter. Pressing one to his lips, he tried to piece together the dismantled device that would relieve his growing depression. As he attempted to fix it, he promptly dropped it.

“Fuckin’ a…” he mumbled.

“Y’know,” she started. “We should probably quit smoking.”

He looked up quizzically, regarding her with a peaked interest. They had both made their way outside for their usual evening smoke, and nothing had seemed out of the ordinary to him except she hadn’t lit up this time.

“What makes you say that?” He asked.

She seemed to shift uneasily in front of him, not saying a word. They had only been dating a few months, but it felt as if a year had passed. He waited patiently for her to speak, but she remained silent, still shifting from foot to foot as if she had something important to say.

“Hun,” his voice laced with concern. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, it was just a thought,” she replied quietly.

“You sure?” He pushed, really sensing there was more to the statement than what she said.

“No,” her chest rose and fell with a heavy sigh. “I just…”

“What?” His voice spoke as gently as he could.

“I…I’m pregnant,” she stammered, kicking at an imaginary pebble.

He stared at her, not knowing what to say. Now, it was his turn to not know what to say. Again, it had only been a couple of months, and this came as a shock to him. He wasn’t ready for children and wasn’t sure he even wanted any. Now, it was slapping him in the face.

“…are you sure?” His voice shook, despite his futile attempts to keep it calm.

“I was late this month, so I figured I would just pee on the stick to see,” tears started to fall. “I…I didn’t think it would come back positive. It wasn’t like I was trying… Something must’ve happened. I know we were being careful.”

“I don’t know what to say…” He spoke with a hint of anger.

“Please don’t be mad at me. It wasn’t on purpose. I know the last thing we needed right now, especially at this point in our relationship, was for me to get knocked up.” She cringed, waiting for sting on her cheek.

“I just don’t know what to say,” he whispered, putting out his cigarette and turning to go inside.

“I am so sorry,” she cried, her face buried in her hands, shaking.

“Yeah…me too,” he shrugged before stepping through the door and leaving her on the porch.

Leaving her to her tears, he went to his room and packed a suitcase full of his things. He hadn’t collected a lot of over the years, at least that he took with him to her place. He needed time to think about this change in his life, and he couldn’t find the courage to face it right now. It wasn’t like he wanted to leave her, but his mind was screaming at him to run far away, and he was listening.

He bent down to pick up the pieces of what remained of the disassembled lighter, shoving it back into his pocket. The cigarette started to find its way back into the pack; he was suddenly not in the mood.

“Need a light?” A soft voice asked.

Lifting his gaze, he missed the pack and the cigarette fell to the ground. Luscious pink lips caught his attention and green eyes taunted his heart. The sight of her standing there caused his mind to go blank. He couldn’t think of how to respond to her question, especially with those eyes staring at him expectantly.

His phone buzzed, and a familiar number popped up on the screen. It was her. Almost a year had passed since he had walked out of her life, and the pang of regret ate at him as he saw her name flash on his phone. He knew he should answer, but he couldn’t bring himself after so long. He missed her, and memories of the good times flew through his mind in seconds. Swiping at the message, it disappeared off the screen.

Curiosity started to eat at him after that. What had happened to her? And the baby? He wondered if it had been a boy or a girl, and what its name was. Shaking his head, he tried to drive the thoughts from his mind. That part of his life was over, and she probably just wanted him to get a paternity test, so she could claim child support. He knew he should do the right thing, but he was terrified of what was behind that dark door.

Lighting a cigarette, and against what he felt was the better judgment, he picked up his phone and read the message she had sent. It was short, and nothing accusatory was written.

‘You have a little girl. She is healthy and looks like you.’

He started to cry. He threw his lighter on the cement and crushed it, knowing what he had to do.

‘I am so sorry,’ his fingers typed, then waited.

It showed on his screen that she had seen his message, and he was sure she wasn’t going to respond. Then, suddenly, he saw she was typing. His heart leapt to his throat in anticipation.

‘I know,’ was all she said.

‘What’s her name?’ He asked.

‘Piper.’

‘Can I see you two?’

She never replied to his message, at least that night. He was worried she never would, but he knew he deserved it at this point. He was the one that abandoned them, so why shouldn’t he be cut out of their lives and let them be.

“Sorry I am late,” she lowered her gaze, a smirk forming on her features.

Without a word, he walked towards her, crushing the cigarette on the ground. Placing his fingers beneath her chin, he lifted her eyes to meet his. Her lips were parted slightly, as if she was about to say something. His mind raced. He didn’t care that she was several hours late, only that she came at all. Carefully, he brought her lips to his, kissing her with all the bottled emotions he had left on the shelf.

“I am so sorry,” he said as he released his embrace.

“I know,” she nodded. “She’s over here.”

She led him to her car and she opened the backseat door. He took a deep breath and stood by the car seat, peering into the dimly lit vehicle. What he saw was a baby, dressed in pink with a little bow around her head. She was beautiful, just like her mom, and he couldn’t help by smile.

“Hi Piper,” he said. “I am your dad.”

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