Author: Phillip Traum

No Milk, No Sugar

Feb 29  |  Cameron D. Alexander

“Grande Triple Shot Americano,” the barista proclaimed with the volume of a town crier. Dylan stepped forward like a recovering lobotomy patient.

“Thanks.”

“Milk and sugar are over there,” the barista said, pointing to the sidebar. Dylan nodded into empty space as he slouched away. Cool air whooshed as he opened the door. Before he stepped out, he felt eyes on him. Dylan tried to resist the urge to glance over at one of the tables, but he couldn’t stop himself. Her. Of all the latte joints. He averted his gaze and made a panicked retreat into anonymous oblivion.

“Hey, Dylan!” she called.

He scanned back. Amelia’s hand was raised like a goddamn truce. He feigned a smile and walked toward her, tall cup in hand like a diploma.

“Dylan… heeey,” her voice softened by sorrow. Smiling, she gestured to the empty chair across from her.

“Amelia… oh… I can’t… I have to, you know.” He glanced out the window, then back to her soft, unjudging eyes. He couldn’t think of an excuse.

“I know, but I… just wanted to say… anyway… you look well.”

“You too. Yeah, I got out a few months ago.”

“I was hoping to see you.”

“I haven’t returned anyone’s messages, so… don’t take…”

“I… I want to say I’m sorry about your brother. It… was sudden.”

“I know.” He slunk into the chair, took off his cap and ran a hand through his scruffy hair. “The cops found the guy — just some meth head.”

“Dane wanted to make things right with you, you know.”

“Yeah.”

“Hey, and also… about… the way things… you know.”

“I… it’s all good. I was over the limit, and, well, that family wanted blood. But the judge was fair, I guess.”

“When you went away, you know… I was alone… and Dane was there while you…”

“It’s okay.”

“I said horrible things I couldn’t take back. I blamed you and…”

“It’s not your fault. I would have cut me off, too.”

“You don’t have to… you’re allowed to forgive yourself.”

“Yeah, no, I just…”

“You know, I’ll alw—”

“I know, I know.”

Wiping the tears, she said, “It’s my…” She smiled and waved to a woman maneuvering a stroller through the door toward them.

“My nanny. She’s helping me out a few days a week,” Amelia said.

“Mia, this is Dylan.”

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

“I’ll bring the car around,” Mia said.

“Okay… thank you,” Amelia replied, watching her zip out the door again.

“And this…” she said, turning back and taking the child from the stroller, “is Grace. She just turned two.”

“Hey, Grace. Oh, she’s sleepy, huh?… Is she…?”

“Yes, she’s Dane’s.”

Dylan’s eyes widened. A painful joy detonated inside of him. He almost smiled.

“Biologically, she’s, you know…”

“She’s…?”

“Well, Dane was your identical… twin… so she’s also… you know.”

Fate had pulled another bizarre trick. Dylan straightened himself.

“Grace,” she said, propping the child on her lap. “This is your uncle Dylan.”

“Dadda?”