Once upon a time, there was a creator.
This creator was lonely. They were born alone on the Earth's surface. There were no other living creatures for the creator to share their feelings and experiences with. They would wander the great expanse of the world in silence, ruminating the purpose of their quiet existence.
One day, the creator decided to pick up their pen and write. And write, they did. They wrote and wrote and wrote, designing a new world where there are countless of diverse and living beings that can socialize, communicate, and create. They would have the power to make decisions, impact their universe, and evolve as sentient beings.
And so, the creator wrote: Once upon a time.
"The end!" Alisha closes the book and tucks Kyler's bangs behind his ear.
"Again!" Her son insists, snuggling closer to her. She smiles, tired from a long day's work, but opens the book for the third time tonight.
"Okay, but this is the last time," she sternly says, and starts again, much to Kyler’s delight.
As she reads the words aloud for the nth time since Kyler was born, Alisha finds solace in the creator’s isolation. Being lonely isn’t always a bad thing – and being a single mother, she knows this first-hand. Kyler is her happiness, and that’s all she needs.
Once they reach the ending of Once Upon A Time yet again, Alisha sets it down on the nightstand. “Now then, it’s time for bed, mister!”
“Aww,” Kyler pouts, but he graciously lets her get up and snuggles under his covers.
“Yes, honey?” Alisha touches his face and brushes his hair behind his ear once more. His bangs are just too short after this haircut that they don’t quite stay put.
“Are you lonely like the creator?” Curiously shining eyes peep over his sailboat laden blankets.
Alisha is taken aback at the question from her five-year-old and quickly stops her mouth from dumbly gaping open. Did she really come on as lonely enough that her child could sense it?
“Well, honey, I’m not lonely because I have you,” she reasons, giving his nose a boop with a playful smile.
“But what about when I’m at school? Are you lonely then?”
The innocent curiosity, although naïve, is blunt. It cuts through her soul like a knife through hot butter, straight to the point with its sheer directness. “Fine, maybe a little.”
Kyler frowns, perplexed. “I don’t want you to be lonely.”
“Don’t worry about me, baby! That’s my job, to worry about you,” Alisha moves in to tickle him and he squeals as he tries to defend himself. “If you don’t stop, I’ll be out of work!”
“No!” he gasps, and she knows that should be the end of that. She leans down to give him a kiss on the forehead.
“Well, good night, honey. Sweet dreams and I love you,” she turns off the light and heads for the doorway.
“G’night,” Kyler mumbles through a yawn. “Love you, mommy.”
Once Alisha closes the door, she breathes a sigh of relief that she didn’t know she was holding. It’s not easy being a parent; navigating these out of the blue conversations are still an adjustment for her. Fingers crossed she didn’t mess that one up.
The next day when she’s picking up Kyler from kindergarten, she finds him proudly beaming and with an ironclad grip on a man that she vaguely recognizes from other school-related events. He has fair brown hair that frames his somewhat handsome features well, bringing out the viridian green of his eyes. The man looks awkwardly uncomfortable, and his other hand is occupied by a little girl with perfect pigtails, who strongly resembles him.
“Mommy! This is Mr. Reyes, Morgan’s daddy. He’s also lonely while Morgan’s at school!” Kyler excitedly greets, dropping a bomb that Alisha was not expecting. Her cheeks flush with embarrassment, as does the face of this Mr. Reyes.
“Kyler!” Alisha scolds, doing everything she can to resist the urge to bury her face into her hands to avoid all eye contact. “That’s very rude of you to say!”
Before Kyler can protest, Mr. Reyes sheepishly speaks up. “No, it’s okay. Kyler here was telling me about how he wanted me to meet his mom.”
“I’m so sorry,” she apologizes, holding out her hand for Kyler to grab – he does, but doesn’t let go of Mr. Reyes’s hand. “Come on, let go of Mr. Reyes’s hand now, Kyler.”
“Not until you meet each other!” Kyler firmly says, and Morgan, despite not chiming in, silently nods in agreement with a shy smile.
“I’m sorry about this,” Alisha says again, growing more and more embarrassed as the seconds tick by. “I’m Alisha, nice to meet you.”
She holds out her free hand, and Mr. Reyes looks like he wants to respond in kind, but both of his hands are currently occupied. Alisha clears her throat, squeezing her son’s hand and Kyler lets go of the man’s so he can shake. “Hans. It’s nice to meet you as well.”
As Alisha looks up from the handshake, she’s met with the most dazzling smile she’s seen in five and a half years. It’s overtly kind, and there’s a spark of real interest in his eyes. It’s the kind of smile that gives you hope that there are good people in the world.
“What a unique name,” is all she can get out without completely losing the composure that she managed to just barely gain back.
“Thank you,” he says, sounding pleased. “You have a lovely name yourself.”
Is this flirting? Alisha can’t help but wonder, rosy redness burning at the tips of her ears now. “Thanks, that’s very nice of you. Well, Kyler and I should be going. Dinner to make and all that.”
Hans nods with sympathetic understanding – though, perhaps rather than sympathy, it’s empathy. His expression is the same one that she has when she thinks of all the chores and the responsible adult she has to be for the rest of the day. “Yes, of course. Before you go, would you like to exchange numbers?”
Kyler and Morgan gasp and then devolve into giggles, and stare at you with expectant, wide-eyed gazes. Alisha is fairly sure that her whole face is currently bright red. Why did she have to be so easy to read? “Um, sure, if you want to.”
They exchange phone numbers, and Hans snaps a quick selfie of himself for a contact picture with Alisha’s phone. It seems very forward of him to do, but she finds herself not minding very much. She’s too shy to do the same, and she hands back his phone without any such photo.
Hans looks a smidgen disappointed, but he grins at her regardless. “Thank you so much! Perhaps we can plan a play date for these two sometime soon?” Perhaps we can plan a date for us two sometime soon?
“Sure, that would be great. Kyler would love that.” Sure, that would be great. I would love that.
“Yay, I can’t wait!” Kyler cheers, and he starts doing his happy dance. Alisha laughs, and gives his hand a gentle squeeze.
“Me too!” squeals Morgan, and she does a little jump in response. Hans gives her a fond smile and pats her on the head.
“Alright, kiddo, we gotta get going and stop by the grocery store to make some chicken curry tonight.” He waves at Alisha and Kyler, and her stomach grumbles in jealousy as she bites her tongue. Chicken curry is one of her favorite dishes. Was this fate?
“No fair, I want some! We love chicken curry! Right, mommy?” Oh, Kyler. Why do you have to blab all of my secrets?
“I’ll make some this week,” Alisha reassuringly says, and does a poor job of avoiding Hans’s curious gaze. “Well then, have a good rest of your day, Hans and Morgan.”
“Yes, you as well.” The Reyes family waves goodbye, and Alisha walks with Kyler back to her trusty Ford Focus.
“Did you like Mr. Reyes, mommy?” Kyler pesters, thankfully out of earshot.
“He seems like a nice man,” she says, sighing as she recalls his beautiful smile.
“Yes! Morgan loves him a lot and I love you a lot, so I think you two should get married!”
“That’s not quite how that works, honey,” Alisha hurriedly buckles her son into his car seat, flush returning. It’s best that Kyler doesn’t see it if she didn’t want him doing something else embarrassing.
“Mmhmm,” she slides into the driver’s seat and looks into the mirror to give him a reassuring glance. Her phone chimes, signaling a new text notification and Alisha may or may not have picked up the device to immediately check to see if it was Hans.
It was really great meeting you again. Dinner sometime? Maybe we can have a chicken curry competition?
A wide grin spreads on Alisha’s face, as she eagerly types her response.
Only if you’re prepared to royally get beat.