The world outside was waking up slowly. Cars drove by and there were some families heading out to have breakfast. There were a number of people who showed up at Meraki only to walk away, disappointed after seeing the CLOSED sign. The sun was shining brightly to warm the world up. Of course, none of this mattered to Maya and Theodora. The former was about to introduce a whole new world to the latter. She began by opening her handbag and pulled out an old envelope. Theodora set aside their cups of coffee, which were left untouched, to make some space for the contents of the envelope. Maya held it close to her heart, looked her friend in the eyes and held her breath. She then spilled its contents before her mind decided otherwise.

Old photographs were arranged on the table. There were 3 large ones with 2 ladies on them. A very young and attractive Maya stood out with her dark, piercing eyes. The other woman was smiling happily at the camera, her hands hugging Maya with their cheeks pressed together. Their poses in all three photographs suggested a strong bond, shared perhaps by sisters. “Lena. Her name is Lena. She’s your mother,” said Maya softly, her body in the present, her mind in the past. Theodora brought a picture closer to examine it better. Yes, she had Lena’s unruly brown curls. They shared the same smile, eyes and height. This Lena could easily be her mother but it felt so strange to Theodora. Growing up in the orphanage, she had 4 different foster families and never a steady home. She got out as soon as she turned 18, enrolled into university under a private scholarship and worked part time at a bakery. There she discovered her love for baking and dropped out of University to pursue her heart’s dream. Her colleagues at that bakery were her first family. Now, her customers were her family. Of course she had asked herself how did she end up in an orphanage and since no one could give her any answers, she eventually forgot all about finding her biological family. So why is this coming up now?

Theodora didn’t need to know anything about Lena. She has her cafe, her customers and friends like Maya. Getting to know her biological mother now, at the age of 58, will not change her past or who she is today. Her words formed clearly in her mind, about how all of this didn’t matter to her at all. After setting the picture down, she looked at Maya and said, “Tell me more about her.” That, my dear readers, is a phenomene which cannot be explained. The need to know the truth comes from within, overriding the strength of our fickle minds.

Maya picked up a photograph of Lena lying on the grass next to another man. She looked at it with melancholy before handing it to Theodora. The man had a clean shaven face and short dark hair. It was easy to tell that he was Theodora’s father. Lena was looking at him with so much love in her eyes and he was smiling directly at the camera. A pendant,hanging from a chain around Lena’s neck, glimmered under the sunlight in the photo. She had them in all of the other pictures too. Theodora looked up at Maya to say something only to stop herself when her gaze fell on the pendant Maya was now toying with her fingers. It was the same one from the pictures. “Would you like to know more about them?” the older lady asked gently. Theodora’s light nod brought them both on a journey 59 summers ago.

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Sharing the lack of interest in an art class they were forced to enrol into,  Maya and Lena became best friends. The gap of 7 years in their age was filled in by Maya’s maturity and Lena’s young heart. The time they most looked forward to was Friday evenings where the young women would meet at the creek, a very beautiful escapade and provided enough privacy for those seeking it. Lena, who teaches English, makes sure that Friday evenings were made available for their meeting. Giggles could be heard from the creek to any passerby and not even the trees could hear their hushed whispers. They met more often during the holidays. Most families were not in town and school was closed. This summer,however, was spent in the company of one of Lena’s student, Hiero.

Hiero was a young Greek man who is always travelling to various places with his camera and hunger to see the world. He would travel with only a rucksack, work any odd jobs to support himself financially and take wonderful pictures to commemorate the trip. Usually, he spends about 3 months at a place before moving again. It has been 7 months now in that small but entrancing village and he found himself postponing his departure. It was the reason behind his stay that made him feel unsettled.

The day was warm and the sky was filled with fluffy clouds taking various forms. Flocks of birds flew by occasionally. The flowing river was extremely inviting for those wanting to cool their bodies. Under the tall trees, which provide just enough shade without obstructing the view of the sky, was a picnic blanket and a large but empty picnic basket. The three young friends were lying on the grass, basking in the sunlight. They had gone for a swim and wanted to dry themselves before heading to town for ice-cream.

Maya reached for Hiero’s camera and stood over him and Lena, camera positioned to capture the grass and her friends up to their waists. She said, “Think about love,” and clicked immediately. Lena had turned to face Hiero and the chain she wore around her neck swung to the side. He turned to face her only after Maya took the picture. Time slowed down for all of them. Maya had seen the way Lena looked at Hiero, her eyes full of love and lust. No, that can’t be possible, she thought. Every fibre of her being protested against the obvious truth. Lena was in love. With Hiero. She still held the camera in front of her to shield herself. Hiero knew he should have turned quickly to face Lena but he couldn’t stop himself from looking at the camera. He raked his brain to come up with excuses for the questions Lena might ask later when they are in private. They have been meeting daily at night in his little home for the last 4 months. Women; can’t live with them, can’t live without them, he thought. Smitten Lena knew she could not keep it a secret from Maya anymore. They have spoken about falling in love and getting married before. Her best friend knew more than anyone how she wanted to have a family. It was perfect with Hiero, from his warm personality to his cheeky side. She was very much in love and Maya should know. She also had another secret. I should tell them now, it’s a perfect time, she thought.

“Lena… you and Hiero.. -” the already stuttering Maya was interrupted by Lena. “I’m pregnant!” she squealed with excitement. Never a keen observer, she missed the color draining from Hiero’s face, who regained his composure as quickly as he could. Maya on the other hand saw the small change which happened in a fraction of a second. She was still processing the fact that her best friend has been in a relationship without her knowledge. Now, she had seen his reaction. Her intuition told her there was trouble ahead and she was suddenly protective of Lena. Maya loved her more than anyone in this world and she would protect her and the baby fiercely. She forced a smile when Hiero hugged Lena and said, “That’s great, my love!” His eyes met Maya’s and he knew, that whatever trust she had in him has been lost at that moment.