Prologue

The birds chirped outside, carefree. As they flitted between the tree branches, an old man, lost deep in thought, watched the birds. One bird as if aware of the old man's pensive thoughts, joyfully fluttered to the balcony railing, cocking its heads to the side as if to ask, What's wrong? Why aren't you smiling as you normally do?

The old man sighed and slowly made his way back into his house. As he approached the living room he regarded the large leather recliner, still equipped with an empty coffee mug, for a moment before sitting on a violet chaise longue near the window. After he was comfortable, the man traced his fingertips over the side of the chaise longue before resting on a dark grey wool blanket that was thrown carefully over the armrest. Bringing the blanket to his nose, the man breathed in deeply, smiling slightly at the sweet intoxicating smell of artificially flavored sugar.

The doorbell rang loudly, destroying the eerie silence of the house. After a pause, it rang again, more urgently. Tearing his attention away from the blanket, the old man stood up and made his way to the front door.

As soon as he opened it, he saw a young woman in her twenties, with tears streaming down her face. They didn't resemble each other very much except for the sloped nose and the dimples that could be seen when they smiled. For the most part, the straight black hair, the pale skin, the young woman resembled her mother.

"Papa?" She sniffed before hugging her father. The old man patted her back, taken aback by his daughter's current state.

"Mija," He asked concernedly, "Mija, what's wrong? Come, sit down, I'll make some coffee for you."

The woman nodded and allowed herself to be led to the living room. A few minutes later, the old man returned with piping hot coffee. He laid it down on the coffee table in front of his daughter and sat down next to her on the couch, opposite from the chaise longue. He wiped her cheeks gently and hugged her once more before asking, "Care to explain to me why a beautiful young woman like you is crying?"

"It's just that… I just…" She sniffed harshly before continuing, "Do you think I am ready?" She looked up at the old man with wide eyes, and for a moment he couldn't think of anything else but those obsidian eyes before answering, "No."

She sucked in her breath, "What?"

The old man chuckled, "You are just like your mother. A worry wart." He smiled at the young woman's scowl. Sighing he said, "Of course you are ready. You love this guy, right?"

The woman nodded, "But it's just not the same."

"The same? How many times have you fallen in love?" The old man asked, baffled.

"No Papa! I meant… it's not the same as you and Mama. What you two had, it was obvious that you were made for each other."

"Oh." The old man said quietly. "We weren't 'made for each other'. Our relationship… well, let's say that it was unexpected and…rough."

"Really?" The woman thought quietly for a moment before asking, "How did you two meet anyway? I never heard the story."

"You haven't?"

"No." The woman said.

"Oh." The old man suddenly seemed very interested in his coffee mug, taking a large sip of the piping hot liquid and swishing it through his mouth carefully before swallowing it.

"Papa!" The woman pushed him gently, "Tell me… please!" She smiled at him widely, causing those world famous dimples to show.

Sighing, the man put his coffee down. "Damn it Mija! You know I can't refuse you when you smile like that!" The look in his daughter's eyes showed that she knew all too well that she did.

"Fine." He said indignantly, smiling softly as memories filled his mind. "Where do I begin?"