Delise Torres grew up in Puerto Rico, watching telenovelas and re-enacting scenes with her Barbies. Once she outgrew her dolls, she turned to daydreaming, and it wasn’t until her late thirties when she finally put her own stories to paper, and her passion for writing was born. She has a PhD in Food Science and former work experience as a quality assurance manager in the food industry. When not writing, you can find her trying to time-manage her life, singing, reading, and streaming shows and movies. She lives in Germany with her daughter and German husband. Her first novel, One Tough Cookie, foodie women's fiction set at a cookie company, will be published on July 18 by Alcove Press.
Twitter and Instagram: @torresdelise
Natalie had always believed that once she found the spark, she’d find the one, her future husband, that person to share the rest of her life with.
Tonight, as she kissed Peter in his car, Natalie knew she’d finally found him. They’d parked down the block from her co-worker Rosa’s house. They were there for Rosa’s fifty-fifth birthday party, but as soon as they parked, Peter had started kissing her and they’d been making out for the last fifteen minutes.
This was a rare feeling. There was so much of a spark inside her that she couldn’t be away from him. Whenever she went on a date, she searched for that spark and had only found it once before. But not like this.
“We should go in,” Natalie said.
“Just a little longer.” He kissed her again.
Peter lowered her seat and climbed on top of her. He unzipped his pants. “I’ll be quick, I promise.”
Natalie moaned. They’d had sex right before they left his apartment. She almost agreed to skip the party, but it was important to show up. This was going to be the first time Peter would meet her friends.
She held on to him as he ravished her. Natalie had never had sex in a public place, had never understood what caused people to risk exposure for a moment of pleasure. In fact, she’d been celibate for almost two years. She’d always wanted to remain a virgin until she found that perfect someone, and when she thought she’d found him, she’d given herself to him, mind, body, and soul. She’d been wrong then, but this time, she knew she was right. This much spark couldn’t be a mistake.
Her skin glowing, Natalie led Peter into the crowded living room, searching for her friends. No guy she’d ever dated had met them this soon, after just one week. And he was so excited about it. It was a sign. Peter was the one.
Natalie spotted Karina and Marisa off in a corner. She squeezed Peter’s hand, leading him through the throng of bodies before stopping in front of them.
“Guys, this is Peter,” she yelled so they could hear her above the Mexican banda music playing.
Marisa smiled and kissed him on the cheek. Karina only waved. She better not be rude.
“This is some party!” Peter yelled.
“Wait ‘til the Mariachi get here,” Karina said.
“Does this woman throw a party this big every year?” Peter asked Natalie. When she nodded, he said, “I need to live more.”
Natalie and Marisa laughed.
“Natalie told us you’re an architect,” Karina said. “What’s that like?”
“A lot of sketching and negotiating with the client to get them what they want. Actually, you know what? I don’t want to talk about work. What I really want to know is: what’s up with that gigantic cake?” He pointed at the table behind him with the huge tres leches cake Rosa always ordered for her birthday parties. “Let’s go see.” He led Natalie away, maneuvering around two large purple helium balloons, both shaped like the number five, tethered to both sides of the table.
Okay, that was quick. But they had all night. What did it matter?
“This cake is amazing.” Peter took out his phone and took a photo.
Why was he so fascinated by a cake? It was huge, yes, but it wasn’t anything special. “It’s tres leches. Have you eaten that before?”
“No. What’s in it?”
“It’s just a normal cake dipped in condensed milk. Why don’t we go back to my friends?”
“Actually, why don’t we go get something to drink? And some snacks.”
“There should be food in the kitchen. Follow me.”
When they arrived in the kitchen, Peter gaped at the assortment of taquitos, chips and salsa, and tamales on the counter. He didn’t waste time loading up his plate.
In the past days, Natalie had discovered what a sweet tooth Peter had, and how much he enjoyed eating. Natalie preferred to eat healthy, but his enthusiasm had made her indulge too much. She was aching for some exercise after a week holed up in Peter’s apartment. The sex was great, but she needed more physical activity than that could offer.
With Peter set, they meant to go back to the living room and her friends, but ended up in the backyard. A large piñata in the shape of a star hung high from a tree, and children of all ages ran around. The music spilled out from the inside, but not as loud. Rosa was dancing cheek to cheek with her husband. Theirs was the marriage Natalie dreamed of—almost thirty years together and still going strong. She gazed at Peter and smiled. That will be us someday.
After greeting Rosa and congratulating her, they settled on the lawn. While Peter ate, Natalie looked around. Ian, Karina’s ex, walked in from the side yard and said hi to Rosa. His eyes met Natalie’s for a moment, and she waved. He waved back with a sad smile. Poor guy. He was still heartbroken over Karina. She’d never been honest with him. And yet, she wanted Natalie to be honest with Peter, to talk about her expectations and make sure they were on the same page. Natalie gazed at him again. They were just starting out. If she mentioned marriage, she’d scare him off, just like the last guy. But maybe it would be better to know now than be heartbroken later. She took a deep breath and asked, “Would you like to get married someday?”
He choked, coughing loudly and staring at her with wide eyes. “Excuse me?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to spring that on you like that. I just want to know what your opinion on marriage is.”
“Uh… You and I have only been dating a week…”
“I know, I know. Just in general. What do you think?”
“Well, uh…” He cleared his throat. “I don’t really believe in marriage.”
Natalie went cold. “Why not?”
“I’m not sure if humans are meant to be with only one person.”
“But what about love? Look at those two.” She gestured toward Rosa and her husband, who were still dancing. “They’ve been married for almost thirty years and you can tell they’re so in love with each other.”
“But love can only take you so far. My parents called it quits after fifteen years. From the stories I heard, they were crazy in love at the beginning, but then they… drifted. The love sort of ended. They’re much happier now. That’s why I don’t get how people like your friend here do it.”
Natalie gazed at the pair. Her Puerto Rican abuelos had made it to almost fifty years, but they hadn’t had a perfect marriage, sleeping in separate bedrooms and fighting all the time. They’d only stayed married because they were Catholic and hadn’t believed in divorce.
“Maybe it’s more about making a commitment to the other person and sticking to it,” Natalie said.
“But is it really worth it, staying with someone only because you told them you would, even if you’re miserable?”
This was the most profound conversation they’d had since they met. They’d mostly talked about what they each liked in bed, their favorite foods, their work, and their friends. That was it. And yet, the spark between them was electric. Natalie’s skin had goosebumps from the moment their eyes met. Hadn’t she always believed in the spark?
Natalie had only felt a spark that strong once, two years ago, and her early talk of marriage had gotten her dumped. Now here she was again. Her friends had told her not to get her hopes up, to be straight with him how she saw their future, and ask about what he wanted in a relationship to make sure they were going after the same things.
“So, you don’t want to get married someday?” she asked him.
He shrugged. “I don’t know. I think the whole idea of marriage is bogus, like putting pressure on yourself before you even begin. People change and you don’t know what you’re going to be like in five years, so are you really going to say, ‘I’m gonna love only this person for the rest of my life? Come on. So much can happen. I never even thought about being an architect, and now it’s like, ‘This is the best thing ever.’ And while I love my job now, who knows if, in ten years, I’ll be so sick of it, I’ll want a change? It’s the same with relationships. I just broke up with someone who I idolized since high school. Like, I couldn’t stop thinking about her, and then I finally got a shot, and it was great in the beginning. And then one day, I was like, Who is this person? Why did I ever think she was so great?” He finally gazed at her, and his face went pale.
Natalie realized her mouth was hanging open and closed it. But her heart had dropped to her stomach. Was this the guy she thought was the one? How could the Universe bring her this great connection and ruin it with a brain that didn’t believe in marriage?
“I can’t believe this.” Natalie ran out through the side entrance. She stopped at the front porch, unable to breathe. How could this happen? Her perfect guy was not so perfect for her after all.
Peter called out to her, and she straightened.
“What just happened right now?” He stroked her arm. “Are you okay?”
“No.” She shook her head. “I’m not okay.” Her voice broke. “I thought … Ugh.” She took a deep breath. “Do you like me, Peter?”
“What? Of course, I do. Look, I’m sorry about what I said. I know I must sound so cynical—”
“You were just being honest.”
“I take it you do believe in marriage?”
Natalie laughed. “I do.”
“But… I mean, we’ve only been together one week—”
“I know, I know. I shouldn’t have all these expectations, but I do. It’s dumb, I know. I’ve just… I’ve been dreaming of finding the one since I was a little girl and I’ve dated so many guys. So many. And I never felt about any of them the way I feel about you.”
His eyes widened. “Oh.”
“I’m sorry, I know it’s a lot.”
“No, no, it’s okay.” He took her hand, playing with her fingers. “It’s not like I don’t feel this great connection to you. I do. But—” he gazed into her eyes— “it’s only been a week, Natalie. I can’t promise you—”
“But that’s the thing, isn’t it? You just said you would never promise eternity because you don’t know what the future holds.”
“But it works both ways. It may be that five years from now I think the complete opposite. Because I met someone that I’m head over heels for.” He stroked her cheek.
“So, you’re saying—"
He stepped closer. “I’m saying it’s not set in stone.” He wrapped his arms around her, and she rested her head on his shoulder. “I really love what we have right now. I don’t want it to stop. But I can only offer you this moment. What do you say? Do you want to stay in the present with me?”
Natalie’s whole life had been set in the future. When she’d been eight years old, her abuela had told her, “You need to learn to cook so that you can take care of your husband.” Although having a job was important, being a wife and mother was expected, a given. Natalie had lost count of how many times she’d fantasized about her future husband, how she was sure she would know when she’d found him. And then Peter had arrived, right on time. She’d had a plan—date as much as possible, widen the scope, find the spark and she would find the one, and then she could get married before she turned thirty, as was expected. And now… the perfect guy was here but he didn’t have the same expectations. All her life she’d planned to be married. Her grandparent’s marriage hadn’t been perfect, but it had been real and they’d been there for each other at the end. Her abuela hadn’t died alone, and wasn’t that the most important thing, not ending up alone? But now she questioned if the spark was the right measure after all.
Natalie took a step back. “I’m sorry, Peter, but I can’t. I know it’s too soon to talk about these kinds of things, but I have a plan for my life, and it includes marriage and children, and if you don’t even believe in those things… I don’t see how I can stay with you.”
He lowered his head. “I understand.” He chuckled. “Me and my big mouth.”
“No, it’s okay. It’s better to know now than to find out a year down the line.” She paused. “Can you take me home? I don’t want to stay here.”
When they arrived at her house, she kissed him so long she had to force herself to step out of his car. The spark had failed her. She couldn’t rely on it anymore. It was time to stop living in a fairytale and start being more practical. From now on, she’d be upfront and honest, and one day she’d meet the man to share her life with.
And maybe the spark would grow from there, guiding her relationship toward a happy ending.