Excerpt for Daddy's Big Girl by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Daddy’s Big Girl



T.R. Baker

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.



Copyright © 2013 by T.R. Baker

2nd Edition © 2016 T.R. Baker

Library of Congress Control Number: 2016915618 

All rights reserved.












1. African-American women – Fiction. 2. Family life – Fiction.


Dedicated with Love

Emma L. Baker & Willie Baker Jr.

(Mama & Daddy)

Daddy’s Big Girl

Even now, in a room full of people

she feels like a child

A shy demure little daddy’s girl

Will she ever grow up

Does she want to grow up

Staring at a chandelier she sees

sparkling diamonds that belong only to her,

given to her by her daddy

He was the first

…to tell her she was beautiful

…to tell her she was intelligent

…to clap when she gave private concerts, out of tune

Her daddy,

flawless in every way

Protector, vindicator, and provider

Jack of many trades, mastering them all

in the eyes of a daddy’s girl

Lack luster in her love for any man

‘cause no man is like her daddy

…who could plant a flower garden

and make a game of it

…who could wake her up at six in the morning

to enjoy the morning dew

…who could play circus with her

and fly her on his feet,

that miraculously became a flying trapeze

Who could ever be like her Don Juan, her guardian, her Superman

…her hero

Standards of a man, a husband, a father, a friend

too high for mere mortal men to ever meet

Lessons of love and family strong and binding

Seeking to be treated like the princess that she is

Wanting to always hear

…that she’s beautiful

…that she’s intelligent

…that she’s a daddy’s girl

Daddy’s Big Girl

Also by T.R. Baker

Every Time I Close My Eyes

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Thank you to Pamela Williams for making me feel like a New York Times Best Sellers’ List author; Willa Dickerson for falling in love with Hayes; Leatha Griffin Gallon for allowing me to read to you; Alex Malone, Chaz Cross, Cassandra Myers for (sort of) reading the rough draft; Gwyn Brown for my desperate photo shoot; Gudrun Hughes for all of the great notes and for reminding me to pay attention to the details; and Keith Saunders of Marion Designs for the cover (which almost gave me a nervous breakdown, that I don’t think he knew about).

To those who encouraged me, a long time ago (2003), after my first book: Circle of Friends, who invited me to my very first literary event; Raw Sistahs, for telling me to work on “dialogue,” Page Turners Book Club, A Book and a Biscuit, and Onyx, for inviting me to your meetings as a guest author.

For continued moral and technical support from Black Writers with Purpose and the Atlanta Writers’ Club, thank you.

A special thank you to: “Not Until My Wedding Night,” Essence Magazine, Lakita Garth; “Loving the Older Man,” Essence Magazine, Nadira A. Hira; NPR/How to Become a Marriage Educator/Adult Children of Divorce; “Beat the Odds: Make Your Marriage Work Despite Your Parents’ Divorce,” Beverly & Tom Rodgers; and Michael Vincent Miller, PhD., “Intimate Terrorism,” The Oprah Magazine.

And THANK YOU to: Mint Condition, Kindred the Family Soul, and Raphael Saadiq for the background music that kept me in the moment, and everyone else that encourages me to continue writing.

Chapter 1

The day started off like any other typical day. As I drove, I found myself releasing the day’s woes by trying to figure out what was so important that I had to stop by my parents’ house before going home after work. Mom and Dad are finally going to sell the house. That had to be it. As I exited the car, nothing seemed any different. Once inside the house the atmosphere was welcoming, with that little hint of understated tension. It hadn’t always been like that. I recalled a time when the Bassett home was always warm and inviting. If asked, I could probably tell you exactly when it changed. I entered the house oblivious to the possibility that this visit could be any different than any of my other visits home. Why would it be?

At 5’10”, my long strides led me quickly through the foyer into the living room, where I found both of my parents. My mother sat comfortably on the couch; my father stood as I entered the room. He walked over to me and welcomed me with a tight hug and a kiss on the cheek. I walked over to my mom and placed a kiss on her cheek before taking a seat next to her.

I quickly examined their faces. “Why so serious? What’s going on?”

My dad was the first to speak. “Your mom and I…we’re getting a divorce.”

Before I knew it, I had jumped to my feet. “What do you mean you’re getting a divorce? Daddy, that’s crazy! I quickly turned to look at my mother. “What is he talking about?”

“Vada Jade, sit back down and let your father finish talking.”

“VJ, baby, your mom and I haven’t been happy for some time now, so I’m moving out. Actually, I moved out last week. I wanted to be the one to tell you, but your mom thought we should talk to you together. I know it’s difficult for you to understand right now, but I assure you, I love both you and your mother. So, it’s not about that. It’s just that we, your mom and I, have grown in different directions over the years and it's best that we go on with our lives…separately.”

Sobbing, I turned and looked at my mother. “What is he talking about? This is just crazy; it’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Why in the world would y’all be getting divorced after 40 years? Dad, is there another woman involved?”

“Vada, I’m not here to discuss details with you. It doesn’t matter.”

Unable to contain myself, I screamed, “What do you mean it doesn’t matter? It does matter. Everything matters right now...”

“Vada Jade, you need to not only lower your voice but change your tone, as well. You’re still talking to your father.” Mom could tolerate a lot from me, but not disrespect.

Mom and Dad sat quietly, gazing at me. They knew how I’d react and just as they had expected, their 33-year-old daughter, the attorney, ranted, raved, and pouted. Mother actually appeared totally detached from the scene I was making. After all, she had known for some time that her husband was going to leave; she just didn’t know when. Years of dealing with emotional, sometimes overly emotional, patients prepared her for my emotional tirade, and then there was the common knowledge that I always reacted dramatically when it came to my daddy.

The look on my father’s face said more than his words could ever say; he knew he was in the wrong. At 58 years old he had decided to start a new family and a new life. He knew I would never understand, and I’m sure he worried that I’d never forgive him. There was no doubt he was more concerned with what I might think than he was with what my mom thought. What he didn’t know was how his decision to start anew would forever alter how I felt about him, and perhaps any other man that would now come into my life.

______

March 4, 2012

This is the first time that I’ve sat down to write since Friday. Where do I begin, at the beginning I suppose? Most significant event last week: My dad left us. He said he was moving out. Actually, he said he had already moved out. Words cannot begin to express what I feel right now…pain, dismay, disappointment, bewilderment. Did I already say disappointment? I’ve never experienced these feelings all at one time, I don’t think. So, I don’t know what to call it. At least, today isn’t as intense as it was the other day and I’m not nauseous anymore. Daddy openly shared his insanity with the world (it‘s okay to be crazy – you just have to keep your madness to yourself sometimes). It feels like someone very close to me has died.

This whole situation has me absolutely sick. I’m an intelligent person. I know how this came about, but I still don’t understand what’s going on. I’m at a loss as to what to do or what to say to my mother. I suppose all of us played a role in this somehow. I’m just not sure what role I played. I think, not acknowledging the things I saw was not the right thing to do. I guess silence counts for something too. But what was I supposed to do?

I haven’t talked with my mom since Friday. I don’t know what to say to her. Even if we did talk, I don’t think I could hold myself together long enough to say anything worthwhile. I wonder how she’s doing…really? What’s going to happen to her now; does she have to grow old alone? I’m not sure what I saw when I looked at her. She’s hard to read because she’s always so stoic. Now that I think about it, when I look back, I can remember a few times when her conversation and her actions were a bit erratic, but I attributed it to her personal eccentricities, not to my dad – not the dad of all dads and the husband of all husbands. I can’t stop crying on the inside...

THANKFUL FOR: waking up in good health this morning.

______

I had originally planned to take the week off, but I knew I would do little more than play the conversation with my dad over and over in my head like a broken record. So, instead, I thought it better to just immerse myself in my work – the week would go by quicker that way. The part of me that always fought back told me to slough it off and stop acting like a baby. That same part also told me to take home as much work as possible, so that I’d have an excuse to avoid talking with my mother, as well as anyone else.

The intercom buzzed and startled me.

“Yes.”

“VJ, it’s Mr. Townes. Would you like for me to transfer him to you?”

“Yes, thank you, Carolyn.”

As I waited for the call to come through, I quickly flipped through a brief that was on my desk.

“Hi, William.”

“Hey, baby, what’re you doing for lunch?”

“William, I have so much work, I don’t know if I have time for lunch today.”

“I’ll be there at 11:30. Meet me out front.”

“William, really I can’t...”

“See you at 11:30, sweetness.”

I hated when he did that, ignored what I was saying. As much as I hated it, he did it so often I’d almost come to expect it. The more I thought about it, though, the better lunch sounded. Maybe an hour or two away from the office would do me some good. I also convinced myself that lunch would be the best venue to talk with William about why I hadn’t felt like seeing him for the last few days.

I glanced up at my door just as Hayes Vishmell passed by. Without a shadow of a doubt, he’s the most handsome partner with the firm – he’s the handsome, dark chocolate, distinguished looking partner with the firm, to be exact. The phrase “rugged and strong” always comes to mind when I see him – every time I see him. His bowlegs and his slow stride made me and Dee dub him “the chocolate cowboy.” Seeing him usually drew out a school girl’s giddiness from me, but today seeing him wasn’t even enough to take me out of my misery. He looked right into my eyes and, for a change, there was no comforting sensation. I felt as though I was standing naked and exposed. I quickly averted my gaze and looked down at my desk. I wondered if he was aware he had the power today.

______


As soon as I closed the car door William began to do what he does.

“Ms. Bassett, you look delicious, as usual.”

“Thanks, William. To what do I owe this pleasure?”

“What do you mean? I missed you.”

“What do you mean you missed me? It’s not like we have lunch together every day. Where’re we going anyway?”

“What are you in the mood for, sweetness?”

I didn’t feel much like eating, so I didn’t care what we ate. “How ‘bout Italian?”

“I don’t know, V.”

“Well, what do you want?”

“I think I’m feeling like Jamaican.”

“If my honey wants Jamaican, then Jamaican it is,” I chimed in.

As William drove he held my hand and talked. About what, I had no idea. I could hear him speaking, but my mind was far away. We arrived at Jamaica Breeze in just a few minutes. William pulled up to the curb and asked me if I’d get us a table. While he parked the car I thought about my mom: Maybe I should call her tonight. I don’t want to talk about the divorce, though. I just need to see how she’s doing. As I waited for the hostess to call us for our table, William walked up behind me and grabbed my hand.

His eyes searched my face. “What are you thinking about?”

“Huh? I’m sorry. What did you say?”

William shook his head. “Don’t worry about it. It looks like our table is ready.”

Once we were seated, our server took our drink orders very quickly.

Leaning across the table, William whispered, “So, what have you been doing all week that you couldn’t call a brother back? You’re not seeing someone else, are you?”

I was baffled that he would even jokingly ask me something like that. “There have been plenty of times when you’ve been unavailable to talk with me. As a matter of fact, there have been times when you haven’t seen me for days at a time, and I’ve never asked you anything like that. I would think you’d know better.”

“Girl, you know I’m not serious. But for real, what’s been going on with you?” His question was clearly a feeble attempt to mask what he was really thinking.

A restaurant was not the place for emotional conversation, so I strongly considered whether or not I should mention my parents’ situation. William and I hadn’t even eaten yet. I quickly came to the conclusion that now was as good a time as any.

“My parents are getting a divorce.”

“If you don’t want to tell me what you’ve been doing you don’t have to, but don’t make up stuff, V.”

Tears began to puddle in my eyes. “Really, they are. Last Friday I went home to see them and they sat me down and told me they were getting a divorce. My dad has already moved out.”

“That’s deep. Maybe it’s for the best.”

These would be the only words of encouragement that William could come up with. I didn’t understand why he would say that. Particularly, since he, better than anyone, with the exception of Dee, knew what kind of relationship I had with my parents. Maybe his view of marriage was slightly skewed because his father cheated on his mother for years.

“You honestly think, after being married for forty years, this might be for the best?”

As I looked at him I realized William didn’t have a clue.

Before he could respond, I continued, “Maybe you’re right, William. Maybe you’re right…”

Chapter 2

Back at work I sat behind the stacks of paper and files on my desk. Maybe William didn’t understand what I was saying. He couldn‘t have. He doesn’t understand the impact all of this has on me – on my little psyche. My mother and father are my foundation; they’re supposed to be together forever, however long that might be. What are my children going to do now? What was my father thinking? How could he do this? Just as I made up my mind to work from home for the remainder of the day, my phone rang.

“Yes…”

“Hey girl, what’cha wanna do tonight?” It was Delaney “Dee” Brown-Lofton, my best friend, who just happened to also work at the law firm.

“Why, Dee, what do you want to do?”

“Let’s go to happy hour somewhere, have a couple of drinks, and eat some free food.”

I sighed heavily before responding. “I really don’t feel like it tonight.”

“Why, William coming over? You’ll be home long before he gets there.”

“Excuse me. Do I sense some sarcasm in your voice?”

“Yep, you certainly do!”

“I don’t know why you don’t like him. He likes you…”

Before I could finish, Dee abruptly interrupted. “Uh, huh, I’m sure he does.”

It was no secret that there was bad blood between Dee and William. She hasn’t cared for him since the night we all first met at a mutual friend’s party. Her exact words to me were, “That brother is high maintenance. He’s ‘too’ pretty.” What bothered her the most that night was that he had come to the party with a date but left with my phone number. That fact didn’t escape me either, nor did it bother me. He explained that the young lady was just a date for the party. At the time, I had no reason to question that. As far as I was concerned, I wanted him to have my telephone number.

Dee, on the other hand, spent the balance of the evening and the entire ride home trying to convince me that he was not worth my time or energy.

“Do you want to go to happy hour or what, VJ?”

“I was just getting ready to leave. I think I’m going to finish working from home. Why don’t you come over after work? We can order in and, if you must drink, you know my bar is fully stocked; how about that?”

“Okay, but it won’t be the same. Nobody will be able to see how cute I am if we drink at your house.”

“Girl, you’re crazy. See you at the house.” I shook my head as I hung up the phone.

The conversation did at least manage to cheer me up. It momentarily took my mind off of my parents…and lunch with William.

______

I began to look for my garage door opener as I turned into my driveway. I wondered out loud why I just didn’t put the stupid thing on my visor after I used it and why I had to have this conversation with myself every day. I eventually found the thing on the floor, underneath my seat. Once I was in the garage, I lowered the door and sat there for a minute gathering my things to take in the house with me. Out of nowhere, I began to bawl like a baby.

A wave of thoughts flooded my mind; the foremost of which was how selfish my father was. I eventually pulled myself together – fifteen minutes, or so, later. As I opened the door leading to the laundry room, I decided I’d have that drink that Dee had talked about earlier.

______

March 9, 2012

Why am I taking this so personally? I’m a grown woman. Maybe William is right. Maybe it is for the best…and I just can’t see it right now. My mom didn’t seem to be bothered by this as much as I am…and I just can’t seem to pull myself together. It’s consuming my every thought. I suppose I should really talk to somebody about this – William doesn’t count. He’s just no good with this kind of family stuff. He’s a sweet guy – very attentive, affectionate, respectful, and loving, but I have to admit, we have somewhat different definitions of family and family values. In spite of that, one of these days I’m sure we’ll get married. I wonder if “he’ll” just up and leave me and our children when he turns 60? The bigger question is: Will I still be so unhappy with my father that I won’t want him to walk me down the aisle? Or what about, will I allow him to bring the other woman to my wedding? Okay, I think I’m going over the deep end. William and I aren’t even engaged and I’m tripping about a wedding. I think I should stop here and have that drink.


THANKFUL FOR: having a mom and a dad

______

By the time Dee arrived I had changed into a big T-shirt and a pair of sweat pants and was working on my second, strong pomegranate martini. Dee let herself in and hollered out as she made her grand entrance through the kitchen.

“I’m here.”

She found me sitting on the couch in the family room, so she walked over and greeted me with a kiss on the cheek.

“What is that in your hand? I thought you were coming home to work. Who was it that said they didn’t feel like drinking tonight?”

With a smirk on my face, I looked up at her. “No, what I said was, I didn’t feel like going to happy hour. You interpreted that as I didn’t want to drink. Just fix yourself something and be quiet, if you can.”

We both laughed as she walked over to the bar.

Dee took a knowing look back at me before picking up a glass. “Okay, so what’s up with you? I’ve been trying to give you a little space to work it out. When William is involved, I know you need ‘as much air’ as possible.”

“Dee, in spite of what you might believe, William is not the center of my world. Everything is not about him, you know?” I slurred just a little as I spoke.

“Uh, huh…”

“What? It’s not!”

Dee walked over to the loveseat across from me. Kicking off her black, patent leather, Prada pumps, she sipped her drink of choice, Jack Daniels on the rocks with a splash of coke, as she folded her legs underneath her and sat down.

“If it’s not William, then what is it? Oh, and please stop slurring. It’s rude.” Excitedly, Dee went on, “Please tell me you’re tormented because you’ve found someone else and you don’t know how to tell him? I’ll talk with him if you want me to. I know how to let the brotha’ down easy.” Dee took a sip from her drink and then smacked her lips.

I took the cherry from my glass and popped it into my mouth before nonchalantly announcing, “Mr. and Mrs. Bassett are getting a divorce.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Bassett who?” Dee stopped what she was doing and fixed her eyes on me.

“My mom and dad; who do you think?”

Dee sat up straight. Choking on her drink, she struggled to speak. “VJ, no, not Mama and Daddy Bassett. What happened?” She put her drink on the table and walked over to the couch and sat next to me. “Are you all right?”

I quickly jumped to my feet and walked toward the bar to avoid the forthcoming hug, which would do little more than push me over the edge, emotionally. Dee somehow always managed to be there for me – and this time, of course, would be no different. Anything good or bad, happy or sad and Dee was right there grinning, laughing, crying, talking trash, or sitting quietly. She was, by far, the best friend anyone could ask for. In spite of that, a hug was not what I wanted at that moment. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted. So, I put on a brave face which, at that moment, was easy for me to do since I was working on my third really strong drink.

“It’s okay, Dee. I’ve talked with them and this isn’t a spontaneous decision that they’ve made. It’s my understanding that it’s something that’s been coming for years now.”

Dee knew me as well as she knew herself. I’m sure she believed she was familiar with every face that her friend could put on. As I stood at the bar making my next martini, she got up from the couch and began to walk toward me.

“VJ, if you don’t want to, we don’t have to talk about this right now.” She softly touched my arm. “Sweetie, are you going to be all right though?”

I whipped around so quickly that it startled her. What seemed to alarm Dee even more was the fact that she wasn’t able to read what was going to happen next.

As I sipped from my glass, I smacked my lips in approval. “Dee, I’m fine. These things happen.”

______

When morning rolled around I didn’t even remember falling asleep on the couch, nor did I remember Dee leaving. My first thought, though, was that I didn’t feel like taking a shower, but I would at least brush my teeth. As I drug myself into the kitchen and looked around, I needed to eat something because I had a horrible hangover, but I didn’t feel like going through the motions of cooking. As I walked through the kitchen to my bedroom, it occurred to me that the morning sun was extremely bright, so I took a quick glance at the clock on the counter. It was going on 1 o’clock in the afternoon. I was shocked because I’m always up before 7 o’clock in the morning.

The phone seemed to ring non-stop from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. I didn’t bother answering it, though. The last time I looked there were twelve messages. I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anybody: not my mom, my dad, William, or Dee; and, anyway, lying in the fetal position on the couch under my favorite afghan was far too comfortable. It was like being in my mom and dad’s bed. I smiled as I mused to myself. Even in my thirties, I could always count on going to my parents’ home and lying across the foot of their bed, talking with them as they dozed off. It gave me a sense of comfort. The phone rang again, but the previous evening’s libations were still demanding immobility. How many pomegranate martinis had I drunk anyway? I couldn’t recall. I had lost count after four.

Okay, my dad is going on with his life. What exactly does that mean for us, for me and my mom? Does that now mean I’m no longer a part of his life? Okay, okay…so, those Sundays when I went home and he wasn’t there, he was with some other woman? My mind couldn’t wrap around the last thought.

As I began to cry, yet again, I wanted to scream out irrationally, like a child. I knew that was ridiculous, but at 33 years old my broken heart couldn’t take it any longer. So, I sought a safe space in my mind and finally fell asleep.

Chapter 3

Sunday morning seemed to come around too quickly. Even though I woke up with a new attitude, surprisingly, I still had a hangover. As I sat on the edge of the couch, I went over my agenda for the day: shower and wash my hair; put on clean clothes; start a load of laundry; put dirty glasses in the dishwasher; call my mother; call Dee; cook dinner; and, finally, call William to invite him over for dinner. As I made my way through the day, I was determined to stop feeling sorry for myself. I knew I was being ridiculous. It was my mother that was getting the divorce. The coming week would be better than the previous week – I was convinced of that. After all, you can only take it one day at a time. Next call to order was to get in contact with my mother.

“Good morning, Mom.”

When she said hello, she sounded glad to hear my voice, but that didn’t last long.

“Vada Jade, where have you been? Are you all right? I had made up my mind to come over there if I didn’t hear from you today.”

“Mom, I’m fine. You know how I am. I had to think some things through. I apologize for not calling sooner.”

“I hope you weren’t hold up in the house all weekend thinking about me and your daddy?”

“To be honest with you, I was and I did…all weekend. I am so disappointed in Daddy. You know, when I was in school I remember having friends whose parents weren’t together. It always felt good to know that my parents were still married to each other. Goodness, when I talked with other kids whose dads had other families, I felt privileged to have a dad that didn’t sleep around. Now my dad is one of those dads. He’s just like anybody else now…common. Sorry, Mom, I told myself I wasn’t going to go there today.”

“Vada, sweetheart, I wish I knew what to say to make things better, but I don’t. I guess that’s because I’m going through this too. Like I told you last week, emotionally your dad left this house and our marriage years ago; his body finally decided to go with him. It took him that long to get up the nerve, I suppose. I knew it was happening and I wondered when it would actually take place, but, to be honest with you, I don’t know that I really thought it was going to ever happen.”

“You know what makes me maddest, Mom? He’s going on with his life and starting over, like we’ve lost our usefulness. But more importantly, he’s left you to grow old by yourself. I just don’t understand that, after 40 years.”

“Well, if you figure it out then you should write a book about it because it happens all of the time. You’d certainly become a very wealthy woman. This too shall pass, though. Look, you want to come over for dinner tonight?”

Suddenly I was feeling trapped. Already, I was beginning to feel the pressure of being the one that had to be there for my mother. As an only child, it wasn’t like I wasn’t the one with that responsibility anyway, but for some strange reason it now felt a little different.

“I had planned on inviting William over because I didn’t spend any time with him last week. Can we do dinner sometime during the week, maybe even tomorrow night?” I grimaced as I spoke.

I was sure Mom’s intent was to get me out of the house, so that I wouldn’t be alone. Having William over for dinner would suffice. It would keep me from sulking over the divorce.

“That’s fine, sweetheart. Give me a call and let me know what we’re going to do.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

“Tell William I said hello.”

“I will.”

“I’ll talk with you later, VJ.”

______

I didn’t really want to get into a long drawn out conversation with Dee, but I felt I owed her, at least, a phone call to let her know that I was amongst the living. She had left seven messages. I was actually surprised that she hadn’t come over, forced her way into my house, and insisted that I pull myself together. As I prepared to dial the phone it rang.

“Quincy, boy, if you don’t stop making all of that noise… Hello?”

“Hey, Dee.”

Dee’s voice livened up as soon as she realized I was on the phone. “Hey, girl, are you okay? I was really starting to get worried about you. If I didn’t hear from you today, the little boy and I were going to come over and check on you.”

“I’m all right,” I chuckled. “I apologize for worrying you.”

Dee laughed. “Are you raggedy and stank? You were tore up Friday night. I have never, ever, seen you that drunk in my life.”

I echoed her laughter. “Not any more. I couldn’t take it. I had to finally get in the shower.”

“VJ, Quincy and I would love to have you over for dinner tonight. You probably need to get out of the house, you know?”

“Sorry, but I…”

“I know. You’re having dinner with William, right?”

“Yep, I still have to call him, but that’s the plan.” I knew that wouldn’t sit well with her. It never does.

Dee whined on, “VJ, why can’t you just have dinner with us tonight and do something with your little honey tomorrow night?”

“Why do we have to go through this every single time that I tell you I have plans with William?”

“Uh, perhaps because…I don’t like him, I don’t know. Why do you think?”

“All right, this is what I’ll do. I will give William a call and if he’s not available for dinner tonight then I’ll come over and have dinner with Quincy. I don’t know if I really want to be bothered with you.”

“Whatever! We look forward to seeing you when you get here.”

As soon as I ended the call the phone rang.

“Hello.”

“Hey, sweetness, just calling to check on you; how are you?”

“William, your ears must be burning. Dee and I were just talking about you.”

“I hope it was all good?”

“Look, what are you doing later on? I’d like to get with you for dinner.” I purposely avoided answering his question.

“Ooh, I don’t know, baby. You know the restaurant is busy on Sunday evenings. I don’t think I can get away for dinner tonight. I could probably come by after I close up, though.”

“William, I really want to spend some time with you tonight. I need you here to hold me…”

“Sweetness, I wish I could. You know I do.”

“Okay, whatever, William.”

“Don’t be like that. Don’t be mad, baby. I said I could come over after I close up.”

“No, I think I’ll just have dinner with Dee and Quincy. It’ll probably be late when I get back home and tomorrow is a workday. Unlike you, my workday begins at 8:30 every morning, not at lunch time or whenever I decide to show up.”

“I’ll call you when I get off. If you’re home I’ll come over.”

“William…”

______

“Auntie VJ, I’m glad you came over to see me.”

“I’m glad too, Quincy.”

“Mama said to be extra nice to you because you were sad. You still sad?”

How could I stay sad when I looked at Quincy’s smile or recollected all of the funny stories that he told me during dinner? Nothing beats being entertained by a five year old.

“Okay, boy, let’s get you in the bathtub, so you can get your bath and then go to bed,” Dee ordered him.

“Please, can I stay up and talk with Auntie VJ?”

“Nope, you know I don’t play that. Tomorrow is a school day and I don’t want you crying because you’re too sleepy to get up. Dad, can you come get this boy and put him in the tub and get him ready for bed?”

Dee’s dad stays with her and he’s the best live in grandfather and babysitter anybody could ask for. She wouldn’t have it any other way. After her mother died, he raised her and her brother and sister by himself – he never remarried. He retired a few years ago and moved in with Dee after her divorce. They needed each other, so it worked out perfectly.

Dee and I sat and talked for another hour or so.

As Dee flipped through TV stations, she asked me a question that she had to know would only lead to an argument.

“So, what did Mr. Townes say when you told him about your parents’ divorce? You did tell him, right?”

“Where did that come from?” My left eyebrow unconsciously rose.

“He’s your man. So, it would only make sense that you looked to him for a little support. Would that be an incorrect assumption on my behalf, Counselor?”

“It would be incorrect to assume anything, but, for your information, I did mention it to him…”

“…and?”

“If you just let me finish, I’ll tell you. He thought it might be for the best.”

Dee stopped fiddling with the remote control and looked at me. “What did he mean by that; the best for whom?” She sighed heavily. “That’s just like him. He’s so simple. I will never understand why you even fool with him.” She shook her head and turned her attention back to the TV.

“The beauty of this is you don’t have to understand it. It’s just your job to love and support me as a friend. If I had it my way, my best friend and my man would get along, but since y’all don’t and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to change any time soon, I guess I just have to deal with it.” I wrinkled my nose at her.

“I guess so.” The look of consternation on Dee’s face spoke volumes.

“What’s that look for?”

“Nothing, I was just agreeing with you.”

I stood up and went for my purse and jacket. I thought it best that I leave before we became embroiled in our monthly ‘Dee hates William Morris Townes’ diatribe.

“Well, girl…I better go on home. You know as well as I do, tomorrow is a workday. Have to go and get ready to play the game, right?”

“I remember back when we could stay up all night, and then get up and go straight to class the next morning. What happened to us?”

I looked at her and smiled. “What happened to us? You got married, had a baby, and got old.”

As she stood up, Dee hit me on the thigh with the remote control. “You say that like I’m getting old by my doggone self? I bet you I can still pull an all-nighter with the best of them.”

“Yep, and an all-day ‘broke down’ would come right after that.”

We both laughed as we walked to the door.

Chapter 4

“VJ, I know you’re worried about me, but I’m fine, honey. Your dad and I had some really great years together. We learned a lot from each other. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I completely understand what happened or that I approve of it, but in a self-healing way I do accept it because I want to move on. Am I sad? Of course I am. Am I angry? I just lost my husband of 40 years and a man that was originally my best friend. Of course I’m angry, but I’m tired too.

On some of those weekends when you came by I’m sure you noticed your dad wasn’t here. You had to know he wasn’t working all the time. It started with him, occasionally, not coming home at night. Then it escalated to him not coming home for a weekend or two a month, and then, finally, to him not coming home for an entire week at a time. I’m not going to go into all of the sordid details, but he and I talked and in the beginning it seemed like whatever it was it was going to run its course.”

“But, Mom, why didn’t you ever talk with me? I hate that you suffered through that by yourself.”

“First of all, you’re my child, not my friend. I stayed busy and I talked about it with my friends, some of whom had experienced the same thing in their marriages. Initially, I thought it was a phase that he was going through. That he would burn himself out and come back home. He wouldn’t have been the same man I fell in love with all those years ago, but he would have been my husband again. I started realizing that whatever it was, or better yet, whoever she was, it was a little more than just a frivolous fling.”

“Why didn’t you just ask him about her?”

“Honey, let me tell you something about a cheating man, because that’s what your daddy was, is, or whatever, but uhm, he’s not going to tell you the truth. If he’ll cheat, he’s prepared to lie. If I had asked him about her he would have tried to convince me that I was the reason he was cheating. So, after approaching him a few times, I left it alone. I knew he was lying. I had to maintain my own emotional well-being and prepare myself for the worst. I still don’t know if I did the right thing. I kept myself very busy, so I didn’t have to constantly face the situation or him, for that matter. Eventually, enough was enough. I told him I was going to file for divorce because I wasn’t going to live my life out like that.”

I really wanted to ask my mother if she used a condom when she was with him, but I knew that was crossing a line I did not care to broach. It wasn’t like I was talking with Dee. The idea of my dad having sex with another woman, and then coming home to my mother, disgusted me. As a matter of fact, the very idea of my parents having sex was like a nether world concept to me. I smiled to myself at my childishness.

Mom and I talked for another couple of hours. I listened more than anything else because I wanted to hear one word from her mouth that would make me understand the situation better. I never heard it, but I did find peace of mind. I came to recognize that my mother was okay. Her confidence and strength was the same familiar confidence and strength that most Black women exude, in spite of being betrayed. Historically, we have learned to endure almost anything. My mother had, seemingly, overcome the adversity of her situation. Now I would have to figure out how to draw from that same reservoir of hope.

The comfort I found from my mother’s words helped me to understand that not only were things going to be okay in the near future, things were actually already okay. I just needed to find a way to accept the new reality of our family. For the next two hours our words filled the air around me like incense. The more we talked the easier I found it to acknowledge this foible in life and move on. I left my mother’s house having a newfound respect for this woman I called Mother…Mom. I hope one day I can become half the woman she is, instead of the lost little girl I feel like now.

We laughed from our bellies when Mom managed to throw a few funny memories into the conversation. She reminded me of the shopping trips she and I would go on without my dad, which wasn’t very often. When we got back home I would always rush into the house and Daddy would plant himself on the couch. I would then make the living room my own personal catwalk, as I modeled each new outfit for him. Sometimes he even took pictures while I stopped and posed for the camera. That was one of my fondest memories; he was the first man to ever make me feel beautiful.

_____

March 26, 2012

Yesterday Mom and I finally talked. Neither one of us mentioned the divorce during dinner. We actually talked about my job and about William (which was baffling because she didn’t talk about him that often. I really don’t think my mother likes him that much, but that’s for another journal entry). After dinner we sat in the den and watched TV and talked some more.

We eventually started talking about my father. I kept telling her how worried I was, even though she seemed to have a handle on things. She eloquently quashed all of that. Here I was thinking she was devastated by him leaving and the more I talked with her the more I realized it was all “in my mind.” She actually seemed to be doing better than me. I can’t imagine the initial pain, though – 40 years is a long time. If I hadn’t been so self-absorbed we could have talked sooner…

THANKFUL FOR: BLACK WOMEN

Chapter 5

A few weeks had past and I was still dragging myself into work every day, hoping each day would end almost as quickly as it began. I dreaded even more the idea of talking with clients, current or perspective. With each male client or attorney that I spoke with, I found myself wondering if he had ever cheated on his wife or girlfriend. Dee told me I was being silly and that I had no reason to question the fidelity of every single man in existence. I knew that, but I had neither found a way to nor had I allowed myself to move beyond being ridiculous. As difficult as it was for me to come to terms with, the definition of man, father, and husband did not begin or end with my dad. Both Dee and I laughed when she told me that. I couldn’t believe what I was doing to myself. I hoped my emotional state wouldn’t impact my relationship with William, but I found myself almost not caring. He wasn’t being the most supportive boyfriend anyway.

Then there’s that Hayes Foreman Vishmell. He’s actually the best part of any given day at the office, and the only man I could actually tolerate thinking about. With his 52-year-old, 6’5”, black self; the man was just plain, old fashion fine. His slightly bowed legs didn’t take anything away from him either. I knew it was crude, but I had on occasion gotten up and gone to my door just to watch him walk down the hall. I couldn’t imagine somebody that together ever cheating on his wife before she died – not that he couldn’t cheat, I just couldn’t imagine he would. I chose to never make that possibility part of my fantasy. The few times that I had spoken to him, he’d been nothing less than a gentleman, not even a hint of flirtation, but, of course, we had only spoken in passing. My intercom rang, reeling me back in from my daydream. I smiled to myself as my secretary spoke.

“Vada, I have a call for you. It’s Mr. Townes. Would you like for me to put him through?”

Involuntarily, I rolled my eyes. “Yes, thank you, Carolyn.”

“Hey, baby, we still on for this evening?”

“Of course we are, unless you’re calling to tell me that you can’t make it.”

“V, why you got to go there? So every now and then I have to cancel a date, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be with you. You know I miss you when I’m not with you, girl, but I have a business to run. Some days I’m just not able to get away. That’s just part of who I am – part of the package.”

“I know. So, what’s up?”

“Just called to make sure things were still on for tonight and to see if you wanted me to bring anything?”

“Excuse me? Who is this? Well, I’m feeling really special right now. What did I do to deserve this?”

“Ha, ha…V, you’re funny – you know that? I’m sure there are plenty of women who wouldn’t mind me showing up empty-handed…”

As he was talking, I looked up as Mr. Vishmell and a colleague sauntered passed my open door. He casually glanced in. I gave him an unassuming, closed lip smile. He cordially returned the gesture.

William was still talking. “…but you know I love you. V, are you still there?”

“Sorry, I was distracted for a minute. What’d you say?”

“I said I love you, girl. Come on now.”

“Oh…I love you too, William. I need to get some work done. I’ll see you tonight…sevenish, okay?”

“Okay, but you never said whether or not you wanted me to bring anything.”

“If you show up, baby, that’ll be enough.” I silently sighed and rolled my eyes.

“Don’t be trying to make a brotha feel bad.”

“I apologize. Surprise me.”

After hanging up the phone, I stared at the door hoping Mr. Vishmell would pass by just one more time. Seeing him again would guarantee a permanent smile on my face for the remainder of the day.

______

As I drove home I thought about something William said during our earlier conversation. He said he was sure there were plenty of women who wouldn’t mind him showing up empty-handed. As Dee often said, he is a pretty boy. So, I didn’t need him telling me other women were interested in him. I realized he couldn’t own a successful restaurant and be in the public eye, like he is, without being approached by women. Maybe he was just exercising his ego, as he so often does; I don’t know. I’d never had a reason before now to doubt his faithfulness. I smiled when I considered how happy Dee would be if I broke up with him. What’s really funny is how William doesn’t pay any attention to what she thinks about him, even though he’s well aware of it. He believes she might be attracted to him, but he said he would ‘never’ consider hitting on a friend of mine, even if he and I broke up. Said that would just be foul. Oh, well. Tonight I’ll ask him what he meant when he made that sarcastic comment about other women.

______

After dinner, William and I settled in the family room. I watched him as he walked over to the couch where I was sitting. With my head slightly tilted, I meditatively examined him and was reminded of what caught my eye the first time I saw him: honey colored skin, wavy, black hair, light brown eyes and his muscles, which seemed to have a life of their own.

He sat down, almost on my lap. “What’cha thinkin’ about, girl?”

“You…”

He pulled me into his chest as he spoke. “What about me?”

“William, you know what? You’re a good looking man. I had forgotten how good looking until tonight. You must get hit on all the time, by women and men.”

“Baby, I don’t straddle the fence. I’m all man.”

I laughed. “I know; that was a joke. I was thinking about what you said earlier today, though.”

“What was that?”

“You said something about other women being glad to have you. Were you trying to tell me something? You and I have never had sex, but I don’t really know…and to be honest with you, have never really thought about it until today, if you’re having sex with anybody else, I mean.”

“Where is this coming from? You must have talked with Dee before I got here?”

“No, this is not a Dee thing. This is a ‘you and me thing.’”

“V, baby, I love you. You said you wanted to wait until we were married and I like that. I feel like I have a prize. Everybody doesn’t get the opportunity or the privilege to experience purity. It’s a beautiful thing.”

“Okay, we know I’m a virgin, but have you been with any other women since we’ve been together? You know I don’t expect you to say that you haven’t been with anybody in all the years that we’ve known each other.”

William nodded his head. “I see. I know where this is coming from – your situation with your pops!”

“Uh, uh…”

“Yeah, that’s what this is. You think because your pops is kicking it with another woman that ‘all’ men must be doing it. I’m not your pops, baby. Don’t put me in that category.”

I sat up and pulled away from him, to look at him face-to-face. “What category is that?”

William reached out and hugged me back to his chest. “Baby, the last thing I want to do is talk about your pops and his problems. I apologize. I was out of line. I know that’s a sore spot right now. So, I don’t want to go there. Even though it’s your parents’ problem, I’m going to continue to be patient with you. One of these days you’ll see that this is about your folks, not you. But like I said, it has nothing to do with you, me, or us.”

I pulled away from him again and sat up. “What do you mean you’ve been patient with me? You’re my man; you’re supposed to support and comfort me when it’s necessary. And it is my problem. I’m not going to apologize for how I feel about what’s going on with my parents right now.”

“V, look, you’re a grown woman. You need to get over it. Seems like your mom is doing fine…and she slept with him for forty years. Let them handle their own problems. Be for real now. You’re not representing either one of them in court. And I’m sure there’s more to the story than you’re aware of...”

I had never been as angry with William as I was at this moment. “So, what I’m hearing is that you’re unwilling to support me through this?”

“I’ll do whatever it takes to comfort you: rub your back, give you massages, make love to you…but, see, we don’t do the sex thing.”

“What does that have to do with you supporting me in something that’s important to me?”

William rubbed his head, sighed heavily, and stood up. “You know what? It’s time for me to leave. I’m not going to sit here and argue with you about this. The conversation is just going from one thing to the next and you’re not making any sense.”

I looked up at him, but refused to stand. “I tell you what, if you walk out that door you’re telling me that you cannot and will not be there for me when I need you. And if you can’t deal with this, then what can you deal with?”

Before responding he gave me an unyielding glare. “I’m going to say good night. You might want to think about what you’re saying.”

I finally stood to my feet. “Oh, I might want to think about what I’m saying? I meant what I said. Maybe you should reconsider walking out that door. And you know what? You never answered my original question.”

“Good night, V.”

“William?”

“Good night, V…”

______

April 26, 2012

It’s been about a month since the last time I talked with William. I don’t know who’s more stubborn, him or me. But I do know this…I’m not going to call him! I don’t care how many messages he leaves. I still can’t believe he got up and walked out while we were talking. Dee is the happiest that I’ve seen her in years. She feels like this more than makes up for my dad’s indiscretions. She’s crazy. Maybe one day she’ll tell me why she hates William “sooo” much.

Been over a month since my Dad left too. Hadn’t talked to him at all before yesterday. Didn’t have anything that I wanted to say to him. He called me at work and asked if we could meet for lunch on Saturday. I agreed to meet him. Though, I’m still pretty disgusted and disappointed by the whole thing. First time in my life that I’ve ever felt this way about him. Crazy thing is, I’m feeling so many things that I’m still not sure what I’m feeling. Talked with Mom this morning. She seems to be doing just fine…

I HAVE GOT TO GET A LIFE!!!!

THANKFUL FOR: a friend like Dee and seeing my dad on Saturday

Chapter 6

I grimaced at the idea of getting up at 6 o’clock in the morning on a Saturday to go to the gym. Who, other than JD and Greg, would go workout this early? They should be home with their wives. If they weren’t my favorite cousins I wouldn’t have dreamed of getting out of my bed to leave the house this early on the weekend.

As I parked my car I could see them standing in the lobby talking with two women. By the look of the workout ensembles that the two women were wearing, they had obviously come to the gym to do more than workout. Okay, so I’m back at square one. Do all men cheat? I quickly parked my car, so I could run in and block.

As I trotted across the parking lot, I tried to think of something witty to say: Good morning boys, did your wives start their workouts without you; or, maybe, did you leave the kids home this morning; or, better yet, it’s so sweet to see y’all talking with women for a change. I laughed out loud at my last thought. They would kill me if I said that though.

As I opened the door to the lobby, Greg was the first one to see me, but before he could say anything I spoke up. “Hey guys! I ran into your wives in the parking lot. They should be in here in a minute.”

JD looked at me as if to say that ain’t even cool. Greg cut his eyes at me too. My plan worked because the chicks walked away after telling the guys they’d see them another time. Even after hearing they were married, they still might see them later? What’s wrong with women who make it easy for men to cheat?

The workout with JD and Greg was great, but I ended up leaving early after getting pissed off because neither one of them could empathize with what I was going through. It was the first time in my life that we didn’t see eye to eye on something. I guess it was a male thing. Both of them seemed to take their uncle’s side –understanding where he was coming from – the flesh is weak and sometimes it succumbs to carnal desires. In the short time since my father had left, I had managed to create a riff in three of the most significant male relationships I had.


Continue reading this ebook at Smashwords.
Purchase this book or download sample versions for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-40 show above.)