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Don't Ever WonderA Novel
By Darren Coleman
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Darren Coleman
All right reserved.
Once Upon a Time
Aubette was already packed at seven p.m. People piled in for happy hour after work, and on the weekends they stayed until three in the morning once the party started. I hadn't come for mingling or party atmosphere this time though. I came for one quick drink and a little conversation. On my cab ride over to 27th Street, my fingers were crossed that my meeting wouldn't turn ugly, even though I had been assured that we were adult enough to handle this.
Once inside I made my way past the bar and headed toward the rear of the lounge. Aubette was filled with a mix of folks dressed in business attire and around-the-way girls already dressed for the club. As Twista's "Slow Jams" was coming to an end, I had to weave through a few dancing couples to get to the table. I looked over to my left and spoke to my favorite bartender, Terri. She waved and shot me a smile. As soon as I cleared the bar I saw her sitting at a small table off to my right. A mix of emotions flared up and I swallowed hard as I made my way to her. Our eyes were locked and she stood up as I reached the table. She extended her arms and gave me a tight hug. The warmth was familiar and when she pulled away she was sporting a smile as wide as the Hudson River.
"Mr. Dandridge. How nice to see you after all this time," she said both sarcastically and seductively. Anthony Hamilton's "Float" was coming through the speakers and for a second I remembered our first dance together. It was hard to believe that one innocent dance could have led to all of this.
I smiled at her. "It's good to see you too. You look lovely." I couldn't help but notice that she was looking exceptionally beautiful. Not that I had expected anything less from her, but when you don't see someone for a while you tend to forget some of what you loved about them. She was wearing a copper strapless dress that showed off some serious tan lines and had on the necklace that I had gotten her from Tiffany. She had obviously been on vacation. "Nice necklace." I mentioned and then added, "Nice tan too."
"Oh thanks." She was grinning. "An old friend picked it up for me a while back. As for the tan, I picked that up in Puerto Rico at my family reunion."
I knew about the reunion because my wife, Shelly, had contemplated for weeks whether or not to attend. She had decided not to go once her mother had confirmed that Nina would be there. We sat and the waitress came back for our orders. I pointed at Nina and asked the waitress to take her order first. "I'll take a glass of white zinfandel and the adoboroasted chicken for my entrée."
"I'll take a vodka martini and the shrimp dish right here," I said, pointing to the menu.
The waitress took the menus and headed off. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence that I tried to fill by observing my surroundings. I was interrupted with, "Cory, are you okay?" My hands were on the table and she reached for them. "If you are uncomfortable, we don't have to do this. You can leave."
I lied. "No I'm fine. I was just thinking about work. I have to stop doing that." I paused. "So what did you want to talk about?"
"Whoa. I wanted to have a drink and chill with you first, been a long time, right?" She released my hands. Her touch had been so subtle I had forgotten that she was holding them. "I must admit that I am surprised that you even agreed to meet me."
I nodded my head in agreement because I was surprised as well and it had been a long time. But I guess that deep down inside I had wanted to see her months ago just to be sure she was okay. I granted her request and relaxed a bit while we ate and ordered our second and third drinks. It was a quarter past eight when my phone rang. I excused myself and went down the steps and into the restroom.
"Hey, sweetie." I said to my wife on the other end.
"Hey, do you think you can pick up Amani from the sitter's? I told Mrs. Lamar that I would be there by eight and Rockelle and I are still out trying to pick up a few things for Christina's baby shower tomorrow." Shelly had been planning a baby shower for her college roommate, who lived in Brooklyn.
"Why don't you call and ask Mrs. Lamar if she can stay a little later. I am in the middle of something and probably won't make it there for at least two more hours. I have a really important assignment and this deadline ... "
Excerpted from Don't Ever Wonder by Darren Coleman Copyright © 2005 by Darren Coleman. Excerpted by permission.
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