Read an Excerpt
The tears clouding Alexa's eyes made it difficult to see the winding road ahead. Headlights from the approaching cars began to resemble starbursts in the distance, causing her to periodically slam on the brakes out of uncertainty of their precise distance. The day easing into the night only further impaired her vision.
With one hand on the wheel, Alexa pulled the car to the side of the road, and the other to wipe the tears from her eyes. Lord, she wished she could stop crying, but she could not. Earlier that day a coworker had come into the office, flashing an engagement ring. The happy announcement stirred up past memories, which had lain dormant over the years, and had haunted Alexa like a recurring nightmare. The pain was so real, like it was just yesterday.
What upset Alexa most was the fact that she had almost made it to the altar, not once but twice. Both proposals occurred at times in her life when her views and aspirations opposed that of her intended. The more profound relationship of the two came while she was in college. That one left a stain so deep that she could identify with the statement, "first loves always hurt the most."
Alexa loved Darius, but felt she was too young to commit to someone for the rest of her life. She was barely out on her own and hadn't accomplished anything that resembled success in life.
Her second failed attempt at matrimony departed on the heels of Sean Hardaway. Alexa met Sean at a Black Business Leaders Networking Social. Not only was he educated, handsome and successful, he was also cultured, sitting on the board of the local Museum and Cultural Arts Council. The two spent the whole evening huddled in a quiet corner flirting while comparing personal stories of their experiences in corporate America.
It didn't come as a surprise when the successful singles united as a power couple. At the end of their second year together, they decided to take their relationship to the next level. Getting married seemed like the natural step to take since they were already cohabitating in Sean's town house. Both were settled in their careers, making handsome salaries. Since they were approaching their thirties, they thought it was a good time to get married, considering that they wanted a family.
Alexa was proud at how they mapped things out: career, marriage and family in that order and actually got a rush from the envious looks that she got from other women who listened with envy to her self-centered rattling. They may not have verbalized their feelings, but she could see the wanting in their eyes whenever she talked about her fiancé and their elaborate wedding plans.
Alexa's world came to a screeching halt two days before the wedding. She was enjoying a day of pampering at her favorite spa salon when she received a call on her cell phone from Sean. It was apparent by his slurred speech that he was intoxicated. A creepy feeling came over her. Her fears became real when he confessed that he couldn't go through with the wedding. He stated that he didn't want to ruin either of their lives by getting married.
Alexa was sure it was simply a case of prewedding jitters and after hanging up from him, she quickly called his best friend Glenn, who was also the best man, to talk some sense into him. Glenn located Sean at a gentlemen's lounge, nursing a bottle of Hennessey, gazing up at the topless dancer gyrating before his face. According to Glenn, Sean told him that while he loved Alexa, he was not "in love" with her and because of that, he didn't want to ruin things by going into a marriage doomed from the start.
Alexa dropped the phone when Glenn repeated Sean's exact words later that evening. Not only was she devastated, but humiliated as well. The worst part was that she didn't even get a chance to talk to him herself because hours following his confession, he left town "to get his priorities in check" as he put it, leaving her with the responsibility of explaining to family and friends that the wedding was off.
Her wedding day was spent in bed, crying while a variety of emotions surged through her like volts of electricity, changing as rapidly as the wind. She was affected physically as well, dropping more than twenty pounds in a two-week time frame. She also ended up cutting her hair short because the stress caused much damage to her otherwise healthy mane. Although she appeared to be strong on the outside, she was hurting inside. Eventually, she sought counseling because a sheath of depression had draped over her and wouldn't diminish after a few months.
Her reminiscing was interrupted by a light knock on the window. She turned to look into the smiling face of a well-dressed older gentleman. "Are you okay?" he shouted against the howl of the wintry winds whipping around him as he tried to keep his leather cap on and his heavy leather trench coat closed.
Alexa rolled down the window. "Yes, thank you. I—I was..." She searched her mind for a lie to tell when she spied her cell phone resting on the seat beside her. She reached for it and held it up. "I was just making a call."
He gave her the thumbs-up signal. "It's good to see you young folks taking precautions."
She exhaled when he walked away and waited until he pulled off before edging her own car back onto the road and heading home.
After her split with Sean, Alexa found a place to live. When one door closes, God opens another. A colleague was moving out of state and needed to sell her house immediately. Because of their relationship, she accepted Alexa's offer. The purchase was quick and two weeks after completing the necessary paperwork, Alexa moved into her new home. Although she didn't have much to start with, she managed to slowly fill each room with her personal style.
Her house, a three-bedroom brick traditional, was located on a quiet suburban block in Aurora. Since living there, she could count on one hand the number of times she had seen, let alone talked to her neighbors within a month's time. However, she didn't mind that because she liked to keep to herself anyway.
After gathering the mail from the box, she went inside. The small stack looked more promising than it actually was. There was nothing to get excited about—bills, a couple pieces of "dear resident" mail, and the weekly supermarket circular. The room immediately warmed up when Alexa flipped the switch just inside the kitchen door thanks to the rich gold and amber art glass Tiffany fixture hanging above. With a sigh, she placed the envelopes on the kitchen table, and headed for the answering machine on the breakfast bar to check for messages.
The flashing light on the machine indicated that there were four messages waiting. She pressed the button to rewind the messages before easing out of her pumps. While the first message began to play, she sauntered over to the stainless steel refrigerator to retrieve a large bottle of grapefruit juice. A part of her new commitment to good health included drinking at least two glasses of juice every day. She had read somewhere that grapefruit was a great antioxidant and aided in burning fat. When she first started her regime, her face screwed up from the bitter taste. However, over a short period of time she had acquired a taste for it.
Easing into a chair at the dinette table, she sighed with relief at the opportunity to rest her feet. The first message was from her hair salon calling to remind her of an upcoming appointment. The second was from her mother who wanted to know why she hadn't called in a while. The third message was a hang-up, while the last caller was her best friend Maya. At the sound of her friend's professional announcer voice, enunciating each word with such precision, Alexa scurried over to the machine. She caught the tail end portion of the message, "...wonderful news. Return my call as soon as possible."
Alexa wondered what the urgency was about. Ideas began to fly in her head. She knew Maya couldn't be pregnant again. As far as she knew, after their third daughter was born, Maya and her husband Bryant had accepted the fact that they would not be trying a fourth time for a son. Glancing at her watch, she picked up the telephone, hoping to catch Maya before she left the television station for the day.
The telephone rang twice before Maya answered in her usual professional tone. "Channel 12, this is Maya Renault."
Sometimes it still surprised Alexa that her best friend was a high-profile news anchor for Channel 12 in Detroit. Because of her television status, Maya was regarded as a local celebrity and treated as such. People of various ages and ethnic backgrounds recognized her, as she graced their television set each morning and was known to be active in worthy causes in the community. Whenever she hung out with Maya during her visits to Detroit, Alexa was amazed by the red-carpet treatment her friend frequently received.
"What's up, Mrs. R?" Alexa greeted, happy to hear her friend's voice.
"No, Hillary Rodham Clinton," Alexa sarcastically replied.
"Hey, Hill, how are things going with Billy boy these days?" Maya teased, once she recognized Alexa's voice.
"Apparently not as good as things are going on there. I got your message. What's up?" she asked, stretching her legs out on the adjacent chair.
"I'm getting married!" Maya blurted.
"But Maya, you're already married," Alexa reminded her.
"No, Bryant and I have decided to renew our vows on New Year's Eve. After nine years of marriage we are finally going to have a real wedding," she sighed dreamily.
Alexa refused to let Maya's news rekindle her own insecurities that had risen earlier that day. It seemed like everyone was being claimed by someone. Even Maya's husband was asking for her hand—again!
"That's great, Maya!"
"I knew you'd be happy," Maya exclaimed. "So when can you come?"
"Maya, I know you don't think I can come? New Year's Eve is just four days away."
"And?" her friend replied matter-of-factly.
"You know how busy I am. Don't you think I need more notice?"
"Maybe any person would need notice, but you are my best friend. I know regardless of how much notice I give you, you'll be there. Bryant and I are counting on you. Plus, I want you to stand for me."
Tears swelled in Alexa's eyes. Maya and Bryant were two very special people whose lives she shared in years back. The three of them had been through a lot, giving each other mental, and when possible, financial support. In addition to hanging out and partying together, they at one time shared the same town house. Now the two of them wanted to reaffirm their love before God, friends and family and wanted her to stand again in their circle of love. She was touched by the request for her presence.
A tear slid down her cheek and before Alexa knew it, she was crying for a second time that day. "You know I would be honored," she replied with a sniffle.
"Are you crying, Alexa Kirkwood?" Maya asked softly.
"I'm so happy for you both," she admitted as she reached for a tissue. She blew her nose. At least somebody is happy.
A slight sense of panic hit Alexa as she realized her role in the wedding. As the maid of honor and best friend to the bride, she had to be there for Maya in a big way and she wasn't about to let her friends down.
Immediately she began to run down her list of things to do in preparation for her trip. "I'm going to have to call my travel agent to see if I can get a cheap flight and I'll probably have to beg De Angela to see if she can squeeze me in for an earlier hair appointment, probably get my nails done, too."
"Alexa, Alexa, just get here. We'll deal with those things later," Maya assured her.
Alexa wiped away the warm tears settling on the rim of her eyes and exhaled softly. Here I go again.