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The music played softly as Alexis entered the church. She could feel her heart beating strongly in her chest.The ankle-length dress she wore hugged her womanly hips.They swayed in a manner that would make even the most pious man stand in need of redemption. Her body moved with a natural rhythm, as if she were walking to the smooth beat of a luscious Caribbean melody. She wore a big-brimmed hat with a 1930s' style veil that came down past her eyes and ended at the bridge of her nose. Her countenance revealed the African nobility that ran through her veins. In a word, Alexis was class.
As Alexis proceeded down the aisle toward the altar she felt the stares of the people who crowded the large sanctuary of the New Zion Memorial A.M.E. church to the point of standing room only. It had been less than a year since the new sanctuary had been restored and today it was beautiful.There were purple, gold, red and white flowers hanging everywhere. Golden sunlight poured in through the large stained-glass windows. A huge mural of a black Christ looked down upon the congregation like a loving father over his baby's crib.
Alexis looked into the faces of the people who had come to show their support. She was happy to see her family, James -- Damon's policeman friend -- and everyone else who had been there for her and Damon. She could feel their love and support.
She had planned and paid for everything. She wanted to make sure that everything went perfectly. Alexis gave Keisha a slight smile and a nod of her head.The supportive smile that was returned made her heart lift a little.Although Keisha was the mother of Damon's daughter she was still a friend, andher presence was comforting.
It was a warm April afternoon when Alexis and Damon pulled up in front of Keisha's house to pick up his daughter,Ebony. Alexis was about to meet Keisha for the first time and she was nervous. She had already spent a couple of weekends with Ebony when Damon had her, but she had never met the child's mother. She tried to convince herself that there was nothing to worry about. She needed to believe that even if the woman didn't like her,it wouldn't have any effect on her relationship with Damon. In her heart she didn't feel confident about that. Although Keisha and Damon's relationship had been over for a long time, in a way she would always be the "woman" in Damon's life. There was a strong possibility that Keisha would resent another woman barging in on her former territory. She felt wings of uneasiness flutter in her belly.
"Damon, how do you think Keisha will react to me?" Damon chuckled. "Come on baby, we've already been through this.I've told Keisha all about you.She's looking forward to meeting you."
Alexis felt doubt gnaw at her. She had many friends who had endured Baby Momma Drama. She had heard more than her fair share of war stories: mothers calling fathers in the middle of the night, frantic that the baby was terribly ill when the baby hadn't even sneezed. For some reason it seemed the babies' mommas always decided they wanted the man back when a new love interest entered the scene. Alexis wondered what kind of "drama" she was in for. Whatever it was going to be, she had prepared herself for war if necessary.
"Look baby, don't even worry about it. Keisha is nothing like that. I'm telling you she is cool."
She was hoping that Keisha was as cool as Damon said but she wasn't about to take any insults from the woman. If need be she would just let her know that she was the new woman in his life and there would be no "mess."
And then there was Ebony. Although she knew how to deal with a jealous woman, dealing with a child and the problems that might come with one would be delving into unknown territory. Alexis was not sure how to deal with any difficulties on that level. Still, Keisha was the real trial right now.
"Maybe you should have left me at your house." Alexis placed her hand on Damon's leg as she looked at the front door of the small house. "I mean, it's probably not a good idea for you to spring me on her right at her doorstep. Maybe she needs more time before we meet."
Damon placed his hand over Alexis'. "Come on, baby. We've already been through this.I just know in my heart that she will like you. Just like Ebony did."
He looked into her eyes and gave her an easy smile. The sound of his voice eased her tension a little. Alexis looked down at Damon's dark-brown hand covering her lighter one. Seeing the contrast of their skin sent tingles through her body. There was something about the difference that always made her feel comfort and warmth. It was almost as if his darkness was an outward sign of his strength. With muscular arms to protect her and a broad chest to comfort her, he was a dark, beautiful, powerful man with the soul of a poet. Alexis loved to listen to him speak. His deep, rich voice had a way with her. Yes, this man was her dark prince, and she loved him.
She waited while Damon got out of the black BMW and walked around to her side and opened her door."Don't you think I should at least wait in the car?" She was hoping she sounded enough like a baby to keep him from insisting she go with him. It didn't work.
"Alexis,come on.I can't believe such a strong,independent woman could be so afraid. Xena would be ashamed of you right now. Where's the warrior princess I fell in love with?"
Alexis knew he was just trying to goad her, but there was just something in her that couldn't turn down a dare. She took his hand as he helped her out of the car, took a deep breath and walked with him toward the house. Before they could reach the door it sprung open. A very attractive woman stuck her head through the opening.
"Boy, you always late. Shoot, you gonna end up being late to your own funeral."
"That's my plan." Damon smiled.
Keisha laughed and playfully slapped him upside the head. Alexis felt a twinge of jealousy at the playful way she touched Damon,but brushed it off.He had told her that they had a good relationship.
"Keisha,I want you to meet Alexis. Alexis,this is Keisha."
Keisha gave Alexis a warm smile and stuck out her hand."Well it's nice to finally meet you. Damon's told me a lot about you. It's about time he found somebody decent to spend his time with. At least since me." She laughed at her joke.
Alexis tried desperately to manage a smile back."It's nice to meet you."
"Come on in the house. Ebony's just finishing her dinner.Y'all have some? I've got plenty.Fried pork chops,string beans, sweet potatoes and homemade biscuits."
Alexis found herself smiling a bit more easily at the Southern hospitality. She found it hard to picture Damon and this woman as a couple. Keisha's down-home drawl and mannerisms didn't mesh with Damon's urban sophistication.
"No, thanks. We've already eaten and we're stuffed."
"You look stuffed."Keisha patted him playfully on the belly. Alexis was not completely comfortable with the familiarity between them, but again she brushed it aside. She trusted Damon. He had never given her reason not to.
"You look like you've gained a few pounds around the middle." Keisha laughed again.
They walked through an immaculate living room. The furniture was simple, but elegant. They walked into the kitchen and Alexis immediately saw the small female version of the man she loved. It had been over a month since she had seen the child, but from their first meeting, Alexis had fallen in love with her. When Ebony saw her daddy her face lit up like a Christmas tree. She sprang from the table into his arms.
"Daaaaaddy!" She was tall for four years. Ebony had a golden-brown complexion,a perfect mix of her mother and father. The child had her mother's full lips, but other than that, it was as if her father had made her without any help. "What'cha bring me?"
"Girl, if you don't carry your tail back to that table and finish your dinner you're not going anywhere," Keisha admonished her.
Damon put her down and she hurried back to the table to finish her vegetables, but she kept expectant eyes on her father.
Damon reached into his pocket."What makes you think I brought you something?"
"Cause you always bring that spoiled child something," Keisha huffed."That's why I can't do nothing with her now." Keisha patted the little girl on the head.
"Well I didn't bring anything today, but I was going to ask you if you wanted to go to the movies."
Ebony's face lit up with the same beautiful smile that her daddy possessed. "Yes, please, Daddy. I wanna go to the movies."
The three adults smiled at her good manners. "Hey, Lexxus." Ebony bashfully smiled up at her as if just noticing she had been standing there next to her father.
"Hello there, Miss Ebony." She walked over to where the child was seated and squatted down to her level."It's so nice to see you again."
"Do you want to see Patches?" Ebony asked with her mouth full of the last of her vegetables.
"Not until you stop talking with your mouth full,"Damon responded before Alexis could answer. "I swear girl, you have the worst table manners. I know you didn't get that from me." He glanced at Keisha.
"Don't look at me."
"Who's Patches?" Alexis asked.
Ebony allowed another sunshiny bright smile to spread over her soiled face and grabbed Alexis' hand. "Come on! I'll show you!"
Ebony nearly pulled Alexis' arm out of its socket as she exploded from the chair and down the back hall with Alexis in tow. It was all she could do to keep up with the little spitfire without falling over in her heels.
Ebony led her to a laundry room that was just big enough to hold a washer, dryer and a couple of plastic shelves over each. Instead of a door there was a small baby fence across the doorway. There, standing on his hind legs with his front paws draped over the little gate,stood Patches. A pink tongue hung out one side of a tiny mouth. The little dog's eyes focused on Ebony like she was all that was good in the world.
The Shih Tzu was the most adorable thing Alexis had ever seen. Fur swirled in beautiful patches of black and white. When Ebony approached, he let out a pitiful whimper and two small yaps.
"Oh, Ebony, what a beautiful puppy! Where did you get him?" Alexis sat down on the floor in front of the gate. She loved dogs, especially little froufrou ones. Patches gave another pitiful whine. He was really playing up to his new and sympathetic audience."Awww, I think he wants to get out. Can we take him out?" Now she felt like the child, asking Ebony for the puppy's pardon.
"Sure, we can. He only hasta stay in there while we eat dinner.Momma don't want 'em in the kitchen while we eat. She says it's nasty. But he takes a bath every week. He's almost clean as me."
Alexis looked into the child's eyes and smiled. Just then Damon and Keisha came down the hall."You can pick him up if you want. He doesn't bite." Keisha's invitation was all Alexis needed to hear before she swooped the lump of fur up into her arms and cuddled him like a baby.
"Oh whatacutelilpupikinsyouare yes you are! Oh, Keisha, he's lovely."
"He's not my dog! Damon brought that mutt over here for Ebony. I'm just the maid that takes care of him."
"Now you know you're lying,"Damon laughed."You love that dog as much as Ebony does, probably more."
"No, I'm just responsible, unlike some people I know. I won't name any names, though."
"What are you trying to say, Keisha? I'm irresponsible?"
"You said it, not me."
"Well, I'm not. I am a free spirit."