That was until an ex-lover from his past, who he thought he’d gotten over reenter his life. She’s younger too, but is married with kids. Her husband is a doctor but is abusive and she’s unhappy and decided to turn to the only man she’d ever loved. Her reentry complicates things and what was intended to be a meeting for a drink and just talk turned out to be something else and threatened to ruin his relationship with his present girlfriend.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.90(d)|
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By Errol Hall
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2014 Errol Hall
All rights reserved.
The last thing I wanted to do was lie to Liseth about anything. We had a great relationship, and had always been honest with each other. We always told each other the truth and never kept secrets from each other. It was the backbone of our relationship. Saturday, I told her I was going to meet a client. She said she would try to finish the living room decorations, and then visit her mother, and that I should pick her up there when I was finished. She walked me to the car and kissed me good-bye, and watched as I headed out of the dead-end street toward the main street leading to Montauk Highway. I watched her in the rear-view mirror as I accelerated the Jag. The July afternoon sun shone through the Victoria's Secret robe she had, on revealing her braless and pantyless body. For a girl whose only workout, other than having sex, was lifting a bottle of beer to her mouth, she always managed to keep her five-feet-seven-inch body under 125 pounds. Her long blonde mane was all over the place. And even though she had just gotten out of bed and had no makeup on, she was a sight to behold; but then what would you expect from a twenty-two–year-old? She sipped her coffee as she retrieved the mail from the mailbox. It was a little after two. She waved as I turned the corner, and we lost sight of each other.
I could have told Liseth I was going to be at my office working on a brief or something, or doing research. It would not have been unusual. Big-firm lawyers are not nine-to-fivers, and Saturdays, and even Sundays, were not off limits. But had I told her that I was going to the office, she would have wanted to come with me, or joined me later on. There was no way I could have kept my date with Connie without lying.
It was not unusual for traffic to be backed up on the Long Island Expressway on a Saturday afternoon, or anytime for that matter. The LIE is unpredictable. There could be traffic jams in either direction even in the middle of the night. When traffic is moving, the way I drive, it takes about forty-five minutes to get to the Bronx from my house in Bay Shore. That day it took me the same amount of time to get from Exit 33 to 32. As I sat there waiting for the traffic to move, I thought of calling Connie and canceling our date. It wasn't too late to break it off. We were supposed to meet at six. Even though I'd stopped at the service station up the street from my house to fill my tank, check my engine oil and transmission fluid, and even small-talk a little with the men, there was still plenty of time. It was close to four.
Connie and I had broken up about three and a half years before, because I had insisted on us getting married. She wanted us to live together. I told her, "If you're good enough to sleep with, then you're good enough to live with, and if you're good enough to live with, then you're good enough to be my wife." She said she didn't want to get married again. Connie was married once, when she was only nineteen. She has a daughter, Nicole. The marriage fell apart by the time she was twenty. She was divorced by the time she was twenty-one. I had never been married. When we broke up, she was three months shy of her twenty-ninth birthday. I was closing in on forty-one.
The last time I saw Connie had been two years before. She was with her sister Greta; they were visiting Greta's husband, Victor, who was my barber. Connie was still single, but I had heard she was dating some doctor she met on the job. Connie is a nurse. I was going out with Carmen Grant, among other women, and I had just renewed my vow of bachelorhood. After Connie, being a bachelor was the one thing I was faithful to, until I met Liseth eleven months earlier. For seven of those months, Liseth had practically been living with me.
About six or seven months after I saw Connie, Greta told me Connie and the doctor were getting married. She'd been against marriage, and now she was about to get married again. This was hard for me to understand. I was sure the fact that she was pregnant with twins had something to do with it. So, if she was married with children, why did she want to see me? Especially since she knew I was living with someone.
I leaned on my horn, knowing full well it wouldn't help the situation. But what the fuck, it's one of the things we New Yorkers do best. The traffic was still moving at the same pace, if you could call it moving. I switched off the CD player and tuned in to KISS FM to see if there was any news of the traffic jam. Instead, I got Puff Daddy. WBLS was not any better; they had Busta Rhymes. I quickly changed to HOT 97.1, but it was not any better either. Must have been a rap music weekend. I'm a jazzman. Give me some Miles, Coltrane, or Cannonball; and I am in musical heaven. All right, so I am also a big fan of Luther Vandross and Teena Marie, but rap music? Please, I'd rather confess to killing Jimmy Hoffa. Had it not been for WQCD 101.9, it would have been worth tuning in to one of those crazy rock n roll stations. I was ready to listen to Kid Rock. Kid Rock? I don't even know what the fuck he sings. Can he sing?
As traffic inched slowly along, a Miles Davis song filled the Jag and saved me from calling the local FBI and confessed to the Jimmy Hoffa killing and where he's burried. Across from me, to my right, a couple in a silver BMW 7 series was having an argument, and the woman, whom I presumed was the driver's wife (there was a baby seat in the back) was doing most of the talking. She looked to be in her midtwenties. The man was possibly a year or two older. He could have been the same age. They were dressed casually, as though they were coming from the beach, or going (she still had on a bikini top). The man would occasionally answer as though he was trying to explain something.
There is something unique about traffic jams. It's like sitting through a Ronald Reagan movie on an airplane flight. You're stuck. You can't walk away. Which explains why the man in the BMW was forced to take the shit his wife was dishing out.
The Bimmer's windows were up, as were my Jag's; and even if I'd put mine down, it was unlikely they were going to cooperate by putting theirs down just for me to hear what they were saying. But even without the volume, I could tell he was in a spot. The woman was turned sideways in her seat, facing him, and was waving her hands as she talked, I was certain, at the top of her voice. Every now and then, she would pause to let him say something; but before he could get two words out, she would cut him off. This went on for more than half an hour, before the traffic started to move again. There was a gap of at least three cars' length in front of me, but I was not about to give up this sideshow for love or money. Horns started to blare, but I said, "Fuck you. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and it's free."
I wished I could hear what they were saying, because I would have paid any amount of money to hear him try to talk his way out of the mess I was sure he had created. If there is one thing us men are good at, it's getting ourselves into shit. Hey, that's why we are men. It's our nature. Every now and then, the man in the BMW would look in my direction, as if to solicit my help or sympathy, maybe both. But the look on my face, I was sure, told him I was enjoying his pain, not feeling it. Even though I couldn't hear what they were saying, I found it funny. I'd started to laugh when my phone rang. It was Liseth.
"What's so funny?" she said.
I told her about the couple in the Bimmer. "She must have caught him in a position he can't explain," she said.
"I'm sure you would think that," I said, although that's what I thought too.
"If he's doing most of the talking, he's guilty of something," she replied.
I didn't tell her it was the other way around. I switched the subject. "Miss me already?"
"Of course I do."
"I miss you too."
"I just wanted you to know we received an invitation to my aunt's wedding. Do you want to go? It's for both of us."
"Knowing how she feels about me, why would she invite me?"
"I would love to go. You should too."
"OK. I gotta go. Traffic is moving."
"Maybe the girl needs a lawyer. Give her your card."
"Only if she kills him. I don't do divorces."
"Bye, darling. I love you."
Finally, traffic started to move faster. Any attempt on my part to stay with the couple in the BMW would have only caused further delay. In any case, I had a feeling I knew how the argument would end. My money was on the woman.
Ever since New York State introduced the E-Z pass on all the toll bridges and tunnels, it has become nothing less than a nightmare for those who failed to get one. Lucky for me I have one, and it made the trip over the Throgs Neck Bridge easy. I got to the Holiday Inn in New Rochelle a little after five. I had called Connie on her cell phone and explained the problem with traffic. She was waiting for me in the lounge, and was two drinks ahead of me. I apologized for being late. She said it was OK, that she was enjoying the piano player, and that I was worth waiting for. If I didn't agree with her on anything, I had to agree with her on that. She was about to order her third drink. We embraced, and it felt like old times.
"How are you?" she said.
"I'm fine," I said, even though, I must admit, I felt a little nervous being there with her. I felt as though I was cheating on Liseth. Not that I expected anything to happen. But even if nothing happened, I was still cheating on Liseth, because I had lied to her about where I would be, and what I would be doing.
I ordered a brandy. My favorite drink is a gin and tonic, but with brandy, you can sip it slowly. At least I do. Connie's third white wine was served with my brandy. She had been there more than an hour, she said.
Two years, two more children, and five or seven pounds hadn't changed anything about Connie: at thirty-two, she still looked ravishing. She was tanned and relaxed, and her brown hair was longer than I'd ever seen it. It fell unruly down to her shoulders and down the sides of her face, softly framing her cherubic face. Intermittently, and in slow motion, she would use her index finger and her thumb to guide her hair to the back of her head. But as if to please me, the unruly hair would return to where I liked it. It gave me a hard-on.
The extra weight was not obvious, but I knew her; I could tell. I remarked on how good she looked. She returned the compliment. She was dressed for the weather and the occasion: faded blue jeans, a multicolored short-sleeved silk shirt, and open-toed sandals. The shirt was tied high enough to show her midsection. Her belly was still flat. I, as usual, was overdressed: suit and tie. She looked happy, as though she was enjoying life to the hilt. This made me feel good about being there, because if she was happily married, then by now, she would have gotten over me.
I sat across from her and watched as she sipped her wine. There were some specks of gray in her hair. Not enough to be noticed by anyone, but I was not just anyone. I was, after all, the man who went shopping for a 2-karat diamond ring. The man who had been willing to stand before a priest even though I passionately loathe all religions. I'm the same man who had promised her that on her thirtieth birthday I would buy her the house of her choice anywhere she wanted. I was the man who took great pleasure in noticing everything about her. I knew every last inch of her body, down to the little birthmark she had on the entrance to her vagina, which would be unnoticed even if she shaved off all her pubic hair. The only way to see it is if you're face-to-face with it. A position I'd relished.
And yes, I'm the idiot who gave her an ultimatum when she turned down my marriage proposal. Looking back, I know it was a decision I wished I could have reversed. I should have jumped at the chance to live with her. What was the big fucking deal anyhow? We wouldn't have been the first people to have lived together without being married. But the rest of the world didn't have my parents. I should have stood up for what I thought would have made us happy. But no, I had to behave holier than thou; and other than the exclusive prize for being the noble idiot, what the fuck did I gain? I had lost her forever. She was married, and I had Liseth, who was the prize of all prizes, and who I hoped would be the mother of my children. I took a sip of my brandy and said, "I almost didn't come, you know."
"I'm glad you did," she said.
"Now that I'm here, I'm glad I did."
She asked again how I was doing. I gave her the same answer. She asked if I was still running five miles a day, and if I still didn't eat meat. She asked about my parents and about my job. I asked about the twins, and how her daughter, Nicole, was doing in school, particularly in math. She was terrible at math. I used to tutor her.
"Nicole must be ... what, fourteen on her next birthday, if I'm not mistaken?"
"Yes, in December. The twins just made one two months ago."
"Nicole must be speaking fluent French by now. If not, you wasted your money."
"That girl, let me tell you, you can't shut her up. You know how she loves to talk from the moment she gets up in the morning. Well now, love, she still talks like she swallowed a radio, except now all she does is talk in French. You ask her something, and she answers in French. If she asks you something, she asks it in French. Then to top it off, she has a friend—let me tell you something else, when she and that girl gets on the phone, all you can hear is 'Oui, je comprends, excusez-moi,' and a lot of laughing, and you just know they have to be talking about boys. I swear to God I'm thinking of learning French just to communicate with that girl and to know what she and her friend talk about."
We both cracked up laughing. I'd almost forgotten what that laugh used to do to me. And believe me, it did things to me. Things that came rushing back as I looked at her. Have you ever felt hungry? Really hungry? I mean like you haven't had anything to eat for ages, and you start to think of your favorite dish? You just can't wait to sink your teeth into it, and then you see the woman you love, and she smiles and breaks out into laughter, and right then you forget how hungry you are. That's what Connie's laughter does to me. She had a sexy laughter. Not to mention those lips, and how she'd run her tongue across them when she stopped laughing. It was so sexy. She did it again, and I swear I felt something wet on the tip of my hard-on.
Connie's eyes lit up when she talked about Nicole. "I'm so proud of her. She is a good kid," she said, as she knocked on wood. "But I gave up any hope of her ever being a mathematician. She said she won't need math because she is going to be a lawyer like you. She misses you a lot, Delroy."
I was not surprised to hear that Nicole missed me. We had been close. I was like a father to her. I knew her since before her fourth birthday. Connie pulled a mini photo album out of her handbag. She showed me pictures of her twin sons, of Nicole, and of her husband. Nicole was almost as tall as Connie. She was five three. Connie was five six, four inches shorter than me. Her sons were beautiful boys. A streak of envy ran through me. I had always wanted her to have my child. If the boys were any older, given that her husband and I were black, I would have been suspicious; but the last time we made love was far too long ago for me to make any claim. I held the boys' picture in my hands for some time and stared at them. I wondered what it would have been like to have fathered twins. I asked her their names. Kevin and Francis. Kevin I could understand, but when she told me the reason she named the other one Francis, I was moved. Imagine that: one with his father's name, and the other with my middle name. Had they been mine, I would have named them Delroy and Francis. Delroy Lloyd and Francis Lloyd Bradshaw. Sounded good to me. Lloyd was my father's name.
I asked her about the relationship between her husband and Nicole. She said it was good. She said he took them to France for a two-week vacation last summer. Nicole, she said, was ecstatic. The pictures Connie showed me of her family showed a happy and loving family who seemed to enjoy a lot of things together. "You look like such a happy family," I said, and I meant it.
"That's the magic word," she said. "We look happy."
"You're not happy?"
"I remember something you told me years ago."
"What was that?"
"That there are degrees of happiness."
"Yes, I remember."
"So there are degrees of happiness.
"What's your point?"
Excerpted from Divided Loyalty by Errol Hall. Copyright © 2014 Errol Hall. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
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