Authors: Zuri Day
D’Andra entered Bally Fitness, and after only two weeks felt more the member and less the stranger. The familiar sounds of the gym greeted her and the sparse evening crowd made her smile. D’Andra felt she worked out better without an audience.
“Got a hot date with the treadmill?”
D’Andra laughed. “Something like that.”
D’Andra swiped her card and went through the turnstile, wondering if Marc lived at the gym. It seemed that every time she’d come so far, no matter what day or time, he was there. She’d also noted that even though she saw him flirting with every other skirt in the building, there was a wedding ring on his finger.
Looks like dogs come in all colors, shapes and sizes,
she thought as she walked to the women’s dressing room to secure her purse and gym bag in a locker. Moments later she was on the treadmill, doing a medium-paced walk to Jill Scott’s “Living My Life Like It’s Golden.”
D’Andra kept up this pace for the next ten minutes and was pleased to note that her breathing and stamina had improved. She patted her face, took a swig of water and set the timer for five more minutes as India Arie reminded her that she was not her hair or her skin but the soul that lived within.
After the treadmill, D’Andra felt energetic enough to try the Stairmaster. She walked over to the row of machines and boldly stepped on one, but couldn’t figure out how to set the timer or adjust the incline. Marc strolled over, more than happy to help out.
“You’re looking good there, D’Andra,” he said with a wink. “Those workouts with Night must be paying off.”
D’Andra was taken aback by the comment. “How do you know about my workouts with Night?”
“Night’s my partner, didn’t you know? We go way back. He told me he was working with you, whipping that body into shape.”
“He said that, huh?”
“Well, maybe not those words exactly but…you lucked out getting Night for a trainer. He’s one of the best.”
D’Andra couldn’t argue that point and still regretted having argued with Night. He was taking valuable time out of what was probably a busy schedule to train her for free. And what had she done? Acted like she had no “brought-upsy”, no manners at all. It would have served her right had Night cancelled the sessions. Sure, she may have continued losing weight. But she knew it was happening much faster thanks to Night’s workout regimen, not to mention his encouragement and personal attention. At Night’s suggestion, she hadn’t stepped on her scales since the day after she bought them, but she was pretty sure she’d lost weight. She didn’t know how much, but her nurse’s smock seemed to fit a bit looser. Night suggested she weigh herself sparingly, focus more on inches lessened than pounds removed.
“Hey, what’s going on here, Marc? You trying to take my client?”
D’Andra’s heart did a little flip flop at the sound of Night’s voice. What was he doing here on a Saturday night?
“Hey, man, we must have talked you up,” Marc said as he playfully punched Night in the arm.
“All good I hope.”
“It was. D’Andra was just going on and on about what a great trainer you were.”
D’Andra’s head whipped around at Marc’s comment. “I didn’t say that.”
“Oh,” Marc continued, knowing he was starting something. “You’re saying he’s a bad trainer?”
D’Andra smiled. “No, I didn’t say that either.”
“Well, doll, what did you say?”
“Nothing. Marc was saying what a great personal trainer you are and I hadn’t had time to respond. But if I had,” she continued in what despite her best intentions was precariously close to a flirt. “I would have agreed with him.”
Night tried to hide the pride evoked by her flattery behind a modest shrug. “I try,” was his simple reply.
“I told her she’d feel like a new person with her body in shape.”
A group of people walked up to the front desk. “Be right back,” Marc said, and was gone.
“Is Marc your best friend?” D’Andra asked.
“One of them,” Night responded. “I’d trust him with my life. Now let’s get you going on this Stairmaster.”
In less than five minutes, D’Andra stopped the machine. Her thighs were burning. “I’m not ready for this yet,” she said.
To her surprise, Night simply nodded. “Probably take another month or so of building up your muscles. Once you do, this is a great device for toning.”
He stopped his machine and climbed down just as Marc walked back over.
“What do you say we do some weights, hit the sauna, and by then you’ll be off, right, Marc?”
“Yeah, man, but I got a hot date tonight.”
D’Andra couldn’t stop from rolling her eyes.
“Aw, see, there you go; a typical female thinking the worst about men. The date is with my wife. It’s her birthday and we’re taking a red-eye flight to Vegas.”
Marc had called her out correctly. “You’re married?”
Marc held up the ring D’Andra had previously spotted.
“I saw the ring. But the way you flirt…I couldn’t tell.”
“Flirting is cool as long as you look but don’t touch.”
“If you say so,” D’Andra responded.
“I say so. But you guys go on and have a good time.”
Night turned to D’Andra. “So where are we going?”
“Actually, I’d better get home. Lots to do tomorrow,” she added in response to his raised eyebrow.
Going out in a group would have been one thing but going out solo with Night felt too much like a date; even though it would be a spontaneous, casual one. Knowing how physically attracted she was to him didn’t make that sound like such a good idea. Better to keep this friendship on familiar footing, in a gym or around workout equipment.
“It’s just as well,” Night said, watching Marc head back to the front desk. “I promised my mom I’d go to church with her tomorrow. Might as well make it an early night.”
Since this is exactly what D’Andra wanted, it made no sense that his comment was disappointing. But it was. She wanted to be with him; she didn’t want to be with him. She longed for romance, but didn’t want to admit it. She wanted a man but knew she didn’t need the hassle right now. It’s just the way it was.
“I didn’t take you for the church-going type,” she said.
“I’m not really,” Night answered. He turned and walked toward the weights. D’Andra followed.
“But they’re having some type of family day tomorrow. Mom makes me feel guilty if I don’t go, especially since I didn’t go on Christmas, about the only other time I walk among saints.”
“And all the other time who are you walking around…devils?” D’Andra asked playfully.
“No,” Night replied as he wriggled his brows. “Dolls.”
D’Andra and Night worked out with the weights and then she went home, more hungry than ever for something that wasn’t on a restaurant menu.
“Aunt DeeDee, come on, you promised,” Tonia said, shaking her aunt’s shoulder for emphasis. “Today is Sunday and you promised we’d go to the beach!”
“Promised,” Antoine echoed. He was the baby of their family, even if it was only by seven minutes.
“You said if we were quiet until ten o’clock you’d take us,” Kayla said, pointing to the clock.
“Look!” she added triumphantly. It was ten o’clock exactly.
“Get off me you little rugrats,” D’Andra said, trying to push them off her bed the way she was trying to push last night’s dream, another one with Night, out of her mind.
“Are you gonna fix us pancakes, Aunt DeeDee?”
“Uh-uh, I want waffles, with bacon!”
“Are we still going to the beach, Aunt DeeDee?”
“Ooh, yeah, the beach, please!”
A chorus of pleases followed her into the bathroom, shut out by the door in their faces. The kids had a habit of talking to her simultaneously and just as crazy, she had a habit of being able to hear them all.
Her head was cloudy from the liquor she drank last night, but the evening with her family had been fun for a change; when all three of them, she, her mother and sister, had gotten along. That in itself was a surprise, but the first one was that Cassandra was there at all, alone, on a Saturday night.
“What’s up?” she’d asked when D’Andra came through the door.
“Nothing. What are you doing home?”
“I live here, remember?”
How can I forget with you and your kids in my bedroom and me on the couch?
“Of course not,” she said. D’Andra had had a good time with Marc and Night. She didn’t want to spoil her good mood.
“Hey, Jackie is on her way over. You want to hang out, play some Whist or something?”
D’Andra’s mind whirled with possibilities. While married, Cassandra never invited her to anything, and had only done so once since getting divorced. “What’s the catch—why are you being so nice?” she asked directly.
“Dang, why does there have to be a catch?” Cassandra started to cop an attitude but then shrugged and went into the kitchen. “Can’t I just be nice to my sister, for a change?”
D’Andra joined Cassandra in the kitchen. She poured a glass of water and removed a can of Slimfast from the refrigerator.
“She’s bringing her kids with her,” Cassandra said, reaching past D’Andra into the refrigerator for a liter of cola.
“Bebe’s kids? Aw, hell no.” So that was it. The spawns of Satan were coming over. Jackie’s kids were destroyers. They’d hit anything that moved and break anything glass.
“You shouldn’t want your kids around them. They’re a bad influence.”
“You should be more understanding; they’ve got ADD—attention deficit disorder,” Cassandra said, as if she was telling D’Andra something she didn’t know. “Plus, they’re cousins.”
She looked on the counter and felt on top of the refrigerator. “Where’s that coupon from Pizza Hut?”
D’Andra walked over to the drawer by the refrigerator and handed Cassandra a folder of coupons. “No, they don’t have ADD, they have NAW.”
“The antidote for ADD: Need Ass Whupped.”
“Ooh, Dee, you know you’re wrong. We don’t hit our children these days. We talk to them.”
“Yeah, talk with the hand, and if that don’t work, a belt. That’s what I’m gonna do if those kids break my stuff. See if they understand that language.”
“Don’t worry, she got ’em fixed; they’re on Ritalin or some shit.”
“Dang, for real?” D’Andra didn’t know which was worse; that the kids would act like banshees or zombies.
But the night had been fun. Jackie had a zany sense of humor and the man she’d brought with her, Todd or Teddy or Thomas or something, was actually decent, if a bit on the nerdy side. She hated to admit or in any way advocate drugging children but little TayTay and Benjamin were much better behaved than the last time she’d seen them.
The young ones had watched DVDs while the adults gathered in the dining room around a rowdy game of Bid Whist. Mary Smalls came back from the casino and she and Boss joined in the fun as the partners took their turn at the table. The winners stayed at the table while the losers had to
rise and fly
. As the liquor flowed, so did the trash talking and finally D’Andra gave into Jackie’s prodding to have a Shady Lady, Jackie’s favorite drink.
The drink’s grapefruit juice and melon liqueur had hidden Patrón’s power and when asked, D’Andra felt she could handle another round. Midway through her second glass she too was slamming her cards down on the table. The funniest time of the night happened when her mother, a Shady Lady or two in the wind herself, turned to D’Andra, her playing partner, and said, “Baby, can you go upstairs and get me my suitcase?”
An inebriated D’Andra sincerely asked, “Why, Mama?”
Mary slapped her ace of spades down so hard it spun on the table. She and D’Andra had taken all thirteen books. “Cause somebody’s headed to Boston!”
D’Andra laughed out loud at last night’s antics as the shower’s hot water helped to clear her head. The previous evening was a reminder that sometimes her family actually liked each other.
As D’Andra stepped from the shower, last night’s dream came back into her mind. Her face flushed as she remembered the details: Night’s long, thick, slightly curved manhood poised over her. She wondered if it really looked like that even as she wondered why she kept dreaming about him. She’d never dreamt of Charles, in fact had never before had an erotic dream that she could remember. But her memories from their phantasm encounter had her longing to see the real thing.
“Aunt DeeDee!” a trio sang out.
“C’mon, Aunt DeeDee, we’re hungry!” Antoine whined.
“Hurry up, Aunt DeeDee!” Tonia demanded.
“Can I help you cook?” Kayla asked as soon as D’Andra opened the door.
D’Andra and company whipped up a semi-healthy brunch of blueberry pancakes (with flaxseed added to aid in digestion), egg-white omelets (which everyone complained about yet ate), and turkey bacon. Mary offered a rare compliment, saying she was surprised at how good the eggs were without the yokes.
“That’s where all the bad cholesterol is,” D’Andra explained.
“Well, I like my eggs yellow,” Cassandra added.
“Well, next time you can make ’em that way,” D’Andra retorted.
Cassandra looked at D’Andra surprised. Her sister was starting to let fewer and fewer of her barbs go un-contested.
“I’ll do the dishes, Dee,” she said, to everyone’s surprise. “What? Like I don’t clean?”
“No!” was the unanimous answer.
Forty-five minutes later, D’Andra and the kids were at Dockweiler Beach, a long glorious stretch of ocean in Playa del Rey. They’d gathered an array of beach accessories: umbrella, blankets, beach chairs, arm floats, beach balls, sunblock, shovels and pails. D’Andra carried a bag filled with bottled water and low sodium snacks. She also had a mini first-aid kit, just in case. And in a move that would have made Johnnie Cochran proud, she’d chanted a verse in hip-hop fashion while they were en route that Tonia was bossily reminding Antoine of as he ran down the slope.
“Antoine, get back here! If you want to stay, you must obey!”
D’Andra hid her grin and chided both the twins. “Tonia, I’m the boss around here. Antoine, bring your little skinny butt back up here until we’re ready to go down.”
They found a spot away from the diverse Sunday crowd, the loud music and the Frisbee throwers and set up camp. Kayla helped D’Andra spread out the blanket and put up the umbrella, even after she’d told her little helper to run and play.
She handed Kayla a bucket and one of the shovels. “Go find some shells to put in the fish tank.”
“What fish tank, Aunt Dee?”
The one that’s going in my new place when I move.
“I’m thinking about buying one. You can help me decorate it with the shells you find.”
D’Andra positioned her chair to be shielded from the sun. It was unusually hot for early February, which explained the dense crowd. She remembered how Chanelle’s cousin from Michigan always teased them when she came to visit.
“Y’all get on my nerves,” she’d say whenever one of them complained about rain or a fifty-degree chill. “Come to Detroit, handle ice and snow, and
talk to me about cold weather.”
Chanelle’s cousin was right; Californians were spoiled. It had rained for probably five whole minutes the two days prior. The way people were soaking up the sun you’d think they just endured Jack Frost.
D’Andra reached into her beach bag and pulled out the reading material she’d brought to occupy her while the kids ran around. The book’s title,
Love Like Hallelujah
, had caught her eye as she passed by the book section on her way to the DVDs in Wal-Mart. D’Andra bought the book because she hoped to have a love like that.
She pulled out a bottled water, reclined her chair and opened the novel. Before she’d finished the first chapter she was in love with one of the main characters, Cy Taylor, who fit the description of the man of her dreams. In the book’s beginning, he was in love with his fiancée and shopping in Victoria’s Secret for her honeymoon surprise.
D’Andra hoped men like Cy came in fact as well as fiction. Still, it did a sistah good to dream. As long as it was about somebody fictitious and not the personal trainer she would see in two days. She’d tried to forget her dreams but every time her mind wandered it was to the naked man who stood before her, poised and ready, in Bally’s sauna…
D’Andra placed the book on her chest as she rested her head back on the chair. Maybe reading a novel filled with
wasn’t such a good idea after all. The things the Cy character thought of doing with his fiancée were the same things Night had done in the dream.
There she went again. D’Andra hurriedly put the book back in her bag, determined to get away from anything that reminded her of Night. She shielded her eyes to see where the kids were. As to be expected, Kayla was holding court down by the ocean’s edge, with about ten white, black and brown children, including the twins, gathered around her. No doubt she’d have a pile of shells for D’Andra to choose from, and no doubt she would have delegated the gathering of such shells to the minions around her. On that count, getting her hands dirty, she was more like Cassandra. She’d rather not.
Satisfied that all was well with her charges, D’Andra took in the scene around her. There was a vast array of sights and sounds: bicyclers and roller bladers, joggers and walkers, families and couples. Far down on the beach she saw a Black man playing with a group of young boys and smiled.
That’s an image rarely seen on television
, she thought, a brothah with his children. It felt good for her to see it, and made her think that maybe there were some good men out there after all, other than the fictitious Cy Taylor making his woman scream hallelujah.
After lying back and resting her eyes a moment, D’Andra decided her legs needed a little sun. She rolled her wide-legged palazzo pants up to mid-thigh and repositioned the umbrella to allow the rays to reach her sun-deprived skin. Anybody who thinks that Black people don’t tan should see my arms, she thought, as she noted the contrast between them and her legs. She reached for the sunblock in her bag then frowned when a cloud passed over the sun, blocking out her light.
Only this cloud had two muscled legs and big feet. Her breath caught at the display of manliness showing itself from the waist down. She was suddenly conscious of her exposed thighs and noting their chubbiness, remembered she’d forgotten to weigh herself this morning. She was sure she’d lost at least ten pounds, maybe more. But manly or no, this guy was pretty bold; standing there and staring without a hello.
“Excuse me, but you’re in my sun,” she said with playful attitude.
“Oh,” the man said, squatting down to see her face. “I thought I was looking at it.”
“Night! What are you doing here?”
“Same thing as you, catching some sun. I know, you probably don’t think I need it but my skin loves this heat.” He looked at the bottle of sunblock. “Allow me.”
D’Andra was thankful for her sunglasses; that way Night couldn’t see her reaction to the same words he’d uttered in her dream. She squirmed, suddenly aware of her bare legs, and of the fact that Night was staring. She lowered her eyes to break the contact. Wrong move; her gaze landed squarely on his crotch, or more specifically the bulky bulge that made up his crotch.
Just like in my dream…
“What are you doing here?” she asked again, for lack of anything better to say. Her mind had a tendency to turn to mush around Night. She was going to have to change that.
He’s a friend, my trainer, walking dirt, nothing more!
For once she thankfully let Mary’s voice enter her mind.
I ain’t raised no fools. Now straighten up and act like you’ve got some sense!
Just then a group of boys ran over, knocked Night to the ground and started pouring sand over him. Laughing, he caught the nearest one by his foot and returned the favor. Soon the boys were off, chasing each other toward the water. With no hesitation, Night followed them right into the ocean, their sand fight changing to a water one without breaking momentum. She noticed Antoine running toward them to join the fray.
Resuscitating a five-year-old with water in his lungs wasn’t on her schedule today. D’Andra jumped up and ran towards her nephew.
“Antoine! Get back!”
Night turned and saw the source of D’Andra’s frustration stop cold just at the water’s edge. He smiled at the child, then ran over, grabbed him and placed him on his shoulders.
“He’s okay,” he called out to D’Andra. “I’ve got him.”
Once again D’Andra was struck by Night’s kindness. Too bad she wasn’t in the market for a man right now because, if she were, he’d be a good candidate for an LTR: a long-term relationship. But this time was all about her. After she got herself together, if he was still around and available, maybe she’d see what was up.