Authors: Nicole Bradshaw
“I never once said you weren't good enough for me.”
“You didn't have to. You left that up to your mother, Miss Perfect, to say it. Remember that conversation over the phone, the one where you didn't even bother to defend me when Mommy Dearest called me a loser?”
“Are we back to that again?” I took a deep breath. “Look, DeShaun. All I'm saying is that the idea was to only do this until one of us secured a job, right?”
DeShaun nodded. “Yeah.”
“Right before you came home, I got that call.”
“That law firm I interviewed for ended up offering me the job today. I've accepted.”
“That's good,” DeShaun said.
“Good? It's great. You don't have to do this anymore. You don't have to see that woman. You don't have to go forth with this business idea. I can bring in some money while you continue to look for a job.”
“I have a job.”
“Are you seriously going to pursue this business of yours? Don't you believe we need to have two steady incomes to get back on our feet before we even consider something like that?”
“I'm still working parties,” he said. “In fact, I have one tonight.”
“You didn't say anything about a party tonight? Where?”
“You didn't give me a chance.” He balled up his socks and tossed them into the hamper. “It's for one of the clients I met at the last function. He's throwing a surprise party for his wife and is paying top dollar for me to coordinate the service with the caterers.”
“What time?” I was disappointed and didn't bother hiding it. “I wanted to celebrate with you tonight. It's been so long since we've had a special night together.”
“It's going to be late,” he said. “But I should be home by two at the latest.”
going to be there?”
“You know who I'm talking about.”
He shook his head. “As far as I know, she went out of town with her husband for the next few weeks.” He turned and headed back into the bathroom. “I'm going to take a shower.”
I watched after him. Something definitely wasn't right.
spent the day cleaning the house, starting with the upstairs, working my way downstairs and ending the cleaning fest with mopping the kitchen floors. I hated cleaning, but surprisingly, it was cleaning that burned off my recent burst of excess energy. By the time I finished the entire house, including the garage, I was too exhausted to think about DeShaun and our earlier argument.
Early afternoon, the phone rang. I picked it up, hoping it was DeShaun. It wasn't.
“Are you busy?” Jeremy asked.
“Just doing some cleaning. What's up?”
“I'm calling to find out if you want to hang out and grab a drink tonight?”
A drink? I could've really gone for a drink, or two, or three, but I wasn't really in the mood to socialize. Grabbing a bottle of wine and parking my butt on the couch was a better option. “I can't. I'm doing some major cleaning and by the time I finish, I will be beat down and ready to hop in the shower and go to bed. Thanks for the offer, though.”
“Aw, c'mon,” Jeremy said, apparently not ready to surrender. “One drink and then you can go home and put your feet up. It won't be for long. I'm meeting the Dean at seven. Just meet me for one drink at six.”
Another time I would have seriously considered it, but I couldn't bring myself up to hanging out this evening. “Not tonight, Jeremy.”
“Okay,” he said, finally giving up. “We'll do it another time.” I heard the disappointment in his voice.
“Another time,” I agreed.
I hung up the phone and finished cleaning out the kitchen. An hour later, DeShaun still wasn't home and he didn't call. At one point, I feared the phone was cut off again, so I checked the line. It was still on.
I hopped into the bathtub and washed my hair. After my bubble bath, still wrapped in my bathrobe, I plopped down onto the bed and fell asleep.
I awoke two hours later to the sound of the running shower. I jumped off the bed and softly knocked on the closed bathroom door. “DeShaun?”
“I'll be out in a minute.”
Thirty minutes later, he stepped out of the bathroom with a white towel around his waist. “Hey,” he said, buzzing around the room. First, he went to his top dresser drawer and pulled out a pair of boxers. He reached into the second drawer and pulled out a balled up pair of black socks. After that, he headed back to the bathroom and brushed his teeth. I watched him splash some cologne on his face with a scent I didn't recognize.
“Where are you going?”
“I told you I'm working that party tonight, remember?” He pulled up his slacks and then buttoned up his crisp, white shirt. “Seen my belt?”
“Hanging in the closet.”
He shuffled over to the closet, sifting through the hanging clothes. “Ah, there it is.”
“You're wearing that to service a party?”
He sat on the edge of the bed and put on the black socks. He reached under the bed and pulled out a pair of shiny black shoes. “They have specific uniforms they want us to put on when we get there.”
“So you're getting dressed up now to change into a uniform when you get there?”
He rolled his eyes and sighed. “Why are you always hounding me? First off, this is not dressed up. Second, I can't show up in a pair of ripped jeans for a formal function. You've seen me dress like this a million times before.”
Actually, I hadn't, but if I said something, it would start another argument, so I kept my thoughts to myself. Instead, I asked, “I thought we were going to talk tonight? I think I know why we've been arguing so much lately.”
“Can't now, Mimi. I'm late. Besides, I've been home for about an hour, but you were asleep.”
“Why didn't you wake me?”
“You looked so peaceful, I didn't want to bother you.”
Did he honestly think I was an idiot? He didn't wake me because he didn't want to continue our conversation.
He went over to the closet and grabbed his gym bag. “I'll be home late.”
“This morning you said no later than two,” I reminded.
“I can't predict when I'm going to be home. Sometimes these things run over, but I promise you this, I'll try to be home by two, okay?”
I was dissatisfied with that answer, but I nodded anyway. What else could I do?
He bent down and gave me a peck on the lips. “Have a good night.”
“I love you.”
“Love you, too.”
He grabbed his wallet from the dresser and left. As soon as he pulled out of the driveway, I picked up the phone and called Jeremy. “You still want to go out?”
checked my reflection in the mirror. Jeans and a form-fitting tee were the perfect look for a casual evening. We were only going for a drink, so there was no need to get all dolled up. I brushed my short, cropped hair out of my face and laid it nicely. I never thought I'd see the day Jeremy and I would become friends. While working at the bank, he seemed creepy to me. Now, he's okay.
“You look gorgeous,” he said when I opened the door.
“Oh, please. I'm wearing jeans and a shirt and I barely have any makeup on.”
“You look best that wayânatural,” he said. “You don't wear a ton of makeup and that works for you.”
“What are you, my stylist now?”
He laughed. “Yeah, and later on, I'm going to need you and your sexy body to try on a few nightgowns.”
A few weeks ago, him saying that to me would've made me cringe. Tonight, it was actually kind of funny and I enjoyed the complimentâsomething I was lacking lately.
When we pulled into the parking lot of the bar, Jeremy surprised me by hopping out of the car and whipping around to open the passenger-side door. I couldn't remember the last time DeShaun did that for me.
The bar didn't quite look like one of those seedy ghetto bars you saw on television, but it wasn't an upscale one either. I wouldn't
expect to see any of my old, snobby co-workers hanging around here, thank goodness. Through the glass door entrance, I spotted pool tables in the back and an old-school jukebox situated in the corner. When Jeremy opened the entrance door, current R&B hits rolled out into the streets.
“You don't have to be all formal and open the door for me,” I told him. “This is not a date. We're simply hanging out.”
He sucked his teeth. “Now see, if I didn't open the door, you'd be talkin' about me like a dog.”
“You have my permission to cut that crap out tonight. Treat me like one of your boys.”
“It's like that?”
“It's like that.”
“How come you don't go out with any girlfriends?” he asked. “No sisters, close cousins?”
“I have an older sister but we don't talk at all. I had one or two close friends but since getting married, I've lost touch. I guess DeShaun became like my best friend. But nowâ”
“Okay,” Jeremy said. “Let's make a deal. No gloom and doom tonight. I'll be your girlfriend, well, you know what I mean. We're going to have some fun. Agreed?”
We walked through the smoke-filled bar and I Immediately smelled the stench of alcohol, peanuts and something that smelled like chitterlings and pig's feet put together. So much for not being that stereotypical ghetto bar. “What kind of dive did you bring me to?” I half expected a shoot-out to break out at any moment.
It was only five-thirty, but most of the patrons looked as though they had been there for hours. One guy was even passed out on the bar, with his head resting on the countertop.
“This place didn't look that bad outside,” I said.
Jeremy flagged over the waiter. “It may not be the Ritz, but this place has the best Long Island Iced Teas.”
“No drinking for me,” I said. “The last time you ordered me a drink, I got fired. I don't know what'll happen this time.”
We both laughed.
“Speaking of which, did you hear from anyone about a job yet?”
“Actually, I did,” I said. “Remember that law firm I told you about? They called back and offered me the job.”
The bartender returned and dropped down two humungous glasses in front of us. “I'm supposed to drink all this?” I dipped my finger in the glass and tasted it. It tasted like straight alcohol.
“Think of it as a congratulations drink,” Jeremy said. “We need a celebration shot to go along with this. Bartender!”
I shook my head. “Not for me.”
“Oh, c'mon, just one. I can't get too drunk anyway. I have to meet the Dean tonight, remember?”
“I forgot. We could've hung out some other night.”
The bartender placed two shots in front of us. Jeremy picked up both and handed me one. “We'll do one shot, grab a beer and then head out.”
Jeremy raised his shot high in the air. “Here's to getting that job.”
I raised my glass. “And to your grad school.”
“May we both be successful in life,” he said.
We clinked our shot glasses together and downed the drink. The room temperature liquid burned down my throat, leaving a heat sensation. “What the hell is this?”
“Beats me. I told the bartender to give us his most potent stuff.”
“So much for not getting drunk.”
“I'm kidding. It's JÃ¤germeister. I used to drink it in college.”
We clinked our glasses together and took another drink.
“I brought Tanya here last week,” he said. “You remember her, the one whose head you bit off after the interview.”
“I felt so bad about that,” I said. “Was she really mad? I know she thought I was a bitch.”
“Nah. She's cool. Speaking of which, I'm assuming you're feeling better.”
“Haven't been back to the doctor, but I still get nauseous from time to time.”
“You know what will fix that?”
“Lemme guess,” I said. “Another shot.”
“Exactly!” He waived his hand. “Bartender, another.”
“This is my last one. And this should be your last one too. Remember your meeting.”
He handed me the second shot glass. “I know.”
We took the shot and then he turned back to the bartender. “One six-pack of Corona to go, please.”
The bartender reached into the refrigerator behind the counter and pulled out a six-pack. Jeremy paid for it and we left.
He held up the pack of beer. “This will give me something to do tonight after I drop you off.”
As soon as we got into the car, I checked my watch. “What time did you say your meeting was?”
“You do know it's six-forty-five?”
“Are you serious? Shit! I'm gonna be late.”
“How far does he live?”
“About ten minutes from here, but I have to take you back first and that's going to put me back another twenty-minutes. I knew something like this would happen! Do you know how stupid I'll look, going up there late?”
“Take it easy,” I told him. “We'll go to your meeting first. I'll wait in the car.”
I nodded. “Let's go.”
“I really appreciate this.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of mints. He popped two into his mouth and then started the car. “I won't be long, I promise.” He pulled off the lot and down the road toward the expressway.
he ride seemed to take forever. By the time we turned into the Deans' driveway, I began to feel a slight buzz.
We drove toward a large colonial-style home. Several cars were parked out front. As we got closer, I heard music playing. “Are we going to a party? Oh God, please don't tell me this is a college party.”