Authors: Darren Coleman
The sequel to
Before I Let Go
You three spoiled me by
taking time out of your busy days at work to read my manuscript chapter by chapter. Your encouragement meant the world to me! That is the only exclamation point you will see in my whole book, so recognize that I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I can’t count the number of times that I got sidetracked and lost focus, starting five other books, at least, while trying to complete this one. You all kept asking for more and more until one day I messed around and finished a book. I love ya’ll and I hope that I have touched your lives the way you’ve touched mine.
Special thanks…Kelli Martin and Rockelle Henderson. You both believed in me from the start, and I want to thank you for your hard work and dedication. You’ve lived this book and helped me breathe life into it. This is
success is forthcoming.
Your background, it ain’t squeaky clean,
Shit, sometimes we all gotta’ swim upstream,
You ain’t no saint. We all are sinners,
but you put your good foot down and make your soul a winner.
Once Upon a Time
The Honeycomb Hideout
It Takes a Fool to Learn
Yearnin’ for Your Love
How Sweet the Sound
Out of the Frying Pan
The Notion or the Motion?
Without a Strong Rhyme to Step To
Can’t See the Forest for the Trees
If Heaven’s Missing an Angel
No Ordinary Love
Not your Average Girl
Masters of Disaster
I Wish You Well
Where Do We Go from Here?
Just What I Needed?
Splash! RK’s ears twitched at the sound. He sniffed and…
Time Waits for No Man
Just Don’t Wanna Be Lonely
One More Round
Don’t Forget Your Way Home
Thicker than Water
A Story to Tell
Don’t Ever Wonder
Don’t Wanna Be a Player No More
Aubette was already
packed at seven p.m. People piled in for happy hour after work, and on the weekends they stayed until three in the morning once the party started. I hadn’t come for mingling or party atmosphere this time though. I came for one quick drink and a little conversation. On my cab ride over to 27th Street, my fingers were crossed that my meeting wouldn’t turn ugly, even though I had been assured that we were adult enough to handle this.
Once inside I made my way past the bar and headed toward the rear of the lounge. Aubette was filled with a mix of folks dressed in business attire and around-the-way girls already dressed for the club. As Twista’s “Slow Jams” was coming to an end, I had to weave through a few dancing couples to get to the table. I looked over to my left and spoke to my favorite bartender, Terri. She waved and shot me a smile. As soon as I cleared the bar I saw her sitting at a small table off to my right. A mix of emotions flared up and I swallowed hard as I made my way to her. Our eyes were locked and she stood up as I reached the table. She extended her arms and gave me a tight hug. The warmth was familiar and when she pulled away she was sporting a smile as wide as the Hudson River.
“Mr. Dandridge. How nice to see you after all this time,” she said both sarcastically and seductively. Anthony Hamilton’s “Float” was coming through the speakers and for a second I remembered our first dance together. It was hard to believe that one innocent dance could have led to all of this.
I smiled at her. “It’s good to see you too. You look lovely.” I couldn’t help but notice that she was looking exceptionally beautiful. Not that I had expected anything less from her, but when you don’t see someone for a while you tend to forget some of what you loved about them. She was wearing a copper strapless dress that showed off some serious tan lines and had on the necklace that I had gotten her from Tiffany. She had obviously been on vacation. “Nice necklace.” I mentioned and then added, “Nice tan too.”
“Oh thanks.” She was grinning. “An old friend picked it up for me a while back. As for the tan, I picked that up in Puerto Rico at my family reunion.”
I knew about the reunion because my wife, Shelly, had contemplated for weeks whether or not to attend. She had decided not to go once her mother had confirmed that Nina would be there. We sat and the waitress came back for our orders. I pointed at Nina and asked the waitress to take her order first. “I’ll take a glass of white zinfandel and the adobo-roasted chicken for my entrée.”
“I’ll take a vodka martini and the shrimp dish right here,” I said, pointing to the menu.
The waitress took the menus and headed off. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence that I tried to fill by observing my surroundings. I was interrupted with, “Cory, are you okay?” My hands were on the table and she reached for them. “If you are uncomfortable, we don’t have to do this. You can leave.”
I lied. “No I’m fine. I was just thinking about work. I have to stop doing that.” I paused. “So what did you want to talk about?”
“Whoa. I wanted to have a drink and chill with you first, been a long time, right?” She released my hands. Her touch had been so subtle I had forgotten that she was holding them. “I must admit that I am surprised that you even agreed to meet me.”
I nodded my head in agreement because I was surprised as well and it
been a long time. But I guess that deep down inside I had wanted to see her months ago just to be sure she was okay. I granted her request and relaxed a bit while we ate and ordered our second and third drinks. It was a quarter past eight when my phone rang. I excused myself and went down the steps and into the restroom.
“Hey, sweetie.” I said to my wife on the other end.
“Hey, do you think you can pick up Amani from the sitter’s? I told Mrs. Lamar that I would be there by eight and Rockelle and I are still out trying to pick up a few things for Christina’s baby shower tomorrow.” Shelly had been planning a baby shower for her college roommate, who lived in Brooklyn.
“Why don’t you call and ask Mrs. Lamar if she can stay a little later. I am in the middle of something and probably won’t make it there for at least two more hours. I have a really important assignment and this deadline…”
“Fine.” I heard the disgust in her voice as she cut me off. Then she hung up. Shelly’s combative behavior whenever she didn’t get her way, or if I didn’t jump through hoops, was becoming a routine. If I went to the gym, or, heaven forbid, got a drink before coming home, she bitched. I was getting so sick of it that the makeup sex no longer seemed worth it. I knew I was headed for attitude city by the time we met up at home, so I decided to loosen up and enjoy my time with Nina.
Nina’s face looked a little flushed from the wine when I got back to the table. All my apprehensions had faded and now I wanted nothing more than to sit and talk for at least another hour with my sister-in-law, who happened to be my ex-fiancée. As a matter of fact, I was feeling way too relaxed for my own good. I was relaxed enough to give my wife the impression that I was probably still working on some important project. And thanks to the alcohol, I was relaxed enough to let the truth come out of my mouth: “Nina you are so beautiful. I am so sorry for hurting you the way I did. If I could take it all back I would.”
After coming out of left field with the first statement, I began rambling. “I didn’t even realize how much I loved you. I have to admit that I think I made the biggest mistake of my life.” She looked down at the table for a second, dodging my eyes. “I don’t expect you to forgive me, I just want you to know that…” I shook my head in disgust at myself for spilling my guts like a loser. I went on. “I just want you to know that I am sorry and have been miserable without you.”
While I spoke I hadn’t noticed that her eyebrows had raised and that her lips had parted, exposing her shock. She would have interrupted me if she could have but I had stunned her with my confession. She placed her hands over her face, stood up, and rushed off to the bathroom.
I waited in confusion for about ten minutes, wondering what was going through her mind. Was she embarrassed, angry, or was she feeling the same way? While she was in the restroom the waitress came back and I paid the bill and continued to sit patiently waiting for her. Feeling drained, I closed my eyes and tried to tune out the crowd’s chatter.
“How much do I owe you for the bill?” I looked up and saw her standing right next to me.
“C’mon now. You know better than that.” I motioned for her to sit down and she shook her head no. My heart was sinking fast as I asked, “Are you are ready to leave?”
“Yes.” Her demeanor had changed. Her body language communicated that she was no longer relaxed. Her arms were folded and she was clutching her purse as if I was going to steal it and she looked like she had been crying.
“Let’s walk then.” I said as I led her toward the door. The spot had gotten packed. Everyone was piling in trying to get the last taste of summer before September and the fall weather rolled in. We hit the street and moved toward the curb. “I’ll get you a cab.”
“No, wait. Walk a little up the block with me. I want to respond to what you said in there.” We started walking. The air was warm and people were moving about on both sides of the street. We made it halfway down the block before she turned and said. “Cory.” I was still. Hands in my pockets. My heart began pumping wildly. I looked directly at her. “I want you to know something.”
“I was wrong too. Not just you…the whole thing was wrong. I should have never dated you. A crush is one thing because believe me, brother, you are
.” She punched me in the chest softly and laughed. “What we did though was wrong. You and my sister were together and made a child. I still think that she is ignorant as all hell for keeping you in the dark for five years about the child you two had together. That will never make sense to me and I hope that it never makes sense to you either.”
I digested what she had said but wasn’t sure if she wanted a reply. It was obvious she didn’t because she went right on. “But two wrongs don’t make a right. I should have been better than that and so should you.”
I cut her off. “…But baby girl…
are so damned fine. How could I resist you?” I pinched her cheek, lightening the mood, and we both laughed. “You’re right. No doubt about it. I have lost many nights of sleep over the way I have handled things.”
“As well you should have.”
“But what does it mean to be here now? Everything that has happened can’t be undone. These feelings can’t be turned off.” I looked down at the sidewalk. “I do still love you though.” The words just slipped off of my lips.
I felt her fingers touch my chin. “Poor Cory,” she said. “You’ll love me today, then Shelly tomorrow. Whoever ain’t there…that is who you will love, Papi. With you it’s never the here and now. You are a faraway love.”
“You’re a faraway love. No good at loving up close and in the present. That’s the funny thing about men. Something most women will never understand.” She sensed that I was all ears. “When a sistah leaves your ass, you all of a sudden gain all this clarity. But by then it’s too late. She has picked up the shattered pieces of her heart and moved on.”
“So it’s too late.” At that moment I was thinking that I could end my marriage to Shelly and make everything right. Thoughts of my life as it was cruised through my mind. Not many people get a chance to go back and try to re-create a magical feeling that once meant everything. I had taken that chance with Shelly and found out that sometimes the past is better left right there, in the past. She still found it necessary to argue over small things and hold grudges. As far as I was concerned Shelly was still spoiled, and to listen to her tell it, I was still selfish.
Looking deep into her eyes and almost through her, I was half-listening and half-wishing that Nina and I could move somewhere far away and be happy, never worrying about anyone judging us because we fell in love. The idea of it sent a wave of happiness through me. Realizing though that Nina would have probably figured me crazy, I didn’t share my thoughts and instead remained silent.
“It’s way too late,” she said, backing toward the curb. She turned and hailed a cab.
“So how long are you in town for?”
“I leave on Sunday.”
I pulled out a card and wrote my cell number on the back of it. “Call me tomorrow. The afternoon will be best.”
“I’ll think about it.” A cab stopped and she opened the door. “I won’t make any promises,” she said nonchalantly. Her tone stung a bit.
She looked back. No smile.
I couldn’t believe myself as the words slipped off of my lips. “Do you still love me?”
As she backed into the cab she said, “Once upon a time.” The door shut…and just like that Nina was gone again.