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Authors: Bonnie Hopkins

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“You know, I just happen to have it on me ’cause I’ve been planning to call Jace. I’ve been thinking about going to see her.
Now that I’m retired again I can do that,” he said, chuckling.

Maxie understood why the guy so willingly gave him the number when George continued in a serious tone, “You need to call her,
man. You didn’t do right by Jacetta and that child . . . we both know that. And I have always felt some responsibility since
I brought ya’ll together. But the most important thing now is to get to know your child. Randi is a nice young woman. If I
were you, I wouldn’t leave this world knowing I had a child I had never seen. And it’s not fair for Randi to go through life
not knowing her father. And I gotta tell you, you have truly ripped yourself off by not being a part of her life.” He began
to walk away. “Well, I guess I’ll be moving on. Take care of yourself, man.” George hoped what he had said would cause Maxie
to regret his callous treatment of Jacetta and their child. But he had a disturbing thought.
Maxie still might not be man enough to fully understand what I was trying to say to him.

As Maxie waited for his prescriptions, his mind raced all over the place. After all these years, two conversations had come
up about Jacetta within a couple of weeks. It made him nervous. He normally didn’t believe in coincidence, but this one could
really bug him if he let it.

Not wanting to return to his lonely little house after getting his prescriptions, Maxie decided to drive over to his brother
Joe’s house for a while. He hadn’t been there long before he found himself telling Joe about the two conversations he’d recently
had about Jacetta.

Joe immediately jumped him. “Man, I told you when that was going down that you were going to regret how you treated that girl
one of these days. You didn’t even tell Mother she had another grandchild did you?”

“Naw man! Why would I do that? That girl didn’t mean nothing to me.”

“Well, all I got to say is, where are your other children? How often do you see them? And how well do they know their grandmother?
Or vice versa? They don’t even go see her. Not to mention you.”

Maxie had two other children—a boy and a girl—both older than Jacetta’s child.

His son, James, was the product of his first disastrous marriage. He had neither loved nor cared for James’s mother, but the
woman had been shrewd. Vicious threats from her family, and her having him thrown in jail for not supporting the child, had
forced him to take the course of least resistance and marry her. The marriage only lasted until she realized he had no intention
of adhering to the marriage vows. But he’d been stuck with paying child support after the marriage ended or she would have
happily sent him to jail.

A few years later he was shacking with a woman who got pregnant with his daughter Andrea. Again, he was forced into marriage
out of self-preservation when another woman on his job started causing all sorts of problems and disruptions for him. Despite
his practiced techniques in shaking unwanted women, the low-life woman wouldn’t leave him alone, insisting he was going to
marry her. His supervisor made it clear that he had to get his personal business straight or he would be out of a job. So,
Maxie had done what he had to and married his daughter’s mother. Not that the marriage meant anything to him. It was a means
to an end that he quickly found a way to use to his benefit.

He smiled at his slyness, remembering how many women he had fooled by showing them his divorce papers from his first marriage,
conveniently leaving out the fact that he had remarried.

Now, feeling the heat of his brother’s words, he exclaimed, “Man, I see my kids all the time. Especially Andrea whenever I’m
over at her mother’s house. She’s doing all right.”

“But, Maxie, when have you spent any quality time with her?” Joe harassed. “How many children she got now? What about James?
How many children he got? Do you even know? Man, you’re pitiful! Here you are, old, sick, broken down, and needing someone.
And because of the raggedy life you’ve lived, your own children and grandchildren don’t know or give a darn about you. Pitiful!”

When Maxie’s children were young, he loved playing the part of the doting father whenever it suited his purposes. He picked
them up and paraded them all over town, showing them off and taking credit for their well-dressed appearances and sharp intelligence.
After they got old enough to understand what was going on, they refused to go anywhere with him. So, he had merely left them
alone except for seeing them occasionally, out of curiosity.

“Man, those women kept me broke taking care of those kids. Every time I turned around it was something.” Maxie defended himself.
“I’m just glad they’re grown and finally out of my pocket. When Jacetta came up pregnant, I knew I wasn’t dealing with any
more child support hassles.”

Joe shook his head. “Then why did you get her pregnant? Man, you were old enough to be more responsible. Just didn’t have
a thought for anyone but yourself.”

“Well, Jacetta should have taken responsibility for herself. I didn’t make her do anything. And anyway, I’m not even certain
that baby was mine.”

“Aw, please! You know there was never any doubt that baby was yours. You even bragged about Jacetta being a virgin. And you
monopolized all her time to make sure no other dude could get to her. So, you can save that old “how do I know it’s mine”
line. But I remember from talking to her a few times that Jacetta was pretty close to God. And I have a strange feeling about
these out-of-the-blue conversations you’re having about her. God may be getting ready to show you that turnabout is fair play.”

Maxie felt an unfamiliar shiver run down his spine at hearing his brother’s words. Jacetta’s last words to him—something along
those same lines—suddenly popped into his mind.
Now why did I remember that after all these years?
he thought, then shook it off by attacking his brother. “Man, here you come with that old God mess again. I ain’t interested
in hearing it. Anyway, if you’re so self-righteous, why didn’t you do anything to help her?”

“You don’t know how much I have regretted not doing anything to help that girl,” Joe said sadly. “My only excuse is that I
was tied up in my own issues around that time. But I still feel bad about it. And if I feel bad, you ought to be feeling really
rotten.”

There was no way Maxie would ever admit it to his brother, but the unexplainable emotions of loneliness and disappointment
struck him again. Andrea and James hadn’t even come to see him since he’d been sick. They treated him with the same indifference
that he showed toward them. Suddenly, his life looked very bleak and empty.

Two weeks later, Jacetta remained at the forefront of his mind. Maxie didn’t consciously make the decision, but somehow he
knew he would call her. He didn’t really remember much about how she looked, but he did remember her love and adoration for
him. Her feelings for him had made it very easy for him to exploit and take advantage of her.
I’ve got too much time to think!
He scolded himself for his empty life. But inevitably his mind would return to Jacetta and
his
daughter. The descriptions painted about their lives stirred a deep yearning within him, filling him with the desire to see
for himself. Why? He didn’t know. Was it about the daughter he had never even seen? Maybe. Could it be curiosity about Jacetta,
whom he had dumped without a second thought? Not hardly! It was more than likely the effects of his health problems, and the
undeniable fact that he was growing old. Whatever the reason, he wanted to see Jacetta and his daughter and grandchild. He
made a sudden decision . . . he would do just that!

Jaci

J
aci always felt mentally depleted after a hearing. Thankfully, all had gone well, and as usual, her staff wasted no time heading
for home. She sat idly at her desk, knowing she too needed to leave, but dreading the long drive and the horrific traffic
she would have to deal with. She decided to kill a little time by checking on her cousin C.J., who she knew could probably
use an encouraging word. After suffering through years of her husband’s infidelity, C.J. had made the difficult decision to
end her marriage.

“Hey, Cij! What’s going on, girl? You’re not sitting over there feeling sorry for yourself, are you?”

C.J. laughed. “That’s what I like about you, Jace. Shoot from the hip and aim right between the eyes. And no, that’s the last
thing on my mind. I’m over here packing and throwing stuff away. Lord, what junk we accumulate! Why do we do that?” She paused
before continuing. “Jace, I really appreciate all the moral support you’re giving me. I’m so glad we live near each other
while I’m going through this.”

Jaci smiled at her cousin’s words. “C.J., how many times do I have to tell you? I wouldn’t have it any other way. By the way,
do you want me to go apartment hunting with you Saturday? My invitation stands—you’re welcome to stay with me until you find
a house.”

Just talking to her cousin lifted C.J.’s spirit and had her feeling better. “Yeah, girl. And I really appreciate your offer,
but I need my own space. I’m not the best company for anyone right now. I’ve gotten a list of apartments from Apartment Locators
I think I might like. I guess it doesn’t matter a whole lot, since I’m not planning to stay there long. But I do want to be
comfortable for however long I’m there. Are you still coming to help me pack tomorrow?”

“Yep. I’ll be there as early as I can in the morning,” Jaci answered, thankful that her four-day workweek made it possible
for her to help.

“Good. I can sure use your help, and it’s not going to be nothing nice. Randy still hasn’t come to clean out his things and
I have my hands full just dealing with mine, plus the furniture and household stuff. I really didn’t think the house was going
to sell this quickly. I mean, we just put it on the market a couple of weeks ago, and we’ve already got a contract on it.
It wouldn’t be an issue if the buyers didn’t want to begin redecorating right away. They want to be able to move in as soon
as the sale is complete. But I’m not mad at them. They’re paying some big bucks for which I am very grateful. It’s just putting
me under pressure to get all our stuff out as soon as possible. Of course, a lot of it will have to go into storage, but that
can’t be helped.”

C.J. seemed to be taking everything in stride but Jaci knew she had to be in a lot of pain over her dissolving twenty plus
years of marriage. She searched in her mind for a way to bring a little sunshine into her life. “Hey, Cij! Why don’t we meet
somewhere for breakfast in the morning? Then we can start packing on a full stomach and work through until we’re done.”

C.J. hesitated. She really didn’t feel up to going out for breakfast, but Jaci was doing too much to help her get through
this mess for her to be disagreeable. “Okay, breakfast. Where?”

Hearing in her cousin’s voice that breakfast wasn’t appealing, Jaci decided to do something different. “You know what, Cij?
Forget breakfast. It’s going to be hard enough getting myself up and across town early in the morning. We don’t need to be
wasting time going out to breakfast. We can do that anytime. You just have yourself up and ready to tackle that monstrous
house when I get there.” C.J. had always felt that the house was too big for just the two of them, but her husband, Randy,
a former pro-basketball player, had insisted on buying it.

Jaci hesitated a minute. “Cij? Have you talked to Randy lately?”

“Girl, yes! He’s still pissed about the divorce settlement. He really thought he was going to walk away with everything just
because he’s a popular sports personality. He was too stupid to realize that would work against him after all the scandals
he’s been involved in. He didn’t want me to get anything, and I could have lived with that. But you know me, tell me I can’t
have something and I dig in for a fight. And after all, I have a dead child and years of pain and humiliation invested in
this marriage. But neither one of us thought I would end up with the house and half of his bank account. Whew! How sweet it
is! Anyway, now he’s hinting around about trying to patch things up. He realizes that he’s not going to be able to maintain
the lifestyle he’s grown accustomed to. But he’s crazy if he thinks I’m going
there
again! No way!”

Jaci laughed. “Good for you! Randy ought to know by now not to mess with the Winslows. He’s seen us in action. Anyway, I’m
going to get off and head on home. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Early the following morning, Jaci stood in line at the local New Orleans Poboy, a place popular for big, fluffy pancakes.
She decided to surprise C.J. with a big breakfast and studied the menu intently, unaware that she herself was being studied.

In fact, J.P. Gilmore, in line behind her, stared at her so hard he had to be reminded to move up as the line moved. He was
sure this was the woman he had seen at the Housing Compliance Department a few days earlier. If she turned around enough for
him to see her eyes he would be certain. Dressed in khaki shorts, which hugged her shapely hips and revealed big beautiful
legs, and a green short-sleeved shirt, she looked delectable, and J.P. was looking so hard he almost forgot where he was again.
Dang, she was beautiful!

Jaci spoke to the lady behind the counter for a long time, making sure her order was correct. Her wavy hair was pulled back
and held in place with a clip, and J.P. watched as she thoughtlessly pushed an errant curl out of her face. He had to forcefully
control the impulse to reach around the people between them to run his hands through the soft curls.

She turned to respond to something the person behind her said, and J.P. got a better look at her face. It was her! Her green
eyes danced in merriment as she joked about the big pancakes she loved. As she moved over to the checkout counter, he knew
her large carryout bag had to contain more than one order. He swallowed his fear that she might have been buying breakfast
for herself and a man.

BOOK: Seasons
5.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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