Authors: Darrien Lee
Frowning, she asked, “I wonder what it could be?”
Walking around the bed, he said, “I bet it has something to do with Jacob.” Meridan's hands trembled as she picked the envelope up from the dresser. Keaton looked at her and asked, “Do you want me to open it for you?”
She swallowed and said, “No, I can do it.”
They were silent as she opened the letter and began to read it. Keaton went back into the bathroom to run her bath. When he returned to the bedroom, Meridan sat there with a blank look on her face.
“What's wrong, sweetheart?”
Meridan was speechless. She held the letter out to Keaton. He cautiously took it from her hand and began to read it. It was a letter forwarded to Meridan in the event of Jacob's death.
If you're reading this, it means that I am no longer on this earth. After all that happened between us, I hope this letter finds you in good spirits. After I left Mississippi and
moved to Atlanta, I got caught up in the fast lane of the city. Being raised in a small country town, I felt like a prisoner who was experiencing real life for the first time. Unfortunately, my adventures came back to haunt me and I turned to drugs because I was a man in pain. There is another envelope enclosed, which is my Will and Testament. Within it, I made provisions for my family and you. You might be wondering
why you.' Well, Meridan, you were the only person in my life that never judged me or looked down on me no matter what I did or said. For that, I have always loved you and been grateful to you. My behavior towards you in Atlanta was the beginning of my end. It was around that time that I found out my time on this earth was limited when I tested positive with HIV. No, I'm not gay. Yes, I had a hunger for fast women and I paid for it with my life. When you visited me in the hospital, it hurt for you to see me like that. Even then, you didn't question or judge me. As a doctor, I knew the risks, but somewhere along the line, I got careless. I never intended to hurt you or anyone around you, but it was hard to see you so happy with Keaton when I was going through my own hell. I'm glad you forgave me. It meant everything to me and I didn't want you to pity me. I just wanted my old friend back. I don't know when or how my life will end, but I want you to know that I'll love you forever.
Keaton opened the other envelope and saw that Jacob left Meridan around seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars. His heart sank, then went out to her. She looked up with tears in her eyes.
He pulled her into his arms and said, “I know. I'm so sorry, Meridan.”
“I can't believe it. I wish I could've done something to help him.”
“His pride wouldn't let him so don't feel guilty, Meridan.”
“Should I keep the money?”
“You do what you want to with it. He wanted you to have it. It's a gift.” Standing, she walked across the room and said, “I think I'm going to donate it to the high school back home. This money can send a lot of kids to college. I'd hate for Jacob to be remembered the wrong way. Maybe setting up a scholarship fund will somehow overshadow the issues he had. You know?”
Smiling, Keaton said, “That sounds like a great idea, babe.”
“Thanks, sweetheart. I love you, Keaton.”
“I love you more, Meridan Lapahie.”
t the hotel where the guests were staying, Nichole relaxed in the lounge with an apple martini. After the party at Keaton's house, she couldn't wait to change into some comfortable jeans and T-shirt. Damon Kilpatrick was bored and tired of looking at football film. Relaxing at Keaton's house had been a welcome distraction from his job. Finding Nichole sitting at the bar also rejuvenated him.
He walked over and said, “Nichole, it's so nice seeing you again.”
She turned and smiled at the baritone voice greeting her. “It's nice seeing you again, too, Damon. That was a nice party today, huh?”
He shoved his hands in his pockets and said, “Yes, it was.”
He stood by the stool next to her and asked, “Do you mind if I join you?”
Motioning toward the seat, she said, “Not at all. Actually, I'm glad you came in. I was beginning to look pathetic sitting here in this beautiful hotel all by myself.”
Damon laughed and stared at her. “A woman like you could never look pathetic, Nichole.”
Arnelle had introduced them earlier at the party and they seemed to hit it off immediately. They discussed politics, the stock market and surprisingly sports. Nichole found Damon handsome and charming, but the reality was, she was already dating someone and would never cheat on Deacon.
She blushed and said, “Why, thank you, Damon.”
Turning away, he asked, “What are you drinking?”
Holding up her glass, she answered, “Apple martinis.”
“It looks like you're out. Let me get you another one.”
She touched his arm and said, “You don't have to do that.”
Showing her his dimples, he smiled and said, “I know, but I want to.”
Damon motioned for the bartender to bring Nichole another drink.
“Thank you, Damon.”
“You're welcome,” he politely replied. “So, what are you doing here all by yourself?”
The bartender sat her glass in front of her.
“I could ask you the same thing.”
He laughed. “I guess I deserve that, huh?”
They laughed together. Nichole couldn't believe a handsome man like him wouldn't have a woman traveling with him. He was working the black jeans he had on, and the tan, starched shirt he wore showed just how fine he was. Now she was curious to know why there was no woman by his side.
She tilted her head and asked, “So, Damon, how is it that your woman let you travel all over the country without her?”
He stared at her and said, “Who said I had a woman?”
Nichole took a sip of her drink and nervously said, “I just assumedâ”
“While you're all up in my kool-aid, why is it that your policeman friend let you out all by yourself?”
Nichole's face became hot with embarrassment. She swallowed and asked, “Have you been checking up on me, Damon?”
With sincerity, he said, “What can I say? You caught my eye. You're a very beautiful woman, Nichole, and if you were my lady, you wouldn't be here alone.”
“It's so sweet of you to say that, but my friend had to work. Thanks for the compliment,” she responded with appreciation.
“You're welcome,” he said as the bartender sat a soda in front of him.
She sipped her martini, then asked, “Aren't you going to order something?”
“I already have.” He showed her his glass.
“I don't drink alcohol,” he informed her.
Amazed, Nichole asked, “For real?”
It was then her cell phone rang. She pulled it from her purse and said, “Excuse me for a second, Damon.”
Damon nodded and took a sip of his soda as he watched the news showing on the TV monitors above the bar. Nichole turned her back to him so she could talk privately on the phone. It was noisy in the lounge, but it didn't stop Damon from hearing a muffled scream come out of her mouth. He looked over at her and noticed she was trembling. Concerned, he jumped up from the bar stool and came around in front of her.
Her head was lowered and she was sobbing uncontrollably. Damon pulled her up out of her seat and asked with concern, “What's wrong, Nichole?”
“It's Deacon, my boyfriend. He'sâ¦he'sâ¦he's been shot.”
Hugging her, he asked, “Is he okay?”
“I don't know. All they said was he's been shot.”
Hugging her, he said, “I'm sorry, Nichole. What can I do to help?”
“Nothing. I'm sorry; I have to get back to Philly,” she said, still trembling with fear.
Damon was worried that she was going into shock. He looked at his watch and said, “Don't worry, I know someone that could get us back to Philly.”
“What do you mean, us?”
He looked down at her and said, “Unless there's someone else who can go with you, I'm not going to let you travel alone under these circumstances. You don't need to be by yourself right now.”
Damon was a stranger to her, but he was a friend of the Lapahies so she figured he had to be okay. Unable to object, she collapsed against his large body and cried hysterically. He embraced her and his heart melted as he wondered what awful tragedy she would face when she stepped off the plane.
Darrien Lee, a native of Columbia, Tennessee, resides in LaVergne, Tennessee with her husband and two young daughters. Darrien picked up her love for writing while attending college at Tennessee State University, and it was that experience which inspired her debut novel,
All That and a Bag of Chips
. Later she released the sequels,
Been There Done That
What Goes Around Comes Around
. Both were
She is a member of A Place of Our Own Bookclub, Women of Color Bookclub, and Authors Supporting Authors Positively.