Authors: Darrien Lee
Keaton hurried about his room getting dressed. He'd checked his watch several times to make sure he wasn't running late. He'd chosen some brown dress slacks, a beige collarless shirt, and a matching jacket.
Arnelle walked by his room, then backed up to take a second look. She'd grown accustomed to him going out since he'd been in Philly but, for some reason, tonight he had a different vibe.
Walking into his room, she asked, “Hey, Little Brother! Where are you headed?”
“To dinner,” he said without looking directly at her.
Arnelle walked further into the room, approaching him. She played with the lapel on his jacket. “Who are you going to dinner with?”
Keaton didn't want to get into a big discussion with his sister. “Meridan.”
“Meridan?” Arnelle started pacing the floor, ranting. “Keaton! Don't you go playing around with Meridan like you do those other women you go out with! She's not the one!”
Keaton picked up his keys and glared at her. “I love you, Arnelle, but stay out of my business! I'm only having dinner with her. Damn! You act like I'm going to hurt her or something.”
Folding her arms, she yelled back, “Well, aren't you? You've made it an art form, mistreating all the others when you're done with them.”
“I don't mistreat them. I make it plain and clear in the beginning that I'm not looking for love. It's just that some of them have a hard time accepting it.”
“Keaton, please don'tâ¦”
Keaton kissed her on the forehead and softly said, “It's only dinner, Sis. Goodnight.”
Arnelle gnawed on her nail as she turned to watch her brother walk out of the room. She hurriedly walked into her bedroom where she found Winston in bed reading. “Winston! Did you know Keaton was going out with Meridan tonight?”
Without looking up, he calmly replied, “Yes, I did.”
“Why didn't you tell me? I don't think this is a good idea. You know how Keaton is with women. He's never been serious with any of them and most of them end up stalking him out of anger. One of these daysâ¦”
Winston looked up at his wife, who was talking a mile a minute. She was clearly upset and worried about Keaton hooking up with Meridan.
He took a deep breath, closed his book, and firmly said, “Sweetheart, calm down! Meridan and Keaton are grown. Stay out of it!”
She put her hands on her hips and saw she wasn't getting any help from her husband. Maybe he was right. If anything went wrong, it would be on Keaton's head, not hers. She let out a breath and crawled into bed next to him. She took the book out of his hands and straddled his lap.
He looked up at her and smiled. “Are you okay, now?”
She cupped his face, kissed him tenderly on the lips, and said, “I'm sorry, sweetheart. You're right; it's none of my business.”
He caressed her thigh. “Good.”
She winked at him. “Have you noticed we have the house to ourselves tonight and your children are sound asleep?”
“I was wondering when you were going to notice it,” he said in a challenging tone.
“So, what are you going to do, Counselor?”
Without any warning, Winston flipped her over on her back and covered her body with his. Arnelle moaned as he sprinkled her neck with soft kisses.
“Mrs. Carter, you're in for a long, long night,” he whispered as he caressed her curves.
“Bring it on, Mr. Carter.”
eaton was on time at the restaurant, but an hour had passed and Meridan still hadn't shown up. He was starting to get worried so he called her. After about four rings, he heard the telephone pick up.
A sleepy voice answered, “Hello?”
“Meridan? It's Keaton. Where are you? Are you okay?”
Startled awake, she asked, “Oh, Keaton! What time is it?”
Keaton felt relieved that she was safe, but also a little upset that she'd stood him up.
“It's almost eight o'clock. Look, maybe we should do this another time. I realize you just got off work today.”
Sitting up in bed, Meridan tried to clear her head. She squinted her eyes and looked at the clock. “Keaton, I'm sorry. I really am exhausted and I never should've accepted your invitation for tonight. Can we do this some other time?”
Keaton tossed some cash on the table as he stood to leave. With disappointment in his voice, he said, “Sure, Meridan. Get some rest and I'll call you tomorrow.”
Biting her nail, she asked, “Are you sure you're not mad?”
“I'm not mad. Go back to sleep,” he solemnly answered.
Meridan sat on the side of the bed and answered, “Thank you, Keaton. Goodnight.”
Keaton hung up the telephone and walked out to the car feeling defeated.
Meridan really did feel bad that she'd stood Keaton up. She was relieved a little that she didn't have to look into those dark, sensual eyes. He was about as sexy as they came and knew he was a lot more than she could handle. She crawled back into bed and her telephone rang once again.
“Girl! Get your tired ass out of bed so we can go downtown and check out that new jazz club!”
Meridan didn't have the energy for her best friend, Nichole, tonight. She was the total opposite of her, but they'd been friends throughout college. She was a manager at a Fortune 500 company and when she wanted to wind down, she'd wind down.
“Nikki, I don't have the strength tonight. I just got off work this evening. Call me later in the week.”
Pouting, Nichole said, “Now you know I'm going out of town this week. I'll be gone for two weeks. Come on, Dee! I want to have a good time before I head off to those boring meetings in Atlanta.”
Nichole had given Meridan the nickname, Dee, when they'd met as freshmen and Meridan started calling her Nikki.
“You know you're going to miss me when I'm gone,” she teased playfully. Meridan fought Nichole as hard as she could, but the truth was, she was right. She'd miss her.
“Nikki, I turned down a dinner date tonight. I really don't feel like going out.”
Nikki laughed. “Hold up! Who did you have a dinner date with? Is he fine?”
Putting her hand over her eyes, she said, “You don't know him. He's just a friend.”
Nichole listened, then said, “You left something out, Dee.”
Teasing, she asked, “Is he fine?”
“Nikki, you're impossible. Besides, every man's fine to you.”
Snapping her finger, she said, “You got that right!!”
Nichole turned up her CD player and started dancing around the room. “Dee, are you going to hang out with your girl or not?”
Defeated, Meridan yelled, “Okay! Okay! But I'm only going for one drink and I'm out of there.”
Excited, she yelled, “Thank you, Dee!”
“I guess you're welcome,” Meridan said as she threw the comforter off her body.
Pleased, Nikki turned the music down and sat down, out of breath from her dancing. “With that settled, how have you been feeling lately? Your nightmares haven't started back up, have they?”
Sighing, Meridan said, “No, and I'm trying my best to bury the entire ordeal forever. You know?”
Smiling, Nichole said, “Now that's a good thing, Dee. You've got to put this thing behind you for good and start living.”
“I know,” she said with commitment.
“With that said, when are you going to stop dragging your feet and have those cobwebs cleaned out?”
As if she didn't hear Nichole, Meridan said, “You know Sam's getting out of jail in a few weeks.”
“Yes, I'm aware of that, but Sam knows not to mess with you anymore,” Nikki added. “I mean, I admire you for your courage but you're not getting any younger and it's not like you're sweating on anybody right now. The nightmares have stopped. Dee, it's time. Okay?”
Silence engulfed the phone.
Nichole sighed. “Meridan! You know you're my girl. I don't want you to mess around and let Mr. Right get away from you. Are you hearing me?”
“I know you care about me, Nikki, and I hope to meet Mr. Right one day. But for now, I'm simply going to take it one day at a time. If and when I decide to hook up with anyone, I
let you know. You know you're a trip.”
Nichole laughed. “Honey, you know I've got your back like I had it when Sam hurt you. If I could've prevented what happened, I would've; you know that.”
“It's because of you that I'm here today, Nikki, and I'll forever love you for that.”
Tears welled up in Nichole's eyes briefly before saying, “Like I said, I'll always have your back, Sam or no Sam.”
Ready to change the subject, Meridan said, “I know and thanks. So, what time are you picking me up, Nikki?”
All Meridan could hear was screaming on the other end of the phone. It was obvious she'd made Nichole very happy by going out with her. She'd become accustomed to discussing the terrible thing that had happened to her in college with her best friend. In a way, it had helped her heal, but she wasn't completely healed yet.
“I love you, Girl! Thank you so much for hanging with me tonight! We're going to have some f-u-n!”
Meridan hated the fact that she couldn't call Keaton and ask him to meet her there. She'd given him her number, but she'd failed to get his and she didn't have any of her patients' home numbers at her house. Tomorrow, if he called her, she'd remember to ask him for his number.
eaton drove around Philly trying to find something to do. His dinner date was a bust, so now what? He thought about calling DejÃ¡, then realized he didn't have the energy for her that night. Instead, he picked up the flyer that was on the windshield of the car when he left the restaurant. It was the grand opening at a new jazz club called Sax's. He didn't have anything else to do, so he thought he'd go check it out.
Meridan was getting sleepy again as she sat at the bar sipping on her soda. Nichole was getting her dance on with some brotha with fake gold hanging around his neck. An hour or so had already passed and she'd turned more than her share of brothas away. As she sat there, she kept pulling on the short black skirt Nichole had convinced her to wear. Her red silk blouse accented her red lipstick and cinnamon skin. As she twirled lazily from side to side on the bar stool, she felt hands steadying it from behind.
“Nikki, quit playing. I'm ready to go! I'm tired!”
The seat was twirled around and she came face to face with Keaton. Startled, she yelled, “Keaton! What are you doing here?”
She could tell he was upset to see her out partying after she'd cancelled their dinner date.
With hurt in his voice, he calmly said, “I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me when I saw you from across the room. I know we really haven't gotten the chance to get to know each other, but if you didn't want to have dinner with me, you should've declined my offer.”
Meridan opened her mouth to respond. At the same moment, Nichole
returned to the bar. She looked up into Keaton's handsome face and said, “Well, hello there.”
“Hello,” he said, without looking away from Meridan.
Nichole extended her hand to Keaton and politely shook it. She turned back to Meridan. “Dee, you've been holding out on me. Aren't you going to introduce me to your friend?”
Meridan stared at Nichole. “Keaton, this is my best friend, Nichole Adams. Nikki, this is Keaton Lapahie.”
Wanting to get Meridan alone, he said, “It's nice to meet you, Nichole. Would you excuse us for a second?”
Nichole smiled and sipped her drink. “Sure.”
He took Meridan by the hand and led her out onto the dance floor.
“Keaton Lapahie, I don't remember you asking me to dance,” she said, trying to redeem herself.
He looked her in the eyes. “Okay, I'm giving you another chance to decline one of my offers. Dr. Meridan St. John, would you like to dance?”
Meridan stared at him, to make him sweat a little. She could tell he was trying to be cool.
He shoved his hands in his pockets. “Well, what's it going to be?”
She looked around and noticed couples slow dancing around them. Finally, she said, “Yes, I accept.”
He pulled her close to his body and it felt wonderful. For Meridan it was like static electricity, catching her off guard. She jumped back.
“Are you okay?”
Meridan cleared her throat. “I'm fine.”
They began to dance to the music, making her feel like she was on cloud nine. Keaton was tall, handsome, and so smooth.
She glanced up at him. “I really am sorry about tonight. I truly am tired and sleepy, but Nikki's my friend and she's going out of town for two weeks so she begged me to hang with her tonight.”