Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read and comment thus far. Fellow writer Simply Marquessa suggested that I include links to the previous posts for the benefit of the reader, and so here they are:
Posting these excerpts is a HUGE step because for the first time ever, I am sharing my work beyond family and close friends. Each week, it gets a little easier to hit “publish.” Fear and angst were replaced by nervous anxiety. This week, I am only slightly apprehensive. So, progress!
As always, I welcome your comments and feedback!
“Shit! Shit! Shit!” I angry whispered, mindful that Renny was asleep in the bedroom. This could NOT be happening.
“I guess that means it’s positive. Congratulations!” Bianca added, her voice full of cheer. “I can’t wait to meet my godson or goddaughter.”
“No Bianca. This cannot happen. Not now. This is not the plan. I thought it was the stress.” I sat on the side of the bath tub, head hung low, shoulders slumped in defeat.
“What is the plan, Elaine? Do tell.”She added dryly.
I didn’t really have one, and Bianca knew it. Despite my best intentions, I was once again a full-time resident of Mabrary Springs. I moved back after months of commuting back and forth to DC while my mother recovered from her injuries. It cost me a fortune, and I could no longer commit to the rigorous travel my position demanded. My manager tried to accommodate me, but after a while, we mutually agreed to part ways. I still did contract work from time-to-time, but I was forced to give up my dream job. I rented my townhouse, put my furniture in storage, loaded up my Saab and drove back to the Springs. I found a job at the only bank in town and moved back into my childhood home with my sister and two nieces.
I hated every moment of it, but this was the best course of action for my family. After weeks in the hospital, we moved Momma to a rehabilitation facility in LaGrange, about twenty minutes from Mabrary Springs. She lingered in a comma for two months after the accident. Once she finally woke up, her recovery was slow. Momma required all kinds of long-term therapy to address the injuries to her brain and her back. My siblings and I decided she would get better treatment in Atlanta, so we moved her again to a top-notch facility in Midtown. Her insurance would only cover 90 days so I had to dip into my savings to cover the remaining costs. I had a hefty nest egg, but I knew it would only go so far. Especially since my salary was on a fraction of what it was in DC with no bonuses. And now this.
“Are you going to tell, Renny?”
I sighed, “I don’t know.”
“What are you thinking, Elaine Winters?”
“I don’t want to be stuck here. This was supposed to be a temporary arrangement. I would stay around long enough to make sure my mom was okay, before I go back to DC to resume my career, get on with my life.”
“A baby changes all that, Bianca. With Renny’s kid, I’ll be stuck here. I can’t do that. I won’t do that.”
Bianca exhaled, “I support whatever you decide, Lainey. You know that. But think long and hard about this. I’ve had two abortions,” she added quietly. “Granted, I was young, but I think about it. All the time. Just give it some serious thought, okay? I mean, you could do worse than being Renny’s baby momma.”
“I will think about it, girl. I’ll think hard,” I added. “Momma would be thrilled I finally got myself knocked up!”I laughed, desperately searching for a silver lining.
“You’re right! I should drive other there right now and tell her!”Bianca added with a giggle. “Love you. Call me later.”
“I will. Love you, too.” I disconnected the call and headed to work, contemplating my future.
Last year this time, I was in Johannesburg, South Africa, working hard and living my dream of traveling all over the world. Now I was back in the one place I never wanted to be: Mabrary Springs, Georgia.
It was the right thing to do, but it was only supposed to be temporary, two years tops, until my mom got better. That reasoning made it easier for me to leave DC, knowing I would go back. It made it easier to accept a position as a loan officer and manager at First National Bank, a far cry from being a commodities broker.
There were benefits to returning home. Besides being closer to Mom, I reconnected with my brother and sister. Because we were only 18 months apart, Danny and I were really close as children. Janay was the baby of the family, and I was thrilled when my baby sister came along. I practically raised her from the time Momma and Daddy brought her home from the hospital until I left for college. The thing I missed most about Mabrary Springs was my siblings. Over the years, the distance between them and me grew, and we became virtual strangers. Now it’s as if I never left.
Danny and I were close again. After a brief tour in the Army, he joined the state highway patrol and was steadily working his way up the ranks. He was doing what he loved, and I was proud of him.
The biggest surprise was my little sister. Despite being only 22, Janay was a wonderful mother to her girls. My nieces were both smart and well-behaved, and Janay was meticulous in her care for them. Although they attended daycare, Janay read to them daily and managed to incorporate educational activities into their daily tasks. Alexis and Alison stole my heart; I loved spending time with my nieces.
Janay applied the same painstaking attention to Mom’s recovery. While Danny and I worked, she spent her days with our mother, working with the staff at the rehabilitation facility to understand her regimen. She did research and looked for ways to aid her recovery. Janay talked to the doctors and therapists and kept Danny and I abreast of everything.
There were other benefits as well. Of course, Bianca was ecstatic when I moved back home, glad to have her best friend only a forty-five minute drive away. I was good to see her several times a month instead of once every few months. The cost of living in Mabrary Springs was nominal compared to DC, even though the options for food, shopping and entertainment were far fewer. There was no traffic, and I literally made it to and from work in ten minutes, no matter the time of day.
For the first time ever, I worked eight to five, Monday through Friday, typical banker’s hours. I mentioned Saturday hours to Mr. Grayson, the bank’s owner and president, and he looked at me like I’d sprouted a second head. I quickly explained that it might be convenient and a good way to drum up business to open every other Saturday for a few hours for Springs residents who drove to either Atlanta or Columbus for work during the week. After much deliberation, he agreed to open the drive thru only. I decided to wait before suggesting extending our hours to 7:00 pm two days a week.
Then there was Courtney Reynolds, Jr. He made my temporary arrangement worthwhile. After our reunion, Renny made it a point to visit the hospital daily. We exchanged cell phone numbers and texted throughout the day. When I returned to DC, he called every day, making sure I was taking care of myself and not working too hard. Thanks to my crafty best friend, Renny also became my official chauffer to and from the airport whenever I flew home on the weekends. While I grappled with the decision to move back home, Renny was my sounding board. He listened and helped me weigh my options without passing judgement. On my last day as a broker, Renny surprised me by meeting me in the lobby of my former job. He flew to DC to support me, knowing this was a difficult decision. Aside from Bianca, no one had ever been there for me. His actions touched me deeply, marking a turning point in our relationship. We became lovers as well as friends. In just a few short months, Renny became my lifeline.
I knew he would be excited about the baby, and that was the problem. I wasn’t sure how I felt. It certainly was not planned. My affair with Renny was my first real adult relationship so I was never on birth control, relying on condoms on the few occasions when I did indulge. We agreed to continue with that arrangement, although both Bianca and Janay strongly encouraged that I use a back-up method, just in case. I did not heed their advice. Like they warned, we did have a few slip-ups where we were so wrapped up in one another that neither of us thought about contraception until after the fact. Now our indiscretions caught up with us.
My mind preoccupied with my dilemma, I was glad it was Friday which meant a steady flow of traffic at the bank. Before I knew it, it was 5:00, and we were servicing the last of our customers. We walked out of the door at 5:30. To my surprise, Danny met me in the parking lot.
“Hey, Sis!” Danny greeted me with a big hug. He reminded me so much of Daddy that his hugs had become a balm to my soul, comforting and soothing. I needed it today.
Danny released me and ran his hands up and down my arms. “Bad day?”He had an uncanny ability to interpret my body language, able to sense when something was not quite right.
“Yeah,” I admitted. “Glad it’s over.” I couldn’t lie because Danny would know. “Ready to go eat?”
Since my return, we developed a weekly ritual. Every Friday night, we had dinner as a family. It started when Momma was still in the hospital, and Janay brought the girls to visit Granny on Friday. They enjoyed eating in the cafeteria so we always went down there to entertain them although we were sick of hospital food. Once Momma was transferred to the rehabilitation center, we would meet in LaGrange and have dinner close by. I usually flew in from DC Friday afternoons to make sure I didn’t miss dinner. Bianca would join us occasionally, and Renny became a staple once we began dating officially.
“Starving! Renny meeting us?”
“No, he went to Pensacola this morning to check on Pop.” Mr. Reynolds had cataract surgery a few weeks ago. Everything went well, and he was recovering nicely. His follow-up visit was today, and Renny wanted to be there. He texted letting me know he’d arrived safely, but I hadn’t heard from him since then. I pulled out my cell phone and powered it back up. I had two unread messages.Hey babe. All went well. Pop’s as healthy as a horse.
His second message arrived a couple of hours ago.Looks like I’ll be back Saturday babe. Pop was going to cancel his date because he thought you were coming. Since it’s just me, he said he’s not spending his Sat with another dude 😉 Lol!
That made me smile.
“Oh yeah, I forgot,” Danny admitted. “Well, it’ll just be me and you, then. The girls are with their grandparents so Janay decided to spend the weekend in Atlanta with some friends.”
“Cool. So pizza?” It was rhetorical question. We each took turns choosing the restaurant; Danny always wanted pizza. Janay’s pick was always Mexican. I was the wild card, but Chinese was my favorite because that’s what my nieces, Lexi and Ali, preferred.
Danny smiled. “You know it. We’ll get it to go so you can tell me what’s bothering you.”He added while walking towards my car to open my door. Danny followed me to the local pizzeria, and we went inside. Once we argued about the toppings, another ritual, we took our pizza back to his place, a tiny one bedroom efficiency on the outskirts of town. I went into his bedroom, grabbed a t-shirt and a pair of his basketball shorts to replace my work clothes.
I joined my brother in his living room and sat next to him on his sofa. He put in “The Godfather”, and we were all set.
“Talk,” he ordered. So I did.
“Not yet. I took the test this morning before work.”
“Are you going to tell him?” I didn’t respond because I honestly didn’t know.
“He’s crazy about you, Lainey. You know that, right?” I nodded my head. Of course I did. If not, my mind would already be made up. But I had to think about Renny.
“I know, Danny. He’d be so excited about the baby. Renny would make a wonderful father.”
Danny nodded his head. “Yeah, he’d be excited about the baby. But also about you, Sis. Renny is dead serious about y’all.” He took a bite of his pizza, chewing slowly before asking, “do you want kids, Lainey?”
“Yeah, some day. Just not right now. This isn’t part of the plan, Danny. If I have this baby, I’d be stuck here because I couldn’t separate my child from his father.”
“How do you feel about Renny?”
I thought long and hard about that. “If the circumstances were different, Renny would be the kind of guy I could see myself settling down with.”That was the truth. He was smart, kind, generous and funny. I enjoyed spending time with him. I smiled, remembering all that I’d come to love about Courtney Reynolds.
“Stop that!” Danny teased. “What you thinking is what got you in trouble in the first place.” laughed. “You know I have to kick his ass for knocking you up, right? Even though he is my boy and all, it’s the principle.”He added with a shrug. “I gotta protect my sister’s honor.”
“You will not!” I admonished, punching him in the arm.
“So tell me something, and be honest. What’s so bad about Mabrary Springs that you can’t wait to get out of here? You hate us that much?”
I thought before I answered. “I don’t hate anyone. I hate what this place represents. It seems like everybody is stuck here with no options, no real choices. I feel – “
“Stifled.” Danny finished, his eyes focused on Marlon Brando.
I nodded my head. “That’s it. How do you know?”
He blew out an air of frustration. “Tiff says the same shit.”Tiffany Grainger was Daniel’s high school sweetheart. “She’s a lot like you.”Danny turned and looked at me. “Hates the Springs and refuses to come back. No matter what.”He refocused his attention on the movie signaling an end to our conversation.
Guilt consumed me as I watched my brother. I felt small. Selfish. Inconsiderate. All the time I spent away, I never considered the feelings of those I left behind. Now Daddy was gone, and Momma was incapacitated. It was just the three of us know. And Lexi and Ali. And Renny. And our baby.
“You still talk to her?” I knew it was sore subject, but I had to ask.
“From time-to-time, we talk, text. Mostly just Facebook friends now.”I nodded. Danny didn’t offer more than that, and I didn’t want to pry. The stone cold look on his face said it all. I hated Tiffany Grainger. I hated myself.
Copyright Kay Morris Writes 2016