You can read (or re-read) the first three installments of Cut to the Chase here.
I hope you enjoy this next chapter 🙂
FIVE YEARS LATER
“How much?” I asked, clearly annoyed.
“Sissy, I hate to ask, but – “
“I don’t have time for this, Janay. Just tell me how much you need, damn!” I regretted the words as soon as they left my mouth.
“Mommy said a bad word!” Four year old CJ giggled in delight.
“Bad word!” Two year old Cameron echoed.
“Who said a bad word?” Renny added when walked into our family room. The boys forgot all about my indiscretion once their father arrived. Renny lifted them both up before heading in my direction and placing a kiss on my forehead.
“Daddy, Mommy said a bad word.”
“Mommy didn’t mean it, did you Mommy?” Renny added with a wink and smile that almost made me forget what had me so annoyed.
“Mommy’s sorry, CJ. Can I have a kiss?” Renny leaned down to let both boys give me a sloppy kiss.
“How about one more for Daddy?” He added. I happily obliged.
“How was your day, Coach Reynolds?”
“My day was fine, but I’m hoping Mrs. Reynolds can make it even better,” Renny asked in his deep sexy voice.
“Ewww! Y’all make me sick!” That was Janay on the other end of my phone.
Renny laughed. “What’s up, Janay? Still a hater I see.” He added as he left the room to give the boys a bath and get them ready for bed.
“Keep that up, Sissy, and you’ll be pregnant again.”
When hell freezes over. “If that ain’t the pot calling the kettle black,” I shot back, my patience wearing thin. I almost added, at least I have a husband. But I didn’t. Janay would take offense and stop talking to me. Momma hated it when we didn’t get along so I held back for her sake.
“How much do you need for the girls’ fees?”
“Okay, stop by the bank tomorrow, and I’ll give it to you.”
“Thanks, Sissy. I’ll pay you back. I promise.” I’ve heard that lie before.
“Don’t worry about it. How’s Elijah?”
“He’s doing better. Hopefully, we’ll be able to bring him home next week.” Janay gave birth to her son six weeks ago prematurely. The father is the same loser who donated sperm to create Lexy and Ali. After the accident, we helped Janay go to school to become a physical therapy assistant. As a single mom, she qualified for need-based financial aid, but I made sure she had reliable transportation, paid her fees and other incidentals, and helped with after-hour child care for my nieces. Daddy’s life insurance policy paid off the house, so Danny handled the utilities, taxes and maintenance at the house. Public assistance took care of food and health care. Danny and I didn’t mind helping Janay get on her feet for the sake of the girls. She would also be able to assist with our mother’s care after completing the 24 month program.
Janay graduated at the top of her class and landed a position at the rehabilitation facility where Mom stayed for a while. Everything was going well until the loser showed up again, and talked his way into her bed. At least he was divorced this time. He promised to marry her, and the next thing we knew, little Elijah was on the way.
“That’s good news! Give him a kiss from Auntie Lainey. Love you, Nay.”
“Love you, too, Sissy and thank you. Good night.”
Later on that night, after we put the boys to bed and had dinner, Renny and I snuggled in the family room in front of the television watching a basketball game.
“So how much did Janay need this time?” He asked.
“$200 for the girls’ dance lessons.”
“The deadbeat?” This is how we all referred to Tyrell, the kids’ father.
“In the wind.” I stated absently. I sat up and looked at my husband. “Do you know what she had the nerve to say to me when we were talking earlier?” Renny didn’t reply, he just waited for me to continue. “If we keep it up, I’ll be pregnant again! Whatever! Like she can talk.” I muttered indignantly before resuming my spot at his side.”
“What did you say?”
“I told her that was the pot calling the kettle black. I almost added that at least I had a husband, but I knew that would have started a fight – “
“Ma hates it when you don’t get along.”
“I know. That’s why I didn’t say anything.”
Renny kissed me on my forehead. “Good girl.” A few minutes later he said, “I do want another one, though. Not right away, but I’d like to try for a little girl.”
That was news to me, especially since neither of my pregnancies were planned. “I didn’t know you wanted a daughter.”
“I’m telling you now.” I sat up again. I was at a loss. I thought we were done with the pregnancy and baby thing. At least, I was done; Courtney Junior and Cameron were a handful. Renny, it seemed, had different plans.
“Come on, Elaine. It’s not that serious.” To me, it was. “We’re just talking, babe. Sit back and enjoy the game.” Renny pulled me back to his side and placed a kiss on my forehead.
The next morning, I called Bianca to vent.
“I still don’t see what the problem is, Elaine. So he wants another baby later. Cross that bridge when you come to it. Stop borrowing trouble.”
“We can’t have another baby, Bianca. We are struggling as it is.”
“You are not struggling. Stop exaggerating. You’ve got a good job at the bank. Renny is head basketball coach and the Athletic Director at the high school. Before you convinced him otherwise, you had a house without a mortgage. So where’s the struggle?” My best friend was right, but she didn’t know the full story.
When I returned to Mabrary Springs six years ago, I had over $200,000 in savings and investments. I sold my townhouse shortly after Renny and I got married, and I walked away with close to $50,000 in profits. Thanks to my mother’s medical bills, my savings was all but depleted. Her insurance covered her hospital stay, but rehab was another matter entirely. It only covered a limited number of physical therapy visits annually, and we had to fight tooth and nail for speech and occupational therapy. Thankfully, my best friend was an attorney, and Bianca provided her services free of charge.
Before she could come home, my parent’s home had to be modified to accommodate my mother’s limited mobility. Renny and Danny, along with a few other family and friends, did most of the work, but the cost still neared ten grand by the time we purchased all of the medical equipment. I paid a private nurse to stay with mom during the day for the first few months she was at home. She was better now, having regained a great deal of her independence. Her daily living expenses were minimal, and social security and disability handled most of them. Danny and I filled in the gaps.
“I know you are not as comfortable financially as you were in DC, Lainey. But you have so much more now. You have a beautiful family, a husband who adores you and two precious little boys. Your mother is recovering nicely. These are things that can’t be bought or sold. Stop focusing on what you don’t have, and be thankful for the things you do.”
“You’re right,” I sighed.
“Of course I am.”
“Thanks, girl. I love you.”
“Love you too, Lainey. Kiss my godsons for me. Tell them BeBe will see them this weekend.”
I ended my call as I made my way to the employees’ entrance at the bank. We had a staff meeting that morning so the building was buzzing with activity even though we didn’t open for another hour. After greeting the staff, I took a seat at the head of the table waiting for Mr. Grayson to arrive. Ever punctual, we didn’t have to wait long.
“Good morning, everyone. Thanks for coming in.” Mr. Grayson got straight to the point. “I asked everyone here this morning because I have an announcement to make. As you all know, I will be retiring at the end of this year. I have decided to sell National Bank and Trust. This morning, I wanted to introduce the new owners.” On cue, the door opened and in walked three gentlemen.
“This is Mr. Javier Arenas, president of Arenas Holdings, the new owners of National Bank and Trust.”
“Good morning, everyone. I am Javier Arenas, and I am pleased to be in Mabrary Springs. Mr. Grayson and I have done business together in the past. When he mentioned his pending retirement, I jumped at the opportunity to acquire this bank. Mr. Grayson made it clear that this bank was his pride and joy, and he drove a hard bargain. He will be enjoying a comfortable retirement while I delayed mine at least another fifteen years!” His attempt at humor drew a few chuckles and eased some of the tension in the room.
“I want everyone to rest assured: it will be business as usual here at National. No one will lose their job as a result of this change in ownership. I plan to spend the next sixty days here learning the bank, its operations, looking at the books, that sort of thing. I also plan to meet with everyone individually. I can assure you, this is my standard operating procedure whenever I embark upon a new business venture. I want to understand its inner workings. Any questions?” Heads on a swivel, but no one said a word.
“Very well then. I have an open door policy so feel free to stop by any time. Please enjoy the breakfast, and I look forward to meeting everyone. Have a good day.” Mr. Arenas ended the meeting.
Stunned, I stood and headed towards the door. I needed something to take my mind off this meeting, and preparing the bank to open was an excellent distraction.
“Mrs. Reynolds?” I turned at the sound of my name. Mr. Grayson. “A word with you, please.”
“Of course.” I made my way to the front of the room where he stood with Mr. Arenas.
“Javier, this is my manager, Elaine Reynolds.”
“Mrs. Reynolds, a pleasure to meet you. Eric speaks very highly of you. I am pleased to have you as part of my team.” He extended his hand, and I automatically extended mine. Mr. Arenas caught me off guard when he enveloped my hand in both of his.
“Mr. Arenas. Welcome to Mabrary Springs. I’ve learned a great deal from Mr. Grayson over the years. It has been my pleasure.”
“You are too kind, Mrs. Reynolds,” Mr. Grayson blushed. “As you know, I will be out of the office next week. I’ve told Javier that you know this bank better than anyone and assured him he would be in good hands while I am away.”
“Absolutely, Mr. Grayson. I am available to assist in anyway possible, Mr. Arenas.”
“And I insist that you call me Elaine.”
“Splendid! Well, I will see you bright and early Monday morning, Elaine. Have a good day and enjoy your weekend.”
“Thank you. You do the same, Javier, Mr. Grayson.” Only then did he release my hand. I immediately missed his touch. Embarrassed, I made a hasty retreat from the conference room.
The next few weeks were a blur of activity. It was basketball season, which meant Renny did not arrive home most nights until well past 9:00 pm. Changes in ownership meant longer hours at the bank, and I ended up having to hire a babysitter to care for the boys in the evening. To top it all off, Momma had a setback and had to hospitalized after she developed a blood clot in her lungs. Her doctors warned us that these kinds of things were common given the extent of her injuries. Fortunately, Janay was there when she fell ill, quickly recognized the urgency of her situation, calling 911.
Momma spent three days in the hospital before she was released. My siblings and I decided to hire a private nurse to stay with her during the day, another out of pocket expense for me. As if fate wasn’t cruel enough, her septic tank picked that exact moment to die. Another $5000 hit. I was at my wits end.
I sat in my office trying to figure this all out. Between the boys’ babysitter and Momma’s nurse, I shelled out an unexpected $500 a week. The septic tank was an immediate need, and I had no idea how I was going to take care of it. Danny was tapped out as well. He already worked overtime and took security detail jobs to help with expenses.
“Elaine?” I jumped at the sound of Javier’s voice. He had left earlier in the day for a meeting in Atlanta, and I didn’t realize he was back.
“Yes, sir. Mr. Arenas. I meant Javier. How can I help you?”
“What are you doing here so late? The bank closed over an hour ago. Don’t you have a husband and two little boys to get home to?” Javier asked, leaning against the door of my office. He was dressed casually in a polo and khakis. Before today, I only saw him in suits. I couldn’t decide which look I liked better: corporate or casual. Not that it mattered because it shouldn’t.
I checked my watch. “Oh! I didn’t realize it was almost 6:30. I guess I better head home and relieve my sitter. I also need to check on my mother.” I started gathering my things.
Javier ventured into my office. “May I?” He gestured towards pair of chairs that flanked my desk.
“Of course.” I sat up straighter, on instant alert. Please God don’t let this be bad news. I need this job.
Javier chuckled at my discomfit. “Relax, Elaine. You have nothing to worry about. Eric was right; you are the heart and soul of this bank. I would be a fool to let you go without a fight.” I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. Fight for what, I couldn’t help but wonder.
I exhaled a breath I didn’t know I was holding, “Thank you, Javier. That means a lot.”
“With that being said, I do have some concerns.”
“Oh?” I was on high alert again.
“Is everything okay? You seem distracted. Your work is impeccable, but I can tell something is off.” Javier put so much trust and confidence in my abilities as that I felt I owed him an explanation. Since his arrival at National Bank and Trust, many of my suggestions were implemented. We offered extended hours two nights a week. In addition to the drive through, the lobby was now open on Saturdays as well. We even added additional financial services to our customers as well as hired additional staff. And Javier had given me free reign, encouraging me to take risk, offering advice and praising my successes.
I needed this job, now more than ever, to make take care of my mother. I knew Renny could take care of our household, but my mom was my responsibility. So I opened up and told Javier everything. The accident. My mother’s medical bills. My depleted savings. Everything. He was the first person I bared myself to. No one – not Renny, Danny or Bianca – knew the full story. It felt good to get it off my chest.
Javier didn’t say anything; he just listened. He didn’t offer any solutions or make any judgements. When I was done talking, he simply said, “I’m sorry, Elaine. Truly sorry you have so much on your shoulders. Thank you for confiding in me. It means a lot.”
“Thank you for listening. It means a lot, Javier. I really appreciate your concern.”
“Nonsense, Elaine. We are a team, and trust is important. Now, I want you to go home to your family and enjoy your weekend. Don’t worry about all this stuff. Things will work out.” He stood and extended his hand. I accepted it. Again he clasped my hand in both of his. “Have a good evening, Elaine.”
“You, too Javier.” I powered down my computer and went home.
My phone rang early Saturday morning. I hurried to answer it, not wanting to wake Renny and the boys.
“Good morning, Momma. Everything okay?” I asked as I made my way into the master bathroom.
“Yes, baby everything’s fine. I just called to say thank you. Those men are here working on the septic tank.”
“Are you sure, Momma?”
“Yes, ma’am. They knocked on the door a while ago, gave me their card and got started.”
Still at a loss, I asked, “What did the card say, Momma?”
“Arenas Construction,” she read. Javier. “Is everything okay, baby?”
“Oh yes, ma’am. I just wasn’t expecting them until Monday, Momma. Everything’s fine. I’ll be over as soon as the boys get up.”
“Okay, Lainey. Love you, baby.”
“Love you too, Momma.” I disconnected the call and immediately called Javier. It rolled to voicemail. Instead of leaving a message, I decided to text him.
Thank you, Javier. I don’t know when I’ll be able to repay you.
I put my phone back on the charger and went to check on CJ and Cameron. A couple of hours later, I grabbed my phone as the boys and I headed to Momma’s. I had an unread message from Javier:
My pleasure. Enjoy your weekend.
That made me smile.
Copyright Kay Morris Writes 2016