Happy Friday! Thank you for joining me for this week’s (unedited) installment of Cut to the Chase. Previous episodes are available here:
A couple of hours later, I was back on the road, headed home to Mabrary Springs. I called Bianca, and we talked the majority of my drive. She was apprehensive about my plan to go to see Javier, and his initial reaction to my arrival and subsequent announcement seemed to confirm her reticence. Thankfully, we parted on much better terms. We discussed strategy for tomorrow’s meeting over lunch in the hotel’s restaurant. I agreed to serve in an advisory capacity during my six month mandatory vacation.
After lunch Javier walked me to my car. We shared a hug and tender kiss before my departure. My best friend was less than pleased with the way things ended.
“Do you think consulting a good idea?” Bianca queried. “Will that affect your severance?”
“I don’t know.”
“Umm, hmm. I know you didn’t. That’s why you have me. Don’t do anything until I review your contract,” she advised. “What about your corporate apartment? How much time do you have before until you have to vacate the premises?”
“Javier said there was no rush; I can get my things whenever.”
“He says that now, Lainey, but the sooner the better. I can hire a moving company unless you want to be there.” She paused before continuing. “As your attorney and best friend, I advise you to sever all ties as quickly as possible. You and Javier shared a personal relationship as well as a professional one. Things can get messy in those situations.”
“I honestly had not thought about that.”
Bianca sighed. “I know you didn’t. That is why I asked you to wait before you talked to Javier. You said yourself he is shrewd business man. I just want to make sure you are protected, Lainey.”
“I know, and I appreciate it. I really do.”
“I’ll get a moving company to pack up your apartment this week. And get me a copy of the contract as soon as possible.”
“Okay. I have it with me. Thank you, Bianca. For everything.”
“My bill is in the mail; don’t thank me just yet!” We shared a hardy laugh. She would never accept money from me. I’ve tried several times in the past, and my efforts were always met with harsh rebuke.
I ended my call with Bianca about thirty minutes outside of Mabrary Springs. I called my mom to let her know I was close and to check on the boys.
“Hey, baby. Where are you?”
“About thirty minutes away. Where are my babies?”
Momma paused, “Courtney got back early so they went home with him. Cam wasn’t feeling well.”
“What’s the matter with Cameron?”
“He started complaining about his stomach after he woke up. He didn’t have a temperature or anything, just said his tummy hurt. He wouldn’t eat, but I did get him to drink some Pedialyte. He just lay on the sofa all day with his brother.”
“Is CJ okay?”
“CJ is fine. You know whenever one gets sick, the other always sticks close by.”
“Okay, Momma. I just got to the exit. I’m going to Renny’s.”
“Alright, baby. Love you. Glad you made it safely.”
“Love you, too, Momma.”
I disconnected the call. A few minutes later, I pulled into Renny’s driveway, quickly exiting the car. Renny gave me a key just in case I needed to get things for the boys while he was away. I didn’t want to intrude so I rang the doorbell instead. CJ opened the door, and Renny stood behind him holding a sleeping Cam.
“Mommy!” CJ exclaimed as I stepped inside. I reached down and picked him up, showering him hugs and kisses. “Cam is sick, Mommy!” He leaned forward and whispered in my ear, “His tummy hurts when he misses you.” CJ’s confession broke my heart and rendered me speechless; it also confirmed that I’d made the right decision. All I could do was to hug my oldest son.
I approached Renny and CJ. Instantly, I could see the fatigue in his eyes. “How is he?” I whispered, rubbing his back with my free hand.
“Ok. He just fell asleep a little while ago. I tried laying him down, but he just wakes up whining.”
I put CJ down, and he took off down the hall. “You look tired. I can take him so you can get some rest.” I offered. Before Renny could respond, Cam woke up.
“Hey buddy!” I cooed.
“Mommy!” Our baby boy cried out in a sleepy voice as he reached for me. I gently removed him from Renny’s arms. Cam wrapped his arms and legs around me before resting his head on my shoulder. “I missed you,” he murmured. My heart melted as tears swelled in my eyes. I pulled my bottom lip between my teeth and bit down to avoid an emotional outburst. His admission along with CJ’s whispered confession broke my heart and consumed me with guilt. I looked up at Renny, seeking reassurance from him, except he was no longer there. I watched as his retreated up the stairs. Seconds later, I heard his door open and close.
Dejected, I carried my sleeping baby into the family room where CJ was watching Fat Albert for the millionth time. Their Uncle Danny purchased the box set for the boys as a Christmas favorite because they enjoyed the motion picture based on the series. I took a seat on the sofa next to CJ, shifted Cameron on my lap, and joined the movie marathon.
“Did you eat dinner?” I asked CJ as I ruffled his honey blond locks. I knew his dad would be taking them for a haircut soon, so I had to enjoy the length while I could. Renny was fastidious in making sure the boys got their hair cut. I preferred the length because it reminded me of their infant and toddler stages which seemed so distant now.
Since my return, I discovered it was best to tread lightly when it came to voicing my opinions about the day-to-day care of the CJ and Cam. I noticed that CJ did a lot of things for his little brother that Cameron was more than capable of doing. Things like tying his shoes, cleaning up after him, and helping him get dressed. Cam often completed these tasks independently, and I knew he was more than capable. When I mentioned this to Renny, he took offense.
“You’ve been back for all of ten minutes, and now you know more about raising my sons than I do?” He sneered before walking away. Since that day, I’ve tried to keep my concerns to myself, correcting the behavior when the boys were with me.
“Granny made spaghetti and meatballs,” CJ replied, his eyes never leaving the television. I smiled; he was so much like his Dad in that regard.
The sound of the closing door startled me awake. For a moment, I forgot where I was until I felt two bodies pressed against me. Cam was still wrapped around me while CJ lay with his head on my lap. It was morning, meaning that the three of us spent the night on the sofa. I managed to untangle myself from the boys to answer nature’s call. Since the boys were still asleep, I decided to grab my overnight bag out of the car and freshen up. Apparently, the closing door was Renny going out for his morning run since he was nowhere to be found.
After my shower, I put on a pot of coffee and started breakfast. The boys would be hungry when they woke, and Renny was normally starved after running. A sleepy Cam wondered into the kitchen while I mixed the batter for waffles. He quietly lifted his arms requesting to be picked up. By the time Renny returned, I was sitting at the table watching CJ devour his bacon, eggs and second waffle. Cam set perched on my lap, attempting to cut his waffle with a plastic knife.
“Hey, Dad!” CJ called, his mouth full of waffles and syrup.
Cam followed up with, “Hey, Daddy! Look! I cut my waffles all by myself!” He proudly held up a crudely cut waffle piece before dipping it in syrup and cramming it in his mouth. The entire concoction was washed down with orange juice followed by a huge smile.
“Did you guys leave anything for me?” Renny asked as he grabbed a bottled water out of the refrigerator.
Cam shrugged, “I don’t know. Ask Mommy,” still focused on butchering his waffle.
CJ stood, walked over to me, and whispered in my ear, “Mommy, did you cook enough breakfast for Daddy?” Lately, whispering has been his preferred method of communication. Everything was top secret.
“I was waiting until he got back from running. I will make him a waffle and scramble his eggs while he takes a shower.” I whispered back.
“With cheese? Daddy likes eggs with cheese,” was his whispered response.
“With cheese!” I confirmed, resting my forehead against his.
“Okay!” CJ walked over to Renny, prompting his dad to lean down before whispering, “Daddy! Breakfast will be ready after you take your shower, okay?” Renny nodded.
“Sweet!” CJ yelled as he raced over to the table to clear his plate and cup before heading back into the family room.
“Cam?” Renny called.
“Are you going to sit down in your own chair and let Mommy eat her breakfast?” My plate sat in front of me untouched.
“Here, Mommy.” Cameron offered me a piece of his waffle. Renny and I both laughed.
“No thank you, baby. Finish your breakfast. Mommy will eat later.” Cam continued, unphased by our laughter.
“I’m going to hit the shower,” Renny announced before heading toward the stairs.
“Ok. Your breakfast will be ready when get done.” I hoisted Cam on my hip and busied myself making waffles and eggs for Renny.
Renny returned twenty minutes later clad in a pair of basketball shorts and Brasil t-shirt. I carried his plate over to the table before resuming my seat in front of my re-heated food. Cam sat in my lap sucking on his two fingers.
Renny poured two cups of coffee before making his way to the table. “Cameron, what did Granny tell you she was going to do if you keep putting those fingers in your mouth?”
“No, Daddy! No hot sauce on my fingers!” Cam turned and buried his face in my shoulder, middle fingers still tucked inside his mouth. Renny and I ate in silence.
CJ ran into the kitchen. “Cam, wanna watch Howard the Duck?”
“Yes!” Cameron wiggled out of my lap and grabbed his brother’s hand. The two of them raced into the family room.
“Danny and his damn eighties classics,” Renny mumbled. I glanced up at him and smiled.
We continued eating in companionable silence. It was nice. It was normal. It was the reason I returned to Mabrary Springs.
I stood to clear our plates once Renny finished his breakfast.
“That was good, Elaine,” he complimented. “Thank you.”
I looked down at his clean plate and replied, “I can’t tell you enjoyed it!” I joked. Another shared laugh. I washed dishes while Renny finished his coffee.
“I wanted to ask. Do you have any plans this weekend?” He asked.
“No, what’s up?” I responded.
“Can you watch the boys Saturday and Sunday? I gotta go to Atlanta for an overnight trip.”
“Of course, I can. You don’t have to ask.”
“Well, I didn’t know if you had to go somewhere for work.”
“Considering I no longer have a job.”
“You don’t have a job? Since when?”
“I am technically unemployed for the next six months, due to the non-compete clause in my contract.”
“Six months? What the hell, Elaine? What are you going to do without a job for six months?”
“Thanks to my generous 24 week severance package, I’ll be okay.”
“Six months? Smart girl.” Renny complimented with a smile.
“Thank you. It was the first severance package in Arenas history.”
“So what are you going to do now?”
“I plan to get serious and sit for the CPA exam. I’ll use this time to prepare. I also applied to teach business courses at the vocational school. Once this six months is up, and I have my CPA, I plan to start my own business. Consulting, financial planning.”
“Sounds like you have it all figured out.”
“Yeah, so no more traveling for me, at least not for business.”
Renny nodded his head but didn’t respond.
“So what’s going on in Atlanta this weekend?”
“Oh, umm, Brandy is in wedding. She’s leaving Friday for the rehearsal, and I told her I’d drive up Saturday for the ceremony and all the post-wedding festivities. We should be back Sunday evening.”
I was disillusioned earlier. Maybe this is the new normal.
Copyright 2016 Kay Morris Writes