Cut to the Chase: Renny

I hope you enjoyed reading Cut to the Chase.  This is the final installment told from Renny’s point of view.

Click HERE to read the story in it’s entirety.


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Eighteen months later…..

I was glad to be home. It had been a long trip, but worth it.  The team did well in the tournament and got to showcase their talent in front of a few college recruiters.

The house was still and quiet, meaning CJ and Cam were asleep. Even though I usually returned home well past their bed time, some nights they were wide awake when I walked into the house.

I checked all the entrance doors before making my way to the family room. Danny was fast asleep on the sectional.  He and Ma alternated staying at the house whenever I traveled.  I turned off the television, put my messenger bag in my office, and headed upstairs with my overnight bag.  I pushed open the door to my bedroom and smiled.

Both CJ and Cam were fast asleep in my bed. Courtney, Jr lay on my side of the bed while Cameron slept with his head on my wife’s lap.  Quickly approaching her due date, Lainey found it uncomfortable to completely lie down and usually slept propped on several pillows.

I carefully lifted my sons and placed them in their own beds. I returned to our bedroom and just watched Elaine sleep.  If possible, she was even more beautiful.  Unlike CJ and Cam, this pregnancy was more difficult.  She experienced morning sickness that lasted all day well into the second semester, having to spend a couple of nights in the hospital for dehydration.  Once we cleared that hurdle, Lainey started cramping and spotting, which required another stay in the hospital.  By her thirtieth week, she was on complete bed rest.  Once she was forced to slow down, many of the symptoms and discomforts she experienced seemed to disappear.

My wife never complained. She just took it all in stride, joking about being pregnant and damn near forty.  We were all anxious to meet the newest member of our family, Caitlyn Joy Reynolds.  According to the midwife, who now stopped by weekly to examine my wife, our daughter would arrive any day now.

I made way into the bathroom to shower. I thought about the last eighteen months of my life, all the wins and losses.  Losing Pop just about leveled me, and there were times when I didn’t know how I would survive.  Brandy did try to be there for me, but my ex-wife’s return thwarted her efforts.  Elaine like a breath of fresh air: seeing her show up at the church, watching her with the boys, having her in my home and eventually in my bed pretty much ended things between Brandy and me.

I admit it: I did string Brandy along, even though I knew we were over. I wasn’t ready to let my ex-wife back in yet, not quite sure if I could trust her with my heart again.  I knew Elaine would never intentionally hurt the boys, but I was unsure about her motives when it came to me.  Maybe it was just the grief making her stay; she could commiserate, having buried her own father.  But eventually, she would leave us again.  So I kept Brandy on standby, just in case.

I was an asshole to both of them. I finally leveled with Brandy, telling her once and for all we were done.  I can’t repeat all the things she said to me.  Not that it mattered.

After my shower, I slipped on a pair of basketball shorts and a t-shirt and lay down next to my wife.

“Renny?” Lainey murmured as I wrapped my arms around her.

I kissed her forehead. “It’s me, baby.”

“How was the tournament?” She yawned.

“Good. Good.  The kids played well in front of the scouts.”  Elaine grunted.  I sat up.  “What is it, baby?”

She sighed. “I’ve got to pee.  Again.  I swear this little girl sits right on my bladder,” she lamented.

I leaned over and kissed her hard, round belly. “Behave, Caity-girl,” I admonished before kissing my wife on her soft lips.  “Not much longer, Momma.”

“I know,” she yawned again before standing and walking into the bathroom.

I lay down and closed my eyes, waiting for Lainey to finish.

“Renny!” I jumped up and ran into the bathroom, startled by the urgency in her tone and our track record with this pregnancy.

“What is it, baby? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Nothing at all.  Everything’s perfect!” Lainey beamed.  “My water just broke.  Ready to meet our daughter?”

 ~THE END~

Copyright 2016 Kay Morris Writes

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Cut to the Chase: Cards on the Table

Thanks for stopping by for this week’s episode of Cut to the Chase!



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Before I could stop myself, I grabbed my purse. A few minutes later, I used my key to open the door.  It was late so I knew the boys would be asleep. Renny met me at the bottom of the stairs.

“What do you want, Elaine?”

“My family. I want my family.”

“It’s late. CJ and Cam are asleep.”

“That’s not what I mean, Renny. I want my family.  Our family.”  Renny didn’t respond; he just stared, his expression impenetrable. I pushed pass the lump in my throat.  “I want us.”

“You want us?”

I nodded my head.

Renny snorted. “You want your family back.  You want us.  Exactly what does that mean, Elaine?”  He sat on the fourth step from the bottom and leaned forward, his elbows rested on his knees and his hands clasped.

“It means you are right. I was, well am, selfish.  And I’m sorry, Renny.  So sorry for abandoning you and the boys.  I’m sorry that I choose my career and money over my family.  At the time, I thought I was doing the right thing, trying to take care of everybody – “

“Everybody like who, Elaine?”

I swallowed. “You and boys.  Momma.  Janay, my nieces.  We needed the money, and the job was a good opportunity to make more so I could provide for everyone.”

“You’re joking, right? What the hell do you mean take care of me and the boys?  I’ve always supported this family, and I never asked you for shit.  We were doing just fine until you wanted to go buy that house, Elaine.  I was content to stay right here.”

“I know, Renny. The new house was my idea.  That’s why I felt responsible.  I know you didn’t want to move.”

“Damn right. I asked you a million times if you needed help with your mom’s expenses, and what did you always tell me?”

“I always said – “

“You always said ‘I got it’ like you didn’t want or need my help. And as far as your sister, I told you to stop letting her take advantage of you, especially since she let that deadbeat slide and not pay child support.  Janay didn’t need anything, she was still living at home.  The house is paid for, and you and Danny took care of all the bills.  All she called you for was frivolous shit.”

Renny was angry. His voice was calm, his words were measured and precise.  His hands were clasped together tightly, his eyes squinted.  I leaned against the wall for support.  I was desperately trying to present my case, but Renny shot down all my arguments.

“You are right, Renny. It’s all true.  All of it.  I tried to take care of Momma and my sister like Daddy did.  I felt like I owed it to him.”  I slid down the wall and sat on the floor.  I never admitted that to anyone, not even my mom.

Neither of us said anything for a while. I sat on the floor, arms folded looking straight ahead.  Renny remained on the stairs, his head bowed.  Eventually, he broke the silence.

He cleared his throat before asking. “Is that why you came back to Mabrary Springs?”

“I came back to Mabrary Springs because even though I accomplished everything I set out to do, it wasn’t enough. I was able to meet all my obligations and rebuild my savings, but something was still missing.  I worked hard, learned a lot, traveled, but I could never re-capture the satisfaction I had before, when it was just me.”  I turned to look at him.  “Before you, CJ and Cam.”

“So you felt guilty?”

“I felt incomplete, like something was missing. No matter how hard I worked or how much money I made, I was empty.  Now that I’m back, I feel whole again.  Everything just fell into place.  I no longer have the fancy job, fly first class all over the country or eat at ridiculously overpriced restaurants on a daily basis, but I am happier now than I was the past two years.  I enjoy being here, taking care of the boys, spending time with Momma, Danny and Janay.  I love taking the boys to school or camp and hearing all about their day.  My heart soars when my nieces and nephew jump out of the car screaming for Auntie Lainey.  Dinner around my momma’s kitchen is ten times better than any fine dining establishment.”  I took a deep breath before adding.  “And I enjoy spending time with you.”

More silence.

“What about Javier?” We never discussed my relationship with Javier.  Renny knew that our relationship was both professional and personal, but none of the specifics.  I decided to start from the beginning.

“Javier and I got together after you filed for divorce. I was hurt, lonely and vulnerable.  He took care of me, made sure I had everything I needed.  We looked good on paper.  I admired and respected him, and we worked well together.  Our personal relationship was one of convenience really, more physical.  Javier doesn’t do emotional entanglements – his words – so he was content to share his bed but not much else.  That suited me up until a point.  I wanted more and I needed more.  He wasn’t able to give me what I needed.  Javier is a kind man, very generous and giving.  I wanted for nothing, but all the things couldn’t fill the void.”

“What did he say when you told him you were moving back to Mabrary Springs?”

“He didn’t believe me. He thought I was just upset, grieving after Pops died.  I gave him my resignation before I left for the funeral.  He just took it, told me he’d see me when I got back.  I wasn’t until I went to Charlotte that he took me seriously.  He used to call and try to persuade to reconsider.  I guess he gave up because I haven’t heard from him in a few weeks.”

“He misses you?”

I laughed. “Javier hates to lose.  He considers me coming back to the place where he ‘rescued me’ a failure.  I hurt his pride, but not much else.”

I stopped talking, waiting for more questions about my dalliance with my boss. After a while, I asked the one question that was eating away at me.

“What about Brandy?”

Renny laughed. “Yeah, what about her?”

“Are you all still together? As a couple, I mean.”  I hated to ask, but I needed to know.

“Brandy and I were never a couple, at least not the kind of couple she wanted us to be.”

“What does that mean?” I was confused.  On the surface, they both looked and acted like a couple.  They went on dates, took trips, talked often.  All couple stuff.

“Long story short, Brandy is ready to settle down, get married and start a family. I told her from the beginning that was not what I wanted.  I told her I was divorced, done with marriage and having children.  My sons are my focus now.  She said she understood that and wouldn’t try to pressure me.  Things were fine initially, but eventually, she started pressing for more.  Wanted to meet the boys, spend the night, stuff like that.  So I pulled back, told her we needed to take a break because we wanted different things.  She said cool.  Couple of days later, she called, asked me out for dinner. Apologized for coming on so strong, said she liked spending time with me.  Said we could just hang out, no strings attached.  I said okay.  We’d be good for a few months, than she’d start again with wanting more.  I’d put the brakes on, tell it was over.  Couple of weeks go by, and she’d texting and calling again, saying things would be different.  But they never were.  Same pattern over and over.”

“And now? Where are you in the cycle?”

“Funny you should ask. I told her earlier today that I was done, tired of all the drama.  The relationship wasn’t going anywhere, and it was time to end it.”

I carefully considered his words. He and Brandy were never a couple.  Done with marriage.  Focused on CJ and Cam.  So I had to ask.

“So what about us?”

“What about us, Elaine?”

“Like I said before, I would like us to try again.”

“I don’t know, Elaine. A lot of time has passed.  A lot has happened.  I just don’t know about us anymore.”

Second gut punch of the night, but I figured I had nothing else to lose at this point. I walked over and stood directly in front of Renny.

“Everything you said about me is right, Renny. I’ve done selfish things my whole life, not considering how it impacted the lives of those around me.  After high school, I promised I would never come back to Mabrary Springs, and I stuck to that.  When I finally did, my Daddy was gone.  That is the one regret I live with every single day, and I can’t do a thing to change it.”

I swallowed hard before continuing, “I should have learned my lesson then, but my parents always said I had a hard head. So I left again, chasing my dream.  This time it cost me my family.  I regret it, God knows I do, but this time I can do something about it.”

I reached out, gently caressing his face. “I love you, Courtney Reynolds, from the bottom of my heart. I never stopped loving you.”

Renny exhaled, looking me squarely in the eyes. “What’s different this time, Elaine?  Loving me didn’t stop you from leaving before.  How can I trust you this time?”

Trust. That was the problem, just like Momma said.

“I took you for granted before, Renny. I really did.  I thought I could go off, do my thing, and you would still be here waiting.  But you didn’t wait, and I loss you.  For over two years, I lived without you.  Then I got back, I watched you create a life with someone else.  Renny, I don’t ever want to do that again.  I don’t ever want to live without you or watch you have a life with someone who is not me.  That’s what’s different this time, baby.”

Taking a chance, I leaned forward and placed a kiss on his lips. Renny didn’t give in but he also didn’t pull back so I kissed him again.  Again.  Again. And again, growing more desperate for the connection, his touch, for him.

I pulled back, cradling his handsome face in my hands. “I love you, Renny.  You are the love of my life.  I need you, baby.  So much.”

I smiled as Renny pulled me closer, placing one hand around my waist and the another behind my head before. This time, he kissed me passionately.  Renny released me and pressed his forehead to mine.  “I love you, too, Lainey.”

He tightened his grip and whispered. “Don’t ever leave me again.”

I shook my head, “Never. Never again.”

Copyright 2016 Kay Morris Writes


Previous installments are available here.

 

Cut to the Chase: All Wrong

I hope you are having a fabulous weekend!  Thanks so much for stopping by and reading this episode of Cut to the Chase 😀



 Image credit: www. Straitstimes.com

This will do. It’s exactly what my boys and I need right now.  I thought was I surveyed the bungalow I decided to rent.  Located just off the town square, it was within walking distance of the boy’s school.  The house was also located between Mommy and Renny.

Built in the early 1900’s, the owner had recently renovated the two bedrooms, two baths home. The twelve hundred square feet was perfect for me, CJ and Cam.  The deep porch, complete with swing, is what initially attracted me to the house.  The family room was an open but cozy area, the highlight being the huge picture window that framed the view of the porch.  Through the family room was the dining room with the updated kitchen just beyond. I smiled while touring the space, picturing CJ and Cam at the dining room table doing homework while I prepared a snack in the kitchen.  I looked forward to purchasing a dining room table large enough to host family dinners.

The two bedrooms were to the left of the family room. The boys could have the master suite with the attached bathroom while I took the smaller bedroom.  It was large enough to accommodate the bunk beds and chest of drawers I planned to purchase.

After signing a six month lease and paying the required deposits, I convinced Momma to go furniture shopping with me. She was not thrilled when I decided to move.  I was a bit reluctant at first, but after seeing Renny and Brandy at CJ’s party, I knew it was time to move on with my life.

“Is this because Courtney has a girlfriend?”

“Yes and no. I mean I am 37 years old.  Don’t you think it’s time I left home,”  I joked.

“That’s foolishness, Elaine. You’ve lived on your own, as a single woman and with your family.  As a matter of fact, you just moved back five months ago. ”

“That’s exactly my point, Momma. I’ve been home for a while now.  Renny is living his life.  I need to do the same.”

“Have you talked him? Asked about Brandy?”

And say what exactly: don’t love her, love me instead? “Momma, I am NOT talking to Renny about his relationship with Brandy.  That is none of my business.”

“Except you’re still in love with that man.”

I couldn’t respond, couldn’t deny my momma’s words. I am still in love with Renny, and probably would always love him.  And that is one truth I would never share with him.  He had Brandy now, and they were a bonafide couple, having just returned from a cruise.

Momma helped me pick out furniture for the family room, dining room and both bedrooms. We also purchased bedding and other household necessities in preparation for this move.  My mom was supportive and enjoyed the shopping trip, but I knew she did not want me to leave.

~

“Hey, Sissy, where do you want this box?” Danny called out from the family room.

I was in the kitchen, putting away my new dishes. My furniture was delivered earlier today, and Momma made the beds for me.  She took CJ and Cam to her house to start dinner.  Danny was helping me with clothes, small appliances, and other miscellaneous items.  We planned to go to Momma’s for dinner.

While I was excited about my first night in my new house, I was a bit sad that the boys would be staying at home with Renny. Against my mother’s advice, I did not tell my ex-husband about my move.  Our divorce decree called for joint custody, and at the time of our divorce, Renny was the primary custodial parent.  This had not changed since I moved back to Mabrary Springs.  We shared care of the boys, with Renny allowing unrestricted access to his house.  While we haven’t had a discussion, I planned to reciprocate with my new home.

Danny walked into the kitchen, “I’m gonna stop by my apartment to get my tool box so I can mount the shelves in the boys’ room. I’ll be back.  Need anything while I’m out?”

“Nah, I’m okay.”

“Cool. Be back.”  Danny exited the house from the kitchen out to the single car garage.  I turned up the music and continued organizing my kitchen.  A few minutes later, I heard the front door open and close.

“Wow! That was fast!”  I stepped into the doorway between the kitchen and dining room and froze.  Expecting to see my brother, I was shocked to see my ex standing in my living room, especially since I never told him about my new accommodations.

Neither of us said anything for a couple of minutes. I spoke first.

“What are you doing here?”

“What the hell are you doing here, Elaine?” His tone was glacial.

“I, ummm, I live here. I mean, I just moved in.  Today.”

“Yeah, I heard. The boys told me.  Then my best friend texted me about a drill so he can hang shelves in my sons’ bedroom.  What the hell is going on here, Elaine?”

Renny only calls me Elaine when we are joking or when he’s upset with me. There was no humor in this encounter.

“So when were you going to tell me? Or were you going to tell me at all?”

“I was going to talk to you so we could work out arrangements for the boys.”

“What kind of arrangement for the boys?”

“Well, I mean, they have a room here, and I wanted them to spend some time here. Maybe we can alternate – “

“Bullshit!” Renny roared.  “CJ and Cameron both have a bedroom at their home.”

“I know, Renny, but now I have a home, and want them to stay here sometimes. With me.”

Renny laughed. “You are one selfish bitch.  Haven’t you fucked up their lives enough, Elaine?”  He turned and walked out.

His words felt like a punch to the gut, leaving me winded and doubled over in pain. I plopped down on my sofa and curled up in fetal position.  I waited for tears to fall.  But they never came.  I felt empty.  Renny’s words cut me to my core, leaving me hollow.

The door opened again. This time it was Danny.  He sat on the opposite end of the sofa.

“Wanna talk about it?”

“Renny stopped by.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“He called me a selfish bitch.”

“He called you a what?”

“I tried to talk to him about the boys staying over here. He said I already fucked up their lives enough.”  I paused.  “And he’s right.  I am selfish.”

“Did you tell him about the renting this place, Sissy?” I shook my head.

“Why not?” I didn’t respond.

“That’s messed up.”

“I didn’t think. Umm.  I mean, I don’t want to screw up my kids, Danny.  God knows I don’t.  They are the reason I moved back to Mabrary Springs.”

“You need to talk to Renny, Elaine. Really talk to him.”

“I know.” This isn’t my first time hearing that.  Momma had been hounding me for months to do the same thing.

“Well, I’m hungry so I’m going back over to Momma’s. You coming?”

“I’m not hungry. Renny probably already picked up the boys.”

“Yeah, he did.” Danny stood. “Okay, kid.  I’ll lock-up. Love ya, Sissy.  See you tomorrow.”

“Love you too, Danny.” I lay on the sofa after my brother left, Renny’s parting words on repeat inside my head.  He had never called me a bitch before; he hardly used profanity at all.  I pushed him to his breaking point.  Again.

I pulled myself up and walked over to the picture window. This was my first night in my home.  Instead of contentment, all I felt was restlessness.  Relatively small, the house felt large and empty.  Normally, I would be at my mom’s or over at Renny’s with the boys.  This was my house, but it was far from a home.  It was all wrong.

Copyright 2016 Kay Morris Writes


Missed an episode or want to know more about Laney and Renny?  Click here for previous installments.

Cut to the Chase: Roll Bounce

Happy Friday and thanks for stopping by!  This is the next installment from my unpublished (and unedited) manuscript Cut to the Chase.  If you would like to read previous episodes, click here.


 

Image credit: http://eastbrooklyn.com/roller-skating-at-the-brownsville-recreation-center/

It’s hard watching the man you love fall in love with someone else or at least head down that path. Even harder is when you were responsible for his new love interest because you were careless, downright reckless with the love he once held for you.

Over the next few weeks, I suffered in silence as Renny continued dating Brandy. I accepted the fact that we were co-parents, nothing more.  I did what I do best, put on a brave front and move forward.  My energies were focused on caring for my boys and preparing for the CPA exam.

CJ wanted a huge party for this seventh birthday. Grateful for the distraction, I happily obliged.  We planned a party at the skating rink, and the guest list included CJ’s soccer team, a few friends from school and church, and family.  This was CJ’s second year playing soccer, and he enjoyed it immensely.  Once he discovered that his dad actually knew players from the Brazilian National Team, my son was vexed.  The walls in his bedroom were now covered with the Brasil flag and pictures of national team.

CJ requested a soccer theme and the colors green and yellow. My mom baked his cake, and Bianca and Janay helped with the decorating.  All of the kids were excited, and CJ was elated.  My heart swelled.  The vibe changed immediately when Renny and Brandy arrived.  An intense headache seized me as I watched them enter the building hand-in-hand.  Of course, CJ saw his father as soon as he arrived, running over to him before he made into the rink.  He picked up our son and tossed him in the air. Soon all of the other kids were begging for the same attention.

While the guests were distracted with Renny, I searched my purse for some headache relief. Unfortunately, Janay and Bianca cornered me, both sporting bewildered looks.

“Who invited her?” Bianca asked.

“CJ.” It was the truth.  CJ prepared his own guest list, and Brandy’s name was included.

“Why is she here?” Janay demanded. “She’s not family!”

“Janay, please…”

“This is a family affair. I see Mommy. Daddy. Granny. Uncle Danny.  Aunt Janay. Godmother.”  She exaggeratedly pointed out each of us, placing extra emphasis on her words. “She does not qualify.”

“Really, Bianca? Don’t you start, too.  Sheesh!”

“Renny started, bringing her to this party. That is so disrespectful, Sissy.”

“It is not disrespectful, Janay. Renny and I are divorced, and Brandy is his girlfriend.  Why shouldn’t she come?  When Renny asked if I minded, I told him it was okay.”

“Really, Lainey?”

“Yes, really. This is CJ’s party.  Everybody is here to celebrate his birthday.  I won’t let you all ruin today by trying to start some drama.”

In typical Janay fashion, she sucked her teeth and walked away. I had no energy to deal with her foolishness.  Bianca glared at me briefly before walking away, shaking her head.  Grateful for the moment’s peace, I located my relief and downed two tablets with water.  I sat in the empty party room with my eyes closed, massaging my temples while taking deep breaths hoping to ease the tension that held me captive.  I needed all of my wits to deal with my ex and his girlfriend.

I opened my eyes as Danny quietly entered the room and sat next to me. I laid my head on my brother’s shoulder and exhaled.  He threw his arm around me and kissed my forehead.  Although we did not exchange words, I was grateful for Danny’s presence after Renny’s arrival and the verbal confrontation with my sister and best friend.  We’d never discussed my relationship with his best friend, but Danny was keenly aware of the remorse I carried in my heart.  His support was a balm to my broken spirit, doing more to ease my headache than the medication.

Eventually, Danny broke the silence. “Ready, Sissy?  CJ’s probably looking for you.”  I nodded against his shoulder before sitting up.  Danny stood first, offering his hand.  I grabbed it and stood.  He didn’t let go, instead leading me out of the party room into the rink.  All eyes were on us.  My mother made eye contact, silently asking if I was okay.  I nodded briefly, offering a weak smile.  Janay took one look at me before turning to Renny and eyeing him in disgust.  Bianca gave an exaggerated eye roll, causing me to giggle.

CJ and his friends zipped happily around the rink. Renny was in the kiddie rink coaching Cam on how to maintain balance on his skates.  Thankfully, Brandy was nowhere to be found at the moment.  Renny’s eyes darted from my mine to Danny’s to our clasped hands, a puzzled look on his face.

“Mommy! Uncle Danny!”  That was an excited CJ as he skated past us.  I smiled.

“Come on, Sissy. Let’s go get some skates.  We can’t let these youngsters have all the fun!”

“Let’s go!” I agreed.

Copyright 2016 Kay Morris Writes

Cut to the Chase: New Normal

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.

“Yes, Daddy?”

“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.”

“Oh, okay.”

I was disillusioned earlier. Maybe this is the new normal.

Copyright 2016 Kay Morris Writes

Cut to the Chase: The Art of Endings

Welcome to this week’s excerpt of Cut to the Chase.  To read the previous installments, click here

Thanks for stopping by!


 

The Mabrary Springs boys and girls varsity basketball teams were invited to participate in weekend tournament in Florida, and Renny would be gone until Monday evening. CJ and Cam spent the weekend with my mom and me.  Janay and her children also joined us.  My mother’s home was filled with the squeals and laughter of five children all under the age of ten.  Momma was pleased to have all of us under her roof, and it just confirmed that I made the right decision.  With or without Renny, I was glad to be home.

Later on that evening, I lie awake, carefully considering my mother’s words. What did I want?  Could I be happy and content in Mabrary Springs?  Was the happiness and fulfillment I sought elsewhere always right here in this little town?  In the middle of the night, the answer shined brightly before me.  I knew where I belonged and where I wanted to remain.

I called Alexjandra, Javier’s assistant, early the next morning to get his travel itinerary for the week. She shared this information without any hesitation.  In the past, I would have been privy to these details as I would normally accompany him and be intimately involved in the negotiation.  Before we ended the call, Alexjandra asked about the boys and expressed her condolences on the loss of their grandfather, ending with “I’ll see you soon” before we disconnected.  It was clear Javier had not informed anyone of my resignation.

I hit the road Monday morning before daybreak, headed to Charlotte, North Carolina to talk to Javier face-to-face. This was something I needed to do before I could move forward.  My departure had been rather abrupt, and I felt I owed him an explanation in person as opposed to over the phone.  I packed an overnight bag as a precaution, but I hoped to be back in Mabrary Springs by nightfall before Renny returned.

A creature of habit, I knew exactly which hotel Javier preferred while in Charlotte. According to Alexjandra, he flew in late Sunday evening, but his meetings did not start until Tuesday afternoon.  This meant he would be in his suite preparing all day.  And while I hated to disturb his preparation, I could not delay this conversation off any longer.

I arrived in Charlotte just before the lunch hour and drove straight to The Ballantyne. I called Javier from the car.

“Hello Elaine,” his greeting formal and business-like. “What can I do for you?”

I dove right in. “Javier, we need to talk,” my return equally as terse and emotionless.  “I’m here in Charlotte, right outside the hotel actually.”

“I see. I’ll meet you in the lobby.  Ten minutes.”  He disconnected the call.

I took a deep breath and went inside. Despite the circumstances, I was glad I had a reason to visit this hotel again.  Javier enjoyed luxury accommodations, and The Ballantyne didn’t disappoint.  He approached me as I stood at the entry to the terrace, keeping a safe distance, his manner cold and stiff.  To the casual observer, we appeared to be two strangers instead of former lovers.

“I apologize for showing up unannounced, but I needed to see you right away.”

“Obviously. Would you like to talk out here, or do you need somewhere more private?”

“Ummm, the terrace is fine.” He extended his hand, indicating that I should precede him.  I walked to a table at the side of the building, tucked away in a corner, partially hidden by the lush greenery.  Javier pulled out my chair before taking a seat directly across from me.  In the past, he would have squeezed my shoulders before sitting next to me, sliding his chair as close as possible.  He did not even move his chair up to the table, sitting a few inches away, resting his right leg on his left knee, his arms resting casually on the arm rest.  To the untrained eye, he looked calm and relaxed, but I knew this was Mr. Arenas, preparing for battle, walls firmly in place, armed to the teeth.

Leaning forward to close some of the distance between us, I made an attempt at civility. “How are you, Javier?”

“I’m doing well, Elaine. And you?”  He replied coolly.

“I’m fine. Doing quite well actually.”

“Glad to hear it. How’s the family?”

“They’re doing well also.”

“Good.”

“Javier, I wanted to talk to you in person. I’ve made a decision.” He didn’t respond verbally, just raised an eyebrow indicating that I should continue.

I took a deep, fortifying breath. “I’m leaving Arenas.  I’ve decided to move back home, to Mabrary Springs.”

“Oh?”

I nodded. “Yes.  I think it’s for the best. I need to be there for my children and my mother.”  I looked off into the distance, giving my words a chance to settle.

“So you are resigning? Officially?”

“Yes.” I stated emphatically.

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why are you going back home? Elaine, when I met you, you were miserable there.  I gave you an opportunity to escape.  So why go back?”

“I wasn’t miserable,” I began.

“You were.” Javier interrupted.  Of course, Javier wouldn’t let me off the hook that easily.  He wanted an explanation, and I owed him that.  It was the reason I drove five hours.

“I guess I wanted my old life back, back then. I spent my entire youth dreaming about getting out of Mabrary Springs, and once I finally made it, I had to go back.  I felt like I was missing out on something, like everything I’d accomplished was for naught.  I felt stuck.”

“What’s changed in the past couple of years?”

“I’ve changed, Javier. Me.  The things I want, and the things that really matter to me are so different now.  I miss seeing my boys every day.  They have a great father, but they need me too.  I am so fortunate to still have my mother; she could have died right along with my dad.  I need to take advantage of that blessing, Javier.  I need them just as much as they need me.”

Javier looked right through me, contemplating my words. “Now what?”  Translation: what about us?  Never one to show his full hand, I’d become skilled at reading between the lines and listening to what Javier did not say.

“We want different things, Javier.  You are growing Arenas, trying to take over the world.  You can’t do that from Mabrary Springs, Georgia.  You wouldn’t last a week.”  I added with a smirk.

He finally looked at me with a hint of a smile, “I spent six months there, after I acquired First National.”

I laughed. “You spent six months in Atlanta and commuted back and forth.”

“Guilty.” He admitted, and we shared a laugh.  “So what about work?”

“Well, thanks to the six month non-compete clause in my contract and the generous severance package, I have about a year before I really need to worry about that, don’t you think?”

“Yes, the infamous severance package. The first time ever at Arenas.”

“What can I say? I learned the art of negotiation from the best.”

“I’ll miss you, Elaine. More than you’ll ever know.” Javier admitted.

“Thank you, Javier. The feeling is mutual.  I can’t thank you enough.  For everything.”

He leaned forward and grabbed my hands. “It was my pleasure, Elaine.  I told you before, you are priceless.”  We sat there with our hands joined, enjoying our final moment.  I committed him to memory: the depth of his onyx eyes, the sharp tilt of his jaw, his intense stare.  No matter what happened, Javier would always hold a special place in my heart.

“How are the preparations? Ready for the meeting tomorrow?”

Cut to the Chase: Momma Knows Best

Please click the following links for the previous installments:

Cut to the Chase: Ugly Business

Cut to the Chase: Home is Where the Heart Is

Cut to the Chase: It’s Complicated



I spent the next few weeks in Mabrary Springs after Pop’s funeral, and I relished my time at home. Mom was about 90% recovered from the accident.  My siblings enjoyed having me home.  The best part was spending time with the boys.  I would pick them up from school, help with their homework, fix dinner, and get them ready for bed.

Renny and I also spent time together. Pop’s death was devastating, and I tried to support him in any way.  We spent time as a family as well as alone.  Since the night Pop’s funeral, my nights were spent in Renny’s bed, and I returned to Mom’s house before dawn.

Then things started to change.

“Does he know you don’t plan on going back?” Momma asked as I ended my call with Javier and joined her in the kitchen.  She put away the grocery while I unloaded the dishwasher.  He hoped that a couple of weeks in the Springs would be enough to convince me to reconsider my resignation and return to both Arenas Construction and his bed.  My time home had the opposite effect.

“Javier does; he just doesn’t want to accept it. If you mean Renny, we haven’t discussed it yet,” I admitted.  Momma just nodded.

“Why not? What are you waiting on?”

I sighed. “I think he hates me.”

“Who hates you, baby? Renny or Javier?”

I laughed. “Probably both, but right now, I mean Renny.”

“Renny doesn’t hate you, Lainey. Far from it.  He still loves you, and he misses you.”

I offered a humorless laugh, but I didn’t respond.

“You know I hated your father for a long time.”

I was shocked. “You hated Daddy?”

Momma nodded her head. “After the accident, when I was going to therapy and rehab.  I hated your father because he died and abandoned me.  I was broken, mentally and physically, and he was gone.”

I sat silently, waiting for her to continue. “After I got over the anger, I realized that I didn’t hate him at all.  I just missed him.  Same thing for Courtney.  He doesn’t hate you, baby.  He misses you.”

“I don’t know, Momma. The first few days were nice, but lately, he’s been distant.”

“Yeah, I noticed you’ve been coming home at night.” Momma added with a smirk.

“Yeah, well. He wanted me there at first, but now…”

“He’s worried that you’ll be leaving again soon, and he doesn’t want to get hurt again. Courtney is grieving.  You left him, his father just died.”

“He filed for divorce, Momma. I told him, begged him not to – ”

“Elaine, you had already left your marriage, all Courtney did was make it official,” she admonished. “And if I recall, he begged you not to leave, but you refused.”

“But I begged him to not file for divorce, Momma. I flew home and begged him to reconsider.”

“Reconsider what, Elaine? You didn’t want a divorce, but you didn’t give the man a reason not to either.  Seems to me like you want your cake and want to eat it, too.  Baby, you can’t always have everything you want at the same time.  You wanted to live the life you had before you got married and started a family.  We all have to sacrifice sometimes.  You think Courtney planned to stay here in Mabrary Springs?”

I knew the answer to that. After an injury ended his professional basketball career, he returned to Mabrary Springs to start his coaching career.  He planned to move up the ranks and eventually return to the pros as a coach.  After we got pregnant with CJ, he decided to stay here and coach at the high school, eventually becoming the athletics director.  He enjoyed coaching at the high school, but I know that wasn’t his dream.

“Courtney got offers to coach ball all over, even some colleges. He turned them down because of CJ and Cam.”

This was news to me. Renny never mentioned offers to coach collegiately.  “He never told me that,” I admitted.  Ashamed because I never asked, never even considered what he wanted.

Momma sat down at the table directly across from me. “He didn’t want you to know, Elaine.  Courtney asked me not to tell you about it.  And I’m not telling you this to go and repeat it either.  I just want you to see where his head is right now.  You gave up a lot when y’all got pregnant with CJ and Cam followed so soon after.  That boy knows you never wanted to live here.  So when you were so excited about that job, he knew what that meant to you.  Even when you were home less and less, Courtney tried to accept it until he couldn’t any more.”

“And so he moved on,” I whispered.

“But he didn’t want to. He had to, baby.”

And that is what hurt the most, that Renny moved on after our divorce, but I did not. I could not, not in a meaningful way.

Javier was a distraction at best, a convenience at worst. I respected and admired him, and there was an undeniable physical attraction between us.  Twelve years my senior, Javier was still a very attractive man even though he sported a head full of salt and pepper hair.  His eyes were the color of dark coal, the most dominant feature on his angular face.  He had a runner’s body, a slim but firm build.

We looked good together on paper, but that was it. There was no depth or substance to what we shared, and this was our preference.  A twice divorced Catholic, Javier’s focus was expanding Arenas Holdings, and I fit nicely into that plan.  I worked hard and asked for little beyond our professional obligations.  Most of our intimacies usually followed some kind of business affair.  We both met a physical need for the other, but I needed so much more.

Javier was a generous man who spared no expense: expensive dinners, shopping sprees, and extravagant vacations. As a young girl growing up in Mabrary Springs, Georgia, these were the things of my dreams.  I got a taste of that lifestyle after I completed my Master’s, only to have it snatched away by the accident.  Javier gave it back to me, and I eagerly accepted with little to no regard for anyone.  Like any good addict, I reached rock bottom before realizing all that I’d abandoned.

I thought about everything my mom said. Am I that selfish?  Both times I was in such a hurry to leave Mabrary Springs that didn’t stop to consider who it affected, and results were catastrophic.  Daddy died and Momma almost didn’t survive the accident that claimed his life.  I left again, and this time, I lost my family.  The man I love and my children.  For all that I accomplished in the world, the things that really mattered were here in Mabrary Springs.

I craved the intimate connection I once shared with my husband. Our relationship was so richly simplistic.  Hours spent talking about anything and nothing.  Sunday dinner at Momma’s house with my entire family.  Falling asleep with two rambunctious boys in our bed, and being awakened by an elbow to the eye or a kick to the stomach.  These are the things that I missed the most.  My biggest fear is that Renny would share that with someone else.

I stood and walked around the table to my Momma. I bent down and lay head in her lap as the tears started to flow.  She stroked my hair just like she did when I was little girl.  The hands were a bit slower and a little older, but they comforted just the same.  I cried for everything I’d loved and lost.  Daddy.  Pop.  Renny.  CJ and Cam.

“Hush, child. No need for tears.  You didn’t mean no harm.”  That made me cry harder.  Once my tears were spent, we remained in that position.

“What do I do now?” I asked between sniffles.

“Decide what it is you want, Elaine.”

I nodded my head. “Yes, ma’am.”

Copyright 2016 Kay Morris Writes