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

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

Cut to the Chase: Ugly Business

Welcome to this week’s installment of Cut to the Chase.  Thank you for taking this journey with me!  If you missed last week’s excerpt, please click here:

Cut to the Chase: Home is Where the Heart Is

I hope you enjoy 🙂



Although I should’ve seen it coming, the end of my marriage caught me off guard.

Our relationship quickly deteriorated after Renny asked me to choose between my family and my career. I was unwilling to give up my dream job, and he was unwilling to have an absentee wife and mother.  Professionally, I was riding high as Arenas Holding grew by leaps and bounds.  Javier was an excellent teacher and mentor, and I learned a great deal working with him.  I was high off the thrill of success.

Personally, I was a wreck. Renny and I were polite strangers, communicating primarily through our children.  The two of us rarely ever talked, and we avoided any topics not related to Courtney Junior and Cameron.  My trips to the Springs were few and far between.  Now that my mother’s health had improved, I didn’t feel obligated to return home as often.  As my best friend and the boys’ godmother, Bianca would often travel with the boys to visit me.  Occasionally, my sister and nieces would join us, even convincing Mom and Danny to tag along.  Renny never objected to the arrangement.

When I wasn’t traveling, I spent a great deal of time in Fort Lauderdale, location of the Arenas Holdings headquarters. In addition to my generous salary and bonuses, the company also provided a condo and car in Fort Lauderdale.

I was sitting in my office when I got a call from the receptionist stating that I had a visitor with a special delivery that required my signature. I took the elevator down to the lobby.  After signing for my package, I returned to my office, placing it on my desk as I headed to a meeting.  It was the end of the day before I remembered it.  I took a seat and opened the package.  My heart stopped.  Renny wanted a divorce.

A couple of hours later, I was on a private jet headed to Georgia. Javier stopped by my office and saw the papers on my desk as I sat there in shock.  I didn’t know what I wanted, but I know I didn’t want my marriage to end.  I planned to drive home, but Javier offered the use of the charter and I happily accepted.  I needed to talk to Renny.

I arrived in Atlanta just before midnight, where Javier had a private car waiting for me at the airport. I gave the driver directions to Bianca’s house.  I called her shortly before my flight left.  She was just as shocked as I was.

“So now what?”

“I’m going to talk to Renny in the morning.”

“Have you called him yet?”

“No.”

“So you just plan to show up unannounced?”

“He didn’t warn me about this,” I replied bitterly in reference to the divorce papers.

“He did, Lainey. He told you he wanted you home.  You refused.”

I considered her words. “I don’t want a divorce, Bianca.”

“Then you need to talk to your husband, Lainey. Tell him that.”  Bianca admonished.  “And mean it.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“It means you have to make some tough decisions, Lainey. Renny wants you here.  Are you prepared to do that?”  I wasn’t, and I didn’t have to.  I just needed to convince my husband.

I called Renny early the next morning, and he agreed to meet me at Bianca’s house that afternoon.

“I can’t stay long, Elaine. I have to get back to practice by 6:00.”  His tone was cold.  Sterile.  That’s who we were now.

“I, umm, I understand. Thanks for coming.”  I took a deep breath and swallowed before adding, “we need to talk.”

“About?”

“The divorce, Renny.”

“What’s there to talk about, Elaine? Our marriage is already over; this just makes it official.”

“What do you mean our marriage is over? I didn’t ask for this.”

“Yes, you did, Elaine. I told you I couldn’t live like this, that I wouldn’t live like this.”  Renny accused.  “I asked you to choose, and you did.”

“Renny, I love you. I don’t want this.”  I choked back my tears, shaking my head.  “Please.”

He exhaled, and for the first time since he arrived, I saw my husband. “I love you too, Lainey.  But we want different things.  It’s time to move on, babe.”  He was right; we did want different things, neither of us willing to give.  My eyes started to water as the reality of the situation set in.

“What about CJ and Cam?”

“My attorney suggested joint custody, and I am cool with that. Talk to your own attorney, and we’ll work it out.”

I nodded, afraid to speak because I didn’t want to cry in front of Renny.

He stood and prepared to leave. “Walk me to the door?”  I nodded again, desperately trying to hold it together.  Renny opened the door before turning to me.  He hugged me and placed a kiss on my forehead.  “Goodbye, Elaine.”  I closed the door and engaged the locks.  The tears I fought so valiantly finally won.

 

I decided to fly back to Fort Lauderdale that same evening after my meeting with the attorney Bianca secured. Clearly, my marriage was over, and Renny wanted out.  I had no fight left and apparently no leg to stand on according to my attorney.

“In light of the circumstances, Mrs. Reynolds, Mr. Reynolds is being more than generous.”

Confused, I asked, “what circumstances?”

“I won’t sugar coat this for you: he could file for divorce on grounds that you abandoned both your marriage and your children. If he were my client, I would actually insist on it.”

“Adandoned? I did not abandon my husband or my children.  I am working!  And my position requires that I travel.”

“Quite extensively, Mrs. Reynolds.”

“Is that a crime?”

“Not a crime but definitely grounds for divorce.”

“I didn’t abandon my family, Miss Ortiz.” I placed emphasis on the Miss, a subtle reminder of her single status.

She just smiled. “Duly noted, Mrs. Reynolds.  Bianca is a colleague and friend.  I know you two are best friends, and she is godmother to both Courtney, Jr and Cameron.  She considers you the sister she never had which is why she asked me to represent you because I am good at what I do.  I am not trying to upset you or make you feel bad, but facts are facts.”

I nodded, waiting for her to continue.

“If I were representing Mr. Reynolds, I would build a case based on the following facts: in the past twelve months, how many consecutive days have you resided in the state of Georgia?”

That was a question I couldn’t readily answer. At most, I spent no more than three consecutive days at home, usually on my way to or from Florida.

Miss Ortiz continued. “During your absence, who provides primary care for your minor children?”

That was a no brainer. Renny filled this role.

“Finally, what is the primary location of your employer?” I sighed.  This did not look good for me.  Not at all.

“And this is only the beginning, Mrs. Reynolds. I would subpoena your travel records – hotel receipts, expense statements, cell phone bills – all of which would support my claims that you physically reside elsewhere.  Your husband, on the other hand, is essentially the sole caregiver of Courtney Junior and Cameron.  Mr. Reynolds is an established member of the community with both his primary residence and employer physically located in Mabrary Springs.  Facts are facts.

“Divorce is an ugly business, even more so when there are children involved. Emotions run extremely high on both sides.  To be an effective counsel and to represent my clients’ best interests, I must be able to objectively see both sides.  And a clear case can be made for abandonment, and if successful, your husband could be granted sole custody of your sons along with all marital assets.”

She paused as I considered everything presented before me. I was at loss, unsure of how I got here in the first place.  Whenever I tried to leave the Springs, there was always something unpleasant that pulled me back.  My parents’ accident.  Now a potentially ugly divorce.

“What are my options?” I swallowed before asking my second question.  “Do I quit my job and move back?”

“Depends on what you want, Mrs. Reynolds. As your attorney, I can only provide counsel, but the decision is ultimately yours.”

I nodded.

“At this time, Mr. Reynolds is requesting joint custody of the boys with a liberal visitation schedule. Now this is big because he could go for primary or sole custody.  And if that were the case, I would definitely recommend that you move back and re-establish permanent residency.”

“Ok.”

Miss Ortiz grabbed her reading glasses from the top on head and pulled them on as she leafed through the paper work. “Also, he is not requesting any type of spousal or child support.  He is willing to sell off any marital assets and you retain the profits.  You all purchased a home together, correct?”

“Yes.” A home Renny didn’t really want, but I insisted we buy.  Before then, we lived in the home his parents deeded to him.  Pop had built the house, and it was his pride and joy.  Renny wanted to stay there, but after Cameron was born, I decided that we needed something larger with more space for our family.  He was willing to renovate and even additional square footage to the house, but I wanted more, something bigger and better.  The story of my life.

It came as no surprise that Renny wanted to sell. According to Bianca, he and boys had moved back to his parent’s house months ago.

Oblivious to my inner turmoil, my attorney continued. “Aside from custody, the house is the only other major provision included since Mr. Reynolds is not requesting any support of any kind or making any claim to your assets, both of which he’d be entitled to.”  She removed the glasses and placed them on her desk.  “I recommend that you accept the terms.  He is being generous and more than fair, all things considered.”

I accepted her advice, giving Renny everything he asked for since I hadn’t done it before. I didn’t want to complicate his life and spend money on a lengthy court battle that I would ultimately lose.  I owed that to Renny, CJ and Cam.

I called Bianca once the meeting ended enroute to the airport. Of course, she wanted me to stay for a few days.  I declined, needing to return to work.   Right now, it was the only thing that made sense. My feelings were all over the place.  I never had had any  intentions of ever returning to Mabrary Springs, but circumstances always dictated otherwise.  A fatal car accident.  An accidental pregnancy.

Just when I thought I’d be stuck there, Javier Arenas offered an opportunity to escape, and I readily accepted it. The only remaining tie to the Springs were my husband and children.  After the divorce, that would no longer be the case.  I would be free.  I could see my children whenever and wherever I wanted, no longer legally bound to Renny, nor the guilt that I carried.  Instead, I felt unmoored, adrift.  Now that that part of my life was quickly coming to an end, nothing left to do but chart a new course.

I flew commercial on my return trip instead of using the private service Javier chartered for my impromptu departure. The hustle and bustle of the airport was a welcome distraction.  I took a cab to my condo where I was greeted by the doorman, Raoul.

“Good evening, Mrs. Reynolds. Safe travels?”  Accustomed to my frequent comings and goings, he made small talk as he helped me with my small carry-on.

I carefully considered my response. The trip was anything but safe, but it was necessary for everyone.  Courtney and Elaine Reynolds were officially history.  In a few weeks, I would be Ms. Elaine Winters.  Again.

“Ma’am?” Raoul eyed me curiously as we waited for the elevator, awaiting a response.

“My apologies, Raoul. I am just a bit exhausted.  It was a productive trip.”

“I understand, ma’am. Would you like for me to order room service for you or will you be joining Mr. Arenas in the dining room?”

Aside from a quick text, I hadn’t spoken with Javier since he interrupted the meltdown precipitated by the divorce papers. I knew I owed him some sort of explanation for my behavior as well as a thank you for his kindness and generosity.

“I am a bit hungry so I think I will join Mr. Arenas.” Raoul nodded and escorted me to the restaurant located in the atrium of the luxury hotel.  Thankfully, Javier was dining alone in his favorite booth near the rear of the restaurant, working as usual.  His laptop was perched on the table amid various spreadsheets.  He stood as we approached the table.

“Welcome back, Elaine.” He grabbed my hand in both of his in warm handshake before inviting me to sit.  He turned to Raoul as I slid into the opposite side of the booth.  “Raoul, my good man.”  Javier grabbed my carryover, placing it next to his briefcase.  He reached into his pocket and extracted a bill, exchanging it along with a handshake.  Raoul expressed his thanks before leaving.

Javier resumed his seat just as the waiter appeared. I ordered an appetizer and a glass of wine while Javier packed up his laptop and spreadsheets.

“My apologies. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“No apologies needed, Elaine. I’m glad you are here.  How are you?”  Javier stared at me intently, awaiting my response.  For some strange reason, I felt compelled to respond, to tell him everything.  Aside from my boss, Javier had become a trusted friend and confidante over the past couple of years.  He never judged me, always willing and able to assist whenever I was in a bind.  At that moment, I needed a friend, someone to be on my side.

I started talking after the waiter delivered my glass of wine. “Well, apparently, I abandoned my family in the eyes of the law.”  I admitted after I took a healthy gulp of my wine.

“How so?” I detailed the events of the past twenty- four hours, including my conversation with Renny and my attorney’s advice.  I finished my glass of wine and signaled for another; the waiter returned, leaving the entire bottle.

Javier refilled my glass. “Is that what you want?”

I took another sip, desperately trying to drown my sorrows. Cliché I know, but I didn’t know what else to do.  “I don’t have much of a choice.”  I traced my glass with my index finger.

Javier reached across the table, enveloping my free hand in both of his. “That’s not what I asked you, Elaine.  Is that what you want?”

“It’s for the best, Javier. I don’t want to make this any harder by dragging this into court.  Renny doesn’t deserve that and neither do CJ and Cam.  At best, the result would be the same; even worst, Renny could be granted sole custody.  The only people who would be benefit would be the lawyers.  I made my bed now I’ve got to lie in it.”

I pulled back my hand to refill my glass, instantly missing his touch. Since I’ve known him, Javier has always been a perfect gentleman, and we’ve never crossed the line.  He respected my marriage even though there was this underlying attraction between us.

“When will the divorce be final?”

“A few weeks. Miss Ortiz says since I’m not contesting, it shouldn’t take long.”  I took another healthy gulp of my wine.

Javier eyed me suspiciously. He knew I wasn’t much of drinker.  “Maybe you should slow down, Elaine.”

I shook my head as I refilled my glass. “Nope.”

“At least eat something.”

“That, I can do.” Javier smiled and summoned the waiter.  He ordered pasta entrees for both of us, and I requested another bottle of wine.  The waiter looked over to Javier who nodded his head.  I laughed at the absurdity of it all, like I needed his permission to get drunk.  I no longer needed permission to do anything.  I was a free woman.

Fueled by two bottles of wine and a broken heart, I returned to my condo. This time, I did not wake up alone.

Copyright 2016 Kay Morris Writes

Cut to the Chase: Home is Where the Heart Is

Welcome!  If you missed last week’s post, it is available here .  Thanks so much for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy this excerpt, Home is Where the Heart Is.

~kay


 

“Hi Renny.” I stepped forward and hugged him.  It was stiff and awkward.  “Sorry about Pop.”

“Thank you. I didn’t know you were coming.”

“I know. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get a flight.”

Renny nodded and added in a low voice. “Is it just you?”  Translation: is Javier here?

I shook my head. “It’s just me.”

“Okay. Would you like to sit with the family?  Pop would want that.”

My heart soared. “Of course, if it’s not too much trouble.”

“No trouble at all.” He turned towards my mother.  “Come on, Ma.”  I grabbed the boys’ hands and followed behind.

The service and burial was a blur. I clung to my babies, remembering the day we buried Daddy.  My heart ached for Renny, and I longed to hold him.  But he was cold and distant all day.  Following the repast, the boys wanted to ride with me.  I promised Renny I would bring them home.  After our divorce, Renny sold the house we purchased and moved back into his parents’ home.  There were still visitors around so I offered to give the boys a bath and get them ready for bed.

“Mommy, will you be here in the morning when we wake up?” Cameron asked after I tucked them in.

“I’ll be at Granny’s house. Call me as soon as you wake up, and I’ll come get you, okay?”

“Okay. Love you, Mommy.”

“I love you too, baby. Good night.”  I kissed my boys and went back downstairs.

Renny was in the kitchen drinking a beer.

“The boys are bathed and in the bed. I told them they can call Momma’s, and I’ll come get them in the morning.  Is that okay?”

Renny smirked. “Why wouldn’t it be okay? You are their mother.”  He walked out of the back door.  I heard him take a seat on the porch.  I grabbed my purse and keys out of the family room before heading outside to say good night.

“Well, I’m headed back to Momma’s. Are you sure you’re okay?  Do you need anything before I leave?”

Renny just looked at me. “I’m good.  Thanks for coming, Elaine.  I appreciate it.  The boys were glad to see you.”

“You don’t have to thank me, Renny. I loved Pop.”

“He loved you, too. He asked about you all the time. Well, until the dementia.”

“I know.” I took a seat next to him on the porch swing.  “I used to go visit whenever I returned to Florida.”  Renny fixed me with a look of confusion, and I shrugged.  “He told the staff I was his daughter, and I just went with it.”  Renny laughed, and it was music to my ears.  That opened a small window, and we talked for hours.  Reminiscing about the Pop, catching up on the boys, rehashing the exploits of his basketball team.  It wasn’t much, but it felt huge, a step in the right direction towards repairing our fractured relationship.  The ringing of the house phone brought a conversation to a halt.

“I need to grab that before it wakes up CJ and Cam.” Renny stood and went into the house.

I thought about pulling out my cell to check my messages, but decided against it. Instead, I went into the kitchen to wash dishes and put away the mountain of food.  As I begin to transfer leftovers from the counters to the fridge, I overhead snippets of Renny’s conversation from the living room.

“Sorry about that Brandy. My cell is upstairs on the charger.”

“I’m fine. Just tired.  About to crash.”

“Yeah, the boys are asleep. Lainey gave them a bath and put them down.”

Renny walked into the kitchen as I started rinsing dishes before placing them in the dishwasher. He mouthed “thank you” as he leaned against the center island.  I nodded as I continued with my task, glad to be appreciated.

“That’s Lainey loading the dishwasher.”

“Elaine.”

“I told you she was here, Brandy.”

“I didn’t say she left after putting the boys down.” I could hear the frustration in his voice.

“She’s CJ’s and Cam’s mother, Brandy.”

I started the dishwasher and began wiping down the counters, pretending to not listen to this one-sided conversation. Renny made no effort to leave the kitchen.  I didn’t look in his direction, but I could feel his eyes on me as I busied myself with cleaning.

“I don’t know how long she’ll be here.”

“No, it’s late. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“You can meet Elaine some other time.”

“I’m not doing this tonight, Brandy. I’m tired, and it’s been a long day.”

I walked into the laundry room to grab the broom and dustpan. When I returned, Renny stood in the same spot looking at the phone.  Sweeping would be my final task before leaving.

Renny looked up when I re-entered the kitchen. He put the phone on the counter, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Sorry about that.”

“No need to apologize. I understand.  I’ll just finish up here and head back over to Momma’s.”

Renny nodded. “Alright, but you don’t have to rush off.”  He quickly added, “unless you have something you need to do.”

“That’s not it. I just don’t want to cause any problems or overstay my welcome.”  I nodded my head towards the phone resting on the counter as I collected trash from the floor.

“You’re not causing any problems or overstaying your welcome.” I put the broom back in the laundry room.

“Are you sure?”

“What did I say, Elaine?”

“I’ll drop it, Courtney.” We laughed, both us undoubtedly remembering how we used our given names to single an end to a discussion during our marriage. “Have you eaten anything today?”

“Yeah, I ate a little at the church.”

“Renny, that was over eight hours ago. You haven’t eaten since then?”  He shook his head.  “Sit down and let me fix you something.”

I sat at the kitchen table, opposite my ex-husband, and watched him clean his plate. I could finally admit that I missed him, missed us, missed our family.  I bowed my head, focused on my hands clasped on the table in front of me.  My left hand bear. Leaving Mabrary Springs and abandoning my family was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in my life.  This one failure outweighs all of my successes.  I was so engrossed in my own thoughts that I didn’t notice that Renny was done eating until he called my name.

“What are you thinking about, Lainey?”

I flashed my fake smile, the one I’ve perfected over the past few years.  “Somebody was hungry.”  I stood and rounded the table.  “Had enough?”  I asked.  Renny responded with a nod and a wink.  I froze, and my heart soared.  Those clear blue eyes always did me in.

I cleared his dishes and took them over to the sink. As the sink filled with water, I took a moment to collect myself.

“So what are your plans for the weekend?” I asked after gaining my bearings, looking over my shoulder with my forced smile.  Renny remained at the kitchen table, his chair pushed back and his arms crossed over his chest.

I turned toward the sink, focused on washing and rinsing the dishes. I waited for Renny to respond.  After I placed the final dish in the drain, I turned and looked at him.  “Well?”  He still didn’t respond.  Instead, he stood and walked over to me, stopping mere inches away.

Renny grabbed my hand and led me out of the kitchen and upstairs to his bedroom. That night, we shared a bed for the first time in over two years.  We laughed, talked, and became reacquainted with one another.  The entire experience was bittersweet, reminding me of the intimacy we once shared and what I’d left behind.  After our divorce, I forced myself to forget how good we were together.

Exhausted, we fell asleep wrapped around one another.  I awoke a few hours later all alone.  I heard the shower running, and when I looked over to the bathroom door, I saw Renny’s running attire resting nearby.  The entire scene was both comforting and familiar.  Renny was fastidious about his exercise regime which included early morning runs 4-5 days a week.  On the weekends, I fixed breakfast while he showered.  We shared breakfast and coffee at the kitchen table reading the paper until the boys awoke.  Memories of those quiet weekends spent with my husband and children caused my heart to break even further, reminding me of all I’d lost.

I jumped out of bed in search of my clothes. I was sitting on the side of the bed, slipping on my shoes when Renny emerged from the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist.  I looked up at him and froze momentarily; memories of last night came flooding back.  He eyed me with the same intensity.  Neither of us spoke for a few seconds.  Renny walked over to me, grabbing both my hands and pulling into his warm embrace.  I wrapped my arms around his waist, allowing myself to become lost in him once again.

“Good morning, Lainey.” Renny greeted with a kiss to my forehead.

“Good morning,” I returned.

“Did you sleep well?” He looked deep into my eyes.

I nodded with a smile. “How about you?  How was your run?”

“The best sleep I had in over two years.” Renny admitted, squeezing me even tighter.  “My run was great.”  I smiled even bigger.  “Breakfast?”

I hesitated, torn between what I wanted and what was best. “I would love to, but I don’t think it’s a good idea.   We shouldn’t confuse CJ and Cam.”

“You’re right.” Renny released me and headed to the walk-in closet.  I immediately missed his touch.  “Give me a sec.  I’ll walk you out to your car.”  I sat on the side of the bed.  Renny re-emerged dressed in basketball shorts, a tank, and his slippers.  He left the room to go check on the boys.

“The coast is clear. Let’s go.”  I followed Renny downstairs, grabbed my purse and my keys, and walked out to the rental car.  I got in, started the engine, and rolled down the window.  Renny bent down into the open window.

“When are you leaving?”

“I don’t know. I took a leave of absence in case you needed help with the boys.”

Renny moved in closer. “See you later?”  It was more of statement than a question.

“Absolutely.” I responded as he kissed my forehead and squeezed my hand.

My response pleased him. “Drive safely.”  He stood, and I backed away.

I decided to make the forty-five minute drive to Bianca’s house instead of returning to my mom’s. As I drove along I-85, I contemplated that last twenty-four hours.  This trip home had been filled with unexpected surprises, the biggest being the last few hours I spent with Renny, given the state of our relationship over the past couple of years.  Up until last night, I was convinced that he hated me.  I can’t say for certain that wasn’t still the case.

Copyright Kay Morris Writes 2016

Cut to the Chase: It’s Complicated

Welcome back!!  You can read the previous installment of Cut to the Chase here.


TWO YEARS LATER

I arrived at the church thirty minutes early, parking my rental in the far corner. Instead of participating in the processional, I took the coward’s way out and went directly to the church from the airport to await my family’s arrival.  I powered up my phone to check my messages.  I had one.

Pls let me know u arrived safely

I quickly typed a response.

Made it. Will call after the service

I powered down my phone and stuffed it in console. Moments later, the hearse pulled up in front of the church followed by a line of cars.  Taking a deep breath, I exited the vehicle and made my way to the front of the church, joining the other mourners that lined the walk way leading into the church.

Renny climbed out of the car, and my heart stopped. Time had been good to him, with only a hint of gray at his temples.  He opened the middle door of the family car, and my mother emerged with CJ and Cameron.  The sight of my boys dressed in identical suits with matching bow ties made me smile.  Both replicas of their father, they had grown so much, even though it’d been a little over a week since our last visit.

As I made my way to the vehicle, a tall, statuesque brunette approached Renny, giving him a hug and a peck on the cheek. They broke the embrace, but remained in close proximity. I felt a twinge of jealously because she occupied our space.

“Mommy! Mommy!” The familiar cry broke my chain of thought as my sons made their way to me.  I bent down to accept their embrace.  I desperately needed their loving touch.

I stood and grabbed their hands and walked toward my family. I hugged my mother, and other members of Renny’s family.  My brother kissed my cheek.  Taking a deep breath, I turned towards my ex-husband.  And his new girlfriend.

~

Javier’s offer changed my life in ways I never could have imagined. I got an opportunity to do what I loved once again.  Although it wasn’t international, I was able to travel all over the United States, leading efforts to grow the banking portfolio for Arenas Holdings.  Javier was an excellent coach and mentor, and I worked closely with him to negotiate several key acquisitions.  Our strategy was to approach small and locally owned institutions and bring them under the umbrella of Arenas.  Initially, we focused on the southeast before expanding along the east coast.  In two short years, Arenas Holdings had acquired banks across the United States, and we were poised to go global.

Success always required sacrifice, and this was no different. Unfortunately, my marriage was the causality.  Renny was just as, if not more, excited about my new opportunity.  Initially, anyway.  He knew how difficult it was for me to give up my position in DC.  He soothed my concerns about traveling, ensuring me that he and the boys would be fine. Both my mom and Bianca expressed concern about a job that required me to travel while CJ and Cam were so young, but they agreed to help out any way they could.

The cracks began to show six months after I stepped into my role. Initially, I traveled no more than 2-3 days every other week, and I was home every weekend.  Javier wanted to capitalize on our early success, which required me to travel more often and for longer periods of time. By years’ end, my travel had increased significantly, and I spent days away from home.  Financially, things were finally getting back on track.  I was able to cover my mom’s needs, start slowly rebuilding my savings, and still made enough to cover all of our household expenses.  I was on top of the world!  Unfortunately, my husband did not share in my euphoria.

I leaned down to hug the boys while Renny loaded my bags into the car.

“Remember we put the calendar on the refrigerator, right?” CJ nodded, and Cam followed suit.  “When I call you at night, we will mark the days until we go to Disney World!”

“Yeah!” The boys cheered, and my heart soared.  I kissed and hugged them again before standing to hug my mom.

“Love you, Momma.”

“I love you, too, Lainey. Don’t worry about these babies.  Granny will take care of them.”

“I know, Momma. I’ll call you later.”

As we drove away, I blinked away tears while Renny was usually quiet. We normally chatted during the entire drive to the airport, making plans for my return home.  This time, there was dead silence.  I stole glances, trying to get a read on him.  His eyes were hidden behind his aviator shades, revealing nothing.

“CJ and Cam are excited about Disney World.” I tried to break the silence.

“Yeah.”

“I talked to Pop. He said we wants to make the trip.”

“Okay.”

We drove along a little further in silence. “So I guess the next time we’ll see you is in Orlando?”  Renny asked.

“Um, I, um, I’ll try to fly back this weekend. I’ve got New York this week and then Chicago.  My itinerary has me on a direct flight from New York to Chicago on Saturday.  I’ll see if I can change it.”

“Okay.” The silence and clipped responses were driving me insane.

“Renny, say something.”

“What do you want me to say, Elaine?”

“Anything besides ‘yeah’ and ‘okay’. Please talk to me, baby.”

“How long are we going to live like this?”

“Like what?”

“This!” He gestured towards the road ahead. “You spending more time traveling than at home, having to get on your itinerary to sleep with my wife.  The boys marking days off on the calendar so they’ll know the next time they’ll see their mom.  This is bullshit, Lainey.”

I didn’t respond. I couldn’t.  All he said was true.  Renny didn’t sign up for this.  He agreed to occasional travel, a couple of days here and there.  Now I spent more nights in hotels than I did at home.  For all intents and purposes, Renny was a single parent.

“You don’t have anything to say?”

“I, um, I don’t know what to say, Renny. What do you want me to say?”

“I want you to answer my question. How long are we going to live like this?  A few weeks?  A couple of months?  A year? Two years?”

“This is my job, Renny. I have obligations to the firm.”

“To the firm?” Renny’s laugh was void of humor.  “What about your obligations at home?  To CJ and Cam?  To me?”

I had no response. I looked down at my hands in my lap. My husband was asking me to choose between my family and my career.

“Elaine?” I peered at my husband.  He had just exited the interstate and brought the car to the stop.  As we waited for the light to change, we stared at one another, neither of us willing to back down.  We were at an impasse.

When we got to the airport, Renny drove past the short-term lot and pulled up in front of the terminal. He popped the truck and hopped out of the car.  Before I could exit the vehicle, he was handing my luggage to the skycap.  I met him at the rear of the vehicle as he tipped the sky cap before closing the trunk.  I shrugged on my sweater and hoisted my briefcase on my shoulder.

“So you’re not coming in to see me off?” That hurt.  Renny usually parked the car and come inside, escorting me to the security checkpoint and watching until I cleared security.  He would sit in the terminal, and wait for me to reach the gate.  We would talk until I boarded my flight and had to power off my cell.  It was our thing.

“I need to get home to Cam and CJ.” He slid his sunglasses back on, and walked back to the driver’s side.  “Have a safe flight.”  With that, he got back into the car. I walked to curbside kiosk to check-in as Renny drove off.  No hug.  No kiss.  Nothing.  I felt hollow as I entered the terminal.  By the time, I checked in at the gate, I was fighting back tears.    Desperate, I sent a single text.

I love you

I turned the cell phone over in my hands, waiting for a response. Nothing.  I boarded my flight, and checked my phone before powering it off.  Again, nothing.

I landed in New York City, mentally and physically exhausted. When I arrived at the hotel, I wanted to check-in and go to my room.  I texted Renny again when my flight landed.  No response to either message.

I followed the bellhop to the front desk. As I stood in line, I felt a hand at the small of my back.

“Good evening, Elaine. How was your flight?”

“Javier!” I forced a smile on my face and cheer in my voice, hoping for a quick exchange.  “My flight was fine, thank you.  Are you just arriving as well?”

“No, I’ve been here since Saturday. I was just heading to dinner.  Care to join me?”

I felt torn. All I wanted to do was go to my room and got to bed.  Javier was my boss so I couldn’t refuse the invitation.  I mean, I could, but it would look odd.

“That is very generous, but I don’t want to hold you up. I still need to check-in and call home.  I would also like to freshen up.”

Javier smiled. “Come with me.”  He led me to concierge.

“Good evening, Mr. Arenas. How may assist you this evening?”  The concierge greeted.

“Elliott, my friend. This is my business associate, Elaine Reynolds.  She just arrived and needs to check-in.  I trust that you will take care of her during her stay.”

“Of course, Mr. Arenas.” Elliott was already busy typing away on his computer.  “Ahh, yes.  I see the reservation for Mrs. Reynolds.  How many room keys will you be requiring, ma’am?”

“One, please,” I responded, impressed with his efficiency. Elliott handed me the key to my room before summoning the bellhop.

“Manuel, will you please escort Mrs. Reynolds to room 604?” The bellhop nodded and waited for me to proceed him.  Elliott turned to Javier, “is there anything else I can assist with, Mr. Arenas, Mrs. Reynolds?”

I watched Javier reach into his pocket and pull out a money clip. He pulled out a $100 bill and placed it in Elliott’s palm. “I need dinner reservations, Elliott.  Some place nearby, in an hour?” Javier looked my way for confirmation and I nodded.  Once again, Elliott was busy on his computer.

“Mr. Arenas, I can secure a 8:00 pm reservation for two at Jean-Georges?”

Javier looked at me, “French okay, Elaine?”

“Sure,” It was just after 6:00, giving me enough time to settle in and change. And call home.

“Very well, Mr. Arenas. You and Mrs. Reynolds are all set.  The car will be here at 7:30.”

“Thank you, Elliott.” He turned to me.  “Come Elaine.  Let’s get you to your room.”

Javier led me and the bellhop to the elevator. He pressed the button for the sixth floor and the eleventh floor.  When we reached my floor, Javier held the elevator for the bellhop.  I turned to thank him.  He just smiled, “the pleasure is all mine, Elaine.  I’ll see you at 7:30.”

I called the house as soon as the bellhop left. CJ answered the phone.  After talking to him and Cameron, Renny got on the phone.

“You didn’t respond to my texts.”

He exhaled. “I didn’t know what to say, Lainey.  I asked you how long we were going this, and you didn’t have any answers.  Has anything changed?”

“Renny, I – “

“I didn’t think so. Look, I got to get the boys ready for bed.”

“Damn it, Renny! What do you want from me?”

“I want my wife and the mother of children at home.”

I took a deep breath. “Renny, I can’t do that now – “

“Okay, Elaine. So when?  When will you be able to do it?  Two weeks’ notice?  Sixty days?  Ninty?”  I didn’t respond.  I wasn’t ready to let go of my dream, my second chance, so I said nothing.

“That’s what I thought. I gotta go, Elaine.  Good night.”  The phone went dead.

 

The restaurant Javier chose was nice and quaint. After we were seated and the waiter took our drink orders, Javier leaned back against the seat.  “What’s wrong, Elaine?”

I fixed him with my best fake smile, “I’m just tired, Javier. It’s been a long day.”  The waiter returned with our drink orders; a white wine for me and cognac for Javier.  Once the waiter left, Javier took a sip of his drink, and fixed me with an icy glare.

“I’ll ask again. What’s wrong, Elaine?”

I took a sip of my drink. “Things are just…tense at home.  The travel and all.”

“I see.” Javier responded. We both finished our drinks, and he signaled the waiter for refills.  “Do you need to cut back?  I completely understand – “

“No! Not at all!” I quickly responded. I lowered my voice before responding, “It’s nothing I can’t handle. I like my job, Javier.  I’ll just have to figure a way to make things work at home.”

He eyed me suspiciously. “Are you sure?”  No.

“Of course. It’ll all work out.”  I forced a smile.

“Glad to hear it, Elaine. As I said before, I would be a fool to let you go.  Now let’s order.”

I don’t remember much about that evening because I finished an entire bottle of wine on my own. I awoke the next morning all alone.  And scared to death.

Copyright Kay Morris Writes 2016