I stood alone in the foyer of the church and prepared to walk down the aisle that I had traveled many times before. The white satin runner that outlined the path I would walk was a stark contrast to the burgundy carpet on which it lay. I watched my beautiful niece’s curls bouncing as she carefully dropped the red rose petals just the way she had practiced the night before with the packets of sugar in our hotel suite.
Pillars of varying heights graced the perimeter of the sanctuary and held floral arrangements containing tropical flowers including my favorite birds of paradise and filled the room with the sweetest aroma. The arch was decorated with the whitest of white orchids and the small wedding party stood in expectation. A brilliant fall sun streamed through the stained glass windows and cast prisms of light on the walls. As I scanned the room, I could see my mom, aunts, uncles and family friends all gathered to celebrate with me.
I inhaled deeply and breathed the fragrance of the calla lilies that I held tightly. A string quartet played the beginning strains of “The Love Theme” from the movie Lady Sings the Blues. A collective gasp was heard as the guests stood in honor of my procession down the aisle. My father appeared at my side and we intertwined our arms to begin our journey. What should have taken only a few minutes seemed to take a lifetime. I strained to catch his eye, but he seemed to be focused on something far away. Soon, it became hard to focus on my destination through the tears that flooded my eyes. I stumbled slightly and my father tightened his grasp of my arm, and gently patted my hand.
“I got you, baby girl,” he whispered.
My father kissed my cheek, then placed my hand into my future husband’s before taking his seat beside my stepmother. The rest of the ceremony was a blur, and soon my husband was lifting my veil to cheers from the guests. Through the tears that clouded my vision, I was finally able to look into his eyes. I bumped into my best friend when I took a step back, grabbed my chest and gasped audibly.
“Mommy, what’s wrong?”
“Why are you crying?”, Lynn asked.
I was surprised to realize that fresh tears had formed on my cheeks. Sitting up, I looked around to find myself in my familiar bedroom. I’d dreamed the same dream several times, and each time it ended the same way. I couldn’t decipher the meaning and I didn’t know who I was marrying. But the gripping fear I felt was always the same upon waking, I was making a mistake.
I truly desired to be married, but I wanted to be sure that I was making the right decision. I closed my eyes and rubbed my face in an attempt to gain my composure. When I opened them, my gaze landed on my new vision board that adorned the wall opposite the bed, the words The Secret to Black Love taunted me.
“What is the secret?,” I replied.
“The secret to what mommy?”
“Oh, nothing honey. I was just thinking out loud.”
“You were crying in your sleep. Did you have a bad dream?”
“The worst”, I thought before replying “Yes, I was having a dream. But, all is well now.You’re here with me, right?”
I wrapped her in a warm embrace and ran my fingers through her coily hair. My heart was slowly returning to its regular rhythm. I rubbed my free hand along the tufted seams of my comforter and watched as a baby bird walked along the wooden fence that lined our backyard. Lynn sat in my lap, her lanky frame hanging from the side of the bed. She rested her head on my shoulder and planted a kiss on my cheek.
“I am going to make some french toast. Do you want me to make some for you?”
“Yes, sweetheart. I would love some of your famous french toast.”
She trotted off to make breakfast and inevitably destroy my kitchen in the process. She loved to cook, but cleaning up the kitchen afterward was definitely not a priority. I scanned my bedroom, taking note of each piece of furniture that was chosen especially for this room. The white chaise lounge that graced the wall adjacent to the master bath was littered with the clothes I had worn the day before, above it hang a painting of a butterfly in flight. A deep mahogany dresser beside it with the drawers slightly opened, the marble top barely visible under the bottles of perfumes, lotions, and jewelry. The mirror was lined with photos of the girls and I, my best friends and him. I hadn’t spoken to him in over a month.
It wasn’t for lack of trying though. Each call was met with his voicemail, he’d blocked my calls. I reached over to the nightstand and picked up my phone. I noticed the date, January 2 – today was his birthday. I tossed the phone onto the bed and stretched my arms as I swung my legs over the side of the bed. Destani was listening to music in the living room, a stack of journals and books at her side. She sat cross-legged on the floor, bobbing her head to the music blaring from her headphones and writing in her notebook. I sighed deeply. Though she couldn’t hear me, she must have felt me staring because she looked up and smiled ever so slightly. She was so beautiful with her crown of curls, almond-shaped eyes, full lips and brown skin the color of a perfectly cooked Apple Brown Betty. She could have easily graced one of the magazine covers that rested on the coffee table, but she was my scholar- always in the books. She leaned her head to the side, wrinkled her little button nose as if inspiration had just struck and went back to her journaling.
I glanced down at the phone, again. Should I call to wish him a Happy Birthday? I wasn’t sure why I even considered it, given the fact that in the four years we’d been seeing each other he’d never once remembered mine. Before I knew it, I was listening to his voicemail- again. This time it wasn’t full though, so he’d gotten my other messages.
“Hey. It’s Arnitris. I was just calling to wish you a Happy Birthday. I pray that you get all of your heart’s desires.”
Lynn called from the dining room to announce that breakfast was ready. Just as I was wrapping myself in the satin robe the girls bought me for Christmas to take my place at the table for breakfast, a familiar tune rang out from my phone – I stood frozen.
Ashanti’s Baby could only mean one thing- he was calling me back.
“Mom, come and eat your toast while it’s still warm.”
“I’m coming honey”, I replied. But, my legs weren’t cooperating.
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