Chapter 9-11, Ketly's Heart Break, Kayla Nudged, and Going to Meet Hannah

A Better Pair of Shoes, a novel
Chapter 9, 10, and 11

Ketly’s Heart Break

I couldn’t stop thinking about Jeff since the day before when I had casted him as the best supporting actor in my fantasy.  I longed to hear his voice and even get into some adult conversations, which I was certain he would not refrain from.  That was the thing neither one of us could deny; our chemistry and our mutual desire for each other.  We couldn’t deny it when we met, and although I now knew the truth about his ways; it still couldn’t be denied.  But before I could pick up the phone, it began ringing. 
“Great, who is this trying to disrupt my plans?”  I thought.
“Hello?”  I quickly answered
“Hey Ketly.”  I heard Jeff’s voice on the other end.
“Hey!”  “What a coincidence.” I thought but didn’t say.
“What’s going on—how’s Shayne?”
“He’s wonderful.”
“And you?”  He smoothly switched gears.  And I knew because I probably wouldn’t have done it any differently.
“I’m good.”
“Well I was calling to let you know I’m in town, and to see if I can come by to see baby boy before I leave.”
“How long are you going to be here?”
“I’m leaving Monday morning early.”  Jeff sounded busy and booked solid as usual.
“Well, tomorrow’s okay.  Is that good for you?”  I asked, hoping it would go my way.
“I’m on your time, so I’ll take it where I can get it.”  He said, calling himself being a player, but I was looking forward to getting more than what I had previously hoped for.  I figured picking Saturday over Sunday would give us two days together.  I knew after Saturday he wouldn’t want to leave.
“What time can I come by?”
“Probably around three.”  I chose carefully; knowing that if I made it too early, he might get restless.  Yet, if I made it too late in the day, he’d know I was on to him, and wanted him to come.  Three was perfect—it would give me enough time to make dinner and invite him to stay to eat.
“Cool.  I’ll see you guys then.”  He said nonchalantly.
“Okay.  Later.”  I tried not to sound anxious, but I was.  I hadn’t had sex in almost six months; not since we had broken up, and I hadn’t seen Jeff in almost three months.  Funny, the last time he came to see Shayne I couldn’t even think about sex.  I was between anger and too damn tired.  I knew my feelings were still raw, but I was hoping I’d be able to just focus on the goal.  It wasn’t like I wasn’t still in love with him.  Hell, I was crazy about him.  It’s just that after he cancelled his relocation at the last minute, and couldn’t give me a good enough reason—I just thought; I don’t want to be played; anymore!  I think it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done—letting him go.  I had just had Shayne, and I certainly wanted him with us.  What upsets me the most is that I was perfectly fine with our arrangement.  Why did he complicate everything with all kinds of promises he had no intentions on keeping?  I just didn’t get that! 
The next day, I got up bright and early, and began preparing for Jeff’s visit.  I took out Shayne’s outfit, and packed his baby bag just incase I was wrong about Jeff’s intentions.  Next, Shayne and I were off to the grocery store.  I quickly decided on meatloaf for dinner, and discreetly grabbed a pack of condoms on my way to the register.  I stopped to my beautician to get my barely there fro shaped up and colored, and ended up there for two whole hours.  But I was still in good shape, with enough to get home and freshen up.  I didn’t forget that it wasn’t officially a date, and so I simply wore a pair of jeans (that fitted me precisely) and a long, fitted, short-sleeve, pink top.  I chose a pair of dangling gold earrings, and did my make up, but wore no lipstick, for a “no thought to it look”.  A little trick I’d learned.  I spread out one of Shayne’s blankets on the living room floor, and put some of his favorite toys out.  I turned the TV to cartoons and waited for the remaining twenty minutes. 

When the knock at the door finally came, I jumped up and then waited a just moment.  I opened the door, but to my surprise it was Raina.  I looked back to check my clock and it was ten minutes to three.  I felt panicked.  I didn’t know why she had come, but I needed to quickly get rid of her. 
“Hey Ketly, I just wanted to invite you over to my game night this evening.  A bunch of us are getting together to play scrabble and then dominoes.  I don’t know if you’re interested, but I just wanted to give you an invite.”
“Oh, that sounds great but I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it.  Can I let you know later?”  I said not wanting to end up alone and bored if Jeff didn’t stay.
“Sure!”  Raina overly emphasized.
“Okay and thanks.”  I closed the door and looked back up at the clock.  Two minutes had passed.  And just as I made it back to the couch, another knock—hopefully the one I was so eagerly awaiting.
“Who is it?”
I opened the door for the second time, and looked up to lock eyes with my son’s father.
“Hi.”  I said with a smile.
“Hello.”   I wanted to kiss him and hug him, but I knew I had to play it cool.
“Shayne’s in the living room.”  I stood there watching as Jeff got down and picked up my precious joy.  He smiled and kissed him on his forehead, and announced proudly,
 “Hey baby boy, it’s your daddy.”  I didn’t know how Shayne would react, but he smiled his big smile as Jeff continued on talking to him. 
“Daddy missed you man.  You know that?  Yeah, I did!”  I watched for a few more moments as Shayne got all of Jeff’s love and affection.  Then he directed his attention to me.
“So, what have I missed?  Is he trying to talk yet?”
“Not yet, just baby talk.” 
“You look good.”  He couldn’t help himself any longer.
“Thanks.  So what brought you in town this time?”
“Mostly Shayne, but I do have business here too.  I’m trying to set up some promotional stuff for the new book.”
“I got your check.”
“I know.  It cleared.  But you could have called.” 
“For what?” 
“I don’t know, just communication.  You know.  What’s the big deal?  We can’t be friends no more?”  Jeff appeared upset.
“What’s the big deal?  Well, I’m sorry it’s not as easy for me to act as if nothing ever happened.  You said you wanted to be with me remember!  Now you want to be friends; what else do you think you want?”  I had already lost my cool. 
“You ended it not me.”  Jeff reminded me in an awfully punishing tone.
“Whatever, you know you were playing me all along.”
“Never!  I love you.”  Jeff was walking towards me.
“So why’d you cancel all our plans without even talking to me.  And why won’t you let us come to you if it’s about your career?  I’m willing!”  I asked with tears in my eyes.
“It’s just not the right time.  I just wish you could be patient.”
“You’re married.  Just say it.  Just tell me the truth!  Why can’t you just be honest?
“You’ve been to my home.  You know I’m not married.”
“Then what?  What is it?”
“I just don’t know if I’ll be any good at this.  I’ve never been with one woman, and I thought I could, but I don’t want to disappoint you.  I love the way I feel when I’m with you, but I don’t know that I can be faithful to you.  If I move in with you or you with me, then before I look, you’ll be talking marriage, and I’m just not there yet.”  I stood there listening to Jeff be unbelievably honest with me.  I couldn’t handle it.  My knees were weak, my insides were sick—I wanted to regret meeting him, falling in love with him, and trusting him, but if I did I would have to return Shayne to the Gods and I couldn’t.  He was the best part of us; nothing but pure joy.  Jeff came closer and held me in his arms.  He pulled my head to his chest and kissed the top of my head.  I could feel his compassion, and I could hear his heart beating rapidly. 
“Please don’t regret us, and please don’t hate me.  I need you.  You’re my best friend, and I miss you. I miss you like hell.”
“I miss you too.”  I could feel myself reaching up for a kiss, but Jeff never came to meet me.
“I can’t.  It’ll just make things more complicated.”  I pulled away from the warmth of Jeff’s embrace.  He quickly said good-bye to Shayne and left.  I sat on the floor holding my sweet baby boy with tears running down my face, hoping the scent of his father wouldn’t leave us. 

Kayla Nudged

Just after trying to console Aisha the night before, I received a call from Ketly.  She was in pretty bad shape; crying and mumbling and more crying.  I just tried to listen.  I guess she couldn’t reach Aisha, and that put me next in line.  I don’t know, but I was getting quite sick of all the freaking drama.  Was it something in the air; was it the moon?  I didn’t even have time to focus on my dilemma.  Chaos was determined to persist.  And on top of all the madness, we were about to go visit Camie’s sister, and meet her daughter Hannah.  I was hoping that it would all go well, because I didn’t really have any ideas.  I knew nothing about dealing with kids.  I was an only child, and I didn’t have any of my own.  All I had to offer was my support, but I didn’t know if it would be enough.  I felt like a broken record, “I’m sorry to hear that”, “It’s going to be okay.”, “Don’t worry.  It’ll work out”.  I just needed to escape from it all for a moment.  So I took a walk and called my husband.  I was hoping he wasn’t busy and could talk to me.
“Hey Baby!”  Wood sounded delighted.
“Hey.  It’s so good to hear your voice.  Sorry I didn’t call sooner…it’s just been so crazy.  But I did text you!”  I hoped he wouldn’t be upset.
“It’s okay, I appreciated the text.  Once I know you’re okay, I’m okay.  So, when are you coming home?”
“Monday.  I’ll be there when you get home.  And I’ll have on something sexy for you.”
“Really, I can’t wait.  I might just come home early.”
“You should.”
“Then I will.”
“So do you miss me?”  I blushed in anticipation of what I knew would be flattery.
“What do you think?”
“I don’t know, maybe a little.”
“Try a whole lot.  I miss your smell and your warmth—I twisted and turned all night without you.  I guess my hands were restless.”  I enjoyed the flattery.
“Finally I just gave in and ended up watching TV until I fell asleep.” 
“So you’re falling apart without me, is what you’re saying?”  I said blushing and smiling from ear to ear.
“Pretty much, so don’t be late. I’ll see you Monday after work.”
“Bye baby.”  I said remembering why I was so in love with this man.  He was so sweet; so generous; so understanding; so in love with me.
“Bye my lady.  I love you.”
“I love you more.  I promise.”  I smiled
“Okay you win.”
“Bye.”  I hung up the phone and was feeling steady once again.  Wood had a way of doing that.  I walked slowly back to the room where Camie and Aisha were resenting having to go out and face the world amidst their crisis.  I remembered to breathe—a practice I had learned years earlier.  Honestly, since Nora’s letter, it had become somewhat difficult to keep my mind in the happy place it had gotten used to.  It was hard to care without carrying the burdens.  I thought about how stable everyone had appeared to be just less than a year ago, and now with a sudden and unexpected breeze everything was fleeting.  It made me wonder if this was what I had to look forward to.  Was chaos inevitable or did Camie, Aisha, and Ketly simply miscalculate their steps?  I couldn’t tell, but I did feel a slight nudge; like something or someone was trying to push me forward into something new.  Right then, I felt a chill that ran through my whole body, and I was no longer conscious of my breathing.  I quickened my steps.

Going to Meet Hannah 
(Narrated by Aisha)
Our drive to Erilyn’s house started out rather quietly.  Kayla was checked in somewhere in her head—perhaps thinking about her handsome beau.  Camie was nervously switching the radio from station to station.  I couldn’t figure out what she wanted to hear, if anything really, because she had tuned away from so many great songs.  I myself, well I continued to listen to the many possible dialogues I could have with my husband.  And though it was exhausting, it sure did beat the nightmares.  That was the worst part of finding out I was living a lie—trying to figure out “on which night”, “on the other side of which phone call”, “which dozen roses”, “which hot shower”…Which one of these events was directly connected to the lie; the cover up; the smoothing over?  Feeling like a fool was not something I took lightly.  I had worked too hard to prove I was no fool.  I had degrees, status, and materials to prove it, and if my father was still alive he would be eating his words and washing them down with more alcohol.  Even when I was dancing, I was nobody’s fool.  I knew what my goal was, and I never for a second allowed myself to forget.  Other than my skin, nothing about me was soft.  I was in character from the time I walked through the door, until the time I sat on the last lap.  But I no longer wanted to play a role.  I had searched tirelessly underneath the façade to find myself, and had waited too long to love again.  So, why had this happened?  Was I being punished for educating myself on the backs of lost souls, or was it the pay back for educating myself at the cost of my own dignity?  I wasn’t sure, but something was rising to the surface.
            We pulled up to Camie’s sister’s house, and the open ended silence everyone had come to appreciate was broken. 
“Okay, so there’s just one other thing I must tell you all.”  Camie looked totally out of her element.
 “My real name is actually Jennifer, so don’t look shocked when you hear it.”  Camie clarified.  I looked on without a single word.  I couldn’t help but feel like everything I thought I knew about Camie was a big lie.  I glanced over at Kayla, but I couldn’t read her.  It was an awkward moment to say the least! 
“You ladies ready?”  Camie asked after taking what was not a shallow breath.
“Ready!”  I said sarcastically feeling somewhat of a puppet in Camie’s stage play.
“Just breathe.” Kayla offered.

            Erilyn cordially greeted us at the door with a look of surprise.  I suddenly couldn’t help but display my discomfort.  First of all, I didn’t even get what Camie was hoping Kayla and I could bring to the table.  She had better be glad I was in no hurry to get back home, because I would have made a u-turn right then. The three of us took Erilyn’s invitation to sit, as we eagerly awaited the guest of the hour.  Moments later she returned from the adjoining kitchen with drinks for Kayla and I, but Camie suddenly halted her hosting with an abrupt,
“Where’s Hannah?” 
“She’s in her room.  I’ll get her.”  Erilyn retorted.  She took the staircase up to the second level, and we just sat all hoping that it would go smoothly.  After a short wait, Hannah revealed herself; following her aunt down into the crowded living room.  I suspected she was wondering why the extra bodies, but mostly I was hoping she would know which of us was her mother.  Hannah politely sat on the loveseat in front of us, and Camie quickly got up and joined her there.  There was not a single sparkle in Hannah’s eyes.  I didn’t know if it was her reluctance to see her mother, or if she was truly unhappy.  I continued to pay quiet attention to her.  I looked over at Kayla, and we shared a quizzical smile.         
“Hannah, it’s so good to see you.  How are you?”  Camie looked sorry and desperate.   
“I’m fine.”  Hannah was not giving any free passes.        
“I’m really sorry I haven’t been up here to see you.  There’s really no good reason, and I don’t want to insult you by giving you some lame excuse.  I just hope you can forgive me.”  Camie poured her heart out on Hannah’s cold exterior.              
“Who are these people?”        
“These are two of my best friends Kayla and Aisha.            
“Why are they here?”  Without Hannah’s knowledge, every word was hard hitting; not to mention, straight to the point. Erilyn looked on from the entryway of the kitchen.  I could feel her discomfort, and I could almost hear her saying,
“Hannah, please just talk to her.”
“Hannah, you’re mom realizes that she’s made some really huge mistakes, and so she asked us to be here for her support.”  Kayla boldly stated.    
“So I should just forget about it.”  Hannah shot back at Kayla.       
“Probably not but maybe you can create some space for forgiveness.”  I couldn’t help but do a double take.  I had never heard Kayla speak like that.  She sounded like a guru or something.
“That’s okay sweetie.”  Camie chimed in.  I know it will take time, and that’s why I’ve decided to stay here to work on it.”  I heard the words “stay here” come from Camie’s mouth, but it didn’t fully register.  It was such an unlikely turn of events.  This place just didn’t seem to be Camie’s speed.  I could see why she had left.   
“Here where?”  Hannah was as shocked—no she was definitely more shocked than I.      
“Here, in Tampa.”  Camie clarified.   
“Great.”  Hannah said contradicting her expression.
“Jennifer are you sure that’s the right thing to do?”  Erilyn tried to slow down the process.           
“I’m sure.  I’ve thought long and hard.  It’s what I need to do.”  Camie responded in a “stick-it-to-ya” kind of a way while taking to her feet.      
“Hannah, say good-bye.  Let me talk with your mother.”  Kayla and I sat there hoping that the claws wouldn’t fully emerge.          
“Why didn’t you talk with me about this first?”  Erilyn pleaded.    
“For what?  I don’t need your approval.  All you need to know is that I’m going to be in the picture from now on.  So be happy, she doesn’t only have one of her parents, now she has both.”         
“Fine, but remember, I’m her guardian, and I expect you to respect that.”  Erilyn had neglected passive for aggressive.  Camie walked toward the door, and Kayla and I quickly followed hurrying our thank you and good-bye.

            Without any delay— the moment we got into the car, I began with my line of questioning.
            “So you’re really staying?”
            “I think so!  If I don’t I might lose Hannah forever.”  Camie did seem sure.
            “Have you really thought it through, or were you just trying to get to your sister?”
            “No, I really have been considering it, and after sitting with Hannah today I just know that it’s now or never.”
            “I agree.  I think you definitely have to show her that you’re not causing all this fuss only to go back into your own world in a couple of days.”  Kayla sounded so wise.
            “What about your work?”  I pressed on.
            “I’ll just have to spread my wings.  I’m sure my clients have friends and associates up here that they can refer to me.  It will just have to work.  There’s more at stake than my work right now.”
            “So, when did you decide that Hannah was going to be first and not last?”  I challenged Camie’s “mommy dearest” position.  Camie turned her head and our eyes locked, but I didn’t blink!  She seemed annoyed— like she was about to let me have it, yet it wasn’t in my nature to back off, and my eyes conveyed that message.
            “You know what…I’m so tired of your self-righteous crap!  You so perfect, and you got all this stuff yet your man is stepping out on you; not to mention stepping all over your desperate behind.”
            “Yeah, I said it.”  Camie shot back.
            “Well maybe I’m not the best when it comes to picking men, but you got to be real selfish and down right trifling to walk away from your role as a mother.”
            “Selfish?  Aisha, you’re the most selfish person I know!
            “Well, if you knew yourself Camie….oh, I mean Jennifer—you would know different.”
            “Ladies, Ladies….can we not do this?”  Kayla yelled adding to the madness.
            “What?”  I asked knowing Kayla was about to side with Camie.
            “Let’s not kick each other when we’re down.”  Kayla urged.
            “All I’m doing is trying to be real with a sistah.  You’re sitting there acting as if you’re not thinking the same things I’m thinking.  How does it feel “best friend” to know that you don’t even know your girl?”
            “It feels like we all have some secrets…some we might share, and some that we’re too ashamed to share, but none-the-less; secrets.”  Kayla almost seemed like someone else; someone more grown up and less emotional.  I felt like I was part of some freak show.
            “Whatever!  You two are always going to side with each other.”
            “It’s not about sides, it’s about position, and my position is clear.  Nobody’s perfect and nobody will ever be, so let’s stop trying.”  Kayla was stern but still calm.  I realized that I couldn’t win among the two, and decided to retreat.  I hadn’t even realized that Camie had pulled off to the side of the road.  Suddenly there was a frightening amount of silence in the car.  The disconnection between Camie and I was vast, and I didn’t know how we were going to get through the rest of the day.  I thought about renting myself a car and leaving early, but I was still unprepared to deal with my own problems. 
            “Do you want to go check out some apartments while we’re here?”  Kayla easily found a way to break the silence.
            “I guess that would be a good use of time.”  Camie replied.
            “Can we grab something to eat first?”  I found my place within the short dialogue. 

            “Yeah, I know a place.” Camie’s voice was once again gentle.

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A Better Pair of Shoes, a novel © Grace Call Communications, LLC Copyright ©2010, 2016, 2017 by Natisha Renee Williams All rRghts Reserved