Chapters 12 and 13, Ketly Rebounds and Walls Come Down

A Better Pair of Shoes, a novel
Chapters 12 and 13

Ketly Rebounds

After Jeff left and I finally stopped crying, I decided to take Raina up on her offer.  I didn’t want to feel what I was feeling, and for some odd reason Shayne was determined to stay awake.  I wondered if maybe he was awaiting Jeff’s return, or maybe he could sense my sadness and was determined to bring me joy—seeing how hard it was to remain sad while in his playful presence.  I didn’t want anyone to see that I had been crying, so I washed my face and redid my make-up.

            At the door, I could hear yelling and laughter.  There seemed to be quite a bit of voices, and I suddenly became nervous.  I wondered if having my son would be awkward, and how I would be received.  I thought about turning around and going back to what had become somewhat of a lonely life, yet almost simultaneously, I knocked on the apartment door that was standing between me and the good time that was apparently awaiting me. 

            Raina opened the door moments later with a big smile and her natural radiance. 
            “Hi Ketly! Come on in.  We’re just playing some dominoes. 
            “Hi Shayne!”  She said while playing with his hands.
            “Thanks.”  I was out of my element.  Not just this night but as of late.  My naturally outgoing way of being had slowly shifted over a period of time.  I felt resistant to meeting new people, which had never been the case.  I couldn’t tell exactly what had caused the shift, but I tried not to fight it much.  I had always believed in honoring my feelings.  You know; going with the flow. 
            “Everyone this is Ketly, she lives a few doors down.”  Raina announced.
            “Welcome Ketly!  I’m Kevin.” a seemingly gay male responded.
            “Hello Kevin.”  I smiled.
            “Hi Ketly.  Melissa!  Raina’s sister.”  I couldn’t help but notice how different they were.  Seeing Raina side by side Melissa made her tomboy persona so much more evident.
            “And this is Kai—one of my good friends.”  Raina explained rather than introduced.  And I couldn’t help but notice that Kai didn’t seem as happy to meet me as the others.  However, she did offer up a narrow smile. 
            “Nice to meet you all.  This is my son Shayne.”  I felt fairly comfortable.
            “Sounds like he’s on his way to player!” Kevin exclaimed with his legs crossed and his head tilted to one side.
            “Ain’t he adorable?” Raina was smiling from ear to ear and holding a plastic cup with something dark inside.
            “Alright now.  Can you get your ass over here.  It’s your play.”  Kevin said what everyone must have been thinking.  I couldn’t help but notice that the table was made for four, and that I was the odd man out.
            “Ge’me a sec.  Can I set up my guest?”
            “Well, I’m going to the restroom.” Melissa announced as she took the short hall.   Her skin was slightly darker than Raina’s; more toasty.  Her hair was a lot longer and softer in texture.  Obviously the two were bi-racial.  It was interesting to see how the physical characteristics of each race uniquely showed up.  I could have easily picked Melissa for a Latino and Raina for a fair-skinned African American, though her eyes would make you take a closer look.  Melissa was slightly overweight, but super cute and curvy. She wore a lot of bling; oversized earrings; a wrist full of studded bangles and sandals with more bling. 
            “Actually Ketly, you can have my seat.  I gotta’ go.”  Kai looked up from her phone for a brief second.
            “Why you gotta go?  It’s early.”  Raina said with disappointment in her voice.
            “My bad.  I’ll make it up to you.” Kai said as she placed a kiss on Raina’s cheek. 
“Later Kev.  Tell Lisa I said goodnight.  Take
care Ketly.”  I couldn’t help but recognize a slight chill.
            “I’ll call you.”  Raina announced.
            “Later”.  Kai left like a calm breeze.
I finished laying out Shayne’s blanket on the floor in the living room, near the table where we would play.  I made my way past Kevin, and consumed the seat Kai generously gave up.
            “What would you like to drink Ketly?” 
            “Sprite if you have it.”
            “Yep.”  Raina was easy going and comfortable in her skin.  Melissa returned to the room and reminded us of Kai’s bizarre exit.
            “Where’s Kai?”
            “He said to say goodnight.”  Kevin was taking the time to set up his dominoes in what I assumed was a strategic way.  I sat bewildered by his reference to Kai as “he”.  I was officially lost in a world outside of my own.  I did know that there were lesbian women who took on the male role, but I’d never heard a woman referred to as a man.  This was all new to me, and I felt somewhat inspired to write these personalities into one of my upcoming novels. 
            “So, Ketly….you know how to play dominoes?” Melissa moved on.
            “I’ve played once or twice.  I understand the basics.”
            “Cool.”  Melissa replied.
            “You get to play Kai’s hand.”  Kevin was ready to get on with it.
            “Luckily for you Ketly, she’s in the lead with two wins.”  Raina quickly reacted to my bewilderment on both subjects.
            “I can work with that.”  I said feeling happy to be in a winning position. 

            After two hours and five more rounds, Kevin walked away the winner with four wins.  Everyone looked exhausted and began assembling their things.   Melissa was the first to leave, ensuring Raina that she would see her the next day. Kevin didn’t go so quietly.
            “So how did you enjoy my class?” He taunted Raina.
            “Whatever fool.  You just a stand in; this is my classroom!”
            “We’ll see.  So what’s up?”  Kevin seemed to switch gears.
            “Nothing’s up.  Don’t start.”
            “Yeah, okay….let me know.”
            “Goodnight Kevin.”  Raina ushered him out.
            “Nice meeting you Ketly.  See you next week.”
            “Same here.”  I did enjoy Kevin.  I continued putting away Shayne’s things.  He had fallen asleep over an hour ago.
            “So how was it?”
            “Good, I had fun.”
            “Cool.”  Raina made a great host. She looked to be happy to see that her game night was a success, and that I had enjoyed myself.
            “It was a little weird at first when Kai left, but it certainly got warmer.”  I was totally honest.
            “They’re all great people.  Kai’s always standoffish at first.  Don’t take it personal.”
            “I won’t.”  I quickly assured Raina, but still not sure I would become a part of their weekly gatherings.
            “So why don’t you hang out for a while seeing that Shayne is out, and you don’t have to go far.”  Raina easily found the right words to extend my visit.
            “I got movies, or if you’re not too tired, we can play a couple rounds of cards.”
            “No more games.”  I said intently.
            “Okay.”  Raina was sharp and got the intent.
            “So may I ask you a personal question?”  I asked.
            “Anything.”  Raina replied sitting on the couch handle and skipping through the previews on the DVD she had popped in.
            “Are you a lesbian?”
            “I am.” 
            “And where do I fit into this scheme of things?”  I was no longer neutral.
            “You seem like a cool person.  Are you attractive?  Yes.  Am I trying to get in your pants?  Not necessarily.  I’m just being myself.”  Raina explained.
            “And who would you say you are?”
            “A cool; kind person.  And you?”
            “An honest; strait forward person.”
            “That’s promising.”  Raina was so witty.  It was intriguing.
            “So what do you do?”  I couldn’t help but register the fact that Raina did seem quite young, and that these condos weren’t cheap.

            “I’m a web developer.”
            “And how old are you?”
            “Very Impressive.”
            “Thank you. What about you?”
            “I’m a professional writer and thirty-one years old.”
            “Very cool!  So what kind of stuff do you write?”
            “Mostly novels now, but I do maintain a couple of syndicated columns.”
            “Now that’s impressive.  How many books have you written?”  Raina looked really impressed and suddenly hit pause on the television.
            “Do you ever get writers block?”
            “Hardly.  Obviously there are times when I’m more inspired than others, but never really blocked.”
            “Well now you have a great inspiration in Shayne.”
            “Yeah, my new “first true love.”  I couldn’t help but look down at him sleeping so preciously.
            “My turn to ask something really personal!”  Raina seized the moment.
            “Go ahead.”
            “Where’s his dad?” 
Funny, I knew it was coming, but all of a sudden I felt overwhelmed by the question that I heard more and more often.  I could feel the rage, disappointment, and embarrassment boiling up beneath the surface.
            “He lives in California.”
            “You okay?”  Raina reacted to my swift shift in mood, and what I assumed was a look of heart break.
            “Yeah.” I said with already one tear on the loose.
            “I’m sorry.”  Raina sat beside me.
            “It’s just upsetting.”  I restated the obvious.
            “Don’t feel so bad.  You have too much to be grateful for.” Raina was now wiping my tears. 
            “I know.” Hissing
            “Well, it’s obvious you’re in love.”  Raina clarified.
            “I am.  That’s no argument.  Well, Raina... It’s been a blast.  I think I should get back.”  I quickly opted out of the movie and any other really personal questions Raina could think of.
            “I understand.  It was cool of you to show up!”  Raina exclaimed and helped me to gather my things.  I returned home and immediately sought to distract my feelings by beginning to write a new story.  Shayne remained sleeping.

Walls Come Down
(Narrated by Kayla)

            As we entered the highway and left Camie and her will to rebuild her life behind, I could feel the weight of the tide on both Aisha’s and my heart.  We both had so much waiting at home for us.  I couldn’t forget the letter that nearly seemed to be a call on my life.  I hadn’t shared the letter with anyone else, and neither did I plan to.  It was too personal; too heavy.  And though Camie’s ability to come clean and be so vulnerable was inspiring, I just wasn’t ready to be exposed that way again.  The bleeding had just stopped.  Where there used to be open wounds, there were now scabs, and I knew better than picking at them. 

            I glimpse over at Aisha; she was deep in thought.  I knew her pain and felt her burden.  Mostly, I hated that my warning had become her reality.  I didn’t want an “I told you so” standing between us—our relationship had enough strains.  I wondered if she even got how much I had been hoping for her and Tony’s success—how much I wanted to see her happy.
            “So you think she’ll be okay?”  Aisha interrupted my mental dialogue.
            “I think she’s strong.  Maybe stronger than she knows even.”  I assured Aisha.
            “Yeah, I guess…  Can you believe about Q?”  Aisha was now deflecting.
            “No.  That was crazy!  I surely didn’t see any of this coming.”
            “I don’t think I realized how much she was really into him.”  Aisha seemed dumbfounded.
            “Yeah, I know….So have you thought about how you’re going to deal with your stuff?  I intentionally shifted gears again as if to make a point or reveal a pattern to Aisha.
            “No not really.  I don’t really know what to do.  I’m….destroyed!”  Aisha began wailing, and I was officially put on the spot.  What could I say?  What would I say?
            “I’m sorry you’re hurting.  I know what it feels like to be betrayed.”  I tried to choose my words carefully.
            “You don’t understand.  I can’t fail.  He can’t win.”  More crying.
            “Who?”  I was sure we were no longer talking about Tony.
            “My father… He said that no man would ever take me seriously.”   Without my knowledge, a faucet of tears had been turned on, and Aisha was falling apart right before my eyes.  This was not the spunky, fast-moving, and sometimes cold person I had come to know.  She had become a child, and she was reliving her childhood.  She was beyond fragility.  I decided to take the next exit, and I relaxed to the idea that we could be off course for a while.  I thought of the many times that Camie had come to my aid.  I thought of how nurturing she was, and I suddenly realized that she had unconsciously become my picture of motherhood. 

            Aisha had stopped talking.  She continued however to cry, and some cries were longer and deeper.  As her cries progressed, I didn’t respond, because I didn’t know what I was responding to.  I just sat and allowed her to cry it all out.  After a while, I found my voice.
            “You’ve never talked to me about your father.” 
            “I know….there’s really nothing good to say.  I’m never any good when I think or talk about him, so I don’t.”
            “It’s funny after all these years we’ve never really gotten into family.”  I realized
            “When we met, I think we all wanted the same thing—an escape.  I know I did!”  Aisha confirmed.
            “I think you’re right.  I never saw it that way.  I guess we were all running from something.  Look at Camie.”
            “So what does it mean now that our walls are crumbling?”  Aisha asked sincerely.
            “I don’t know, but we’re probably lucky that we have each other.”
            “You’re right.  God probably handpicked us four.”
            “God?”  I hadn’t referred to him in years.  Neither had any of the girls. 
            “Yeah God!  What you don’t believe?”  Aisha was staring at me like she was daring me.
            “I don’t know…..It’s just that… ”
            “What?”  Aisha really seemed to want to know where I stood on the issue.  I figured if ever there was a time to level; this certainly was one.
            “I just can’t believe that God was there when my father was lying on top of me—having his way with me.”  Now I was beginning to tear up.
            “I know.  I can’t speak on that, and it’s not like I got this thing all figured out, but I do believe there’s a God.”
            “I can respect that.”  And I did.
            “I remember when I was dancing….I would talk to Him and ask Him to keep me safe.  I saw so many crazy things happen to other girls, and it never happened to me.  Maybe you should try talking to Him.”
            “Maybe.”  I thought, but remained silent.  I knew Wood was a believer, and I respected his views also.  I watched him as he prayed every night, but I never got the urge.  I remember God was mentioned at our wedding, but it was just protocol to me.  It meant nothing.  I had heard people talk about having favor with God, and it angered me.  I couldn’t understand a partial God yet some did seem to be less burdened.  God was simply a mystery to me.
            “What would you say if I told you I was thinking of staying?”  Aisha blurted out.
            “Staying where?”  I was puzzled.
            “Not where….with; with Tony.”  She was looking me dead in the face.
            “It would surprise me.  I honestly never saw you as the staying type, but in the end I think you have to follow your heart.”
            “I know how I’m expected to react, but I’m in love.  I think I can wait it out, and let my feelings get grounded.”
            “I understand, but do you really feel like you’ll be able to trust him after this?”
            “I’m willing to try.”  Aisha said in a suddenly calm voice.  It was like a spell had been casted.
            “Honestly, is it because you are in love, or is it more about what you said earlier … About failing?”
            “Maybe a little of both.”  Aisha was more open than I had ever seen her, and I had a real respect for honesty.
            “Well, what can I say?  I’ve never been there.  I can’t imagine what I would do…so I support you.”
            “I appreciate that.”  Aisha smiled and hissed simultaneously.

            I couldn’t help but notice what had just happened.  For the first time in maybe our whole friendship we were equals, and I truly felt her competitive edge dissolve a bit.  I reached over and held my friend tightly.

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