Rod smiles as I hold our chubby baby boy up to the glass. He looks like Rod, except that he has my beautiful black hair.
“What’s up, RJ? Look at my boy. He’s gonna be playing in the NFL. You know I could’ve gone, right, Dee?”
I laugh out loud. “That’s what you’re always telling me. I need to see some evidence of that.”
“Please! Ask my mama. She’ll tell you.”
“Your mama would say you invented the internet if I asked her. She is not a reliable source when it comes to her baby.”
“And you are gonna be the same way. Watch.”
As if he agrees with his daddy, RJ lets out a loud baby gurgle that ends with a laugh. He is such a happy baby. That’s because he gets so much love.
Rod’s expression turns serious. “They wouldn’t let you bring Rodeisha?”
“No. Her grandmother won’t let her come with me, so I don’t know what to do. Do you want me to talk to your lawyer again?”
Rod sits back in his chair and sighs. “Nah. Not now. I’m gonna be out of here in a couple of months.”
Rod’s sentence, for pleading guilty to reckless endangerment, was only a year with possibly a release after six months. Everybody says he’s lucky considering the circumstances, but I don’t feel lucky at all.
“You always hold it down for me, don’t you Dee?”
I wipe a bit of drool from RJ’s face and smile at Rod. “I do.”
“I promise you that when I get out of here, it’s going to be different. We’re going to go away for six months. Sail around Italy in a yacht.”
I think to myself, how you gonna do that on parole, Rod? But I smile anyway. No need to kick him while he’s down.
“Time’s almost up!” the guard says from Rod’s side of the glass.
Rod frowns. He’s a shot caller. He’s not used to anyone bossing him this way.
“Hold my son up one more time,” he says.
I do, but when RJ starts to fuss, I rock him in my arms. Finally, the guard comes and taps Rod on the shoulder.
“Time’s up. Tell your beautiful wife goodbye. If you want, I can keep her company while you’re in here. You lonely, babe?” the guard says.
Rod’s face turns beet red, and I know he’s ready to explode, but he doesn’t. The only thing that’s going to get him out of here early is good behavior. Today, that means taking verbal abuse from an unprofessional guard.
I stand up and smooth out my expensive pantsuit, and sling my diaper bag over my arm. This bag probably cost more than this rude guard’s salary for the year, and he’s here talking to my husband like he’s the scum of the earth.
Oh well. That’s what Rod gets for fooling with Peach and her crew of marauding strippers. Next time he’ll know better. Ratchet is what ratchet does.
Four months earlier…
“Are we going to the Amalfi Coast for New Year’s Day?”
I smile up at Rod as I ask him this question. He’s tapping the keys on his grand piano while I lounge on the sofa rubbing my second (almost third) trimester belly.
Rod shakes his head. “We’re gonna stay close to home Dee. You’re too big to fly. We’re not putting my first son at risk.”
I smart at Rod saying his first son. Our baby is supposed to be his first child period. But he isn’t. Our child will be second to the daughter of a stank, ghetto, booty-bouncing stripper named Peach.
I roll my eyes at Rod even though he’s right about the travel. I absolutely don’t need to be flying since this pregnancy was induced by fertility drugs and is extremely high risk. I just don’t want to be anywhere near my husband’s baby’s mama for the New Year. It’s bad enough we had to have Rodeisha here for Christmas.
“Don’t be mad, babe. I’ll make sure you have lots of fun at home,” Rod says. “Let’s throw a party.”
My eyes light up. “A star studded party?”
“Yeah. How about an all-white New Year’s party slash baby shower?”
I clap my hands together and squeal. “Yes! I love it.”
“Do it big, babe,” Rod says as he rises from the piano bench and kisses my head. “Invite anybody you want.”
I pout as I watch Rod grab his jacket from the closet. “Where are you going? I thought we were spending time together.”
Rod kisses me again and smiles. “We did and I enjoyed it. But I promised Rodeisha I would take her to ride some white pony they have at the mall.”
I feel my pout change to a frown. Although Rod lost his memory after being shot months ago, and has no recollection of cheating on me, and almost leaving me for his baby’s mama Peach, he still accepts that Rodeisha is his daughter. I guess I should be glad that he wants to be in his child’s life, but I’m afraid. What if his memory returns and he remembers that he was going to leave me? Then what?
“You didn’t ask me if I wanted to come,” I say, even though I don’t really want to go.
“You are more than welcome. You’re Rodeisha’s stepmother, so I think you should. She ought to get used to the idea of being a big sister too, so she should be around you while you’re pregnant.”
Because I value peace in my home, especially while I’m pregnant, I don’t tell Rod that his little “outside baby” isn’t going to be around my child at all. There’s no reason to get into an argument about something I know I’m not changing my mind on.
I shudder when I think of how I found about Rodeisha. My husband was and still is taking care of that stripper from Birmingham. Then, because she was his side piece and apparently he would go to see her when he was craving surgically enhanced body parts. Now, because he made her sign a confidentiality agreement about their affair in exchange for a monthly stipend.
Rod doesn’t mind taking Rodeisha in public, because his bodyguards do a good job shielding him from any reporters. The paparazzi have snapped a few pictures of him with the little girl, and have speculated about her identity, but Rod doesn’t care as long as Peach doesn’t come out with any sordid details. He wasn’t the first music industry professional to have an illegitimate child and he certainly wouldn’t be the last.
I ease up slowly from the sofa and inch toward my comfortable boots. I’m glad it’s winter, because I can get away with sacrificing fashion in this nippy weather. Plus, I can’t get my swollen feet into any of my heels.
Aside from the swollen feet, I have to pee about every five seconds, which reminds me of something.
“Do we have to drive all the way to Birmingham to pick up Rodeisha, or is Peach meeting you somewhere here?”
Rod scratches his head. One of the nervous ticks he doesn’t know he has. Some things haven’t changed with the amnesia.
“I didn’t tell you Peach moved here to Atlanta?” Rod says casually like he just told me the weather.
“No. You did not tell me that skank moved here.”
“Oh, well they were looking for a new girl over at Club Hurricane, and she thought it would be better if Rodeisha lived closer to me.”
I feel faint all of a sudden. So, in the unlikely event that Rod does get his memory back, his sideline hoe is gonna be peddling tail at a strip club twenty minutes from my home? A strip club that attracts so many ballers that they named it after a weather event that “makes it rain”?
“Are you okay, Dee?”
I glare at Rod as I gather my strength. “You know, keeping secrets from me is how you ended up with a baby by a hoe to begin with.”
“It wasn’t a secret. I just forgot to mention it. I’m not thinking about Peach. It’s all you.”
Rod crosses the room and embraces me and my pregnant belly. I feel my anger disappear as he kisses my neck. The way Rod is now, after being shot and getting amnesia, reminds me of how we were in the beginning, before he was the Rod Knight. This is the way he was when all he had to give me was promises, hopes and dreams. This is the Rod I fell in love with.
I don’t want to share him with Peach.
“We’re a team, Rod. If it’s pertinent to you and Rodeisha, it’s pertinent to me. I am her stepmother, right?”
I almost expect the sky to open and lightening to strike me where I stand, but thank God it doesn’t. First of all, I’m pregnant. Second of all, I’ve got a party to plan.
If Peach wants to torture herself by sharing a city with her baby daddy’s queen, then that’s on her. She may have gotten the best of me once, but she and her fix-a-flat booty are on my turf now. If she wants it with me, then she wants it with my entire crew.
And we don’t fight fair.
I love the way Lucas looks at me. Right now, we’re in the cafeteria at work, with doctors, nurses, interns and patients milling around, and still Lucas gazes at me like I’m the only person in the room. The best way to describe his intense stare is hungry. He looks absolutely famished.
He should be. And I’m not talking about his lunch. I haven’t given him any booty since we got back together almost six months ago, and I don’t plan to until our wedding night.
The way I see it, I was destined to be with Lucas. We would’ve probably been married by now with one or two kids if he hadn’t cheated on me while we were in college. But it must be meant to be because I haven’t been with another man since him.
It will be super romantic if we don’t have sex again until our wedding night. Plus, he’s already sampled the goods, so he doesn’t need another taste. He knows what he’s getting.
“What do you want to do for New Year’s?” I ask as I chomp down on a waxy tasting piece of lettuce.
Lucas tilts his head to one side, and gives me a mischievous smile that makes me wish I hadn’t asked the question.
“I want to ring in the New Year the way most other couples do, by making the headboard slam into the wall.”
“You asked. I answered.”
“You know that’s not what I meant, though. Do you want to go out? You want to go to Watch Night service at church?”
Lucas chuckles. “If I can’t spend it rocking your world, I’d rather be here at the hospital. You know that the craziest cases come in on New Year’s Eve. Remember last year?”
I do. We had a woman who had caught herself on fire with a sparkler, multiple gunshot wounds, and a man who managed to get a champagne bottle lodged in his colon. It’s exactly the reason why I want to do something different.
“I’ve never had a man at a New Year’s party, Lucas. Now that I have one, I want to show you off.”
“Am I a trophy boyfriend?”
I cover my mouth and laugh. “Yes, you are. You’re a doctor and you’re hot, so yes, you’re a trophy.”
At some point, I think he’ll be my trophy husband. Both mine and Lucas’s pagers go off at the same time.
“Did you just get paged to the ER?” Lucas asks.
I nod. “Mmm-hmm.”
We leave our half eaten lunches on the table and rush over to the emergency room, expecting a major issue if we both got paged. Instead, the ER is uncharacteristically quiet.
Lucas stops at the nurses’ station. “Connie, what’s going on?”
“The Chief of Surgery wanted all of the residents here. I think there’s a new hire.”
Just then, Dr. Carmichael, our chief of surgery, steps into the ER with the new doctor.
Lucas’s jaw drops. “Is that…”
“Fatima Graham.” I finish Lucas’s question with an answer.
The last time I saw Fatima was on graduation day from Emory, but that’s not the most vivid image I have of Fatima in my mind. What I most remember about her is the fact that she slept with my boyfriend and caused me the greatest pain I ever felt in my life.
She was my roommate. My sorority sister. And she gave it up to Lucas.
Now she’s here! Why is she working at our hospital? Of all the hospitals in the United States that she could’ve chosen, she chose Atlanta General.
Dr. Carmichael says, “I want to introduce you all to our new surgical resident and my niece, Dr. Fatima Graham. She joins us from Baylor Medical in Dallas, but she’s a hometown girl and went to medical school at Emory. I expect you all will give her a warm welcome.”
I will give her something all right. I still owe her for swinging that Minotaur booty in my man’s face.
Then, it happens. She sees me, and claps her hands. Did she forget my vows of revenge?
“Sydders!” Fatima says too loudly as she runs over with her arms outstretched.
Then, she stops in her tracks when she sees that I’m standing next to Lucas. She clears her throat and looks away from him after making brief eye contact with him. Her arms drop to her sides, which is for the best because my arms are locked firmly across my chest.
“Lucas,” she says. “I thought you were going to take that fellowship at Mayo Clinic.”
“I turned it down,” he says.
She’s following Lucas’s career? Really? I close my eyes and pray, because in about five seconds or less I’m about to lose my job for having a girl fight in the emergency room.
“I was up for it too,” Fatima explains. “I got to the third round of interviews. I’d heard that Lucas got the offer.”
I shrug. “Good for you.”
Okay, that sounded dumb. She didn’t actually get the job, but I just congratulated her on her failure.
“It’s good seeing the both of you,” Fatima says. “I’m looking forward to working with you.”
“It’s great seeing you too,” Lucas says. “Emory in the house!”
Now I’m about to get fired for choking the life out of my boyfriend. In the emergency room.
I feel my body start to relax as Fatima greets the other doctors. Lucas slips his arm around my waist and pulls me close, making me feel a bit more secure.
It would help if Fatima was fat, out of shape and with a bunch of wrinkles. But she’s just as pretty as she was in college, and she’s purchased some perky boobs to go along with that two-basketballs-in-her-scrubs shaped behind.
“So, I think I do want to go out for New Year’s Eve,” Lucas whispers in my ear. “How about we find a party in downtown Atlanta and get a room at the Ritz Carlton.”
“A room at the Ritz?”
“Double beds if you want.”
I nod and smile. “Okay.”
I know this is Lucas making me feel better about this unwelcome blast from the past. I love him for that. And I’m going to love him even more if he makes sure to stay away from bubble butt. Because I don’t care if eight years have gone by. Nothing’s changed.
Fatima Graham is dead to me. Jesus himself could roll the stone away from that tomb and a resurrection of that friendship still wouldn’t take place.
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