adine stood in the foyer of Pascal’s restaurant, breathing deeply and appreciating the aromas wafting over from the Sunday Brunch buffet. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to image the delectable taste of the juicy, golden fried chicken. Her tongue ran over her lips at the mere thought of the homemade macaroni and cheese. Her entire body shuddered with anticipation of the syrupy sweet candied yams.
She hugged herself and said a prayer; felt her food lust subside.
One glance at herself in the mirror to her right made Nadine smile. She admired her svelte figure in the clingy dress – something she’d never worn two years ago. Nadine’s smile widened as she noticed a fine brother appreciate her with a double take, especially since he was with his wife.
She whispered, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”
Nadine scanned the restaurant searching for her best friend Angelique. They hadn’t seen each other in a year – since before Nadine’s gastric bypass surgery.
When Nadine had decided that enough was enough and that her true love Jamal would never marry her in her three hundred pound body, she made the decision to have the surgery. She hadn’t run it by her parents, sister or friends – especially Angelique and Jamal. She hadn’t even prayed about it because she hadn’t wanted to hear God tell her no.
She had the procedure done at a clinic in Boulder, Colorado. It was nearly fifteen hundred miles from her condo in Lithonia, GA. Too far away for anyone to come looking for her and too far for her to run if the going got tough.
And the going had gotten tough.
Her cover story was that she was enrolling in an accelerated Doctorate program. She’d told everyone that she’d found an excellent program and with the credits she’d already earned she would end up with a PhD in Higher Education Administration. It was a boring ruse for the most daring decision she’d ever made in her life and since she was typically a boring woman – everyone believed it.
She remembered how Jamal had responded when she’d told him she was leaving for a year.
She’d said, “It will be good for my career. I’ll be able to run a community college when I’m done, or implement a program at our church.”
“Deenie,” he’d replied with a smile, “you should do whatever it is that God has for you. I’m sure you’ll do well.”
He hadn’t said that he’d miss her, hadn’t begged her to stay. He’d given a response that a man would give to his little sister on her way off to school for the first time.
But all of that would change now. He’d see her in her new body and suddenly realize all of the feelings that he’d suppressed.
Finally, Nadine spotted Angelique, sitting at a table near the window. She should’ve known. Angelique always wanted to gaze outdoors and people watch while she was eating.
Nadine let out a long breath, threw her shoulders back and strode across the room. She’d studied Miss Jay’s walking classes on America’s Next Top Model and liked to think that she had perfected a runway walk. It was a confident stride. The kind of walk that women put on when they knew men were watching.
She stopped short of the table and called out, “Angel!”
Angelique looked up, and the confusion in her eyes made Nadine’s heart swell. Her own very best friend didn’t even recognize her!
“Nadine?” Angelique asked as she rose from her seat.
Nadine nodded and tears burst from her eyes. “Yes, it’s me!”
Angelique squealed and surrounded Nadine with a bear-hugged embrace. “Oh my God! Nadine, I don’t believe this!”
Angelique hadn’t changed at all in the year they’d been apart. She was still perfect. Her flawless hair barely even moved as she hugged Nadine and her perfect curves filled out a stunning cream pantsuit.
“You skinny heifer,” Angelique said. “I think you might be smaller than me.”
Nadine grinned. She was, in fact, smaller than Angelique. She never thought she’d see the day.
“What did your mother say when she saw you?” Angelique asked.
“She hasn’t seen me yet. You’re the first.”
There was a reason Nadine had chosen to see Angelique before her parents. Her mother Joan, and her father Grant were severely obese, and they didn’t see a problem with it at all. Nadine knew that as soon as her mother took one look at her, she was going to start baking.
Her parents were the ones who raised Nadine and her brother and sister on three hot meals a day, plus countless snacks in between. If one of her children said they were thirsty, Joan Robinson gave them sweet tea, not water. If they were sad, she offered words of encouragement wrapped up in a pasta dish.
Joan’s favorite expression was, “Put some food on it.” She believed that all wounds, internal and external, could be bandaged with food.
Nadine remembered her mother assuring her that she would find a man to love her and that it wouldn’t be hard. She always told her that there were men in the world who liked a woman with “a little extra softness.”
Joan would never understand why Nadine had gone through so much drama to lose weight. It was going to be an ordeal when she finally did see her parents.
“Wait until I tell Jamal!” Angelique exclaimed. “He’s going to be thrilled to pieces.”
Wait until she told Jamal?
Before Nadine could fix her mouth to object, Angelique had whipped out her cell phone. It mildly annoyed Nadine that Angelique only pressed one button to dial Jamal. Why would she have him on speed dial?
Nadine wasn’t sure if it was the ringing of the phone or the ringing in her ears that made her want to jump up from the table and run.
“Hey baby, it’s me,” Angelique said into the phone.
Nadine’s breath caught in her throat and her stomach churned. The room spun around as if she’d had too much wine. Angelique was calling Jamal baby. That could only mean one thing.
She should’ve run when she’d had the chance.
“You’re not going to believe this. Nadine has lost a lot of weight! Yes….Like a whole person!”
Angelique put her hand over the phone and smiled at Nadine. “He said, Praise God!”
Then she went back to the phone call. “She’ll look great in a bridesmaid gown now…Well you know what I mean. When we finally do get married.”
Unable to maintain her decorum any longer, Nadine rose to her feet.
“You okay, Nadine?” Angelique asked, with a true look of concern on her face.
“Y-yes. I just need food. Let’s eat. Talk to Jamal later.”
Nadine scurried away from the table with Angelique following at her heels. Nadine tried to breathe, but it was as if Angelique was stealing her oxygen. Just like she’d stolen her man.
“So…are you surprised that Jamal and I are tying the knot?” Angelique asked.
Nadine stopped cold in front of the meat display. Surprised? Surprised was not the word she was looking for. The words she wanted to use couldn’t even cross her lips. Not after she’d gotten that cussing demon cast out a few years ago.
“I didn’t know you were interested in Jamal,” Nadine stated.
Angelique burst into laughter. “Are you kidding me? I’ve always been interested in Jamal. It’s just that it was always the three of us, so we never got a chance to connect on that level.”
“The three of us?”
“You know what I mean! We’d go bowling together and to the movies together.”
Nadine replied “We were part of the single’s ministry. Those were ministry outings, not dates.”
“Right! But I just said that to say that I’ve always wanted to get to know Jamal better. I just wasn’t able to until you were gone. It almost seemed natural that we’d turn to one another, when we both missed you so much.”
Nadine dropped the plate she was holding and it crashed to the floor causing people at the buffet to look in her direction. She didn’t care that everyone was looking at her, though, because all of her attention was on her man-stealing whore of a best friend.
Angelique flagged down a restaurant employee. “We’ve had a bit of an accident here.”
Yes, there had been an accident. Nadine had accidentally left the love of her life with a barracuda.
“When I went away, Jamal pursued a relationship with you?” Nadine asked.
She needed to hear that this was Jamal’s doing. That was the only way she could imagine salvaging their friendship. Because Angelique knew how she felt about Jamal.
Angelique giggled. “Well, he needed a bit of help. You know Jamal. It was almost like it never occurred to him that we could be an item, but we’ve been together for six months now.”
I wonder why? Nadine took another plate from the stack next to the buffet and stared at all of the food that she wouldn’t be able to eat. Her gastric bypass only allowed her to take a few bites of anything. She wouldn’t be able to put food on this wound.
“Anyway, you’re in the wedding of course. Maid of honor,” Angelique said.
Nadine heard herself responding to the most ludicrous of requests. How dare Angelique act as if she was oblivious to Nadine’s feelings about Jamal? Nadine wanted to get real ghetto with it, pull her to the floor and scratch her eyes out. But here she was saying yes to being the maid of honor in her wedding.
“How did he propose?” Nadine asked.
Nadine had always dreamed of Jamal doing something spectacular and romantic when it was time for him to propose to her.
“Well, he didn’t actually propose,” Angelique explained. “One day I introduced him to a friend as my fiancée and he didn’t object. We’ve been engaged since then. We’ve been talking about marriage for a while though. You know how Jamal wants to wait until marriage and everything to get the cookie. So it’s only a matter of time.”
Nadine fingered the ring on her right ring finger that symbolized her vow of celibacy. Nadine and all of the core members of the singles ministry – Jamal and Angelique included - had taken the vow together. They’d all promised to save themselves for the mate God had purposed or to serve as a vessel for God.
Not all of the singles meant it when they’d taken the vow, but she had meant it. And so had Jamal. It made her feel a little better to know that he was keeping his vow. Angelique hadn’t made him forget his promise to God, so maybe he hadn’t forgotten the close bonds of their friendship.
Perhaps there was still time for her to win him back. Nadine took one glance at the confident Angelique and knew that this would be the fight of her life.