4: A Little White Lie
“Mommy…. Daddy,” I heard as I stirred in my sleep.
I opened my eyes slowly to see my daughter between me and Freddie in the bed.
“Hey, sweetie,” I kissed her forehead.
Freddie’s body shifted in the bed. She opened her eyes slightly.
Luna smiled, “I thought you were going home yesterday.”
“Yea, well, I ended up falling asleep here.”
She smiled, “I’m so happy now.”
“Oh yea? Why’s that??”
“Because you’re back with mommy,” she smiled.
I raised my eyebrows. Damn. How am I gonna respond to this?
Freddie cleared her throat, “Good morning, baby,” she looked at Luna.
Luna smiled, hugging Freddie. She kissed her cheek, “Good morning, mommy.”
Freddie smiled. They looked so much alike when they smiled. Freddie looked at her, “Hey, did you brush your teeth?”
“Ummm…” Luna looked around.
“Exactly,” she raised her eyebrows, “You know what you’re supposed to do when you wake up. Go take care of that and me and daddy will prepare to make you some breakfast, okay?”
“Okay,” she hugged Freddie again before hopping off the bed and running out. She was a mommy’s girl. She loved me too, but I can tell Freddie was her favorite.
Freddie looked at me, “Last night was definitely a mistake, Ron.”
“A mistake? You were the one basically dragging me into your room.”
She playfully rolled her eyes, “I didn’t drag you anywhere. I suggested. You agreed,” she smirked, “And it’s a mistake because I didn’t plan on you sleeping here, too. Now she thinks we’re back together.”
“Yea, I know,” I looked down, “I don’t know how to break it to her.”
“I don’t want to confuse her, Ron,” she looked at me, “And I know I’m the one who comes onto you most times, but.. I don’t know,” she sighed.
I just stared at her. She’s the most indecisive person I know.
“You have Micaela. And as much as I don’t like her, maybe that’s where you belong.”
“And you belong with Lawrence?”
“Ron, please. I just started dating him, I don’t know where I belong. Okay? I just… I don’t want it to be with you. Not cause it’s not something I’m interested in. But because you’ve already moved on. I can’t stay stuck on you forever.”
“So you have this epiphany after I cheat on my girlfriend?”
“Ron, I’m sorry,” she got up, “I’ll make you breakfast. After that, I think you should go. I’ll explain everything to her.”
I sighed. Freddie never fails to get a rise out of me. Good or bad.
I looked at Dwayne as he slept peacefully. He was knocked out on the couch and I was in the kitchen preparing us breakfast. I was able to watch him over the island, it gave me a good view of the family room.
No matter how angry I would get thinking about our situation, no matter how much I made Dwayne sleep on the couch, I could never let him go hungry. It’s just something that I couldn’t do. Maybe I knew he was sorry. I don’t know.
I thought back to yesterday’s counseling session and Dr. Novak really opened my eyes. Of course, she opened my eyes about how Dwayne looked at his affair but she made me look at myself in a way that I never did before. Maybe I’m not always the victim. Maybe I hurt people, too.
And what Dr. Novak said about us not appreciating each other made sense. In a lot of ways, I don’t understand Dwayne and I know he doesn’t understand me either. We’re always having small fits, even if they don’t last longer than an hour. He doesn’t understand the way I love him and sometimes I don’t understand the way he loves me. But I know he tries to understand and I try, too. I just hope we never give up trying.
Another reason I couldn’t be too mad at Dwayne this morning is because Dr. Novak had given us an assignment to write down five things we wrote about each other. When we got home, we did it.
I laid on the couch while Dwayne sat down. He let me rest my feet on his lap. We both had notepads in our hands, writing our five appreciations of one another.
“Whitley?” He said quietly while writing.
“Yes, Dwayne?” I kept my eyes on my paper as I finished my list.
“I’m sorry for betraying you. I hurt you in ways where if it was the other way around, I’d be devastated. I was selfish. Yes, you weren’t listening to me, but I should’ve found a different outlet, not a different woman,” he continued to write.
“I’m sorry, too. I was hearing you but I was paying you any attention. I was letting my need for nice things push me to take care of my work before I took care of my husband,” I looked at him.
He finished writing, putting his pen down, “I appreciate you, Whitley,” he looked me in my eyes.
“I appreciate you, too, Dwayne.”
“What do you appreciate about me?”
“You first. You cheated, you have more to prove.”
He chuckled, shaking his head, “Okay, the first thing I appreciate is how protective you are of me. I appreciate the way you take care of our two beautiful children. I appreciate the way you take care of yourself and look good every second of the day without even trying.”
I blushed, looking down.
“I appreciate how faithful you are to me. And I appreciate all the love you give me even when you’re upset with me.”
“That was sweet, Dwayne,” I half smiled at him.
“Thank you,” he smiled back.
“Now here’s my list. I appreciate how smart you are. I appreciate how you spend time with the children because having a good relationship with your father is such an important thing. I appreciate that no matter how difficult I can be, you have the patience to make things right. I appreciate you getting me this beautiful house. And I appreciate you stopping that wedding. I was hoping you would the second I put on that wedding dress,” I looked up at him, my first time ever admitting it to him.
“Really? You made it seem like you realized I was who you wanted once I got to the alter.”
“No,” I shook my head, “You were always who I wanted. I was praying you’d stop me. You came to the house to talk to me the night before. In my head I was begging for you to tell me not to go through with it. I was even hoping Kim would stop me. I wanted you but I didn’t want to face it.”
“Wow. I would’ve never known, the way you moved on so easily.”
“Oh, please. Every date you had after we split, I was always so jealous and angry. Even while I was with Byron.”
“You remember when you were with Byron and I came over your place to get the rest of my things?” He smirked.
I blushed, covering my face with my hands, “Oh, god.”
“Mhm,” he smirked, “Had you screaming my name an hour later,” he chuckled, “That was one my favorite days with you.”
I laughed, “That was only one of your favorite days because I was dating Byron and you liked the fact that I had a man, yet I couldn’t resist you.”
He smiled, “That’s very accurate. It assured me that somewhere in that heart you still loved me.”
“I never stopped, Dwayne,” I smiled at him.
“You had to, cause I’m still on this couch.”
I smirked, getting up off the couch, “You’re on this couch for other reasons. You’ll be able to get back into bed soon, though. Soon.”
End of Flashback
I finished making Dwayne’s egg white omelette with toast, mine was already made. We started eating a little less heavy after the kids, to avoid being unhealthy.
“Dwayne!” I called out to him, opening the fridge.
“Dwayne!” I called out again.
“Hmm?” I heard him groan.
I placed the carton of orange juice on the counter. I walked over to him, “Your breakfast is ready. Wake up.”
“Okay,” he mumbled, his eyes still closed.
“Dwayne,” I said sternly.
“I’m up, I’m up,” he slightly opened his eyes.
“Go freshen up, so we can eat.”
“Together?” He looked up at me, stretching.
“Yes. We’re trying to get this marriage back on track, right? Come on.”
“Okay, okay,” he sat up.
I walked over to the counter, to pour us some orange juice. I listened as he went over to our bathroom in our room. He didn’t sleep with me but all his stuff was still in our room & bathroom.
I had everything set up on the table. I just sat, waiting for him to join me.
He walked over and sat down in front of him plate, “Oh, thank you,” he looked at his food and smiled, “I’m surprised.”
“What is there to be surprised about? I always make you food.”
“Yes, you do, but… you haven’t sat down at a table with me in forever,” he smiled as he started to eat.
“Yea, well, I can’t put all the pressure on you to make things better. I gotta at least attempt to get over my anger and help things get better, too,” I took a bite of the toast.
“Thank you. And guess what?”
“Kinishewa approved the transfer. I can start back in their Virginia office this Wednesday.”
“You go, boy,” I smirked.
He laughed, “Thank you, thank you. How’s things going with E.H Wright?”
“They’re still seeing if they can get a position to put me in.”
“They’re gonna let someone go for you?”
“They said they’re planning on letting a few people go, anyway. So when everything is final, they’ll call me,” I started to eat my omelette.
“Okay, okay, that’s good,” he drank some of his orange juice, “You look beautiful this morning.”
“I always look beautiful, Dwayne,” I smirked as I ate.
“That is true, but it’s nice to see you not pout all day. Happiness looks lovely on you.”
“I’m semi-happy, don’t push it.”
He chuckled, “Semi-happy?”
“Yes, semi-happy,” I raised an eyebrow.
He shook his head, “You’re something else.”
The doorbell rang and I just knew it was my babies.
Me and Dwayne both jumped up as soon as we heard it. We both made our way to the door, he letting me open it.
Both kids ran to us. Aiko ran to Dwayne and DJ ran to me. DJ hugged me tight but I couldn’t help but notice that Aiko’s hair was pressed. Immediately, I knew today wasn’t going to be a good one.
I didn’t let what I noticed ruin my happiness to see my kids, though. I hugged DJ back, holding him so tight to me. I haven’t seen him in a week.
“Mama, you’re squeezing me,” DJ said muffled into my chest.
I laughed, “I’m so sorry, baby, I just missed you,” my hand brushed his cheek. He looks so much like his daddy.
“I missed you, too,” he smiled until he looked around, “This is our new house?!” He looked shocked.
“Yes, baby, and your room is upstairs, already made for you and everything. You wanna go see?”
“Yes!” He smiled big.
“Okay, but just hold on and wait for-”
It was like he tuned me right out because I never seen him run up a flight of steps so quickly.
I shook my head, “Hi, mother,” I looked at my mom before reaching to hug her.
She hugged back, apprehensively. She knew I was upset with her. She just knew. She half smiled, “Hello, dear. The house looks lovely.”
“Thank you,” I looked at Dwayne who was holding Aiko.
Dwayne kissed her cheek, “How’s my beautiful princess?”
“Good,” she smiled putting her little arms around Dwayne’s neck.
“You’re not gonna give your Mama a hug, too?” I faked a pout.
She giggled, “No, mama, don’t cry,” she reached her arms out to me.
I smiled as Dwayne handed her to me, “You’re looking adorable,” I held her in my arms.
Dwayne greeted my mother, giving her a respectful hug and kiss on the cheek. He looked at me, “Where did my boy go?”
“To check out his room. Make sure he’s in the right room, please.”
“No problem,” he ran upstairs.
I’m sure they will be up there for at least an hour. They always end up playing a video game together whenever they’re spending time with one another.
I looked at my mom, “You straightened her hair?” I held Aiko, touching a strand of her long hair. I never noticed how long it was.
“Don’t you like it, Mama? Now my hair kind of looks like yours,” she smiled.
“Yes, baby, it’s gorgeous,” I smiled at Aiko before looking at my mother, “You didn’t ask my permission to do this.”
“Oh, Whitley, come on. It wasn’t a relaxer, I just got it pressed. No big deal. Now will you show me around the house or not?”
“Okay, I’ll show you around but this conversation is not over.”
My mother rolled her eyes. I was furious. This is exactly what I did not want for Aiko. I want Aiko to love her natural self, not feel the need to change to be beautiful. I took a deep breath to calm myself before deciding to walk my mom around the new house.
And of course, she’s never pleased. I could’ve always renovated something better or matched the throw pillows with the couch better or some bullshit. She didn’t like how I decorated Aiko’s room nor was she too please about DJ’s room. She insisted that she redecorate the guest room as she’s so sure that she’d be the person in it more often than anybody else but I told her she could do that another time. The only room she seemed to like was me and Dwayne’s. But she hated our bathroom decor, but that’s fine.
“You could’ve spruced it up a little better, but in all, it’s okay,” she sat on the couch.
I had Aiko on my lap, “Mother, do you have to dislike everything?”
“I’m just saying, Whitley, you’ve could’ve done better. It’s all coming from a good place to see you do great.”
Dwayne walked into the kitchen. I looked over at him, “What are you gonna try and sneak upstairs?” I said a little louder so he could hear me.
He looked over the island, “Come on, we’re a little thirsty. I’ll just take two juice boxes up there.”
“Make that three. Would you mind taking Aiko upstairs with you?”
“That’s fine,” he went into the fridge.
I looked at my mom, “Hold on, mother,” I got up and walked to the kitchen with Aiko in my hand. I handed her over to Dwayne.
“You’re gonna hold one of these for me, okay?” He handed Aiko one of the juice boxes.
“Okay,” she opened her hand and grabbed it.
I whispered to Dwayne, “You know I’m furious about this,” I looked at Aiko’s hair then back at Dwayne.
“Talk to her about it,” he whispered back.
I nodded, “I will,” I mouthed. I made my way back over to my mother, hearing Dwayne make his way back upstairs.
She was waiting patiently, a small smile on her face.
I sat down on the couch, “Mother, about Aiko’s hair-”
“Oh, honey, you guys don’t have any wine in this house?” She stood up, looking towards the kitchen.
I gave a frustrated sigh, “Mother, I’m trying to talk to you about-”
“Yes, yes, I know what this conversation is going to be about. I just know I’m going to need a glass of wine to endure it.”
“Whatever you say,” I sighed and got up, leading her to the kitchen.
“Thank you very much, sweetheart.”
I stayed quiet. I walked over to the cupboard where we store our wine & wine glasses, and took one glass out. I took down a bottle of wine, too. I filled it up halfway before stopping.
“To the top, darling,” my mother commented.
“You’re not getting drunk with my children in the house.”
“I know how to handle myself. To the top, Whitley.”
I sighed in frustration, filling the glass to the top with wine.
“Thank you,” my mom smiled, “I can tell this isn’t of much quality, so I need a little more to substitute,” she sat down at the small table in the kitchen.
“Mhm,” I sat down with her, “So, now, about my daughter’s hair..”
“Mhm?” She sipped on the wine.
I came downstairs, a little worried about how Whitley was doing. I know this is a sensitive subject for her and she doesn’t play when it comes to people trying to change Aiko’s appearance or say mean things about her for it. I also know Marion intimidates Whitley way too much and most times Whitley backs down in fear of losing her mother. I just hope that changes tonight. I stood by the staircase, listening and peeking over into the kitchen.
“Why?” Whitley looked at her mother.
“Why what?” Marion had a large glass of wine in her hand.
“Why’d you get it straightened? I told you that’s not what I wanted.”
“You told me you didn’t want to chemically relax her hair, you didn’t say a thing about using heat to do it.”
“Mother, really? I think I was very straightforward about not wanting to damage my daughter’s hair.”
“It’s not. Whitley, how many times do I have to tell you there’s no chemicals?” Marion took a sip of her wine.
“Oh, please,” Whitley rolled her eyes, “You really think putting flat irons and hot combs to my three year old daughter’s hair isn’t going to damage it? Her hair isn’t even mature enough for that. You could’ve permanently damaged her hair for good.”
“Whitley, hair grows,” she nonchalantly looked at Whitley.
“In case you don’t know, my daughter has wild, curly hair. My daughter’s hair is much more delicate than my own, and needs to be treated in a much more delicate way. It needs to be loved in a more delicate way. So, no, I can’t just throw a hot comb in her hair and just say hair grows. She’s too young.”
“Okay, so then wash it and it’ll be just how you like it, again! Why does this bother you so much?!”
“Because I’m tired of you! I’m tired of you putting your opinions where they don’t belong. I’m tired of you controlling every aspect of my life.”
I smiled to myself. That’s my girl.
“Oh, I didn’t control a thing. You married that poor man, didn’t you?”
I scoffed quietly, shaking my head. I know Marion doesn’t like me as much as she pretends to. I wasn’t her preference in who Whitley married. She wanted Byron.
“Why do you keep calling Dwayne poor? Who do you think paid for this house?”
Marion was quiet. She drank her glass till it was empty. She stood up to pour herself another glass.
“Mother, just because Dwayne doesn’t have inherited wealth and the lineage you would’ve liked doesn’t make him poor. We have so much since Tokyo, he’s done way more than you’d like to admit-”
“Including cheat on you,” Marion sat down with another glass. She sipped it.
“Don’t you throw that in my face,” Whitley’s voice became a little more hostile. She was getting angry but trying to respect her mother and not yell.
“Fine,” she continued to drink.
“I’m tired of you talking to me like I have no feelings and everything you say must happen. I don’t care if you don’t like my house decorations, I don’t care if you don’t like my husband, and I do not care if you don’t like my children’s skin and hair. I’m sorry they aren’t the way you hoped they’d be.”
“Oh, Whitley, spare me. You think I don’t know how hard it is to be a black girl? Yes, I’m a little snobby here and there, but I’ve experienced things, too. Why do you think I’ve tried so hard to get the things I have now? Why do you think I married your father? Yes, I loved him, but he was able to give me and my daughter a life that was better than the one I grew up in. And I made sure that my daughter didn’t have the same hardships as me. I made sure my daughter wouldn’t have to be teased for her dark skin and her kinky hair and wouldn’t be looked at as just another black girl with an attitude. Why didn’t you want that for your children? I don’t understand.”
“Because you’re not proud of who you are and that’s why you made sure I was far from it! But I don’t want to be like you, mother. I don’t want to make sure that my daughter has light skin and loose curls and all those things. I wanted to have kids with the man that loved me, rich or poor. I wanted to have kids that reminded me of my man, because they would be proof of our love. Dark, light, kinky hair, or loose hair, I’d love them. And teach them to love themselves.”
The conversation was getting a little heated so I decided maybe to come in and loosen the tension.
I walked into the kitchen making my to where Whitley was sitting, “Hey, Whitley, is it okay if-”
“Well, I’m happy it was so easy for you to make the decisions you did,” Marion slurred slightly, cutting me off.
I stood next to Whitley’s chair, looking at how drunk these two glasses of wine really got Marion.
“But it wasn’t easy for me. Asking Mercer to take in a child that he knew wasn’t his and love her as his own wasn’t easy!”
My mouth dropped. Did she just say what I heard her say?
Whitley scoffed in disbelief, “What?”
“Mercer wanted me for years and once I got pregnant with you, he’s who I ran to because I knew he’d be able to support us in a way I couldn’t do on my own,” Marion didn’t even know she was spilling out such words.
“Mother, what are you saying?” Her voice cracked. She sounded like she wanted to cry.
I rested a hand on her shoulder, preparing to hear news that wasn’t going to be good.
“Well, years and years ago, I was infatuated with this white man from Normandy, France,” she smiled as if she was reminiscing, “He was living in Virginia for business opportunities and once we got together, we traveled all of France. I met his family over there, we saw the Eiffel Tower in Paris. We spent months in hotels, just exploring the country and he was so proud to show me off,” her smile faded as she took another sip of her wine, “And once I realized I was pregnant he just… disappeared. So I did what I had to do.”
Tears were running down Whitley’s face, “So you’re saying daddy’s not my father?”