some hot messes in a garden

so, my buddy littledivinity and i have been talking beauty & the beast a lot, because ‘tis the season, and we somehow stumbled upon the idea of the story being told about a middle aged belle and the beast instead of youngins, and how that would make the story even more resonant.

and then just now i randomly thought, “what if nicole kidman and ewan mcgregor starred in such a film?”, because my soul needs nicole kidman and ewan mcgregor to fall in love again on a movie screen like it needs few other things in this life. plus, you know, musical, bright colors, awesomeness, hurrah!

and then i thought, ‘but wait, actually, what i really want in this life, even more than brightly colored musicals, is more lowkey and lovely fairytale movies like exquisite and incomparable 1998 masterpiece ever after

and just picture it!

nicole kidman is the longtime spinster school teacher who lives in a quaint vaguely magical 19th century-esque country village, but she’s a badass teacher who exposes her students to different philosophies of thought and probably takes them outside for nature studies and calisthenics. (so, basically, miss stacy from anne of green gables.) the school board hates her, probably, and is very suspicious of what kind of IDEAS she’s filling the local kids’ heads with (why does she keep saying it’s okay for girls not to want to be wives and mothers, or that it’s all right for boys to cry???? is it possible that she is A WITCH???), but her parents were very well regarded in the town when they were still alive and so that bought her some respect for awhile. but there’s a new fancy schmancy family with school aged kids in town, and they’re extremely disapproving of miss nicole, and trying to find a way to oust her as schoolteacher and replace her with a man who is probably very similar in temperament to mr. collins from pride & prejudice. a man who will put patriarchal gender roles back into childhood education!

meanwhile, ewan mcgregor is a grumpy old hermit duke or something who once had great wealth and privilege but has fallen into disrepair. maybe someone cursed (magically? complicated vengeance-ly, a la the count of monte cristo? who knows) his family long ago due to their shady rich people business dealings, and his father killed himself to escape the scandal and his mother died of heartbreak and his fiancee who he thought loved him steadfastly dumped him to marry another, and now ewan’s the last surviving member of his once-great family and he just lives alone this grand old manor house that has gone totally to seed. he isn’t an actual beast, because it seems like in this day and age that’s going to require levels of CGI that my quaint b&tb retelling movie just don’t need, but let’s say that he’s quite unshaven and dirty and generally off-putting and he sometimes ventures out into the forest that separates his estate from the village, but is never seen actually frequenting the village. there are abundant rumors that the forest and manor house are haunted by a beast/ghost/warlock/vampire (how does he SURVIVE if he doesn’t come to the weekly market for food???), and everyone knows you don’t go there. also, people like to gossip a ton about his family and the scandal even though it was decades ago and they all dead. because people suck.

so one night, some of nicole’s rowdy teen pupils maybe steal some wine from one of their parents’ liquor cabinets and venture into the woods and dare each other to go past the gate of his manor house, and he catches them at it and gets HELLA PISSED @ THESE UPPITY HOOLIGANS INVADING HIS PROPERTY. kids today!!!!!!!!! he probably locks them in the stables so he can deliver them a 5 hour lecture on why they suck, and also why all of humanity sucks. which isn’t the worst fate ever, but, like, he kind of looks like a straight up crazy ax murderer (crazy hair! crazy beard! tattered clothes! definitely hasn’t bathed this month!!!), so there’s some serious panic in the hearts of these kids.

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How to Make Dat Gumbo

A long while back I posted some pictures of various bits of my gumbo making. Since then I’ve had a few folks ask for the recipe - and because I just whipped up a fresh batch for Mardi Gras I thought I’d put together a proper how-to.

So here goes! 


First, the Bona Fides

It goes without saying that there are lots and lots of recipes for gumbo. Okra / no okra, filé / no filé, sausage / no sausage, etc.  I can’t speak to anyone else’s tradition (other than to say that they are all wrong).  I can only share our own.  

This particular gumbo has its roots in the Louisiana Sunday suppers served to my pops in his youth by the Sisters of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church.  

I will submit that, whatever your preconceived notions, if this gumbo was good enough for my dad, those Nuns and the baby Jesus it is good enough for you.

I have eaten this recipe my whole life and never known my father to deviate from it, but for the occasional dash of filé, which, let’s be real honest, you probably don’t have handy and I can assure you that you will not miss.


The Ingredients

  • 6 to 8 pieces of chicken (I am partial to thighs).
  • 2 and ½ cups of flour.
  • 2 cups of vegetable oil or the equivalent (butter, bacon grease, etc).
  • 64 oz / 2 containers of chicken broth.
  • 1 teaspoon or so of salt.
  • 1 absurdly large onion (for the gumbo).
  • 1 medium sized onion (for the stock).
  • 1 package of celery - five or six stalks
  • 7 or 8 bunches of green onions - as many as you can hold in your hands.
  • 1 green bell pepper of which you will promise to not use more than ½.
  • 1 to 2 pounds of large shrimp, shelled.  Fresh or frozen, your choice.
  • Additional salt and pepper to taste.

Ready? Let’s Get Started!

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Chapter 7: Living A Lie

Robyn POV:

I finished washing the dishes from the breakfast I made. I can get used to getting up and doing this for my man before he goes to work. I really like Michael; he’s sweet, compassionate, honest, handsome, respectful I can go on and on. He seems to have all the qualities I’m looking for in a man and that is the problem. He seems to be too perfect, maybe more than someone like me deserves.

“Robyn get it together. Just accept the fact that Michael is a great man, and stop looking for a problem all the time.” I said to myself.

I walked upstairs and shook those thoughts out my head as I began to start my day. As I was showering I started to think about last night and what could have happened. What if Michael walked outside and saw Chris? What would have happened then? Would his opinion of me change if he found out I was involved with a married pastor for almost a year? That’s a question I don’t want to find out the answer to. I feel he doesn’t need to know that.

Then my mind went to Chris and his actions. I had to call him today to check on him; because getting wasted and acting the way he did was so out of his character. I think we need to have a sit down or at least a good conversation. More than anything I want him to be ok, because despite everything I do love him, but we just can’t be together right now.

I stepped out the shower and got dressed in a crop top and jeans and put on my pair of Jordan 12 Retros. I grabbed my phone and called Mel as I headed out the door. I got in my car and after four rings she answered.

“Hey boo” she said in a cheerful tone.

“Hey girl, you sound happy what’s going on?”

“Nothing, Mijo is taking me on a vacation so I’m about to start packing”

“Awww that’s nice. Where are y’all going?”

“Dominican Republic and you know what that means?”

“What?” I said laughing because if I know my best friend I already know what she’s about to say.

“Lots of late night love making on the beach bitch” she said and I continued laughing loudly. We are just alike.

“Aight don’t come back with a mini Mijo in your stomach”

“Not happening, but what you up to sis?”

“Nothing much I was actually calling to see if you wanted to hang out after I get done at the boutique. Like go shopping or something; then grab lunch but you’re busy so nevermind”

“Oh no sis I’m down. I need to find some new bikinis and stuff anyway. Besides we’re not leaving until early in the morning.”

“Ok good because I have to tell you what happened last night”

“Oh Lord what happened?”

“You won’t believe it but I’ll tell you when we meet up. Is 3pm fine?”

“Damn that crazy huh? And yea that’s cool”

“You have no idea and ok I’ll call you when I’m on my way?”

“Ok bye love”

“Bye” I said and we hung up. Shortly I pulled up to my store around 10 and parked in my spot. I walked in to see my employees already hard at work straightening up and hanging up new items before we open at 11.

“Hey everyone, how have y’all been?” I said.

“Great, it’s good to see you.”

“Yea I’ve been busy with other store.”

“How is that coming along?” one of the employees asked.

“Really good, you all will be at the Grand Opening, right?” I said and they all nodded in unison.

“Ok I’ll be in the back if y’all need anything” I said walking to my office.

 I closed the door and sat at my desk. I wonder if it’s too early to go ahead and call Chris. Might as well and if he doesn’t answer he can call back. I propped my feet up on my desk and dialed his number. I wasn’t expecting him to answer because I figured he’d be sleep, but to my surprise he did.

“Hello” he said in a groggy tone.

“Hey Chris its Robyn”

“Oh hi…hey hold on” he said and I heard him press a button, then I heard vomiting. I guess he thought he pressed the mute button. He ran some water I assume to brush his teeth. I started chuckling because maybe this will teach him a well needed lesson.

“What’s funny?” he said cutting off my laughter.

“Oh ummm nothing. How are you feeling?”

“Not that great. My head hurts like hell and I’ve been up for almost an hour throwing up but I think I’m done with that now.”

“What made you get drunk like that anyways? You know that’s not like you”

“Since Kelly and the kids are out of town I decided to go out with my friends for the first time in a long time, and things got out of control.” He said and I nodded as if he could see me. 

“Do you remember what you did last night?”

“Yea and I’m sorry for acting like that. I know I was a mess.”

“Yes the hell you were sir. A hot ass mess to be exact.”

“Ok…ok I get it”

“Yea sure, but anyways do you need anything? I’ll be heading over to Mel’s place and her condo is passed your house so I’ll be over that way.”

“Yea I’m hungry but when were you coming?”

“In a few hours”

“Oh well I’ll just fix a snack or something until you come”

“What do you want?”

“I don’t know, probably some soup or something would be best considering my current state”

“Ok I’ll stop by Olive Garden and get you something.”

“Thank you”

“No problem Christopher. I’ll call you when I’m on my way.” I said about to hang up.

“And Robyn…”

“Yes?”

“I love you” he said. Oh God he just had to say that. I’m not surprised but now what do I say. I know what I want to say but I shouldn’t.

“Umm…yea…love you too bye” I said hanging up.

The rest of the day I spent in my office going back and forth between doing paperwork for the people I hired for the other store, organizing things for the store opening, and working on some designs. I will be showcasing and selling some of my designs at the opening, and I’m excited about that.

I looked at my watch and it was 2:30. I grabbed my things and walked out the door. I know I won’t make to Mel’s by 3pm so I texted her letting her know I’ll be late.  I called the restaurant and placed my order for pick up. I got the food and headed to his house. I felt a knot at the pit of my stomach and I don’t know why. I arrived and got out the car and rang the doorbell. I stood there looking around at my surroundings, praying that no one sees me. I haven’t been here since Kelly invited some of us over for dinner once.

“Hey” he said startling me as he emerged at the door shirtless. I know he did that on purpose because he knows how I am.

“Hey here’s your food” I said handing him the bag.

“Oh thanks, do you want to come in for a minute?” He said moving out the way.

“Only for a minute. I have to go pick up Mel.” I said stepping over the threshold. I walked into the living room with Chris behind me and sat down. It feels so awkward and wrong to be here right now. Chris began to eat his food as we sat in silence.

“This is really good Robz, thank you again. How much do I owe you?” he said and I gave him a straight face.

“Really Chris? You don’t owe me anything.”

“I actually owe you a lot but ok”

“Yea well I just came to check on you and make sure you were alright.”

“And I appreciate you doing that because you didn’t have to.”

“How could I not after seeing you like that? Only a heartless person wouldn’t give a fuck and plus I had to make sure your ass wasn’t passed out in the bushes in the front yard or somewhere else.”

“I guess that’s true” he said laughing and I laughed as well.

“What happened with us baby girl?” he said out of nowhere.

“I don’t know. I just got tired of waiting.”

“You know it wasn’t my intention to have you wait for me. I was just…” he said and paused.

“You were just what?”

“I was just having a tough time with the entire situation and confused, but when you walked away from me in that church….” He started to say but I interrupted him.

“I’m actually sorry about doing that. That wasn’t the appropriate time or place to break things off. I should have been more sensitive, but I felt if I didn’t do it right there then I wouldn’t have done it and I needed to do it for me and also for you.”

“No need to apologize and what do you mean for me?”

“I don’t know like to take some stress off of you and make your decision easier I guess.” I said but he didn’t say anything.

“I better get going before Melissa call me asking where the hell I am. Before I leave you’re good, right? You don’t need anything else before I go?” I said standing up.

“Nah I’m good” he said standing up as well and we walked to the door.

“I’ll talk to you later, bye.” I said walking out and he grabbed my arm pulling me close to him, so close our faces were almost touching.

“Ok talk to you later Robyn, and once again thanks.” I stared at his lips as he spoke every word, not noticing he had been let go of my arm.

“Y-yea you’re welcome bye.” I said stepping back and speed walking to my car.

I got to Mel’s house in 20 minutes and I called letting her know I was outside. She walked out and got in.

“Hey Robz”

“Hey Melly”

“So where to? The mall or lunch first?”

“Lunch so we can talk”

“Ok good ‘cause I am hungry” she said.

We got to Chilli’s and were seated. We ordered our drinks and food.

“So tell me what happened last night sis”

“Oh girl you won’t believe it. So Michael came over and we were hanging out. He went upstairs to find a movie for us to watch and I went to kitchen to make us something to eat. Girl while I’m on my way to the kitchen I hear some noises outside so I look out the window and it’s Chris’ ass on my front lawn drunk and yelling.” I said and her mouth dropped.

“Biiiitch you’re lying to me.” She said slightly chuckling and shook my head taking a sip of my drink.

“It ain’t funny Mel. Do you know how scared I was that Michael would walk outside and see him?”

“Ok I’m sorry so then what happened?” she asked and I continued telling her the rest of story.

“I really don’t know what to say other than I’m shocked because that ain’t him.”

“Shit I know it ain’t”

“Are you going to tell Michael about your affair with pastor though?”

“No, why should I? Chris and I aren’t together.”

“What if he somehow finds out?”

“He won’t” I said.

“Whatever you say Robs.”

“I told him I loved him today” I said.

“You told who that? Michael?” she questioned.

“No, Chris it’s too soon for me to love Mike” I said and she nodded.

“Oh why? Not that I’m shocked by that.”

“Because he said it first”

“And because you’re still in love with him”

“That doesn’t mean I want to be back with him.” I said and she just shrugged.

We finished eating and headed to the mall. Mel picked out some nice swimsuits and I got a nice dress for tonight when Michael cooks me dinner. I dropped Mel off and headed home to get ready.

Michael POV:

I’m ecstatic about Robyn’s and I date tonight. She’s taking her time and slowly but surely I’m peeling back her rough exterior, exposing something beautiful more and more each day and each time we spend together is amazing.

I draw my blinds down, to my office overlooking the city, twisting the string completely closing them for security and privacy. Today was exhausting so I’m ready to head home.

I neatly place my files in the cabinet scanning my office once more checking to see if anything was out of order. I headed to my door, but I swiftly stopped in my tracks remembering there’s a phone call I have to make.

I sit in my plush leather chair reclining back comfortably and loosening my gray tie. I dialed the number in anticipation of hearing her voice.

I place the phone on speaker and she shortly answered after two rings. Static and muffled sounds echoed and I heard someone say it’s him.

“Hi I miss you” her sweet voice was upbeat and eager causing my heart rate to go up. She is the true owner of my heart.

“I miss you more. How have you been? You know you’re still my number one girl?” I inquired smiling and visualizing the look of pride she has on her face.

“Yes I know I will always love you because you’re my number one guy forever”

“Is there anything you need? Are you guys ok? I will have someone cover for me if you need anything”

“We’re fine and I’m very good. I wish I can see you it’s been a long time. When are you visiting again?”

I really didn’t know how to answer her question. I can’t just drop everything but I will go visit them soon enough.

"Soon I promise sweetie. I know I haven’t been around as much as I was but a lot of things went on and changed, but I still love you all very much.” I stroke my chin hairs to relax my nerves, if only this ordeal were easier.

I looked at my watch and time was winding down. I didn’t want to be late for me and Robyn’s dinner date. I also have to pick up my Tuxedo from Mrs. Fannie’s Cleaners.

“I love you sweetheart but I have to finish up in the office and I have an engagement I’m attending tonight. I love you and I will see you soon. I promise these phone calls will end. I will be there in the flesh".

“I love you more and ok" Our conversation ended and I gathered my briefcase and other belongings walking out of my office to my car. I stopped by the cleaners and sped home to get ready for my night with my queen.

Chris POV:

I shot a basket barely missing. It bounced off the rim and landed directly into Mijo’s hands. We are catching up before his flight leaves in the morning.

“So you mean to tell me when I put your high yellow ass in a taxi, instead of going home you free ran to my sister Robyn’s house”

Mijo stated resuming our conversation from the car on our way over here. I laughed when he said free run because it’s a term we made up in high school when we chased someone we really cared about we called it free running.

“Man I’m still embarrassed from that crazy shit. I was out of it but she thinks her ass is slick too.” I said and raised my eyebrow remembering something.

“What do you mean Chris?”

“Her ass had company Barry. I remember seeing three cars in the driveway and she only has two.” Mijo gave me a crazy look shooting the basket.

“Y’all not together though and you were drunk man, maybe you were seeing double nigga. You were extremely wasted Brown”

“I know what the hell I saw Mijo I’m not bugging. It was probably that pretty boy Floyd. You know that dude Michael she brought in my church, defying me. That nigga wants to be me so bad.“

"Listen to yourself Chris. You are a pastor so what do you mean defy you nigga you aren’t God. What do you expect Robyn to do, wait forever? You’re married with kids” This nigga is supposed to be my brother and on my damn side. What’s up with the 3rd degree?

“Mijo, nigga did Mel tell you that? You are supposed to be my right hand man. Not taking Robyn’s side”

“Chris you know you’re my brother but I’m all for the right side. Yes Ray Charles could see you love Robyn with all your heart. Mel says she still misses you but she is afraid and tired of waiting. What are you going to do Chris?” he said and I thought.

Shit I don’t know why life is so complicated and people are constantly riding my back. Kelly has held me down from the start; she was the one who encouraged me to be a pastor. I was a lover of sports and the arts but I made a foolish mistake and I did the right thing.

Kelly gave me two beautiful children and I’m forever in debt to her for that. Robyn understands me like no other, she is my twin soul. I released my signature fade away shot as my thought wandered.

"It’s good it’s all good. Brown with the jumper from half court and the crowd goes wild” Mijo imitated a sports caster reminding me of simpler times.

We shot around the ball for an hour and we both headed home.

Afterwards I wished him a safe flight and Mel too. She makes my brother happy. I hope he doesn’t have too much fun they screw like jack rabbits.

Robyn POV:

I slipped on my dress and checked myself out in the mirror. Damn I look good if I do say so myself. I know Michael will love it. I sprayed on some perfume and grabbed my things heading out the door. I stopped by the liquor store and picked up something for us to drink, even though I know he more than likely already has some.

I made it to his house and rang doorbell. He opened it looking so fine in his suit.

“Hey baby you look beyond beautiful.” He said allowing me inside and spinning me around.

“You do too.” I said wrapping my arms around his neck and kissing him, which shortly turned into a make out session. I almost dropped the wine I had in my hand.

“Aight stop playing girl before you get something started.” He said pulling back.

“What if I want to get something started.” I said jokily but in a seductive tone, staring in his eyes.

“It’s too soon remember.” He replied biting his bottom lip. At this point the way he was looking I didn’t care if it was too soon, but I need to take this slow.

“Right and I brought something” I said holding up the wine.

“Oh I’m happy you got some because that’s the one thing I forgot. Let me go put this in some ice while I finish dinner. It’ll be finish soon.” He said.

“What did you cook?”

“You’ll see babe just go relax.” He said walking towards the kitchen.

I turned and started to walk towards the living room but stopped in amazement. I didn’t notice it at first when I walked in but there were lit candles and roses everywhere. It was gorgeous; I know he put a lot of effort into this.

“You like it?” He said coming behind me.

“I love it, it’s beautiful”

“Good and dinner is ready” he grabbed my hand and escorted me to the diner room, which was decorated as well. He pulled my chair out for me and I sat down. He went back into the kitchen and came back with our plates.

“Baby this looks and smells so damn good.” He made shrimp fettuccini alfredo, steamed asparagus, baked French bread, and scallops.

“Yea wait until you taste it.” He said and I took a bite. I think my eyes rolled at the back of my head. This was so good.

“Is it good babe?” I didn’t even say anything. I just gave him a thumbs up.

“I told you your man can throw down.”

“That you can babe that you can” I said as I continued eating. I finished my plate and was full as hell.

“Come here baby I got a surprise for you. We can eat dessert later.” he said grabbing my hand and taking me to the room where the piano was.

“What are you about to do? You can’t sing” I said laughing.

“Just come sit next to me” he said and I sat next to him at the piano.

He started a familiar tune and began to sing while staring in my eyes. I was in shock.

Verse 1:

When I’m with you, I hear a sound
That makes me laugh and smile and sing to you
When I’m with you, I feel so free
I feel that love is going to take control of me

Chorus:

When I’m with you
It’s for real
What I feel
When I’m with you, uh-huh

Verse 2:

When I’m with you, I wonder why
People do stop and stare and smile at us
When I’m with you, the sun shines my way
Baby, our love reflects its rays of light on everyone in the world

He continued serenading me, not breaking eye contact. “When I’m With You” is one of my favorite songs so I was enjoying this. He finished and I hugged him.

“That was amazing. I loved it.” I said and pecked his lips.

“You’re not the only one who has some pipes.”

“I see.”

“Ready for dessert?”

“Yes” I said. We ate dessert and the rest of the night we cuddled, talked, and laughed. This has been a great night.