This was not going to go over well.
She’d gone through a million words, a thousand phrases, to somehow contrive a way to convey her thoughts in a manner that wouldn’t cause immediate ire.
The time on her phone told Jade she had less than ten minutes to decide what she was going to say.
She’d called Nigel to meet her at this small, nameless coney island in Taylor, miles from Detroit and anyone who would care or be informed enough to recognize the wife of any Detroit politician.
Not so far though so that she couldn’t get back within a half-hour if Nate was to need her.
The small restaurant was just crowded enough, limp-haired blondes and brunettes feeding their equally limp-haired children. Worn flip flops and dingy tanks with words like “Hooters” and “Guns N’ Roses” on them seemed to be the going uniform.
No one cared who she was. She was just another pregnant black girl to these folks. Good. That meant no one would be paying attention to them. And no one would overhear the very personal public conversation she was about to have with him.
At least he’d have to control his anger, his voice, his emotions, here around strangers.
Her head turned to each side of her slowly, big frame shades covering her brown eyes. Noticed the elderly white couple in the left corner, gray hair and varicose-veined-hands picking over country omelets, still touching ever so often, still in love.
Years ago, she’d have rolled her eyes and proclaimed with indignation her views on the probability of growing old with someone.
Now, her soul sang the song of one who was starving for that kind of love. That wanted nothing more than to marry its mate and hide away in that feeling until she was a silver-haired beauty.
Black don’t crack, after all.
She looked down at her small hands, the extravagant ring taking up much too much space on the left one.
It looked out of place. A glass slipper on a lowly maidens foot.
A coat of moisture gathered on her palms, dew settling on a new dawn.
She was afraid.
She was sad.
She was confused. It was all too much.
Early morning. A fresh sun just making it’s way to this side of town, rays peaking cautiously through the big windows to her right like a peeping tom. She’d told Nathaniel she was going to see her mom for a couple of hours, and then to run a few errands. That allowed for plenty of time to hash out whatever rebuttal points Nigel might counter with.
Suddenly her ten minutes were up and the glass door on the opposite end of the small restaurant swung open, a loud clanging of the collection of almost-rusted bells hanging on it announcing his entrance. He didn’t break his long-legged stride until he was at the booth she rested in, the bland formica tabletop sighing under the weight of his arms as he slid in across from her.
Nigel’s smile was a thousand miles, a thousand watts.
“Hey love.” She muttered, her expression an awkward mix of joy and pain.
“Hey sweetheart. Breakfast at sunrise? We haven’t done this since New York.” He reached across the table, caressed her hand, covered the bright diamond.
She took a deep breath, stared at Nigel. Exhaled.
“What’s wrong Jade? Is it Nate?” His smile disappeared, face instantly became one of worry as he noticed her uneasiness.
“This isn’t easy, Nigel. So I’m just going to say it.” She breathed. Drew her hand back to her side of the table. “I don’t want this baby.”
Tears welled. Damnit. She didn’t want to cry.
He was startled, as if she’d just struck him clear across his face with the palm of her hand, as if she couldn’t be serious. As if this was the very last thing he’d expected her to say.
Then he connected, saw her eyes.
“What do you mean?” He kept his voice even. His eyes honed in tight with confusion.
“I mean, I’m going to have an abortion.”
His head was shaking slowly, rejecting the words she’d just let free.
She repeated herself, slower this time. More regret pooled in her eyes.
Nigel’s hand traveled up to his chest, covered his heart. Brows drew together like magnets between his dewy eyes. “This is a nightmare, right? I’m about to wake in my home and find everything is normal and you’ve never told me you want to kill my child, right?”
“I’m sorry, Nigel. I’m not ready for all this. I don’t want this. Do you realize our situation?”
Hatred spread across Nigel’s features, his stare became dark.
Inside, he could feel his heart ripping, one millimeter at a time. She could never un-say this. Never take those words back. Denying his child was denying him. Denying them. And all the risk he’d been taking for all these months.
“Fuck.” He was almost unable to speak. Anger and sadness competed for sole propriety of his emotions. He looked at Jades face, sunglasses removed, a constant stream of tears flowing now. Her ringed-hand swiping unsuccessfully. “You’re almost four months pregnant, Jade. You can’t.” He tried to soften his expression, hide the disgust he felt at her for ruining his morning with this.
“I’m not sixteen weeks yet. But I’m going to go out of state. Change my appearance. Not using my name. I’ve got it all covered. I’ve got a friend that … does these kinds of things. Discreetly.” She looked out the window, at her hands, around the room. Anywhere but in his eyes.
“Are you serious? A friend that does these kinds of things?” Shock vibrated throughout, consumed him. Who was this woman sitting across from him?
“This baby is going to bring a lot of problems, Nigel. A lot of pain. I just can’t do it. I don’twant to do it. Maybe if we were–”
“Maybe if we were what, Jade? A real fucking couple? Not running behind my brother like rebellious teenagers? More in love? What? Maybe if we were what? What Jade!” He felt his voice rising with his anger.
He forced his back against the hard seat, tried to calm himself. An old man in the corner looked over at them, a tinge of fear in his eyes at Nigel’s hushed yell and Jade’s tears. He held his wife’s hand across the table, their plates littered with half-eaten omelets.
Nigel glared back briefly. Fuck love.
She brought him to this fucking restaurant in the middle of nowhere on purpose. Why he kept letting this woman ruin his life, he didn’t understand. Time and again she proved to be bad for his health, his psyche, his heart.
Yet something kept him coming back. Ensnared in something intangible, unreal.
But this was his child, his life seed she was talking about.
“Does Nate know? Your husband? He’s not going to go for this either. You plan on telling him you can’t have my baby while you’re married to him?”
She fondled her dark Chanel frames. “Miscarriage.” More tears dripped, her eyes a broken hose.
He cringed so deep it hurt. Her words exploded in his chest, shrapnel ripping his insides. She wanted no connection to him. The woman he’d sacrificed so much for, the sole reason he’d ever seen Detroit soil at all.
“When?” He managed.
“Tuesday.” Jade dried her face with one of the coarse napkins on the table, weary remnants outlining her eyes. She sniffled quietly, shame emanating like a foul odor. Covered that shame with dark sunglasses once more.
“It’s Saturday. When did you decide–” He struggled with his anger, temper raging. Pushed his locs back roughly. Looked at her face. Beautiful. Evil.
He hated and loved her with a passion that scared him. Made him unsure of what he was capable of. Unsure of what she was capable of.
His hands fell to the table harder than they should have. Jade jumped. Full glasses of water shook, created puddles beneath them. He slipped out of the booth forcefully, tried not to break the clanking glass door on his way out.
The crushing sound of fist on leather-bound sand exploded over and over throughout the small hollow gym. Nigel’s rage forced the heavy punching bag back violently each time he struck it.
The more he thought, the angrier he became.
What had his life become? A series of indecent proposals, nameless one-nighters, and illicit relationships. Was this karma? Did he not attend church enough? Had he done more wrong than the average man? Broken more hearts? Ruined lives?
He didn’t understand.
Right now, he could only focus on hitting this bag.
“Yo, you alright?” Aaron came from nowhere, cautious and concerned.
Nigel didn’t realize he’d started beating the bag furiously until his friend’s voice broke him out of the trance.
He stopped, his chest heaving heavily, sweat running from every pore. “Yeah.” He shrugged.
Aaron. His friend of five years, and assumed brother from another mother now. Even with the sandy hair and freckles, he was more Nigel’s twin than Nathaniel would ever be.
“You do know I can see you, right?” Aaron’s eyebrows climbed up his sharply lined forehead.
“Just getting some time in, man. What’s up?” His pride wouldn’t let him risk getting emotional about a woman in front of his boy. Today would not be the day he discussed Jade with Aaron.
Breaking down in his car had been enough. He just wanted to punch the bag in peace. Transfer this negative energy brewing inside to anything not human.
Aaron’s shoulders relaxed in a casual shrug, sensing the just-leave-it-alone in Nigel’s tone. “Aight man. Nothing. About to head home. Jade and the baby good?” he said as he turned to walk towards the exit.
Aaron was the only other soul who knew the real source of the bump in Jade’s belly.
All Nigel could do was nod.
“You better like this. Took me two hours just to decide which one to get.” Nigel’s face was bright, happy, as he handed the small, baby blue box to Jade.
“Ooh la la. My favorite color. How’d you know?” She purred, recognizing the signature blue Tiffany’s box.
“You’ve only mentioned it around thirty times. And actually made me watch Breakfast At Tiffany’s, which I am still awaiting reward for.”
Nigel cast his glance over at the rich, linen-covered dining table, long cream candles in crystal holders creating a soft glow in the hotel room they would calling home for the weekend. The dark cheery desk against the high window strewn with items: a sterling silver money clip, an Italian leather wallet, a black Burberry blazer, Harlem Nights on DVD.
His favorite movie. Jade had seemingly purchased Esquire’s entire list of gifts for men as his Christmas gift. She was adorable. And worth every penny he’d spent on her gift.
He leaned over, his lips landing softly on hers. She smiled, genuinely.
This was what being loved felt like. Warm.
Nigel’s habit of random and unexpected kisses to her face made every part of her glow. Made her wonder why she’d been calling the bland and sub-par emotional exchanges she’d been a part of in the past, love. That was not love. This, was love.
This, was everything.
“Open it, woman.”
Her pink, french-tipped manicured fingers delicately pulled the top off the box, revealed two sparkling diamond drop earrings and a simple hoop bracelet, diamonds lined around it like little flawless, dainty soldiers.
Understated, elegant, simple.
Tears misted in her eyes without permission, revealed the soft side he rarely saw.
“This is gorgeous.” Her voice cracked with immeasurable joy.
Nigel felt that familiar feeling pervading his chest again, the feeling that had been creeping in for the last few weeks, each time he was around her. Each time he saw a smile that he’d caused, or her oh-so-expressive eyes that went from sexy to sweet to fiery to sultry to just, beautiful.
Trying to stifle it wasn’t working. She consumed his thoughts, lived in his spirit.
Now he felt the planted seeds of love in his heart.
He had fallen in love with a stripper. The life he led.
He thought of Toni. Pleading with him nightly to bring that old thing back, to put himself in reverse and back up to that space when nothing but her mattered.
And he had tried, he really had. But Toni’s sense of entitlement, her selfishness, her inability to recognize any flaw she owned, yet constantly point out his, created walls. Built a barrier brick by brick over the last two years that had become hardened and immovable.
He was going to have to break her heart.
It wouldn’t be easy, but he was not going to make her happy. Wouldn’t love her like someone else would. And ultimately, he wanted that for her.
Jade’s arms around his neck delighted his senses with sweet perfume and skin of silk.
“I’m glad you like it.” He wrapped his arms around her, picked her small body up and carried her over to the plush king bed in their one-bedroom suite high in the Manhattan sky.
“I love it.” She nuzzled her face in his neck, his short locs grazing her forehead. “And I love the Trump. This is living. This bed is heaven.” She smiled up at him, on her back now.
“Only because you’re in it.”
He was gazing. Staring into her eyes with those familiar ink pools that always seemed to stir her. His eyes, his presence, his lovemaking, so intense it made her dizzy.
“I love you.” It spilled out before she could stop herself, an knocked-over glass full of amorous feelings and enormous trust. She’d never said I love you first.
He smiled. Looked deeper into her, as if he was examining her very heart to confirm her truth. “I love you more.”
She’d been scared to even imagine this moment. Scared that it would be some perfect dream and she’d wake up in her tiny apartment, lonely and without this wonderful man.
Now, it was real. No one could take this from her. In their moments alone, there existed no Toni. She didn’t dance for strangers to make a living. There were no social barriers prohibiting them from being proud of their attached hearts.
There was only him. And her. And this.