“Just think about how far we all have come since last year. Isn’t it amazing?” Drea smiled as she sat back in her chair at our banquet table. The other sorority members who were seated with us were either up and dancing or mingling around the banquet hall.
Amazing wasn’t the word I was thinking of when I thought about the past, or the future. My mind leaned more towards depressing as the adjective of choice. “Sure.”
“Come on Nicky. You’ve graduated and are starting a new chapter in your life. Big changes right there.”
Perhaps I needed a perception check. It wasn’t Drea’s fault. The annual New Years Eve Ball at Timmons University, our alma mater, always had a sense of reflection floating around like July humidity in Miami. We hadn’t even gotten to the key note speaker yet. I just wasn’t feeling remotely excited.
“Did you ever finish your resolutions?”
“I resolved not to make any more resolutions that I’m just going to break by Dr. King’s Birthday.”
Drea shook her head. “Ugh.”
I smiled. “I have some in mind. I’m just not ready to share them just yet.”
“I guess that will work, for now.”
“I’m going to the ladies room.”
Truth was I really didn’t make any resolutions. I didn’t know where I was and I had no clue where I wanted to be. There was always too much thought required in planning for the future. As I walked in the ladies room all I knew for sure was that I wanted to be somebody in the New Year, somebody and happy. I was tired of feeling really insignificant in my own life.
A few moments in the ladies room and I realized that I wasn’t alone. I’m usually not a snoop, but the voices of the other women in the bathroom grabbed my attention.
“Yeah, we spent Christmas together. Little Jay was in heaven.” The first voice was whiny and nasal.
“Aww, a happy family moment.” The second voice was drenched in sarcasm.
“You know Jay travels so much for work. We never get to see him.”
A toilet flushed on its own, as sanitary as possible.
“So are y’all back together?” The third voice was cheerful.
“Girl, yeah.” Nasal voice responded.
“That is great.”
“Please, that man ain’t ever settling down.” Sarcasm spoke again.
“Stop hating. We were talking about marriage.” Nasal voice sucked her teeth.
“More like you were talking and he was ignoring. What about that girl he was with before?” The sarcastic voice asked.
“That bitch is old news. He was using her.”
“And he’s not using you?”
The hand dryer blew in the background, not actually drying wet hands but really saving trees.
“Look, Jayson loves me and guess what else. My cycle is late.”
“For how long? Did you take a test?” The cheerful voice was now laced with skepticism.
“Oh, good grief. You have got to be kidding.” The sarcastic one laughed.
“You two have been playing these games non stop for five years. I give up and you should too.”
“I’m happy for you Tasha.” Cheerful voice spoke softly.
“Where is he tonight? Why isn’t he ringing in the New Year with you?”
“In Vegas, on business. He is going to be back here tomorrow.”
“Does he know?”
“I’ma tell him when he gets back.”
The wall paper looked like a cream damask fabric. As the three voices left the bathroom I traced my fingers across the velvet pattern on the wall of my five star stall. Each beautifully papered space was more of a private room than a bathroom stall. The doors went down to the floor for privacy, but not all the way to the ceiling. That allowed for the circulation of both air and sound.
Not that Tasha would have known who I was if she saw me there. Our paths crossed a few times before, but we had never formally been introduced. What she didn’t know was that Jayson and I had been involved for two years before I ended things in some months prior. For as much as she didn’t know, I didn’t know that they were still messing around.
My heart beat against my rib cage. What was left of my central organ wanted out of my body. It had taken quite a beating. Coming out of the stall I thought I could see my chest reacting to the pounding. My gown had a low square cut bodice. My swelling cleavage was accented by the white lace and iridescent beaded top of my gown. The bottom was black velvet and began at the underside of my breasts and flowed out in a baby doll fashion down to the beautiful travertine floors. Timmons University Annual Alumni Association New Years Ball was a wonderful reason to dress up. I turned a little to the right and the dress showed the contour of my growing belly. That was a topic I never knew how to bring up with anybody, especially Jay. Not that it mattered to him or was any of his business. I hadn’t talked to him since June, when girls night out turned in to an unexpected informational session.
“Honestly, I didn’t know you two were sleeping together. If I had, I would have said something sooner. He kept saying that you were just a friend.” Symone took a sip of her drink and avoided my gaze. She had been at the bar with friends of hers and came over to talk to me.
It was just as well, I wasn’t even looking at her. She was just a dark brown blur in a tan blouse. My gaze shot right through her and went back in time.
“Symone? Naw, we never messed around. She is my best friend, known each other since third grade.”
That was his response to the natural question about the girl he spent more time with than me. His answer never sat well in the pit of my stomach. It sat more like a cold Mc Donald’s hamburger, disturbingly heavy and hardly satisfying. No matter how it felt, I accepted it. It wasn’t a deeply embedded trust that caused me to accept it. That part of our relationship never seemed to fully form. I had a best friend of the opposite sex too.
“So why tell me now?” I took down half my drink in a quick and clean gulp. I didn’t even feel the vodka going down, just the coolness on my throat.
“I overheard him on the phone talking about you. I knew he was messing around with other girls, I just didn’t know who they were.”
“Girls?” I finished the other half of the drink and got the attention of the bartender.
“He has a friend he stays with in Las Vegas whenever he is there supposedly working.”
The conversation, as one sided as it was, played on. Symone told me about Jay’s many escapades since he and I had gotten together two years prior. Apparently Jay chose to be the guy in the office who traveled because it allowed him to hook up with women all around the world. Every now and then he would share his escapades with Symone because they were more friends than lovers. I was starting to not like his definition of the word friend. As I gulped my second drink I made a mental note to look the word up in the dictionary as soon as I got near one.
“At least he has left that ghetto ass Tasha alone. I can’t believe he ever got her pregnant.”
My mind flashed back to the present and my reflection in the hotel bathroom. I wondered if Symone knew Jay probably got Tasha pregnant again. My hands on my belly caught my attention. I was absent mindedly rubbing my stomach. Jay was in Las Vegas, the bastard. I wondered if Symone was pregnant too.
“Nicole, did you fall in girl?” Drea called from the entry corridor to the bathroom.
“No. I wish I did though.” I saw Drea, my sorority sister, in her short royal blue cocktail dress and decided not to tell her what I overheard. She didn’t know about my conversation over drinks with Symone. Drea hated Jay and just assumed that I had finally taken her advice and left him alone. She didn’t like that we weren’t a very public couple. It made her feel like he had something to hide. She was right. I looked back in the mirror at my reflection. “I want to go back to the mansion and be with Zorah.”
The Butterfly Mansion was on the south side of Timmons University. Back in the early seventies the woman who originally owned the house, Mrs. Davidson, had a beautiful garden that attracted all kinds of butterflies. The sisters of Gamma Epsilon Phi Sorority offered to help her care for it; both out of community service and the fact that the butterfly was our mascot. Soon she started taking in some of the girls who no longer wanted to live on campus. Mrs. Davidson didn’t have any children of her own and all her family had passed before her. When she died she left the house, and a sizeable scholarship fund, to the sorority. GEPhi had been in the 4 story Victorian ever since.
Zorah, my four year old sister, was asleep in the corner bedroom on the third floor that belonged to the chapter president. The title and the room used to belong to me during my senior year. Zorah use to sleep in a handmade crib in the corner near the window that overlooked the butterfly garden out back. Now she was sleep on the queen size bed. Erin, the sister who watched the kids while we were all at the ball, had braided her hair in several small braids and put beads at the ends. Zorah only took up a small spot in the middle of the bed. She was a pudgy little honey colored thing. Looking at her made me smile. She was so peaceful when she slept. I lay down next to her and soon fell asleep.