Lena sat on a blanket out on the beach. Six months in northern Europe had her very thankful for the sand and sun. Macie and Nathan’s destination wedding in Anguilla was both a gift and a curse. Lena had been taking care of her maid of honor duties from Europe with the help of the internet and Gloria. She arrived three days before everyone else to meet with the wedding planner from the resort. She also arrived early so that she could regroup after her life turned upside down.
In preparation for being made partner, Lena was sent to work with the partners at two of the company’s European offices. She spent three months in London and three months in Amsterdam. It was while she was in Amsterdam that she realized that she was pregnant. She had been burying herself in her work so that she wouldn’t think about anything else. Her calls with Macie were primarily focused on wedding planning. Gloria was keeping her up to date with what was going on in the sorority and with the Miami social scene. Lena didn’t even know where to begin to talk to them about her pregnancy. She could tell that Macie was trying hard not to even mention Kareem to her. Lena knew that he was Nathan’s best man and that meant he was escorting her down the aisle. That stressed her out more than any other aspect of the wedding.
Lena hadn’t talked to Kareem. She wanted to talk to him but she had a panic attack every time she thought about it. She was sent to Europe two months after his birthday. She was already almost six months pregnant when she realized that all the takeout food she was eating in London wasn’t why she couldn’t fit any of her clothes. Lena felt so stupid and was embarrassed by the whole thing. She told her parents but swore them to secrecy. Her mother was more concerned with how a baby was going to affect her career and irritated that she couldn’t tell her friends. Lena’s father called her at least three times a week to check on her. He was the one who tracked down contact information on Kareem. He didn’t insist that she contact him. He simply sent it to her in an email.
Lena called him after staring at the email for ten minutes. “Daddy?”
“Sweetheart, your mother and I raised you to be independent. You have been taking care of yourself since your sister Kim was born.” Her father paused. “I know you can do this on your own. But as a man, I have to hope that you will contact that young man and tell him what is going on.”
“Daddy, he didn’t sign up for this.”
“Perhaps. But you don’t know what he is willing to sign up for.”
“Your brother said that he moved his mother out to LA with him. He sounds like a family man to me.”
“You talked to Eric?”
“I didn’t tell him anything. He was over for dinner and he was catching your mother and I up on all his friend’s lives to avoid telling us that he lost his job.”
“Mommy didn’t say anything?”
“She is pissed that he won’t tell her why you two aren’t talking.”
“But I told her already.”
“She wants to hear it from him.”
Lena laughed. “She is so stubborn.”
“You get it honest.”
Lena watched the waves and remembered her father’s words. She was extremely stubborn. In her mind, she had figured out how she was going to do everything except tell Kareem. She had been trying so hard not to start anything with him that would alter his future. A relationship could have easily had him changing plans and making decisions that might stunt his growth. That was what she had been trying to avoid. There was no way to avoid that now. Her heart began to race knowing that he would be on that island with her in a day and, at eight months pregnant, there was no way she could hide the truth from him or anyone else for that matter.
Lena walked into the small restaurant and the baby began to kick as soon as she smelled all the wonderful spices. It was her second day in Anguilla. The restaurant hadn’t opened yet but she had an appointment with the owner, who was catering Macie’s wedding. Nathan had been very clear that this was the only option so Lena scheduled to taste samples. She wasn’t much for Carribean food and had no clue what to expect. The smell of fresh bread lured her back to the kitchen. That is where she found a woman pulling a tray of bread out of a huge oven.
“Hi. Sorry to interrupt.”
“Chile, you are fine. I heard you come in and was wondering how long it would take you to come back here.”
“My name is Lena. I am Macie’s maid-of-honor.”
“Well, she didn’t say you were pregnant.”
Lena looked down at her belly as she rubbed it to calm the baby down. “I haven’t told her. I’ve been in Europe for a while.”
“You look hungry. Sit down at this table so I can make you a plate.”
Lena did as she was told. The woman made quick work of putting a sample from the many pots and containers she had scattered about the kitchen onto a plate. She added a large chunk of bread and sat down across from Lena. She smiled as she slid the plate towards Lena. Lena smiled back. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” The woman frowned a bit. “I notice you don’t have a ring on your finger so I assume this baby comes with a story.”
“Call me Tantie.”
“Well, um… Tantie… I…”
“Relax chile. I am here to listen.”
Lena took a deep breath and a big fork full of rice and beans. After chewing and swallowing, she began to tell Tantie how she met Kareem and ended up pregnant. She paused in the story repeatedly when Tantie would point to her plate and Lena would eat a bite. Lena had no clue what she was eating but she knew it was delicious and had the baby dancing around in her belly.
“So let me get this straight. This young man has tried to be with you twice and you turned him down both times.”
“Bet you won’t do it a third.”
“But I can’t let him change his whole life just because I got pregnant.”
“If he didn’t want his life to change he should have wrapped up his manhood.”
Lena started to say something but Tantie hushed her. Then Tantie put another spoonful of cabbage on her plate.
“You keep sacrificing your happiness worried about his future. Let him worry about his future.”
“Tantie, he has his whole career ahead of him.”
“You said he is twenty-five. He should be married with three kids by now.” Tantie frowned. “You’re what, thirty-three?”
“This is why you aren’t married. So focused on your career that you won’t sit still and be happy.”
Lena wanted to protest but looked at Tantie and decided that it wasn’t a good idea.
“Is this young man coming to the wedding?”
“Good. You tell him about this baby and let him make some decisions for both of you. Time for you to get married and settle down.” Tantie stood up. “And I will give him a piece of my mind when I meet him.”
Lena was so glad she didn’t tell Tantie Kareem’s name.
“And don’t think I won’t figure out who he is. Something tells me it will be written all over your face when you are near him.”
Lena looked down at her plate. “Okay.”
“Has your dress been altered to accommodate that belly?”
“Good. Wear your hair up and show off those swelling boobs.” Tantie paused. “Stand up chile.”
“Yes ma’am.” Lena stood up as fast as her belly would allow.
“I don’t think you are making it off this island before you deliver.”
“I have four more weeks until my due date.”
“I’ve had six children and helped deliver at least a hundred others. That baby right there is coming before the week is out.” Tantie walked back over to the oven and pulled out another tray of bread. “I’m going to fix you a plate for later and you better make sure you eat it all.”
Lena had flown her sister Kim out the day before everyone else was supposed to arrive as support. Of course, Lena didn’t tell Kim until Kim arrived at the hotel and saw for herself.
Kim simply laughed. “So this is the thing mommy has been trying desperately not to tell me.”
Lena hung her head. “I told her not to tell anyone.”
“So you’re torturing her. That explains why she will not talk about you at all.” Kim hugged Lena and didn’t even try to make sense of Lena’s actions.
Lena hoped that her best friends would take the news as well as Kim had. A few scenarios played in her head the closer it came to Macie and Gloria’s arrival. When her phone began to vibrate with text messages from Macie and Gloria saying they arrived at the hotel, she took a deep breath.
Right on time, Kim walked out to where she was sitting. It was her new favorite spot. “The bride-to-be and her entourage are here.”
“I guess it’s time to face the music.”
Kim reached down and helped Lena get up from the ground. “Yup.”
“Welp. You coming?”
“Nope.” Kim smiled. “I told Macie and Gloria to drop their bags in their villas and then come to ours. I’m going to sit on the patio but I don’t think you need me in the room.”
“Nope. As soon as Macie saw me she asked me what weren’t you telling them. Gloria said she thought you were depressed and the lack of daylight in Amsterdam may have done something to you.” Kim picked the blanket up and shook the sand off while laughing.
Lena looked down. She had on cut-off jean shorts that were low rise and accommodated her massive belly. Her babydoll shirt displayed her swelling boobs as well as her belly. Kim put her hand on Lena’s shoulder and gently nudged her to the villa. Lena stopped at the French doors to the villa. She had upgraded to a two bedroom when she arrived after convincing Kim to take a few days off to help her.
“Lena, you gotta do this.” Kim sat the blanket down on the patio and then walked into the villa.
Lena stood there for a few moments and then she huffed. “What if I don’t want to?”
“Don’t want to what?” Gloria’s voice filled the room and escaped through the curtains.
“Why are you hiding out there?” Macie was several steps ahead of Gloria and came out onto the patio first. Her eyes got very wide when she saw Lena. “Jesus woman, this is what you weren’t saying in all those phone calls.”
“Oh my lord.” Gloria gasped. “You’re pregnant.”
“No. I ate a watermelon whole.” Lena sat down in a patio chair.
“How far along are you?” Gloria sat down next to her.
Macie hadn’t moved. “You are almost nine months, aren’t you?”
Lena looked up at Macie. “I’m sorry I didn’t say anything. I found out three months ago. Between work and freaking out, I just didn’t know what to say.”
“I knew something was up.” Macie sighed. “Then when I saw Kim was here early, I knew it had to be something major.”
“I just found out yesterday.” Kim yelled from inside the villa.
“Who did you tell?” Gloria leaned back in the chair.
“That’s it?” Macie sat down.
“Oh, and of course my boss.” Lena took a glass of water from Kim, who came out to join them on the patio.
“The most important thing.” Kim huffed as she sat down.
“What about your promotion?” Gloria asked.
Lena began to cry. She thought about how her career had been so important to her that she missed the fact that she was pregnant until she was unable to ignore the signs any further.
“You didn’t get it?” Macie leaned forward and took her hand.
“No. I got it.” Lena looked at Kim. “My job is very important to me. I understand that it can no longer be the most important thing now.”
Kim smiled. “I’m glad you got your promotion.”
“Are you going back to work?”
“I’m working on projects remotely until the baby arrives. Then I’m on maternity leave.”
“Is someone going to ask her who the father is or is that my job?” Kim asked.
“Kareem.” Gloria and Macie answered at the same time.
“Wait, who?” Kim looked at them and then back at Lena. “Eric’s frat brother?”
“Yes.” Lena sipped more of her water. Her heart started to race. She tried desperately not to cry.
Macie squeezed her hand. “I guess he is going to find out when he gets here.”
“He’s coming?” Kim felt so far out of the loop.
“He’s Nathan’s little cousin and best man. He’s walking with Lena down the aisle.”
“He’s going to hate me.” Lena burst into tears.
“No, he isn’t. Maybe now you will stop playing games and give that man a chance.” Gloria took Lena’s other hand.
“I’m too old for him.”
“That is so far from the point sis.” Kim sighed.
“Great sex is not enough to build a relationship on.” Lena shook her head. “That’s all we really have.”
“Sweetie, you will also have a baby soon.” Gloria reached over and put her hand on Lena’s belly.
“I know you are freaking out.” Macie rubbed her hand.
“How do you know I’m freaking out?” Lena looked away and then back at Macie.
“I have only known you for over fifteen years.” Macie raised an eyebrow. “You have to talk to him. I suggest doing it today. Rehearsal is tomorrow and that will be just too many people all in your business to have that left up in the air.”
“Why must you make sense?” Lena huffed. She wiped the tears trying to escape from her eyes. “Can we talk about this wedding, please?
“No, you are no longer allowed to use my wedding to deflect.” Macie scolded. “You and Gloria have done an amazing job. I’m certain this is going to be the most amazing day of my life. There’s nothing left to ponder or talk about. Rehearsal is tomorrow. Bridal shower and Bachelor party is tomorrow night. Wedding the next day.”
“Yeah, Lena. We need to help you focus and figure out what you are going to do.”
Lena got up from her chair. “I’m going to take a walk on the beach.”
“Lena…” Kim stood up.
Lena put her hand up and kept walking off the patio and down towards the beach. She walked for a while before her nervousness, along with being so pregnant, caused her to be out of breath. Lena found a gazebo and sat down on the lone swing. She sat and watched the other guests of the resort on the private beach. The sun moved across the sky in front of her. Her mind kept slipping back to Kareem’s birthday weekend. They were so perfect together for the short time that they were together. Part of her felt like they would make a great couple. The other part of her knew that there were so many other factors to a relationship than what she experienced in a little over twenty-four hours. The baby began to move around. Lena put both hands on her belly and massaged.
“Your father is way better at this than me.”
“Who are you talking to?”
Lena froze at the sound of Kareem’s voice behind her. “Um…”
“I thought that was you. I just pulled up and…” Kareem paused as he walked around to the front of the swing. His jaw dropped.
“Hey.” Kareem responded slowly.
Lena saw an eyebrow raise and said quickly. “I just told Macie today. Only way Nathan knows is if she just told him. Eric doesn’t know.”
“How did you know…”
“You were gonna kill one or both of them?” Lena smiled. “I guessed by your facial expression.”
“You guessed right.”
“I’m almost nine months. I’ve known for almost three months.”
“Only three months?” Kareem shook his head. “That busy at work?”
“Am I that horrible of a person?” Lena wiped the tears from her eyes before they could fall.
“No. You are not a horrible person.”
“It’s okay to hate me. I should have called you when I first found out.”
“Do you even have my phone number?”
“Yes. My daddy got it for me.”
“And I could have easily called Nathan and gotten it. I just…”
“Didn’t want to interrupt my life?”
“Lena, I’m a grown ass man. I can kinda decide what will interrupt my life or not.”
“That is what Tantie said.”
“You’ve been here for a day and already have a Tantie?”
“I’ve been here for four days. And yes I have a Tantie.” Lena paused. “I don’t even know what a Tantie is.”
“Tantie is like an aunt or grandmother.”
Kareem walked over and sat down next to Lena. He leaned forward and put his head in his hands. He was quietly thinking for a few minutes.
After a while, Lena got nervous. “Kareem…”
“I’m trying to figure out how to convince you to marry me.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Kareem…”
“Shhhh. Don’t shoot me down just yet. I’m exhausted and in desperate need of a power nap.” Kareem leaned down and rested his head on her lap, leaning against her belly. “Nine hours in the air, two one hour layovers, and I left for the airport straight after working a twelve-hour shift.”
Lena let Kareem get comfortable and then began to play in his hair as he fell asleep with his head in her lap. Even the baby stopped kicking. Lena smiled, leaned back, and finished watching the waves and people. The sun slowly dropped down in the sky while she tried to wrap her head around what was going to happen next. One thing she did know was that she was not ready to marry Kareem. She barely knew him. Lena looked down at him as she continued to play in his curls. If her large belly wasn’t in the way she would have bent down and kissed him. Lena was certain she didn’t want to marry him but she was uncertain of what she felt for him. It was something about him that she simply hadn’t been able to let go of since they first met.
“Hey, Lena. Nathan is here and he said that Kareem…” Macie called from behind her.
“My aunt said Kareem is here at the resort.” Nathan stopped in front of her.
Macie giggled. “So, I take it things went well.”
“Sorta. I think he is still processing but sleep took over.” Lena smiled.
Nathan held up his cell phone and took a picture. “This is golden.”
“No you didn’t just take a picture of my fat ass.” Lena fussed.
Kareem woke up to Lena fussing and the baby kicking him in the head. “What is going on?”
“Your cousin just took a picture of us.” Lena huffed.
“Is it a good picture?” Kareem asked.
“Epic.” Nathan nodded.
“Send it to me.”
“Destroy it.” Lena rolled her eyes at Macie, who was still giggling.
Kareem sat up and kissed Lena softly. “Calm down. That baby is in there trying out for the soccer team.”
Lena pouted. “I’m hungry and I have to pee.”
Kareem stood up and helped Lena up off the swing. “I gotta take you to meet my mom or I’m dead.”
“But you haven’t even told…”
“She sent me to get everyone for dinner.”
“I just talked to her. She told me to make sure that Kareem brought the young lady who got him sprung.” Nathan chuckled.
“I’m not sprung.” Kareem rolled his eyes and then looked at Lena. He sighed. “Okay, maybe a little.”
Lena laughed. Then she walked away. “I’m going to the bathroom. This baby is using my bladder as a punching bag.”
Everyone met in the lobby of the resort. Kim walked with Lena through the doors.
“Are you sure you are ready to meet his family?”
Lena shrugged. “They are all going to be at the rehearsal and dinner and then the wedding.”
Kim smiled. “You never told me how he reacted.”
“He kinda asked me to marry him.”
Kim grabbed Lena’s arm and stopped walking. “What?”
“But you said no.”
Kim sighed. “Lena…”
“Don’t start.” Lena looked up at the ceiling and back at Kim. “It takes more to build a marriage than what he and I have.”
“You at least going to take the time to see if the more you need is there?”
Kim rolled her eyes and laughed. “Girl, let’s eat.”
Lena sat in the back of the car with Macie while Kareem and Nathan sat up front talking about their summers spent running the streets they were driving on. Lena was confused that both of them seemed to be calling the same woman ‘mommy’. She turned to Macie. “Are they talking about the same person?”
“Yes. They call their grandmother ‘mommy’. She lived in the states and raised Nathan after his mom passed away. Kareem’s mom is Nathan’s maternal aunt.”
“Oh.” Lena looked out the window as Kareem parked the car. Her heart stopped when she realized they were in front of the same restaurant she was at just a few days before. “Macie…”
Kareem hopped out. “Mommy, I got everybody.”
“You better have.”
The voice had Lena reaching for Macie’s hand but Macie was already out of the car. Her eyes got big as Kareem opened the door for her. He smiled and then looked up. “Mommy, come here for a second. I want you to meet a friend.”
“A friend. What kind of friend Kareem?”
Lena couldn’t help but laugh. She got out of the car and looked at Tantie. “Hi Tantie.”
“Oh. Hey Lena. Did you eat all that food?”
Tantie started to say something but then she stopped. She looked at Lena and then at Kareem. Then she looked back at Lena and Lena was forced to look down at her hands. She turned to Kareem. “Kareem.”
Her voice got real serious. “Come here.”
Kareem walked over slowly and bent down just enough. Tantie slapped him hard upside the back of his head. “Ow.”
Tantie began to speak rapidly and Lena couldn’t make out half of what she was saying. Lena turned to Nathan who was laughing hysterically. A woman came out of the front of the restaurant and walked over to them.
“Nathan, I know you aren’t standing here laughing at Kareem after making this young lady wait five years for you to decide you want to settle down and marry her. I would have left your trifling behind.” She pointed at Nathan and he stopped laughing.
The woman looked at Lena. “Hello.”
“You must be Lena.” The woman smiled at her and glanced back at Tantie, who had grabbed Kareem by the arm and began to drag him inside. “I’m Kareem’s mother, Annette.”
“Nice to meet you.”
Annette took Lena’s arm and led her towards the door of the restaurant. Lena looked behind her and saw Kim only two steps behind them.
“This is my sister Kim.”
Kim smiled as Annette turned back and looked at her. “Hello.”
Annette smiled. “You ladies can sit at the table with me.”
Dinner was loud and lively. Lena was amazed at how Kareem and Nathan’s accents came from out of nowhere. The place quickly filled up with cousins and stories of Nathan’s childhood antics from the summers Tantie brought him and Kareem back to the island. Kareem was helping Tantie and her staff, who Lena thought were all related to them, serve food. He finally sat down in between Lena and Annette. He went to say something to Lena and she shoved a piece of chicken in his mouth.
“Eat.” Then she turned back to the conversation.
Kareem started to say something but decided to just eat his food and enjoy watching Lena enjoy his family. He was still so confused. His intention had been to try and convince her to marry him when he saw her. That had been the plan for weeks. His mother told him he was crazy. Seeing that Lena was pregnant really showed him how crazy his plan actually was. He knew that Lena was not the type of woman who needed saving. If he pressed the marriage issue it would look like he was trying to save her from this new situation she was in. That was only bound to push her further away. Kareem wanted to make sure that he didn’t need to ever let her go again.
It was almost one in the morning when Kareem walked Lena back to her villa. He drove her back to the resort when Kim and Gloria decided they were going to hang out with some of the groomsmen a little longer. Lena walked slowly.
“I am. Just tired.” Lena turned and smiled at him.
“Well, you can now go to bed.”
“If my back lets me.”
“How about I give you a massage to help that?” Kareem followed her into her room. Lena sat down on the bed and looked at him. There was something in Lena’s eyes that caused him to walk over to her. “You want this massage?”
Kareem took his shoes off and climbed onto the bed. He got in position behind her and began to work on her lower back. Lena tried not to melt at his touch but she couldn’t help it. She had been dreaming of his hands since she last saw him. Kareem bent down and whispered in her ear. “You seem more relaxed than I remember.”
“This island is just the medicine I needed.”
Kareem worked on her back for a few more minutes but stopped when she yawned. “I should let you rest.”
“I think you should stay.”
Lena looked back at Kareem. She could see how tired he was in his eyes. “Yes.”
“Because I don’t want you falling asleep behind the wheel.”
“I will be fine.”
“Why aren’t you staying at the resort?”
“Mommy would have a fit.” Kareem yawned. “I will be fine.”
“Kareem…” Lena put her hand on his face. “Please stay with me.”
Kareem leaned forward and kissed Lena. “Okay.”
Lena scooted back against him. She laid down and looked up at him. “Now don’t try and leave after I fall asleep.”
“I’d be fine with not ever leaving you again.” Kareem laid down next to her.
“You’re gonna get tired of me.”
“I can’t imagine that ever happening.” He turned on his side and put his arm around her. “You are going to get tired of me.”
“Probably.” Lena giggled as Kareem tickled her. “Go to sleep.”
“Once this baby does then I will.”
Kareem moved his hand around her belly until he felt the baby kicking at the top of her belly. He began to massage the area in a circle until he fell asleep. The baby calmed down and Lena dozed off a few moments later.