Lena sat on the large hotel bed and cried. Evan, who had just turned four, sat at the foot of the bed and watched cartoons. Every so often he would turn and look back at his mother and smile, hoping it would make her smile. Most times she was able to force a smile for him. Terrance was asleep next to her. Terry, as they called him, was eighteen months. He did not do well on his first flight since the one he took home after being born on Anguilla, as his brother had been. Lena was worried he was getting sick. She touched his forehead as he slept. He only felt slightly warm but it was enough to start to scare her.
Everything happened so fast that morning. Kareem had just replaced their cell phones the day before and he grabbed the wrong one in his hurry to get out of the door. Lena felt he was avoiding the conversation she was trying to have with him. He had taken to doing that when his mother wasn’t there to buffer the conversation and keep them from arguing. Lena never intended to argue but it seemed like the longer she and Kareem were together the tougher things got. He hated the hours she kept at work and how she brought work home with her. Lena was doing her best to let him be the man and take care of things but the one thing she kept control of was her career. She spent her evenings with the kids and would try to get some work in when they went to sleep. Kareem never wanted to go anywhere so she stopped suggesting it. Then he began to start working late, which started more arguments.
That morning she simply wanted to ask him not to work late that night. She wanted to talk to him. His mother was in Anguilla for her annual trip and to help Tantie with the busy season. Lena hoped they could work through some things.
“I’m sure you won’t mind the extra time to get some work done. We can talk another time if you’re already asleep when I get in.” Kareem kissed the kids, grabbed the phone, and left out of the kitchen door to the garage.
Lena didn’t realize that Kareem had taken her phone until his started buzzing across the counter. She kept her phone on do not disturb while she was spending time with the kids, typically turning it back on in the car on her way to the office. Kareem was getting frantic text messages from a number that wasn’t saved in his phone. Lena was never one to go through someone else’s phone but the texts kept coming and the person was pleading for Kareem not to end what they had begun. When the text popped up promising not to ever mention him leaving his wife again, Lena had to investigate further. It didn’t take long for her to find suggestive pictures of the young lady who was sending the text messages. Kareem’s last text to her was that it was all a mistake, that it was over, and he would elaborate that evening.
“Mommy, what’s wrong?” Evan came in the room with his stuffed dinosaur.
Lena realized that she was crying. She wiped her eyes and tried to smile at him. “Um… nothing. I just…”
“You read something sad?”
“Yes sweetie, I read something that made me sad.”
Evan came over and hugged her leg. “Can I have grapes?”
Lena put some grapes in a bowl and sat it at the table for Evan. “I’ll be right back. Don’t move from this chair.”
Lena barely made it to the bedroom before she burst into tears. Her body began to shake as she paced the floor and attempted to breathe. It took her a few minutes to get it together but as soon as she did she got so angry. Her face felt hot and she wanted to scream instead of cry. Lena opened the closet and pulled out her suitcase. It only took her a few minutes to pack as much as she could in the two suitcases.
“Evan, come on babe. I need you to put some stuff in your suitcase.”
“Pop and Grandma?”
Evan stopped walking and looked puzzled. “Where we going?”
“We are going to Miami.”
“Uncle Eric!” Evan did a little dance. He had only met Eric three times but was very attached to him.
“Boy, grab a few of your favorite toys.” Lena had taken Terry out of the high chair and was right behind Evan. She went around him and got their suitcase. She put as many of their clothes in there as she could shove. Evan put his toys and tablet on his bed. Lena shook her head when she looked at the pile. “You can’t take all of that Evan.”
“Some is for Terry.”
Lena sighed. She grabbed their other suitcase and put the toys in it. She took Evan’s tablet and headed back to her room. “I will put this in my bag so you can use it on the plane.”
In thirty minutes she had four suitcases, a diaper bag, and her laptop bag sitting by the door. She had ordered a shuttle to pick them up, not wanting to be bothered with the car that Kareem had gotten her for birthday just after Evan was born. Evan stood by the window and watched for the van. Lena went back in the kitchen to pack snacks. Kareem’s phone began to buzz again. She looked at it and saw it was Nathan. More tears fell down her face as she saw that he was asking Kareem if he ended it with that girl.
“Mommy, van is here.”
“Okay.” She wiped her eyes and grabbed a sticky note off the counter. She wrote the word ‘bye’ on it and then stuck it to Kareem’s phone. Then she picked up Terry, who was sitting in his high chair, and headed to the front door with the bag of snacks and bottles.
Lena sat on the hotel bed and watched Evan dig in the now empty snack bag. He turned to her and she smiled. “I guess we should wake Terry up and go get some dinner.”
Evan nodded. “Is daddy coming?”
Lena shook her head. “No baby, daddy isn’t coming.”
Evan pouted. “Okay.”
Terry was not happy to have to get up and he felt warmer than he had when she felt him last. Lena gathered her two boys and they left the hotel. There was a drug store down the street and they went there first. Lena couldn’t remember which type of medicine Annette gave to the kids. All she remembered was they didn’t take the same stuff. The pharmacist gave her advice but she ended up buying both kinds, along with a thermometer. She cursed herself on the way to the diner that was a few doors down from their hotel. She didn’t have a phone with her to call Annette and ask.
Evan sat in the booth and immediately began to work on the coloring page that the waitress gave him. He looked up at Lena as Terry began to whine. “Na-Na gives him cool rag when he does that.”
Lena took a napkin and wet it with her glass of water and then put it on Terry’s forehead. “I wish your Na-Na was here so I could ask her what to give him to make him feel better.”
Evan put his crayon down and reached in Lena’s bag. He pulled out his tablet and started pressing buttons. After a few moments he had a big smile on his face. “Hi Na-Na.”
“Evan, baby, where are you?”
“With mommy at dinner.” Evan handed Lena the tablet.
Lena took the tablet and looked at Annette’s very concerned face. “Hi Annette.”
“Lena, are you okay?”
“Where are you guys? Kareem said you don’t have your phone and he doesn’t know where you are.”
“We’re in Miami.”
Annette sighed and held her forehead. She opened her mouth to say something and then stopped. After a moment she looked up at Lena again. “Are you sure you are okay?”
“I will be fine. Terry has a temperature. I bought stuff but…”
“He takes the Tylenol. It works best on him. Did he have it before he left?”
“I don’t think so. He seemed fine this morning.”
“Plane ride probably didn’t agree with him. Give him the dose for two year olds. He matches that weight.”
Lena sighed and held back tears. “Thank you.”
“Are you staying with Eric?”
“No. We are in a hotel.”
“Na-Na we ordered meatloaf.” Evan slid over and chimed in.
“Did you get potatoes to go with it?”
“Did you get a vegetable too?”
“Mommy said applesauce can count today.”
“Okay.” Annette looked at Lena. Lena was trying to pour the medicine in the cup but her hand was shaking. “Evan, hold the tablet for your mommy.”
Evan held the tablet up. Lena got the medicine in the cup and got Terry to drink it. Terry looked up after and pointed to Annette. Evan giggled. “Terry sees you Na-Na.”
“Evan, baby, eat your meatloaf.” Lena took the tablet from him and let him slide back over to his plate.
“We are going to be okay. I need to feed Terry. I promise we will call you tomorrow.”
Annette nodded. “Okay. Kiss my grandbabies for me.”
Lena nodded before ending the video call. She turned the tablet off and put it back in her purse. Then she took on the task of trying to get Terry to eat. After doing battle for ten minutes she decided to just let him eat the applesauce.
“Mommy is sleep. She keeps crying.”
Lena opened her eyes and saw Terry sitting up and playing with his stuffed race car. She had to sit up to see Evan was on his tablet talking to someone. “Evan, who did you call?”
“Daddy.” Evan handed her the tablet.
Lena was not ready to look Kareem in the face but she had no choice. He looked like he hadn’t slept at all. Kareem saw how puffy Lena’s eyes were from crying and had to look away. It took him a moment to speak. “Hey.”
“Hi.” Lena muttered.
“My mom said Terry was sick.”
“His fever broke at like two in the morning.”
“That’s great.” Kareem looked back at her and Lena looked away. “When are you guys coming back?”
“I don’t know.”
“Where are you staying?”
Lena looked directly at Kareem. “Terry is all wet. I need to give him a bath and change him. You can finish your conversation with Evan.”
Terry waved to Kareem as Lena passed the tablet back to Evan. Then she picked Terry up and carried him into the bathroom. He was feeling much better and was extremely playful. Lena had a hard time getting him to take a shower. Evan came in the room.
“Daddy said to call him later.”
“You can call him later if you want.” Lena turned to him and tried to smile.
“Shower time?” Evan asked.
“Yes. Take a shower with your brother.” Lena sat on the toilet and tried to focus on her boys. Evan stripped down and got in the shower with Terry. They played in the water, walking in and out of the spray. She let them have there fun before scrubbing them down with a soapy rag. After they were rinsed off, she wrapped them both in towels and led them back into the bedroom.
“We missed calls, mommy.” Evan picked his tablet up off the bed and handed it to Lena.
She saw that the call was from Gloria and called back. Gloria answered on the second ring. “Hey.”
“Girl, what room are you in?”
“You’re at the hotel?”
“Yes. I know this is your favorite hotel in Miami.” Gloria smiled. “What room?”
Lena told her the room number and then put the tablet back on the bed because Gloria had hung up. She had to grab Terry quickly before he did another lap around the room. “Evan, get a pamper for your brother.”
“Can I call Uncle Eric?”
“Can you get me a pamper?” Lena raised her eyebrow at him.
Lena took the pamper from Evan when he brought it over. “We’ll try and see Uncle Eric tonight. Aunt Glo is on her way up.”
“Yah!” Evan went over to his suitcase and started to pull out clothes.
Terry stood up after Lena got the pamper on him and continued to run around the room. Lena started to grab him but there was a knock on the door. She got up and opened the door. Gloria and Macie were on the other side of the door. Macie was holding her three year old, Nathan Junior. Lena smiled at him. “Hi cutie.”
Nate smiled. “Hiya.”
Macie put him down as they walked into the hotel room. “Terry, why are you running around like a lunatic?”
Terry ran into Macie’s leg. Lena sat down on the edge of the bed. “Who told you guys we were in Miami?”
Macie looked up at Lena. Her face went from normal to angry as her eyebrow arched. “Kareem panicked and wanted to find out if we knew where you were when he didn’t. Annette called me last night and told me you were in town.”
“We decided to give you a night to think.” Gloria picked up Evan and gave him a squeeze.
“Thanks.” Lena smiled.
Macie’s face softened. “Why don’t you shower and we will get these two guys dressed. Then we can go get some breakfast.”
Lena tried to smile. “Okay.”
While Macie and Gloria watched the kids, Lena went into the bathroom and attempted to get herself together. She was able to get a shower in but began to cry as she tried to get dressed. Lena looked in the mirror at herself and wondered what was wrong with her that caused Kareem to cheat. She began to cough as she cried harder. Never one to be insecure before, Lena found fault with every aspect of her reflection. After a few minutes she had to throw up. Once she cleaned herself up from that, she put on a robe and came back out into the hotel room. Lena curled up on the bed.
Gloria sighed and smiled at Evan. “Hey babes, how about we go get breakfast and let your mommy rest. We can bring her something back.”
Evan ran over to Lena and kissed her on the cheek. “Bring back pancakes.”
“Thank you sweetie.” Lena replied softly. She watched as Gloria carried Terry and Evan followed. Once they were all gone, Lena cried herself to sleep.
It took a week for Lena to pull herself together. Macie and Gloria spent most of the first full day in Miami with her. Gloria called Eric and told him where Lena was. He showed up after he got off of work. The ladies went home and Eric spent all evening with his nephews and sister. Lena stayed in bed the entire time. Eric had dinner delivered and entertained the boys until it was time for them to go to bed. He convinced Lena to check out of the hotel the next day and come to stay with him. Eric was still living in her three bedroom condo. Lena refused his offer to give her the master and his offer to turn his office into a room for the boys. She and the boys stayed in the large second bedroom.
Evan would ask her if she wanted to talk to Kareem or Annette when he would FaceTime them. Lena always refused. She did wave at Annette a few times but she would always turn and walk away to avoid looking at Kareem when he talked to the boys. Lena talked to her parents for a little while but refused to tell them why she was in Miami. She talked to Kim only long enough to keep Kim from getting on a plane and going to kill Kareem. Kareem had sent her phone via Federal Express. He sent her text messages she wouldn’t open. Lena spent most of her time in bed crying. Macie had used a service to find someone to come and watch the boys.
It was a Friday when Lena got up and decided to go into the Miami branch of her office. Her vacation was up and they had a huge executive staff meeting scheduled. She was supposed to be attending it via video conference. The office was pleasantly surprised to see her when she arrived.
“Lena, what on earth?” Paul, her boss hugged her. “I did not know you were going to be in Miami.”
Lena did her best to smile. “Neither did I.”
He raised his eyebrow. “I guess we will talk about that after the meeting.”
“If we must.” Lena sat down at the board room table and opened her laptop. A soon as the meeting started she got lost in her work and actually felt a small sense of peace. Work was the one place where she felt one hundred percent comfortable and confident. She let her top junior partner, Kenneth, in the Los Angeles office handle most of their part of the meeting but she had to give the senior partner’s report. Even without having touched her laptop since arriving in Miami, Lena was still on her A game.
After the meeting she and her boss went to lunch. He smiled and sipped his white wine. “So, what is going on?”
Lena took a deep breath and made a big decision in as long as that breath took. “I am moving back to Miami.”
“What about Kareem and …”
“What about him?” Lena sipped her sangria.
Paul breathed in through his teeth. “Okay then.”
“Kenneth is wonderful. He can run that office. You were talking about promoting him.”
“I was going to bring him here.”
“He won’t come. His wife and all their family are in the LA area.”
Paul nodded. “So you want me to give him the LA office and you will come and fill the vacant spot here.”
“Okay.” Paul sipped his wine. He knew there was no point in arguing or prying when it came to Lena. He simply smiled at her. “What do you need from me?”
Lena looked down at her hands and then up at Paul. “To talk about work only.”
He smiled. “Wonderful, because there is a hell of a lot to catch you up on.”