The sound of Bobby Debarge’s voice made Janelle smile as she walked into Austin’s apartment. It was a cool Saturday afternoon in October and she was just getting back from yoga class. Typically Austin would drive them both back. He had found a gym ten minutes from the yoga studio and would go there to work out while she was in class. He refused to join the class with her but he would join her for yoga at the apartment every so often. That particular day he had just returned from Las Vegas and Janelle had told him to get some rest after his red-eye flight.
Janelle had been thinking the entire way back to his place about how it had been the third time in two months that Austin’s job had sent him back to Vegas for work. At first, she thought that maybe he had a secret life back there that he hadn’t told her about. That was quickly pushed out of her mind by the sheer number of times Austin would video chat with her. If there was someone else, they had to be pissed at him because he was paying them no attention. Then she realized that there was a possibility that he might not be able to transfer to the casino in Maryland. That thought had crossed her mind before and, while the system was down at work, she had applied to several positions in Las Vegas. That included one for the agency she currently worked for. Those things took time and she was so nervous that Austin would get permanently sent back before she heard anything.
She walked into the kitchen and frowned. Austin was cleaning. Janelle hated cleaning, especially the kitchen. She was far from a slob but was good for leaving dishes piled up in the sink. Thursday night she had fallen asleep before she could motivate herself to load the dishwasher and she had stayed at her place Friday night. Austin hated dishwashers and preferred to do them by hand. That was what he was doing. Janelle was fussing at herself internally when she burst out giggling.
Austin was lip-syncing along to Switch’s I Call Your Name. He turned to her and smiled when he heard her giggle. He didn’t stop mouthing the words along. Janelle looked at her tall, blonde, white boyfriend who looked like a cross between a Texas farmhand and a Nordic god. He knew every word and she felt herself falling more in love with him.
Austin turned and kissed her when she came over to him once the song was over. “Hey, beautiful.”
“Hi. Did you actually sleep?”
“I did. My flight got in early.”
Janelle put her arms around his waist and rested her head on his back. “I was home last night. You didn’t get my text?”
“I did.” Austin sighed. “I just hoped you changed your mind.”
Janelle didn’t move. She held him and silently prayed she wouldn’t have to let go. Finally, as Teena Marie sang, she leaned her head back. “First Switch and now Teena Marie. You planning on cleaning this whole place?”
Austin chuckled. “My mother loves Teena Marie. This is actually her Saturday morning cleaning playlist.”
“I was about to say.” Janelle giggled. “My mom listens to the O’Jays and the Isley Brothers.”
“Your mom strikes me as a gospel music kind of lady.”
“That is the front she puts up now. I remember all the years she would wake me up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday when I really just wanted that one day to sleep in.” Janelle let Austin go, picked up the dishtowel, and began to dry the dishes. She knew better than to apologize about leaving them. Austin would simply respond by fussing about not minding cleaning up the kitchen. It was the laundry he hated. Janelle had taken care of that Wednesday night after he left. She sighed. “How was the trip?”
Austin groaned. “Fine.”
Janelle nodded. She knew that meant he didn’t want to talk about it. So she decided to change the subject. “Your mom sent me a friend request.”
“Last night. I accepted and we chatted on IM for a while.”
Austin shook his head. “Did she invite you to Thanksgiving dinner?”
“I was going to bring it up.”
Janelle playfully swatted him with the dishtowel. “I know. She said that you told her that you weren’t sure I would want to miss dinner with my family.”
“Well, it is all you and your mom have been talking about for weeks.” Austin rinsed the suds off his hands. “I was telling her I could bring you out a different weekend as soon as I can make sense of my schedule.”
“I told her we were coming for Thanksgiving.”
“Huh?” Austin was shocked. He had listened to Janelle and her mother go on and on for weeks about who was cooking what and where everyone was going to sleep. “What about…”
“My mom will survive.” Janelle looked down at the floor. “I kinda want to meet your family. Your mom offered to fly out here for the weekend but I remember her saying she didn’t like to fly.”
“I can’t believe she even offered.” Austin shook his head. “She will only drive to Vegas from California.”
“Well, we are going.”
Austin smiled. “I really just want you to meet her.”
“She said she emailed you plane ticket information.”
Austin pulled out his phone and checked his email. Then he sighed. There was no backing out, not that he wanted to. “She bought us tickets.”
Janelle laughed. “Don’t be mad.”
Austin leaned down and kissed Janelle. “I’m not mad.”
Janelle put her arms over his shoulders. “I missed you.”
“I missed you too.” Austin kissed her again. He pouted when she backed away.
“I am going to take a shower.” Janelle dried the last dish, set it on the counter, and headed to the bedroom. She started the water in the shower and got undressed. Janelle had only been in the shower for a few minutes before Austin came to join her in the bathroom. Even with the fact that they had been together for months, Janelle still got a little self-conscious when she was completely naked in front of Austin. She loved how well-toned his body was. Her fingers always gravitated to his abs and she would trace the muscles. Austin would put his hands on her waist and let them slide down to the tops of her hips.
He kissed her. “I love your hips.”
She couldn’t help but smile. “Really.”
“Not as much as I love you but yes, really.”
Janelle looked up at him. “I love you too, Austin.”
Austin slammed his fist down on the nightstand. Janelle was fixing breakfast in the kitchen. She turned the stove off and walked into the bedroom.
Austin looked down at the floor. He couldn’t bear to look her in her eyes. “I gotta go back to Vegas.”
“Again?” Janelle sighed. It had only been two weeks since he had gotten back. “When?”
“Jesus. For how long?”
Austin was so frustrated he couldn’t speak. Janelle could see that he was upset and wasn’t sure what to do. She decided not to say anything until he spoke. They were both silent for a few moments before Austin finally spoke. “At least three weeks. Probably until the beginning of December.”
Janelle leaned on the doorway. “Why so long?”
“They want me to help out at the Bellagio. The head of security left for another position. They were already short-staffed.”
“What time are you flying out?”
Janelle nodded. She wasn’t sure what to say. She wanted to cry but she didn’t want to make it harder for Austin. “You should pack a bag. I will finish breakfast.”
She looked at him and smiled. Tears started to well up in her eyes so she turned and headed to the kitchen. Austin was frozen for a minute before he got up the nerve to follow her. He put his arms around her while she stood at the stove.
“I’ve been trying so hard to get a transfer here. That is still up in the air. I just…”
Janelle turned in his arms. “Baby, I get it.”
“You can stay here while I am gone.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“They want me to hold on to this place in case I am needed back here. You got rid of the cable and wifi at your place so just stay here.”
Janelle nodded. Then she turned back to the stove. “Do you want this as a sandwich?”
“I want to take you back to Vegas with me.” Austin rested his head on her shoulder.
“Yeah. A sandwich is good.” He sighed. “I need to go pack a small bag.”
Austin left the room. Janelle put the eggs and bacon on the toast. She got the sandwich cut and in a container before the tears began. Soon she was sobbing. Austin came back in the room and held her.
Janelle thought she would be able to hold it together. After she stopped crying the morning Austin had to leave, she did her best to stay positive. It took a lot of work but she was able to do it. That was until Austin let her know that he was going to have to be in Vegas for Thanksgiving. She cried herself to sleep after they got off the phone that night. It got so bad that she would randomly begin to cry at work, causing her to need to go hide in the bathroom until she could pull herself together.
“Janelle, it’s going to be okay.” Her mother would tell her each night they talked.
“Mom, what if they want to keep him in Las Vegas.”
“Cross that bridge when you get to it.”
“But I really think we are at it.” Janelle huffed.
“You are worrying too much. Did he say something to cause you to worry?”
“So stop worrying.”
“Fine.” Janelle huffed again. “I need to go. I will talk to you tomorrow.”
After getting off the phone with her mother, Janelle called Lana. She told her the same thing she told her mother. Lana sighed. “So, you still haven’t heard anything about those jobs?”
“Nope.” Janelle sighed. “I applied to three more jobs out there.”
“Are you using his address on the applications?”
“Yeah, these last three I did.”
“Well, we just gotta pray on it.”
“You sound like your mother.”
“That is her answer to everything. She is right most times though.”
“My mom just says to stop worrying.”
“What does Austin say?”
“He says he is going to figure something out. He said that he did find out he is in the running to be the assistant director of security at the new hotel.”
“That is great.”
Janelle huffed. “Yeah, but I know there is more he is not telling me.”
“I don’t know.”
“Janelle, if you love this man you better ask him what is going on. He is probably trying to protect your feelings and we both know that never works.”
It took two days for Janelle to get up the nerve to ask Austin what was really going on. They were on video chat. He had been trying to figure out how to tell her all that was going on but hadn’t come up with anything. Despite not knowing what to say he couldn’t avoid her question.
Austin took a deep breath. “They want me to run security at the Bellagio.”
“Yes. They have offered me a promotion.”
For a moment, Janelle couldn’t breathe. She was both excited and devastated at the same time. It was a huge promotion for Austin, something he had been working towards for a while. He had to take that job. However, taking that job meant he definitely was not moving to DC and they would be back where they started. Janelle finally took a breath and smiled at Austin. “You have to accept.”
“No buts. You have to accept.”
“What about us?”
“Don’t you dare fix your face to say you might pass up something you have been working years for because of me.”
Janelle looked away from the screen. “I know you would. You have to also know that I won’t let you do that.”
“I don’t want this job if it means I can’t be with you.”
“I don’t want to be the reason you blow a chance to do what you love.”
“I love you more than I love this fucking job.” Austin leaned his head back and took a deep breath.
“I know.” Janelle wiped a tear that tried to escape from her eye. “We will figure this out.”
“I still won’t make it back there until after Thanksgiving.”
“It’s okay.” Janelle had to wipe another tear. “I need to go.”
“I’m okay. I swear. I just need a few moments. You need to get back to work anyway. Call me when you are headed home.”
“It’ll be late there.”
“I don’t care.”
“Okay.” Austin smiled at her. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
It took two days for Austin to finally accept the promotion. He sent Janelle a copy of the letter from Human Resources as proof he did it. She cried for hours after seeing it. The next day she attempted to work. By ten o’clock she was in her bosses office handing her two-week notice.
“I knew you were looking to transfer. Did you get another position?”
“I don’t want to hear it. I am moving whether a transfer comes through or not.”
Her boss leaned back in her chair. “I know you have some leave to burn. How much longer do I have you.”
“Friday before Thanksgiving.”
Her boss nodded. “I will write you a recommendation so that you can have it while you look for a job.”
“Is everything okay?”
Janelle tried to smile. “It will be.”
Lana wrapped the dish she was holding. “So you haven’t told him you quit your job.”
“Did you tell him you were coming out in a few days?”
“So what does he think is going on?”
Janelle tossed some things in a box. “I told him that I was going to my parents for Thanksgiving.”
“Jesus Janelle.” Lana shook her head. “Don’t give those cups away. Mine are nasty and I can use those for the teen who keeps breaking up my shit.”
Janelle sat the cups she had in her hand to the side. “He keeps asking me about applying to jobs out there and possibly moving out there. It is what he wants.”
“So why not tell him what you are doing?”
“I am afraid I am going to lose my nerve and change my mind.” Janelle sat down in the chair.
“Sweetie, you are not going to change your mind. You are in love with that man and you are miserable here without him. Besides, we already scheduled the people to pick up all this stuff you aren’t taking with you.”
“Vegas is so far from my family.”
“It is but I don’t think anyone will have a problem with visiting you out there. I am already planning a trip.”
Janelle laughed. “My mother is having a fit.”
“About you moving or you missing Thanksgiving?”
“She will get over it.”
Janelle looked down at her phone when it buzzed. She was glad she was already sitting down because she might have fallen over reading the message. “Oh my lord.”
“What is it?”
“Austin’s mom just sent me a message. Apparently, my mother found her on social media and they began chatting. My mom told her what I am doing.”
“Did she tell Austin?”
Janelle kept scanning. “No. She said she thinks a surprise is better. She is flying my parents out to Vegas.”
“When?” Lana sat down.
“When I fly out.”
“She is paying for their tickets?”
“I paid for mine. She still had the credit from the tickets she bought Austin and I to come and visit her.”
Lana laughed. “Y’all are crazy.”
“I can’t believe my mother got on social media.”
“You two are going to have a lot to talk about when she calls you tonight.”
“Yes, we are.”
“Is Austin’s mom coming to Vegas too?”
“She says she is bringing a turkey and we can buy the rest of the stuff when we get there.”
“Does Austin have enough room for all of you?”
“Yes. He bought a new house three years ago. It is huge. I can’t wait to see it. I have only seen pictures and what he has shown me when we are on video chat.”
“Janelle, you should see the excitement in your face.” Lana stood back up. “You aren’t backing down. You are moving to Vegas.”
Two days later, Janelle was boarding a plane with her parents. Lana and a few of her other friends helped her to load up a storage pod with the things she was shipping to Vegas. She packed up Austin’s things from his place and put most of it in the container. There were a few things she knew he would want and she put them in one of her two large suitcases. Her parents donated the food they had gotten for dinner to a needy family and told the rest of their family they were on their own. Janelle’s mother couldn’t stop talking about how nice Austin’s mother was to give them the tickets so they could see where Janelle would be living. Janelle’s father simply smiled and nodded. Then every so often he would remark on how Austin ought to marry Janelle or at least propose before she is expected to move across the country for him. Janelle put on her headphones and tried not to throw up at the thought of the big step she had just taken. The only thing holding her together was the thought of seeing Austin in a few hours.
When they landed, Janelle smiled at the seven text messages and three missed calls from Austin. She sent him a text saying she had been in transit and he can call her back when he gets free. It was almost lunchtime in Vegas. She then called his mother.
“Perfect timing. I am ten minutes from the airport. By the time you guys get your bags, I will be there.”
Janelle let her know which baggage area they would be in and then led her parents in that direction.
Her mother kept shaking her head. “I thought they were joking about the slot machines in the airport.”
“Remember when we said we weren’t going to gamble?” Janelle’s father called behind him.
“Nope. I don’t recall that conversation.” Her mother rolled her eyes, causing Janelle to laugh.
After getting their bags, they headed outside where Austin’s mother was waiting. Janelle couldn’t help but shake her head. His mother drove an SUV bigger than the one Austin drove in Maryland. It took them twenty minutes, with no traffic, to get to Austin’s house. It was exactly the way she thought it would be. He clearly owned a few acres.
“This is really nice.” Her father nodded as he looked out the window. “You guys will have a lot of privacy.”
“My son hates looking out the window and seeing neighbors.” His mother smiled.
“But I see houses on both sides.” Janelle’s mom pointed.
Janelle smiled. “The one on the right is the barn he turned into a gym. The one on the left is where his best friend lives.”
“Yup. Those guys drove me nuts growing up.” She turned to me after pulling in the driveway. “Have you met Dave?”
“Only online.” Janelle smiled and then climbed out of the truck. “This place is huge.”
“I told you it was.” Austin’s mom walked around to stand next to Janelle. “You want to look around while I show your parents to the guest room?”
Janelle nodded. She walked out the open garage door and took in the view. She never imagined the desert could be so beautiful. Janelle turned and walked back into the garage. Her father had taken one of her suitcases inside so she grabbed the other. She knew from the virtual tours that Austin had given her that she would take a left at the kitchen and walk down the hallway to the master bedroom. Her parents and his mom would be on the other side of the house in the guest rooms. Janelle got her other suitcase from the hallway where her father temporarily left it. She pushed one and dragged the other. At the first open doorway, she stopped and shook her head. It was the laundry room. Austin had piles of clothes everywhere. She could smell his sweaty gym clothes and, for a split second, rethought the whole idea of moving in with him. Then she sighed and continued down the hallway.
She unpacked a few things before Austin’s mom came down the hallway with her mother.
“My child is going to learn to do laundry one day.”
“No, he won’t.” Janelle laughed.
“I bet he bought new clothes.”
Janelle pointed to the closet. “Two new suits I am certain he is going to say are for the new job. I am almost positive the new gym clothes are in his truck.”
“Exactly.” Austin’s mom laughed.
“Sweetie, we are going to the store to get the last of what we need for dinner.” Janelle’s mother shook her head.
“Daddy already taking his nap?”
“You know it.”
“Call me if you need anything.” Austin’s mom and Janelle’s mom left.
Janelle wasn’t sure where to put her clothes so she began to organize everything on the bed and then headed to the laundry room. She opened the window and then began to sort clothes. She got one load in the washer and more of her clothes unpacked when her phone rang. It was a video call from Austin.
“Sorry I blew up your phone earlier.”
“It’s okay. I forgot to tell you I would be unavailable.”
“I really miss you.”
“I miss you too babe.” Janelle sat leaned her phone against the wall so she could still see Austin and he could see her when she stood up straight.
“What are you doing?”
“Laundry.” She moved clothes from the washer to the dryer.
“This time of day?”
“There was a lot of it.”
“I was thinking I could just fly out for a day and…”
“Austin, that makes no sense.”
“I need to talk to you.”
“You are talking to me.”
“Face to face.”
Janelle smiled. “I’m looking at your face right now.”
“Janelle, come on. You know what I mean.”
“Yeah, I get it.” Janelle held in a giggle as she heard Austin come in the house. He walked down the hall to the bedroom.
“Babe… why are your clothes on my bed?”
“Because I didn’t know where to put them.”
Austin had a puzzled look on his face for a moment. Then he turned and walked back down the hall. His face lit up when he saw Janelle smiling at him. He hung up the call. “Babe, when did you get here?”
“A few hours ago. Your mom picked us up.”
“My dad is napping in the guest room. Our mothers went shopping for food.”
Austin had a million questions floating in his mind but one, in particular, jumped to the front. He kissed her and then got on one knee. “Janelle, will you marry me?”
“Will you marry me?”
“Is this why you wanted to talk to me face to face?”
“Yes.” Austin reached in the bag he had in his hand. “I ordered this a while ago. It just came in today.”
Janelle gasped at the ring. It was from her online wedding scrapbook that she had created years ago. It was the only ring on there and she had loved it since she saw it. “Austin, you paid attention.”
“Does this mean you are going to say yes?”
“Of course I am going to say yes.” Janelle yanked him up by his shirt and kissed him.
Austin held her in his arms after the kiss. “God, I wish I could keep you here.”
“So I can do your laundry?”
He laughed. “That is just a bonus.”
“Oh. Cause this room was ridiculous.”
“I know. I know.” He smiled at her. “When do you guys fly back?”
“My parents are flying back on Saturday.”
Janelle looked away and then back at him. “Austin, I quit my job.”
“I quit my job, donated or sold most all of my furniture, got all of your stuff from your apartment, and sublet my apartment for the last four months of my lease. My storage pod arrives on Monday.”
Austin picked Janelle up and kissed her. “So you aren’t going back?”
“No. If I do Lana is going to kill me because she is already planning a trip to come and visit us.”
Austin laughed. “Janelle, I love you.”
“I love you too.”