Ms. Berry’s Sweet & Spicy Soaps – Lena – Episode Eight

The shuttle driver helped Kareem get his bags out of the back of the shuttle. It was his fourth visit since Lena moved to Miami. It hadn’t gotten easier. He missed his family. Kareem tipped the driver, shook his hand, and picked up his duffle bag. He had a garment bag in his other hand. Inside that bag was his suit. He had an interview on Monday before he flew back to LA. Kareem knew the moment she told him she was staying in Miami that he was going to have to move there. As much as he hated the humidity, he loved his family and wanted to be near them. Lena still wasn’t really talking to him but she had warmed up to having him around and didn’t run away whenever he was on the video chat with Evan and Terry. Kareem looked up as Lena seemed to throw the front door open. He stopped walking towards it because he was having trouble reading her very annoyed face.

“We need to talk.”

“About?”

“Any number of things.”

Kareem chuckled and walked towards the front door. He had planned on going through the side and dropping his things in the guest house he shared with his mother when he visited. The look on Lena’s face told him that a discussion needed to happen immediately. “What are we starting with?”

Lena pointed to Terry, who smiled and then began to fuss in Anguillian. Kareem burst out laughing but stopped when he saw that Lena was not amused. She huffed. “My child starts talking and I can barely understand a word he’s saying.”

“You haven’t picked up on it yet?” Kareem asked. “All those phone calls with Mommy?”

“Tantie is usually fussing at me so I know that my son is now fussing at me as well.”

Kareem picked up Terry. “Dude, mommy wants you to speak English.”

“Papi.” Terry pointed at Kareem.

“Not Spanish, English.” Kareem laughed, kissed Terry on the cheek, and put him down. He looked at Lena. “Well, the boys will likely have a command of many different languages.”

Evan ran into the room and wrapped himself around Kareem’s leg. “Daddy, I start school in a month.”

“Really? Who said you were old enough for school?”

Evan pointed at Lena. 

Annette yelled from the kitchen. “Evan Charles Thomas, what did I tell you about pointing? When your mommy smacks you then you’re going to be crying and I’m not going to want to hear it.”

“Mommy doesn’t hit.” Evan looked up at Lena, hoping he was right. He slowly put his arm down.

Terry ran back over and began to yell in Anguillian again. Lena threw her hands up in the air and headed over to the steps. “I’m going to my office. Spend time with your boys.”

Lena went up to her office and worked on a project for exactly one hour. When her timer went off she reluctantly closed her work laptop. Gloria, who was a counselor, was trying to get her to have a better work-life balance. Lena got up and looked over the railing of the loft. The house was quiet except for Annette talking to the television in the kitchen. Lena could see out the sliding glass doors that Kareem was sitting out in the screened-in porch with the boys. They were eating dinner and talking. 

“Ma, you want me to wash those dishes?”

Annette looked up at her and smiled. “Nope. Kareem is on pots and pans duty tonight.”

“Are you still going to the movies?”

“Yes. In fact, let me get myself together so I can be ready when Saundra gets here.” Annette turned the television off and headed out the door to go to her apartment. Lena smiled. Part of her deal with Annette was that Lena would spend more time with the kids. Annette found a group of women from the Caribbean who were around her age or older. They would meet up at least twice a week and do things. Annette also volunteered at a nearby clinic. It made Lena happy that Annette wasn’t spending all her time taking care of Evan and Terry. Lena also felt more confident that she could take care of her kids by herself if she had to.

Kareem looked through the window and saw Lena in the loft. She walked out of his sight no sooner than they had made eye contact. He wanted badly to go and talk to her. However, Evan was in the middle of telling him all about what happened on the playground that particular week. It didn’t matter that much of this he had told Kareem when they talked the night before and that morning. Evan still wanted to tell his story. Kareem also had to contend with Terry interrupting and repeating things he had surely heard Tantie say to his Na-Na over the phone. Kareem often sat and wondered what hurt worse, being away from his wife or being away from his boys. They were different types of pain and emptiness. Kareem knew that there was so much that he was missing when it came to his boys. Every time he talked to them, or to his mother about them, he realized how fast they were growing. 

Then there was his relationship with his wife. They had barely been talking when she left. It had been part of the reason why he had begun a friendship with the woman he cheated with. He felt like he couldn’t talk to Lena. Most of their conversations turned into arguments. Kareem’s infidelity made things much worse. When he could get her to talk to him, it was about the kids. In his last attempt to have a conversation with her, he asked about work. She sighed and told him she needed to go. Then she hung up the phone. He wasn’t sure what he said wrong and he was almost certain he would only mess things up trying to ask her what he said wrong. 

One of his friends told him that he thought that Kareem and Lena hadn’t started the divorce process because of the kids. Kareem ignored him but it made him think. He knew he would not stay in a marriage just because of the kids. His relationship with his boys was separate from his relationship with his wife. He didn’t want to lose his wife. Kareem loved Lena and he couldn’t forgive himself for screwing their relationship up. He had no clue why Lena hadn’t filed for divorce. He was thankful and curious at the same time. 

“Daddy, I save my game time so we can play. Na-Na said one hour before bed.”

“You gonna let me show Terry how to play?”

“He’s too little.” Evan pouted. Then he smiled. “Okay. That means I can win.”

Kareem laughed. “Okay, let’s go play.”

 

Lena sat out on the private screened-in patio off her bedroom. She had recently purchased an outdoor sectional for the space that had access to the pool. Her original intention was to sit out there and read. Instead, Lena sat there and tried to figure out how she was going to talk to Kareem. Honestly, she didn’t want to say anything to him at all. Her anger and sadness came and went. At that moment she was extremely angry with him. The kids missed him. She missed him. However, he screwed up and cheated and she wasn’t even sure if she wanted him to ever touch her again.

Along with her anger towards him, Lena was upset with herself. She spent years in LA and hated it. Not once did she tell him that she didn’t want to live in LA. Lena felt that things were okay in their marriage and the kids were doing well so why should she change things. Running the LA office of her company had been a wonderful learning experience. The problem was that it was all she had. She had her family and she had work. Lena didn’t make any friends there outside of work. Kareem would introduce her to his friends but she never connected with anyone as she had in Miami. Lena was honestly very lonely in LA. 

Gloria suggested that she tell Kareem that but she wasn’t sure how. All she knew she wanted to do was yell at him. It was his fault he cheated. But she made the decision to move to LA with him and she was never open about how she felt being there. That was all on her.

Kareem came through the pool gate and knocked on her screen door. “How can you sit out here?”

Lena pointed up to the ceiling fan as he came inside. “It’s nice out tonight. It’s probably going to rain.”

“It’s so humid.”

“The boys asleep?”

“Yeah. Evan passed out first, as usual. Terry was asleep until I tried to vacuum.”

“That is his new thing. He hears it and screams and squeals for no actual reason.”

“I learned that tonight.” Kareem sighed. “I will have to finish cleaning up in the morning.”

“No biggie.”

“Did you still want to talk or…” Kareem took a small step forward. He hated that he could not read his wife’s mood. He looked at her and had no clue what was going on in her head. For a short time, he had been able to tell what she was thinking. Now, he was lost.

“I honestly don’t know what to say or where to start.”

“We can’t keep ignoring things.”

“Half the time you don’t even care what I have to say anyway.”

“Wait, that’s not true.”

Lena stood up. “Please. You ask me how my day went and I start to tell you and you stop listening or start an argument.”

“All you would ever talk about was work. You never once mentioned anything but your damn job.”

“Did it ever occur to you that my job was all I had going on?”

“And who’s fault was that?”

Lena rolled her eyes and turned to walk away.

Kareem grabbed her arm. “Don’t. Look. We need to talk. I want you to talk to me. Say something. Do something. I need to know what is on your mind.”

Lena turned quickly and punched Kareem in the stomach. “There. That’s what’s on my mind.”

“Fuck.” Kareem bent over in pain. 

Lena took a few steps back, resisting the urge to hit him again.

“Yo, Evan lied.”

“Huh?”

Kareem looked up at her. “He said you don’t hit.”

“I don’t hit him.”

Kareem tried to stand up straight and then bent over again. “Jesus, you hit harder than Eric.”

Lena tried to hold it in but ended up laughing. Her laughter only lasted a few moments before it was replaced with tears. She had no idea what to do and she felt out of control. Kareem reached over to touch her and she swatted his hand away. Lena took a few steps back. “You don’t get to try to comfort me when you’re the cause of so much of this.”

“Lena…”

“Goodnight.” Lena turned and went inside her bedroom. She shut the sliding glass door and closed the curtains.

Kareem stood there for a moment and then slowly walked over to the other side of the yard. 

 

Lena avoided Kareem all day Saturday and most of Sunday. It wasn’t hard. She had been doing it for most of his visits those few months. Kareem was supposed to be spending time with the boys. Evan craved his attention and did everything he could to hold on to it. Lena knew that if she let him, Evan would exclude Terry as well. That was not allowed. Saturday, Evan got Kareem to take them to the park. Lena made sure that she was out running errands when it was nap time. She got home just after Evan woke up and pulled Kareem into helping him clean up his room, which turned into them playing all kinds of games. Lena was tucked away in her room when Kareem put the boys to bed. 

Learning to take the hint, Kareem did his best to not press the issue of talking with Lena. This was difficult since his mother kept nagging him about it.

“You two need to talk. Stop avoiding it, Kareem.”

“I’m not the one avoiding it. We’ll talk when she is ready to talk.” Kareem wiped the counter in his mother’s small kitchen down. Cleaning the kitchen at the end of the day had always been his job. He found it surprisingly therapeutic. 

“I don’t understand you two.”

“Clearly, neither do we.” 

“What is this interview you have before you leave?”

“It is a teaching position at the University of Miami. It wouldn’t start until the Spring semester.”

“You want to teach now?”

“I want to be closer to my family. The other positions I am finding don’t pay enough.”

“How much do you need to make?”

“Ma, Miami is expensive. I will have to find an apartment and still help out taking care of the boys.”

“You can stay here.”

“Is that what you think? I think Lena might not want me to stay here.”

Annette sighed and got up from the loveseat. “Talk to your wife.”

Kareem decided it best to hold his response in his head. No sense in getting hit by his mother and his wife in the same weekend. “Goodnight mom.”

“You taking the boys to the farmer’s market in the morning?”

“Yes. Evan has asked me no less than fifteen times today.”

“He likes getting the shaved ice and berries.” Annette kissed Kareem on the forehead. “I will leave a list on the counter. I’m going to go enjoy church. Evan knows who to buy what from.”

 

Kareem heard his sons sneaking into his room but allowed them to climb up on the bed to surprise him.

“Good morning daddy!” Evan hugged Kareem.

“Good morning Evan.” He hugged Evan. Then he grabbed Terry before he fell back off the bed. “Morning Terry.”

“Mommy went to the store. Na-Na is to church.”

“Na-Na is going to church.”

“Yes.” Evan nodded. 

“You two gonna sit on the bed and watch cartoons while I take a quick shower?”

“I can watch Terry.”

Kareem raised his eyebrow. “Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“How about y’all sit on the floor.”

Kareem sat them both on the floor and took a quick shower. When he got out, Terry was on his way out of the bedroom. “Evan, where is your brother going?”

“I don’t know.”

Kareem snatched Terry up and rolled his eyes as Terry fussed.”Man, I need you to calm down.”

It took Kareem twenty minutes to get dressed because he had to keep getting up to chase after Terry, who was trying to get into everything. Kareem made Evan go to the bathroom and changed Terry’s diaper before loading them into the wagon he had gotten Evan for Christmas. They got two houses down the street and Evan insisted on getting out and pulling his brother in the wagon. The farmer’s market was at the edge of the complex, in a park that butted up to another complex on the other side. As soon as they arrived, Evan started introducing Kareem to people. 

“Do you know everyone?”

“Almost. Na-Na talks to everyone. Mommy doesn’t unless I start or they start.” Evan smiled. “We gotta get Na-Na some matoes.”

“Tomatoes.”

“Yes, those.” Evan grinned.

Kareem had a bag full of stuff when he saw Nathan. “Hey.”

“Reem.” Nate squealed and ran over to Kareem. He hugged his leg and then climbed into the wagon with Terry, who was curled up taking a nap. Evan climbed on Nate’s tricycle. 

“Good morning. I see they have you out shopping this morning.” Nathan laughed.

“Lena went somewhere and my mother wanted to go to church. Evan has been talking about this place for weeks.”

“Lena is probably setting up for brunch with the girls. It is her turn to host. If your mom is at church then you will be spending a ton of quality time with those two.” Nathan shook his head. “They were at my house for brunch and dinner last month.”

“Brunch?” Kareem could only remember Lena going to brunch once. He remembered it vividly because he encouraged her to go and she hated it. “Lena hates brunch.”

“Man, don’t admit that you know nothing about your wife.” Nathan patted him on the back. “Lena, Macie, and Glo are brunch all-stars. They have been brunching for the almost ten years that I have known them, probably longer than that. They go out every Sunday except the last Sunday of the month. That is when one of them hosts brunch at their house.”

“Wow.” Kareem was shocked. “She went out once in California and complained for a month afterward. Most Sunday’s she would be on the phone…”

“With Macie or Glo and their crew while they were at brunch.” Nathan sighed. “You got a long way to go if you are trying to fix things with Lena.”

“What else don’t I know that I need to know?”

Evan stopped the tricycle next to Kareem. “Mommy loves flowers. Can we get her some flowers?”

“Okay. You going to help me pick them out?”

“Yes.” Evan rode the tricycle over to a vendor who was selling fresh cut flowers.

The vendor smiled at him and waited for Kareem and Nathan to get over to her before she spoke. “Hello, Evan.”

“Hi, Ms. Clara. We need flowers for my mommy.”

“She likes to pick hers out. Is she coming?”

“I dunno.” Evan shrugged. “It’s a surprise.”

“Okay. Well, I will put together something I know she will like.”

“Thank you.”

Kareem looked at Nathan. “I got you and my son teaching me about my wife.”

“Yeah. I’m gonna need you to get your life together.”

The guys walked around and finished shopping after Evan got his flowers. They were sitting and eating breakfast when Terry climbed off the bench and ran into the middle of the market. 

“Shit. Watch Evan for me.” Kareem hopped up and chased after Terry. When he caught up to him Terry was wrapped around Lena’s leg. Lena was standing with Gloria at a fruit stand.

“Boy, where is your father? Why are you running around by yourself?” Lena looked up when Gloria tapped her arm. Lena sighed when she saw Kareem. “This one sometimes requires the harness I put in the diaper bag.”

“I forgot the diaper bag?”

Lena took it out of the small rolling cart Gloria had. “I know.”

“Thanks.”

“Mommy.” Terry held tight to Lena’s leg.

She shook her head. “You want me to keep him with me.”

“Naw. We are good. He really just woke up from a nap.” Kareem tried to pull Terry off Lena’s leg but Terry started screaming. 

“Don’t do this today, Terrance.” Lena bent down and Terry let go of her leg and wrapped his arms around her neck. She picked him up. 

Terry said something in Anguillan and Kareem responded to him, in a stern voice. Terry pouted and reached for Kareem. Kareem took him from Lena and stood him on the ground. Terry held onto Kareem’s hand.

“What did you say to him?” Gloria asked.

Nathan, who had joined them just in time to hear the exchange, laughed. “Oh, you were channeling Baba right then.”

Evan handed Lena the bouquet of flowers. “Daddy let me get these for you, mommy.”

Lena smiled and kissed Evan on the cheek. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Ms. Clara said you would like them.”

“I love them.” She looked at Kareem and smiled slightly. “Do you want me to take the bags to the house since we drove?”

“Sure. Nathan said you had a thing.”

“Yeah, I gotta get back.”

“We will probably go hang at his house to keep the boys out of your hair.” Kareem swallowed and couldn’t believe how nervous he felt at that moment.

“Okay. Thanks.”

He took the bags he had for his mother and put them, as well as the things Gloria had in her cart, into the car. 

Lena looked at him as she stood in the doorway of the car. “Were the flowers really Evan’s idea?”

Kareem smiled. “Of course. I’m clearly not that smart.”

Lena frowned and then smiled. She was glad Kareem was honest about it. “Well, thank you for paying. Evan never takes his money out of the house.”

“Have fun at brunch.” Kareem held the door while Lena got in and then closed it behind her.

Nathan raised his eyebrow when Kareem walked over with a defeated look on his face. “What happened?”

“Nothing.”

“So, why the face?”

“She’s going to divorce me. I don’t know what she is waiting on, other than for me to be tortured with the hope that I’m wrong.”

“Did she say that?”

“No.”

“So, how do you know?”

“I may not know much about my wife, but I know she is sick of me.” Kareem shook his head and then put a smile on his face as he got closer to the boys. “Alright guys, how about we get this shaved ice y’all keep talking about.”

 

Lena spent brunch dancing around the subject of her marriage with her friends. A few of them had plenty of drama of their own so it wasn’t hard to change the subject. It wasn’t until everyone but Gloria and Macie left that she had to face the discussion.

“Okay, so you gotta explain to us why you haven’t called a lawyer yet.” Gloria poured another glass of Sangria.

“Are you two going to work it out or are you leaving him?” Macie asked.

Lena sighed. “I don’t know.”

“Girl, you have had months to think about this. Don’t say you need more time. It takes you like five seconds to make decisions.” Gloria scolded. “Why are you torturing this man?”

“Well… I want another baby.” Lena said it quickly. It had been an idea in her head, even before she found out that Kareem had cheated. 

“What?” Macie almost choked on her drink.

“A baby?” Gloria patted Macie on the back.

“I want to try for a girl. I know I might not end up with a girl but I do want one more before I shut all that baby stuff down. I am at a good place in my career where I can handle it.”

“Um… you know you can just find another man, right?” Gloria sat back in the chair. “Sperm bank.”

“As much as I love my cousin by marriage, he fucked up. Y’all did not have the best relationship. You seem so much happier being back here.”

“I know. Kareem is a good father. It would be nice if the kids all had the same dad.” Lena looked at Gloria. “You know how I mean that, right?”

Gloria smiled. She had two kids, ages sixteen and seventeen, by two different guys. Lena didn’t want to offend her. “Yes, I do. Learn from me, my dear.”

“So, how is it that you plan on convincing him to do this?” Macie raised her eyebrow. “Are you going to take him back just so you can have another baby? That is crazy Lena.”

“No.” Lena sipped her lemonade. “I have been thinking about it a lot but I think about the two things separately. I don’t want to trick him and I am not sure I want him back.”

“Lawd.” Gloria shook her head. “I cannot wait for you to tell us how this discussion goes with Kareem.”

“When are you going to talk to him?”

“I guess tonight after the boys go to bed. Annette said he really is trying to move here.”

“You gonna make him get his own place?” Gloria asked.

“I don’t know. I would prefer him to stay here.” Lena paused. “With Annette. The boys miss him so much.”

“This is crazy.” Macie shook her head and began to laugh. “You do know that you have to have sex with him to get pregnant.”

Lena threw a pillow at her. “Yes, I am aware.”

“And…” Macie threw the pillow back.

“I still don’t want him to touch me.” Lena hung her head down. “He ought not to touch me for a while.”

Macie paused. “Bitch, your ass is already pregnant.”

Lena sighed. “Yes.”

“Wait, what?” Gloria got up out of the chair and then sat back down. “Why didn’t I know this? You haven’t been drinking at all since you moved back.”

“I had a hunch but I just found out two weeks ago when I finally got in to see my old doctor.” Lena looked at Macie. “I don’t actually have to have sex with him. He got me pregnant before all this shit happened.”

“Have you two talked about that?” Macie frowned. “I mean the girl?”

“No.” Lena looked away. “I honestly am fairly certain I could go the rest of my life without knowing anything about that girl.”

“Are you sure?” Macie asked.

“Jesus girl.” Gloria drunk the last of her Sangria. “We gotta change the subject cause I am going to be too drunk to drive home if we stay on this particular topic.”

Macie poured the last of the Sangria into her cup. “I can finish this. I’m walking home.”

Gloria paused. “Are you sure you should be making major life decisions while knocked up?”

“I don’t know. It hasn’t worked out well for me in the past.” Lena couldn’t help but laugh at herself. Luckily, her best friends joined her.

Lena had to coach herself to talk to Kareem after Gloria and Macie left. Annette had made dinner and the family ate out on the patio. Evan monopolized the conversation talking about everything from the farmer’s market to how excited he was to be starting school in a few weeks. It, unfortunately, gave her time to run every scenario through her brain of what would happen when she talked to Kareem. She retreated to her room while he gave Terry a bath and put him to bed. Lena could see Evan helping him clean the kitchen as she sat on her patio. Then he put Evan in the tub. Lena leaned back on the couch and tried to formulate what she was going to say to Kareem.

Her phone rung a few moments later. She smiled when she saw it was Gloria. “Why are you calling me?”

Gloria laughed. “Cause I’m completely sober now.”

“You weren’t drunk when you left here.”

“I was tipsy.”

“So…”

“You need to just be straight with Kareem. Tell him what is on your mind. You never do that and you really need too.”

“He isn’t going to understand.”

“You don’t know that. He might. And if he doesn’t, then you know that the two of you probably aren’t going to work out.”

Lena sighed. “I don’t know.”

“You play shit so close to your chest I sometimes wonder if you tell yourself what you are thinking.”

Lena couldn’t help but laugh. “Honestly, sometimes I don’t.”

“Did you contact that therapist I referred you to?”

“No.”

“Lena…” Gloria huffed.

“I don’t have time for therapy.”

“If you and Kareem are going to work this out I think you need to make time. At least consider couples therapy.”

“I’m not doing that. Hell, Tantie gave me an entire breakdown of what Kareem and I need to do to fix this marriage.”

“Did she tell Kareem?”

“She still isn’t speaking to Kareem.”

Gloria laughed. “So what was Tantie’s sage advice?”

“She said we skipped the dating part and need to go back there.” Lena paused. She expected Gloria to say something but she was quiet. “Why are you quiet?”

“I’m quiet because she’s right.”

“Ugh.”

“First you need to talk to him. Tell him exactly what is on your mind. Just don’t hit him again.”

“I can’t make any promises.”

“Lena.”

Lena laughed. “Okay. Fine. I will keep my hands to myself.”

“Thank you.”

“That’s all I’m going to say for now. I’ll send you my bill in the morning.”

“Love you too.” Lena laughed as she hung up her phone.

 

“Mommy is still sad,” Evan said quietly as Kareem wrapped him in a towel after making him get out of the shower.

“She is?”

“She doesn’t cry like when we first moved here, but she still is sad.”

“How do you know?”

Evan looked at him. “I just know.”

“I’m sad too.”

“Daddy, why do you sleep at Na-Na’s?”

Kareem took a deep breath. “Your mom and I have some grown-up things we have to work out.”

“Okay.” Evan gave Kareem a hug. “Good luck, daddy.”

“Thanks.” Kareem kissed Evan on the cheek. “Now put on some lotion.”

“Awww man.”

“Let’s get it done so you can pick out a bedtime story.”

Kareem read Evan a story and began a second one before Evan fell asleep. Kareem went back into the boys’ bathroom and started cleaning the tub. He took that time to think about what he needed to say to Lena. Part of him wanted to explain to her why he made such a stupid mistake. Trouble was, he couldn’t even explain it to himself. Kareem knew the moment he kissed that girl that he had fucked up. He had been out at Happy Hour, watching the game with friends. The girl frequented the bar and they exchanged numbers on the premise that he could help her get a job at the hospital nearby. Kareem actually did help her get the job. The texting continued after that. Then the pictures started. He had every intention of telling her that they needed to stop talking when he drove her home that night. However, he forgot those intentions when she invited him in. Kareem knew better and slept with her anyway. He wasn’t sure how to forgive himself, let alone ask his wife to forgive him. 

He turned out the lights, leaving the nightlight on for Evan, and headed out of the main house. He was halfway across the yard when he heard Lena.

“Kareem…” She paused.

He walked over to the fence. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Can we talk?” Lena looked away and then back at him. “More like, can I talk to you and you listen and not say anything because I promised Glo I wouldn’t hit you again.”

Kareem nodded and walked over to her patio. He sat down, on the far opposite end of the couch from her. “I’m listening.”

“I hated living in California. I don’t make friends easily and I was bored.”

Kareem started to open his mouth but put his hand over it and nodded.

“I worked so much because there wasn’t anything else for me to do other than be a mom and wife. I’m also certain I didn’t get the whole wife thing down. I mean I had to have screwed up at something for you to sleep with someone else.”

It was so hard for Kareem not to respond. He looked up at the ceiling fan for a moment and then back to Lena.

“I don’t know that I want to be with you anymore.” Lena paused. “I don’t know that I want you to touch me again. I feel like I don’t know you. I feel like you don’t know me and I know that some of that is my fault. I’m sure I haven’t really let you get to know me. We have a few things in common, great sex, and kids. That’s kinda it.”

Kareem took a deep breath as Lena looked down at her hands.

She looked up at him. “I can’t make a decision about getting a divorce. I decided to marry you while I was pregnant. We barely knew each other. I was pregnant when we got married. All I knew at that point was you are a great father, a great son, and give amazing massages. You weren’t a good fiancé. I wasn’t good at that either.”

Kareem smiled slightly but braced himself because he had an idea of what she was going to say next.

“I’m pregnant. I’m happy about being pregnant. You’re still an amazing father. You fucking suck at the husband thing.” Lena got up. “Annette and Evan said you’re trying to move to Miami as soon as possible. I would like it if you stayed here. I can understand if you don’t want to stay with your mom but that is all I can offer. If you don’t, Eric can always use a roommate until you find a place. It’s just that Evan and Terry…”

Kareem’s heart, what was left of it, shattered when he saw the tears welling up in her eyes.

“Anyway, that’s it. I’m going to bed.” Lena walked towards the door. She stopped and turned to him. “I don’t want you to explain to me what happened. There is no explanation for it. You made a mistake. Excuses and explanations aren’t going to fix it.”

Kareem nodded.

“Goodnight.”

“Goodnight Lena.”

 

“Is daddy here?” Evan ran into Lena’s room and looked around.

“Huh?” Lena sat up. She looked at her clock, blinked hard, and then looked again. It was five in the morning. “Evan, why are you up so early?”

“It is the first day of school. Daddy said he would be here.” Evan fought back tears. “I went over to Na-Na’s but he isn’t in his room.”

Lena sighed. “Baby, there is still time. We don’t leave for school until eight o’clock.”

“Daddy said he would be here,” Evan yelled and then ran out of the room.

Lena climbed out of her bed and went down the hall. Evan was lying on his bed crying. She shook her head. “Evan, sweetie…”

“Go away please.”

Lena turned and walked towards the kitchen. She got halfway into the kitchen when she stopped. After taking a few steps backwards she looked on her couch. Kareem was passed out, still holding his keys and his bags in the middle of her living room floor. She turned and went back to Evan’s room. Terry was passed out in his crib, looking exactly like his father.

“Evan, your dad is in the living room.”

“Huh?” Evan wiped his eyes. He hopped out of bed and ran into the living room. Then he squealed. “Daddy!”

Kareem jumped up. “Hey. What’s wrong?”

“You made it.”

“I told you I would.” Kareem leaned back on the couch and wiped his eyes. Then he looked at his watch. “Man, why are you up so early?”

“I wanted you to help me put my backpack together. Did you find the Spiderman one?”

Kareem reached down and pulled a bag out of his duffle bag. “Yes, I did. But can we do this at a more reasonable hour?”

“Daddy, I have to be prepared in order to have a positive day.”

Lena giggled. “Kareem, do you want a cup of coffee?”

“I’ll make it. You go back to sleep. I’ll sleep while he’s in school.”

“Daddy, will you be here when I get home?”

“Yes. I fly out tomorrow after a meeting.”

Evan started jumping up and down. “Did you get a job here? You have to have a job to go to meetings.”

Kareem stood up. “I may be getting offered a job here. We will see tomorrow. For now, let’s sit at this table and put this backpack together.”

Lena smiled and slowly walked down the hallway. She paused when she saw the flowers sitting on the kitchen counter. They were lilies, her favorite. She turned to Kareem. “Put those in water before they die.”

Kareem glanced at her, saw the smile on her face, and smiled. “Yes, ma’am.”

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