Ms. Berry’s Sweet & Spicy Soaps – Lena – Episode 12

Kareem walked up the path on the side of the house. Every day he would try to get to the guest house in the back for a few moments of quiet before the kids knew he was home. He was rarely successful. That day was no exception.

“Daddy’s home!” Evan yelled. Evan was sitting on the back porch with Shawn. 

“Hi Mr. Kareem.” Shawn looked up from the puzzle box he was digging in.

“Hey Shawn.” Kareem was a bit confused. When he had last talked to Veronica, she wasn’t planning on the kids having a playdate until Thursday. “Where’s your mom?”

Shawn shrugged. “I dunno.”

“Na-Na is getting ready to go out. Terry is watching cartoons and Gwennie is driving Na-Na nuts.” Evan reported.

Kareem chuckled on his way to the guest house. “Hey Terry.”

“Hi Daddy. Mommy arrived safely and has a lot of work to do.” Terry looked up at him and smiled. Then he looked back at the cartoons.

Gwennie ran out of his mother’s bedroom squealing. “Daddy.”

“Hey cutie.” Kareem bent down and picked up his daughter. He couldn’t help but smile at her. Gwennie was the perfect blend of he and Lena. She had Lena’s face and Kareem’s hair. Terry looked exactly like Kareem and Evan looked most like Lena’s brother Eric. 

“Na-Na.” Gwennie pointed to his mother’s room. 

Kareem walked to the doorway. Annette was brushing her hair into a ponytail. “Hey Ma.”

“You actually made it at the time you said you would.”

Kareem sighed. “I told you…”

“You said something about grilling. I soaked some corn for you. Terry has just calmed down from being upset that his mother is not here.”

“What’s up with Shawn?”

“That damn aftercare at the school. The woman didn’t show up to unlock the portable and the school staff refused to because they usually end up covering for her for over an hour.” Annette shook her head. “I stayed at the playground with a few of the mom’s and held on to some of the kids. I told Veronica not to rush from work. You know she has only had that job for a few weeks.”

“Yes. I know.” Kareem leaned in the doorway.

“Why aren’t you dating that woman?” Annette raised her eyebrow at him.

“Because she and I have a good friendship. I’m not trying to fuck it up.”

“So don’t fuck it up.” She rolled her eyes at him. “And stop trying to set Lena up.”

“Ma…”

“I’m so serious boy. Y’all are just starting to actually talk and not argue or bicker. I know you two aren’t getting back together but let her find her own dates.”

Kareem sighed. “Yes ma’am.”

“What did you get her for Valentine’s Day?”

“Evan wanted to send her flowers. Terry said he has a plan.”

“I know his plan. Not sure how we will pull it off but we will see.” Annette put her hand on her hip. “What did you get her?”

“Gwennie and I got her a new laptop bag.”

“A laptop bag?” Annette frowned.

“It’s a Coach bag.”

Annette nodded and finished her hair. “Good job.”

“Thank you.”

“You know, Shawn was talking about wanting to take his mother to dinner.” Annette shot Kareem a side glance. “He was asking me where he could take her for twenty dollars. He says he has twenty dollars left from his Christmas money.’

“Oh. Interesting.” Kareem turned and walked with Gwennie to his room. He did not want to entertain whatever his mother was going to suggest. Although, he had to pause when he remembered wanting to take his own mother out when he was little and had no money.

Thirty minutes later, he was on the grill and his mother had gone to go bowling with her friends. Evan, Shawn, and Terry were running around the grassy part of the backyard playing soccer. Gwennie was sitting in her playpen, squealing whenever the boys got near her with the ball.

“Knock, knock.” Veronica walked in the back gate.

“Hey mommy.” Shawn ran over and gave her a hug. “Can we stay for dinner?”

“Have you invited us over without checking?” Veronica looked from Shawn to Kareem.

“I told him that he had to ask you. We have plenty.”

“Sure.” Veronica came over and sat in a chair at the table. “So how was your day?”

“Quiet at work.” Kareem glanced over as Gwennie began to squeal. “I’ve got exciting nightlife.”

Veronica laughed. “I’m glad you aren’t making Annette change her routine.”

“I like having a happy household. I can’t go back to her and Lena being pissed at me, because they both would have been if I didn’t.”

“You two are doing better?”

“Yes.” Kareem nodded. 

“Good.”

“How was your day?”

“This job…” Veronica paused. “You don’t want to hear me complain. I am happy for this job. Alimony and child support ain’t shit.”

“Naw. Talk to me.” Kareem loved listening to Veronica talk as much as he loved being able to talk to her. He hoped that it could continue forever but he knew that she was a beautiful woman and someone was going to snatch her up one day.

 

“See daddy.” Terry showed Kareem the picture on his tablet. “Mr. Rod helped me give mommy breakfast in bed.”

Kareem raised his eyebrow. “Mr. Rod?”

“He is in Chicago with mommy. They have to save the office.” Terry put his tablet down and pointed to the bowl. He turned to Evan. “Get the meat. Meatballs need meat.”

“Daddy, why is he in charge?” Evan groaned.

“He’s in charge of meatballs. You’re in charge of everything else.” Kareem took the package of ground meat from Evan. “So go get the pot for the pasta.”

“Na-Na is eating wheat pasta.”

Kareem rolled his eyes. “Not today she isn’t.”

“Daddy, she is going to fuss.” Evan’s eyes got wide.

“Okay. Get two pots. I’m not eating wheat pasta.”

“Shawn said he’s taking Ms. Roni to dinner.”

“Oh, really. Where?” Kareem smiled. He knew exactly where Shawn took his mother but he didn’t want Evan to know he knew. Shawn was so excited when Kareem presented him with a gift card to Veronica’s favorite family restaurant. 

“I don’t remember but she was excited when she came to get him.” Evan turned to him. “Na-Na said that she doesn’t mind keeping Shawn with us. She is going to ask mommy if she minds. I don’t think mommy minds though. She likes Ms. Roni and Shawn.”

“I like Ms. Roni. Shawn is okay.” Terry made a face that caused Kareem to laugh. “Daddy, what next?”

Kareem returned his focus to Terry. He didn’t realize that cooking with his two sons would be so difficult. He wanted to do it in the guest house but there wasn’t enough room so they moved to the main house. Annette was in the guest house watching television with Gwennie. Kareem put different ingredients into bowls. Then he looked at Terry. “Put those ingredients in with the meat. Then we will add some egg and mix it all up.”

Evan tried to lift the pot he filled with water out of the sink. Kareem got there just in time before he dropped  the pot. “Water is heavy.”

“Yeah, it is. We will dump a little into the other pot.” 

“Mr. Paul gave mommy ballet tickets and she is going with Mr. Rod.” Terry carefully dumped each bowl into the larger bowl.

Kareem chuckled. He had always wondered about Roderick. He called him Lena’s work husband. All Kareem really knew about him was that he was from London. Kareem realized that he never really asked Lena about who she worked with. He sighed. He knew more about Veronica’s new coworkers than he knew about the people Lena had been working with for more than ten years. Kareem made a mental note to change that. He wanted to be friends with his ex wife and he knew that started with paying more attention to the things she was passionate about. 

 

Lena walked into an empty house on Friday night. She was glad it was quiet. It gave her a few extra moments to collect her thoughts. Rod had surprised her by having the secretary change her flight.

“You’re trying to get rid of me?” Lena shut the door to the senior partner’s office they were sharing.

“I’d like nothing more than to keep you here with me until I return to London.” He stopped typing. “Then I would take you with me to London.”

Lena frowned. “So why have my flight moved up?”

“You need to be with your kids. You miss them. They miss you.” Rod sighed. “And without work to distract me, I might cause you to miss your flight tomorrow.”

“Oh.” 

“Listen, Lena…”

“Can we not?” Lena looked up and smiled at him. 

Rod nodded. “Okay.”

“Let’s finish up some things so that I can go back to the suite and finish packing.”

They worked until Rod got pulled into a meeting with the interns. He needed to prepare them for the presentation that they would be giving Paul when he arrived on Monday. Lena would be present via video conference. She took that time to pack up her work things and then head over to the suite.

She spent the entire flight home thinking about Rod and how she refused to let things get weird between them. Rod had been a friend for so long. They didn’t talk about their personal lives much, but they had started to more recently. It started with him asking her advice on Rae and then moved to him listening to her short rants about Kareem. Lena would always stop and say nevermind. She didn’t want Rod to think she hated Kareem. Now she wasn’t sure what the two of them would talk about when they weren’t talking about work. Considering that was the first time they had met in person, she wasn’t even sure that she would be seeing him again any time soon.

Lena put her bags in her room and decided she needed a distraction. She walked over to the guest house and gently tapped on the screen door. Annette smiled at her and pointed to the bathroom. Lena quietly came inside and walked to the bathroom to find Kareem giving Evan and Terry a bath.

“Momma.” Terry squealed so loud Lena thought she might lose hearing due to the bathroom’s acoustics.

“Surprise.” Lena braced herself as Terry jumped out of the tub and ran straight for her. She didn’t even care that he was getting her wet. Evan was nice enough to put a towel on before hugging her tightly. 

“Momma, we were getting you from the airport after breakfast.” Terry planted kisses on Lena’s face.

“I decided to leave after my last meeting and took the shuttle to surprise you guys.” Lena got Terry to stop kissing her to get her single kiss from Evan. 

Kareem handed her a towel. “Rod kicked you out?”

Lena laughed and looked up at Kareem. “Basically.”

“I was just going to put these two to bed over here.”

“Momma can put us to bed.”

“But daddy said he was going to let me play a game for a little bit.” Evan pouted.

Lena sighed. “So, let’s put on our pajamas because there is a no naked little boy in the backyard rule still in effect. Then Evan, you can stay over here and play that game with your dad. Terry and I can go read a story.”

“Yay.” Terry held his hands up and did a little dance.

“Where is Gwennie?” Lena looked at Kareem.

“She passed out an hour ago on my mom’s bed.” Kareem led Evan out of the bathroom. “I can bring her over when I bring Evan back.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Lena carried Terry, all wrapped up in the towel, to Kareem’s room.

“Evan, put some damn lotion on.” Kareem fussed.

 

Lena walked into the restaurant and immediately saw Macie and Gloria. She walked back and joined them in a booth. “How did y’all find a new place to brunch?”

“This just opened and has been under the radar. Nathan heard about it from a coworker who knows the owner.” Macie smiled. “Let’s hurry up and order because I need information from both of you.”

Lena chuckled and looked at the menu. “Are we splitting a pitcher?”

“Yes. I need some Sangria in my life.” Gloria huffed. “These kids of mine.”

The waitress came over took down their order. Then Macie looked at Gloria. “How did things go with that issue you were mentioning about his ex?”

Gloria rolled her eyes. “So… Lena, are you caught up in the group chat?”

“Yes. I read back through it last night before bed.”

“Lonzo’s ex has been having all kinds of fits about us moving in together. I wasn’t sure what her deal was. I thought I was going to have to smack a bitch the way Lonzo was telling it.” Gloria sighed. “Then I just went straight to her and asked her about it.”

“Oh lord.” Macie sipped her water. “And how did that go?”

“I bet you she isn’t even that bad.”

“Oh my god, Lena. She’s a sweetheart. You know what her issue was?”

“What?”

“Us not being married. She didn’t want him to try and just shack up with me. She was afraid that I would be cool with it and she didn’t want her kids thinking that it was okay.” Gloria rolled her eyes. “Girl, I went home and cursed Lonzo out for making me think she was a horrible person and keeping me from meeting her for these past couple of years.”

“You didn’t?” Lena shook her head.

“I did. Then I told him to thank Sheena because she was a big part of the reason I was accepting his proposal.”

Macie giggled. “Yay!”

“What changed your mind?” Lena asked.

“She doesn’t hate him. She just said he does dumb shit, which is so true. Sheena holds him accountable for his shit, just like I do. I thought we would be adversaries and I didn’t think that was healthy. Meeting her let me know that we could be cool. His kids are still young. We have a while that we are going to have to deal with each other.”

“I am so glad you are the grownup in our friendship.” Lena laughed. “So now I get to help plan another wedding. I’m excited.”

Macie waited until the waitress poured them glasses of Sangria, put the pitcher down, and left before she started talking again. “So, now that I know Glo’s news…”

“I have no news.” Lena  sipped her drink. “Oh this is yummy.”

“Bitch, how could you not tell us about Rod?”

Just the mention of his name caused Lena to smile. “What about Rod?”

“He’s fine as shit.” Gloria nibbled on a roll.

“My cousin told me that you two looked like you had been married for ten years, both at the club and the ballet.” Macie stopped Lena before she could protest. “So much so, she couldn’t tell if y’all had slept together since you insisted that y’all were just friends.”

“We are just friends.” Lena smiled. Macie and Gloria stared at her, causing her to sigh. “It’s just a bit more complicated now.”

Macie nodded her head. “Shelly told me there was crazy chemistry between you two.”

Gloria raised her eyebrow. “No issue with work?”

“Chile, we are entirely too grown and professional for all that.”

“Everybody can’t swing that.” Gloria leaned back as the waitress sat down their salads.

“Nothing seemed to change.” Lena paused. “Well, except for taking breaks from working in the evening to have sex and then going right back to working.”

“Lawd Jesus.” Macie tried not to choke on the swallow of drink she had in her mouth.

“That man is just…” Lena smiled. “It was amazing. I could have stayed like that forever except for my kids not being there and how fucking cold it was.”

“So, what happens now?”

Lena ate a bite of her salad. “Now, nothing. He lives in London. I don’t do long distance romances. I’m certain we will continue to work together with no problems.”

“And if you two end up in the same place at the same time…” Macie smirked.

“Then we may get to have a bit of fun together. Who knows.” Lena smiled.

Gloria shook her head. “How do you make it sound so easy?”

“It just is.” Lena sipped her drink. Truth was, she hoped it was going to be that easy. Being with Rod had done something to her. She wasn’t sure what he did and she didn’t know how to fix it. At that moment, she wasn’t sure she even wanted to fix it.

 

Rod sat staring out the window while Rae talked about all the work she had to do for her classes that semester. It was Sunday and his withdrawal from Lena was weighing heavily on him. Rod was excited to get her text that she was safely back at home and reading Terry a story Friday night. On Saturday morning she sent him a text, scolding him for not sending her the draft presentation that the interns had crafted. He responded by telling her that he had given them until that night to fix things he immediately saw and then scolded her for not spending time with her kids. She responded with a picture of a playground and two boys dangling from the monkey bars. He found himself sad that she wasn’t also in the picture. Then, a moment later, Lena sent a selfie of her with Gwennie giving her a kiss on the cheek. 

When Rod first met Lena, via early video conferencing, he instantly had a crush on her. He watched her grow into a fierce business woman. She was also a friend to him whenever he needed that too. She listened to him complain all through Rae’s teenage years. Watching Lena turn into an amazing mother made her even more beautiful to him. It was amazing to him how effortlessly it seemed she was able to go from one thing to the other. He envied Kareem but could tell from conversations he and Lena had that the two were not going to last very long. Now that he had seen the third side to Lena, an amazingly passionate lover, Rod was bewitched.

“Daddy, are you done daydreaming about Lena or do you want me to leave and come back.” 

Rod looked at Rae’s amused face. “No I’m not done but no I don’t want you to go.”

Rae laughed. “I knew the minute I met her that you were going to fall in love with her maybe five minutes after you saw her in person. Did it even take 5 minutes daddy?”

“No. It took two.”

“Lawd. What are you going to do now, daddy?” Rae shook her head. “You two have to work together. You guys spent ten years without being in the same place.”

“And now I think I have to fix that.”

Rae leaned back. “Daddy. Be serious.”

“I’m totally serious.”

“You want to marry her?”

“Yup.”

Rae laughed. “Daddy, she is recently divorced and has three kids. Not to mention, she is not moving to London.”

“I’m aware of all of that.”

“You are going to move to Miami.”

“Obviously.”

“Daddy. You’re going to sell the flat in London?”

“No.”

“And how are you going to get Mr. Paul to let you come to the Miami office.”

“Haven’t thought of that but I’m sure I will come up with something by tomorrow.”

Rae shook her head. “You really have fallen in love with her.”

“You know how hard it was for me to let her leave Friday?”

“I thought she left yesterday.”

“I moved her flight up so that I would be in a meeting while she was leaving.”

Rae touched her father’s hand. “Oh daddy.”

“So now I just need to convince her that we are perfect for each other.”

“That might not be too hard. I saw how she looks at you.”

“If it is anything like how you look at Devin then I might have a chance.”

Rae blushed. “Daddy, we are talking about you and Ms. Lena. Don’t change the subject.”

“No. We were talking about your classes and my mind wandered off. Let’s get back to that.”

“Naw. We have to get a plan together so that you can live happily ever after with Ms. Lena.”

“I thought I told you to stop reading those damn romance novels.”

“My reading those novels has helped you in situations before, has it not?” Rae raised her eyebrow. She had been giving her dad dating advice for years. Whenever he listened, things went well. When he didn’t, it was a disaster. “Now, first things first. You need to have flowers on her desk first thing in the morning. Otherwise she will think y’all are back on the business as usual tip and that is not what you want. You know her favorite flower?”

“Lilies.”

“Well, pull that laptop out and order her a bouquet in a really nice vase.” Rae paused. “You gotta get in the habit of sending her gifts cause she is the type that likes presents.”

Rod laughed. “Okay.”

Rae tapped the top of Rod’s laptop. “Get it moving.”

Rod chuckled and followed his daughter’s instructions. “Okay. Done.”

“Have you talked to her today?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know. We didn’t use to talk everyday.”

“Well you are going to have to now.” Rae nodded. “Email, insta chat, video call, text message, or old fashioned phone call every day. Daddy, you better say good morning to her every morning and sweet dreams as often as possible. That one is always harder.”

Rod nodded. “Okay.”

“Flowers at least once a week. You should also do something sweet for her once a week as well.”

“In addition to flowers?”

“Yes.” Rae huffed. “Devin bought me groceries during the last snow storm. He will buy me breakfast when we don’t have time to…”

“Fix it in the morning.” Rod raised his eyebrows and then smiled. “You are an adult Rae. Most days I don’t want to accept it but it is a fact.”

She smiled and relaxed. “Anyway, do little stuff that shows you listen to her. That shit is sexy.”

Rod laughed. “Okay.”

Rae paused. “Remember two years ago, when Mr. Paul tried to talk you into leaving the London office?”

“Yes.” Rod thought for a moment. “He wanted me to take over Amsterdam but I didn’t want to switch your school. Then he tried to entice me with Chicago when you decided to go to school here.”

“And you turned him down again.”

“It’s fucking cold here.”

Rae laughed. “I’ve gotten used to it.”

“I guess.” Rod shook his head.

“So, did he ever say why he wanted you to leave London?”

“No. He would broach the idea and then when I turned him down, he would leave it alone for a while.”

“So maybe there is a really good reason and you can use it to get to Miami.”

“What if this was all just a fling and I’m going to make a fool of myself?”

Rae huffed and stood up. “I’m going back to my apartment. I have some reading to do before class in the morning.”

Rod stood up and gave his daughter a hug. Then he kissed her on the cheek. “Thank you for the advice.”

“Stop being chicken shit. You and I both know that Lena will be very clear if she wants nothing more from you.” Rae sighed. “If you are that nervous, wait and see how she reacts to the flowers before you talk to Mr. Paul.”

“Okay.”

“Just don’t drag your ass, daddy.”

“Yes ma’am.”

 

Lena was sitting in bed with her laptop. She typically tried not to do that often but being in Chicago pushed her right back to her old self. Rod had forwarded her the finished presentation the interns finished. Lena was shocked that they came in on a Saturday and worked most of the day getting it done. There were still a few issues but Rod sent notes saying he wanted Paul to point them out. Lena remembered how much Paul loved teaching new staff and interns. He was always in charge of that in the Miami office. He trained everyone. Like Rod, she knew he would get great joy in pointing out areas for improvement and then working with them on it. Overall, the presentation was very well done.

Without thinking, she called Rod on the video phone. As soon as he answered she began to talk.

“They did a great job. Did you coach them?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

He chuckled. “They did that on their own. I only gave them my comments on the last one.

“Well, they are good. We really lucked up with them.” Lena paused. Rod was staring at her. “What?”

“You are absolutely gorgeous.”

Lena felt her cheeks get warm. She glanced at the window that showed her what he was seeing. One strap of her camisole was hanging off her shoulder. Her locks were pulled back in a scarf and she didn’t have any makeup on. “Thank you.”

Rod smiled. “You’re welcome.”

“You look pretty relaxed and handsome. What are you doing?”

“Sitting by the fire and reading market research reports.”

“That sounds nice.”

Rod laughed. “Only we would find this exciting.”

“Because we are nerds.”

“Marketing nerds.”

Lena smiled. “I’m not supposed to be working in bed.”

“But?”

“Terry went to bed early. He had a playdate and could barely stay awake during dinner. Evan played video games and we had to fight before he went to bed.”

“And Gwennie?”

Lena adjusted the camera so that Rod could see Gwennie curled up next to her. “Baby girl wanted to hang but couldn’t.”

“Poor baby.”

“And I really wanted to review that presentation before tomorrow.”

“You hate surprises?” Rod asked.

“No. I like surprises.” Lena paused. “Not work related surprises. I don’t like those.”

Rod laughed. “Good to know.”

“Listen, I promised Devin you wouldn’t kill him while I’m not there.”

Rod laughed again. “I actually like the kid. As long as he treats Rae right, he doesn’t have to worry about me.”

“Good.” Lena leaned back against her headboard. “Did you two get to hang out some more?”

“Yes. She graced me with her presence for dinner and gave me some advice.”

“About what?”

“Life.”

Lena laughed. “Terry is always trying to give me life advice.”

“He’s a smart kid. You should listen.”

“I’m hanging up on you now. I need to try and get this baby out of my bed and get some rest. I have so much work to do tomorrow.”

“Sweet dreams Lena.”

“Same to you Rod.”

 

Rod was sitting at the counter working and drinking tea when Paul came into the suite. He was on his phone and laughing.

“No, I’m certain it’s not the apocalypse.” 

Paul paused and laughed again.

“I’m almost certain her ex is not trying to get her back. He wasn’t that bright before, don’t think he is now either.” Paul shook his head. “I have to go. Do work please.”

Rod raised his eyebrow when Paul hung up. “What’s going on?”

“Is there coffee? You weren’t born British but have seemed to adopt that whole tea bullshit.”

Rod laughed. He pointed to the pot he had brewed, knowing Paul would come to the suite before going into the office. “There you are.”

“Thank you.” Paul grabbed a mug and poured himself a full cup. “The Miami office is all a buzz because Lena got flowers this morning.”

“Really? Why is that a big deal?”

“Pamela said that Lena hasn’t gotten flowers delivered to work in seven years, since before she made partner.”

“Not even LA?”

“Apparently Pam woke up Lena’s former assistant in LA to find out and that would be a no.” Paul shook his head. “Kareem is a nice guy but Lena is so far out of his league.”

“How so?”

“Lena is a woman who requires flowers and presents. Kareem is the type who needs a woman who thinks that stuff is nice but doesn’t require it all the time.” Paul shook his head. “Lena and my wife are too much alike.”

“Interesting.”

“Anyway, Lena came in and walked straight into a status briefing and the administrative staff are losing their shit waiting for her to get out so that they can know who the flowers are from.” Paul sipped his black coffee. “She won’t tell them but they are going to wait hoping so anyway.”

Rod chuckled, both at what Paul had said and that Rae was right about Lena. “So we shall all hold our breath until she comes out of that meeting.”

“Hopefully they are from someone she likes because she is going to pissed after that meeting. The Kincaid project is tanking. I tried to work with it but…”

“They only want to talk to Lena.” Rod nodded. 

“They adore her. Hopefully she can fix this on top of this mess here.” Paul glanced at the file Rod had opened on the counter. “How is this coming along?”

“We have the new set of interns briefing you today.”

“Oh now that sounds much more fun than the interviews I saw on my calendar.”

“Lena and I found some recent graduates and hopefully they can pick up the slack with new work.”

“Are we even getting new clients?”

“Lena spoke with three different companies before she left on Friday. Those meetings are on your calendar for tomorrow. I am also meeting with two more tomorrow.”

“You two are outstanding.” Paul finished his coffee. “If I could get y’all in the same place at the same time more often this company would be unstoppable.”

Rod simply nodded. He was happy where Paul’s mind was going, but he was still hesitant not being one hundred percent sure what Lena was thinking. “Let me pack this up and we can get over and get these meetings started.”

“Yes.”

A few minutes later, Paul and Rod were walking from the residence tower to the office. Paul stopped to check his phone.

“Lena has left her meeting and is fuming.”

Rod smiled. His phone began to vibrate. There was a long ranting message from Lena, which typically happened after she left a tough meeting. Apparently one of her team members thought it was his time to shine while Lena was in Chicago. He changed some things that she had requested to be done. Paul tried to save it but now Lena wanted to fire him.

“It doesn’t look good.” Paul shook his head as they walked in the lobby. “She just slammed her office door. I hope she doesn’t break that glass again.”

Rod felt his phone vibrate in his hand. He looked and Lena sent him at least twenty heart emojis and said thank you for the flowers. He text her back saying that his daughter told him that if there is no picture it didn’t happen. A moment later, Lena sent him a selfie of her smiling and holding the vase of flowers.

“Damnit. Pam says it is too quiet.” Paul tapped his foot while they were in the elevator.

“Nervous?” Rod asked.

“Yes.” Paul said quickly. Then he laughed. “I want her to be happy. She’s my work daughter.”

“Ah.”

“Hell, I heard she’s your work wife. Don’t you want her to be happy?”

“Most definitely.” Rod responded and then led the way off the elevator.

The office entrance was so close that Paul did not get a chance to address Rod’s remark. For some reason, it made Paul even more excited. He made a mental note to try and get some gossip from the Chicago staff who survived his dynamic duo’s wrath.

 

Lena called Macie from her desk after she sent her the same picture she had sent to Rod.

“Girl, did he send you those?”

“Yes.”

Macie giggled. “That man wanted to make sure you knew that he wasn’t about to forget about what happened last week. What did the note say?”

“It just said he wanted me to know he was thinking about me.”

“Awwwww.” Macie giggled again. “I like him.”

“Me too.”

“Did you send the picture to Glo?”

“No. She is in sessions for the next few hours. I don’t want to distract her. I will post in the group chat later.” Lena paused. “You know he asked me to send him that picture.”

“Ooohh. This is going to be interesting.”

“I need to get back to work.”

“What were you doing?”

“I don’t remember.” Lena paused. “I have a conference with Paul, Rod, and our interns in five minutes.”

“Well, pull yourself together.”

“I’ll be fine.”

“You should send him something.”

“Absolutely not.” Lena laughed. “I;m getting off this phone with you.”

“Okay. Fine. We shall see what Glo thinks.”

Lena sighed. “Bye.”

“Bye.”

Four hours later, Lena was back in her office on a conference call with Gloria and Macie.

“You should send him a present.” Gloria started. “Nothing too fancy. In fact, make it something silly.”

“Nathan loves when I do little thoughtful shit.”

“Lonzo loves that I refill his gym bag in the morning. I make him empty that nasty shit in the laundry room but I put a piece of fabric softener and fresh clothes in there while he is in the shower.”

“Ugh. Y’all. This isn’t a thing.”

“Yes it is.” Gloria giggled.

“He sent those flowers to let you know this is most certainly a thing.”  Macie paused. “Send the man some gourmet coffee.”

Lena sighed. “He drinks tea.”

“Tea then.” Macie laughed. “He’s so British.”

“To be from Brooklyn.”

“Really?” Gloria asked. 

“Yup. Born in Eleuthera and raised in Brooklyn.” Len opened up her computer and pulled up the site for the building’s concierge.

“A Bahamian.” Macie paused. “Shelly did mention something about him being West Indian.”

“Shelly likes to tell way too much of my business.” Lena shook her head.

“She simply wants me to make sure that you do not screw up that wonderful energy you and Rod have.”

“Did you find that man some tea?” Gloria asked. “I hear you typing away.”

“They have this really nice tea set that uses loose tea and comes with a travel mug. It is actually very masculine.” Lena finished her email request to the concierge. “The building concierge will put it in the suite as a package while he is still at the office. I have to be careful because our boss is there.”

“Chile, Paul would probably be cheering both of you on. Didn’t he try to set you up with someone last month?” Macie laughed.

“No. He simply offered and said he would be better at it than Kareem.”

“Gwennie would be better at it than Kareem.” Gloria huffed. “That man needs to stop. You know he still is doing the just friends thing with Roni.”

“He is going to miss out.” Macie added.

“I’m not getting in that.”

“You may need to or he is going to be miserable and living in your backyard forever.”

Lena paused at Macie’s warning. As much as she loved Kareem being there for the kids, she felt like he should have moved on by now. “Evan let it slip that he thinks that Kareem helped Shawn take Roni out for dinner on Valentine’s day. Plus now Annette is keeping Shawn afterschool with Evan.”

“He needs to let his mom live her life.” Gloria huffed.

“Oh I did have words with him about that. We are now giving her every night we can free to go and do whatever she wants. I handle it if he works late and he handles it if I have to stay late. She has so many friends and activities now. She loves the kids but needs a break.”

“Before I forget, we need a planning meeting.” Gloria paused. “We need to figure out what is going on for Lena’s birthday and y’all gotta help me get potential wedding dates.”

“I don’t want to do anything for my birthday.”

“Bitch, you’re turning forty. We’re doing something so start making a list of acceptable options or else we will throw you a surprise party and have Walter jump out of the cake.” Macie laughed.

“Bye.” Lena hung up on her best friends and shook her head. She hadn’t seen Walter in months and hoped to keep it that way.

 

Rod sat in his study. He had only been back in London for a day. He spent an extra week in Chicago with Paul, hiring staff and fixing as many issues as possible. Paul chose to stay an extra week on his own, allowing Rod and the two junior partners to return home. The junior partners were given a week at home and then needed to return for a month. He was in his London office for two weeks before he had to go to Amsterdam. The senior partner was ill and Rod went out to help pick up the slack while they were recuperating. That ended up taking three weeks. Paul flew out at that point. He was going to handle things in the Amsterdam office and decide on what to do with the two junior partners that had been, and ended up still being in Chicago.

Rod was proud of his particular junior partner and felt he would be a wonderful choice for promotion. The other junior partner was just as good so Rod was unsure which way Paul would go. He smiled when he remembered that Lena wanted them both promoted, along with one other junior partner. She felt that none of the offices should be without a senior partner. Lena had gone on for thirty minutes about what Paul needed to do in order to prevent anything like what happened in the Chicago office from happening again. Then Terry came into the garage and knocked on the car window. Rod knew that Lena had been driving home but didn’t realize she had arrived. He had just arrived home and she was keeping him awake while he soaked in the tub. Flying for long periods of time was murder on his joints.

As Rod sat, he had to check the time and remember that he couldn’t just call her as he wanted. He settled on sending her an email, what he had done for all the years prior. He thanked her for the mug that greeted him upon his arrival home. He figured Rae must have told her of his collection. Lena had taken to sending him travel mugs and decorative mugs for his tea. He sent her flowers, ordered her lunch, and scarves. He got the idea of the scarf when he was sitting daydreaming about sucking on her neck and realized that Miami did not have the cold weather to allow her to wear clothing that would cover the subsequent marks. Memories of Lena had Rod going through serious withdrawal. Rod hadn’t come up with a plan that made sense for him to move to Miami. He kept thinking that Lena might not want to share an office with him. Paul pretty much gave her the run of the Miami office. It would be different with Rod there. He decided to drown himself in tea and work to try to take his mind off her.

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