“Has your cleaning lady been to your flat?”
“Paul, you know I don’t employ a cleaning service.”
“Well I need to crash there for a layover and I hope it is clean.”
Rod shook his head. “What time does your flight land?”
“I’m getting ready to board in twenty minutes. I need you to pick me up.”
“Why? You know how to…”
“You are terribly mean to me.” Paul sighed. “Just do it.”
“Fine.” Rod hung up.
A few hours later he was at Heathrow and shaking his head. Paul owned a flat in London. Rod assumed it must be in use for him to want to crash with him. It still made no sense that Paul wouldn’t take a taxi. Rod decided that Paul rarely made sense outside of work related things, and even then a lot of things were simply strange to Rod. He sat near the baggage claim area that Paul sent him via text. Finally he sent Paul a text asking if he had landed. Paul text him back and told him there was a slight change in plans. Rod stood up and started to call Paul on the phone. Then he saw Lena.
Lena was struggling with Gwennie, who insisted on walking despite being exhausted. She also had the carseat and her large carry on bag. She was surprised and excited to see Rod walking over to her.
“When Paul said someone was meeting me here to take me to the flat to rest I didn’t think…” Lena smiled.
Rod kissed her on the cheek. “Hello gorgeous.”
“You look exhausted.”
“Did he tell you…?”
“No. He tricked me as well.” Rod smiled at her. “I’m not mad though.”
Rod looked down at Gwennie. “Why hello there Miss Gwendolyn.”
Gwennie yawned and smiled. “Hi.”
“Would you like to ride upon my shoulders and see what you can see?”
“Yes.” Gwennie nodded.
Rod picked her up and sat her on his shoulders. Then he walked with Lena over to the baggage claim. They got her bags and headed out to the car. Gwennie squealed with glee when Rod seemed to let her drop right into his arms before they left out the sliding doors. Gwennie began to rub his beard.
“She does that to her father and my father.” Lena chuckled. “My baby has a thing for bearded men.”
Rod laughed. He watched Lena put the car seat into his car and then handed her Gwennie. While Gwennie got strapped in, he loaded their luggage into the back of his car. Once they were all in the car, he headed to his flat.
Lena gazed out the window as he drove. She wasn’t sure what to say and just enjoyed being so close to him again. It didn’t take long to get to his place. Lena had packed their important things in her carry on so that she wouldn’t have to go through all the luggage for an overnight stay. Rod left the luggage in the car and carried a now sleeping Gwennie into the building. Lena smiled at the sight of Rod’s place. It fit him so well.
“This is nice.”
“Thank you.” Rod smiled. “Where shall we put sleeping beauty?”
“I need to change her and she will probably sleep until morning.”
“Rae’s old room is just here. It’s in between my room and the guest room.” Rod didn’t want to imply that Lena would be sleeping with him that night, although he wanted nothing more than that.
Lena stood on her toes and kissed him softly on the lips. Then she took Gwennie from him and headed to the room Rod had pointed to. Gwennie woke up long enough to protest and take her own clothes off. Lena put her in a nightgown and a fresh pull up. Then Gwennie grabbed hold of one of Rae’s stuffed animals and passed out again. Lena sighed and walked down the hall towards Rod’s room. She smiled when she found him in the bathroom with the tub almost full.
“Oh that looks lovely.”
“I thought so.”
“All we need now is…”
“Wine.” Rod kissed her and then headed down to his kitchen. He got two glasses and a bottle of wine. When he arrived back to the bathroom, Lena was in her underwear and pulling her hair up. Rod sat down the wine and glasses. “Let me help you with that.”
“Thank you.” Lena smiled at his reflection in the mirror.
“How is Elaine? She emailed me today and said that she was tired of soup.”
Lena laughed. “We just got her back to eating it. She is slowly doing better. The doctor’s sound hopeful but we won’t know for a few more weeks.”
“She also told me she was keeping Cherie.”
“Yes. Cherie loves Amsterdam.” Lena sighed as Rod released her from her bra. “Glo is going to kill me.”
“I doubt it.” Rod’s hands slipped down her waist and pushed her panties off. “Cherie is young and should explore.”
“I wish I had taken time off at her age.”
Rod kissed Lena after she stepped out of her underwear and turned to face him. “If I remember what Elaine told me, you travelled extensively for work.”
Lena smiled. “That is true.”
“And you have plenty of time to travel now.”
“I’m way too busy to travel now.” Lena unbuttoned Rod’s shirt. “You are joining me in the tub?”
“Gladly.” Rod got undressed and Lena poured two glasses of wine. He chuckled when she turned around after watching him in the mirror.
“I’ve missed you.”
Rod stepped closer to her and kissed her. “I have missed you as well.”
They got in the tub after Rod turned on the jets. Lena sat in his arms and they sipped wine. Lena rested her head on his chest. “I’m glad I went to Amsterdam.”
“I’m very glad you did to.” Rod sipped his wine. “We were worried that Elaine was giving up.”
“She was considering it.” Lena sighed. “Now she his hell bent on everyone finding their happily ever after.”
“Has Elaine been reading those same romance novels that Rae reads?”
“Perhaps.” Lena laughed. “She said she asked you about us.”
“Did she tell you what I said?”
Rod chuckled. “I told her that in my wildest dreams we are together and living happily.”
“Oh.” Lena sipped her wine. “Your wildest dreams?”
“I wish life were simpler.”
“As do I.”
Lena sat her empty glass down and turned to face Rod. “I could get used to taking baths with you on a regular basis.”
Rod put his glass down and put his hands on Lena’s hips, he pulled her onto his lap. “Woman, I could get used to doing a great many things with you on a regular basis.”
“Don’t just say that.”
Rod grinned and then kissed her on the neck. “This is true. I prefer to be a man of action.”
Rod lifted Lena up and slipped right inside her. Lena’s head hung back and she moaned. He slid them forward in the tub so that she could wrap her legs around him. Rod knew, as he stroked inside her, that he had to find the fastest possible way to be near Lena full time. He could not wait another three months to touch her.
Lena woke up the next morning and Gwennie was standing at the side of the bed.
Lena got up and realized that Rod had put a shirt on her. She had fallen asleep as soon as he carried her to bed. She got out of bed and walked Gwennie to the bathroom. Gwennie took off her pull up and held her arms up in the air. Lena picked her up and put her on the toilet. Gwennie squealed as she went to the bathroom. Once Lena helped her off the toilet, Gwennie ran down the hallway. She squealed and danced.
“What has got you so excited?”
“Gwennie go potty.” Gwennie smiled at Rod and did a dance.
Rod did a dance with her. “Great job.”
Lena laughed. “Gwennie, you need to take a bath.”
“Awww.” Gwennie pouted.
“I may still have some of Rae’s bubbles from the last time she visited.”
“Bubbles!” Gwennie squealed at the top of her lungs and followed Rod to the guest bathroom. Then she ran to find Lena, who was bringing their bag to the bathroom. “Momma.”
Gwennie pointed quickly to Rod and then put her hand at her side. She did it twice more.
“What is she doing?”
Lena smiled “Her Na-Na tells her no pointing.”
“This is Mr. Rod.” Lena bent down next to Gwennie.
Gwennie held her hand up to Rod. He bent down in front of her and she touched his face and giggled. “Roddie.”
Rod chuckled. “Yes.”
“She remembers you from our video chats.”
“When she likes to always touch the screen.” Rod tickled Gwennie. “I put the bubble bath on the counter.”
“Thank you.” Lena led Gwennie in the bathroom.
After a lot of splashing, Lena got Gwennie out of the tub and back into Rod’s bedroom. She dried her off and struggled to get her dressed. She got as far as the pull up and undershirt and Gwennie took off through the house. Lena started to go after her but then she heard Rod growl and Gwennie shriek at the top of her lungs. Rod came back in the room holding Gwennie upside down by her leg.
“Did you lose something?”
Lena laughed. “Yes. Thank you.”
“Not a problem.” Rod put Gwennie down on the bed. “I’m making breakfast.”
“Oh. I need to clean the bathroom.”
“I will take care of that later on. You two get dressed.”
Lena was thankful that Gwennie decided to sit still after she got dressed, allowing Lena to get dressed and pack up their bag. The two headed down to the kitchen. Rod handed Lena a cup of coffee.
“Breakfast will be done in five minutes. I’m going to go dress.” He kissed her on the cheek. “By the way, Happy Birthday.”
“Is it my birthday already?”
“Yes. We are six hours ahead, remember.” Rod went down the hall.
Rod, Lena, and Gwennie had breakfast in his flat. Then he took them to a nearby park. It was a beautiful day in London. Gwennie ran around. Lena laughed at how much energy Rod had. He was two years older than her and could easily keep up with a two year old. Lena was tired but content. The walked over to nearby shops and Rod got the two of them snacks for the flight and he got Gwennie a teddy bear. Then he took them to the airport.
“I hate to let you go but I do not want the wrath of young Terrance upon me if I don’t get you home in time for your birthday dinner.” Rod kissed Lena.
“So maybe it won’t have to be another three months before I see you.”
“Oh it most certainly won’t be three months.” Rod laughed. “Enjoy your flight and text me when you land.”
“I will. Thank you.”
“Bye bye Roddie.” Gwennie wrapped herself around Rod’s leg.
He bent down and picked her up. “See you later Gwennie. You behave yourself.”
“Sure.” She said and giggled.
Veronica stood at the stove with Terry while he mashed potatoes. Kareem was working with Evan and Shawn on cutting vegetables for the salad. Evan ran to the front window and then ran back.
“I should go…”
“No.” Terry fussed. “You helped. You gotta stay to sing Happy Birthday to mommy.”
Kareem smiled and nodded. “You should stay a moment.”
Kareem walked to the door and went outside. He smiled at Lena. “Hey.”
Lena handed him Gwennie, who had been asleep since the plane took off. “Hey. Her jet lag is going to be insane. Neither of us has any idea what time it is.”
“It is dinner time.” Kareem grabbed a suitcase and a car seat.
Evan and Shawn came out of the house and smiled at Lena. They took her other bags from her and followed Kareem into the house. As soon as Lena got inside, everyone yelled surprise. Gwennie popped awake and yelled surprise a moment after they finished and then went back to sleep.
Lena laughed. “Oh wow.”
They all sang the birthday song to her. Then Terry ran over and gave her a hug. “Momma, we made you dinner. Ms. Roni and Shawn helped.”
Lena gave Shawn a hug. Then she gave Veronica a hug. “I appreciate this guys. This is awesome.”
Evan ran over to her and hugged her. “You were gone longer than you said but grandma and pop-pop were here.”
“They left?” Lena looked up at Kareem.
“Only went as far as Eric’s place. They are staying there tonight so that you can celebrate with the kids. Then they are coming over tomorrow after your brunch.”
Lena turned to Veronica. “I meant to ask you but if you are free you are more than welcome to come to brunch with us tomorrow.”
“It is a large group of us. We do it once a month. Macie, Glo, and I do brunch every weekend but this is the big group edition.”
“I think it is Lonzo’s turn to drop us off.”
“Nope. He traded with me.” Kareem smiled. “I’m the designated driver tomorrow.”
The timer went off. Evan and Shawn both jumped up and ran to the kitchen. They stood at the oven until Veronica came over. Then they both put on oven mitts. Shawn opened the oven door from one side. Evan reached in and pulled out the rack. Terry came over and inspected.
“Mommy, is it done?” Shawn asked.
“Yes. It’s done. Evan, take your time and take it out.” Veronica pointed to the counter. “Shawn, put the trivet down so you don’t burn the counter. Terry, you can shut the oven very carefully.”
Lena leaned against the counter and watched the boys. “You guys are professionals. This looks great.”
“Okay, Shawn we should get ready to go.”
“Not before you fix yourselves a plate.” Lena looked at Kareem. He nodded and went to the cabinet to get two containers. Lena turned to Shawn. “You did such a good job. You should get to eat some too.”
After packing plates to go, Veronica and Shawn left. Kareem put Gwennie, who had finally decided to wake up, in her high chair. Then he headed to the sliding glass doors.
Lena stopped him. “You aren’t joining us?”
“Naw. I will get some in a bit. Your boys want to spend the evening with you. If you need me to take Gwennie I can. I’m just going to be across the way catching up on some work.”
Lena smiled. “Thank you.”
Lena was sitting on her bed and almost pulled out her laptop when she heard small feet coming down the hallway. She waited a moment until Evan appeared in her doorway.
“Hey you. I thought you went to bed.”
“I only pretended so Terry would go to sleep.”
Lena smiled. “What’s up?”
Evan took a few steps in and paused. “Daddy said I should wait and talk to you tomorrow or Monday…”
Evan walked over to the side of Lena’s bed. Lena patted the space in front of her and Evan hopped up to sit there. He looked at his hands. “It’s still your birthday.”
“And I would love nothing more than to talk to my baby about whatever is on his mind.”
“I’m not your baby.”
Lena gently placed her hand on the side of his face. “You will always be my baby.”
“Now, tell me what is on your mind.”
“Daddy was talking about moving and he is trying to get the house next door.”
“He’s going to live with Ms. Roni and Shawn.”
“I want to live with them but I don’t want to make you sad.”
Lena took a deep breath. She knew this discussion was coming and she wasn’t sure she knew exactly how to deal with it. Several different scenarios had gone through her head since the divorce was final. In every one she knew that Evan would want to go and live with his father. Lena just simply couldn’t imagine being separated from any of her children. She also knew that it wasn’t in Evan’s best interest for him to be forced to live with her and his siblings. After another deep breath, she responded.
“Evan, there is nothing wrong with you wanting to live with your dad.”
“I don’t want you to think I don’t want to live here.”
“I get it.”
“Are you sad?”
Evan frowned. “I don’t want you to be sad.”
“Sweetie, you are my first baby. I don’t ever want you to leave me.” She kissed him on the cheek. “However, I understand you desire to live with your dad.”
“If he gets the house next door I won’t be far.”
Lena smiled at his hopeful eyes. “Evan, even if he moved across town or to a different state I would still have to find a way to be okay.”
“I don’t want to be far from you.” Evan put his arms around Lena. “I hope he gets the house next door.”
“Me too.” Lena kissed him on the top of his head.
“Then I can come visit all the time.”
“No matter where your father moves to you can come visit as often as you want. This will still be your home.”
“I’ll have two homes.”
Evan smiled and squeezed Lena. “You have Terry and Gwennie and Na-Na to take care of you. I have to take care of daddy.”
Lena looked down at her son. “You have to enjoy being a child. Your father can take care of himself.”
“Mommy, are you okay with daddy dating Ms. Roni?”
“Yes. I am happy for them.”
“Are you going to date?”
As soon as Evan finished his question, Lena’s tablet began to buzz. She glanced at it and saw that Rod was calling her on the video chat.
“Mommy, don’t ignore your call.” Evan moved to leave.
Lena held him tighter. “No you don’t.”
Lena answered the tablet. “Hi there.”
“Hey you.” Rod smiled at Lena and then smiled at Evan. “Oh, you’ve got young Evan with you.”
“Hi Mr. Rod. You called mommy about work?”
“No. Of course not.” Rod laughed. “I called your mother to see how her birthday dinner went.”
Lena laughed. “Evan, we don’t always talk about work stuff.”
“Oh.” Evan shrugged.
“What did you guys do for your mom?”
Evan began to tell Rod all about how the boys made dinner with the help of Veronica and Kareem. Then he told him about the movie they watched after dinner. “Then we had cake that Ms. Roni baked. Daddy came back over for that part.”
“Sounds like you and Terry planned a great evening for your mother. Good job.”
“She said she enjoyed it.” Evan smiled.
“I loved it. It was a perfect birthday, start to finish.”
Evan yawned and kissed Lena on the cheek. “I’m going to sleep. Goodnight mommy. Love you.”
“Goodnight Mr. Rod.”
Lena waited until she heard Evan go back to his room. “Why are you up so early?”
Rod chuckled. “Having you here one night has ruined me.”
Lena smiled. “It has only been one night. I don’t think that is long enough to determine if you are ruined.”
“I think it is.”
“Nope.” Rod smiled. “Nice to see Evan getting some one-on-one mommy time.”
“It is rare for him to even want it these days.” Lena sighed. “I thought this wouldn’t happen until he was a teenager.”
“He still craves your attention.”
“He wants to move in with Kareem.”
“You mentioned that before.”
“He actually came to me to talk about it.”
“Oh.” Rod paused. “How do you feel?”
“I guess it is better that I knew this was coming.” Lena laughed. “Kareem is actually trying to buy the house next door.”
“Yes. Evan said it and Macie mentioned it a week ago. Kareem probably won’t mention it until he actually gets the house.” Lena sighed. “He’s probably worried about what I will think.”
“Kareem really wants to do the right thing.”
“I know. He just…”
“Let the man do his thing and learn at his own pace.”
“You mean learn at Roni’s pace. If she is moving in with him, he is going to have to work on her time schedule.”
Rod chuckled. “That is true.”
“I’m just frustrated that he told Evan to wait and talk to me.”
“Lena, you are a very strong woman. That is intimidating as fuck. He’s trying not to piss you off.”
“I intimidate you.”
“No. Your strength turns me on immeasurably.”
Lena giggled. “Okay.”
“Is Gwennie actually asleep?”
“She is.” Lena smiled. “I’m shocked. She was running around a bit after dinner but calmed down to watch the movie with us. I thought for sure she would be wide awake.”
“Rae adjusts to time change fairly easily as well.”
“You’re so good with Gwennie. She is still holding that teddy bear you got her.”
“I’m glad she likes it.” Rod paused. “It was a little weird kissing you in front of her.”
“She has never seen me kiss a man like that before.” Lena blushed a little and looked away.
“Well I am glad you trust me to be that man she sees you kiss.” Rod smiled.
“I am honestly sad that I don’t get to kiss you more often.”
“As am I, my dear. As am I.”
“Paul owes you at least a week of vacation. You should come spend it at the beach.”
Rod laughed. “That does sound wonderful.”
“Once things get back to normal at the office…”
“I will chat with Paul about finishing my vacation if you join me.”
“He’s going to hate me when he gets back. I have acquired a few new clients since he has been gone.”
“Really? That’s great.” Rod raised his eyebrow. “Are you going to make Paul actually do work?”
“He should be used to working at this point. Elaine cracks the whip.”
“I talked to her a little while ago. The nurse Paul hired came by for a few hours today.” Lena sighed. “I’m just praying that she is going to get better.”
“She will. She has to. She won’t let anyone run her office.”
Lena burst out laughing. “That is so true.”
“So stop worrying.”
“I will try.” Lena smiled at him. “So tell me what you did after we left.”
“I sat in my den and stared out the window because I already missed you.” Rod pouted.
“Oh don’t do that.”
“Okay. Okay.” Rod chuckled. Then he proceeded to talk to her about going through his record collection before he could tell she was too sleepy to listen any longer. “Sweet dreams Lena.”
“Go and get your day started.”
“What is Lena doing to me?” Paul groaned as he sat down across from Rod.
Rod looked up from his computer. He had been sitting at his desk, working, when his boss paid a surprise visit. “Um…”
“She has doubled the workload in Miami since she moved back from LA.” Paul shook his head. “Doubled.”
“Isn’t that what you pay her to do?”
“Now I’m going to have to take a more active role instead of what I’ve been doing.”
“Filling in, training, and playing golf.” Rod shook his head.
“My wallet and wife are happy.”
“Isn’t that all that matters?”
“Of course you’re on her side. You’re maxing this office out as well.”
“I gotta keep up with her and Elaine.” Rod chuckled.
“Let me ask you a personal question.” Paul paused only to make sure Rod didn’t have a cross look on his face. “Is there anything tying you to London?”
“Why can’t you ever answer a question?” Paul groaned.
“I work in London.”
“What if I wanted to transfer you?”
“Depends on where you are talking about transferring me.”
“Jesus Christ. When Elaine said you weren’t going to make this easy on me I thought she was kidding.” Paul stood up. “I know that you and Lena have a thing. I want you to take my place in Miami.”
“How do you know whatever thing we have is strong enough for me to move to Miami?”
“Because I heard you put your country house back on the market. I don’t want to lose you as an employee and partner. I’d rather make space for you to go and be near her.”
Rod chuckled. “You think I would quit.”
“She’s worth quitting.”
“You’re right about that.”
“Besides, my wife has been on me for years to buy a country house here.” Paul sat back down. “She wants to explore her British roots.”
Rod sat quietly for a moment. “To be honest, I’m nervous about how Lena will take this.”
“Personal or business?”
“Business. Personal is fine. I got a ring yesterday.”
“What?” Paul leaned forward. “Let me see this ring.”
Rod reached down in his briefcase and pulled out the ring. It was a very elegant rose gold diamond and emerald engagement ring. “This seems to suit her.”
“Did Rae help you pick this out?”
“It is one of the ten rings Rae sent to me to choose from.”
Paul laughed. “She has great taste. Lena will love this.”
“I hope so.”
“As for work, I honestly think she will welcome it. Of all the senior partners, you and Elaine are the two she works best with.”
“We have been with you the longest.”
Paul nodded. “And I don’t want to lose any one of you. I have thought this through. I wouldn’t even suggest it if I thought Lena would not like it. She is very territorial about her office. There are times she won’t let me do things and it’s my company. However, I think she is going to be okay with this. I think you can keep her from killing you.”
Rod laughed. “Okay.”
“And I need you to keep my wife from killing me and let me buy your country house from you.” Paul chuckled. “You sure you want to let it go?”
“Rae wants me to sell it. I don’t go anymore. It was a way to get her out of the city on the weekends. She insists I keep the flat here.”
“I can set you up with my agent and you can use it for short term rentals so that it will be available when she wants to come back to London.”
“I will have to think about that.”
“So, back to this country house.”
Kareem pulled up at the summer camp and waited in the carpool lane for the kids to come out. Evan, Shawn, Nate, and Terry were attending a camp at the nearby recreation center. They were all into sports and stayed after the regular camp was over for the extra sports instruction. Kareem and Nathan took turns picking the kids up. It worked out because Tantie had convinced Annette to stay a little while longer in Anguilla. Kareem suspected Annette wanted to stay for other reasons but he had learned not to dare ask his mother about it. Annette had no desire to discuss her personal life with her son.
Kareem’s phone began to ring. He glanced and saw it was Pam, Lena’s longtime assistant. “Hey Pam. Did I forget something again?”
Pam laughed. “No. I am calling for two reasons. First one is that Lena is going to be late tonight. She is still helping get set up for our meeting tomorrow. Should only be an extra two hours on her usual time.”
“Okay. I am picking up the boys now.”
“Great because there is this one other thing.”
Kareem’s eyebrow raised at Pam’s lowered tone. “Okay.”
“Would you and the boys happen to have some time to talk with Roderick Cartwright?”
“Sure. He can give me a call…”
“He’s here in town and wanted to talk to you guys about something. I told him that I would see what you said, since you two haven’t formally met.”
“Veronica is on her way home. She can take care of Gwennie if the nanny needs to leave early.” Kareem paused. “What is this about?”
“He won’t tell me and all I have to go on is gossip.”
“All I have to go on is kid gossip.”
Pam laughed. “All I can say is I think I have found the person responsible for all the flowers and gifts.”
Kareem chuckled. “Well he sure knows how to make Lena smile.”
“Be nice Kareem.”
“I’m happy about this Pam.”
“Okay.” Pam said, with a sharp hint of skepticism in her voice.
“I mean, I never thought she would date a white guy but…”
“Lawd. I’m hanging up on you now. He is at Paul’s house so just go over there.” Pam hung up the phone.
Kareem shook his head and called Veronica as the boys came running to the car. “Hey babe.”
“What’s up? I am leaving the office in five minutes.”
“The boys are about to get in the car. I need to run and meet with Lena’s coworker Rod about something Pam can’t exactly tell me about.”
Veronica giggled. “Oh. Well that sounds interesting.”
“I’m taking the boys with me because he invited Evan and Terry.”
“Yeah. I just need you to check on the nanny and Gwennie. You know Gwennie wears that poor girl out.”
“I can do that. Lena did just text me and say she was going to be late. She offered to order dinner.”
“Naw. I can pick up somethings for the grill on the way home.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Veronica paused. “Lena won’t mind us taking over her yard again?”
“Not as long as I grill her a steak.”
The boys climbed in the car. They took one look at the dash to see who Kareem was talking to and in unison said “Hi Ms. Roni.”
“Hi Shawn. You are going to ride with Kareem and I will see you all later.”
“Where we going, daddy?” Terry asked.
“To Mr. Paul’s house to meet with Mr. Rod for a minute.”
Evan and Terry high fived. Evan nodded. “Finally get to meet him in person and not on the tablet or computer.”
“Am I the only one who doesn’t know what he looks like?”
All the kids and Veronica responded. “Yes.”
“Well is he blonde? Blue eyes?” Kareem huffed.
“Babe.” Veronica held back her laughter. “What the hell am I going to do with you? You can’t be this special.”
“Evan, please help your father.” Veronica asked.
Evan reached down in Kareem’s bag and pulled out his tablet. A few quick button taps and he turned the tablet to face Kareem. “That is Mr. Rod.”
“He is a Bahamian from the Bronx. At the last brunch Lena said he has only been in London for almost twenty years.” Veronica sighed. “Now go meet with the man and bring some hot dogs for your daughter.”
“Okay. Love you.”
“I love your simple butt too.” Veronica laughed as she hung up the phone.
Kareem turned to the boys. “Why didn’t y’all give a brother a heads up?”
“You never asked.” Terry shrugged.
Kareem shook his head and turned around. “Seat belts.”
After everyone buckled their seat belts, Kareem headed off to Paul’s house. He had been there twice for parties that Paul invited the whole family to. The kids loved that his pool had a grotto and huge slide. Kareem recalled that Paul and his wife had six kids and a very large number of grandchildren. They pulled up in the large driveway and Kareem had to turn to the boys.
“We are not here for swimming.” Kareem shook his head when Evan and Terry frowned. “You guys can swim at home later.”
“Me too, Kareem?” Nate asked.
Kareem nodded. Nathan and Macie didn’t have, and didn’t want a pool. “If your parents say it is okay.”
They all got out of the car and walked to the front door. Paul’s wife opened the door.
“Hi Kareem. Look at this handsome group of young men you have with you.” She smiled. “Come on in.”
“How are you?”
“I’d be fine if my husband listened but when do husbands ever listen.” She raised an eyebrow at him.
Kareem knew she must have talked to Pam. “We listen eventually.”
“Hmmph.” She pointed to the study. “Rod is in there. Boys, I know you aren’t here long enough to swim. I’ll have you all back over this weekend maybe. But I do have way too many popsicles in my freezer. You think you can help me out with that?”
The boys all nodded and followed her down to the kitchen.
Kareem walked over to the study. He walked in and smiled. “So I finally get to meet Lena’s work husband.”
“What’s up Kareem.” Rod got up from the desk and gave Kareem a hand shake that pulled into a hug. “Good to finally meet you in person.”
Rod chuckled. “You finally looked me up?”
“Evan did it for me.”
“Don’t worry. Rae has to clue me in on any number of things on any given day.”
“So I’m not the only one.”
Kareem nodded. “Okay. Good.”
“Listen, I’m just going to cut to the chase. I want to propose to Lena and I wanted to tell you before I asked Evan and Terry what they thought.”
Kareem was quiet for a moment. Then he nodded. “I appreciate it.”
“I’m not trying to mess up the great system you and Lena have built. You two are doing a great job with the kids.”
“Yeah, but she needs a personal life too.”
“Have you talked to her yet?”
“No. She thinks I am going to be in Amsterdam attending the meeting via video conference with Elaine.”
“Won’t Elaine miss you?”
“Elaine will kick my ass if I don’t make Lena happy.”
Kareem laughed. “Good luck with that. Although, from what Pam thinks you are doing a pretty good job so far.”
“I’m doing my best.”
“Well, my opinion doesn’t really matter. You gotta convince Evan and Terry, mostly Terry.”
Rod chuckled. “I’m not worried about young Terrance. It is Evan that I think is the one who will be the one to convince.”
“Really?” Kareem paused for a moment and thought. Evan didn’t strike him as being that protective of Lena. “They’re in the kitchen getting popsicle wasted.”
Rod nodded and followed Kareem out of the study. They got to the kitchen and the boys were all sitting at the massive island eating popsicles.
“Woah, those are the whole fruit ones.” Rod looked at Paul’s wife. “You’ve been holding out on me.”
She shook her head and pulled two more popsicles out of the freezer. She handed one to Rod and one to Kareem. “I’ll leave all you boys to your talk and popsicles.”
Terry climbed down and ran around to give Rod a hug. “Hi Mr. Rod.”
“How are you, Terrance?”
“Good. You remember my cousin Nate?” Terry sat back next to Nate.
“I do.” Rod looked next to Evan. “Hello Shawn. Did you get that puzzle figured out?”
Shawn nodded. “Yup. Evan didn’t even have to help me.”
“For once.” Evan snickered. Shawn gave him a shove and they both burst out laughing. Evan smiled at Rod when they calmed down. “Mr. Rod, why did you come to Miami? For mom’s big meeting?”
“That and I wanted to ask you guys something.”
“What’s that?” Terry asked.
Rod leaned on the counter. “I want to ask your mother to marry me. I wanted to know what you guys thought.”
“That is a great idea.” Terry’s eyes lit up. “Mommy really likes you a lot.”
Kareem looked at Evan. He watched his son’s face turn to a scowl. “Evan, what’s wrong?”
“That is a dumb idea. Does she even love you?”
Rod stood up. It was the reaction he knew he would get. “I think so.”
“Why can’t y’all just stay like you are?” Evan got down from the stool.
“You’re not taking my mother to London.” Evan yelled.
“Hey. Evan, fix your tone.” Kareem grabbed Evan’s arm. “You need to hear Rod out.”
“We just got things okay and now this is going to mess it all up.” Evan had tears welling in his eyes.
“Evan, listen. I’m not taking your mother anywhere. You and I both know that your mother would never move so far away from you.” Rod squatted down next to Evan. “I’m going to move to Miami. I’m prepared to live at the house if that is what she wants. I don’t want to change anything except to make your mom as happy as she can be.”
Evan wiped the tears from her eyes. “Mommy is happy already.”
“So was my mom.” Shawn got down and stood next to Evan. “But my mom is happier with your dad. Maybe Ms. Lena will be that happy too with Mr. Rod.”
Evan was quiet for a few moments. Then he turned to Rod. “Are you going to dump the trash so I don’t have to come over and do it?”
Kareem hung his head back. “What?”
Rod held his hand up to Kareem. Then he looked at Evan. “I will dump the trash but you still have all your other chores.”
“I’ll consider it as long as you do the trash stuff. Gwennie still wears pull ups and it is horrible.” Evan squinted his eyes and stuck his tongue out.
Rod and Kareem laughed. Rod shook Evan’s hand. “Deal.”
“I’m only considering it. I have to see what mommy thinks. She’s in charge you know.”
“Oh, I’m well aware.” Rod glanced at Kareem.
Kareem smiled. “You weren’t going to ask her at work, were you?”
“I didn’t have that planned out. Rae said I should do it a bit more privately.” Rod stood up.
“Well, you could come to the house. We are grilling tonight. If that doesn’t work you can always take her out somewhere.”
Rod thought for a second. He figured that Lena would prefer to be someplace comfortable to her. “Okay. If you guys don’t mind.”
Terry hopped down off the stool and took Rod’s hand. “Nope. Let’s go cause I’m hungry.”
Lena pulled her car into the garage and but didn’t make any moves to get out. Before she lost the nerve, she sent Rod a text saying that they needed to talk about something whenever he had time. She didn’t expect him to respond. It was one in the morning in Amsterdam. Her day played back in her head and she covered her face.
“Lena, you okay?” Macie stood in the doorway to the house.
Lena opened her car door. “Yeah. What are you doing here? I was just getting ready to text you and see if you could come over.”
“Chile, I’m psychic.”
Lena laughed. “Seriously?”
Macie waited until Lena had gotten her things out of the car and was following her into the house. “Well, your child was showing her ass and I had to come up the street.”
Lena looked over into the living room. Gwennie was sitting with her arms folded across her chest and a scowl on her face. “What happened?”
Veronica looked up from the book she was reading. “Oh Ms. Thing decided she was going to run out of the backyard and down the block screaming because I told her she had to wait until her father got home to eat. She didn’t care that he is bringing hot dogs.”
Lena frowned at Gwennie. “Seriously Gwennie?”
Macie shook her head. “Nathan saw Roni running after her and hollered for me.”
“Now she is in her feelings because she got her thighs tapped.” Veronica raised her eyebrow at Gwennie’s scowl towards her. “Your momma may not hit but I will tap those thighs.”
“I told you that you have to listen to Roni.” Lena said when Gwennie looked at her. “Na-Na would have torn your little butt up.”
Gwennie proceeded to fall out in the middle of the floor. Lena stepped over her and sat on the couch across from Roni. Macie sat in the arm chair. Before Lena could open her mouth, Gloria came in the house.
“Hey. Lonzo said we were having a cookout over here.”
Lena put her hand on her forehead. “Huh?”
Veronica shrugged her shoulders. “Kareem said he was going to grill.”
“So he invited everyone?” Lena sighed.
“Chile, you look like you need a drink.” Gloria walked over to the wine fridge.
“I can’t have one.” Lena said before she thought. Then she hung her head back and groaned.
Macie began to chuckled. “Ma’am. How is it you survived your entire twenties without screwing up but this is the second time in under ten years?”
Lena looked from Macie to Gloria. “I wasn’t having sex so I wasn’t thinking and that man just…”
“Oh I saw a picture.” Veronica giggled. “He is gorgeous.”
“So what are you going to do?” Gloria poured three glasses of wine. She brought them over with a small ginger ale bottle for Lena.
“I’m going to try my best to convince him to move to Miami.” Lena sipped the ginger ale. “I’m going to see what he thinks about the idea before I tell him.”
Macie sighed. Then she looked out into the yard. “Glo, why is your fiance and my husband rolling our grill into Lena’s backyard.”
“Because they said that Kareem hasn’t bought his own grill yet because he is indecisive as fuck.”
Veronica laughed. “That is my fault. Evan and Shawn wanted to get him a grill for his birthday so I keep sending him different ones via email and complicating his decision.”
Lena nodded. “Excellent plan.”
Lena looked over as she saw the boys come in the backyard. “Kareem is here.”
“See, Gwennie. Now you can have your hot dog.” Veronica nudged Gwennie.
Lena watched as Gwennie rolled over to look out the sliding glass doors. Gwennie shot up and ran to the doors squealing. “Roddie!”
“Oh he looks way better in person.” Veronica looked at Lena.
Lena was confused for a second. Then she looked out the doors as Gwennie pulled them open. Rod was walking over to the house with Kareem. Lena stood up but was frozen. She watched Gwennie run straight into Rod’s arms. He picked her up and gave her a hug. Then Kareem said something to Gwennie and she jumped into his arms. One by one, the ladies left out of the house. They each said hello to Rod as the past him on his way into the house.
“I just sent you a text.” Lena said, slowly as her mouth thawed.
“I saw.” Rod smiled at her.
“You’re supposed to be in Amsterdam.”
“Elaine was having none of that.”
Lena laughed. “Okay. But you came all this way for a three hour meeting?”
“No. I came all this way to see a woman about a ring and proposal.”
Lena’s eyes got wide when Rod pulled the ring out of his pocket. She covered her mouth to mask the gasp that escaped anyway. “Roderick Cartwright…”
“I have an entire plan and I rehearsed what I would say but…”
“Yes.” Lena ran the few steps towards him and kissed him. Their lips stayed locked for several moments before Lena backed away. “Where are you staying?”
“No you aren’t.”
Rod turned to see Paul taking video with his phone. “Huh?”
“You’re staying with Lena.” Elaine’s voice came from Paul’s phone.
Lena burst out laughing. “These guy’s helping you with your plan?”
“Me too!” Rae’s voice came from Cherie’s phone. Cherie was standing next to Paul.
Rod looked at Lena. “I’m not afraid to admit I needed a bit of help. I did not want to screw this up.”
Lena kissed him again. “This was perfect.”
“So what did you want to talk about?” Rod held her close.
“Momma, can we swim until dinner is ready? Daddy said we can swim.” Terry stood in the doorway.
“We’ll talk about it later.” She kissed him again before turning to Terry. “Well are you going to swim in your clothes or are you going to get your trunks?”
~the end… for now~