Life for Lily Rose almost couldn’t get any better. She enjoyed a quiet romantic dinner with the love of her life. Michael Carraway, Christian, compassionate, focused, accomplished, and sexy; he was all she wanted and more.
The hardwood floors of his new empty condo served as both table and chair. Lily and Michael shared their day over sweet and sour chicken. However, the conversation didn’t compare to the warm glow in his eyes, the curve of his smile, and the brush of his hand against her face. He leaned in and kissed her sweetly. Oh yeah, she loved this man.
In his eyes, she saw her future. She was wrapped in a form-fitting wedding gown. The sound of the organ accompanied her entrance into the grand church. He waited for her with the biggest grin she’d ever seen. God, he was beautiful.
Lily just knew she heard wedding bells. “Baby, your phone’s ringing.” Michael’s snapping fingers lifted Lily out of the wedding trance.
She recognized the number on her cell phone. Her heart raced. “Hello, this is Lily Rose. Mr. Peter, yes, I’m doing well, and you? I was very impressed with your firm. It’s just that I still haven’t talked it over with my fian…”
She paused then, looked at the man she loved. Correcting herself, she explained, “I mean boyfriend. I promise I’ll get back with you soon.”
Curious, Michael raised his eyebrows. “Baby, what haven’t you talked over with me?”
Trying to sound indifferent, Lily responded, “Michael I’ve been offered a position at Williams, Wright, and Wilson.”
“Are you serious?” Michael blurted out. “Lily, that’s one of the best law firms in the country.” The grand smile on his face was quickly replaced with furrowed brows. “Hey, aren’t they located in Georgia?” he asked.
“Are you considering moving away? We just got settled from graduate school.”
Trying to convince him, she responded, “Of course not. But you gotta admit; it is a great offer.”
Michael thought, Then when was she going to tell me about it? It didn’t make sense. She wasn’t considering it. Yet, she hadn’t turned it down. He stood and stuffed his hands into the pockets of his slacks.
Lily could see that Michael was confused or annoyed; she wasn’t sure which. Standing before him, the top of her forehead met his firm chest. “Michael, they will pay for me to take the Bar exam there. I’ve already passed it in New York and New Jersey. They’ve offered me a competitive salary along with a company house and car. This is a chance of a lifetime. I couldn’t just say, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ If nothing else, I need to pray about it.”
Michael threw the questions at her faster than she could comprehend them. “Why aren’t we praying about it together? Why am I hearing about this from a phone call? Is there a chance you would accept and leave?”
Holding her head down, she stared at his socks and slowly replied, “No.”
The more he listened to Lily, the more he doubted her. He knew he shouldn’t say anymore. He needed time to think. “Goodnight, Lily.”
Lily’s eyes widened and her head snapped up. “Oh, am I dismissed Mr. Carraway? Isn’t that typical, Michael. Why can’t we talk about this?”
He stared into her deep brown eyes.
“Michael, I thought we were on our way to marriage, but you can’t even communicate with me.”
Sadness and disappointment flavored the air. Michael pointed out calmly as he stepped into his shoes, “We should have talked when you first got the offer. I don’t know if I wanna be married to a woman that can’t come to me with major decisions. I’ll walk you to your car.”
Picking up her shoes and purse by the door, Lily stepped into the hallway. “Michael, don’t bother. I know the way to my car.” Before Michael could catch the door, it slammed in his face.
The timing of the offer was awful. Michael didn’t want to be selfish, but the truth was; he didn’t want Lily to even consider accepting it. He pulled the two-carat diamond ring from his pocket. He had bought it over a month ago. It was important to him that Lily had a fantasy proposal. Now, he wished he had proposed long ago.
Welcomed by the two-story extravagant building in Central Islip, Long Island, Lily was relieved to be home.
A handsome couple cuddled on the couch. Her parents were watching the weather report. A storm was brewing in Miami, Florida. Lily’s Aunt Floreece lived there.
She rushed into her sanctuary and slammed the door. The sound alerted them to Lily’s presence. Her father and pastor turned his salt and pepper head towards the sound. Jokingly, he said, “You working on breaking that door. You got some money to fix it?”
Her thoughts were with Michael. The look on Lily’s face informed Mother Rose that Lily and Michael had had a disagreement. It must have been a serious one. Mother Rose knew exactly what the problem was. Michael found out about the job offer in Georgia. Rescuing Lily from her husband’s crazy antics, Mother Rose asserted, “Desmond, leave the girl alone. Can’t you see she’s tired?”
Pastor Rose continued to tease Lily. Extending his eyebrows, he asked, “Tired from doing what? She ain’t got no job. Last I heard she was having dinner at Michael’s. I hope that was all she was having, just dinner.”
Mother Rose laughed. After thirty years of marriage, her husband still made her laugh. Lily didn’t have it in her to say anything. Normally, she would play along. Tonight, she didn’t want to participate in the game. All she could say was, “Goodnight.”
Lily slowly mounted the spiral staircase. At the top of it, she listened, “Hey, Michael, hold on. She just walked in.” Her cousin Vaughn was in Lily’s room and had answered the phone.
Lily asked, “Vaughn, what are you doing in here?” Vaughn lifted the new coat. Lily understood that she intended to borrow it.
Wrapped in a terrycloth robe, Vaughn sat on Lily’s bed, waved her matching fuzzy slippers and listened to Michael. She could tell by the sound of his voice that Lily had a story. Vaughn wanted to hear every juicy detail.
Lily took the receiver from Vaughn. “Yeah, I made it home safely. Goodnight, Michael.” That was it; she hung up before Michael could say another word. She knew it was childish, but it was her way of getting him back for dismissing her earlier.
Too mentally exhausted to strip off her soft leather jacket, Lily plopped down onto the red plush chair. Tension rising in her shoulders, she threw her head back and closed her eyes. “Vaughn, I just bought that coat, and I haven’t worn it.”
Vaughn waved her hand as she placed the coat neatly across the bed. “That ain’t never stopped me before. You know I ain’t sittin’ here to talk about no coat. So tell a sister…what’s wrong?”
“Michael and I had a fight.” There, she said it. Now maybe Vaughn would back off. She knew she wouldn’t.
Vaughn sat straight up and uncrossed her legs. “Girl, I can see that. Tell me something I don’t know. Was it about the offer in Georgia?”
“Ok, so did you tell him you were holding out for his marriage proposal, and if he didn’t give you one, you were going to accept the offer?”
“Before we could talk about it, he sent me on my way. He said he couldn’t believe I would consider moving away. Then, he had the nerve to tell me he wasn’t sure he wanted to marry somebody that can’t communicate with him on important decisions.”
Vaughn grunted. “Well, he didn’t hold back none. If you ask me, you’re the one holding back. Michael could have proposed a long time ago. Dang, you’ve been with the man eight years. If he doesn’t know if he wants to marry you by now, then he’ll never know. I mean come on already.”
Vaughn stood and continued her argument. “Look at you. You graduated from Yale Law School at the top of your class. You’ve had numerous job offers. This one is the best yet. Here you are holding out on some man you’ve been with for eight years. Eight years! The least he could do is give you a ring to let you know he is committed to you. Don’t get me wrong; I like Michael.” Vaughn’s lips curved in a sexy smile. “Lily, any woman would be glad to have him, with his fine self.”
Lily smiled and pointed at her cousin. “Hold up now; that’s my man!”
“Is he, Lily? Is he your man? What is he waiting for? I feel like he’s dangling you along, waving a carrot in your face. It ain’t no diamond carat, either. Lily, if I were you, I would accept that offer. I think Michael made that decision for you, by not making you his wife.”
Vaughn draped the coat over her arm and approached the door. She looked back at her cousin and smiled. “Honey, don’t worry. If Michael loves you, I mean really loves you, there ain’t no way he’ll let you go anywhere.” Vaughn curved her pretty pink lips. “Well, there is one place he’ll let you go.”
Lily perked up and eagerly asked, “Where?”
“Down the aisle to meet him girl.”
With smiles on their faces and doubt in their minds, they both hoped that were true.
Lily’s evening went from feeling totally connected to Michael, to complete confusion. Staring out of the window, she prayed, “Lord, what am I supposed to do? I love Michael so much. I’ve been waiting for his proposal for so long. Yet, this job offer seems too good to be true.”
The green Acura Legend swerved in and out of the Manhattan traffic.
“Michael, I understand you’re upset with Lily, but I wanna live. Will you slow down man?”
Michael maneuvered around an angry yellow cab as he proclaimed, “Kyle, I know you are not talking about my driving, when you drive like you’re half crazy.” He quickly changed lanes, got around a crawling truck, and almost nicked a bicycling messenger. Michael waved at the messenger as a sign of apology. He received a sign too - the finger.
Kyle lifted his brow. “Yeah, but I’m a pro. You can’t drive to begin with. Man, don’t start doing tricks now.” Kyle braced himself, gripped his seat just in case Michael wouldn’t take his advice.
Michael shook his head at his brother. Kyle, Michael’s fraternal twin, rode into the city with Michael each morning. Kyle was just as handsome as his brother. The two had the same bronze skin tone, great bone structure, firm build, and six-foot height. Kyle, however, was the smooth talker and flashy dresser.
Michael picked up, “Man, can you believe she would even consider going to Georgia? Her answer should have been flat out, No. Now that I have this job, I can give her the life she deserves. It’s time for us to be married, not considering separating.”
Kyle studied his brother’s face. He had an opinion but he wasn’t sure Michael wanted to hear it. He listened to the radio and sang along. The song bought back a pleasant memory. The current lady in his life danced out of her clothes last night to that very tune. “Oh, I think I’m ready for you, baby!”
“Kyle, what did you say?”
Popping back into the moment, Kyle jumped. “Huh?”
“Kyle, listen to me. Am I being unreasonable?”
“Oh, well, yeah man, you are.” Kyle was honest to a fault.
Michael punched through the yellow light just before it turned red. At that time, he wasn’t able to embrace truth. Pointing toward himself, he raised his voice. “What? I’m being unreasonable?”
“And you’re deaf, too. I said yep the first time.”
“Kyle, can you be serious for a moment? We’re talking about my future here.”
“I hear you, man. What about Lily’s future? Why do you think she worked so hard in school? I think she should think about it.”
Breathing deeply, Michael conceded, “I know it’s a great opportunity, but why didn’t she come to me right away? I really don’t like the way I found out about it.”
Kyle shrugged and answered, “Maybe she was confused and didn’t tell you right off the bat because she was afraid of your reaction.”Kyle shifted his focus to the tall city buildings that protruded into crispy clouds. Winter was approaching.
Michael listened as he calculated zipping through the next light. He reconsidered and stopped. Pedestrians flooded the walkway, squeezing through while brushing his vehicle with their coats, briefcases and swinging arms. He realized, “Fear is no reason for Lily not to come to me.” On green, he sped down the next two blocks, pulled over to the curb. “Get out of my car, Kyle.” Michael’s tone was stern.
“We’re here, 34th and 6th Avenue.”
Kyle laughed. “Oh man, I thought you were kicking me out.”
Grabbing his bag from the back seat, Kyle exited the car. Just before closing the door, he warned, “Michael, if you really love Lily, have an open mind about this. Don’t try to hold her back.”
“Yeah, yeah man.”
“Oh, Michael, if Sparrow Electronics goes to 51 ½, do you wanna sell some shares?”
“I don’t know. Call me later, Mr. Stockbroker.”
“Cool man. Pray the market is up today. Peace.”
Speeding up the block towards the parking garage, Michael thought Kyle made a good point. He certainly didn’t want to stand in the way of Lily’s dreams. He loved her. Then again, he thought, Should I listen to Kyle? He rarely attends church these days. Does he even have a prayer life?
The cherry on the sundae was that Kyle was seeing a stripper, whom he liked to call a professional exotic dancer. It was all the same to Michael. The woman took off her clothes in front of strangers for a living. Oh no! Kyle is not someone I should be taking advice from, even if the advice sounds right to me.
That day was the first time in twelve weeks that Michael had to drag himself into work. He dreaded entering the elaborate building. His office was on the forty-eight floor and as he stepped onto the elevator, Lily held his thoughts. With each rising floor, his heart sank deeper. “Snap out of it,” he whispered to himself when he stepped off.
Sea-blue carpet, the open reception area, and Clara, the receptionist, welcomed him with their usual greeting. Clara licked her lips. God, this man is fine.
“Morning, Clara. Are you enjoying the fall weather?”
Clara grinned. She was cute. Her large brown eyes were her strong point. They matched her mocha plump face and short black curly hair. “This is my kind of weather. I slept with my windows up. The fresh breeze kept me glued to the sheets.”
“I know the feeling.” Michael forced a laughed and walked on.
Leaving the huge semi-circle reception desk, he headed down the hallway. More sea-blue, silver streaked carpet connected with his designer shoes when he stepped into his office, which felt more like home than his condo. The rich blue colors comforted him.
He neatly hung his jacket in the closet and inhaled the smell of fresh coffee. First things first, Michael retrieved his coffee from the small round glass table and made his way to the drawing board laced with fresh drawing paper. He rested the coffee mug, rolled up the sleeves of his burgundy monogrammed shirt and attempted to address the business at hand.
His first assignment was challenging. His team was responsible for designing the new mini-mall in the Metrotech area of downtown Brooklyn. Michael slowly sipped the steaming black liquid, but that didn’t relax his mind. He tried closing his eyes, hoping to get a clearer view. The picture was clear. The pretty picture was of Lily.
It was eleven in the morning before Lily let herself come down for a small bite to eat. The voice of Sheila Summer, leading gospel artist, filled the kitchen. It was more like Mother Rose’s voice. She sang louder than the woman on the CD.
Any other time, Lily would have joined in with her mother. Today, she wished for an empty house to mope around in. She sat down at the wooden country table still wearing her clothes from yesterday.
Lily looked at her smiling mother. The 54-year-old brown sugar woman could have easily passed for forty. Her skin was radiant. She didn’t own one wrinkle. Lily hoped she would look that good at that age. Her mother often told her that the secret was to remain meek and humble. God beautifies from within; His reflection shows outwardly.
“Good morning, sleepy head. You want some bacon and eggs?”
Lily didn’t feel like eating until she smelled the food. “Come on girl; don’t act like you don’t want some breakfast.”
Lily’s lips slightly curved. “I’ll have some. I am a little hungry.”
With a chuckle Mother Rose affirmed, “I know you are. I’ll fix you a plate.”
She knew it was only a matter of time before her mother would ask about Michael. She didn’t feel like discussing the argument. Did we have an argument? She wasn’t sure what transpired between her and Michael the night before. Hoping to remove the spotlight off herself, she asked, “Mom, did Dad leave already?”
“Um hum, there is an eleven o’ clock meeting with the musicians. They are incorporating new worship music in the Sunday morning service.” Thrilled that her husband was out of the house, Mother Rose happily served Lily a savory breakfast with a side of truth. “Lily, I thought you were going to turn that position down.”
“Mom, I never said that.”
“I know my child. Lily, you were excited to receive the offer, but I know good and well, you didn’t want to take it. You wanna know what I believe?”
Lily knew, but she didn’t want to hear it. “Sure, Mom, what?”
“Girl, don’t take that sarcastic tone with me!” Mother Rose sat next to Lily and took a sip of her green tea. “You and little Miss Vaughn cooked up a scheme to con Michael into proposing. However, things didn’t work out the way you planned.”
Lily looked stunned as she laid her fork aside. “Mom, that is not true.”
Mother Rose waved her arms. “Girl, come clean with me on this one.”
Lily exhaled. She could never pull one over on her mother; no one could. “Alright Mom, I was shocked and honored to receive such an offer. I don’t want to leave Michael. Vaughn suggested that I give him an ultimatum. Either he proposes, or I take the opportunity of a lifetime. But, I couldn’t bring myself to actually give him the ultimatum. Mr. Peter called in the middle of our dinner, and Michael and I were completely caught off guard. He had no idea.”
“Honey, you ain’t tellin’ me something I don’t already know. What I don’t know is why you didn’t turn Mr. Peter down.”
“Because Mom, I don’t know if I want to. I’m afraid that maybe if Michael doesn’t propose, I should accept. I gotta think about my life.”
“Big decisions like this should be made under prayer and direct leadership of God, not if Plan A fails, then off to Plan B.”
Lily wouldn’t let those words soak in.
Mother Rose sighed. “Baby, I have to get to church. Eat your breakfast and get some rest. Then get you some good prayer in; meditate on it.” She kissed Lily’s forehead on her way out.
Lily played with the scrambled eggs, believing with her whole heart, if Michael truly loved her, he would propose. It was time. She wasn’t going to wait any longer. Considering it all, it took Lily a while to recognize her mother yelling from the front door.
“Lily, pick up the kitchen phone!”
“Ma, who is it? If it’s Michael, I don’t want to talk to him.”
Mother Rose’s reply was a slammed door.
Reluctantly, Lily answered, “Hello?”
“Oh, Vaughn, it’s you.”
Vaughn laughed as she strutted in Lily’s maxi coat in mid-town Manhattan. She loved the slender A-line, as it showed off her curves.
“Oh, it’s you? Is that how you talk to your favorite sister-cousin? Listen, I just called ‘cause I wanna know, did you talk to Michael yet?”
“Mom just gave me the third degree. I’m not up to round two.”
“Girl, please, women in your mother’s day waited for a man. We can’t do that now. The one thing you know, I know, is how to get a man.”
Lily knew that was true. Vaughn got just about any man she set her sights on - single, married, divorced, old or young. Vaughn had honey in her veins. Lily reminded Vaughn, “No offense, but you don’t keep a man very long. There was one that almost got you to the altar.”
Vaughn warned, “Lily, let’s not go there. The truth is most men bore me, but if I find one with good credit and a healthy bank account, he might keep my interest.” She chuckled.
Lily agreed, “That may be true.”
“Lily, listen and stop stressing. Michael loves you. I know you see it every time he looks at you.”
Lily’s heart began to warm. She did see it, but more importantly, she knew it. Michael loved everything about her; her sharp mind, her heart to serve God, and her soul. Caving in, Lily sighed and asked, “Alright, Vaughn, what do you suggest?”
Confidently, Vaughn declared, “If you had listened to me the first time and had given him the ultimatum, you wouldn’t be in this situation.”
“Vaughn, do you have a suggestion? If you don’t, I’m hanging up.”
Lily started to nibble on a piece of bacon that was left on the kitchen counter. “Hold your horses. Girl, go up to your room, find something hot and sexy to wear, do your hair and makeup, and then go talk to your man.”
Sucking her teeth, she repeated, “That’s it? Look for something hot and sexy, and go talk to my man?”
Vaughn shivered as she stood outside of the deli. “Girl, sometimes I think you can be a little naive.” Vaughn thought for a second and rephrased, “I know you can be naïve. So let me break this down…when Michael sees you, he’s gonna start to realize what he’ll be losing. Make sure it’s tight so it shows the curves. Let him know you ain’t never gonna have a honeymoon, if he doesn’t propose.”
“Vaughn you’re crazy,” Lily laughed.
“Maybe so, but this will work. I know he wants you, in every way. He’s a man and you’re a beautiful woman.”
The thought of teasing Michael sounded like fun. He had cautioned Lily not to tease him. He was a man after all, even if he was a Christian man. He told her that being around her sometimes made his blood steam. She thought that it was time to bring on the heat. “Alright girl, I’ll give it a shot. Thanks for the tip.”
Lily felt very uncomfortable in the hot pink form-fitting suit she selected. Too much male attention was Vaughn’s territory. She was glad she had a long coat for cover as the train doors welcomed her to 34th Street. When she stepped onto the platform in tall black sling backs, she worried that Michael might be in the field today.
Lily didn’t know if she could pull it off. She had teased Michael only once in undergraduate school. When things almost went too far, she regretted it. She vowed to remain a virgin until marriage. She just didn’t know when that marriage was going to take place.
She wanted to get on the returning train and go home. The sound of screeching metal tempted her. But she also wanted to see Michael. She hated when they argued, which was rare.
“Hello, may I help you?” Clara recognized Lily, although they never met. She looked just like her picture in Michael’s office.
Lily recognized the pretty round faced receptionist. Michael had described her to Lily. She seemed sweet and sad at the same time. “Yes, I’m here to see Michael Carraway.”
“Do you have an appointment?” I know you don’t and Michael’s not here, ha!
Lily shook her head and Clara informed her that Michael was not in and offered to take a message. When Lily stated her name, Clara smiled. One thing she could tell was a woman on the verge of patching up a fight with her man. Her face screamed; I miss my man. “Lily Rose? Wow, two beautiful flowers in one. Are you his girlfriend?”
Disappointed Michael was out; she answered unenthusiastically.
Clara introduced herself, and led Lily to Michael’s office. Michael was soon on his way back. As they walked, Clara chatted, “Michael talks about you all the time.”
Lily didn’t doubt Michael made it clear that he was involved with someone special - another reason why she loved him. Any and everywhere they went together, he let it be known that she was his. And if he didn’t say it verbally, it was the way he touched her gently that revealed his care and consideration for her. So why weren’t they married yet? She could not peg the answer to the question that nagged at the seam of her womanhood.
Lily noted that the office suite was filled with attractive professional women and she wondered would she soon be taking on the role as a professional attorney.
Michael’s exquisite office reflected elegance and precision. Lily forgot Clara was standing there as she walked around observing the space.
“Lily, can I hang up your coat for you?”
“Oh…sure. Clara, I’m sorry, I’ve never seen his office. I really like it.”
Clara remarked, “It’s definitely a reflection of Michael’s character.”
How would she know his character? Michael just started working here. Lily forced the jealous thoughts aside as she slipped out of her coat.
She’s got the perfect body and here I am with these extra twenty pounds.
Lily noticed the expression on Clara’s face. She wondered, is the hot pink too loud?
Clara took her coat and told Lily to maker herself comfortable.
Michael entered his office just as Clara was leaving. She was startled when she saw him on the other side of the door. “Oh, Michael…. Hi, Lily’s here.”
His voice rose as he looked passed Clara. “Lily?”
“I’ll leave you two alone.” Clara slipped away.
Whoa-Man! Good googly moogly! She looked good. The glow in his eyes caught Lily off guard. She stood with her hands pressed together. She hadn’t worn that suit since undergrad. It was good back then, and now she looked even better with her few added pounds. The fabric fell upon her skin like raindrops into a puddle. He was enjoying the rippling effect it had upon her shapely figure.
Wanting a full view of her bottom, Michael wished she would turn around. He tilted his head and smiled. The front view of her legs was pretty good.
He stood by the door with Lily in the middle of the office. “Baby, I wasn’t expecting you.”
“I didn’t call, but I know we need to talk.”
“I tried that last night. You hung up on me, remember?”
“Michael, I’m sorry. Let’s not forget you threw me out of your apartment. Which is something you often do when you…” She didn’t want to finish her statement. She didn’t come to argue. A taste of honeymoon is what she wanted to give him. Instead, she put him on the defensive.
“When I what, Lily?”
Changing her tune, she walked to the small leather couch behind her. He got his wish. Her bottom was wonderfully shaped and drifting in all the right directions. Taking a seat on the couch, she patted for him to come join her.
Woman, why do you torture me? He struggled with the first step.
Lily noticed his hesitation. “What’s wrong Michael?”
You look like a delectable dessert. Michael wanted to run. No, he wanted to lock the door of his office and peel her clothes off. Good God, help a brotha.
Cautiously, he approached her sweetness. He sat away from her. The distance soon became non-existent. Sliding slowly next to him, Lily interlaced her fingers with Michael’s. Seduction was not one of her strong points. She realized she had not prepared what she would say. A legally trained professional, Lily could make a very convincing argument with or without words. With her free hand, she lifted his chin to her. “Michael, I couldn’t sleep last night. When I finally fell asleep, I dreamed about you.”
What is she saying? He couldn’t focus. He was getting lost in her scent. All he saw were soft lips whispering empty words. “Michael, I want the reality.” Lily’s hand ran smoothly along the back of his neck. Her breath was warm against his skin. His blood began to boil.
She whispered in his ear, “Michael, I want to be your woman, wife and your lover.” For every word she spoke, she added a kiss upon his neck, his ear, his cheek, and finally, his lips. Drawn by her touch, he turned to her. They kissed passionately, igniting fires deep within them.
Lily was seduced by her own plan of seduction, and Michael was lost in it. His hands went to work. She didn’t know how her jacket had been removed, or when he had lost his shirt. Lily didn’t care. His bare skin against hers was all she felt. It was all she wanted to feel.
“My skirt is too tight.”
“My skirt is too tight. Baby, help me get out of this skirt.”
Michael felt like he was being awakened from a hypnotic trance. “What…”
“I said help me…”
“Baby, I heard you.”
Lily stood before him in her bra, skirt and stocking feet. She really wants to do this.
“Lily, do you want to lose your virginity in my office? Anyone can walk in, at any time.”
Reality set in, as the tears stung and fell from her eyes. “That’s not why I came here. Michael, I know it’s not what we’ve planned. I know you don’t want me like this.”
“What? I’m a second away from ripping that skirt off of you.”
Standing in front of her, he comforted her with his embrace. “Baby, I want you like this, and in a whole lot of other ways, too. But this isn’t legal. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have let things go this far.”
Lily felt guilty that she set him up. She set them both up.
Should I knock? Clara thought to herself. Lily hadn’t left yet. She wondered if Michael was the type of man that would get busy in the middle of the day. He had only been employed with the firm only a short while.
Let’s see what kind of man you are Michael. She smiled to herself as she swung the door open. Clara’s eyes lit up and her smile broadened. Uh oh! I see he’s my kind of man.
Michael almost fainted when he turned and saw Clara standing there. Lily’s heart was beating so fast against Michael’s chest; he thought she might be slipping into cardiac arrest. She buried her face into the soft chest hairs. Her nervous breath inhaled his cologne. If one could die from embarrassment, Lily was about to drop dead.
Michael was annoyed that Clara still held the door open. “Clara, excuse us. Whatever it is, give me a minute. I’ll be right with you.”
From the looks of things, you need more than a minute. Lily’s shoes and jacket were scattered on one side of the room. His suit jacket, shirt and tie, were on the other. Boy things must have gotten buck wild up in there. Clara smiled mischievously. If you wanted privacy, you should have locked the door. “Michael, I’m sorry to interrupt your afternoon snack. Sharon asked me to drop off these plans and memo,” Clara playfully apologized.
Lily trembled in his arms. Furious that Clara was having so much fun with the scenario, he snapped, “Just put them on my desk and leave!” She left the plans on his desk and his door wide open.
Michael turned when he didn’t hear the door close. His voice rose ten octaves. “I can’t believe she left the door open like that.” He dashed for it like he was trying to catch a fly ball. He missed and stood face-to-face with Sharon, his boss. He shook his head. Things can’t get any worse.
Sharon stepped into his office. “Michael, why are you half dressed?” She saw the back of the young lady with the messy hair. Lily hurriedly put on her jacket.
Sharon’s question was answered. Michael, embarrassed, knew he was a black man that turned fire engine red. He humbly apologized, “Sharon, please forgive me.” Walking her towards Lily, he introduced them, “Sharon, this is my girlfriend, Lily.” Lily extended an unsteady hand.
A thunderous roar filled the room. It was Sharon’s laughter. Michael stared at her as if she had two heads. When Sharon finally caught her breath, she spoke, “Lily, it’s a pleasure to meet you, even under this uncomfortable circumstance.”
Lily croaked, “It’s a pleasure to meet you as well.” Sharon explained, “Look, I’m no fool. I know what was going on in this office.”
Michael interjected, “Sharon, we did not have sex in here.” He didn’t want a rumor to begin that he was having sex in his office. However, Clara probably had sent out a massive email by now.
Sharon thought the situation was hilarious. She and her husband had had some pretty wild times in her office, which was twice the size of Michael’s. However, they were in charge, and she didn’t want the other executives following suit.
“Michael, she’s more beautiful in person. I can see how you can lose sight of your surroundings. However, I can’t allow you to get it on in here.”
“I know. Trust me; it will never happen again.”
Suddenly, he felt a draft. Still without a shirt, he reached for it. Sharon backed away to the door. “Nice meeting you, Lily. I have an appointment to get to. Michael, get back to me on those plans tomorrow.”
Michael reassembled his shirt and tie. With raised eyebrows, he whistled, “Baby, you better go.”
Lily answered, “You don’t think I know that? Oh God, I am so embarrassed.” Her face fell in her hands. “What was I thinking?”
“That’s the problem; we weren’t. Baby, I told you before, don’t tease me. Don’t you know what you do to me? Don’t you know how I feel about you? I’m a disciplined man. You know that. Otherwise, you would not be a virgin.”
Lily stepped into her shoes and collected her coat. “Michael, what I do to you, you do the same to me. I was feeling things in this room that I never felt before. For the record, I wasn’t going to stop.”
She wasn’t going to stop? That didn’t sound like his steadfast and unmovable Lily. After all, she was a flesh and blood woman deeply in love. He was going to have to marry her and soon.
She smiled, remembering the moment. “I guess my skirt saved us.” They both laughed aloud.
Michael’s eyes washed over her. “Yeah baby, it is something else. Girl, you better get out of here before I change my mind.”
The Chrysler 300M glided down the Southern State Parkway toward the Belt Parkway. Mother Rose thought traffic was a bit heavy for high noon. She wished she had insisted Lily attend the daily worship and prayer service. Lily was acting out of character. Listening to Vaughn for guidance? She prayed aloud, “Oh Lord, please help my girls.”
The “Son” was shining on Victory Ministries, a multi-million dollar church in Brooklyn. With prayer and careful consideration Mother Rose and her husband, the pastor, decided to build in the area. However, because of the drugs, prostitution and violence there, some of their members questioned their decision. Mother and Pastor Rose considered their reasoning as upscale. It was no secret to them that Christ was the lily in the valley. It was quite elementary to them; Christ wasn’t leaving the area and neither were they.
The lobby of the sanctuary was outstanding to say the least. Covered in cream marbled floors, it was inviting. Mother Rose hurried to the elevator toward the prayer wing on the east side of the building. In these quarters were two large prayer rooms. Corporate prayer was held in the sanctuary twice a week. But, it was in the daily prayer rooms where she witnessed much healing and deliverance.
A fragile hand tapped her on the shoulder as she reached for the doorknob of the prayer room. A silver haired lady smiled at her. Mother Rose pecked the elderly lady on the cheek. “Mother Daniels, how are you?”
Mother Daniels spoke slowly while extending a yellow sticky note to Mother Rose. “I brought you this message since I was on my way down to the prayer room. I knew ‘zactly where you’d be.”
Mother Rose read it. Call Flo, URGENT. She thanked Mother Daniels and exhaled. “I guess I better call her right back.”
“Alright baby, I’m gonna get me some prayer and meditation in,” Mother Daniels said. “I’ll see you later.”
Rushing to her office in the west wing, Mother Rose quickly dialed. Flo answered on the first ring. She barely had the phone pressed to her ear when she heard her sister’s hello. “Flo, what’s wrong?”
“Vie, I need to come stay with y’all a couple weeks.”
“Why, what’s wrong?”
Flo rolled her eyes. Why couldn’t she just say come? Why the fifty questions? She knew why. Flo’s life was a constant mess. She was on her second husband, Roosta. Flo was determined to make it work. She had to. This was her second chance to prove she was good.
Flo had a six-year-old daughter now. She never forgave herself for leaving Vaughn and her son, Ollie.
Mother Rose impatiently demanded, “Come on Flo; tell me what’s wrong!”
Flo thought she might as well expose the drama. Her sister was the only one she could talk to. With no other choice, she divulged, “Alright, alright. I got into a fight with one of Roosta’s women again.”
“A fight? A physical fight?”
“You ever known me to have any other kind?” That was true. Flo was always fighting some man or woman.
“Vie, you ain’t gone believe this one. This chick came to my house. You hear me? My house! And, demanded I give Roosta a divorce, sayin’ he’s her man, and the reason he won’t leave me is because I won’t give him a divorce. I told that bitty to get the hell out my house!”
Flo was shouting and Mother Rose pulled the receiver from her ear. Flo continued, “She said she ain’t goin’ nowhere ‘til I get on the phone and call a lawyer. Well, you know I slapped the crap out of her. Fo’ I knew it, we were rollin’ round on my kitchen floor.”
Flo was right. She couldn’t believe this one. Mother Rose just listened. “When Roosta got home that night, he saw the scratches on my face. And when I told him what happened, do you know what he said?”
I have not a clue. “What did he say?”
“He laughed and said, ‘Keisha is a trip.’” Flo was heated. “Seven years of marriage, and he don’t even care! He ain’t got no shame about his mess. If he had his way, he would have all three of us in the bed together.”
Mother Rose knew Flo’s analysis was accurate. Unfortunately, that was the problem. Roosta always got his way with Flo.
“Violet, can I come? I need to get away. Vie, please?”
“Of course, Flo. You know you are always welcome. How’s my niece?”
“Lexi is fine.”
Mother Rose knew the visit would be brief. Roosta would come to New York and sweet talk Flo back into the pit. It was the pitiful pattern they lived by.
“When are you coming?”
Without hesitation, she said, “Tonight.”
Floreece Jenkins was forty-five and she looked it. Years of living the street life had caught up with her. She was still pretty. However, the lines around her eyes and mouth were forming.
Mother Rose laughed. She missed Flo’s sense of humor. “Stop it, girl. This house is the same size it has always been.”
Flo turned around to wander the living room. “This furniture ain’t the same. Look at yo’ black sectional.” She sashayed her way over to the sofa. “Whoa, let me take a load off.” Flo fell down into the plush leather.
Mother Rose flipped a lever on the side.
“Whew! Girl, this is a reclining sectional? I can rest my butt and my feet.” They laughed.
“Mom, Mom can I take a load off? Can I rest my feet?” Alexis, Flo’s six year old, climbed onto her mother’s lap. The caramel oval-faced little girl was excited to be on vacation when her classmates were in school.
“I knew I heard voices! Auntie Flo, Lexi!” Lily squealed as she pranced down the spiraled stairs.
Lily knelt and gave her plump little cousin a squeeze. “Ohhhhhhhh, Lexi I am happy to see you. Wow, don’t you look pretty. I like your black and white dress.”
Rubbing the little girl’s hair, she added, “And look, black and white beads on your long braids to match. You’ve got style girl.”
The precious little girl proudly nodded. “Yep, that’s what Mommy tells me.” She threw her little head back, and her beads clapped together. Laughter filled the room.
Flo cackled, “Lexi, you too much. Just like your Mama.” Flo’s voice became stern as she chastised Lily. “You ain’t gave me my hug yet. You want me to tear your hind parts up, don’t you?”
Lily smiled anticipating the embrace. Lily’s aunt gave the best hugs. They were like being wrapped in warm cinnamon rolls. “Auntie Flo, I’m sorry.” They enjoyed an affectionate embrace. When Flo released her, Lily admired Flo’s sassy short haircut. “I always loved your red hair. It looks good on you.”
“Thanks, baby girl.”
Pastor Desmond Rose arrived home from work just in time for the reunion. Is that Floreece?” With the mad rush of preparing for Flo’s arrival, Mother Rose didn’t have time to tell her husband of their house guests.
Flo turned towards the front door. “Des, man, look at you. Come on over here and give me some love.”
Hugging Flo, Pastor Rose exclaimed, “My favorite sister-in-law!”
“That’s right. I’m your only sister-in-law”
“That’s why you’re the favorite.” He chuckled.
Kneeling, he said, “Look-a-here, Ms. Lexi. How are you?”
“I’m fine Uncle Desi.” He lifted one of her long braids. “Give me these braids. You see I’m losing my hair. Let me have ‘em.”
She inquired innocently, “Uncle Desi, then what am I going to have?”
“You’re young; they’ll grow back. At my age, it just keeps falling out. See.” He pointed to the small bald spot in the center of his head and continued to plead, “Come on Ms. Lexi. Help me out. You know you’re my favorite niece.”
Mother Rose put in, “Don’t let Vaughn hear you say that.”
“I know that’s right,” Flo agreed. “Where’s my eldest daughter anyway?”
“I don’t think she’s home yet. Her car isn’t outside,” Pastor Rose answered.
Mother Rose extended her soft hand to assist her husband up.
The aroma wafted from the kitchen, into Flo’s senses. “Girl, what have you cooked? It smells good.”
“Beef stew and some home made biscuits.”
Flo wanted to eat. She started moving in the direction of the scent.
“Shouldn’t we wait for Vaughn?” Mother Rose suggested.
Flo turned not sure how to answer that one.
Lily was checking her email when Vaughn finally walked into her room at eight that evening. Her speech was swift. “Girl, I got your message. Why did you want me to come straight to your room? I thought it had to be about what happened with you and Michael today. So tell a sister? What happened? Was it hot and heavy?”
“Vaughn, slow down. That’s not why I left you a message.”
Confused, she sat on Lily’s bed and waited for it. The expression in Lily’s eyes told her before Lily said, “Vaughn, your mother is here.”
A shock wave sliced through her body. Vaughn always had mixed feelings concerning her mother. The little girl within wanted to climb onto her mother’s lap. But she wasn’t a little girl. No need for her mother in her life now. She spat out in disgust, “How many black eyes does she have?”
“Lily, let’s be real. The only time my mother rushes to New York is when Roosta has kicked her butt. She’s running for cover.”
Lily could feel her pain. Sympathetically, she pleaded, “Vaughn, be fair. That’s still your mother.”
“Lily, again, be real. How many black eyes?”
Keeping it real, she sighed and told the pitiful truth, “No black eyes. She’s got scratches along the left side of her face.”
Vaughn screeched. “Scratches? What is Roosta, a cat now?”
Refreshed from prayer, Lily rested on the couch. At eleven o’ clock, Michael’s headlights flashed through the picture window of the family room. To prevent the doorbell from ringing, she waited for him in the doorway.
Still dressed in his work clothes, Michael held Lily and whispered, “Baby, I’m sorry that I’m late. I forgot to tell you; I had dinner plans with my father.” He stepped inside and peaked around. “Is everyone asleep?”
She whispered back, “Yes, and we don’t have to whisper.”
He smiled and extended a single long-stemmed red rose to her. Pressing his lips upon hers, he said, “I missed you.”
Lily was swept off her feet. Michael never acted this way in her parent’s home. She thought he was acting like this because he knew everyone was in bed. A smile worked its way from her heart to her lips. “Michael, I love you.” She led him by his firm hand to the sofa.
Without hesitation, he urged her to tell him exactly what was in her heart. He wanted to know why she had not come to him when she first received the job offer.
A light flashed in her mind. Now she understood him. He had every right to be angry. She should have told him right away. “Michael, please forgive me. I’m sorry. I was confused. I’m not sure of your intentions.”
“My intentions?” Now, he was confused.
“Michael, you have had this job for three months. Why haven’t you proposed? I wasn’t sure if you were going to. So if you weren’t, I needed to start making other plans for my future.”
He didn’t know how to tell her that he had purchased a ring and that he was trying to come up with a fantasy proposal for her. Actions speak louder than words. He pulled the ring from his slacks.
She threw her hands over mouth as her eyes enlarged. “Oh my God! It’s beautiful!” He’s going to do it now. Thank you, God.
“Lily, I purchased this ring over a month ago. I was trying to come up with the perfect proposal, something you would always remember. I knew you were expecting it, so I tried to keep it quiet and hopefully surprise you.”
Lily could see the love in Michael’s eyes. I feel so stupid, all my scheming and planning for nothing. Her eyes filled with shameful tears.
His voice was cracking as he broke the news. “Lily, from what you’ve told me. This job offer is a chance of a lifetime. I can’t let you turn it down.”
“Michael, what are you saying? You’re going to move to Atlanta?”
“No baby, you know I can’t.”
“Then what? Get married and live apart?”
He didn’t realize he was still holding the ring. Lily was staring at it. “Lily, what happened in my office today proved to me I can’t take another long distance relationship. I can’t be apart from you.”
Lily’s head was spinning and her heart was racing. “Tell me Michael. What are you saying?” He sighed deeply. “I’m saying, I won’t hold you back. One day you may hate me for it. I want you to go.”
She felt a painful jab in her chest. She was almost at the point of collapse. Her voice was a hoarse whisper, “If I were your wife, you wouldn’t say this to me. You wouldn’t let me go.”
He whispered back, “You’re not my wife.”
Those words stung in the very core of her being. Trembling, she stood. He stood. The emotions between them were powerful. They didn’t know what to do.
Lily began pounding his chest. She was yelling, and she didn’t care who heard. “Michael, you never loved me. You never loved me. Eight years I waited for you, eight years!” She wept loudly.
Shouts and sobs pulled Mother and Pastor Rose from their bed. The two looked like twins dressed in forest green flannel pajamas, a conservative gift from Lily. With her hand against her husband’s chest, she prevented him from descending the stairs. “Desi, wait, that’s Lily and Michael.”
Pastor Rose exclaimed, “Oh let’s sit on the stairs and listen! Sounds serious.”
Mother Rose placed her hands on her hips. Lifting her eyebrow, she gave her husband the, I-can’t-believe-you look. “Oh, Vie, you don’t want to eavesdrop?”
She pushed him back and sat on the top step. Pastor Rose quickly joined her. Chuckling in her ear, he whispered, “You are one nosey woman.”
“Me? Pastor Rose, keep calling me names and we won’t finish what you were trying to start just a few minutes ago.”
The, I-can’t-believe-you look returned. “What I was trying to start? Woman, you are too much, with your fresh self.”
Mother Rose tried to stifle her laugh. “Am I too fresh for ya?”
Pastor Rose loved his wife’s face aglow in nightlight. “Never. As a matter of fact, I want to go back to our room and get fresh wit cha.”
Mother Rose waved him off. “You hear that? I think Michael is crying, too.”
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