“He’s not excited about it,” Keisha admitted.
“Well you’re newlyweds. He was a little on edge last time you went to Europe, I know that.”
Keisha knew that as well. She recalled the forced enthusiasm in his voice when they spoke by phone, the questions about what she’d seen and done, all of which sounded scripted.
“I think it’s the distance, y’know? It’s not like he could rush to your side if you needed him or something. He’s very protective that way. Always has been.”
Keisha looked at Chloe, watching as she strolled the aisle, pausing every once in a while to look at an item, deciding whether to buy. When she saw something she was interested in, she looked at Keisha with raised eyebrows, inquiring whether she wanted the item as well. Most of the time, Keisha assented.
“What was he like?” she asked. “Y’know, before.”
Before. That was how they referred to the time before Jay went to prison to serve ten years for a robbery his cousin had made him an unwitting after-the-fact accomplice to. Most of the time it was easy to forget that Jay had served time. He was nothing like the other ex-cons Keisha remembered from her old neighborhood in Brooklyn. Most of those men were hard, watchful and sometimes quietly dangerous. Even their smiles were untrustworthy.
When she’d first seen Jay, Keisha noticed the prison tattoos, the complicated array of images, and words traveling the length of his arms. That was enough for her to almost immediately dismiss him. She had no intention of going backwards by getting involved with a man who had chosen the path he had to have chosen. Then she noticed his eyes, with their piercing intensity, and quiet assessing gaze. He seemed to have seen right through her. And that made her uncomfortable. From the moment they met she’d been unsettled around him, and that hadn’t changed, even to the present day. Jay still had the ability to shake her up like no one else she had ever known.
“Jay’s always been like a big brother,” Chloe said. “Even though he’s younger than me. Always a caretaker. He’s going to make an amazing father.”
Keisha swallowed and shot a quick glance in her sister-in-law’s direction, but it seemed to have been just an offhand comment with no veiled significance.
“I think that’s why he was so easily taken in by our cousin. Always looking out for him even when he shouldn’t have. That’s the thing he lost when he was locked up, I think. His blind faith in people.” Chloe’s eyes cast downward for a moment. “But I guess in the grand scheme of things, that’s not such an awful thing to lose.”
His faith in other people wasn’t the issue really. It was his faith in her that was Keisha’s cause for worry. She just needed to make sure it wasn’t misplaced.