Jay turned in search of Rob again and instead his eyes met Betty’s. She was alone, so he went to her.
“You’re such a man,” she said when he was directly in front of her.
Betty laughed. “No, I mean you were standing there looking so oppressed for having to be here at this party in your honor. It’s funny.”
Jay grinned. “Yeah. This isn’t my thing.”
“What is your thing?” She let her head fall to one side.
Tonight she was in a white lace dress with long sleeves and wore small pearl earrings. Her makeup was scant, but she was wearing a very soft, pleasant scent that made Jay want to inhale deeply.
“Being outside, taking pictures, hanging out at home with my wife. I’m a simple kind of guy that way.”
“And your wife …” Betty shook her head. “She’s far from simple. She’s … stunning.”
“Thank you. I like her too.”
For a few beats, they both said nothing.
“So …” Jay broke the long silence. “Braxton …” He lowered his voice and mimicked her date’s baritone.
Betty smothered a giggle. “Yes. He’s very …”
“Braxton,” Jay supplied.
“It’s only our first date. I can’t decide whether there’ll be a second.”
“There shouldn’t be,” Jay said.
Betty’s eyebrows lifted. “Oh, is that right? And why not?”
“Because he left you all alone,” Jay said. “To be preyed on by other men.”
Betty stared at him, her smile slipping from her face. “But surely I’m safe with you,” she said.
Before he could formulate his response, there was a hand on Jay’s arm, the soft hold immediately familiar.
“Jay, Chloe and I need you over here for a moment,” Keisha said, gently tugging.
“Oh. Yeah … I’ll see you later, Betty.”
She nodded, and smiled at Keisha before turning away.
“Chloe wants to know whether you want to say something,” Keisha said as they walked. “Like give a toast or anything during dinner. I told her I don’t want to, so if you don’t …”
“Yeah, I’ll give a toast to my wife. Of course I will,” Jay said. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that Rob had arrived with his wife Allison.
Keisha sounded so surprised he stopped walking and looked at her. She gazed up at him, her large doe-eyes liquid and full of feeling.
“Baby,” he said, putting a hand at the nape of her neck and pulling her closer. “C’mere.”
Keisha leaned into his chest. He didn’t know what else to say. Sometimes he was so focused on how much he loved her, he forgot how much she loved him. He’d never really doubted it. Even with the tough things they’d been through, the tough time they were having now over this baby business, he didn’t doubt for a moment that Keisha loved him.
She loved him like a flower turning toward the sun—naturally, instinctively and without reason. Of all the dumb-ass things they would each say and do to each other—and had—that truth remained immutable: she loved him, and he damn sure loved her back.
“So I can tell her that. You’re sure?” she asked, looking up at him. “That you want to give a toast.”
“Yeah. You want to go ahead and do that? Tell her I said it’s fine. It’s just that …” He pointed in Rob’s direction. “I got something I gotta take care of right away.”
“Okay.” Keisha moved out of his arms and gave him one last smile, her head falling back.
Recognizing that look, Jay absentmindedly leaned in to receive her kiss just before she headed off to find Chloe. When he raised his head, looking in Rob’s direction once again, he instead met Betty’s gaze. She quickly smiled at him, and took a sip of her wine. It was a wry smile, not a seductive or inviting one; but it seemed to be saying something to him, sending Jay a message that he knew he was better off not receiving.
To read ‘Mother’: