It was late when Justin slipped out onto the adjoining terrace connected to his secret hideaway. Elevated high above the waterline, he stood fixated on the water below. Justin watched as the tide crashed against the shore and receded into the black abyss that was the ocean. The waves were illuminated by the moonlight; however, the sights and sounds of the Atlantic did little to calm him.
Justin hadn’t heard from Kyra in a few days, but she never left his mind for more than a few minutes. It didn’t seem to matter where he was, who he was with, or what he was doing; his thoughts almost always drifted to his ex. Justin felt bad for even thinking about cheating on Eden, but his cravings were becoming so intense he didn’t know how much longer he could talk himself out of it. Too much time had passed since he made Kyra climb the walls, and seeing her with someone else made Justin question if he still held that power. There was only one way to find out.
Justin was momentarily distracted when he received an alert on his phone. He walked back inside to see he had a new text from Eden, but he didn’t bother to read it. Justin set the phone face down on his desk as he threw back the rest of his nightcap.
He didn’t plan on coming home anytime soon.
“Congratulations on your new job, Sweetie!” Kyra’s mother lifted her wineglass in celebration. They each tapped glasses before taking another sip, but Kyra kept drinking until the last drop of red liquid was gone.
Although Kyra appreciated Meeka’s input, she figured Meeka was probably getting tired of being dragged into her drama, so she decided to give her ears a break and ventured over to her mother’s instead. Working a full-time job kept Kyra from stopping by to see her as often as she would have liked, but when she did, they always had plenty to talk about. The wine continued to flow as did their conversation.
“So, tell me more about this new job of yours. Where is it? And what are you going to be doing?” Her mother wore her excitement in a smile that she carried with her all the way to the kitchen. Once there, she started putting together a salad in between sips.
“What would you say if I told you I’m a stylist?” When Kyra got up from the couch, she made sure to grab the bottle – just in case.
“And what made you decide that? You just woke up one day and said ‘This is what I want to do’?” Kyra was confused by her mother’s laughter. She didn’t know if she laughed because she thought she was incapable or because it sounded unrealistic. Either way, Kyra was offended by how quickly her mother’s surprise turned to skepticism.
“I know this might seem kind of sudden. . . But I mean, think about it, Mom. It’s perfect! Even when I was little, I used to always love playin’ dress up. I’ve always been obsessed with clothes. . . Everybody who knows me; knows I’m all about bein’ fashionable,” Kyra rambled on and on.
“Whew, child, I remember those days! You used to love trying to walk around the house in my heels. Had me scared to death you were gonna fall and break your neck!” Her mother shook her head and laughed again. Whenever she couldn’t find Kyra, she knew she was either playing with her make-up or picking through her closet. Not much had changed in twenty years.
“Yeah, but I didn’t.” Kyra hit her mother with a rather stern reminder, but it was like she didn’t even hear her.
“I hope you don’t mind me asking, but how did all this come about? Don’t you need some kind of schooling to do something like that?” Her mother stopped to munch on one of the carrots she was cutting up.
“Yes. . . No . . . I don’t know. All I know is that the restaurant will be there. This opportunity won’t.” Kyra leaned back with her arms folded.
“Have you put any thought into going back to school or moving to another area?” her mother asked. “I can’t imagine you’ll really make that much money around here,” she added. “Especially without a degree. . .”
“I have. But for right now I’ll just have to learn as I go,” Kyra said. “Plus, I already have two clients. Not bad for somebody who is just startin’ out right?” Now that the news was out, Kyra’s confidence was dwindling by the second. The one thing she wanted most from her mother was her validation; however, she had yet to receive it.
“I don’t know, Kyra. Something doesn’t sound right. . .” Her mother scooped up the little pieces of carrots and added them to the bowl of lettuce. “Are you sure it’s not some kind of scam?” her mother posed another question just as she began to slice into a cucumber.
“Just trust me on this. I know this is what I’m meant to do.” Kyra locked eyes with her mother, if only for a second.
“Well! You seem like you already have it all figured out. Why are you even asking me?” Her mother got snippy with her all of a sudden. She started slicing through the rest of the vegetables so fast, Kyra was scared she was going to cut one of her fingers off.
“Because you’re my mother. . . Hello.” Kyra got smart with her.
“I already told you what I thought. Just because it might not have been the answer you wanted, doesn’t mean it’s changed any,” she said.
“But . . . Don’t you want me to be happy?” Kyra squeaked. The hard look on her mother’s face softened instantly.
“Of course, I want you to be happy, Kyra . . . And if this is what it takes, then hey, I say go for it.” Her mother sighed as she added the cucumber to the mix. “I’m sure it’ll be pretty easy for you. It’s not like you’ve ever had a problem spending other people’s money,” she joked with her as she diced up a tomato.
“Ha, ha, you’d be surprised.” Kyra let out a dry laugh. Her mother sucked her teeth.
“Really, Kyra, how hard could it be?”
“Well, just know it’s a little more complicated than pickin’ out clothes. . . ” Kyra had to look away once her nerves took over.
“How so?” asked her mother.
“Because. . . I’ll be workin’ for Justin.”
The steady chopping sound stopped at the end of Kyra’s sentence. Her mother’s hands were so shaky she dropped the knife.
“Not Justin Hartwell?” All the color drained from her face and her wide eyes captured her fright.
“Yes . . . him,” Kyra mumbled, too afraid to say his name again. The way her mother placed her hands on the countertop it was as though she needed it to hold herself up.
“Kyra what the. . .”
“I know,” Kyra groaned.
“But I thought you. . .”
“I know.” Kyra finished the rest of her wine in one swallow. She reached for a refill only to find that the bottle was empty.
“I’m not going down this road with you again, Kyra. You can if you want to, but I’m not!” Her mother pointed at her in her frenzy.
“Chill out! We’re just friends!” Kyra squealed.
“You’d be smart to stay away from that boy altogether, Kyra. You got lucky the last time, but baby, people like the Hartwells are far more dangerous than these little thugs on the street claim to be.”
“Mom, please. Don’t start. . .” Kyra made sure to put an end to her rant before she could get started.
“But Kyra, you have made so much progress! I just don’t understand. Why would you want to go back to that?” Her mother scrunched her eyebrows in concern. Kyra relayed her frustration in a sigh.
“Mom, you don’t understand. It’s not like how it was before. Things are different now. . .” “I’m just saying. You gonna wait until somebody dies to end it? After everything you went through in Chicago I’d hate to see something similar happen here.”
Kyra shot her mom the craziest look.
“What do you have against Justin? He never did anythin’ to you,” she argued.
“He broke your heart, Kyra. And he left me here to pick up the pieces. . . In case you forgot!” Her mother snapped on her, and both women fell silent afterwards.
“You know he’s gettin’ married in a few weeks. . . ” Kyra blurted out the main thing that had been bothering her and all her mother had to say was, “Oh. . .”
“Yeah,” Kyra gave her confirmation and an attitude. “So like I said; for the fifty-millionth time: Justin and I are just friends. And this job is just that – a job.”
“Well then you need to find another one,” she grunted.
“Why?” Kyra challenged her orders.
“Because I can see how easy it would be for you to get wrapped up in him all over again,” she said.
“But, Mom, where else am I going to find a job that combines all my interests? At least I get to have fun at this job. Plus, I get paid really well. And eventually, I’ll get to travel. Maybe I’ll even meet a few celebrities. You never know,” Kyra protested.
“And you get to see Justin.” Her mother added to her list and Kyra twisted her mouth. Why is that such a bad thing? She wondered.
“You’re better off without him, Kyra. You would see that if you gave yourself time to heal.” Her mother tried to comfort her, but her words didn’t bring Kyra much relief.
“Mom, can we please talk about somethin’ else? You killin’ me right now,” Kyra placed her hand on her forehead as though she were in actual, physical pain.
“Alright, but just remember, sweetie, you’re only 23. You have your whole life ahead of you,” she continued. “Trust me, Kyra. You’ll find love like that again. It’ll come. When the time is right, it will happen,” she said.
“Yeah, well I’m not getting’ any younger here,” Kyra commented.
“Oh, sweetheart, there are other guys out there. Better guys. . . What about Cincere?” Her mother perked up when she said his name, but Kyra didn’t.
“Ugh. What about him?” she grumbled.
“How is he? I haven’t seen him in awhile. . .” The look on her mother’s face was one of pure disappointment.
“You’ll have to ask him ’cause I don’t know and I really don’t care,” Kyra pretended to study her manicure for chips, as though that were more important.
“I thought things were going pretty good for you two? What happened?” Her mother continued to pry into her private life causing Kyra to sigh again.
“Yeah. . . They were. But that was before he started trippin’. As soon as he found out I was even talkin’ to Justin, he accused me of cheatin’ on him so you can imagine his reaction when I told him he offered me a job.” Kyra rolled her eyes; something she did far too often when thinking of her boyfriend.
“Well I can understand why he would be mad. Justin isn’t just your friend. He’s your ex. That’s totally different.” Her mother laid out the facts, but Kyra didn’t have a chance to dispute them before Matthew walked in the room.
“Hey, you,” Matthew snuck up behind her mother and began massaging her shoulders. She then fed him some food to taste.
“Mmm, that’s good.” Kyra wasn’t sure whether Matthew was referring to the food or her mother’s kisses. It was still kind of awkward whenever she caught them being intimate, but she really had no complaints. She rarely saw them argue. Matthew seemed perfect for her mother in every way.
“Oh, hey there, Kyra, how’s it going?” Matthew offered her the same friendly greeting he always did.
“Good! She was just telling me all about her new job,” her mother answered before she could. She’d cut their kissing short to fix her lipstick, and was acting as though she were a teenager who just got caught kissing her boyfriend.
“Oh you got a new job? Congratulations!” Matthew lit up.
“Thank you, Matthew. At least somebody is happy for me.” Kyra directed her comment toward her mother.
“Hey honey, I was just finishing up here. Why don’t you go wash up? Dinner should be done in a few. . . I’ll call you when it’s ready.” Matthew nodded, and her mother dismissed him with a kiss. She pressed pause on her current conversation until he rounded the corner, but when her mother opened her mouth again, her voice was soft and steady.
“Look, Kyra, I know how you feel. After your father, I thought I’d never love again . . . Which is why I am so grateful to have met Matthew. He’s helped me realize that I’m still young. He’s helped me see that despite all I’ve been through in my life, I’m stronger now because of it. There is no need for me to still be toting that baggage around with me all these years later. With his help, I’ve overcome those obstacles, and they’ve helped make me the woman I am today,” she testified.
“You know, Kyra, not a lot of people know what it’s like to love someone for all they are – and all they aren’t – but at some point, you have to see it for what it is, not what you hope it will be.”
Her mother’s advice didn’t even have a chance to sink in before Kyra shifted her attention to her cell phone. She looked at her mother and then back at the name on the screen. Justin was calling, and that $10,000 dollar retainer he gave her meant when he called, she answered.
“Excuse me. Sorry, but I have to take this.” Kyra put one finger up and pressed the phone to her ear. “Hello?”
“Kyra, I need to talk to you,” he declared.
“Sure. . . What is it?” Kyra cleared her throat. She could feel her mother staring hard, and assumed that the only reason she was quiet was because she was listening.
“I’ll tell you when you get here. Just get here as soon as you can,” he said.
“Okay, okay. I’m on my way.” Kyra hung up the phone and grabbed her keys. It was late and she was tired, but she was too intrigued to go home and go to sleep. Justin said he needed her, and that was all she needed to hear.
“Sorry, Mom, but I gotta go.” Kyra caught the side-eye when she kissed her mother on the cheek. She didn’t even bother to ask her where she was going. She already knew.
“You be careful, Kyra.”