It’s a beautiful May evening in Center City Philadelphia. The sun is high in the sky covered only by a few faint clouds with a warm wind blowing. Cars seem to be moving in slow motion as Kyla approaches the patio of her favorite restaurant where she is meeting a group of friends for an alfresco happy hour dinner; something they grew accustomed to over the years. As usual, Kyla was on her cell phone conducting business well after she left the office. She worked tirelessly as an entertainment attorney; sometimes to the point of exhaustion, so this dinner was the perfect opportunity to wind down.
“No Frank, we need to re-work the numbers so that it benefits our clients,” she told her assistant. “Call me back if they agree to the terms.”
“It’s getting late, I can just call you tomorrow with the details,” Frank said.
“No! I need to know tonight whether they accepted the terms of the new contract so that I can schedule the face-to-face meeting in New York.”
“Okay, I’ll call you back once I finalize everything.”
Kyla pressed the “end” button on her iPhone and moved toward the reception area. She looked down at her gold Michael Kors watch and saw that it was 5:45PM. For the first time in a long time Kyla was early for something.
Kyla approached the podium where the receptionist was standing and said, “I have a 6:00 reservation for Carter, party of four.”
“Is everyone in your party here?” The receptionist asked.
“Not yet, I’m the first one.”
“Well, I will seat you all when everyone arrives. You are welcome to have a seat at the bar.”
Kyla moved inside to the crowded bar area and surprisingly found an empty seat. She struggled to squeeze between two men shouting competing drink orders at the bartender as she climbed onto the tall black leather swiveling bar stool. While climbing onto the stool she caught the left heel of her cream Gucci peep toe pump on the bottom of the round metal foot stand, which caused her to stumble slightl into the guy seated to her right.
“I’m sorry,” Kyla said to the guy that she bumped into.
“It’s cool, I know it’s crowded in here. Now if you had made me spill my drink, I might’ve asked you to buy me a new one,” he said with a big smile.
“I’m a big girl, I know how to handle myself and probably would have told you no.”
“Oh. I see. Well you aren’t that big of a girl judging by the way your feet are dangling off of that bar stool.”
“I see you have jokes. I know I’m short, five foot two to be exact but I always say, ‘Good things come in small packages’.”
“And that they do,” he said in a sultry tone while looking her up and down.
Kyla could see where this conversation was headed and she was getting bored with it already so she pulled her iPhone out of her clutch bag to see if any of the friends that she was waiting for had texted her or if she had any missed calls. She had only been sitting at the bar about two minutes but it felt like an eternity and all of the noise was starting to give her a headache.
The guy that Kyla had been conversing with sitting to her right reached across his body to extend his right hand to offer her a handshake and says, “I’m Michael, it is nice to meet you, shorty.”
Kyla turned her body slightly to the right barely facing him and extended her right hand to shake his and responded, “I’m Kyla and it’s nice to meet you too, cocky.”
“Why do I have to be cocky though?”
“Why do I have to be shorty?”
“Well you’re just being presumptuous and I’m simply stating a fact.”
“Are you married Kayla?”
“No, but I just got engaged and it’s Ky-la.”
“Well Ky-la, he’s a lucky man.”
“How do you know I’m not the lucky one? I could be a psychopath.”
“Could be, but if not, you definitely have a killer smile.”
“Thanks,” Kyla said in an exhaustive tone while mentally rolling her eyes.
She looked down at her phone and saw an alert on her screen that read “text message” and underneath it had the name of “Liz Morrison”. She slid the unlock arrow across her phone and put in her passcode to check the text.
“Where are you?” the text read.
Kyla texted back, “Inside at the bar.”
About ten seconds later Liz texted, “I’m outside on the patio with Naja.”
Kyla responded, “Coming out now.”
She was doing mental cartwheels right now because Michael was starting to get annoying and she really didn’t feel like talking anymore.
“Can I buy you a drink?” Michael asked.
“No, actually my friends are here and we’re getting ready to be seated. It was nice meeting you.”
Kyla grabbed her bag and hopped down off of the bar stool and started towards the door that led to the restaurant patio. She unbuttoned her mauve linen suit jacket and started removing it one sleeve at a time while she was walking. It was unusually warm for May and she was worried that the humidity would make her long brown soft ringlets turn into a short tight curly afro. She approached the patio and saw Liz standing by the receptionist stand waiting for her. Even though Kyla made it a point to have dinner with her girls at least once a month, this particular outing was more than a random dinner occasion. They were meeting to discuss Kyla’s upcoming wedding.
As Kyla approached her friends she hugged each of them and said hello with a beaming smile.
She walked over to Liz and said, “Girl, I’m so glad that you texted me because this dude was in there talking my damn head off at the bar.”
Liz giggled and said, “Well you should’ve texted me an “SOS” and I would have called to save you sooner.”
The restaurant receptionist walks the group over to their table and they take their seats and she hands them colorful menus. Kyla stands and waves to Andrea to signal where they were sitting since she was coming from the restaurant restroom inside.
“Hello ladies, welcome to Christos, my name is Thaddeus and I’ll be your server. Have any of you eaten here before?”
The ladies all look at each other with devilish grins because Thaddeus was very attractive. He could be a model instead of a server. He was tall with caramel skin, a muscular build, a razor sharp haircut and an award winning smile.
“Yes, we’ve eaten here quite a few times,” Kyla said.
“But we never saw you here before,” Liz said in a flirty tone.
“Would you like to hear today’s specials?” Thaddeus asked.
“Are you on the menu?” Liz mumbled under her breath but loud enough for Andrea to hear her and slap a low five with her under the table.
Naja quickly responds, “Yes, please.”
“Today we are featuring our Caribbean chicken salad appetizer, a rack of lamb with a Mediterranean glaze and rosemary chicken. Can I start you off with drinks and an appetizer?”
Kyla placed her order, “I’ll have a bottle of Riesling for the table, a glass of water with lemon on the side and I’ll try the Caribbean chicken salad appetizer.”
After the other ladies placed their drink and appetizer orders, Thaddeus turns to Kyla and asks, “Is this a special occasion?”
Kyla smiles and starts to respond, “I’m getting married and…”
Liz cuts her off and says, “Us single ladies are helping her plan the wedding,” and she winks at Thaddeus and the other ladies laugh at her.
Thaddeus laughed along with the ladies and says to Kyla, “Congratulations on your engagement.” He then turns to Liz and says, “It’s too bad you haven’t found that lucky man yet,” then winks back at her and turns to go put the order in.
All of the ladies laugh and begin to high five each other. Andrea shakes her head and folds her hands and places them on the table. She seems eager to get down to the business at hand. Out of all of Kyla’s friends, Andrea was always the most serious and kept everyone on track. Kyla had known Andrea since their freshman year as college roommates at Howard University. Andrea was a journalist and worked for an educational news publication. They could always count on her to try to get to the bottom of things.
Andrea looks at Kyla and says, “Kyla Carter, who would’ve thought that you would ever settle down or better yet, be the first to do it?”
“I know right,” Kyla responds; “but it’s time and Vincent Preston is truly the one.”
“The one that almost got away,” Liz said.
“Whatever!” Kyla shouted.
“You know I’m right,” Liz said; “you almost weren’t gonna give him a chance.”
Liz was Kyla’s partner in crime. She knew where all of the “bodies” were buried so-to-speak. Liz and Kyla met when they were first year students at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law. They immediately hit it off while studying torts and could be seen hanging out regularly enjoying the Philly night life as single women. They spent many date nights and hung-over mornings together. Kyla was often the “wing girl” when it came to meeting men. She was always encouraging her friends to approach men but this time, Liz was the one who pushed her to meet her soon-to-be husband Vince.
“I’m glad I did give him a chance because he makes me so happy and I get butterflies just thinking about him,” Kyla said.
“Who would’ve thought that a chance encounter at the Law School Mixer five years ago would have landed us here? He stepped on your foot and you were getting ready to go off on him until you saw how fine he was,” Liz recalled.
“Girl! My feet were hurting with those damn heels on, trying to be cute too long and he came along not paying attention and stepped on my foot and almost made me spill my way too expensive drink. I was getting ready to let his ass have it but when I looked into those medium brown puppy dog eyes and saw those full sexy kissable lips forming an apology, I nearly melted,” Kyla said.
“After y’all did all of that talking all night and he didn’t ask for your number, you were mad as hell,” Liz said laughing. “You talked my head off about him all night and I told you to look up his email address and send him an email but you were too scared.”
“I knew that I would see him again since he told me that he attended the Wharton School of Business at U. Penn. When I bumped into him at the campus library a few weeks later he couldn’t resist all of this a second time; so I gave him my number and the rest is history,” Kyla reminisced.
“Oh please, history my ass, you played hard to get for like a year until I convinced you to give him a chance because you thought he was too nice, too serious and too clean cut,” Liz yelled across the table. “It’s about time you tried something different.”
While they were deep in conversation, Thaddeus brought the drinks and appetizers back to the table. He opened up the bottle of Riesling that Kyla ordered and poured each of the ladies a glass and placed the bottle in an ice bucket in the center of the table. He asked them if they were ready to order their main courses. Everyone placed their orders and then Naja called for a toast.
“Ladies raise your glasses to celebrate the engagement of Kyla and my brother Vince. May they have a blessed union and continue to make each other as happy as they have been over the past four years,” Naja said.
The ladies all tapped their wine glasses together and on-lookers clapped for Kyla as many could over-hear them toasting since the tables on the patio were in close proximity to one another. Naja seemed to be the most excited for this upcoming union because she and Vince had grown up together since they were in grade school. They also attended Penn State University together. Naja met Kyla five years ago at Vince’s family cook-out. Kyla didn’t know anyone there and Naja kept her company and they began hanging out pretty frequently after that. She was Kyla’s confidante when she needed “Vince” advice because Naja always seemed to know how to handle him.
Andrea said, “Now that we got that out of the way, have you picked a date, time, location, colors?”
“Slow down, we just got engaged last week,” Kyla said laughing.
“Yeah Andrea, damn!” Liz exclaimed.
“I want to get married next July 4th because you know how I love fireworks but we have not finalized anything because we have a few more places to check out.”
“I just want to make sure that I have enough time to hit the gym so I can be tight in my dress and catch one of Vince’s single friends,” Andrea said, while dancing in her seat.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be holding a bridal boot camp,” Kyla said jokingly.
“I know Mrs. Carter and Momma Lisa are too excited,” Naja said, referring to Kyla and Vince’s mothers.
“They were over the moon when he proposed. I wasn’t expecting to get engaged on Mother’s Day; it was a total surprise. I was thinking that I was just going for a spa day to celebrate our mothers, courtesy of Vince. When I heard the knock at the door and he walked into that massage room while I was waiting for the therapist to come and take me to my next appointment, I was so confused; I couldn’t even look at him. When he got down on one knee and pulled out the ring, I couldn’t stop crying. Vince was begging me to look at him so he could officially pop the question. When I pulled myself together, he told me how I had changed his life in so many ways and he asked and I said yes. When we walked out of the room, our mothers were crying and people were clapping.”
Liz picked up Kyla’s left hand and said, “Girl look at that rock.”
Kyla was wearing a gorgeous 2-carat princess cut diamond engagement ring with an antique setting. Vince had very good taste. He had been spoiling her since they had been dating. He spared no expense when it came to her. He had taken her on trips around the world, showered her with the finest gifts from Tiffany’s jewelry to designer handbags. He sometimes even cooked for her. He was everything she could’ve prayed for in a man. His parents were very well off in the medical field and he was a financial analyst. In addition to doing well financially, he was good looking. He was average height with a muscular build, medium brown eyes, full succulent lips, black wavy hair and dark flawless skin. He had a confident walk and knew how to command a room when he walked in. He made Kyla weak in the knees whenever he wore a business suit.
Thaddeus returned to the table and brought their food and before he left he asked, “Can I get you ladies anything else?”
Kyla asked Thaddeus for a chocolate martini and Liz said, “Be careful because you know how you can get. Remember the last time we were out drinking and Vince had to come follow you home?”
“I got this, it’s only my second drink and I am celebrating with my girls,” Kyla said while dismissing Liz with her hand.
Everyone finished dinner and their drinks and Thaddeus brought over the check. They all put their money into the leather folder and Liz handed Thaddeus the folder with her business card tucked inside on top of the check.
He peeked inside and said to the ladies, “Do you need any change?”
“Liz said, “No! Keep the change.”
Thaddeus smiled in Liz’s direction and said, “Have a good evening ladies, congratulations and come again.”
After everyone was done, they all got up from the table and went around giving each other hugs to say goodbye. All of the ladies walked out together except Kyla because she parked in the garage inside of the building that the restaurant was in. Kyla grabbed her Gucci clutch bag and started toward the inside of the restaurant to use the ladies room before going to get her car. When she was done washing her hands after going to the bathroom, she looked at herself in the mirror and thought, “Bathroom lighting always seems to magnify the bags underneath my eyes; I need to go to bed earlier.” She re-applied her baby pink Chanel lip gloss to her full lips and blotted the oil off of her pecan tan colored face with a towelette. She pulled the door and left the ladies room with her curls surprisingly intact with the roots only a little swollen from the humidity. Once inside of the restaurant, Kyla pulled her cell phone out of her bag to call Vince while walking through the building to the elevator leading down to the parking lot.
The phone started ringing and Vince answered, “Hey baby.”
“Hey love, I’m on my way home, did you want me to bring you anything?”
“No I’m okay, just bring your beautiful self home to me and be safe.”
“Okay, I’ll see you when I get home.”
The sun was beginning to set and she seemed to be the only person inside the building. She noticed that some construction workers were still in the lobby of the building and as she was walking toward the elevator, she heard a familiar voice call out her name and her heart nearly stopped.
* * *
“Are you really going to pretend you didn’t see me standing here when you walked up?” the familiar voice said from behind her.
Kyla didn’t immediately turn around but her heart started beating really fast and she couldn’t think of how to respond. She swallowed hard and said, “Actually, I didn’t.”
Kyla had played this moment over and over again in her mind for the last year and a half but never thought that the day would actually come when she would have to face Salvatore Rocco again. The elevator came and as Kyla slowly began moving towards the open doors, Sal grabbed her right arm from behind. Kyla felt like her heart would leap out of her chest. The slightest touch from him would always send chills down her spine and this time was no different even though she was pissed off.
“What are you doing?” Kyla asked in an annoyed tone refusing to look at him.
“Let me talk to you,” Sal pleaded, trying to turn her around.
“What do you want to talk about?” Kyla asked while keeping her back turned to him.
Sal gently pulled on Kyla’s right arm to get her to face him. She was resisting but he could tell that she wanted to talk to him because she moved too slowly to the elevator and he knew that deep down she couldn’t continue to ignore him. They had a history and he knew her well.
“I don’t like how we left things the last time we saw each other and it’s been eating me up inside since you stormed off and then changed your number so I couldn’t explain,” Sal said.
Kyla put her hands on his chest and pushed backward slightly so that he wasn’t so close to her anymore. She was trying not to look into his eyes to hide her anger but she knew that she would have to force herself to look away. Salvatore Rocco was the finest man that Kyla knew. He was bi-racial but it was hard to tell except for his name. He was five foot nine with a muscular build, dark curly hair and a slightly chipped front tooth. He had beautiful caramel colored skin with a strong jaw line like his Italian father. Despite how fine he was, Kyla forced herself to focus on her issue with him at the moment.
“Don’t do this Sal,” Kyla said, clearly frustrated.
“Do what? Try to explain?” Sal questioned.
“I don’t need an explanation for how you blatantly didn’t consider my feelings when you chose to marry some random chick. You disappeared for two months and then had the nerve to call me like nothing had ever happened knowing full well you went to Vegas with Alicia and said ‘I Do’”, Kyla yelled. “Hell yeah I stormed off and changed my number because I didn’t want to hear shit from you ever again after you claimed you loved me so damn much yet you found time to secretly fly that chick to Vegas for a surprise wedding.”
“She meant nothing to me, it just happened,” Sal tried to explain.
“Marriages don’t just happen,” Kyla said angrily.
“We just got caught up in the moment; besides you were out here with your boy Vance, Vick or whatever his name is.”
“Vincent!” Kyla yelled.
Kyla was fuming by this point in the conversation and wanted to cut Sal deep so he could feel the pain that she felt when she found out from his best friend, who was also her cousin, that he had gotten married on a whim in Vegas. The truth is, she didn’t even know he was seeing Alicia until she got a call from Alicia questioning her about a message that she had left on Sal’s voicemail. Of course Sal tried to deny even knowing anyone named Alicia, as any typical man would but she thought that they were better than that. They had known each other since junior high school and had never kept any secrets. She considered him her best friend in addition to a lover. Sal knew that she was dating Vince but until a year and a half ago, she was still running around with him pretty regularly although Vince was taking up a lot of her free time.
Kyla held her left hand up to Sal’s face and said, “Speaking of Vincent, we are getting married and it’s not just happening! He proposed last week and I said yes, which means we are planning a wedding!”
Sal took a few steps back and his face dropped. He looked as if she had just shot an arrow through his heart. Kyla could tell that she had just hurt him and a small part of her felt victorious but a larger part of her wanted to run away and cry because hurting him didn’t feel as good as she thought it would. Her heart was pounding from the adrenaline rush that she just felt. She could feel sweat beads trickling down the small of her back. Sal moved slowly toward her and she started getting more nervous. She didn’t know what he might do because he had a blank stare on his face.
Sal grabbed her left hand and said, “I guess I deserve this, but it hurts.”
“Now you know how it felt,” Kyla said.
“I had no idea it would hurt this bad because I never thought that you wouldn’t be mine forever,” Sal said while shaking his head.
“Well now you know and you can go on with your life and I will go on with mine,” Kyla said as she turned to press the down button on the elevator.
“You don’t really mean that. You won’t be happy because he’s not me. I make you happy. I make you feel good,” Sal said.
He let go of her hand and moved closer to her and placed his right hand underneath her chin. He slowly tilted her head backward so that she was looking up to him and it appeared to her that he was going to kiss her. She snatched her head away and backed up from him and turned toward the elevator.
The elevator doors opened up and Kyla stepped inside and turned to face Sal and said, “Bye Salvatore, have a nice life. I’m going home to my fiancé now.”
Sal could barely concentrate as he watched the elevator doors close. He couldn’t go back to work because he kept replaying Kyla’s words over and over again in his head. “I’m going home to my fiancé’ now…” He never thought in a million years that she would ever seriously be with another man. He didn’t care who she dated but marriage was another story. He couldn’t believe that this time was real. So many other times he let her down and left her with unfulfilled promises and she always came right back to him. This time, he wanted to take back the hurt he had caused and make it right because Alicia really didn’t mean anything to him. He never loved Alicia, it was just sex that had gone too far; but how could he make Kyla understand that? This time he felt that he had really lost the only woman he had ever truly loved, to another man. His thoughts were too cloudy to process this information but he knew that this wouldn’t be the last time that he saw Kyla. He was sure of that.