Chandler knew something was wrong when he felt Inaya stiffen and then move completely out of his lap when Joe entered the room. He also saw the look of familiarity that passed between them. It didn’t take a genius to put this puzzle together and come up with a complete picture – this Joe was Inaya’s old Joe.
With that new revelation, jealousy and anger immediately attacked Chandler’s soul. He was jealous because someone he personally knew had been with his woman and in fact, had been her first everything romantically and sexually. He was angry because Joe hadn’t been a good steward over Inaya’s heart or body. That kind of poor stewardship had caused massive problems for the next man, namely him.
“Joe, can I talk to you for a minute?” Chandler said, standing to his feet. He wasn’t about to sit back and twiddle his thumbs in this situation.
Joe looked nervously at Inaya and then at him. “About what?”
“About the fact that you got yourself invited to my house today already knowing full well who my wife was. After all, how many Inayas can there be in Montrose, Georgia?” Chandler said, cutting straight to the chase. Doris might look the other way when it came to Joe’s shenanigans, but he would not tolerate that nonsense in his house and especially not when it concerned his own wife.
“Wait a minute. I’m lost here,” Mario intervened, standing between them. “Joe, do you know my brother’s wife?”
Joe nodded. “Yes, we dated back in high school.”
“This is Na-Na?” Mario pointed to Inaya with a look of utter shock upon his face.
Inaya felt heat enter her cheeks as the spotlight shined on her yet again in yet another negative way. For Mario to know the private nickname that Joe used to call her meant that he likely knew a lot of other private things, as well.
“I was Na-Na to him. And for the record, we secretly dated back in high school,” Inaya said, standing to her feet as well. “You abandoned me before our relationship turned public, remember, Joe?” she said, directing her words and attention to her high school sweetheart.
Joe’s face turned beet red. Yet his gaze did not waver from hers. “You’re right and that’s exactly why I came here today. I came to apologize for abandoning you that day.”
“I…” Inaya suddenly had no words. She didn’t expect to ever see him again, much less get an apology from him, especially after all these years.
“I should have never left you alone with that creep. I should have hung around and made sure you were okay in every way. I definitely shouldn’t have buckled to pressure from my father to go off to college early and then marry the first docile white girl I could find just to avoid my family’s name being tied to your family’s scandal,” Joe continued. “In case you haven’t heard, we ended up losing the bakery anyway. When Mother found out about Father’s extramarital affairs with some of his female workers, she closed the business and had the building torn down brick by brick. Then she sold the lot to the highest bidder.”
“I…I forgive you,” Inaya said, amazed by how much lighter she felt just by saying those words.
“He shouldn’t have left you alone with what creep?” Chandler asked, his anger clearly not assuaged with Joe’s confession or apology.
“Son, it appears that you need to have a conversation with your wife instead,” Dusty prompted gently as he removed his clown nose and wig. “A private conversation.”
“You’re right. I do,” Chandler said, closing the distance between him and Inaya.
“And I…I need to have a long overdue conversation with my husband,” Doris said, tugging Joe towards the front door with a determined look on her face.
Mario looked at Doris, shook his head, and then sighed wearily as if he already knew what the contents of their conversation would be about.
Just then Christina and Linus entered the room with wooden trays of sliced cake in their hands. “Hello, Joe and Doris,” Christina greeted with a smile. When they passed by with only the briefest of nods, she quickly amended her words. “Bye, Joe and Doris.”
“Enjoy your cake,” Chandler said as he and Inaya passed by going in the opposite direction towards the stairs.
“What’s up with all of them?” Christina asked her older brother.
“It’s a long story.” Mario sighed, scratching his shaven head in frustration as he plopped back down in the recliner.
“I like long stories. And we got plenty of cake to go with it,” Christina replied.
“I want to hear it, too. All of it. Now!” Leah added more firmly, folding her arms across her chest.
“Bossy women. And you wonder why I won’t settle down. Well, there’s that and a certain woman I can’t have,” Mario grumbled.
After another long sigh, he told them everything he knew about Joe and Inaya’s history. Then he told them something else they didn’t know – he’d been having a secret affair with Doris since college. It started the night she came to him crying about catching Joe with a woman in their bedroom. Mario’s comforting arms led to several heated kisses, which led to years of secret trysts, lies, and guilt between them.
Now…now it was time for it all to stop.
© 2014 by Suprina Frazier