Amad parked in front of Obrey and Davis' place and did a light jog up under the ark onto the brick porch. He turned around and noticed how perfectly manicured the lawn was and the new flowers in bloom. Lilies. Obrey loved lilies. Davis was up painting downstairs in her studio just off the dining room. They waved at each other through the window and she let him in.
"Hey you, what's up?"
"Same ole same." He checked out the painting she was working on. Masks. African masks. "I like that. You got skills."
"I know it. So go tell everybody you know with some money to spend."
"I know that's right. They sleep?"
"I think so."
Amad took his shoes off in the barefoot enclave but before he went upstairs he stoppd at Obrey's design table and looked at the many wedding dress designs Obrey sketched and noticed they were all scratched out. There were even some in the trashcan next to the table. He tapped on the bedroom door where Obrey and Jewel were sleeping then went in. Jewel liked to lay in the bed with them. She would lie in the bed with Obrey until Amad got home and walk her into her room. He turned off the radio that was set to 102.3 fm and kissed Obrey and Jewel. He saw that Obrey was sleeping hard and tried not to wake her as he got Jewel up. "Come on, baby, go in your room." He walked her in her room right next to Obrey's. "You have a good day today?"
"Yeah. I painted a picture with Davis." She said in her raspy sleepy voice.
"Show it to me later, ok?" Go back to sleep, sweetheart." He tucked her in her bed and she went back to sleep.
He went in the restroom in Obrey's room, got into the shower and started rapping. Obrey heard him in the shower and smiled as she got up and gathered Jewel's toys and books that were spread all over the bed. She put them on Jewel's bookcase in her room that Davis painted for her a year before for her birthday. There was a painting of Jewel as a princess in a field of flowers with butterflies and ladybugs all around her underneath a blue sky with soft white clouds. She returned from Jewel's room and sat on the bed and watied for him as she skimmned the latest issue of Elle. There was an article on Spike Lee and she wondered what Elle magazine would be saying about Spike. And the relationship "Is he your soul mate?" questionnaire was also a selling point. She sought conformation everywhere she could find it.
She thought about how far she had actually gone on her quest to be sure that she'd made the right decision and that indeed she and Amad should get maried. Or not. For years Mama Rosa's Spiritual Advice House sat lonely and lit up on Crenshaw and Wilshire. She passed by the week before and decided to stop. She parked her car under the streetlight. Before she got out she looked in the glove compartment where she kept extra cash and realized that she had changed her purse that morning and had somehow left her wallet lying on the bed. There was only ten dollars in the glove compartment and she didn't have her credit cards on her. She did have her checkbook but didn't know if spiritual advisors took checks. "If she's that connected to spirit then she'll know that the check is good." She said out loud as she got out of the car and rang the doorbell, checkbook in hand.
"Come in, beautiful."
Amad opened the bathroom door wearing a wite towel around his waist and his version of a sexy look on his face and performed a strip dance for her.
"Da dada da da da...Daddy's home..."He sang as Obrey lightly giggled and remembered that he was sexy with his dark brown skin and short dark black hair cut close and beard perfectly trimmed. She loved seeing him naked. No matter what they were going through he was as handsome as ever. She loved resting on his chest at night. It made her feel like Jewel must feel when she is in the bed with them. Safe. Protected. Home. Comfortable.
"You must have had a good time tonight."
"Why you say that?"
She imitated him rapping. Amad smiled and began to play with her in bed." So what did you fine young ladies do here all by your lonesomes without a big" kiss on the neck, "strong" kiss on the cheek, "Mandingo to protect you?" He flexed his muscles as he crawled on top of her. She returned each kiss with a bite on his nipples and unwrapped the towel from around his waist. Laughing the whole time.
"Oh, we found a way to survive." Kiss. Bite. "We did girl stuff. Now come and get some of this sho nuff good stuff."
Amad climed on top of her. He threw his towel on the floor and put his hand underneath the t-shirt she was wearing. His t-shirt and a pair of his boxers. He liked that. Amad continued kissing her neck and ears. He said he loved to hear her laugh when he tickled her ears like that. Ears. Neck. Lips. Her moaning was always music to his ears. "Malik and Sharita are having a little get together tomorrow. I told him that we would come." He said softly, casually, still kissing her.
"I have a deadline on some designs. I had planned to spend all day working here."
"I told him that we would be there."
"Well then you and Jewel go. But I have other plans."
"Whatever." He started rubbing on her. She told him to stop. "What?"
Amad got off of her and laid on his back. She sat up and turned around to Amad.
"So you have an attitude?"
"You said stop, so I stopped." Amad turned his back to her as she sat in the bed getting madder and madder by the second.
"What about all the times you flaked on me when the precious Malik called? I can't believe you have an attitude."
"What's that supposed to mean? And why are you making such a big deal about it? If you don't want to go then don't."
"Here we go again doing the Malik and Sharita thing."
"What Malik and Sharita thing?"
"Are you serious? You bring up their party in the middle of us making out and you ask what Malik and Sharita thing?"
"It's a little get togethr. I just thought about it. You act like...like...I don't know, like it's some big deal that I asked you about going over there."
"It's a big deal that because I don't wanna go you start whining."
"We just can't have one day Obrey when there isn't something for you to complain about me can we?"
"Can we have one week when we aren't all up under them?" Lately it's like every time I turn around it's Malik and Sharita, Malik and Sharita, MalikandSharitaMalikMalikMalik. Like you're using them for measuring stick for our lives."
"What are y..."
"They have a new truck, so we should get one. They're going to Jamaica, so we should go." She paused and spoke softly when she said, "they're married, and so we should be." She gently turned his chin to face her directly. "I love who we are and what we have. I don't mind us all getting together, but every time we do, it seems like we have to change who we are to fit into their lives."
"Obrey, I don't change myself for anybody. Like I said, if you don't ever want to go over there, don't. It's not that serious."
"Then why are you acting like I just said I don't want to visit your mother on Mother's Day?"
"You just gon' keep pushin' it, aren't you?" He got out of bed and put on a pair of sweats from the drawer and sat in the chair with his head in his hands.
"It seems like your biggest fear is losing your friendship with Malik. And you make me second to him when he doesn't love you the way I do. Malik won't ever do for you what I do. And you constantly putting me second out of loyalty to your boy lately is getting to be too much for me."
Amad was almost at his wits end and tried not to let the viens completely pop out of his skin. He didn't understand why Obrey couldn't see how hard he tried to make her happy. How hard he worked. How much he loved her and wanted their relationship to work out. "Is that it?" He finally asked.
"Nope. It's actually pissing me off because I'm starting not to respect you."
"Are you just trying to push me away, Obrey? Is that it? Are you that afraid?"
"Look, first of all, I'm a grown ass man and I don't follow behind anybody. I have my own mind and I'm not going to stand here and defend that to you."
"Should a grown ass man ever have to announce that he's a grown ass man?"
Amad left the room. He knew that if he didn't right then he would have given Obrey just what she was asking for. Him out of her life forever. He had a quick vision of the palm of his hand mushing her head into the pillow until she was out of those smart ass ramarks that only told him how afraid she was. Why couldn't she just come out and say it? She would have to. He thought. She will have to come out and say 'I can't marry you.' Because he wasn't just going to give up on her. On them. He left the room and went downstairs to get some fruit and hoped that Davis was not still painting. Hoped she had gone to bed and couldn't hear them arguing. Hoped that Jewel was sleep and not disturbed. Hoped.
Obrey knew she had gone too far. Maybe he was right. Maybe it would be easier to push him away then to say 'I'm afraid of getting married right now. Maybe ever.' She wanted everything to be like it was. She wanted her mother. She wanted Amad with her. She wanted his arms around her. She wanted him to kiss and breathe on her neck. She wanted her nipples to rest between his knuckles while he held her. She wanted to tell him her everything. She wanted to hear his everything and believe it all. She wanted those days back when she knew her heart was safe in his hands and he would protect it and keep it. She wanted those long rides back. Her hands in his hair and his fingers all over her. His fingers. Those fingers. She wanted those magic fingers back.
Obrey sat on her bed and wondered what happeded. Where the good times went and why it was so hard to get them back. Amad walked back in the room and sat on the bed then kissed her forhead. "It's gong to get better, baby. It is. I don't know what's going on but I know it's not here to stay. Ok?"
"Yeah." They were both afraid of what was going to come out of her mouth next. Venom would just pour out before she could seem to stop it in their fights lately. At least this one wasn't so bad, she thought. This time her eyes didn't buldge and she didn't shake and cry uncontrollably and beat him on the chest. This time she didn't tell him to take his fucking hands off of her because she hated him. Not this time. Thank You, God. Not this time. "I just know that something is up with Malik and I don't trust him. I get scared sometimes that's all. It's a bad feeling, Amad and I don't want to be around them and I don't want you to be either." Pause. "There, I said it."
Amad sat back in the chair and watched her. She didn't know what he thought. She could only sit there and wait for whatever it was to play out. Then his jaw got tight. Tight jaw, never a good sign. "You know that Malik and I have been friends since we were kids. So what? I should just give up my friendship because my woman, who says she loves me but is too scared to make a real commitment, wants me to?"
"I'm not really askiing you to give up your friendship. Just keep it in perspective. At some point you two end and we begin. You need to know where that line is and don't lose yourself walking it so tight." (Yes, grown ass fucking man I'm asking you to give up your freindship with him. Malik is a self-righteous jerk that only thinks about himself and his bullshit ass revoultion staring himself as brother back to Africa!)
"We're obviously dealing with some issues that have been building for some time now, because this can't possibly be about tomorrow." He paused long enough for her to roll her eyes away from him. He spoke again and turned her head back around to face his. "When you wanna deal with me and you, then let's deal with me and you." He put his sweatshirt and sandals on and tried to be as calm as he could. "I have to run down to the shop for a minute to take care of something, but I'll be back soon. About tomorrow, Malik and I have some business to handle so I'm just gon' leave Jewel here with you."
"I told you I have to work here tomorrow. I'm way behind on some designs and I have meetings all next week."
"I'm only gon' be over there a couple of hours. I'll pick her up as soon as I get back." He grabbed his keys from the nightstand and she got up, stood and faced him with her back to the bedroom door he tried to exit.
"I was watchin' this psychologist on Oprah once and he said that 'when a man says no, it's no. But when a woman says no, it's the begining of a negotiation.' What do you think about that?" No shaking. No hitting. No uncontrolable crying. Not this time.
"I think you coulda found something else to do with you time than layin' up watchin' Oprah." And he left.
She heard the front door lock and sat up quietly for a moment on the bed then reached over and turned on the radio. Malik was on. "Thank you for tuning in. I'm Brother Malik and tonight our topic for discussion is brother to brother, am I am brother's keeper?"
"Oh, please..." Click.
Over and over Obrey reminded herself that they were just going through something and this was just a phase and they would be connected again. That was what she wanted and hoped that he wanted it as well. She also knew that something was going on between Amad and Malik and that something just didn't feel right. She never liked Malik. She laid in bed and started reading. But Obrey couldn't keep her mind focused on one line to the next of the novel so she picked up the sketch book under the bed and started drawing desings. She was just busying herself until Amad got back. She laid there and remembered when Amad proposed to her. Right there in the coffee shop where they met. Casually. She liked casual. And he was romantic. Yes fell out of her mouth before she could catch it. She laid there and wondered if she would take it back if she could.
Why couldn't he just come back? Why did it have to be like this? She thought over and over. She wasn't up for another evening of fighting until they both fell asleep. Come back right now, Amad. Right now. Right now.
Amad pulled into The Beverly Postal Center on LaCienega and Wilshire. He got out of his truck and went inside to mailbox nuber 2177. He got back into the car and flipped through the mail, then pulled one envelope from the rest and opened it. "Yeah, that's what I'm talking about?" He drove off talking on his cell phone. "Hey, what's up, man? Right on time. I'll be down there in the morning. So what do you wanna...."
He knew that Obrey had a point about the time he was spending with Malik. He needed to her to just understand. Undertstand without him having to explain what he knew she wanted to know. He wanted her to understand that he did love and appreciate her. Understand without him having to talk talk talk. Didn't he deserve that? He asked himself over and over and answered his question with what a great guy he was. He was working on something with Malik that was for all of them. Since they had been together he had never had much money to give to Obrey and Jewel. He wanted to be able to give Obrey and Jewel the fancy things and spoil Jewel even more than she was already. And why shouldn't he have it? He had worked hard all of his life. Nothing ever came easy for him. This wasn't even easy. Here he was with his own business and doing the right thing every day and he still struggled. He took care of his daughter, was a faithful boyfriend to Obrey...it was his time.
Obrey would be awake and angry when he returned. He had a good mind not to go back to her place. He started not to turn down her street but go to his apartment instead and give her some time to cool off. But he knew it wasn't all her fault. Better face the music now. Still, he didn't like all of the fighting they had been doing. And about crazy things he couldn't even defend. They fought the night before last about a dream she had. How was he supposed to defend himself against a dream? He just had to hold on a little longer. Everybody did. Just had to hold on. He sat at the stop sign longer than he needed to and thought about what he would say to her when he got home. He really hoped that she would be asleep. Hoped, but he knew that she wouldn't.
He pulled into the driveway and sat again in the car for about twenty minutes. He sat there and exhaled hard. The next morning Amad was gone when Obrey woke up. There was a note on his pillow for her. She read it and looked at the picture of the two of them on the nightstand.
Baby I love you. I know we've been fighting a lot but we always make up. The way you make me feel.
She was disappointed that she was not awake when he came in the night before but was happy to see the note. She turned on the radio, got into the shower and prepared herself for the work she had to get done while he and Jewel were out. When she exited the shower and put her robe on she heard Jewel singing the theme song to the kid's television show "That's so Raven" holding a bowl of Frosted Flakes.
"Hey, Obrey, come downstairs. I made breakfast." Obrey went down a couple of stairs and noticed the milk and cereal all over the floor.
"Muthafucka." She whispered as she walked back up to her room.
"Oooooohhhh!" Jewel said and continued to sing. Obrey could hear the show blasting from the television in the kitchen. This was going to be a long day.
Obrey got dressed and went into the kitchen. "So, what's the deal?"
"Don't mess with the fabric. Don't touch the mannequins. Don't touch nothing."
"Aaaaaannnd?" Obrey asked.
Obrey went and sat down at her design table. During the commercial Jewel ran into the dining room to get an apple from the basket. She heard the show back on and ran back into the kitchen knocking over the mannequins. She sat at the design table and shook her head. "Let's go."
"Toy store!" Jewel ran out of the room as Obrey walked behind her.
As they were leaving Davis was coming home. She had bags from the art supply store and many canvases in her hands. "Who's that little diamond coming out of my door."
Davis handed Obrey the bags. "Make yourself useful." She received the bags from Davis and carried them in. They walked up the stairs to Davis' room. There were paintings all over the walls and floor.
"Ooooohhh! You made some more pictures!" Jewel said.
"Girl, just one more canvas and you will have completely outgrown this space. There is space for more art downstairs. Or we could redo the garage and put some up in there. We never park in there anyway." Obrey said.
"I know. I do need more space. But it's so much work transporting all that from one place to the other. Besides, I like them all right in my face where I can see 'em and keep working on 'em. Anyway, most of this stuff will be gone by the twenty-third." Obrey looked away. "Yeah I know you're not finished with my dress yet. But let me tell you Miss I got a lot on my mind, my dress better be ready for my exhibit."
"Oh girl, it will! I got you." Obrey made a mental note to hurry up and get started on Davis' dress. It seemed to her that she was behind on everything lately. Everything including the projects she didn't even know she had forgotten. She was not usually this sloppy with her business. As she sat on Davis' bed and looked at the paintings on the walls she came across one of Davis, their mother and her. Jewel was looking through the magazines on the floor and playing with Davis' large collection of black dolls. "How do you think Mama would feel if she was here now?" Obrey asked.
"She would be proud of us in our careers. She always wanted us to do something in the arts."
"She made everything look so easy." Obrey said. "Remember she used to say that she would be happy with whatever we did? Yeah right. She wanted us to be artists so much she could taste it." They laughed.
"She would be proud of the kind of mother you turned out to be."
Obrey stared at the painting as if she was in deep thought.
"She wouldn't be so cool with how we're handling our relationsips though." Davis said.
"What?" Obrey knew what Davis was talking about. She didn't know if she was up for one of Davis' talks about her relationship with Amad. Not today. Please not today.
"She raised us to be strong and to speak our minds. She wouldn't be so proud of the way we let these brothas run over us sometimes."
"Girl, what's going on? Are you ok?" Obrey asked.
"Are you ok, Obrey?"
Obrey didn't answer. "Be sure you don't break any of those dolls, honey."
Davis knew that her sister was trying to avoid the question and didn't even look at Jewel. "She's fine. Look, we live under the same roof. I've been hearing the fights. I pretend I don't, but come on. What's going on?"
"Nothing, girl. Just...you know...stuff."
"Don't take this the wrong way..." Davis stopped and looked at Jewel. "Honey, go downstairs and fix yourself a snack and watch some TV for a minute while I talk to Obrey, ok?"
"Can I have some of your chocolate pudding?"
"My chocolate pudding? Well, ok." Jewel went downstairs and Davis turned back to Obrey.
"Lately I'm just not happy with Amad." Obrey blurted out before Davis could finish her sentence.
"What else is new? Y'all have been doing this back and forth thing for years. Make a decision and stick to it already." Obrey gave her a funny look. "You know I'm for y'all working out, but damn."
"I've just been so confused these days. I love Amad...or...I don't know if I love him or if I'm just used to him. And then there's Jewel who's been with me since she was ten months. If Amad and I ever split up, it would be hard for her."
"Girl, kids have a much easier time adjusting than grown folks. She'll be fine. Besides, kids are like cats. You always studdin' them way more than they thinking about you."
"That was cold."
"Do...you...love...Amad?" Davis asked as Obrey looked into space. "Just be sure, Obrey, please. Before you go jumping the broom in your best creation, be sure you're sure. This is the person you're going to spend the rest of your life with. Cook dinner for every night. Be the mother to his child. The only wing wang till death do you part." They laughed.
"It's all going so fast. It doesn't even feel real."
"Yeah well, once you're standing before God, the preacher and your little white friends from design school, it's real." Davis said. They laughed again and settled down quickly.
"See, that's what I don't get. How are we more married because we have a piece of paper that says so? Aren't we just as much husband and wife when we decide that that's what we are?"
"A public ceremony is something that God decided was necessary for us. It's an outward expression of our commitment. Without that paper, you're just shackin' up, and it's too easy to just leave and give up the minute it gets a little bit rocky. Hell, you aint even committed to shackin' up. If you're going to be together, then do the right thing and set a good example for Jewel. But before you do, be sure you're sure."
Obrey watched Davis' lips move and wondered how and when she got so religious. 'Shackin' up?' Was she serious? She started to respond when her cell phone rang. As she answered it Davis went to take the basket of laundry into the washroom across the hall. "Sivad Designs, this is Obrey."
"Sure. Congratulations on the nomination...I heard that...Well, let's sit down and between us we'll make sure that no one else's gown could possibily be anywhere near as fabulous as yours. When are you back in town?...The twenty-third?" Obrey looked at Davis questioningly and Davis answered with a stern look. Ah, the twenty-third is definitely not good for me." She had her organizer out and looked at her calendar. "Yeah...that's great. I'll see you then. Thanks for calling and we'll speak again before then just to confirm that everything is still good...Ok. You too. See you then."
"Come on downstairs. I bought a bottle of the good stuff." Obrey heard Davis say. They walked downstaris and sat in the living room. Davis brought in two glasses of wine. "I know on top of everything this is a busy period for you."
"God is good, girl! That was Ausette Rochelle!"
"Go 'head girl!" They gave each other high five.
"I've been looking forward to working with her for years. She just got nominated for an image award and it just happens that she's a good friend of Jennifer Bowens."
"Yep. And I hooked her up something gorgeous last year and she passed my number onto Ausette."
"Well, all right Miss Designer to the stars! You are on quite a roll here." They celebrated for a while by doing a little dance together. "Obrey, I'm not trying to get all up in your business. I'm just concerned ok?" Davis peeked into the kitchen to make sure that Jewel was still eating her snack and watching television.
"I know. I just get frustrated sometimes because Amad doesn't understand what I'm dealing with. I have more work than ever to do and he's just not being supportive. He's stressing me every time I turn around."
"How do you think he might be feeling? You have a wedding date coming up early next year that you never talk about. You don't even know what you're wearing for goodness sakes."
"Gee, thanks again for your support. Look, I only said I was frustrated sometimes. But I'm happy mostly."
"From the outside looking in, you two seem like the perfect couple. I just don't want you to make yourself believe that that's what you are if you're not just because you have time invested. I mean, because you did time isn't reason enough to do more time. But if you say you're happy...then...you're happy."
"I love him. I'm just having a moment right now. A long moment. But I do. I love him."
"It sounds like Obrey is trying very hard to convince Obrey." Davis put her glass on the table and turned to Obrey. "Can I ask you something?"
"Do you think you're pushing Amad away because of Daddy?"