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Reynold's wife swung like a pendulum, from the banister of their second floor stairwell. He tried to muster something, anything, but failed. Even in her demise, he could not love her the way she should've been loved.
Cheryl was a schoolteacher at the same college Reynold taught in. In Jamaica, college was tertiary education. It wasn't a place you received a degree, but rather a place that you prepared for it. Reynold was a teacher before he left the island, but couldn't find work as more than a waiter or bartender in America. This was the only good thing about being back home.
Cheryl was intrigued by the literature he taught. Students walked into her math class with new Renaissance poetry, work she'd never seen in any textbook. They seemed to enjoy him and talked about his presence, long into their equations.
She finally approached him, after three weeks of mystery. When anyone greeted him, he didn't speak. The other teachers, especially the women, buzzed about how gorgeous he was, but were thrown off by his rudeness.
He was sitting at a lunch table, after school let out, reading a book, when she finally spoke, "What are you reading?"
"To be exact: Battle of The Landlord, but the entire book is Langston's poetry."
"Is he big in New York?"
"How do you know that's where I was?"
"You lost a bit of your accent. It was just a guess. I see that I'm right."
"Why don't you speak to anybody?"
"I'm speaking to you now."
"You know what I mean."
Reynold looked up at Cheryl. She was cocoa, with a head full of curls, and she smelled like shea and coconut, distinguishable from the other side of the table.
"I like to keep to myself."
"Can you keep to yourself, at Likkle, tonight?"
"Likkle? What's that?"
"It's a bar, downtown. The staff goes there to grab a drink after our craziest days."
"Was today crazy?"
"Every day is crazy."
Reynold smiled, "Thanks, but no thanks."
Cheryl got up to leave, "Well, we're there all night if you change your mind."
Reynold got home an hour later. The walk from the school, to his small flat was hot and heavy with thoughts. He couldn't stop thinking about Ruth. He thought coming back home, the change of scenery, was enough to rid himself of the memories. Sadly, she was seared on to his mind, taking her seat there forever. After he dropped his work bag and pulled out papers to grade, he found his way to the bedroom. He opened his sock drawer and pulled out a picture of Ruth. She sat smiling, on a rooftop in Harlem. The black and white photo seemed to move, Reynold could imagine her hair flapping in the fall wind, her beauty fighting with the smog and smell of the city.
He put the picture back into the drawer and sat at his kitchen table to finish grading. Halfway through a few promising essays, the realization hit him. It punched him harder than when he'd gone to the diner to find Ruth, when he roamed the subways looking for her, when he stepped off of the plane at Garvey airport.
He was never going to see Ruth, again.
Reynold grabbed his coat and stepped outside to hail a cab. A small car pulled up and he sat in the backseat.
"Where to boss?"
Evan Sr. returned home early, that evening. His wife was stunned, already at the dinner table with their son. The table was set for two. The moment she heard his key in the door she motioned to the maid to set his place.
Instead of walking to his office, he walked straight into the dining room. He looked relaxed and happy, he wasn't wearing his usual business attire, but was donned in a buttoned shirt and jeans. It seemed as if he was taking more time off of work, to handle other affairs.
He sat in his seat and smiled; he rubbed his son on the head. Evan Jr. was going to be 12 this year. He was bright-eyed and excited to see his father. He was his biggest fan.
Evan Jr. spoke first, "Dad! At school we..."
"One second, son. I need to talk about some business with your mom."
Ruth looked up from her plate, visibly disinterested in anything he had to say, "You're home early. I thought you'd be out on the Island all week."
"I was and then I got a call from a long-time tenant that's moving out of 135."
"My father's building?"
"You mean my building. I inherited all of that."
"Whatever. Remember that party I picked you up from?"
"Scarcely. We were young, so long ago."
"Interesting. I remember it like it was yesterday. You were visiting with these two roommates. One of them is gone, the other still lives there."
Ruth could feel her heart, beating a mile a minute, "So?"
"So, he's moving out in the fall. He'll be gone for the rest of the summer and wants to sublet before his official move out date, in September."
"Okay. That sounds fine."
"Would you like to know where he's going?"
Ruth pushed her broccoli with her fork, she tried to act as if she didn't care, "Where?"
"To Jamaica. He's going to a wedding. I think his old roommate is getting married. Nice, right? We should go to Jamaica, sometime."
Ruth stuffed the broccoli in her mouth, she hoped it would go down with the tears that almost made their way to the surface.
"Any friends there, Ruth?"
Ruth pushed through the pain and smiled, "No."
Evan Sr. cut a piece of his steak, "Good. Now, son, tell me about school today..."
"Why the hell would you invite her here?"
Evan's mother seemed taken aback. She was under the impression that her son requested Rebecca's presence, that he'd changed his mind about Ella.
"You didn't want her here?"
"No! Ella is on her way."
Evan's father chuckled, "We're all family. We can eat together. Rebecca used to be here all of the time."
Evan grit his teeth and clenched his fists; Rebecca standing in between them was the only thing keeping him from clocking his dad.
Grandma Ruth stood up abruptly, "I see I'm going to need more scotch for this evening."
She stood up and walked towards the steps.
Evan's father looked annoyed, "Ma, where are you going?"
"To get my glasses!"
"You don't wear glasses!"
She yelled from her room, "My scotch glasses!"
Just then the doorbell rang, again. Evan walked to the door, knowing this time around it was Ella and her grandfather. He ushered them in and told them they could have a seat anywhere, while he took Ella's coat. Ella stared at Rebecca who'd also taken a seat, wondering why Evan's father's mistress was there.
Evan's father introduced himself to Reynold, "I'm Mr. Marquis, Evan's father."
Reynold shook his hand and hugged his wife. He told them that he was pleased to make their acquaintance and took a seat. Evan's father looked just like the man who'd taken Ruth away from him. He was certain this was the same family. He looked towards the doors that separated the house, from the private office. He'd never forget that room.
Evan's father spoke again, "You look familiar. Are you from Harlem?"
Reynold chuckled, "I guess you could say that."
Evan Jr. was bored. His father left, right after dinner, and told him he had to work. He'd come to understand where his father was based on his attire. It was Tuesday and he wore weekend clothing. He was not going to work.
He walked through the house and looked through the closets and drawers. He wanted to know more about his father, more than the hour intervals he'd grown accustomed to. He found himself looking through the hatboxes in his mother's closet, while she helped clean the kitchen. There was a pink box filled with letters. They were all addressed to his mother, years before he was born, from a man named Reynold. They held no stamps, so they must have been delivered by hand.
In one of the envelopes, there was a picture. It was a photo of his mother, years younger, standing next to a man he didn't recognize.
Evan Jr. was suddenly angry. He knew his father's absence was due to his mother's lack of loyalty. He stormed downstairs with the intention of confronting her; he was going to get her to admit her wrongdoings.
Instead of finding her washing dishes, he walked into the kitchen to find his mother curled into a ball, crying on their linoleum floor. He suddenly lost his bravery.
She sat up suddenly, wiped her eyes, and tried to pull herself together, "Yes, baby."
Evan Jr. couldn't think of anything to say. He said the first thing that came to his mind, "Where is daddy?"
"Your father is at the summer home."
"But it's winter."
Ruth pulled her son close and wrapped her arms around him, "I know, baby. I know."