Dynasty

DYNASTY

Part 1

Author’s note: My final comments on the story, the epilogue and the “soundtrack”  links at the end of the chapter.

Click on the link for Epilogue to see what happens two years after the story ends.

A DAY IN THE LIFE

Marcia’s POV

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I couldn’t say for certain how I felt when Ray called me the other day, letting me know he was flying in to talk to me. What could it be that he couldn’t say over the phone? I admit, I’m nervous about seeing him. The last time we saw each other, he was in Appaloosa to finalize the sell of his house. We ran into each other in the grocery store. It hurt me so much to see him that day. There I was in love with a man I let go because he was unsure of how he really felt about our relationship. I knew Ray loved me, but I believed I was more in love with him and he wasn’t over Apollonia.

I knew it was a risk getting involved with a man that was still married, although estranged for many years. Ray had no idea where his wife was. After nearly ten years of her being gone, I started suspecting he didn’t want to divorce her because he was waiting for her to somehow return. It hurt me something awful the night we broke up. I couldn’t go to Isla Paradiso with Ray if he had any doubts about us. I’ve never loved any man as much as I did Ray, not even my ex-husband, Charles.

Charles and I got married right out of high school. We were young and dumb and believed we would always be together. I started nursing school and within two years I became pregnant with my son, David. I had to postpone finishing school until David got a little bigger. It was hard, but I managed to finish up my degree within two years after David came along. No sooner had I received my degree than I found out I was expecting my daughter, Alana.

It was very tough those first few years being a wife and mother. Charles worked in construction, but when the country was going through a recession and he couldn’t always get work. I ended up picking up multiple shifts just to pay the mortgage. Between the distance and Charles’s resentment towards me at being the breadwinner, we began to drift apart. We wanted to try to make it work for the sake of our children. But we were only making each other miserable. My ex is a good man, but we were no longer in love. I got the house in the divorce and Charles moved across town to Ballard, a neighborhood in North Seattle, while I stayed in the Mount Baker area in South Seattle. Eventually the kids graduated high school and started at the University of Washington.

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David and Alana were pretty responsible and independent kids. I told them I wanted to start fresh in a new town and I read good things about Appaloosa. They were supportive of my move and they had college and their friends to focus on. I ended up selling the house and settling here. I loved Appaloosa right away. Not that I didn’t love my hometown, Seattle, but I liked the idea of living in a sleepy country town. I’m a homebody anyway, so it didn’t bother me that Appaloosa didn’t have as many things to do like in Washington. I started working for a nursing agency and began caring for clients who were hospitalized. That’s how I ended up meeting Ray.

He was recovering from a heart attack and his daughter, Reagan wanted him to have home care to further along his recovery. I was very surprised when my agency informed that this famous super model needed me to come help her father. I’d worked and cared for prominent people in Seattle before, but nowhere near someone with Reagan’s fame. It didn’t intimidate me to be around someone as internationally known as her, nor did her fame interest me. When I met Reagan and Kennedey at the hospital, they were just two sweet girls who were deeply concerned for their father’s health.

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I worked with Ray for several weeks, helping him around the house and helping with this exercises. He was making wonderful progress, but Reagan wanted me to stay on even long after her father didn’t really need me. I decided to stay nonetheless to put her and her sister’s mind at ease and help Ray. After a while, Ray and I became friends more than caregiver and patient. From there we noticed we began having feelings for one another. Ray told me that he cared for me and wanted us to possibly start seeing each other. I told him I couldn’t as his caregiver. I couldn’t deny my feelings for him and decided to give notice at my job. It worked out great, because I found an even better job as head charge nurse in a nursing home.

Once I started my new job, Ray and I began to date. He was very gentle and caring. We had a lot of fun with each other. Soon, I fell in love and Ray told me that he loved me. I knew that when Reagan and Kennedey found out about us, they weren’t too happy. I could understand, a part of them may have held out hope that their parents would reunite one day. They weren’t used to seeing their father with any other woman except their mother. My kids met Ray once and liked him very much. They didn’t have a problem with our seeing each other because they knew my marriage to their father was long over.

Speaking of my children, when David and Alana heard the reason I broke up with Ray, they were livid. They didn’t like that Ray had broken my heart. I told them that it wasn’t his fault and he wanted to stay together, but I insisted he needed to figure out how he really felt about me. They’re reasonable kids though and over time their feelings toward Ray passed. I periodically kept up with Reagan and Kennedey. I asked Ray if he minded if I emailed Reagan once I heard she was pregnant. He didn’t mind at all. I grew to care a lot about his kids and he cared about mine.

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HOW CAN I EASE THE PAIN?

Stereo playing:

All alone, on my knees I pray

For the strength to stay away

In and out, out and in you go

I feel your fire

Then I lose my self control

How can I ease the pain

When I know you’re coming back again

And how can I ease the pain in my heart…

Every time that I let you in

You take away something deep within

A fool for love is a fool for pain

But I refuse to love you again…

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Tonight was the night I expected Ray to arrive. I’m very nervous at the thought of seeing him after all this time. We haven’t spoken in months and I didn’t know what we would say to each other. Every few minutes I checked the window to see if I saw his car coming up the drive. Every car that went by, made me jump. I looked at the clock, realizing it was still a while before he said he would be here. Finally, after pacing in my living room for the last forty-five minutes, there was a knock on the door.

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“Hello, Marcia,” Ray greeted me after I opened the door to let him in. “Hi, Ray.” I invited him inside. “You look good,” said Ray, turning around. “Thank you, so do you.” I invited Ray into the living room. He was being unusually quiet. I didn’t know if he was nervous to see me after all this time. I couldn’t read the signals he was giving me.

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“What’s going on, Ray?” I finally asked him. “I’m sorry, Marcia. I was thinking. Look, when I called you up the other day, saying I needed to talk to you, is because there are some things I wanted you to know. First, several weeks back, Apollonia came into town. She surprised all of us. She wanted to reconnect with the girls again and meet our granddaughter.” Ray paused to look at me. I admit, I hadn’t expected to hear that his wife had come back. She wanted to see their kids, but what about him?

“What happened?” I asked, bracing myself for the worst. “Apollonia’s return was a shock to us all. She’s gone through a lot. She told me some things about herself, I was never fully aware of. She and I have had several conversations, mostly about our kids. I know when you and I broke up, you wanted me to figure out how I felt. I can’t blame you for that because I needed to. Apollonia informed me that she didn’t come back for me, but later admitted that she loved me and wanted to work on our marriage.”

My stomach turned and a sense of dread washed over me. I didn’t want to hear this. He came all the way to Appaloosa just to tell me he was getting back with Apollonia? Why couldn’t he tell me that over the phone? “Ray, what do you want me to say? I mean, that’s fine if you want to work things out with her. Why did you feel the need to tell me?” I asked. “That’s not what I came to tell you, Marcia. After careful consideration, I came to realize that my feelings toward Apollonia had changed. I’m not in love with her anymore. I hadn’t been in quite some time. I told her that our time had passed and I was in love with someone else, you.”

My heart skipped a beat at Ray’s words. “You’re in love with me? When did you figure this out?” I questioned, determined to know if there was anything Ray was leaving out about his reunion with Apollonia. “I think I knew it all along, but my feelings for Apollonia confused me. I realized how I truly felt about you just weeks ago. There’s too much that had changed between Apollonia and me. It’s over, completely. I filed for divorce.” I looked over at Ray, stunned.

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“Why are you telling me this, Ray?” I sighed. “Because you needed to know. You told me that I had to figure out how I felt. I couldn’t get the closure I needed until I saw Apollonia again. Now I know it’s definitely over. I love you, Marcia. I came to tell you that. I wanted you to hear it straight from me. I would like it very much if we tried again at our relationship. I know you want to be cautious. And I’m not suggesting we pick back up today. These things take time, but I want us to be together again, somewhere down the line,” he answered.

I looked Ray in the eye. “What did you think would happen? That you would come here and things would be back to normal?” I asked. Ray shook his head. “No, Marcia, not at all. That’s why I said I didn’t expect for us to pick right back up. I know I’ve hurt you. That was never my intention,” he replied.

I looked down at my hands. “I know it wasn’t your intention, Ray. But it doesn’t change the fact that you did hurt me. Now after all this time, you swoop back into town, telling me that your feelings for Apollonia are no more and you want us to be together again. If this had been six months ago, I would have jumped at the opportunity. But I have to protect myself. I can’t be hurt,” I said. “I understand that, Marcia. I’m sorry it took me so long to figure out what I wanted. I understand if you need time. I’m going through divorce right now and I don’t think it’s wise to rush back into anything, either.”

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Did I really want to know what I was prepared to ask, Ray? If the answer to my next question is yes, I’m unsure if I could handle it. “This may be none of my business, but did you sleep with Apollonia?” I asked. Ray kept his eyes locked on mine and didn’t speak for a moment. “Yes, I did,” he answered. My heart sank. What did I expect? Could I really expect that he wouldn’t be with her again? “So you decided how you felt about me before or after?”

“To be honest with you, my feelings got away with me that night I was with Apollonia. It was like college all over again. I realized I was making love to a memory and not her. It didn’t feel the same.”

“Do you love her at all?” I asked. “As the mother of my children, I will always love her. Just not in the romantic sense. She knows how I feel and she’s fine with it. I didn’t come here, expecting you to fall into my arms again. I’m on the road to divorce after twenty-five years. It’ll take at least six months before it’s finalized. I don’t want to jump into anything right now and I know you don’t either.”

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“You’re right, Ray, I can’t jump into anything right now. You need to focus on your family. I know how a divorce is. It’s a hard thing to go through. No matter how old your kids are, this won’t be easy for them. Speaking of which, I can just imagine how Reagan and Kennedey must’ve felt when their mother came back. It surely turned their world upside down. How are they by the way? I haven’t emailed them in a couple of months,” I said. My heart broke when Ray told me how the girls dealt with their mother leaving years ago. This has to be earth shattering for them.

“They’re doing quite well under the circumstances. It was no doubt a shock for them. Reagan and Kennedey are both on the road to recovery and forgiveness. It’s a little harder for Reagan, but she’s getting there. The girls had some trouble dealing with Apollonia coming back at first and it continues to be a struggle for them. Apollonia is trying her best to reach out to them and be there like never before. We’ve all gone through a lot as a family. We sat down about a week ago and decided to get some family counseling to help further along the healing process. It’ll be useful to all of us,” said Ray.

“Therapy might be good. I’m happy to hear that Reagan and Kennedey are at least open to having a relationship with their mother. You all need each other as a family. If you and I were to be together sometime down the line, I’m unsure how I would fit into everything,” I confessed.

“I hope we can be together again someday, Marcia. Even though we’re there for each other as a family, if you and I got back together, you would be a part of that family. My daughters know as well as their mother how I feel about you. And they know I’m here tonight. Look, I don’t expect for you to allow me back in just like that. I’m sorry that I hurt you. You’re the greatest woman in the world, I always knew that. So, being together again one day is something you can consider?” asked Ray, his eyes looking hopeful.

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I held Ray’s gaze. “I’m not promising anything. I don’t want to get hurt again. There were so many times, I’d wished you come back and say the things you are saying right now. I didn’t have to let you go, but I needed to. I won’t be second to any woman. I love you, Ray. I never stopped. But at this point I firmly believe you should focus on your family. I can’t get involved with you again while you’re still married to Apollonia. I knew you two were estranged for many years and that’s the only reason I allowed myself to start something with you in the past. I can’t hold onto a man that belongs to someone else, even if it’s just on paper. Maybe once your divorce is finalized we can talk about all of this again,” I replied.

“I don’t blame you for not giving me a definite answer right now. I wouldn’t want to be in another relationship at this point either. I have to respect my marriage and see it through the end. Yes, Apollonia went outside our marriage first, but that didn’t surprise me. I still owe it to her now that she’s back to respect the marriage until the end; my daughters as well,” said Ray. He was being very open and sensitive to all of this. Ray is a good man, the best man I know. I’m in love with him now as much as I ever was. But I have to guard my heart. I can’t let it get broken all over again.

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Before Ray left, I told him that I wished them all well with their counseling and that I’m fine with communicating with him, but I refused to get in the way as his family deals with this. Ray may want me back and I believe him when he says he’s in love with me, but I have to be for sure that this is what he really wants. I don’t want to enter into something again and he’s still attached to another woman. If Ray and I do start our relationship back up, we must have a clean fresh start. I won’t settle for anything less.

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Kennedey’s POV

JUNIOR

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I’ve thrown myself into my work and community service more than ever these last few weeks. Something felt strange. At first I didn’t know what it could be, but I figured out that things felt weird because I had not talked to Micah. The break up was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. After all, I loved him, but I didn’t think a relationship was what I needed right now. Daddy and Reagan were surprised to hear that it was over. Reagan claimed that though she didn’t expect for us to break up, she knew we were having trouble. If only I could be in a relationship and act normal for once like Reagan.

I was at the West Island Youth Center teaching my art class to some of the kids. I’d volunteered here for nearly two years now. A lot of the children at the center were in foster care or living with relatives, who weren’t their parents. Although Isla Paradiso has excellent schools, the district had cut the budget and with that, arts, crafts, and music had been cut from many schools. Micah had started volunteering here too about a year ago, teaching kids to play different kinds of instruments and write music. It’s kind of been a relief that he’s on the road. I don’t think I was ready to run into him anytime soon.

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I walked over to Lila, a seven year old in my art class. She was very good at art, but what I had noticed about Lila is that she is quite gifted. The things she told me about her classwork and stories she made up, weren’t those of a regular seven year old. In many ways, she reminded me of myself when I was her age. “Hi, Lila. What are you painting?” I asked “I’m not sure, a lot of colors I guess,” she answered. “Well, I love it. What made you want to paint it?” I asked. Lila shrugged. “I don’t know. I think I had a dream about it,” she replied.

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Lila told me about what she was learning at school, but she didn’t find it all that interesting. She seemed rather bored. I remember being her age and thinking many things I learned in school weren’t challenging enough for me, kind of like Lila. She was one of the foster kids in the program. Lila’s biological mother had been on drugs and she hadn’t seen her since she was two years old. No one knew who her father was. I circled around the room, checking on each student’s painting. It brought me a lot of happiness that there was at least some way I could help these kids out. Everyone should have access to art or be able to make it. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t paint.

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SHE’S BACK IN MY LIFE

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Now that Mom is back in our lives, it’s made me think a lot about my family and the relationship we have with each other. I think about how much Reagan and I used to fight. We were terrible. It would seem that Reagan could be outright mean sometimes, but I knew I provoked her and often insulted her first many times. All she did was clap back. We played together all the time as kids, but as we got older and pursued different interests, we stopped seeing eye to eye. A big part of the reason we fought is because of the madhouse we lived in. Everyone was fighting, especially Mom and Daddy. It made Reagan and I crazy and let out our frustrations on each other. Even though, my sister and I have our own friends, and I know she’s very close to Briah; in many ways we are each others best friend. I could never be closer to anyone other than Reagan and she feels the same way about me. I’m happy she’s my sister. I didn’t always like her, but I’ve always loved her.

Daddy is my rock. He’s the greatest man I’ve ever known. When I broke up with Micah, he alluded that I discard men because I find them to be weak unlike my father. He’s said something similar in the past, that I hold men up to my father as the standard. I can admit, that part is pretty much true. I know my father isn’t perfect, but he’s pretty darn close.

Daddy has taught me so much. I could never thank him enough for taking care of me or loving me as much as he does. He taught me to work hard and pursue my dreams, and to never let anyone tell me that I couldn’t be exactly who I wanted to be. Daddy told Reagan and I, that although he encouraged us, he failed in encouraging our mother long ago. He told us about the conversation they had when they decided divorce was the best thing. I never thought Mom and Dad would end up divorced. When they told us, it seemed too unreal. In a way, I always believed they would get back together.

Mom coming back has been a dream of mine since I first found out she’d left us. Over the last couple of weeks, the relationship I had with my mother has continued to grow. We’ve talked on the phone, met for coffee, and gone out to dinner. Sometimes Reagan’s been there, sometimes it was only us two. Mom told us she had to go to New York to handle some business matters a few weeks ago. When she first told us, I was afraid, she’d run away again and not come back. But after a few days, she was back in IP like she said. Mom had gone there to pack up her apartment and have the movers take her stuff and put it in storage. She told Reagan and I that it wouldn’t be a problem for her to continue working in IP since she worked from home anyway. I admit, I’m happy to know Mom is staying here now. I think Reagan liked the idea too, but she was apprehensive about seeing Mom on a regular basis now. I was at first too. I continue to hope that things go smoothly between all of us and she’ll stay here for good.

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It was like Mom and I got to know each other in a way we never had before. She shared some of her deepest secrets about her dreams and some of the problems she had when she first came to this country. Mom and I had things in common. One of those things, our love for the creative arts. She didn’t know a lot about art and I didn’t know a lot about dance. Both were artistic forms of expression. Mom was able to show the world who she was through her dance and I was able to through my artwork. I’d given her a private tour of the gallery and she informed me that she bought one of my paintings online. That was a shock to know my own mother had reached out to me once before and I had no idea.

I felt good that my mother was so proud of the things I had accomplished so far in my life. I’m finally starting to feel as if I have a real mother. She’s caring, compassionate, and encouraging. I want that fantasy of a true mother-daughter relationship of friendship and understanding. I want to go to her with my fears, so that she may calm them. I want to hear womanly advice from her. I want her advice on hard choices I must make. But most of all I want her everlasting love.

I’m starting to not only believe Mom when she tells me she loves me, but I’ve began to feel it as well. I’ve told her I loved her as much as she’s told me. We started on a foundation of friendship that I believe over time will become more of a parent and child relationship. That mom whose bosom I wanted to snuggle in when I was a little girl is within arm’s reach of me now. The little girl who wanted to drink hot chocolate and read books with her mother is finally getting her wish. Mom’s changed so much from when I was younger. She’s a lot more open and relatable. She explained to Reagan and I more about her depression and what she went through when she was younger. Reagan is a lot more understanding of her illness than at first. I don’t expect my relationship with Mom to be perfect, but I can’t ask for anything more than it already is at this point.

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Reagan’s POV

LET’S ALL GO TO THERAPY

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Daddy’s suggestion to get family counseling was a very good idea. At first I didn’t know if we really needed it. But I thought about how I’ve handled the situation with Mom coming back over the last several weeks. Before I spoke to her that night at the hotel, I was biting everyone’s head off, including my husbands. Her return affected me more than I knew.

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Our therapist, Dr. Meeks told us that when a mother leaves a child, the children often suffer from low self esteem have trouble forming close relationships. This is something I always knew. Mom actually left us way before she physically left. She was cut off emotionally and psychologically, we’ve learned. Kennedey and I often felt that there was something bad we did to make her not want to be around for us. Daddy had denied Mom many of her dreams and shut her down when she told him that she was unhappy. While he didn’t do it on a conscious level, he did it because he was afraid. He worried that Mom would get out there and discover that she didn’t need him and that she would leave someday, which inevitably she did anyway.

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Kennedey and I suffered from something called abandoned child syndrome, which is a behavioral condition that results from the loss of a parent. Whether physically or emotionally. It causes great psychological damage. The damage is reversible, but only with help. We felt shame and that we were of no value. Although I had several relationships, I chose to stay in bad ones out of fear of being alone. I became clingy because I was afraid the other person would abandon me too. I suffered through emotional, verbal, and eventually physical abuse with someone I had no reason being with. I thought this person loved me even though he treated me like crap. I didn’t know any better and over time I wanted to believe he would get better. I had to find it within myself to love me for me and not place my value on the way a man felt about me.

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I began believing that I worth something little by little. Just when I was putting the pieces of my life back together, I nearly lost my father. Whatever personal healing I began to have for myself had to be pushed aside as I dealt with my father’s health. I’d never been so afraid in my life. I didn’t know what I would do if I lost Daddy. Even now that Daddy is doing so well, the memory and the fear I had scares me. Sometimes I cry thinking at how close we came to losing him. Daddy has always been a powerful shield against the storm for me. Next to my husband, he’s the strongest man I know. No he isn’t perfect, but I could not ask for a greater man to be my father.

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TO LOVE AND DIE

 

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After Daddy got well, I started back on the path of finding value and love within myself. Moving to Isla Paradiso gave me a fresh start. I’d been single for a few months and I didn’t think about dating that much. I suppose there’s always been a part of me that loves love and wants a relationship. I didn’t get into one with Jaylen thinking I needed a man, but rather I wanted him. I fell in love and I wanted us to be together. I continued to find out things about myself I loved and learn to be open with Jaylen and stop denying things that continued to haunt me.

There was a part of me; a part of my past that was ugly and I didn’t want Jay to see. I feared he would see why my mom left me and we would leave me too. If she didn’t love me, why should he? But no, Jay loved me unconditionally through all my flaws. He took me as I was and put a ring on it. He never tried to change me and he saw the person I was inside, beyond the headlines, the make up, and stardom, he understood my soul.

When I think about my man, it chokes me up. I think what did I ever do to deserve him? Not only is Jaylen beautiful on the outside, he’s even more beautiful in the inside. He’s the type of man that stands up for all women. He has a strong moral code and he’s fiercely loyal. Jay is my everything, he’s my rock. Although we have very different backgrounds, Jaylen has never held that against me or looked down on the way I was raised. He may have not understood everything I’d gone through, but he tried his best to see the world through my eyes.

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Jaylen and I were down at the beach one evening. We had just come from an outdoor concert on the pier. The night sky was clear. It was quite warm outside, with the perfect soft breeze coming off the ocean. “What are you thinking about, Baby?” Jaylen asked, in a low tone. Dang, he smelled so good. He’s my husband and the father of my child, but Jaylen made my knees go weak just as much now as our first date. Jaylen wrapped his strong arm around my waist and pulled me close to him.

“Just how much I love being here with you, Boo. I can’t think of anywhere else I would want to be. You and the baby make me so happy,” I replied, cuddling up to him. If I could freeze frame every second of my life with Jaylen and Marseille, I would store it up in my mind and never have to dream again. Nothing could ever break apart what my husband and I share. There’s no other love I’ve ever known like this. I live for his love, die for his love:

Tooted and booted, I’ve been hit by cupid

I’m being recruited

I’m ready for more

I’m ready for war

Hold your position

Load up ammunition

I won’t fail this mission

Cause baby I’m yours, ohh

Cause where I’m from

We live by the love

Die by the love

We live for the love

Die for the love

Yeah I live for your love

Die for your love

Love

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ANYTIME, ANY PLACE

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When we make love we are truly connected. It’s as if Jaylen can read my mind and see my heart. He knows exactly what to do to pleasure my body. I can’t truly describe how it feels when we’re connected in that way. I’m filled with fireworks and explosions from the moment his hand touches my thigh, from the moment he kisses my skin, to the moment after we’ve exhausted ourselves. It’s more than physical, we’re in sync. Sex isn’t any good unless it’s with someone you love. It’s not about the physical, it’s about the love between you. Jaylen and I were both pretty sex-crazed when it came to each other. Either he wanted or I wanted it. In any case, we were always down for each other. And boy how he puts it down, the man deserves a gold metal.

There are times I run my tongue along his skin, just for the taste of it. It feels like butter. His smell is intoxicating. I fiend for him; crave him; yearn him. At night, I wait for him, I look out into the night to see if he’s home. I cry for him, I beg him to satisfy my lust and desires. Jaylen and I enjoy making love as much as we did when we first got married. It may be a little harder to do it now with the baby, but we make a way. Sometimes it’s in the morning, in the middle of the afternoon, or late at night.

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Jaylen will get me in the laundry or coming out of the shower. He lifts me up and pulls me into him, right then and there. It doesn’t matter. Sometimes it’s it quick, sometimes it’s slow. All I know is that he leaves me in shudders and wanting more. Jaylen and I often laugh and wonder if it’s normal for us to want sex all the time. We always heard that part of your life is greatly reduced once a baby comes along, but no, not for us. Like I said, we may have a harder time finding a time to do it, but we find a way.

All of my hopes and desires rested on my family. I’m the richest woman in the world because I have the two greatest loves of my life with me. If I couldn’t love Jaylen or didn’t have Marseille, I don’t know what I would do. I found my purpose when I became Marseille’s mother. Being a mommy is the most important thing in the world to me. It’s why I’m here. I don’t care how archaic that sounded, but it’s the truth; it’s my truth.

Next to my daughter’s birth, my wedding was the happiest day of my life. I could never want anything more than what Jaylen’s given me. He loves Marseille and I unconditionally and I know where isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for us.

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Speaking of my little snuggle pooh, Marseille is the best thing I could’ve ever done. I’m so proud and honored to be her mama. That little girl puts a smile on my face each and everyday. When I’m not home, I think about how much I miss her and I yearn to have her in my arms. I’m so in love with her. She’s a part of me and a part of Jaylen. Her personality continues to grow everyday. She’s the not the big diva baby everyone tells me I was, but she definitely believes she’s the boss. Marsy is a pretty chill baby. She doesn’t cry much and loves everybody. My mom hasn’t met her just yet, but I’ve shown her a lot of pictures. I tell Marseille about her Nani all the time. As I get to know Mom more, the more I think how much I would love to introduce her to my daughter.

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I’m starting to trust her more when she says she isn’t leaving. It surprised me when she went back to New York and had all of her stuff put in storage. Mom was now living on IP and she told Kennedey and I she had no desire of ever leaving. She’s told me that she wants to meet Marseille, but she respects why I’ve waited. I guess I want to be for sure she won’t leave again. It would break my heart if arseille and her grandmother form a bond she grows older and Mom disappears again. Marsy would be crushed, just like me.

***********************

AT LAST, WE MEET

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Jaylen and I were meeting Mom up for dinner. Although Mom and Jaylen have been in each others presence before, they had not formally met until now. I figured they should get to know one another before I made my decision about introducing Marseille to Mom. My mother said she looked forward to meeting the man that made me so happy.

We arrived at the restaurant a few minutes before Mom. “Are you nervous about your mom meeting me?” asked Jaylen. “Not really. She pretty much knows everything about you already,” I answered, referring to Mom’s background check on Jaylen and what I’ve shared about him already.

Mom finally arrived and was escorted to our table. “Hi, Mom. This is Jaylen. Baby, this is my mother,” I introduced them. Jaylen extended his hand to shake my mother’s hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Leeds,” he said. Mom gave him a firm handshake, keeping her eyes locked on his. “Please, call me Apollonia,” she smiled. Wow, my mother’s pleasant new demeanor amazes me every time I see her. I know she had her good days when I was growing up, but I mostly witnessed the bad days.

We sat back down and opened our menus. “This is a beautiful place, Reagan. I have yet to explore Isla Paradiso. With each new place I see, it gets more beautiful,” commented Mom. “Yes, Jaylen and I love this place. IP has a lot of good places to eat,” I answered. I hadn’t noticed I was holding my breath as Mom and Jaylen were introduced, not until I let out a huge sigh. “Is everything alright, Ma?” asked Jaylen, looking concerned. I smiled nervously. “Yes. I just have a lot on my mind,” I replied.

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After we had ordered and our food came, we fell into a somewhat awkward conversation. I wouldn’t say it was bad, but it was a little jarring that I was sitting across the table from my mother having dinner with my husband. “Jaylen, I understand that you own a couple of nightclubs?” asked Mom. Jaylen swallowed his food and looked over at Mom. “Yes, ma’am, with my brother, Amarre. We sold our club in New York so he could concentrate on expanding to Miami. But our main club is here,” he replied. “This is Tomo, right?” asked Mom. “Yes. We named it after our grandfather. I’m not really involved with the Miami project, but I’m still an owner.”

“Did you two meet at the club?” asked Mom. “Yes. Brad received a formal invite for me to Tomo’s grand opening. I took Briah and met up with some of my friends I work with,” I replied. Mom nodded her head. “I remember you mentioning that Briah lived out here too. When I saw her at your wedding, that was the first time in years. How is she doing? Does she talk to my little brother?” she asked. Mom knew how badly Uncle Alonzo treated Briah when she was younger. Mom didn’t really see eye to eye with any of her siblings. Anothny, Aurora, and Alonzo especially got on her nerves.

The thought that my mother was actually at my wedding still boggles my mind even though I’ve had several weeks to get used to it. “She’s doing great. I told her you were here. But Briah wouldn’t say anything about it to the family. She’s one of the closest people to me,” I replied. The family is now aware that Mom returned, thanks to my grandparents telling everyone. My mother didn’t mind, but it wasn’t a big concern of hers just yet to make contact with her siblings.

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Mom waved her hand. “Reagan, I am not concerned about our family knowing I’m back. So don’t worry. I will deal with them in due course. I only want to concentrate on you and your sister,” she said. It didn’t really surprise me that Mom was in no rush to talk to her siblings or Nani and Nana. None of them had the best relationship. Mom is still growing and healing. In her eyes, Kennedey and me are the most important thing right now.

A nervous look flashed across Mom’s face. She looked across the table at me. “How is Marseille?” “Great. She’s doing very well. Daddy’s keeping her tonight. She’s a really good baby. She’s so sweet,” I replied. I glanced over at Jaylen, hopefully he’ll change the conversation. Not that I didn’t love talking about my child to anyone who would listen. But I knew how much Mom wanted to meet her. Thankfully Jaylen seemed to catch my hint.

“Reagan told me you lived in East Flatbush when you were in New York,” asked Jaylen. “Yes. Initially I lived in The Bronx, then Brownsville. East Flatbush isn’t the best neighborhood as I’m sure you know, but I had a nice apartment,” replied Mom. Jaylen and Mom exchanged tales about what it was like to live in Brooklyn. Jaylen has always lived in a nice area even before his parents moved to Park Slope when he entered in high school. Jaylen’s usual stomping grounds were in Flatbush. Occasionally he hung out in Bed-Sty.

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“Yes, my father is from Bed-Sty. But most of our family lives in the Flatbush area now. He didn’t grow up with a lot. He wanted my brother and I to stay grounded so he sent us to school in that area. They were good schools, though,” Jaylen informed Mom. He gave her a little more background on his family and mentioned his brother was expecting a little girl in the near future. “Your brother himself is expecting?” asked Mom, laughing. Jaylen began laughing too.

“Well, not him technically, but his girlfriend, Martina is,” he answered. I had already told Mom during one of our coffee dates a little bit about Amarre and what the situation between Martina and I were. We weren’t beefing now. I had very little interaction with her, other than seeing her with Amarre at Yuri and Kevin’s new home in IP. Speaking of my in-laws, they’re coming back to Isla Paradiso pretty soon.

“Marseille and their daughter will pretty much be on top of each other. At least she’ll have a playmate,” said Mom. “Yes. They’ll be close in age. Amarre and I think its crazy how both of us will end up with daughters. We never had any sisters, so it will be interesting to see how our kids interact,” said Jaylen.

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Mom complimented Jaylen on his obvious hard work ethic and realism. “I have been around enough bums in my life to know when someone isn’t being real. Reagan has only told me good things about you. It comforts me that my daughter found a man like you. I know that Kennedey’s break up is hard on her. I tell her not to be too concerned with going out and finding a new boyfriend. From what she says, Micah is a good man. My daughters know they don’t need a man, but I am happy with Reagan’s choice.”

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“Kennedey holds her own, I’m sure she’ll be fine. She has a lot on her plate right now,” I said. “Yes, she does. But Kennedey’s a good woman,” agreed Jaylen. We stayed at dinner for over two hours. It was a little strange being with my mother in this capacity at first, but I’m glad my husband and she got the chance to know each other. Jaylen’s been so open minded about Mom coming back and he’s encouraged me to keep the dialogue open with. She can thank Jaylen for my willingness to speak to her. I get the feeling Jaylen likes her despite her past. And I had the feeling Mom felt the same way.

***********************

SWEET GIRL

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After careful consideration and talking to Jaylen about it, I decided now is the right time for my mother and daughter to meet. I invited Daddy, Mom, and Kennedey over for a family meal. Mom was touched that I had invited her into my home to meet her grandbaby. The last time she was here, I made sure she wasn’t welcome. I wince when I think about how mad I got that night and my reaction to her, but it was coming from a place of truth and hurt. Therefore, I’m not going to hold it against me.

Mom arrived promptly at seven o’clock. I smiled to myself as she could hardly hide her excitement at meeting the baby. Daddy and Kennedey were already here. I invited Mom into the living room. She hugged Daddy and Kennedey and greeted Jaylen. She looked expectantly over at Marseille, who was peacefully rocking in her swing. I walked over to Marseille and picked her up. She smiled at me then looked past me at her Nani. “Mom, this is your granddaughter, Marseille,” I said, holding Marsy up to face her. Mom gasped as her eyes began watering.

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“Oh my goodness, she’s beautiful, Reagan!” cried Mom. I carefully placed Marseille into her Nani’s waiting arms. I couldn’t believe that my mother was holding my daughter. I didn’t know if this day would ever happen, but it has.

“Hi, Popo! Hi baby girl. I’m your Nani. You’re so sweet, it’s so good to meet you. I’ve been waiting to see you for so long,” Mom spoke softly. Marseille kept her eyes locked on Mom and flashed her a smile. She grabbed at Mom’s nose and giggled. Mom held her face up to hers and kissed her on the forehead. “That’s your grandma, Marsy. Remember Mommy told you about her?”

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Mom bounced Marsy a little bit and made a funny face at her. My mother and daughter instantly clicked. I could tell a bond was forming between them. Although I was overjoyed to see Mom with Marsy, it kind of made me sad that she had not bonded with me in the same way when I was little. But I told myself I wasn’t going to dwell on the past. All that mattered is right now and what’s ahead.

***********************

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Since it was a warm outside, we decided to eat on the patio. Jaylen sat Marseille in her swing so she could be with the rest of us. “This view is amazing, Reagan. Must be nice to wake up to this everyday,” said Mom. “It is. One of the primary reasons Kennedey and I chose this house is because of the view and location. Jaylen and I eat out here as much as we can.”

“How do you like your place, Apollonia?” asked Daddy. He was referring to the house Mom rented after she moved out of the hotel. Mom swallowed a mouthful of food. “I like it a lot. The neighborhood is very quiet and beautiful. A big difference from where I lived in Brooklyn,” she replied. “Do you think you’ll want to stay there permanently or move later on down the line?” asked Kennedey. “I’m not really sure just yet. It’s a lease to own property, so I have the option of buying it later on, but I want to focus on getting used to IP first before I settle on anything.”

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I was surprised Mom made the decision to pack up her belongings and move to IP so suddenly when she first told us of her plans. Not that I’m upset about it. Her being close by really is the best way for us to get to know one another. Kennedey has been very excited about Mom living just a couple of miles away from her. They talk every day and often meet up for dinner. It’s kind of strange having my whole family living in the same city again after all these years.

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Now that Mom and Marsy have met, I’m finally starting to feel as if everything’s coming full circle. The road to get here was long and bumpy, but I’ve learned a lot about life and myself along the way. There are a lot of things I wished that I could change, but those trials and tribulations I had to endure helped shape me into the woman I am today. I wouldn’t want to be anyone else, I wouldn’t change anything about myself’, I like me. Sure, I want to grow as a person and love more openly, but I wouldn’t change the core of who I am. Not too long ago, I couldn’t really stand to look at myself in the mirror and not feel like the real me. As I look in the mirror now, I love what I see.

Maybe that’s what this journey has been all about. Growing and learning who I am and what I want to be as time goes by. A few years ago, I was totally out there. A party-crazy, ratchet, loud mouth model. Five years from now, I want to be exactly where I am now, with my family. I see more children in our future. I see my marriage to Jaylen continuing to grow, and Marseille is forming into the person she’ll be for the rest of her life. I don’t need a lot, like I used to think. I have everything right here and right now. You’re nothing without your family and the love of the people you care about.

************************

MY AFTERNOON WITH MOM

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I can remember just weeks ago the first time in I don’t how long my mother hugged Kennedey and I at her house. Our embrace was long overdue. I had dreamed of being in my mother’s arms for so long.

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I was out to lunch with my Mom a few days later. Even though it’s starting to sink in each day that she’s really here, I still can’t believe it. Some nights, I wake up from a dream and wonder if her coming back was real or all in my head. “Reagan, I want to thank you again for letting me meet Marseille. It was one of the happiest moments of my life when I held her in my arms. She reminds me so much of you and your sister. I know your father tells you, you were a diva baby. Don’t get me wrong, you were, but you were quite sweet. Many times I didn’t know what to do with you. I am ashamed to admit this as a mother, but I felt so inept. You made me nervous. You often cried for your Daddy. He was a lot more calm and knew how to comfort you. I think you picked up on my uneasiness. It’s not that I didn’t love you, but I had very little maternal instincts,” confessed Mom.

I’m not stunned at hearing this coming from her. I knew Mom never felt very maternal. Daddy was the natural choice for Kennedey and I to run to when we were crying and upset. “Look, I somewhat know how you feel. When we first brought Marsy home from the hospital, Jaylen and I felt like the dumbest parents on earth. Marsy would cry and not want to sleep at night and we had no idea how to calm her. But over time as we got used to each other and bonded, she got into a groove both us could live with.”

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“Thank you for trying to make me feel better. There were so many thing I wish I could take back. I should have known something was wrong back then. It was never you or your sister. It’s always been me. I feel like, I finally have my dream, to be with my daughters and grandbaby. I love to dance and I want to open a dance studio out here someday, but I couldn’t be more happy than I am right now. And that’s a pretty big thing for me to say. I hadn’t been happy in so long, but I genuinely am right now,” said Mom.

I hesitated before asking Mom my next question. “How are you and Daddy? I mean, I know he filed weeks ago. I just wanted to know have you talked about it since?” I asked. “Not too much. There isn’t a whole lot we need to discuss. We worked out the details before we told you and your sister that we were getting divorced. Your father has been very kind to me. If you’re asking me if I regret that we couldn’t make it work, than yes. I didn’t come here for your father initially. I knew I still loved him, but I had to focus on my children. But it’s okay, because I’ve gained something greater. I gained my two daughters and my grandchild.

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“Reagan, we have so many similarities. I hope that doesn’t alarm you. I don’t mean in the bad way. I’ve always been described as a diva and I passed that trait down to you. I don’t think it always means being bitchy like some people think, but not letting anyone get over you and demanding that people respect you. You know what you want and you’re not afraid to say it. I admit, there were some awful things in my past that I regret. You have your father’s sensibility, thank goodness. I didn’t do all I was supposed to, even when I was there. I should have taught you how to be a woman. But how could I if I wasn’t content with the woman I was? I spent much of my life feeling like a failure, but you and your sister, I succeeded in that. You two were the best things I’ve ever done,” said Mom. It meant a lot to me that Mom was being so open and vulnerable. She didn’t have to tell me these things, but she wanted to.

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“You know, I have to confess too. I used to do certain things behind your back when I was little to get alone time with you. When Kennedey and I went to the park, I would try to get extra dirty so that you would have to put me in the tub and wash my hair. You know how long it took to comb our hair. I loved it when you would comb and brush it. You’d French braid it at night and put it up in a ponytail in the morning. I only wanted your attention and that’s how I got it,” I said. Mom briefly looked away. “You never should have had to do those things to get close to me. I never should have made you feel like that. I wanted to communicate with you and Kennedey, but I didn’t know how. Now all I want is to have a good relationship with you and for you to feel as if you have a mom again,” she said.

We weren’t quite where a mother and daughter should be, but Mom and I are making progress each day we communicate. That’s all I could hope for at this point and that’s all we could ask of each other.

************************

WOMAN TO WOMAN

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Yuri and Kevin were back in town from New York. They were eager to check in with us when Jaylen told them about Mom. He advised them that this was hard for me and it was best that they stay away for a while. I felt enough time had passed already and thought it would be a good idea if Mom met Jaylen’s parents.

I’ve told Mom a great deal about Yuri. I shared that we often went shopping or out to brunch. Mom never said too much when I told her this. I soon realized she may have felt intimidated at the thought of Yuri taking her place. Daddy said she didn’t respond so well that Marcia had taken her so-called place at my wedding. Yes, it was her fault she wasn’t there, but I didn’t want her to feel bad about it anymore.

Yuri has really been there for me. Not only as a mother-in-law, but as a friend. She stood there for me on my wedding day giving me motherly advise Mom should have given me. She soothed my fears about my inadequacies and insecurities when it came to my family. Yuri could have copped an attitude just as easily as I had done so long ago, but she’s always been patient and understanding. Yes, I know I have a clap back and I don’t let anyone punk me, but I know Yuri was capable of setting me straight the time we butted heads over my mother. I’m not stupid, Yuri is a strong black mother, who can read you and shade you in such a classy way, you don’t even know you’re being shaded at the time. I have more of a sharp tounge and clap back like my mother, but I’d rather be a combination of her and Yuri when I need to put someone in their place as I get older. Maybe Marseille will have both of her grandmother’s abilities. I can only hope she is a lot more chill like her grandaddies.

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Yuri and Kevin walked into the foyer shortly after Mom arrived. We were all here, Daddy, Jay, Kennedey, Marsy, and I. “It’s nice to meet you, Apollonia,” said Yuri after I’d introduced them. “Nice to meet you too,” replied Mom. The tension in the room was thick. Everyone, including Mom knew that Yuri and Kevin were aware of our situation and that she had left us. It was no secret.

Mom is aware that Yuri had stepped in as a mother for me and now she was here to claim her place. I didn’t really know how to feel. I’ve known Yuri long enough to know when she was pushing herself to be cordial. Yuri is the epitome of class, and she’s always a lady, but Ray Charles could see that meeting Mom, knowing what she knew about her was a struggle.

Yuri has never spoken badly of my mother, but I knew how she felt about her. Yuri is the ultimate mother and career woman, she has it all. A wonderful husband and kids, a great career, beautiful home; everything. While Mom is just starting her life over again. She never had as much as Yuri and they were from two different parts of the jungle.

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After making small talk in the foyer for a few minutes, I informed everyone that dinner was ready and we would be eating in the dining room, since it was a little chilly outside. I had already fed Marseille before everyone got here and she was sleepy. I put her in the den and went into the dining room.

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“Everything looks so delicious, Reagan. I can’t wait to taste it, sweetheart,” complimented Yuri as we sat down at the dinner table. “Thank you. I used your recipe for the steak sauce and mashed potatoes. I know how much Jaylen loves it,” I replied. I glanced over at Mom, who had remained pretty quiet all this time. “You’re a good cook, Reagan. It’s nice to know my boy is being taken care of,” said Kevin. “Well, your son is very good to me, Kevin. I like to reward him from time to time,” I said, winking at Jaylen. He knew that look and knew what I meant by “reward”.

How was your trip out here?” asked Kennedey, changing the subject. “It was fine, long, but fine. How’s that gallery of yours? I’ve haven’t been there in such a long time,” said Yuri. “It’s good. We’re doing very well. I get more and more buyers each week. Soon enough I’ll make a profit and be able to start paying back some of my debts,” replied Kennedey, looking at me. We have discussed this many times in the past. I keep telling Kennedey I didn’t want back any of the extra money I gave her for the gallery. It was an investment, but Kennedey insisted that I share in the profits. She had her pride, so I was inclined to accept it. I’ll most likely end up donating it to the Youth Center she volunteers at.

“Apollonia, my son tells me you were in Brooklyn all this time?” asked Yuri. I didn’t think she meant anything by saying “all this time” but I winced nonetheless. Mom tapped her nails on the table; her face was expressionless. “Not all this time. But for the last several years, yes,” she answered. “Funny, that we never ran into each other,” said Yuri, with a peculiar look on her face. Mom kept her eyes steady with Yuri’s. “East Flatbush is nowhere near to what I’m sure you’re used to,” she said, without missing a beat. It suddenly occurred to me how quiet the room had gotten. Everyone’s eyes were darting back and forth between Mom and Yuri. The queen of classy shade versus the queen of the clap back. This should make for quite an interesting dinner conversation.

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“New York is a big place. But it can be quite small in certain circles in Park Slope,” said Yuri. “And even smaller in circles the closer you get to wealth. But maybe it’s just the people who are small,” observed Mom. Ouch, one point for Mom. Yuri laughed a little “Touché,” she said, holding her glass up. Mom slowly raised her glass too, but only to her lips, while she kept her eyes fixated on Yuri. But Yuri wasn’t backing down. She cocked her head to one side and gave Mom a sly smile. As if she was saying, “I see you’re trying to challenge me, but you’re way out of your league.” Mom cut her eyes at Yuri, while silently telling her to bring it on. Were they really trying to stare each other down?

Jaylen coughed a little and thumped on his chest to push along his food. “So, Mom, what have you been working on?” he asked, trying to change the subject. “Yes, I’m restoring the old Lenin Hotel. You know the one, downtown, Victorian Era? The owners are putting in five million dollars on the project. I’ll be tied up with that at least until the end of the year. Better Homes and Architectural Digest want to do a piece on the renovations once we’ve finished. I’ve had other work I’m featured in those magazines and others, but this one will be really special. The Lenin is where my mother would take my sisters and I for tea each Sunday afternoon. It was very regal. I only want to give some of that back,” replied Yuri. I glanced at my mother and saw a glimmer of annoyance on her face as Yuri spoke.

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“Maybe when it’s complete, we can all go there,” said Daddy. “Wouldn’t that be fun,” said Mom with a hint of sarcasm on her tongue. “Mom, I hope you don’t mind me talking about this, but I was sort of telling Yuri about your plans to open a dance studio out here sometime in the future,” I said. Mom shrugged one shoulder. “It’s fine,” she replied. “How is that coming along, Apollonia? Have you started looking for a place?” asked Kevin.

“Not currently. I’ve been concentrating on my children. It’ll happen in due time. I’m not worried,” answered Mom. “I imagine you want to spend as much time as you can with Reagan and Kennedey now. After all, so much time passed and you don’t want to waste a single moment. I’ll tell you, Apollonia, both your girls are such a delight. Reagan and I sometimes go shopping or to the theater and stay gone all day long. We have so much of the same taste. I’ve turned her onto stores I love like Barney’s and she’s hipped me to the young places she loves to shop like, H&M and Top Shop. Very different stores, but they have great stuff. We both love and frequent Hermes and Chanel. Look at me going on about stuff like that. The point is, we’ve really bonded since Reagan came into the family. I never had daughters, just sons, but Reagan is just as good a daughter as one could dream,” said Yuri.

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I didn’t miss my mother’s eye roll. She wasn’t even trying to hide it. “All those stores are very fine. I tend not to spend the money I earn so much at full price. I’m humble enough that I don’t need all the labels I used to desire in my closet. My daughter models for those designers, but she looks good in anything,” said Mom. “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought I recognized your bag as Prada. I think I had that one from a few seasons ago. After a year or so, I tend to consign a lot of my stuff or donate it. Unless you got the bag somewhere else and not the Prada store? I don’t know what they sell out there these days,” said Yuri. She was implying that Mom may have possibly bought her bag from a street vendor, therefore it could be a fake.

“No, not at the store, but I purchased it online from a certified seller, for a significant discount. I think it’s silly how one can spend thousands of dollars on a bag and only wear it for one season. If I’m going to spend that amount of money on anything, you better believe I’m going to get good use out of it,” countered Mom.

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“I didn’t mean anything by it. I just simply meant that I don’t keep up with many of the styles after one or two seasons. But Reagan is very fashionable. She can put together any outfit. She always looks like a million bucks. That’s one of the many things we have in common, our fashion sense. In many ways she honestly feels like my own daughter. I liked to think, we rub off on one another,” said Yuri, running her fingers through her short waves.

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“Well, one thing is for sure, is that my daughter and I have in common is our love for clothes. She’s always been a fashionista. My daughters’ saw through my example that it’s important to keep yourself up and appear presentable. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed”

“I would have to agree,” said Yuri. Dinner was becoming more uncomfortable by the second. Everyone could clearly see Mom and Yuri were in competition with one another. But over what? Me? After their interchange, the rest of dinner was uneventful. I was relieved once the last bite of dessert was gone. Now we only had to contend with after dinner conversation. Help us all.

*********************

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“I’m hoping that when the baby gets a little bigger, you and Jay can come out for a visit. Of course, everyone is invited,” said Yuri, after we had moved into the living room and settled in. “That will be a lot of fun. Marsy will love seeing where her daddy grew up,” I replied. “You and my son are doing an excellent job as parents. You’re a wonderful mother, Reagan. I know for me personally, a lot of what my father and mother instilled in me, I tried to instill in my own children,” said Yuri. I nodded my and glanced in Mom’s direction. She seemed to be staring off into space. Her face was expressionless. “I like to think that many people have influenced me to this day. You certainly have,” I said.

“Kevin, was it last week we had dinner with the Worthingtons?” asked Yuri. “The week before last,” answered Kevin. “Oh, okay, that’s right. We’ve been friends with Elizabeth and Jon Worthington for years. Elizabeth and I went to boarding school together. I was telling them how excited I was to see my son, daughter, and grandchild. Elizabeth said I finally got what I wanted, a daughter,” said Yuri. My eyes met Kennedey’s. We were both thinking the same thing, this isn’t sitting well with Mom.

Yuri and Kevin began talking about their recent trip to the Caribbean on their friend’s yacht. They visited several countries including Trinidad. When Yuri mentioned this, Mom’s ears perked right up.

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“Trinidad is such a beautiful country. The people are beautiful and warm. What part did you say you were from, Apollonia?” asked Kevin. “I didn’t say,” answered Mom, her tone flat. “Oh, well, were you near Port of Spain?” asked Kevin. “Yes,” replied Mom. I knew Mom didn’t care for Yuri since the time they arrived this evening. She’s being awfully short. Like my father, she didn’t care for people with money boasting about their travels and possessions. I don’t think that’s what Yuri and Kevin were doing, but Mom lead a very different lifestyle than they did. An awkward silence fell upon the living room. I wish Mom would give more than a three word answer.

“Well the culture in Trinidad is very rich. I admire the way people there raise their families. I can definitely relate to having a sense of closeness within my family. The bonds are very strong. Surely, you were raised like that, if your mother was traditional” observed Yuri. My eyes looked around the room. No one, not Daddy, Jay, or Kennedey had spoken a word. They were just as interested in seeing where this conversation between my mother and Yuri was going.

“Those are very broad generalizations. Yes, there is a strong sense of family, but every family is different. No one person is raised the exact same way. Everyone is different,” said Mom. “Of course. I only admire the Caribbean culture. I found it to be the same with most of the other island nations my husband and I visited,” replied Yuri. “There are similarities, but Trinidad is it’s own country. To truly understand it, one must be a Trini,” said Mom, staring down Yuri.

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“It must have been quite a change from Trinidad to New York. I mean much of Miami as regards the weather reminded you of home. How did you like living in New York? What did you do out there?” asked Kevin, changing the subject. “A little bit of everything,” replied Mom. “She taught dance,” spoke up Kennedey. Yuri looked over at her. “Yes, I think Reagan mentioned that. So you went to New York to teach dance? I can imagine you can do that anywhere. Did you ever think of opening a dance studio in Miami?” she asked. That, I’m sure hit a nerve with Mom. “I had many dreams when I was living in Miami,” replied Mom. “Apollonia wanted to maybe open a dance studio, but we never seemed to have enough money to do something like that,” offered Daddy.

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It was like watching a very intense game of chess. Yuri appeared to be up, but I knew my mother had some moves hidden, waiting to come out. “I understand about having a dream. I’m thankful I got to do everything I wanted to before I had my sons. Even if I didn’t that would have been okay. I’d just have to wait until they were grown up before going off, pursuing any middle aged fantasies I had,” remarked Yuri. Almost simultaneously, everyone’s eyes darted to Mom, waiting to see how she would respond. This conversation was headed down the toilet. After that, Mom’s claws were out. She gave Yuri an icy stare. Kennedey and I braced ourselves for what was about to happen next.

Mom laughed and shook her head. “Yuri, why don’t you stop beating around the bush and just ask me what I know you want to ask me,” she said. “Beating around what bush? I was just making a simple observation on my own life,” replied Yuri. “And you don’t think I can read between those lines? I know what you think of me. And frankly, I don’t care. The only people’s opinion I care about are those of my daughters”.

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“Look, Apollonia, please don’t be offended. When I said that, I was merely speaking on my own morals as a mother. Once I became pregnant with my sons, they became my top priority. Raising twins wasn’t easy. I knew my interest came second to theirs,” said Yuri. “And mine didn’t come second to mine? I know many people won’t believe this, and I don’t care, but my kids were first before many of the other thingsI wanted in my life as well. If they weren’t I would’ve never married their father and raised them up for the first fifteen years of my marriage,” said Mom. The tension in the room was almost suffocating at this point.

“I’m sure they were. For me, I wasn’t done raising Amarre and Jaylen after fifteen years. Even as grown men, they need our advice and guidance on many issues. You and Ray raised two wonderful daughters. I feel as if Reagan is my own daughter now. I just love her,” said Yuri. I know that Mom didn’t like that Yuri kept referring to me as her daughter. I don’t mind that she does, but my mother did.

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“You see, the thing is, Reagan is not your daughter, she is mine. Both Reagan and Kennedey are all mine. They came out of my koochie, no one else,” said Mom. Daddy started coughing, choking on his own saliva. None of us could believe Mom said that. Yuri was clearly taken aback. “While I don’t choose to use such a crass term in describing birth, I can guarantee you, I had my sons the same way,” she replied.

“Good for you. And you’ve gone out of your way to distinguish that we are two different mothers. I’m sure you like to think that you spent a few days in Trinidad and met some locals, you know everything there is to know about my upbringing and background,” said Mom. “I never said I knew everything about your background. I’m trying to get to know you. I’d like to know more about how you were raised. It seems it’s universal that all mothers everywhere want the best for their children and put their needs before their own. I’m not trying to judge you. I can only base my opinion on what Reagan has told me,” replied Yuri.

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“And yet that still doesn’t make you an expert. What do you know about anything when it comes to me and my life?” asked Mom. “I may not know a lot about you, but I’ll tell you what I do know. I know I’ve been there for Reagan when she needed a mother. I comforted her down in Miami when she was confused and hurt about the fact that you weren’t going to be there when she got married. She heard my motherly advice on her wedding day. Reagan came to me to design my grandbaby’s nursery. I know that she calls me up when she has questions about being a mom. I’m the one who has been there. I’m the one Reagan comes to when she needs advice. I also know that while you were off hiding in the shadows, too afraid to face your children, it was me that held your daughter’s hand through all of her troubles. Besides her father and sister, it’s my family that gives Reagan support,” retorted Yuri.

Mom scoffed. “You Americans think you own the world and know it so well. American blacks, especially think they can look at us and determine we are the same. Newsflash, there is a whole other world of black people in the Caribbean. Just because you take a trip or two doesn’t mean you understand anything about island life. You know nothing of my upbringing and Trini culture. You are a mixed race black woman that has never had to struggle a day in her life. I had to fight to get what I have today, which is not a whole lot. Do not compare my experiences to yours, guh. Reagan and Kennedey are my children. Stop trying to claim my daughter. I think that’s great you were there for Reagan when she needed someone. But no matter how many times you ran to her side, how many times she’s called you for advice, you will never be her mother. You will never win. Me, being their mother will never change.”

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Yuri looked surprised. “I never said I knew everything about your background. And since when did I ever assert that as an American I own the world? That’s your misconception. Maybe you’re so defensive because you’re feeling guilty. I’ve been nothing but cordial to you tonight, and now you want to attack me,” she defended herself.

“Don’t try to act like everything you’ve said tonight didn’t have hidden meaning. Like I said, you know nothing about me or what is was like to get pregnant at such a young age. I was just a girl when I had Reagan,” replied Mom. “Yet, you were woman enough to lay on your back and make a baby. Just like I was woman enough to lay down on mine and make one. So, that is no excuse sweetheart. I get that you’re back and I commend you for showing up after all these years. I know Reagan is not my child. But don’t ever think that just because you’re here now that I’ll step back. I’ll be here for Reagan as long as she needs me,” said Yuri.

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I can’t say that I’m mad about Yuri coming for Mom. I had a feeling something like this might pop off. I certainly couldn’t match Mom, mother to mother or woman to woman, but Yuri could. Maybe someone coming for Mom’s crown was needed. Maybe she needed someone to tell her how it is. I love my mom, but I can’t fault Yuri for saying anything tonight.

“Don’t low-key throw shade at me about my past. But since you want to come for me, you can get this work. You don’t know my history or anything about my household. I don’t have to explain a damn thing to you. The only people I have to explain myself to, is my daughters. You want to play mother of the year, guh? How about your son knocking up that heffa who want it with Reagan, and he’s not even married to her? Why don’t you check that?” Mom’s neck was going every which way as she went in on Yuri. I can see that Mom has changed for the better, but she’s still a De-Sai; they clap back. I glanced at Jaylen to see how he was taking my mother and his mother going at it.

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Yuri arched her neck and gave Mom one of her “Claire” looks. She looked Mom up and down. “Okay, tell me why you’re mad. You’re on the defense because you feel guilty. Your daughters and your husband can get mad and tell you how they feel about your actions all day. But what you didn’t expect was for me to come to you, woman to woman and get on your level as a mother. Fine, you can defend yourself all you want. But what you will not do, is bring my child into this. Amarre is a grown man and is responsible for making his own decisions. You have never met Amarre and I suggest you don’t bring him up. Because how protective I feel for Reagan, you don’t want to see me when it comes to my babies.”

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This had to stop. I gave the time out signal. “Can we stop this? I mean this has gone all the way to the left. I wanted y’all to meet and get to know each other, but not like this. Mom, Yuri is my mother- in- law. She’s my husband’s mother and Marseille’s other grandma. She’s been there for me and I love her. You’re obviously my mother; you gave birth to me. No one is denying that or trying to take your place. You’re both very important to me. I don’t want any of this, okay? If you can’t chill for me, do it for your granddaughter. You two will be around each other for the rest of your life,” I said, looking at both Mom and Yuri.

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“Look, Reagan. I didn’t mean for things to get out of hand either. I’m here for you, like I’ve always been, sweetheart. You’re more than a daughter-in-law to me. I’m forever in your corner,” proclaimed Yuri. Mom cut her eyes and pursed her lips. I knew she wasn’t going to let Yuri have the last word. “That’s fine if you want to be there for Reagan. But I’m here, so you can step aside and stay in your lane. No matter where you look, I’ll be there because I’m here and I’m not leaving.”

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Jaylen told me he didn’t really appreciate Mom bringing Amarre into the argument with his mother last night. He liked my mother, but he believed it was a low blow. I agreed that she should have not said anything, but she was on the offensive. I informed Mom last night after Yuri and Kevin left, that I wasn’t tripping about Martina and we’ve managed to be cordial to each other when we’re in each others presence.

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I didn’t want this to become a thing between my husband and I, so I sought out both my mother and Yuri. When I told them how upset the fight made me, they apologized. They didn’t mean for everything to get so out of hand. Mom admitted she felt threatened by Yuri, but she was glad that I had someone who was there for me, since she wasn’t around.

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Yuri said she didn’t mean to go at it with Mom and she never intended to insult my mother or family. She knew how important it was for me to have Mom back in my life and the last thing she wanted was to cause strife within the family. Anyone that comes for a De-Sai, is going to get it in return. They have no chill, I know because I’m one of them. Overall Jaylen wasn’t tripping and he didn’t want there to be any trouble in the family either.

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UNCLE JAYLEN

Jaylen’s POV

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I was on my way to my brother’s new house to visit him, Martina and their new daughter, Sapphire. Yes, Martina had given birth to my brother’s daughter just over a month ago. It seemed like she had been pregnant forever. My parents were out to witness the birth of their newest grandchild and stayed in IP for nearly two weeks. Reagan was having a girl day with her mother and the baby, so I decided I would go and see how my brother and his family were doing.

As close as I am to my brother, I know his kid and mine will be just as close. Maybe Reagan and Martina weren’t the best of friends, but they’ll have to deal with each other because our children are forever bonded. Amarre let me into the house and followed him into the living room. “Hi, Martina, how are you?” I asked when I saw her. “I’m fine. How are you?” she asked. “Good. Never better.” Martina and I have never seen eye to eye, but she’s my brother’s lady and the mother of his child, so I respect her as that.

Soon after Amarre and Martina found out they were expecting, they went looking for a more suitable home to live in. Amarre put the house we shared when first moved here on the market and gave me my share. He and Martina found this house only two months before Martina was due. It was a very nice sized family home. I crack up seeing my brother in this new domestic role.

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I walked over to Martina and she handed the baby over to me. I pulled Sapphire close to my face and kissed her on the forehead. “Hey, Sapphy, you remember me from the other day? I’m your Uncle Jaylen. I’m the one who taught your daddy how to be cool. He’ll tell you differently, but don’t believe him,” I said. “Please. My daughter is a newborn, but she’s old enough to not believe that mess,” said Amarre, chuckling. “Do you want anything to drink, Jaylen?” asked Martina. I looked up at her. “No, I’m good, but thanks.”

Amarre has shared a lot with me about who Martina is. I think in a way he shared so much about her because he wanted me to like her. Usually, you won’t catch Amarre saying jack about his relationships or private life. I knew he was in love with her and I believed Martina was in love with him. I don’t think she’s a bad person, I just don’t know her. I can’t even say for sure if I still suspect she may have gotten pregnant on purpose. It doesn’t really matter now, because Sapphire is here and we were all happy about that.

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I tickled Sapphire a little bit and she seemed to smile at me. She stared at my face for the longest time and looked back over at her Daddy. I wondered if she was thinking how we both looked so much alike. Marseille does the same thing when she sees me and Amarre. Of course I have more facial hair than my brother, but we still look alike.

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“Y’all really fixed the place up. Not that it needed fixing before,” I commented. Amarre was adamant about buying a spanking brand new home. He said he didn’t want the first home, his daughter lived in to have belonged to someone else in the past. My brother is funny about things like that, but that’s just his way.

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I ended up staying over for two hours chopping it up with my brother and playing with my brand new niece. Marseille has already met her cousin. I brought her over here a few days ago to meet Sapphire. All they did was lay in the crib together, looking at and touching each other; already best friends.

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Reagan and Martina have seen each other on a few separate occasions since Martina announced her pregnancy. We’ve come over for dinner while my parents were in town and we’ve spent some time at a couple of restaurants together. They didn’t have a whole lot to say to each other, but kept their exchanges very short.

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Reagan mainly spoke to Amarre and I and Martina mainly spoke to my brother. At least they weren’t yelling at each other and throwing insults. They’ve put aside their differences for the sake of our children. That’s all anyone could really want at this point. Maybe some day down the line they can become friends. Now that Reagan has forgiven her mother and has a relationship with her, I knew anything was possible.

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My wife and daughter are the most important people in my life. I was wayward and going every which way before I met Ma. I lived in the club, lots of women, and just didn’t a damn about much else. Yeah, I worked with my brother, but I did as minimal amount as I could. I let Amarre do the heavy lifting, while I reaped the most benefits. Yeah, I was the host with the most and people came back to the club because I brought them there, but I didn’t support my brother as much as I should have back then. My parents were right when they said I was a hot mess.

You would think that getting with someone like Reagan; someone like me would spell nothing but trouble. We became this power couple and took the world by storm. We complemented each other. Instead of tearing one another down with our personal vices, we built each other up based on our love. I know Reagan is meant for me. I knew it from the moment she walked into Tomo that night. Man, it seems like a lifetime ago. But truthfully, it wasn’t that long ago. We had a whirlwind romance and things moved very fast for us. We met, got engaged, and got married in a short time span. But when you know it’s true love and you’re with the person you’re meant to be with, why question it or wait?

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Reagan is my best friend. She’s everything I could ever want in a life partner, lover, wife, and mother. We all have our faults, but Reagan amazes me every single day with her forgiving heart and warmth. She’s an excellent wife, but even better mother.

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I’m from the big apple, but yo, my baby girl is the apple of my eye. Marseille has me wrapped around both of her little fingers. She doesn’t know it, but I don’t have the strength to ever say no to her. All she has to do is like at me with those big green eyes and call me Daddy, and I’m weak. Reagan doesn’t want our daughter to be spoiled, but I don’t know if I can resist the older Marseille gets.

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My wife came along and saved me from myself and my wild ways. I never thought any woman would be able to tame me, but Ma, she was that one. She was dope as hell. Damn, what more could I want? My baby is a good cook, she puts it on me in the bedroom, she’s a wonderful mother, she’s my confidante; I can talk to Reagan about anything. There’s truly nothing I would change about her and our life together. If only everyone can have what we have. What we share is special and Reagan and I run things together. All I want is to live a good life with my lady and baby. They’re all I need.

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Part 2

NEW BEGINNINGS

Apollonia’s POV

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I went back to New York several weeks ago, shortly after Raymond and I told the girls we were getting a divorce. I wanted to tie up some loose ends before heading back to Isla Paradiso. Initially, I wasn’t sure how long I would be here. I knew I wouldn’t go back to New York until I established contact with my daughters and began the healing process. The relationship I have with Reagan and Kennedey continues to grow each and everyday. It also made me decide on whether to stay in the islands permanently or not.

In any case, I went back to New York and hired some movers to help me pack up my furniture and other belongings and put them into storage. I didn’t know when I would go about having everything shipped out here, but I wasn’t going to worry about it. My lease was only month to month, so I had no problem getting out of it. I informed my employer I had left New York and would be leaving in Isla Paradiso. Since I worked from home anyway, I had no problem with transitioning. My main source of income was customer service online. Now I would only have to adjust my hours to Isla Paradiso time to continue my job. Of course I can operate my online stores from anywhere and continue making good money by reselling items.

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For the first time in my life, everything seemed to be falling into place. I also moved out of the hotel and found a little furnished house to rent until I settled on something more permanent. The house was little, clean, cute, and had everything I needed. It also had great views of the islands. It was getting too expensive to stay at the hotel and I liked having my privacy. Reagan liked coming to the house better than the hotel too. People recognized her when she went up there and she didn’t want to be bothered or have anyone in our family business.

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MUDDAH AND FADDAH

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One of the issues on the horizon, is dealing with my parents and the rest of my family members. No, none of us has ever had the best or closest relationship, but my parents are still my parents, and my siblings, my siblings. There is some form of natural love there because we’re family. Although I don’t recall any of us ever telling one another that we loved each other. When I think about how much the words I love you meant, I think it would’ve gone a long way in my family. My children needed to hear it from me and I finally said it. It confirmed to them what they had wondered about their entire lives.

It’s been a couple of months since Reagan told me that she informed Mama and Daddy that I had returned. My mama wrote me a letter asking that I call her. Daddy said in the letter that they were eager to see or hear from me, but they weren’t going to pressure me into anything. I had waited a few weeks after Reagan told me she’s contacted them before I reached out.

The last year I was in Miami, I hadn’t spoken to Mama, Daddy, or the rest of my family members in nearly a year. We just didn’t get along. I couldn’t stand their crabs in a barrel mentality and the pure idiocy that ran through some of the De-Sais. It was all too much to take anymore. I preferred if I just never came around them again.

Eventually, after conversing with my parents through a couple of letters, I decided to pick up the phone and call them. They preferred letter writing to emailing. Neither one of them were computer savvy and didn’t even own one in their house. I checked the clock, calculating the time difference in Trinidad. It wasn’t too much ahead of Isla Paradiso and they should still be up.

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“Hello? Apollonia? Is that you?” came my mama’s voice on the other end of the line. In the nearly eleven years since I had spoken to her, her voice hadn’t changed that much. I paused for a moment. I opened my mouth, but no words came out. Finally, after several seconds, I found my voice again. “Yes, Mama, it’s me.” I said. “Oh my goodness! My baby! Michael! Michael, it is Apollonia calling!” exclaimed Mama. She put me on speaker.

“Apollonia? This is your father,” said Daddy. For a moment I wondered if he thought I wouldn’t recognize him. “Hi, Daddy,” I replied. “It is so good to finally hear your voice, Po po. I thanked God when I got your first letter. I had prayed so long for this moment, you just don’t know. How are you Apollonia? Are you well?” asked Mama, concerned. I nodded my head as if she could see me. “I’m doing well. How are you two doing?” I asked. “We are good, Apollonia. Your mama and I have waited so long to hear from you. We wanted to see you as soon as Reagan told us you were in Isla Paradiso. But I knew you had to be with your children.”.

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“Yes, my kids and Marseille are the reason I came back,” I replied. “How is everything going? Reagan tells me that she and her sister are communicating quite well with you. She seems very happy you’re there,” said Mama. “Everything is going well. I couldn’t be happier to be with Reagan, Kennedey, and the baby,” I answered. “It’s a relief to hear you say that,” said Mama. How do you like it in Isla Paradiso? I’m sure it is a big change from New York,” commented Daddy. “Yes, it is a big change. I love it here. It reminds me so much of home. But I would love anywhere my family is. That may sound corny, but it’s the truth.”

My muddah and faddah told me how much they missed me and wanted me to come visit them in Trinidad. “You miss Trinidad and it misses you. Of course you don’t feel like yourself because you have been gone away for so long. Maybe the family can come out with you. The girls and the baby have never been to Trinidad. Kennedey and Reagan both told me how much they would love to come here one day,” said Mama. “I would love to come home in the future.”

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“Anytime you are ready, we’ll be here. I know you’ve always enjoyed your privacy, so the family in Trinidad wouldn’t have to know when you come. I hope you don’t get mad, but we jumped the gun by telling your brother and sisters you were back. They were all very shocked. Everyone wants to see you. I told them you are dealing with your children and that’s the most important thing, but I am sure you’ll get around to speaking to each one of them over time,” said Daddy. I wondered how true that was. I can think of two of my siblings who probably didn’t care the most that I had left; Anthony and Aurora. I bumped heads with those two more than anyone else. It’s not like I don’t want to see my siblings, one day, but I had other things going on. I’m still trying to heal the relationship with my daughters.

I stayed on the phone with my parents for nearly two hours that night. After a while, our conversation became less awkward. Before I knew it, we had eased into our Trini speak. Which I define as a language only Trini’s could really understand. Yes, it was English, but our dialects and accents became thicker and our terms and phrases were native only to us. I hadn’t spoken Trini speak in years and it was nice to do it with my parents. By the end of our conversation, we were making plans for when I would come and visit. I couldn’t give them a definite time, because I wanted to see if Reagan and Kennedey would be able to make it. I knew they would, but I wanted to run it by them first before I decided.

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LET THEM EAT CAKE! (AGAIN)

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I was having Reagan and Kennedey over today for lunch. I wanted to cook for them some of the traditional Trini foods I used to make when they were little. I knew they would be happy to see I had made a sugar cake. That was always their favorite.

“Do you like the house?” I asked Reagan and Kennedey. Reagan looked up from, from her plate. “Yes, it’s beautiful. At least you didn’t have to worry about getting any new furniture,” she replied. “Yes, that was a relief. The only thing I did do was have the owners take out the used bed and I bought a new one. I don’t like sleeping in other people’s beds. I have a hard enough time doing it at hotels,” I answered.

“Do you think you’ll stay here or try to find another place when your furniture arrives?” asked Kennedey. “I honestly don’t know. In a way, I want to start all over. For now I am going to leave everything in storage. Eventually I may go back to New York and go through everything and sell a lot of my furniture and just buy all new stuff. I would love to start fresh in a new place.”

“This sugar cake taste just like it did when we were little,” said Reagan. I smiled. “Does that mean you like it?” I asked. “Yes! It’s better than I remember,” Kennedey answered for her and Reagan. “I’m glad. It’s always been my favorite dessert. I try to make it like my Nani used to, but it never tastes like hers. I wished you two could have met her. She was the only person who ever really understood me.”

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“I would love to learn her recipe, someday,” said Reagan. That made me happy to hear that Reagan and her sister were interested in knowing more about their roots. Kennedey asks me a lot of questions about Trinidad and the Caribbean culture period. I told her she should definitely visit Trinidad some day. I would love to go back. I hadn’t been home since I was in high school. “I’ll teach you both how to make it. Then you can bake it for Marseille when she gets a little older,” I said. “She would like that. My baby loves to eat” laughed Reagan. “I can see that. Both of you had healthy appetites too. You loved your bottle and then your baby food. You would get mad if I wasn’t on time with your feedings. Marseille gets that from you.”

After lunch, I showed Reagan and Kennedey many pictures from Trinidad when I lived there and some of their old baby pictures in their book I had taken with me so long ago. It made me want to cry sometimes to know that my children are accepting of me and want to be in my life.

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Ray’s POV

THE LADIES IN MY LIFE

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My mother, Carmen and my sisters were nearly outraged when I told them Apollonia was back. Mom never liked her and had even more reason not to when Apollonia left. Now she comes back and expects a relationship. It left a bad taste in their mouth. I tried to make Mom and my sisters, Christie, Laura, Bridgette, and Carly understand why Apollonia came back. It was for the good of our family. My girls needed to heal and form a relationship with their mother. Mom didn’t believe that Apollonia didn’t have some hidden agenda, but I assured she did not.

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Neither myself, my kids or Apollonia were happy about the divorce. It is the right thing for us and I was determined as ever to share my life with Marcia. Divorce isn’t easy. I never expected on my wedding day, that we’d end up here. Reagan and Kennedey are dealing with it the best way they know how. Although Reagan said she would have been against Apollonia and I getting back together, I know deep down she wishes none of this ever happened and her mother and I never separated. I love my wife, that will never change, but I don’t feel the same way about her.

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Marcia gave me a lot of hope when she told me she was open to starting back up again in the future. That’s all I could ask for at this point, is for her to consider us being together again. I want to respect this divorce process and my marriage by not going forth into a relationship at this time. Apollonia is okay with the fact that I don’t want to be with her, but I know it would sting if I rushed and started to see Marcia right away. No, this time I’m doing the right thing and going into this relationship slowly. My head is clear and I’m no longer confused about who I love or who I want to be with.

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While we’re holding off from entering into our relationship again, until the divorce is finalized, we have talked on a regular basis and I’ve even been to Appaloosa on two different occasions since I told Marcia about everything. No, we haven’t been physical with each other, but Marcia is up to seeing me on a friendly level.

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We discuss what the next step in our potential relationship should be. She wants to make sure I still want this and she needs assurance that there is nothing between Apollonia and I anymore. Of course Apollonia will always be a part of my life as the mother of my children and Marseille’s grandmother. I can only promise that my feelings for my wife have dissipated, that we’re only friends at this point. I think Marcia believes me, but she’s not so trustful of Apollonia. I don’t think Apollonia is interested in trying to get back with me at this point. Yes, it was hard for us when we had out final goodbye, but she’s okay with it now.

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LET’S GO TO THE PICTURE SHOW

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Our family has come a long way in the last several weeks. Apollonia’s been in Isla Paradiso just over two months now. Seems like only yesterday she left. We’re becoming friends again, something we haven’t been in years. When we were together in college, we mainly got along, except when we weren’t fighting. We were friends as well as lovers. Apollonia held back in a lot of ways and only recently started allowing me to get close to her and open up. All either of us is really focused on is making our family work.

Our daughters are more important than anything to us. I can remember from the time Reagan and Kennedey were little until now, I’ve always been their protector. They’ve always sought my advice out. Now, I can see how they’re growing closer to their mother and establishing trust between them. The mother and daughter bond is very strong. Unfortunately, Reagan nor Kennedey got to experience that type of bond growing up, so they’re starting late.

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One of the things the girls and I loved to do when they were little, was going to the movies. Everyone’s been caught up with Apollonia and she’s spending a lot of time with them, I wanted to have a chance to have a little alone time with my girls again. They laughed and teased me as I tried to figure out this new age way of buying tickets from a machine. Give me a real person any day. Just like when they were little, Reagan and Kennedey wanted red licorice and a large soda, while I settled on Goobers and a large buttered popcorn. It felt good to have these moments again.

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I get so proud every time I think of my kids. How much they’ve grown since just a few short years ago after graduating college. Kennedey has realized not everything in life is black and white, but there are so many gray areas. She now knows that there will not always be a right or wrong answer. That sometimes what you’re expected to do will be ambiguous. Kennedey is learning that although she may hold others to her own standards, they may not always meet them, and that’s okay. Not everyone goes about things the same way you might. Kennedey is finding herself each and every day.

Reagan continues to let down her walls and let other people in. Although she seemed dead-set against allowing Apollonia back in, she’s opened herself up to the possibility of having a real relationship with her mother. Reagan is no longer the self-centered, shallow girl she was a few years ago. She shows more compassion and understanding of the people around her. Not that Reagan always thought of herself. Just as I reminded her on her wedding day, that she cared so much for the family and did so much as a young girl.

Reagan has always had a big heart and didn’t start acting selfishly until after her mother left. Then it was always about Reagan and what she wanted. Reagan had so many ways like her mother, it was uncanny. It scared me sometimes and I tried reeling her in so she wouldn’t make any of the same mistakes her mom made. I’m happy to know that yes, she may be a lot like her mom, but Reagan has my sensibility and ultimately she’ll think about others before always thinking about herself.

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For me personally, I have grown too, more than I ever thought I would. I didn’t think a lot about any flaws, I may have had or injustices I committed within my marriage to Apollonia. Everything was in black and white. The only thing I knew is that Apollonia was angry and she was concerned with what she wanted. I never saw those gray areas I mentioned before. I didn’t see that she needed help and that I hindered her in many ways.

Apollonia has always been a free bird who needed to spread her wings and fly, but I didn’t want to let her go. I blamed Apollonia for the failure of our marriage. I don’t now, but I can see where I played my part. It’s not only about me this time. There are so many elements that factor into how our family will proceed from here on out. We decided if we fail or not. We can stay angry and blame each other or we can forgive and love one another. I’m choosing the latter. And everything in me tells me that my daughters and Apollonia feel the same way.

Now, instead of only Kennedey and I coming over for Sunday dinner at Reagan’s house, it’s their mother too coming along. We were finally a family again. We’re all on this journey together. Reagan, Kennedey, and I can sit up and laugh with Apollonia like we never could before. She’s more open than ever. Our conversations aren’t antagonistic. They’re not fake either in thinking the last ten years didn’t happen; no we keep it real. I told my girls the key to this family’s success is to always be truthful with one another. We didn’t have all the answers and still figuring things out. Apollonia and I may no longer be together, but I have what I’ve always wanted and that’s my family.

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Part 3

JUST US GIRLS

Apollonia’s POV

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My relationship with my children continues to grow each week. I don’t talk to Reagan and Kennedey every single day, but we communicate in some form. Either a text message or email. I have exactly what I wanted for years now. Marseille and I are also getting to know each other. It was a lot different holding my granddaughter than my daughters for the first time. I didn’t feel that instant connection to them, but I bonded with Marseille right away. She is the new love of my life. I constantly look online for little baby clothes or toys I want to give her. Reagan thinks it’s sweet that I’m spoiling my grandbaby. I’ve seen her several times since the first time we met. Marseille is like a little snuggly doll. She’s the sweetest baby in the world and I couldn’t ask for a better grandchild.

Reagan, Kennedey, and I are getting to know one another on a whole other level. They’ve opened up to me about what they were thinking and what they wanted from me when they were growing up. I still can’t believe I had missed so much and didn’t know many things about my daughters. They were surprised that I saw many things going on in our family. They didn’t think I was paying attention.

I told Kennedey what I thought of her need to paint and get involved in community activism when she was younger. It was a good thing she was doing, but she was also hiding behind her work. Kennedey was a great artist, but her work didn’t speak to who she was, not at least until she got older. I said to Reagan that she hid behind her beauty, brand, and boys at an early age. People told her how beautiful she was all the time, soon she started basing all of her worth on her looks.

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I took the blame for making my girls feel this way. I never inspired them or encouraged them. I didn’t do anything to assure their self-confidence. They had their father, but in many ways, they were left out in the wind. They had no real protection from many things a mother could shield them from. Ray was there, but he couldn’t help them with everything.

I opened up about myself like I never have before. I never allowed anyone to get very close to me and didn’t have many friends. It’s not that people didn’t want to be my friend, I preferred to be alone. I mainly felt that no one would really get me. I was and still am very weird compared to most people. I have certain ticks about me and ways I go about doing things, that aren’t familiar to anyone else in my family.

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I had a natural gift of dance. I was extremely talented, world class. But no one in my family understood that when someone has a gift you must water it, nurture it, and let it grow. My parents and so many others tried to crush that gift and didn’t see the potential I had in making it big. It was more than money and fame, although that was a big part of it, but dancing is what I truly loved. It’s the only time I felt I could truly be myself and when I danced I felt free. Free from all the ridicule, haters, skeptics, and it allowed me to be free from myself many times.

I didn’t always like myself. My family made me feel bad for wanting more than a simple island life. Sometimes their hateful words would bother me so much, I hoped that I could be normal for once. Usually that feeling passed because most of all I wanted to be myself, even though I wasn’t someone most people could relate to. Reagan and Kennedey said they suspected that I mainly liked to be alone. They knew how popular I was in college, but not because I actively tried. Because of my looks, I became an instant hit with people all my life. They expected me to be the life of the party. Everywhere I went, someone wanted something from me. But I was too caught up with myself and what I wanted to consider anyone else.

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COFFEE WITH RAYMOND

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When I got pregnant for the first time, I felt a strong moral obligation to do the right thing. I accepted the fact that I was going to be a mother and that my life had changed forever. When Raymond told me that I was strong for dealing with my depression and other issues by myself for over twenty years, I felt that he finally got it; finally got me. Raymond may have not understood everything, but he saw me for the first time. I thought it was very big of him to admit his mistakes and that on a subconscious level, he held me back from many of my dreams. Raymond has apologized for that and I too have apologized for everything I’ve done to him.

My husband and I were in new territory right now. Although on our way to divorce, we had struck up a friendship of sorts. It may seem odd, but Raymond and I had no reason to fight any longer. We spent twenty-five years hurting ourselves and our family, that was now in the past. Raymond and I keep up with each other because although our children are grown, we are still their parents. Not only that, but we have Marseille.

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We’ve met up for coffee on occasion to talk about our future and our plans once the divorce is finalized. If I could have my way, I would have my girls, grandbaby, and Raymond back. But I’m fine with the fact that we’re no longer together. The most important thing, I gained back was my family. It’s not perfect, but it’s mine and couldn’t happier with the way things are right now.

Raymond informed me that he’s been communicating with Marcia, but they weren’t in a relationship. She’s open to getting back together with him, but only after our divorced is finalized. I apologized to Raymond for insulting Marcia a couple of months ago. He understood that I was on the defense and that I was hurting. I asked Raymond if Marcia knew that he and I have met up for coffee to talk about our family. He said yes, that he is being very open and honest with her. I’m unsure if Marcia liked that or not, but she didn’t have anything to worry about. I didn’t want Raymond enough that I would make a play for him. Sure, it hurt when he chose her over me, but I understood why. Raymond loves Marcia and that’s something I have to accept.

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CARIBBEAN QUEEN

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After a long talk with Reagan and Kennedey, we decided they would accompany me to Trinidad. Reagan is bringing Jaylen and Marseille along as well. It had only been weeks since I initially called my muddah and faddah; they were eager to see me. I admit, I was excited at the thought of seeing my homeland again after all these years.

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It was a beautiful balmy day when we arrived at the airport in Port of Spain. We picked up the rental car and drove the six plus miles to my parents’ home in Diamond Vale. “It’s beautiful here,” said Reagan when we got to the house. Kennedey and Jaylen agreed with her. I looked around me. Wow, I hadn’t been here in so long. A wave of memories flushed through me when were riding through the city and now that we were at my parent’s home. I grew up not too far from here. Mama and Daddy told me they bought this house shortly after they moved back to TNT.

I looked over at the baby being carried in her mama’s arms. Marseille was looking all around with great interest and curiosity. “This is your first ever trip, Stinky Pooh. This is where your Nani is from. We’re here to see my Nani and Nana. You remember them? You met them when you were still a newborn,” said Reagan, talking to the baby.

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Mama and Daddy rushed out the house as soon as they saw us pull up. I stood there staring at them for a moment and they stood staring at me. They pretty much looked the same as eleven years ago. Mama looked a little tired, but it was most likely her allergies and Daddy’s hair had grayed a little more. But they were still my parents.

“Oh my goodness, Apollonia, guh! My baby!” cried Mama, making a beeline for me. She threw her arms around me and hugged me tight. I reached around and gave her a gentle squeeze. She was older now and I didn’t want to hurt her. My muddah has never hugged me with such passion before. I almost didn’t know how to take it. Mama began crying, and repeated “My baby, my baby,” over and over again. At first I didn’t know how to feel. To have my muddah embraced me, seemed so foreign. I can’t remember the last time she did that.

She pulled back and held my face in her hands. She gently kissed me on the lips. “Apollonia, po po. You look so beautiful. I’ve missed you so much. I love you, baby,” she sniffled. I choked back tears. I just realized hearing my mother say she loves me is something I’ve always wanted to hear. Maybe I didn’t think of it on a subconscious level, but I couldn’t deny it’s something I had always longed for.

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Finally Mama released me and my faddah hugged me. “Apollonia, my oldest daughter, it is so good to see you. Your mama and I have waited for this moment for so long. We love you so much,” he said. In all my years on this earth, my faddah has never once told me he loved me. I guess I knew it, but I never heard it from his own mouth. I couldn’t manage to say it back, I was too stunned. I was still in shock that both of my parents hugged me and I was open to hugging them back. I’ve changed so much in these last ten years. I’ve allowed love into my heart. If my children were capable of forgiving me, then surely I may find it within to forgive my parents.

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Mama and Daddy hugged Reagan, Kennedey, Marseille, and Jaylen. We followed them inside and to the back patio. “This is a beautiful house,” I observed. The house I grew up was nice and spacious too, and in a nice part of town; but now that my parents were older and had a little more money, they were able to live in one of the nicer neighborhoods in Diamond Vale.

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“Thank you. How was the flight down here?” asked Daddy. “It was long, but we were all excited to come,” I answered. “The baby has gotten so big. Are you keeping up with her Flower and Jaylen? Is she crawling yet?” asked Mama. “Thank you. Yes, we’re trying to keep up with her. It’s going to be a lot harder when she starts walking. Right now she’s scooting, but she’s almost crawling,” replied Jaylen. “Marsy is the boss of the house. She keeps us alert,” added Reagan. Mama and Daddy turned to Kennedey and told her how beautiful she looked. “I see so much of your mama in you.,” said Mama. “Thank you, Nani. I see you in us as well since Mom looks like you too,” replied Kennedey.

“You know, Apollonia, your mama and I have waited for this day for so long. When you left, we could barely take it. We don’t judge you for leaving. We know you suffered a lot and we weren’t too blind to see you needed our help. I can only ask for your forgiveness now,” said Daddy. Reagan informed me a while back that she told my parents about my depression. I didn’t mind that she told them, as I wasn’t ready to speak with them just yet.

“I think we did a lot of things that weren’t exactly right. I have the forgiveness of my children for what I did and I’ve forgiven you long ago for everything. I had to let it go. My doctor told me one of the ways to heal, was to let go of the anger I felt towards you and Mama. I only wish that it hadn’t taken so long,” I replied. “As your Mama, I have so much regret about some of the things I did and said to you back then. I remember you tried telling me once how sad you were, but I dismissed it and only told you to have more faith and pray. Yes, those things are important. I should have told you to pray to find a way to cope and to seek help because what you were feeling wasn’t normal,” said Mama.

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“I finally feel like our family has come full circle, Nani and Nana. Beginning when you guys came to Miami for the wedding. We hadn’t seen each other in so long. Kennedey and I were so angry. But we wanted to have a relationship with you again and get past all that anger. I know you didn’t mean to hurt us and I know you probably didn’t mean to hurt Mama either. We’ve all made mistakes. Kennedey and I fought so much for years. While I could be vicious in some of the things I said to her, she started with me on several occasions. Even through all our fighting, we stayed together because we were a family. When I went through that awful experience and when Daddy had his heart attack, is when we really started growing close again,” said Reagan.

“I’m so proud that you girls came together. It’s good that you chose to keep the family intact for so many years. You two always loved each other and played together when you were little and I can see how close you two are now.” I’ve thought about what I would say to Mama and Daddy for several weeks. I didn’t want to live in the past. I’ve come to the conclusion that I wasn’t the easiest child to raise and I know I made them worry about me. I wanted to tell them that I’m sorry as well.

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“Mama, Daddy, I’m sorry for causing so much strife when I was younger. I didn’t respect your authority. I spent many years only thinking of myself. It’s a flaw in my character I have since overcome. I now know what you feel for my girls. I’m a grandma too now and I want to spend every waking moment with Marseille and my children,” I said, looking around the table.

“We are so sorry for so many things back then. Your faddah and I never should of compared you to Anthony or put so much pressure on you to get in line and live the life we wanted for you. You were gifted and you had dreams far bigger than any I’d ever had. Instead of hindering you, we should have empowered you and encouraged you to reach for stars. We love you, Apollonia. I hope you know that,” said Mama.

I looked in their eyes and saw the sincerity in them. I’ve wanted and needed to hear those words from them, especially my mother. “Thank you. I’m also thankful that you were there for Reagan when she got married. I wasn’t there for you, but I’m glad she at least had you.”

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We sat around the table for the next few hours, talking about old times and what life was like as I grew up. Nothing is perfect and I don’t expect my relationship with my parents to be either. For the first time in my life, I feel like they finally see me for me. All these years I’ve been gone have made them think about the role they sometimes played in my unhappiness as a child. They didn’t purposely set out to hurt me. They raised us up in the only way they knew how.

Not only had I gotten my daughters back, but I felt a real connection to my parents. For them to admit to their mistakes, meant a lot to me. Maybe everything wasn’t my fault. They could see now, that I was very different and I had ambitions that needed to be explored back then. Now that I can’t dance professionally, my new dream is to open that dance studio I’ve thought about for so long. No, dreams weren’t meant to die, but they only stay alive if you believe in them.

*******************

ISLAND OF THE SUN

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Our time in Trinidad was nearly over. For the past few days, I have taken Reagan, Kennedey, Jaylen, and the baby to see my childhood home and many other sights around my island country.

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Reagan said Briah was so fortunate to have been able to spend two years down here with Mama and Daddy. I felt bad when Reagan told me what happened to Briah that made her run away from Miami in the first place.

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One afternoon, We had a cookout in the park near my parent’s home. Daddy grilled his famous salted fish. I hadn’t tasted salmon like Daddy’s in years.

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There wasn’t anything better than sitting around with my girls, the baby, and my parents catching up on old times. It was almost as if the last forty years hadn’t happened. I don’t feel the same resentment I had toward my parents. I admit, I was nervous about seeing them after all these years. I worried we would fight and I’d regret coming all the way down here. But no, the last couple of days was enjoyable with my family.

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I thought it was very sweet of Daddy to teach Jaylen how to fish. Daddy mentioned that he told Jaylen if they ever came to Trinidad he would give him his first lesson. Jaylen may be a city boy, but it was obvious he had the time of his life, trying to catch those fish.

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Reagan teased how he would want to go fishing all the time now when we got back home.

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Being here again after thirty years, brought all these memories back. I can see myself as a little girl, first learning ballet, and how everyone told me how talented I was after my first recital. I recalled in junior high school, how much easier I had when taking lessons than the other students. My instructors said I was naturally gifted; I had a talent that they hadn’t seen in years. By the time I was twelve years old, I knew that I wanted to be a dancer. It became my whole life’s goal. Then in high school, I began performing in small productions on weekends and in the summer for Gabriel’s dance school. How I couldn’t stand that man, but he was brilliant.

To think I spent so much time dreaming about dancing and stardom, and not thinking of anything else. I didn’t get on like my peers. My friends hardly bothered with me to go out with them because they knew I had goals and didn’t think much about partying. I was known around at school as being a little weird. Yes, I had the attention from all the boys because of my looks. But they everyone was surprised I turned down one date after another. I couldn’t care less what people thought of me. I knew they would be stuck down here with ordinary lives, while I’d be performing as a world renowned soloist on some great stage.

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It’s kind of funny, I fought so hard to not be the same as the women in my family, yet I ended up exactly where I said I’d never be. I was a housewife and mother. Soon after my depression and other problems consumed me, I began to lose all hope. I can’t really describe what it’s like to deal with depression or have no hope for the future. Depression is a disease. There are time I felt like I was in a mental prison. There was no way out. I couldn’t get away from thoughts, nightmares, or the shame I felt for being a failure. I wanted to be gone like the wind, but there seemed to be a force pushing back from where I wanted to be. Raymond couldn’t help and neither could my own babies. I was left to fight my illness all on my own.

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Speaking of Raymond, we’ve gotten along so well over the last few months. He’s supportive of my relationship with our daughters and he’s glad I was able to fine one on one counseling to pick up where I left off in New York. Raymond is more understanding now than he ever was in our entire twenty-five years of marriage. Now, that I was on good terms with my parents and we’ve decided to have a relationship, I felt like I had my family back. I never had such a conversation with Mama and Daddy in the past. They realized they did some things wrong regarding me and I realized they only did what they thought was best.

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CARIBBEAN PRINCESSES

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I brought Reagan and Kennedey down to the beach with me on our last full day in Trinidad, we’d be leaving tomorrow. “This is what I wanted you to see. Besides the dance studio, I practically grew up on this beach. It is my favorite place in Trinidad. I loved this beach because it didn’t get a lot of traffic. Many people didn’t venture on this side of the island. I came here for solace and solitude. I’ve always loved the water and I felt comfort here. Dancing was the only thing that made be feel alive and sometimes I’d dance right here in this spot.”

“It’s beautiful here, Mom. The water has always been a source of comfort for me as well,” replied Reagan. “Me too,” agreed Kennedey. “Not very often, but on occasion when I went out to run errands, I went to the beach when you were little. I didn’t too often, but I liked being around the water and I wanted to clear my head out. Sometimes, I didn’t feel like I could breathe. It wasn’t because of you girls, but everything I was going through at the time.”

“We didn’t know. Kennedey and I loved going to the beach with Daddy. He always asked you to come with us, and on rare occasions you did. I know those times were few and far in between, but I loved it when you came. I only wanted you to play with us and have fun. I wish I knew you went to the beach, maybe I get my love of the water from you,” said Reagan. I nodded my head. “Yes, maybe. The few times I accompanied you all to the beach, it’s not that I didn’t want to be around you, but I found little joy in much of anything. It was all I could do to get out of bed in the morning and get you ready for school.”

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“Maybe now that you’re living is Isla Paradiso, we can start a new family tradition. All of us can go to the beach together. I’m pretty sure Daddy and Marcia will work things out, so I don’t know how you feel about being around her. But if she’s in Daddy’s life, she’s in all of ours. I only want our family to be together. We’ve lost so much time and we can’t get it back,” said Kennedey.

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Kennedey brought up an issue I couldn’t easily avoid. Raymond said things were going well with Marcia and progressing. He is respecting our divorce process, so he hasn’t allowed himself to enter into a relationship with her just yet. It’s good that Raymond is content, although I feel a sense of dread for the day Marcia and I come face to face.

I’m not thinking of those things, however. I’m getting to know my daughters like I never have before. In turn, they’re getting to know me. I had so much in common with Reagan and Kennedey. My children wanted and needed a mother as much as I needed them. My dream had come true after all these years. I’m not saying everything will be perfect, but this was pretty darn close. I have my family back and that’s all that mattered in this world.

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THE GIRL WHO HAS IT ALL (MAYBE NOT)

Kennedey’s POV

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I really couldn’t ask for much more as far as my career is concerned. The gallery is doing great. I have new buyers coming in every other day and people ordering my work online. The gallery has gotten rave reviews, not just in Isla Paradiso, but the New York Times did a piece on it in their arts section. We’ve grown so much, I’ve had to hire more staff just to keep up. Now that Mama is back, all my dreams were coming true.

Even still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing; that someone was missing. I had gotten used to talking to Micah everyday up until the last few months of our relationship. We only got busier as time went by and our careers soared. It was hard enough for me to allow Micah to get so close when we first got together. I had an issue with relationships. I never really had them. I thought if I was thought of as Micah’s girlfriend, that somehow it would erase my identity. I certainly wasn’t prepared to fall in love with him. Despite the fact that we were together, I continued to hold him at bay. There were just some things I wasn’t willing to share with him.

I never wanted anyone to say that I was the girl who had it all. A career, a home, looks, friends, and a man. I didn’t want to be thought of as successful simply because there was a man in my life. I liked to think that there is a certain independence I’ve maintained that is separate from what was my relationship. I thought a lot about what Micah said about my father the night we broke up nearly three months ago. He said that I wanted every man except Daddy to be weak, because it’s easier for me to discard them. I didn’t want to acknowledge that what Micah said may be true. Why would I want any man in life to be weak? I didn’t want to know the answer, but I couldn’t hide from it.

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Daddy is the strongest man I know. He had to endure twenty-five years of a bad marriage. He took all of my mom’s verbal abuse and didn’t let it turn him into a monster, he didn’t allow her to break him. He could have easily taken off or forgotten about Reagan and I, but he stood strong and did his duty as a father. My grandaddy left him and my aunties when he was so young. He had to stand up and suddenly take on so many responsibilities.

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Daddy worked hard, sometimes having up to two jobs to take care of us. We were always on a budget, but didn’t go without. Maybe he couldn’t afford everything we wanted, but he tried to give us everything if possible. In all that time through the fighting, loving, raising kids, and heartache, he never gave up. Daddy was perfect in my eyes. In some ways he still is.

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I know Daddy has his flaws, but I have chosen not to see most of them. Micah had flaws, I could see his from early on. Toward the end, I allowed his flaws to outweigh the good that was in him. Subconsciously, I thought that if Micah wasn’t perfect, that if he hurt me someday, I could easily get over it because he wasn’t a good guy anyway. My father never hurt me and no man could ever measure up to him. They would always let me down some way. I thought if I allowed that method to be my way of coping, that it wouldn’t hurt so much if Micah ever broke my heart.

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I never had as many boys chasing me like Reagan. Although my family didn’t really make a distinction on who was prettier, they all thought we were the same; the world made a distinction. Our family is made up of many shades of black. Dark, light, brown, medium, caramel, chocolate; all beautiful. But I don’t live in a utopian society where skin tone doesn’t matter. Of the two of us, Reagan is the lighter one. Not only that, but she possesses features that are considered to be “exotic” among black people. She inherited our Nani’s red hair and green eyes. Nani in turn had inherited her features from her grandfather who was from France and moved to Trinidad, decades ago. The way black genetics work, a whole family can be different tones and I think that is one of the things that make us so beautiful.

Reagan has a skin tone complexion that is favored by much of the world. It’s not her fault, that’s the way she was born. She never saw herself as better looking than me or that her skin tone made her look better than anyone else. It was never an issue in our household. But it was an issue out there, in the world. I didn’t always feel good about the way I looked. I thought I was pretty ordinary. I never thought I was ugly, but how could I stand out to a sister like Reagan?

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One of the things Daddy taught me was to always love my skin tone and that no one, no matter how much lighter how lighter some people are, they’re no more beautiful than I am. Because of him I, believed that and I didn’t let the ignorant opinions of others affect me. There is so much my father gave me, I couldn’t ask for a better one. Micah saw me and liked me from the moment he laid eyes on me. I thought he was cute too, but I didn’t want to be bothered by any man. They were too much trouble. I had an attraction to him right away, but I pushed those feelings to the side.

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Truthfully, Micah is just about the most handsome man I ever met. Briah was going strong and trying to get at him the night we all met at the bar shortly after Reagan and I moved to IP. Briah is beautiful with a sick body to match. She’s charismatic, fun, and gets pretty much any man she wants. Why wouldn’t Micah want to talk to her? But no, he wasn’t interested in her, he wanted me. What alarmed me even more and scared me is that we had so much in common. Micah and I saw the world pretty much the same. We were socially conscious and believed it was our duty to speak out against the injustices of a capitalist society. Basically, we wanted to take down “the man”.

Micah was pretty perfect in the beginning. I couldn’t find anything wrong with him, until I started looking. Maybe he was a little too boastful of his accomplishments in college. Perhaps he talked a little too much about himself and patted himself on the back for giving great speeches at rallies. He seemed to blame others for his band not succeeding. Micah said because he wasn’t rapping and popping bottles in the club, most black people our age looked the other way when they heard he was in a band.

Based on the name, Edge of Anarchy, they assumed he only played rock music. Many people considered him to be an Oreo for the type of music he played. But Micah’s band played different kinds of music. Some rock, blues, urban contemporary, folk, and neo-soul. He isn’t the only black one in the band either, but sometimes people assume the wrong thing about you when you have different interests or go about doing things differently then they do.

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In any case, I compared Micah to Daddy and began to find fault in him. We were very serious and we loved each other, but it all was so much. I had my career to handle and family issues. Instead of looking at Micah as someone that could hold me down, I saw him as someone who was holding me back. Micah wanted me all to himself and I couldn’t give it to him. He wanted to know what I was thinking or feeling all the time and he needed all of my support of his music and his lifestyle. The girls Micah dated in the past kind of rolled over and followed in behind him, but not me. Another thing Daddy taught Reagan and I was to never follow any man. He said if a man expects you to dull your shine for him, get rid of him. I don’t know, but I began to believe that’s what Micah wanted me to do for him.

Even though we had problems, I can’t deny the good times we had. The times we spent protesting in the street, shutting down traffic, to volunteering together at the Youth Center. We supported each other and wanted mainly the same things out of life. Through all of that, we managed to grow apart. I have my friends and family to rejoice in my success and happiness, but it somewhat hurts that I didn’t have one of the closest people to me there to share it with me.

***************************

THE “APOLLONIA”

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I’ve had Mama over at my house since the time she showed up here on her own. But she came with Reagan on a couple of occasions and we never had the chance to be alone and talk. Yes, we’ve had private conversations, just the two of us, but it’s been out in restaurants, parks, or over the phone.

I do most of my work here at home. A lot of what I’m working on is still in the beginning stages. I get a lot of inspiration in my solace. I can think and imagine about what I want to create and say with my work. Aside from the gallery, Mama hasn’t seen my work up close and personal in my workroom. She’s seen it from afar, but I never took her in there and told her anything about it. I invited Mama over to see the “Apollonia” I had painted over a year ago. I thought she would like to see it and understand the inspiration behind it.

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“One night, I had a dream about you. You were talking to me in it. Actually had several dreams about you. But this particular time, you looked the same way I saw you last. You were wearing that tropical dress you bought at Nordstroms. Your hair was wavy and you had on fuchsia lipstick. It’s called the “Apollonia”. I painted it rather quickly the following morning I had the dream. I look at it nearly everyday.” I said to my mother after she followed me into my workroom.

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“It’s beautiful, Kennedey!” she gasped. I smiled, proudly. “I’m not saying that because it’s of me, but I see the detail and beauty in it. I can see that it’s me, but it’s somewhat semi-abstract in way. I’m not even sure if that’s a real term,” said Mama, laughing.

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“Thank you,” I replied. A sad expression flashed across her face. “I’m sorry this is the only thing you had to look at for so long, Kennedey. I’m sorry you could only talk to me in your dreams. I don’t deserve such a beautiful piece in my likeness,” said Mom. I shook my head.

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“It doesn’t matter now, Mama, because you’re here. Don’t beat yourself up for what is the past. You have my forgiveness and I only show you this now, because I want us to move on. I painted it out of love. I never stopped loving you. Having you here now, is more than anything I could desire,” I said, tearing up. Mama reached and hugged me tightly. She kissed me on my cheek and whispered that she loves me so much. “You’re such a good girl. My little baby.”

***********************

DON’T BE A FOOL

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Mama and I walked over to the sofa and sat down. “Did you want anything to eat or drink, Mama?” I asked. “No, I’m fine right now, baby.” Mom looked around the living room and took in the various African art pieces I had in my living room. “You have this place so beautifully decorated, Po Po,” she commented. “Thank you. I wanted sky blue walls because it made the place seem cheery.”

Mama all of sudden stared at me. She cocked her head to one side. “What is troubling you, Kennedey?” I didn’t know what she could mean. “Nothing, why?” I asked. “There is something bothering you, I can tell. I noticed it when we were in Trinidad. I know the look on your face, because I’ve seen it on mine too,” replied Mama. My face began getting hot. I didn’t want to discuss what I think she was hinting at.

“What look is that?” I asked. “The look of love lost. I’m okay with the situation between your father and I, but I won’t deny that I still love him. If I had my choice we would be together. But I’m happy because I got what I came here for, you, your sister, and the baby. You miss Micah,” she answered. I sighed. There it is, something I had been telling myself wasn’t true for weeks now.

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“I can’t say for certain how I feel, Mama. I mean, I broke up with him, how can I miss him?” I wondered. “And I left your father, it doesn’t mean that you don’t love him. People who love each other break up all the time for one reason or another. I’m sorry I never got the chance to meet Micah. From what you’ve told me, he seemed like a good young man.”

“He is a good man. But there were reasons I broke it off with him. Micah was too preoccupied with his music to really understand what I was going through. He thought he knew me so well and that he could fix everything,” I said. “Did you try to explain things to him or let him try to understand?” asked Mama. I shrugged.

“I tried to tell him as much as I could. But I don’t think it was enough for him. The night we broke up, he said that I wasn’t talking or telling him anything so that’s why he brought up his music and other things going on with him. I accused him of being selfish. I mean, in retrospect, I may have held a lot back. I’ve thought a lot about our fight and the things that were said. He said how I discarded men because they weren’t like Daddy. I didn’t want to think it was true. But in many ways, I have shut guys out because I spotted their flaws and compared them to my father. I couldn’t understand why I did that.”

 

“Do you know now?” asked Mama. “Yes, I think so. It’s a defense mechanism I have. I’m so scared of being hurt or left, I come up with a reason to discard that person so that he doesn’t reject me first. I know Daddy isn’t perfect, but he’s the first ideal image of a man I ever had. None of the guys I dated in the past or liked ever measured up, at least not until Micah,”I confessed.

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“And since Micah measured up and was one of the good ones, it made you afraid that if he ever left and broke your heart, it’s something you couldn’t get over. Am I right?” I nodded. “Yes. But where does this leave me now? If I tried to go to him and rejects me, I don’t know if I could handle that,” I said. Mom covered my hand with hers. “Yes, you can, Kennedey. You’re stronger than you know. If you love him, you should be with him. I know it’s been months since you broke up, but you’ve had time to think about things and get your head straight. Don’t be foolish like me and wait so long. The man I love is no longer in love with me, but that doesn’t have to be you.”

It saddened me that Mama was hurting over my father. I know it’s not his fault. He want’s to be with Marcia again and he deserves to be happy. I like Marcia, but a part of me will never stop wanting my parents to be together. “But what if I go to Micah and rejects me? He told me not to come for him. He was angry,” I said. “And that may happen. You won’t know until you find out, Kennedey. You can’t spend your time thinking about what if? It’s very possible he may still love you. And it’s possible he may have moved on. But you won’t know unless you find out,” said Mama. She was right, I can’t sit around being scared anymore. If Micah doesn’t want me, then it’s something I’ll have to deal with.

“Kennedey, you’re such a beautiful girl. You don’t know how brightly you shine just yet. You’re young and you will discover things about yourself you never knew. It’s good that you and your sister have the chance to live out your dreams and desires. I don’t blame you guys and your father for the way my life turned out. I lived in a different time, when women had to make those decisions to be a wife and mother and nothing else. I made my choices and I live with them. But you don’t have anything or anyone holding you back. You can and should do anything you want, you’re free.”

“Thank you, Mama. I love you and I’m glad you’re my mother,” I said. “And I love you, little baby,” replied Mom. I looked over at my mother and all of a sudden I thought about my dream when we’re here together sitting on this sofa having a good conversation. I didn’t know what we were talking about in the dream, but I knew it wasn’t antagonistic. My dream had come true.

***********************

LITTLE GIRL LOST

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I had a lot on my mind over the last few days after speaking with Mama. I was warming up to her advice to see Micah. I had to work out the details of what I would do later because right now, it was going to have to wait. I was at the Youth Center today for my art class. On my way, I saw Lila standing near the doorway to the classroom. She looked as if she’d been crying.

“Hi, Lila. What’s the matter, sweetheart?” I asked, bending down to her level. “Nothing,” she whispered. “Are you sure? You’ve been crying. You want to tell me about it?” Lila looked up at me, teary-eyed. “I have to leave my foster home again. They said I would get to stay in this one last time and now they said I have to go,” she sniffled. My heart ached for her. Unfortunately, I’ve seen more kids leaving the programs at the Youth Center due to being in the system and being moved around all the time. It’s like once they get a healthy routine down, it’s ripped from under them. It didn’t help that the school district was cutting the budget even more for these kind of after school programs.

“Who said you have to leave? Did Mrs. Shelman tell you that?” I asked, referring to Lila’s social worker. Lila slowly nodded her head and wiped away a tear. “Yeah, but I don’t know when I have to leave, Miss. Kennedey,” she replied. I thought it was very sweet of Lila to call me Miss Kennedey. I didn’t tell her to call me that, but the little girl knew what respect for adults was about. “I’m so sorry, Lila. I know you liked it over there with Debbie and the other kids.”

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Lila shrugged her shoulders. “I liked Miss. Debbie, but the other kids weren’t nice all the time. Her husband said there were too many of us girls and he didn’t want any. He wanted the boys to play on his football team he coaches for. I don’t think it’s fair,” she said. I’ve met Lila’s foster father, Craig, he was insufferable. He coached pee wee football and tended to favor boys over girls. I’ve seen the way he talks down to girls and women in general. Poor Lila had to be dragged from what would be her fourth foster home in three years. The system is horrible. They shouldn’t allow just anyone to become a foster parent and collect a check. Much of the time, that’s all it’s about with some of these people; they don’t care about the actual children.

“Miss Kennedey?” asked Lila. “Yes, Sweetie?” I replied. “Can I come home with you?” I was taken aback at her question. “Why would you want to come home with me?”

“Because you’re nice and pretty. You’re a lot of fun to be around. Art is my favorite class. I wish you worked at my school,” answered Lila. I touched Lila’s cheek. “Oh, that’s so nice of you to say. I like you too. I love having you in my class, but there’s a big process that adults have to go through to be a foster parent. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen so quickly most of the time. I’m sure Mrs. Shelman is going to find you a nice home, don’t worry,” I tried to reassure her, even if I didn’t feel so confident myself.

Lila stared at me with her big brown eyes and started balling. She was so hurt and I wished I could ease her pain. I hate how these kids are treated and bounced around. This poor baby doesn’t have any real parents and no one to look out for her everyday. I thought back to my own childhood. Things weren’t always easy at home, but at least I grew up in a house with both of my parents. I felt loved every day, at least by my father. I wish there was something I could do to help Lila. But I don’t what that something is.

***********************

CONFESSIONS

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Micah’s been on my mind more and more these days. I couldn’t put off not seeing him any longer. Did I consider myself weak if I told him that I wanted us to try to work things out? It’s not that I believe a woman needs a man in her life to be happy, but how honest was I being if I kept denying how I feel? The heart wants what the hearts want. Maybe I’ve been weak all these months trying to act like I didn’t miss Micah or want him. I know he has his faults, just like I know I have mine. But were they really that bad? In some ways Micah can be about Micah, but as Mama pointed out did I give him a chance to be there for me? I never gave him the chance to come through for me. No, I didn’t like that he didn’t get on with my family, but I know how hard it is to fit in. I too felt like an outsider in my family when I was a teenager.

I was too smart for my own good and downright weird at times. Maybe I should have given Micah a break. Daddy and Jaylen are very extroverted people. In school they were always a part of the in crowd. Both of them had more friends than they count. Reagan was the same way. While, I was more like Micah. He had his band and performed music in front of people and spoke at rallies, but he’s a lot more toned that than Jaylen is.

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I decided that there would be no more guessing on my part. Micah was angry the night we broke up, basically saying he never wanted to see me again. Maybe that was only the hurt talking. I hope so, because I wanted him to hear me out and let me apologize for the way I had treated him for months. Maya and Monica were in town working on a project with me to oppose more cuts in the schools and other social programs budget. I saw first hand the damage it did to the kids at the center and many social and welfare programs benefited children like Lila and others.

I saw a flyer downtown that Micah and his band were performing at the Upside Down Room, which is a little hole in the wall club in the city. When I told my friends I was thinking about going tonight to see Micah, they encouraged me to go and they wanted to come with me. My heart beat as I drove my Prius into the city on the main island. Micah and I hadn’t seen each other in over three months. I didn’t know how he would react to me being there tonight. Even if he didn’t want to see me, I’d hope he at least hear me out.

**********************

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We walked into the mainly dark room where the main stage was. I immediately saw Micah front and center on the stage with his guitar in his hand. He slowly strummed and softly sang into the microphone. The band wasn’t performing one of their songs, but a remixed contemporary version of “When Will I See You Again?” Their version wasn’t as slow as the Rn B version, but it had a smooth melody. Micah’s falsetto was soft and soothing. I had always loved hearing him sing. He would often sing for me and run a new song he was working on by me. As I listened to the words, my heart raced.

Tears I see drop from your eyes

Tell me why you cry

Guilt I feel when you look at me

Did I let you down

Girl, you see that I

I apologize

Tell me what to do

To get through to you

Girl, it’s not the same

I know I was to blame

Just tell me when will I

See you smile again

Tell me when will I see you smile again

‘Cause I know I messed up, baby

And I know you’re fed up

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Micah made eye contact with the audience as he sang. The room was too dark for him to see me in the back. Could he know I was here? But how? Was he singing to me? Tears sprang to my eyes as I watched him perform the song with such passion. I stood there with so many feelings going through my body. Why didn’t I see how I felt about him before? I know I needed to deal with everything going on, but was it worth breaking up with the only man I’d ever loved?

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The crowd began to clap as the song slowly faded out. Micah announced that the band was taking a break and they would be back in twenty minutes. I guess now was as good as time as any to go and see Micah. “Are you going to talk to him?” asked Maya. I was still stuck in one place, not able to move my feet. “Yeah, I want to.”

“Then what are you waiting for, girl?” asked Monica. My friends were right, I had to talk to him.

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I walked toward the opposite side of the club where Micah and the band had went. I stepped into a hallway. I stood quietly, hoping I could hear him, which was hard to do with the music pumping through the speakers in the club. Finally, I heard Micah’s voice coming from inside a room further down the hall.

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I slowly walked to the door and loudly knocked on it. When I didn’t hear an answer, I knocked again. Yeah?” Micah asked, opening the door. He stood there, completely frozen; a look of shock on his face. But he didn’t look angry to see me. “Hi Micah. Can I talk to you?” I asked. He didn’t say anything for a moment. He nodded his hand and invited me inside the room.

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“Can you guys give us a minute?” he said to the other band members, Louis, Brad, and Bobby. The guys quickly filed outside of the room, nodding their heads at me as they passed by.

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Micah closed the door behind them and turned around to face me. Micah bit his lower lip, perhaps waiting for me to speak. When I didn’t, he spoke. “What are you doing here, Kennedey?” he asked. “I know I’m the last person you’d expect to be here. You probably don’t want to see me,” I replied. Micah didn’t respond. “Look, I’ve thought about things a lot lately. I never liked the way things ended between us a few months ago. I can’t believe it’s been over four months since we saw each other last,” I said. “It’s been a long time,” said Micah.

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“I came here with Maya and Monica. I heard you were back in town and performing tonight. Like, I said, I’ve thought about a lot of things these last couple of months. I’m not going to beat around the bush. I miss you, Micah. I’ve missed you much,” I said, my words choking in my throat. “When did you decide that?” he asked. “Decide? What do you mean?” I asked, confused. “When did you decide that you missed me?”

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“I don’t know. I guess since the moment you left. I never wanted things to end that way, Micah. I know you said for me to not come for you, but I had to. I needed to tell you so many things. I was really messed up and confused. As much as I loved you and still do, I couldn’t see how I could be in a relationship. I didn’t give you the chance to be there for me. I shut you out and I’m sorry about that. But you should know I never stopped loving you, it was never about that,” I said.

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Micah sighed and stepped around me. I turned around to face him. “You come out of the blue like this; I don’t know what to think,” he said. “It wasn’t fair of me to constantly compare you to my father. You’re the first serious relationship I’d ever been in. I never loved any man before you. It was a big thing for me to allow you into my life in the first place. But I became afraid that I’d do something and cause you to leave me. I didn’t want to know that pain. After my mom left, I became scared that anyone who got close to me would ultimately abandon me too. Her leaving was the worst thing I went through and I didn’t want to experience that kind of pain again. What you said about me discarding men is true. I couldn’t let you get too close. I measured you against my father and picked out your flaws. I wanted there to be a reason for us to not be together. First I said is that you were too clingy and needed so much from me. Then I said it was that you couldn’t get along with my family. I didn’t want to see things your way. You’re one of my best friends and treated you so coldly at times,” I confessed.

“You didn’t give me the chance to show you that I was in your corner, Kennedey. Every time I tried to reach out, you turned me away. I stopped trying after a while,” said Micah. “I know that. I’m sorry. The last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt you, Micah.”

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“Well, you did hurt me, Kennedey; you hurt me a lot. You’re not easy to get over.” I searched his eyes, looking for some sort of hope in them. “Have you gotten over me?” I asked. I held my breath, waiting for his answer. Micah held my gaze for a long time. “No, I haven’t. I don’t know if you listened to the set, but that last song only speaks to how I feel about you. There are many things I did that I wish I could take back” he replied. “I didn’t get to hear the whole set, but I heard the song. You sang it so beautifully. It gave me hope. Was I foolish to think that?” I asked.

Micah rubbed his temples. “I don’t know, Kennedey. I mean we’ve had similar fights and arguments in the past about this. How do I know you’re ready to open up and give yourself to me? I’m not asking for a lot, but all I ever wanted was your one hundred percent trust. And it bothers me to think that you believed I could hurt you. You had no faith in me,” he said. I wiped a tear from my cheek that had spilled over. “I was wrong for not having any faith in you. I only did those things to protect myself. I couldn’t believe it was possible to love someone as much as I loved you. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t want to risk my heart.”

“And you don’t think I wasn’t risking myself too, Kennedey? That’s what being in a relationship is about. You love each other and you trust the other person with your feelings. Why would I ever want to hurt or leave you? I loved you. I wanted to marry you some day,” said Micah, his eyes tearing up. His words stunned me. Micah never told me he wanted to marry me one day. We never talked about it. “Is that you used to feel or so you still?” I asked, bracing myself for the worst. “Of course I love you, Kennedey. I can’t turn it on and off like that. You’re the only woman I’ve ever loved. I only wished that you’d trust me and not pushed me away so much.”

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“I’ve come to a lot of realizations about myself over these last few months. I hid behind my feelings and pushed you away. I know why I did that. It wasn’t right to treat you like that. I said to myself it was easier to do this without you; that I’d get over you sooner or later. But I haven’t. It’s like a piece of me has been missing. I missed my friend. All these good things were happening with the gallery and my family and I didn’t have you to share it with.”

“How do I know you won’t turn around and do the same thing if we were to pick back up? I know I said I didn’t want to start back up with you. I guess I lied to myself for all these months. I can’t hide my feelings for you. But you can’t hide your feelings for me either,” said Micah. I briefly look down at my feet. “I can only give you my word. All I can say is that I love you and I know I was wrong before. I never allowed you to be your own man. That wasn’t right for me to look at my father as the perfect man in comparison to you.”

“I thank you for apologizing. I came to realize I share some of the blame. I could’ve made more of an effort when it came to your family. I felt like an outsider. That part of your life I didn’t believe I could ever reach. I couldn’t pretend to be someone I wasn’t,” said Micah.

“I never wanted you to be anyone else. I knew that if my family got the chance to meet you, that they would love as much as I did,” I replied. “I know that now. I also never should have said your father didn’t know who he is. The truth is, I don’t know him very well. But I know he’s a good man for the way he raised you and your sister. I knew what you were going through with your mom was hard. I only wanted to be a part of the healing for you. You’re right, I didn’t know how you felt because neither one of my parents left me. But you didn’t let me get close enough to understand.”

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“I know and that was silly of me. I came here tonight because I wanted you to know that I love you, Micah. I don’t expect you to want to get back together just like that. But I hope that you think about it; I hope you say yes.” Micah reached out his hand stroked my cheek. He then gently pulled me toward him. “I don’t have to think about it. I love you, Kennedey. That’s never going to stop. You don’t ever have to worry about me breaking your heart,” he whispered. Slowly, Micah and I started kissing. His lips were so soft. His mouth was warm and tasted good.

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All the alarms started going off in my body. I wanted him so badly. I didn’t realize how much I missed his touch until now. Our kiss began growing longer and stronger. It was if we were craving each other. “I love you. I missed you so much,” Micah whispered in my ear. “I love you too.”

**********************

LOVER, COME TO ME

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Within a few hours of seeing each other, Micah was back at my house making love to me, like he’s never done before. I kept thinking how much I missed the feel of his skin against mine and the way he felt. This was pure ecstasy. I never felt fireworks with any other man before. Micah is the only man I had been with that got me to that point. It wasn’t until him did I find out what made your eyes roll to the back of our head.

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“Micah, baby…” I called out. “I love you so much, girl,” whispered Micah as I called his name. Micah has always had a lot of stamina, but even he outdid himself tonight. We were already going into hour three before he worked my body until it screamed out over and over.

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Micah rolled over on his back and I laid my head on his chest. “Wow. That was something else,” I giggled. “Well, it’s been building up for months,” he replied. I looked up at him. “There was no one else when we were a part?” I asked. Micah shook his head. “No, not a single one.”

“Me neither,” I said. “That’s good to know,” said Micah. We lay there quietly not saying anything. I listened to Micah’s heartbeat as he stroked me on my back. “Seeing you again tonight, did something to me, Kennedey. You were so beautiful, but more than that, it was you,” said Micah. “You sang so beautifully. I’ve always loved the way you sang. Now a lot of other people love it too.”

“Yeah. Being on the road was cool and all, but I couldn’t fully enjoy it. I thought about you so much.” I knew the feeling. I too had thought a lot about Micah the last few months. Micah told me about the road trip and some of the places he performed out. Things were really looking up for Edge of Anarchy.

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I was so happy for him and Micah seemed content with the way things are right now. He never wanted some insane amount of fame. Micah is they type of singer and musician that just wants to play their music for people and make a living from it. He wouldn’t be happy at most labels, so it was better for their creative control to be independent.

Micah wanted to know how things were going with Mama. I told as much as I could and shared with him what Mama said about coming to him and trying to work things out. “I guess I’ll have to thank her some day,” chuckled Micah. “Yeah. I know she would love to meet you.”

There’s no other place I’d rather be than here with Micah. I had my mother back and the love of my life again. My family is the most important thing to me and Micah said he wanted to be a part of that family one day. There isn’t one thing I would change about my life, not now, not ever.

*************************

THE LAST ONE

Reagan’s POV

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Family. What does my family mean to me? Jaylen, Daddy, Mom, Kennedey, and Marseille; they’re my family. I don’t think I could live without any one of them. Over the last several months since Mom’s return, our family dynamic has changed so much. She’s falling into a mother/friend role more and more each day. Everyday, I allow her in just a little more and I’m comfortable with her role. Daddy is comfortable with it too. Yes, their relationship has changed. They’ve never not really been together. Yes, they were separated for ten years, but they were still married. They’re still married, but on their way to divorce, that is their absolution. There’s no more speculation as to how they’ll end up, we all know.

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I feel like the first time in all my life I have a real family. Jaylen and I are doing our best to love and raise our daughter up. It’s so important to us that she be raised in a loving and supportive environment. Which is one of the reasons we don’t yell and scream in our house. We have no reason to in the first place, but if we have an argument about something, we try our best not to do it around Marseille.

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My little baby girl has gotten so big. Marsy is talking in her baby language more and more these days. She’s also crawling and pulling herself up on the coffee table. She’s very alert and smart. Jay and I are so proud of her. But it’s the nights she wakes ups crying for me to rock her back to sleep or feed her that I live for. It’s our special moments like these that binds us. “You just like being up late, huh little girl? You’ve been that way since the first day we brought you home, Stinky Pooh Pooh Bear. Marseille stared up at me and cooed. Her little eyes danced across my face. I honestly believe she’s in on the joke most of the time. Like she knows what’s funny.

“What did you say? That your daddy and I were party animals, so you are too?. Oh no, little baby, we’re going to break you of that sooner or later. Just promise me when you get older, you’ll be more toned down like your Auntie Kennedey and less turned up like me and your daddy. But I have a feeling you’re going to want to be out there, front and center, Pooh. That’s okay though, I’ll teach you to avoid the same mistakes I made and I’ll show you how to handle yourself. Between Daddy, me, Granddaddy, Nani, and Auntie Kennedey are looking out for you, you have nothing to fear. I love you, Marsy. Mommy loves you so much. No matter what you do or who you become in life, know that’ll never change.

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Mom is spending more and more time with Marseille each week. We’re all together every Sunday and a couple of times a month she cooks at her house. Sometimes it’s all of us together, sometimes it’s only the five of us. Jaylen and my mother have taken a liking to each other. Yes, her first interaction with his mother didn’t go over so well, but Jay didn’t hold it against her. He understood Mom felt a little threatened by Yuri. Since the rumble in the jungle part two, Mom and Yuri have been around each other on several occasions. Kevin and Yuri bought a house out here to be with their grandchildren and they come out from New York every six weeks or so.

Ultimately Mom and Yuri are ladies and have squashed their beef. They have something in common after all, their love for me. I told Kennedey now that she and Micah is back together, Micah’s mother will have to contend with Mom. Hopefully things will go over better with a sweet southern bell rather than a sophisticated know-it-all New Yorker like Yuri. I wasn’t worried so much about my mother. Yuri held her own with Mom, I only hope that when Micah’s mother meets her, she can handle her too.

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Kennedey seems happy now that she and Micah are back together. I know the break up was hard on her even though she didn’t talk about it much. When Kennedey told me that she and Micah had gotten back together, I wasn’t really surprised. Even though I never got the chance to really get to know Micah, I believed he matched Kennedey. They had too much in common not to be together.

Now that Micah has come around more to family functions, he’s making more of an effort to get along with Daddy and Jaylen. Micah can see that they’re more than cars and sports. Jaylen is not that shallow and he actually knows a lot about some of the issues and causes Micah and Kennedey are involved in. When Kennedey challenged Jaylen back in LA, to have a benefit at Tomo for the Youth Center, he did and they raised a lot of money for all the kids that go there. Kennedey seemed especially glad that the fundraising she’s done and money collected from Jaylen has benefited her arts program at the center. I know she cares a lot about those kids and had a special connection to one little girl.

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Unlike the last time we were all together on that houseboat, this time when Daddy asked Micah to play something on his guitar, he did. Kennedey has told me many times how beautiful Micah’s falsetto was, but I wasn’t quite prepared when I heard him start singing. Micah had one of the best voices out there. He is exceptionally talented.

For my sister’s sake, Micah and I have reached out to each other. He asks me questions about my plans for the future in modeling and I ask him about his music. Mom is getting to know Micah too. Only when she talks to him, it’s more like an interview than anything else. She likes Micah, but she’s very protective of her baby, Kennedey.

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Kennedey’s been happy for a long time. I’m proud of her accomplishments with the gallery and her artwork selling. Even though she was content, I could tell she missed Micah. And from what she told me about the night they made up, Micah really missed her. Kennedey is usually private when it comes to intimate matters, but I don’t think she wanted to hold something like that in. I told her if the boy got skills like that, she needs to keep him.

All the family can do is to grow from here. There’s no sense in us going back into time, it’s unnecessary. I no longer punish my mother for what she did. Sure, our relationship will take time and I hope to grow closer to her. No, those wounds haven’t completely healed, but I’m happy to have Mom back in my life.

**********************

WELCOME BACK, BRIAH

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Jay and I decided to meet up with Briah and Apollo at Cypher Lounge downtown. It seems like forever since Bri and I’ve seen each other or hung out. I’ve been so caught up with Mom, I haven’t seen many of my friends. Briah, of course is family also, so I’ve kept her abreast to the latest. She’s going through serious family drama herself, but I’ll let her tell you about that.

I wanted to tell Briah about the upcoming trip to Miami our family decided to take. Sort of like homecoming; reminiscing journey. It’s where we began and I believe Mom wanted to make amends with what she did and what happened to all of us down there. Miami has great memories for all of us, but also some very unpleasant ones. But overall, it’s my home. I grew up there and it’s where I married Jaylen.

“Rea Rea, girl, it’s been forever since I done seen you! What the hell is up? What’s up with y’all going to the MIA?” asked Briah, loudly. I laughed at myself, despite the immense amount of stress she was under, Briah kept a bright disposition. “Girl, you know, Mom thought it would be a good idea for the family to go down there. Sort of like a healing,” I replied.

“So how is Auntie? I know you said she’s changed a lot, but I haven’t seen her, so I’ll take your word for it,” said Briah. “She’s good. Marseille loves her nani. It’s so sweet how much they’ve bonded. I thought it would hurt at first seeing my mom bond with my daughter, like she didn’t with me, but I’m glad that she is. They’re both happy.”

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“That’s cool, Reagan. It’s good to hear your family is doing so well. What y’all gonna do when you get down there?” asked Apollo. I shrugged. “Well, we decided to stop by the old house, to just sort of remember where we came from. We’ll probably go to the beach and see some of our old stomping grounds. Not planning on doing too much, we just want to focus on drawing closer as a family.”

“It’s going to be the first time Reagan and I have been there since the wedding, which is pretty dope,” said Jaylen. I laughed and shook my head, a typical Brooklyn boy response. I took another sip of my vodka martini and let it marinate on my tongue. I don’t really drink too much these days now that I’m nursing.

“You mean you ain’t been down there for the club with A, Cuz?” asked Apollo. Jaylen took a swig of his beer. “Nah, it seems like I would have. But that’s all Amarre. I mean it’s my money going into the place too, since it’s our business paying for all of this, but Tomo Miami has been Amarre’s baby from the beginning. Well I should say his first baby, since he got a real one now,” laughed Jaylen.

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“Yeah, I done seen A’s baby. I still can’t believe he got caught out there. He was always the last one I expected to end up with a little shorty. Shit, I thought I’d be a daddy way before him. Maybe I can catch up with y’all if someone stop playin’ and get on board,” chuckled Apollo. Briah rolled her eyes. “Girl, this foo’ on me like every other week about a baby. Apollo, you and I know there is too much going on at the moment. Shit, I don’t even want to think about it. Ugh,” sighed Briah.

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“Awwwhh, but if you guys did have a baby, she or he would be so cute. I can just imagine what that baby will look like. If it’s a girl, her booty will probably be big like yours, Bri. Y’all gonna have to find some big diapers to fit over that little big baby booty,” I teased. Briah started to laugh and slapped her own behind. “Girl, probably. Plus Apollo mama, got booty too, so it runs on both sides of the family.”

“It’s been so good seeing you guys and hanging out. We always had fun together. I know you have a lot going on Bri and so do I, but I’m always here for you, girl,” I said. Tears began to well up in Briah’s eyes, but she smiled through them. She held up her glass. “Thank you, Rea Rea. I know you got my back. I’m just so happy that you and Kennedey are happy. You finally got your mama back and the family you’ve always wanted.” Briah is right, I am happy.

*******************

28 PALM STREET

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A couple of weeks after meeting up with Briah and Apollo, we were in Miami. After arriving late in the morning, we checked into our hotel and ventured out for the day. The first place we decided to go as a family is our old house. I must say, seeing my parents more as friends than anything else these days is interesting. They were finally at that place that they can be honest with each other show their support for one another. Daddy talks to Marcia on a regular basis and she knows we’re all down here in Miami as a sort of homecoming. Daddy assured her that of course he and Mom had separate hotel rooms. Even still, I don’t think my mom is checking for my dad all like that anymore.

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We took a short drive from the hotel and arrived at 28 Palm Street, my childhood home. We all wanted to further go down memory lane while we are in Miami. Good, it looked like no one was home. It would seem pretty weird having perfect strangers standing on your front lawn looking at your house.

“I haven’t seen this place in years, but it looks the same,” said Mom. “Jaylen and I came here a few days before the wedding. The current owner had fixed it up and was renting it out. She let us come inside. It looks so different now inside. All of these memories came flooding back into my mind. I could see Kennedey and I as little girls dancing with you right there in the living room, Mom,” I recalled.

“I came here a few years ago, by myself. I wanted to see the place again. I had so much fun as a little kid here. I grew up here; this is my childhood. I hated when we had to move. I always believed if we’d stayed, we’d be a family again some day,” said Kennedey. “We did have some good times here,” added Daddy. We quietly stood there, looking at the house. Maybe all of our memories weren’t happy ones. But at least the good times I had with my mom, are the ones I cherished the most. I recalled every single detail of the times we spent together, of the times I felt like her daughter and she felt like my mom.

Mom had tears in her eyes. “It wasn’t bad all the time. As much as I went through back then with my depression, there were some days that allowed in a little bit of sunshine. Some days were darker than others. But I can honestly say, the times I felt free was when I danced with you girls. I felt normal, like we all had a connection. I hate that those were the only times you felt any real love from me,” she sniffled. “That’s in the past now, Mom. We have today and the future to look forward to. This house and how we grew up will always be a part of us, but we’re not letting the bad times control us anymore. I only learned within the last year that my past doesn’t control my future. I decided what happens from here on out,” I replied.

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“We have beautiful memories here. There’s not much I would change. Maybe everything didn’t turn out the way that we’d hope, but we’ll grow from here. Our family has already expanded. Jaylen, you became a part of this family, now Marseille is the new generation. She’ll carry on this dynasty. Reagan, you were the first grandbaby on my side of the family and I instilled in you all that I knew. You’ve traveled along a bumpy road, but you’ve become this beautiful, awe-inspiring woman. You’re so mature. You held this family together during the times I was weak. I still don’t think you fully understand just how strong you are. Kennedey, you’re the baby in this family and as such all the weight from the fallout of our family problems rested on you. You’re extremely sensitive and you carried that burden. All you ever wanted was for our family to be together. And you always gave me hope that some day that would happen. Maybe it’s not in the same context as we’d imagined, but our family is intact and stronger than ever.”

Jaylen nodded his head. “It’s been an honor to be in your family, sir. Your daughter changed my life forever and gave me my child. Thank you for accepting me into your lives.”

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I started to choke up as I looked at Marseille. She seemed to understand everything we were saying. I wonder if she’ll ever know how deep our dynasty goes. Generations of Leeds slaved and worked to get where we all are. This country was built on the backs of my ancestors; on the backs of slaves. We built so many great things that makes America what it is. Blacks built the White House and a black man and his family lives there now. They were home. Yet, there are some out there that try to take away our accomplishments, erase our history and legacy. But we’re unbreakable, we endure, we survive.

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Maybe some of the ones in the family are in better places than others, but we yield this power that no one can take. We may injure ourselves, we may even fracture ourselves, but we’ll never break. The Leeds cannot be broken. The De-Sais cannot be broken. I carry on the strength of my father and the endurance of my mother and some day Marseille will that carry on. This is our legacy, this is our dynasty.

***********************

A LOVELY DAY

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Kennedey suggested we go to the park Daddy often took us to when we were little. When Kennedey and I got old enough, he let us ride our bikes there. We used to race each other to see who could get there the fastest. I remember feeling free and alive as I rode through the quiet streets of our old neighborhood. Summers were best; knowing there was no school the next day. Daddy let us stay up as late as we wanted. I was glad he wasn’t like other parents that made us go to bed at a certain time on weekends and summer vacation. But better believe, come a school night we were right in that bed at nine o’clock back in elementary school.

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“Ha ha, Kenney! You’ll never be as fast as me! I’m going to get there first.” I remember teasing Kennedey as she tried to keep up with me on her bike, but I was too fast for her. Seems like she was always trying to keep up with me her whole life, until this past year. Kennedey has finally come into her own. She’s a responsible and successful woman who lives for herself and no one else. She’s not the only one who’s made a lot of progress, so have I. When I think about my little sister, I’m so proud of her.

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Kennedey and I ran into the park as soon as Daddy parked the car. “Look, Daddy, it’s the same as when we were little!” cried Kennedey. I looked back at Daddy, Mom, Jaylen, and Marseille. Daddy had a big smile on his face. “It does look the same. Only the paint changed colors.”

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“I remember your father taking you here. I sometimes put you two in the double seat stroller and walked over here when you were babies. What I want to tell you girls is that, they weren’t all bad times. Some days I was an okay mood. When I took you here as po pos, you had such a good time. And I felt fine too. I only wished there were more days like that,” recalled Mom. I looked over at Mom.

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“Seems like I remember that. I was only about two or so. Daddy wouldn’t always be with us. I guess he was at work, but I remember,” I said. “You and your sister loved it here,” said Daddy.

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I looked over at the swing, remembering Kennedey and I competing to see who could get as high as the sky. I wanted to reach up and kiss the sun. At night Kennedey and I laid out on beach towels; looking up at the stars. How I wondered what it would feel like to be up where the stars were or exploring Jupiter or roller balding around Saturn’s rings. I didn’t tell anyone besides Kennedey what I wished. She told me once that her teacher said if you wish upon a star, all of your dreams would come true. So one night I did it. I wished upon the brightest star in the sky. I hoped that Mom would come around and tell us that she loved us. I dreamed wouldn’t fight so much, and that we would feel like a normal family one day. When I got a little older, I used to wish that I’d meet a man and fall in love one day. I didn’t know this faceless stranger at the time. I didn’t know who he was or who what he looked like. All the while I was dreaming of Jaylen.

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I turned my head towards the seesaw. I saw Kennedey and I going up and down as high as we could get. Our shrills and shrieks filled the air around us. We would have so much fun. We were each others best friends. That’s something I don’t think I realized until now. “Kennedey and I used to love the seesaw so much. We tried to go up and down as much as fast as possible,” I told Jaylen. “Sounds like you two had a lot of fun here. There was a park by our house Amarre and I used to go to when we were kids. We competed to see who could go the highest on the swings,” replied Jaylen. I looked down at Marseille.

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“See, Pooh, this is where Mommy and Auntie came when we were little. Just like the park Daddy and I take you to,” I said. Marseille beamed and smiled as if she understood. My baby girl, is the light of my life. Her little smile brightens my day. All I ever dreamed of was a family that was normal and loved each other. I got that once I married Jay and gave birth to our daughter. We started the circle, and now Mom has completed it. 

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Just for old time’s sake, Kennedey and I decided to get on the swings and see how high up to the sky we could get, just like when we were little.

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We had so much fun today. Life doesn’t get any better than this.

 

**********************

UNTO THE BEACH

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“Can you see it, Reagan and Kennedey? The stars up there, they make the Big Dipper. The sky paints you a picture every single day and the stars shine upon you every single night. If you wish upon one and really believe, your wish will come true.”

“How do we know what to wish for, Daddy?” I asked. “I can’t tell you that. That’s something you’ll have to decide on your own. But listen to what your heart says,” he replied. So I closed my eyes and lifted my head toward the sky. I could feel the ocean breeze cooling my skin. I didn’t have to think about what to wish for. I already knew before I asked Daddy. I wanted my mama to tell me that she loved me. I wanted to feel like a real family. But it wasn’t the stars I rested my hopes and dreams on, I prayed to God. After all He created the stars in the heavens. He allows them to shine on all of us. Yes, Daddy taught me that. He said not to pray for riches, but pray to be a good person with a good heart. I prayed for all those things, but what I wanted from God the most, is for my mother to be a mom. I prayed she would take me in her arms and draw me into her bosom and never let me go. She would say I love you and she would always protect me. God truly is the Hearer of all prayers. If anyone says He doesn’t, it just isn’t true. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

***********************

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“This is where is all started, Baby. This is where our family began.” I held Jaylen’s hand as we stepped onto the same beach we were married on not so long ago. I can’t believe over a year has already passed. Our anniversary months back was pretty simple. We already has Marseille by then. I can’t believe she came so quickly. Our daughter was right there celebrating at dinner with us. Kind of the same as I did when I was a little baby with my parents.

Our family decided to come down to our favorite beach, the one Daddy always took Kennedey and me as little kids. Periodically Mom came along too, and we had a picnic right in this same spot. So many things have changed, but what I’ve learned is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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“Why don’t we set up over here, next to the grill,” suggested Daddy. Did I mention that my father is the best grill master alive? Okay, maybe some people will dispute that, but his barbeque is legendary. Although I love my main’s cooking, even Jay couldn’t get with Daddy when it came to getting on that grill. “That’s a good place to set up,” agreed Jaylen.

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I helped Mom and Kennedey set everything up on the picnic table. “Let’s get into our bikinis,” I said. Kennedey and I left to change in the ladies room and came back outside. “Want to race?” asked Kennedey, with a sneaky grin on her face. “Alright, I guess you want to get stomped, guh!”

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“You two go have your fun, me and Marsy will chill out here,” said Mom with a sly smile on her face.

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“Okay, one…two…three, go!” I yelled out. I ran as fast as I could, kicking up sand underneath my feet. By the time Kennedey and I got to the water’s edge, I couldn’t tell who had won.

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“That was close,” said Kennedey, panting. “You’ve gotten good, ‘lil sis,” I teased her. “Yep. You didn’t think I could do it,” she replied. I dipped my toe into the water and carefully waded out further.

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I stopped and looked down at my reflection. I couldn’t remember the last time I really saw myself in the water. As I got older and more off the hook, whenever I came to the beach, I tried to avoid my reflection at all costs. I didn’t like what I saw. But now I could see the changes in me, not just physically, but internally. I no longer look in the mirror and go off and forget the sort of woman I am. I know the person staring back at me now.

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I am flawed, but that’s okay. I’ll grow over time. I’ll recognize the things I want to change about myself. I’ll be the best mommy and wife I can be and I’ll love the people around me with all I have.

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A LONG DAY’S JOURNEY…

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After frolicking in the water and sand for over an hour, Daddy called Kennedey and me to come and eat. Kennedey and I changed back into our clothes before we approached the picnic tables where Mom was playing with Marseille. “Did you feed her?” I asked. “Yes. She had a big ol’ bottle. And had the nerve to get mad when it was all gone,” laughed Mom. I shook my head. “That’s my little fatty cupcakes.”

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“The food looks so good. I didn’t realize how hungry I was until now,” said Kennedey. “Daddy you really threw down,” I said. “Well, Ray did have help from me,” replied Jaylen. “Awwwhh, are you jealous, Baby? I’m sorry, I know you were Daddy’s little helper. You did a good job too,” I giggled. “Alright now, you gonna want something from me later,” laughed Jaylen.

We fixed our plates and sat down. No one spoke for the first couple of minutes, we were too busy stuffing our faces. “I see you haven’t lost your touch, Raymond,” observed Mom. Daddy swallowed a large bite. “Thank you. Yep, I still got it. I love grilling especially when it’s a nice day like this. Some of my favorite memories were our barbeques here,” replied Daddy.

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“This reminds me of the cookout we had in Trinidad, that was a lot of fun too,” I said. “Yes, it was,” agreed Jaylen. “So, Jay, now that you’re an old pro at fishing, you can bring home dinner from time to time,” said Daddy. Jaylen laughed. “I don’t know about that, Ray. I don’t see Reagan gutting and cleaning anything I bring home. My baby isn’t built like that.”

“You already know. I don’t even like looking at fish when they still have their heads and eyes, nasty,” I said. Mom noticed how quiet Kennedey was. She hadn’t said much since we sat down at the table.

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What’s wrong, Kennedey? You’ve gotten so quiet.” Kennedey shrugged. “I’m just kind of worried about one of the kids in my art class. I got a text from someone I work with there and she told me that Lila was having a very difficult time during the after school programs. Apparently the only class she wants to take is my art class, but she hasn’t been able to since I’m out of town. Lila is usually quiet and keeps to herself, but I helped to bring her out through art the last several months. She’s in a new foster home and she hates it,” replied Kennedey.

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“Wow, poor baby. I think it’s sad that so many kids many kids are a part of the system. Not having any real homes. Hopefully she’ll settle in and start to like the new home, she’s in,” said Mom. “I wish I could believe that, but unfortunately, I’ve seen this time and time again. In a way I feel guilty about leaving Lila and the other kids, even for a few days. They’re all attached to me, especially Lila. She’s just like me when I was her age. I feel bad,” sighed Kennedey.

I agreed with Mom, it is sad so many children are in the system. Maybe I didn’t have an ideal childhood, but at least I had a family and didn’t have to bounce around from place to place. The rest of our conversation over lunch was pretty light. I could tell Kennedey was preoccupied and felt bad that she wasn’t back home. I think it’s great she has taken such an interest in this little girl. Kennedey has a beautiful soul, Lila and the other kids are fortunate to have someone like my sister looking out for them.

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“I remember the few times I came along for our family picnics. I usually only left the house when I felt well enough. You all seemed to like it so much when I was there with you. Your father would grill burgers and hot dogs, and I would bake a sugar for dessert. I knew it wasn’t normal for me to feel so sad at the time, but I figured that was life. But I can say, the few times I enjoyed myself and felt alive again, were when we were together,” said Mom.

Kennedey and I glanced at each other. “Mom, we loved it when you seemed to be in a good mood. All we ever wanted was for you to be there with us. Even Daddy was happy,” I replied. Mom nodded her head. “Yes, I know, I just wish I felt that good all the time.”

“Well, there’s no sense in living in the past. At least we’re all here together again as a family and our time together is long overdue,” added Kennedey. Daddy nodded his head in agreement.

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I decided to lighten the mood and asked Kennedey if she remembered how we used to collect shells in our pails. “Yes. I also collected crabs, starfish, and little jellyfish, but you thought they were too gross,” she laughed. “Yeah, you wanted to bring all those little critters home to study them, but I told you it would be wrong if we took them away from their home,” said Daddy.

“I know, I was so mad too. But once I did bring a crab home and put him in some water. I was so afraid he would die, that the next time we were at the beach, which was a couple of days later, I put him back in the water,” giggled Kennedey. “You mean you brought one of those ugly little things home with you?” asked Mom. We all started to laugh. We didn’t have a whole lot, but my childhood was one of the happiest times in my life, especially when my mother acted like my mama.

“Yeah, our family would go out to the Hamptons with my grandparents when they were in town from Japan. We only went on extended weekends or a week or two in the summer. If we were in the city, our family went to beaches in Kings County. They’re usually the cleanest beaches in the city. Until Michael taught me to fish in Trinidad, I never tried, but I always wanted to. We were too city folk,” laughed Jaylen.

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“I never got around to going to any beaches when I lived in New York. I had always heard they were too filthy. Even the ones I was told were nice, didn’t have anything on Trinidad or even Miami. No offense, Jay. I just longed for something different,” said Mom. “It’s all good. I understand. Being that I’m from Brooklyn, there’s a part of me that prefers it to here, but I’m happy living in IP. As long as we can go back to the BK every couple of months or so, I’m happy.”

“I wanted to make coming here a tradition for our family since I came here a lot when I was a kid back in the seventies. I had an Afro back then and your grandma would get to mad because I’d come home with all this sand in it and it would take her forever to wash it out. My father would sometimes take your aunties and I down here. Those were a few of the times he really spent with us before he left. Once he left, Mama started taking us,” said Daddy. “How come Grandma didn’t come along with you before?” asked Kennedey. “She did in the beginning, but my parents started fighting a lot and after a while, they just stopped wanting to be around each other.”

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“Reagan and I started our own little tradition before we got engaged, in Paris. We had our first picnic right under the Eiffel Tower and then again on the beach during our honeymoon. Once it got warm out again, and Marseille was big enough, we started having little family picnics in the park by the house. We love it over there, because everything is so private on that part of the island. No one bothers us,” said Jaylen. I smiled at him and looked over at Marsy, who seemed totally at peace, enjoying the warm weather.

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“That’s really good that you do that with your child. Giving her memories at an early age is important for her development. Yes, I’ve read up a lot on babies the last several months. Actually when I first found out you were pregnant, Reagan. Other than having family dinner every week, maybe there is some tradition we can all start on our own. Maybe go to Trinidad once a year or come here to Miami. We can think of something,” said Mom. Kennedey and I looked over at Daddy, perhaps thinking the same thing. Sure, we wanted to spend time together as a family, but Daddy’s made it no secret of his intentions to get back with Marcia. Of course I want Mom to always be there for our family functions. Our circle is complete because of her, but how will she and Marcia get along? Will Marcia be okay with Mom being around?

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Another thing, that’s loomed in the back of my head, as well as Kennedey, is the possibility that Mom and Daddy hit sometime before they decided to get a divorce. Kennedey and I weren’t one hundred percent sure, but we thought it was highly probable. I didn’t want to dwell on that possibility or the thought of it too much. It grossed me out as much as it did when I heard them getting down when I growing up.

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There was too much electricity for them not to have done it. Do I think they should be together? No, I think too much has gone down in their marriage for them to salvage it. Besides, I knew how much Daddy loved Marcia and I honestly believe Mom is content without a man. All she wants is to be with her family and I truly think Mom’s found her happiness, we all have.

*********************

INTO THAT GOODNIGHT

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The afternoon had turned into evening. Jaylen and I sat on a beach blanket and enjoyed a glass of champagne. Every experience today was bringing me back to our wedding.

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Before I knew it, the sun had began to set. Jaylen took me by the hand and we walked along the shore. “Just a couple of hundred feet down, we were married, Ma,” said Jaylen. I leaned into him a little. “I know. I was just thinking that. Can you believe we haven’t been here since then, Boo? Wow, it seems like only yesterday. Look at everything’s that happened. First we got married, we had Marseille, then my Mom came back after all these years. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of night and wonder if this is all just a dream. Did she really come back or is just my imagination?”

“Nah, it’s all real, Baby. I sometimes think how crazy it is that we found love in the club, of all places,” laughed Jaylen. I started laughing too. “I know, that’s the last place I ever thought I’d meet someone.” Jaylen looked thoughtful. “Before we met, where could you see yourself meeting someone? I know what you wanted in a man, but how did you think you would meet that one?” asked Jaylen.

“I’m not really sure. I suppose it could’ve been anyplace. But always figured, I would meet the man I was supposed to marry when I wasn’t looking; when I least expected it. I believe I came to IP for a reason and I think there was a reason I went to your Tomo that night, not because I was invited. When I met you, it just hit me, like a thunderbolt. I never had such a strong reaction to any man before. I was immediately attracted to you. I was tongue tied,” I replied.

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I thought back to that night when Jaylen and I met at Tomo. I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw Jaylen approaching me. He was so fine. He had the sexiest walk I’d ever seen, and so much swag. Jaylen literally took my breath away. “It was pretty much the same for me, Ma. You turned me out. I couldn’t believe how shook you had me that night and every night afterward. Here we are though; married, with a baby. Something neither of us could foresee the first time we met. You’re my best friend, Baby. I can only hope the world can feel half of what we’re feeling. All my dreams came true when I met you, dreams I didn’t even know I had. You and Marsy are everything to me”

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I turned toward Jaylen and brushed my hand across his cheek. It never ceases to amaze me how beautiful this man is. Jaylen bent down and placed him lips on mine. I felt a chill rush up my spine, like the first time he kissed me on that yacht. It’s so easy to always want to make love to him, my insides constantly burned for him.

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“Hey y’all are having too much fun. Looks like you’re caught up in your own world out here,” said Daddy as he, Mom, and Kennedey approached us with Marseille. ” I hope we’re not disturbing anything. You look so comfy,” observed Mom. I laughed. “No, we don’t mind. We’re just taking a trip down memory lane. Jaylen and I were thinking about our wedding night, I replied. “I figured that’s what the two of you were doing,” giggled Kennedey. “Girl, be careful, it may be you and Micah reminiscing about your wedding soon enough,” I teased her. Kennedey laughed, shrugging her shoulders.

I looked at Daddy, Mom, Kennedey, Jaylen, and Marseille and think how much love I have in my heart for each one of them. When I think about what I went through over the last few years, I don’t look at my life with regret. Sure, there are some things I would change, associations I wouldn’t make, but it’s all a part of who I am. I’ve made some great friends through the modeling world. Taina and Aoki will be my friends for life. I may work with Jasmine and Taylor on a professional level, but they’re two of my closest friends.

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Even dating my ex, while a mistake, the pain I suffered made me into a stronger person. What did I say to myself the night of my engagement? That is was truly pain before pleasure. Sometimes you had to lose in order to win. There is nothing I would change about my life. Both of my parents live in the same city. My little sister’s career is blooming and she’s happy. I have my husband and my best friend, and most of all, I have my little girl.

The journey has been long and not without its bumps and bruises along the way. I endured with the strength of my father and my mother’s endurance. I can see now that she suffered so much right along with us back when I was growing up. She was sick, but she managed to endure until it became all too much for her. No, not everything in our relationship is perfect and my hurt feelings haven’t totally gone away, but she and I are in a great place and I believe things will only get better as time goes by.

It’s been one crazy right. Miami is where it all began. From what I’ve learned about myself has made me realize I’m not a bad person. No, I didn’t always make the best decisions, but I worked with what I had. Now that Mom is back in my life, I feel as if I can safely close that chapter. There’s no need to bring up old wounds and dwell in the past. What matters is today and what happens in the future.

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I want Marseille to learn from her mistakes, but at the same time, not be afraid to make them herself. She’ll grow up in a loving and supportive environment. Jaylen and I will always be there for her, but we can’t protect her from everything. I think that is one of the many gifts my father instilled in us. To have strength and accountability for our actions. When I messed up (which I did many times) Daddy wasn’t there to tell me that I had nothing to feel sorry about. No, he made sure I knew I was in the wrong and he saw to it that I learned from my mistakes. I can only be grateful that after all the mess I put him through, he still has my back and never gave up on me.

It’s not about the fame and the fortune. Sure, Jaylen and I live comfortably, but that doesn’t make us who we are. We grew up differently, but instead of our upbringing being a hindrance, it’s made our connection all the more deeply. Jaylen is my absolute best friend. He understands me and he doesn’t try to make me be someone I am not. Sometimes, I wake up to see him lying there next to me and I can’t believe we’re together. He has his faults just like any other man, but Jaylen is not so arrogant to not realize he that he can make improvements, and neither am I.

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I can only grow stronger each day from here. I can only build up my self confidence and trust that I know what I’m doing. I have all this extended family that has accepted me into their lives. Yuri and Kevin have been great additions to my family and they’re incredibly two lovely people. Jay is very fortunate to have parents like them. Even now that things are better with Amarre, I can honestly say I feel as if I have a brother.

You can have all the money and material possessions in the world, but it doesn’t mean anything if you have no one to share it with; no one to love. Jaylen and I have taught each other how to love. You must give love in order to receive it in return. Most people would think we’d be the last people to settle down and raise a family. What a difference a day makes.

When I look at myself in the mirror, I see reflections of the woman I am today, but I don’t forget the girl of yesterday. She was so confused and angry, but all she wanted deep down was her mother’s love. Daddy said a few months back that Kennedey needed Mom to validate her, but in many ways I needed it too. That little girl inside of me needed assurance that nothing was her fault. That she didn’t make her mother act the way she did.

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I’ve learned so many things throughout this journey of mine. Things I never would’ve imagined before. I’ve learned to love, to forgive, and I’ve learned acceptance. I don’t look at my past with resentment, but as the cornerstone of what makes me who I am, and the fabric of which I’m made. I can be anything, I can endure anything; nothing can ever break me.

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Maybe not everything in life is easy, I don’t expect it to be. I’ve faced obstacles, gone through trials and tribulations, all leading me to exactly where I need to be. I love who I am and I have the love of my family. Because of that I am the richest woman in the world. As a woman, I yield so much power. Power I never knew I had, until I witnessed the ultimate miracle of giving birth to my child. Women are the givers of life and we hold the human family together. We are so powerful, we are so beautiful.

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There is nothing Marseille won’t be able to do in this world. Just like there is nothing I can’t achieve. I must believe that I will always be strong, I will always be beautiful inside, and always endure with the strength of those that came before me. I am love, I am life. I am the moon, and stars above; a diamond in the sky. I am Reagan Leeds, and I run the world.

***********************

See what happens 2-3 years after the story ends in the Epilogue.

EPILOGUE

Author’s note:

First I would like to thank the readers of Reagan Leeds: Run The World for sticking with me throughout this amazing journey. Maybe that seems a little odd since the story is based around Sims. But there is so much more to it than that. I’ve gone through a lot of personal and medical issues the last several years that hindered my ability to write. So when I decided to start a story based on Reagan, I didn’t know what to expect.

I haven’t played The Sims 3 for very long. I initially played in 2009 when it came out, but didn’t return until 2013 when I made the Leeds family. People have asked me how did I come to write this story and why I chose Sims to tell it. There’s not really an easy answer to that. I loved playing with Reagan and I had the urge to write again, and the Sims seemed like a good choice. I already knew the personalities of most of my characters and their backgrounds. I never really thought of it as me solely writing a story, but I felt like Reagan and all the others were telling me to write about their lives.

Reagan is my Dynamic Diva. I gave her the trait because I thought it would be fun to have an over the top Sim that didn’t take any mess off other Sims. Sometimes I let the game play itself and seeing Reagan act on her on free will was pretty funny at times. Like I’ve said in the past, most of the story is based on my game play along with the main characters. There are plenty of other reasons for me to love Reagan. Underneath all of that divalicious behavior lies a sweet soul that was only looking for love and validation from her mother, who had abandoned her many years ago. Reagan acted out of anger and didn’t always think about the consequences
beforehand. But over time, she grew to accept and love herself and make the changes she needed to become a better person.

Music is very important to me and it was largely an underlying theme throughout the first half of the story. I was born during the time Hip Hop started to develop and cross over into the world. There were many artists I loved and listened to while in high school and I’m proud that I came of age during the golden years of Hip Hop, which were in the early nineties. Sure I was just a middle school kid, but music was such a big part of my childhood.

As you’ve noticed, I have quoted or mention various songs throughout the story. Often times when I write I am listening to these same songs. I also add the music because I want to set the mood for what is happening. From rap, hip hop, soul, and RnB, it’s all there. A lot of the songs inspired for some of my favorite scenes. Such as Steelo, that was popular way back in the late nineties when I was high school. No, I don’t care if some songs are considered dated and no one else is rocking to them. If I love the song, I’m going to include it in my story. Some of the music is before my time. Such as Make Me Say It Again Girl, by the Isley Brothers, which came out when my mother was in high school. Fire and Desire inspired me to create the scene for Reagan and Jaylen the night of their engagement, it’s such a romantic song and I wanted to convey what they were feeling at the time.

I have created so many characters, major, minor, and background players. I can’t even tell you how many Sims I’ve made over the last couple of years. Of course the main ones in the story besides Reagan, is Ra$hin, Ray, Kennedey, Jaylen, and Apollonia. I include Ra because he was so influential in Reagan’s life during the first half of the story. Ra$hin is not based on any one person or rapper, but I based his personality and his status on many real people including what I came up with in my imagination. Even though Ra was such a vile and nasty character, there was some good in him, I believe. He cared about his family and tried to help them out as much as he could. How he abused Reagan mentally, emotionally, verbally, and eventually physically wasn’t something I enjoyed writing. But I knew from early on that Ra and Reagan’s relationship would turn into that. I kept the scenes of when Ra hit Reagan very limited. I did have some pictures that showed him making contact with her, but I didn’t want to see Reagan like that. It was hard to look at.

I think that was the turning point in Reagan’s life when she realized she needed to do better and she finally woke up about Ra. She experience a great amount of depression dealing with the aftermath of being abused. She was humiliated, but with time and support from her family, she was strong enough to go on. I don’t think any kind of abuse is something one gets over entirely.

It’s not that I felt Jaylen had to come into Reagan’s life to complete her. She was already on the road to recovery when they met. Jay’s own background was one of partying and irresponsibility. He and Reagan complimented each other. Neither of them expected to fall in love and hit them like lightning. I think they made each other better.

Overall I think all of the characters grew throughout the course of the story. They all became better people (Sims). I wrote the character of Ray as sort of my fantasy father. It was sort of the opposite of me, I grew up without my father. Like Briah’s dad Alonzo told her mother when she baby, that if they couldn’t be together, than Briah was only her child and not his. My father said something similar to my mother when I was a baby after she broke up with him. Shortly after, he left Seattle, where I’m from and moved to California.

I have a relationship with now as an adult and it’s good. As far as Ray, I imagined him telling his daughters what they needed to know about life. It’s what imagine any good father would do. Much of Ray’s personality and belief system is based on my mother. She had to play the mother and father role to my older sister, brother, and myself. She’s been a great help to me for over a year and I often run things by her and get her parental advice when I write for Ray, Yuri, and other topics in the story.

I’ve said before that Kennedey is mostly like me. Kind of odd, different, creative, and she marches to the beat of her own drum. Reagan represents the diva in me and her relationship with her little sister and much like the one I have with my older sister, who is much more of a diva than I’ll ever be. I’m the baby like Kennedey, so I’m used to getting my way and people have made excuses for me in the past as the baby. But I’m strong and keep our family together in many ways. I’m sensitive and very observant, so I know each one of my family members best. Kennedey is mainly an introvert like me and she ponders many things in her mind. She can be extroverted at times when she’s at rallies or hosting events at her gallery. I suppose I’m the same way, I’m only extroverted when the situation calls for it.

What can I say about Apollonia? She’s always been one of the underlying themes in the story. Reagan and Kennedey mainly acted the way they did because of their mother. The family situation they were in is because of Apollonia. Ray suffered and put his life on hold, waiting for Apollonia to come back one day. Basically like Reagan said before, Apollonia touched so many lives beyond her husband and children. Apollonia gets some of her traits from me too. She mainly prefers to be alone and she feels the most free when she is expressing herself creatively, the same feeling I get when I write. She’s the ultimate diva and her clap back is strong. While I’m capable of that like her and Reagan, I usually hold it in and I’m not as extreme with it. Apollonia’s experience with depression is derived from my own. Sure, hers started later in life after she had children, but my depression started when I was just a child. Most of the experiences Apollonia experienced regarding her illness, I experienced firsthand and I wrote from a place of truth. Sometimes I did doubt how God felt about it and I questioned my worth many times over the years.

I don’t usually go around sharing my deepest secrets and thoughts with everyone, but most of Reagan’s story has been like an open diary for me. You can kind of understand who I am based on my characters, my writing, and other events I’ve mentioned.

Dreams are another major underlying them within the story Sometimes dreams are deferred, sometimes they come true, sometimes they don’t. Every so often dreams may change appearances and come true in a different form. It may seem entirely different than what you wanted, but you can often find that it’s more than what you wanted, but something you needed. I expressed this in Apollonia’s case. She had dreams of being a world famous dancer. Life happened and things didn’t turn out they way she had hoped. Once she realized the mistakes she made and all the damage she caused her family, she wanted that same family again. But she couldn’t go back in time. All that mattered is what she chose to do in the future. Her new dream became to have her family and have relationships with her children and grandchild. Dance is also something she loved and she could still do it by opening up a dance studio and teaching others. Apollonia may not have many material riches, but she has the love of her family and that ultimately makes her rich.

Well, this day has finally come, sometimes I didn’t think it would ever get here. Now Reagan’s story is complete. I couldn’t be more happy with the way things turned out in the end. Maybe Ray and Apollonia couldn’t make their marriage work, but both of them were able to move on and find happiness. Kennedey didn’t expect what was in store for her either and I don’t think Reagan ever imagined her life like this.

Reagan’s story has often been tough for me to keep up. Often times, due to my depression I had to take several days and sometimes weeks off from writing. I can’t write when I’m like that. Even still, I managed to produce one or more chapters every month since August of 2013. That’s a huge fete for me. Am I relieved it’s over? Yes, will I miss the story? Most definitely. But I’ll be around and so will me characters from time to time. Thank you again. As always Happy Simming.

Camille

My favorite songs that I quoted in the story.

1. It Never Rains In Southern California

2. Make Me Say It Again Girl

3. Fire and Desire

4. Fortunate

5. Holding Back The Years

6. How Can I Ease The Pain?

7. To Love And Die

8. When Will I See You Smile Again?

9. Steelo

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7 thoughts on “Dynasty

  1. Pingback: Dynasty | Reagan Leeds: Run The World

  2. Okay so one down, one more to go. I had so much I wanted to say as I read it, but now that I’m finished I really don’t know what to say! Okay I am glad Marcia and Ray are going to work things out. I was kind of worried for Ray when he admitted to sleeping with Apollonia. I know Marcia was NOT happy to hear that. But, she’s a bigger woman than I am. I’d probably get mad and kick him out, or would want to. So that showdown with Yuri and Apollonia? I did not see that happening. I was really mad at Yuri for trying to attack Apollonia like that, surprisingly. I don’t like Apollonia but I commend her for trying to right her wrongs and get back her family. But as I read, I agreed with Reagan. Apollonia maybe needed to be brought down a few inches and hear that from another mother and woman, outside her family. Apollonia had me mad when she brought up “Black Americans” (like we aren’t all black anyways) But that is a-whole-nother story, so I will just not continue with that. I’m really happy overall that the family is close again. I’m happy that they have all grown. I wish Lila could go home to Kennedy, but it would be a long process…I thought the missing thing was actually going to be a baby. For some reason my mind always jumps to pregnancy and I thought she was pregnant! LOL I’m glad she isn’t though..her and Micah need to take things slow now that they are back together. I loved the shot with Marsy and Amarre and Martina’s baby…it was so cute! I appreciate you sharing your history with us. It is not easy sharing such personal information, but it helps people. It helps others to know that they aren’t alone. Okay I think I am all typed out lol. See you when I read the epilogue!

    Like

    • LOL, Yes there is a lot of material to cover. Obviously, it’s my biggest chapter, about the size of four and a half regular ones. I like that Ray and Marcia are back together. No, it wasn’t easy for Marcia to hear that Ray had slept with Apollonia, but he wasn’t attached to Marcia at the time. He had relations with his wife and I’m glad he owned up to it. Yes, I thought about the woman to woman showdown for months. I agree with Reagan also, Apollonia needed to be confronted. I don’t think Yuri set out to attack her, but she didn’t think too highly of her.

      I felt some sort of way about the Black Americans thing as well. Yes, we are all black, but maybe not so surprisingly many black people around the world view us as Apollonia viewed Yuri and her so-called superior American attitude.

      I’m happy overall with the state that the family is in as well. Yes, once you read the epilogue you’ll see a couple of surprises pertaining to Kennedey and also Reagan for that matter. I loved that pic of Marsy and Sapphire in the bed too, they’re BFFs. They’ve been toddlers since 2013 and I recently grew them up into children the other day. I post pictures on my IG.

      Thank you, for making it possible for me to get my story out there by being a loyal reader. It really helped me push on with the story when I didn’t think I could finish it. All of my readers through tumblr, facebook, IG, and other forums gave me great feedback and support through all their messages. Thanks again for reading the story and please don’t be a stranger. 🙂

      Like

      • Aww you’re welcome. I enjoyed reading every bit of the story. I don’t know what I’m going to actually do with myself this summer (Finally not taking summer courses since I’m almost done!!). There are still a few sim stories I read, but I’ll still miss this one. I’ve been thinking about writing again or reviving SOAM but I really don’t know if I want to take up the commitment again lol. And no, I won’t be a stranger lol..even if I have to make a tumblr or something eventually :p

        Like

  3. The romantic side of me would have wanted to see Ray and Apollonia work out their relationship, but the realist in me knows that it wouldn’t have worked out. I think Ray needed closure, and when he was finally reunited with Apollonia he was finally able to move on. I think Marcia is a more healthier match, and I think it’s wise that she didn’t rush back into things. One thing I love about Ray and Marcia is they both have it together, and they don’t fall apart when seperated.

    I love Kennedy’s plotline in this chapter. Things are picking up for her, she has a good relationship with her mother and she’s back with Micah. Yay! I always liked Micah, and the fact that he was in a band made him more interesting. I think Kennedy will make a great mom, she already had practice taking care of her niece, and she’s a caring person.

    The fight between Apollonia and Yuri was hilarious. Yuri was definitly giving me Claire Huxtable vibes, lol. Hopefully they’ll both learn to get along for the sake of the kids.

    Reagan looked so peaceful with her little family. I love the pics with her family in the end. I’m glad that Reagan was able to get a happy ending. She’s grown so much throughout the story.

    I’m glad that this story was like a diary for you. All your characters were amazingly complex, but I felt like Apollonia was the most complex, there were times when I could relate to her character. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story with us. : )

    Like

    • Thank you very much for reading. It’s been my pleasure to share the story for so long. Some of my other readers wanted to see Ray and Apollonia together too. A part of me would have liked to too,.but I felt too much had happened in their Parr and both of them needed something steady to hold onto. I think I liked Kennedey’s plotline best in the final chapter. Her transformation has come a long way, both physically and emotionally. I like Micah too and the fact that he’s in a band made him appear to be sexy. Kennedey had to humble herself in the end and go to him if she wanted her love back. I especially loved bringing Lila into the story. You may not recognize her, but she’s one of the models in my Jem clothing for girls pics. I loved her when I first created her last year and wanted to give her a good family as she was an orphan. Lila just graduated from college. There are pics of her and her bff Temar on my ig. It’s nice to have her in the family.

      Reagan’s truly at peace and she has the family she’s always wanted. I’m proud of the progress she’s made. From an over the top troubled diva to a more humble family woman. Reagan’s still who she is but she’s so mature and happy now.

      I’m very proud of the writing for Apollonia. She’s my most complex character. She has some of my traits and she didn’t have the easiest life. It was therapeutic writing for her. The story itself allowed to me release a lot of my tension and worries. It was a lot of work and three were times I didn’t think I’d make it, but I’m happy I stood in there.

      Thanks again for being a great and loyal reader for always giving me graphics feedback. It means so much to me that so many people read the story and held in there for so long. I get new readers all the time and I appreciate that.

      As always happy simming.

      Liked by 1 person

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