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Now that Danny had returned home from the most tragic event of her life, she had to pick up the rest of herself and move on. She had promised herself that she would never let anyone get that close to her again. She wasn't wasting her time on love. It was pointless until Kaiden came along, consistently pushing against her barrier and forcing his way in. Besides dealing with her depression and entering the world of a single mother, Kaiden was on her mind. **Currently in Progress
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“Marie is coming home this weekend. She’s been looking forward to seeing you.” My mother was checking messages on her phone as she spoke.
I nodded, barely hearing the words coming from her mouth. She had been trying to keep Marie and I together since I graduated college. I couldn’t lie. I loved her, but not the way my mother wanted me to. She had been pushing a proposal since I got a job with the government.
“You are stable now.” She kept reminding me. “You two were young and made a lot of mistakes. You had to get yourselves together before you could truly be together. I don’t want you throwing this away, Kaiden. She’s good for you.”
I sighed. “If I wanted to be with her, I would have called her myself.”
She eyed me with an annoyed look on her face. I walked out of the house towards my black BMW I8. I loved this car the moment I laid eyes on it. She was my baby. I received a text from my best friend, Charles, to meet him in Crofton. We frequently visited the Waugh Chapel shopping center if we didn’t feel like traveling to D.C. or Baltimore. I turned up the music, driving down 301, trying to drown out the thoughts of my mother and Marie.
Marie was my first love. I met her in my sophomore year of college. She was walking around aimlessly as a freshman. I was quite the flirt back then, maybe a little corny but it worked, and walked right up to her.
“Excuse me. I couldn’t help but notice a damsel in distress and I had to come to her rescue.” I startled her when I touched her arm.
She jumped a clear foot away from me before looking to see who I was. She placed a hand over her heart and spoke with a Spanish accent. “How dare you scare me! I was going to have a heart attack!”
I smiled, motioning to the papers in her hand. “I suppose I can help with both situations then. You seem lost, beautiful. How may I help you?”
She smiled, a small blush creeping up her neck, before handing me her schedule. “I’m looking for my Science Lab. I was told to walk this way but all the buildings look the same. Can you help me?”
I did a quick scan of her schedule and bowed before her. “This way madam.” I motioned towards my right and started walking once she took the lead.
After that moment, we were inseparable. I met her after every class, even after she learned where to go. Our relationship lasted for two years and I planned to marry her. She broke up with me before my graduation.
“I’m not ready for this.” She said to me, handing me the ring I had proposed with.
She avoided me after that night. I spent months in anger, focusing on my career to try and forget about the pain. I moved on after a year of not hearing from her, which she seemed to have snuck back into my life through my mother. I wasn’t going to let that happen. She was a coward, still not directly talking to me.
I pulled up next to Charles’ blue pickup truck that he had since high school. He was waiting for me, taking a puff of his cigarette, before jumping out of his truck.
“What took you so long?” He asked, noticing the exhausted look on my face.
I followed along as he headed into Old Navy. “Marie is coming home this weekend. I think she’s staying for the summer and planning to reconcile.”
Charles looked at me with a smirk on his face. “She’s still trying, huh? I thought you would have had a new woman to push her off by now.”
I chuckled, watching as he held up two different types of shirts. One was plaid and the other was a pale bluish grey with a v neck. I pointed to the blue v neck and watched as he struggled to try and fold back the plaid shirt.
“I haven’t really been looking, honestly. I’ve been focused on working.” I responded, picking up the same type of shirt he had in black.
“That’s because you were secretly hiding being heartbroken…like I wouldn’t notice. You have a lot going for you, bro. You deserve a good woman, for someone to take care of you. I’m tired of having you at my house on Saturday nights eating all my pizza.”
I burst into laughter as we headed to the register. “Fine. I’ll find somewhere else to spend my Saturday nights.”
“Yes, at your own house. With your own woman.” He declared.
As we walked out of Old Navy, I heard a little girl screaming. We both turned to see a young female. She had on a pair of faded shorts with a blue floral print blouse. I hadn't seen a nice pair of legs on a woman since Charles' garage party. She had strong shoulders, which would have looked manly on a female, but fit her petite body well. She was trying to walk as fast as she could while struggling to carry her crying child and bags. Her son followed closely behind her, carrying a small bag of his own. She looked exhausted and tried to contain her anger with her daughter. Charles pursued walking to his car and I followed behind him.
“Please stop Alex.” She pleaded, trying to grab her son’s hand as she walked.
“I’ll be right back.” I started walking towards her before he could protest. “Excuse me miss?”
She looked around, confused, before her eyes found mine. “Yes?” I could see the anger in her brow. She wasn’t in the mood for conversation.
“I just noticed that you were struggling with those bags. Can I help you?” I asked, motioning towards the bags that her daughter was kicking.
“But I’m helping mommy.” Her son shouted. His expression turned sour which made me smile.
“It’s okay Peter.” She looked down to him before looking back towards me. “I guess it’s fine. Thank you.”
She leveled her daughter on her right arm and reached her left arm towards me. I took all her bags and followed as she proceeded to her car. She walked up to a Nissan Altima with an “I love Jewelry in Candles” sticker on the bumper. I waited while she got her kids settled and calmed her daughter down. She opened the trunk and started taking the bags from my hands.
“You have beautiful children.” I complimented, trying to ease the embarrassment and anger from her face. “How old are they?”
“Six and two.” She answered quickly, closing the trunk once the bags were in. She turned towards me. “Thank you for helping me.”
Now that I was closer, I could get a better look at her. Her face was small and slender but her cheeks told me she wasn't a woman afraid to eat. She had the most beautiful, molasses colored eyes I had ever seen. Her full lips held a fake smile. There was pain and sadness in her eyes. What happened that was causing so much pain?
“Well, I need to get going. My kids are in the car.” She said, turning away from me. I stepped back as she walked towards her door and settled herself in. I noticed the green, fuzzy pillow that she sat on and smiled to myself. Her kids were waving at me through the window. I waved back.
I couldn’t let her go without knowing her name. I leaned in on her door as she rolled down the windows. “What’s your name?”
She looked at me, the anger coming back into her brow. “Why?”
“Because I want to know.” I shot back, waiting for her reaction.
Her kids, especially her son, had their eyes on me. I smiled to them and waited for her reply. “Danny.” I heard her mumble.
“I’m Kaiden.” I reached to shake her hand. She sighed, shaking my hand back. I noticed the faded wounds on her wrist.
“I need to go. My kids are hungry.” She said, waiting for me to move. I nodded and stepped back. She sped out of the parking lot. Charles was eyeing me with a confused expression.
“What was that?” He asked, folding his arms across his chest.
“I helped her out. She needed it.” He shook his head, letting me know he wanted to hear more. “She’s interesting, Charles.”
“Yeah, yeah. When did you take an interest in African American women?” He asked, raising an eyebrow.
I shrugged, smiling. “Today.”
~ ~ ~
Alex was stuffing chicken nuggets into her mouth when I came back with her drink. Peter laid his food out. He never liked any of his food touching and his sauce had to be in the container.
“Can you slow down before you choke yourself?” I asked Alex, sitting down in front of them with my own food.
Peter started laughing, while he swirled his fries in ketchup. Alex joined in on the laughter. Barbecue sauce had overtaken her mouth. I smiled at my children. They always brightened my day.
“She’s always stuffing her mouth, mommy.” He said, looking at Alex who looked back at him.
“I know.” I smiled, handing Alex a napkin to wipe her face. She wiped every spot but her mouth before handing the napkin back to me. I shook my head and finished cleaning her face. We finished our food and headed back to the car. Once I had them settled in, we made our way home. I couldn’t stop thinking about Kaiden. It was nice of him to help me but why was he so persistent on learning my name? He was just helping me with my bags.
I traveled down the long road to my mother’s house. My kids and I moved here once I was released from the hospital. It had been a long two weeks locked away from my children and I wasn’t wasting any more moments with them. It was hard those two weeks, being locked away from the outside world with other people who had similar issues to mine. I was allowed to have visitors but children weren’t allowed on the floor.
I listened to them, singing to the radio and laughing in the back seat. They didn’t have a care in the world. I smiled, watching Alex try to sing along. She wasn’t able to speak yet but she knew how to say a few words. She smiled back as she continued to sing. I turned into the driveway and got out of the car to lift the garage. I could hear Peter and Alex fussing about something before I returned.
“What?” I asked, driving in.
“Alex was hitting me.” Peter cried out, folding his arms across his chest.
“Can ya’ll not fight for two seconds?” I turned the car off.
I opened the door for him before walking around to get Alex. She had started to squirm in her seat. I took her out of her car seat and opened the trunk.
“Go to the door.” I told them, grabbing the bags. They were standing on the steps waiting for me to open the door before I could close the trunk. I struggled to get my keys before unlocking the door and they ran inside. Immediately, Peter ran upstairs to play on his tablet and Alex pointed towards her cup.
“Juse….Juse.” She asked, reaching for her cup. I pulled the Apple Juice from the fridge, filled her cup and handed it to her.
“Tank chu.” She smiled, before running off to find my mother.
After checking the counter for mail and setting the alarm, I followed after them. I found my mother in her room, sitting on the bed playing Bejeweled.
“Aren’t you supposed to be working?” I asked, raising an eyebrow at her. Alex had already crawled into the bed, sitting next to her trying to press the jewels herself.
“Hey little girl!” My mom laughed, trying to pull the phone away. “They never give me anything to do which is why I’m lying in my bed, playing this cheating game.”
I shook my head, watching as Alex took her other phone, waiting for my mother to pull up YouTube. She snuggled by my mother, rummaging through the videos before she landed on some nursery rhymes. I thought it was funny that a two-year-old knew how to work a phone and find what she wanted to watch. I sat with them, talking and laughing for about an hour before putting up the bags I had brought into the house. I put up the clothes that I had in the dryer and cleaned up the kitchen while I put up the food. Kaiden kept running through my mind. I know he was trying to be a gentleman. Or maybe he just felt sorry for me because Alex wouldn’t stop screaming once I left the store but I still don’t understand why we had to exchange names. It wasn’t like he was ever going to see me again.
~ ~ ~
“How is the design coming, Kaiden?”
I looked up from my desk to see my partner, Ellis, walking in with another drawing. I nodded. “It’s coming along nicely. We should have the project up and running by next week.”
He smiled, laying the design in front of me. “Good, because big boss wants you to look over this as well.”
I raised my eyebrow. “What is it?” I scanned over the design, already making mental changes.
“They are reconstructing one of the buildings. One of the contractors he used made a poor design and it’s going to cost them some money if we can’t get in there to fix it,” He pointed to a spot. “This section needs to be completely redone. The layout and floor space is all wrong. We won’t be able to get plumbing and electrical in there if we can’t fix that wall, too.”
“Why doesn’t he get the contractor to fix it?” I asked, checking over the design again. He was right. This contractor wasted a lot of resources for a poor design.
Ellis smiled and I wondered where this was going.
“If you can save this project, it won’t cost Mr. Chang millions of dollars to remodel the whole building and…” I raised my eyebrow, waiting for the catch. “You won’t just be a manager. You’ll be the CEO.”
I stared at him for a moment. My mind had gone completely blank. Ellis winked before pointing at the design.
“You better get to work. If anyone deserves anything around here, it’s you.” He walked out, shutting the door as he went.
I don’t know how long I sat in my chair, staring at the design. Is this the real deal? I had only been in this company for two years, worked my ass off to have my own floor in the building…and he wanted to give me my own. I looked down at the design again. The contractor had really messed up. Ellis had pointed out the wall and one floor, but two other floors needed to be redone as well.
“I need to see this site.” I said aloud, checking my watch. It was ten minutes until six. The site was thirty minutes away but with Virginia traffic, it would take me an hour. I was supposed to meet Charles and some old high school buddies at the bar around ten.
“I should be able to make it.” I grabbed my leather jacket and headed out of the office.
Traffic was more horrific than I thought. It took me an hour and a half to make it to D.C. I still had to go home and change before heading to the bar. I shook my head. I still had the black v neck I bought from Old Navy in my back seat. I could wear that. I just needed some jeans. I reached the site and couldn’t believe my eyes. The building was fourteen floors, including my office which would be at the top. The outside didn’t look as bad as I thought. I pushed through the glass doors and pulled out my notepad. I went through four floors of the building, making mental notes and sketches of what needed to be changed.
“I’m not going to make it through all of this.” I checked my watch. It was ten already. “Shit.”
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