Monday, July 09, 2007
JULY EXCERPT: EXPECTATIONS
By Toni Lee
By Toni Lee
Blurb: Expectations is a romantic comedy-drama about a woman who prays for a husband and receives more than one unexpected answer. It takes you on a roller coaster ride of laughter, drama, self-discovery, spiritual renewal, and love.
Tired and feeling more than a little sorry for herself, Daria Simpson moaned her relief when she walked into her air-conditioned home. After walking from her office building to her car in Orlando, Florida’s sweltering heat, her blouse stuck to her back.
The fifteen-minute drive home from her job at the university wasn’t long enough for the car’s air conditioner to do much good.
Daria flung her briefcase into the nearest leather armchair and dropped a printed copy of the computer program—which had given her fits all day—onto a mahogany end table.
She kicked off her pumps and unbuttoned her suit coat as she crossed the living room and headed down the hall toward the bedroom to undress.
When she entered the room, her favorite fragrance, Morning Glory, floated around her. The familiar scent gave her some comfort, but not nearly enough.
Okay, here we go again. It’s Friday night, and all is the same—no date! One of these days, I’m going to have a life, she thought as she rummaged through her dresser drawers.
“Ah, there you are. You’re just what I need right now.” She buried her face in her favorite ratty old t-shirt before slipping it on. Pulling on a pair of baggy shorts, she stopped to look in the mirror that hung over her cherry wood dresser. She ran her fingers through her black, highlighted, shoulder-length hair, and then smirked at her reflection. Girl, you look like you’re having a serious bad hair day.
She pursed her lips, making her high cheekbones—a much-appreciated gift from a Blackfoot ancestor—stand out. “I’m not all that, but I’m not exactly canine either. So what’s the problem?” Dark brown eyes stared back at her quizzically.
Lord, why is it taking You so long to send me a man? I’m trying to wait patiently and contentedly for You to send me somebody, but it’s just taking sooooooo long.
The doorbell rang, startling Daria.
“I wonder who that could be?” she muttered as she walked barefoot across the beige carpet in the hall.
The doorbell rang again, followed by rapid pounding. A quick peek through the security hole showed her neighbor from the other side of her entryway.
She jerked back. What’s he doing here?
During the three months he’d lived in her condominium complex, they’d exchanged smiles and waves when their paths crossed, but he’d never sought her out before.
She snorted. Sought her out? He’d never stood still long enough for her to find out his name or any other important information such as marital status, current employment, number of dependents, soul status, church affiliation, and an approximate income range.
She peered through the security hole again.
A frown marred his dark, chocolate-brown face. He kept glancing back over his shoulder.
His strong, square jaw flexed as he knocked again.
She placed her hand on the doorknob, then snatched it back. Oh no, why’d he have to come to my door now? He’ll take one look at me and run for the hills.
Daria quickly tried to smooth her mussed hair before opening the door. “Hi. May I—”
He pushed his way inside.
“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” Daria watched his every move as she backed up toward her kitchen.
He immediately closed the door, set his briefcase on the floor, and dashed to her living room window. He peered out at the sidewalk that led to their recessed entrance, and then turned to face her.
If he tries anything, he’s going to be sorry. Thank you, Aunt Lenore, for dragging me to that self-defense class.
She started to rehearse self-defense moves in her head.
Knees spread slightly apart. Wait. No. Not that far apart—shoulder width to maintain balance.
Arms raised. Not high enough. There, at the hips.
Fists clenched. Turn them over. No, the other way.
Okay, finally she was ready for his next move.
When she looked at him, he laughed.
I’m ready to do him bodily harm, and he’s standing there laughing at me!
Daria couldn’t decide if anger or embarrassment heated her cheeks.
He walked slowly toward her with both hands raised, palms out. “Look, my name’s Michael, and I’m not going to hurt you. Someone’s following me. If you’ll give me a few minutes, I’ll explain.”
Daria searched his face, trying to determine whether she could trust him. For some unaccountable reason, deep down, she felt she could—as much as she could trust any man.
Daria heard rapid footsteps outside on the sidewalk. Giving Michael a wide berth, she moved toward the window and looked out.
A woman scampered by in skintight black jeans and stiletto heels. She stopped at the door across the way, looked around, knocked on the door, and waited a few seconds.
She had long, black silky hair that probably came out of a cellophane wrapper. Her thick lipstick made her lips look too big, instead of just pouty.
“C’mon, boo, open the door. It’s me, Shaniqua. We need to talk,” the woman called as she knocked on the door again. She tossed her head, let out a big sigh, and placed her right hand on her hip just below the patch of bare skin flashing past the hem of her top.
Uh-oh, she’s assuming the pose.
“Uh, boo, there’s a very angry woman named Shaniqua knocking on your door,” Daria informed her intruder.
Michael rubbed his distinctive round-tip, flared-nostril nose. “That would be the ‘someone’ who is following me.” Frustration and a bit of sheepishness laced his answer.
Daria’s jaw dropped. “Do you mean to tell me you barged in here because you’re running from a woman?” Her eyes started at his neatly edged black hair, then traveled over his suit-clad form. “You’re no lightweight. You’ve got to be over six feet, yet you’re running away from her?” Daria pointed her thumb toward the window.
“I wanted to avoid a big scene. Shaniqua can be . . .” He grimaced. “I’ll just say she can be rather vocal at times.”
Shaniqua’s voice distracted Daria, and she turned back to the window to see what would happen next.
“See, you ain’t right. I know you’re in there. I followed you here all the way from your job. Open this door right now!”
Each sentence was said with increased volume and neck movement.
“See, you don’t know who you’re messin’ with. Nobody, and I mean nobody, kicks Shaniqua Brown to the curb. It ain’t over until I say it’s over. Just so you have the facts straight, I was about to write you off anyway. You know what Shaniqua can do for you, but don’t even come running back to me when you start feeling your itch.” Shaniqua walked away toward the parking lot, swinging her hips for all she was worth.
Daria looked back at Michael and lifted a brow. He winced and ran a hand across his forehead.
She turned back to the window and watched Shaniqua until she disappeared from view.
Feeling his itch? No, she didn’t just yell that out in public. Honey, have a little bit of class. No wonder I don’t have a man. Daria shook her head in disgust and shot Michael a disgruntled look. They’re out there hookin’ up with women like Shaniqua. At least now Daria knew Michael wasn’t for her. The guy obviously wasn’t a Christian.
And until I have a wedding band and a sizable rock sitting on my ring finger, I don’t do itches!
Daria turned away from the window. “Unbelievable.”
Irritation sparked in Michael’s eyes. He ran a hand over his low-cut hair, and then stroked his beard-shadowed jaw. “As you can see, I had a good reason for coming here.”
Daria could feel her anger begin to simmer.
He’s lived in this complex for three months. Three months! And not once has he come here. Not even for a lousy cup of sugar. The only reason he’s here now is because he didn’t want to face another woman!
Her anger erupted into a full boil. “A good reason? Let me get this straight. You came here because you didn’t want to deal with Shaniqua, right?” She continued before he could respond. “What if she’d seen you entering my place? While you were hatching this crazy plan of yours, did it ever occur to you that you could’ve put me in danger by bringing her drama to my door? What if she’d been carrying a weapon?”
“I didn’t think—” Michael began.
“Yeah, I know you didn’t,” she retorted.
“Honestly, at the time I didn’t think about that. I just wanted to avoid a scene. You’re right, and I’m truly sorry. It will never happen again,” Michael said.
His contrite look told her he was genuinely sorry.
Daria smiled. “Your apology is accepted, but you’ve got to answer just one question. Where in the world did you find that woman?”
“Don’t go there.” He chuckled. “You sound just like Moms and Sis.”
She extended her hand. “After all of this, I guess we should introduce ourselves. My name is Daria Simpson.”
A smile creased his even-toned face. He clasped her hand in both of his, searched her face, and then stared warmly into her eyes. “I’m pleased to have finally met you, Daria. My name is Michael Greer. I wish we’d met under different circumstances.”
He dropped her hand and looked around her living room.
“It looks like the basic layout of your unit is the same as mine: a galley kitchen and breakfast bar—except the window in my living room faces the parking lot.”
His eyes paused briefly on her small stereo system. She guessed it didn’t have enough gadgets to hold his interest because his attention moved on.
She sensed a change in him and glanced at his face. He was staring at a picture of her and her friend Peaches with a puzzled look. She and Peaches were wearing floppy, oversized hats and mugging for the camera. Peaches’ hat had tiny peaches dangling from it. The hats cast shadows over the upper half of their faces.
It really wasn’t a very good picture, but it reminded her of the good times they’d shared before things had changed.
He walked over to her fireplace and lifted the picture from the mantle. “Who is she?” He turned slightly and pointed to Peaches.
“That’s my best friend, Peaches. Why do you ask?”
“She looks vaguely familiar. I think I’ve met her somewhere before.”
Daria smiled fondly. “Peaches is unforgettable. If you’d ever met her, you’d remember.”
Michael replaced the picture and headed for the door.
Daria followed him with good-humored mischief. “You’re sure that you can make it home alone? You’re not afraid big bad Shaniqua is going to come back and pound you on your way home are you? If you are, let me know, and I’ll escort you.”
Michael laughed. “Not unless you have better moves than those you demonstrated earlier. By the time you got ready for her, she’d be all over you.”
Daria chuckled. “That’s what you think. I took a beginner’s self-defense class with my aunt. But my girl, Peaches, has taught me how to incorporate some serious street fighting into what I learned. I can do some real damage if I have to.”
“This Peaches sounds like a character.” Michael picked up his briefcase.
Well, she used to be, Daria thought sadly.
After she closed and locked the door, Daria stepped over to her window and watched Michael as he walked to his door.
She smiled. “He’s wearing that suit!” Her smile morphed into a grin. “He may not be for me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the view. Mmm-hmm, he’s fine! He looks good coming and going.”
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Daria heard her before she saw her.
Michael stood frozen at his door with the key inserted in the lock. He was looking down the sidewalk that led to their entryway.
Daria laughed to herself. “She’s baaaaaack.”
Michael’s shoulders slumped in defeat.
“Why you trippin’? I was sitting right there in my car waitin’ for you.” Shaniqua pointed in the direction of the parking lot. “I saw you come out of that apartment over there. You heard me out here callin’ you.” She turned slightly toward Daria’s door and pointed. “Who lives over there anyway?”
Shaniqua turned back to Michael when he answered, “It doesn’t matter who lives there.”
“This is better than a soap opera,” Daria said gleefully. “I’ve got a movie right outside my living room window. All I need now is the popcorn.” Daria slowly widened the blinds to give herself a better view. “Humph, if they’re going to put on a show in public, I’m definitely going to watch and listen.”
“Look, Shaniqua, there’s nothing here for you. Please leave,” Michael said.
“I ain’t goin’ nowhere! You ain’t the boss of me.”
“I don’t want to argue with you. We’ve said everything that we have to say to each other. Please, just go.”
Shaniqua stared at Michael for a couple of heartbeats and then made a mercurial change.
“Boo, you know we’re good together.” Shaniqua ran a long fingertip down Michael’s chest and licked her lips suggestively. “Why mess up a good thing?”
He captured her wandering finger and removed it from his chest. “Shaniqua, you’re living in the past. When was the last time we were ‘a good thing’?”
“’Bout six months ago. And?”
“Six months? She ain’t been doing no itches either—at least not his,” Daria commented from her vantage point.
“Doesn’t that tell you something? I don’t want that anymore. It just . . . it just feels wrong. That’s all we had. I want more than that.” Frustration filled Michael’s voice.
“Yeah? Hmm . . . interesting,” Daria said softly.
“But I thought things would change when you moved here from Atlanta. I thought we’d get closer . . . you know . . . maybe get married. C’mon, let’s go to Jake’s and talk over a long cold drink like we used to,” Shaniqua cajoled.
Daria’s stomach clenched as though she’d been punched. References to bars and drinking caused that reaction sometimes—but not so often anymore. “Breathe, girl. Let it go. Different man. Different circumstances. Just breathe,” Daria told herself, as she took several deep breaths, and then refocused on Michael and his lady.
“Get married?!” The horrified look on Michael’s face was almost comical. He took a step backward. “I never, ever said anything to you to make you think I wanted more from you than what we already had.”
Shaniqua’s hand flew to her hip. “Oh, so I’m not good enough for you?” she huffed.
“Be honest, Shaniqua. You don’t love me. You love my wallet.”
The hand made a slow trip down her hip until it dangled at her side. She studied the fingernails on her other hand and shrugged. “Ain’t nothin’ wrong with a man takin’ care of his woman.”
“Well, this bank is closed.”
Daria chuckled softly. “Ooh, now that’s cold.”
Shaniqua’s right hand flew to her hip and the left started flashing in Michael’s face. “All right, be that way. You think you know me, but you don’t know me. I’ll cut you. You better watch your back.” Shaniqua turned and stalked off.
“Whoa! If that girl ain’t ghetto, I don’t know what is,” Daria exclaimed.
Michael shook his head as he watched Shaniqua walk away.
Just when Daria thought he was going to turn and enter his condo, his brown eyes swiveled to her window and pinned her to the spot.
Instead of showing embarrassment at having been caught eavesdropping, Daria plastered a big grin on her face and wriggled her fingers at him in a little wave.
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