<span style='color:gray'>Well, it's almost 4:30AM, but I didn't want Laura to have to come in with nothing on a Monday, so babe, I hope you see this before you go! I didn't edit it, I'm sleepy and I'm barely cognizant of my name, much less what's going on in this chapter, but from what I remember, it ain't all that great.
But Laura, I hope you enjoy it.
It's all for you. Happy Belated.
<span style='font-family:Times'><span style='font-size:11pt;line-height:100%'><span style='color:darkblue'>10 â€“ The One With That Guy
â€œSo what are you doing on this lovely Friday night?â€ I asked, walking up the steps to my brownstone.
Justin sighed lightly as I could hear shuffling in the background. â€œI have a date-kind-of-thing.â€
A pang of jealousy shot through my stomach, but I guess I donâ€™t really have room to talk. â€œOh.â€
â€œYeah. Itâ€™s with this girl I was reunited with at Suede last week.â€
â€œSo whatâ€™s on the agenda? Fuuckinâ€™ and a movie?â€
He laughed heartily â€“ genuinely. â€œNo, probably just some dinner. Iâ€™m only going because I didnâ€™t call her back after a date or something last month.â€
â€œAh, a sympathy date.â€ I smiled all the way up the grueling three-flight walk to the foyer of my apartment, but the grin quickly faded at the sight before me.
â€œYeah, somethingâ€”â€œ Justin began to reply, but I hung up on him before he had the opportunity to finish.
The sight of Mikeâ€™s luggage at the landing of the steps sent my stomach churning and my heart dropping. I turned my phone on silent and placed it on the mail table along with my purse and peered into the living room where the TV was blasting a rerun of Martin. I knocked on the bathroom door, treaded through the dining room and finally made my way to the kitchen where I found my husband at the kitchen counter making a sandwich.
â€œHey, Mike,â€ I said skeptically.
As usual, he didnâ€™t bother to stop and look at me, but greeted me nonetheless. â€œHey.â€
â€œWhat are you doing here?â€
â€œI live here.â€
â€œWell â€“ I know that. But I was under the impression that your trip was going to last at least another two weeks.â€
â€œI know I said that, but it turns out we closed the deal early.â€
As he finished slicing his sandwich in half, he finally faced me. â€œYeah. So Iâ€™m home for the next month or so.â€
â€œYeah. I might not be around for Christmas, though. They want me in Tokyo before the New Year.â€
â€œSo,â€ he started, walking past me, back into the living room, â€œwhereâ€™s Sky?â€
I followed after him absently, wandering past the foyer where my phone was blinking incessantly. â€œIâ€™m sorry, what?â€
â€œOur son? Sky? Where is he?â€
â€œOh. Um.â€ I began to scratch my hair in perplexity. My God, I must be the most terrible mother that ever existed. Heâ€™s been with the babysitter so much, I donâ€™t even know. â€œHeâ€™sâ€¦ with â€“ heâ€™s staying with your mother this weekend.â€
â€œAgain? When I talked to her last week, he was with her, too.â€
â€œDawn, whatâ€™s your problem?â€
â€œNothing. What do you mean?â€
â€œI mean why are you too lazy to take care of our son?â€
â€œIâ€™m not, Michael. Iâ€™ve just been busy working.â€
â€œYes, Iâ€™m sure that being a receptionist is very time-consuming.â€
â€œYou wanna talk about being consumed by time? Whenâ€™s the last time you saw this apartment, much less your son?â€ I yelled.
â€œAt least I have an excuse! Iâ€™ve been in Boston. Youâ€™ve been sitting your ass in Brooklyn and canâ€™t give him your time!â€
â€œI have a job, too, you know! I canâ€™t take him to school and pick him up and
be on time for work!â€
â€œWell thereâ€™s no rule that says he has to go to school all the way in f***ing Park Slope!â€
â€œI told you that when we enrolled him in that goddamn school!â€ As the house phone rang loudly amid the chaos of our argument and the televisionâ€™s commotion, I motioned to answer it before Michaelâ€™s hand abrasively stopped me. â€œMichael, youâ€™re hurting me,â€ I informed him.
He hesitantly let go and stared at the caller ID. â€œSorry.â€
â€œItâ€™s okay,â€ I answered, sitting down at the edge of one of our two gray loungers.
He picked up the cordless and retreated back to the couch. â€œJ. Timberlake,â€ he announced, flipping through the received calls. â€œHave they been calling often?â€
â€œ212-673-1454 â€“ J. Timberlake. Were they calling for me?â€
Dammit! All that work erasing his number for nothing. â€œIâ€™m not sure. How many times is it on there?â€
â€œI guess thatâ€™s it,â€ I shrugged, settling back into my chair.
â€œI guess so,â€ he demurred. He located the remote to flip through channels and started on his sandwich. â€œItâ€™s relatively early. Maybe we can call my mom, get Sky, and go out tonight.â€
Merely to avoid another confrontation, I conceded. â€œYeah.â€
â€œYou call my mom,â€ he instructed, â€œand Iâ€™ll get ready to go.â€
â€œAnd call Justin back before your cell phone explodes.â€
My head shot in his direction before my eyes began to dart around nervously. â€œWhat?â€
â€œDonâ€™t play dumb. Just let him know that he canâ€™t be calling you now â€“ Iâ€™m back home.â€
Silently, I rose from my seat to call Mrs. Banks â€“ Michaelâ€™s mother â€“ and tried to mentally prepare for some sort of family night.
All right, so basically, the deal here is that Iâ€™m not exactly having a fairy-tale marriage. In fact, Iâ€™ve been cringing over this entire ordeal since the day we tied the knot. Iâ€™ll be honest â€“ we only got married because I got pregnant. Itâ€™s been six years that Michael and I have been together. Six years that Dawn has been slipping away from me, slowly but surely.
Michael Banks â€“ big shot accountant for Microsoft. Michael Banks â€“ too busy for the wife and kid. I used to be in love. When we met in college, I was convinced that Michael was truly made for me. I guess that was before I got to know him. I realized that we were polar opposites, bonding only over the fact that we were natives of the Bronx and had big dreams. But nine months later, it was too late for regrets, too late to turn back time, and too late for dreams to come true â€“ mine, anyway. Sky was born, and DJ died. I donâ€™t resent anything that happened â€“ I just wish it could have been postponed sometimes.
Nowadays, I spend most of my time trying to regain some shape of normalcy. I rarely add Banks to my last name. I wear my rings on a necklace underneath my shirts. I never tell anyone Iâ€™m married. But hell, my husband is so absent, theyâ€™d think I was lying anyway. But Sky, heâ€™s my little secret to instantaneous happinessâ€¦ when heâ€™s here. We have a babysitter here to help me out during the week when Michaelâ€™s gone on business. But in the past month or so, Iâ€™ve been neglectful, putting him off on either my or Mikeâ€™s parents. I know. I havenâ€™t been the mother that I could or should be. Thereâ€™s just so much that I feel I missed out on with this unplanned family deal. Justin has allowed me to live outside of that for a while. Justin. My God, what am I going to do about Justin?
The 7PM hour had come and was reaching its halfway mark when Michael, Sky, and I were retreating from Toys â€˜Râ€™ Us in Times Square, bags in hand, heading for the famed Bubba Gumpâ€™s Restaurant just across from MTV Studios.
Weekends in Times Square are always a b**** â€“ especially this damn restaurant. But Sky is adamant about running with Forrest, and at the very least, he deserves to eat with his family wherever he wants. However, the entrance was wall-to-wall packed. By the time we even reached the hostess stand where a â€˜Miss Michelleâ€™ stood to greet customers, an extra ten minutes had been added to our wait.
Just when weâ€™d decided to browse the neighboring GAP to pass the time of the 50-minute delay, we were met with the fall of rain. We hadnâ€™t anticipated precipitation, so umbrellas were certainly the last things in our possession. â€œOh, this is just perfect,â€ Michael mumbled.
I pulled out a few crumpled dollars from my jean pocket and handed them to him. â€œWhy donâ€™t you run outside and get us a couple of umbrellas?â€
â€œPerhaps you didnâ€™t notice, Dawn, but itâ€™s raining outside!â€
â€œIâ€™m not asking you to run to 44th Street. Just go to the corner!â€
â€œDonâ€™t yell at me, Dawn!â€
â€œThen you stop yelling at me!â€
â€œOkay,â€ I relented. â€œIâ€™ll go get the umbrellas.â€
Michael took hold of Skyâ€™s hand, directing him towards the souvenir shop of the restaurant. â€œWeâ€™ll be over here,â€ he finished.
I bucked up, preparing to head into the cold rain, preparing to ruin my hair, and preparing for an insanely long night. I turned numerous times just trying to locate the exit amongst the crowd. Then, just when I thought that this night couldnâ€™t get any worse, the familiar head of a tall guy with thick, curly hair came shoving through the crowd. He was facing the direction about 90Âº opposite of me, but if he turned back around, Iâ€™d be the first thing heâ€™d see. I watched him cautiously, and it was as if time were moving in slow motion when I saw his face gradually spin back towards me. Immediately, I followed my first instinct and dropped to the floor.
Crouching, I prayed that no one above me would get the urge to ask any questions. This astounding feeling of guilt washed over me when Justinâ€™s feet, covered in dark gray Nikes, went inching past me, but I just couldnâ€™t let him see me â€“ Iâ€™m not ready to tackle that surefire catastrophe quite yet. When I heard his loud, overbearing voice requesting a table for two, I finally returned to my normal 5â€™9 stance.
â€œWhat are you doing?â€
My heart leaped out of my chest at the boom of Michaelâ€™s voice behind me. â€œWhat?â€
My six-year-old looked up to me in bewilderment, almost breaking my heart. â€œWhy were you on the floor, mommy?â€
â€œWell, because I dropped a little bit of my money and I was trying to find it,â€ I answered softly. I winced at the notion of lying to my son.
Michael threw another dollar at me and rushed me out of the restaurant. â€œHurry up. I canâ€™t stand around here for an hour.â€ I glanced back to where Justin and his date stood, seemingly impatiently. Yeah, me neither, Mike.
I rushed through the rain to the corner of 42nd and 7th Avenue where the vendors always set up shop. I purchased two umbrellas for two dollars and immediately headed back for the restaurant. I took three steps before walking into the long arms and strong chest ofâ€¦ â€œJustin?â€
He looked down at me in puzzlement, probably expecting to see one of his whores. â€œWhat the f*** are you doing here?â€ he smiled.
I put up my umbrella to shield us both from the relentless rain and nervously smiled up to him. â€œI was just on my way â€“ um â€“ I was going over to Cold Stone.â€ Yeah. Thatâ€™s good.
â€œFor ice cream?â€
Uh. Sure. â€œYeah.â€
â€œDJ, itâ€™s freezing out here.â€
â€œWell I donâ€™t think so,â€ I replied, trying my best not to shiver.
â€œAre you all right?â€
â€œYeah, Iâ€™m fine. Why?â€
â€œNo reason, I guess. I got worried when you didnâ€™t call me back. Who are you with?â€
What? Why is he asking me this? â€œNo one?â€
He frowned at me and looked towards the ground. â€œSo do you always walk around with two umbrellas?â€
â€œOh,â€ I chuckled. â€œThey were a dollar, so I figured â€˜What the hell?â€™â€
We stared at one another quizzically before a passerby slightly knocked me into him, breaking our gaze. â€œSo,â€ I finally began, â€œwhat are you up to?â€
â€œOh, me and Ani are waiting for a table at Bubba Gumpâ€™s.â€
â€œLong wait, huh?â€
He rolled his eyes knowingly. â€œHalf an hour.â€
â€œYeah, I was actually on my way to buy an umbrella,â€ he added.
â€œOh, I didnâ€™t mean to stop youâ€¦â€ God, this is awkward.
â€œNo, I was â€“ since, you know, you have an extra one, you could save me a dollar and a walk.â€
Damn it, Justin. I need it. â€œOh, no please. Take it.â€
He made a motion to kiss me, but I painfully turned my head so that his lips landed on my cheek. â€œWhatâ€™s with you?â€
â€œNothing,â€ I smiled, returning the kiss to his opposing cheek. I just ate a burger â€“ with onions. Thatâ€™s all.â€
â€œAll right. Well, Iâ€™ll call you when I get in.â€
â€œNo!â€ Dawn, calm the hell down.
â€œI mean, Iâ€™ll call you.â€
â€œBut you donâ€™t know when Iâ€™ll be home.â€
I sighed heavily, avoiding the temptation to start bawling and telling him everything right then and there. â€œJust let me call you, okay?â€
He smiled comfortingly and walked back in the direction of the restaurant, me following somberly behind.
â€œGood evening, my name is BeyoncÃ¨, and Iâ€™ll be your server tonight,â€ our curvaceous blonde waitress began.
I looked at Michael, hoping to share a chuckle with him about her ridiculous name, but realizing that he wasnâ€™t Justin, I returned my attention to the server and her spiel about the restaurantâ€™s method of operations. Eventually, she shut up and we placed our orders, gazing impatiently at the scenery to pass the time. We had already conversed as a family on the subway ride into the city, so dialogue between the three of us was limited.
More out of boredom than necessity, I suddenly announced, â€œI think Iâ€™m gonna go to the ladiesâ€™ room.â€
â€œDo you really have to think about it?â€ Michael quipped, sarcastically.
â€œSky, are you all right, baby? You donâ€™t have to go, do you?â€ He shook his head No, taking gulps of his Coke and playing with the â€˜Run/Stop Forrestâ€™ sign at the head of the table. â€œMike, could you make sure that he doesnâ€™t drink his whole soda before the food gets here.â€
â€œGo to the bathroom,â€ he answered.
As always, I obliged. Our table was at the end of the restaurant where the restrooms werenâ€™t, which meant that I had to vigilantly trek past every patron in the place to be able to escape just half of what Iâ€˜d been dreading about this evening. The other half sat at the table perpendicular to the bathroom entrance.
Justinâ€™s facial expression exhibited something a little past boredom, which almost made me smile, before I realized that Iâ€™d soon be approaching him if I didnâ€™t find a detour. The fact was, there was no way around passing him. So I licked my lips nervously and sauntered towards the facilities, hoping for a miracle.
â€œDJ?â€ he said with inquiry in his tone.
I jerked my head towards his voice and acted as if I were shocked. â€œHey, Justin.â€
â€œWhat are you doing here,â€ he asked for the second time tonight.
â€œIâ€™m having dinner.â€
â€œI thought you said you were alone.â€
â€œOh, yes. I am. Alone.â€
He gave his date a polite, pleading smile. â€œWould you mind if she joined us, Ani?â€
â€œNo! Justin, please. I donâ€™t want to interrupt.â€
â€œYou wouldnâ€™t be interrupting,â€ he contested. â€œI wouldnâ€™t feel right knowing that youâ€™re eating alone.â€
â€œJustin, youâ€™re on a date.â€
â€œItâ€™s not a date. Ani, you donâ€™t mind, do you?â€
â€œWell actually â€“â€œ the date began to say.
â€œAni, Iâ€™m so sorry,â€ I interjected. â€œPlease, Justin, Iâ€™m gonna go on my way.â€
â€œDawn, you canâ€™t eat by yourself.â€
â€œI just wanna take my shrimp plate and go home,â€ I replied, beginning to plead with him. I absolutely refuse to spend this night like Mrs. Doubtfire.
Suddenly, their waitress, whose name appeared to be â€˜Kelly R.â€™ came walking up to the table and its ensuing chaos. â€œIs there a problem?â€ she questioned in a thick, southern accent.
â€œNot at all,â€ I answered. â€œI was just on my way to the restroom when I spotted my friend here.â€
â€œYes,â€ Justin added, â€œand sheâ€™ll be joining us, so could you get her some silverware for when she comes back?â€
â€œNo, that wonâ€™t be necessary. I have a table over in Biancaâ€™s station, so Iâ€™ll be getting back there now.â€ I smiled at Kelly and then at Ani, desperately trying to avoid Justinâ€™s glare and spun on my heel to go back to my family.
â€œIâ€™m calling you when I get home,â€ Justin yelled to my back.Now what am I supposed to do when I want you in my world?
How can I want you for myself when Iâ€™m already someoneâ€™s girl?
God, just make this madness stop! Iâ€™m driving myself half crazy trying to make it through this night, not to mention life, without being thrown off the trail by overwhelming guilt or embarrassment. Before last week, everything was fine â€“ I knew I wasnâ€™t doing anything wrong. Justin was my friend and if I liked him a little more than that, so be it. But last Friday, we kissed, my stomach gave off a butterfly effect, and I knew that things would never be the same. I knew that I was falling, and soon, Iâ€™d need someone to catch me. Iâ€™d need Justin to catch me. But after all is said and done, the biggest question will be, will he even want to?I guess Iâ€™ll see you next lifetime
Lyrics: â€œNext Lifetimeâ€ â€“ Erykah Badu (Baduizm)</span></span></span>
<span style='color:gray'>:unsure: So that was kinda sucky, but I needed to tie up a few loose ends before the next chapter, as this story is soon coming to a close. Not quite yet, but we're getting there. Anyway, the next one is good. I promise!