Book 1: I’ll Run to You
My heart is almost pounding out of my chest. There’s sweat running down my face, and I feel like I might vomit at any moment.
I’m wondering why I’m doing this to myself when I look at the girls in front of me in my circuit training class. Oh yeah, because I want to look like those supermodel-looking women right there.
I look to my right and see Gina with her jet-black hair in a messy, but sexy bun, with her olive-colored skin glistening as she does her squats. How is she glistening, when I’m sweating and panting like a pig?
I’m contemplating strangling her with my bare hands when she turns her bright blue eyes on me and says, “Come on, Evie, don’t give up now, it’s just getting fun.”
If she wasn’t so guileless and sweet, without a mean bone in her body, I really would throttle her.
I turn to my left and see my other partner in crime, Megan, leaning against the wall, eyes closed, gulping for air with her red hair plastered to her face.
I can tell she wants to make a smart remark toward Gina’s comment, but I think she’s breathing too hard to speak. Her green eyes catch my brown ones and I can see the murderous glint in her eyes.
I chuckle to myself, feeling a little better knowing that I’m not the only one struggling to make it through this workout.
Gina is tall and fit whereas Megan and I are both shorter and curvier.
Gina recently grew tired of hearing me complain about how unhappy I am with my figure and talked me into joining this circuit training class, and I, being the great friend that I am, dragged Megan along for the ride.
I’m having a hard time concentrating on the instructor as she talks us through the exercises. Besides my reluctant exercise and the inevitable pain that comes along with it, I have a lot on my mind.
My brother Trevor called asking for a favor. He says that he has a buddy separating from the military who needs a place to stay.
He claims this friend of his already has a job lined up but needs somewhere to stay until he can find a place of his own. Trevor says the guy is more than willing to pay rent and that it would only be two, three months tops.
My big brother thinks it would be an opportunity for me to put aside some extra cash for me and my daughter, McKinley.
I’ve been a single mother since I was eighteen.
Granny Mabel let me stay with her and helped take care of McKinley while I went to college. I’ve just recently moved out of my grandmother’s house and gotten a three-bedroom apartment.
It isn’t in the nicest of neighborhoods, but it isn’t the worst. Besides, I can’t live with my grandmother forever.
I’m considering taking in Trevor’s friend. I really do need to start a ‘rainy day fund’ for me and McKinley.
I love my little girl more than anything; there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her. Which is why I’m worried about having a stranger move in with us.
It’s not that I don’t trust Trevor’s judgment.
He’s my overprotective big brother, after all, and if the guy is a friend of Trevor’s, he’ll be a friend of mine. It’s just that I haven’t brought a man around McKinley since the day she was born.
Even though this man won’t be someone I’m dating, I don’t want to give my little girl the wrong idea.
McKinley has recently started asking questions about her father.
It all started when she began kindergarten and heard other children talking about their dads did this and their dads did that.
I remember the day she looked at me with her sparkling eyes full of tears and said, “Momma, how come I don’t have a daddy like everyone else?”
With her beautiful light eyes like her father’s and her caramel complexion more like mine, she’s a beautiful little angel.
I ran my hand over her sandy-colored ringlets and told her that her father had to go fight for his country, but if he could, he’d come back for her one day. That’s the best I could come up with for the time being.
The truth is too complicated for her five-year-old mind to comprehend right now. Hell, sometimes it’s too much for me to comprehend.
“Well, ladies and gentlemen, that’s it for today’s class. I hope to see you all again on Monday,” the instructor announces.
Well damn, I’m not sure if I completed the exercises or stared off into space in contemplation for the last twenty minutes.
“Thank goodness the torture is finally over.” Megan sighs.
“Oh, come on ladies, it wasn’t that bad, was it?” asks Gina, taking a sip from her water bottle.
Megan puts her hand on the water bottle, tipping it up further, causing Gina to sputter and spill water down her face.
“No, Gina, it was just peachy. Can’t wait to do it again. And as for you missy,” Megan says, pointing her finger at me.
“I’m going to get you for tricking me into coming to this class. Low-impact aerobics, my ass! I feel like I burst a couple of blood vessels somewhere.”
“Oh, it wasn’t that bad,” I lie. “Anyway, I couldn’t tell you it was circuit training class because I knew you wouldn’t come and I needed someone besides Princess Gina to share my pain,” I say.
“No offense to you, Princess Gina,” I add.
“None taken,” Gina replies.
Gina is a beautiful woman with a sweet disposition; that’s how she got the nickname of “Princess” in college.
She has an exotic look, which comes from her mixed heritage. Her father is from El Salvador and her mother is German American. She inherited her father’s olive complexion and jet-black hair.
From her mother, she got her crystal blue eyes and slender build. At five foot nine, she could easily pass for a model. I could definitely be jealous of her if I were the jealous type.
Gina, Megan, and I have been friends since freshman year in college, and Gina is definitely the glue that holds these three amigos together because Megan and I have strong personalities that can sometimes clash.
I catch a glimpse of myself in the full-length mirror and see that my cheeks are red under my caramel-colored skin and my hair is slipping out of its bun haphazardly on my head.
All the sweating has caused my curly hair to frizz, giving me a “sunflower look,” as my brother Trevor teasingly calls it.
I critique myself in the mirror, eyeing my large breasts and wide hips. Luckily I have a pretty small waist or I’d be a total catastrophe. At five foot one, I’m definitely carrying some extra weight, but at least, I carry it well.
Or so I like to tell myself.
“All right, Evie, if you’re done ogling yourself in the mirror, we’re ready to go,” Megan teases me, grabbing me by the shoulders from behind and steering me toward the exit door of the gym.
Outside, it’s a beautiful sunny day in Northern California.
I’m glad it’s Friday night because it’s been a long week and the three of us are going to meet up for dinner and drinks later at our favorite spot, Shay’s Bar & Grill.
“Okay, ladies, I’ve got to run and pick up McKinley before after-school care closes. I’ll meet you guys at Shay’s at 7 o’clock,” I inform them, and we go our separate ways.
It’s been a while since I’ve been out with the girls, and I’m having a hard time choosing what to wear.
As the newest accountant at the publishing firm, I’m required to wear business attire daily, which I pair with sensible shoes. I just throw my hair into a bun and call it good.
On my days off, I’m usually a casual clothes kind of girl: jeans and T-shirts mostly. And I don’t take the time to do intricate hairstyles with my wild curls.
But tonight, I’m feeling like putting a little more effort into my appearance.
I’ve already spent an hour straightening my tight dark curls, and now my hair hangs to the middle of my back, straight and silky, with big loose curls at the end.
Megan always teases me, asking why I straighten my hair just to curl it again. She doesn’t understand what it’s like having mixed girl hair.
Like Gina, I’m the product of an interracial relationship.
My mother is Native American and Swedish, my father is African American. People say that I have an exotic look, but I don’t see it.
I have big brown eyes, brown curly hair that comes just past my shoulders when it’s not straight, and light brown skin. There’s nothing exotic about that.
Gina says it’s my big doe eyes and pouty mouth that make me so irresistible. One of the reasons I love that girl.
Anyway, I’m searching through my clothes in utter despair, with McKinley sitting at the foot of my bed, watching me with fascination.
“Momma, are you going on a date?” she asks me.
“No, McKinley. Why would you think that?” I respond, still sifting through my clothes.
“Well, Nattie, my friend at school, says that she didn’t have a daddy for a long time either and then her mommy went on lots and lots of dates. And now she has a stepdaddy,” she spits out in a rush.
Taking a deep breath, she finishes. “If I can’t have a real daddy, I thought maybe you can go on dates and find me a stepdaddy just like Nattie’s mom did,” she says in earnest, with hope dripping in her sweet little voice.
She might as well have walked up and sucker-punched me in the gut because that’s what it feels like hearing those innocent words falling from my baby’s mouth.
I don’t know who this bratty little Nattie is, but I sure could wring her neck right about now for putting these ideas into McKinley’s head. She gets enough crazy ideas on her own without any help from the peanut gallery.
I walk over to the bed and plop down next to McKinley, wrapping my arms around her. “Honey, it’s just a girls’ night out with Auntie Megan and Auntie Gina.
“But don’t worry, sweetie, one day Momma will find her prince charming and we’ll be a family, Okay?” I told her, gently squeezing her and kissing her on the forehead.
“Okay, Momma,” she agrees, hugging me back. “Hurry up and get ready so I can go to Granny’s house,” she says to me over her shoulder as she skips out of the room.
Thank goodness kids are so damn resilient.
Now my nerves are shot. I need some help figuring out what I’m going to do about McKinley and her newfound daddy obsession. I need to talk to my girls and get some advice pronto.
And to top it all off, I need a damn drink!
Shay’s Bar & Grill is only a couple of blocks away, so I decide to walk in case I decide to have more than a few drinks.
It’s a warm, balmy spring night and there’s a slight breeze gently blowing my hair and causing my dangling earrings to jingle ever so slightly in the wind.
I stop a couple of buildings down from the restaurant and switch out my flip-flops for the heels in my purse. The short walk and fresh air did me good. I smile as I sashay in the front door feeling refreshed.
I had finally decided to go with something casual but sexy before leaving my apartment. I’m wearing tight black jeans, a sheer top with a camisole underneath, and a pair of strappy high heels.
With my minimal makeup and jewelry, I might not be a showstopper but I should turn at least a few heads.
I look into the restaurant and spot Megan and Gina already here in our favorite booth. I head toward them, waving.
As I walk up to them, Gina gives a little whistle. “Hey Mamacita, looking good,” she says in her manliest voice possible.
We both laugh as I slide into the booth next to Megan, who’s not so subtly eyeing some man candy at the bar.
“You guys look pretty hot yourselves,” I comment with a little smile and a wink.
Both ladies are wearing dresses. Megan has her hair cascading down her back in gorgeous fiery waves. Gina looks elegant and classy as usual.
I sigh, saying, “I wish someone had given me the memo.”
Megan finally tears her eyes away from the hunk at the bar. “Huh? What in the world are you talking about?”
I look her and Gina up and down, pointing.
“You know, the memo that you guys obviously got: wear sexy dresses and come-get-me high heels,” I say, teasing.
“What difference does it make? You never take a guy home anyway. You’re only twenty-four years old and you act like an old lady already. I know you’re a single mom and all, but you’ve got to live a little sometimes,” comments Megan.
Wow, that stung just a little bit.
I must have made a face because Megan notices my reaction and quickly apologizes. “I’m sorry, girl. That was totally uncalled for. I think I’m just on edge, it’s been eons since I’ve gotten laid, and I’m jonesin’.”
We all laugh a little at that. “Besides, we all know that you’ve never gotten over your first love. What was his name again? Hunter, right? The perfect specimen of a man whom you compare every other man to.”
Yeah, Megan’s right about that. I never got over him. Hunter Douglas. My brother’s best friend.
The boy I’ve loved since second grade.
The beautiful boy who was sweet, funny, and kind, with messy blond hair and stunning gray eyes.
The boy who turned into the man that crushed my heart into a million tiny pieces and stomped on them as he walked away.
Of course, I omitted that part of the story when I told Megan and Gina about Hunter.
Even though Hunter had done irreparable damage to my heart, I still couldn’t forget how wonderful I thought he was before that fateful day.
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