“Okay, time for lunch, Emma Bunny.”
“Can I have a toasted cheese and lettuce sandwich?” she asked hopefully.
“Of course,” I smiled, getting off the couch. “Can you please take those empty slushy cups?”
She obediently did as I asked as I took the empty popcorn packets from the couch before leading her to the kitchen.
“Oh, perfect timing. I just finished preparing your lunch,” said Penny, indicating the two trays of food.
One had three toasted slices of lettuce and cheese sandwiches, a small bowl of grapes, and a glass of apple juice.
The second had two toasted slices of lettuce and cheese sandwiches and a glass sippy cup filled with orange juice.
“Thanks, Penny.” I smiled in gratitude.
“Of course, now let me go pick some fresh fruit for your trip. What type of sandwiches would you like me to prepare?” she asked.
“Surprise me.” I winked.
She chuckled and nodded before leaving the room, leaving us with our lunches.
“So, Em, you and I are going to the park after lunch. How do you feel about that?” I asked.
“Yayyy!! Thanks, Mommy.” She beamed.
Devastation and an ache in my chest had me walking around aimlessly. Lost without direction, lost without a purpose.
What is love? I once thought I knew the answer, but it seemed I didn't. Where had love gotten me?
I gave her everything. I married her when everyone said I shouldn't. Trusted her every word and believed her, but all this time I was just a puppet in her play.
A piece of equipment she needed. Did she ever love me?
Those thoughts continuously played in my head as I walked who knew where.
I had no home, no life, no one. I was hopeless and lost. I slaved away for her, just to get this in return. A broken heart, a repossessed home, a wallet without a penny in sight.
A man who had lost his dignity.
I never knew how it would feel to lose everything until now. How it felt to feel betrayed and hopeless.
I was someone who had always believed in love, when everyone around me told me that it was just a façade and a nuisance, but now I knew.
Love was evil, love was dark. Love was something my broken heart would never allow in again. From now on, love would remain a mere fantasy in my life.
Love was fire itself and I'd gotten burned enough from it.
My thoughts filled me with a passion that I had never felt before. A fire of resentment and pain.
A fire that would become a wall, a defense that would allow me to keep this promise to myself.
Taking a look at my surroundings, I spotted a park that was almost empty of people. A good place to rest after walking for so long.
I made my way to the nearest bench and sat down with a sigh, my hands hanging at my sides in defeat as I looked up at the clear blue sky.
A warm substance rolled down my cheek before others followed suit. Tears. I wished so hard it could be easier.
“Okay, let's go change,” I said, getting up.
“Okay!” Emma exclaimed, before following my lead and getting up from her chair. “Can I pick my clothes out myself, Mommy?” she asked hopefully.
I sighed but smiled. “We'll see, sweetheart.”
That seemed to be a good enough reply for her because she bolted upstairs to her room before I could say anything else.
I headed to her bedroom, which was opposite mine. Her bedroom door was already opened, and I gasped as I stared at the mess she had created in just moments.
“Emani Williams! What in the world are you doing?” I sternly asked, making my way to the bed, past a number of articles of clothing carelessly scattered across the carpeted floor.
She looked up at me like a deer caught in headlights before her eyes scanned the mess she had created.
Tears of shame immediately gathered in her hazel eyes before she guiltily looked up at me and apologized, “I’m sorry, Mommy. I didn’t mean to. I promise.”
I released a breath, willing myself to calm down and remember that she was only a child. These types of things were bound to happen, but at the same time, I didn’t want this to become a habit.
“Remember, you have to always wait for Mommy or an adult to help you, because I can’t always have such a mess in your room.
“Who’ll clean it up?” I asked, folding my arms across my chest with a frown on my face.
“I’m sorry, Mommy,” she guiltily sniffled.
“Fine, I believe you,” I sighed as I let out a deep breath. “But next time you'll be in trouble, young lady.”
She profusely nodded, not even daring to take a glimpse at me.
I barely ever reprimanded her because she was mostly well behaved, but when I do, I sometimes accompany it with corner time or calling off trips, depending on how bad it is.
“Let's put these back, then I'll help you choose an outfit. Now, give me a hug, my sweet baby.”
She hesitantly looked up at me to make sure that I had calmed down before slowly making her way into my arms.
“I'm so sorry, Mommy. I won't do it again, I promise.”
“Good girl. Mommy's trusting you. Remember, you can never break a promise. I love you, sweetheart.”
“I love you, too.” she said, nuzzling her face into my lap.
“Oh, goodness. What happened in here?” Blake's surprised voice came from the door, catching our attention.
“Just a fashion crisis.” I winked down at Emma, making her shyly smile at me.
“Oh, okay. I'll fix it when you're done,” said Blake before realization dawned on her face and she snapped her fingers. “Grace called. She said something about a file you had to complete at work.”
Emma's eyes immediately lost their sparkle at that, probably assuming that I'd be going to work today, after coming back from a business trip last night while she was sleeping.
“Oh, please call her back and tell her that I'll deal with it later. I have a daughter I need to spend time with at the moment.”
I smiled at Emma, gently running my hand through her soft black hair. “How about we go back to picking out some clothes for you, hmm?”
She excitedly nodded at me, wiping away a few stray tears.
I couldn't help the painful ache in my chest at seeing my daughter's sadness, but I knew that I had to work. For her and for myself.
I placed my hand on her shoulder and guided her to her walk-in closet.
We debated what she should wear before settling on a baby-blue, one-shoulder tank top and denim shorts.
We completed the outfit with a pair of brown leather sandals and small silver stud earrings. I pulled her hair into a high ponytail.
“You look so gorgeous, my angel,” I complimented as I made her do a small twirl, making her giggle.
“Thank you, Mommy. Now it's your turn.” She took my hand into her much smaller one, pulling me out of her room and into mine. “What will you wear, Mommy?”
“Well,” I began, walking to my closet and pulling the doors open to start scouting for some clothes with her at my heels.
“how about I wear this?” I pointed at a simple, navy off-the-shoulder sundress.
“Oooh,” she said in wonder. “Wear that one, Mommy.”
I chuckled, nodding and pulling the dress off its hanger. I picked out a pair of brown leather sandals and diamond stud earrings.
Using a brown headband, I pulled my hair into a low side ponytail to complete my look.
I was not much of a fan of makeup, so I settled on some lip gloss and mascara to make my eyelashes look thicker and darker.
“How do I look?” I asked Emma.
“Wow, you look so pretty, Mommy,” she said in awe.
“Thanks, baby. Now let’s go so we have time at the park and some ice cream!”
“Let's go!” Emma exclaimed, taking my hand and pulling me downstairs.
We made our way to the kitchen where Cleo, Penny, and Blake were packing a couple more items into our picnic basket.
“Thank you, ladies.” I smiled in gratitude.
“You're welcome, Miss.”
“Would you like me to call Davis to take you to the park?” asked Blake.
“No, thank you,” I politely declined. “I'll drive us.”
“Are you sure? You only came back last night and even then, you barely rested,” Blake murmured, her voice laced with worry.
“It's all right, Blake. I assure you. I'll be careful.”
She groaned but answered, “All right! But please call if you need anything.”
“I will.” I responded with a laugh, amused at her concern.
I took the prepared basket from the table.
“I'll see you later, ladies,” I said over my shoulder as Emma and I made our way to the garage.
I had multiple cars, but I chose my favorite white Land Rover. Taking the keys from the hook, I walked toward the car.
“Miss Williams, wait!” Cleo's frantic call halted us in our steps as we turned toward her. She had my bag clutched in her hand as she rushed to me.
“You forgot your bag.”
“I don't know how I forgot that. Thanks, Cleo,” I said, taking my bag from the panting woman.
“You're welcome, Miss,” she replied, smiling at me.
I returned her smile before turning back to the car and unlocking it to drop the basket in the backseat. Cleo helped Emma into her car seat before closing the door.
“I'll see you later.” I waved as I jumped into the front seat and closed the door behind me. After the large garage door had completely opened, I pulled onto the road with Emma's singing as background music. I don't know who had opened our house gate for me, but thank you to them.