throwback thursday… and then.
Veronica Brooks sat in the visitor’s parking spot watching the snowfall. It would be that rare occasion when it snowed in Philadelphia on Thanksgiving. She looked at the clock, noticing it was now eight.
The moonlight bounced off the blanket of snow making the scenery look picturesque. A night like this was one she was supposed to enjoy with someone special. Instead she was sitting in her car parked next to her ex-husband’s sedan.
Veronica debated her actions one last time when her phone vibrated. It was another text from Michael questioning why she disappeared.
Veronica finally text him back to let him know they just weren’t meant to work out. Then her second text read: It’s not you. It’s just me.
It was always her.
And that’s why she needed to talk to Darius.
Veronica shut off her engine, reached for her handbag and zipped up her jacket. She didn’t expect to be there for long. Deep down she didn’t know if she would even be there at all.
For all she knew, Darius could have changed so much that he would send her out the way she came without even exchanging a simple hello.
Or he could be with someone.
The thought of Darius with another woman while she was a few yards away from his front door had Veronica’s feet feeling heavy.
Veronica tried to recall any clues that Darius was involved with someone. Mya would never tell her, something she hated and loved her best friend for, but Donovan would have mentioned it. Or would he? No, Veronica shook her head. Donovan was loyal, too. And now with him finally forgiving Veronica, she could not imagine him even considering something that could disrupt their peace.
Veronica wiped her feet on the mat outside of Darius’s door, considering one final time if she was doing the right thing. Then after saying a quick prayer, she pushed the doorbell and waited for her ex to welcome her into his home.
“Ronnie?” Darius Brooks asked, after opening the door. He stood there and stared at her, puzzled by her unexpected appearance at his condo.
Her meek greeting was not like his former wife and instantly Darius knew something was wrong. “What’s up?”
He kept his distance, leaning against the doorjamb blocking her from having access to the peace he found since they parted.
“Can I come in?” she asked. She wrapped her arms around herself as she fought the bitter cold. He forgot she was a Cali girl and hated snow.
Darius hesitated before moving aside.
Veronica took a step forward before stepping back. “I’m sorry. Were you entertaining company?”
He wondered if she was being sarcastic, but the concerned look let him know she was really trying not to intrude if he had been. Fortunately, Alisha ended up going to Paris after all and he could avoid that awkward moment where he would have had to introduce the woman he used to sleep with to her replacement.
Darius instead held the door open wider and gestured for her to come inside. He watched her do so with caution, standing a few feet away from him in his foyer like she really didn’t want to be there. This only confused him more, because if she didn’t want to be there then why was she there at all?
“What’s up, Ronnie? Everything okay?” he asked.
Veronica nodded, but then shook her head. He hadn’t seen her look this way since he comforted her after she lost her grandfather their junior year in college.
“Baby, what is it?” he asked, stepping closer to hold her. He wanted to hold her, but he knew two years ago he gave up that feeling when he signed those papers. Didn’t he?
He struggled with his own conflict, but when her lip quivered, Darius opened his arms to pull her in. At first Veronica tried to maneuver away from his grasp, but then she gave in and fell against his chest. Her body heaved heavily with each empty sob, as no true tears seemed to fall.
Darius was taller than her, but she came pretty damn close to passing his shoulder height. With her winter boots on and his sock covered feet, Veronica’s face was effortlessly a few inches away from his and he noticed the lips he still dreamed about feeling from time to time.
He watched her fight to control them, but there was no controlling a mouth like hers. It tended to say and do what it pleased, which drove a wedge between them, too. He loved her mouth for its sexy, bold nature, then loathe it for the sharp tongue behind it.
Finally, Veronica pulled back and looked away. “Sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.”
That was his ex. As soon as she opened up, she closed off just as quickly with her Venus fly trap emotions and he was not about to get suckered into caring about whatever it was. No man should have to fight that hard to love a woman.
“Why did you stop loving me, Darius?” she asked.
“You drove all the way up here from Maryland to ask me that?” he blurted out.
Actually, he shouted it and he watched her flinch. He couldn’t believe his own reaction, but when he saw her adjust her bag on her shoulder before turning to walk back out his door Darius knew he needed to stop her.
Placing a hand on the door, he pushed against it to keep her from opening it. “I shouldn’t have yelled.”
Veronica shook her head. “No, it was foolish of me to come over here to ask you such a question.”
He released the door and when she opened it, they both noticed the amount of snow falling had increased.
“You drove that out tonight?” he asked, gesturing toward her Smart car.
On a night like tonight, she was risking her life in the little Matchbox looking car. Veronica was always into hybrids and other little cars that were good for the environment. The occasions he spent time in California, Darius noticed his wife wasn’t the only one in love with the mini death traps.
Ex-wife, he reminded himself. It had been two years and not a day went by when he didn’t remember that she was no longer his. The rings he kept in his safe deposit box in the envelope with their divorce papers were proof of that.
“I can’t let you go back out in this snow right now.”
Veronica shook her head. “I’m not your concern anymore, Darius.”
“No, but I couldn’t live with the memory if you left and something happened to you.”
He stepped back, silently inviting her to walk further into his home. Darius watched her debate her next move and when the door closed, he felt his shoulders relax.
She unzipped her jacket and pulled a hat off her head. Then Veronica turned around to look at him harshly asking, “Wait a minute. How did you know I drove all the way up here from Maryland?”
“I was on the phone with Donnie when you called. I overheard you talking to Mya and the kids on the computer when you mentioned something about being down there with some dude.”
Veronica’s eyes dulled and she looked away. “I was with Michael. He wanted to spend Thanksgiving with his parents and invited me to tag along.”
Darius didn’t know why, but he felt territorial. He felt his chest puff out and his eyes narrow. “He do something he had no business doing?”
Veronica shook her head and gave him a weak smile. “No, I was the one that messed up.”
Darius sat on the arm of a chair and tried to figure out what she purposely was not saying. “So what happened? How did you end up here?”
“I left. I decided to end things with him,” she said. Her voice was full of regret, but she also sounded relieved. Darius did not know why he was happy to hear about her breakup. He still could not bring himself to the place where he was glad to see his wife move on.
“Want something to drink?” he finally asked when she said nothing else. Veronica nodded and he excused himself. When he returned, he handed her a glass.
“San P?” Veronica said, smiling and reaching to accept it. “Since when do you keep San Pellegrino on hand? You always hated this stuff.”
He could have lied and blamed it on Alisha, but he actually took to drinking it on occasion before he met the woman. “I guess I finally gave in and really gave it a try.”
Veronica sipped slowly before giggling when the bubblies tickled her throat when she swallowed. She always giggled when she drank her favorite mineral water.
“Who is she?” Veronica asked, smiling coyly.
Darius raised a brow and leaned forward. “Come again?”
“The woman. The one that has you drinking this,” Veronica said, holding her glass up and then pointing around her. “Hanging pictures and even having paint on your walls beyond realtor white.”
Darius threw his head back and laughed. “The décor is all me, but for the record, I am kind of dating someone. It’s nothing serious.”
As soon as the words left his mouth, Darius wondered why he had to stress the nature of his relationship with Alisha.
“What happened in Maryland, Ronnie? And how did it lead you here?”
“Michael is a great guy, but I just felt like I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I couldn’t be around his family pretending like I cared about this man as much as he apparently felt for me. When he introduced me to his siblings, I made up an excuse that I needed to run back to my hotel room for something. Fortunately, I never unpacked and all I had to do was grab my suitcase and leave.”
Veronica nodded. “Mya made a remark the other day about the men I date. She says I either date someone that is just like you or the extreme complete opposite. You know Mya, she always sees and picks apart things.”
Darius moved to sit down on the actual cushion and shook his head. “No, Ronnie. That would be you.”
“Really?” He watched the way her brows furrowed as she squinted, disbelieving what he had to say.
“Yes, really. You used to always butt in and interject your opinion in everyone’s lives.”
He didn’t mean to sound mean, but when her lip poked out a little he realized he probably hurt her feelings.
“Is that why you checked out on us?”
“Ronnie,” he groaned.
“No, that’s why I came here. I can’t keep going in circles reliving this in every relationship I am in.”
“Is that what happened with Marvin?” he asked.
“Michael,” she said with a smirk. “Not yet. I just have this fear that I’m going to somehow mess things up if we get that far. Like I’m going to drive another man away.”
Darius rubbed his hand over his mouth and held it on his chin. He looked at her, gauging her response with her body language. Normally Veronica was closed off, but the woman sitting in his living room was open and seeking. She was searching for hidden secrets she wished to unveil to promise her a lifetime of happiness, but Darius could not figure out how to tell her she hit a dead-end road.
Darius glanced outside of his window when he noticed the snow had stopped falling and he could hear the plows clearing and salting the roads.
“Since when have you ever been afraid of anything?” he asked her, hoping that would challenge her enough to get her out of her funk. Darius also wanted her to leave. There was no way he was going to spend the rest of the night pondering what could have and should have been between them.
Veronica looked to where his eyes just left, outside the large bay window likely noticing what he had, because she nodded solemnly. Then she collected her belongings, told him goodnight and left.
All’s well that ends well… Or is it? For Donovan, Mya, Eric, Shelby, Veronica and Darius, their guess is as good as anyone else’s. With the Love Sessions workshop behind them, life goes on for the group that reminded others the significance of marriage vows. Now, together they face another important lesson – rediscovering the meaning of love.
Donovan and Mya Sinclair’s marriage might appear intact, but something is amiss behind closed doors. Eric and Shelby West battled through their share of storms before, but Shelby refuses to let anything disturb their household again even if her husband invites it into their home. Veronica and Darius Brooks quietly divorced two years ago hoping to close a fifteen-year chapter in their lives, but it’s hard to bury the past when reminders of it pop up every day. While Mya is determined to figure out how to fix the issues in her own marriage, it just might help a few people along the way while bringing old friends back together once again.
And Then is the postscript to The Love Sessions novel.