second time around. a short by tia kelly.
In Leave, Valencia must come to grips with losing not only Alan, her husband, but also her best friend. Many of you reached out to me wanting to know if Alan ever got the chance to win her back. I heard you, but I didn't know if these were characters that just needed to live the rest of their lives off paper. Then one day, Alan and Valencia appeared whispering in my ear… I guess they had something else to share with us after all.
In Second Time Around, Alan knows he messed up, but he refuses to give up his feelings for Valencia. After a judge annuls their marriage, Alan must accept that their relationship is over or prove to Valencia that the two of them are still meant to be.
second time around.
Valencia could have asked for anything and I would’ve moved heaven and earth to give it to her. As music seeped through the doors, I couldn’t help smiling when her eyes lit up.
The sparkle within them was no competition to the light bouncing from the chandeliers above onto crystals she told me dozens of times had been sewn by hand on that dress. The count escapes me. It was around a thousand crystals or maybe even a million, but all of the glow was nothing compared to how wearing it made her center attraction for our big day.
A dress I spent eight months begging her to wear for me. Every plea was worth this feeling of knowing that I helped return that smile on her face. With no care that I probably looked like I was ready to snatch my woman up and rip that dress off her just so I could have her body again without feeling like just a fling, I stared. I probably even had a few caught with my mouth open occasions captured on film by the photographer, because there’s no shame tonight for gaping at her. She was always beautiful, but tonight… my woman was just outright sexy as hell and she danced like she knew it.
Valencia’s hips moved in sync to the rhythm of Shalamar’s “A Night to Remember”. A song we heard one night after I eased her fears about giving our love another try.
If I ever get married again, this is the song I want them to play.
When you walk down the aisle? I asked. Knowing that she wasn’t the type to step too far out her comfort zone, and dancing to an old eighties song en route to the minister witnessing our “I Do’s” was not like my Val, so her thoughts surprised me.
Shaking her head, Valencia giggled and let the wind coming in from the lowered windows and sunroof blow her hair across her face. She had no idea how sexy that made her look. No, when the wedding party is introduced. At the reception, she said.
Like they do on those YouTube videos? Where everyone does a dance routine? That was funny and I groaned. I could not imagine myself doing anything remotely close to that… unless she said that because she planned to marry someone else. You want to get married again?
I caught the sadness in her eyes that appeared before she turned to look away. One day. Maybe I’ll get it right the next time.
You did it right the last time, I wanted to say, except I didn’t have the courage to that night. It took me some time to own up to my mistakes and more importantly the pain I caused her. When I did, I vowed to let that moment be the last time I recognized disappointment on my baby’s face again.
Now this night, one we are celebrating with people that endured the storm with us, will be one to remember. I promised Valencia it would be and no longer will I break a promise to my wife.
I swear she’s in tune with me. Always has been, which probably made the bond between us as friends so strong. I relax knowing we are finally in this place and look up to see her smile at me. With her eyes on me, she does this cute little shoulder thing before the woman Valencia hired to help plan everything tries to herd everyone into a line. Instead of returning to my side, Valencia stays in her own groove, bumping her hip against my sister’s.
I don’t know who is happier between the two, Tiffany or my wife. Both ladies, now the best of friends again, dancing like no one’s watching. Probably not caring if they did. Even my brother Patrick is bobbing his head while tossing back a longneck. I admit, for a while there, things were shaky between my family and Valencia. Now the love fest between them is about to pour out onto the dance floor in the middle of The Rittenhouse grand ballroom.
The three of them aren’t the only ones dancing. Some of my boys reminded onlookers in the hall of our fraternity roots and several of Valencia’s girls made it clear through their moves that they were single and available just in case someone was interested. The celebration from the ceremony had carried over to the reception through this effortless display of love around us.
But our story was anything but effortless. There was a time when I thought the last chapter in the book of us was written a year ago right before Valencia decided to close the book for good.
fourteen months ago.
I have a law degree. I probably could’ve handled my own annulment, but I wanted nothing to do with the process of dissolving my marriage. My love for Valencia led me to the only relationship that was ever worth a damn to me. Instead, I reached out to my frat brother Will for help with the annulment, but instead he threatened to punch me when I told him how my marriage went wrong. Looking back at my boy, I nodded and followed Will toward the judge’s chambers.
I stopped by Valencia’s place last night, but she wouldn’t answer the door. The only time I got to see her since we filed was when she peeked through the curtains during one of my drunken surprise visits. She didn’t answer the door that night either or the other two times I pulled that mess, but she did call the cops the third so they could ask me to leave. Taking a quick glance behind me, I hoped to get one more chance to ask Valencia that same question Will had asked me. Except my question would mean something else altogether.
You really ready to end this? To end us?
Instead of giving me that opportunity, Will opens the door and I see Valencia is already there alone, seated in front of the judge.
Looking at her, I feel disgusted. Not at her, but me. I can tell she hasn’t slept in the past two months, and neither have I, but she’s too beautiful to be walking around with dim shadows in her eyes or the slouch in her spine.
Whatever she was wearing didn’t help. The black tent of a dress looked like she grabbed it out the dryer just before leaving the house. The place we both once called home with plans to fill each room with more kids. She shared the ones she had from a previous relationship with me, but together we agreed we’d add at least another boy or girl… maybe two. We almost did and probably would be at a different kind of appointment together right now begging the doctor to tell us the sex of a baby instead… if she never found out about my ex.
My misstep was more of a back step. I tell myself that everyday. My ex was a mistake that happened before I even married Valencia, but one that may as well occurred any day during the short time our marriage lasted. Out of nothing more than hurt pride and selfishness, I found myself hooking up with her once after putting an engagement ring on Valencia’s finger. Two weeks into our marriage – one that was already on shaky ground – everything shattered from the blow when I finally came clean. Pressure to be honest made me do it and I don’t know if I’m upset that I lied in the first place or told the truth that unraveled us.
Regardless, after two weeks our life as Mr. and Mrs. was a wrap.
My moving out didn’t stop what we felt. We spent a night here and an afternoon there, doing things couples in love should be doing. Call it lust, need or greed. I didn’t care. I just needed and wanted to feel her. To touch my wife again, and damn the place we’re in today. She was still my wife. I couldn’t let that go.
Even though the sex between Valencia and I felt like makeup sex, sometimes I thought we were getting back on track. Some days the physical was good enough, because something was always better than nothing. Then one day I kissed her and felt a response from her I never felt before.
Ever since, she treated me like the thought of me touching her, being inside her, repulsed her. Instead of acknowledging her hurt, I lashed out thanks to my own. That’s where I really fucked up. I didn’t say it, but I know she felt it. After calling me an asshole among other things, she recoiled and finally shut me out completely.
Staring at her now as she nods her head in accordance to whatever the judge is saying, I will her to turn and look at me. Just once more. She never did and I missed whatever the judge said to the three of us in the few minutes it took to dissolve our marriage. When I finally gave everyone else my attention, our time was done and the papers were signed.
That’s when I had to accept the truth. I lost her.
six months later.
I was getting better with sleeping most nights, but with each passing hour I knew tonight would not be one of those blessed occasions. Too tired to try tossing and turning in bed, all I can do is stare at the ceiling and wait until my mind decides to rest.
Then the phone rang with a number I hadn’t seen in months. It didn’t have a name, because I deleted it on Valencia’s birthday. There was no need to keep her contact information anymore if she was no longer taking my calls.
“Hello?” Why I answered as if I didn’t know who was calling is beyond me, but there’s no way to think straight with my heart beating so hard that I can hear it between my ears. Maybe she’s calling to cuss me out or perhaps to tell me I forgot a tie again. She did that once and we wound up having sex on the laundry room floor. I always prayed she would do it again and call.
I wanted to suggest that we both try to do better with the uncertainty game, but that would mean I need to admit my own fault, that I’m terrible at pretending to hide my true feelings… something I can’t bring myself to do when it comes to Valencia. Once I do then I might as well admit I failed her somehow, which is the last thing I want to do.
“What’s up?” Damn, there I go again. This puff out my chest act was what pushed her away the last time. It wasn’t every day my ex-wife called to chitchat at three in the morning. Taking one last look at my watch, that’s when it registered. It’s three in the what-the-hell-is-she-calling-me-for-at-this-hour morning. “What’s wrong?”
“I have a little problem. I understand if you say no. I tried everyone else I could think of, but I can’t find anyone else and hope you’re in town… or free. I didn’t think whether or not you’re alone. I’m sorry. I better let you go.”
“What is it Val?” I’m already reaching for my wallet and shoes knowing I’m about to speed through the Philly streets at night to jack a mofo up for even thinking of harming my wife.
No. Just ex.
Valencia never hesitated to remind me that our annulment erased what was once considered a marriage. And no marriage means no husband, and according to her, no wife… Well for once she is wrong. Val was my wife once. No judge can ever take that honor away from me.
“My flight was delayed and I just got in but now my car won’t start. I tried to get a jump, but it’s not turning over. I looked into hiring a taxi and even taking the train, but I live too far out for that to work.”
“I’m on my way. Where are you?”
“In my car at the airport.”
“Anyone there with you?” After backing out my space and driving for a few minutes, I wonder if I even locked the front door. Knowing Valencia is out there in the middle of the night alone, I could care less if I return to an empty home.
“The security guy that called for someone to give me a jump is waiting next to me in his truck. I’m about to take the shuttle back to the terminal.”
Good. “Stay on the phone with me ‘til I get there.”
“I’d rather not… I mean, I don’t know when I’ll be able to charge my phone and I want to keep it on in case you can’t make it. I can’t let my battery run out.”
“I’ll be there, Val. You know I will.”
She waited too long to respond and I almost plowed into the car in front of me at a red light because I was paying more attention to her than the road.
“Then I’ll see you when you get here,” she said before hanging up.
a month later.
“Please don’t call me anymore, Al.”
This is not the way I expected things to be after picking Valencia up in the middle of the night from the airport. By the time I reached her, it was going on four and she admitted she was hungry.
I got the bright idea to run her down to South Street like we used to do before we dated. I thought the memory would feed both her stomach and her soul. And a happy soul leads to feel good situations. An hour later, after eating greasy cheesesteaks and teasing her for dropping a cheese fry on her shirt that left an ugly bright orange stain between her breasts, Valencia curled up against my right arm and fell asleep during the drive home.
I must’ve stared at her for a good ten minutes once I parked outside the house. She stirred when I bent my head to kiss the top of hers. Valencia sat up and stretched her arms toward the orange and pink sunrays outside the car window.
“Thank you. I better get inside.”
Instead of speaking, I just went in for the kiss. You know, the stuff women swoon over while watching chick flicks and I knew after a night like ours that would seal the deal. She’d be mine again. Yeah, it was one of those kisses and the mood was just right. I mean… I rescued her in the middle of the freaking night. Fed her and made her laugh. We even had the ambience of the sun rising in the sky. So what did she do? She pushed back and shook her head.
“I appreciate what you did tonight, but I don’t want you to get the wrong idea.”
“You know, that we have a chance. As far as I’m concerned, we’re done. Maybe after some time, and I mean a lot of time, we can try to be friends.”
But I never gave up. Not even today when I called to invite her to my sister’s dinner party. A dinner party Tiffany isn’t aware that she’ll be throwing this weekend, but yeah… that one. Although Valencia threatened to block my phone number (again), I still made one last attempt to remind her how much I love her.
“One night like old times,” I begged. And I hate begging just as much as I hate beggars. “At least give me a chance to have peace with this.”
She got quiet on me and was probably wondering what the hell I was talking about. Heck, I didn’t even know what I was talking about, but it kept her from hanging up and it prevented Valencia from blocking my number. While I waited for her decision, I imagined how crazy I was going to look trying to circumvent a blocked number without appearing stalkerish.
“But your family hates me.”
My family didn’t exactly hate her. What happened was we got into a huge fight and when choice words came out, my brother stuck up for me (and he got a little loud doing it). Valencia ran out the house before Tiffany hit both Patrick and I upside the head forgetting that we are older and taller than she could ever be. You two are such assholes, Tiffany shouted before trying to stop Valencia from leaving, but it was too late. Valencia’s car was long gone.
“No, it’s me they have the problem with. Everyone misses you.”
Another stretch. Patrick told me a while back he couldn’t stand my wife because she brought me to tears. I think he was just embarrassed that I was a little too far in my feelings. And so what if it led to tears with snot running from my nose in the middle of Monday Night Football… in front of his boys… his boss… and well, his boss’s kids, too. Although I’m quite sure his remark about Valencia was just Patrick trying to show me how much he has my back.
“They do?” She sounded so sweet and optimistic. That trace of hope in her voice gave me hope.
“So you’ll let me pick you up on Saturday so you can join us?”
Another pause. I probably jumped in too soon for her comfort, especially when she was threatening a block just a few minutes ago.
“I’ll meet you there. Just tell me what time.”
two months later.
We up and did it. Valencia and I had a fight.
Tiffany could never handle her liquor and after drinking too much wine during the dinner party she confessed I made up the idea just to get Valencia to see me again. Fortunately Valencia thought the gesture was sweet, no thanks to Tiffany cooing about her romantic big brother’s attempt to win his girl back.
But somehow when I asked her to spend the night with me tonight – after two months of talking for hours on the phone, catching movies I wished I could sleep through at the theater and pretending that I wasn’t walking around with an expired erection that was at least nine months overdue for sex – I needed some ass.
That probably sounded pretty crass, which is exactly how it came out after she untucked herself from my arms and put space between us. We were in the middle of the sofa, curled up watching Scandal and all that talk about sex led my hand to her sex. Literally.
“It’s too soon,” she said.
“Too soon? For what? You’re my wife! We haven’t had sex in almost a year!”
“I’m not your wife.”
Somehow by the eleven o’clock news, I calmed her down despite my own simmering anger and we were actually on our way to the one thing she said we couldn’t do. In the middle of the bed I dreamed I could one day have her in, I stared at the only woman I loved and tried to go through a quick mental checklist of things I wanted to avoid as not to mess this up.
Next on my list was getting a condom out the dresser drawer. I still wanted children, but she wanted to wait until we got married before so that probably applied to now, too. I didn’t want to leave her, but pulled myself away just to get the pack.
That was when she reacted like her head was about to spin.
“Condoms? You keep condoms here? For who?”
Ever wonder why cartoonists draw thought bubbles over clueless characters and smack dab in the middle of it is a big black question mark? Well, that’s because those characters were feeling what I just did.
“What are you talking about?”
“Are you with her again?”
“I’m with no one, no one but you.”
“We stopped using those back when we were trying, remember? After you ran out we agreed no more and we would try to get pregnant. If you have condoms, that means you’re sleeping with someone.”
Enter thought bubble number two. Add question mark.
“I’m confused.” Like seriously confused right now.
“I can’t stop you from seeing other people, but if you are I can’t do this with you Alan. I can’t take a chance at getting hurt again.”
Then a blur of my baby grabbing her clothes on her way to the bathroom whizzed by just before the door slammed shut.
I’ve been banging on that door for half an hour now. I didn’t realize Valencia grabbed her cell phone, too, because Tiffany has been blowing up mine with texts ever since Valencia locked herself in the bathroom.
What is wrong with you??? Tiffany’s texted at least three times. The rest of her messages I had to stop reading. I never knew my sister cursed so much.
Sliding to the ground with my back against the door, I banged my head until I could feel a pain greater than the one inside my heart. “I didn’t even know I had them until I moved here and unpacked. They were in the suitcase I took on our trip to Chicago. Remember? You were there when I bought them, but we never used all of them. Those were just leftover.”
Water stopped running on the other side of the door and I heard sniffles for the first time. I could feel her presence and knew she was now right behind me. Glancing down, I saw the shadows from her body beneath the door.
Not ready to lose her again, I worked hard to keep her ear. “There’s been no one else, Val. I never slept with anyone since the day I married you. I don’t want to.”
“But you slept with her.”
“And I’ve hated myself for it ever since,” I confessed. Finally admitting my true, raw feelings. I do hate myself for hurting Valencia. “I can’t tell you enough how wrong that was for me and I knew going into our marriage that if you ever found out it would end us. But I owed you the truth and I couldn’t live with the guilt of knowing that I might not have cheated on my wife, but I did cheat on my best friend.”
She started crying harder and each sob was a punch in the gut to me. No longer able to take hearing her pain again, I stood to find something to help me break the damn door down. I needed to reach her. To touch her and convince her my love really is true.
Before I could figure out what was heavy enough to penetrate our barrier, a click sounded and the door slowly opened revealing just enough of her face. The tears running down her cheeks let me know how deep our wound ran inside her.
“Baby.” Opening my arms, I coax her toward me. The need to really reach her now was even stronger. “Come here.”
She shook her head and pulled back. I reached for the hem of her shirt to guide her back to me. This time she didn’t resist and once she was close enough, I took her into my arms and made the promise to never let her go.
Even when she wasn’t ready for what I begged to give her again.
Thank goodness, she didn’t let go either.
“Ladies and gentleman. Please help us welcome and celebrate Mr. and Mrs. Alan Kendall!”
The deejay kept the instrumental bridge from Shalamar’s song on a loop and we probably could have danced to that song all night. While still wondering how the bridal party coordinated the way they danced around us, glasses were raised high and all eyes were trained on my wife and me.
In turn, I looked at her. Valencia’s upturned face smiled at me and all I wanted to do was kiss her until the lipstick disappeared. The other things I wanted to do had to wait until I could sneak her off to a coatroom or better yet, a suite upstairs.
Silverware clinked against glasses sounding like a warning that a swarm of fairies was heading our way. Before I could duck my head and protect my wife from Tinker Bell, Valencia reached for my lapel and pulled my head toward hers.
“You gonna leave me hangin’?” she asked once I was close enough to hear her.
I never stopped having the thought bubble moments, but I learned these past few months how to explain the need for clarification without just feeling stumped or pissing my wife off. “Never, but what’s going on?”
“When they hit the glasses like that, we’re supposed to kiss.”
Now that’s what I’m talking about. “What do they do to signal it’s time for me to sneak you off to get some?”
Valencia swatted at my arm before moving closer. Wrapping my arm around her waist, I pull her in and feel all those crystals rubbing against my palm. Even then, I couldn’t think of anything but how soft and beautiful my wife felt in spite of them.
She smiled harder giving me one just like she did while walking down the aisle an hour ago. All I can think when seeing her smile at me like she is now… I did that.
Took me a while, but I finally could claim the smile on her face.
Dipping my head low, I nip her lips expecting to tease her into opening them a little more and she nibbles gently on mine before my grandmother shouts for us to get it on already. The clinking around us got louder and the deejay cranked up the volume as our kiss grew deeper. Laughing because of my grandmother’s whistling catcall was the only thing that could finally pull my lips away from hers.
Reaching to take my hand in hers, Valencia starts dancing again. No longer caring if one of our guests captured me dancing and uploaded it to YouTube, I move along with her.
“Now can I call you my wife?”
“Definitely and there better not be a day when you’ll stop.”
Copyright © 2015 by Tia Kelly. All rights reserved.