“How’d it go?” Mariah held Junior in her arms as I entered the house.
I clenched my jaws. “I should have divorced him a long time ago.”
I shook my head in disbelief. I practically gave this man my life, and he tells me I wasn’t enough?
I was the backbone.
The background to his fucking foreground.
Gave him chance after chance after chance after chance, and I wasn’t enough?!
I’m the unstable one?
I’m the one who shouldn’t be around the children?
Excuse me, motherfucker, but according to the media, you shouldn’t even be around children.
“Howard has to expedite this. I can’t do it. I refuse. How much pain do I have to endure? This isn’t love. This is everything but that.” I said more to myself than anything.
Love was supposed to protect me.
It’s supposed to be a safe place.
It’s supposed to be home.
Apparently, my kiss wasn’t the sweetest kiss he knew.
Love was never supposed to deceive.
Was it worth it? Was any of this worth it in the end?
When this is all over, and my happiness returns, will I replace him?
Should I replace him?
I never knew knowing love meant knowing pain.
“What happened?” Mariah pressed.
I scoffed. “That bastard told me he cheated because I wasn’t enough for him.”
She squinted. “What?”
I pressed my lips together. “I wasn’t enough for him. Even in his darkest days, I wasn’t enough. Apparently, Shana made him ‘feel like the man.’” I sucked my teeth. “What did that teenybopper have on me, huh? The fact that she was naïve and gullible to his bullshit? Something I’m not?” I shook my head again—the audacity of this man. I guess Matt didn’t knock the sense into him that I thought he would. “Where’s mom?”
“In her room asleep with Mimi.”
I took a breath to calm down and turned my attention to what really mattered. “How were the twins?” I nodded toward my son. I’m afraid that if I hold him with all the negative energy pent up in me right now, he’ll start to cry.
“They’ve been good. They hardly made a fuss.” Mariah tapped Juniors' nose as she smiled down at him.
“That’s good. I’m going to call Howard so we can get this going. These counseling sessions are going to be the death of me.”
“So? How’d the first session go?” Mom asked me once I sat down at the breakfast nook. This breakfast nook holds so many memories. I remember the first time Shayla and I sat here for breakfast… Now, I’m discussing counseling and divorce at this same breakfast nook with my mother…
“Shayla walked out.” I stared down at the table.
“Walked out?” She closed her eyes and sighed. “Why did she walk out?”
“Because I told her why I cheated."
The fact that I had to admit this to one person was hard enough. Now I have to explain this to my mother?
I rubbed my eye, which tingled with slight pain under my touch. The black eye Matt had painted on my face had faded away, but the pain and the reminder of why he did what he did remained. “To be honest, mom. And I know this may sound vain, but Shayla wasn’t enough for me in my time of need.”
Mom cocked a brow at me. “Excuse me?”
“I know, mom. I know it sounds stupid, but it’s the truth. You all don’t know it, but Shayla turned her back on me. For someone who vowed to be there for me no matter what, she did the complete opposite. That really hurt.”
In Shayla turning her back on me, it made me do the same. I know I was wrong in how I may have treated her sometimes, but I feel like that was in retaliation to how she was treating me.
Mom was bewildered. “How did she turn her back on you? Shayla’s been there through it all.”
I swallowed. “When I was in rehab a couple years back, she had an emotional affair with the bodyguard that I hired for her.”
Mom’s eyes practically came out of her head. “She what?!”
“See, no one knows that because I dealt with it and kept it under wraps. Yes. Shayla cheated, and to this day, she is still in contact with that man.” I pressed my lips together in a thin line. “That’s when I knew I was losing her, mom. I had had her up until that point. I didn’t think we were ever bad for each other until after that.”
“How could you stay with her after all that?”
“Honestly, I was already going through enough. That certainly added fuel to the fire, but I forgave her because she stayed with me after what happened between me and that girl from the ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ short film. But after her affair, the loss of the baby, and the kiss, we were hanging on by a thread. I mean this in the nicest way… It’s a miracle I didn’t cheat until two years after the fact.”
“My God,” Mom clutched her invisible pearls. “And now you have children.”
“And now we have children,” I nodded. “And now she wants a divorce, but I can’t let that happen now, mom. We have children. It’s not about us anymore. It’s about Michael and Milan. The children that I’ve prayed for my entire life. They can’t be raised in a broken home.”
Mom’s eyes flickered back and forth as she looked out the window. I’ve never told my family about Shayla’s transgressions. Now, I wonder if my family thinks we should stay together.
“You know…” she began. “When your father cheated on me, you all would tell me to leave him all the time. You were the main one telling me to get a divorce, but I couldn’t because not only did I love Joseph, but I wanted to stay for my family.”
“But we were all about grown at that point.”
“My point is… when your children ask Shayla why she didn’t leave after you betrayed her, what will you say?”
“They won’t have to ask that because it’ll never happen again.”
“Yeah, but one day, whether the outcome is you and Shayla together or apart, you’ll want to come clean to your children. You’ll want to make sure they don’t make the same mistakes that you did. What will you say?”
As I opened my mouth to answer, my mobile phone rang. I answered it quickly.
“Michael, it’s Gerald. I just received a court date from Shayla’s lawyer.”
My mouth fell agape. “Huh?”
“She wants to begin court proceedings next Monday.”