Authors: Theresa Hodge
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #United States, #African American, #Romance, #Urban, #Genre Fiction
ASK ME AGAIN 3
Written by Theresa Hodge
Edited by Shani Greene-Dowdell
© Copyright Theresa Hodge 2015. All Rights Reserved
Published by Nayberry Publications
My job no longer had the appeal it once held. My zeal and fire had abandoned me the day I signed over my paternity rights for my son to be raised by another man. I didn’t know hurt, until I finally met my sweet son for the first time and then had to turn around and give him up. I held a tough exterior on the outside, but it was all a façade. It was a sham in every sense of the word.
If Alyssa had looked back that fateful day she walked away from my suite in Atlanta, Georgia with those paternity papers clutched in her hands, she would have seen the tears streaming down the face of a broken man. My breath clutched in my chest and swirled into combustion of pain that had no outlet. The last sweet kiss that I felt from her lips didn’t help the situation any. It only added to the pain, letting me know what I could never have. The breath of fresh air that was in my life once upon a time would never be again.
I stared unseeingly out of my plush office window. The rumble of thunder that could be heard in the distance couldn’t even dispel me from my tumultuous thoughts. If anything, it added to the thunderous beating of my pain-filled heart.
I was no longer the man I was of yesteryear. My cockiness had been cremated into ashes and scattered somewhere in a time that no longer existed beyond my refined being. It was no longer fun dating the countless women that I had been dating. I was getting older and this very fact never hit me as hard as it did when the news of Alyssa and her husband newest additions to their growing family arrived.
Two years may have passed since I walked away from my son, but the pain was still fresh. I don’t think a sane person could ever get over giving up a child, no matter how right it is for everyone involved. It would be a decision I would regretfully live with until my dying day. My son, wait, Drake and Alyssa’s son was happy with an older brother and two newly born twin siblings. Beautiful twins, a boy and a girl from what I heard from a very reliable source.
I swiveled my way from the window to my desk. I opened my bottom desk drawer and searched the contents, before pulling out a framed photo of Drayden at his second birthday party some months back. His green eyes stared back at me from his smiling face. He was a replica of me in every way.
He appeared to be so happy. His smiling face lessened the pain that seemed to constrict my heart somewhat. He had grown by leaps and bounds from the chubby red-cheeked baby I met for the first time, years ago. I thanked God regularly that Alyssa sent me pictures from time to time to include me in Drayden’s growth. I didn’t dare ask for more than that.
This is more than I deserve,
I thought to myself.
The intercom buzzed cutting into my troublesome thoughts. I quickly replaced the picture into my bottom desk drawer like a valued prize for safe keeping.
“Mr. McRay, your two o’clock appointment has arrived,” my secretary announced through the intercom.
I sat up tall in my seat. I quickly palmed my face to get rid of any unpleasant frowns my face may have held. I straightened my tie and put on my business face. “Send her in, Jennifer,” I said pleasantly.
“Yes sir, right away,” she answered before sending my client through the door.
The door immediately opened, but I continued to look from my computer screen to the open folder on my desk, making notations here and there. “Come in and take a seat,” I said as my fingers tapped away at the keyboard.
A floral scent assailed my nostrils most pleasantly as my client took one of the vacant seats on the other side of my desk. I finally looked up into the face of one of the most gorgeous young women that had ever graced my office. I immediately stood up to reach across my desk to offer her my hand in a businesslike but friendly gesture.
“Hello,” I paused to look down at the open folder before me, to peruse the name printed in bold black writing on the application folder. “You must be Ms. Madelyn Stowe? I am David McRay, VP here at Liberty National Bank.”
She reached for my hand enclosing mines in a firm handshake. “Yes, that’s my name,” she said, offering me a timid smile as she barely made eye contact. “Actually, my full name is Ava Madelyn Stowe, but I always prefer to be called Madelyn. Maddie to a few chosen friends,” she added.
“Well, for now, I will call you Madelyn,” I said returning to my seat. “I am honored you chose Liberty National Bank for your financial needs. I understand that you are a small business owner in hopes of expanding your business.”
“Yes, I have been baking cookies and selling them over the internet and by word of mouth. I have even been getting orders from a few grocery chains lately. For the past year and a half, I have become overwhelmed with doing business from my home. The orders seem to be piling up at an alarming rate. I’m not complaining, but I do need a building and a few employees to lighten the load.”
“I see,” I said cutting in as I perused the information in her applicant’s folder. “You are looking to borrow something along the lines of seventy thousand dollars to get you started, am I right?”
“That is correct, Mr. McRay. I have done pretty well and I have some savings of my own as you can see. This loan will help to push me over the hurdle and put a good down payment on the building that I’m trying to acquire.”
“If I am to call you Madelyn, then you must call me David.”
“Of course, David,” she agreed shyly.
“Good,” I said without missing the blush to her fair skin. “The name of your business is Annie’s Cookie Shop?”
“Yes, I named it for my deceased mother.”
“My condolences,” I said sympathetically. “Did you lose her recently?”
“She passed away two years ago.”
“Madelyn, I am truly sorry to hear that.” I looked into her beautiful face and studied her in great detail. I knew my questions weren’t pertinent to her application process, but I felt the strong need to know more about Ava Madelyn Stowe. “Is your father still alive?” I continued to query her.
“If he is, I have no idea who or where he is. My mother confided in me once that he left as soon as he found out about her pregnancy. I guess he wanted nothing to do with my mother or me once he knocked her up. So, since my mother died, I’ve been virtually alone in this world.”
I felt a deep remorse for the man that abandoned this woman. It opened a deep wound to my already raw emotions. The man who fathered Madelyn was no more than a trifling donor of his sperm. What he did and what I did was as different as night and day, I thought to myself.
If Alyssa had given me any indication that she wanted me to be a part of her and our son’s life, and Drake wasn’t in the picture, hell or high water would not have kept me away. My eyes went back to studying the paperwork, in order to mask the pain that glared from my eyes.
“Everything seems to be in order. I will have someone in my department go over the final details of your paperwork and get back with you in two, no more than three, business days.”
“Thank you, Mr. McRay. I mean David,” she quickly amended.
“The pleasure was all mines, Miss Stowe. I mean Madelyn,” I teased.
My teasing caused her beautiful eyes to widen. I had caught her off guard with my lighthearted banter. She smiled shyly and bit her pink-tinted lips nervously. I studied her wavy, shoulder length shiny brown hair. It looked so soft that I craved to reach out and touch it and wrap it’s softness around my hand. Her smell was seducing me and she didn’t even know it.
Her eyes were a strange color that I couldn’t quite identify. One moment they seemed darker and the next they seemed lighter. They were beautiful eyes, just like her. Her shyness seemed to draw me in, along with her vulnerability. She was twenty nine years old. I had scoped that out earlier on her application, which put a good eight year age difference between us. She was also a client. I was attracted to her against my better judgment. I found myself wanting to detain her much longer than necessary, but I knew I had other business matters to attend to.
I realized that I needed to stay aloof and impersonal, but something about Madelyn drew me in like a spider’s web draws in a fly. She had a soft sweet presence that demanded my full attention in a way that brought forth my male appreciation of her.
I stood suddenly and my look invited her to stand also. I extended my hand once again towards her. I wanted to feel her small, soft hand enclosed in my much larger hand once again.
“Do you think I will get the loan?” she asked hopefully.
“Between you and me, I see no reason why you shouldn’t,” I assured her as I reluctantly released her hand. “Like I said earlier, someone or I will contact you in a few days to finalize the details and officially give your answer.”
She graced me with another one of her beautiful smiles. Her eyes sparkled with my assurance. Her white teeth flashed against her light complexion, making her even more beautiful if that was possible.
“Thank you again, David.”
“You are more than welcome, Madelyn. Here is my business card, if you need me for anything at all.” I quickly scribbled my personal number across the back of the card before handing it to her. “My cell number is on the back, in case you need me after hours,” I offered.
Another blush colored her cheeks. I smiled at her discomfort; it made her so endearing as she reached for my card and placed it inside her purse. I walked her to the door and closed it behind her without another word.
As I walked back to my desk and took a seat, I decided to personally finalize her loan. In the time that Madelyn walked through my doors and out, I was in a much better mood. I felt like I had been touched by the presence of a sweet angel. My troubles were forgotten and I felt better than I had felt in a while. Her scent still lingered.I closed my eyes and inhaled. I had a feeling that things were going to look up from this day forwar
“Whew!” My palms were sweaty and I felt flustered as I took the elevator down to the main lobby of Liberty National Bank. David McRay was a force to reckon with. I felt like I had been caught up in the whirlwind of his alluring green gaze. It took everything in me to walk out of that office unscathed.
He was handsome as well as fine. His bulging muscles could be seen even beneath his business attire. I knew that some woman had to be very lucky to have his full attention on the regular.
I wish that woman could be me,
I thought wistfully while sighing loudly in the elevator. Thankfully, I was alone, because I needed to get my breathing under control. That man brought forth shyness in me that I had tried so hard to get under control. His presence just caused me a major setback it seemed.
When I looked into his memorable green eyes, it was like getting lost in the deepest abyss of an ocean. I breathed deeply and exhaled again like they taught during yoga for relaxation and to get my heart rate under control. I didn’t know what it was about David McRay, but he had my emotions in a tailspin.
I hadn’t felt that way about anyone in a long while. This was all due to Chad, my ex-boyfriend who walked out on me during the most painful time of my life, when my mom suddenly died from a massive heart attack at the very hospital that she religiously worked to save so many lives for over twenty five years. Chad Martin decided to walk away from our relationship of three long years the day before my mom’s burial.
He quickly dispelled my faith in men and the thought that I would one day become Mrs. Chadwick Martin. If it hadn’t been for my best friend Monica, I don’t think I would have made it through those first dark, pain-filled days. That girl stuck closer to me than a sister by blood. She was the sister I wished I had.
I didn’t understand, and don’t understand to this day, why Chad walked away during a time I held dear, especially during a time I was experiencing such great loss. Didn’t he know how much I needed his strength? Later, with much convincing from my friend Monica, I realized that I was better off without him. I finally had to agree with her that Chad had to have one cold heart to do what he did. He had been my first though. The one that I had given my virginity to. It hurt like hell to know that I never truly knew him and his character. He was the first and last man that I had given myself to.
Chad hurt me in a way that left me wary of all men in general. Monica continued to urge me not to base all men by the likes of Chadwick Martin. She said one bad apple shouldn’t ruin it for the good guys out there and it was unfair to them as well as me.
I don’t know; maybe she is right after all,
I thought, as I walked out of the bank towards my Honda Accord that had seen far better days. This had been my mom’s car and held great sentimental value to me. I was hard pressed not to get rid of it for this very reason.
Rumbles of thunder quickened my steps. I looked up at the darkening sky that held a promise of rain. That wasn’t enough to dampen my spirits, not even my earlier thoughts of Chad. He was in the past where he belonged.
I turned the ignition and pulled out into the late afternoon traffic and navigated my way to the nearest grocery store to pick up a few items for my lone dinner that evening. I was tired of eating my meals alone, night after night. I still missed my mom terribly and her home cooked meals. I smiled as I reminisced about my mom. My memories of her were all good.
Thank goodness Food Lion wasn’t too crowded at this time of day. I pulled into an available parking space with ease. I hurried into the large food chain to make my purchase and was out in a timely fashion. I had a three hundred and fifty cookie order to bake and fulfill for a wedding and I didn’t have any time to waste.
“God, please let my business prosper,” I whispered in the car on my drive home. “Mama, I hope you see me and are proud of me,” I said, holding a one-sided conversation in the quiet car. A hot tear seeped from the corner of my right eye; I quickly wiped it away with the back of my hand.
I pulled into the graveled driveway of the home that mom had left for me. It was paid for in full. She made sure that I had a place to call my own; that was just my Mama’s way. She was hard working up until the day she died. She was a single parent that worked her fingers to the bone, so I didn’t live in want when I was younger.
She was far from being rich, but she always made sure somehow that our needs were met, that meant food on the table, a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs. She also paid for my college education at the local community college, along with some financial aid. I received my associate degree in business administration, and Mama’s financial help left me free and clear of paying tuition loans to this day. She did a great job of raising me as a single parent. I would love to know the man who fathered me, but it’s not a prerequisite to my survival. Mom loved me so much that her love was enough to fill the void of not having a daddy around.
I let myself into my home, the only link I had left to my mother besides the car. The best memories between the two of us were made there, in that house. It was far from a mansion but it was filled with warmth and plenty of love. Those thoughts comforted me as I carried my grocery bags to the kitchen to put them away.
I pulled my thoughts away from the past and focused on building my future. Mama wouldn’t want it any other way. The fact that I had cookies to bake, with no more time to waste, pushed me into high gear. A certain pair of green eyes would weigh heavy on my heart throughout the rest of my busy evening, for sure.