“Don’t be late for your cousin’s wedding,” those were the last words that my somewhat repressive mother said to me before we got off the phone this morning.
And I wasn’t going to be late.
I had my hair appointment that morning at eight and was out of there by ten. I did the mani-pedi-wax thing before going to get my makeup done by Tia at the MAC cosmetics counter and was back home before noon. I put on the cutest red sleeveless Likely Pentz dress with an alluring cutout detailed halter neckline, cutout front and vented back. I was out of the house by three and since the wedding wasn’t until four, I had plenty of time to make it to Victor and Natasha’s wedding.
That was until Bambi, my 1998 Toyota Celica, began shaking and spitting right before smoke began seeping out from under the hood. She rattled, shook and popped before the car shut off and I struggled to guide it to the side of the road.
“Great! Just great,” I said as I got out of the car. “This is all I need.” I walked around to the front of the car, as smoke billowed from under the hood.
For a hot second, I thought about opening the hood to see if I could see what was wrong, but I quickly moved on from that idea. I knew absolutely nothing about cars, so my opening the hood to have a peek would have been more than pointless.
My next thought was to call somebody to come pick me up and see about Bambi. My shade tree mechanic cousin, Paul has been keeping Bambi running for years. But he was going to be in Victor’s wedding, so calling him was out of the question.
And besides, I really didn’t want to call anybody to come rescue me. For a number of reasons, some of them I admit are well deserved; I have a reputation in our family for being undependable and just a bit flighty. A reputation I’ve been working really hard to live down, but it’s hard. Once your family sees you a certain way, it’s hard for them to see you any other way no matter what you do.
The last thing I wanted to hear was, somebody had to go get poor, unreliable, can’t get herself together, Sydney. And I am so tired of that talk that I don’t know what to do. So if I had to walk to the church, that’s what I would do.
Just then, a new black Infiniti Q60 with New York plates drove by me and pulled over on the side of the road. When the vehicle started to back up and then a man got out, I got ready to say thank you for stopping and that I appreciated his offer to help, but somebody was on their way there to get me. You know, because there are crazy people in this world. But when he started walking toward me, I reconsidered whether I wanted to amend that speech.
This man coming toward me was like hot sex on a beach. Sexy, delicious and probably against a few laws, but worth the risk. The closer he got, the more I realized that I knew this man. “Rod?” I said tentatively.
“Sydney?” he said in the same manner.
“Yes,” I said as I continued to eye Rod’s chocolate brown skin, rich brown eyes, framed by thick eye brows and a tall, athletic build that was the feature for many of my wet dreams.
Seeing him coming toward me, casually dressed in black shorts, a black Batman T-shirt and black flip-flop sandals, reminded me of the recurring fantasy I had about him. I’d run into him at some city-sponsored event and we’d talk and mingle with other people, continuing to make eye contact. Since I rarely drove to events back then, when it was time for me to go, I’d call a cab. He’d come out at the same time and say, “Would you like a ride?”
And I’d bite my bottom lip, look at him hard and say, “I’d love to ride.”
We’d go to his car, one with enough space in the front seats so that when he pulled over, I could climb over to his seat and straddle his lap.
For some reason, his legs always made me want to climb on top of him and ride him so hard and fast that when he leaned me back to catch my tight nipples in his hot wet mouth, I would barely hear the car horn as I leaned back onto it. He’d given me that ride in my fantasies more times than I can count, and it was the best fantasy ride I’d ever had.
“I thought that was you, Sydney. How have you been?”
“I’m fine, Rod,” I said and he nodded his head.
His name was Rod Greenwood. He and I used to work together for the city of Jacksonville when I was a code compliance officer and he worked as a contract compliance inspector about five or six years ago. At the time, I was deeply involved with Devondre, but I always thought that Rod was fine as hell, so we had this kind of a smile, wave and flirt thing going on until he abruptly quit and announced that he was moving to New York.
“Having problems with your car, I see.”
“Yes. I was on my way to my cousin’s wedding when Bambi decided to quit on me.”
“You want me to take a look at it?” Rod offered.
“Actually, no. But you’d be doing me a big favor if you would take me to the wedding.”
“No problem,” Rod said and extended his hand toward his Infiniti.
We walked to the car and Rod opened the door and held it while I got in. I love a man that knows how to treat a lady. It’s an art form that is lost on a lot of men these days, but it was apparently alive and well in this man. Once he closed the car door, I watched him walk his sexy chocolate ass around to get in the car and thought about my fantasy.
“The interior is certainly big enough for me to ride him,” I said aloud as he got in the car.
“What did you say?”
“I said nice car,” I lied quickly.
“Oh, thank you,” he said and started it up. “Where to?”
“Open Arms on Dunn Avenue.”
“I know exactly where that is,” Rod said confidently and drove in that direction. “So, how’ve you been, Sydney?”
“I’ve been doing fine, Rod, what about you?”
“Me too, doing fine. You still working for the city?”
“No, I quit about a year after you did. I work as a commercial leasing consultant for Prime Commercial Realty now.”
I didn’t think that he needed to know that I quit that job after Devondre brought Candace Navarro into our world to break my heart, or the fact that I’ve had three other jobs in between. That would be too much information for the purposes of this conversation.
“You like that better than being a code compliance officer?” Rod asked with the same smile that he used to get me all hot and bothered with back in the day.
“Yes, very much. In this job, I still get to be out and interact with people while making them happy about their new office space; not making them miserable by telling them that their wiring, lighting, and air conditioning are not up to code and needs to be redone.”
“What about you? Last time I saw you, you were headed for New York to take a job in the mayor’s office.”
“Yeah, well, I stayed there for about a year, and then I got a job in the private sector with a major construction company. But when they started downsizing mid-level managers like myself, I was ready to do something else, so I accepted the buyout package they offered me and came home.”
“How long have you been back?”
“Three weeks, and I gotta say, it is good to be back. I loved New York, but it was too cold, it snows too much and the beaches were nasty.”
I laughed. “Well, welcome back, we missed you while you were gone.” I started to say that I missed him, but I thought that using ‘we’ was safer. Even though Mr. Rod Greenwood had been the subject of my fantasy life back then, the truth was that I knew nothing about him and certainly didn’t want to give him the wrong impression.
I snuck a quick glance at Rod’s strong brown legs as he drove. His muscular thighs were speaking to me, saying that maybe I should get to know him.
When we arrived at the church, wedding guests were arriving and going inside. I saw my Aunt Anita and Uncle B along with my twin cousins, Desana and Dior, walking toward the building. Rod put the car in park, grabbed his cell phone, which let me know that he was planning to ask me for my number, got out, came around and opened my door for me.
When he extended his hand, I accepted it and got out. “Thank you,” I said because, as I mentioned, I do love being treated like a lady.
Instead of saying goodbye and jumping back in his car, Rod surprised me and escorted me to the door. When we got to the entrance of the church, Rod turned to me with those eyes of his. “Well here we are.”
“Yes. And thank you for coming to my rescue.”
“It was my pleasure,” Rod said and laughed a little. “When I saw that it was you in that dress, I didn’t have any choice. You looked so amazing that I had to stop.”
“Is that your way of saying I look nice in the dress?”
“Sydney,” he said and took a step closer to me. “You look incredible in that dress and I apologize for it not being the first thing out of my mouth. You are even more beautiful now than you were when I saw you last, and you were drop dead gorgeous then.”
“Thank you. I was worried that it was too much.”
“Well, Sydney, it was good seeing you again.”
“Good seeing you again too,” I said as more of my family arrived and were giving us the evil eye.
“We should get together sometime soon and, you know, talk about old times.”
“Sounds good,” I said and he handed me his cell phone. I quickly entered and saved my number and handed him back the cell phone. “I gotta run, but call me.”
As my Uncle B, my favorite aunt, Anita and my cousins Desana and Dior walked up, I watched Rod as he walked back to his car. I’d never seen him in shorts and he definitely had the legs for it. Rod looked back and stopped when he saw that I was looking at him. We stood there briefly exchanging the type of glance that we shared when we worked together. As my Uncle B held the door for me, Rod and I waved to each other before going into the church.
“He’s cute,” Dior said as we walked to our row.
“Nice legs,” Desana added.
“I love that dress, Sydney,” Aunt Anita said.
“Bet your mama hates it,” she said.
“I know she will,” I said and giggled as we took our seats on the groom’s side of the church. “Some days it’s hard to believe that the two of you are sisters that grew up in the same house.”
“Patrice has always been uptight like that, even when we were kids. Never wanted to have any fun; always telling on me and your Aunt Susan.” Anita shook her head. “She was a mess.”
I just nodded my head because I had heard the stories before and even if I hadn’t, I had firsthand experience in how my mother was. After all, my brother James and I grew up in the house she ran with an iron fist. All of us, including my father, had to look and act a certain way, especially in public to be able to exist in her world or else there would be consequences.
Having to hear her mouth.
Believe me, her tongue was sharp and nobody wanted to hear it and we went out of our way to avoid it.
It had the effect of making us into people that we actually weren’t. My brother James is gay. It’s the family secret that everybody knows, but nobody talks about, and that includes my mother, but she is in denial about it. When he is around the family, which he goes out of his way to avoid, he dresses and acts the way she expects him to.
I developed a reputation of being a bit of a prude and giving the nickname the Virgin Sydney, which I always thought was hilarious. I was a tale of two Sydney’s; the conservative dressing, prudish acting Sydney and the freaky, want to do it all the time Sydney.
“But I can tell you are working to break out of your mother’s mold. It’s showing, Sydney.”
“Shhhh. Don’t tell anybody, Aunt Anita.”
It was then that I saw my mother coming toward us.
“Hello, Mommy. You look nice in that dress,” I said just to get a rise out of her and she chose not to comment. Aunt Anita covered her mouth to keep from laughing as her sister smoothly changed the subject.
“I was beginning to think I’d have to send someone for you,” my mother said.
I wanted to say something smart, but had learned long ago that it would only lead to more backlash. So I took the high road. “No need to come get me, I’m here now.”
And I left it at that. Had I mentioned my car trouble, she’d likely start in on how I knew better than to try to borrow money from her for repairs. Little did she know, I could handle my own even if it would put me back to zero.
“I know how you like to be fashionably late, but you were cutting it kind of close,” she said and cut her eyes at Aunt Anita, who made a career of arriving everywhere late.
“Hey, Patty,” she said. “Doesn’t Sydney look beautiful in that dress?”
“Yes,” she grudgingly and quietly said before returning to her seat.
The wedding was beautiful. Natasha wore a Galina Signature chiffon dress with a low V-neck and back. Her best friend, Vanessa was matron of honor and her sisters, Victoria and Katharine were her bridesmaids and they looked beautiful in their peach strapless crinkle chiffon dresses with a sweetheart neckline and ruched detail.
The groom, my handsome cousin Victor, wore black tails by Joseph & Feiss. His brother Stevie was his best man and the groomsmen were James and Paul; their tails were grey and they looked very handsome as well.
Instead of sitting at the table with my Mom and Dad and being subjected to my mom’s negative comments, I sat at the table with my cousin, Rhonda in the seat the she was saving just in case her mother showed up, which she didn’t. But if she had actually come, I was prepared to move.
I’ve never met Rhonda’s mother; I wasn’t born when she left her children for a man. To my knowledge, even though they’ve talked to her, they haven’t seen her since she left. At that point, Rhonda had to grow up to help our grandfather raise Stevie and Victor.
“I meant to tell you earlier that your dress looks so cute on you,” Rhonda said as I slid in the seat next to her.
“I was hoping you’d be able to sit next to me.”
“Oh, really. Why is that? So you can get on me about almost being late to your brother’s wedding. No need, my mother beat you to it.”
Rhonda laughed. “I figured she would and no that is not why I wanted you to sit here. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a chance to spend any time together. I’ve been so busy with work and … well you know. So, are things going good for you?”
“Well, things were going well until this morning.”
Rhonda is not only like a big sister to me, she was big sister to all of us. See, we are a very close family, so we all grew up together and Rhonda being the oldest was very much in charge of her little cousins. I was the youngest until Desana and Dior, who are ten years younger than I am, were born. They were the babies in the family for years, until Uncle Willie got married to Tina and now they have five little kids.
I looked up to Rhonda, she had it all together and I wanted to be like her. She and I got really close about three years ago when nobody had seen or talked to me in weeks. My brother, James came by a couple of times to see about me, but I wouldn’t answer the door, even though he knew I was there, so he told Rhonda.
When she got there, Rhonda could hear music playing in my apartment. But Rhonda being Rhonda, she didn’t knock on the door, she called me and because it was Rhonda calling, I answered.
“I’m sorry. I’m not at home and I probably won’t be home until late tonight,” I tried to tell her.
“Open the door, Sydney?”
“How can -”
“Stop it. I’m standing outside your door; you were listening to Sade until you just turned it down to answer my call. So stop playing with me and open this door.”
Since it was Rhonda, I let her in. The first thing she noticed was that I was drunk and I hadn’t bathed in four days. After fussing at me for the way I looked, smelled and the condition of my apartment, she asked me what was wrong with me. I tried to lie to her and say that I was fine, but she wasn’t buying it. So I told her the truth.
Devondre. What was wrong was that I loved him, but he loved somebody else. We had been together for six months when he started telling me that he wanted to have a threesome, like every other man I’ve ever met. And since I was in love and was a little bi-curious, I agreed. It was fun the first few times we all did it and when it was over, we’d send the woman home and we’d be so turned on that me and Devondre would do it all night. Then Devondre brought Candace Navarro into our world and all of a sudden, she’s invited to spend the night with us and after a few more times, she’s sleeping next to him. Next thing I know, he’s telling me it’s over because he feels trapped and he’s not ready for a commitment.
I called him for weeks, but he didn’t answer his phone. I was calling him every day, leaving messages telling him how much I loved him and begging him to please take me back. But he never would speak to me. What was so bad about that was knowing that he wasn’t alone. Knowing that while I was begging him to take me back, he was with someone else.
After that day, me and Rhonda have gotten a lot closer, finding that we had more in common than either one of us thought we did. Rhonda told me about some of the things that she had gone through with men so I knew she could relate. She told me that it was going to hurt for some time and she damn sure was right about that. I also found out that I wasn’t the only woman in the family that liked to do it all the time.
“I heard that Bambi quit on you on the way to the wedding,” Rhonda remarked.
“Yeah, Bambi started shaking and smoke was coming from under the hood.”
Rhonda laughed. “That’s how Bambi rolls, ain’t it?”
She’s been telling me for a while now that I needed to get a new car, and I keep telling her that I’m not trying to get a car note.
“Usually, but this time she shut off on me.”
“So, you gonna tell me or are you gonna make me ask?”
“Who was the cute guy with the nice legs that brought you to the wedding?” Apparently, Desana and I weren’t the only women who noticed his legs.
“His name is Rod Greenwood.”
“This somebody new?”
“No. I’ve known Rod for years. We used to work together when I worked for the city. When Bambi quit on me, he just happened to drive by and was nice enough to give me a ride to the church, that’s all.”
“Uh-huh,” was Rhonda’s only response.
“That’s all, huh? He just happened to drive by and was nice enough to give you a ride to the church.”
I smiled. “That’s all.”
But there was something about bumping into him today that made me feel less certain that that was indeed all there was to it. I wanted to see him again, and I hoped he would call me.
“I didn’t just meet you, Sydney.” Rhonda rolled her eyes and looked away, but turned back quickly. “That’s all for now, you mean.” As I said, Rhonda and I are a lot alike. She and I shared the same … let’s call it ideology about men and relationships.
Based on past experience, I think that there is a definite shelf life on a relationship with a man. Then it’s time to get some fresh meat, and even though she is in an interesting kind of relationship with Randall Washington, Rhonda agrees … for the most part, I guess.
You see Rhonda has never been married and has no children of her own. She loves children, so she has really become close to Randall’s two daughters, Taylor and Ashley. Where it gets interesting is that she’s also gotten very close with his ex-wife, Susanna.
“We are three working professionals and it’s all about doing what’s best for the girls,” she says, but the three of them appear … how should I say this, very familiar with one another each time I’ve seen them together.
“Where’s Randall,” I asked more to get the conversation away from Rod, “And is the ex-Mrs. Randall joining us today?”
Rhonda did that thing she does when she is acting like she’s trying not to give me the finger. “No, Sydney, Susanna and the girls are not coming and Randall is over there talking to that man.” Rhonda pointed and I followed her finger to this fine ass specimen of a man that I’d never seen around before. He must be part of Natasha’s family.
“As soon as he walked in the church, Randall’s entire mood changed,” Rhonda informed me. “I’ve never seen him look so … so scared before,” Rhonda said and I could tell she was troubled by it.
“What do you think it is?” I asked as the two men separated and Randall started for the table.
Rhonda stood up. “I don’t know, but I bet you I find out,” she said and started walking in the man’s direction.
I found out later from Vanessa that the man was some big-time gangster from New York and his wife, Sandy is Natasha’s cousin. Later at the reception, I met a very handsome man named Napoleon who told me that he was their bodyguard.
He and I hung out for a while and he tried to get me to come back to the Ponte Vedra Inn, where they were staying, to have mindless sex with a man I just met, who was leaving for Italy in the morning and I would never see him again.
I declined the invitation. But he did have me feeling him, with that smooth West Indian accent and that package I felt when we were dancing, but no. Napoleon did get me and a guest added to the VIP list for The Regulators tour, which was coming to Jacksonville soon at the Veterans Memorial Arena.
When the reception was over, I rode with Paul and Vanessa to check on Bambi. Paul got in and tried to start it up, but it wouldn’t turn over. “I think that she’s finally quit on you for good,” he said.
“I have Triple A so we can get it towed,” Vanessa said. “The card is in my purse,” she said and went back to their car to get it.
When she did, Paul slipped me a card. “Tell her you’re my cousin and she’ll hook you up with something,” Paul said quietly after Vanessa walked away.
I looked at the card. It belonged to Bria Abbott. She was the woman that he used to mess with before, and some say after he married Vanessa. So you know that I had to ask.
“You and her aren’t still … you know?”
“No, Syd, I’m not still fucking her, but we still talk sometimes.” I looked sideways at Paul. “Now put that away before Vanessa sees it,” he said as Vanessa came back.
© Roy Glenn
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