Kyle comes home to find out that Carmelita and the children have a surprise party for him. He’d forgotten his birthday entirely. Not only that, his friends and co-workers are there, as well as his brother. Chris makes a rather off-color comment to Carmelita.
“Oh, you think so, huh? You think you’re enough man for Lita?”
“I know I am. I’ve got all you need right here.” He grabbed his pants.
Carmelita eyed him speculatively. “Maybe so, sugar. But do you really think you need to be educating your brother’s children at their tender ages?”
“Um… I’m guessing the right answer is no?”
She leaned over, kissing him on the lips. “That’s correct.”
The party broke up around midnight. Mindy was asleep on the couch, curled up with Slycarp the cat. Kyle carried her up to bed while Chris helped Carmelita clean up.
“This was a good thing you did, Lita. He needed this right now.”
“How did the meeting with your dad go?”
“Not great. I’d say it was epically bad.”
“That’s a shame.”
“Cheese it, Pinky, the cops.” Chris said in a funny gangster voice.
“You’re talking about me. My ears are burning.”
“Course we are. It’s your birthday. You’re the topic of the day.”
“Let’s change the topic. I need a beer.”
“Doesn’t someone have to work tomorrow?”
“No. I talked to Web. I’m extending my leave of absence.”
“You are? Mr. Type A, workaholic is taking personal leave? Why?”
Kyle popped open a beer, handing it to his brother. Opening another for himself, he took a long pull on it before he said anything more than “Drink.”
“What’s wrong, baby? Something’s preying on your mind.”
“I got a call just before coming back here. Mom called from the home.”
“Is she okay?”
“She’s fine. Dad’s gone, Chris. He died this morning.”
His brother downed the bottle of beer, asking for another. Together, they got progressively drunk. Lita kept them supplied with bottles and helped them to bed when they got too unsteady to stand.
Kyle was less wasted than his brother, so he helped take Chris to bed, then stumbled to his own. As he walked out the door, he saw Carmelita lean over and kiss his brother on the lips.
“Sleep well, baby. Maybe next time you can rock Carmelita’s world.” She tucked the blankets around him, turning out the light as she left.
* * *
Days passed, flowing calmly into weeks, drifting into months. After his father’s memorial service, Kyle tendered his resignation. He’d been toying with the idea of starting his own dance studio, setting that in motion backed by his former advertising clients. Until that came to fruition, he worked full time at the dance studio where his girls took ballet. He taught jazz, tap, ballroom dancing and salsa. Building up a clientele, he was establishing himself as one of the best adult dance instructors in the Orlando area.
He was between classes, preparing for his Latin dance class when the door opened and a dark haired woman walked in holding something in her arms. Kyle was facing the mirror taking a drink from his water bottle when he caught a glimpse of her. Something about her smile and the way she held herself was familiar.
“Emily?” He spun around, nearly losing his balance. “What are you doing here?”
“I brought someone to see you.”
The bundle in her arms moved, gurgling. He covered the distance faster than he would have thought possible.
“I’ve named her Rose,” she smiled up at him. “Isn’t she beautiful?”
“She’s gorgeous. I don’t understand. What are you doing here? Why did you bring a baby?”
“Can someone else take your class for a few minutes?”
“I don’t know. I guess….” He spoke briefly to his partner who got the class warming up while he took Emily outside.
“Tell me about Rose.”
“She’s your daughter.”
“The night you spent with Vera. Yes, I know it was her. It’s okay.” She stopped him before he could apologize. “Grief makes us do stupid things and God knows you’d already had more than your share. Vera found out she was pregnant and came to me wondering what to do. Because you and I were friends….” She faltered, her gaze dropping.
“Emily, I’m so sorry….”
© Dellani Oakes