Here is the next unedited excerpt from the story.
I’d made the first move, but I had the distinct feeling that getting to know Breelyn Jarrett was going to be a challenge-one I looked forward to.
Tonight, though, I planned to leave on time to stop by my parents’ house. I was always eager to see my brothers and talk with them about what was going on in their lives. Ris, which was short for Aristide, had finished his last year of college, and was looking for a job. Beau, short for Beaumont, still lived at home because he claimed he was trying to save money. The truth was he was too damn lazy to go out and find his own place. At twenty-one, he’d only done two years of college before he dropped out. Now he was a blue shirt in Best Buy, which paid him minimum wage. It was an honest job, but I knew he could do so much better. Being the oldest, I considered it my responsibility to steer them in the right direction. Like any major US city, the streets of Atlanta sang a siren’s song to young brothers, which was often hard to ignore. It offered quick money along the ever-present chance of getting involved in the legal system. In my early teens I’d had a brush with the law, and I didn’t want my brothers to ever go through the same thing.
My mother kept it informal on weeknights. She was still working and had a few years to go until retirement. After working all week, she didn’t feel like cooking, so it was Chinese takeout tonight.
“Hi, sweetheart,” she said, kissing my bearded cheek as I entered the kitchen where she was pulling together disposable plates, cups and plastic flatware. “I’ll take these. Can you bring the tea and beer out?” She inclined her head toward a six-pack of Heineken and a tall pitcher of sweet tea with slices of lemon floating on top.
“Sure.” I grabbed the pitcher and scooped the beer up in my other arm. “What’s new around here?”
She snickered. “You have to be kidding. Is there ever anything new going on here?”
The older my mother got, the more discouraged she became with my father’s hermit-like attitude. He had no desire to go anywhere on the weekends, or take vacations or travel. Sitting at home watching CNN was all he wanted to do once he got home from work. Lately, she’d been going out with some of her lady friends from the job. Her dissatisfaction with the arrangement was evident to me, but my father wasn’t fazed.
My mother refused to have a television in the living room. I made my way down the hall to the TV room where he was in his chair dozing while Don Lemon elucidated on one of the top stories of the day. Rather than wake him, I turned around and returned to the kitchen.
“Call your brothers down for dinner, will you?” She sounded irritated.
“What’s bothering you, Ma?”
“Same ol, same ol. The men living in this house all need a fire lit under their behinds. I’ve had my fill of looking after them.”
“You don’t mean that. I think you’re tired and bored.”
She waved a hand in the air. “Whatever you want to call it. They act as though my sole purpose on this earth is to see to their needs.”
“You have always done for them. They’re used to it.”
The look in her tired brown eyes when she glanced up saddened me. “You’re the only one who went out and made a life for himself. I’m so proud of you, baby.”
“Thanks, Ma, but Ris is going to be fine. He’s just starting out. At least he graduated and with pretty decent grades too.” I chuckled.
“But your father and Beau are hopeless.”
“You let them get away with too much. Maybe you should put your foot down.”
“You’re right, but it’s hard for me. Let’s talk about you. Are you seeing anyone?” She asked the questions as though she was hoping there had been a dramatic change since last week.
“No. The women at work are generally not my type, and the ones I’ve met in my professional associations are too much like me.” I laughed.
“What’s the matter, you afraid of a little professional competition?”
“Naturally, I want an intelligent woman, but she doesn’t need to have a degree. Common sense is more important in my book. It’s something that can’t be taught.”
“I think you’re being too picky. To hear your brothers tell it, Atlanta has the most beautiful women in the country.”
“Ris and Beau are young, and it’s all they’re looking for.” Of course, I wanted the woman I ended up spending my life with to be attractive, but it didn’t need to be the heavily-made-up, waist-length weave kind of attractive for which Atlanta women were famous. “They’re a dime a dozen, and I’ve had my share of them.”
Her jovial laugh filled the kitchen. “True. You certainly have!”
Attractive and intelligent weren’t the only qualities I hoped for. There were things I wanted in a woman that I couldn’t share with my mother.
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