Gene remained silent all the way to Skeet and Avery’s house. Skeet didn’t prod. He just drove, not even turning on the radio. He understood that people sometimes just needed somebody to sit with them in silence as they processed their feelings.
It wasn’t until they were sitting on the stoop of Skeet’s porch that Gene finally opened up. When he did, all kinds of things came out.
“I’m in love, man,” Gene confessed, speaking what had been dancing around in his heart for months now. What he dared not admit to himself or anyone else before today.
Skeet nodded. “I figured that based on how you reacted back at the café.”
Gene exhaled out some of his frustration. “How can I not love her, man? She’s smart, beautiful, has a giving and a forgiving heart, and she literally melts when I touch her. Plus, she kisses like nobody’s business.” He smacked his lips just thinking about Kylisha’s kisses now.
“Wow.” Skeet’s brows rose in surprise. “I had no idea there had been any physical contact between the two of you.”
“Nobody did. It was our little secret.”
“You haven’t slept with her, have you?” Skeet withheld a frown until the question was answered.
Gene shook his head. “No. Kylisha’s still as virginal as they come in that department. She plans to stay that way until marriage. I respect that.”
“Good.” Skeet looked relieved. He was glad Gene had not compromised the morals of a quality woman like Kylisha. “So with all this between you two, how was Arnaz able to move in on your territory?”
“By not having a string of women at his beck and call. By not missing a Sunday at church,” Gene replied, coming to the only conclusion he could. He blew out another breath of frustration. “I guess my player ways have come back to bite me on the…”
“Heyyy…man, I get the point,” Skeet interrupted. Mindful of his wife and kids, he looked back towards the house. His family was undoubtedly getting out of bed at this very moment and he didn’t want them to overhear the wrong thing. “Man, you know Avery and I just got over one hurdle. I’m not trying to have her mad at me for your filthy mouth.”
“My bad, man,” Gene apologized. “I’m not trying to cause trouble for nobody. I got too many problems of my own.” His body language revealed just how affected he was by those problems. His eyes were troubled and his shoulders slumped. Gene usually had perfect posture.
“Speaking of problems, how are you going to solve this one with Kylisha?” Skeet asked, looking forward again. “If this is the same Arnaz I think it is, you got some stiff competition there. The man was practically raised a Christian from birth.”
“I know. Even I like the guy,” Gene admitted, before his features hardened. “But I’m not going to let that stop me from taking him down.”
Skeet frowned. “What are you talking here? Physical warfare? Or financial warfare by making trouble for him at the job?”
Gene shook his head. “Neither. I’m not going to jail for nobody. My daddy died in jail, remember? Plus, if I do something to get locked up, that will only leave the door open even wider for Arnaz to take my woman.”
In the background, movement could be heard from inside the house. Avery and the kids were up and about. Soon the house would resonate with the joyous sounds of laughing children, walking barefooted on hardwood floors. The smell of pancakes and other tasty items would follow shortly thereafter since Avery always cooked big breakfasts on her weekends off.
“Well, what are you going to do about Arnaz then?” Skeet prompted.
“I’m going to defeat him on his own turf,” Gene replied with fire blazing in his eyes now. “If Kylisha wants a churchgoing man, I will be that. If she wants a man with no other women in his life, I’ll be that, too.” His gaze softened considerably. “I’ll be whatever she needs me to be, man. She’s the one. I know this because Kylisha’s the first woman I’ve ever wanted to get to know on the inside as well as the outside.”
Skeet was silent for a few moments, processing everything Gene just said. “Though the whole family would love to see you back in church for more than just Christmas and Easter, we don’t want you to be hypocritical,” he finally replied. “We want you to come back for God, not some woman, no matter how wonderful she is. Changing for someone else is just a temporary fix, Gene. As soon as that relationship goes sour, you’re likely to revert back to your old ways again, sometimes worse off than before. No, if you’re going to change for anybody, change for yourself, man. It lasts longer,” Skeet advised. He learned that lesson the hard way while dating Avery.
“I hear you. But how do you know God isn’t using my love for Kylisha to get me back in church,” Gene countered, looking desperate now.
Skeet nodded. “Could be, but it needs to be His love that keeps you coming back. After all, Kylisha could still choose Arnaz when it’s all said and done. Then what are you going to do?”
“Are you trying to discourage me?” Gene asked. Pain briefly crossed his features before ire hardened them again.
“No. I’m just trying to be realistic here. If you start going back to church right now, a church that Kylisha recently joined by the way, she might think you’re trying to manipulate her feelings. She might see it as a sign that you haven’t really changed after all. That you’re just up to a new game. It could cause her to stick even closer to Arnaz.”
“It’s a chance I’m willing to take,” Gene said through gritted teeth.
Skeet sighed in resignation. “All right. Either way, I got your back.”
“Thanks.” Gene sighed in relief. “I wasn’t so sure for a minute there.”
“Never doubt my loyalty, little bro,” Skeet said, giving him a brotherly pat on the back. “Though I might not agree with your methods of getting Kylisha back, I do agree that you should make the best effort possible. I watched you two very closely today. That girl loves you just as much as you love her.”
“She does?” Gene smiled with renewed hope. “How could you tell? Even I’m not one hundred percent sure of that yet.”
“I could tell by the way she kept watching you all morning,” Skeet replied. “The fact that she looked like she was going to break down in tears after you left, confirmed it for me. Telling you about Arnaz wouldn’t have upset Kylisha so badly, if she didn’t have deep feelings for you.”
Gene frowned. “I don’t know whether to be happy or sad about that. I don’t want to cause Kylisha any pain.”
Skeet smiled with satisfaction. “Hearing you say that proves to me just how much you really do care about her.”
“I love her, man.” Gene grinned when he said that.
“I believe you.” Skeet chuckled, before turning serious again. “Now you just have to make Kylisha believe you. You have to show her that it makes more sense to be with you than Arnaz. That the same reasons she chose him are the same reasons she can now choose you. The only difference is the fact that she won’t be settling for second best with you. With you, she’ll have what she really wants and so much more.”
Gene nodded. “Like Tyrese says, I gotta make her see that she’s winning if she gets on my team, right?”
“Right.” Skeet laughed. “By the way, that’s my joint, too,” he added, referring to the R & B song Gene just quoted from.
Behind them the porch light suddenly went off. A few seconds later, Avery opened the front door and smiled out at them. “You boys hungry?”
Skeet and Gene nodded adamantly, but for two very different reasons. Gene craved food since he hadn’t eaten much at the café and was now settled in his heart about a few things. Skeet craved Avery.
“Good.” Avery chuckled at their hungry expressions. “Come in and watch these children then, while I made us some breakfast. It’s my Saturday off, so you know I’m cooking the works.” She zoomed in on her husband’s face and added, “I’ll cook up a little something extra for you later, okay, baby?”
“Okay.” Skeet leaped to his feet and headed for the door.
Laughing, Gene followed his brother-in-law into the house. He looked forward to the day that he and Kylisha were happily married with children.
© 2006 by Suprina Frazier
Photo credit and links: