Wandering Beauty Excerpt

Now all I had to do was prepare myself for the fight coming when Ivan returned home from his trip. I was tempted not to say anything to him. Just pack me and Iesha’s bags and head to the airport. We would be in Colemanville before he was home from work.

Pushing thoughts of how Ivan might react out of my mind, I drove home in silence dwelling on Nana Flo’s advice.

You’re gonna have to do something to show him you’re worthy of respect.

 But how? How could I make him respect me? Short of walking away from my marriage. And even then, it probably wouldn’t matter. I really didn’t think Ivan cared one way or the other. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t crushed that my husband no longer wanted me. What hurt the most was that he didn’t seem to remember that we had done what we promised on our wedding day we would never do. Let anything or anyone come between us. 

As I turned onto the tree-lined street where my family lived there was a car parked in front of the house. Curious as to who was sitting in front of my home, I pulled over to the curb and slowed to a stop. My heart was pounding as I watched my husband get out of the driver’s side and go around to the passenger side. I gripped the steering wheel, chest heaving up and down. The office manager stepped out. She and Ivan were talking and laughing. When was the last time he talked and laughed like that with me? 

She followed him to the rear of the car as the trunk popped open. Retrieving his luggage, he slammed it shut. I sucked in a stunned breath when they hugged. Everything in me wanted to slam my foot on the gas and crush both of them. The only thing that stopped me was Van coming out of the side door near the driveway. And I needed to pick Iesha up before school let out.

Van seemed taken aback as he stopped halfway down the driveway, gazing at his father. My son balling his hands into fists at his sides prompted me to pull it together and drive into the driveway. I didn’t hide my disdain as I glanced at Ivan and his office manager.

Jogging the short distance to the driver’s side, Van opened the door for me.

“Hey, Ma,” he greeted, leaning down to kiss me on the cheek.

Gently, I cupped his jaw and scratched at the stubble causing him to laugh. “Hey, baby boy. Help your mama with these bags.”

Van cut his eyes at his father as Ivan waved at his employee. “I got ’em, Ma.”

“Thanks, baby.”

As I was passing Van one of the large shopping bags from the backseat, Ivan sauntered over to my car with his luggage. He looked me over from head to toe and back up again. His gaze stopped at the black uniform short sleeve t-shirt that emphasized my c cup breasts.

“Jillian…you cut your hair.”

Before I could say anything, Van and his smart behind self said, “Ma, my friend Tyler who picked me up this morning thought you were my big sister. He wants your phone number.”

I couldn’t help laughing. “Boy, if you don’t take this food in the house…”

Shoving another bag in my son’s hand I shooed him away as I reached for the remaining bag. “Yep, I cut my hair.” I closed the car’s back door and walked up the driveway toward the side entry door. In the past when I’d changed my hairstyle, I always felt like I needed to give Ivan an explanation. Not anymore.

Ivan followed me into the kitchen.

“You didn’t think you needed to run it by me?”

Wait a minute…what? Handing the grocery bag to Van, I dumped my purse on the kitchen island.

“Run what by you, Ivan?”

He had the nerve to glare at me as if I was questioning his authority. Waving his hand in the air toward my hair, he was clearly irritated. “Stop acting dumb. Cutting your hair.”

It was something about the way he said dumb that made me snap. 

“I don’t have to run a damn thing by you, Ivan! This is my hair. If I want to shave my head bald it’s my business.”

“Don’t you raise your voice at me!”

Van stopped putting the groceries away. He stared at me and his father.

“Then stop treating me like I’m not your wife!”

“If you acted like a half decent wife. I would treat you like one.”

It felt like the wind was kicked out of me. I couldn’t believe Ivan had just talked to me like this in front of our son. Bitter tears burned my eyes. Before I knew I revealed what I had been sensing for months. “I guess your office manager would be a half decent wife.”

That son of bitch taunted me. “You said it, not me.”

That was when I realized I wasn’t imagining that Ivan was cheating.

Van eased up beside me and wrapped his arm around my shoulders. My baby boy became a man when he looked his father in the eyes and came to my defense. “Dad, you’re wrong.”

“Wrong for what? Making sure you, your sister, and your mother are taken well care of? Wrong for making sure you and your sister went to the best schools?”

I could feel Van’s heart beating rapidly, his body trembling. From the day my baby entered into this world he’d been strong-willed, never one to back down. Even if it meant him getting in trouble. 

“It’s okay, baby boy,” I whispered, gently patting his broad chest. 

Van shook his head. His flared nostrils resembled one of the angry stallions in Nana Flo’s stables. “No, Ma, it’s not okay. He’s wrong for how he talks to you. How he walks around here ignoring you. I see it…”

I wanted to die with what my son confirmed. What I suspected, but was too afraid to face. “Even Iesha sees it.” 

My baby’s voice trembled when he condemned his father. “You were wrong for bringing that lady from your office here. Hugging her all out in the open, disrespecting Ma.”

Ivan roared, “All of you can get the hell out if you don’t like it.”

Nana Flo’s words knocked me right between the eyes. Except I wasn’t worried about Ivan respecting me. It was time for me to start respecting myself.

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