Bria stared at the containers of food piled in her refrigerator. Another day, and another stack of uneaten food. Her portions were off. She always cooked too much food. If she were honest it was no accident. She hoped Riley would stop by, but he had not done so in the week that had passed since he left.
Her groceries were delivered every three days like clockwork.
That first day, she kept waiting but he did not call or text. She was trying to be capable as he said, so she had tossed the phone up on a shelf to make it difficult to call him and that had lasted all of ten minutes.
She had given in and called his number, but he did not answer.
Who was she kidding?
She missed him.
Her longing for him had only increased in their time apart. A nurse had passed by to collect fresh samples and the test was negative. They had given her the all-clear to resume her life. But the island was still in lockdown and she had nowhere to go.
She had kept busy wrapping up paperwork on completed projects and prepping for her interview, which she had rescheduled. The last week had been emotionally tough and she had done a lot of soul searching but did not find any answers.
Bri checked the time on the laptop. She had five minutes before her virtual meeting with the agency. The face looking back at her in the laptop camera looked poised. Her lipstick accentuated her lips and the subtle makeup she had added. Her finger hovered over the mouse. One click would take her into the interview room to decide her future.
Was she ready to leave Saint Michaels, her husband?
He was her business partner, her best friend, and the man she could count on. He had done nothing wrong but ask for something she could not give him. A child. Worse of all she had made him believe he had wronged her when nothing was further from the truth.
She needed to make a clean break if she were going to survive life without Riley. She wasn’t going to be able to do that and live with only a wall between them. Even if she bought a home elsewhere on the island, every place would remind her of him. This was her opportunity. She needed to take it.
She pasted a smile on her face and pressed the mouse.
“Good day Mrs. Collymore,” The voice was chipper even as the screen remained blank.
“Mr. St. Clair. How are you today?”
“Give me a moment to figure out how to turn the camera on. I really detest these devices, but this is how life is now. So sorry you were unable to come to visit us.”
The man rambled on as she could hear him fiddling with his computer.
“There we go. Lovely to see you. I hope you can see me as well Mrs. Collymore.”
“I can sir. Thank you for the opportunity to speak about this new role.”
“Let’s cut to the chase. There’s no need for an interview. We want you here. Your work and reputation speaks for itself. We want that energy that you give to every project and your clients to be put towards our programs. I am authorized to make you a very generous offer. It is actually off the normal staffing scale, but it is well deserved.”
Bria’s mouth opened when he named the figure. Her deceased boss would have poked her and told her to fix her face and not show how enticed she was by the salary offer. She should say something, but she could not seem to string words together.
“I, I. Sir. I am flattered.”
“We ideally would want you on the team at the start of the next quarter which is in three weeks.”
Bria got an instant headache.
“This is a lot to take in I am sure. Given the present circumstances and all the current analysis on living with this virus, we may need to adjust how we all operate. The needs are growing exponentially greater by the day and I believe you are more than capable of helping us deliver the projects.”
“Mr. St. Clair is relocating to Barbados the only option?”
Where had that come from?
“No, it is not. We are discussing how we can decentralize operations and at the same time improve efficiency. We don’t yet know how that would work with real world scenarios. Any thoughts?”
“As a matter of fact, I do,” was Bria’s confident reply.
Bria spent the next five minutes sharing a simplified version of the system she had designed to keep track of multiple projects and funds and the results that she was having. By the time the call ended, Mr. St. Claire had not only offered her the job but upgraded it to get her to lead their restructuring. She had said yes without hesitation. Bria could work from Saint Michaels. Everything could be done virtually. Her new boss had also asked her to work with their tech team to develop a new software solution that could help every project director stay on top of their workload and assess impact in real time.
She was so excited and immediately reached for the phone to call Riley, then paused.
Why was Riley the first person she thought to call?
Because it had been that way since the first day they met. He had been open and friendly. Reliable, trustworthy, honest. He had done his best to knock down every obstacle and reason she had created to keep him at a distance. He had won her over enough that she had agreed to marry him.
He hadn’t reneged on his vows to her. She had. Did she really believe that he would leave if he knew she could not give him children from her damaged womb? Was that what she really thought about the man who had done nothing but love her. Even now, him leaving her alone was an act of love. A chance for her to see what she had and was about to destroy with a divorce.
“Oh God. I have been such a fool. Please don’t let me have lost my chance to tell him the truth. To tell him how much he means to me.” Bria spoke the words out loud and felt freedom.
She took deep breaths to calm her racing thoughts. She needed to speak to Riley. Her mind was a mush of jumbled words and feelings, so she grabbed the notepad on which she had written her possible interview responses and began to write.
Taking a few minutes to check her makeup and refill her glass of water, she walked unto the balcony to make the call.
Riley answered on the first ring.
“Bri. Is everything okay?”
He sounded anxious.
“I am okay. I. I just got some good news and wanted to share it.” Bria took a deep breath and sat in the lounge.
“I should have said something before but then… quarantine. I got an offer to work for that international agency I’m always talking about.”
There was a pause before Riley responded. Riley had always been encouraging her to pursue her dreams, just as she did the same for him.
“That was the path you were on before I interrupted your plans. It would only be right for you to take it.”
Bria’s chest hurt. What was he saying? Was he really giving up on them getting back together?
“It’s a really good offer and…”
“Bri. I would never stand in your way. My life is better because you challenged me to ask more of myself and I would still be fixing cars under a tree and paying rent if you hadn’t set me straight. They are going to be lucky to have you. Saint Michaels was always too small for you. I should never have tried to keep you with me. Time for you to fly.”
“No. No. Riley there is no flying without you. I miss you. I miss my best friend. I miss my husband. I miss my lover. I miss you. I am sorry that I pushed you away. You were right. I’ve been doing that since day one. I’d set up a challenge and you would just beat every one of them. I kept giving you reasons to leave, and you kept finding another reason why you wanted to stay.
“What are you saying Bri?
“I need to tell you something. Please let me get it out and then you can decide if we still have a marriage worth saving.
“Bri, of course we do.”
“Shh. Just listen Ri. I can’t have babies. There’s scarring from an operation I had as a little girl and I won’t be able to carry a baby full term even if by luck I were to get pregnant. You’ve always wanted children and that was the plan. Since I can’t give you the babies you want, I thought it best I let you go so you can find someone who could.”
“Let me finish. I was all prepared to be the bigger person and sacrifice what we have for what I thought would make you happy. I don’t want to be the bigger person. I want my husband back. If you are okay with this, we can look at other options for having children. I love you Riley. Please come home.”
A knock sounded at the door and Bria went to answer it.
Her heart skipped a beat when she looked through the peephole.
Riley stood with his left hand braced on the door frame and the phone to his ear.
“What are you doing here?” She said into the phone while staring at him.
“I was about to find some random reason to come and see you. I missed you so much.”
Riley disconnected the call and stuck the phone in his pocket.
“Are you experiencing any fever, headache, chills, sneezing? What are the other symptoms of this thing?”
Bria laughed and shook her head. “No. No symptoms doc.”
“Do I still have to wait the final three hours of this quarantine before I can kiss you?
“You probably should.
Riley groaned. “I’ll come back in three hours then.”
“No come in. You got your mask on and we can talk from a distance.”
Riley rolled his eyes and walked in.
He looked around Bria’s home. Since moving in, he had forced himself to respect her space and kept their conversations at the door or over the balcony.
“I always loved how you had decorated this one for the promotions. Vibrant, yet earthy. Why didn’t you do this with our home?”
“Sit. Let me get you a drink first.” He remained standing and watched her walk to the kitchen. She was dressed for one of her power meetings where she had to negotiate a multi-million-dollar deal. However, she was nervous, and he desperately wanted to go to her and tell her everything would be okay.
“Are you hungry? I’ve got leftovers.”
She opened the refrigerator and showed off the stacks of food she hadn’t been able to consume. He chuckled.
He watched as Bria poured two glasses of passion fruit juice then walked towards him. He drained the glass in one go. Gently, he placed the glass on the coffee table but it rattled. His hands were shaking. He took a deep breath to calm himself before turning to look at her. He encouraged her to sit before joining her on the sofa.
She looked around at the room, as if she were only seeing it for the first time.
“This is me. I guess. It feels earthy, yet vibrant. With you I wanted to make the house feel closer to how the Collymore mansion looked. More polished, stately. You know. I really tried too hard with all the wrong things.”
Riley shook his head and extended his hand, waiting for her to put hers in his.
“I don’t think so. It reflected a different side of you. That classy, can’t touch me without my permission.”
“That’s not a good look for a place where you raise a family.”
“I won’t let you beat yourself up. That townhouse sold for twice as much as we expected because of how you designed and furnished it. That couple wanted every pot and pan and picture frame. You bring such value to everything you touch Bri. That’s why I love you. Why I think this agency will be happy to have you. I don’t want to stand in your way. You should go for it sweetheart.”
“That’s just it. I don’t have to go anywhere.”
“You don’t? I thought you had to move to Barbados or something.”
“Wait. Let’s back up. The job isn’t important. Did you hear me say that I want my husband back? That I can’t give you children from my womb. That I love you and want to make a life with you. At one point we were planning a family. It won’t be the way we originally intended but we can still have it. If you still want that Riley. With me.”
Riley looked down at her hands which were now clasping his. Social distancing be damned. He really wanted this woman.
“But the job Bri. This was at the top of your vision board. I don’t know. Maybe I can move with you.”
“Ri. Focus. I want to be your wife. Is that offer still available?”
“In my book, you never stopped being my wife. I was just waiting for you to get the memo.”
“Be serious nuh.”
“Briana Taylor Collymore, I love you with all my heart and soul. I am your husband. End of story. I want to be with you.”
“You could have just said yes!”
Riley poked her in the forehead, and she fell back dramatically on the sofa.
“I am so not falling for this. Get up please. I got two hours and fifty-two minutes to go before your quarantine is over.”
Bria laughed and sat up.
“Where were we? So, it’s a yes to me being your wife. What about children, still want them?”
Riley twitched his right eyebrow. “We can start working on that in two hours and fifty minutes.”
Bria folded her arms and pouted.
“Your honor, instruct the witness to respond with Yes or no, only.”
“Yes. I want children with you. I think we agreed on three. We can negotiate that number if you’re now planning to be a diplomat and stuff. Guess I need to work on being a house husband. A kept man. A soccer dad.”
“Woman. I am trying my best to sit here and not move. At least let my mouth do the moving.”
They both laughed at the ridiculousness of the moment.
Bria jumped up and grabbed her remote. “Maybe we should play virtual tennis or something to pass the time.”
“No. I need to save my energy. I’m going to need all of it in two hours and forty-nine minutes. Why is the time moving so slowly?”
“Well, let’s leave the three on the table. We could maybe look at being foster parents first while we think about adoption or surrogacy.”
“We do still get to practice the old-fashioned way, right?”
Bria rolled her eyes.
“I do like the idea of you being a kept man. You’ve taken such good care of me. However, you will have to manage all the properties and we are going to need a bigger home.”
Riley looked around at the house and towards the wall which separated their homes.
“We could take out the wall and make it one big apartment.”
“Absolutely not. We need to build our own home, on that piece of land we purchased. We are going to need that rental income for when it is time to send them to college.”
“You turn me on when you talk about money.”
He pulled her towards him and gave her an Eskimo kiss.
“By the way, the nurse gave me the all-clear. No more quarantine.”
He grinned. “Good thing you’ve got all that food. We can stay in lockdown for as long as necessary.”
Bria giggled as he kissed her neck. “I love the sound of that.”
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