I was up by 5:45 that Saturday morning; a ball of nerves, filled with anxiety. I was mentally exhausted and it didn’t help that I’d sat up talking to Camilla late into the night, after she’d come upstairs to announce to Ali and me, that she was moving to the basement. She said she felt it best with the new relationship budding between me and Ali, but I think the shower scene sealed the deal. We all laughed like a group of silly teenagers about her decision, but I agreed. It was best, for us both. After Ali bid us goodnight, we sat up all night with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for me and Lemon Pellegrino for her. We shared the Lay’s potato chips. I opened up to my mom about my insecurities, about how I knew Ali and how we finally met that morning when the train broke down. She told me a little about what she knew about her parents and my father, which were topics we’d never broached. She told me that she’d named me after her because I was the only good thing that she put into the world. She said naming me after her was like signing her masterpiece. I was moved to tears and sat up a little straighter. I hugged her that night, for the first time I could remember.
I moved around the kitchen as quietly as possible, trying to not wake Camilla. I put on a pot of coffee and sliced a bagel for toasting. I pulled one of the barstools inside of the kitchen and sat to eat. My mind wandered to Ali and Lacey. I wondered if he reached her and if so, how that conversation went. It took every bit of my resolve to not call Oliver at that time of the morning, but I knew he’d be a reliable source of information regarding the Ice Princess. The image of her lying in his bed with the covers drawn to her chest, showing only her mocha colored shoulders, popped into my head again. For the life of me, I would never understand what Oliver saw in her—besides the obvious. The sound of Camilla’s slippers on the hardwood floors, and then the bathroom door closing interrupted my thoughts. I sliced another bagel for her and put it in the toaster oven. I poured a cup of coffee for her, too. Just as she entered the family room, stretching like a cat, Ali knocked on the kitchen door. I greeted him with a smile and he kissed me on the cheek and waved to Camilla.
“Good morning, Ladies.”
“Hey, Ali.” Camilla said dryly with a dismissive wave in his direction.
“She’s just waking up,” I explained with a little smile. “Are you hungry?”
“Nah, I grabbed a smoothie on my way here. Are you all packed? It’s cold in Alabama today,” he added.
I pointed to my bag and he took it to his running car. I grabbed my coat from the hall closet and as I passed Camilla, she gave my hand a squeeze.
“Y’all drive safely and call me when you get there,” she said.
I, in turn gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“I put a bagel in toaster for you, and there’s a cup of coffee for you on the counter.”
She smiled and nodded.
I was unbelievably nervous and sat completely silent as the car turned onto I-285 West. Ali turned the radio down and touched my knee.
“You look nice.” He said, startling me.
“Oh, thanks.” I said swallowing hard. “You don’t think I overdressed, do you?”
Ali let out a little laugh.
“You look beautiful, as always. Relax.”
He massaged my bouncing knee. “Don’t be nervous. My parents are super cool, and my mom is really looking forward to meeting you.”
“Really?” I asked, crinkling my nose.
“Yeah! Why would I say it if it weren’t so?” he said, teasing me.
It settled me a bit.
“Will Lacey be there?” I asked as casually as I could feign.
Which tickled him and he burst out laughing.
“Babe, you’re so good with her. Thank you for that. I know she can be a real pain, but she loves me,” he said, trying to stifle his laughter, but it kept escaping him. “I wish I could say she’s different once you get to know her, but she’s not. And she drives our mom crazy.”
His laughter roared throughout the car and breaking the ice.
During the drive West on I-20, Ali shared stories of family car trips during the summer, he talked about camping with his Boys Scouts troop in Talladega National Forest, he told me that his parents had met in Anniston, AL while his mom attended college at Jacksonville State University and his father was stationed there at the Army base. He told me that his father was 15 years older than his mom, but was the younger one in spirit. He told me how his mom was famous for saying, she had three kids, but married to the old one. He lit up when he talked about his family and seemed genuinely excited about taking me to meet them. He went on and on and I just watched as light danced in his eyes. Before I knew it, we were just outside of Birmingham and Ali was stopping to eat again. The smoothie had not sustained him for very long, but I was fine. We pulled into a Huddle House parking lot.
“I want pancakes,” Ali announced as he put the car in PARK and stretched with a wide smile.
In what looked like an afterthought, he furrowed his brow and turned to me.
“Do you like the Huddle House? Have you ever eaten here?” he asked, scratching his bearded chin.
I laughed at the concern on his face.
“I have not, but I’m not hungry.”
“Oh no, Ms. Lady. You have to have these pancakes!” he protested.
He jumped out of the car like a child and was at my door in a flash. “Cam, trust me, you’re going to love these pancakes! My dad and I use to stop here when we went fly fishing at Coosa River. And I want you to meet someone who works here.”
Fly fishing? I thought to myself. Who is this man?
Ali opened more and more with every mile we got closer to his home. He was much more transparent and down-to-earth than I’d ever seen him. He was nothing like I’d imagined, as I watched him getting on and off the train in Atlanta. Here, he didn’t match the swanky neighborhood where he lived or the shiny sports car he drove. The soft sweatpants with the cargo pockets and tailored suits seemed like they belonged to another man now, not this bubbly boy with the sparkling eyes who was a boy scout and who fly fished and love pancakes from the Huddle House. It was a lot to take in and I was struggling to make sense of this latest information about this man with whom I’d been sleeping.
A big boned, light skinned woman greeted us with a warm smile. She came from behind the counter with outstretched arms and smashed Ali in her big, pillowy bosom. She shook him like a bear cub and grabbed his face between her pudgy hands and kissed him.
“How’s my baby boy getting along in the big city?” she asked between joyful chuckles and bear hugs. She stepped back and put her hands on her wide hips to take a good look at me standing a few steps behind Ali. She beckoned for me to come closer.
“And who is this pretty, little thing, Lenny?” she asked pointedly, with the same warm smile never breaking.
Ali stepped aside and subliminally ushered me into her gaze. He introduced me like an opening act.
“This is her, Auntie. Please meet, Cami Robbins.”
I smiled and extended my hand for a handshake, to which she responded by pulling me into one of her chuckle filled, bear hugs. She was warm and cuddly and smelled like vanilla extract and butter. She could sell those hugs, I thought and closed my eyes and hugged her back, easily matching her intensity.
“Well, Ms. Cami Robbins, I am pleased to meet ya! Come on in and grab a seat.”
She walked us to an open booth, with her arms wrapped around both mine, and Ali’s waists. She shook us back and forth while introducing herself.
“I’m Lenny’s Auntie, Katy B—his momma’s my big sister.”
She had a syrupy sweet southern drawl that matched her sweet scent and sweet disposition. I hadn’t sat for more than a few seconds when she started in on me in a singsong melody.
“I know y’all met on a city train. I know you take care of yo’ momma, which is very kind and says you’re loving. I know you’re patient and tolerable to my salty niece, Lacey Baby. And my nephew here, is quite taken with you. He ain’t neva brought nobody by here to meet me.” she said, casting a toothy grin in Ali’s direction. “So, tell me, Ms. Cami Robbins, what don’t I know that I should know ’bout you.” she asked with a slight tilt of her head. She posted herself against a counter, hands on hips and that wide smile spread across her cherubic face. From this angle I could see she shared Ali’s wide, brown eyes and dimples. I glanced across the table at him to see him looking at me with the same anticipation in his aunt’s eyes. Their expressions made me smile and then giggle a bit.
“Well, where do I start?” I asked, but was cut off when she answered.
“Let’s see, are you as taken with our Lenny, here as he is with you?”
I laughed out loud.
“Well, you don’t mince words.” I said and answered easily, “Yes, Ma’am. I am. Very much so.”
The boom of her laughter filled the room.
“Well, that’s all I need to know about this young lady, Lenny!” she exclaimed, clapping her hands together.
She gave me an approving wink on her way back to the other side of the counter. She fixed us two cups of coffee and busied herself making her Lenny’s favorite pancake breakfast. She buzzed around the kitchen, sharing laughs with other customers and singing bits of old soul classics by Aretha Franklin and the Commodores.
“She’s quite the character.” Ali said smiling.
“Yes, she is. And so sweet,” I replied. “When did you tell her about me?”
He sat quietly, stirring his coffee but looking at me with a coy smile.
“Hmmmm, let me think about it—about 3 weeks ago, I guess,” he answered as matter of fact never adjusting his gaze.
I shifted in the seat across from him, bumping his knee under the table. He reached across the table placing his hand on top of mine.
“I told you, Camisha Ann Robbins, I love you. I know I do.” he said, almost to himself and went back to stirring his coffee.
Aunt Katy B. broke up the silence between us when she sauntered over placing three plates of pancakes and bacon between the two of us.
“Enjoy,” she sang. “I’ll be right back!” she tossed back over her shoulder to us, as she walked alongside the counter to wait on a family who had just entered.
I could hear her singsong cadence asking how they were and where were they heading, when Ali called my name.
“Cami, is all of this OK for you?”
I looked down at all the food, but I knew he wasn’t talking about the food. “Everything looks good. What do you mean?” I asked casually. He smirked.
“If meeting my family is not what you want right now, if it’s feels like too much, I’ll be fine with that.”
For some reason, hearing him say that twisted my heart and my brow crumpled.
I pulled a plate of pancakes closer to me and cut one of them into several triangles. I stuffed two or three of the even triangles into my mouth, allowing myself time to formulate the right response to Ali’s accusation that he’d presented as a no strings attached offer to escape.
Aunt Katy B. was completely delightful. And yes, seeing this part of his otherwise buttoned up life was new for me and experiencing his openness was hitting me like a ton of bricks. None of it was bad or undesirable, and upon further examination, I was starting to wonder, if I was the guarded one in our relationship. Had I painted Ali into this perfect ideal of who I thought he was? I could feel my lungs starting to work harder to push air through them and my palms were getting moist and clammy.
“OK,” he said chuckling and shook his head. “Relax. We don’t have to talk about it.”
The stack of pancakes allowed me time to come up with a more fitting response.
“Of course, I want to meet you family. I’m just taking in all of this new Ali.” I said.
I smiled and held my hand open for his. “You know?” I asked. “I mean, Lacey is the only family I’ve met, and well. She’s no Aunt Katy B. And you fish and camp.”
I teased. “I’m just processing all of it, Babe. I promise. I’m good. I’m great.”
I squeezed his hand and I felt better.
Ali was right, the pancakes were fantastic! After another hour and a half of laughing with Aunt Katy B, she shooed us.
“Y’all had better get’on up the road before my sister gets jealous. Because, you know I called her bragging about meeting Ms. Cami first.” she said, chuckling. She gave me another big hug. “See y’all at church Sunday and at dinner afterwards.”
“Church! You didn’t tell me anything about church! I didn’t bring anything suitable for church. Oh my God, Ali!” I yelled, when were we back in the car and out of earshot. I grimaced and rolled my eyes at the thought of having to see the look on his family’s faces when I tell them I don’t have anything for church—on a weekend visit! What kind of girl doesn’t pack for church on a weekend visit? Ali obviously thought my reaction was hilarious because he laughed uncontrollably and slapped the steering wheel. He could barely speak, he was laughing so hard.
“Babe, don’t worry. We’ll stop by the mall in Birmingham and buy something appropriate to wear to church on Sunday—chill out!” he said regaining his composure. He looked at me and smiled.
“What kind of girl doesn’t pack church clothes? I’m in love with a heathen.”
He’d said that he loved me twice and effortlessly.
The visit to the mall for church clothes and the remainder of the ride went seamlessly and I was looking forward to meeting Ali’s parents after the positive experience with Aunt Katy B.
After another half hour or so, Ali turned the car onto an even dirt road that went on for what must have been at least a mile. The road wound around thick woods of tall pine trees and alongside a simple white fence. Ali was very familiar with the turns and curves of the road, which was evident by his masterful maneuvering through the thick woods. He looked calm. His demeanor was the same when he slept. His masculine jawline pierced only by his dimples was completely smooth, and beautifully housed his expressive brown eyes, that were surveying what was obviously the land that had raised him. The road opened giving a spectacular view of a charming beige and white cedar shingled cottage with forest green shutters and a wide wrap around porch situated at the edge of a large lake.
“This could be a bed and breakfast,” I quietly proclaimed to no one in particular. “Did you grow up in this house?” I asked.
“Yeah. Well, kind of. Mom’s changed a lot around here since we’ve grown up.”
He pointed out another quaint structure up a ways from the main house. “That’s where Lacey lives now. It used to be a barn-type garage where Daddy kept his tractors and stuff.”
I found it ironic, that Lacey, the uppity Ice Princess lived in a converted barn. But knowing her impeccable taste, it was probably ready to be featured in an upscale home magazine.
“I bet it’s beautiful,” I said.
We parked under an open-air four car parking structure with a forest green roof that matched the shutters on the cottage. We walked down a winding flagstone path that led to the side of the wrap around porch. Ali’s parents met us as we rounded the corner. They were a very good-looking couple. His mother was tall and curvy with broad shoulders and wearing dark jeans with tan Ugg boots. The collar of her plaid button-down shirt was covered by a head full of thick, salt and pepper colored hair, which she was wearing pinned back. The hairstyle fully displayed high cheekbones, girlish dimples and beautiful chestnut brown eyes.
“I see where Lacey got her beautiful eyes,” I whispered.
His father was taller and had obviously done his share of boxing and manual labor, because his muscular chest, arms and legs shone through his flannel shirt and jeans. He extended his large manly hands and a big grin to welcome us, but it was Mrs. Robinson who stepped forward and wrapped us both in an affectionate embrace.
“Oh my goodness, it’s been too long, son. Too long.”
Even the break in her voice was beautiful. It told just how long it had been since she’d last seen him there. She let us go and Ali walked over to hug Mr. Robinson.
“Mom, Dad, this is Cami Robbins.” he said, beaming.
Mr. Robinson hugged me.
“Robbins. Hmmm, not far from Robinson.”
“Oh, Thomas leave the girl alone!” Mrs. Robinson ordered him with a playful swat on the shoulder. “Cami, you are as pretty as my sister said, indeed.”
I jumped at the opportunity to discuss someone familiar.
“Thank you, Ma’am. Meeting Ms. Katy B. was truly a pleasure. She’s very sweet.”
They all smiled at me and led us inside. Once inside, my eyes darted from one family memento to another. The view of the lake was breathtaking through the floor to ceiling wall of windows that was situated directly across from the Robinson’s front door. “Mom, this is beautiful! I love what you’ve done in here.” Ali said, looking around.
He touched things and picked up picture frames as if he’d never been there before.
“Is this all new?” I asked.
“Mostly.” He said, grabbing my hand.
He pointed out new floors, the new wall of windows and when we reached the fireplace in the dining room, he sentimentally recalled Christmas dinners of his youth spent in that room, filled with family and friends.
“This room’s been unchanged,” he said thoughtfully. “And I’m glad for it.”
His mom joined us and wove an arm with his.
“Lenny was born in this room,” she said and pointed. “Right in front of this fireplace.” They both stood silently arm and arm, and she laid her head on his shoulder. Lacey entered the room with her father disrupting the heartfelt moment.
“Well, well, the prodigal son returns.”
Mr. Robinson gently chided her with an even tone and a touch to her arm.
“What?” she snapped.
Mrs. Robinson and Ali carried on as if she hadn’t said a word.
“Thomas, help Lenny and Cami with their bags. Thanks, Love.” she added before he responded.
We were being dismissed--all but Lacey--and we obediently left the two of them alone.
When the three of us returned with the two bags, Lacey was in the kitchen slicing apples and Mrs. Robinson was at the counter rolling out dough for an apple pie. She was beautiful. Ali took the bags to the separate rooms where we’d be sleeping.
“Is there anything I can do to help?” I asked and headed to the sink to wash my hands.
“I hear you run a coffee shop. Do you bake?”
I couldn’t get a read on her coffee shop remark. And decided not to read anything into it.
“Yes ma’am, I do. And yes, I bake. I love what I do.” I said trying to measure my tone.
I wasn’t sure how successful I was, because Lacey sharply turned on her heels and shot me one of her trademark icy glares. She didn’t speak, she only stared at me until I looked away.
“Well, that’s a blessing to love what you do.” Mrs. Robinson responded cheerfully.
I’d misread the coffee shop remark and felt ashamed about my snappy reaction.
“Some young women never quite—well, launch if you will. They’re given so much, it becomes an expectation. So yes, Cami dear, you are blessed to do what you love and to make your own living doing it.” she said concluding, as pleasantly as she’d started.
The tension in the room was evident, but short lived.
“Maybe you’d like to season those apples once Lacey’s done slicing them up for me.”
“Oh, Dear. Please, call me Tess.”
She cut me off with a wave of a dish towel.
“Well, call me Ms. Tess. Deal?”
She reached out for a handshake and I accepted her deal with a grateful smile. I felt daggers from Lacey even with her back turned! I couldn’t, for the life of me understand why she hated me so much. But following Ms. Tess’s, “some young women never launch,” comment, I now knew that life wasn’t as easy for her, as I’d assumed.
After dinner we all congregated on the back porch with large mugs of hot cocoa, which I’d learned was Ali’s favorite winter indulgence. The back porch extended just over the lake’s edge and featured a beautiful flagstone fireplace, which was another new addition to the Robinson home. Aunt Katy B had made the trip to join us for dinner and had brought with her, her much smaller and skittish husband, Ulysses. We laughed and heard stories about Ali & Lacey’s childhoods, we talked about current events and Robinson family, holiday traditions. Mr. Robinson played the guitar and Aunt Katy B sang and tried to convince Lacey to join in, but she politely refused, and kept to herself near the roaring fire. The two sisters together, kept Lacey on a short leash and I’d often thought she’d left for the night. She cleared the table, she washed the dishes, she helped the men start the fire, all while we sat in the family room chatting and getting to know each other. I almost felt sorry for the Ice Princess. After everyone had left for the night, Ali suggested we head down to Lacey’s for a short visit. “Just when I was thinking, how well the visit was going,” I said snapping my fingers.
He laughed, reading my reluctance.
“We usually stay together when I’m home overnight. And I don’t know if you could tell, but my mom tends to give her a tough time.”
He’d stay clear, but had deduced that his mom had artfully kept a thumb on Lacey’s antics throughout the night.
“I’m sure her ego can use some soothing,” he said, turning his beautiful mouth into a playful pout. “Please.”
He offered his hand and I sighed. Against my better judgment, I joined him.
I was right, Lacey’s home was stunning! She’d decorated just the way I’d always seen her dressed, in tasteful neutrals with pops of cranberry, mustard and navy accent pillows, area rugs and fur throws. She had mirror finished accent tables and a clear lucite dining table with matching armless chairs. A mother of pearl finished chandelier hang in the center of the open space. Though on a smaller scale, her home also featured a wall of windows that framed a view of the lake, but her wall had bench seating upholstered in a whimsical mustard, navy and cream floral printed cushion.
“Wow, Lacey. Your home is stunning. Did you decorate it?”
I led with a compliment, hoping to disarm her right away.
She gave me a polite, yet weak smile.
“Yes, thank you. I noticed we shared a similar aesthetic, while at your house.”
Had she just complimented me? Now, she’d disarmed me, too!
She took two red wine glasses from the glass front cabinets, that lined a wall in her open kitchen and a brandy snifter. She filled the glasses with red wine and handed them to me across a frosted glass bar. Then she filled the brandy snifter with Courvoisier for Ali, but walked his glass over to him where he was sitting in an overstuffed, navy and cream ikat printed club chair. She sat at his feet and laid her head on his knee. He stroked her head with a familiar ease. I felt like an intruder on a very intimate moment, and quietly retreated to the window seat, where I sipped my wine and watched the moonlight dance across the lucid waters of the lake. In that moment, I understood why I seemed like a threat to Lacey’s relationship with her big brother. They’d grown up in a very close-knit family, in a very remote area. He was more than just her brother; he was her best friend and possibly her only one until they were old enough to go to school. Lacey’s reflection in the window wall drew me back to reality. I instinctively snapped around, startling her. She sat beside me and crossed her long legs Indian style.
“It’s beautiful out there when the moon is bright. Right?”
She took an exaggerated breath in and lengthened her back. Her body language signaled that she had more to say, so I remained still, allowing her the space I suspected she needed.
“Thanks for that.” she said, tilting her head towards a sleeping, Ali. “My mom and I can kind of rub each other the wrong way.”
She paused again. I remained silent and kept my gaze on the lake.
“I mean, we love each other. But, we’re just very different. I think I’m a disappointment to her. She’s going to love you. You’re a lot like her.”
Now, she sat looking out at the lake, too.
“I get the mother thing. Of course, Ms. Tess is nothing like Camilla, but we definitely don’t see eye to eye. We speak two totally different languages,” I said.
We both chuckled a little.
“I can see that,” Lacey said. “But, I appreciate that your mom says exactly what she means and does exactly what she wants.”
She took a sip from her glass. “She just lives for her.”
That last part struck a painful chord for me.
“Well, that’s probably not the best way for a mother to live,” I retorted. My hurt feelings registered to Lacey and she looked at me, I could see it in our reflections.
“I guess not,” she said, almost apologetically and stood up. “Look, thanks for giving us some time. And welcome to our home.”
With that she disappeared behind a closed door.
After, I realized Lacey was not returning I woke Ali.
“I think Lacey’s gone to bed.”
He laughed and stretched.
“Goodnight, Rude Girl!” he yelled at the closed door.
“See y’all in the morning,” she replied.
“I want to show you something,” Ali said and led me to the back of the house, underneath the extended porch, that doubled as a covered boat dock--or what I imagined to be a boat dock, because before then I’d never even seen a real boat in my life. Ali sat between two docked boats and patted the space beside him. He took me by the arm and helped me sit beside him. He wrapped his arm around me and kissed me on the cheek. We sat dangling our feet and watching the moonlight dance on the lake for what seemed like hours.
“I like having you here. It fits. You fit.” he said.
My cheeks flushed. I hadn’t fit anywhere before and to fit in this picture-perfect place, was unthinkable for a little girl from Southeast Atlanta. I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him hard.
“I love you, Lennox Ali Robinson.”
“I love you too, Camisha Ann Robbins.”
We stayed there making out until the lights underneath the dock clicked off.
We stayed for dinner after church the following day. I met more of Ali’s family and at the day’s end, Lacey and his parents walked us to the car with containers filled with leftovers from Sunday dinner.
“Thank you for bringing my baby home,” Ms. Tess said as she hugged me.
“Don’t be a stranger,” Mr. Robinson instructed me, with a sound hug of his own.
Lacey even hugged me.
“Tell Oliver I miss,” she said and laughed.
“Will do, and thanks for your hospitality, Lacey.”
As the car pulled away, I saw Ms. Tess wrap her arm around Lacey and Lacey lay her head on her mother’s shoulder. They all waved until we were out of sight. I laid back, settled into the passenger seat and closed my eyes.
“That went well, huh?” Ali asked.
“It did.” I agreed.
It went even better than I could have imagined.
“What a great family, Babe.”
“Even Lacey Baby?”
“Yep! Even Lacey Baby, the Ice Princess,” I chirped.
“So, am I a keeper?” he asked, eyeing me.
His quip took me by surprise.
“Would you like to be kept, Mr. Robinson?”
I sat up and faced him.
His dimples were blazing as he flirtatiously smiled at me and lifted my hand to kiss my fingers.
“I would indeed, Ms. Robbins. Yes, I would.”
I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. He turned his face to kiss me on my lips and quietly repeated his answer.
“I would love to be kept by you. Love it.”
Ali had been working a lot the weeks following our return to the city. I only saw him on the train in the evenings and I saw him three or four times, when he stopped by the shop to get dinner with me and two of those dinners were only code for quickies at his place. I missed him. Mine and Camilla’s relationship was better since she’d moved to the basement and came and went through her own private entrance. She’d seemed to enjoy hearing about Ali’s picture-perfect family and their picture-perfect homeland. She’d worried his mom would be like Lacey. She said it made her proud that Black folks lived on their own land and married for so long, without being snooty. I told her about the breakthrough Lacey and I experienced while I was down there.
“That’s all fine and good, but that shit with her and Ali is still weird.” She maintained.
I didn’t think so and I tried to explain it, the way I’d accepted it. We agreed to disagree on that point. Oliver told me that Lacey had nothing but glowing things to say about my visit to Alabama, and he joked about joining us the next time we went back. I told him all about her quaint little house and the way her mother and aunts dealt with her bratty ways. I also told him about the way Ali told me he loved me so easily and how open and down-to-earth he was there.
Ms. Lacey Baby had been back to the city and had spent at least two weekends with Oliver, unbeknownst to both me and Ali. When I asked Oliver how serious things were getting between the two of them he smiled sheepishly and said, “We’re just kicking it, Boss Lady. She’s upper crust. I’m pizza crust.” With that, he offered no more.
I’d only known Oliver to date a certain type of girl, and Lacey was surely a deviation, but so was the consistency in which he was seeing her. Most of his girls didn’t even have names, he referred to them by distinguishing characteristics like her skin tone, Yella Girl or where he met her, Indian Creek, and after a few months or so, he was on to the next one. This thing with Lacey had progressed beyond his typical expiration date and I grew concerned.