With three days to my wedding, I was a ball of nerves and hadn’t quite committed to meeting my father which only split my attentions. Just a year ago I would have found the entire idea unfathomable, but here I was and I still couldn’t believe I was getting married and faced with an opportunity to meet my father, whom I thought -- well whom I wasn’t permitted to think about at all. Lacey and Ms. Tess spent the week in Atlanta with me, going to the bakery, dress shop and florist. Oliver handled all of the details for the party we’d host at our house the week following the actual ceremony, that we were doing at Ali’s family church in Alabama. Although we were getting married in another state, Lacey insisted the best vendors were in Atlanta and the majority of the ceremony supplies were being brought in from here. I’d been pretty out of the loop regarding the wedding plans, but I had picked out my own dresses. I took Camilla’s advice and bought two dresses -- one for the ceremony and a second one for the party. As I stood in the three way mirror on a lighted fiberglass, pedestal in front of my soon to be in--laws, I felt more beautiful than I ever had. My hair was pinned up into a mass of bouncy curls on top of my head. I’d chosen a full length gown. It was a stunning white, lace A--line gown by Marchesa with elbow length sleeves made of re--embroidered lace, and an illusion neckline, that highlighted Ali’s favorite parts of my body, my neck, shoulders and collarbone. It boasted a tastefully beaded bodice, a low back and a flowy tulle skirt. I’d also decided to wear a simple floral, crystal haircomb with a charming vintage feel. I felt Camilla’s presence and was secretly pleased that she couldn’t speak, I could hear her disapprove of the dress, “Damn! Why you wanna cover up so much? You can get a little sexier.” I held back a tiny giggle. Ms. Tess spoke up in a small, shaky voice,
“Oh my goodness, Cami. You are absolutely breathtaking.” I looked over and saw her tearing up. Lacey handed her the box of Kleenex she’d been handed by the boutique’s owner. Lacey smiled a genuine smile and jokingly said, “I’m not sure my big brother is going to be able to keep it together when he sees you in this dress, Cami. You are a vision.” I smiled at her in the mirror. Both she and Ms. Tess walked over and hugged me. We all broke into tears and giggles. Lacey’s uncharacteristic kindness made me wonder if Oliver was right and she was pregnant. I wiped my eyes and said, “I love you both for doing this with me. Now, help me out of this dress before we ruin it with our tears.”
Ms. Tess was in the dressing room trying on her dress to make sure her alterations were to her liking. When I was comfortable that Lacey and I were alone, I committed to asking her about Oliver. “Lacey, I don’t exactly know how to tactfully ask this, but is there something you should be sharing with Oliver.” She straightened her back, crossed her long legs at the ankles and smoothed her skirt with both of her hands. I could plainly see the regular Lacey was back. “What are you asking, exactly Camisha.”
I adjusted appropriately and commenced to speak on the behalf of my best friend. “Lacey, I’ve never known Oliver to.” I took a moment to find the right word and settled on care. “I’ve never known Oliver to care for someone the way he cares for you. So, if you’re expecting, he has the right to know.” She briefly loss her poise and snapped her head up to meet my gaze, but before she could bite my head off, I soldiered on and offered a less life altering scenario, “Or if you’ve simply had your fun with the boy from the wrong side of the tracks, you could at least show him the decency of a proper goodbye.” My second scenario seemed to mollify her a tad, and she smoothly responded in classic Lacey style, “Are you done.” I retorted, “I am.” But then added a sharp warning, “You talk to him, or you’ll deal with me.” And this time she looked away first, but willfully noted, “I’m not pregnant. Don’t be ridiculous.” Ms. Tess came out with her dress over her forearm and announced that she was pleased with its fit and herded us to the counter at the front of the boutique. “The bakery is next, Ladies.” Ms. Tess sang and we followed her out like obedient little ducklings. The cake Oliver chose was a perfect combination for both, me and Ali. It was Ali’s favorite, cake flavor, chocolate with my favorite accompaniment to chocolate, raspberry filling and we all loved the flavor profile. “That Oliver knows good taste, Honey.” Ms. Tess exclaimed while swirling her fork in the air, with a mouthful of cake.”Lacey, girl you’d better snap him up and stop stringing that man along.” Ms. Tess warned. I nearly choked! Ms. Tess laughed and admitted that she’d figured it out the moment Oliver bounced up the basement stairs behind Lacey at Thanksgiving, last year. “Mom.” Lacey shrieked like a moody teenaged girl and looked at me, for my reaction. I excused myself and walked over to the display case, leaving them to talk. The shop was small, so I heard every word of their conversation.
“Do you like him as much as it seems.” Ms. Tess wasted no time getting to the point.
“How much does it seem, Madame Cleo.”
“Well, you’ve been handling all of this wedding business from home, when just a few weeks ago we couldn’t keep you out of Atlanta. You’ve been brooding down there in your house and just looking for a fight with anybody. So I’m guessing y’all having some kind of disagreement. How am I doing.” Ms. Tess playfully asked.
Lacey’s answer was barely audible, “You’re right about one thing, I like him. I like him a lot. The second I saw him I knew that it would happen. It’s not really anything he said or anything he did, it was just a feeling that this was going to get interesting. He smiled at me and I could’ve sworn he was an angel.” Lacey paused as if she wanted to savor the memory before she went on. “Mommy, his eyes rivaled my own and I knew I was in trouble.” she quietly giggled. “But his were drawing me in like a moth to a flame and I knew on a cellular level, that one of us was going to get burned.” Something brought her back from her own personal heaven and she cooled again. “But, there was no disagreement. It’s just over. It could have never worked -- so that’s that.” Lacey ran her hands over her skirt again, straightened her glasses and continued once she’d recouped. “Mommy let’s be real. My life is in Alabama, running the cleaners. Oliver is doing well, here and he has his own goals that don’t include running a cleaners, in country behind, Alabama. We can’t have a weekends only, relationship forever. So what’s the point.” She hurled the last question at her mother who sat quietly, stuffing cake into her mouth.
There was no mention of pregnancy and it sounded like she was just trying to protect herself, from what she thought was an inevitable break up, because of the distance.
“Lacey, you have to know that your happiness is what’s most important to your daddy and me. If this city and that man is where life leads you, so be it. Baby, fly.” Ms. Tess moved her chair closer to Lacey’s, put her arm around her daughter and kissed her at her temple. Lacey laid her head into her mother’s embrace, “I love you, Momma.” she said. I barely made it through the day. I wanted to call Oliver so badly. I wanted to put my buddy’s mind at ease and give him some peace, just as he’s always done for me. Ms. Tess and Lacey were staying at Ali’s and would be leaving Thursday morning to oversee the ceremony preparations, along with Ali. So I’d be able to have dinner with Oliver on Thursday night after work, to give him the news. We finished our day with the florist Oliver had picked out, and once again he’d outdone himself. It was hard to believe that a man of such sophistication, style and taste was also such a guy’s guy, and I hoped Lacey could appreciate what a great guy she’d snagged.
Thursday came and led the Robinsons to Alabama for the biggest day of our lives. Of course, I was so anxious for dinner with Oliver that the day dragged on as slow as molasses. I could hardly focus on anything, other than how Oliver would receive the news about Lacey’s feelings for him and the true reason she’d been avoiding him. I swung by the shop to say hello to everyone and to jive Oliver along. “How much longer do you think you’ll be.” I asked impatiently.
Oliver frowned. “Aren’t you my District Director? Don’t you want me to conduct a thorough closing of your biggest profit making shop, Ma’am.”
I dismissed his sarcasm. “Man, come on! I have a Lacey Baby update and it doesn’t include a baby.” I teased him in a sing song cadence. He kept his bearing, but moved along a bit quicker. We went to a neighborhood dive that was a well kept secret among the foodservice community, in Atlanta. The Viceroy, came alive after hours -- after the mainstream, big name restaurants closed and their chefs and waitstaff cleaned up, they closed their kitchens for the night and headed over to the Viceroy. We all knew each other’s names, reputations and culinary aspirations. This is where the up and comers cut their teeth and flexed their muscles. The vets brought them forth like rookie prize fighters. It was the place to eat, not the place to see or be seen -- that wasn’t at all what a place like the Viceroy was about. There would be no reality TV camera crews or paparazzi here, food was the only star at the Viceroy. There were no fancy tables dressed in crisp linen, and there surely weren’t any reservations. When we reached the unmarked back alley of the makeshift entrance, the line was already ten deep. The little more than 2000 square foot restaurant would only accommodate about 40 diners at a time, and no one ushered anybody out to clear tables -- the Viceroy was not in business for profit, it was all about exhibiting the culinary arts and introducing the rising stars of the Atlanta Culinary scene.
Once the doors opened people stampeded to the rickety wooden tables covered with brown butcher’s paper, bare highboys and the stainless steel, L--shaped bar that wrapped around half of the space. The open kitchen with restaurant quality cooktops, refrigerator and it’s two stainless steel prep tables was the focal point of the spot. Watching the preparation of the small menu by the skillful hands of those who prepared it was as much a part of the show as was the meal. Oliver and I bellied up to the counter that ran along the sides of the restaurant, and yelled out our orders to the mixologist behind the bar. There were three guys setting up to play at one of the small tables in the far corner. One unpacked an upright bass, the other a guitar and the last looked to be laying out a set of spoons. Oliver had been as patient as he was going to be, “So, did you talk to her?”
“I did, but I didn’t get much from your Ice Princess.” I started. “However, I can assure you that she’s not preggers. Thank God! That she offered up.”
“How did you ask her? Did you ask her?” Oliver anxiously asked.
“I just flat out asked her.”
“What! And you’re alive to tell the story.” He halfway joked.
“Your Ice Princess doesn’t scare me, Oli Dollie.” I halfway lied and nervously wiped at my brow. “I was privy to the conversation she had with her mom, about you.” I smiled and patted him on the back. The drinks arrived and I took a sip of the cola colored concoction. “She’s got it bad for you, Oli! And I mean really bad -- like change her life for you kind of bad.”
Oliver scratched his head and asked, in an obviously annoyed tone, “Well what’s going on with her? Why isn’t she talking to me.”
The whine in his voice really shocked me and I winced. Oliver noticed the wince and tried to pull himself together. “I know I’m tripping, Cam. But, damn. Help me out here, I’m all messed up about this girl.”
Although, Lacey was not my pick for him, I could see that they genuinely cared for one another. “Look, Oli. It sounds like she’s falling for you and can’t see a future with you, because she lives in Alabama and you live here.” I went on laying out my theory. “See it sounds like Ali left and didn’t move back, which left Lacey feeling obligated to help her dad run the family business.” Oliver butted in, asking what I thought their chances looked like for making a real go of it. “Well, I heard Ms. Tess straight up tell her to do what makes her happy, and if that means moving here, then so be it.” He went deeper into himself and gulped down his drink in two sips. I sat there quietly letting him process the information I’d shared with him. “Who are you having.” a makeshift server asked us. They took orders by the name of the chef cooking the dish, and there were typically only two options, one offering and three courses from each chef. I ordered Raul’s vegetarian dish of chickpeas in spicy tomato broth and Oliver ordered Vijay’s riff on shrimp masala, we’d split the meals so that we could each experience both offerings. The server brought us a platter of olives, pickles and cheeses and left us to finish talking about the Ice Princess. “So she told her moms about us.” He asked dryly. “Well, not exactly. Ms. Tess said she knew it after seeing you two together last Thanksgiving. She flat out told Lacey that you were a catch and she needed to snap you up, Ollie Dollie.” I playfully smacked him against his head. He feigned annoyance, but I saw the corners of his mouth turn up a little. “How do you think Mr. Perfect would handle it if Lacey and I were to try to make a go of this thing.” That was the million dollar question, but of course I’d support whatever decision made, as long as Oliver was happy. And I was willing to defend his and Lacey’s relationship to Ali, if needed, but something told me he wouldn’t put up a big fight about it. He’d grown to like Oliver, heck, it was Oliver who he’d turned to on more than one occasion, to assist with my craziness. “So, you’re sure she ain’t pregnant.” Oliver asked again. “No, Sir. You are not a daddy. Not today, anyway.” I taunted him. I assured my friend, that his saga with the Ice Princess was far from over. Oliver took a moment and a few bites of his dinner before turning the conversation to my decision to meet with my father. “So what’s up with Mr. DaCosta? He’s stopped by the shop for lunch more than a few times over the past couple of weeks, acting like he ran up on the place by chance.”
“You didn’t tell me that.” I yelled at him.
He shot back, “I wasn’t sure you wanted to hear about him. Hell, you haven’t mentioned him to me again, since you first told me about the whole thing, Cam.”
He was right. I’d been pretty much avoiding the subject altogether.
“I’m sorry. I know you’re right, Oli.” I touched his hand for absolution. “Honestly Oli, I half--way hope he’ll just show up on my doorstep again.” I quietly sat and pondered the option.
“What would you say to him, if he did.” Oliver asked.
I shrugged and forked at my food. “I want to know why he didn’t visit me. And do I have sisters and brothers. Most of all, I just want to know him. I don’t know why or if any of it matters, but I want to know. You know.” I chuckled at my child like redundancy. “Yeah, Boss Lady, I know.” Oliver said and patted my hand.