Yvonne figured Terry would still be awake, so she carried the phone and her sleepy child to the nursery. Sitting on the window seat, she dialled his number. He answered after a few rings.
“Hi, Terrence, it’s-”
“Yvonne,” he said a bit breathlessly, “I know.”
“Mike just called me a few minutes ago. He said I should call you..?”
“Oh, yeah. I figured texting might be useless because you get so busy with Kendo you wouldn’t hear it- I tried to catch you at Mike’s… Anyway, I wanted to invite you to dinner at my place two nights from now. I’m having a few people over. Can you-?”
He was interrupted by a female voice calling to him. Yvonne could hear her in the background.
“Terry, come get dessert! I know you love my cookies and cream.”
There was a pause. “Hold on, Eve.” Then she heard a muffled, “I’m coming!” Then. “Hello?”
“So, can you come?” he asked, picking up where he had left off.
“I’m sure I can. I’ll let you know, but now you better get back to cookies and cream.”
Terrence winced at the slight but sudden chill in her voice, but then he heard the sound of a child. “Is that Kendo?” Duh.
“Yeah, he’s sitting with me, resisting the beckons of the Sand Man.”
“Can I talk to him?”
At first he thought she was going to say no, but then he heard a soft, shy, “Hello.”
“How are you, buddy?”
He heard Yvonne prompting the two-year old to say something. “Say I’m fine,” she whispered.
“Say how are you,” his mother whispered again.
“Ha you?” he asked shyly.
“I’m fine kiddo.”
“Say bye Terry.”
As Yvonne shifted and took the phone from her son, there was a crucial silence.
Terrence used it to clear his throat, Yvonne used it to think of something witty to say. He spoke first.
“Did he call me…?”
“Er- he has a problem with Ts and Rs right now.”
“Oh.” He cleared his throat again.
“Hey, enjoy your cookies and cream.”
She still sounded terse. He sighed. “Alright. Bye.”
She hung up and called Mike back.
“What did he want?”
“He asked me to his place with a couple of friends.”
“I wasn’t invited.”
Yvonne chuckled. “Maybe he thought you would be busy with Flora.”
“Right.” There was an odd note in his voice.
“What is it?” Yvonne detected that the tone of this conversation was changing without her.
“I- nothing. Forget it- it’s a guy thing. Now lemme talk to my godson.”
“Say ‘hi Uncle Mike’,” she said as she handed over the receiver again.
They spoke briefly again and then Yvonne took the phone, when they heard a noise.
“Yvonne, was that the doorbell?”
“Don’t answer it. It’s late and anyone who comes round at this hour is only up to no good.”
She laughed dryly, “Yes, father.” But she heeded his advice.
The only problem was that, whoever it was wouldn’t go away.
“Do you want me to come over?”
“No! By the time you get here, the axe murderer would have beaten the door down and killed us all,” she joked.
“I’m just playing with your head. I will just go answer it.”
“Yvonne,” Michael warned.
“I won’t hang up. I’ll just peek then tell you who it is.”
She put a sleeping Kendo to bed and then trotted down the stairs. True to her word, she didn’t open the door until she knew who it was.
“Yvonne, who is it?” Mike insisted.
“It’s Terrence,” she told him, not having expected him at all.
“Say no more,” Michael said darkly and rang off after a cursory ‘bye’.
Just when Terry was about to resume his attack on the doorbell, she opened the door. But instead of looking at him, she was staring at the phone in her hand.
“May I come in?” he asked by way of greeting.
She transferred her puzzled expression to him, but let him in. “What are you doing here?” she asked him.
“I came to see if you were mad at me. You sounded a bit off on the phone.”
She looked at him and then the clock on the wall and back at him, quite pointedly.
“I know it’s late, but it worries me to think that you’re upset.”
She might have felt unrightfully upset but... she hadn’t sounded that upset, had she? Yvonne frowned, not fully understanding his statement.
“You’ve had enough unhappiness in your life already,” he told her. “I don’t want to add to it- I want to take it away.” Pause, “So I wanted to make sure you aren’t upset with me.”
Unexpectedly, tears welled up in her eyes. “Oh, that’s so sweet.” She reached out and squeezed his hand. “I’m not mad,” she lied, embarrassed to have even felt irritated at the sound of a woman’s voice in the loft apartment. She paused and then asked casually, “So… did you enjoy the cookies and cream?”
Terrence smiled at her averted glance, knowing- or hoping that he knew- what was going on in her head. “They were absolutely heavenly,” he said honestly.
“Oh.” She shouldn’t feel jealous. She didn’t even bake cookies and it was his right to enjoy someone’s baking so much. After all… he wasn’t her boyfriend. She was disturbed at how unconvincing that was becoming. Even in her private thoughts.
“Okay. Since you’re all right, I should be on my way back home.”
They went to the door.
“You should know that I genuinely want to stay.”
Her eyes widened and she opened her mouth to speak, but he shook his head and smiled.
“Don’t worry, I’m not asking you for an invitation. Simply stating what my greatest desire is…”
He placed a kiss on her forehead and left with the words, “Lock your doors, alright?”
He drove home trying to establish just how that went. He got home and went to sleep just as the conviction that it went okay floated into his head.
Jenna woke him up to tell him that she was going to the gym.
She woke him up again to say that a guy named Mike was in the living room.
That woke Terrence up. Mike was nearly never up before him.
The man was pacing the length of the room. Terrence walked in, wearing only shorts. “Hey, man,” he said, still slightly sleepy.
Mike stopped pacing. “Hey.”
“Sit down. Want some coffee or something?”
Terrence thought it possibly safer to sit across the living room from Mike. He was looking like someone in an explosive mood- Terry could hardly imagine why, so early in the morning. The minute his bottom hit the leather, Mike started.
“What are you doing to Yvonne?”
Terrence suppressed an irritated groan. The last thing he needed was an overprotective best friend on his case. It made it worse that this particular guy was also one of his closest friends. Instead of expressing this dismay, he placed a lazy smile on his face and said, “Back in the day I think they used to call it courting.”
Mike fairly glared at him. “Don’t play around dude. All I want to know is what the hell you think you’re doing stalking her and going to her house at odd hours of the night.”
Terrence let out a sigh. That’s what started this. “I don’t recall sitting on her street watching her every move. I don’t stalk women that –”
“That you what?” interrupted Mike, “like or want to bang?”
“What is it that you want from me? My résumé?” Terrence asked him.
“I want you to back down!” his friend shouted at him.
“What for?” he countered. “You can’t claim to be her friend if you want her to be alone when you’re perfectly happy screwing the girl you love!”
Terrence stood up, drawing himself to his full six-foot-one, looking rather fierce and unafraid as Michael advanced towards him. “What do you want to do, Mikey, huh? Hit me if it’ll make you feel better.” Pause. “Just don’t bother coming for the dinner tomorrow night.” Mike frowned. “What? Didn’t Flora tell you? Don’t bother coming,” he said again, “if you’re going to ruin Eve’s faith in you.”
Walking back to his room, Terry called over his shoulder, “You know the way out.”
Mike was gone before he even got into the shower.
Yvonne got an unwarranted visit from Mrs. Kunosawa in the afternoon but she didn’t mind- she was happy to see the older woman.
It was always a pleasure to see her son’s grandmother because the older woman never hid her affection for her late son’s child. Yet, even as they chatted, Eve could see there was something on her mind. She decided not pre-empt anything, though. She just kept talking until the woman put a hand out to touch her own.
“Yvonne,” she began.
“You know I love you like I love my own daughter.”
Yvonne nodded and smiled, so the older lady continued. “I want you to be happy.” She glanced at the box of her son’s ashes. “I’ve been thinking - you are still so very young... I don’t want you to cling to Kendo if it’s going to prevent you from being with anybody else. You having the box is honour enough to his memory. Don’t throw yourself away. You’re a beautiful woman.” Mrs. Kunosawa gave her a wry smile. “Not old enough to go in my shop by any measure. Certainly not old enough to be off the dating market.”
The two women stared at each other for a while. Tears filled the elder’s eyes and Yvonne felt her own eyes spill over. Without bothering to wipe them, she said, “I feel like I’m saying good bye all over again.”
“This is not good bye! My husband and I have been preparing ourselves for this day for over a year now.” Yvonne looked shocked. “Oh, yes. You are far too young to live like a widow and we would feel guilty if you were alone because of Kendo.”
Yvonne finally understood.
The Kunosawas didn’t want her to rot away as a spinster and they felt it necessary to say something to her, to release her from any lingering responsibility. It amazed Yvonne at how accommodating they had always been with her and just how much they considered her at every step of the way, even after Kendo was put to rest. Her heart would never have healed without their presence in her life. And now, her heart would grow even more with love for Kendo’s parents.
Yvonne sighed and looked across at the woman who had nearly become her mother-in-law. In those brown eyes she saw so much affection, she wondered why she had ever thought she could say goodbye.
She started crying softly.
With a sympathetic sound, Mrs. Kunosawa moved closer to hug Yvonne. She rubbed her back and sat with her silently until the younger woman managed to compose herself a little.
Yvonne gave a self-deprecating laugh and wiped her nose with tissue the older lady took from her purse. She also wiped her eyes, took a deep breath and then looked up at her companion. “You’ll still come see Kendo Jr.?”
“Naturally! We will still be grandparents in every way.” Pause. “I can already tell that there is less grief on your heart. I remember the first months. I knew you felt a great loss, as I did. I realized in his passing just how much him leaving you would have hurt you. But now, you’re happier.” She looked at Eve closely. “It’s not that young man, Michael?”
“Mike? No! I’m not seeing anyone, actually.”
“Well, I didn’t think you would go for him, really.” The woman maintained eye contact with Yvonne the whole time. “But I can see that you’ll be happy.”
“Thank you,” Yvonne said, trying to figure out how this lady could see something she knew nothing of. It had been like this, she realised, during the time after the funeral, with her pregnancy too.
“I know I have jumped ahead… I always do,” Mrs. Kunosawa said smiling, again knowing Yvonne’s thoughts. “Just know, you have our blessing.”
“Thank you,” Yvonne said again.
A few minutes later, the Japanese woman left and Yvonne sat there trying to make sense of their conversation. For the rest of the afternoon, as she played with her son, as she changed him for the dinner, the conversation played in her mind.
Just before Yvonne went to bed, she got a phone call.
It was Terrence.
“To what do I owe the pleasure?”
He groaned, “There are some words you just shouldn’t use after seven pm.”
She laughed a little, “What are you talking about?”
“I can’t even remember what you said before the word pleasure,” he told her, his voice low.
Yvonne’s jaw dropped.
“Did I shock you?”
She shut her mouth. When it opened again, she said honestly, “A little.”
“I’m sorry but it’s the truth,” he said slowly. Pause. “If there was only one thing I could bring you for the rest of your life, it would be pleasure.”
His soft chuckle gave her goose bumps. “I did it again didn’t i?”
“Yep,” she finally managed to say.
“Okay. I’ll quit while I’m ahead. I just wanted to tell you that I’m looking forward to seeing you tomorrow. I’m going to be cooking, so you’ll get to see what I can do in a kitchen.”
“No omelettes,” she warned.
He laughed. “I promise. No omelettes.”
“Alright then. I’m looking forward to it.”
“Me too. Good night, Yvonne.”
He hung up and she placed the receiver back in its dock. Giving her head a little shake, she turned off the light beside her bed and snuggled into her covers.