“Well, well, well, if it isn't Ms. Jewel Winters . . .”
Startled by the sexy, deep baritone voice, I wondered who was calling my name in the produce section of Giant Food while I was squeezing peaches to detect their firmness. I slowly turned around to see who was interrupting me while I was getting my squeeze on. As I looked into the eyes of the man who called my name, I was stunned to see that the honey brown-skinned man was a blast from my past. “Th-Th-Thad, is that you?”
“Yes, Jewel, it's me.” He leaned in to hug me. “How have you been?”
“I'm doing well, and you?”
“You sure are doing well. Girl, you still look as fine as you did when I last saw you, what, four or five years ago.”
I chuckled as I remembered the last time I had seen Thaddeus Bryant. It was four and a half years ago, to be exact. I had just cursed him out for lying to me about having a girlfriend. Needless to say, I was none too pleased when I got a telephone call from an irate woman claiming that I had been screwing her man and, if I didn't stop, she was going to beat me down. I recalled reading him the riot act and telling him to get to steppin' because I was through. A few months later, I heard through the grapevine he had enlisted in the United States Army, and was stationed at Fort Jackson , South Carolina .
Now, I was standing here in Giant, trying not to salivate over this fine specimen of a man, who I had cursed out some four years ago. The military must have been instrumental in creating such a muscular body, not to mention the closely shaven haircut, which, coupled with his light brown eyes, made me want to lay him on top of the fruit and straddle him. But I composed myself.
“Thanks for the compliment.” I blushed, thankful that I was still eye candy for him as well. “What are you doing in Baltimore? I thought you were in the Army.”
“I am, but I'm an active-duty college student enrolled at Morgan State University . I entered an Army program which allows me to go to college full-time and still receive an income. They pay for everything, but the catch is that I have to go to school all year long. If possible, they want me to do a four-year program in three years. I'm almost finished with my second year.”
I couldn't take my eyes off him as he rambled on about his life. Not just because he was handsome, but because I was becoming increasingly aware that he bore a strong resemblance to my three-year-old daughter, Morgan. As Thad spoke, my eyes traced the lines of his lips with a careful dawning awareness. The way his forehead sloped slightly, like the very forehead I kissed goodnight each evening. When he smiled, his left cheek revealed a dimple that was identical to Morgan's. The roundness of his nose, in addition to the minor indentation in his chin, made me feel as if I was looking into the face of my offspring.
I started to sweat. This couldn't be happening. I haven't seen this man in four years! Now, all of a sudden, not only do I want to book a hotel room, but I'd been hit with the realization that he may be my daughter's father. I'd always known there was a minute possibility that he could be, but I was only involved with him for a short time. I was also involved with Brett, my current boyfriend and the man who just so happened to think that he was Morgan's father. Damn!
I wondered if Thad could sense my nervousness, because he stopped talking and asked if I was all right.
“I'm okay. I think I'm coming down with something. I need to hurry up and get home. I don't mean to be rude, but I've got to go.” I started to hurry past him when he lightly grabbed my arm.
He said, “Well, here's my card. Call me when you're feelin' better. I'd like to catch up on what I've been missing for the last four years.”
That's an understatement , I thought to myself. I took the card. “It was nice seeing you again. I'll call you soon,” I said, and ran out of the grocery store.
I sat in the car and placed my head against the steering wheel. “This has to be a dream, or worse—a nightmare,” I kept telling myself aloud, but deep down I knew it was reality. Looking into Thad's light brown eyes, my precious baby girl was most certainly looking back at me.
“Damn! Damn! Damn!” I said, while banging my head against the steering wheel.
What the hell was I going to do? For the past three years, Brett had raised Morgan as his child. He was the one who rushed me to the hospital when my water had broken. He was the one who cut the umbilical cord after she was born, changed her pampers, fed her at three and four o'clock in the morning, walked her when she was suffering from colic, soothed her when she was teething, introduced solid foods, helped her take her first steps, assisted with potty training, took her for immunization shots, paid for all of her birthday parties, and cuddled with her at bedtime to read a story before helping her to say the Lord's Prayer. Brett was the only father Morgan knew, and Morgan was Brett's reason for waking up each morning. So, how in the world was I going to tell him that we had to get a paternity test?
Copyright © 2007 by Latrese N. Carter