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The diners hold forth

Hank snatched up a cloth and began wiping the glass table down. “Would you start putting those burgers on the platter while they’re still edible?”

“Sure thing.”

“So, what’s my daughter got against Helen St. James? I saw the woman on a TV interview. Seems like a nice lady. Kind of on the sassy side, but still nice.”

“Oh, Helen’s fine. To tell the truth, Lesli doesn’t know her real well. Hasn’t taken the time. She… Well, she doesn’t like the fact that I like her. I mean, as a friend and all, but, well, Helen’s a special kind of gal.”

“Ah,” Hank said and tossed the cloth under the grill. “The green-eyed devil raising his head.”

“Yeah, you could say.”

“I wouldn’t let that throw you, son. Her mother was the same way. She’ll get over it.”

Keith winced.

Epilogue: Something ends, something new begins

Keith stood at the window, gazing out, cigarette smoke drifting up his arm, watching the street stories below. He was wearing his favorite piece of clothing, a Michelle Obama t-shirt given to him by this newspaper editor, Freezy J, one of the world’s coolest White men since Paul Newman. I might want to quit smoking. She, too, probably need to stop. Were they serious about marrying, both should kick the habit. Anybody, he reasoned, insists on wrecking their own lungs, more power to them. But, when you talk marriage, what’s the point if you’re not talking family.

Lesli settles in

Lesli looked around and sighed at Keith’s overrun living room that was, she realized, now her overrun living room. What wouldn’t fit, Lesli had either left for Gwen or put in storage downstairs at Keith’s. Still, she had a lot of stuff to put away. “I’m taking a break,” she declared. Getting up from the carpet, she stretched and got a cold can of Heineken from the fridge. “So,” she asked, spotting Linda’s letter, which Keith still hadn’t opened and had no idea when he’d get around to it, “who’s the fan mail from? Nice handwriting. She pretty?”

Here we go, Keith rued and, before he knew it, blurted, “Yeah, Les. As ten sunsets. She’s also baby cousin, will y’?! Probably up in trouble. Otherwise, don’t never hear from the brat. That okay?

Lesli and Keith set up house

He woke to Lesli turning her key in the door. Loaded down with suitcases. He watched her struggle to get in the apartment, keep the door propped open, and put her bags down all at the same time. She kicked a suitcase out of the way, the door closed, and she leaned against it, catching her breath. And shot him a look. “Oh, no thank you, sweetie. I don’t need any help. I’m fine.”

“Well, I know you good-lookin’, girl. No need to brag.”

“Go to hell.” With which sat on one of the bags, raking her fingernails through her hair, scratching the back of her neck. Then, nodded at the felines. The kittens were knocked out. Bruno lay staring into space.  Keith could’ve sworn the poor guy was shell-shocked. “So, how are they getting along?” she asked. “Oh, famously,” he lied with a smile. “They’re gonna be best buddies.”

“Good. I’ll unpack later. Meanwhile, come put these in the bedroom and fix me a drink.”

“You get one or the other. Either manual labor or bartender services.”

“Fine, smartass. Grab the bags.” Which he did, while she made a beeline for the liquor cabinet. He came back in from toting her suitcases to a scowling Lesli. “What’s this?” she demanded.

Bruno moves in, much to his regret

Keith never got much mail. Bills went straight to his accountant and he’d never been much of one for correspondence. Today, what showed up was his Players subscription, which he wasn’t sure whether Lesli would let him keep.

Keith pops the proverbial question

 

Keith woke drained. Praying, God, if I never do nothing else in life right, please don’t let me do this wrong. Please, keep me from screwing this up.

Keith reckons with a new and different Lesli

Keith studied Lesli across the restaurant table, watching the wind play with her hair, wondering just who this maniac was.  She sat there, eyes still filmed over, half-grinning, half-grimacing. He edged back far enough to not get smacked again and, said, “You pop up out of thin air, break up my lunch date to boot? Do you know that woman probably will never speak to me again?”

She sheepishly nodded with a slight, self-satisfied smile.

Lesli loses it

 

Lesli petulantly huffed and puffed, glowering after Kisa as she hailed a cab, got in and was gone, disappearing up the boulevard. “Hnh!”

Keith looked at Lesli. “You gon’ behave yourself?” He could’ve sworn she actually sulked and pouted.

Lesli meets Kisa and sparks fly

Kisa’d had a few last minute things to tend to at the studio. So, lunch wound up being changed to an early dinner. Keith came up out of the subway, squinting against what was still a fairly well lit day.