“Yeah, same here. How the missus?”
“Crazy as bed bug and mean as a snake, but I love her.” They laughed. “Can I pour you a drink?”
“Twist my arm.”
“Have it for y’ in a jiffy.” He said to his daughter, “Go ‘head on, take him inside.”
Mari was in the kitchen, sitting on a stool, squeezing a lemon peel into a cup of tea. She saw Keith and smiled. Wiping her hands on a napkin, she got up and gave Keith a loving hug. “My daughter has no idea how lucky she is to have you. Frankly, I wonder whether you can’t do better.”
“Please. Mother, my Black—”
“Mari, leave them alone.” She looked like she might be revving up to really let Lesli have it. Gave Keith a peck on the cheek, rolled her eyes at Lesli, took her tea and went into the living room, then upstairs. Hank followed, swatting his wife on the fanny. “Keith, you got a double-Jack-rocks sitting on a coaster.”
After her parents had gone up, Lesli groused, “He didn’t make me a drink.” And fixed herself a Bacardi and Coke. Went over to the stereo, put on something soft. Led him over to the sofa. “They like you.”
“Yeah, I caught that.” Looked at her. “Seem to like me better than you do. Have me come home to empty space.”
She lowered her eyes. “Keith.”
She looked back up at him. Placed her head on his chest and wept. Softly crying, chest heaving. He held her. It took a while, but Lesli pulled it together enough to sit up, wipe her eyes on her wrists and say, “I just didn’t know what to do.
“I’ve never been pregnant before. Never been this in love before. Never really thought about getting married.” She gave a sidelong glance. “Okay, yeah. Every girl thinks about it. But when it gets real, well, that’s serious.”
She shoved him. “Honey, I’m good. I know that. I manage a department, run a huge staff. Can catch a man’s eye.” He gave her a look. “A whole lot of things I do well. Dress for success, hold an intelligent conversation. You name it, I either do it well or will give it a game try.”
The look she gave Keith ached his heart. He’d give anything take her pain away. “But, baby,” she said, “being a wife. A mother, too. How do I do that?”
Keith had trouble with this. Looked at Lesli like she’d grown a second head. “You saying that’s why I’ve been going through pure hell? Because you went and got cold feet?”
“Don’t make it sound like that. It’s a lot of pressure.”
He was ready to get angry. Realized that wouldn’t help. “Les…”
“You don’t think it’s pressure to be a husband? To wonder what kind of father I’ll be? You don’t think that? You are not alone in being afraid about this.”
Lesli lost it. Head in his lap, she sobbed. Shaking, chest heaving. He held her and quietly cried too, tears streaming down his face falling on her back. They’d’ve cried themselves to sleep except the position was too uncomfortable. At length she raised up and was surprised to see he’d been crying with her.
“You do love me.”
“Lesli, you say that one more time and—”
She stopped him with a kiss. One that seriously meant business.
Next week: Looks like they’ve made up.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.