“The sun is bright this morning,” Nia sat sipping coffee slowly in her long lavender robe on her white elm front porch. With feet bare, and her long dark brown curls, framing her pecan colored face, she looked towards the direction out towards sun. Nia sipped, wondering if he was doing the same thing, suddenly happy the front Georgia porch was left open and not enclosed as her mother suggested. At this exact moment, could he be drinking coffee, watching the sun, thinking of her? She smiled at the justice of that thought. Nia wondered if what the saying of the old women she knew was true. The heart wants who it wants, it will never listens to your head. She smiled, the light of the thought warmed her better than the sun.
The habit of being awake early began with the carrying of her first child, Candace, almost five years ago. Insomnia made her nights into days; the sun becoming her signal to sleep. Nia rocked in the beige porch swing, happy the house was quiet enough to hear her own thoughts and see them through. Married life suited her, yes. Nia knew to be faithful, forsaking every other to cleave to her husband, Vander, so the two of them could be one flesh. She knew how to do that. Their life was supposed to have a cadence, a loved rhythm, which they planned aside from what could be found writhing on bedsheets. The passion would be cyclic, she knew. She knew how to be a wife, knowledge of that position didn’t push her to the front porch in her robe, with the matching lavender chemise underneath. He did.
This angel of her own making, this man-made god of her youth and imaginations. He whom she saw when she heard music or closed her eyes. Even his name was angelic when she breathed it in showers or alone with her thoughts for too long. James. The heat produced at the christening of his name over her tongue was unlike anything she had. Of course, she he knew to have him would be to forfeit her responsibility, her children and her faith. James would take all she built, all she promised herself to become and withstand. Being with him would be to change the course of her life’s path in the worst and most incredible way. Nia held on to the blue coffee cup, her head resting on the back of her thumbs and didn’t fight the tears this time. Nia recited the same prayer she had for the last few days.
“Father, either remove him or give me whom my heart wants. Either way, Father this must change. I cannot bear to be his and be here where he is not. Make him go away or make me his. In Your grace I stand, In Your love I am complete. I thank you. Amen.”
The tears where hot, flowing faster than the white painted porch could absorb them. The sobs came, deep and loud, but the release not complete. Nia thought about her last night with James two months before in August, right before her birthday in the first week of September. Nia remembered the cologne he wore. Savauge by Dior. She remembered his hair. His dreadlocks where redone and pulled back and his skin was deep ebony. His football player build inviting and marked often during their tryst with her nails in his back. He wore this cream collared shirt. He caressed her cheek, kissed her as he told happy birthday. “I have loved you since I was seventeen, Nia Hamilton. A decade later, it’s still like high school. I told you then you were mine. A husband ain’t ever gone change that.” He had kissed her pulled her towards him to cup her face, moaned into his mouth.
From his favorite restaurant, Malone’s for a an early birthday lunch lead them to the Lattimore Hotel soon after. Nia remembered the lovemaking, as she felt the heat from her cup. She remembered how he mastered her, made her pleasure and passion a priority. She smiled remembering how she yielded to how his body mastered and matched her own, along with its hunger. James was determined to sear himself into her memory. She bit her lip remembering how he had mastered her, anticipated her body, her open mouth and held her close after. Nia, after a decade and more after their first meeting in a Wyatt Senior High School Junior year in, after him being her first at that year’s prom, could not shake him.
Even now, Nia he wanted to run to him, full speed. She wanted to take nothing her love for him and sprint towards him. Through the fields before her, towards the sun, and not stop until he was in arm’s length of her own hands. “Dear God.” She began to will herself back to composure. Nia remembered what her mother told her, how she found out. How her mother kept everything from Vander. James had written a letter and let the gift she now wore at her mother’s house. On the phone her mother, Elizabeth, told her with the grace mothers have, she needed to end her relationship. “I don’t know what is going on, I don’t need to know. But James is not your husband, and you know what kind of man he is. Let James alone, Nia. Soon. Vander is who needs your attention. Give that man this robe and stuff back!”
Nia shoulders began to shake from sobbing. The sobbing let the coffee and its contents to spill over onto the porch and her feet. The heat from the coffee was a relief to pain in she had. That burning was understood, could be explained, even treated This burning had no explanation. She couldn’t pray fast enough to keep ahead of it. James haunted her. When she was driving. At work. Even with her husband of six years. This pain of being without him was unbearable. Being with James was impossible, but James thought she would return to him, just like always. Every time she would dream and saw him, she felt safe, loved. The cruelty came when she opened her, and he was gone.
Even the night before, sleep evaded her. Thoughts of him soothed and tempted. Her body relaxed and opened where he had touched. Nia left the bed she shared with her husband to work off the energy. She wore the pretty lavender chemise to bed, hoping Vander would touch her, kiss her, make love to her like he used to. She decided to do laundry, to make her day easier when she did wake up. While washing clothes, his ghost followed. She went to the office on the first floor and made sure checks were signed, four white envelopes stacked neat to take to the post office in the morning. She heard James call her name, low and hungry.
Nia washed dishes instead of running them through the dishwasher, praying the hot water would make her focus. She wished his hands were around her, his chin in the meeting of her neck and collarbone. “Relief, Lord. Send it.” She loved him. She wanted him. She couldn’t have him. The screen door closed with a bang. “Mama, are you okay? You look so pretty this morning, Mama. Daddy wanted me to find you.” Candance asked, her four-year-old wisdom and dark hair pulled in a ponytail on display. Nia sat up straight in the swing, making no attempt to dry her face. “I’ll be okay, baby.” She smiled. Her daughter’s eyes seemed to search her own as Candace walked over to her. Nia believed her daughter saw the lie she told, but didn’t know what it was.
She rose from her perch on her porch swing, picking up her coffee cup from the porch among the puddle of coffee. Nia ushered Candance through the screen door, hand on her back. “Daddy wanted to know if you were going to drink coffee with him this morning. He has his cup already, Mama.” She shook her head behind her daughter. “No, I don’t think I will, baby. I already had some.” She swallowed hard, let the door slam behind her. “I have other stuff I have to do this morning.”