Cuffing Season: A short story by Shubricca L Bell. (Part 3)

It was Thanksgiving, and Loni’s family had heard that she was coming with a date. No one was happier than her mom. Although Erica was ecstatic about who this date was, she managed to keep it a secret. When Loni and Teddy walked in the door, Barbara (Loni’s mom) greeted them both with a warm hug. “Hi, Teddy. Nice to see you. I didn’t know that you were coming, but I’m glad that you’re here. You know that you’re always welcomed,” Barbara said. Then she looked out the door, “Where’s your date, Loni? I’m so excited to meet the young man,” Barbara said. Then Teddy waved, and said, “Well, you just did, Mrs. Barbara. I’m Loni’s date,” he said with a smile. Barbara laughed, “Nice one, Teddy,” she said. Then she saw the seriousness on Loni’s, Teddy’s and even Erica’s face, and said, “You’re not kidding?” “Nope,” Loni said, as she locked her right arm into Teddy’s left arm. Teddy Bear’s my date. Um, it smells good. I’m ready to eat. Is dinner almost ready? I could use a plate. What about you Teddy? Hungry?” Loni said, as she lead Teddy towards the kitchen. “Sure,” he said as Loni pulled him along. “Happy Thanksgiving Mrs. Barbara,” Teddy said. When they got to the kitchen Loni’s dad greeted them, and asked Teddy if he wanted a beer. They both popped a cold one and went to talk. “Is this a joke or are you and Teddy really dating,” Barbara said, as she walked into the kitchen. “He’s my friend and my date, mom, and for now, that’s all you need to know,” Loni said, as she kissed Barbara on her right cheek and went to chat with Erica in the living room. So, where’s my brother at?” Loni asked Erica, referring to her husband. “Oh, he went to the store for mom. You know how she always forgets something,” Erica said. “What did she forget this time? Oh, no wait. I know,” Loni said. Then they both said at the same time, “Cranberry sauce,” before sharing a laugh. “I hear y’all in there talking about me,” Barbara said. Loni and Erica giggled. After about twenty minutes, Thanksgiving dinner was served. Loni’s Father blessed the food, and they all dug in. During dinner, Loni noticed that Erica wasn’t looking as bright and bubbly as usual. She actually looked drained. “Is everything okay, sis?” Loni said to Erica, who sat on the left side of her in a daze, forking through her mashed potatoes. “No, not really,” Erica said. “What’s wrong?” Loni asked. “I’ll tell you later. I don’t want to talk about it, right now. Let’s enjoy this good cooking,” Erica said with a forced smile. Loni was troubled. This wasn’t like Erica. Usually, Erica’s like Barbara 2.0 but way more tolerable. After dinner, Loni and Erica helped their mother clean up. Erica was clearing the dishes to go into the dishwasher, while Loni put away the food. Barbara noticed that Erica wasn’t herself. “You haven’t said much tonight. Are you alright?” Barbara said. “I’m fine mom,” Erica said as she continued to load the dishwasher. “Well good, because you need to show your husband some affection. You haven’t said a word to him since he got back with the cranberry sauce. If nothing’s the matter with you, why are you treating him like he doesn’t exist? Go check on him. See if he needs anything. I taught you better than this. You have a great husband. Do you know how many women wish that they had a husband like yours?” Barbara said. Erica slammed the dishwasher close. “Well since he’s so great, why don’t you marry him mom, because I am freaking done,” Erica said, as she stood up fighting back her tears. “What? What did I say, wrong?” Barbara said, with concern. “You know what mom, that’s the sad part. You don’t have a clue,” Erica said to her mom with tears in her eyes. “You know, ever since I can remember, and that was age four, you have been prepping me and Loni to be a wife. And mom, don’t get me wrong, I thank you for that, but our identities shouldn’t be tied to a man. All I’ve ever wanted was for you to see me. I’ve lived my life doing everything you wanted, but you never see me, unless I have a man and for the last ten years, a husband. You haven’t even seen that for the past five years, I’ve been unhappy,” Erica said. “What are you talking about? You and your husband are a power couple. The two of you are very successful producers in the music industry. Even on that social media, people put you and Paul as their relationship goals,” Barbara said. “Yeah, well mom. Looks can be deceiving. It’s been an act for me, for at least half of our marriage. It’s been an even longer act for him. Neither of us are happy. Paul has been cheating on me since three years into our marriage. I didn’t find out about it until a couple of years after that, but I chose to stay with him because of our image, rather than love. I chose to stay with him because I didn’t want to let you down. I chose to stay with him because I don’t know who I am outside of a man, and mom, I have you to thank for that,” Erica said wiping her tears. “Paul and I are getting a divorce. I guess the lifetime of prepping me to be a good wife, was all in vain mom. Sorry to disappoint,” Erica said, as she walked off. Loni was speechless. She ran behind Erica and gave her a hug. Erica let all her pain out on her little sister’s shoulder. “Everything’s going to be alright,” Loni said, hoping that was true. Their mom just stood there in the kitchen with her mouth open. She couldn’t believe it. “I can’t believe the two of you are getting a divorce,” Barbara said. “Really mom?” Loni turned around and said. “Out of everything Erica has said, ‘Divorce’ was all you heard?” Loni said, as she took a sobbing Erica into the living room to calm down.

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