Cuffing season: A short story by Shubricca L Bell. (Part 4)

“I had no idea you liked ballet,” Loni said, as she and Teddy entered the seating area of the Performing Arts Theatre. “Well, truth is, I’ve never been. I just remembered how much you loved ballet growing up, and I thought you’d be interested,” Teddy said, as he motioned for Loni to sit first before taking his seat on the end. “Definitely. I love The Nutcracker. I haven’t been to see it in about ten years, but yeah, it’s one of my favorite ballets. These are great seats too. Nice,” Loni said, as she sat comfortably in her seat and admired the Orchestra view. Seeing the ballet performance brought back memories of Loni’s younger self. She remembered how free she felt on the stage. Seeing the ballet ignited a fire in her that she thought she’d lost a long time ago. During intermission, Loni asked Teddy if he was enjoying the show. She pretended not to have seen him nod off three times. “Yes, I’m enjoying it,” Teddy lied. “I just need a cup of coffee or something. Would you like anything?” he said. Loni smiled. “You’re bored out of your mind aren’t you?” she said. “Kind of,” Teddy said, as the two of them shared a laugh. “It’s okay,” Loni said. “Not too many guys are thrilled about going to see The Nutcracker so, you’ve definitely scored a few points for effort,” she said. “Just a few,” Teddy said jokingly. “Yeah, two or three,” Loni joked. “As long as you’re having a good time; I’m good,” Teddy said. “I am, and yes, I’ll take some coffee as well. Thank you,” Loni said. “Okay, be right back,” Teddy said. Loni’s bestie’s had texted her to see how the “friendly outing” as Loni called it, was going. She texted them back to catch them up. Loni called Erica, to see how she was doing. “I’m fine sis, thanks for calling. Paul was served the divorce papers today,” you could hear the sadness in Erica’s voice, but she quickly changed the subject. “Enough about me. How’s the date with you and Teddy going?” she said. “Great, but it’s not a date. It’s a,” Loni said, before Erica completed her sentence. “Friendly outing. Yeah, I forgot,” Erica said. “The two of you have been spending a lot of time together, though. This isn’t just a cuffing season thing, sis. I see the potential for something long term going on between the two of you,” Erica said. “Oh, gotta go. He’s coming back. Bye,” Loni said, before rushing off the phone. Teddy handed Loni her coffee. “Two creams and one sugar, right?” he said. “Yep,” Loni said, as she took a sip. “Perfect,” she said, as act two began.
It was now Christmas, and Loni stopped by her parent’s and then Erica’s house to exchange gifts. Later, she met Teddy at his place, so that they could go to his parent’s house for Christmas dinner. His parents were both warm and welcoming, as usual. The last time Loni had Christmas dinner with them was during her freshman year of college year. They each exchanged gifts, ate dinner, and enjoyed each other’s company. Later on, Loni told Teddy that she’d started dancing again, and was in the process of creating a television show where she will teach young girls ballet. Teddy thought it was a great idea. “You reignited something in me that I thought I’d lost a long time ago,” Loni said. “And what’s that?” Teddy said. “Love,” Loni said. “I forgot how good it feels, being on stage. The passion, and the freedom is indescribable, and I have you, to thank for that,” Loni said, as the two of them sat on the love seat, extremely close, and about to kiss, until Teddy’s parent’s walked in. Teddy’s mom held two champagne flutes in each of her hands, before giving Loni and Teddy one. Then his dad popped a bottle of Dom Perignon and poured some into each of their glasses. “Merry Christmas. Cheers, to love,” Teddy’s dad said. “To love,” everyone said, with a toast.
Six days later, and it was New Year’s Eve. Erica and Paul’s divorce was finalized. Erica decided to throw the biggest New Years party to celebrate not only the new year, but her new beginning. She decided to have the event at an upscale venue in Long Island. She even had a few of her music artists perform for the celebration. “Sis, you look amazing and this party is really nice. How did you pull this together so quickly?” Loni said. “Well, you know I have a few connections,” Erica said, with a wink. “Apparently. Great job though. Everything is so elaborate, and the food is amazing,” Loni said. “Thank you sis,” Erica said. “Hey, there you are,” Teddy came over and said. “Hey, Teddy Bear. You made it,” Loni said, as the two of them hugged and kissed each other on the cheek. “Thanks for the invite, Erica,” Teddy said. “Of course, Teddy. Thank you for coming,” Erica said. “Wait. What is she doing here?” Erica said, looking at Barbara as she and their dad, walked up behind Loni and Teddy. Loni turned around, “Hi, mom and dad,” she said. They all greeted each other. Loni saw that Erica was uneasy and decided to pull Erica to the side. “Sis, calm down. Remember, this is a party to celebrate new beginnings. You and mom haven’t spoken since Thanksgiving. Don’t you think it’s time to bury the hatchet? Don’t go into the New Year holding a grudge against your own momma. We only get one mother,” Loni said. “Thank Jesus,” Erica said, rolling her eyes. Erica and Loni went back over to where their parents and Teddy stood. “Mom, dad; welcome,” Erica said, trying to be a good sport. “Thank you,” her parents said. “Can we go somewhere and talk,” Barbara said. “Sure,” Erica replied.
They went outside on the balcony. “I know I haven’t been the best mother in the world, and this may be hard to believe, but I’ve always had you and your sister’s best interest at heart. I realize, that I can be overbearing, inconsiderate, insensitive and a flat out nightmare,” Barbara said, as Erica nodded each time her mother described her flaws. “But, I never want you to think that I don’t love you, because I do,” Barbara said standing in front of Erica and grabbing her hands. She looked Erica in her eyes, “I love you,” she said. “You are my daughter. I realize that I was too busy teaching you how to take care of a man, when I should’ve been teaching you how to take care of yourself, first. As your mother, I should’ve taken better care of you emotionally but, I didn’t and I’m sorry. I’m sorry for making you feel like I care more about your relationship status than I do about you. I’m sorry for making you feel like your image was more important than your truth. I want you to know that I love you, and I am proud of you. You don’t need a man to define you. You don’t even need me to define you. You don’t need validation from anyone, but God. So, hold your head up,” Barbara said as she lifted Erica’s chin up with a finger. “Be proud of yourself, because I am. I love you, Erica,” Barbara said, as they both hugged and cried. “I love you too mom, “Erica said. Loni walked onto the balcony and said, “Hey, come on. Y’all are about to miss the countdown.” She motioned for Erica and her mom to come inside for the New Year’s toast. “10, 9, 8,” everyone continued to count down into the New Year. “Happy New Year,” everyone said, as they sipped their champagne and danced the night away. Loni and Teddy went onto the balcony to enjoy the fireworks overlooking the city, before sharing their first kiss. Erica was right, Loni thought. This was becoming something more than just a friend during cuffing season.

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