A Mile In My Shoes sneak peak

Prologue Phillip was wearing his usual rugged, green mechanic clothing. He was dirty and tired from a long day at work. However, he had to leave work a little early after getting a call from his wife, Grace, saying that she was leaving him. He had sped as fast as he could to their home, hoping that when he would get there, she would still be there. He thought to himself, 'she should be there since their daughters were there.' But after the conversations they were having, he didn’t know what type of crazy stunt she would pull. Phillip had spent the last three years trying to keep his wife happy, but now he was tired. Everything was a fight with her because her ambition and selfish ways always got in the way. His family didn’t want him to marry her, but the two had fallen so deeply in love after he charmed her. She was the most beautiful woman in the world to him. But her heart had grown cold. Grace finished medical school and graduated top of her class, landing a job at the best hospital in Florida: Uf Shand’s in Gainesville. Ever since then, she had started treating him like he was less than. She constantly reminded him of what she did for him by giving him children: twins. They had two beautiful girls, but Grace was more hellbent on being a doctor than she was a mother. As he rounded the corner, the fear of her taking his children both infuriated and struck him with dread. Soon, his car glided into the driveway, his tires making a loud screeching noise, halfway on the pavement, halfway on the grass. The car door slammed shut as he got out and walked fast pace to the unlocked front door. Phillip’s look changed from anger desperate, as something inside of him knew she was serious but hoped it all was a lie. Grace was fast walking around the house with her blonde hair waving behind her, grabbing things as seven-year-old Kerri sat on the couch watching everything unfold. She looked up at her father with her big, round, innocent eyes. Her hair that flowed down her back was nearly standing up on her head since her mother couldn’t manage it. His girls had inherited their semi coarse black hair from his African American side. She was sitting there still like something had bound her to her seat. “Where is your sister?” He asked. “In her room,” she said in a soft tone. Phillip went to the master bedroom where his wife had gone to see her with a giant suitcase and opened on the bed, throwing things inside. He looked from her to the briefcase and followed her into the bathroom. “Grace. Please. Let’s talk. What do you want me to do?” He asked as calmly as he could. Grace snickered. “Nothing, anymore. I can’t do this with you anymore, Phillip. This marriage has run its course.” “We haven’t even given it enough time. We are just getting to the good part.” Grace shot a look at him as if he had insulted her in the worst way. “What good part?! I am sick of this life! All you want to do is run to that DAMN mechanic shop and work on cars after I have been trying to get you to be more ambitious! Trying to make you see that there is more in you! All you want to do is come home dirty every day, barely making enough to make the rent in this SHACK you call home!” Phillip stopped where he was as Grace continued to move around everywhere, coming in and out of the bedroom. He had done his best with what they had. He had been trying to take care of everything while she went to school, even though he had dreams of opening his car shop one day. They both had gone into a great deal of debt with her schooling and him trying to start up his business and failing. She entered back into the room and stuffed some clothing inside the suitcase. “I’m sorry if I’m not enough for you,” he told her. The words came out God. Grace stopped, leaning over the suitcase with her hands still smashing down on the clothing, her head slumped down and her eyes closed. She sighed heavily. “You were enough. But you will still be enough to the right person. It’s just not me.” What did it feel like to have a dagger going inside your chest? Whatever it was, that’s what Phillip thought he felt like at the moment. Grace finished packing; she folded over the top and lugged it from the bed onto the floor. Rolling it out of the room, Phillip followed her into the living room. Kerri was still sitting on the couch when her twin sister, Shawn, stood next to her with her luggage. She looked at her father with the same round eyes, wondering what was going on. Phillip was wondering the same. “Come on, baby, our Uber is here,” Grace said to Shawn. Phillip grabbed Shawn's arm gently but just enough to stop her. “You’re not taking my children with you. They stay here,” Phillip said. His voice was still too weak to intimidate Grace. “I’m not taking them both. Only Shawn.” Phillip looked at her with disgust. His breathing started to elevate as he tried to push out his next word. “What? What do you mean? You would rather split them apart?” “Well, I can’t handle them both, and I don’t see the point in both of them suffering here with you. You can keep Kerri, and I’ll be back to get her when I can.” Phillip had officially grown weak. He could no longer move as he watched the woman; he loved kiss Kerri’s forehead and take half of his life with her, pulling Shawn to come along. Once they were gone, Kerri leaped from her seat and ran to the door. She watched Shawn get stuffed into a Nissan Altima along with their bags loaded in the trunk. Shawn didn’t say anything. She cried as she stood on her knees embedded in the backseat cushion. She took one last glance at her sister out of the rear windshield, standing in the doorway helplessly.

Chapter One Shawn was late, and Roy knew not to move slow…ever. She sat in the back seat of the car and had flashbacks of the dream she had the night before. It permeated her mind with pictures of her mother and father having the biggest fight of their marriage, then switched to her mother forcing her inside the car. Then she turned around to look out of the rear window to wave goodbye to her sister. Her twin sister had been trying to contact her for two years, and before now, she never had such an overwhelming feeling to mend their and her father's relationship. When Roy pulled in front of the building, Shawn anxiously waited for him to get out and open the back door. When the door was open, he stepped back as Shawn stretched out her feet covered with So Kate Christian Louboutin, red bottom stilettos with a closed, pointy toe. Her feet elegantly touched the ground, and she raised herself from her seat. She had the upper half of her box braids pulled back while the rest hang down. No one had ever seen her natural hair. Her mother hated that she had her father's hair. Shawn wore her favorite pair of Christian Dior shades, grabbed her Marc by Marc Jacobs handbag, and went inside the building. She walked proudly with a strut as she always did because that let everyone know she was the boss. Shawn Blige built a company developing businesses. She had her building with six floors constructed right in the Deerwood Park area of the Saint John's Town Center in Jacksonville, FL. It was her staple. As she entered the building, people began to move out of her way, and those who were not working quickly found something to do. She kept walking and got onto the elevator to go to the sixth floor where her office would be. The elevator stopped at the third floor, and she snarled. Shawn was faced with an employee when the doors slid back open. The girl was surprised to see her at first but then froze at the sight of her. Shawn stared at the young girl, growing more frustrated that she was taking so long. The young girl looked as though she couldn't make up her mind if she should board or not, and finally, Shawn gave her the meanest stare as she let the doors close in the girl's face. "So incompetent," she huffed and shook her head, rolling her eyes. The bell pinged, telling her she was approaching her floor, and she whipped out her hand sanitizer to squeeze a little in her hands. When the elevator opened, her assistant, Bree, was standing there waiting for her arrival and the paperwork she needed. "Bree please, fire Roy and find a new driver," She told Bree as soon as they made eye contact. She rubbed the hand sanitizer into her hands as she walked, quick-paced toward her office, with Bree following behind her. "Why are we firing Roy?" Bree asked. Shawn stopped in her tracks and turned to look at her. Bree was the only person in the building who had earned the right to question her without repercussions. She had proved to have a backbone, and Shawn liked that. Everyone else crumbled in her hands when she just called them to her office. She chose not to chew her out and turned to keep walking. "He made me late this morning," She decided to answer. "This is the first time he made you late, and this will be the third driver you have fired. At this point, I don't think anyone else in this city will want to drive you." Shawn came to her door and stopped again. "Do I pay you, or do you pay me?" Bree didn't get a chance to answer. "That's what I thought. Do it, now." Bree handed her the papers. "They are waiting inside for you," she told her, ignoring the demand. "This is the agreement for your clients. We are not firing Roy. I will talk to him." "You know what? You are lucky. I don't have time for this." She pushed the door open, and Bree disappeared as Shawn walked into her office to two men sitting in the chairs in front of her desk." She looked around to make sure they hadn't touched or moved anything. Everything was still in its place. Still spotless. "How do we know he'll be able to deliver?" One man asked the other. Shawn walked toward her desk. "Hi, gentlemen!" She greeted. They both turned to look at her as she approached her chair. They stared with wide eyes. "You're a she?" The questioning man asked. Shawn smiled at him as she stood behind her desk. "Yes. I am. Is that a problem?" The other man smiled back at her. "No, it's not." He stood to his feet and extended his hand. "I'm Carlos; this is Robert. Forgive him. We never saw the face of the person that ran this company." Shawn hesitated to shake his hand, looking at it to make sure it was clean as well. She shook it and then squeezed more hand sanitizer in her hands and rubbed them together. "I get that a lot. I try to keep my face out of the media as much as possible." "With your success, may I ask why?" Carlos asked as he sat back down. "I like the surprise people get when they see me. I get a kick out of it." She smiled again as she sat down, and Carlos laughed a little. They got right down to business and continued with their meeting. Later that day, as Shawn continued to work, Bree knocked on the door and entered. She poked her head inside. "Your mother is on the phone." Shawn jumped at that announcement, activated calls on her office phone, and quickly answered. "Mama?" "Hi, honey," Sheryl said enthusiastically on the other line. Her voice had a smile to it, and Shawn could hear an ocean in the background. She frowned. "Where are you now?" She questioned. "Ohhh, Scott and I just flew to Bali. We're thinking about staying here," Sheryl said as if it was no big deal. Shawn couldn't believe it. "Indonesia? You're moving to Indonesia?" "Don't give me that tone. At least I called and told you." "Yeah, mom. And it only took you six months this time. How long are you going to communicate with me through post mail next time?" "Shawn…. I know you feel like I should be one of those mothers who are always there for you—a mother who buys a home close by so you can visit with the husband and grandkids. But I raised you into the best you could be, and I am so proud of you. It's time for me to live now. I am enjoying life. Speaking of husband, how is Trent doing?" "We broke up two years ago." Shawn rolled her eyes, and her mind instantly went to David. David was the guy she was involved with most recently. She had kept him at a distance, but she was missing him since he left to go to Africa. "Really?" Her mother commented, slightly surprised. Shawn heard a voice in the background. "Listen, sweetie, I have to go, but I will call you soon, ok?" "No, mama, wait-" "Bye Bye!" Shawn sat with the phone to her ear as the line disconnected. Her heart fell in her chest, and she hung up the phone. Her mother was right; she raised her to be the best she could be. Grace taught her everything she knew. What she wasn't right about was Shawn having kids. It's what she wanted, but the relationship she had with her mother made her feel she would not be able to measure up as a parent. Shawn reached inside her drawer on her desk and pulled out her address book with a note containing Kerri and a phone number written on it. Shawn had been thinking for a while. She wasn't taught to have a successful family. Lately, she looked at the note, wondering if she should call and reconnect with her family, but she worried about how her mother would feel. She placed the book back into the drawer lined up with the corner like she always had it. She sighed. She tried to overcome this feeling of wanting more, wanting to have her family. Her mother raised her to be strong and not allow anyone to walk over her. Shawn stood firm in that. She looked around at her office. It was a massive size, filling almost half of the sixth floor. There wasn't any need for it to be that huge, except she wanted it to be. The office walls were light gray, and all the furniture was white. There were splashes of gold and black striped designs on everything so it would be more uniformed. Everything was precisely those colors, down to the pens, notebooks, and paper clips. Everything was organized and neatly in a place, and she dusted twice a day to rid of any dirt build. Her home was the same, and she paid a cleaning woman to clean her house each week. She brushed off the thoughts she was having and continued with her work. She stayed in her office for the next three hours and didn't get distracted until she got a knock at her door. Her eyes cut to the door as she waited for the person to enter. When they didn't, she sighed heavily and annoyed and wondered who was wasting her time. "What?!" She yelled at the door. It opened and in walked one of the employees who worked on the third floor. She didn't know his name; she didn't know much of anyone's name unless she felt they were essential to her work every day. The guy walked in with glasses, a button-down shirt, and a sweater. Shawn looked him up and down, not pleased with his attire. The guy noticed her grimace and hesitated to approach. "What do you want?!" Shawn snapped. "Uh-uh-um. I was sent to ask you if you approved the new site look and retrieve- " Shawn rolled her eyes. "Oh, yes. That." She got out of her seat, went to a file cabinet across the room, and dug out a tablet she concocted with plan details. She walked over to the man and handed it to him. Once received, the guy looked at the tablet, tapping it to make it light up. "Are you half-witted? Do you think I gave you the wrong thing?" She asked him with a sharp tone. The guy's mouth parted, but he couldn't speak. He looked surprised at first and then broke eye contact with her and frantically shook his head. "Then why are you still standing here in my office?" she asked rhetorically, keeping the same tone. The guy quickly hurried out of the office at the same time Bree was walking in. She looked back at the guy, but she was used to people leaving Shawn's office in a bit of a scare. "You have a call in fifteen minutes." Shawn walked back to her desk to prepare. The rest of the day was full of paperwork. Shawn was finished working by 7 pm and was finally able to leave. Roy was outside waiting for her when she exited the building. She walked to her car and got in. When she got off work, her daily plan was to go home and work out in her home gym, which consisted of walking the treadmill and lifting. She had a spin bike for the weekends when she wanted to get an extra workout. She had just started weight lifting but was beginning to see some results. Afterward, she would shower, make herself some food and wine and relax for the night. She sighed and tried to calm as much as she could in the car. She didn't like listening to music when she was riding, so it was quiet. Roy kept his eyes on the road as if he was in the car alone. Shawn stretched her neck; she was tired. She had a home in Ponte Vedra Beach that sat on 6 acres of land by itself with another house in a small view down the street. Roy drove in the horseshoe driveway and stopped by the front door to allow Shawn to exit. Once she was in her home, she disarmed the alarm, walked upstairs to her room, and placed her heels inside her closet on the shelf from which she took them. She could tell her cleaning lady had come. Her house was just the way she liked it; spotless. Shawn recalled the room she had at home when she was little. She had decorated it in peach and white, and everything had a specific place, or she found something dusty. Shawn spent one day Sunday scrubbing and dusting her whole room. This was the reason she hated cleaning but loved cleanliness. She hung her bag on the hook that was among the area with all of her other bags. There was one whole side of the closet where the wall had built-in cases with glass doors on them. She then changed into her gym clothes and went downstairs to the gym with her towel, cell phone, and air pods. Shawn spent the next hour in vigorous exercising. Afterward came a hot shower and skincare as she stood in the mirror with her braids up in a bun and a towel around her body. She went to her closet and to the area where she kept her pajamas. The material was made from a luxe silk viscose. Rickrack ribbon etched the edges to add detail. The shorts hem had flirty ruffles, and the mock-collard V-neck had comfortable short sleeves. She warmed up a plate of mashed potatoes, steak, and asparagus she cooked the night before. Paired with a glass of wine, she went into the living room and sat in front of the television, with her face mask and pajamas. She was alone, but lately, that was not what she wanted anymore. The next day, as her alarm sounded, Shawn slid her Gucci eye shield from her eyes and placed it, sitting upon the lampstand. She turned her alarm off and got out of bed, ready to take on the new day. The night before, she always had something prepared for the next day and in a special place in the closet. This day she had a baby blue, purple-label Ralph Lauren suit dress and matching closed-toe heels. When she was dressed, she grabbed her desired bag, a white Michael Kors Manhattan Satchel with baby blue trimmings and a gold flip-lock. Shawn ate breakfast and walked outside to meet Roy in the front. Roy was there, standing at the back-passenger side with the door open, as always. Shawn slid inside the car, and in a second, they were off. Shawn had some texts and emails coming in and could be heard typing on the phone. Her work life seemed like it didn't stop. While she responded to them, her phone rang and instantly connected to the car phone. "Hello?" "Darling, Shawn," her mother said on the line. "Mom? Hi!" "This is the second day in a row. See? I do love you." Shawn snickered. "I'm glad you called; I need to talk to you." "Shoot." "I'm thinking about calling Kerri." All Shawn heard was silence. She didn't know what her mother would say. She was hoping she would agree and encourage her. "Well, hun, I think you have come so far in your life. Contacting that part of you will probably not help you get any further. Remember what happened when you were younger. Your father chose her over you." Shawn took a moment to think. She had spent the last twenty-three years being bitter towards her father and sister; now, she was ready to make amends. But Shawn also felt her mother was right. She should just continue with her life. There was nothing left for her in the past. Shawn’s life completely changed when her mother took her. Her mother, Grace, had always been an ambitious woman; sometimes, she was too ambitious, pushing everyone around to keep up even though she often moved fast. This shaped Shawn into a woman who didn't give up. Shawn was taught to keep working hard, and that was how things came to her. Her mother taught her that the Universe helps those who help themselves. Grace was a Doctor and a talented one at that. She didn't allow anyone to speak to her anyway, and if they were under her authority, they had better do their jobs right. This was the respect and success that Shawn wanted. So, she walked in her mother's footsteps. Their home was usually a hostile one. Grace didn't spend much time with Shawn as she was always working, and when she did, she would criticize her and teach that there was a sure way to do things. Things such as walk, sit up straight, how to eat your food, and drink your tea. Like her mother, Shawn gained respect, but no one she contacted desired her company. "Mom, I'm getting out of the car to head into the office. I'll talk to you later." "Ok, hun, later." The line quickly disconnected before Shawn could say, 'I love you.' Nevertheless, she got out of the car and went inside the building. There was chatter as she walked through, and no one said hi, but made sure to move out of her way. The elevators opened, Shawn sanitized her hands and went straight to her office. "Bree, please send Ashley to get me some coffee when she gets here," Shawn said before walking into her office. Ashley was the second assistant to Bree. Bree nodded and continued working. Shawn paused before she closed her door and stood in the doorway. "Let me ask you something. If you had family that you hadn't spoken to in a long time, and they wanted to reconnect, would you do it?" She asked Bree. "Is it close family?" "I suppose. I'm just speaking hypothetically. It's for a friend." "You don't have any friends." Shawn gave Bree an evil stare. Bree got the hint and stopped working for a moment. "If it's a close family, I would reach out. But even if it's not, it's still family; you don't want to be alone all of your life." Shawn didn't know how to respond. She felt a sharp pain in her stomach when Bree said that. Shawn walked into her office to start her workday. Half of the day had gone by, and Shawn had a lot of meetings on her schedule. She was also in the middle of buying a new company and was going through negotiations with the CEO. As she ended one phone call, she sat in her chair and took a moment to rest. Her mind pondered on what Bree said earlier. She thought for a moment and went into her draw for the address book to retrieve her sister's number. She stared at it for a moment, then dialed it on her cell phone. The phone rang four times, and Shawn didn't realize she was so lost in her thoughts that she had let it ring that long. She was about to end the call until she heard Kerri answer. Kerri still sounded the same, just like her, just like their mother. "Helloooo," Kerri said. "Hello? Kerri? This is Shawn." Shawn paused in between her words. For the first time, she didn't know what to say. "Shawn, hi," Kerri said pleasantly. Kerri sounded relieved and surprised at the same time. Shawn could tell Kerri had a hint of happiness, and that made her feel good. "Hi," Shawn said back. "How are you?" Kerri asked. Shawn was then reminded of what her mother said. She straightened her posture and took all of the vulnerability from her voice. "I'm doing fine," Shawn responded. "Excellent. So, you called? What can I help you with?" "Um, I-I j-just wanted to reconnect with you. We haven't spoken to one another since we were seven, and I think it's time to put our family back together." "I do think there are some things to be discussed and apologies to be made. Do you want to meet?" "Yeah! I would love to meet." "OK. Meet me," Shawn paused to look at her calendar, "tomorrow, in the Town Center Shopping Mall, next to the pond. 6:00?" "That's perfect. See you then."

Chapter Two

Kerri’s day at her bakery was disappointing. She started Sweet Treats ten months ago, and it did well for the first six months. After that, it slowed down tremendously. She tried everything she could, but the business was not coming in. She stood behind the counter as her employees tried to find things to do for the last two hours.

Kerri’s shop sat right on the corner of Lem Turner and Edgewood, on the Northside where many other businesses were housed up and down the blocks. Neighborhood businesses like fast-food restaurants, small pond shops, cheap grocery stores, and petite clothing boutiques. Their father taught them how to bake at the age of 4, and Kerri continued with this gift and had dreams of opening her shop. When the opportunity came, and she and her husband had money saved, they pursued the idea. Her husband, Jason, was a physical therapist who worked in a center for patients.

Kerri stood behind the counter, staring out of the window at all of the cars driving by. Her hair, which was wavy and thick with a coarse feel, hung down around her face and landing past her shoulders. She sighed. Jasmine, the girl who worked at the front counter, walked around cleaning off the tables for the third time. Kerri looked at the time on the wall. She had 30 minutes before she had to meet Shawn.

“Jasmine, you can go home.”

Jasmine glanced at Kerri and nodded. She stopped cleaning and went to grab her things. Two more people were in the back baking. She let the shop manager know they would be the only two left and went on her way to the mall. She drove with anticipation, not knowing what to expect. The sisters lived in the same city all of their lives and managed never to run into one another. Kerri lived a humble life where she grew up on the Northside of Jacksonville, going to public schools, being taught to serve God, and love people. Her father, Phillip, stayed as a mechanic at a shop on Edgewood. Despite the event that tore their family apart, Kerri grew up in a loving household. Her father couldn’t give her everything, but he did his best to provide, and he gave her a spiritual legacy to build and pass down to her children.

When Kerri turned 23, she married Jason, and they soon birthed three boys, Tavion, Matthew, and Desmond. She lived for her family, and everything she did, she did for them. But lately, she had wanted more, to go to the next level. She wanted to see what it was like to experience freedom from the world’s rat race and be able to get up and go, to provide a life for her children that she always wanted.

As she drove into the Saint John’s Town Center, cars went through, making the area look congested. Kerri turned in by Portrait Innovations and moved ahead, past the Barnes and Nobles and the other clothing stores, and came to the round traffic stop. She looked over by the pond but didn’t see anyone familiar, so she drove to find a parking spot.

Kerri walked across the crosswalk and stopped at Auntie Ann’s outside booth that sat directly by the pond to buy two pretzel dogs and a cinnamon stick. She then sat and waited. Kerri looked at her clock, fifteen minutes passed by, and she looked around, making sure she was in the right spot. She checked her phone, but there was nothing. After waiting for about ten more minutes, Kerri thought about leaving until someone came and sat right next to her.

Shawn sat down by her but didn’t say anything. Her posture was straight, and her face looked serious. She was wearing very stylish clothing that looked extremely expensive, stylish heels and a floppy hat and black shades. Oddly enough, Kerri could see this woman still had the same face she had even through the shades. She was built a little thinner and in shape, but Kerri knew this was her.

“Hi,” Kerri said with a smile.

Shawn looked at the time on her phone. “I don’t have a lot of time.”

“Ok, how have you been?” Kerri wanted to know.

“I’ve been excellent. I mean, can you tell?” Shawn said, looking at herself.

Kerri didn’t answer. She didn’t know what to say. She looked down at her hands. “You look really pretty. I got you a hot dog.”

Kerri held up the pretzel dog, but Shawn eyed it with a nasty look and pushed her hand away.

“No, thank you.” Shawn rejected.

There was a moment of silence.

“Why are you reaching out to me now?” Shawn blurted. “Why not try to contact me earlier? I thought we were closer than that.”

“It goes both ways, Shawn. Dad and I have been trying to find you for years.”

“Dad?” She snickered. “Yeah, right.”

Kerri looked confused, and Shawn noticed.

“Mom told me that you and Dad cut me off. You both decided that you guys would forget about mom and me and go on with your lives. Why?”

“What? It didn’t happen that way. When Mom took you, Dad tried to reach out and see how he could still have a relationship with you and keep us together. Mom didn’t want to, so she changed her name back to her maiden name, moved a great distance away, and changed her phone number. She cut off all contact with us.”

Shawn thought for a moment. It didn’t make sense to her. She knew their mother was difficult, but Shawn knew her mother loved both of her girls. She couldn’t be so heartless.

“I don’t believe that,” she said.

Kerri sat back against the bench. They were both quiet for a minute and wondered if this meeting was a mistake. Then, Kerri spoke again.

“I started looking for you in high school, but I didn’t know what I was doing. Dad had given up. So much so that he was putting all of his time into working on cars. He was heartbroken. Three years ago, we found out that he had lung cancer. It has progressed into stage four, and we don’t know how much longer we have with him. I can’t let you live the rest of your life not knowing, so…. I thought you should know.”

Kerri looked at Shawn’s face and could tell it had changed. It softened a little bit. Kerri noticed a tear fell from her eyes. However, she felt unwanted, so she got up to leave.

“Wait!” Kerri heard Shawn exclaim. She had turned to face Kerri. “Does he talk about me?”

Kerri smiled. “All the time. He just wishes he had more memories. That’s his greatest failure, he says.”

“And his treatment, there is nothing we can do to help?” Shawn’s voice was soft with no emotion.

Kerri sat back down. “Unfortunately, cancer has become too aggressive. The Doctors say there is nothing left to do. He has been dealing with it, and he moved in with us a year ago, and I have been helping take care of him when he needs it.”

Shawn nodded. “Are you going to be ok when….?”

“I’m ok. I’m preparing for it. I don’t think it will be real until it happens. But I have my husband and kids to keep me on my toes.”

“You have a family?” Shawn cheered up.

Kerri smiled big. “I have three kids, and me and my husband have been married for eight years. What about you? Any kids or husband?”

Shawn forced a smile not to look angry. “No. I’ve had various relationships, but no one brave enough to step up yet. So I’m alone. That’s how I like it anyway.”

Kerri looked at her. “One day…”

Shawn didn’t respond.

“So, what else is up with you? I see that you have had success with your business.”

“It has been amazing working for me. I have the life I always dreamed about. But sometimes, it’s stressful, and I need a break. I have everything and no one to share it with. Sometimes, I wish I was lucky enough to get off work and go home to a husband and kids. It’s bittersweet.”

“Yeah, well, you have what a lot of people dream of, including me. A successful business that gives you freedom. You can buy whatever you want and go where ever you want.”

“That’s true; I’m pretty loaded.”

They both laughed.

“Where do you work?” Shawn wondered. She was starting to open up a little more.

Kerri began to look uncomfortable. “Um, I have a bakery on the Northside that I own. It’s pretty small.”

While Kerri was saying this, Shawn’s eyes had gotten big, and her face lit up. “You’re still baking? That’s good.”

The ladies lost track of time and went on to talk for another hour. The conversation filled with laughs and sharing moments. Kerri then received a call from Jason, checking to see when she would be home.

“Well, I guess I better get going,” she says.

“Yes, me as well. I have so much to do.”

“Yeah, of course. Should we plan to get together again? You can come to my house.”

“Ummmm, how about you come to my house? Thursday night?”

Kerri thought for a moment. That was a weekday. However, she enjoyed talking to her sister; she understood she was not ready to come around yet. “I’d love that,” she responded.

Kerri went in for a hug, and she felt Shawn’s body tense up and then Shawn’s hand lightly patting her back. She released her and then got up to leave. She walked back to her car and drove home. Twenty minutes later, her key was turning. She knew her family was waiting, so she didn’t waste time getting into the house. As soon as she walked through the door, the kids ran into her arms. Kerri braced herself to hug them all at once. She looked at the time on her cell phone and then at Jason, who was standing in the kitchen. It was almost eight o’clock, and it looked as if the kids still didn’t have their bath and hadn’t eaten yet.

They ran off back to what they were doing, and Kerri walked to a high countertop that separated the kitchen from the living room. She placed her purse on top and looked at Jason.

“I know…I know,” Jason said, noticing the look on her face.

“You know what?” Kerri tested him.

“I know why you are looking like that. We went out for a little while after you left, and I have been cooking since we got back, so I haven’t had a chance to do anything else.”

Kerri sighed and went to their room, which was through the kitchen and in the back of the house. Her mind had shifted entirely from the meeting with her sister to her duties as a mother. The kids could be heard in the living room playing and jumping around on the floors. Kerri was not in a mood to listen to the noise.

Before making them take baths, she decided to get her first. Maybe a bath would calm her mind. Yes, that’s what she needed. A piping hot shower to soak her tired body. She also realized she didn’t see her father sitting in the living room like he always was. She figured he must have gone in his room.

Kerri pulled out her pajamas and went into the bathroom, walked to the shower, and turned it on as far as it could go. She undressed, laid her towel over the toilet, and stepped inside the shower. The droplets of water came through the showerhead, strong and with a vengeance. She covered her breast so the water would not sting her nipples. She had a nice body, according to her husband, but not like she wanted. She had lost most of her baby weight and whatever was left filled out through the rest of her body.

She turned around and allowed the water to wet her hair. She had her father’s hair as well. She remembered being a little girl, and her father didn’t know what to do with her hair and had to take her to her grandmother. Mama Deloris was one of the sweetest women you could meet. She was ecstatic when she could get her hands on Kerri's hair. When her parents were together, Grace wouldn’t let anyone touch her daughter’s hair, and she took them to upscale, expensive salons. When the separation happened, Mama Deloris kept up Kerri’s hair and taught Kerri to do the same. It was one of the things that caught her husband’s attention. The water sprayed on her head, nearly massaging it and slowly wetting her hair. She took her hands and ran her finger through it, allowing the water to get in the creases and crevices.

She took a moment, closed her eyes, and stood straight with her arms folded and her hands to her chest as if she was trying to catch the water. Her head was leaning back, and she embraced the hot steam almost burning her skin. It was wonderful. After a while, the hot water started to turn cold, and she prepared to leave her haven. After she bathed, she stepped back out of the tub, grabbed her towel, wrapped it around her body, then her hair towel, and tied it around her head.

The room was still empty, and the door closed, but she could hear her family’s voices. She put on her desired undergarments and layered on the silk pajamas that she found at Walmart, put cocoa butter on her legs and feet, and stuck them inside her bedroom slippers. When she went back out to the kitchen, dinner was made, and everyone was eating. Kerri took the lid off of the broccoli and took a sniff. She immediately grabbed a plate and joined everyone else.

It was Wednesday, and Kerri’s alarm went off; she immediately sat up in bed. She always had a burst of energy when she woke up in the morning. She was usually the one to take the kids in the morning, and Jason would pick them up later in the day. Jason was just stretching and turning over as she sat up on the bed and yawned.

“Good morning,” he greeted with his eyes still half-closed and his locs spread over his pillow.

“Good morning,” Kerri said.

She started to get off of the bed until she felt him grab her waist and pull her back on the bed. He tightly wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close to him. He pressed his lips to her, and they kissed. Kerri pulled her face away, trying to loosen from his grasp. She giggled as he bit his bottom lip and ran his eyes across her upper body.

“We have to get up. I told you before we don’t have time for this in the morning.”

He let her go, and she got up from the bed. Jason playfully flopped around in the bed as if he was frustrated. Kerri laughed and went to perform her motherly duties waking the kids up. She went into Tavion’s room which was right by the kitchen; she turned on the light.

“Tae,” she said in a nurturing but loud voice. “It’s time to wake up.”

He was the child who slept harder, so she would have to shake him a little. She did so, and soon he was turning over, with the same face his father had when he woke up. She smiled at how much they looked alike and made her way to her father’s room to check on him. She did her usual routine and knocked on the door, then opened it and peeked in.

“Hey,” she said softly.

He was sitting upright on his bed with his back against the headboard, watching television. She smiled and walked in. His room was the smallest in the house, but Phillip didn’t mind. He didn’t need much. The bed was straight across from the door, and the T.V. took up the little space where it sat, between the wall and the foot of the bed.

“What’cha watchin’ daddy?” She asked, lying on the side of him and peering at the T.V. that had Gorge Jefferson dancing around in his living room.

Phillip began to laugh, his belly popping up and down and coughing a bit. They then heard little feet on the floor and knew that Desmond was awake. They looked at the doorway and saw him running so fast he ran past the room and then realized Kerri was there. He must have made a U-turn because he came dashing into the room and jumped on Kerri.

“What’s up, buddy,” Phillip said while Kerri laughed at his excitement.

Desmond was the youngest of her three boys. He was always up waiting to see if he heard anyone before he got out of bed.

“I want a cookie,” he said.

“Now, why would you ask for a cookie in the morning? You’re not getting that,” Kerri told him.

Desmond pouted and glanced in Phillip’s direction. Kerri looked at him suspiciously.

“Are you giving him cookies in the morning?”

Phillip began to lift himself from the bed. “I need to go to the bathroom.”

After all the hustling going on that morning, Kerri had finally made it to the bakery. She walked in to Neveah, sitting at one of the tables, leaned back, scrolling on her phone, and her feet propped up on another chair. Kerri stopped and looked at her, instantly irritated. Neveah was her manager and a good one. She was a young curvy, plus-size woman. Lately, since they slowed down, she had been taking her job for granted.

Kerri cleared her throat. Neveah jumped and looked her way.

“Oh!” She exclaimed and relaxed. “I thought you were a customer.”

“Well, I am the owner, and I’m glad it was me and not a customer. Can you get up and do your job please?” She said, walking into the office to put her things away.

“There is no one here,” she heard her say.

Kerri put her jacket away and her purse in the safe and walked back into the lobby. “There are things to do, Neveah; you know that.”

“I know, but I was waiting for Jasmine to come in to make her do it,” Neveah joked.

She noticed the severe look on Kerri’s face and got to work. Kerri walked around her shop, straightening things up. There was always something that needed to be cleaned, labeled, or organized. She was trying her best to be nice to her employees, but sometimes she wanted to fire everyone. She thought about her sister and sighed. She wished she had made it to that level of success. What was keeping her back? How long would it take before she got there? She didn’t know what else to do. She took her mind off of the negative and decided to get back to work.