He chuckled, nodding. “Did you really scare the boyfriends away?”
“That was the joy of my life. I put on a growth spurt early. I was six feet tall when I was fifteen. Filled out a year or so later. Hit this height when I was a junior.”
“Six three.” And a skosh, but why brag?
“What sports did you play?”
I made a face, tilting my head. “Wasn’t really my thing. I swam. Captain of the swim team senior year. Anchor for men’s relay from my sophomore year on, and I was a diver.”
“I did baseball. Loved it, hoped to go pro. Blew out my shoulder my junior year in college.”
“Sorry to hear that, man. What do you do now?”
“Kicked around some. Now, I wholesale organic beauty products.” He shrugged. “It’s a leg up, makes good money.”
“How’d you meet Charlotte?”
“I got dragged to a concert. She was playing the City Center, and my co-workers had front row tickets. I couldn’t take my eyes off her from the second she came on stage. I was stunned that such a little woman had such a big voice. Totally blew me away. We had back stage passes, and got to go back after the show. I introduced myself, walked right up to her, told her something—can’t remember what. I babbled—a lot. Told her I couldn’t live without her, and I would do whatever it took to make her mine.”
I waited, smiling.
“She gave me a look. You know the one, from head to toe.”
“Lingering on parts in between.”
“Yeah. Grabbed me by the shirt, and told me to tell her all the things I would do to win her heart. So I did. Okay, she told me. You have a week to prove you’re worth my time. Starting tomorrow.“
“And you did.”
“First date was a hot air balloon ride over the city. Champagne breakfast. Next was a romantic dinner boat cruise, with dancing.”
“She loves to dance.”
“And she kills it. I never had such a good time. I followed that up with a picnic in the park, and a private tour of the aquarium.”
I began to have the feeling that this guy wasn’t as big a jerk as I had originally thought.
“She loves fish.”
“Especially angel fish. We sat for twenty minutes, just watching them dance. By that time, she was hooked. I didn’t even make a move on her for another week. Passionate kisses, but nothing more. I let her come to me, and it was worth the wait.” He paused, fiddling with his bottle. “I know she’s your sister, so I won’t be specific—not that I would…. She’s the greatest thing that ever happened to me, and I want to ask her to marry me. Only I’m not sure how to make it perfect. I thought of the whole grand gesture thing. Dinner, dessert, champagne, down on one knee.”
“About all you’d get would be a fist to the balls. Which trust me, they are all way too good at. Something simple. Take her to the park, push her on the swings, propose on the little bridge that arches over the water.”
“By the willow trees?”
“That’s the one. It was always a favorite place, whenever we came into the city. And when she was building her career, she decided to give an impromptu concert in the park. She stood on that bridge and started singing. You can imagine, that tiny girl, and the huge voice—she had an audience in seconds. She sang every song she could think of. I filmed the whole thing for her, put it up on You Tube, and she had an agent the next day. Three days later, her first gig. They built the band around her, had people lining up to audition. Crazy luck.”
“And she loves me,” he whispered. “I still don’t have a clue why.”
“You weren’t afraid to be honest.”
“Charlotte’s has dated some real losers. They lied, cheated on her, stole from her. To find a man who’s honest, would be the greatest gift of all.”
“Some guys are complete tool bags.”
The ribs were done by this time. I piled them on a couple platters and we carried them inside. Rowena looked like she was having the time of her life, which she confirmed by coming up and telling me that.
The chaos of serving ensued. Randy doled out the ribs, and we served ourselves buffet style. Chica came up to stand next to me.
“Not as bad as I thought.”
“Thank you. I’m glad you like him.”
Randy was scolding Dionne for trying to take an extra rib, and she was giving him shit. He took it, turned it back on her, and actually won.
“Any man who can interact with our sisters like that, must be pretty special. You sprung him on me kinda wrong, Sis.”
©2021 Dellani Oakes