Selena tried to catch her breath as she untangled her body from her partner. They had been cooped up all weekend in the penthouse of a New Jersey hotel. Both dripping with sweat, they smelled of lust and infidelity. His wife was sick in the hospital and she had been his companion for a few months since his wife had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
“My daughter’s coming home tomorrow and I have to be there.” She grabbed her satin robe and hurried in the bathroom. She stared in the mirror. Her curls were disheveled and her cheeks were maroon under her chocolate skin. She sulked off her robe and stood in the shower and the scalding water washed over her. She stared at the water turning different hues as it swirled down the drain: her eye shadow, her mascara, her lipstick. She felt her body relax as she was finally alone with her thoughts: her daughter, love life, and her decisions. She turned off the water and grabbed one of the white towels that was lined on the chrome bannister and wrapped it around her body. She opened the door and the steam followed her back into the suite. It was empty.
She looked around and her eyes fell on the night stand by the bed. She walked up to it and grabbed a stuffed envelope: As Always My Love was written in hurried script in the center. She pulled out the contents and counted: 17,000 dollars even. She usually got fifteen for the weekends but he had been overly generous these last few weeks. I mean her daughter was coming back home for holidays. She threw on something loose but socially fitting and called a car.
Noelle stood on the balcony as the wind whipped her hair around with a topped champagne glass in her hand. The city went on for miles and she wanted to stay here all night. A man came up behind her and kissed her lightly on her bare shoulder. “You okay sweetheart?” She had checked out for a moment and wondered if she could just live in this one moment forever. Her body was sore from the moments leading up to this but she felt good. “Yes. I’m fine my love.” She turned to face him. He had smooth skin, a shade or two lighter than hers and deep grey eyes that looked as if a witch was brewing something in them.
“I have to go,” he nuzzled into her neck, kissed her lightly and disappeared. She walked back into the suite to walk him to the door and all that was left was his scent, a rose, and thick white envelope with forever my sweet scribbled across the front. She grabbed it without looking inside and checked out of the hotel.
Selena had arrived at her apartment that night, hurried past the doorman and up to seventeenth floor. The cleaning lady had been there because there was a lingering smell of vanilla and sandalwood; something Mrs. Marney has been doing since her daughter was a small child. She unpacked her gym bag and threw all of her ‘work clothes’ into a hidden hamper in the back of her closet. She changed into a forest green sweat suit and decided that her and her daughter could just order out for Christmas instead of a big dinner. Her phone chimed and she looked down at her lap. It was from Drew. No matter if she hadn’t seen him in a week or in an hour, whenever they would part, he would text her.
“I miss you Scar.” It was short for Scarlet. He called her that because of the scarlet-hued birthmark on her left thigh. She quickly texted that she missed him too and slipped into bed to rest up for her daughter the next day.
Noelle was a spitting image of her mother and they both had the same body type. Slender frame, long legs, wild curly hair and an even milk chocolate complexion. She arrived at their apartment around three that afternoon to her mom donning one of her regular silk robes. “How was your flight?” She was finishing her senior year at Morgan State and despite them only living in New Jersey, she daughter loved to fly, and her mother had the means. “It was great mom. I missed you.” Selena embraced her daughter again and trotted over to the phone. “I thought we could order food and just watch movies. I’m a little tired from preparing your room for when you got back.” They ended up ordering Thai food and watching old musicals before both nodding off on the couch.
Later on that same night Noelle’s phone began to vibrate and she turned it over, popped one eye open and read the screen. She made sure to not wake her mother as she slipped into her bedroom and answered the call.
“Lee, I miss you,” a breathy voice came on the line. Her middle name. “I can’t seem to stop thinking about you.” She perked up and tried her hardest to shake the sleep out her voice. “I miss you too my love. I am back in New York and I am looking forward to seeing you.”
He was quiet for a moment and then his voice got low and even. “I was thinking about something. I wanted you to meet someone who is very important to me. I was thinking of setting up a group date. I could take you both out and we could discuss a future with all three of us.”
She let out a low raspy laugh. “Is this your way of asking me for a threesome?”
“Wha-Not at all. I just, I deeply care about the both of you and you said that you would be up for an open relationship.”
“And your wife?”
“She’s dying Lee. It’s over.”
She paused for longer than usual and finally answered. “Okay.” She could feel his body relax over the phone and they set a date for tomorrow night at 9pm.
Selena gifted her daughter a beautiful matching diamond necklace and earring set while Noelle returned the favor with a freshwater pearl choker. They ordered a Tuscan dinner and kinda picked at it while talking about whatever was going on in the world. Despite it being Christmas, they never made a big deal about it. Selena checked the time and it was 6:30 at night.
“Noelle, I know that it was supposed to our weekend, but I got a call. I gotta go honey.” Noelle never really asked much about what her mother did so she had no idea. She knew her family had old money dating back a century and businesses here and there so she figured the less she knew, the easier it was. Plus, her mom never butted into her business either. She made good grades and that’s all that seemed to matter.
“I know mom.” Her mom kissed her forehead and went into her room.
Selena got in the shower and exfoliated her body in full. She was sure to moisturize and leave no parts of her body unperfected. She decided to go for a soft natural look. She had pretty good skin and no wrinkles so she threw on some mascara, lip gloss and highlighted the high points of her cheekbones, nose and under her eyebrows. She put on a merlot colored dress from Balenciaga that sat high on her neck and low on her back. She covered the haltered neckline with the choker that her daughter gave her paired with the pearl earrings Drew gave her and slipped into nude patent pumps. The car arrived at 7:45. She didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to Noelle but she figured she’d just leave some money on the table for emergencies.
Noelle pulled her hair in a high bun to compliment the dramatic asymmetrical neckline of a royal blue cocktail dress. She was running a little behind but she knew that Mr. Wilson loved when she was fashionably late. It kept him on edge. She put on a simple diamond pendant and her crystal chandelier earrings which matched the crystallized shoes Mr. Wilson gifted her a few months ago. She was in a car around 8:30 and headed into the city.
Due alla Volta was one of her and Wilson’s favorite restaurants and the staff was practically family. She checked her coat and was immediately greeted by her favorite host. “Hello Herman.”
“Ms. Junille, always a pleasure. Mr. Wilson and his guest are waiting for you at your usual table.” He led her through a maze of dimly lit settings with stark white linens and an obnoxious amount of glasses and silverware. There she spotted Mr. Wilson in his perfectly tailored black tuxedo with a forest green bowtie and the custom Gucci loafers she gave him as an early Christmas gift. He looked amazing and the woman he was sitting with loo-
Her heart sunk into her toes and vision went blurry until she heard the low growl of Mr. Wilson’s voice. “Lee, this is Scarlet.”
Selene had no expression as if she had never seen Noelle a day in her life. She simply smiled and held out her hand.
Noelle grabbed her mother’s hand and then sat down. Her body felt like cement and she kept clearing her throat to keep from vomiting.
“Excuse me, can we have a pitcher of water please.” The waiter grabbed the pitcher off a nearby cart and filled their glasses right below the brim. Selene grabbed the glass and looked at her daughter as she sipped the cool liquid and then smiled as she sat the glass back on the table. “Well Drew, you brought us all here for a reason. Is something wrong?”
“No, everything is actually right. As you know, my wife is dying and despite our relationships taking place before she got really bad, she always wanted to see me happy. I am extremely in love with both of you. Lee and I have talked about having an open relationship and Scarlet, I know where your heart lies. I am here to ask for both of your hands in the future.” As he said that, he lifted a hand in the air and a red-haired waitress brought a silver platter with two roses and two little black velvet boxes. He placed a box before each of them.
Selene grabbed her first and flicked it open. Inside lay a huge princess cut diamond ring delicately placed on a rose gold band. She let out a low gasp and slipped the ring on her finger. “It’s beautiful.”
Noelle just stared at the box for a long time before looking up at Mr. Wilson. At this point, hot tears welled in her eyes and she knew that this was over.
“Well?” She could see him growing anxious and a little worried.
“I-well We..We ar-“
“We accept.” Those words did not leave Noelle’s mouth or Mr. Wilson’s. Scarlet looked deep in Noelle’s eyes. “I love you Drew and I could learn to love Lee too. She seems like a woman of grace and beauty.”
“Like mother, Like daughter.” That sentence hung in the air as Drew stole a glance from both women across the table, their expressions: unimaginable.