By: Brenda Jackson

When her mother didn’t say anything, Kim prompted, “So, why weren’t you able to make it to the wedding, Mom?”

“I’ve met someone,” her mother said.

Kim could hear the excitement in her mother’s voice and imagined the giddy smile that must be on her face. Oh, brother, she thought, as she leaned back against her seat. The movement brought her closer to Duan and he automatically placed his arm around her shoulder. Heat swept through her as if he’d pressed some button.

“And who did you meet?” Kim heard herself asking her mother.

“His name is Edward Villarosas and he’s nice.”

They all are in the beginning, Kim thought, remembering the other men her mother had married. First there was Boris Longleaf, whom Wynona had met during her prison ministries. At least he hadn’t been a prisoner but one of the guards. He seemed nice enough until her mother had discovered a year into the marriage that Boris preferred men.

Then there was Albert Higgins, a maintenance man in the apartment complex her mother had moved into after her divorce from Boris. There was something about Albert that Kim hadn’t trusted and her suspicions were confirmed when he’d been arrested for his part in a car-theft ring.

And last but not least was Phillip Gunter, the one who’d tried coming on to her. During all her mother’s marriages Kim had been away at college and was only around the men whenever she came home for spring break or the holidays.

She’d known from the first moment she’d seen Phillip that he would be trouble, and when he tried cornering her in the laundry room, she had used the knee-jab-in-the-groin move that she’d seen on television. When her mother had rushed downstairs after hearing the man howling in pain, he’d had the audacity to tell her that Kim had been the one trying to come on to him. Of course her mother hadn’t believed it and had sent him packing.

So after four failed marriages, Kim hoped her mother would eventually find someone to make her happy. But with Wynona’s track record, she wasn’t so sure of that happening.

“Tell me all about nice Edward,” Kim said, trying to keep the sarcasm out of her voice.

“Edward and I met at the grocery store and things between us began getting serious pretty fast.”

Kim rolled her eyes. “I bet.”

“You’re going to like him.”

I doubt it. That’s what you said about the others. “When can I meet him?”

“Um, when you come to the wedding in three weeks.”

“What!” Kim nearly jumped out of her seat.

“Are you all right, Kim?” Duan asked, leaning close to her in concern. His heated breath against her cheek had sensations stirring within her.

She nodded quickly and whispered, “Yes, I’m fine.”

“Kim, who are you with? The man you’re engaged to?”

Kim rolled her eyes and shook her head. It had been nearly two months since she’d told that lie and now everyone was still waiting to meet her fiancé. “Kim?”

Instead of addressing the issue of her fabricated fiancé, she said, “Mom, you can’t get married in three weeks. What do you know about this guy?”

“I know enough to believe Edward is a good man. He’s a divorcé like me and we enjoy each other’s company. He asked me to marry him and I accepted. Be happy for me. I’m happy for you. You don’t know how happy I was when you told me and Aunt Gert about your guy. For so long I’ve blamed myself for you not wanting to get married because I stayed with your father when he was so abusive to me. I know that’s what turned you off marriage. I should have left him sooner.”

Yes, you should have left him sooner, Kim thought. Not for my sake but for your own. Although she would be the first to admit she’d never wanted to marry because of the abuse she’d witnessed by her father, she didn’t want her mother to feel guilty about that.

Kim pushed frustrated air out of her lungs. “Mom, please promise you won’t do anything until I get there.”

“And when do you plan to come? The family wants me to have another wedding, but Edward and I are tickled with the idea of just taking off and flying to Vegas and—”

“No, Mom, please not Vegas again. Haven’t you learned anything?”

“Kimani Cannon, I won’t allow you to take that tone with me. I didn’t call to get your permission to marry Edward. I’m just letting you know about him. But if you really want to meet him, then I suggest you make time to do so.”

“I think that I will, Mom.”

“Fine. And don’t you dare come without bringing your young man with you,” Wynona said in a stern voice. “I can’t wait to meet him, and like I said, the fact that you’re in love has lifted a load off my heart that I’ve been carrying around for a long time.”