I look better in photos than I do in person, but only ones that I have complete reign over…let me pick the angle, let’s open this window for natural light, good lord what’s my hair doing…retake, someone say something funny so my smile looks real, I’m going to need to crop this…look at my arm. So the first thing Keith said to me when we met, really stuck with me.

I’m not much of a drinker. I love, love, love to dance. I knew I shouldn’t bother to wash and fix my hair; the smoke would ruin it, but I spent the time on it anyway.
  
I drove my white minivan safely but quickly, parked in the gravel, pulled out my license and some cash, hid my purse, put my van key in my pocket. I don’t belong here, but I needed out of the house. In the last 5 months, I’d been to church, my gym, my girls’ school functions…and home alone, and home alone, and home alone. The nights alone are the hardest. That about sums it up. Okay, Cowboy, let’s get Electric. 

I scanned the dark room looking for our mutual friends, Sharon and Joey. I wasn’t sure if I would recognize Keith in person for the first time, especially in a crowded club. I caught a glimpse of a handsome guy in a hat, propped on a barstool. Was that…? I started walking closer. 

“Whoa, Emily! You’re even more beautiful in person!” I’m not. He hopped off the stool and hugged me, warmly and naturally. I don’t need to fall onto anyone and expect to be held forever. He smelled amazing.

_________________________________

You cannot pray for God to overstep someone’s free will. But I prayed that prayer, over and over and over. 

The last thing I needed was mascara. Slowww exhales. Hold it together. Lots of under eye concealer. I hadn’t been sleeping more than 1-2 hours a night. I tried smiling at myself in the mirror. It wasn’t convincing. 

“I’m here. Please just leave Clara playing in the living room and stay in the bedroom with the door closed.” Demetrius’ text crushed me. 

The tears brimmed on my lashes, spilled over. I set Clara next to her basket of toys. She immediately chose a baby doll and kissed it repeatedly.

I closed the bedroom door, sat on the bed, fingers curled tightly over the edge of the mattress, gripping the blanket. Slowwww exhales. 

I heard the chimes of the door opening–Bing Bing. His work shoes clicked on the laminate. Would he notice the chili on the stove? The cornbread on the counter? Was he hungry? Would he open the bedroom door? I’m tired of living a nightmare. He wouldn’t keep staying at his mom’s. This isn’t really what he wants. 

“Heyyyy baby!!” I could hear Clara babbling happy noises. She was probably crawling toward him; she couldn’t walk yet even though her first birthday was a few days away. She had long legs, and just couldn’t quite balance yet. 

Bing-Bing. The back door opened again.  I heard his truck start up. I emerged, rushed past the chili and cornbread, to the back window. I didn’t want him to see me part the blinds. I caught a glimpse of Demetrius looking over his shoulder as he backed out.

Out of our driveway, out of our marriage. 

______________________________

I don’t remember what I said; I only remember how it made Keith laugh. I can be pretty damn hilarious; it was probably some good stuff. His eyes crinkled; he threw his head back and never fought it. I love when people let their laugh out with no reservation.

He kept his hand on my back. It wasn’t weird for me. He had a kindness about every gesture, never forced or awkward. I soaked up every bit. I caught a glimpse of Sharon and Joey staring and grinning. 

Keith and I would be inseparable. We both knew that immediately.

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