Rochelle was up early this Friday morning even though she didn’t have to be at work until 2:00 p.m. She was making French toast, turkey sausage links, scrambled eggs with cheese, onion and bell pepper, and strawberry compote. She fixed a plate and stuck a candle in the middle of the bread. She called out for the boys to wake up.
When her younger son, Jeramiah, entered the room she yelled, “Happy Birthday!” She handed him a party hat and showed him to his seat.
The birthday boy’s older brother, Coree, said, “Happy birthday, mane!”
“Thanks you guys,” Jere replied.
“Here’s your present,” the woman stated handing him a gift bag.
It was a new rose gold iPhone SE. Jeramiah was thrilled. “Thanks, ma,” he beamed.
“You’re welcome,” she shared. You can have a sleepover tomorrow night. Pick two or three friends.”
“Coree is spending the night with Ty. I’ll make my nachos grande.”
“Cool. Thank you!”
Jeramiah played with the phone and went to update his account with the new SIM card number after finishing his breakfast.
Coree told his mom that he and Layla wanted to see another movie on Saturday afternoon. She said that was fine.
“So, you really like her,” Rochelle checked.
Coree answered, “Yeah! She’s straight.”
“What do you like about her?”
“She’s pretty, smart, and sweet.”
“Well, she better be,” snickered the woman.
“You crazy, ma!”
“But you love me.”
The boys caught the bus to school. Rochelle walked to her bedroom to get a couple hours of sleep.
She woke up at 10:30 and began making a chicken casserole. She mixed the shredded poultry with sour cream, cream cheese, cream of mushroom soup, water chestnuts, and bread crumbs. She topped it with crumbled Ritz crackers and poured some melted butter on it. She stuck it in the oven and went to read a new novel.
When the dish was finished, she took it out of the oven and covered it with the lid. She slid it into the fridge then texted the boys that dinner just needed to be heated up.
She also decided to make a tomato tart to take for her evening meal. She started with a packaged pastry dough. She rolled it out and placed in the appropriate pan. She pre-baked the crust then added shredded mozzarella. She topped that with slices of Roma tomatoes and sprinkled coarsely chopped basil and garlic over them. She mixed soft goat cheese, grated Parmesan, sour cream, and more mozzarella. She dropped dollops on the top. Then, threw it in the oven.
She put on her scrubs and jumped into the Cadillac crossover. She headed to work at Mercy Memorial Hospital. She called Hugo.
“Hey, beautiful,” the handsome man answered.
“Hey there! How are you,” she asked.
“I’m good. Thanks! What about you?”
“I’m well. Just on my to Mercy.”
“Oh cool. I’m glad you called. I wanted to see if you would let me cook for you Saturday.”
“That would be awesome. But, I’m hosting sleepover for my son’s birthday that night.”
“Ah okay! Can I cook at your place.”
“Excellent. 7:00 work?”
“Great! I need to run. Call me when you get off.”
“Okie dokie. Bye.”
This evening was not unlike any other. There were patients waiting to be seen when she arrived. First up was an elderly man with a fever. She ended up admitting him for observation and treatment. Then, there was a boy that had broken his arm after falling off a jungle gym. A young, unwed mother-to-be was experiencing bleeding during her first trimester. There were a few cut wounds mixed in. And also two cases of appendicitis. All of this was before lunch.
She took her dinner break just at 6:15. She heated up her tomato pie and ordered a sweet tea from the cafeteria. She ate alone at a table perusing news articles on her phone. She texted Jere to see how the game was going. At that moment the Mustangs were down 6 to 7. As she completed eating she made a quick list of what she needed to do for Jere’s sleepover tomorrow.
Grocery store was first. She needed the items to make the party nachos. She would stop to get two double cheeseburger Heat & Eat pizzas and a giant chocolate chip cookie pizza from Montesi’s.
The second part of her night was off to the races when a motorcycle accident victim was rushed inside. Two of his fingers had been severed and his blood pressure was dangerously low. She and the nurses worked diligently to get the patient stabilized and then moved in for emergency surgery. The rest of the shift contained mostly minor illnesses like sore throats, headaches, and lacerations. She also had to lance a large boil on the neck of a mentally ill patient from Bordeaux Psychiatric Facility.
She finished up work and headed straight home. She was scheduled to be at St. George at 6:00 a.m. She entered the house and walked over to say good night to her sons. “How’d the game go, Coree?”
“Uh. We won. 13 – 10,” he shared.
“Great! Did you get an PT?”
“Yeah. I played the whole fourth quarter.”
“Excellent. Well, good night!”
She climbed into bed and set her alarm for 4:45 a.m.
She grabbed a protein snack pack from the fridge on the way out the door the next morning.
When she got off at 2:00 p.m., she drove to the store to get the ingredients she needed. Then, she picked up the pizzas and cookie cake. She was back home around 3:30. Coree was getting ready to head over to Ty’s house and then take Layla to the movies. Jere was playing Fortnite. She prepared the recipe for the nachos. She’d throw them in the oven when they got back. The party was set to start at 5:00.
Jere had invited two teammates, Tucker and Jaleel, plus Desmond to spend the night. There were two girls coming over for the first part ot the party – Blysse Powell, whose mom and dad owned the counseling center the Stewarts used, and Stefanie Cruz, a kind, gentle, artistic girl that attended their church.
Everyone was being dropped off with the exception of Tucker. Rochelle said they would pick him. She drove to the trailer park where the k** lived. As she drove through the neighborhood, she noticed Lynton’s truck parked in front a single-wide unit. She made a mental note. Once Tucker got in the car, they went straight back home.
Jere’s additional friends began to arrive. Once everyone was present, they sang happy birthday and sliced the giant cookie. The k**s took some of shredded chicken and ground beef nacho bake. They went upstairs to the game room to watch a movie. Dr. Hugo showed up around 7:15. Rochelle let him in. He handed her a bouquet of tulips. She thanked him with a hug and a peck on the cheek. She showed him to the kitchen.
The thirty-two year-old was carrying a box filled with his ingredients. He went to work separating out what he needed. Due to timing on four of the dishes, he had started them at home. First was doro wat, a chicken stew with a tomato base. Secondly, he had Ye’abesha gomen – fragrant collard greens cooked in spiced butter and flavored with cardamom, fenugreek, and nigella seeds. The third stew was kik alicha made of yellow split peas. And lastly, mesir wat – a red lentils with a paste-like consistency. He heated the food.
He made timatim in front of his hostess who was in awe of his knife skills. It was a delightful tomato salad with jalapeno and red onions in a red wine vinaigrette. After that was finished. He prepared the injera, Ethiopian sourdough crepes on which all the food would be served. Once everything was to his liking, he asked for a large platter. He arranged the injera in an overlapping layer. Then he topped the bread with two ladles of each stew around the plate leaving space in the middle for the fresh salad.
He explained that the additional injera was used to eat instead of utensils. She smiled and let him know she was aware of that part. As they ate, the doorbell rang. It was Suzette Ellis-Powell coming to collect her daughter and her friend, Stefanie. “Come on in Dr. Misses! We’re in the kitchen eating.”
They entered and Suzette entranced by the smell. “What are you eating. My mouth is watering.”
“It’s Ethiopian cuisine. Made by him. By the way Suzette this is Hugo. Hugo meet Suzette.”
They exchanged pleasantries while Rochelle went to let the girls know ride was here. Hugo was explaining what the dishes were and gave the woman a tablespoon of each item. She devoured it before taking her leave.
Rochelle cleaned the kitchen and her potential beau assisted. He asked if she wanted to watch a movie. He had picked up that movie about Sen. Ted Kennedy and the intern that got killed after a car accident. She wanted to see it and replied in the affirmative. She brought out a blanket and the snuggled up to each other as the watched the retelling of the fateful night and ensuing cover-up attempts.
After the conclusion, he told he he was going to get a move on because tomorrow started his 28-day stint in the cardiac intensive care unit. “I have to work six days straight each week.”
“Residency and fellowships are brutal,” she commiserated.
Tonight, they actually kissed good night. It felt special and caring. Not too much tongue. She sensed he was a lover.
On Sunday morning, Rochelle woke the boys at nine. She had fixed breakfast burritos with turkey sausage, scrambled eggs, cheese, tater tots, and bell peppers. The k**s demolished the baking dish of handheld goodies. The plan was for them all to go to church. Then, she would drop them off and pick up Coree from Ty’s.
Chara Owens was at church, but not Herron. Rochelle would learn in between church school class and worship service that she had the man sleeping at an extended stay motel for the time being. “I don’t know if I even want to try to work it out anymore,” the aggrieved wife confessed. “I’m not that silly little girl dying for his affection anymore. He’s done this too many times.”
“Just be sure before you guys make the plunge,” Rochelle cautioned.
“Are you going to marriage counseling?”
“I think we should. I need to find a ther****t.”
“Well, the boys and I go to New Path. It’s owned and run by the Powells.”
“Oh, that’s right, Brienne and Blysse’s parents,” Chara remarked referring to her current and future students, respectively.”
“Yeah. The boys see the husband. He does a family session with us monthly and I see Suzette individually.”
“Can they prescribe medication?”
“Suzette can because she’s a psychiatric nurse practitioner. But she doesn’t like to unless completely necessary. No matter which ther****t you see, any scripts would go through her after a consultation.”
“Perfect. I’ll call them tomorrow. And see if that man wanted to go.”
“I’m proud of you, girl.”
Desmond, of course, went home with his mom. Rochelle took the other boys to their houses, making sure each was safely inside. She had offered both of them to go plates with a couple of slices of pizza, one of the burritos, a bit of the chicken stew, a granola bar, and a pear. She wasn’t sure Tucker would eat again until the next day at school. And, to not make him look or feel bad, she offered it to all of them.
Little did she know that when the boy was inside, he split the plate three ways sharing it with his younger brother and sister. They hid in his bedroom eating so they wouldn’t have to give any to their drunk father figure. Neither of them had any substantial food since the night before.
Coree hopped in the car. “Hey, ma! Hey, Jere!”
“Wassup, playa,” the younger son laughed.
“Hi, sweetie! How was the date?”
“It was good.”
“Nice! What did you do?”
“We ate at Applebee’s then went to the movies.”
“Cool! How’s Ty’s grandmother.”
“She’s doing pretty good.”
“Okay, great! I’m going to drop Jere off at Mrs. Mary’s church and then you and I are gonna spend quality time in the city.”
Her phone buzzed. It was Lynton. She asked him to hang on and that she’d call back in ten minutes when she got home. Coree went inside to get changed. Rochelle walked to her room and called the married man.
“Hey, Lyn! How’s it going?”
“Pretty good, baby girl. Been thinkin’ about you,” he shared.
“Oh really,” she smirked. “What were you thinking?”
“How much I wanna see you again.”
“We’ll have to make plans soon. You do anything yesterday.”
“Naw, sweetie! I was home all day.”
“Yeah, pretty boring,” he lied.
“So you didn’t leave home at all? That does sound boring.”
“Oh okay then. So, who was driving your truck yesterday?”
“I had to pick up one of Jere’s friends yesterday. He lives in Cotton Trail Park and I saw your truck parked in front of one of the trailers.”
“Don’t lie, Lynton,” she pleaded. “I’m not mad. Just want honesty.”
“Well. I went to see a friend,” he he omitted a portion of the truth.
“What kind of friend?”
“Someone I knew a long time ago before I knew you. They’d gone through rehab at the center and was clean for 3 years. Relapsed a couple of weeks ago. Reached out to me and I went over to provide support.”
“That’s cool. And, very sweet of you. Male or female.”
“It’s a dude.”
“Well, I pray he gets clean again. It can’t be easy living over there. It’s a hotbed of all kinds of mess.”
“Don’t I know it,” he tried to keep his voice from shaking.
“Yeah. I’m taking Coree into the city for some one-on-one attention. Can I call you tonight?”
Rochelle hung up the phone believing only half of what he had spewed to her. And the part she did consider to be true, she still took it with a grain of salt. The next time she saw Tucker she would ask him what neighbor lived there. Rochelle would then learn the rest of the story.
Lynton cursed himself for being caught even though he had admitted no wrongdoing. He was, in fact, helping an addict in need. The piece he did not share was that he been banging the effeminate blond twink with the silicone injected booty ever since he had gotten out of treatment. It had been six or seven months since he had been with the twenty-two year-old. The k** had called him crying. He needed help and his rent was due to boot, but he was broke. Not to mention hungry.
Lynton offered to pay the next two week’s rent totaling $218. He also brought over a sack of groceries with bread, sandwich meat, apples, and cheese. The boi had answered the door completely naked except for a pair of lace boyshort panties. And, in a moment of weakness, it went from there. He fucked the sissy good and hard.