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JUST THE WAY YOU ARE
Short story by Boakyewaa Glover
Dani shifted from one foot to the other, and glanced at her watch. He was late. He was never late. And he knew she had very little patience for tardiness. She buttoned the upper two buttons of her thin coat and dug her hands deeper into the pockets. Her eyes never wavered from the huge double doors in front of her. She hated waiting at airports and there really wasn’t any use waiting outside. She wasn’t dressed appropriately she didn’t expect it to be 45 degrees today. It was Spring for crying out loud. Where was he?
“Dani! Dani! Over here!”
Dani turned sharply to her left and she broke into a broad smile when she saw him. There was something about him that seemed different. Had he grown taller? Was he more built? What the heck was it?
“Abe! Gosh, I’ve missed you so much!”
Dani reached excitedly for him and he picked her 5’7’ body up easily. They hugged tightly.
“I’ve missed you too! Did you eat at all in China? You weigh nothing.”
He set her back down and they stared at each smiling.
“I’m the same, but you look different. There’s something different about you but I can’t figure out what.”
Abe smiled broadly and nodded his head.
“I do have a surprise announcement. It’s got nothing to do with my physical appearance though, but who knows, they say your emotions can be connected to your overall wellbeing.”
Dani stopped smiling and she frowned.
“What is it?”
“I’m seeing someone now. We just made it official a week ago. And I wanted to see you in person before I tell you. She’s so special, Dani. She’s perfect. She’s everything I have ever wanted. And I honestly haven’t been this happy before. I can’t wait for you to meet her. You’re definitely going to love her. She’s waiting for us in the car outside. We should get going before she gets a ticket or needs to circle back.”
Dani stood there, speechless and confused. What? What? She didn’t really hear all that he said. She was stuck on ‘I’m seeing someone now.’
“I said she’s outside. We need to get going.”
Abe picked up the suitcase next to her and reached for the one hanging off her shoulder. She raised her hand and stepped back from him.
“You’re what? You’re seeing someone? I’ve been gone just two months and you couldn’t even tell me? Abe, I was in China not Mars! We talked at least once a week!”
Abe sighed and reached for her, but Dani stepped back.
“I know, I know. I wanted to tell you. It was always on the tip of my tongue but we always ended up talking about your trip, work, how tired you are, how excited you are about the opportunity and all of that. And then after a while, I just decided I’d wait for you to get back so you could meet her.”
“Oh so what, you’re saying I hogged the entire conversation all the time? We spoke about you too, Abe. We talked about Nate’s trifling ways and how you wish you could kick him out of the house. We talked about how you almost bought a dog to spite Nate, but you came to your senses. And we talked about your work too. You had every opportunity to tell me. And now you bring her to the airport to pick me up?”
Abe stared at her wordlessly and she stared back, her feelings of shock and confusion plastered all over her face. He looked around the waiting area, as if he was seeking a way out of his situation. Eventually he turned back to her.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. Yes, I know I had the opportunity to. You’re my best friend. We tell each other everything. I should have mentioned it. She’s seriously the one, Dani, seriously. And even though this seems like it’s coming out of nowhere, I haven’t felt more certain about anything in my life. And I brought her here because I know you’re going to love her.”
Dani turned away from him briefly. She took deep breaths and tried to calm her beating heart. She looked up at him when she felt his hand on her face.
“You okay? Why are you so upset?” he asked softly.
“I’m fine. I’ve been on a plane for almost 14 hours. And even first class can’t completely cure fatigue. Let’s just go, okay?”
He nodded and they walked silently out into the cold. Dani spotted her the minute they got outside. She was standing next the driver’s side of Abe’s audi A8, scanning the area, obviously looking for them. Dani was stunned and her steps slowed. Abe was dating that? The girl standing next to the car looked like she’d just stepped off a Victoria’s Secret runway. She was at least 5’11’ if not 6’0’. Her incredibly slender body was sheathed in a dark green military-type jacket, tight black skinny jeans and knee high boots. Her long black hair was tied back loosely so Dani couldn’t help but notice her smooth chocolate skin and pearly whites. She was drop dead gorgeous.
“Hey! You must be Dani. I’m Rayne! It’s so nice to finally meet you. Abe talks about you all the time!”
Dani allowed herself to be hugged and a scent she recognized as Dior enveloped her. She still couldn’t speak.
“Oh you must be so tired. Here, let me help you with your purse. You’re traveling really light for such a long trip. No shopping? I went to Beijing with some friends two years ago and I think I came back with three suitcases!”
Rayne burst out laughing and Abe chuckled, but it sounded more like a nervous laugh. Dani forced a smile for their sakes.
“Yeah I’m really tired. I need my bed I guess.”
“Of course! Come on, let’s get you out of the cold and home to the warmth of your house. Abe and I went there earlier this afternoon to turn the heat on. It’s just so bad when you’re away for a very long time and you get back and your apartment feels like the North Pole. And it just takes forever to heat up.”
Dani nodded and touched her forehead. She sincerely felt a headache coming on. This was all too much. She crawled into the back seat and closed her eyes, feigning sleep. It was probably rude, but she wanted Rayne to stop talking. She wanted a moment to just breathe. She wasn’t so lucky. As the car pulled away, she could hear Rayne, telling Abe about how she sweet-talked a police officer out of forcing her away. Dani groaned inwardly. What sins had she committed to be subjected to this? Thankfully she lived only 10 minutes from the airport.
“Dani? You okay? Do you want us to stop by the pharmacy?”
Dani opened her eyes and looked at Abe. He looked worried but she knew he knew she was upset. She didn’t need the pharmacy. She wanted to sleep and smack him – not necessarily in that order.
“I’m fine. I think jetlag hits you more once you get off the plane.”
“Oh yes, plus its past 11pm here, so you must feel totally weird. We will get you home and in bed really soon,” Rayne chimed in.
Not soon enough, Dani thought.
Twelve minutes later, they pulled into her driveway, and Dani couldn’t be happier to be back. Rayne’s chattering continued as she and Abe got Dani’s stuff out of the car and into the home.
“I told Abe today how much I love your house! It’s so modern and chic. And he said you decorated it yourself. That is incredible. I love to decorate myself, but definitely nothing like this. And your little alcove upstairs, it’s so serene and homey. It’s a contrast to the rest of the house, but it’s perfect.”
Dani stared at Abe and then back at Rayne. Was this for real? Was he punking her?
“Thank you, Rayne. Sorry I’m so tired. Maybe I’ll give you a tour one of these days, hmmm?”
“Of course! Get some sleep. And honestly, it’s so good to finally meet you!” Rayne gushed as she hugged Dani tightly. Abe’s hug, on the other hand, was a little cautious.
“I’m really happy you’re back. I’ll see you tomorrow,” he whispered and kissed her cheek softly.
Dani closed the door behind them and walked slowly up to her master suite. She took her jacket off and entered the bathroom. She shook her head at her reflection. She looked like crap. She was wearing old grey track bottoms and her grad school t-shirt – her favorite ‘comfy’ travel clothes. Abe showed up with a model-like girl in knee high boots and here she was in track bottoms. Dani walked dejectedly back to her bed and dropped down on it like a sack. At least her house was definitely warm. She crawled underneath the covers and lay there staring at the ceiling. What now?