Throughout the afternoon, long into the evening, Kylie and Nessa labored over Nessa’s outfit for her date with Chief. Everything Nessa tried on made her voluptuous curves look adorable; not at all like the lascivious, sexual goddess she wished to portray.
With time slipping away, Kylie forced Nessa’s decision, dressing her in a short, black skirt that flowed around her hips, a silk blouse with a deep neckline, and a killer pair of strappy sandals. Still, Nessa looked disappointed in her reflection.
Desperate, Kylie tossed over her leather jacket. “Try this.”
“Sweet!” Nessa giggled in delight, until she broke a sweat trying to wiggle and wrestle it on. Panting, she turned side to side. “What do you think?”
“Well… it’s not perfect,” Kylie admitted. The jacket fit snug, with no hope in heaven of zipping over her voluptuous bosom, but it looked… eh. “Can you cross your arms?”
“Maybe.” Slowly, Nessa brought her arms in front of her body. They grimaced in unison as the leather creaked a plea for mercy, but the stitching held tight. Kylie sighed in relief as Nessa grinned. “Cool.”
“And now, for the pièce de résistance…”
Nessa lifted her hair out of the way as Kylie slipped her own favorite necklace around Nessa’s neck and fastened the clasp. A trail of delicate jewels settled into Nessa’s deep cleavage, then vanished.
“Where’d it go?” Nessa patted her breasts and leaned forward, shaking a little jiggle until the necklace popped out. “Whew! Still attached. Thought I’d lost it there for a sec.”
As Kylie stood behind Nessa to finish curling her long, black hair, she watched their reflections in the mirror. With a groan, she asked, “Why do I always look so haggard and old compared to you?”
“Because you don’t smile, girl! You walk around looking like you need a crap ton of prune juice, if you know what I’m saying.”
“I smile,” Kylie insisted. She plastered a smile on her face as proof. “See?”
“Now you look like you need a crap ton of Prozac.” Nessa laughed. “Try a real one.”
Kylie crossed her eyes and stuck out her tongue, sending Nessa into a fit of laughter.
“Where’s Chief taking you tonight?”
“I think we’re going to Charlene’s again, and then back to his place.” Nessa leaned into the mirror to apply another, unneeded layer of mascara. “That place is gorgeous, by the way.”
“I never did stop in to see it after the remodel.” Kylie slipped the cap off a tube of Nessa’s lipstick and touched it to the back of her hand, checking the color against her skin tone. “That was the project Jimmy was working on when we split.”
“Oh…” Nessa paused, the mascara wand hovering dangerously close to her eye. “I didn’t know.”
Kylie shrugged. “It’s not a big deal. It’s not like it was our house or anything. It’s just a restaurant.”
“A very pretty restaurant.”
“Dan designed it.”
“Yeah, but it’s more than the design. The craftsmanship is incredible. The precision of it, the meticulous attention to even the tiniest details… I don’t know how to describe it other than to say it’s like walking through a flawlessly executed work of art. We should go there for lunch tomorrow, so you can see for yourself.”
“Yeah, okay,” Kylie agreed, but even the thought of going made her stomach nervous. Jimmy always put so much of himself into his work, walking into the restaurant would be like surrounding herself in him.
Chief arrived precisely at eight to collect Nessa for their date. Once again, Kylie was amazed by the pure size of the man. He was big in open air, but when confined within four walls, his body expanded to gigantic proportions. With a duck of his head as he stepped inside, his girth instantly reduced the living room to the size of a matchbook.
Ever the enthusiastic mother, Martha made a fuss over the couple and captured pictures with her cellphone as though Nessa and Chief were high-schoolers on their way to junior prom. Kylie felt a familiar flush of embarrassment, but Nessa loved the attention, posing for a dozen more before Chief took Nessa’s tiny hand in his mammoth one and led her out into the moonlit night.
As the door closed behind them, Kylie glanced at the clock, then her cellphone. Nothing from Jimmy. She filled the evening with tiny chores. She gave Brayden his bath, then a bedtime snack. Her phone remained quiet. To fill the silence, Kylie put on Brayden’s favorite movie, and they cuddled up on the sofa with Martha to watch.
It didn’t take long for Brayden to fall asleep in his grandmother’s arms, or for Martha to start in on Kylie, “Just who exactly is this David character, anyway?”
“Mom,” Kylie protested.
“Don’t ‘Mom’ me, Kylie. I’ve already got one daughter who’s shut me out of her life. I don’t need another.”
“There’s nothing to tell you.” Kylie shrugged, trying to make light of it, but she couldn’t. “I’ve got no clue what I’m doing, Mom. Honestly, I don’t. David’s this guy who’s nice and funny, brilliantly talented, he’s eternally optimistic and he genuinely cares about me, but… I don’t know… He’s just… He’s not… I don’t know, he’s…”
“He’s not Jimmy,” Martha finished for her.
Kylie opened her mouth to protest, but there was no denying the truth. He wasn’t Jimmy. No one was.
“Why’d you make me dance with him?” Kylie asked. “I know why Aria and Stacy did what they did, but why you?”
“Because I think Jimmy deserves a second chance.”
“Unbelievable,” Kylie huffed, instantly furious. “You hated him when he was with Ashley, but now that it’s me that we’re talking about instead of her, you’re siding with him.”
“There were many days when I did not much care for the man’s actions, but I have never hated Jimmy. And I’m not siding with him, either. I’m siding with what’s best for all three of you—you, Jimmy and Brayden. Up and moving to California, without even trying to work things out with him, was not what’s best. For any of you. I know you think you’re trying to protect your son, and I admire that, but you can’t just rip him away from his father without letting him say good-bye.”
“Jimmy’s not Brayden’s father any more than Charlie was mine. And I didn’t just rip him away.”
“Yes, honey, you did. You stuck around for barely three weeks after you two broke up. You should have stayed and let your temper cool, and then talked to him.”
“You helped me move! You’re one great, big freakin’ contradiction!”
“You would have gone with or without my help,” Martha countered. “And if you remember right, I spent those six days trying to convince you to change your mind and come back home.”
“Well, I’m not going to change my mind and move back now,” Kylie stated.
“As much as I want you here, I’m not saying you should move back,” Martha agreed. “But I am saying you owe it to Brayden, and to Jimmy, and to yourself, to at least try to find a way to forgive what happened. You don’t have to be with Jimmy, but you do need to stop hating him.”
“I know I do,” Kylie admitted. “But I don’t know how.”
“It’ll come easy, once you give yourself permission to.” Martha patted Kylie’s leg. “It took me a very long time to forgive Ashley’s father for leaving us the way he did, and look where it got me… I’m old, I’m alone. The only men who hit on me live in a nursing home and wear adult diapers.”
Kylie couldn’t stop herself before she burst out laughing. “You always were too picky.”
“So, tell me about these art classes you’re taking,” Martha said, mercifully letting the matter drop, at least for the night.
When the movie ended, Martha kissed Kylie goodnight and carried Brayden to bed. Kylie sat alone in front of the television, blindly flipping channels, trying to convince herself the incredible pain burning up her chest was heartburn from her mother’s lasagna, and not heartache caused by Jimmy forgetting to call her.