“Are you excited about your first day of school, Ant?”
“If anybody tries to bully you, just ignore them.”
“I’m not scared of nobody!”
“Don’t let mama hear you say that. She’ll call the grammar police on you.”
“What’s the grammar police?”
“When we get home from school, can you take me to the park,” Anthony asked innocently.
“The park,” Devan said unenthusiastically. “What do you want to go there for?”
“You can play here!”
“But there are no kids here.”
“What do you need kids for? I didn’t have any kids to play with.”
“You can take me to the park, or I can ask mommy to make you take me.”
Anthony has the social butterfly aspiration, and–as a reminder–Devan is lazy. When they got home from school, they put their things away and started walking toward the park. Up ahead of them, they saw Kelly Ann.
“Hey look…it’s grandma,” Devan said. “Watch this.”
He tip toed quietly until he was right behind her.
“Boy! Just because you’re as tall as me now doesn’t mean you can sneak up on me!”
“Whatever, grandma. You know you’re glad to see me,” he said and wrapped his arms around her.
“I think you’re trying to put me in an early grave!”
“Hi grandma,” Anthony said cheerfully.
“Who is this,” Kelly Ann asked Devan.
“You don’t remember Anthony, grandma? My little brother?”
“Oh! This is the baby? Hmph! I guess I wasn’t invited to the birthday party then.”
“We didn’t have a party,” Anthony said brightly. “I just popped out of the bassinet on my own!”
“You’re a smart little thing, aren’t you? Lookin’ just like your mama. Where are you boys going anyway?”
“We’re going to the park! Want to come,” Anthony asked enthusiastically.
“Yeah, grandma. Please come. You can watch him for me.”
“Of course I’ll come! You boys are my only grandchildren. I am getting pretty old these days. Who knows when Grimmy will take me. Gotta spend time with you while I can!”
“You’re not going anywhere anytime soon, grandma,” Devan said. “Hey, grandma…can you call us a cab?”
When they arrived at the park (by foot), as always, it was like an impromptu family reunion going on. Anthony ran to the playground and met his cousins Christina, Jo Jo, and another little boy from school. Kelly Ann stayed close for a little while before she went for a walk along the water’s edge. Devan hung out with the older cousins Brycen and Jalisa. Brady and Viviana were also at the park. He wanted to ask her an important question, but there just wasn’t enough privacy at home.
They had been playing chess. Vivianna tried cheating, but Brady still beat her. After the game was over, they sat in silence for a few minutes. Brady was very pensive, and Viviana was worried.
“You’re quiet. What’s going on over there, sugar bear?”
“I’m, ummm…just thinking.”
“There’s too many people around here. Let’s go sit somewhere quiet.”
“Is everything ok?”
“Yes. I just…I’ve been thinking about things…well, thinking about us really, and there’s something I really need to know.”
“Ok,” she said nervously.
So, they got up and walked along the path by the water leading to the picnic area in the rear of the park. No one was sitting there which was just what Brady wanted.
“So…we’re here, and there’s no one else around. What did you want to ask me?”
“I love you, angel. Do you love me?”
“Would you love me still if I was…if I was…different?”
“Well…sure. Different how?”
“If I was meaner. But, not all of the time, but some of the time.”
“Why would you want to be mean to me?”
Brady wasn’t sure how to tell her. In his heart, he felt that everything would be fine. But, of course, somewhere in the back of his mind there was a strong feeling that this could be the end of a beautiful thing. One reaction…one slip of the tongue, and their relationship could be over. He believed that she truly loved him and trusted that her good nature would conquer any anxieties he may cause, but there was always the possibility that she would run…just like Robyn did. There was no good light to cast it in, so he decided just to come out with it plainly.
“Viv…I’m insane. Sometimes I talk to myself, and other times I randomly yell horrible things to people. I can’t control it. Whatever I say, I don’t really mean it. It just comes out, and I don’t know why,” he shouted.
He paused and gathered himself before he let these next words come out of his mouth.
“I understand if this is too much for you to handle and you’d rather not see me anymore. You wouldn’t be the first….”
Viviana sat silently for a little while and processed everything he said. She was a little bit shocked at first because she had no idea. She had never seen that side of him before and couldn’t really picture it. She had known him to be so sweet and gentle. The only time he ever yelled at her was when they were training, but that’s just what trainers do, right? No one ever wants to be on the receiving end of an angry tirade, but if that was the only thing she would have to worry about, if it ever happened, she felt like she was doing ok. She had been through worse things. It would have been different if he said he was a drunkard or an abuser or wouldn’t stop sleeping with his female clients. She thought about how he had never yelled at her and felt like maybe their love had something to do with it. If that was true, there was no other solution to this problem than to stay together because being together made him better.
Finally, she asked, “Is that what happened with her?”
Brady felt himself getting a little emotional. Not because he missed Robyn or wanted her back, but because of the memory of the moment he realized what she was really about and the years he lost being in that situation. He hung his head low to shield any tears that would fall.
“Brady…look at me,” she said softly.
But he wouldn’t look at her. He didn’t want to break down in front of her.
“Please, look at me,” she said as she put her fingers on his chin and gently lifted his head. “I am not her. I am Viviana Harmon, and I love you. I will never ever leave you! I don’t scare easy.”
Brady bursted into happy tears and said, “Do you really mean that??”
“I totally mean it.”
“Viv, you really are an angel!”