Men lie, and Lloyd is no different. I know he's my husband, but I don't trust him. A brotha that fine and that talented has plenty of opportunity for cheating.
The southern skyline of Virginia is gorgeous and clear around late fall. I usually love watching the foliage on the trees along the highway turn yellow, then brown. I love the way the leaves surrender to the inevitable, letting go of the branches, spiraling through the air, and finding their place on the ground. It's always given me a feeling of things being right in the world. But this year, it's not making my heart sing. The trees look bare and the leaves old and sad. This year, all I see is decay.
It's 6:30 p.m. on a Friday, and the rush hour traffic is moving at a snail's pace along Route 64. I should be heading east from downtown Norfolk. I should be looking forward to getting home and celebrating with a man who is devoted to me. Instead I'm sitting here like a bump on a log, alone with my poisonous thoughts. Me, Laney Dennison. Successful owner of seven boutiques across Virginia. Today I played many roles. I was the nerves-of-steel negotiator when sealing the deal to open our eighth store, and the savvy trend-spotter when approving the exquisite and outrageously expensive lines my buyers brought back from New York, Milan, and Paris. No knock-offs, the real thing. Roberto Cavalli. Jean Paul Gaultier. I should be feeling good. I deserve to feel good. Hear that, Lloyd?
THUD! As if I didn't have enough problems already, I just bumped the back of the car in front of me with my treasured Aston Martin. I was so engulfed in my thoughts about Lloyd that I didn't notice the traffic had stopped again. I raise my hand in apology, hoping the driver will know I'm sincere. He looks at me through his rear-view mirror and shakes a fist. But he doesn't get out, for which I'm grateful.
The sun is setting under the multicolored skyline. I flip on the radio. Lloyd's number-one single on the R&B charts, "If You Don't Love Me," rises up through the speakers. My throat closes and I fight back tears. I switch off the radio. As much as I love the sound of it, the last thing I need right now is to hear Lloyd's voice.
The traffic has stopped again. Okay, pull yourself together, girl. Stop trippin' and examine the facts. I reach up and adjust the rear-view mirror. I take out my lipstick from my purse and apply it to my lips, and I remember what he always says: The lips I love to kiss .
There's no escape. I can turn off the radio, but I can't turn off Lloyd. I shake my head and vow not to let my failing marriage spoil my weekend. I catch my eye in the mirror. Could that really be me? At forty-one, I feel haggard. Worn out and used up. But I don't look it. My skin is still smooth. My brown pecan angel . There he is again, in my head. I laugh to keep myself from crying. I have to stay focused on my anger, or I'll fall apart. I force myself to remember our last argument.
I sit at the table and watch Lloyd standing at the sink across our open plan kitchen. He's dressed in a pair of suede warm-up pants and a tank top that shows off his well-defined physique. He's one shade lighter than blue-black, which makes his perfectly shaped bald head glisten under the halogen lights. I can see he's struggling to keep his cool.
"You're going to believe your client, who has no business butting into our lives, over me?" Lloyd leans against the sink. He's getting more and more agitated. "Come on Laney, this woman saw me once in her life. Five years ago. And she remembers what I look like? Gimme a break."
"That's right she knows what you look like. She bought your last CD." I s