I’d given myself a prep talk. I dressed the part, wearing a pencil skirt that fell just below my knees and a deep blue blazer to match. I pulled my hair into a neat bun at the back of my head and traded in my hoop earrings for a pair of studded diamonds that Stokely bought me for no reason at all. I was prepared to face this task head on, leaving my feminine wilds back at home, no longer needing them to get anything out of Khembrell. I only wanted what was owed to me for the child we made together. No feelings or strings attached; just child support and his presence in her life without interfering with mine.
What I wasn’t prepared for was to see his wife standing next to him at the end of the hallway, beautiful and looking nearly a year pregnant with what I’m assuming was his child. No, that shit wasn’t written on any of the post-it notes that Mary Jane Paul had convinced me I needed all around my damn apartment. So, I’d be winging this part and praying to God that neither of them forced me to act a fool in this damn court house.
“Wassup, Camille?” Khembrell spoke to me like it hadn’t been damn near three months since the last time I saw his face, or that his wife, who didn’t even exist until I broke things off, wasn’t standing next to him with steam coming from her ears. “This is my wife, Stacey.” He tugged at the glowing brown skinned woman next to him. She didn’t seem pleased. And why the hell would she?
“Hi.” I never struggled so hard to push out one syllable. Here bucked brown eyes traveled up and down my body before stopping at my eyes and rolling hers.
“Hmph.” She grunted at me. Can’t say I knew a more appropriate reaction. So, I took a deep breath and decided to let her have that.
“Where’s Khas?” Khembrell asked, letting go of his wife’s hand and approaching me with that easy to ride face. “Thought she had to be at this shit.”
“She’s in school.” I sighed, slanting my eyes to the side at his wife. I couldn’t believe she was so calm with him standing right in front of me. Like did she even know our history? “And she’s not required to be here. Besides, she don’t need to see this shit anyway.”
“What shit?” He scrunched his face, sending my mind back to a time when all I’d wanna do is rope my arms around his neck and kiss him until he forgot what he was mad about. Now all I wanted to do was hurry up and be done with this appointment so I could get the hell out of his face.
“Really, Khem?” I propped my hand on my hip, motioning my open hand towards his pregnant wife. “You really think it’s the best idea to have our daughter seeing you here with another woman? A pregnant one at that?”
“I’m not the other woman. You were.” The brown skinned mime finally spoke, waddling up to claim her spot beside my piece of shit baby daddy, as if it was something to be proud of.
“Ma’am, I don’t mean no disrespect,” I started, adjusting my eyes to convey sincerity when I really wanted to curse her the fuck out. “But I’m not even sure why he brought you here. It can’t be good for your baby, making court appearances with your dog ass spouse in the name of a child he created with another woman, forsaking his vows to you.”
I could see it in her eyes the defensiveness was surfacing, and had it not been for the basketball mounted on the front of her voluptuous frame, I’m certain she would’ve been on my ass like white on rice. “That girl was made before Khem and I got married.” She spat. And it was a sad mistake for her to think that would be sufficient defense.
“That girl’s name is Khassidy.” I snapped back, neck jerking to the side involuntarily to emphasize the impending read. “A name her father gave to her. And though she might’ve been conceived before you two jumped the broom, there were several other babies that could’ve been deposited into my womb by the generous man standing beside you had it not been for my choice to be on birth control.”
I puckered my lips, waiting patiently for her to even think of speaking another ill word with my baby’s name on it. And as thoughts of whatever rolled through her apple-shaped, sleek black bob covered head, Khem pressed his hand against her forearm, and disarmed his poor little ticking time bomb.
“Just... nah.” He tilted his chin and whispered to her. “This ain’t why we came here.” He took his eyes from her and looked down at me. “I just want us to… we need to get along. I mean I fucked up. This is all on me. But all this bickering and shit, it can’t go down like that.”
“And who the hell are you to decide how shit can go down?” Stacey spoke up, now sending her anger in the right direction. “I got a right mind to slap the skin off your damn face, Khembrell. Tryna make peace when you’re the mother fucker who created the war.” She pulled her hand away from his grasp and stepped forward from beside him, closer to me than I was comfortable with.
“I wanted to hate you.” She looked me square in the eyes and said. “And seeing you standing here in this damn suit looking like perfection only made me wanna hate you more.” She continued, roving those big brown eyes up and down my body with her full lips curled with disgust. “But you probably didn’t even know I existed. This bastard’s good at keeping things from everybody but me.”
I didn’t know what that meant and wasn’t sure I wanted to. But the look of confusion on my face and the adjustment in Khembrell’s stance triggered Stacey into taking things to a whole other level. “Yeah, I knew.” She said, looking back over her shoulder at Khembrell. “Popped up at your Mama’s one day and saw the little girl— “
“Khassidy.” I interrupted. “Her name is Khassidy. And if you’re about to tell me that you laid one finger on my baby— “
“I didn’t touch your child, girl.” She spat as my shoulders rose and my chest heaved with anger. “But I knew she was his. All his family has ever done is lie and cover up shit for him his whole life. But there was no covering up those dimples and those damn eyes.” Her lips started to tremble and I decided I didn’t wanna do this shit anymore.
“Listen, I don’t know what you two are going through.” I started. “I mean aside from the fact that he’s a whore and doesn’t deserve the decency of a forgiving wife. But I can’t do this… these theatrics. All I want from your husband is for him to continue to take care of his child. No more, no less.”
“So, you’re saying after all this time, he ain’t still knocking on your door?” She ran a finger under her nose to stop the dripping that came with the tears she was trying and failing to hold back. Pregnancy already made most women hyper-sensitive. Adding this shit to it must’ve had her hormones on a trillion.
“What? No.” I exclaimed. “I’ve moved on. And if he’s still missing on weekends, you definitely need to check somewhere else.”
“Moved on with who?” Khembrell spoke up. I’d almost forgotten he was standing there until then.
“Why does there have to be a who?” I squinted; shocked that he had the audacity to ask with his wife standing there.
“The better question is why do you give a damn?” Stacey took the next question straight out of my head.
“Cause, I need to know who this nigga is she got around my daughter.” He looked at Stacey then at me. “And don’t play stupid. Khas already told me and I wanna meet him.”
I shook my head, breathing instead of getting loud like I wanted to.
“Hello?” Stokely poked.
“Fuck you.” I finally said what was on my mind. “You’ll meet him when I’m ready for you to meet him.”
“And how long is that?” He tilted his head to the side.
“Has she met your wife yet?” I tilted my head in the opposite direction.
“No, she hasn’t.” Stacey answered for him. “And I think it would be a good idea for us all to meet together since somebody obviously can’t be trusted around somebody else.”
“Please, spare me the petty shit, Stacey.” I said. “I want Khembrell like I want a damn hole in the back of my head. Trust me, there ain’t nothing here to salvage.”
“Look, I don’t appreciate y’all talking around me like I’m some kinda bitch.” Khembrell adjusted his posture and tugged at the sides of his blazer. It was a shame for a man that damn sexy to be so worthless. “Schedule somethin. And ain’t nobody tryna get at nobody so chill on that.” He stiffened his neck while eyeballing Stacey.
She propped one hand on her perfectly rounded hip, smacking her lips and rolling her eyes from him to me. “We’ll arrange the meeting, Camillie. Nothing personal, I just don’t trust him any further than I can throw him.”
“Understood.” I digressed. This whole encounter was stressing me out. And it couldn’t be healthy for Stacey’s baby to be engaging in this foolishness.
The chamber doors opened and we all filed in, with Stacey in the middle, of course, because her husband was a slithery snake. Stacey was the first to take a seat, flopping down in the chair like her knees had given out.
“You alright?” I asked, unable to quiet my maternal instinct.
“I’m fine.” She looked up at me from her seat, offering something similar to a smile but not quite. “I don’t know if you remember being four months pregnant with a Watts baby, but it’s not exactly easy to remain standing.”
In my head I screamed “Got damn, you’re only four months?” but I knew better than to insult a pregnant woman. I’d pretty much be asking to have a shoe thrown at me. Plus, Khembrell did make big babies. Khassidy was a whopping ten pounds at birth, and I was induced a month early.
The proceedings went smoothly in comparison to all that went down outside the chamber doors, and surprisingly enough, before we left the building, we agreed to a dysfunctional family dinner that would take place the next week. Neither my heart nor my head were ready to face this date with all the unpredictable outcomes. But it would only be right for our baby girl and the bun in Stacey’s oven to have some kind of connection with the man who helped create them so that they could have one with each other, even if it was an unconventional mess.