A Few Hours Later
Salim & Camilla’s Townhouse | San Myshuno
Lunchtime, followed by some playtime, wrapped up with an hour and a half of nap time — was the same routine they went through every single afternoon. They ate, they played, they slept — she knew it and they knew it too. So today, shouldn’t have been any different, except it was different because today, Camilla was in charge and as far as the two little girls who affectionately called her Dami were concerned — rules, schedules and most importantly, nap time went out the window the moment the front door closed and their dad disappeared behind it.
See for them, Camilla wasn’t like their other two parents. Sure she took care of them and made sure they had everything they needed but she was the fun one. The one who was always ready to play no matter what time it was. The one who could easily be swayed by even the slightest sight of tears on their adorable faces. The one who had basically omitted the word “no” from her vocabulary — at least for them anyway. So staying home with her meant fun, fun and only fun.
Camilla glanced at the clock as she finished cleaning up the mess of half-bitten chicken nuggets and little puddles of milk left over from lunch. She had approximately eight minutes to get them into their beds and off to sleep or else their sleep schedules would be all thrown off and — according to Aahana — she or Salim or whoever the guilty party was would be staying at her house, doing whatever it took to get them to sleep, every night, until it was fixed.
“Alright girls, it’s time to go night-night,” Camilla said, removing the plastic foods Maya had scattered across the toy kitchen’s counter top and placing them into their respective storage spaces.
“Mimmmmie!” Maya whined snatching back whatever toys she could get her little hands on, “It mine Dami!”
“It’s time to go to bed Maya, aren’t you sleepy?”
“No!” she shook her head vehemently, “I not seepy!”
“Okaaaaaay then…” Camilla turned to Yasmin, hoping she could at least get her on board and then her sister to follow her lead, “How ‘bout you, Yasi? Aren’t you ready to go to bed?” she kneeled down with her arms out attempting to pick her up.
“No! I not seepy too!” Yasmin pushed her away with so much baby force she almost lost her pacifier in the process.
Camilla sighed, glancing at the clock again — only five minutes to go. If Salim were here, they would’ve been in bed already — he would’ve made sure of it — so she just needed to do what he did. Put her foot down and tell them it’s nap time, right now. She was the adult. She was the one in charge and they clearly needed to be reminded of that.
“Maya, Yasmin,” she said firmly with her hands on her hips, “Put the toys down now, it’s time for bed.”
Both girls immediately dropped their toys and turned to face her. That tone — wasn’t something they recognized, not from her, not from Dami, this is not how she spoke to them. This was wrong…
Before she could get her next words out, they were both in tears, screaming at the top of their lungs like someone had done something to them, like they were in pain or something.
“No, no, don’t cry, shhhh,” Camilla dropped down in front of them, desperately trying to find the magic words that would cheer them up, “I didn’t mean it, I’m sorry, don’t cry, okay? We can play some more,” she picked up a toy carrot, “You wanna play with the food, right Maya?” she handed it to her, “and you’re not sleepy right, Yasi?” she handed her pacifier back to her.
And with that — they were done. The cries had been silenced and the tears had seemingly evaporated from their faces. They were back with their toys and nap time, as it seemed, had been cancelled for the day.
Defeated, Camilla retreated to the sofa where she planned to spend the rest of the afternoon brainstorming explanations for why they would be up past their bedtime tonight.
McNeal Residence | Brindleton Bay
Hours away from home, Salim had just arrived for his meeting — not the one he told Camilla he was attending for work in the neighboring city of Del Sol Valley, but the one she didn’t know had been on the books for a couple of weeks now. It was one that took him all the way from the city of San Myshuno to the countryside of Brindleton Bay — and one of the few trips he had taken in his lifetime in which the number of knots in his stomach literally multiplied with each passing mile.
He took a moment to gather himself and give his speech another test run before approaching the backyard where her dad was waiting.
“Salim, it’s good to see you,” James met him at the fence, giving him a welcoming handshake before leading him back to the patio, “How you been?”
“I’m good sir. Thanks for asking. I hope everything’s been good with you?”
“I can’t complain.”
“That’s good to he—”
He froze at the first step of the patio, a little taken aback at a sight he was not expecting to see.
Her mom — posed right at the top of the stairs. Her stance, the expression on her face — a clear indication that she was waiting for him.
He was under the impression that it would just be James and him today. That’s what it sounded like when they spoke on the phone anyway, but he quickly remembered who he was dealing with and if there was one thing he had learned about Bridgette over the years it was that when it came to her daughter — nothing was going down without her having her say first.
“Salim,” she smiled, “come have a seat.”
After offering him something to eat — her Southern hospitality in full swing as usual — she got right down to business.
“So Salim, what do we owe the pleasure of this visit we’ve been sworn to secrecy about?”
“Well …” he cleared his throat, trying to buy himself a quick second to revise the speech that was originally meant for James to something he hoped would satisfy her too, “Camilla and I have been together for awhile now and you know we’re living together and she’s a big part of my life— my girls’ lives and I’ve been thinking a lot about our future and how I want things to be permanent between us so … I want to ask her to marry me— with your blessing of course.”
“Our blessing? How old-fashioned,” she grinned, tapping James’ arm, “You don’t see that anymore, do you James?”
“You don’t,” he shook his head, “It’s commendable.”
“It is, but it’s also a big commitment.”
“A huge commitment,” James added.
“But you know that already, don’t you, Salim? Or maybe you don’t,” she shrugged, “seeing as you’re sitting here divorced and all, looking for wife number two?”
And that — was the one thing she always held against him. It’s been nearly three years and it was like, no matter how many Harvestfest dinners he attended at their house or how many evenings they spent together whenever they visited Camilla in San Myshuno, there would always be this little hint of disapproval, a cloud of judgement hanging over his head, because of his past relationship — because of the life he had before Camilla — but maybe if she understood why things happened the way they did, she could see him in a different light.
“I do know it’s a big commitment. I knew it then and I know it now— Before, with my ex-wife though, I don’t know if you think I just left her one day but I didn’t. We had years of problems that just grew to the point where they were so big, they couldn’t be solved anymore. I know now that those issues stemmed from us not knowing how to deal with stuff or being willing to compromise on anything. But I learned a lot from everything we went through and all the mistakes I made back then so I won’t make those same mistakes with Camilla.”
He wasn’t sure if his statement made any kind of impact on her or not because she was silent and for a woman like Bridgette, that could be a really good thing or a really bad thing. He glanced over at her, trying to read her face, hoping to gain some kind of insight into her thoughts but he got nothing. Camilla was right, her poker face was impeccable.
“I know you think I don’t like you Salim,” she said, breaking the wall of tension those few moments of silence had built, “but I do. I think you’re a decent guy, especially compared to that fool she was dating before she left home,” she sucked her teeth, “And I see her … when y’all are together. She’s so in love she can’t even see straight half the time but that’s cause for her, this thing y’all have is forever, so you,” she pointed at him, “Mr. BeenMarriedAndDivorcedAlready, better make sure that before you get down on one knee, this is what you really want. And that when things get tough, you’ll be willing to stay and work things out. You not gon’ be running out on her, you hear me?”
“I do,” he nodded, “and I won’t– this is what I want.”
She stood up, making her way off the balcony, “then you’re free to ask James for his blessing.”
Which he did and received.
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