LaTisha climbed the six flights of stairs that led to her apartment. She paused at the paint chip door long enough to catch her breath. Stepping inside, she could see that her mother had cleaned the place. She smiled. The apartment had been hers for only a month. When she moved in her mother helped her make it look appealing. Her mother had bought pictures to cover spots and patches of missing paint. The furniture was arranged so that most of the stains and holes in the carpet were covered. The stains were left by previous renters and there was no way of knowing the origins were. The apartment needed several things fixed, but it would take a miracle for the landlord to do anything.
"Momma?" she called out as she took off her jacket. Her mother came from the bedroom with her finger to her lips.
"They are sleeping. Don't wake them, "she whispered, "they just fell asleep."
LaTisha gave her mom a hug and said, " Thank you. I really appreciate this."
Her mom hugged her back and whispered," That's what I'm here for. How else can I spend time with my grand babies? I've been telling myself ‘Gloria, you've got to spend more time with those grand babies.' This is a way I can do that. Too bad that girl you had got sick. She seemed like a fine baby-sitter. I still think she was a little young though, but that's just my opinion."
Gloria was full of opinions and never thought twice about telling anyone about them. When LaTisha told her that her baby-sitter was sick with the flu, Gloria jumped on the chance to take care of her grand kids. Many times she had told LaTisha that kids needed to be around someone they knew. When there regular sitter was feeling better, Gloria did not give up her position. LaTisha didn't mind. She saved more money with her mother looking after the boys.
"You look tired. I bet a nice warm bath will do you some good. You sit down and relax for a minute. I'll go run the water for you."
Gloria disappeared into the bathroom. Instead of sitting, LaTisha walked to the only bedroom in the apartment. It was small and contained only two pieces of furniture. There was a chest of drawers and a queen sized bed where the twins were sleeping. The one- year -olds were laying next to each other in the middle of the bed with pillows on each side to keep them from rolling off. LaTisha gently kissed each one and quickly left the room, hoping that they would not wake up.
Her mother was waiting in the living room for her. "Before I leave, do you need anything else?"
LaTisha shook her head . Gloria picked up her jacket from the couch, looked at the walls around her and sighed. LaTisha sighed too. She knew what was coming next. "You could always come back home. You don't have to live here."
"Please don't start. I don't want to go through this tonight. I don't mind living here. I know it's not as good as the other place I had, but it's okay. So, let's not argue. I'm really too tired."
"You wouldn't be so tired if you were home," Her mother said matter- of -factly.
"Momma, I haven't lived with you for almost two years now. This is my home."
"This is not a home. It's a dump. Just look at it, " Gloria looked around at the walls again. Before her mother could continue, LaTisha spoke.
"Where would you keep us? There was barely enough room for me when it was just me. I have kids now. There is no room for us. We will be okay. I will manage."
"Manage? You are working double shifts at McDonalds now and are barely surviving. You hardly get to see your boys. What about the baby? How will you manage when the baby comes?" Her mother's voice had gone from concerned to concerned with touch of anger. She was growing impatient with LaTisha.
"I have at least six months before the baby comes. Who knows what will happen in that time," she tried to sound confident.
Gloria shook her head and opened the door. "He's not coming back LaTisha. You can give up that dream, " she said softly. LaTisha thought she heard pity in her mother's voice. She turned and went into the bathroom instead of responding. Her mother was wrong. She had to be. LaTisha waited for the sound of the front door closing before she took off her uniform and stepped into the bathtub. The warm water helped to soothe her aching muscles. She slid down into the water, letting it go over her shoulders and up to her neck. After a minute or two, she slid further down into the water until her head was completely covered. The water massaged her face. Her mother's words were getting softer and softer until she could no longer hear them. The world as she knew it was disappearing. LaTisha was almost lost in a fantasy when she heard muffled crying. She immediately raised her head out of the water and the crying grew louder. " Oh no," she mumbled. One of the twins had awakened.
LaTisha got out of the tub and quickly wrapped herself in a towel. She wanted to get to the crying baby before he woke the other. There was no telling how long he had been crying. She rushed out of the bathroom but before she could get to the bedroom the crying had stopped. Slowly approaching the door, she realized that it was closed and did not remember shutting it. Maybe her mother did before she left. LaTisha carefully opened the door and peered in, hoping that the baby had fallen back to sleep.
The man had his back to her, but she recognized him immediately. He turned to her and said, "You didn't have to get out of the tub. I put him back to sleep." He walked over to her and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
"Mark, what are you doing here?" she asked, more surprised than anything else.
"Phil let me get off early tonight, " he lead her out of the room and into the hallway, "I wanted to spend at least some of our anniversary together. Mark kissed his wife again. She returned the kiss.
"Today is the fourteenth. We started dating on the fifteenth," LaTisha smiled at his mistake, "but I'm glad you're here."
"Me too," he said, " I miss you so much when I'm not here. I wish I didn't have to work, so me, you, and the kids could be together all the time." Mark sighed.
"Yea, that would be nice, but it's not gonna happen anytime soon. I guess we'll just have to be satisfied with being together at night."
"I have something for you, " Mark said suddenly. He walked down the hall and into the kitchen. LaTisha followed him.
"What is it?" she asked. She was more curious than excited.
"Close your eyes."
LaTisha did as she was told. She could hear Mark moving the chairs around.
"Okay. Open your eyes."
She opened her eyes and squealed with delight at the sight of him on his knees with a ring in his hand. " Marry me," he said.
LaTisha couldn't speak, she only managed a nod. She closed her eyes and opened them again to make sure this was really happening. Mark was still there and he placed the ring on her finger. She threw her arms around him and said, " Yes. Yes. I will." Tears filled her eyes. She couldn't believe this was happening. She didn't know what else to say. For a moment they just held each other.
"I should call Momma," she pulled away from him.
"Nah, that can wait until the morning. You can tell the whole world tomorrow. Tonight you are mine." They kissed.
"You know what we haven't done in a long time," Mark asked.
"I could name several things. What do you have in mind?"
"We used to mess around in the tub, " he smiled at her mischievously.
"I'm guessing the water is still cozy."
"If not, I'm sure we can find a way to heat it up, " He said and pinched her bottom. Mark grabbed her hand and led her to the bathroom. While he was removing his clothes, LaTisha got into the water. Surprisingly it was still warm. She closed her eyes and let the water cover her face. She was smiling at the thought that Mark would be joining her.
It seemed to be taking Mark a long time to get undressed. She was about to raise out of the water when she heard muffled crying. He must have gone to the baby again. She waited for the baby to stop crying, but he never did. With a sigh, she got out of the tub and wrapped the towel around her. By the time she made it to the bedroom, the baby had stopped crying. The boys were alone in the room. LaTisha left the room and went to the kitchen. Mark was not there either. She called out his name. Silence answered her. LaTisha looked down at her left hand, hoping to see a ring. All she saw was the back of her hand. There was no ring. There was no Mark. As she stood in the kitchen staring at her hand, her mother's last words replayed in her mind: "He's not coming back LaTisha. You can give up that dream."Back to Stories