“On your left!” my husband yelled.
I could hear Damien huffing and blowing behind me as I jumped over a log and kept moving. Glancing at my watch to see the amount of steps so far.
“On YOUR LEFT!” Damien yelled again at the white couple taking their time along the trail. The woman looked back before grabbing her husband with irritation. I pulled at my braids in the ponytail, whipping it back from my shoulder as we ran past the two. I could feel his hand on my lower back like he was holding on but it was always a sign that I needed to pick up the pace.
“Dame, stop it,” I blew out, smacking his hand from behind me.
“Well keep moving! You’re moving slow if I’m able to touch you! You know the drill!”
I snuck a peek at the Chattahoochee River sparkling in it's dark glower with the ducks flowing by before tugging at my yellow sports bra. I saw the stopping point up ahead where the picnic tables sat as I lowered my head, trying to find that last bit of wind after running for almost thirty minutes straight. My watch started to vibrate from an incoming text as I glanced down at the screen. Only to hear my annoying drill sergeant yell.
“Nu!? Focus! You slowing down!”
“This is why I don’t like working out with you!” I snapped as I kicked up my feet and sprinted towards the bench. Damien came running up behind me until I ran for the wooden table, having to stop myself to catch my breath. Sweat dripped from my nose and chin as I looked up at a sweating yellow back, dripping down into the basketball shorts before he turned around to show the sparse black curls on his pecks. You could see his small air lines in groups of threes slashed against his rib cage like claw marks. When he inhaled, they gently closed before peeking apart as he exhaled. I gripped the side of my neck to feel my own air lines, thankful that they were closed up for good. Men tend to be more sensitive to any type of moisture.
“You don’t like working out with me because I push you to be better,” he said as I rolled my eyes. I looked back at my watch, seeing a few messages come in.
“Kids, kids…appointments...blah blah,” I mumbled, swiping through the messages and emails. Nothing needing my immediate attention.
“God damn she is stacked,” someone laughed as I looked up to see two men walking up. One wore a sweated out grey shirt while the other kept it basic with a white tank. Both men looked to be in their thirties as they smiled at me. Openly ogling my attire.
“I’m sorry?” I let out.
“You’re a personal trainer?” grey shirt asked, “I’m a PT myself so I always admire when a woman is…”
His words trailed off as he looked beyond me. I combed through my braids with my fingers, pulling the ponytail back as I looked at Damien’s hardened gaze. As soft as his features are, he was able to intimidate the strongest of men. He dragged his hand down his mouth, eyes never blinking when the man just nodded. Acknowledging his presence was enough.
“Yall have a good one,” grey shirt said before tipping his head to me, refusing to look below my chin before turning to finish the trail in silence.
“Men in Atlanta are bold,” Damien laughed with a shake of his head, “really bold with it. They got the right one though,” nodding his head as I rolled my eyes.
“It’s never that serious,” looking back at my watch as I sat down on the picnic table. Wiping down my thighs in a distracted manner, I read a new incoming message from Nevaeh and suddenly smiled.
“Nah it is that serious. Remember the guy at the grocery store? Following you around with the cart? You know me, you know how I get down. Don’t let this corporate shit fool you. Nigga, I told him, I’m with the dumb shit over mine. Try me. Men are some of the most disrespectful beings on this earth. I know what they think when they see….”
I tuned him out as I have learned to do over the years when he started to feel himself, and just continued to read through the texts. If you’ve been married as long as I’ve been, you learn that you don’t have to really be present for parts of the marriage. Just smile and nod your head. Maybe moan here and there to spice things up in the bedroom.
Looking back at him, he was acting out a fight scene, talking to himself like he was getting worked up before looking at me with a goofy grin. In addition to my husband being fine, body for days, with a talent for flipping money, he was a nerd. He always had more personality than me. Easily opened up to people and everyone gravitated towards him whereas I took a little time to get used to it. I didn’t like being in everyone’s face. Damien was the silly one. I was the more serious one in our marriage. I wasn’t as bubbly as I would like to be but that’s how we clicked. Even as children, it took a while to get used to his outgoing extrovertness. Slowly but surely, I was trying to change that. I made a promise to myself that I was going to get out more and find friends outside of my family once we moved to Atlanta, and the perfect opportunity just came up.
“What?” he grinned as he walked over with his hand gripping the side of my thigh, “why are you staring at me? What are you overthinking about now?”
I closed my eyes for the brief kiss we shared before he sat down beside me on the table with our feet propped up on the bench.
“What do you think about the girls that came to the birthday party?” I asked. “Pia, Francesca, and Nevaeh and their men…”
“The dark one is pretentious,” he said. I cringed at the phrasing but knew he meant nothing malicious behind it. Homer and I were practically the same complexion.
“Homer,” I corrected.
“Yeah, he’s full of himself. The other two are pretty chill and laid back but he’s stuck up for no reason. I like the girl with the dreads… The boys couldn’t get enough of her.”
Nevaeh. I smiled. I told Nevaeh she looked like a woman of the water. She had the perfect look. Her husband, not so much but Nevaeh was a natural beauty to look at and her calm demeanor was similar to mine so we clicked right away.
“Why do you ask? Is he asking about you?” Dame asked in a demanding tone.
“So you don’t like Homer?” I questioned again.
“He’s alright. Just...not everything is about you bro,” he said, adjusting his shoes, “his woman is alright in the face. Body, I’m not a fan of---”
“I didn’t ask you all of that,” I retorted. “We’ve been invited to attend a Moon Run this weekend.” Damien’s eyes lit up with curiosity as I quickly texted back after seeing the scheduled pre-Moon Run events. “We’re supposed to wear all white.”
“A Moon Run?” he asked. “Who invited us?”
“Nevaeh did. I guess on behalf of Homer. I dunno, but its on a Sunday. Saturday, they are having a get together. It says, I know it's last minute but mostly family attends this and locals in the area. My family is having a Moon Run festival on the Summer Solstice. My brother, you met him at the party. He’s planning a wedding for Pia on Sunday night. We wanted to throw her an unofficial bachelorette party. She has no idea what’s happening so we want to keep it a secret until the actual ceremony. The boys are having a get kickback to celebrate Homer so I’m officially inviting you and your family. If you can’t go, I understand but if you can, it's an all white all weekend event. No other colors allowed. If you have any other questions, just call me. I’m not really familiar with all of this totem stuff but that side of the family is really big on it so if you have questions, just call the number in the flyer. My cousin will answer. Also, I have to update you about Fran. We leave Friday morning.”
I looked back at Damien who kept messing with his sneakers.
“So we’ll be in South Carolina for an entire weekend?” he asked dryly.
“I believe so,” I smiled.
“And you like these...girls? You see them being long time friends of yours?”
“I do,” nodding with a pouty lip. If he said no then the chances of me going were slim to none. Didn’t want to drive by myself and I barely knew anyone so it helped that there was someone like me, with me.
“So I gotta fake like I’m cool with these guys at a bachelor party where I don’t know anyone so you can make friends?” he questioned again. When I didn’t say anything, he sighed.
“Alright,” nodding his head, “see if ya mama will watch the kids. I’ll get us a rental for three days.”