Life After Dark
Chapter 42

Keesha couldn't stop the smile from spreading across her face as the maitre'd led the three of them to a secluded table far away from the other patrons. Jason thought he was so slick, Keesha chuckled to herself. He had no idea she saw him slip Yves a few greenbacks and then, discreetly inquire about a more 'private' area.

Jason heard Keesha's soft laugh and with a smile, he turned to her. "You like?"

"Yeah, I like," she replied. Her thoughts of her earlier encounter with AJ still lingered, but she decided to save them for later. She was with Jason now, and to be fair to all parties involved, she would direct her attention to him. She would consider what happened with AJ later.

After promising to have someone bring them a high chair, Yves left them alone at their table. They simply looked at each other. Taking their time to relax and to accept that the day had arrived. They were there. Together. Sharing their first meal in what seemed like forever. Michael, not realizing that he was witnessing a moment, reached for Jason's spoon. Holding the spoon tightly in his little fist, he began to beat it against the table.

Keesha laughed softly as Jason took the spoon away from him. "He's a sweet baby. You're wonderful with him," she said, smiling as Michael reached for the spoon again.

Jason's eyes smiled at her as his free hand moved the silverware from Michael's reach. "He's wonderful to me. I didn't know that a baby could be such a handful and yet, so much fun."

"I agree. In my work, I see so many cases where people don't realize the gift they have in their children. I wonder what goes through some of these parents' minds when they willfully abandon their children or neglect or abuse them. I can't imagine having a child and not loving him or her," Keesha said, passionately. Impulsively, she opened her arms to Michael and her heart skipped a beat when he moved to go to her. Jason handed him to her and he sat on her lap, constantly moving his head so he could look at her.

Jason watched the scene with warm eyes. Softly, he said, "I can't imagine that either. I think you'd make a wonderful mother, Keesha."

"Thanks," she said, smiling.

Jason sat back in his seat and watched them some more. He was amazed at how Michael took to her so quickly. Michael was usually a hard sale, never giving any newcomers an inch. He gave Robin hell the first few weeks he knew her, yet, as soon as Keesha opened her arms, he was right there.

"He should have been ours."

The sentence was said quietly and honestly. Keesha didn't react to Jason's comment. He was right...maybe. Maybe if there hadn't been an accident and maybe if he hadn't turned her away... Maybe they would have had a baby together. Maybe she and Jason would have been parents to a bouncing baby boy, a little like Michael, but with a few significant differences. Maybe.

A busboy with the high chair arrived and he was followed by their waiter. After Michael was settled in the chair and content with a few teething rings and after the waiter had taken their order, they began to talk again.

"You didn't say anything," Jason said, wanting to reach across the table to take Keesha's hand, but instead, opting to wait until later.

"About?" Keesha asked as she unfolded her napkin and placed it on her lap.

"Us having a baby."

"What's there to say?" she said with a slight shrug. "Maybe, Jason. We'll never know."

Jason became quiet. And angry. Every time he thought of what he'd missed, a red haze of fury would engulf him. He wanted to lash out, but not at the ones close to him. Not Keesha and definitely not Michael. There was only one person who deserved the wrath of his anger. His dear older brother, AJ.

Keesha saw the emotions darken Jason's eyes. She had a strong feeling she knew what caused them. His thoughts of what should have been would do him in if he let them. She didn't want to see that happen. Her hand reached across the table to his and he accepted it. Gently, she said, "We can't live in the past, Jason. It's gone and nothing will ever bring it back. Being angry about it won't solve anything either."

His fingers laced themselves with hers as he replied to her. "I can't help but be angry. When I think of everything I lost, I... Keesha, I had a life! We had a life! How can you be so forgiving?"

"Do you think it's easy?" she asked, truly wanting to know his answer.

"You make it seem easy. You forgave him for what he did to us. How? No, better yet, why?" Jason asked, forcing himself to keep his voice calm and even. He didn't want to mar their lunch date with the topic of AJ, but not that they were on it, he knew there was no turning back. At least, not for him.

"I was angry with him, but on that same token, I wasn't. Jason, your brother was on a path of self-destruction that night. His goal wasn't to hurt you, but himself. I think that's why I was able to forgive him."

"You mean feel sorry for him."

"No, I meant exactly what I said. AJ is not the same person he was before the accident. It changed him. If you got to know him, I think you'd like the man he's become."

Jason's jaw was set as he bit the single word out. "Never."

He had no intentions of 'getting to know' the new AJ. He knew enough about the old one to last him a lifetime. Make that two lifetimes, he thought.


"Ooh, I just love Cafe Matisse!" Eve said with a huge smile as they followed Yves to their table by the window.

"I know," AJ said with a chuckle. He smiled as he watched her flirt at the maitre'd, making him wonder if she was the same impossible person who had ordered him back and forth a few days ago.

Eve saw him smiling at her and she smiled back. "My, my, my. You're sure in a good mood today."

"Oh, am I?" AJ asked as he took a sip of the water which had just been placed on their table.

"Uh huh. Care to say why? Come on, AJ! Spill the beans. Did you and your girlfriend get back together?" Eve asked as she leaned on the table, giving him her full attention.

"Well..." he hedged, enjoying how he kept her on pins and needles in anticipation.

"AJ!" Eve said, her face grinning back at him.

"Okay! I saw her today," he said, his eyes lighting up as he thought of their pleasant conversation and their incredible kiss.

"And? AJ, you're killing me here!" she said, with laughter. "Tell me what happened."

"We talked, and maybe we kissed. Maybe we didn't. I can't remember," he said, laughing as he saw the shocked look cover her face.

"You did! You kissed her! I thought there was something different about you."

"Oh, so it shows?" he laughed.

"All over your face. In your voice. Everywhere. Even in your walk. I could have sworn you were swaggering when you came to pick me up. Now, I know for sure that you were. Well, you sly dog, you."

AJ laughed again. Eve was right. Again. But he wouldn't let her know that. Instead, he kept the knowledge to himself. He never knew one conversation and one kiss could have such a huge impact on him and his outlook. Being with Keesha again, even for a little while, was medicine for his soul.

"So, what are you doing with me? Why aren't you with her?" Eve asked with a playful frown.

"She had a date."

"What? Excuse me? A date? I thought you two kissed. Aren't you back together?"

"Yes, a date. Yes, we kissed. No, we're not. She needs this time to think things over and I'm giving it to her," he said, before he took another sip of water.

"Are you crazy?" Eve asked, resting her chin on the heel of her hand as her eyes bored into his.

"No, I'm not. I know her. I know what will work with her. If I pressure her, I'll push her away, but if I give her space, she'll come back to me. I know she will," he said, confidently.

"Well, it's your love life. I wish you luck, my friend," Eve said, clinking her glass of water with his.

"Thanks, not that I'll need it," he said as another smile spread across his face.

Chapter 43