The bell hanging in the doorway lightly chimed as they entered Misty Memories. Since it was noon, the popular old fashioned cafe and malt shop, which was located a few blocks away from North Central Texas University's campus, was a bustle of activity.
None of the tables were open, so they sat down on the stools in front of the counter. Co-owner of the restaurant, Rita Millwood looked up from reading The Horizon. The waitress smiled at them, "Well, if it isn't the Hamels."
They smiled appreciatively in return.
"What brings you two here today?" Rita said handing them two menus.
"Breakfast.” She favored her husband with an affectionate smile. “My favorite chef got married yesterday so he seems to think he can take a holiday from the responsibility of cooking.”
He laughed appreciatively; Rita presented him a brimming cup of coffee and her a tall glass of water. “In that case, let me treat you both free breakfasts this morning."
He said, "That's very nice of you, Rita, but I don't think we can let you do that."
"I can do whatever I want, and I want to do this for you two," Rita told him, lightly smacking his shoulders. "Didn't anyone ever tell you not to look a gift horse in the mouth, Malan?"
She covered her laugh with her right hand, where she wore her engagement and wedding rings. He looked at her. "What?"
Shaking her head, she advised, "Never argue with someone about giving you a free meal unless it's a violation of ethics."
A hint of amusement was reflected in his eyes. He teased. "Is that a part of the journalist’s code of ethics?"
She shrugged, and his brown eyes danced with mischievous and pleasure. "I had to marry a journalist."
A wry smile spread across her lips. Shaking her finger at him in a scolding manner, she bantered back, "I tried to warn you about that."
Leaning over and kissing her, he murmured, "Bit late for that."
Rita laughed at their antics. After they disengaged from their exchange, the waitress said, "Are you two ready to order?"
They exchanged looks. He gestured toward her, "Ladies first."
She looked impressed. She whispered her conspiring secret to Rita, "He's a real sweet talker, isn't he?"
His warm laughter made her emotions prance around in her heart like a child skipping on a summer. He teased, "You can be a real ham when you want to be."
Her wry grin broadened. "Is that a back handed compliment?"
"No, it was just a comment," he said, flipping her a twisted teasing grin. "Just don't give up your day job, okay?"
"Oh, I don't intend to," she said, adding suggestively. "Because I've thoroughly enjoyed your performances in bed."
His eyes wizened in surprise. He was pleased even though he'd rather she keep this kind of comment private. He gently chided her, "That's a loaded remark."
She flushed embarrassed by the transgression she'd committed. She quickly changed the subject, "I think I'll take your fruit crepes this morning, Rita."
You could cut the tension between them with a knife, Rita thought. The waitress felt sorry for Lathal, who tended to shoot off her mouth about her passions without thinking about it. She felt Malan was being a little hard on his wife although she didn't blame him for scolding her for publically making a suggestive remark regarding their private lives.
"Okay," Rita said, laying her hand on Lathal's arm. "And I didn't hear a word you said."
She gazed at the co-owner of Misty Memories appreciatively. Rita was being awfully nice to her, but she knew her husband won't let her off the hook that easily.
Newlyweds, Rita thought wistfully. She related to the experience even though she and Hank had been newlyweds many years ago. And being a newlywed certainly had changed from her and Hank's time, but she still empathized with their frustrations -- the honeymoon, or break in period, in any couple's new life together was like a roller coaster ride. The honeymoon, or break in period, was a highly emotional time of discovery and growth when the bond of love deepened -- it was definitely an adventure.
And Rita had interfered in theirs, and she wished she hadn't.
Rita got back to business. "What can I get you, Malan?"
"Your breakfast special," he said simply, handing back the menu.
He was being a jerk by isolating his wife with the cold, silent treatment. Rita wanted to slap some sense into him, but she reminded herself: They'd have to work it out for themselves.
Tears misted in her eyes as she watched him thoughtfully sip his coffee. She'd done him wrong, and she knew it. But what hurt most was they hadn't been married a day yet and already they were having a husband and wife spat. This didn't bode well for them -- but perhaps she was just overreacting. She knew he'd forgive her. All she had to do was apologize to him and promise not to make the same mistake again.
"Malan," she said softly.
The way she said his name, beckoning him, always captured his attention. Turning toward her, he regarded her with a mixture of hurt and anger in his brown eyes.
"I'm sorry," she said with tears silently streaming down her cheeks.
His expression softened. Guilt flooded him. She was crying because he'd hurt her. He'd treated her badly. He was such a jerk.
He couldn't bear to see her crying. It broke his heart.
"Lathal, don't," he said gently, touching her face.
Her tears didn't subside. She sniffled, "I'm such an idiot for regularly shooting off my mouth without thinking about it."
"You're not an idiot," he said insistently.
Obviously she didn't believe him because she was still crying. He shook his head, silently kicking himself for hurting her like this.
"It's my fault. I'm a jerk," he told her wanting to make it right between them.
"You're not a jerk," she said through her tears.
"Yes, I am," he said, his heart aching to make up with her. He leaned over and tenderly kissed her lips. "I'm sorry, Lathal, please forgive me."
"Malan, I'm sorry," she said kissing him, expressing the deep love she felt within her soul for him.
He instantly became tender, gentle and affectionate. He kissed her passionately. His fingers intertwined around her hand clutching desperately at his shirt. He murmured huskily, "Lathal, I'm sorry."
Swinging through the kitchen doors with their food, Rita found them engaged in a rather passionate exchange. It warmed her heart to see them kissing and making up.
On the other hand, this was one of the few times Rita had publically seen them display their affections. Their intimate display freely expressed the strength, depth and power of the love between them.
Ah newlyweds. Those were the days, Rita thought smiling wistfully. Perhaps she should suggest they take it to a motel room, but they probably couldn't. Most motels didn't have check in until after 4 p.m. and she suspected that they had other things to do.
While they ate, Rita chatted with them about where they were staying that day and the next, where they planned to go on their honeymoon and their future plans. When it was almost 2 o' clock, they told Rita they had to go and thanked her and her husband for the free breakfast. Malan drove them to the Johnson’s house.
Their family and friends welcomed them with applause and music from their favorite artists and musicians such as Journey, Genesis, Phil Collins and Chicago. There was cheese, pickles, olives, oysters, crackers and punch to snack on.
As they sat down in their places of honor at the front of the living room, Trinity, the Johnson’s daughter, raced over to them and climbed onto Malan’s lap.
On the sly, his wife watched him lovingly hold the child who he gently bounced up and down on his leg. The giggles bubbled up from the toddler as he did a little sketch, his voice squeaked making him sound like a popular cartoon character. Wearing a soft, broad smile, Lathal thought about what a good father he’d be with their children.
The newly married woman knew her husband’s hesitance about becoming a father. He was afraid he’d be exactly like his father and abandon and neglect his children. In addition, he worried that he worried that the pressures of his career as an actor and its lack of private life would not be conducive for children.
At first Tanya tried to pull her precocious child away from them, telling her that it was up to the newlyweds to open their gifts because it was their wedding. She further explained the youngster could unwrap presents on her birthday. With a wave of her hand, Lathal told her girlfriend it was okay and Trinity grinned when her honorary aunt and uncle would let her be their special helper.
The first gift they opened was an eight piece cranberry dish set with matching cups and silverware from his mother. Since their first few gifts were towels, bed sheets, gift cards, cappuccino/coffee maker, popcorn popper, cash and an eight piece china dish set from the de los Santos, Trinity was bored and didn’t want to serve as their gift opening helper anymore.
As she showed off the yellow and blue quilt made by Andria Harvey, Clarissa noticed her daughter-in-law had this glow about her. The light aura the young journalist possessed had a logical explanation because she was happy in her new life; her mother-in-law couldn’t help wondering if the young woman was pregnant.
Apparently she wasn’t the only one who noticed the change in the bride. While recording the gifts they received, Tanya saw the blooming blush in her friend’s cheeks. The young mother was glad her chum was enjoying married life.
Family and friends help them store their gifts in Lathal’s former bedroom. After they returned from their European honeymoon, they’d retrieve them and take them to their new home in Desert Rose Estates.
The two of them had a few minutes alone downstairs. “I can't believe your parents gave us five thousand dollars,” he said quietly, pulling her into his loving embrace.
Tears stung the corners of her eyes. Damn her father. It figured that he'd do something like that. Still she had to appreciate the fact her mother had contributed to the gift too.
After regaining her composure, she said wisely “That’s why I didn’t say anything about it or the $2,000 check your mom hide in the dishes. That way no one felt bad.”
His hands in his jeans pockets, he regarded his wife. There was a glimmer of excitement in his brown eyes. “I have an idea of how to spend that money.”
As if reading his thoughts, she wagged her finger at him. “Oh, no, we promised we wouldn’t get each other a wedding gift.”
“But I want to,” he softly protested.
“I know you do and don’t think I don’t appreciate it,” She wrapped her arms around him and kissed the top of his nose. “But I don’t need a new car.”
Their discussion was placed on hold when his mother asked them if they still planned to turn in the key to his apartment to his landlord that afternoon. Most of their furniture and belongings that they had intended or wanted to keep they’d moved to their new home; the rest they’d sold at yard sales or donated to local homeless shelters and churches.
The skies above them had been overcast most of the day; the weather reports they predicted about a 60 percent chance of rain for the next few evenings. With the humidity and hot summer temperatures, they could use the precipitation.
They arrived at his apartment 25 minutes later. His landlord Mrs. Augsburg and his mother, who had her daughter-in-law's car packed with her and their stuff, waited for them.
Clarissa greeted her son with a kiss on the cheek. Then she affectionately hugged her daughter-in-law. "How are you, Honey?"
"Fine," she said.
Clarissa sensed immediately that Lathal was holding something back but decided not to comment on it at the moment. While her son was occupied with Mrs. Augsburg during the final inspection of the apartment, she saw her daughter-in-law casually slip outside. So she followed her.
Her feet brushed against the grains of sands as she swayed back and forth on the swing on the playground in the middle of the apartment complex. There was a faraway look in her eyes.
Sitting down on the swing beside her daughter-in-law, Clarissa regarded her, "Lathal, are you okay?"
The light squeaking of the chain in response to her weight and rhythmic rocking in the swing answered her. The young woman gazed at her mother-in-law. There was a frown on her face. “I’m not starting off my marriage very well. Malan and I had a fight this morning.” Clarissa sat down on the swing beside the new bride and listened. “I inadvertently let how pleasured I was by Malan on our wedding night.” The horses and cattle roamed in the pasture next to the pasture next to the apartment building. “I thought it was subtle, but Malan – he – blew a gasket about it.” Clarissa softly laughed. “I know it sounds petty but it really upset me.”
Her mother-in-law snaked her arm around the young woman’s shoulder and gave it an affectionate squeeze. “You have to understand something about Malan, Honey. He’s always been very shy and reserved. When he began pursuing acting as a career, he decided he’d keep his personal life private.” The older woman gave her a kind, loving smile. “Now that you’re a permanent part of his personal life as an popular actor he doesn’t wants to subject you to the constant crazy media frenzy, no offense.” A smile twitched slowly spreading across her daughter-in-law’s lips. “Still he was a bit hard on you this morning. He cannot arbitrarily expect you to bow to his whims. It’s something you two need to discuss.”
Her black dress shoes scraped lines deep into the sand. “How do you know if you’re pregnant?”
The matronly woman waited for a few moments before answering honestly. “I don’t know if I can really explain it but you have this feeling like having butterflies in your stomach but not like that at all. All I can say it’s a feeling inside where you just know. ” Clarissa's eyebrow piqued with interest. “Do you think you’re pregnant, Lathal?
There was another pregnant pause as she searched her feelings. “I didn’t do an early pregnancy test and get a negative result, so I’m not for sure but I don’t think I’m pregnant.” The sad, anxious look in her bluish green pools flickered over to Clarissa. “I’m not sure I want to have children.”
“You’re just scared.” His mother affectionately laid a hand on her arm. “What you’re feeling is only natural and understandable, trust me. Every woman has felt that way.”
“You don’t understand,” she lamented. “I don’t know if I want a child ever.” Taking a deep breath, she hurriedly continued. “It’s not like I don’t love Malan. I do.”
Her mother-in-law’s eyes met hers. “I know you do, Honey.”
Appreciating Clarissa’s understanding, she managed a weak smile. “It’s just that I don't want to be a mom -- ever. I have goals and achievements I want to accomplish. I want to be a journalist. I want to be a writer. I don't want to be strapped down with a baby. Is it so wrong or selfish of me to want things for myself first before having a baby?"
"No, Honey," Clarissa said warmly squeezing her hand. If she could erase Lathal’s fears and anxieties in regard to motherhood she would. "But you can have a baby and still be a journalist and a writer."
"I know," she said softly. "I just don’t want to be like my mother.”
Now Clarissa was beginning to get a clear picture. "No woman wants to be like her mother when she becomes a mother."
“Honestly I don’t know what I want,” she confessed; her mother smiled at her. “Maybe that’s why Malan and I decided to wait a couple of years before having children.” Shrugging her shoulders, she admitted grudgingly. “I don’t even know if we can have children. Do you think we should see a doctor about this?”
While infertility was a possibility for both them, Clarissa doubted it. "I think that's a good idea."
"Maybe I should go on the pill again," she said thoughtfully, mostly to herself.
"That's up to you, Honey," Clarissa said supportively. "It's your body and what you do to it is up to you, but someone else is involved so I hope you'll discuss this matter with him too. Maybe the two of you can talk about it tonight when you go to bed.”
As he approached the playground, their conversation came to an end. "There you are," he said, regarding them with interest. "I was wondering where you two had gotten off to."
Clarissa softly clapped her hands together. "It was such a nice day. It was a shame not to enjoy it by playing." The look in Lathal's bluish green eyes communicated her appreciation to her mother-in-law for her discretion, support and love.
"Well, I have to be going," Clarissa rose and they followed her to the parking lot. She gave her daughter-in-law an affectionate hug, "Be good to yourself." Then she kissed her son's cheek. "Take care of each other."
As Clarissa drove off in her daughter-in-law's car, they too left the apartment complex. As they drove toward The Lexington, he said casually, "So what was that all about?”
“Ask me again later,” She entreated, laying her hand on his leg.
“Okay,” he said easily. There wasn’t any worry or concern, just his usual casual approach.
"I take it Mrs. Augsburg was pleased with how you cleared the apartment," she said as they drove toward a local grocery store chain.
"More than pleased. She said she'd really miss having me as a tenant.” He parked his car and turned toward her. “Instead of ordering out, I thought I’d get us something to eat for dinner. Want to help me pick something out?”
“Sure,” she replied and the couple went inside the supermarket that was busy for a Sunday evening. In the deli section, they decided on a rotisserie chicken, potato and macaroni salad and rolls in the bakery section. In addition they bought a bottle of sweet chardonnay wine.
Not long after they arrived at the hotel, they ate on the balcony and enjoyed the night. The air smelled fresh and clean, and there was a cool breeze. Rolling thunder and flashes of lightning danced across the ominous horizon signaling the coming storm.
Although it was early in the evening -- around eight -- they started getting ready for bed.
As he slowly undressed, Lathal approached her husband behind, wrapping her arms around his waist. She caressed his bare chest, and then her hands slipped seductively below his belt. Her fingers unbuttoned and then slowly unzipped his jeans.
Excitement, pleasure, desire and passion rose up within him. Malan wanted to kiss and caress her. He wanted to show her how much he loved and needed her.
Her breath warmed his skin as she softly kissed the nape of his neck. She lovingly fondled his erection.
His heart raced as his pulse quickened. He breathed heavily. Closing his eyes, he murmured huskily, "Lathal."
"Yes, Malan," she purred sexily.
His fingers intertwined around her hands. He twisted his body, turning himself toward her. Lowering his mouth to hers, he tenderly kissed her lips. "I love you."
Her lacy bra brushed against his arm as she moved in front of him. Malan laid his hands on her, caressing her taut breasts. She inhaled sharply with pleasure. "I love you."
He unhooked her bra and cupped her naked breasts in his hands. She wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing him hungrily. He kissed her harder as she slid her tongue inside his mouth and his tongue tangled with hers.
"I need you," he rasped. "Make love to me, Lathal."
"I need you too," she murmured meaningfully.
She removed his jeans and then stripped him of his briefs. He took off her dress and then her panties. His wife gently pulled him down on the bed beside her.
Rain pelted the roof as they snuggled next to each other in bed. Her hands pressed against his, their fingers intertwined, as they continued the passionate kiss. They gazed deeply into each other's eyes as they lay side by side, exploring each other's bodies.
As his hands fondled her breasts, she whispered into his ears. "I need to talk to you, Malan."
"Mmm," he murmured, wrapping his arms around his wife. "I'm listening."
"Malan, would you be very angry with me if I said I didn’t want to have children?"
He saw the concern and fear swirling in her bluish green pools. He understood her apprehension and hesitance because he too had anxieties and worries about fatherhood. “I don’t know, Lathal.” He said honestly, and they listened to the rhythmic and soothing sounds of the rain for a few minutes. “I thought we’d decided to wait for a few years before having children, and now you’re saying you don’t want any.”
“I’m scared,” she confessed softly.
“I am too,” Her husband admitted, gently lifting her chin until her mouth met his, and then he pressed his lips against hers. “I don’t even know if I can get you pregnant.”
She doubted his health problems would be a limitation or reason to prevent such an occurrence but she wasn’t for sure.
“Oh, I think you're very capable. I've felt you," she assured him. "Maybe you're not the one who has a problem with getting me pregnant, maybe I can't get pregnant."
"I doubt that," he said knowingly, considering her family's child bearing history as he kissed her.
"That may be," she said noncommittally. "But to be sure I think we should visit a doctor at St. Francis Hospital after we finish at the passport office tomorrow."
He nodded in agreement. "That's a good idea."
She looked up at him. "Would you mind if I ask the doctor to put me on birth control pills?"
"Are you serious?" He said shocked, thinking about the bad experience she'd told him she'd had with birth control pills when she was a teen.
"Yes," she said slowly. "Malan, I don't want to get pregnant right now. I’m not ready."
“Neither am I,” he professed; his chocolate eyes professed his love, desire and need for her. “But would you be very angry with me if I tried to get you pregnant?”
Her eyes narrowed; he knew what she was thinking. He kissed her, "Lathal, I won't hurt you."
"I know. You know I love you, Malan,” she said tracing her finger down his chest. “But please don’t hate me for wanting to be selfish or wanting to avoid the responsibility of parenthood.”
He silently understood and agreed with her feelings which matched his own. Seeing the troubled look in her eyes, he said quietly, “I know after what I just asked that it sounds like I’m contradicting myself, but it's just that I -- our love is so powerful, strong and deep that it seemed like a shame that the two us -- both as artists and lovers -- couldn't create something with our love. I know we can."
“You can try,” She said, looking away from her husband. “But it’s not going to make much difference because I’m supposed to be on my period any day now.”
In the few moments of silence that fell between them, he didn’t bother to tell her what they both already knew. It only took one time to get pregnant.
His fingers gently lifted her chin until her eyes met his, he said in a soft and affectionate tone. “I was kind of harsh with you this morning.”
“Oh, that,” The wisps of her hair flew like butterfly wings as she shook her head. “You were right to be angry. I wasn’t thinking and I just blurted out my feelings.”
“It was a compliment,” he told her, gently squeezing her arms. “And I didn’t have to be such a jerk about it.” His lips brushed across her bare shoulders, down her arm and across her knuckles. “We have to make decisions together now, so we’ll have to talk sometime about how we’re going to juggle our public and personal lives.”
A smile and warm loving look brightened her face as she snuggled next to him. “Does that mean you’d like to make up with me?”
“Very much so,” he murmured, becoming inexorably gentle, tender and passionate as they made love.