Short Story: All Their Husbands 1.5: Stalker

“Danny wants me to meet his kids,” Gayla comes out with unexpectedly.

Mya doesn’t know what to say. This is new territory for both of them.

“What do you think? It’s too soon right? I mean we only really started dating a couple of months ago.”

“Well every relationship is different.”

Since both of them are in actual relationships, working actual careers their lunch dates have grown far and few. They try to get together once a week and this week they actually made it. Turkey ribs, buffalo shrimp and fries sat between them at a small bar in north St. Louis county.

“Have you met Dwayne’s daughter?”

“No,” Mya states putting her hands up. “We don’t much talk about it either,” Mya continues now questioning Dwayne’s motives. They have known each other a lot longer than Danny and Gayla. Had been dating a lot longer but he hasn’t brought it up. Then she wonders if she should include the time that he was married.

Maybe not.

“He and his ex have joint custody, when it’s his days he stays home and spends time with her there. But the situations are different. Dwayne’s daughter is young and her mom and dad just got divorced,” Mya answers convincing herself and Gayla.

“Yeah Danny’s kids are middle and high school age and parents have basically always been apart. Shit the youngest may not even remember them ever being together. Funny thing is he is up under me so much I am not really even sure when he sees his kids.”

“Really” Mya questions with a scrunch of her nose. “Yeah that’s weird.”

“I know right. Whenever I question it he laughs it off saying of course I see and spend time with them. Just that his ex is so hard to deal with that he lets her keep them and he visits.”

“That sounds suspect. Don’t know if I would trust it if Dwayne was doing it that way,” Mya sits thinking.

“Well at least if he was cheating with his ex I would have a definite stop signal,” Gayla jokes.

With a laugh Mya asks, “What do you want to do? What would you do,” she states pointing at Gayla, “if Danny didn’t have a say?”

“I wouldn’t meet them,” Gayla assures honestly. “Hell I wouldn’t have even taken the house key he has given me.”

“Damn,” Mya remarks laughing.

“Seriously Mya. It’s just all moving too fast. I don’t even use the key. I only go over when he is home and find a reason to ring the bell instead. I’m caring something, it’s dark could he meet me at the door,” Gayla recites a few of her reasons for not using her key.

“How long have you had the key?”

“Few weeks,” Gayla mumbles through the fry she is chewing.

In the beginning Gayla thought Danny was a great guy. She’d met him at Mya’s parents annual Labor Day barbecue where the Wilson’s entertained their colleagues and friends. The barbeque included alll the food, drinks and music you could imagine. It was such a big deal every year networking with judges, lawyers, some political figures and other big wigs of the city in the African-American sector. Gayla always brought her Sweet Cake cards to put on the Sweet Cake’s dessert table every year.

Mr. Wilson had spoken great things about his banker Danny after learning the two were dating. Danny had proven that he was attentive, smart and made legal money. A family man who wants more kids and a dog, he had laughed and told Gayla on their first date. Were most first dates are spent getting to know the other person’s likes, dislikes, pet peeves maybe, Gayla and Danny’s was about his expectations of a wife. They talked about how he wants at least two more kids if not three.

“So what are you going to do,” Mya questions Gayla.

“Meet his kids I guess,” Gayla answers shrugging her shoulders.

That next night Gayla sits with Danny in his home eating the chicken Marsala she had prepared.

“This is good babe,” he comments.

“Thanks,” Gayla replies smiling at him. “Glad you like it,” she adds even though her thoughts were a million miles away on her conversation with Mya earlier that day.

Mostly Gayla thinks she really like Danny but also wonders if her loneliness is making her chose a not so compatible guy. It felt good admitting out loud to Mya that she doesn’t want to meet kids just yet.
But can she say it now to him is the question.

“Has your ex-wife remarried,” she asks surprising herself. She figures a man who is ready to introduce her to his kids should be more open with his past relationships. He should want that woman to maybe meet the mother of his children first.

“She did, seven years now,” he answers simply, still tearing into his chicken, not even looking up at her.

“What’s taken you so long?”

“Well it’s not from lack of trying,” he answers with a pained laugh finally looking up.

“Have you introduced other women you were dating to your kids?”

“Of course.”

“How many,” Gayla presses on.

“What is this an interrogation,” Danny asks sitting his fork down leaning back in his seat and looking at her sternly. “I would think you would want to know more about my children, whom you will be meeting soon, than my past love life.”

“I’m just asking,” she withdraws.

“I have introduced my children to two women in the last two years.”

“So will I be three in two years,” she can’t help but ask.

“Seriously you are not interested in what subjects they like in school? You want to know if they liked the other women better than you?”

Gayla is shocked by his last question. Is that what he thinks? That she is asking these questions out of jealousy.

“It doesn’t matter because I like you better than the other women,” he continues picking his fork back up.

This isn’t what is on Gayla’s mind. Gayla is thinking this man is ready and willing to marry any woman. Introducing his kids to just any female prospect.

“Is that it can we talk about something else. Like what do you want to cook when you meet them. I can tell you both of their favorites.”

“I don’t think I’m ready to meet your kids, I don’t think we’re ready,” Gayla blurts out surprising herself again. She doesn’t want to drag children into whatever this is.

“Why not,” he asks crossly staring at her.

“It just seems too soon.”

“You accepted a key to my home but you don’t want to accept my children. Where did you think this was going?”

“What? No,” Gayla stammers caught off guard not only by his questioning but his visible anger also.

She wants to mention that she doesn’t want the key either, hence her never using it but she let it go. “Danny we have only been dating a few months. A few months from now if this doesn’t work I won’t just be breaking up with you but your kids also.” She wants to add that they had already broken up with enough women.

The conversation they needed to have she isn’t mentally prepared to have tonight. Her day at Sweet Cakes found her reconstructing a Hogwarts cake after one of her new hires dropped it. She just wants some wine and sleep. When she arrived she also wanted sex but that has changed drastically.

“So how long do you need,” he asks breaking into her thoughts, watching her like a hawk.

“I don’t know Danny and right now I am just too tired to talk about it I just want to sleep.”

“Ok let’s talk about it tomorrow,” he remarks. Gayla though is thinking about something a lot farther down the time line. She needs time to process this angry Danny. So far she had only been complaining about the suffocating Danny. Now she had this angry controlling Danny peeking his head.

Sweet Cakes has always been Gayla’s one true dream. She feels closer to her deceased grandmother there. Felt her love when she baked the way Gram had taught her. In this place she had a lot of what would Gram think moments and that next morning after her conversation with Danny is no different. Her thoughts about the man her own father was, a man who left his wife and daughter for a wife and daughter who were more complacent.Her thoughts turn to Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, Mya’s parents, how he loves his wife and her independence, how they taught their daughter and Gayla to have that same independence.

Gayla doesn’t think much of the disagreement she and Danny had, though she is concerned about the tone. About how angry he was, about the agenda he was trying to push. She wants a natural love and this is all seeming forced.

What is the rush is what she had wanted to ask him.

As the day goes on Gayla decides she wants to be home alone tonight. Since meeting Danny they have spent little to no time apart. He makes sure he sees her everyday either taking her to lunch or dinner or bringing her breakfast or lunch. After their first sexual encounter he always made plans to either be at her place or for her to come to his. He cooks a lot which is sort of a relief to the baker. It feels good to have a man catering to her, feels good to have someone to sleep with every night. Especially with her best friend also being in a relationship and having a new business venture.

Cooking for him last night was in hopes of making the conversation flow easier. Fail. That didn’t happen at all.

Gayla is enjoying the perks of Danny but it doesn’t mean she is ready to waltz down the aisle with him. Doesn’t mean she isn’t noticing the other side of him.
Gayla questions if it is time to stop things with Danny. Not wanting to meet his kids is just her trying to give him more time to show her something different. Time to show his better side but there has already been too many alarms. Alarms buzzing all around her head. His burst of anger at a server or valet. The anger he had shown her the night before. The key he had given her to his home. The fact that he wants to introduce her to his kids before she fully knew their parents, his parents or his friends. As the day goes on her feelings toward him waver more and more until she steps away from baking to call him.

“Hey babe,” he answers right away. “Are you calling about what I want for dinner tonight,” he laughs though Gayla finds nothing funny. He has once again just assumed she is seeing him tonight and cooking for him again. And mind you her business is cooking. She doesn’t know what happened to the nights he cooked for her.

“No I think I’m going to have dinner with Mya tonight.”

“Oh,” he sighs into the phone. Then more upbeat he asks, “Why don’t you invite Mya and Dwayne to have dinner with us?”

“Naw I just want to have some girl time with my girl. We don’t get much of that these days,” she hints.

“Oh,” he sighs into the phone again, only this time he seems at a lost for words.

“I haven’t seen her in a while and it’s been even longer since I have shared a glass of wine with her after work. Just the two of us without you and Dwayne ease dropping,” Gayla discloses with a giggle hoping to keep the confrontation down like adding a LOL to the end of a text.

But Danny doesn’t get the joke and questions, “What are you and Mya going to do about girl talk when we are married?”

Um still have them away from you, is Gayla’s immediate thought.

No way was Gayla marrying Danny any time soon but most importantly she isn’t marrying any man who thought her girl time with her friend would be over because she has a husband. That she isn’t going to have that girl time without him breathing down her neck.

“You should think about that tonight over your glass of wine with Mya,” he declares strongly before hanging up on her.

His reaction and words leave her dumbfounded and amused. She doesn’t care how he feels she needs the evening to think and speak freely.

Gayla’s next call is to Mya.

As soon as she answers Gayla blurts, “Can we have an impromptu dinner tonight at my place.”

“Ooh girl’s night,” Mya squeals excited. “Dwayne is at his place with his daughter so it’s perfect.”

“Good, I will get food and wine. I just need your ears and advice. Again.”

“Sounds good,” Mya squeals again with excitement before they hang up.

That night Gayla stops and gets some Gus’s Fried Chicken, spicy with sides of baked beans, mac and cheese, fried pickles and fried green tomatoes. She has Hawaiian roles and wine already at her place and she had baked them a special batch of double chocolate cookies n’ cream cupcakes.

Tonight though is about more than a glass of wine and girl’s night with Mya. This night would be the first time in a long time that Gayla would sleep alone in her own bed. She could already smell the aroma of the lavender bath bombs that will relax her nerves and her mind enough to think. Think about the in-depth conversation she would have to have with Danny tomorrow.

When Gayla hears Mya pull up she goes to let her in. She has laid everything out in the kitchen like they have a bunch of girlfriends coming through. But it has always just the two of them and they were ok with that. Their secrets were always just between the two of them. She didn’t judge Mya, much, through her married men phase and Mya didn’t judge her timidness when it came to meeting new men.

“Hey,” Mya smiles when Gayla opens the door. You would think the girls hadn’t just seen each other a couple of days ago.

Once they are seated with their plates of food Mya asks the obvious questions, “So where is Danny and what did he do?”

“Home I guess,” Gayla shrugs biting into a chicken drum. “But I do know he’s getting on my nerves.” From there she tells Mya about the conversation she and Danny had the evening before. Tells her about his comment earlier that day when she wanted to have a girl’s night with Mya.

“The honest truth is whether you could have made it or not tonight I still wanted to be home without him. You were just an excuse,” Gayla admits sipping her wine.

“Well good food, wine and my bestie I’m glad to help. But I thought Danny would be exactly what you wanted. Hell I thought it was what both of us wanted. A man ready to move forward without the games.”

“I guess in my prayers I forgot to mention I want someone who is solely for me. Not someone who wants to marry any available desperate women. Not someone who wants to change me.”

“What do you mean,” Mya questions.

“I’m pretty sure last night he told me I will be the third woman he has introduced to his kids in the last two years. Like how many women have you introduced them to the two years before?”

“That does seem like a bit much.”

“After my dad left I can count on one hand without using all of my fingers the number of men my mom introduced me to. However I never woke up to a strange man having breakfast with us.”

“Yeah but the perspective could be different from a man, you know double standards and all,” Mya comments taking in a spoon of Mac and cheese.

“Then to make matters worse I haven’t met his parents, his friends, the kids mother. No one and he hasn’t met any of mine. I mean sure he was around you all at the barbecue but that’s different from ‘hey y’all this my man’,” Gayla states mockingly, pulling a laugh out of Mya.

“It’s not funny. It’s sad he just wants anyone he can impregnate and have cook his meals.”

“No it’s not funny. But what are you going to do?”

“I’m going to have to either slow things down or end things completely. But I don’t think he will go along for the slow things down so I may just have to end it. I can’t just be someone’s incubator.”

“I agree. I’m glad Dwayne is in no rush.”

“I wish Danny wasn’t. I can’t believe we are even having this conversation so soon. Let’s talk about something else.”

“Well I’m purchasing the vacant two family flat next door from the original house to expand The Women of Love Foundation.”

“That’s great Mya,” Gayla sings out sincerely happy for her friend. “I know how much you hate turning women away when space is unavailable.”

“It hurts my heart. I try to advice them to go to a friend’s house for a couple of days but most just end up going back to their home situations. And even though I understand why they end up going back it still doesn’t make it any easier.”

“I’m sure.”

“There aren’t many services like mine in St. Louis that will give a women and her children a place to stay. A place to be away from the abusive, manipulative men they are trying to leave, while helping them get what they deserve.”

“I don’t see how you and your staff do it. I would be a wreck,” Gayla says thinking she would be one of those women if she married Danny. Then wondered if his ex-wife was one of those women. Did she need help getting away from him.

“Shit I am most of the time. Mom has cried a time or two after meeting a woman and her children.”

“This is exactly why we should better vet our marriage partners,” Gayla remarks shaking her head thinking of Danny but not bringing up his name.

“Okay we are done talking about manipulative men,” Mya laughs reading her friend’s thoughts.

“Just saying,” Gayla shrugs before pouring them both fresh wine.

For the rest of the evening they talk about both their jobs and planning a much-needed getaway for them and their mothers. They giggle and relax until it gets too late and they both realize they have jobs in the morning. Mya helps Gayla throw away and put up things before Gayla walks her out.

Gayla couldn’t wait for her hot bath. Once she waves Mya good-bye she closes the door and starts turning off lights. She is heading into her bathroom about to draw her steamy lavender bath when her doorbell sounds.

Of course she thinks maybe Mya had left something but as she turned lights back on in her living room she saw nothing.

Swinging open the front door Gayla starts to ask, “What’s going on,” but becomes tongue-tied when she finds Danny standing at her door with his overnight bag.

“What are you doing here,” Gayla questions. She doesn’t know what emotion to feel but pissed and heated are at the forefront.

“I figured Mya would be leaving soon, so I decided to come on over,” he answers in that ‘oh well’ voice he uses much too often.

“I thought we agreed that I would see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah we did. But I didn’t want to leave you alone tonight and honestly I didn’t want to be alone either,” he answers like he is doing her a favor, pushing his way in like the invite is inevitable. “You got any food left? I’m starving,” he continues giving no concern that she hasn’t closed or moved away from the door.

Gayla stands dumbfounded when he adds, “Actually I was thinking you and Mya could have still had a girl’s night with me in the bedroom. Isn’t that how we would do it if we were married.”

Gayla isn’t up for the debate, she already knows it would be a never-ending story of his expectations while hers will be ignored, overshadowed and over talked. Whatever energy she could have had for the evening has been drowned in wine. So instead she goes about fixing him a plate of Gus’s leftovers. When she is done with that she gets ready for bed minus her steamy lavender bath. She figures what is the point now it couldn’t erase the anxiety of the uninvited man in her kitchen.

The next morning Gayla awakes with Danny in her kitchen fixing breakfast. There is bacon, biscuits, breakfast potatoes, eggs, fruit and mimosa.

The unexpected gesture cuts through her anger and softens her heart. Everything she wanted to yell at him last night evaporates.

Gayla’s plan when she woke this morning was to tell him she needed a bit of space. Needed time to think about the direction their relationship is going but in this moment she isn’t sure. Instead she eats with him she discusses the work day ahead. When they are finished Danny loads the dishwasher and they exit Gayla’s humble abode.

Outside he plants a kiss on her cheek, tells her that he will talk to her later and they go their separate ways.

Over the next few weeks everything is serene. Danny hasn’t brought up Gayla meeting his kids. He hasn’t pressured her to use her key to his home or for her to give him a key to hers. The stress and pressure of the relationship has vanished or so she thinks.

“So who are we going to meet up with tonight,” she asks as they drive the Forest Park Expressway. This would be their first night out this week and their second spending the night with one another. Gayla was appreciating the space and hoped it continued a bit.

“Just a few of my colleagues and their wives. Just a casual thing with light business talk maybe,” he answers with a smirk. “Maybe you will connect with some of the wives.”

“Maybe,” Gayla utters thinking at least it wasn’t his kids or his parents because honestly she isn’t ready to meet either.

“A lot of the wives of my colleagues are stay at home moms with nannies.”

“That’s nice,” Gayla comments not really knowing what else to say or what that has to do with her. That was cool if that is what they want, but if they did it for status she already knew their conversations wouldn’t interest her much.

“So you would like to be a stay at home mom,” Danny asks.

“No. I love what I do too much. But I’m for any other woman who wants to stay at home.”

“So you wouldn’t like to shop and stay home all day raising our kids?”

Gayla laughs a little before saying, “No that sounds boring. I want to still be who I am now with some adjustments. Plenty of women raise their kids and work a job. I own a business me and my kid gone be fine,” she speaks a little pissed off toward the end.

“So how do you think you will fully take care of a child spending so much time baking?

The way he spoke baking sounded as if he is trying to belittle her business. He has an appalled tone like how dare she think she could keep her business while being a good mother and wife.

“Easily. Kids go to school, sleep and have play dates. And my mom is just waiting on a grandchild to babysit. So are the Wilson’s actually,” smiling thinking how blessed her child would be to have all of them. “Believe me which ever of Mya and I has a child both set of parents are grandparents,” Gayla answers with a shrug of her shoulder.

“So you’re just going to pawn our child off on your mother and the parents of your friend.”

“First of all it’s not pawning and secondly Mr. Wilson is the only thing I have close to a father, we have talked about my father right,” Gayla questions not really looking for an answer. “And Mrs. Wilson is like an extra mom. They had a lot to do with my upbringing, helping my mom when she had to work or needed mommy time, we are all close like that. Also you were just bragging about these women having nannies.”

“They have nannies that help, not who raise their kids,” he commented like it was better having the help of a stranger than the people who raised Gayla.

“You’re being dramatic they won’t be raising our kids no more than these ladies nannies are raising theirs.”

“You know you have an answer for everything,” he states with his anger once again noticeably rising. “Gayla I don’t think you understand that you will have a home to take care of for at least three people and two stepchildren.”

So here they are again and it made Gayla’s stomach churn. She though they were past this.

As her stomach bubbles her head feels as though it is going to explode, “Let’s not talk about this now,” she manages to ease out without the choice words she wants to use.

“Why not? You never want to talk about anything. How are we supposed to have a decent marriage if you are always running from important topics,” he presses in a tight voice.

It amazes Gayla how things could be going perfectly well then a simple conversation turns into an unecessary debate of the future. In her mind anything could happen if he let things progress naturally. Maybe she would fall in enough love with him to hire a full staff in her absence. But why did those decisions need to be made now.

The relationship is still new, Gayla thought they were doing what they are supposed to be doing, getting to know each other. Only problem is every answer Gayla gives is wrong. How they want to raise their kids, when she should meet his pre-existing kids, what she would be allowed to do for a living even how her friendships were going to continue.

At this point Gayla has come to the conclusion that she should simply do what is best for the both of them. They obviously have a difference in opinion on how this should work so why keep pushing forward. He is absolutely not the man she wants. Controlling, selfish, angry isn’t qualities any sane woman would attach herself.

“This isn’t the time,” she finally says.

“You’re right. But we are not going to sleep tonight without talking about this.”

“Excuse me,” Gayla questions snapping her head to the side. She is done.

What did he think, she was one of his damn kids or something.

“You heard what I said. Now let’s go in here and enjoy ourselves. It will make for an easier conversation.”

Gayla had to fight the irresistible urge to jump out the still rolling vehicle while screaming go fuck yourself. Instead she pulls out her phone and uses it to request an Uber to Brasso’s just as they are pulling up onto the Cheshire hotel’s lot.

She doesn’t know who Danny thinks he met that day at that barbecue but it definitely isn’t the woman seated next to him. Nothing about Gayla or her lifestyle speaks stay at home mom.

None of the women surrounding her were stay at home moms not even the ones with hard-working, well paid husbands. She only surrounds herself with hard-working, strong thinking independent women.

When they pull up in silence Gayla hops out as soon as they are parked and let her strides take her to the entrance of the Cheshire hotel. It takes Danny a moment to realize she isn’t coming around the car to meet him, by the time he catches on Gayla is already stepping into her Uber.

As Danny tries to take quick jogs toward her, the Nissan pulls off the lot turning right onto Clayton Ave then McCausland heading toward forty west.

In the backseat Gayla mind races. She is done being pushed down the aisle and being told who she would be allowed to be after marriage.
Not long into the ride text after text from Danny arrives:

Here you go running again.
The mother of my children can’t act like this.
A wife shouldn’t act like this.
Neither should a mother.

Each text that comes is more insane than the one before. It would appear that in Danny’s mind the vows have already been spoken their vows and a sparkly big stoned rings were in their proper places.

With the Uber girl undoubtedly listening to her business after seeing Danny’s rushed steps to the car Gayla turns her ringer off. Riding in silence watching her phone steadily glowing her chest tightens. Gayla has never been a confrontational person. She doesn’t like to argue and she doesn’t believe you should have to tell a person more than once that you don’t like their treatment of you. And she certainly doesn’t believe it when people pretend not to know that they have offended you.

Moments after she has arrived home, a mere seconds after closing her door, the bell rings. Of course she already knows who it is, at this time of night no one is coming by without calling. But she doesn’t answer. Instead she calls Danny’s phone thinking he would just accept and leave.

Gayla tells him she couldn’t do this anymore. That his angry pushy controlling approach to everything isn’t making her fall in love with him. Informs him that instead it is making her hate him. She tells him it is making her think of what her mother must have gone through with her father. That it is a reminder for her of why her father had left her not so complacent woman for one who would give up her life to be apart of his.

Gayla tells Danny that she loves her life, who she is and what she does everyday in her bakery. She tells him she wishes he could love her for who she is and what she does. But she understands that he doesn’t and that they both should go and find someone who is ready to give them what they want while letting them be who they are. She tells him that she just wants to be happy with or without a man. She tells Danny this relationship is not making her happy. Then she hangs up on his screams of how she is a lazy ungrateful woman.

As she sits contemplating the evening, wondering why she didn’t end this sooner, Danny starts beating on her door with what she is sure to be both his hands and feet.

Sitting she is at a lost for words or understanding.

Danny continues to abuse her door the with the pounding becoming louder and louder. Each beat is followed by him yelling the same crazy things he had been texting her on her ride home. Yells the same things he tried to say to her over the phone.

With each beat Gayla’s annoyance turns to fear. What would it take to make him leave?

No way was she opening that door to try reasoning with him. So she does what any sane woman would do and gets her gun while dialing 911.

Mr. Wilson often went to the firing range as she and Mya was growing up. When the girls had aged to an appropriate level he began letting them tag along. Mr. Wilson would talk to them about the evils of the world not to scare them but to make them aware. Young girls were so impressionable and easy to influence that he wanted his girls to be better prepared. To keep both eyes open at all times.

But neither Mya nor Gayla actually thought about owning a gun until Tiffany, an estranged wife of an ex lover, who had broken into Mya’s house.

Mya, truthlly, didn’t know what she would have done differently if she had the gun but felt better with it.

Shaking, Gayla sits with the gun in her lap and waits for the police. Just when she begins to hear sirens the kicks and pounding at her door cease. This is her life now, a whole grown ass man had just had a temper tantrum at her door.

When Gayla hears a softer, gentler knock she puts her gun away and goes to answer. She doesn’t want to become another statistic calling the police for help and ending up dead. That is not the way this night is ending.

“Ma’am we got a call about a disturbance,” one of the two officers at her door states.

“Yes I called,” Gayla answers only slightly shaking now.

Standing just inside of Gayla’s home she tells the officers about the events of the evening. Outside two other officers begin to check around her house including her backyard. As she talks one of the two officers inside takes notes as the other officers come back around.

“It seems as if he left, the yard and surroundings are clear.”

“Well ma’am we will file this in a report but you should also think about getting an order of protection,” the listening officer advises.

“Are you going to be ok here? Is there someone you want to call over or somewhere you want to go,” the writing officer asks.

“Yes,” no way is she waiting on Danny to return. “I want to leave.”

“We can sit here and wait for you to come out while you get your things,” the listener states.

“Thank you officers,” Gayla gives as she closes the door.

Back inside she calls Mya as she packs a bag, moving faster than she ever remembered. Even with the officers outside she believes Danny isn’t far.

“Hey girl, whats up,” Mya is a little surprised to be hearing from her friend since she knew she had a date with Danny tonight.

“Do you have company tonight?”

“Yes, Dwayne is over. What’s going on?”

“Danny has lost his damn mind. But in short I can’t stay in this house alone tonight. And I don’t want to go to my moms because she will have a bunch of questions. Then she will be angry and concerned and I won’t get to think. I love her but I can’t deal with her over protectiveness tonight. I will have to go to a hotel,” Gayla was saying just moving about not really waiting on an answer.

“Gayla what the hell is going on? Where are you?”

“At home. But I kind of cut things off with Danny. Abruptly we can say and now he’s beating on my door, texting me all this when we are married stuff.”

“Did you call the police. I’m coming over there,” Mya is saying standing and looking for pants.

“The cops are here. But I am leaving and I will have to explain later,” Gayla states placing the gun on top of her items in her weekend bag.

“Go to the Grand. I will book you a suite on my account for a couple of days.”

“Thank you Mya. I really can’t think and my hands haven’t stopped shaking,” Gayla says wanting to sit and cry but knowing she doesn’t have time for that.

For awhile before the cops got there she thought Danny would actually kick the door down. She had thought that he was definitely going to get in and all she would be able to do was shoot him and that scared her the most. When purchasing the gun she never really thought what it would take from her emotionally to hurt or kill someone with it or what she would feel for that someone.

“No problem. Just concentrate on getting out of there and call me when you get settled.”

When Gayla gets back outside one of the two police cars with two of the four officers were gone.

The last two leaning on the car straighten up and bid her goodnight. They also advise her again on the restraining order before they all hop in their cars. When Gayla pulls off the officers sit a bit longer themselves before pulling off into the night.

In a daze Gayla pulls up to valet at the Grand. At the front desk things go quickly because of Mya calling ahead.

Before she rushes off she lets the front desk know she does not want to be disturbed in which they let her know that Ms. Wilson had already informed them.

Once Gayla gets to her suite she locks the door and flicks on one light illuminating just enough light not to bump into anything.

Welcoming the solitude, her nerves finally begin to relax for the first time in hours. Relieved that even if Danny does know she is at the Grand, or had followed her he doesn’t know what room she is in.

In the small kitchen she pours wine from a bottle she had stashed in her bag. As she pours she begins to process her relationship with Danny. Gayla blamed herself more than his anger. She knew she should have put the brakes on things some time ago, at the first sight of his anger and control issues.
How could he even raise kids properly with all that yelling and anger? How did he expect anyone to want to raise a family with him if he wanted to control everything?

She turns the television on muting it at the same time. This is the first taste of stillness she has had in hours. There is no yelling, no kicking and screaming at the door, no arguing about motherly duties and wifely qualities that aren’t even a terms and condition of their relationship yet.
Settling into the large cushions of the couch Gayla calls Mya to thank her. The suite is beautiful with a full kitchen, a California King bed and a jacuzzi tube in the apartment like room. This hotel is the place where the rich and famous came when they were in town. Cardinal players, rappers and politicians rent out apartments at the Grand.

When Mya gets on the phone Gayla breaks the evening down including how Danny wants her to close up Sweets to be a stay at home mom. Questioning how she should, would or could take care of him, their future children as well as his present children and a damn dog. Ending with his assault of her front door and the police scaring him off.

“The sad part was listening to him and understanding that he wasn’t talking about me particularly. He spoke of a mold of a woman who he already has in mind and I’m sure she isn’t me. I thought me breaking up with him was doing us both a favor allowing him to go find who wants to be that mold.,” Gayla reveals convinced she isn’t the woman for him and he isn’t the man for her.
She was planning on discussing that with him later, after they enjoyed the evening they had already started. Maybe a true conversation could have made him understand. Only his belligerence wouldn’t allow that. The control he needs over his woman, over the situation wouldn’t allow him to shut up and leave it at that.

“So he came beating on your door,” Mya questions astonished.

“Beating, kicking and yelling I don’t know what, but I am sure it was something between what he was texting me throughout my Uber ride to what he was trying to yell at me through the phone.”

“This is insane,” Mya lets out.

“It was truly a moment from the Perfect Guy.”

Gayla and Mya ended their conversation with Mya promising to call and check on Gayla the next day. She was scared for her friend but believed she was safe for the night.

That next morning Gayla wakes refreshed. The bed had been comfy and the night had been silent. Before heading over to Sweet Cakes she stops by the police station to begin the process of getting a restraining order. Essentially hoping that she wouldn’t need it, but as Mya had told her over the phone last night it would look better if she had a paper trail of his crazy if and when she may have to shoot him.

After arriving to work Gayla had worked diligently through the madness in her head. When she was done filling the cases up front and done with outgoing orders for the day she begins working on the next days needs. Working so much she doesn’t notice when Toni, her store manager, steps through the double doors.

“Gayla you have a visitor,” Toni says slightly startling her boss.

Gayla was so busy preparing the pink, blue and gold candy apples for a baby shower the next day that she doesn’t see the smirk on Toni’s face. The couple was having twins, one boy one girl, and Gayla wants them to be perfect for her first time customers.

“Who is it?”

“That cute banker you been dating.”

Gayla freezes dropping the plastic spatula she had been holding.

“You ok,” Toni asks rushing toward her.

Gayla hasn’t told anyone but Mya about Danny’s crazy showing through. She herself was still thunderstruck from the events of the previous night. Even more so that he is standing in her establishment after the way he acted the previous night.

“Yeah I will be out in a sec,” she mumbles bending to pick up the spatula. Throwing it in the sink she wipes her hands on her apron and steps out. Danny is a man purely about control and image so she doesn’t think he is there to cause a scene.

When she steps out, there he stands smiling. Grinning at her like he wasn’t threatening and trying to beat down her door not even twenty-four hours ago. Relaxed and calm like the man she met at the barbecue he holds up a Panera Bread Co bag and smoothie he had for her.

“Afternoon beautiful.”

“Afternoon,” she returns with apprehension.

“I thought you might be ready for lunch.”

“Ok thank you,” is what comes from her lips contradicting everything going through her head. But she just wants him to say whatever then leave. She doesn’t want to respond and have his petulant attitude come to the surface.

“So about tonight’s dinner. My place or yours? I can cook and we can have our talk.”

Now he wants to start cooking again. Now he wants to talk. It’s like each day he wakes up with amnesia.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea Danny, besides I don’t think we have anything else to talk about,” she states risking it all because she couldn’t handle faking it.

“Of course there is. Actually one of the things is about this place,” leaning back on his heels. “I was surprised when I started looking at real estate numbers,” he professes as he takes steps toward the counter, takes steps toward Gayla, “we can get a pretty penny for it. Nice set up to start our new life together,” he states looking around Sweet Cakes.

Gayla doesn’t say anything. It seems that he would be having this conversation with or without her.

“Well I have to get back to the office,” he continues placing the food on the counter. “Let Mya know I will be calling her soon. Girlfriends should always help pick out engagement rings,” he gives with a wink before he heads out.

Gayla hasn’t moved from her position just outside the kitchen door.When he is gone she snatches the food and smoothie cup off the counter and dumps it all in the trash. She knows her employees and the few customers are looking at her but she doesn’t care. She doesn’t like feeling like a victim.

Gayla’s once relaxed nerves climbed back on edge with each word Danny spoke. Each smile he cracked caused another bead of sweat to pop up on her forehead. At this point she knows she has let things go to far.

Danny had presented himself as a genuinely nice guy. Not only did the Wilson’s talk him up but he lived up to everything they had told her about him. He always wanted to take her out dancing, eating, to the movies hell they had even had a couple of road trips.

Danny treated her like a queen catering to her, gifting her and at first discussing the financial growth of her business with her. She thought they would be a team but after they had sex he started getting clingier and she just chalked it up to having a man who actually paid attention to her. Then he started raising his voice about simple things and she should have ended it then but he apologized and calmed down each time.

Right now he is just using words and threats trying to intimidate her but what happens when he starts using his fist or isolating her from friends and family.

“I have to leave for a couple of hours. Can you finish the apples in the back and keep an eye on things till I get back,” she asks Toni.

“Of course.”

Gayla doesn’t even know why she asks, Toni always looked for more to do.

Gayla rushes out not long after Danny had made his exit. Looking over her shoulders she curses herself for accepting his anger for this long, thinking it was a fluke. But also thinking how long will it be before she found someone else.

After she gets in her car she calls the number on the card the cops had given her earlier today. They told Gayla after she filed the order to report any other contact Danny made or attempts to make. On the phone she gives them the details as she heads downtown to Hudson, Nichols and Wilson with her heart heavy and her brain flooded.

When she arrives she is immediately taken to Mya’s dad’s office where he stands and embraces the young woman who has been like a daughter to him.

“Why didn’t you call me when this started happening,” he scolds leaning her back to get a good look at her. Mya had already called and informed him but he had wanted to give Gayla the chance to come to him herself.

Gayla’s dad had abandoned her along with her mother and her paternal grandmother when Gayla was a young girl, barely a teenager. Since he left like a thief in the night she has seen him twice. First when she ran into him and his new Asian wife and his new daughter. Then again when he came into Sweet Cakes after she closed and locked the doors one night to sing her a sob story of his new family’s struggle. Although he abandoned her and still wanted nothing to do with her he asked for her sympathy and money to support his upgraded family and downgraded health.

Mr. Wilson had helped her then also. He had done a great job of being a father figure to Gayla whenever she needed and she adored him for it.

“I thought it was a fluke. Thought he would go away or find reason.”

“Oh babygirl. I’m so sorry,” he says before squeezing her into another hug using the name he had always called her and Mya. He had no idea how much she really feels like a babygirl when she is around him. Like she isn’t old enough to deal with life and she just needs the protection of parents again.

“It’s not your fault,” Gayla says when he finally lets her go.

They both take a seat on the couch when he says, “I feel like it is. He’s been my financial advisor for a few years now. I knew him when he was married, though I didn’t understand the divorce. We even had him over for dinner after he and his wife broke up,” Mr. Wilson tells her as he goes silent for a minute. Thinking of how he never heard Danny’s ex’s side just what Danny said and most of that was nothing. He didn’t even seek a lawyer because the woman wanted nothing from him.

“He had seemed to be an all around nice guy. I was happy for you. Now I want to kill him,” Mr. Wilson adds seething. The more he thinks about it the angrier he gets but the clearer things become. Danny refused his legal counsel, wasn’t fighting for any type of custody of his kids and the wife didn’t want anything from him.

Gayla seeing the mental turmoil on Mr. Wilson’s face reassures him it isn’t his fault and that she is fine. She doesn’t want him risking his life or career for her. She doesn’t want to take Mya’s dad away from her. He is too precious a person to both of them. But no matter what she says he can’t help feeling some responsibility. He had vowed to protect Gayla like his own daughter and in his eyes he has failed.

Taking a deep breath he tells her he had a judge push and sign the restraining order, which he hands her a copy of. Mr. Wilson had also called Danny’s office and spoke to his boss letting him know what was going on and that he, his wife and their firm would have to find someone else to handle their finances.

“Danny should be notified by the end of the day,” he assures her.

“Thank you so much.”

“You never have to thank me for something like this. You are like a daughter to me and I will do anything to protect you and Mya,” he states strongly.

“I know,” she tells him through the tears she has been holding back. Since last night she had been trying to remain strong, trying to just get through and get over everything. But something about being around Mr. Wilson makes her feel like a kid again. Being around him makes her feel safe to cry, safe to let out all her pain and worry.

“Stay another night at the Grand. Tomorrow you should be Danny free. I had the room switched to my account so order some room service on me.”

That gets the first genuine smile Gayla has had all day, even through tears, “I will thanks.”

Standing she tells him that she has to get back to Sweets. He tells her to call him if she needs anything else or if she hears from Danny.

“I will,” she states before hugging him again and leaving with her head a little clearer. Tomorrow this will all be over with.

Gayla finishes her evening with no further interruptions. No cakes dropped, no unwanted guest or phone calls. At the end of the evening she sets the alarm and locks the doors then walking out with her staff, before heading to the Grand. Yesterday she had packed enough clothes for a few days and was glad that she had the insight.

She does as she had done the night before starting her evening with a hot bath and a glass of wine. When she is done she dresses in the hotels fluffy robe and sits with her problems in front of the television.

As nice as the room is Gayla really yearns for home, for her bed. This isn’t a vacation and as nice as this room is she has to remember that. She is running and hiding and she doesn’t like that in the least.

To get her mind off her woes Gayla starts going over the room service menu. Deciding she orders shrimp cocktail, a greek salad and lamb chops served with potatoes and vegetables. Mr. Wilson would balk if she made a meager order of a simple meal. He is a man who liked to take care of people and she doesn’t need the fuss of how she isn’t eating around the Danny situation.

The night is early so she finds a good movie on the tube and awaits her food. As she waits her phone rings with her mother’s face on the screen. Sadly to say she hadn’t called her mom since this mess started. Mostly because it was an overthought as she tried to keep herself calm but it was also because her mother would worry and want to smother her with motherly love. Sharon over the years had done everything she could to show her daughter that her dad leaving wasn’t her fault. Though grateful for the role Mr. Wilson played in her daughter’s life she sometimes worked overtime to feel that space missing from Gayla’s life that her father had left.

As Gayla got older she just wanted her mom to worry less about her and more about herself. Gayla wanted Sharon to have to live her life stress and worry free after the difficult one she had when her husband left.

“Hey mom,” Gayla answers more upbeat than she felt.

“Don’t you ‘hi mom me.’ Why didn’t you call me when Danny turned psycho?”

“I didn’t want to worry you, it’s nothing.”

“The hell it’s nothing Henry told me about the restraining order.”

Gayla didn’t know why she thought anyone from the Wilson family could keep her secret and that included Mya.

“Ok. But it’s taken care of you don’t have to worry. How is Carter?”

“He is fine no maniac is after him.”

“Well there is one,” Gayla offers with a giggle.

“That’s not funny,” Sharon says trying not to laugh. At the beginning of Sharon and Carter’s relationship she had a big problem with trust. Understandable considering how ex husband left her.

“I’m on my way to that hotel,” and there it is, the over protectiveness that Gayla has been trying to avoid.

“No mom I am fine. I promise. I just need some time to myself to clear my head. We can have dinner tomorrow though.”

“Ok fine. If you say you are ok I am going to go with that. But you have to let me know when things like this happen. Sorry I’m over bearing.”

Now Gayla feels bad, “It’s ok mom. I know you love me and I love you too. I really just didn’t want to worry you.” The mother daughter duo talked for a moment longer before wishing one another goodnight and hanging up.

After getting off the phone Gayla thoughts travel to how she wants to be in her own home but she also has to admit that this was the most relaxed she had been in weeks. Danny doesn’t know where she is, she doesn’t have to talk to him or worry about him popping up. But she still needs this situation to end so she can get back to life.

Because of his pop ups she didn’t want to stay too late at Sweets like she had done so many nights before. She would stay after her staff was gone, doors locked and alarm on, working on the next days orders. Stay and go over her money books, she had an accountant but she still thoroughly went through her own numbers.

This is the earliest she has been home settled in a long time.

When her food arrives her phone goes off with text. She thinks nothing of it as she tips the server after he has set up things in the kitchen. It is probably one of the Wilsons she assumes since her mother has already called. But it isn’t a Wilson it is Danny:

What time will you be here?
Or am I coming there?

When she doesn’t answer he text again:

Are you ok?
I thought we were going to talk
You’re doing it again. Running instead of talking.
Where are you? What is going on? Are you with Mya?
Another girl’s night? lol

Eventually Gayla just turns her phone off and shoves it between some couch cushions.

Doesn’t seem as if he will ever go away. But she holds onto the thought that the order will be served soon and he would get the hint. Surely he doesn’t want to get arrested or lose his job.

But definitely she doesn’t need the headache and before the text she was really enjoying her night. So she pushes him from her mind as she fixes her a plate and refills her wine glass. Then she settles back into a stress free night in front of the television catching up on Being Mary Jane.

Hours later the wine starts to take its toll on Gayla. She cleans the small mess she made in the kitchen then turn off the suites lights before climbing into the California King bed. Taking a couple deep breaths she closes her eyes and pushes Danny completely from her mind before she knows it she was sleeping peacefully.

Tomorrow all things Danny would be done like Mr. Wilson said. Danny will have been served, his job has been notified and no one wants to lose their job.

Before the sun made its appearance for the day a sleeping Gayla is awaken by knocks at her suite door.

Upon the first jolt of awakened reality Gayla assumes Danny has found her. Thought he had come for her and their “talk.”

The sound at the door though was less fretful than when he was outside her house. She gets out of the bed and wraps herself back in the robe. Grabbing her gun she goes to the door and peeps out the peep-hole first, surprised to find Mya and Dwayne standing on the other side.

Gayla swings open the door with a slight panic. What is wrong? Had something happened to her mother? Was Mya’s mom ok? What about her dad?

Mya rushes in followed by Dwayne, “Why aren’t you answering your phone?”

“Danny kept texting. I turned it off. What’s going on,” Gayla questions frantically turning her head every which way looking for her phone.

Mya took a deep breath before saying, “It’s Danny.”

“What about him,” Gayla asks finally finding her phone shoved in the couch.

“He went by your house looking for you,” Mya speaks slowly.

“So, that is why I am here,” Gayla made known because obviously Mya forgot.

“When he didn’t find you at home he let himself in.”

“What do you mean he let himself in,” Gayla questions snapping her neck up from scrolling all of Mya’s ‘where are you’ messages. There were numerous voice mails and missed calls to match the text from Mya, Danny and a number she doesn’t recognize.

“I never gave him a key.”

“He broke out a window and went in looking for you.”

“What,” has become Gayla’s only question or answer to everything at this moment. She felt as if she was still sleeping and this is all a dream. Mya isn’t really here in the middle of the night telling her some man she has known a mere four months was now breaking into her home.

“He broke some of your things, went through some of your things. He kinda trashed it.”

“No,” Gayla spoke unable to believe what she is hearing. She couldn’t accept what she is hearing. Tears threaten but don’t fall.

“The security company called me when they couldn’t get you. By the time I got to your house he was gone, cops were there but the alarm company called me again.”

“For what,” Gayla honestly doesn’t know what more he could have done or how much she could take.

“The alarms at Sweets were going off.”

With immediate understanding, “No, no, he didn’t,” Gayla sobs melting to the floor. The tears that were just filling her eyes fall uncontrollable. Sweets is her baby, its liking someone had harmed her Gram.

“Pretty much the same thing,” Mya informs her friend. “Broke out the glass of the door and went inside. Looked for you, smashed things when he didn’t find you.”

Gayla feels like someone has died, she didn’t remember feeling this bad when her dad left. Sweet Cakes was her baby. To Gayla that place held the spirit of her Gram and whenever she was there she felt closer to her. Gram has been gone for many years now but Gayla still remembers her smile and her voice.

Mya kneels beside her friend as Dwayne excuses himself to the hall. With Mya being frantic about Gayla and not being able to find her he decided to drive Mya. Not just because she shouldn’t be driving in that condition but also to make sure nothing had happened to Gayla. Dwayne had only met Danny once and he himself couldn’t image the man hurting a fly. But being a firefighter he had been called to some homes and had seen somethings.

“How bad is the store,” Gayla is able to say through her still aghast state.

“I haven’t been down there yet. I wanted to make sure you were here and ok first.”

“I’m not physically hurt but I don’t know if I’m ok either.”

Mya wraps her arms around friend giving her a safe place to cry, sharing in the sadness of this moment as they had done in other moments throughout their lives. She knew how much Gram had to do with Gayla opening Sweet Cakes. As close as Gayla felt toward Mya’s father is the same way Mya felt about Gram. Mya had grandparents but after they were gone she still had Gram. Mya understood the feelings that Gayla was going through it was like losing Gram all over again.

Gayla pulls herself together enough to say, “I’m going to get dressed. I have to go down to Sweets I have to see what is going on for myself.

“Ok, I will go with you.”

“Thanks,” Gayla said before disappearing into the bedroom.

Mya takes the time to go out into the hall.

“How’s she doing,” Dwayne asks as Mya softly closes the door behind her.

“She’s as well as expected. I knew knowing about Sweets was gone hurt more than the damage to her home,” Mya answers wiping her own tears.

“How are you doing,” Dwayne asks pulling her into his large warm arms.

“I’m good. Especially now that I know for sure she is ok and not somewhere hurt or kidnapped.”

“I can’t believe dude is crazy like this. I mean I see domestic violence a lot but I wouldn’t have tagged him as such.”

“I know right,” Mya says much louder than she intended. “I don’t think anyone did. I’m going to drive Gayla to Sweets but you can take my car and go back to my place or yours. I don’t want to leave her alone.”

“That’s cool. I will just go home. Call me in the morning,” Dwayne responds kissing her before walking off.

Dwayne disappears down the hall and around the corner with Mya’s phone going off in her bag.

“Hey Daddy.”

Mya shoulders slump as her father gives her new information. Information that stuns and stumps her. She hates that her friend is going through this. If anyone deserves happiness it’s Gayla. Mya questions why she, a cheat, is with someone like Dwayne and Gayla the innocent stay inside the lines woman has ended up with someone like Danny. After all Gayla’s dad had taken her and her mom through they had remained positive and optimistic and Mya couldn’t have prayed for a better friend.

***

The next day all of Gayla’s family, friends, employees and supporters of Sweets came down to help her clean up. Mya was able to convince Gayla to not go to Sweets last night. To wait till morning, get her emotions together. Mya stayed the night with Gayla at the suite, heated up some of the leftovers drank wine and talked.

But before they could get to Sweets they had to make a stop. Mya drove Gayla downtown to the medical examiners office. The police needed to know if the man that they had found dead in the kitchen of Sweets from a single gun shot wound to the head was the same man she had filed the protection order for. They also wanted to talk to her about what had been going on between the two so that they could file and close their report.

“Thank you for coming down Ms. Crawford,” the detective told Gayla giving her hand a shake. “This shouldn’t take long.”

Gayla and Mya sat as Gayla began to give the details of meeting and dating the deceased. She then went into details about her doubts and concerns as the relationship progressed. She didn’t know what to say about him killing himself, she could barely explain what caused the stalking. But then she admitted that for a while she had been debating breaking up with him. Maybe if she had done it sooner this wouldn’t have happened.

Gayla had been crying and mourning the events of the night before. The death of her bakery and the death of a man she had just been holding close.

“None of this was your fault. From what we have found this was going to happen regardless either with you or another woman. We are just glad he didn’t take anyone with him.”

“That’s what I keep telling her,” Mya added.

“The other reason we needed you to identify him is because we can’t find his ex-wife or their children. From what we heard it was a difficult marriage and the wife changed the identity of her and her kids to protect them from him.”

“That explains things. He kept insisting on me meeting his kids. But he spent so much time up under me that I didn’t understand when he saw his own kids.”

“It would seem there were some mental issues that had gone unaddressed. We also found a note in his pocket which makes us think he wasn’t thinking about going alone.”

“What do you mean,” Gayla questioned through sniffles.

“The note read ‘We loved each other too much.'”

***

Gayla had no intentions of going back to that house after packing it up. She wasn’t even sure if she wanted to open Sweets back up in its original spot. But she was sure that she was free even though it hurt to get there.

Check out Gayla and Mya in All Their Husbands everywhere books are sold

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