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Show Me- Chapter One

Chapter 1 – Companionship



Happiness is contagious. Happy people, as far as she surmised, surround themselves with other joyous people, frolicking in moments of serendipity, being grateful for the moment to share their joy with fellow joyful pals. On the other hand, bitter people travel in packs, searching the plains of emptiness to locate other herds of fellow unhappy souls. In the middle of the field, one unhappy tent is pitched, and in crawls, a sad soul who sits, lamenting on the wrong of the world, waiting for a current of wind to blow by, pick up their ailments, and spread them to the world. Therefore, she concluded that unhappiness also has its own form of contagion. She fell in between those who frolicked with joy and the tent pitchers who sat alone, allowing the wind to blow by.


Today, she sat in a room listening to her foster brothers share their happiness in finding women who intentionally had sex with either of them. She’d seen both men naked and didn’t understand the joy on the women’s faces each time their “man” walked into a room. She figured this was where her part of the bitterness came into play. Kimbrae wasn’t bitter; she was confused. The look on her face said as much.


“Hey, little sister,” Jeremy Husking, her foster brother, called to her. He swaggered his way over to the corner where she perched, enjoying a bird’s eye view of the festivities. “What are you pondering?”


“Just thinking quietly to myself,” she replied.


“I tell you, as hard as it is to believe, there is somebody for everybody, and out there is a somebody waiting for you to come and love all over him,” Jeremy offered.


“Can’t see it,” she said softly, wanting him to go away and be with his happy family. She considered herself to be damaged beyond repair, and no man was going to sign up to spend a life with a woman just for the sake of companionship. Men married to have families, a huge aspect of a relationship she couldn’t provide; therefore, the topic of conversation was a moot point.


Jeremy could see the sadness in his foster sibling and so much more he didn’t want to mention. He spoke in a hushed tone to her. “I know someone who can help you find exactly what you need.”


“Oh yeah, and what magical fairy is this?”


“Funny you should say that…here is her information,” he said, taking his phone and tapping it to hers, allowing the contact in his device to airdrop to Kimbrae’s. “Call her first thing in the morning and make an appointment before you leave New York. She can help you get exactly what you’re looking for; she did it for me, Adriano, and Mateo. She can do it for you.”


Kimbrae had nothing more to say on the subject. Jeremy’s bride seemed nice and Mateo’s wife, with her odd father, made for good conversation on who not to grow up to be in your old age. Honestly, she wanted some happy for herself.


As the revelry continued, celebrating Jeremy’s election to the senate, it was time for her to leave. She eased her way to the door, bumping into a solid and looking up into a pair of green eyes which almost sparkled. Kimbrae held up her hands apologetically.


“Excuse me. I’m sorry. I didn’t see you,” Kimbrae said.


“But I see you,” the woman replied. “I also see the beauty on the inside as well as the outer beauty.”


“Oh, I’m flattered, but I don’t get down like that,” she offered. “You’re attractive, in your own way, but no thanks.”


The woman laughed. It wasn’t the laugh of nervousness, but the kind of laugh that made you search the house to make sure she wasn’t boiling your favorite bunny. Uneasiness crept into Kimbrae’s gut, and she wanted to scamper from the room, until Jeremy called out to them both.


“Hey, Kimbrae, this is the person I wanted you to call tomorrow and set a time to meet,” he offered, grinning from ear to ear. “This is Coraline Newair, the owner of Perfect Match. Her family has been making matches for couples since the first wagon trains rolled west. She can find you the perfect husband.”


Kimbrae’s eyebrows arched. “Oh, you can, can you?”


Coraline was engaged with Kimbrae. This one was a tough cookie and a tough sale. She would put all of her matchmaking skills to the test, and Coraline wanted to get her hands on the accountant. Energy charged in her fingers, goose bumps prickled on the forearms making the tiny hairs stand on end, and Coraline wanted the challenge.


“Try me,” Coraline said.


It was Kimbrae’s turn to be fully engaged with the woman. What she wanted and needed in a man was like finding a haystack needle in the pile of hay after you dove into it only to be impaled. The boredom of the happy party was enough to make her give in to the gesture and speak aloud what she’d never told anyone.


“I can’t have children,” she told Coraline. “I want to marry a black man who wants to be married to a black woman who can’t give him a family or a son to carry on his name.”

Coraline nodded and asked, “Okay, what else?”


Kimbrae’s eyebrows went up, “He has to have a camper. I want to travel on the weekends in our silver Airstream and meet up with other people who have no kids and aren’t pissed off about it.”


“Keep going,” Coraline encouraged.


“He can have a dog, no cats though,” she said. “I’m not moving my business. This phantom husband will need to move to Missouri. Did I mention travel? I haven’t traveled much or done much of anything other than work. My job is my life, and I want to go on adventures, but at the same time, I want to stay home on a Friday night and bake cookies or make ice cream sundaes.”


“I’m making a note, but I have to ask, do you like camping?”


“I have never been camping in my life, but I want to try,” Kimbrae said, feeling a surge of hope. “Also, I want to go on a cruise. I have those annoying clients who come in my office all the time talking about the wonderful places they’ve gone on cruises and ridden ATVs and horses and stuff. Why do they get to have all the fun?”


“Do you want to do those things?”


“Well, yeah!”


“Anything else I need to know?”


“Yes,” Kimbrae said sheepishly and lowered her chin, “I have a thing about bathrooms. I don’t like to share. I grew up in a houseful of boys with lemonade on the seats. I can’t tell you how many times in the middle of the night, I either sat in their yellow water or just plain flopped my boodie in the commode pool because somebody left the seat up. Sharing a bathroom is a no on my list, so there’s that!”


“There’s that,” Coraline said, smiling. “Age, weight, height, profession?”


“Smart,” Kimbrae said. “This fictional perfect man has to be smart. I can’t be married to some guy who doesn’t want to have kids because he is saving to buy the new Millennial Falcon, along with a Yoda Legacy light saber.”


Coraline stood facing Kimbrae, holding her gaze, and said, “Smart, African American, and what about faith?”


“He has to be God fearing, but not a zealot who loves Christ and his Heavenly future home so much, he is no good to anybody on earth,” Kimbrae said. “It would help if he were good looking, but based on that man Jeremy’s sister-in-law married, hey, a good man is a good man, I guess! Oh, he can’t be an accountant. We are competitive, and he doesn’t need to be in my business or trying to take it over.”


The moment came to a standstill between the two women. The way Coraline looked at her, the hope Kimbrae had felt moments before, dissipated by the minute. The spell that had been woven, broke as Kimbrae turned her head to watch the happy people mill about the space. A finger touched her cheek with a touch so soft, it reminded her momentarily of her mother kissing her goodnight.


“Come by my office tomorrow at ten a.m. so we can get the paperwork filled out, take a few tests, and see what I have in the system. Right now, I can’t, off the top of my head, think of your perfect match,” she offered to Kimbrae.


“And how much are these tests going to cost me?”


“You, nothing. The men pay so that I can find you for them,” Coraline said, lowering her tone.

“Oh, you run a mail order bride service? Uhm, no thanks; I am nobody’s mail order bride,” Kimbrae replied. “How about we turn the tables and I pay you to find me a mail order man?”

The sparks Coraline had felt earlier returned. The gooseflesh prickled all the way up her arms and down her back. The request wasn’t the first with the non-childbearing criteria she’d ever gotten, but it was the first where the request was stated out loud and the woman willing to pay the fee.


“A mail order husband. I like,” Coraline said.


“I don’t mind paying as long as I get what I am paying for,” Kimbrae added, concluding the conversation. “I’ll see you in the morning.”


“Until then,” Coraline replied, watching the young woman walk away. She had an energy and a vibe about her that Coraline never expected. There were no falsehoods in her wording and nothing but honesty in the soulful brown eyes. Coraline also sensed a deep-seated fear and a trauma the young woman never spoke of to anyone. Her perfect match would have to be a very special man. A sly grin came to Coraline’s face, thinking and plotting, sending energy shivers into the universe, and stirring the pot of cosmic love.


It would be interesting to see what came through her door in the next few days.

 

****



Peter Brown, a doctor of letters, a historian, and a theology professor, entered the Hyatt Grand Central in New York City for the International Conference on Theology and Religious Studies. He had decided last minute to attend, arriving in hopes of finding a new teaching gig across country from his suffocating family. Secondly, the keynote speaker for the conference was his former college roommate, Gabriel Neary, who now had a government job with one of the alphabet agencies. Every now and then, in a few circles he would run into the man. This time, he was intentionally seeking him, looking for a bit of guidance.


He sat in the rear of the room listening to Gabriel caress the crowd, swinging big factionary theories, using his big dictionary, and warning the masses about unseen threats built by religious zealots. Peter, although he admired Gabriel and the work he did in college, had soon found he preferred to study the history of religion. Most of his time he’d spend in between classes taking pictures of church architecture. The buildings said a great deal about the communities they supported, by showcasing parishes which had money or the barebones structures erected by the poor.


In a sense, he and Gabriel Neary did the same thing to an extent. They both chronicled the history of religion. Gabriel by chasing the money to build new factions and Peter by studying the faction hiding the money in religion to avoid paying taxes.


The crowd applauded as the guest speaker left the stage. He’d spotted Peter in the audience. As the crowds milled about waiting for a word with him, Gabriel made a beeline to Peter. Happy to see him, he hugged the man, placing an affectionate kiss on his temple.


“Still kissing people, I see,” Peter said, pulling away to offer a handshake.


“Still maintaining a distance between you and your emotions, I see,” Gabriel replied.


“No, my emotions and are I are constant companions, and we have a very healthy relationship,” Peter offered, giving a tight smile.


Gabriel could sniff out a ruse, and he could smell the one brewing on Peter. The man had left North Carolina to attend an annual conference he never enjoyed attending. Peter had either come specifically to see Gabriel or to network and find a new job. Gabriel was curious as to which was which.


“So, Peter, what are you looking to accomplish this weekend—a new job, a new research focus?”


“Try a new life,” Peter said, sighing. “I mean, I wanted to take you to dinner to talk about all of this and not pick apart my life choices here in the open.”


“Maybe everything in your head needs to be in the open,” Gabriel said, pointing to two chairs. The people milling about waiting to speak with the man of the hour would need to wait. It was unlike Peter to seek counsel outside of anyone in his family. “Let’s talk it out.”


“Funny, you used to say that to me in college,” he told Gabriel.


“A good conversation is better than medicine.”


The silence hovered in the air like gaseous fumes. The scent and silence of the arrival of the vapors made Peter inhale slowly and push away his doubts. People were waiting to speak with Gabriel and here Gabriel sat with him, about to listen to him bitch and moan about the unfairness of life. Instead of going down that path, he went straight at the matter in hand.


“I want to start over, across country away from my family,” he said. “I want to get married, but I don’t want any kids. I don’t want to preach; I simply want to teach at a mid-sized college on a tenure track.”


“Is that all?”


“No, I want to marry a woman who finds out who my family is and is not jockeying or vying to push me into the church so she can become First Lady and run the mean girl’s section at the AME Convention,” Peter said, trying not to laugh. “You don’t have time to hear this. I simply wanted some advice and maybe a bit of guidance. I’m sorry to bother you at a time like this.”


“Your timing is actually perfect,” Gabriel said to Peter. “Bill Roughy, in Missouri at the University at Kansas City, offered me a tenured track position that I have no interest in taking. As a matter of fact, there are three Midwest colleges looking for someone with your credentials, and they are all here this weekend.”


Peter found himself smiling. “Okay, and if I can get the job, can you also help me get the wife?”

“I can,” Gabriel said, grabbing a sheet of paper and writing down a first name and number.


The area code was for New York. Peter arched his brows as Gabriel got to his feet. A man with a shaggy beard and a jacket with well-worn patches on his elbows sauntered over to them.


“Peter, call the number when you and I are done, set an appointment for tomorrow if you can, and go talk to her; she can help you,” Gabriel said, shaking the new arrival’s hand. Peter, now on his feet, also faced the man. “Bill Roughy, it is your lucky day. This is the man you want for the faculty position you have in Kansas City. I whole-heartedly recommend him to fill your vacancy.”


“Dr. Roughy, I am Peter Brown, and currently I am a non-tenured faculty at UNC- Chapel Hill,” he told the older gentleman. Bill Roughy looked like a man who should have retired twenty years ago but wouldn’t leave until the right chalice had been chosen before he could pass on the cup of Christ to the next guardian of the flame.


“Dr. Brown, I am familiar with your work,” Bill said. “Take my card. Send over your vitae, and let’s set a time in the next week or so to have you fly out, tour the campus, and talk about the position.”


“Will do, and I look forward to speaking with you about the position,” Peter said, feeling hopeful.


Gabriel pointed at the piece of paper, saying “Call her now; set an appointment.”


Peter Brown was no idiot. If Gabriel Neary said to do a thing, a man did a thing. He left the conference hall to find a quiet spot away from ears, fears, and people shedding tears. Inhaling slowly, he exhaled, trying to steady his breathing, and dialed the number, expecting to get a voicemail.


The soothing voice answered, saying, “Perfect Match, this is Coraline; how may I help you find the love of your life?”


“This is Dr. Peter Brown. I was given this number to call by Dr. Gabriel Neary. He said you could help me,” he said to the voice.


The line was quiet. Goosebumps prickled on his arm, and suddenly, he felt lighter. The worries, issues, and concerns which had plagued him over the last year creating intestinal issues and constant heartburn seemed like a thing of his past. He held the device, hoping for a good word. He had called the number on faith, and refused to cast shade on this prospect by littering the moment with doubt.


“Did Dr. Neary provide you with the address of my offices?”


“No, he did not, unfortunately,” Peter said.


“No worries; jot down this address and be here tomorrow afternoon at 3 pm,” she told him, providing the address and ending the call.


Peter had no idea what had just happened. However, if this woman could find him the ideal wife, and she happened to live in Missouri or any of those other places Gabriel had mentioned off handedly, Peter was going to take it, her, and anything else. He needed to get out of North Carolina and away from his family. He loved them, but a man could only take so much.


“I need a new start,” he said to the universe, leaning against a wall and waiting for a reply.

 

****



At a quarter of three, Peter arrived at the offices of Perfect Match. The sidewalk milled with busy people shuffling feet, carrying bags, and bustling their way to the next stop where they would spend time, but not moments. For Peter, it was all about the moments which created memories. Today, he planned or at least hoped to start a new adventure with moments to steal his breath and fill his heart with glad tidings.


“Here goes nothing,” he said, opening the door and stepping inside. A woman with green eyes, holding a cup of tea, sat on the end of her desk. She sipped casually as if she had all the time in the world.


“Dr. Brown, I am Coraline Newair, owner of Perfect Match.”


“Nice to meet you,” he said, extending his hand. Sparks flew when he touched her hand as he tried to pull away, but she held on for a minute. When she released his hand, she smiled.


“Tell me, Dr. Brown, in an ideal situation, what would be your wish in a mate and for your life?”

No one had ever asked him that question before. In his family, there was a predetermined path, and everyone in the family toed the line. He didn’t want that life and the things he needed for his own peace of mind and happiness weren’t going to happen if he stayed in North Carolina.


“I need to move,” he said, pointing to a chair, asking if he could be seated. “Currently, I live in North Carolina. I need to move at least 15 to 20 hours away in drive time, but it needs to be near a major airport hub. My parents are older, and if they want to come for a visit, I would prefer they only have to get on the plane and disembark where I would be residing.”


“Sounds fair,” she said, walking to the credenza to pour him a cup of tea as well. “Continue, please, with what you are looking for in a mate.”


“She needs to be a black woman who has her own,” he said. “I don’t mind trips to the nail and beauty salon, but I don’t want to go broke being married to a woman whose upkeep is the monthly equivalent of a mortgage. I also don’t want to be married to a woman I can’t take swimming. She gets in the water as one person and comes out as someone I don’t recognize.”

Coraline smiled, instantly dismissing two candidates who had come to mind, “I’m listening; go on.”


“She needs to be a Christian. I mean, I’m not desiring her to be in Bible study every Wednesday night, but if I am in my prayer closet communing with my God, I don’t need her banging on the door, worrying that I’m in there watching porn,” he said. “I’ve had that happen. It was unseemly and unwarranted.”


“Those things are pretty normal, Dr. Brown, but now you need to tell me the real reason a handsome man such as yourself is seeking my assistance,” Coraline said, watching his eyes for deception.


“I don’t want kids,” he said with no expression on his face. “My family is huge. My brothers all have kids, and now some of their children are having families. I am a professor and I instruct bigger kids. I want to come home to my woman and dog and relax. I don’t want kids.”


Coraline added more tea to her cup. She swizzled in a bit of honey, stirred, and smiled at him again. “College students…you consider them to be kids you teach?”


“Yes, they are walking, fornicating, oversized teenagers with no curfew who have discovered how their body parts work,” he told her. “If they aren’t diddling with each other, there’s a plethora of excuses of why they can’t get to class on time or get work completed in a timely manner, so yes, kids. I don’t want to deal with that all day and have to come home to more of the same, only the ones at home are in my pockets and giving me lip.”


Coraline shifted in her seat, thinking maybe this guy wasn’t a good fit for anyone, then his posture changed and he relaxed. He offered her a warm smile with a glint of mischief in his eye that made her look at him differently.


“Ms. Newair, I’m not unfair or unreasonable,” he said. “There are weekends I want to hook my truck to my camper and head out. My free time, I want my girl in the passenger seat, my dog in the back, and a camera in my hand as I explore, research, and work on my next book. If I want to go out to dinner on a Monday, then baby, let’s go. If I want a slice of toast with jam and an orange for dinner on Tuesday, then let me have that…don’t scold me and pass me a salad. I’m a grown man. I know what I feel like eating!”


He blushed as a thick loc of hair fell from the braid in the back of his hair. He was a learned man, a scholar, and a Christian. Peter’s head was down looking at his hands, prompting her to ask, “Will you finish the thought and admit what you’ve always wanted to tell a woman?”


When he looked up at her, his eyes were misting. He’d never had the courage to speak up for what he really wanted and carried the weight of a family name he would never escape from yet was not ashamed to own.


“Ms. Newair, I could have had a wife years ago, but my heart longs for companionship. My father has groomed me to be a husband and the head of my home. My mother has nurtured me to give love and affection freely, expecting nothing in return. I am ready to be a good husband,” he said, “however, I want someone who understands my nerdiness and kind of feeds into it with me, who will love me as I am, not wanting to change me. She needs to be more than my wife and my lover, but I want her to be my friend where if on a Friday night we stay home and make ice cream sundaes as a date thing, we can. I can’t be married to a woman who is going to resent me in seven years for denying her the right to be a mother. Does that make sense?”


She was smiling again. “It makes sense, and believe it or not, I think your perfect match left here a few hours ago, but there are a series of steps we have to take to ensure it is a good fit,” Coraline said.


“Uh-uh!” he said, sounding like one of his nephews reaching a high score on a game and not believing it. He was getting to his feet and scowling. “I don’t believe you!”


“Would you believe me if I told you she lives 15 hours by vehicle from North Carolina, and she resides 30 minutes from a major city?”


“Nope, not believing you or this,” he said, placing his hand over his chest, praying it would slow down his heart rate. “Next you’re going to tell me the major hub is near Kansas City, Missouri?”

“It is,” Coraline said, “and she is black, owns an accounting firm, and doesn’t want children. She is warm, friendly, and cuter than a button. Honestly, watching her walk across a room is a thing of wonder. Also, the ice cream sundae thing on Friday night is high on her list. She will accept a dog and mentioned wanting to go camping although she has never tried it.”


Peter Brown took a seat. He closed his eyes and to his disbelief, he found himself fighting back the onslaught of tears of happiness. Several moments passed before he raised his head to look at Coraline.


“What do I need to do, and what do I need pay for your services?”


She smiled again. “The lady already paid the fees.”


He wiped at his eyes, feeling prayerful, thankful, and fearful in the same breath, but Gabriel had sent him here. Aloud he asked, “This is real? This is not a scam?”


“My family has provided this service, mainly for men, since the 1800s from this very same location,” she told him. “This lady, your potential perfect match, is the first woman to come in and say what it is she specifically wanted and was willing to pay to get it. Shall we get started on your road to happily ever after?”


“Sure, why not,” he said, feeling lightheaded.


Peter Brown had been opened, flayed, and laid out in front of a woman he didn’t even know. He’d cried, for the love of all that was holy, in front of a person he didn’t know. Gabriel Neary was right and wrong in the same breath. He was wrong about him being distant from his emotions; he felt it all. Today, he felt the joyfulness of potentially being happy.


Coming This Month.

February 20th!

"Mail order brides? Please, darling, Kimbrae Phillips flips the script and demands a mail order husband. Talk about taking control of your destiny! #LoveGoesBothWays"

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