You’ve got mail! You’ve got mail! The computer’s female voice roused more than David’s consciousness from sleep. It woke his body as well. God, how he missed Kate – the smell of her perfume, the softness of her skin against his, the silk of her hair. He rolled over in the king sized bed and stared mournfully at the room’s ceiling. All the while the computer’s female voice repeated its message, “you’ve got mail. You’ve got mail.” Tomorrow, he’d ask Dawson the station’s IT guy to come over to the house and remove or modify the annoying voice feature, maybe something more deep and throaty and definitely male.
A sigh escaped his lips as he rolled over onto his left side and listened to the life going on below him. He could hear Kaila and his mother downstairs moving around in the bright orange kitchen. Actually, Kate had called the color Marmalade, saying it was impossible to be sad in a kitchen that color. She was right, but it still looked orange to him.
In the mornings the color cheered and energized you – up and out the door and on your way. In the evening the color took on a soft glow that warmed and welcomed you back home. His best memories of Kate revolved around that kitchen, laughing, talking, and sharing a bottle of wine over a late night dinner.
He could tell from Kaila’s laughter that she was watching her favorite cartoons. With no school today she was probably still in her pajamas and from the smells emanating from below his mother was fixing pancakes and sausages for breakfast. Kaila’s favorite. For him, she’d brewed a pot of her strong black coffee with cinnamon.
His mother and Kaila had bonded instantly. The venerable Ada Walker, he couldn’t remember just when he’d started referring to his mother in this way, but it seemed to fit. Her presence had become a lifeline for both him and Kaila. He’d been so consumed by his grief and his guilt that he could not reach outside of them to help his child grieve.
That first week after Kate’s death he never moved from their bedroom. He neither bathed, nor shaved, nor ate. He went from the bed to the chair that sat beside the bed and back to the bed again. He cried himself to sleep and woke again with the same questions. How could this have happened? Who did this? Why did this happen? What if he had stopped her from leaving that morning? Could he have saved her? Had she suffered before she died? The Police told him she would have died within seconds of the blast. What were those last seconds like for her? Questions, he told himself, was all he had left, except for the all-consuming hate for the person who had altered his life.
The downstairs phone rang and he listened to his mother as she spoke in that slow southern way she had. A child of the South, she had lived all of her adult life as a northerner. Yet she still held dear to her southern roots. And that southern upbringing with its strong family ties, was why she had given up the life she’d made for herself in Decatur in order to help him.
Back in Decatur, she was the director of the New Salem Baptist Church Choir, a volunteer crossing guard for Decatur Elementary School and she attended, with zeal, every city council meeting. His mother loved politics. She traveled and she had a set of girlfriends that she simply cherished and who cherished her in return. But there was one thing about his mother that bothered him, she had never remarried. That was the way it was with her.
His father had worked for the Illinois Central Railroad as a lineman. It had been his job to walk the line checking for anything out of the ordinary – drunks fallen down on the tracks, tools left by workmen, teenagers using the area as a hangout spot.
One night while walking the line, he’d spotted someone or something on the tracks and had gone to investigate. According to the sheriff, his father had been bludgeoned to death by suspects unknown. Suspects unknown, was a euphemism for a gang of racist white teens out for a night of fun. Killing his father had been their idea of fun. Back then in the seventies, the Police in Decatur would do little, if anything at all, to investigate the murder of a black man. His father’s case, like Kate’s, remained unsolved. He laughed sardonically to himself and thought, guess that shows how far we’ve come in race relationships. The cops aren’t even solving the cases of pretty white women now.
In the meantime, he thought he’d better get up, get showered, and get going. He muted the computer’s annoying voice and decided to answer his emails from work.
He looked at his reflection in the bathroom mirror, rubbed his left hand across the dark thick stubble growing on his chin. He was getting older. Perhaps it was time for him to start dating again.
No one had to tell him it was time, his body was doing that for him. But, the memory of the pain of losing Kate was still too fresh.
The alternatives of not being married, though, were high. Single men were never taken seriously in the business world. Even Bill Gates had to give up his playboy status in order to take Microsoft to the next level.
The thought of dating again filled him with a sense of apprehension and hopelessness. Where does one go these days to find a wife? He couldn’t go back to college, where he and Kate had met. Dating services were beneath his dignity. And dating his female employees was definitely out of the question. They posed a double threat – rejection and sexual harassment charges. Besides, all of them were white and if he brought another white woman home, his mother would surely disown him for good.
He stepped into the shower and let the hot water ease his tight muscles.
Trying to find time to date was also a big stumbling block. Running the TV station required even more time than he’d anticipated. Was he ready for the arguments, again, about being a workaholic? No! He already knew how those arguments ended.
He toweled himself dry and splashed on a modest amount of Grey Flannel cologne. Upscale casual today, he thought – dark denim jeans, light blue Brooks Brothers cotton shirt, with a slate gray cashmere pullover. He laid the outfit on the bed.
Ada Walker looked up several times from the pancake batter she stirred and mentally traced her son’s footsteps across the ceiling. Good, he was up. Now that he was getting over Kate, he was going to be OK, she just knew it.
Within a year, he’d remarry. And that was good. She didn’t want him ending up like her, alone.
She vividly recalled what it was like losing her husband. Henry Walker was literally her life! He had pulled her out of the poverty of her childhood and gently ushered her into womanhood. He was the origin of a series of first in her life. He was first boyfriend, her first lover, her first husband, her first home; he was the father of her first child, and the first person she had mourned with her entire soul.
So she was well aware of what her son was going through. And if he was ever going to get over this, it had to be soon or he would end up like her, grieving for a lifetime.
She had allowed him to continue in his grief for a while, and then she had put a stop to it. After three weeks, she’d gone into his bedroom, threw one of his Armani suits at him and said, “Davy, it’s time you got back to work.” That was a year ago.
At that moment, her six foot four baby boy strode into the kitchen with more confidence than she’d seen in a long time, poured himself a cup of coffee and kissed his daughter on the forehead. Kaila would be tall too, she thought.