For two weeks, I kept a ritual of talking to my cousin and stealing romantic kisses from him. It would always be midnight when I had talks with him. Cousin Ray has insomnia and has trouble falling asleep. Every night he reads books, play the piano; or once in a while he’ll watch a little television or listen to the radio. Before we came, Cousin Ray would talk to Miss Carla before she went home for the night.
I found Cousin Ray on the couch along with Smokie and Potato watching television. When Cousin Ray saw me, he smiled and cleared a spot for me on the couch. Cousin Ray kissed me on the nose when I sat down.
“Hello, my honey.” Cousin Ray said.
“Hi, Ray-Gun.” I answered, giving him a kiss right back.
My cousin Ray and I were falling secretly in love each day. To keep our love hidden from our family, we would visit each other at nighttime to have long conversions and share meaningful kisses on the couch. Cousin Ray and I knew we were in love and did everything to keep our love hidden in the dark.
Cousin Ray held me in his arms as we talked. “You sure like to pick young lilies like me in your garden, don’t you?” I asked. Cousin Ray gave a lighthearted chuckle. “I already found one in my own family. You are the most beautiful lily that I ever found in my garden.” Cousin Ray and I goofed around for a while. He asked me for a kiss. I refused. He pinned me down on the couch.
“Tell me you love me more than an angel loves cake,” he ordered playfully.
“No!” I giggled.
“No way, Jay! Let go of me.”
“Well, I won’t let you go. You are my salve and I am your captor.”
“Okay. I love you more than an angel loves cake!”
“And more than a monkey loves bananas?”
He released me and I slapped him. “Ow. Why’d you do that?” he asked, rubbing his face. I threw my arms around my cousin’s neck and stroked his face. I glanced at Cousin Ray and told him, “you know, I think you should grow a beard. You would look handsome with a beard.” Cousin Ray looked amazed. “A beard?” he asked. “I might one day.” I laughed as Cousin Ray let me go. We talked, watch TV. and played with Potato and Smokie till three in the morning. Before I went to bed, Cousin Ray gave me one last goodnight kiss. I dashed upstairs to my room, thinking about the ravenous I had.
I had to face the reality of Sunday. Miss Carla woke me up for church. It was a scramble to get ready for church. The church Cousin Ray was taking us was a Catholic church. Cousin Ray normally isn’t a religious person, but he sometimes made time to fit church into his busy schedule. As for my family, it was true that my daddy was once a Catholic and Momma was a Baptist; both my parents believed that it was improper to push faith into kids at a young age. My daddy always said that when a child is mature enough, then they can decide for themselves. I never had Communion nor been Baptized. Maybe someday I’ll choose my faith to follow. But for now, I want to live my life the way I want.
Sunday Mass was an eye-opener for me and my family. My sister and I had to wear white headscarves over our heads before we went inside. The priest of the church gave sermons and my family and I sang hymns. Jordan was bored and sleepy from the service. Jordan was glad when the service was over.
After Mass was over, Cousin Ray drove us to a Chinese restaurant to meet up with Mindy. Mindy invited Cousin Ray and us over for Sunday supper to meet with her family. Mindy goes to a Baptist church and is a Baptist herself.
The restaurant was called ‘The Jade Dragon’. As we arrived inside, Jordan and T.R. fell in love with the koi pond that was inside. Daddy had to pull my brother and sister from the pond just to eat.
We sat at the table where Mindy’s family was. At the table, Mindy introduced her parents and her brother to us. Mindy’s mother was a teacher and her daddy was a psychiatrist. Her brother was named Eric and he recently came back overseas from the war. I noticed that Eric had lost his left arm. Jordan notice that, too and was going to put his foot in his mouth by asking Eric a question about losing his arm.
Eric saw the looks on our faces and spoke. “You’re wondering why I lost my arm?” he said gently. Eric explained that when he saw two kids walking in the path of a landmine, he dove in to stop them. Eric fell on his left arm and the landmine detonated. Eric was held a hero for his sacrifice and was given a medal and an honorable discharge. The point of it was that the two kids Eric saved didn’t know that there was a landmine in front of their path.
When supper was served, Mindy’s dad spoke to me.
“So, you’re Butterfly?” he asked.
“Yes, sir.” I replied.
“Raymond has told me about you, luv. I heard from him that you are a clever young woman. I remember my daughter like that when she was sixteen. Mindy was a free spirit and independent. Mindy was very free spirited at sixteen. I could never tame her.”
“Dad, cut it out,” Mindy groaned. “I don’t need you to flatter me. I’m an adult now.”
“Well, can’t a father help it to flatter his own daughter once in a while?”
“Honey,” Mindy’s mother warned. And sure enough, Mindy’s dad dropped the flattery.
I saw Mindy glancing at Cousin Ray as she ate. She blushed at seeing my cousin. I studied at Mindy’s body language. I was so entranced by Mindy’s lamb eyes, that I didn’t notice her mother was passing me a bowl of noodles. I thanked her, taking my share. Mindy set her knife and fork down to speak.
“I have an announcement to make,” Mindy said.
We stopped eating to listen to the news. Mindy took a breath and told us the news. “I’ve always wanted to live in Atlanta so much. It has been my dream to live in the city. There was an opening for lawyers in South Carolina. Actually, there were only a few. There was a lottery for us at the law office for the job in Atlanta. Four people got the job; I was one of them. I’m going to Atlanta!”
We all cheered for joy. “Sis, that’s wonderful,” Eric told her. “Congratulations!”
“Sweetheart, I’m so happy for you. My girl’s going to Atlanta,” Mindy’s dad added. Mindy added something that we didn’t expect coming. She looked at Cousin Ray for him to speak the news. Cousin Ray thought of what to say to us. He found his answer.
“Mindy isn’t the only one that was accepted for the position in Atlanta,” Cousin Ray said. “I was also accepted for the opening in Atlanta. Just like Mindy, I accepted the offer and will be going to join her there. As a matter of fact, before the job offering, Mindy and I were dating for a year. And I’m happy to announce that Mindy and I are engaged to be married in the summer of next year.”
My heart sank to my foot. Cousin Ray never told me that Mindy was his fiancée. He referred Mindy to us as his friend and associate. I felt a stake being nailed into my heart. How could my own cousin betray me like this? Cousin Ray was supposed to love me. As my family celebrated the news, I felt like crying. I was losing the love of my life.
That night, I let the fire fly as I confronted my cousin.
“Ray, what the hell! I chastised. “You didn’t tell me you were engaged to Mindy. How could you lie to me like that?”
“I was mixed up, honey,” Cousin Ray told me. “I was in love with Mindy until you came. I’m sorry that I took advantage of you. I didn’t know what came over me.”
“I thought you loved me, Ray. You lied to me about Mindy. Why couldn’t you tell me the truth?”
Cousin Ray looked at me and sighed. “It’s true that Mindy and I were friends. But somewhere, Mindy and I feel in love; I knew that Mindy was the one for me. Butterfly, I felt a love for you in my heart just like I felt a love for Mindy. I have to choose between you or her.”
“Who do you choose?” I asked, raising my voice.
“Sheila, I know that you love me,” Cousin Ray replied, “But I’m your cousin, and we can only be cousins. What we’re doing is wrong and it has to stop. If we continue with this relationship, it could destroy our family and our reputations could be ruined. Once our reputations are ruined, it can never be fixed. I’m ending this relationship and choosing Mindy.”
I felt the ground giving way from under me. I felt pain and anger boil inside me. It was like living inside a horror movie. “No, Ray,” I began, “It’s nothing to be ashamed about. Cousins can get married. You could marry me and we’ll live happily; just you and me. Please understand—-“ Cousin Ray shot out his arm in front of me. I got out of his way.
“Of course they’ll understand,” Cousin Ray shouted, “You’re crazy, Butterfly! You can’t give me a life. You’re my cousin, goddamn it! Get it through your head, I am not your boyfriend; I’m your cousin! So get the idea of marrying me out of your teenage mind and just fuck it, okay! Fuck it!” My family and Miss Carla came pouring downstairs and stood dead at us.
Cousin Ray saw my family and Miss Carla and felt his heart sank. In the thirty years of his life, Cousin Ray had never swore. Not ever. Cousin Ray looked at me, my family and Miss Carla. Cousin Ray turned to my direction.
“Butterfly, I’m sorry,” he stammered.
“You bastard, I hate you!” I shouted. I turned and ran upstairs.
“Butterfly,” Daddy called.
I ran in my room, threw myself upon my bed and sobbed. I cried so hard for a long time. I thought about Cousin Ray and Mindy. The smiles painted on their faces; and the happiness that they received after their announcement of their engagement. I cried myself to sleep, thinking about losing my beloved cousin to the woman who offered him more happiness than me.
To be continued/Stay Tuned!