Engrossed in the latest episode of TI and Tiny’s Family Hustle, I sensed that I was no longer alone. When I glanced toward the door, a little caramel-skinned girl smiled at me from the threshold with narrowed eyes. “Hi.”
Where had she come from? “Hi.”
She angled her head to one side and peered at me with a frown from beneath a curly halo. “Are you sick?”
“No. Well…yeah, kind of. What’s your name?”
“Zahra.” She took a few small steps into the room then came to an abrupt stop when she saw the casts. “Are you broken?”
The events of the past couple of weeks – losing AJ, the temporary use of my legs, and the movie role that could have been a game changer in my career – flashed through my mind. “You could say that.” I didn’t usually take time to have conversations with kids, but other than small talk with Edna and phone call from Devon or one of my boys in L.A., I was starving for conversation. And I was a sucker for a beautiful woman, no matter what her age. This little beauty had to be one of Sabrina’s daughter’s friends. I wasn’t a softie when it came to the rug rats, but her perfect heart-shaped face made me want to pinch her chin between my thumb and forefinger. And something about her seemed strangely familiar.
“Did you fall down?” Her hazel eyes scanned the length of my body and took in both casts.
“No. I had a car accident.”
“Oh.” She angled her head and focused on my face then solemnly added. “My mommy says some people drive too fast.”
“I guess your mommy is right.
“She fixes broken people.”
She’d have to be a miracle worker to fix me. “Is that so? What does your mommy do?”
“She’s a fairapish.”
“A fair-a-pish,” she repeated as if I was either dense or hard of hearing. Her forehead wrinkled and her fists balled at her non-existent hips the way black women were prone to do.
Before I could ask her for a translation, an annoyed voice called from the hallway. “Zahra? Where are you?”
“With the broken man.” I couldn’t help but smile again at this little girl’s frankness.
Her mother rushed through the doorway and froze with her mouth gaping open. “Oh, it’s you.”
“What the hell?” Craig had set me up. He hadn’t told me her name on purpose. No wonder he set up this meeting while he’d be out of town.
“Please don’t speak like that in front of my daughter.”
“Zahra, go back to Harlowe’s room, and stay there until I come to get you.”
The little girl hung her head. “But I want to stay and talk to him.”
“Do as I say, Zahra. Now move it.”
I watched her daughter drag out of the room as though she were a death row inmate on her way to that lethal injection. “So, you’re the miracle-working therapist Craig’s been bragging about? But he said…” I clamped my mouth shut, drew in my lips, and tried to recall exactly what Craig had said.
“He said what?”
“No, go ahead, Mr. Breland. What did Craig say?”
“He said a guy named TC worked with his brother.”
“He did not say that.”
“How do you know?”
“Because Craig wouldn’t have told you that.”
Embarrassed, I refused to look at her. “What’s your name again?” I finally asked.
“Trenyce Clark. You just assumed TC was a man. Does it matter?”
I studied her glossy lips and imagined what they might feel like covered by my own. “I’d rather work with a man.”
“That’s your prerogative, Mr. Breland, but do you mind telling me why?” she asked in a cool tone.
“Are you married, Ms. Clark?”
Her lips pressed into a slash, and she folded her arms across a perky but otherwise unimpressive chest. “Excuse me? What does my marital status have to do with your treatment?”
“Don’t get upset. I was just curious.”
“I’m not upset, but it’s an inappropriate question.”
A few seconds passed while my gaze traveled down her elegant neck to cleavage modestly covered by a bright pink sweatshirt that matched her lipstick before I spoke again. This woman was too beautiful. I’d be better off working with a booga bear. Someone that wasn’t so…so sexy. “I didn’t mean to offend you. It’s just that I like to get to know the people I work with.”
“I’m not married, Mr. Breland,” she answered with a smirk. “Does that also make a difference?”
I smiled again. “It could.”