Joi had a million and one thoughts going on in her head, and the last place she wanted to be was at this restaurant. The Chinese restaurant that Darryl picked out for them to host their bridal dinner. The same restaurant that he proposed to her in six months ago. Back before everything became so hectic. She always thought in the back of her mind that the conversation they had at the table, after the joy and the excitement had worn off, should’ve been the escape she needed not to go through with this.
“So, I want us to get married as soon as possible.” Darryl placed his hands over Joi’s; a wave of relief washed over his face.
Joi smiled. “I do too! I can find a nice white dress at the thrift store; we can go down to City Hall….”
“Joi, I don’t want that kind of wedding.” Darryl sat up in his chair. His eyes began to widen and Joi knew that he had a vision in mind. “I want our wedding to be the wedding of the year. I want a reception. I want all of our family to be there. I want the ceremony. Joi…I want to do this the right way.”
“Getting eloped isn’t the right way? Dee, you know I don’t like big spectacles….”
“It’s your wedding day. All eyes will be on you. You should want that. All women want that.” Darryl was always about the theatrics and the glitz. Joi stared at the paper lantern in the restaurant. But I don’t want that.
Joi snapped out of her thinking when her mother came over. She could sense she was anxious.
“Joi, where is he?”
“I don’t know, Mama.”
“Well…did you call him?”
“I haven’t been able to…..”
“Well, do you THINK that’s something you should do?!” her mother was being condescending. “He’s your soon-to-be husband and it doesn’t look good that he’s not here.”
Joi looked past her mother’s shoulder to see Jay, Darryl’s best friend, on the phone. Probably with Dee. “That’s fine. I’m perfectly fine with it looking however it looks, because that’s what it is.
This was Darryl’s idea to have the party. It was his idea to have the dinner here. He’ll be here. I’m not worried.” Joi looked at the door and saw Rashad, her client, coming through the front door. She always enjoyed when he was around. He quickly spotted her and flashed a smile. That smile. He has such a beautiful smile.
“Who is that?” Joi’s mother looked back, inquisitive.
“Just a friend. Excuse me.” Joi walked over to Rashad and went in for a hug. Joi’s nose was filled with the smell of sandalwood. A scent that she couldn’t get out of her mind lately.
“I didn’t think you’d come.” Joi said, breathless.
“I told you before that I’d be here to support you, so that’s what I’m doing: supporting.” Rashad’s spoke in a low, deep voice. “So, where is he?”
“Your guess is as good as mines.”
Just then, Jay walked up to Joi and Rashad. He looked to be in a panic.
“Joi, I think you should speak to Darryl…..in private.” He extended the phone to her. She looked at Rashad as if a child was getting permission from her father to stay up later to watch the Tonight Show. He nodded and she took the cellphone and went outside.
“Darryl….where are you?! You should’ve been here an hour ago. Do you know…”
“Joi.” Darryl sounded weak. “I can’t make it.”
Joi was furious. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN ‘YOU CAN’T MAKE IT’?!?! THIS WAS YOUR IDEA, DARRYL! YOURS!!”
“Something…….something happened….and….” his voice began to crack. Is he crying? “Something happened last night and…..Joi, I’m sorry.”
“What are you sorry about? Baby…what is it? Tell me.”
“I can’t. I can’t make it tonight.”
“Look, tell me what it is. I won’t get mad but…..you have to tell me, Dee. How can I help if you don’t tell me what’s going on? I’m going to be your wife. You should be able to trust me.” Joi was pleading on the phone. She wanted to be upset, but she didn’t know what to be upset about. Was he having second thoughts? Didn’t want to go through with the marriage anymore?
“I can’t tell you right now. I have to go. Just know that I love you.”
The tears began to stream down Joi’s face like a waterfall, each one burning hotter than the next. She attempted to pull herself together, but everytime she attempted, the tears came out heavier. Her breathing became uneven. She felt her body begin to collapse underneath the weight of it all.
“Joi, are you alright?” Rashad had come outside to check on her and held her by her arms. My safe space.
“No. I’m not alright. “Joi wiped away tears with the back of her hand. “He’s not coming. He says he can’t make it and that he’s sorry.”
Rashad held Joi’s face and wiped the tears off of her cheek. Joi grabbed his hand and kissed the inside of his palm.
“Joi…..” Rashad looked into her eyes.
“I can’t do this anymore.”
“So…are you really about to do this?” Rashad’s tone was serious.
Joi weaved her fingers with his.
“Yes. It’s time that I tell the truth to not only everyone in there, but to myself.”
Rashad kissed the back of her hand and led his soon-to-be wife back into the restaurant.