Brent called again early Thanksgiving morning. He spoke to the children but said he had to go before Joellen could take the phone. It was the first Thanksgiving they had not spent together. At Alva’s Café there were other children. Jamie and Noreen sat at the children’s table. Two other boys about Jamie’s age took him out to the alley behind the restaurant where they had stashed a basketball. The three of them played one-on-one until the snow became too thick to play and they had to come inside.
Later, back at Alva’s house, the children wanted to call their dad again. They tried but all they got was voice mail. They left him a message. Noreen went to their apartment up on the third floor. Alva had placed an old TV in the living room. Noreen turned it on and sat in front of it, looking sad. Joellen didn’t know what to do to make her feel better.
When her cell phone rang she thought it must be Brent and she should face him so she picked up the phone and left the apartment, starting down the two flights of stairs toward Alva’s kitchen. But it wasn’t Brent.
“Are you busy?” North’s voice sounded hesitant.
“No,” Joellen answered. She plopped down on a step when she heard his voice, her heart pounded a little and she felt a rush of guilt mixed with excitement. “I’m okay. Just a bit … ”
“Confused?” he asked.
“No, just a bit off kilter. I mean with the children here and you there and Brent in Miami and it being Thanksgiving and all,” the words rushed out of her with little structure to her thinking.
“I know how you must feel,” he said. “I miss you.”
“Oh, I miss you, too. So very much. I think about you all the time,” Joellen whispered, thinking, what if the children should hear her?
“I’m catching a flight from Charlotte tomorrow. I got a standby ticket but they say there should be plenty of room. It’s at seven in the morning. I can be in Brooklyn before noon,” he said.
“Oh, no,” she whispered louder than before. “Don’t come here. Let’s meet in Manhattan. Have you got a hotel?”
“I booked something already,” he said and gave her the name and address. “It’s pretty reasonable. For New York anyway. I’ll be spending about three month’s salary but that’s okay. Is this what you want?”
“You mean for you to come up here? Yes. Of course,” Joellen said. “I’ll have to ask Brenda to watch the kids for me. How much time do we have?”
“Just the one night,” North said. “I have to be back late Tuesday for evening for youth choir practice.”
“Are we crazy?” Joellen asked.
North chuckled. “I’m crazy for you. Sometimes I think I still smell you on my hands.”
Joellen was silent, thinking about their first time in the church office. Then she thought of Brent and her mind skipped to their wedding night and how he had made such a big deal about seducing her. And then he had come so quickly and it had all been over and he fell asleep and snored all night so she hardly slept at all. She just lay there on her back wondering if being married was going to be like this forever. How foolish she had been, she thought now. How little she had thought of her own possibilities. How much she had put herself aside for the greater good, whatever that was.
“Joellen?” North said, “are you okay?”
“Yes. Yes, I’m fine. I was just thinking,” Joellen said. “We’d better get off before one of the children hears me. When shall I meet you?”
“Meet me at the hotel at one in the afternoon,” he said. “Are you sure about this?”
“Absolutely. I’m ecstatic,” she whispered and hung up.