3. Linda

“Is this bitch for real?” Linda cries out loud to herself as she stares at her laptop, “I knew I didn’t like this woman, something was off about her.”

“Uh-oh,” Daryl says to her looking up from his Kindle.

It’s five in the afternoon and they are seated at their dining table trying to kill time before they go out to dinner. Being semi-retired, Linda and Daryl work part-time jobs leaving them with free afternoons on most days. Normally the vibe is laid back, easy-going and for the most part, uneventful. 

The bitch Linda was complaining about was the new Public Relations Specialist at the Library, Adelaide.

“Read this,” Linda says and angrily turns the laptop toward Daryl.

Daryl squints through his glasses and silently reads the email. Meanwhile, Linda folds her arms and huffs away quietly deliberating her next move. Their home is beautiful with pictures of their kids and grandkids filling the walls. Their couches could finally be white … majority of the time at least. But it was how Linda had always wanted them. They had big windows and high ceilings, beautiful light fixtures, things Linda loved about their home but if she could have exploded, she would have loved to be able to do so.

“What’s the problem?” Daryl asks cautiously.

Linda nods her head vigorously as though he’s cracked the code.

“Exactly! It reads like a normal email, right?”

“Right,” Daryl agrees although cautiously.

“I had a meeting with her yesterday, she’s saying that we agreed on …” Linda looks over at the screen to read a point Adelaide had made but decides against it. “See all that shit she lists? Those are all her points. She didn’t put any of the points I brought up and she’s here writing it like it’s final. Like I’m on board. The fuck I am not! Do you know how I know this bitch is sneaky? Look at who she cc’ed.”

Linda can’t see the screen but sees Daryl’s hand moving across the mousepad. “Kelly and Levi,” Daryl says “I get it, she’s trying to lock you in.” Kelly and Levi were Linda and Adelaide’s, bosses.

“Yeah, coz why did she need to cc them? She doesn’t even mention the fact that we agreed I’d reach out to Kelly and clear some shit up. I was supposed to talk to Kelly first then get back to her. This bitch must be out of her mind if she thinks I’m not still going to reach out to Kelly. I hate shits like her. She gets away with it too, I can tell. And … do you know why she sent it today? Because I told her yesterday that I was working at the salon. She knew I wasn’t gonna reach out to Kelly till tomorrow when I’d be working at the library.”

Linda takes the laptop back from Daryl and slams it shut.

“I’m gonna ghost her dumbass,” Linda declares.

“Ghost?” Daryl asks.

“When you don’t hear back from someone you’ve been talking to.”

 “I thought it meant to kill a bitch,” Daryl says genuinely relieved and Linda laughs.

“Not yet it doesn’t. I thought I was crazy for thinking she seemed too … friendly. Like she was trying to prove to me how relatable she was, talking about you’re so warm like a mom, I love your energy!” The last part Linda says in a voice she knows is ridiculous but also what Adelaide’s going to start sounding like to her.

Daryl chuckles. “I just like that you’re mad.”

“Excuse me?” Linda says caught off guard.

“You’re gonna want to make up,” Daryl says and winks at Linda before picking up his kindle.

“You dirty old man!” Linda teases. Just like that the drama with Adelaide fades from her mind.

Linda opens her laptop relieved that she doesn’t have to find something else to pretend to do because she’s too angry to go through any more emails. Talking to Darryl always calmed her. Linda couldn’t imagine her life without Daryl. They’d been married thirty-five years. Soulmate, twin flame, the yin to her yang, cut from the same cloth … however you wanted to put it, Linda knew without a shadow of a doubt that’s who Daryl was to her. This hadn’t been something she’d known all along but something she’d come to learn throughout their years of marriage.  

Linda looks at the time and sees that it’s almost six. Time flies when you’re pissed off. She didn’t get to go through all the emails she’d wanted to, but she knows that they’ll be back by nine and worst comes to worst, she can always go into the library a little earlier. 

Linda glances through her emails once more to make sure that there’s nothing that requires her immediate attention. When she sees there isn’t, she shuts the laptop and heads for her bedroom to start getting ready.

Linda felt as though she was going out on a date. Not with Daryl, but with Maya and her husband Isaiah. She could tell Daryl felt the same way as even he’d put on one of his nice shirts. Besides Vera and Ray, Linda and Daryl didn’t have many other couple friends so, in this unspoken way, they were trying to woo Maya and Isaiah.

Linda lays out her clothes before she hops in the shower. She can’t be too fancy with her clothes because the restaurant is just their local bar and grill. She looks to her jewelry to see if she can do it up that way. She picks out a few pieces she knows will go well with her outfit and hops in the shower.

When she’s done, she grabs an ironing board and irons her clothes. Linda doesn’t like to wear lotions with fragrances, but she makes an exception for Maya and Isaiah. She keeps a bottle of Warm Vanilla Sugar from the Bath and Body Works store. She layers on her Chloé perfume once she is dressed and sits down to work on her makeup. It’s only two hours so she figures she’ll go light.

Her hair is in box braids so she doesn’t have to do much with it but … she chooses to accessorize anyway. She opens her drawer and finds the loc coils her granddaughters had given to her. She puts two on the braids at the front of her head and decides to wear her braids down. She dawns her jean jacket over her blouse and heads out to the den where Daryl is waiting for her.

Even though Daryl’s regimen wasn’t as elaborate as hers, it was clear that he’d been excited for the double date as he’d probably been ready since four o’clock when he’d gotten home.

“Am I married to this pretty young thing?” Daryl asks when he sees Linda “Damn did I do alright!”

“Thank you handsome,” Linda gushes and kisses him on the lips.

“You ready beautiful?” Daryl asks and Linda nods.

Linda looks around the house and sees that Daryl has already turned off the lights in the kitchen and dining room and left the hallway and porch lights on for them when they got back.

“After you,” Daryl says holding the door for Linda. Linda gushes again but right before she’s completely through the door Daryl smacks her ass.

“Goddammit!” Linda curses at herself for dropping her guard.

“Thirty-nine,” Daryl tells her as he locks the door.

Linda tries to smack his ass but Daryl spots her from the corner of his eye and swoops away in time.

“It doesn’t work like that,” he tells her.

“Fuck!” Linda curses again. They were playing a game of who could smack the others ass the most and Linda had only caught him twelve times in the four months they’d been playing the game.

*                    *                            *                            *

Linda and Daryl are already at the table when Maya and Isaiah join them. As they are sitting down, Isaiah takes Maya’s coat and hangs it at the back of her chair before pulling the seat for her.

“What a gentleman,” Linda can’t help but express and she and Daryl exchange an approving look. Maya’s thirty just like her oldest daughter so something maternal in her has been triggered.

“Doesn’t this color bring out her sexy side?” Linda asks Isaiah about Maya’s new hair color.

“I haven’t been able to take my eyes off her,” he starts “I wasn’t expecting it to look this good on her when she texted me about it.”

Linda pauses. It sounded like the answer she’d expected, but it didn’t feel like it for some reason. Before Linda can say anything Olive their waitress comes to take their order. 

Linda doesn’t have to look at the menu. She and Daryl ate there every weekend, so she knew what they were getting. It was different sitting in the dining area though. She and Daryl sat at the side with the bar because Hazel would slip them free shots every time she worked. The dining area was different. It didn’t have the noise of the sports fans, T. V’s, or the occasional live band, but it wasn’t quiet either. The dining area was popular with families, so it was a different kind of noise.

“What do you guys think of Calamari and Cauliflower Bites for appetizers?” Linda asks Maya and Isaiah.

“The Calamari for sure. Are the Buffalo Wings any good?” Maya asks but before Linda can answer, Isaiah chimes in.

“These lettuce wraps look delicious and they’re not that many calories.”

“Yeah, no.” Maya responds, “I’m not feeling them.”

“What about soup? You like French Onion.”

“I’ll just do the Calamari,” Maya tells Linda.

“Actually,” Darryl starts “I was gonna suggest the wings too instead of the Cauliflower Bites. So, Calamari and Wings?” Daryl asks around the table, but Linda is the only one who nods.

Olivia jots down the order.

“I’ll do the French Onion Soup,” Isaiah says to Olivia.

“The portions are big here so it should be enough for all of us to share,” Linda tells Maya. “Even you if you change your mind,” she says to Isaiah.

“I’d love to change my mind,” Isaiah says, “but not every day can be a cheat day.”

Linda and Daryl glance at each other but instantly look away the minute they realize that their silent conversation might come off as rude.

“Linda tells me you’re new in town,” Daryl says to Maya and Isaiah.

“She is,” Isaiah says and points to Maya, “but I grew up here but moved away when I went to college.”

“Where are you from Maya?” Daryl asks.

“New Jersey, but Isaiah and I met at NYU.”

“What did you guys study?” Daryl asks.

“I studied Pharmacy and he did Occupational Therapy. We’re both working in Boston.”

“I see you girl! Making that bank,” Linda says proudly of Maya.

“Yass! My queen recently got promoted and hasn’t stopped blabbing to everyone about how much she makes,” Isaiah chimes in.

“Erm, no …” Linda starts to clarify that Maya hadn’t actually told her how much she makes, but before she can get the chance to finish, Maya cuts her off.

“Do you mind if we do this another time?” Maya asks. “I can’t with him tonight. I know we’ve only been here a few minutes, but I live with him so to me it feels much longer.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Isaiah asks.

“We’re not having this argument again,” Maya tells him.

“If you want to leave, leave! But I’m staying here with this elderly couple that was nice enough to invite us out to dinner,” Isaiah affirms.

Linda’s taken aback by the comment about the elderly couple, but before she can open her mouth to say something, she feels Daryl’s leg around her ankle. His way of telling her not to mouth off with Isaiah.

“Do you mind if I leave? I’m sorry I just can’t put up with him,” Maya says and grabs her jacket.

“Not at all,” Linda says and gets up as well.

“Don’t do that Linda,” Isaiah says, “if Maya wants to ruin the night for herself  she can, but don’t let her ruin yours in fact, why don’t we move this party over to the bar?”

Linda stands there like a deer in headlights, but Maya rescues her.

“You know what? I can stay. Let’s just have a nice dinner like we’d planned,” Maya says.

“Weren’t we already doing that?” Isaiah asks and gets up to take Maya’s coat. Maya doesn’t let him, and he throws his hands up in visible irritation and defeat.

Linda takes a sip of her water and does her best not to look in Daryl’s direction because she knows their secret language won’t be so secret anymore. She feels his foot rubbing her ankle trying to prompt her to look at him, but she doesn’t. Instead, she shakes her head “no” under the guise of rubbing her nose.

Olivia arrives with the appetizers. Aside from Isaiah, nobody else is eager to eat.

“Do you have children?” Isaiah asks as though there had been no tension a few minutes prior.

“Yes, we have five kids. Our oldest is thirty and our youngest is twenty-two,” Linda tells him.

“What about grandkids?” he asks.

“Between our kids, nieces, and nephews, we have seven grandkids,” Linda tells him, “our family’s spread out all over the country, but we get to see our grandkids in the summer because they spend their vacation with us …”

“Damn!” Isaiah interrupts.

“Yeah, it’s a madhouse but we love it,” Daryl chimes in proudly.

“Good for you guys! I’d like to have kids of my own someday,” Isaiah says.

Linda feels herself relaxing a little bit.

“It’ll happen,” she offers, “not every day is a walk in the park, but the storms pass.”

Daryl kicks her foot, silently telling her to butt out, but she ignores him and readjusts herself so that his feet can no longer touch hers.

“So, your kids,” Isaiah asks, “did they come out looking more like you, him, or something in the middle?”

Disbelief spreads across Maya’s face, “what the fuck kind of question is that?”

“Relax! I’m just keeping it real. You’re telling me that you weren’t curious at all?” Isaiah defends.

“How is that your business though?” Maya asks him.

“So, you were curious,” Isaiah fires back.

“It’s okay to be curious, I get it,” Linda politely offers before Maya can respond “but she’s not wrong about the question being disrespectful.”

Linda and Daryl have built a tolerance to all sorts of ignorance over the years towards their biracial marriage. Much so that Maya’s the only offended party at the table.

Isaiah seems genuinely shocked. “I didn’t mean it disrespectfully. I just figured since you’re black and us black folk keep it real with each other, I could ask you that!” He says to Linda.

“It doesn’t matter which one of us you ask, the question is still rude,” Linda tells him.

“Ms. Linda, Sir, you know I didn’t mean any disrespect,” Isaiah says.

Linda nods politely.

“Can I keep it real with you Isaiah?” Daryl asks.

“Yes, Sir!” Isaiah promptly responds.

“We’re gonna take the rest of our meal to go. I think we’re all tired, us especially since we’re elderly and whatnot. It was nice to meet you son.”

“It was nice to meet you too Sir,” Isaiah says and shakes Daryl’s hand.

*                    *                            *                            *

“He had bite to him!” Linda can’t wait to say once they are in the car.

“And he’s a ball-buster too! He likes getting a rise out of people, I can tell. And he’s insecure about her making more money,” Daryl also couldn’t wait to share.

“Would it make you insecure if I made more money than you?” Linda asks.

“Fuck no, are you kidding me? I wouldn’t care which one of us it came from, just that we had it. These kids don’t know that when you fall on hard times, it doesn’t fucking matter who’s raking in the dough.”

“Yeah, we sure did ride some shit out,” Linda says.

“That we did,” Daryl agrees.

Note from the writer: I hit a wall with Linda’s story that’s why it took so long. I pushed through though, and here we are. I hope you enjoyed her chapter. Last week I thought this chapter would be on Hazel. Anyway, keep checking back in to see who’s chapter is covered and as always, thank you for reading and for following Storytime Blog 🙏🏾

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