Only Time Can Tell - Chapter 1

The repetitious thump of Brandi Richards’ nails against the kitchen table echoed throughout the room. “Calm down, Brandi. Calm down,” she said, coaching herself as tears filled her eyes. An aching heart and the empty, queasy feeling in her stomach began to nag at her as she waited for the phone to ring. Finally, she concluded that her dinner date with Vaughan Hunter, her boyfriend of two years, was not going to happen. Brandi picked up the phone and pecked in Vaughan’s cell number once more. The hope of him answering was crushed at the sound of, “Hi. This is Vaughan. I’m sorry I missed your call.” Brandi slammed down the phone. “Eww. I am so mad right now.” She lowered her head into the palms of her hands. “I don’t have time for games, and this man is playing with me,” she choked out through gritted teeth.

After calming herself, Brandi walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. She stared inside, trying to figure out what she was going to eat. Not in the mood for cooking, Brandi stomped back into the dining room and flopped in a chair. Minutes later, she picked up the phone and dialed her friend, Kandace Malloy’s phone number.

“Hey, girl,” she said when Kandace answered.

“Hi, Brandi. What’s up?”

“Girl, I’m sitting here with steam coming out of my ears. I’m furious with Vaughan right now.”

“Why? What happened?”

“I was wondering if you’d like to go out for dinner. I’ll tell you about it,” Brandi said.

“Sure, we can do that.”

“Okay. What’s a good time to come by and pick you up?”

“I’m ready now if you are,” Kandace replied.

“I’m on my way.”

Twenty minutes later, Brandi was standing on Kandace’s doorstep. Seconds after she rang the bell, Kandace opened the door.

“Hey, girl, come on in,” she said, giving Brandi a quick embrace.

Brandi stepped inside the apartment. “Is Nathan here?” she asked, scanning the room.

Nathan Carter was Kandace’s high school sweetheart. They’d recently gotten back together after a ten-year breakup.

“Nathan? Oh, dead end, girl. I’m ready,” Kandace said, taking her purse from the chair.

“You’ve kicked Nathan to the curb already?”

“Yes, ma’am. He had to go.” Kandace sucked her teeth and wore a look of disgust as they walked out of her apartment toward Brandi’s car. “It only lasted two months,” she said.

“What in the world did he do?” Brandi asked, laughing at Kandace’s expression. She unlocked the doors, and they got into her car.

“Honey, that brother was driving me nuts. I’ll tell you about Nathan later. You’re the one who needs to talk.”

Brandi stopped laughing and frowned. She took a deep breath as she drove off.

“Kandace, I’ll tell you the truth. I love Vaughan, but I’m getting tired of his lies. He’s made one promise after another about leaving his wife, and it hasn’t happened yet. Our relationship is nothing like it used to be. He stood me up again today.”

Kandace nodded as she listened.

“Usually, if he couldn’t get away he’d at least call and let me know. Now, it’s like he doesn’t give a damn. Something is definitely wrong. All of a sudden, he doesn’t follow through with our plans, barely comes around, and rarely calls. In the past, Vaughan spent more time at my place than he spent at home. You know that.”

“How long has he been treating you differently?” Kandace asked.

“It’s been over a month now.

“Ah, man, Brandi. I don’t know what to say.”

“You don’t have to say anything. I just need to vent.”

Kandace gave Brandi a sympathetic look.

“If he’s decided to stay with his wife, all he has to do is tell me.”

“What man in his position is willing to do that, Brandi? I’m sure Vaughan loves the excitement of having a wife and a mistress.”

Brandi sighed as she pulled into The Shellhouse Restaurant parking lot. She circled several times before finding a spot near the rear of the building. Once inside, the hostess greeted her and Kandace with a smile. After a short wait, they were led to a booth.

A waitress approached the table a few minutes later. “Hi, I’m Kay,” she said. “I’ll be your server this evening. What can I get you ladies to drink?”

Brandi smiled and said, “I’ll take an apple martini.”

“An amoretti sour for me, please,” Kandace said.

“Okay. I’ll be back in a moment.”

Brandi and Kandace looked at the menu. When the waitress returned with the drinks, they placed their meal orders.

“So what are you going to do, Brandi?” Kandace asked after the waitress walked away.

“I don’t know. When I talk to Vaughan, I’ll ask him to be straight with me. If I know what the problem is, then I can better deal with the situation.”

“Yeah, I guess. Are you depressed about it?”

“No, I’m not depressed. I do think I need a change of scenery or something. A couple of days off would be nice, but I have too much going on at work right now. Did I tell you Attorney Mason promoted me to office manager?”

Richard Mason, Brandi’s employer, was a reputable real estate attorney who’d served the Savannah area for more than thirty years. His established clientele, along with the booming real estate market, kept his office very busy.

“Noooo. Congratulations, Brandi,” Kandace said.

“Thanks. Needless to say, I have a lot on my plate at work.”

“Is everything okay?” the waitress asked, passing Brandi and Kandace’s booth.

“Yes, thanks,” they replied. The waitress walked away.

“Brandi, you really do need to nip things in the bud with Vaughan. Being preoccupied with his drama can affect you performance at work.”

“I think I do pretty good keeping my personal life personal.”

“I understand that, but I’m a woman like you are, and I know when a man starts tripping, it can affect everything we do.”

“I guess so. What’s mind-boggling for me is the reason why Vaughan has changed. I’ve been good to him. I show him love and respect, and I’ve never cheated on him. I don’t know what the problem is. The only thing I can come up with is he’s decided to work things out with his wife.”

“Can you handle that?” Kandace asked.

Brandi twiddled her fingers as she thought about Kandace’s question, but she didn’t answer it.

“Here we are, ladies,” the waitress said as she approached the table with their meals.

When she walked away, Brandi and Kandace bowed their heads, closed their eyes, and Brandi said the grace. The ladies engaged in small talk as they ate their dinner. When the waitress placed the bill on the table in a black folder, Brandi picked it up and looked at it before laying it next to her partially empty plate.

“How much is it?” Kandace asked.

“I got you,” Brandi replied, rambling through her purse.

“What? Is this what a job promotion does for you?” Kandace joked.

“Please. I’ve treated you before.”

“Not at The Shellhouse. You’ll hook a sista up at Burger King, Wendy’s, or Micky D’s, but seafood?”

Brandi laughed. She placed the money for the food and tip in the black folder.

“I really enjoyed myself,” she said to Kandace. “And I feel much better.”

“I’m glad. I hope everything works out for you.”

“So do I. Are you ready?” Brandi asked, sliding to the end of the booth.

“Yes,” Kandace replied. She followed Brandi’s lead through the restaurant and toward the exit.

Brandi suddenly stopped in her tracks. “Whoa,” Kandace said, almost walking right into her. “What’s wrong?”

Brandi silently looked across the room with a killer stare.

“Oh hell,” Kandace said when she spotted Vaughan having dinner with a woman.

“Let’s go, Brandi. It’s not worth it.” They both stood and watched for a few moments as Vaughan’s lady friend blushed and giggled. When he kissed her hand, Brandi lost it.

“Oh hell naw. This negro has some explaining to do.” Brandi marched over to the table and stood looking down at Vaughan. When he saw her standing there, he tried to play it cool. “May I help you?” he asked.

“May you help me? You need to start talking, and I mean right now,” Brandi said, pointing her finger to the rhythm of every word.

Vaughan stood and looked her directly in the eyes. “The best thing you can do is walk away,” he said in a serious tone. “Um, Vaughan, is there a problem?” his guest asked in a soft, sophisticated whisper.

“You’re damn right there’s a problem,” Brandi replied a little louder. “Is she the reason why you didn’t follow through with our dinner plans tonight?”

“Yes, she is,” Vaughan admitted. He turned away from Brandi and calmly took his seat. “Everything is okay,” he said to his dinner date.

Brandi stood in total disbelief as many thoughts ran through her mind. She couldn’t believe what was happening. How could he do this? she thought as Vaughan sat nonchalantly.

He looked up at Brandi once more and said, “Excuse us please.”

The embarrassment of that moment, the caged anger, and the rushing adrenaline sparked flames of rage within Brandi. She swung with every ounce of her strength and landed a blow to the left side of Vaughan’s face, followed by a quick shove, forcing him onto the floor. Somehow she unintentionally tipped over the table, emptying their food and drinks onto Vaughan’s guest’s lap. The woman hopped up from her seat, trying to clean the mess off her suit.

A big, strong waiter rushed over and pulled Brandi off Vaughan and escorted her outside. On the way out, Kandace called Destini, Brandi’s older sister, and told her to get to The Shellhouse ASAP.

The manager made his way outside a few minutes later and asked Brandi to leave the premises immediately.

“I will,” she replied, still a little shaken up. As she and Kandace walked toward her car, Brandi scanned the area, looking for Vaughan’s car. “I’m mad as hell, and he’s not getting away with disrespecting me,” she said aloud. When Brandi made it to her car, she popped the trunk, grabbed her tire jack, and headed for Vaughan’s Mercedes.

“Brandi, don’t do it,” Kandace screamed.

“These people are going to call the police on you, girl.”

“I don’t give a damn. I’m going to show him, I am not the one to play games with.”

Glass shattered, and the alarm sounded when Brandi decided to play baseball with Vaughan’s car windows. Kandace ran toward her. “Brandi, stop, please stop,” she pleaded. “He’s not worth it.” Brandi continued to swing. She showed no fear when Vaughan ran out of the restaurant and charged toward her. She swung the jack back and forth to keep him away, but Vaughan still managed to tackle her.

By the time Destini arrived, he had Brandi in a head lock. Destini pleaded with tears streaming down her face, trying to break his grip. “Let her go,” she yelled. “Let her go.”

After a while, Vaughan let Brandi go, giving her a powerful shove. “Get her out of my face,” he demanded. “I’ll be the bigger person this time and walk away, but you better believe it’s over, Brandi. I mean it. Forget my name and lose my number because I never want to hear from you again.”

Brandi continued to yell at Vaughan while she struggled to breakfree from Destini and Kandace as they pulled her in the opposite direction, toward her car. After forcing Brandi into the backseat, Kandace restrained her so she wouldn’t jump out, while Destini ran around to the driver’s side, got in, and drove away, leaving her car in the parking lot. As Destini turned onto Gateway Boulevard, two police cars sped past her. Periodically, she looked in the rearview mirror to see if they were following her.

No one said a word during the entire drive toward Kandace’s apartment until Destini called Eric, her fiancé, and asked him to meet her at Brandi’s place.

After Destini dropped Kandace off, she immediately started in on Brandi. “Are you crazy?” she began. “I never would’ve fathomed that you’d be out in public acting a damn fool and causing confusion over another woman’s husband.”

“Look, Destini, don’t go there. Right now is not the time.”

“I beg to differ.”

“When I need your advice, I’ll ask for it,” Brandi exclaimed. “Why are you in my business anyway?”

“In your business? Honey, you’ve got it all wrong. I didn’t ask to be in this mess. Since I am, I’m simply advising you to do what’s right and find a man of your own. You need to think before you act, Brandi. You’re looking really stupid right now.”

“Hold up. What are you trying to say?”

“I’m saying that you’re wrong. I know you know better.”

“It’s not like I’m causing problems or disrupting someone’s home. Vaughan’s wife doesn’t know anything about me.”

“That doesn’t make it right. And look at him. He has a wife, and he’s leading you around by your nostrils, yet he’s out having dinner with another woman. Wake up, Brandi.”

“I can handle myself. Why are you so concerned anyway?”

“I hate to see you waste your time with a man who already has a wife. And let me tell you, you don’t want him to leave her because he’ll end up doing the same thing to you. It’s time to raise the bar and stop settling just to have a man, Brandi. Set a standard for yourself,” Destini demanded.

“Whatever,” Brandi snapped.

“As long as you get what you want, you don’t care about anyone else. You swear you want a husband and you have all of these stipulations for him, yet the only standard you abide by is his looks. Looks aren’t everything, and you should know that by now.”

“The bottom line is I like who I like. Appearance means a lot to me, so guess what? That’s the first hurdle for any man. So, you see, you’re the one who’s got it all wrong.”

“Yeah, and while you’re waiting on this Casanova to come along and sweep you off your feet, you could easily miss out on the common man intended for you. A single man with a job, morals, and ethics,” Destini lectured.

“I don’t have to prove anything to you. You live your life and let me live mine.”

“Alrighty then. I guess you told me. But let the truth be known: I would like nothing more than to see your dream of finding the perfect man come true. You’re my baby sister, and I love you, but I have to say your mentality sucks. You’re wrong, and you know it. Just think about it: Isn’t this mindset, the same you’ve had when selecting the other men in your life, including Vaughan? There has to be a problem somewhere in the equation. Why haven’t any of these men proposed to you?”

“Oh please. I don’t regret any of my relationships,” Brandi said.

“Yeah, right. Since you won’t answer the question, I’ll answer it for you. You always chose guys who aren’t good for you, Brandi. Changing your thought pattern is all it takes. What you’ve done is cursed yourself by saying ‘this is what I want’ without considering the bigger picture. What sense does it make to date a man because he’s good-looking, if he’s married, abusive, a player, or not compatible to you? None.”

Brandi pouted as she listened. She was fighting the urge to yank Destini by her hair. Brandi knew if she followed through she would definitely have to fight, but since they were in a moving vehicle she decided against it.

“Just hurry up and get me home,” she mumbled.

“You need to check yourself. You’re making life more difficult than it has to be,” Destini said.

Brandi sucked her teeth and rolled her eyes as she looked out the window. Brandi had been rebellious at an early age. Her father served as a deacon at Mt. Zion, a Baptist Church on Savannah’s Southside for as long as she could remember. Her family went to services several nights during the week and every Sunday. Brandi hated it. She wanted to be like the kids in the neighborhood who didn’t have to go to church, so she acted out.

Brandi’s teenage years were worse. Her physique captured the boys’ interest, and she loved the attention. She took advantage of every opportunity to be disobedient and didn’t think twice about breaking her parents’ rules. Destini, though only two years older, matured a lot faster. She obtained her parents’ trust by being respectful and advised Brandi to do the same, but she insisted on doing things her way. After parking in front of Brandi’s condo, Destini gave her the car keys and headed to where Eric was waiting for her.

“Let’s go, baby,” she said to him.

Brandi walked toward her front door as Eric and Destini stood talking and looking in her direction. Once inside, she threw her purse and keys on the bed before going into the bathroom. She filled the tub with warm water and bubble bath. Bombarded by emotions, Brandi sank inside the tub, feeling as if it were her against the world. She couldn’t believe how her day had ended. The unbearable pain in her heart snatched the tears from her eyes that she tried desperately to hold inside.

Brandi laid back, closed her eyes, and reflected. Destini’s words really hit home.

“I always chose guys who aren’t good for me,” she said softly, massaging her temples with her fingertips. “I always choose guys who aren’t good for me,” she repeated.

In spite of a pounding headache, Brandi decided to take Destini’s advice to examine herself. She thought back to high school when she first acquired an interest in boys. Memories of Marcus Hamilton, her first heartthrob, boldly clouded her mind. With a smirk, she thought, I had a ridiculous crush on him for years.

In Brandi’s opinion, Marcus was the cutest guy at Windsor Forest High School. He and Destini’s boyfriend, Patrick Houston, were best friends. They were both star football players and the target of many girls. When Patrick came to visit Destini, Marcus was usually with him. The more he came around, the more Brandi craved him. She was charmed by his great sense of humor and personality.

At the age of fifteen, Brandi had lost her virginity to Marcus. Her smile quickly transformed into a scowl as unpleasant memories danced around in her mind. Brandi felt sick in the pit of her stomach when she remembered being overly excited about Marcus inviting her to his senior prom, and the humiliation when he showed more interest in his on-and-off girlfriend, Brianna, than he did her.

As he had before, Marcus made up with Brianna, but took advantage of Brandi’s willingness to make out with him whenever and wherever he wanted. Brandi continued to see him even after he had graduated from high school.

Then there was Jeremy Wade. Brandi recalled being head over heels, for Jeremy. She dated him for four years, until one day he broke it off without an explanation. Brandi stalked Jeremy for months, and learned that he was engaged to be married and had a child on the way. She was overwhelmed with heartache.

Months later, Mylin Epps came into her life. Brandi remembered liking Mylin a lot although she questioned his sexuality. He fulfilled her desires in bed, but she constantly wondered if he was gay and eventually let him go.

Brandi’s thoughts drifted to Thomas Giles. He was gorgeous, and he was great in bed but had the common sense of a fetus. Brandi tried to educate Thomas of his role as the man in her life, but ran short of patience quickly. Their relationship lasted less than a year.

At age twenty-four, Brandi began to date Michael Collins. He was a handsome older gentleman with a lot of confusion in his life. Brandi tolerated baby mama drama, prank phone calls, threats, and fights with the other women he was seeing while they dated. It became so bad she purchased a pistol to carry for protection. Finally, after dating Michael for more than two years, she ended the relationship, without incident.

Brandi thought about Vaughan and frowned. She loved him but he was out in the public wining and dining another woman. Brandi became angry again at how he had treated her. She felt betrayed, and her head throbbed horribly as she contemplated ways to get revenge.