“Okay. Dress, jeans, blouse, heels, boots…,” Nicole was trying to name off everything she thought she would need for this weekend excursion. She had been searching for her father for years, but she never thought she would actually get a hit. Like a legitimate one. But, low and behold, she did. Now, she was having to face up to her fears while trying desperately to speed pack and catch this red-eye flight from Memphis to Indy.
“What the hell was I thinking?” she thought as she raced around her tiny apartment trying her best to think of everything she might need. “What if he doesn’t like me after all these years? What if I don’t like him?” She just couldn’t get her father off her mind. Would he be the same? Well, after fifteen plus years, he was probably not going to be the same Nicole, duh, she thought as she smiled and shook her head. She could be a regular comedian sometimes, but she needed that. It helped to break up all the tension that had been building inside her.
Pulling her suitcase off her bed and sitting it upright, she felt ready to take her flight. Her father leaving at such a young age was devastating to her, and she was determined to get some answers. After all, she had a lot of questions, but, most importantly, she wanted to know why. Why did he leave? And, why did she have to find him all this time? Didn’t he want to look for her?
Her phone vibrated, and she looked down and opened a text message that read “Your Uber driver, Phillip, has just arrived. He is driving a black Prius.” Grabbing the handle of her roll-on suitcase, she looked around her tiny apartment one last time. She was coming back, but she wanted to remember what it looked like before because, after this weekend, nothing would ever be the same.
Traffic on the way to the airport was pretty light, thank goodness. Her flight was at midnight, and, peering at the clock on the driver’s dash, she was going to barely make the cutoff of the minimum requirement of checking in two hours before your flight if Phillip didn’t step on it. He was an older guy, probably retired from his day job and just used Uber to moonlight, and he was just cruising the fuck along with not a care in the world. However, Nicole, being the impatient one she could sometimes be, chimed in, “Uh, Philip, do you think you could speed it up a little? I have a flight that I need to check-in for, and you know how these airports are about security these days.”
“Yes ma’am, I know,” he responded in his Jamaican accent. “I’ll get you there on time, don’t worry.”
“Okay,” she grumbled as she relaxed into the backseat and fitted her earbuds in her ear. She felt the pressure of today lift off her as the sounds of Kenny G wafted through her ears. He always helped her relax and center.
After a couple of minutes, she sat up and snatched the earbuds out of her ears, searching through her purse for a snack. She ended up finding a package of peanut butter crackers she had packed for the flight. The food and snacks were always terribly overpriced at the airport so she tried to pack light snacks to skip on dishing out that dollar.
“If you don’t mind me asking ma’am,” Phillip started, “where are you traveling? It’s a little late for such a pretty lady to be going somewhere?”
Normally, Nicole would have taken questions like this to jump on the defensive, but the way Philip was asking them, it made her feel like he was really concerned about her safety. So, going against her better self, she bit...
“I’m going on a business trip.” Okay, she decided to fib a little because he didn’t need to know everything. “It was something last minute that came up so it really couldn’t be helped. I’ve traveled at night many times, though. I’ll be fine.”
“Well, just be careful,” he said as he quietly ended the conversation and allowed Nicole to get back to her music. Before she knew it, a couple more minutes had passed and the music was ending, and so were her package of peanut butter crackers.
“We’re here, miss,” she heard Philip say through the music, and he turned around so she was sure he had just said what she thought she had heard.
“Already,” she said, a little louder than she expected for it to come out. “Great.” She crumpled the empty plastic in her hands and gathered up her purse and jacket to exit the vehicle.
To her surprise, Philip had actually come around and opened the door for her. It was different, but it was a good different.
“Have a nice flight,” he said as he hoisted her suitcase from the trunk of the Uber.
“Thank you,” Nicole said as she went to take the handle of the suitcase from his grip.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” Phillip said, reaching into his shirt pocket. “Here’s my card. Call me anytime you need a ride.”
“I will,” Nicole said, retreating to the sidewalk for airport passengers. “Thank you.”
With that, she turned around and proceeded through the automatic double doors that led to her airline’s terminal.
Walking off the plane onto the landing strip connecting to the airport terminal, Nicole couldn’t wait to get to baggage claim and get her bags. Her feet were aching even though she had made sure to wear some comfy tennis shoes and her stomach was growling louder than a junkyard dog. All in all, though, she was glad that she was back in Indy.
So, this is where her father had skirted off to all those years ago. Hmph! Why Naptown though? And, why did he leave her and her mom to come back? Here? She was going to find out that and more she was sure over the next few days, but, now, it was time for some Foon Yin Chinese takeout from her favorite Chinese restaurant on 38th & Shadeland and a room at the Drury Inn & Suites down the street from there. Really, they were all screaming her name…
Nicole couldn’t wait to get the day started and look for this nigga that she called her father. She respected him and everything because he was her dad, but don’t get it twisted. She was never going to forget what he did. Raymond Samuels knew what the hell he was doing when he left Nicole and her mother when she was nine years old. No “see ya later” or “have a nice fucking life,” this negro just up and bounced. Split. Got down, and, then, got the hell out. But why? Nicole was going to find that out.
Putting the finishing touches on her beat, she grabbed her backpack and let the hotel door close, watching her exit shadow. She was meeting up with one of her cousins today. Her name was Keyshia; she and Nicole had always stayed in contact over the years. And, when Nicole told her that she had received information that her father had moved back to Indy, Keyshia told her she’d keep a lookout. After all, he was her uncle. So, if she didn’t see him now, she would probably see him sooner or later.
“What up, Keysh’,” Nicole shouted to her cousin out the window of the Uber as it pulled into her aunt’s driveway. She had requested a ride that morning, and it was at her hotel in less than ten minutes. These rideshares are a godsend she thought as she exited the Uber promising the driver, Mario, a good review. She really didn’t want to rent a rental car for a couple days. It was just more convenient for her to call an Uber when she needed it. Plus, she had family here so they could always help her get around if it came to that.
“What up, cuz?” Keyshia cried as she hugged Nicole. “Long time, no see.”
“I know,” said Nicole. “I won’t wait so long next time; I just wanted to see what was up with my dad. You seen him around?”
“Yea, I’ve seen him,” Keyshia reluctantly told Nicole. When Nicole had called Keyshia and told her that she had received word that her father was in Indy, Keyshia did tell her that she would see him from time to time.
“Ok,” Nicole said. “You know where I can find him?”
“Yea, I do,” responded Keyshia, “but, Nicole, there’s some shit you need to know. Something that you not gon’ like.”
“What you mean? I already don’t like this situation, but I need to find out what happened? Why my dad leave?”
“I know why he left,” said Keyshia.
“You know?” asked Nicole.
“Yea, I know,” answered Keyshia.
“Well, why then? Why he leave,” asked Nicole.
“He left--,” Keyshia started, fidgeting with her fingers, nervous as hell. She knew how Nicole could overreact, and she was afraid this was going to be one of those times.
“Keysh?” Nicole said her name, worried that something was terribly wrong.
“Yea?” answered Keyshia.
“I said, why? Why did my dad leave?” asked Nicole.
“He left because--,” Keyshia took a deep breath. “He left because he has another family. Right around the corner at 30th and Keystone. I’m sorry.”
Another family Nicole thought as she processed the words that had just came from Keyshia’s mouth. Another damn family? What about us?
“Another family?,” Nicole reiterated, this time to Keyshia. “All this time?”
“Yea, girl. I’m sorry,” Keyshia said, trying to hug her cousin, but Nicole backed away.
Thank goodness Mario hadn’t left yet Nicole said to herself as she turned around, and spotted the canary yellow Camaro still in the driveway. Mario must have been checking the directions for his next ride, but she was going to see if he could fit her in real quick.
“Hey Keysh,” Nicole started, “I’mma see you later okay.”
“But Nicole, you just got here, and mama wants to see you,” Keyshia said.
“I know. I’m sorry,” said Nicole apologizing. “Tell Aunt Pearl I’ll be back later on, aight? There’s just something I need to check on right now.”
“Aight,” agreed Keyshia. “But, hey, Nicole, are you okay?”
“Yea, I’m okay,” Nicole lied. “Just do what I say. I’ll be back later.”
“Okay,” said Keyshia, walking back towards her mama’s house.
Nicole waved bye and turned around to catch Mario before he backed out the drive. Hopefully, he would be able to fit her in his schedule, and swing her back to the hotel ‘cause, right now, she needed a drink.
As Nicole exited the Uber, she made a note to herself to give Mario five stars and an extra tip for bringing her back to the hotel “off the clock.” In turn though, she did take his card and promised him that she would check for him on Uber rides from now on, or at least while she was here in Indy.
Pulling the double doors open, she walked into the hotel lobby and looked to where they held the bar. It looked pretty empty, but the bartender was there so she moseyed on over. Another family? She was going to need a drink for this one. A stiff one. And, something neat. A drink on the rocks won’t cut it for this.
She walked up to the bar and sat on one of the stools. When the bartender looked to her for confirmation, she ordered a Jack Daniels Whiskey neat. It was the middle of the afternoon, but she was dealing with something heavy. Reaching into her purse and fumbling around all her what-nots, she pulled out her phone and called the only person she wanted to talk to right now.
“Hello,” a deep male voice said on the other end of the line.
“Hey James.” Nicole greeted her boss as she shifted to get comfortable on the stool.
“You okay?” He was actually the only one, besides her cousin, Olivia, that she had told she was coming to Indy to find her father. She hadn’t even told her mom. Her attraction to James was baffling to her, to say the least. Dude was married, and she knew that, but, yet and still, there was something about him that made her stick.
“No, I’m far from okay,” Nicole said honestly. She really wished she could tell him that she was fine, but she couldn’t. She felt like her insides were falling to pieces, and, truth be told, James was the only person she wanted to catch them. After she let him know what her feelings were the first time though, and he turned her down, she really tried to be respectful of his situation. Not that she had a choice.
“What happened?” he asked, seeming really interested in her dilemma.
“I went to visit my cousin Keyshia this morning, and, when I got there, she told me my father had another family,” said Nicole, sighing.
“She just told you that?” inquired James. “Just out of the blue?”
“No,” admitted Nicole. “I had been asking her to watch out for my dad since I found out he came back up here. So, when I asked her if she had seen him, it took her a minute, but she finally got out that he was living up here with another family.”
“Wow,” said James, letting out the breath that he was holding. Nicole couldn’t see him through the phone, of course, but he was plenty concerned, rubbing his head and trying to think.
“Yea,” sighed Nicole, picking up her tumbler of Jack and downing it with one shot. The bartender, Neil, eyed her skeptically. He knew, for her to be drinking like that this early in the day, she was having it rough.
“Are you sure you’re going to be okay?” asked James. Even though he was just letting them be friends, she appreciated his concern.
“I’ll be okay,” she said, laying her forehead down on the bar. She was already feeling the effects of the Jack. Maybe she should have gotten it on the rocks. “I just had a drink at the hotel bar so I’m finna go and lay down. I’m going to get out later to go and see my cousin again though so she can go with me to see my dad. I didn’t come up here for nothing, and I’m only here for one more day.”
“Ok. Well, call me later, alright,” James barked it out like it was an order, but it sounded more like a request.
“Ok,” said Nicole. “I will.”
She really didn’t know what was happening between her and James, but she kinda liked it.
Nicole woke up refreshed from her nap. Thank goodness that Jack didn’t leave her waking up with a hangover. She didn’t have time to deal with that right now. Jumping up off the bed, she grabbed her cell phone right quick and called Keyshia to let her know she was on her way over. Keyshia already knew that Nicole wanted her to go with her to see her dad.
She called up Mario as promised from earlier, and, since he was already in the area, he was there in less than five minutes. Nicole was refreshed and ready to go, having brushed her teeth and checked her hair when she got up.
When she pulled up to Aunt Pearl’s, Keyshia was already waiting for her outside. Nicole waved her over, and she came and got in the backseat.
“Wow, this is a nice car,” she said.
“Thanks,” Mario said. “I’ve been hustlin’ hard with this Uber thing trying to get it and keep it.”
“Well, it shows,” Keyshia said, sitting back and looking over at Nicole. “You okay?”
“Yea girl. I’m good,” Nicole said, remembering how she just abruptly left this morning. “I’m sorry for leaving like that,” she apologized.
“Girl, don’t even worry about it,” said Keyshia, honestly. “You had just found out a lot, and, really, you doin’ better than me, still wantin’ to go over and see him.
“Well, he’s the reason I came here so I might as well get it over with,” said Nicole.
“Is this the house?,” Mario interjected during a brief pause in their conversation.
“Yes,” directed Keyshia. “It’s the reddish-brown brick on the left.” After she pointed to the house, and he pulled into the driveway, she turned to Nicole and asked her, “Are you ready?”
“I think so,” Nicole said nervously as she grabbed her compact from her purse and checked her lipstick.
“Girl, you look fine,” Keyshia said, grabbing her hand. She knew she was scared. “You really do.”
“Okay, let’s go,” Nicole finally said.
“You want me to wait here, Ms. Lady?” Mario asked through the passenger-side window in the front.
“No, we’ll be fine. I’ll call you when I’m ready,” Nicole said.
“Ok,” said Mario. “I should be in the area.”
Nicole and Keyshia started to walk up the drive to the front door, but Nicole stopped moving her feet when she spotted a figure at the screen door. “My dad. That’s my dad,” she whispered to no one in particular, tearing up.
“Yea, that’s him,” Keyshia admitted. “I know he don’t look the same, but he probably hasn’t aged that much. Come on.”
“Hey Uncle Raymond,” Keyshia started shouting as they got close to the porch. “Do you remember--?”
“Nicole,” Nicole’s dad finished Keyshia’s sentence as he came out from the screen door and wiped his eyes. “Nicole? Is that really you?”
“Yea. It’s me,” Nicole said, walking up to her father and extending her arms for a hug. Even though she was mad at him for leaving, he was still her dad, and she really needed a hug from him right now.
“Nicole, girl, come here and give yo’ old man a hug,” he said, and she could see water puddling up in his eyes when she enclosed on his embrace.
She really couldn’t understand it though. Why was he crying? He was the one that up and left. She should be the one crying, or better yet, flipping the fuck out, but she wasn’t gon’ stoop to that level though.
“Y’all come on in,” Nicole’s father said as he stepped to the side so they could come into the living room. It was very neat and tidy. And, perfect for a cute little family. Nicole’s blood started boiling just thinking about it. He left her for “this cute little family.”
Nicole was still looking around, surveying the place when she felt Raymond’s eyes on her. “Nicole, come and sit down.”
She could tell that he was getting prepared to say something, and, whatever it was, she wasn’t going to make it easy for him. He sat back in his La-Z-boy, reclining back and squeezing both palms of his hands into his face. She could tell her sudden appearance was stressin’ him, and, as much as she knew it made her a bitch, she was lovin’ it.
“Nicole, I know why you’re here,” he started.
“You do?,” Nicole asked with a hint of attitude.
“Yeah, I do. You wanna know why…,” he continued.
“Why then?” Nicole asked, this time with an all-out attitude. She really didn’t care if he knew she was mad.
“It was just a lot going on back then,” he whispered in a low voice, more to him than to her.
Nicole looked to Keyshia to go on ‘cause, really, she was just over it and ready to go, but she wanted to be fair and give him an opportunity to explain. She wasn’t going to be that heartless.
“I was young and stupid, and I made some mistakes, but I loved you though,” he said, the water starting to run from his eyes now. He reached in his shirt pocket and pulled out his handkerchief. Around his neighborhood, he was respectfully known as “that nigga,” but, right now, he was just a father trying to say he was sorry, but didn’t have any idea on how to do it.
Nicole lost it after that. She was already the emotional type, but, when he said the words she forever chased after a man to say, her tears just flowed. She wasn’t that Christian that went to church every Sunday, but she did believe in God. And, God said you supposed to forgive. Even when it’s hard. Even when it’s killing you, and she couldn’t lie. Right now, it was breakin’ her.
But, God said forgive.
So, she did.
Thank you for reading “Caught Up - Father’s Day Episode.”