It was the day of Phillip Morris’ funeral. The week had been emotionally draining for not only Salim but his wife, Aubrey, as well. The couple hadn’t seen or heard from Brittney since she rushed out of the house with Ryan in tow. They were extremely worried about them. Salim had hoped to spend some time with his nephew before he moved away to Boston. He never mentioned it but Aubrey was fully aware that her husband was disappointed and hurt. The funeral had been nice and simple, and Salim and Aubrey got a chance to meet Phillip’s adoptive parents and some of his old friends. She wouldn’t tell her love but she was extremely upset that Brittney hadn’t been by to see them and even had the audacity not to show up at the funeral. Aubrey was convinced that Brittney was using some type of drug, and she was close to calling child protective services. But she didn’t want to jump to conclusions, and she didn’t want to start kicking up dust especially at this difficult time in her husband’s life.
The repast was held at Salim’s community center. Salim and Aubrey sat at a table with Phillip’s adoptive parents; William and Sharon Poole. They entertained their guests, but Aubrey and Salim had barely spoken a word to each other. They remained at each other’s side and held hands occasionally. She was actually used to the silence and it didn’t bother her. Salim was barely at home when she was there, and when he was home he was in the office working. The holding of hands was more of a façade for their guests. They loved each other very much, but their relationship had gotten to the point when words were unnecessary. Their marriage was almost a routine. Aubrey tolerated it but she was not happy about how their relationship was going. She missed the days when they went out on the town for dinner and attended occasional wine tastings. She missed the nights they would spend wrapped in each other’s arms laughing and talking about any and everything. She sighed. This was the first time they had been out of the house together in months. She wondered where they went terribly wrong. Had she changed? Was Salim simply bored with her? A million thoughts of how to rekindle the flame in their marriage raced through Aubrey’s head while she sat next to her husband, who was engaged in a conversation with one of Phillip’s old band mates. Everything came to an abrupt halt when she noticed Brittney and Ryan entering the room. Numerous emotions rose in her chest. Aubrey didn’t know what to do or so say to the small woman. First, she wanted to see what her husband’s feelings were. She leaned over to her husband and whispered in his ear that Brittney was there. Salim’s head jerked as he searched for her. Once he spotted her, he excused himself from the table and headed her way. Aubrey watched as her love spoke to her.
Brittney wore a pair of black pants that showed her panty line and a black shawl over a gray camisole. Aubrey assumed the woman didn’t have formal attire. Ryan was wearing a pair of jeans and a collar shirt. His face was sad but he was still precious. Aubrey wanted to go to him and plant kisses all over his face until he finally smiled. She frowned. She had always wanted to give her husband a son, but she couldn’t. Her back stiffened and she cocked her head slightly to the side when she noticed Salim’s posture had changed and his hand movements were becoming more aggressive. Aubrey quickly excused herself from the table and joined her husband. The Salim and Brittney stopped talking when she approached, and Brittney rolled her eyes. Aubrey inhaled a deep breath before speaking. She wanted to choose her next words wisely.
“Hey, Brittney. We missed you two at the funeral and the burial ground.”
“Honey, Brittney was just telling me that she didn’t get to the burial site until after we were already gone.” Salim said stiffly.
Aubrey was confused. “Was it a transportation issue? We had plenty of room in the limo.”
“No. It wasn’t.” Brittney stated.
Aubrey could tell by Brittney’s stance and the tone of her voice that she was irritable. But Aubrey was the last person she wanted to have an attitude with. “Is there something wrong, Brittney? You never brought Ryan to the house to see us this week, you missed the funeral, and you show up to the repast late. What’s going on?”
“I came here because I can’t take Ryan with me to Boston.”
Aubrey was speechless. She looked up at her husband and noticed the look of disgust on his face. Brittney must have already told him the news. Aubrey cleared her throat. “Salim, take Ryan to our table and make him a plate. I know William and Sharon would love to see him.” Salim took Ryan’s hand and walked away. “Brittney, I think we need to talk, but not right here. Come with me.” Aubrey stated firmly. She was not asking permission. Brittney sucked her teeth but followed Aubrey out of the banquet room and into Salim’s office. She closed the door behind them and sat on her husband’s desk she had bought him for their last anniversary. “Brittney, I know something is going on, and I believe it has something to do with your relationship with Phillip. But what you are doing is not only affecting your son but also Salim, his brother.”
“What do you know?” Brittney spat. “You know nothing about Phillip or our son.”
“I’m not saying that I know you. What I am trying to say is I want to get to know you. I want to help you. Me and Salim want to help you.” Aubrey was sincere but still confused about where Brittney’s aggression was coming from.
“Help? Oh, now you want to give help? Fine! Take my son!” Brittney was yelling and had burst into tears.
“What? Why can’t you take your son with you?” Aubrey asked hesitant in approaching the volatile woman in front of her, but offered a tissue for the tears streaking her face.