“What do you need to tell me Princeton?”
My chest began to tighten as I stared into Stephanie’s hazel eyes. Uncertainty was written all over her face.
“Whadda mean love?”
“Your mom said you could get past this . . . . . . to just tell me. What do you need to tell me?”
I couldn’t drag it on any longer.
“Can we go somewhere and talk for a moment?”
She nodded in agreement and whisked me away to one of the classrooms located in the back. Stephanie closed the door as soon as I walked in. Her petite frame stood in front of the door with her arms crossed. There was no way I was leaving this computer room without disclosing the truth!
“Well . . . Stephanie . . dear. I don’t know how to say this, but I haven’t been completely honest with you”
“Honest about what?”
“About the other night in Miami”
“What about it?”
With every word, she was edging closer and closer to me. It felt as if I was in a horror movie and Stephanie was going to chop me up into pieces!
“You see . . . . . . when me and the boys went to Miami for the bachelor party . . . . things kinda got out of hand. And well . . . . . I ended up with a girl in my lap . . . .literally . . . ”
Stephanie didn’t utter a word or display any emotion. Instead, she continued her slow march towards me. I closed my eyes as I awaited the violent nature of her hand. Instead of a Boston wind crashing against my face, the softness of her lips warmed my cheek.
“Babe, was that all? Whew! For a minute there, I had a notion you were going to call off the wedding!”
“Soooo . . . . you’re not mad?”
“Mad? Princeton! I expected for you guys to have one last hurrah before the big day!”
I shook my head in agreement . . . . . still unable to divulge the entire truth.
“And here you are having all these ailments simply because you enjoyed yourself at your bachelor party! Look, whatever happened at your soiree is your business! As long as you didn’t bring any diseases home, we’re good! I can’t even begin to tell you what me and the girls did in Vegas!”
A part of me was content that Stephanie was so trusting. However, I was still unable to reveal how I truly felt. I mean, how do you tell someone that you really don’t love them? That the whole relationship was just a way for me to punish Jade? How could I convey to an innocent heart that I was merely caught up in the moment? I couldn’t! So instead, I continued to play along.
“So what happened at your party?”
“We’re not going to get into all that beloved! Just know that I love you and that I’m going to make you proud that I’m your wife!”
“I’m already proud Stephanie . . . ”
I leaned down for a kiss but she held my arms as I came close.
“It’s bad luck to kiss the bride before the wedding!”
“I thought it was bad luck to see the bride before the wedding? But here we are taking these pictures!”
“See? There’s my funny man! Let’s hurry and take these pictures so I can go pee!”
I laughed as we exited the room and made it back to the sanctuary. I was all smiles as I cozied up to Stephanie to take the remaining pictures. In the midst of the flashing lights, I caught eyes with my mother who was sitting on the first pew. That all too familiar scowl was fixed on her face. She got up and left as we finished our last round of poses.
“The next time I see you, I will be Mrs. Princeton Paul!”
I could only smile as Stephanie’s bridal party hurried her away. My stomach was churning again and I needed relief. Ant motioned me to the back but I had more pressing matters. I told him I would be back after I handled my situation. After some prayer, I made my way to the office where Ant and Bishop Hensley were sitting, watching basketball.
“There he is! The man of the hour! How are you feeling son?”
“Bishop, I really don’t know. My stomach has been doing somersaults every since I got here! I took some pepto, but I’m still running!”
“Awwwwww son, that’s just nervousness before the vows! The reality of having to share your life with someone else is sinking in. You’ll be okay!”
“I don’t think it’s just jitters. My spirit is not right about this at all and I’m thinking . . . . I just need to leave!”
Ant looked away from the game and gave me that old man glare.
“Princeton, are you seriously going through this again? Didn’t we address this at the house?”
“Yeah Ant, we talked. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that I don’t even know who Stephanie is!”
“C’mon son!! You know Stephanie! I know Stephanie! Everybody knows Stephanie!”
“Yeah, we all know her from the news and her community outreach. But fam, me and Stephanie haven’t even discussed having kids!”
“I’m sure she wants some Princeton. I think you are over analyzing shi . . I mean . . . . things again”
“Ant, it’s never safe to assume with a woman. I’m thirty-five. She’s forty-five. Her career is her baby”
“You two could always adopt man”
“It’s not just about kids. It’s how all of this happened so fast! When Stephanie met my mother, we were already engaged! My momma had never met her before that brunch two months ago! Hell, Stephanie hasn’t even met the rest of my family!”
Bishop Hensley got up from his seat and came towards me with worry on his face.
“Ant said that you were having second thoughts earlier. I think the enemy is trying to place seeds of doubt in your mind so that you don’t walk where God truly wants you to be”
“Bishop, no disrespect, but I think you’re wrong on this one. It’s God inside of me that’s telling me not to go forward. I appreciate you trying to change my mind but I’m going to get out of here while I still have the strength to do so! You will tell the congregation that there will be no wedding right?You’ll still get paid your honorarium”
“Tell you what Princeton. I’m going to go put on my robe. If you still want to leave upon my return, I’ll inform the bridal party and the congregation that you fell ill and had to go to the emergency room. Will that work?”
“Yes it will Bishop! Thank you!”
Just as I thought I was in the clear, Bishop Hensley opened the door of his study that led outside. Through the opening came three men. The first two cats reminded me of some WWE wrestlers while the third looked to be a minister himself. He was dressed in a cream custom tailored suit with cleanest brown shoes I’d ever seen! He was built like Calvin Klein model. As the three men came front and center, the good bishop left out of the other door leading to his secretary’s office. Ant jumped up and got into his fighting stance. The smooth brother stepped forward and began to speak.
“No need to bawl your fist chief! I came to speak to the groom!”
“Do I know you sir? You look familiar but I can’t place you . . . . .”
“I’m sorry. Where are my manners? My name is Eric Houston. I’m a friend of the bishop and the bride”
“So why do you wanna talk to me?”
“Well, I was informed that you were having second thoughts about marrying Ms. Amir. Is that true?”
The temperature of the room began to get real hot. I was finding it difficult to breathe as I stood face to face with Mr. Houston. Ant was still standing, ready to fight.
“Mr. Houston . . . . . not that it’s any of your concern but . . . .”
“Let me stop you right there Mr. Paul. You see, Stephanie is my business. Shortly after your wedding, your bride is going to announce that she is running for mayor of Atlanta”
“Say what? She’s never said anything about that to me?”
“Ahhhhhh, that’s because she doesn’t know it yet! You see friend, some important people are going to converse with her at the reception later this evening. Within a week, she’s going to ask you about running for office and you will agree to stand behind her”
“But if you want her as mayor, why do you need me? If you got the juice, you can do this without me!”
“But my brother, we can’t. How would it look for a mayoral candidate to be left at the altar? There would be questions about her keeping a man instead of how she plans to run the city. We can’t have you running away and having affairs with evangelists now can we?”
In that moment, my heart quickened as if I were about to have a heart attack!
“Evangelist? That means you . . . .”
“Yes Princeton. I know about your little romp with Jade Alexander in Miami. It would be a shame if anything happened to discredit her name, seeing that she worked so hard to get to where she is, right?”
Anger filled my head as I realized what was really going on. Ant looked at me and gave eye contact that he was going to take the guard nearest to him first.
“Before you fellas get fucked up, I have something to show you. Lance, if you will adjust the bishop’s television. . . .”
After a few moments, I realized that Thursday night would haunt me for the rest of my life as Mr. Houston used his iPad to cast a video of Jade riding me in the champagne room.
“Now I don’t like threatening to kill anyone or their career but Princeton, I need you to go through with these nuptials this afternoon”
“And what if I don’t?”
“Unfortunately if you don’t comply, then I will have no choice but to kill Ms. Alexander”
In that moment, Mr. Houston went from the video to a live feed of Jade driving on the highway.
“You see Mr. Paul, I have people everywhere!”
“So what do I get out of all this? Everybody is getting something out the deal except me!”
“Of course you will be compensated. I have a restaurant called The Six that’s in need of a house band. You and your guys can play there several nights a week and still do your church thing. And with Stephanie becoming mayor, it will open doors for you too! Word is Tyler Perry needs a music director for his new Madea play. All it takes is one word and you’re in there! Do we have a deal?”
It wasn’t much of a deal to me! The woman that I actually loved I could never be with . . . ever again. With pain in my heart, I gestured in agreement.
“Now see? Was that so bad? Good seeing you Princeton! Love that tux!”
Much like they entered, the three horsemen left the same way. Bishop Hensley came back dressed in his cleric attire. Ant and I stood and gazed at the wolf in sacred attire as he motioned us to follow.
“C’mon gentlemen! Let’s get married!”
Written by the Wednesday Gentleman