Title: Best Laid Plans
Author: B. Hollidae
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: April 16, 2019
After spending all her twenties attending the weddings of her close friends and peers and having nothing but bad luck in the area of love despite her best-laid plans, Spring decides she’s skipping the love and marriage and headed straight to the baby carriage with the decision to get artificially inseminated.
But at her best friend’s wedding, she meets the best man, Bilal, and they click over a mutual admiration for art and geek culture.
He’s not looking for a relationship. Even if he was, he just broke off an engagement two months before he was supposed to say “I do,” and he’s not willing to talk about it.
Huge red flag.
It’s easy for Spring to overlook, though. Not only is he a nice guy, but he sees the woman who doesn’t need anyone to take care of her but wants to be taken care of anyway.
What they decide to start together is supposed to be casual, giving Spring a chance to enjoy the fun of a relationship as long as it will last before she carries out her baby plans.
However, slowly but surely, the line between casual and serious starts to blur, and Spring has to start thinking about the tough questions. Do she and Bilal really want the same things? Does it really matter?
Just maybe what she plans for and what the universe gives her will be the exact same thing. And if it’s not, dare she hope for something better?
I look up from my phone at a dark-skinned man with a medium curly top drop fade haircut and short trimmed beard and glasses on his face. I recognize him as Jared’s best man, the man who escorted me down the aisle. He could be maybe near my age, but he’s still got some of that awkward youthful charm and baby fat. So it’s hard to tell. Lord knows people always act shocked when I’ve told them I’m twenty-nine because they think I’m younger. Technically, I’m thirty now, but I haven’t had a chance to tell that to anyone yet.
“Yeah?” I ask
“Mind if I sit here?”
“Oh. Uh. Yeah,” I finally say starting to grab my purse off the table. I actually do mind. There are a bunch of other empty and abandoned tables he could have gone to, but he came back here to mine.
“It’s fine,” he says and sits a couple of seats away from me. He plops what looks like a sketch pad on the table, bends his head so close to the pad that he’ll definitely have a crook in his neck later, and begins to draw.
Normally, when someone gets near my space like this and minds their own business, I go back to my own little headspace. But there’s something about this man that gives me a sense of Deja-vu.
“Hey,” I say before I can stop myself causing him to turn his head in my direction even though he’s still hunched over his pad.
He looks behind him first and then looks at me again and points to himself.
I nod and then ask, “Have we met? Like before this whole wedding thing.”
He squints his eyes at me. “I don’t think so.”
“Um…” He looks at his sketch pad and then back at me.
I know that look. It’s that look that says he really didn’t come back here to be bothered. Now seeing him with his sketch pad, I’m guessing he chose to sit back here with me because it’s the table furthest away from the excitement at the front near the dance floor even though the music fills the whole venue.
I understand his sentiment. I’m back here because people have exhausted me, and I want to be by myself and not talk to anyone but… There’s something familiar about this guy. Maybe he reminds me of a celebrity or something. But I can’t figure it out if I don’t get him talking. His fault for invading my space.
“Trying to get away from the insanity?” I ask, having to raise my voice as those near the front who weren’t already on the dance floor rush to the dance floor as the “Cupid Shuffle” comes on.
“Yeah,” he says not impolite but in a curt manner which tells me that it wasn’t to talk to me.
“What are you drawing?”
“Oh.” He looks back at his pad again and then shakes his head and says to me, “Nothing.”
“You could have just told me you don’t want to show it to me.”
His eyes widen and he shakes his head quickly as he says, “I didn’t mean it like that. I just… You wouldn’t be interested anyway.”
Definitely younger than me. Something about his tone. It’s not childish but he sounds like I did when I was twenty-three or so and hadn’t figured out that I was actually a whole adult yet.
“It’s okay,” I assure. “I get it. When you’re creating it’s like… It’s like your baby. Fragile and developing. The scrutiny of the world would kill it before it got a chance to shine.”
“Yeah. Yeah, that’s it,” he says looking surprised and decidedly more interested in talking as he sits up. “You’re an artist.”
“Ish?” he asks raising an eyebrow and all of a sudden the awkwardness is gone and suddenly I’m not so sure about his age anymore. Now he seems older. It doesn’t help that his voice is a deep smooth baritone that I’m pretty sure has practically melted the panties off women in the past. And now that I look closer at him, he has a certain stockiness to him that’s not the result of working out. It’s closer to a man who has finally filled out the body puberty gave him. Maybe not so young after all.
“I code and program stuff,” I say. “It’s not the same but…”
“It’s still an act of creating,” he says and then looks at the chair that separates us. “Can I?”
He slides over into the chair and slides his pad between us so that I can see what he’s drawing. It’s the vague outline of a body but there are no recognizable features. Nothing that distinguishes it from anything else.
“What is it?” I ask.
He shrugs as he starts to draw again. “I don’t know. I never know until the end.”
“How is that?”
“Because a lot of times I just draw what I feel and whatever shapes I want, and I have to wait for the big picture.”
“You must have something in mind. You can’t draw it if you don’t. I can’t design something from code if I have no idea what it’s going to look like.”
“A human being,” he replies cheekily.
I scoff and roll my eyes.
“So coding? What kind of coding?” he asks.
“Building and flipping websites mostly.”
I shrug. “Eh. It pays the bills. Pretty boring actually.”
“You said mostly. What else do you do with it?”
“You’re going to laugh.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Most people do. They think it’s silly.”
“Because I’m supposed to be some sophisticated professional black woman. And… people think it’s silly or that I have no clue what I’m talking about.”
“But you do it anyway?”
“On the down low… ish. Most of my friends know.”
“Okay. Now you have to tell me.”
I sigh and say, “I’m a gamer. I like to reverse engineer them and explore the metadata and understand what makes them tick so I can demolish people in gameplay later.”
“What’s your favorite video game?” he asks as a grin spreads across his face.
“You’re going to think it’s cliché.”
“I guess I can see why you don’t broadcast that. But I think that’s neat, sweetheart.”
I’d correct him for calling me sweetheart because usually when guys use it on me and they don’t know me it’s because they’re being condescending or patronizing and not taking me seriously. But I can tell that’s not how he means it.
“You really think so?”
“Heck yeah. There’s a whole bunch of white guys on Youtube making videos and making a living doing that stuff. It’s awesome that you’re a geek. You could make a Youtube channel actually. Call it… Call it ‘black girl plays Pokémon.’ Or maybe not. I think there’s an old gamer girl with that name because my friend practically worships her.”
I shrug. “It’s just a hobby. Something for fun. Nothing serious.”
“It’s cool though. Pokémon’s dope. Gaming is dope, period.”
We fall into a comfortable silence after that while everyone dances and Mariah makes rounds and thanks people as she collects cards in a yellow gift bag. No one bothers either of us for the rest of the night. He draws and I just watch him draw until, finally, the DJ announces he’s going to play one more song and that “nobody has to go home but you gotta get the hell up outta here.”
I hear my name from the front where the rest of the bridal party is coming together to gather the wedding gifts.
“Maid of honor duties?” he asks sympathetically.
“Maid of honor duties,” I say dryly. “God I can’t wait until I get home. And then I’m going to sleep and not answer my phone.”
“Lucky you. I’m responsible for gathering all these tuxes and returning them to the rental shop.” He groans.
I wince and say, “Yeah… you definitely win for who has it worse. Good luck with getting those tuxedoes back intact.”
“I’m going to need it,” he says like he’s dreading it but he’s smiling.
My heart rate picks up, and I feel a distinct ache between my legs. I don’t think he’s my type personality wise, but he’s handsome and charming in a bit of an awkward yet appealing way. If I were younger, this would be the part where I would give him my address for later tonight. I bet he’s good in bed, if not a little timid. Those types are always fun. At least they used to be.
When I was ten years younger and had all the time in the world to settle down and find someone, one-night-stands were awesome and freeing and satiated my need for instant sexual gratification because I wanted nothing else. But now, those kinds of encounters have gotten old and giving into sexual hunger usually only leaves me wanting for something that will last a lot longer than the orgasm. Something much less tangible and quantifiable.
Shana’s urging behind me prevents me from making a decision I might regret as I grab my purse and take off before either one of us can say anything to each other. And by the time we’ve taken all the gifts away, some to the bride’s mother’s car and some up to the suite the bride and groom have for the night, the guy with the sketch pad is long gone from the table in the back corner.
Ali & Anna