FIBA, the International Basketball Federation. Madison swiveled around in her chair and tapped the desk with her fists. Joy seeped into her mind. FIBA asked her to join the management team in Switzerland. There weren’t any women or African Americans on the team. Kobe had made the recommendation before the accident, they’d said. After a week, she hadn’t told Jonathan. She’d tried, but the words remained lodged in her throat. What was she afraid of? She’d moved across the country with him several times. He would be excited to move to Switzerland with her.
She arranged the moradillas in a lilac vase and placed them on the table. On their first date, Jonathan had told her the story about Lady Bird Johnson and why she planted wildflower seeds. Since then, he had become enamored with the purple flowers and what they represented. He repeated it in his speeches to organizations to raise funds to fight poverty, quoting Lady Bird. “Where flowers bloom, so does hope …” She couldn’t remember what came next and it frustrated her.
The first time Jonathan asked her to move, it was to Phoenix. He made a heart out of purple rose petals because moradillas didn’t grow in D.C. “I spoke with your agent and the Phoenix Mercury has a spot for you on their team,” he’d said. She enjoyed playing for the Mystics but thought he’d made an honest gesture and taken her needs into consideration. By the third time they moved, unbeknown to him, she had changed agents and her new agent gave her strict instructions not to talk to Jonathan. So when he approached her about moving to Dallas, he cloaked it with a marriage proposal. He got down on one knee. “Madison, babe, will you marry me?” She was elated.
“Let’s tell Mom first,” Madison said.
“Wait, wait,” he said. He held her face between his hands. “When she calms down, tell her we’re moving to Dallas.”
Before Dallas, they’d lived in Los Angeles, where she was becoming a woman, realizing she had a voice. She’d negotiated her contract with the Sparks so that it included working in the front office during the off-season. She learned to play golf and spearheaded a celebrity reading-in-schools program with Kobe. She had grown tired of starting over, but Dallas was home for Jonathan and he had been offered a CEO position for a large corporation. She forfeited her contract with the Sparks and accepted an administrative position with the Dallas Wings, negotiating player contracts. She rationalized the move by convincing herself that she’d get to use her law degree even though she really wasn’t ready to unlace her sneakers.
On the menu were all of his favorites: Caesar salad, T-bone, baked potato, and German chocolate cake. She put on his beloved jazz singer as the salad chilled. She’d done everything exactly as he had every time he asked her to move, hoping he would recognize the gesture. When she heard the doorknob turn, she poured him a glass of Glenlivet neat even though the smell or taste of scotch made her nauseous.
“Babe, how did you know?” he said as he took a sip of his drink and walked toward the kitchen.
In her mind, she was practicing different scenarios of how the night would go, so she didn’t hear him. She served the salad and plated the steak and potato. It was all perfect, and she waited for him to recognize why she was doing it. She’d programmed the music so the song would play as she was sharing her news with him. She massaged her throat, hoping her words would slide out smoothly like jazz and not get backed up like the traffic on I-35. He took a bite of his steak and smiled.
She could barely swallow her wine. She removed the plates as they chatted about nothing in particular, served the German chocolate cake, and refreshed his drink. It was time.
“Babe,” she said.
“Hold that thought,” he said. “I’ve been dying to tell you this all evening.”
Madison held her breath. She crossed her fingers that he’d catch on when the song started to play. “But I have to share this with you now.”
“But,” he said as he held her hand tighter. “I didn’t want to tell you until it was certain. Today the Dallas Citizens Council selected me to run for state Sen. Royce West’s seat.”
Madison eased her hand away from his grip. Why didn’t I tell him first? Would it have made any difference? The answer was obvious. They’d always been on a highway to his future and she was along for the ride. Why hadn’t she recognized it sooner?
“They asked if we had set a date for the wedding. We have to get married before I announce,” he said.
She twisted the engagement ring around on her finger until it was near the tip. He kept talking, making plans, but to Madison his words seemed jumbled together and didn’t make any sense. As he rambled, Norah Jones belted out, “Come away with me …” Again, he was asking her to take this trip with him. She turned the ring one last time and laid it beside her plate. Her hand brushed against the vase and knocked over the wildflowers. While they hurried to stop the water, his eyes caught her left hand. As she placed the flowers in the vase, she remembered the rest of Lady Bird’s quote: “… and hope is the precious, indispensable ingredient.”
His eyes then veered over to the ring lying next to her plate, and when their eyes met, she saw that he knew there wasn’t any hope left for them.
Sanderia Faye is a speaker, activist, and sommelier. Her novel Mourner’s Bench won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction, the Philosophical Society of Texas Award of Merit for fiction, and the 2017 Arkansas Library Association Arkansiana Award. She hosts the monthly LitNight reading series.