“Hot damn!” she cursed, swimming back to where Malisa now stood. “When are these people going to put some heat in this water?”
Malisa laughed. “You know it’s cold for only the first few minutes, Mama. They’ll have you sweating up a storm before you know it.”
Miss Etta grunted, rolling her eyes. Before she could comment further the familiar faces that made up the early morning class dropped into the water to join them.
Malisa and her mother both smiled and nodded their hellos as people began to greet them. Both women didn’t miss that Irene Hill was the only one who didn’t have anything to say, not even bothering to look in their direction. Miss Etta had had just about enough of Irene’s rude behavior and it wouldn’t take much more for her to say so, she thought.
“Let me tell you a story,” Miss Etta started, leaning against her daughter’s shoulder. “Now we done told you a dozen or more times about how your Daddy and I met up but I don’t remember if I ever told you about me and Beau Hill.”
Malisa shook her head. “No, I don’t think you did.”
“Well,” the woman started. “Before I met and married Gattis, Beau Hill used to chase after me like a chubby kid chases cake. This was before he was married to Miss Irene over there.” She gestured at the woman with her head and a raised eye. Wasn’t my fault old Beau was all worked up over me. I just had it going on like that!”
She grinned and winked at Malisa as she continued. “But it didn’t take me long to figure out that Beau wasn’t worth my energy, so I had to let him go. Hard! You would have thought I’d broken up with Irene the way she be actin’. The woman still burns hot with spite that I had him before she did!”
Malisa chuckled, her head waving from side to side. “And then you met Daddy?”
"That rights. See, what Beau had to offer didn’t amount to more than a bland frankfurter with no bun. Two bites and you were done with it, the taste not even lingering against your tongue. I like a man who comes with the works: chili, spice, onion, and slaw. A man who leaves you wishing you had ordered just one more of him with a side of fries and a thick milkshake. Your daddy was like that, a full meal with leftovers!”
Malisa laughed heartily.
“And Gabriel Whitman, well, daughter, know it when I tell you, that man is an all-you-can-eat buffet special with free sweet tea and banana pudding for dessert. He’ll keep you fed and fed well for a good long time,” she said with another wink of her eye. “This is not an opportunity you want to pass up, Malisa.”
She started to move toward the center of the pool as she tossed one last look in Irene’s direction. “Irene’s problem,” Etta concluded, laughing softly as she propelled herself through the water, Malisa trailing behind her, “is she needs to slip out and get herself a real meal instead of settling for that snack she’s married to.” Excerpt from Her Holiday Gifts by Deborah Fletcher Mello