Chapter 48: Breaking Bread with the Mistress

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Despite Safiya's attempts at stalling, she arrived at Sweet Paprika, a bistro just outside of the Congress District just three minutes behind schedule. Cumin and garlic greeted her as she entered the quaint eatery with its stone floors and butcher-block tables. She turned her back on the empty hostess podium and ran here eyeliner-etched eyes over the occupied tables. No one looked familiar. She dragged her hand down her sleek ponytail feeling a lump swell in her throat. As her hand moved from her tresses to the zipper of her purse, her eyes picked up the stately woman on the patio.

Safiya skirted around waiters carrying trays of delectable entrees, offering excuse me's as she made her way to the patio doors. She ignored the little voice in the back of her head that informed her that she was making a stupid decision and that it was a mistake meeting with wife of the man she slept with. She tightened her fist around the leather purse strap as she neared the table where her ex-boyfriend's wife sat.

"Sorry for being late." Safiya's slid onto the black metal chair. "I got caught up."

Mrs. Russell with her smooth black locks framing her sharp cheekbone face, "Oh, I just got here myself." She offered a smile that appeared genuine but Safiya was buying it. She knew that woman could cut to the quick if she wanted too. "I ordered us some pomegranate hibiscus tea. If that's alright with you?"

"That's cool." Safiya told as she draped her purse strap over the chair's back, "I like tea."

"Something else we share." Mrs. Russell quipped then pulled her lips into a thin line.

Safiya flexed her shoulders feeling the sun's ray on her back, "I didn't come here to fight."

"Neither did I." Mrs. Russell closed the leather-bound menu she was studying. "I wasn't trying to be catty, honestly. I want to work—" She stopped at the gangly waiter sauntered over to their table with two tall glasses with a few ice cubes floating at the top.

He flashed a smile as she sat the cups on the table, "Your friend's here."

"Oh, were not friends." Safiya hastily corrected with a wave of her hand. "We're..." Her eyes darted to Mrs. Russell as her mind with amiss as to what they were.

"Acquaintances." The older woman filled in.

"O—kay." The waiter wiped his hand down his apron then plucked his notepad and pen from the front pocket. "What would you lovely ladies like?"

"I'm fine." Safiya quickly chirped knowing she just had fifteen dollars in her purse and that was already destined for her gas tank.

"The pasta primavera is good here." Mrs. Russell offered handing the waiter her menu. "I'll have the cob salad with balsamic vinegar and gruyère instead of feta. Thank-you."

The waiter turned his sight to Safiya with his ballpoint pen resting on the pad.

"I said I'm fine." Safiya repeated handing him back the menu filled with things she couldn't afford.

He reluctantly took the menu from Safiya and clicked his pen, "Your meal will be right out." He gave the ladies an award-winning smile and headed back into the restaurant.

"I can't just sit here and eat in front of you." Mrs. Russell peeled the lemon slice off the rim of the glass. "That would be rude."

"I had a baby by your husband. I think we're miles past rude." Safiya scratched at the nonexistent inch on her nose. "You came to my office at T.U.G the other day to as you put it 'fix things'. What do you mean by that?"

Mrs. Russell squeezed lemon juice in her tea, "You like to cut to the chase. I remember." She dropped the citrus fruit on a saucer then wiped her hands on the linen napkin. "After you left, I realized I was taking all my hostility out on if you were the one I made the vow to with that being said, Carter and I decided to go to therapy."

"That's good, I guess." Safiya half-shrugged. "Carter is the last thing on my mind so if this lunch was a plow to see if I still held some affection for him...we both wasted time and gas."

"I see." Mrs. Russell nodded slowly. "So, woman to woman, when he told me it was over—he wasn't lying."

"I can't speak for him but..." Safiya clasped her balmy hands in her lap feeling the bittersweet thud in her heart. "It's over for me."

Mrs. Russell's chest rose up as she inhaled a breath that seemed to be the first steady one she had since learning about her husband's extramarital affair.

"I believe you." Mrs. Russell tucked her auburn hair behind her ear. The sun's radiance made her gold earrings gleam; earrings that were familiar to Safiya since Carter gave her the same pair last year. "You seem honest."

"I try to be." She fiddled with the cubic zirconia studs in her earlobe not as luxurious as the Chanel earrings Carter gave her.

Mrs. Russell faintly smiled as she regained her elegant posture; "Carter and I were thinking that for our families sake...Ameera could spend the weekends at our house. I know you're still in college." She gestured to Safiya. "And I know how difficult it is having a baby and going to classes are."

"I t-think..." The back of Safiya's throat burned with emotions. "That could be something we could make work."

"How does next weekend sound."

"That sounds..." Safiya thought about the eight-hour shift she had on Saturday and two exams she had to study for. "Doable."

Do you think Mrs. Russell is really trying to mend things with Safiya or does she have ulterior motives?

 Russell is really trying to mend things with Safiya or does she have ulterior motives?

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