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A Merry Little Christmas(3)

By:Melanie Schuster

Angelique's response was instant and emphatic. "No, I won't, because I'm  never having children. Never! The day I have a baby is the day I start  believing in Santa Claus again!" Anyone else would have been startled at  the passion in Angelique's voice, but Paris was more than used to her  mercurial cousin. She nodded absently as she followed the young woman  and the sleeping baby out of the sunroom. If Paris was reading the signs  correctly, there were a great many surprises coming for Angelique in  the next few months. Maybe not a baby, but a lot of new things were  definitely on the way. There had already been so many changes in her  life, she seemed like a different person, something only those very  close to her recognized. And since Paris was as close as a sister, she  could read the signs better than anyone. Yes, my dear cousin, next  Christmas is going to be very, very different for you. You'll believe in  a lot more than Santa Claus, I guarantee it.


Angelique wasn't the only person suffering from holiday angst. Back in  Detroit, Adonis Cochran was sitting in the breakfast room of his brother  Andrew's house, looking glum. He'd been moody and withdrawn for most of  the holiday, something most unlike him. He was usually even-tempered  and extremely pleasant, with a disposition that matched his good looks.  All the Cochran men were handsome, well over six feet tall with caramel  skin, black wavy hair and beautiful dark eyes with long lashes and thick  eyebrows. And even with this bounty of male beauty, Adonis Bennett  Cochran was considered to be the best looking of the sons. The  sculptured quality of his features lent him an air of distinction that  was often embarrassing to him, especially since he was stuck with the  name "Adonis." He despised die name and answered only to Donnie.                       


Andrew's wife, Renee, was in the adjoining kitchen cooking dinner, and  took pity on Donnie. She appeared in the doorway of the breakfast room  with a look of concern on her face.

"Donnie, honey, I just hate seeing you like this. Isn't there anything I can do to cheer you up?" she asked.

He grimaced, but had the grace to look ashamed of himself. He shook his  head and rose from the table. Walking over to Renee, he embraced her.  "Nope, there's not a thing you can do, unless you can talk Aneesah into  changing her mind," he said morosely. "I still can't believe she turned  me down flat," he added, letting go of Renee and walking over to the  huge refrigerator. He opened the door and stared into it as though  something new and more appetizing had materialized since his last  inspection fifteen minutes before.

Renee tasted the contents in her big stockpot and added a bit more basil  to the fragrant spaghetti sauce she was making for dinner. She'd heard  quite a bit about Donnie's proposal during the past few days and thought  now was the time to offer some sisterly advice.

"Come and sit down while I make the garlic bread. And stop poking in the  refrigerator, we'll be eating in about thirty minutes," she reminded  him.

Donnie turned away from the refrigerator with the same hangdog  expression and nothing in his hands. He sat down at the tall work island  across from Renee and slumped onto the butcher-block top, bracing his  head with one hand while he watched her mix pressed garlic, oregano,  marjoram and basil into a bowl of softened butter. His mood had been the  same since a few days before Christmas, when his college sweetheart,  Aneesah Shabazz, turned down his proposal of marriage. He was about to  bemoan his fate again when Renee surprised him by making a few points.

"Honey, let's talk about this. I know you and Aneesah were quite close  for a long time, but your relationship basically ended when she went to  graduate school in California. You became friends, not boyfriend and  girlfriend, remember? And after she got both those master's degrees and  her Ph.D., she decided to move back to Michigan, but it wasn't like she  was moving back just to be with you. Now, I know you two have been  dating again, but frankly, I was surprised when you announced you were  going to propose to her. And I think she was just as surprised when you  presented her with that ring. Well, actually I know she was, since she  turned you down. I know it hurt your feelings, sweetie, but the thing  is," she paused as she gave the now-fragrant garlic butter a final stir,  "I don't think it really broke your heart." Giving him a loving look,  she began to spread the butter on the big loaves of dense Italian bread  she'd sliced earlier.

Donnie made a halfhearted attempt to steal a piece of the bread and was  rebuffed. He continued to look glum for a moment and then spoke. "Now  you sound like Aneesah," he admitted. "It was kind of a shock to her, I  guess, because she looked pretty stunned when I whipped out the ring.  Maybe I should have waited a while, given her a chance to get used to us  being together again. Maybe I should have waited for her to get more  settled into her new job, I don't know. I just didn't see the point in  waiting around forever, Renee. It's time that I was married, that I  started a family."

"Everybody's married except me and Adam," he continued. "And who knows  when or if Adam will ever tie the knot." He scratched the nape of his  neck and brooded about the fact that he and Adam, his older brother,  were the only two Cochrans who were still single.

Renee finished with the loaves of bread and wrapped them neatly in foil  to prepare them for the oven. "Getting married because your siblings are  married doesn't sound like a reason to propose, Donnie. There's got to  be more to it than that," she said gently.

Donnie nodded in agreement, but defended his position. "Look, Renee, I  feel like I'm ready to get married. As far as business is concerned,  things couldn't be going better. The stations are thriving; the merger  with the Deveraux Group is paying off beautifully. I'm working on some  more creative outlets for Cochran Communications that look really  promising. But my life can't be all about business. I want what you and  Andrew have, what Bennie and Clay have, what everyone around me seems to  have in abundance. I want a real home and a real family with a loving  wife and kids and I want it before I'm ninety. I don't think that's  asking too much, do you?"

Renee regarded her brother-in-law with amazement. "Donnie, I've never  heard you talk like this before. You've been so busy dating all those  beautiful ladies of yours that it never occurred to me you were thinking  seriously about matrimony. Or did you just start thinking about it when  Aneesah moved back to Detroit?"                       


Donnie looked reflective for a moment, and then acknowledged that he  really wasn't sure. "All I know is Aneesah is the kind of woman I want  to marry. She's brilliant, educated, accomplished and beautiful," he  said, ticking off the points on his fingers. "And she's the right size,  which you know is a non-negotiable requirement," he added with a laugh.

Renee made a sound of reproach but Donnie was unrepentant. He had a  weakness for big, beautiful women and he made no secret of the fact that  a full-figured woman was the only kind who could catch his eye. He'd  never been known to date anyone who wore less than a size eighteen, and  Aneesah, who was five-nine and curvy, more than fulfilled his wishes in  that respect. But, as Renee was glad to inform him, those attributes  weren't enough on which to build a lasting future.

"Well, I see you've given this some thought," she said ironically.  "However, checking off a laundry list isn't exactly the way to begin a  relationship, much less a marriage. Just because you feel like you're  compatible with someone doesn't mean the two of you are destined to be  together. There has to be something more, you know."

Donnie scowled and opened the refrigerator again. He was about to defend  his impulsive behavior when the back door opened and a horde of little  girls poured in. It wasn't a true horde, it was merely his four nieces  followed by their father, his oldest brother, Andrew. After shouting  greetings to their mother, the little girls made a beeline for their  uncle, who soon found himself in a tangle of arms, legs, cold cheeks,  and wet kisses. Donnie, who was quite adept at removing coats and hats  and scarves, made himself useful by getting his nieces out of their  outdoor gear. They had been visiting relatives with their father and  were quite animated as they told him about their day.

"We saw Granddaddy and Grandmommy, Uncle Donnie. And we saw our cousins,  too," reported little Andie. Andie was short for Andrea, and she was a  mirror image of her mother, with velvety chocolate skin and big golden  eyes. The triplets, Benita, Ceylon and Stephanie, whose chatter was  punctuated by the barks of Renee's little dogs, Patti and Chaka, made  additional comments. Donnie was buried under a pile of little girls, all  talking and hugging for all they were worth. He adored his nieces and  reveled in their attention, but tonight their presence only served to  underscore the unsettled feeling he'd been battling. He could see into  the kitchen from his vantage point in the breakfast room and what he saw  didn't help his mood one bit. Even after several years of marriage,  Andrew and Renee were in the warm, fragrant kitchen kissing and flirting  like teenagers. Their love surrounded them like a halo of light,  shining so brightly that only a fool could have missed the fact that  they were totally in love with each other. Their closeness only  underscored his odd mood, and he was more than glad when Renee announced  it was time to wash up for dinner.