Part 9

by CM Towns

   The home team of Jessie, Elijah, Reed, Aamil, Eartha, Go and Pearl (along with Michie who begged to come along) arrived in New York just before the afternoon. They flew into a private airport in Red Creek. With a little radar jamming and some lookouts they landed quickly and parked the Tuskegee-2 inside a large private hanger arranged by Elijah’s family. The team drove out in two vehicles, one was their custom mini-van which was transported on the flier. The second vehicle was car that had also been arranged by Elijah’s family. The two groups made their way from this airport all the way into Manhattan.
   The drive took over an hour before arriving in one of the legendary five Boroughs. The two cars made their way to a high end luxury hotel and before arriving Elijah called to make sure things were set in place. Once inside the lot, the lead car parked and Jessie popped out first to check the surroundings. She was nervous. Jessie initially planned to set up camp under the city but Elijah offered his services to help with travel and lodging. It was risky what Elijah proposed but Collingsworth money could make it work and the idea of a large suite for the mission went over well with the teammates involved.
   Jessie caught sight of a tall man heading her way. Defensive, she stood at the ready hoping it was the contact. Dressed in a suit-minus the coat-the black man looked to be in his late thirties or early forties with movie star good looks.
   The man extended his hand and said, “You must be Reina. My name is ELIJAH COLLINGSWORTH, THE SECOND.”

   Jessie was stunned, taking in a deep breath and not letting it out. She was not expecting this and her legs were suddenly wobbly. Jessie was not the kind of girl who liked to meet her partners parents. She shook his hand and Elijah came from the driver side and shared a hug with his father.
   “Dad! What are you doing here?” he asked with a big smile.
   “When you called I figured it was time for a family vacation. So I brought everyone over,” he answered with a big smile.
   “Yeah? Thats great! This is a wonderful surprise,” Elijah said overjoyed.
   “Excuse me-the cameras?” asked Jessie.
   “They’re not on. In fact, none of the staff will be coming down for a few minutes. So we should move everyone quickly,” the elder Elijah explained.
   Jessie nodded and gave the order. The group followed Elijah’s dad to a private elevator and all squeezed in, leaving their gear to be retrieved later. The elevator ride took them to the floor just below the top. They all piled out and down a small hall to an open door.
   “Holy shit! This place is massive!” Eartha shouted.
   Everyone scattered around the living area of the suite. Pearl and Michie looked out the windows into the city. Reed found a seat to stretch out on. Eartha and Go went to look at the rooms and Aamil found his way to the kitchen.
   “There are four large rooms, two with bathrooms, another bathroom in the hall. A large storage closet as well. Big kitchen and dining room plus the living space,” the older Elijah detailed.
   “I didn’t realize we rented out the top two floors,” his son said.
   “I rented this one after your first case. We decided to try and get you and your teammates some lodgings for your cases all throughout the US. Of course its costly so we have only done it here in New York, Hollywood, Miami, Houston, Las Vegas and of course back home,” he explained.
   “Thanks dad,” Elijah said.
   “Yeah, thanks,” Jessie said looking down.
   “So, I wanted to invite you and Reina here out to dinner. Private place we’re renting. It’ll just be the family and one cook. No other staff for obvious reasons,” the older Elijah invited.
   “That’ll be wonderful,” Elijah stated before turning to Jessie, “Right?”
   Jessie struggled to make a smile and nod. She was screaming on the inside from the fear of meeting the famed Collingsworth clan. Thousand of thoughts ran into her head and some included comparing herself to the help.
   “Tonight then? Before you guys really engage in your next case,” he offered.
   “Excellent. What are we getting?” Elijah asked.
   “Italian. From the best place in Manhattan.”
   “I know where you’re talking about. Could Reed come? He likes spaghetti quite a bit and any sort of family environment helps him. Treats Jessie like his surrogate mom,” Elijah said before a laugh and Jessie elbowed him hard.
   “Sorry,” he said to her.
   “No problem. Your younger brother is a fan of the Huntsman after all. We’ll be eating around 8,” the elder Elijah stated.
   “Sounds great,” Elijah smiled.
   “Yeah. Great,” Jessie said continuing her forced smile and trying to not display any sign of fear.
   The elder Elijah said his goodbyes and headed to the elevator to head to the next floor up. Jessie called part of the team together and sent them down to get the gear. Elijah started to give Jessie the tour toward the rooms when Jessie had to speak up, “Why is your dad here?”
   He blinked at her. “You heard him. He wanted to spend sometime with me.”
   Jessie started stuttering, trying to form her objection to dinner.
   “I’m not comfortable meeting your parents. Not this early in the relationship.”
   “Why not? I met your dad.”
   “That’s different. He came down to do some tattoos and make a few hundred dollars. It’s not like I had you over for family dinner,” Jessie argued.
   “Whats wrong with meeting my parents?”
   “I-I don’t… I just-Look, I don’t meet my boyfriends parents or my girlfriends parents. I always skipped that. It means things are-much more serious than what I anticipated,” Jessie tried explaining.
   “So this isn’t serious?” he asked slightly irked.
   Jessie shook her head. “We’ve been dating for a few months but we don’t see each other a whole lot. Though-I guess when we do we spend more time… But, you know… It’s like… We barely go out as is. I just-its like-you are already showing me off to your family? I mean-I’m serious that I like you but this making me feel-I mean, you you-you’re like-WHOA and I’m like… Ugh, yeah. you know what I mean right? OH MY GOD I AM TURNING INTO ONE OF THOSE SO-CALLED AWKWARD GIRLS! WHATS HAPPENING TO ME!?”
   Jessie visualized herself smacking herself for that terrible explanation of her feelings. Elijah laughed and Jessie punched him the shoulder.
   “You’re worried because of who we are. I get it, even though the few girlfriends I’ve had were not like that,” Elijah told her.
   “Those girls were probably white and from a good family.”
   “No, not all of them. I’m not showing you off to my parents. My family surprised me and wants to meet you. You. The incredible Reina Titán. Can you blame me for talking highly about you?” Elijah questioned her.
   When Jessie did not answer he continued with, “You also need understand how uncomfortable I am in this skin. With everything. How hard I work to keep myself in check and not let negative emotions creep in? Being able to be with my family. It’s important.”
   Jessie looked down. “I know. I know. This is important for you. Any time to spend with family. And I know I got a little over the top with fear about-just dinner. I just-well, haven’t been in a real serious relationship. Let alone been with someone whose rich like you. Like you said its that wealth and me, I’m not a commoner but I feel like it in this I mean awesome suite in a Manhattan skyrise. I feel like a stable girl.”
   “You shouldn’t be intimidated by my family.”
   “I know. And did your exes really go head first into wanting to bond with your family,” Jessie said.
   “Bonding might be a bit. With that, or even friends, I felt bad about inviting them over. The fear that people would only like me because of my money. Especially going to a prep school. Imagine being one of the richest kids in an almost all white school for a second,” said Elijah.
   “No thanks. I’m sorry for being a bitch.”
   “You’re not being a bitch. You were uncomfortable. You felt intimidated. This is moving a trajectory that you did not anticipate. You expressed that. Maybe not well and clear but I’m happy you told me. I think in this moment we’ve moved into a new place in this relationship. Of course I deduced you were feeling nervous about the idea of meeting my family with your short responses to my dad, which is why I had asked to bring Reed along. He can take some of the attention away,” Elijah told her.
   “Thank you.”
   “You’re welcome. I believe once you get to sit down with my dad, mom, siblings you will be at ease,” replied Elijah.
   “Okay. I will ease up and engage,” Jessie said.
   He kissed her forehead and said, “Right now, we should start setting up for the case.”
   Jessie smiled and nodded.