Illegal Substitution by MsStoryMaker

Chapter Six

Janay posted up in her doorway looking at him with a face so stern and hard, you could break diamonds against it. "The last time I let you in, you created havoc."

Derwin's bravado sank, almost as bad as if he'd fumbled on the field. He knew she was talking about more than just his argument with Zander.

"I know. And saying 'I'm sorry' doesn't seem to be enough. But I am sorry."

Janay cocked her neck like a gun. "If it's one thing I've learned, it's that if I'm around you long enough, I'll eventually hear those words from you."


"No, you listen. Every time I'm in a good place in my life, you manage to turn it upside down and shake it until I don't know whether I'm backwards or forwards. Well, I'm in a good place right now, Derwin. A really good place. And that man in there," she pointed to the interior of her home. Her hand trembled softly, but her eyes reflected an intensity he rarely saw in the woman who tended to be so calm and laid back, "he's responsible."

Derwin dropped his head. Something he wasn't accustomed to doing. Since his football career took off, he'd been riding so high, only DJ and Melanie kept him grounded. His prayers had gotten shorter and shorter. Last night, he'd gone to bed without one.

"I'm a better man than this, Janay. I promise you. I'm a better man than what I've been showing you."

She still hadn't moved. She was guarding the door like soldier protecting dignitaries. The laser focus of her eyes bore right through him.

"You better be for DJ's sake."

For DJ's sake.

The words repeated in his mind. He felt them like hands tightening around his soul.

He thought to just turn and come back when Janay's emotions were less raw. Before he could move, Zander joined Janay at the door, put an arm around her waist. They shared a glance and then Zander spoke.

Derwin lifted his head higher, felt some of his bravado return.

Zander's expression showed no animosity. "So, you wanna come in, man?"

Relief flooded Derwin's entire body. "Yeah," he said.

The couple stepped aside and allowed Derwin to enter. Despite a few toys scattered here and there, Janay's living room looked neat and tidy, just like her relationship with Zander. The phrase for DJ's sake played over and over in his mind. Derwin realized that it wasn't that Janay had finally moved on that set him off, it was the fact of a new man being in DJ's life. A new man doing daddy things. Doing things with DJ that Derwin thought only a father should do.

For DJ's sake.

"You hungry, man? Janay and I just finished breakfast, but I'm sure we can whip up something."

"Nah, man. Thanks."

Janay walked into the kitchen. The aroma of bacon and something cinnamon wafted from that direction. Derwin released a hot breath of frustration and disappointment in himself.

"Look, Zander. I came to apologize. We just met, and all you know about me personally is that I can be a real ass. That's not the kind of opinion I want you, or anyone else, to have of me."

Zander nodded. As they assessed each other like two gladiators after a good fight. Derwin couldn't tell if his apology had been accepted.

"You offered me your hand, twice. And I've been too stupid to shake it."

Derwin held out his hand. Zander didn't hesitate. Their shake was firm and strong. A slight tug from the man and they bumped shoulders to squash their issues.

"Cool," Zander said.

Derwin smiled. Felt lighter. More relaxed, and . . . hungry.

"Uh, does that breakfast offer still stand? 'cause a bacon sandwich would do a brother good right now."

"Janay!" Zander called.

"I heard. No problem," she called back.

Suddenly, Derwin felt awkward, like he didn't know what to do with himself.

"Where's DJ?" he asked.

Zander gestured toward the hallway. "Still asleep. He had a nightmare last night and was afraid to go back to sleep for a while. He might be asleep for another hour or so."

Derwin nodded his understanding and winced inside at something else in DJ's life he'd missed.

"You know, Zander, sharing custody of DJ isn't easy for me, because it means I miss out on fifty percent of his life. And the thought that someone other than Janay was going to be there, sharing the special moments of my son's life . . . it made me go a little nuts."

"I get you, man. And I respect your honesty."


Zander seemed more at ease. "Well sit down, 81."

Derwin took a seat on the couch sitting across from a 60-inch flat screen and the P3 hooked up to it. Derwin thought he recognized the game glowing on pause in high definition.

"Looks like you got some Dynasty Warriors goin' on."

"Yeah. I have to get it in now before your son wakes up and Janay makes me switch it to Sponge Bob."

Derwin chuckled.

Zander offered him a controller. "You in?"

"Yeah!" Derwin said and gladly entered the game.

The two of them charged side-by-side into enemy territory. Their opponents were no match for them as Derwin and Zander defeated the hordes with axes and spears. At one point, Derwin's character leapt from the battleground into the air using an aerial combo with his blade that allowed him to save Zander. After about ten minutes of play Derwin had a curious thought.

"So, you're really at sensei level at those martial arts?"

"Yep," Zander said, switching weapons in the game.

"So, that means if someone is bullying DJ and you're around—"

"DJ will be the last one that kid ever bullies."

Derwin took out a general that was about to attack Zander. "That's what's up," he said.

Derwin stayed at Janay's place long enough to blaze through several levels of the video game and finish the bacon sandwich Janay made for him.

Before he left, Derwin visited DJ in his room. The kid was knocked out and sprawled on his back against the mattress, arms and legs in a wild position. As Derwin bent to kiss DJ's forehead, his son stirred and opened his eyes.

"Daddy," he said, barely above a whisper. "I knew you'd come and chase the monsters away."

Derwin felt wave of pride and awe and overwhelming love rise up within him.

"You know it! Daddy will always be here for you. Don't you ever worry about that."

DJ nodded and then turned over to his right side, curled up, and went back to sleep. Derwin kissed him on the forehead and watched him sleep for a while before leaving the room.

By the time he made it home, he felt that his brief time at Janay's had gone a long way toward repairing the riff he caused.

When Derwin walked into his living room, Melanie was nonchalantly flipping through a magazine while sitting at the kitchen table.


Derwin knew his wife had been pacing a hole in the carpet. She'd probably stopped herself from texting and calling him at least twenty times. She might have even gotten in her car and driven around Janay's block—so eager to find out what happened.

She kept still but her eyes stared with so much energy he was surprised she didn't leap out of her seat.

"Hey you," he said, smiling. In one of his jersey's and some khaki shorts, she'd traded her football wife bling and pizzazz for the toned down, regular ol' Mel he'd fallen in love with.

"Hey." She closed the magazine. Her eyes grew as large as a doe's. "How'd it go?"

"After the way I've been acting lately, better than I deserved."

She sat forward eager to hear the story. "So, what happened?"

Derwin sat down next to his wife. Slid the chair close. "I told them the truth about why I was buggin.'"

Melanie's eyes softened, grew worried. "W-what did you say?" She swallowed and waited for the rest.

"I said . . . that having some dude who is not me, hangin' with DJ, playin' with DJ, and sharing special moments with DJ had me twisted."

Melanie blinked. He saw the relief washing over her beautiful face. "So, this whole thing . . . it wasn't about Janay?"

"Part of it, maybe. But it's mostly about me feeling like I'm being replaced as a dad."

Melanie slid him a curious glance. "Part of it, huh?"

"Come on, Mel. A very small part."

"Like, how small?"

"I'll say . . . 96 percent DJ, 4 percent Janay."

"Thank, God," she said, pushing up the sky in celebration.

"Uh, I am going through somethin' here."

She leaned over and kissed his cheek. "Sorry. But Derwin you have to know that no one can replace you as DJ's father."

"Yeah, yeah. I know. At least my mind knows. It's going to take a little time for the rest of me to catch up."

"Well, I'm here for you. Whatever you need."

He slipped his arm around her shoulder. Pulled her close. "What I need is to tackle item number two."


"Right before I left. You said there were two things I could do."

"Oh . . . that."

He lifted her easily from the chair and slid her into his lap. His arousal built steadily, the way it always did for her. "Yeah that. I already took care of number one."

Melanie snuggled close, kissed him deeply. Made him groan urgently. "I know exactly what you want," he said, voice deepened by lust and longing.

"Good," she said, kissing his neck and caressing his arms. "Just one more, and then I promise I'm checking myself into designer bag rehab."

"What?" Derwin pulled back. But just barely. Melanie had him in a tight and serious embrace. He could hardly concentrate.

"Just one more, Birkin. Then I promise, I'll go cold turkey.

"Mel—" he started to protest. She caught his rebuttal in her mouth and kissed him furiously. As her lips worked down his chest. He realized that he could deny her nothing. He especially couldn't deny her the love and respect of a good husband. They both were works in progress, and their marriage deserved the best their love could give.

"Okay," he said, as Melanie devoted all her attention to his most sensitive area. "Just one more designer bag."