"Okay. I'll see you later on."
"Thanks for being such a gift to me," Raymond said.
"What a nice thing to say. Are you sure everything is okay?"
"Never been more certain," Raymond said.
After hanging up, Raymond picked up the phone and called Jared. Nicole answered the phone. He still loved the sound of her voice.
"Nicole, how you doing?"
"Raymond? Of course it's Raymond. I'm doing fine, sweetheart. Is everything okay?" Raymond was thinking people close to him didn't understand the sweet sadness he was enjoying. But how could they?
"I'm doing just great. I know you're happy to be back in the Big Apple," Raymond said.
"I sure am. Matter of fact, I'm on my way out the door. Going to a party one of the members of the cast is giving. Want to speak to your boy?"
"Is he there?"
"Sure, let me get him. It's nice talking to you, Raymond. I hope we'll see you and Trent real soon," Nicole said.
"Same here. It's always nice hearing your voice," Raymond said.
After a few seconds Jared came on the phone.
"Whassup, whassup, my niggah?"
"You, my brother. How is everything?"
"Everything's cool, couldn't be cooler if I was sitting in a tub of ice," Jared joked.
"You sound happy."
"Why wouldn't I be? Life is sweet."
"I'm not keeping you from nuthing, am I?"
"You know I always got time for you. Besides, Nicole's gone to her party and I'm getting ready to look over some work and hit the sack," Jared said.
Raymond and Jared spent the next hour talking like they hadn't talked for months. In reality they spoke briefly at least once a week, sometimes two or three times.
Raymond, knowing Jared was really a small-city type of guy, asked him how he was dealing with New York. When Jared said he was loving it, Raymond teased him about how he used to say he could never see himself living in New York.
Jared asked how things were going with Trent and the confirmation and if he had any dates for the hearings.
"You know, I know people in D.C., so when you go down there for the hearing, I want to be in the front row. In case any of them congressmen wanna act stupid. I got yo' back," Jared said.
"And you know it," Raymond said.
"Are you sure you're all right?" Jared asked as the conversation neared an end. Before answering the question, Raymond told Jared about the gift his mother had sent and how it had got him to thinking about his life and everything.
"Your moms and pops are some special people," Jared said. "What a wonderful gift."
"So you see, my brother, I'm fine. I just wanted you to know what a gift you are to me. And I love ya, man," Raymond said.
"And I love you back," Jared said.
Excerpted from Abide with Me by E. Lynn Harris. Copyright© 1999 by E. Lynn Harris. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
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Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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