Preconceived Notions

Matheson Hendricks took a deep breath as he entered his father's office. He wasn't ready to hear another lecture, but he knew one was coming.

His father had always supported his career decisions and he appreciated that. Gregory Hendricks had built a million dollar business with his baking. Gregory Hendricks was a baker and his father before him. Matheson's grandfather had founded the Hannah's Homemade Products over seventy five years ago and the business grew by leaps and bounds when his father took over.

His father now sat behind a desk, no longer actually baking since the company had expanded to neighboring states. Matheson did not want to run the business on a large scale, but continued to run the original store his grandfather had started with.

"So are you going public Dad?" Matheson asked sitting down across from his father.

"Never" he replied. "This is a family business. I'm living comfortable and you don't want for a thing. I like having control."

Matheson knew that was true. His father still liked running things and would show up at the bakery anything without prior notice. Matheson thought that it was because his father missed baking and wanted to get his hands dirty every now and then.

"So…" Matheson said crossing his arms. "You want to tell me why you summoned me here. I know it's not to try to convince me to come up here in the ivory tower with you."

His father leaned back in the chair. "No, son. I know you don't like sitting behind a desk and you're a damn good baker. I would say you're a chip off the old block, but hell you're better than me or my father."

"I wouldn't say that exactly." Matheson replied grinning, though what his father said pleased him.

"I would. You have the advantage of having been trained by both of us as well as going to Culinary School. All of your hard work has paid off. Profits are up with the introduction of some of your creations" his father replied. "However, that's not why I summoned you here. I know you want to get back to the store. Your mother and I want you to come to dinner. Mavis is coming over for a visit."

Matheson grinned. He hadn't seen Mavis since she retired from being their housekeeper several years ago, though his mother talked to her on a regular basis. She was more like family than help. Matheson couldn't remember a time when Mavis wasn't there when he was growing up.

"I'd love to see her." Matheson said. "How long has it been since all of us have been together?"

"Ten years." His father replied. "Can you believe it? You had just returned from Culinary School. Since she doesn't drive anymore, her granddaughter is bringing her over."

"I'll be there. Now there must be something else…or you would have called me instead of summoning me over here." Matheson said knowingly.

"Well, that's true" his father said. "We want to give Mavis the little summer cottage in Williamsburg, Virginia. You know we would go there on occasion with your mother. She would always take Mavis along to help with you. She loved it there. I just thought that it would be a nice birthday present for her. She's been such a good friend to us and she's like a mother to Emily. Your mother suggested it, but I had already given it to you and put the property in your name. I can't just take it back."

Matheson looked surprised. "Dad, I haven't been there in years. Of course Mavis can have it if that's what you and Mom want. Just get the paperwork together and I'll sign. It may need some work though."

"I know. That's the other thing. I may need you to go down to Virginia and check it out" he said. "We'll talk more about that later."

"Sure, Dad." Matheson replied. "I thought you were calling me up here to give me another lecture on settling down."

"Well now that you mention it…"

Matheson rolled his eyes. He felt that he still had time to settle on one woman. He was a handsome man who was tall and muscular from all the lifting in the bakery. His rugged good looks and blue green eyes attracted him many admirers, but he hadn't met that special lady yet. He was now thirty one which his father felt was old since he and his mother had married young. They hadn't started pestering him until last year when he turned thirty and then they kept asking him when he was going to bring a girl around for them to meet.

"Don't even go there, Dad!" Matheson said walking to the door. "I'll see you tonight."

Gregory watched his son walk out of his office. He supposed that he should be happy that his son was particular about the women he dated. Maybe he was looking for a perfect woman and Gregory knew that there was no such woman. Several of his friends had even speculated to him that perhaps Matheson was in the closet. He refused to believe that for a minute. He had seen his son's roving eye on many occasions when he was around beautiful women whenever they had been out together. No, that wasn't it…but what was really holding him back? Gregory wasn't so sure.

Emily Matheson Hendricks was only four feet eleven and weighed ninety pounds soaking wet, but no one crossed her when she was angry, which wasn't that often. She ran the household like a well oiled machine.

She informed her husband that Mavis was coming over for dinner and that she wanted him to leave work on time to be there in time for dinner and she had no doubt that he would comply.

Mavis was now seventy five years old and Emily had known her since she was born. Mavis' family had worked for hers for as long as she could remember. Mavis mother had been her mother's nanny and her father had worked for Gregory's father driving the bakery truck. Emily felt that they were one big happy family. She knew that Mavis' only daughter Rachel had died of cancer some years ago leaving a young daughter. This must be the granddaughter that was bringing Mavis to the dinner.

Dinner was at six and by five thirty both Gregory and Matheson were there. Emily continued to buzz around checking and double checking everything. She wanted everything to be perfect.

"Well Mavis should be here any minute" Emily said. She kept peeping out of the window. "Mavis is usually so timely" she replied looking at her watch after thirty minutes had passed. I wonder what could be keeping her."

VaLysia Chamberlayne stood by the car as the man finished changing the flat tire on her car. She was glad that she had paid extra for the emergency road service. She quickly signed the papers and got back in the car.

"We're late!" her grandmother said looking at her watch. "Miss Emily don't like people to be late!"

"Grandma, you don't work for her anymore! She invited you to dinner. It couldn't be helped! I offered to give you my cell and tell her that we're running late." VaLysia replied.

"I was just hoping that we'd make it. Now we're already late so there's no use calling. I know it's not your fault, but you need to get your car checked out. Maybe that would have prevented the flat tire." Mavis replied frustrated.

VaLysia rolled her eyes. "Grandma, a flat tire can't always be anticipated. Look, I have the emergency road service. If I didn't, we'd be later than this."

Her grandmother didn't reply but looked out the window.

VaLysia wasn't looking forward to this dinner with her grandmother's former employers. Why would she want to have dinner with a bunch of white folks she worked for she would never understand. They would most likely smile their fake smiles and hide their silverware.

She followed the instructions the GPS was giving and soon she drove up the driveway of a large house. House? It was more like a mansion to VaLysia. No doubt they were high and mighty white folks for sure!

"We can drive around back" her grandmother instructed. "I'm sure they're in the kitchen."

"Grandma, I'm not driving around back like we're in 1957 or something. They invited you to dinner, so we're going to the front door." VaLysia replied disgusted. Her grandmother irked her sometimes.

"Now Val, these are nice people. It's not like that. Don't you go running off that militant mouth of yours and embarrassing me." Mavis said.

"Well Grandma, this is the new millennium. As long as they respect me, I'll respect them. I don't know these people. I don't have the love you have for them. I know that the money you slaved working for them helped put me through college, so I'm grateful for that!" VaLysia replied patiently.

"Don't talk like that!" Mavis said. "They are good people! They treated me like family, and yes they helped finance your education so don't you forget that, Missy!"

Val quickly got out of the car and opened the door for her grandmother. She reached in the back and got her cane and handed it to her.

Val would do anything for her grandmother, even put up with this boring dinner. Not that she had any plans or a boyfriend to spend time with. Her grandmother kept asking her when she was going to bring one around. Val couldn't make her understand that there wasn't one to bring around.

She didn't kid herself. She wasn't exactly what you would call a beauty. She didn't think she was ugly either. Her skin was a dark chocolate brown, unlike her grandmother's fair complexion. She wore her hair natural with tight twists. Her grandmother often told her that she had her mother's build with her small waist and full hips. She was not that big…a size twelve, but sometimes she struggled to find pants that fit properly since her waist was so small. At twenty six, most other females spent their weekends hanging out with friends instead of taking their grandmother to a boring dinner!

She held her grandmother's arm as they walked to the door which suddenly flew open and a small woman with red hair ran out and threw her arms around Mavis VaLysia raised an eyebrow and didn't comment.

"Mavis!" the redhead said. "I was wondering what was keeping you. It's so good to see you"

Val looked at the woman and didn't say anything. An older man with mixed grey hair was observing the scene.

"Emily! Let Mavis come in the house" he scolded his wife laughing. "Don't squeeze the life out of her."

Emily let her go. "Come on in, Mavis."

She continued to hug her and then looked at Val.

"Forgive me" she said grinning and extending her hand. "I'm Emily Hendricks"

"This is my granddaughter, VaLysia" Mavis replied as they walked into the foyer of the house.

"Hello" Val said, looking around.

"I'm Gregory" the tall older gentleman said extending his hand.

"Mr. Gregory! It's so good to see you." Mavis said laughing and hugging him.

Val tried not to roll her eyes. If she didn't know better, she'd swear that she was back before black people got their civil rights. She knew her grandmother was old school, but still! She bit her lip and looked away.

She noticed a tall young man watching her. He had to be the older man's son because he looked just like him except that his hair was blond. He was tall like his father, but more muscular. He had his mother's large eyes. He looked away from her as if he had given her the once over and quickly dismissed her. Val gritted her teeth and turned up her nose at him.

"Hi Mavis, remember me" he said focusing on Mavis grinning from ear to ear. Val had to admit that he had a nice smile.

"Matheson!" her Grandmother said hugging the tall blond. She turned to VaLysia holding his hand.

"This is my granddaughter, VaLysia" Mavis said.

"Hello, I'm Matheson" he said extending his hand. VaLysia hesitated and then gave him a weak handshake and then wiped her hands on her pants. Matheson saw what she did and proceeded to study her a moment but didn't comment.

VaLysia noticed as she shook his hand that he had the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen. They were a blue green color. He was handsome…for a white guy and she watched as his eyes quickly roamed over her again and he then quickly turned his attention back to Mavis.

"You don't look anything like Mavis" he said more to himself than to her.

VaLysia gritted her teeth. No, white boy I'm not Halle Berry she thought to herself.

"Come on, let's go into the dining room" Gregory said leading the way.

Mavis linked her arm with Matheson and Val followed dutifully behind them.

The dining room was large and elegant. Gregory pulled out Val's chair for her and she gave him a weak smile. Matheson pulled out her grandmother's chair and then he sat directly across from VaLysia.

"I fixed chicken, your favorite Mavis" Emily said proudly.

Val began to cough and all eyes fell on her. She quickly sipped her water.

"Are you alright dear" Emily asked looking concerned.

"Of course. It's just my sinuses" VaLysia lied. What was wrong with these people? Did they think that all black people ate chicken? She saw the look her grandmother was giving her, and sipped some more water.

She looked up and saw that Matheson was watching her, his expression mocking. Did he know what she was thinking?

"So Ms. Val-see-ya" Matheson said. "What do you do besides chauffer your grandmother around?"

"My name is VaLysia." She replied. "Va-leh-see-ya, ok?"

"I stand corrected" Matheson chuckled.

"So Madison" she said deliberately mispronouncing his name. "What do you do besides eat dinner at mommy's?"

"VaLysia!" Mavis snapped, obviously embarrassed by the way she was acting.

"That's alright Mavis" Matheson said grinning. "I deserved that one."

He turned his attention back to Val. "I help run the family business. I'm a baker. I run the Hannah's downtown."

Val was impressed. "I've been there a couple of times. Not that one though, the one out at Cedar Crest Mall."

"Ah, yes. That one is doing well now." Gregory piped in. "It's only been open for a year."

Dinner was uneventful, but Val felt Matheson's watchful eye on her. He probably thought that she was going to steal the silverware or something. She listened as her Grandmother talked relating old stories of Matheson's exploits when he was young. It irritated VaLysia to no end that she kept calling them Mr. Gregory and Miss Emily like it was still slavery times. Why not just call the arrogant prick in front of her Mr. Matheson. She wished the evening would end soon so that she could go home and curl up with a book.

When they had finished their dessert, Gregory led them into the den.

"Matheson, why don't you show VaLysia the music room." Emily suggested. She linked her arm in Mavis' and turned to VaLysia.

Gregory nodded his head in agreement.

"He has quite a collection of music, VaLysia. I know you must be bored with all these talks of old times." He looked at his son. "Be a good host and show the young lady the room. You hardly ever go in there anymore."

"That's because I'm working all the time!" Matheson protested.

"Yeah, but why let all that surround sound go to waste? I'm sure that Mavis wants to get back on the road before it gets too dark. They have about an hour to drive, right?"

"Yes, that's right" Mavis said in agreement. "I live about an hour away, but Val doesn't live that far from here."

"Well go on then! We'll come get you before Mavis gets too tired, VaLysia" Gregory said.

Val followed Matheson to a large room. The walls were covered with shelves and shelves of albums, DVD's and CD's.

"Wow" she said looking around. "What type of music do you have?"

"All kinds." Matheson replied. "All of us are music lovers and we have different tastes. More than likely we have anything that you care to hear."

Val walked around looking at the music. The room also had a piano, organ and several guitars as well as a harp.

"This is impressive." VaLysia said.

Matheson stood and watched her as she walked around. He could tell that she was uncomfortable at dinner and that for some reason she was irritable. Why did black women always seem so angry? No wonder they could never find or keep a man! He doubted if she had one since she was carting Mavis around. With her attitude, he could see why!

He watched her as she walked around the room. She wasn't a bad looking girl. He wondered what was up with her hair? She probably was a militant type of black woman with her hair all natural and her large hoop earrings. He didn't miss her attitude at dinner. She seemed irritated every time her grandmother said something. She acted like one of those black people always ready to yell discrimination! She had all but called him whitey to his face.

He continued to watch her as she was reading the titles of some of the music. She had an extremely tiny waist which made her behind look bigger than it actually was. She was sort of flat chested though, he noted. He liked boobs himself and he wasn't into big butts and bad attitudes.

"So, what would you like to hear?" he asked, crossing his arms, leaning against the wall.

Val looked at him and then to the shelf that was in front of her. She didn't miss his dismissive look when he was first introduced to her. Not that she cared, but he didn't have to be so obvious with it. No, she wasn't the petite little bimbo he normally dated. She gave him a challenging stare.

"How about Sweet Dreams of You by Patsy Cline" she replied.

Matheson was surprised. "You like country music?"

"I like Patsy Cline" she remarked. "Were you expecting me to say James Brown?"

"I wasn't expecting anything." Matheson said defensively.

"I bet you think that all black people listen to is rap or some other black music, right?" she snapped.

"I never thought that!" he said walking over to her. "Why do you have to be so hostile? What's your problem? Your grandmother-"

"My grandmother still thinks it's the fifties where you say 'yassah Mr. Gregory and yessum Miss Emily" she spat.

"At least she has manners!" Matheson replied. "You black people-"

Val laughed. "Oh, so now it's us black people? What do you think my grandmother is? Oh that's right. She's kind of a bright yellow negro so she's not so bad!"

Matheson turned red. "I didn't say that."

"You didn't have to" she replied. "You were thinking it. You're just another white bigot who was feeling charitable and decided to ask your old mammy to dinner!"

"I'm a bigot? You wrote the book on bigotry. You came in here with your mind already made up about us!" he said bringing his face close to hers.

"Me?" Val shouted back, clearly agitated. "You gave me the once over and dismissed me when I walked in here!"

"What?" Matheson shouted back. "Are you all hot and bothered because I didn't ask you for a date? Well I don't date angry black women!"

"Fuck you!" she hissed, rolling her eyes at him.

"That's probably what you need, but I don't have a paper bag available to put over your head when I do it!" he snapped back.

Val caught her breath at his remark. He was all but calling her ugly! Tears stung the corner of her eyes, but she willed them not to fall. She had been called that on more than one occasion. No she wasn't light, bright and damn near white. No she didn't have good hair. Yes, her lips were a little big! So what! How dare he talk to her like that? White people were a trip! Their standard of beauty didn't include any dark skinned kinky head black women like her!

"I'm getting the hell out of here!" she said rushing towards the door trying to keep her composure.

Matheson regretted his words as soon as he said them. Why had he let her get to him like that? She wasn't ugly. She just had the ability to set him off and he didn't know why. He quickly did damage control.

"Wait a minute!" he said following her and grabbing her arm.

"Let me go, asshole!" she said struggling against him.

"No, not until I apologize-"

"Fuck your apology!" she hissed.

"I see you use that word a lot. Are you trying to tell me something" he countered.

"You arrogant bastard!" she snapped. "I think I need more than the three to four inches you have to offer me!"

Before he knew what he was doing, Matheson grabbed her hand and rubbed it against his groin. "I got your three to four, sister. How about six to seven?"

VaLysia gasped at his boldness and drew her hand back as if it was burned. He then quickly pulled her into his arms kissing her.

"What the devil is going on in here?" Gregory said opening the door. "I could hear yelling all the way down the hall!"

Matheson quickly let VaLysia go. He knew he would get a good tongue lashing from his father and his mother once VaLysia told them how he behaved. He was somewhat ashamed of his behavior. He had never acted like that before.

"We were just arguing over which one of Patsy Cline's songs were the best" Val lied. "I guess things got out of hand, right Matheson?" She looked at him stretching her eyes for confirmation.

Matheson looked at her surprised and then looked at his father. His mother and Mavis was standing close behind.

"Yeah, that's right. Sorry if we got too loud" he replied.

Gregory started laughing. "Well, that's alright. I know when it comes to music you can get pretty passionate, Mat."

Matheson looked away wondering why she had covered for him. He stole a quick glance at her and noticed that she was studying her nails.

"Well, I guess we'd better go, Val" Mavis said eying the two of them. She turned to Gregory. "It's been a lovely evening."

"Please come back soon" Emily said. "In fact, your birthday is next month. I want to see you again."

"I don't know..." Mavis replied eying Val.

"Please!" Emily said turning to Val. "Can you bring her back? I have a special surprise planned for her."

"Well Grandma" Val said "If they have a surprise, how can you turn it down?"

Mavis grinned at her. "Alright, Val. If you don't mind bringing me, I'll come."

"Then it's all settled." Emily replied clapping her hands.

VaLysia pulled out of the driveway as her grandmother waved goodbye. She still couldn't understand why she had lied to cover up what Matheson had done. The kiss was totally unexpected. If he thought that she was so ugly, why did he kiss her? She remembered the feel of him under her hand and the thought of it made her stomach do flips.

She had deliberately baited him and he had fallen for it. She hadn't expected him to react like he did. The memory of the kiss and the feel of him under her hand burned in her memory.

"We had a nice time" her Grandmother said to her. "You're mighty quiet. What did you think of Matheson?"

"He's an arrogant prick" Val replied.

"He's a nice boy, Val. You didn't pick a fight with him, did you? I know you don't like white folks."

"I never said that!" Val replied. "I just don't like condescending white folks."

"Matheson is not like that." Mavis said. "I've known the boy since he came out the womb. There's not a prejudicial bone in his body."

"Whatever, Grandma" Val said not wanting to argue with her.

Her grandmother didn't respond and Val wondered how she let herself get talked into another dinner with Matheson Hendricks.