Guest Post and Excerpts: Married in the Nick of Nine and The Baby in the Window by Alretha Thomas
Synopsis for Married in the Nick of Nine:
Cassandra Whitmore is facing yet another Valentine’s Day alone. Her love life is as dry as the Sharpie pen she uses to mark an even more dreadful day on her calendar—her upcoming 30th birthday. Driven by the maddening ticking of her biological clock, Cassandra is determined to meet, fall in love with, and marry “The One” within nine months. When Cassandra accompanies her cousin to a night club, her Type-A quest to meet a man is quickly rewarded by a stranger’s velvety, baritone voice asking if he might occupy the seat next to her. He’s Nicolas Harte, whose good looks leave Cassandra speechless, but not for long. After mustering enough courage to strike up a conversation, she learns Nicolas is everything she wants in a man—smart, successful, and available. There’s only one catch: He’s “GU” (geographically undesirable). Nonetheless, Cassandra falls in love with Nicolas and makes the uncharacteristic decision to move from Los Angeles to New York to be with him. But Cassandra gets a rude awakening when she discovers there’s something rotten in the Big Apple.
I’m staring at the calendar stuck to my fridge, wondering where the time went. It wasn’t that
long ago that I was braving long lines and rowdy crowds in the quest for the ultimate Christmas
gift. Now it’s February, and I’m looking at a photo of red roses. In four days, millions of women
will receive cards, flowers, candy, jewelry—and the super-lucky ones, the almighty engagement
ring. As for me, I’ll spend the day just plain lying to myself. A lot. I’ll tell myself, “It’s just
another day, it’s all about the money, I’m not letting someone dictate who I should love and
when.” And my favorite, “It’s a day for fools.” If you haven’t already surmised, I’m dreading
When I graduated from college, my eight-year plan looked like this:
1) Find the perfect man, get happily married (So far, no such luck).
2) Have at least two rug rats (Likewise, considering the miserable failure of item 1).
I remove the cap from the black Sharpie I’m holding in my death grip and place a large
“X” on today’s date—Saturday, February 10th. I scan the previous forty X marks and replace the
cap on the pen; I don’t want it to dry up like my love life. I have nine months before I turn the
big three-oh, and I’m determined, by any means necessary, to be married before November 10th.
“Cass, what are you doing?”
My cousin’s high-pitched voice startles me. I tense hearing the sound of her footfalls
along the hardwood floor as she makes her way from the living room to the kitchen. I take a
moment and calmly say, “Nothing.”
She shakes her head, swishing her dreadlocks. She snatches the Sharpie out of my hand.
“You and that calendar! I don’t know why you put so much pressure on yourself. Why plan
everything? Just let it happen.”
Yeah, that’s good advice. She just let it happen, and now she’s desperate to get out of a
marriage to a guy with serious weight issues. It’s not entirely her fault. David is what she calls a
“closet fatty.” When he and Cyn met he’d just lost a hundred pounds. He managed to keep all
his “before” photos out of sight until after the shot-gun wedding. During the pregnancy they both
gained a ton of weight. David got so big that he lost all interest in going out, having sex, and
bathing—not necessarily in that order. On the upside, he’s a good guy and a great dad.
I take the Sharpie from her and toss it onto the island in my recently remodeled kitchen.
“I am gonna let it happen.”
With hands planted on her hips she asks, “How are you gonna let it happen when you’ve
boxed yourself into a nine-month deadline? What if you don’t find ‘The One’ by then?”
“A lot can happen in a day—in a minute. I could walk out the front door and the man of
my dreams could be standing on my lawn.”
She looks at me, hisses, and flounces out of the kitchen. Curious, I follow her into the
living room. She draws the curtains back from the picture window, points, and says, “The only
thing I see on your lawn is a pile of dog mess.”
My stomach drops at the sight of the crap. I paid extra this year to have my grass seeded;
it’s the envy of the block. This is the third time my neighbor, a batterer and a dead-ringer for
Denzel Washington, let his dog do his business in my yard. I ignore the smug look on my
cousin’s face and say, “I don’t know why Michael lets his dog mess on my grass. Drives me
“Why don’t you cancel with what’s his name and celebrate with me tonight?” she asks in
a tone teetering between a plead and a demand.
“Cancel my date with Lawrence to celebrate what?”
“Having a black man in the white house. Did you ever think we’d live to see it?”
“Of course. This is America. Anything’s possible. But Cyn, if Barack Obama had relied
on people like you to get elected, he never would have made it. It took you forever to get
registered and the only vote you’ve ever cast was for Fantasia on American Idol. So stop trying
to play the ‘I’m down for the black cause’ card.”
Busted, she says, “It’s ladies’ night. David’s at that teachers’ conference, and he won’t be
back until Sunday. My mom’s watching Shelby…I’m dying to get out.”
“I’m just not feeling the club thing. You know it’s not my scene.”
“Come on, cousin. Between David, my crazy clients, their kids, and my wild child, I’m
losing it. I need to get my groove back! I’ll do anything.”
I go into the kitchen, grab a plastic bag from the drawer, and return to the living room.
“What’s that for?”
“You said you’ll do anything.” I point to the yard.
Cyn, with a wide-eyed, disgusted look on her face, grabs the bag out of my hand. I open
the door and watch her trudge toward the dog doo. She grimaces, snatches up the crap with the
plastic bag, and looks at me, her face a question mark.
“Put it in the can around back.”
“Can’t believe I’m doing this.” Gagging, she pinches her nose and storms to the side of
I listen for the lid of the trash can. Afterwards, I holler, “Thanks, I’ll see you at The
Speakeasy at ten,” and shut the door.
It’s five o’clock, and I’m meeting Lawrence for dinner at seven. I have an hour and
fifteen minutes to transform from my Saturday-around-the-house self into a woman a man wants
to bring home to mama (and shortly thereafter to the altar).
I stop and take in my stylish living room. This is my favorite room in the house, and I’m
mad crazy in love with my fireplace and mantel. When I moved in a year ago, I couldn’t wait to
decorate it with my seashell collection, candles, and family photos. My volunteer of the year
award from Haven House, a shelter for abused women, sits front and center.
As I walk to the fireplace, I take a moment to straighten the large, tan throw rug in the
center of the room. I’m glad I followed my first impulse and went with hardwood floors. I love
the feel of the smooth wood under my feet, and the style and color matches perfectly with my
beige sofa and love seat. Glancing at my wood coffee table, I cringe at the sight of smudges. The
table complements a large painting that hangs over my sofa: A trio of young African-American
women dressed in colorful church garb on a Sunday morning. A housewarming gift from my
parents, it’s supposed to represent me and the set of twin girls my mother miscarried. It’s a
lovely portrait, but somewhat bittersweet, and a constant reminder of the obstacles my mother
had to overcome to conceive. Age can really do a number on a woman’s reproductive abilities. I
didn’t have the heart to turn the portrait down. The twins, if they had survived, would actually be
thirty going on thirty-one. My Aunt Catherine says my mother was devastated by the loss, and
my folks were getting ready to adopt when I showed up. It’s kind of nice sharing my house with
my sisters. I hope they love living here as much as I do.
I strut to the master bedroom and fling open the door to the walk-in closet. I want to
knock Lawrence’s monogrammed socks off his size-fourteen feet. At least his feet looked that
size in the DVD. I liked how he crossed one leg over the other and talked with his hands. He has
great hands and what I liked most about them was the absence of a wedding band tan. The last
thing I wanna be is somebody’s jumpoff. I’m not that desperate. Nowadays you can never be too
sure. The One (the dating service I’m using) says they do a thorough background check, but I’ve
learned over the years that people will say anything to get your business.
My eyes lock on a Gucci cashmere top and gabardine skirt wedged between a couple of
suits. I reach for the top and skirt and hold them up to my frame. The outfit will work for dinner
and the club. I toss the ensemble onto my Scandinavian queen-sized bed and make my way to
my standalone mirror. I peer at my honey-complexioned, oval shaped face and whisper a prayer
of thanks that I have my ‘young look’ today. I think it’s hormonal. There are times of the month
when I look forty, and other times when I don’t look a day over twenty. Slipping out of my jeans
and tee-shirt, I head to the master bathroom for a much needed shower. “Lord, please let
Lawrence be ‘The One’.”
Synopsis for The Baby in the Window:
A magna cum laude graduate of UCLA, Cassandra Harte never took a test she couldn’t ace. So when her home pregnancy test comes back negative, she’s certain the kit’s defective. Failure has never been an option for Cassandra. She has a well-established career, a handsome husband (Nick), and a lovely home. But there’s one thing Cassandra desperately wants that she doesn’t have: A baby. After trying for months to get pregnant without success, she starts to wonder if she’s finally met a challenge she cannot conquer. Determined to conceive, she creates an ovulation calendar so she can seize that perfect 24-hour window. When that fails, she sends up fervent prayers. But it soon becomes apparent that her inability to become pregnant has nothing to do with timing or faith, and everything to do with Renee, her diabolical, thirteen-year-old stepdaughter.
I peer at the dipstick, hoping the test isn’t screwed. The directions were idiot-proof. Leave it to
me to complicate things. I was supposed to pee on this darn thing for five seconds, but after the
first “Mississippi,” I got so preoccupied with trying to position the stick directly in the path of
my urine, I forgot all about the five second rule. Now the dang thing is soaked, and I probably
won’t get an accurate reading. I stare at the little round window anyway, waiting for the baby to
appear. Well, not literally a baby, but a blue plus sign indicating that I’m pregnant. I love the
sound of that word, and I’m dying to say, “I’m pregnant” or even better, “We’re pregnant.”
“Hi, I’m Cassandra Harte, and this is my husband, Nicolas Harte, and we’re nine months
pregnant,” I announce, looking into my bathroom mirror. In just a few minutes, I could become
an official, card-carrying member of the New Mom’s Club. Eyes closed, I take a deep breath and
count to ten. A smile radiates across my face. I have a good feeling that this is it—that after three
months of trying, I’m finally gonna realize my dream. I’ve got all the symptoms—a late period,
tender breasts, and unusual fatigue (all three a first for me); there’s a good chance I’m with child.
I open my eyes and let my gaze drop to the dipstick. Shutting them, I swallow hard, and open
them again—slightly. I wipe the grin off of my face and vainly squash the empty feeling in my
gut while I glare at the lone blue line: NEGATIVE. I take the dipstick off of the sink and jiggle
it. Maybe I can shake a plus sign out of this lousy piece of plastic that I’ve given way too much
power. I pause at the sound of the door creaking.
“What’s the verdict? Is there a baby in the window?”
“Negative,” I say, tossing the object of my disappointment into the wastebasket. I wash
my hands while my husband relieves himself. Unlike me, he doesn’t have to hold a stick, or
count off five seconds, or any of that crap. He can just let it mindlessly flow.
“I’m sorry,” he says, coming up behind me. I sigh when he wraps his arms around my
waist while kissing me on the nape of my neck. “Don’t worry, you’re gonna get pregnant, and
we’re gonna have the most beautiful baby in the world.”
I can’t help but beam at our image in the mirror.
“That’s my Sassy Cassy,” he says. “And if it’s a girl, she’s gonna have your pretty
chestnut eyes and your honey brown complexion and—”
“No, if it’s a girl, I want her to have your big brown almond eyes and your long
eyelashes,” I say.
“What’s if it’s a boy?” he asks.
“If it’s a boy, we’re gonna name him Nicolas James Harte, Jr., and he’s gonna be a
computer geek like his dad.”
“I like the sound of that.” He gently pushes me away from the sink and washes his hands.
“You know those tests aren’t always accurate. Maybe you should take another one.”
“I’m gonna wait a few days, and if my period doesn’t show up, I’ll make an appointment
with Dr. Burns and get a blood test.”
“That’s a good idea. And babe, three months is not a long time.”
“I know. It just feels like it’s been forever. I mean…this…this is the first time I’ve had
symptoms. I swore I wouldn’t start taking at home tests…but…I don’t know…I just.”
Nick puts the seat and lid down on the toilet. Sitting, he pulls me onto his lap. “Stop
worrying. It’s gonna happen.”
“I guess I’m paranoid because of my mother’s history. You know it took her a long time
to have me, and before she did, she miscarried my twin sisters.”
“Don’t think like that. You have to be positive. You’re only thirty-two, Cass. Your
mother was in her forties when she had you.”
“I’m closer to thirty-three than thirty-two.”
“Stop it! We just started. And I don’t know about you, but I’m having a lot of fun trying.”
“You’re so nasty!” I say.
Nick, laughing, rises and sends me tumbling to the floor. “Woman, please. You know
you still turn me on as much as you did the first time I laid eyes on you.” He grabs my hand and
helps me up.
“Oh, really?” I say.
“Yes, really. You were wearing this purple top and this hot little skirt.”
“Where did we meet?” I ask.
“That’s easy. The Speakeasy.”
“Saturday, February 10, 2008. Three years and four months ago.”
“Dang! You are in love with me!”
“And don’t you ever doubt it,” he says, pulling me in close.
Our faces come together and I part my lips in anticipation of his long, hard tongue. I grab
him around his neck. We kiss passionately while he lifts me up, my legs wrapping around him.
Walking backwards he stumbles through the open door with me clinging to him. We fall onto the
bed, kissing, grabbing, and devouring each other. Nick pulls my nightgown over my head and
slips out of his pajama bottoms. My eyes widen when his full package comes into view. He
moves toward me and then comes to a dead stop.
“What…what’s wrong?” I ask.
“You…you…you’re…babe, your period’s here.”
“What the—?” I sit up, my mouth agape, looking down at the small red spot on our white
silk sheets. I jump out of bed with my hands between my legs. “I’m sorry,” I say, running to the
“It’s okay, babe. Don’t worry about it. I’ll change the sheets, get the kids up, and get
“O—okay,” I say, standing in the shower. I grab my shower cap, thrust it onto my head,
and turn the water on. I watch the blood go down the drain right along with my hopes of being
Nick’s right. It’s only been three months, and we’re just gonna have to start timing things
better. I have to make sure we do it when I’m ovulating. Ugh! The last thing I want to do is get
obsessed with this having a baby business. But if I want it to work, I’m gonna have to do more
planning. I wish I could be as casual about this procreation venture as Nick. He doesn’t have a
clock ticking in his body, and he already has two kids by his deceased wife. They’re not his
biological kids, but they might as well be. He loves them deeply, and they’re crazy about him, so
if we weren’t able to have a child together, it wouldn’t be the end of the world for him. But that’s
not the case for me. I love Renee and Brian, too, but I’m not always sure how they feel about me.
I believe Brian has feelings for me, but Renee, she’s a whole ‘nother story.
The bottom line is, I want a child of my own, a child with Nick. I want to experience
having a life inside me and giving birth to a child. There’s nothing like it in the world. And I’m
determined to get pregnant and have a baby with the man I love.
My Books Are My Babies
Barely able to breathe, my mother would peer at us with her Bette Davis eyes that were filled with fear and uncertainty and proclaim, “Nobody’s gonna love you like me!” I would stand there trembling while my mother, suffering from an asthma attack, struggled to breathe. I wondered what she meant when she said no one would love us like her. At the age of eight, I was too young to understand. Her words confused and frightened me. It wasn’t until she passed away at the age of thirty-six, that I understood what she meant. She’s been gone now more years than she lived and I’ve come to not only understand but appreciate her words. She was right. No one has loved me like her. No one can love me like her. There is nothing like a mother’s love for her child. My grandparents took us in after my mother passed away, but as much as they loved us, their love couldn’t compare to my mother’s. My aunt’s doted on us, but their love could not compare to my mother’s. I believe a mother’s love for her child is God-given. Nothing can replace it.
Unfortunately and fortunately for me, I did not have the opportunity like my mother did to have children. It wasn’t what God had planned for me. But being the gracious God he is, he gifted me with the ability to write books and those books have become my children. Two of them are being spotlighted on this very website: “Married in the Nick of Nine” and “The Baby in the Window.” They are the first and second novels in a four-part series. Every time I read a review about one of my babies or hear someone talk about one of my babies, I think about my mother. The same way she wanted to love and protect me is how I feel about my books. I know it may seem strange because they’re inanimate objects. But I put my heart and soul into my books and they’re alive with romance, suspense, action, and drama. I can’t get enough of them and I want to tell the world about them. I’m proud of my babies! I want them to do well and I hope that one day they’ll become bestsellers! So I promote them every day, all day, whenever and wherever I can. I know my Facebook Family and friends are most likely fed up with my nonstop posts about my babies, but I’m only being a loving mother. No one is going to love my books like I do. No one is going to promote them like I do.
Some people may call my fixation on my books an obsession, but I don’t see it that way. They’re my passion. Perhaps you can relate. What are you passionate about? Is there someone or something you love like no one else can? If your answer is yes, then you probably know how I feel. When I think about how much I love my books it brings a smile to my face. Because if I can feel this way about words on paper, I can just imagine how much my mother loved me—her own flesh and blood.
Shortly after graduating from USC with a degree in journalism, Alretha soon realized her interest in her major was not heartfelt. Instead of writing news stories, she wanted to write plays and books. Several years later, her church gave her an outlet to fulfill her writing desires through their Liturgical Fine Arts Department wherein Alretha penned twelve theatre pieces—the community response was overwhelming.
This led to plays outside of the church, including Alretha’s “One, Woman Two Lives,” starring Kellita Smith (The Bernie Mac Show), directed by four-time NAACP Image Award Best Director recipient, Denise Dowse. The production garnered rave reviews from critics and audiences.
In between plays, Alretha’s first novel “Daughter Denied” was launched in 2008 and in 2011, Alretha launched “Dancing Her Dreams Away.” Her third novel, “Married in the Nick of Nine” was launched in 2012 and is taking readers and reviewers across the country by storm. “The Baby in the Window,” the standalone sequel to “Married in the Nick of Nine,” is Alretha’s fourth novel.