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Almost Doesn't Count: Part 2

Hello, everyone. I know it's been a long time. While I haven't released anything in a year or so (depression is kicking my ass), I am behind the scenes creating. However, until I do release something new, I've decided to release parts of a story I wrote in 2005, long before I became a published author. I'll release a new part, on my website, every week. And it's FREE! Here's the second part:

After Louis had beat my behind in the parking lot of my job, I could admit that it had me scared and depressed a little bit. He had been calling, and I’d been ignoring him. Part of me wanted to press charges, but I knew he was well-connected in Atlanta. He could make my life a living hell and I didn’t want that. I really just wanted him to leave me alone.

I didn’t go into my job for the last two nights because of the bruises decorating my neck, eyes, and swollen lips.  Part of me also knew that Louis would be there. I didn’t have to worry about him showing up at my school and doing anything because there would be too many people around who would take notice. Louis’s reputation was everything to him, so he wouldn’t do anything to risk it. 

Since I'd already e-mailed Dr. West my homework assignment I decided to go over the notes from earlier this week for the test he was giving Monday. I was serious about my schoolwork. Couldn’t bear the feeling of not making anything of myself. Had to prove to all those people who told my mom I wasn’t going to be anything, but a streetwalker, that they were lying. I had to make them all look stupid.

A lot of the older women down in my hometown were very old fashioned so when they found out that my mom was pregnant with me at fifteen, she wasn’t the girl they picked to be homecoming queen. 

My own grandmother kicked her daughter, my mother, out because she made a mistake. Afterwards, my mother went to live with my father who didn’t have much space since he was living in the basement of his parents' house. They didn’t find out about my mother living there until she was almost nine months along.

I'd asked my mom how her and my dad had managed to keep that a secret. She told me most times, she rarely left the basement unless his parents were gone. My dad was twenty-years-old at the time so most of the decision making had been left up to him. My mom loved the man. I could tell by the way she talked about him. I didn’t remember him because he died when I was three. 

He had gone to the army a little after I was born. My mom said before he left he had gotten us the house that I grown up in. He was her first love. On the pictures my mom had of him, I looked just like that man. He was about six feet with light brown eyes and his skin was darker than mine, but no denying that he was my daddy.

My mind was rambling. I had been locked away in my room since Louis had attacked me, only coming out to eat and barely doing that. I didn't want nor need my roommates asking me questions I wasn't ready to answer. Louis had managed to scare me into seclusion. There was no way around denying that. I didn’t know how to handle what had happened to me. I woke up during the days after, hoping it had all been just a dream. Unfortunately for me, it hadn’t been.

I decided to get out of the house. I put on my gray two-piece velour jump suit, my gray and black Nike shocks, picked up my black handbag, and headed out the door. It was sunny and bright outside, I knew when night fell it would get windy and chilly. That’s just the weather in Atlanta. It could be bright and sunny one minute then windy and cold the next or raining and windy, or windy and hot. Weather here was just fickle.

It was the middle of August, on a Sunday. I knew the parks would be crowded with families or couples just out for a stroll in the park. I didn’t really want to be outside anyway. I aimlessly drove down Jonesboro Rd in Morrow not knowing where to go. I drove past the tourist center and Walter’s Soul Food restaurant all the way to Mt. Zion and ended up at Southlake Mall. I parked in front of the food court and decided to do a little shopping just to take my mind off Louis.

The smell of food hit my nose as soon as I walked through the sliding doors and made me realize I hadn’t eaten anything all day. I stopped at Great Wraps and got the chicken tender combo. After eating, I did a little walking around. I didn’t find much to buy and decided to leave. The day had been going well until I spotted Louis waiting for me by my car.

He was dressed in a gray suit that had clearly been tailored to fit his frame. The red dress shirt with the matching red wing-tipped dress shoes made him look pleasing to eyes.  His light skin glowed golden in the sun. The jet black curly hair that sat atop his head had been freshly cut and tapered to perfection. And even with all that, he looked like the devil to me. 

My heart dropped to my stomach. Eyes darted around to see if anyone else was in the parking lot. People were milling about, but that didn’t mean they were paying attention to me. How he knew where I was, was a mystery to me. I stopped in my tracks, scared to move any closer to him because I now knew what he was capable of.

“What’s up, Isis?” he asked.

Although there was a smirk on his face, I knew there was nothing friendly in the way he spoke to me. The dark look in his eyes alarmed me.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“Just want to talk to you,” he answered. “So are you going to keep ignoring me or are you going to get in the car so we can talk?”

That nigga had to be out of his ever-loving mind if he thought I would go anywhere near his car, let alone anywhere with him.

“We can talk right here,” I said, hoping some of the people walking by could see the distress on my face.

Louis stood up to his full height. That smirk turned into a full-on scowl and I swallowed the bile rising in my throat. I was prepared to run if I had to. There wouldn’t be any shame in my game. I would do whatever I had to, to save my life. Just as Louis made a move to walk toward me, a door slammed that caught my attention.

“Good afternoon, Ms. Jones,” Dr. West said as he walked forward.

I hadn’t even noticed anyone was sitting in the black Durango across from me. He was dressed casually in black dress slacks, cap-toe dress shoes, and a indigo polo-styled shirt that looked good against his chocolate skin.

“H-hi, Dr. West,” I responded casting a quick glance from him to Louis.

“You okay?” the professor asked me.

Louis cast a sullen glance at me. His lips turned down into a frown. “She’s good,” he answered for me.

Dr. West didn’t spare him a glance. His eyes remained on me. I could tell he was looking at bruises on my face and neck. Watered rimmed my eyes.

“I’m fine, but I’d like go back inside the mall and look at a few things,” I said.

I felt stupid and defenseless. I felt like a little girl who needed protecting. For all the bravado I’d once had, Louis had snatched it all away from. I prided myself on not being afraid of anything. I was tough I’d always thought, but there I was, standing in the parking lot thanking God that someone had come to save me.

The professor nodded once then walked over to me. He took the shopping bags from my hand then ushered me in front of him. As we walked ahead, I was still nervous having Louis at my back. Professor West didn’t seem to care though. He walked behind me in silence until we got inside of the mall. Once we were safely inside, I turned to look behind me to see if Louis was still standing by my car.

He wasn’t, but a part of me knew this wasn’t over. I looked up at Dr. West, a bit embarrassed that he’d been witness to my troubles. He handed my shopping bags back to me. The way he was studying me made me acutely aware of myself.

“This happen often?” he asked me.

“Him following me? No,” I answered.

“No, I mean the bruises,” he said.

I brought a hand up to my neck and shook my head. I’d forgotten the bruises were still visible just that quick.

“First time he’s done that,” I said.

Dr. West grunted but looked as if he didn’t believe me. “I know you didn’t ask for my advice, but trust me, if he did it once, he’ll do it again.”

I switched my weight from one foot to the other. “I know. That’s why I—”

“You don’t have to explain yourself to me,” he said, cutting me off. “Just take care of yourself and be careful. You’re one of my best students. You’ve got a bright future ahead of you. Don’t let anyone try to steal that away from you.”

I got ready to say something, anything to defend myself. I didn’t want to be seen as some damsel in distress. I wasn’t stupid like other women who stuck around after a man kicked their asses the first time. I didn’t want to be seen as some stupid helpless young woman who got her ass beat for fun. I was smart. I had a 4.1 GPA. I was in the top five percent of my class.

But I drew a blank… The thoughts were in my head, but no words came out of my mouth.

“I’m not stupid,” was the only thing I could say.

“I didn’t imply that you were, Ms. Jones,” he replied.

There was no judgement in his tone, but his eyes held me captive. I couldn't tell what he was thinking, but there was something in them that told me there was something he wasn’t saying.

“Do you need me to stay with you for a while or make sure you get home safely?” he asked.

I shook my head, feeling as if he’d already seen enough of my weak points.

“No, thank you. I’ll be fine,” I lied.

Dr. West nodded and disappeared into the mall crowd.

Truth be told, Louis’s actions had shaken me to my core, and I didn’t know if I would ever feel the same about love, men and relationships again. 

Dr. West
Luke warm water washed over me. It was an indicator that I had been standing in the shower for too long. It was something I often did when my head needed clearing. A lot had been plaguing my mind as of late.

I turned the water off and got out. I heard the woman in my bedroom singing along with Tweet telling us about touching herself. I was with one woman but thinking of three others. My ex-fiancĂ©e was one of those women. A man could never get over the woman who had taken his love…and basically threw it back in his face. I was not a perfect man, but I wasn’t a dog either. I had my share of fuck ups, but I was human. Still, I was good to her. I didn’t deserve what she’d done to me.

  I’d thought she was the one. The woman I was going to settle down with. We were together for four years before I realized she was not the one for me. Took me that long to find out she was the whore my brother said she was.

That woman had my mind gone. I was in love. Loved her with everything that was within me. Loved her beyond her imperfections. I actually thought I loved her unconditionally. What was a man to do when he was so in love with a woman he couldn’t think straight? I’d been young and dumb in every sense of the word.

“Hey, sweetie, what’cha doing in there? You need some help drying off?” Tanina asked then giggled.

I'd been seeing Tanina for almost a year and a half.  She was an investment broker from New Jersey. Twenty-eight. No kids. No strings attached. When I’d met her, her jet-black hair hung below her shoulders. Now it sat in a cut that made her look like the pop-star Pink in a business suit. Her feline-like gray eyes were her main attraction though.

 I didn’t know exactly what she and I had, but I knew it wasn’t love, mostly lust on my end. To be honest, I didn’t think I could ever love another woman. My older brother, Hassan, was always telling me that I was on some depressed shit behind what had happened between me and my ex. I didn’t think so, but there were those times, like now, that I had a hard time letting what she had done go.

As I walked out of the bathroom, Tanina happily sauntered over to kiss me. Since she was only five-four she had to stand on her toes to reach my lips. Even then, I had to lift her a bit. She had put her red two-piece designer pantsuit back on. She’d ripped it off as she walked through the door. She had always been hyper-sexual and for a while, I’d appreciated that. Even though I dipped my head to reciprocate her affection, I wasn’t into it. 

She stepped back and finished buttoning up her coat. “I have to get back to New Jersey. Have to finish some paper work, and I have a meeting tomorrow afternoon,” she said, a bit of excitement in her voice.

“When are you coming back?” I asked.

It was not like I really cared one way or the other. I just wanted to know when she planned to invade my personal space again.

She sighed. “I don’t know right now. It’s been a very busy season. I’m surprised I could even sneak away this weekend.”

I sat on my bed with the white towel wrapped round my waist. Picked up the shea butter and moisturized my skin. My mind traveled to Ms. Jones. Yes, she was my student, but I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I was worried about her in a sense. The fear in her eyes…the way she looked as if she wanted to jump out of her skin…even the way tepid, but frightened way she looked at the man in the parking lot was all familiar to me. 

Tanina saddled up to me and rubbed her hand up and down my chest, bringing my attention back to her.

 “What’s wrong baby? You look like your mind is somewhere else,” Tanina said.

I pulled on my gray sweats and glanced in her general direction. “I’m okay. Just tired.”

I was lying, but only a little. I was tired as hell, and I couldn’t wait to have some time to myself. I loved teaching, but even I needed a break from that at times.

She was quiet a moment before saying, “Well you just rest this weekend and get some sleep.”

The tone in her voice and her body language told me she wasn’t really buying my tired story. My initial plans when she’d stopped by was to call things off between us, but some kind of way I let one thing lead to another and now we were here. I knew from day one that Tanina and I would never go beyond sex. Should I have told her this by now? Maybe. Call it selfish, but Tanina was a great distraction. She took my mind off the hell my ex had put me through. Any other man would see Tanina as a great catch. She was smart, independent, built like a brick house, and could hang with the big dogs in a boardroom. However, she was clingy as hell and she always needed my validation.

Anytime we were out on the town and black women were around, Tanina did all she could to let it be known that she was on my arm. It was as if she was trying to intentionally antagonize any black woman in her immediate vicinity. Shit was odd to me. It was even odder than the way she would tell me she couldn’t believe I dated black women. I wasn’t sure what kind of brothers Tanina was used to dating, but I wasn’t one of those self-hating-ass black men who felt the need to speak ill of black women just because I dated outside my race occasionally.

Tanina was putting the rest of her personal things into her bag as I walked to my front room. Didn’t want to seem rude but was ready for my space all the same. When I had a lot of things on my mind, I wanted to be alone. Seeing Ms. Jones earlier had taken me back to a dark place…

Tanina walked out of my room and set her bag down in front of me.  

“I guess I’ll call you Monday and let you know when I’ll be back,” she said.

I could tell by the way she was studying my face that she was looking for any sign that told her where my head was at the moment. There were none.

“Okay,” was all I said.

She tilted her head then gazed up at me. “Roger, may I ask you a question?”

I nodded and folded my arms across my chest. “Sure.”

“What are we?” she asked.  “I mean are we a couple? Are we together? Are you my man, or are you just along for the ride? I need to know. I run back and forth from Jersey every other month since we have been doing whatever it is that we are doing, and you’ve only come to see me once in a year. So, what’s up? I mean do you even care about me, at all?”

I shifted my weight from one foot to the other and rubbed my chin, a bit annoyed that she picked now to have this conversation. The moment would have been the perfect opportunity to tell her the truth. It would have been the perfect time to try and put an end to what had been going on for far too long. But because I was already frustrated and annoyed, I gave her and opened-ended answer.

“Tanina, we can talk when you call me on Monday or when you come back for a visit,” I said.

She chuckled sardonically and shook her head. “You know, for you to be a psychologist, you really do a shitty job of being open and honest about your feelings,” she said. She shook her head and picked up her bag. Between mumbling under her breath, she let out a loud sigh and opened my door. She turned to look at me and said, “I’m not sure if I’ll call you or not. Sounds like you need a bit of time to get your thoughts together.”

I didn’t say anything to that. I didn’t know exactly what she wanted me to say either. When she realized she wasn’t going to get a response, she turned and walked to her car. I didn’t like manipulation either. I’d had enough of that with my ex. So Tanina’s bluff that she didn’t know if she would call or not didn’t move me in the least.

I closed the door and took a seat on my sofa. The welcomed solitude made me breathe a little easier.  Alone with my thoughts and my inner transgressions, I felt bad for the way I brushed Tanina off, but a woman of my past had caused women of my future to have to deal with the man I’d become.

  My phone rang and took me away from my thoughts for a moment. I answered it, knowing who it was by the ringtone.

“Talk to me,” I answered.

“What’s good, brother man?” My brother Lionell was on the other end.

I heard the intercom in the background noise calling someone to the ER which meant he was at work. Lionell was almost four years older than I was. He’d graduated in the top of his class and was one of the top trauma surgeons in Georgia. While we had the same height and build, our similarities ended there. Lionell believed in having any woman he so chose; married, single, or otherwise.

“Not much. Grading papers now that Tanina has left,” I lied.

Didn’t want him to know where my head was.

“Damn, you’re still messing around with her nutty ass?” he asked then laughed.

I chuckled.

Lionell and I were as opposite as day and night. Negro had a sex drive that would make rabbits jealous. He was in a relationship a few years back, but I knew that was over before it started. My brother couldn’t keep his hands to himself, and I meant that in more ways than one. He was like our father in that department. It was something he was constantly working on. Out of the three of us, Lionell had always been the hot head and had always been the one who fought that demon of physically abusing a woman. Our eldest brother, Hassan, had gotten in Lionell’s face about it plenty.

“So, who are you screwing this week?” I asked him to change the subject.

He laughed before answering. “Nobody, believe it or not. I’m trying to calm down for real. Been thinking about mom a lot.”

That sobered me a little bit. Mom had been the other woman on my mind. The anniversary of her death was coming up.

“Yeah? So, no woman is waiting for you ass naked when you get home?” I asked, a bit shocked.

“Shit, I wish, but not tonight. I was supposed to be taking the night off, but a few people decided to get shot and stabbed so duty calls,” he said, his morbid sense of humor on display.

“I get it. What’s on your mind about mom though?” I asked as I got up to clean up the take-out boxes that Tanina and I had left about.

“Just wishing she was still here to see us now; you know? She would be proud of us.”

I nodded as if he could see me. “Yeah, I know. I think about that a lot, too. I often wonder who she would have been had she not met dad…”

He chuckled. “She’d probably still be stuck in that country-ass hometown of hers.”

I chuckled too then asked, “Think if she had a chance to do it all over, she would?”

“You mean like what? Her life?”

“Yeah, being married to dad and all,” I said.

I grabbed a dish towel and some Lysol spray to wipe down my table.

“To be honest, I think she would because she loved the asshole no matter how he treated her and no matter what he did to her. I don’t understand it, but shit, it’s not meant for us to understand. Still, I believe she would have, but I think she would have been smarter about it is all,” he said.

Anytime the anniversary of our mother’s death came about, we had this conversation. It never failed. To have our mother taken away from us so violently had scarred us, badly. One would have never thought the man on the other end of the phone was a trauma surgeon with the way he carried on in his personal life. Sometimes I felt like I was older than he was, but there were times, like now, when he showed his maturity, and that made me appreciate him as a big brother more.

  We talked for a couple of more minutes before I told him I wanted to lay down and get some rest. After we hung up, I finished cleaning. For some odd reason, my student, Ms. Jones crept into my thoughts again. Isis Jones was a smart one and I often looked forward to her class interaction. She was beautiful, and I noticed that from the moment she walked into my class. It was hard not to. She was smart as hell and could hang with me in an intellectual debate in a way not many of my students could. I was still shocked to find out she was in an abusive relationship. While she was as smart as a whip, intellectually, I prayed she was just as smart romantically. I hoped like hell she would leave the situation she was in before it was too late.

  I fell asleep and dreamed about my mother. Dreamed she was alive and well. Talking, laughing, and joking with me like she’d always done. Then this tall dark menacing figure walked over to loom over her. It always took a while, but the figure’s facial features became clearer. He looked just like me. For a while he was smiling. Looked as if he was happy just to be in her presence, and then, for no reason at all, he hauled off and hit her. Hit her so hard made her nose and mouth bleed. I wanted to help her but couldn’t move. Couldn’t get close enough to her to make the thing that looked so much like me keep his hands off of her.

He turned and looked back at me. Saw me trying to get away and help my mother and didn’t like it, so he came for me. Swung at me like I was a grown man when I was only fourteen, but the blow didn’t hit me. It landed on my brother Lionell’s face. Then his foot looked like it was coming for me but landed in my older brother’s ribs. My two older brothers were laid out in the middle of the floor beside my mother. The figure came and pulled me to him, held me in arms and told me he loved me. I was pulling and tugging, trying to get away, but he had a grip. Trying to explain to me why he loved me and why he’d done what he had. As much as I’d wanted to, I couldn’t break away from his hold to help my mother or my brothers.

It was the same dream that had always haunted me. I jumped away from my dreams sweating and panting. Looked at my clock to see it read two-thirty in the morning. I had been asleep for five hours.
I got up and walked to my refrigerator. I grabbed a bottle of water and downed the cold liquid. I thought about my mother. No matter how much time had passed, I’d never get over her death.  

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Copyright © 2005 by Nikki Michelle
All rights reserved
Singleton’s Press
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.


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