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Almost Doesn't Count: Part 6


 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 sixth part:
Dr. West
A violent clap of thunder jolted me awake. My bedroom was dark and blurry. I reached over to my nightstand and grabbed my glasses. A soft moan beside me made me look over. Tanina was back. The pink lace bra and panty set she had on did nothing to bring out her pale skin. She’d shown up out of the blue. Said she was in Atlanta on last-minute business. Called me and asked if I had time for dinner.

I didn’t, but I did. I needed to talk to her. Needed to end this thing we had going on. To her, it was leading somewhere. To me, it was just something to do. There was no need for me to lead her on any further. That had been the plan until we’d gotten back to my place, and that wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t gotten too drunk to drive back to her hotel. She stripped out of her clothes and danced around my front room. She’d tried her hardest to seduce me, but I wasn’t with it. It was time to move on.

I’d left her in my front room on the sofa. After I’d fallen asleep, she must have found her way in bed beside me.

I shook my head as I stood then headed to the bathroom to see a man about a horse. Once done, I washed my hands. I walked out the bathroom to find Tanina had awakened. She was sitting up in my bed, rubbing her forehead with a frown on her face.

“What time is it?” she asked when she looked over and saw me.

“Three-thirty in the morning,” I responded.

She sighed then stood. She looked around confused for a moment as if she couldn’t remember where she was and how she’d gotten here.

“I drank entirely too much,” she said, barely above a whisper.

I didn’t respond as I pulled my shirt on. She sauntered over, more like staggered over, and then tried to kiss me. She tried to cup both sides of my face with her hands, but I grabbed both her wrists before she could. She looked up at me. Her quizzical gaze said she was somewhere between offended and confused.

“So, I can’t kiss you now?” she asked.

I shook my head and moved her back a few paces. “We need to talk, Tanina,” I said.
She yanked her wrists out my hand, stepped back defensively and then folded her arms. “About what?”

“Us,” I said.

I could have sworn her cat-like gray eyes turned to slits. “What about us?”

I’d never been a man to mince words. So I gave it to her straight. “This thing we’re doing, it has to stop. You want one thing and I want another. Getting into another relationship right now isn’t something I want to do.”

She was silent for a moment as she gawked up at me. Her face turned a ruddy undertone and her eyes watered. I wasn’t sure if that was from the alcohol or if it was because of what I’d just said to her. Without a word, she turned and headed to my bathroom. I was left standing there trying to figure out why she didn’t respond. I’d expected some kind of emotion, some kind of rebuttal.

But for all of five minutes, Tanina remained in the bathroom. I heard her use the toilet. I heard when the water came on and I assumed she was washing her hands. As a violent flash of lightning ripped across the sky, the bathroom door opened, and she walked out.

She paced the floor in front of my bed before she looked over at me.

“You didn’t know that before you let this go on for a year or so, Roger? So you led me on all this time?” she asked.

“Led you on? No. I told you from the beginning—”

“No, what you said was we should just let the chips fall where they may and let time tell the tale. If you knew a relationship was never going to come of this, then why keep it going for this long?”

“I can’t answer that at the moment… Wait, I could, but I don’t think you’d like the answer,” I said.

“Try me,” she demanded.

I inhaled before speaking. “Over time, what we had became convenient. You became familiar and I just rolled with it. I thought we had an understanding until your language and behavior took a turn I wasn’t ready for. What I should have done is told you long before now—”

Tanina interrupted me. “Did you feel this way the last time I was here? The last time we had sex?” she asked.

I answered honestly. “Yes, Tanina. Nothing changed for me from the moment we met, until now.”

She shook her head as she bit down on her bottom lip. “So all those dates, all the laughs, all the sex, all the pillow-talk meant nothing to you?” she asked.

“Not in the same vein that it may have meant to you…”

She gasped, and her hand flew to her neck as if my words had physically assaulted her. She stopped pacing the floor. For a long while she stood there and stared at me. I didn’t know how to feel. I was numb in a sense. After what my ex had done to me, it was hard to put my trust in any woman. That was why I’d told Tanina up front, not to expect a relationship from me. I’d asked her not to expect anything more than what I gave her. In essence, I’d given Tanina the best that I could offer.

I didn’t want to come off cold and heartless, but I knew that in this moment and in Tanina’s version of things, I’d be the bad guy. I didn’t know if I was okay with that, but there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t let what we were doing go on any further; lest she be hurt even more.

Tanina stormed from my room. I knew she was probably going to retrieve her clothing. I gave her a bit of space. I heard her moving around. Her sniffles were the only thing that could be heard throughout my condo minus the hard pour of rain outside. I assumed she had started crying. After a few minutes, I heard her on the phone with a cab service.

When she was done, she walked back in my room, fully dressed in the black skirt and cream blouse she had been wearing.  

“One day, you’re going to know what it feels like to love a person who doesn’t love you. One day, this will all come back to you.  To lead me to believe that what we were doing would lead to something more when you knew it wouldn’t is...” Tanina stopped talking and bit her bottom lip while looking around as if she was searching for the right words. “It’s cruel, Roger, and one day, you’ll get it. You’re so fucking cold and heartless. You don’t feel anything. Even when we’re having sex, yes, it feels good, but that seems to be all you feel and nothing more.”

I didn’t know what she wanted me to say or if she expected me to say anything at all. She tsked like she was disgusted and walked back to the front room. A few minutes later, she was gone, and I was left to my thoughts…and my demons.

My dreams haunted me once I called it a night again. As always, my mother was the victim. My father was the assailant, and I was the bystander. I sat up and gazed at the clock. Only an hour had passed since Tanina left.

I thought about my father. Thought about the man whom I looked identical to, who beat my mother because he could. If anything had gone wrong during the day, he found a way to make it my mother’s fault. I’d been ten-years-old when I first saw my father hit my mother. Lionell and Ron, my two older brothers, had told me about it, but I’d never seen it until that day…

I’d just gotten home from school. I had been excited because my big brothers had picked me up from school and all my friends had seen it. Things like that were a big deal to kids like me back in the day who had older, popular siblings. I hopped out my oldest brother’s truck, ran through the courtyard, and rushed up the stairs to the front door. I turned the knob to see it hadn’t been locked and burst through the front double doors.

Mama had warned me about running through the house plenty, but my ten-year-old self couldn’t seem to help it. I ran into the sitting room to see my father standing over her. The panic-stricken horror written across my mother’s face would forever be etched in my memory. She was already on the floor, one hand thrown up to shield her face and the other behind her, propping her up.

My father’s fist landed against my mother’s face so swiftly, it was almost as if I hadn’t seen it at all. But that wasn’t what had shaken me to the core. No, it wasn’t how fast the hit had been… It was how hard my father had hit her. I saw my mother’s face cave in just as his fist connected to it. He’d hit her so hard I swore every bone in her face had cracked.

My father was not a small man. He stood at six-foot-ten inches tall. My mother was only five-seven. No bigger than one hundred thirty pounds, and she was well toned. My father wouldn’t have had her any other way, and considering she had pushed eleven, ten, and nine-pound babies out of her body, she looked damn good.

My mother fell backwards, the upper half of her body now obscured behind the sofa. All I could see were her hands and feet as she tried to shield and defend herself against my father any way she could.
At ten-years-old, seeing and hearing my mother scream and beg my father to not hit her anymore scarred me. I would never see my father the same. Up until then, he’d been my hero. Up until then, it had been hard to understand why my brothers had been so rebellious. I never understood why they were always in trouble because they had to always give Dad a hard time. My whole world changed that day.

My bookbag hit the floor with a loud thud. It was only then that my father stopped, his hand frozen in midair as if someone had pressed pause on a movie. My father’s eyes turned to me. I screamed for my mother. By now, my other brothers had come running in. Later they would tell me I’d yelled for Dad to stop.

My mother dragged herself further behind the sofa.

 “Roger, baby go upstairs to your room, honey,” she said.

Her voice was shaking. She didn’t sound like herself. I wanted to see her. I needed to see her. No way my father had hit her like that and she was okay. I heard my brothers say something to Dad. I didn’t know what it was. I ran toward my mother, only to have Dad demand I stop where I was.
“Roger, Lionell and Ron go to your rooms…please…” she said again, her voice barely above a whisper.

She kept telling us to go to our room, but I wanted to see my mother. Wanted to see if he had really hit her that hard. My father stopped me right before I got to her. He made us all go upstairs. He was acting like he was nervous. He walked me upstairs to my room and kept trying to explain to me what I saw. He was trying to get me, his ten-year-old son to understand why he had no choice but to hit my mother. I didn’t understand it then and as I got older, I still didn’t get it.

From that day forward, I resented my father. I heard my mother screaming at night for him not to hit her again. Saw when he hit her another time. It had been so hard she fell into the glass cabinet that held the liquor that she started indulging herself in. She didn’t get up that time. All I remember was her going away in an ambulance then coming back three days later.

By the time it was all said and done, my father had beat all the life from my mother. She stopped going out. Stopped all her work with different charities. Stopped being as active in our schooling… slowly but surely, he killed her spirit long before he killed her.

Ms. Jones crossed my mind. As hard as I tried not to, I couldn’t help but remember her working the stage at Magic City. She was one beautiful, well put together young woman. All of her physical attributes mixed with her intellect made for one hell of a treat. Any man with good sense would know what a gem she was.

I wondered if she had stayed away from her abuser. I hoped she knew that her situation could only lead down one road. I wondered if one time had been enough for her…

I got my answer Monday morning. The class had known about the two-hour class ahead of time. It was no different than every other Monday except this Monday classes included a one-hour lecture and a one hour test right after. Ms. Jones had always been punctual. She’d never been late to a lecture that included a test. All my students knew tests were a huge percentage of their grades.

However, I was ten minutes into my lecture when I noticed Ms. Jones frantically waving her hand outside of my locked classroom door.

“Excuse me,” I said to the rest of my class before walking to the door. I opened it and stepped outside. “May I help you, Ms. Jones?”

She looked disheveled. Her eyes were bloodshot, and her clothes looked worse for wear.  
“Please Dr. West, I know I’m late, but you have no idea how hard I tried to get here on time,” she said. “I had an emergency—”

“Ms. Jones,” I said, stopping her. “You know my rules. I clearly stated them on the syllabus at the beginning of the term. Once class starts, once my door is closed, I don’t permit students in afterwards.”

“I know, but—”

“No exceptions.”

“Oh my God,” she said, barely above a whisper. “But the test… I can’t…I need that grade.” Her eyes watered as she looked up at me. “Please…”

Since I’d started teaching at Clayton State, I’d never gone against my rules and let a student in after I started class. It would have been unfair to the single mothers I’d turned away and all the other students who may or may not have had legitimate reasons for being late if I allowed Ms. Jones the privilege now. Now matter how badly I wanted to…

“I’m sorry, Ms. Jones. No exceptions,” I said.

“Fuck,” she spat as she dropped down on the bench beside the wall.

She shook her head as tears rolled down her face. I knew Ms. Jones was an overachiever, but I suspected something more was at the helm of her breakdown at the moment. I hated to leave her—I meant, I hated to leave any student in such distress, but I’d already taken away from lecture time.

“Look, I’m going to give three more tests in the upcoming weeks and of course midterms are coming. If you pass all three with high marks and do well on the midterms, you still have a chance of passing this class with a low A or high B, again, depending on how well you do. Why don’t you focus on that and getting to class on time? I wouldn’t miss anymore days if I were you either. Okay?”

I moved toward her. She jumped back like I was about to attack her or something.

She stood abruptly, nodded her head, but it was as if she wasn’t even there. I watched her as she picked up her book bag up and walked slowly down the hallway.



Isis
 The last few days had been rough for me. I’d never been to jail a day before in my life, and, after forty-eight hours inside of one, I never wanted to go back. Louis really flexed his muscle. While my friends had no trouble getting bonds, I had no such luck. I didn’t even want to think about what being inside of that holding cell and then marched down a long corridor that was built of concrete and painted gray had done to my mind. I couldn’t even talk about it. I didn’t want to.

When Monday morning rolled around, and I was finally released, I’d rushed right to class, trying to make the quiz Dr. West had given to no avail. I smelled awful, like something akin to wild onions and stinky dirt. When Dr. West tried to get close to me, I backed away in fear he would smell me.

Louis was ruining my life. No, you’re ruining your own life over a nigga who clearly doesn’t want you. You didn’t have to go to that man’s house, my mind screamed as I laid in bed.

I was no longer lying to myself. Louis had left his mark on me and seeing him with another woman had hurt. I still wondered how it was possible he had a wife. Where had she been the whole year and some change that I’d been dating him? How is it that his house had showed no signs of a child or woman?

Those were my thoughts until my phone rang and jolted me back to the present. I looked at the caller i.d. to see it was my mother. I was somewhere between shocked and pleasantly surprised. I hadn’t heard from her in about two months. We had been playing phone tag. She would call me when I wasn’t home or when I couldn’t answer my cell. She would leave a message. I’d call her back only to have her not answer so I would have to leave her a message. She must have sensed something was wrong.

“Hey, Mama,” I answered.

“Hello, Baby Cakes. How you doing?” she asked, joy in her voice.

She’d called me that since I was old enough to remember. I smiled, imagining her sitting on the front porch of our old house while on the cordless phone. She sounded to be in good spirits. More than I could say for myself.

“I’m okay, Mama. How are you?”

“I’m a bit tired. The hospital short on nurses again so I’m pulling double time. Other than that though, your old girl is hanging in there. How school going, baby?”

I chuckled low and then stood up to walk around my room as I talked.  “It’s going okay.”
“Hmm… that don’t sound so convincing, Baby Cakes.”

“It’s okay. I just missed a major test today and was trying to figure out how to make up for it.”

“How’d you do manage to do that, Isis?” she asked in her motherly tone of voice.

There was no way I would tell my mother that I ended up in jail because some nigga had made me lose my mind.

So, I lied. “I overslept—”

“Overslept?” she repeated like she couldn’t believe I would do such a thing. “Didn’t you know you had a test today, Isis? How you oversleep? You can’t be doing no mess like that, baby.”

I sighed and shook my head. With the way she was reacting to me “oversleeping”, I knew it was a good thing not to tell her about my stay in jail over the weekend.

“Geesh, Mama. Calm down,” I said.

“Child, don’t tell me to calm down. First of all, respect me. You may be grown and away in college but I’m still Mama. You got that?” she fussed.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Second of all. You have plans, baby. You told me you were going to get out and stay out of this town come hell or high water. Now I’m sorry my money ran low and I ain’t been too good at supporting you financially as I should, but I’m going to always be in your corner with any other support you need. You been doing good. Been keeping ya grades up and such. We not going to be let no sleep get in the way of your dreams and goals. You hear me?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said.

She was about to say something else until someone interrupted her. I heard a male’s voice in the background along with the squeaky screen door that my mother still hadn’t fixed apparently.

“Foods done,” I heard him say.

Whoever he was, his voice was deep as ever with a husky undertone that made me quirk a brow. There was a rustling noise like my mama was trying to cover the phone.

“I’ll be there in a minute,” she said low as if she was trying to whisper. “Ah, hello?” she said into the phone.

 “Who is that?” I asked.

“Stop being nosy. Back to you and this test. How is everything else in school? You passing still?”

“Yeah so far, so good,” I said.

I heard that man again. “Are you talking to her?” he asked.

That rustling noise sounded on the other end of the phone again. “Yes, and I already know what you’re about to ask. The answer is no. Now please, go on back inside. I’ll be there in a minute.”

“Mama who is that?” I asked, this time more urgent that before.

“It’s ah—It’s nobody, baby. Stop being so nosy. Mama can have a friend, can’t she? Now you calm down.”

“Mama—”

“So when are you coming home?” she asked, cutting me off.

“Mama? Who—”

“Isis, I don’t feel like discussing that at the moment and not over the phone, okay? Now when are you coming home?”

I was quiet a moment before answering. I wanted to know who that man was and why he was asking about me. “The plan was to come home after graduation for about two weeks, but do I need to get there sooner?”

“No. No, nothing like that,” Mama said then laughed, although it sounded a bit off. “I just wanted to know when to expect you is all.”

I didn’t know what was going on with her, but something told me my mother wasn’t being truthful with me. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something was off. My mother and I talked for a few more minutes before she rushed me off the phone. She said it was because she didn’t want her food to get cold, but I suspected the man I’d heard in the background had something to do with it.

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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