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Mr. Wrong After All

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Acknowledgements

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. —Proverbs 3: 5-6.

Father God, thank you for your son, Jesus. Thank you for opening the windows of heaven and allowing your gift of creativity to rain on me. I feel your limitless love and abundant peace surrounding my life daily. Amen.

KD, I never knew true unconditional love until God, with his awesome omnipotence, gave me your hand. Your faith filled patience and constant support makes me shine. You are my muse and I will love you until infinity becomes measurable. Z.I.G., mommy loves you!

Venessa, thanks for listening. Your friendship encourages my soul to crawl out of its hiding place.

Finally, I dedicate this book to the memory of my parents, Sarah and Dumas Evans. From day one, they believed that the sun rose and set on their little girl. They taught me that I, with God’s help, could climb any mountain. I thank them for their unselfish love and dedication. Even though they are no longer with me physically, their beautiful spirit breathes into me every day.

THE JOURNEY BEGINS

Chapter 1

Nicolette Evans

The beautiful campus of Georgetown University was much more intimidating than it appeared in the brochure, especially for a country girl like me who was accustomed to the nonchalant, small town Alabama life. Before leaving for college, I had never traveled further north than Birmingham.

My parents were not the types to spend extra money on vacations. My father was the pastor of the small but intense congregation of Shades Temple Pentecostal Church. The membership of about two hundred, saved, sanctified and Holy Ghost– filled, yet poor, parishioners did not pay a salary that would allow our family to live high on the hog by any standard, but they gave all they could to my father. After hearing one of his “it is better to give than to receive” sermons, I watched elderly women who were facing eviction from their homes give money to my father instead of paying their rent. When they were ultimately left homeless, their pastor would ridicule them for not having real faith.

“God punishes those who do not believe in Him or in His anointed,” he would preach as he looked down at them from his pulpit.

If only the congregation really knew what kind of man their pastor really was, I’m sure a lot of them would have kept their hard-earned money in their pockets. There were occasions when we often ate rice for dinner or when the electricity was disconnected because whatever money he made was usually spent on liquor and other women. It was important to him that his members never knew what life was really like within the boundaries of the four walls of our house. My father had the entire congregation fooled about the kind of man he really was. Those poor and downtrodden members believed that their pastor was above reproach. They came to him for guidance, in times of indecision and comfort, in times of tragedy, and he was the consummate expert at putting on a front for them. It was enough to turn even the strongest of stomachs. I watched him lay hands on the sick, claiming to be anointed by God with the ability to heal. I remember thinking that those healing powers must have also extended to his dick because he laid that on many women, and a few men, all in the name of God.

My father wanted my mother to be home and at his beckoned call. He was one of the last men on earth who truly believed that women were created for only two things.

“Woman was created for man’s pleasure,” my father would preach to his congregation and to his wife and three daughters. “This is the way God designed it and we are not to question His will for our lives.”

I never questioned God’s will. It was my father’s. But no matter what my father said or how loud he said it, my mother never questioned or even argued with him. She just did as she was told. I often felt sad for my mother because she never seemed to be happy. I mean really happy. The kind of happiness one feels when they are truly satisfied with the direction in which their life is going. Behind her loving smile, I saw pain and discontent. She heard the rumors about my father and other women. She knew he drank and how often. She knew all of the vile and sometimes violent things he did, both inside and outside of our home. Sometimes my father didn’t even try to hide what he was doing.

I remember when he brought home a woman that everyone in town knew to be a prostitute. My father claimed her pimp had abused her and she needed to stay with us for a while. Just until he could be sure she would be safe. Well, my father went the extra mile to insure her safety. He volunteered to sleep in the same room with her the entire two weeks she stayed with us.

Then, there was the way he abused his daughters. Because I was the oldest, I think I suffered the lion’s share of it until I left home. When I was ten years old, my father almost choked the life from me for refusing to do what he wanted. I went to my mother crying uncontrollably, hoping she would do something, anything to stop his horrible behavior. But, before I could even finish talking, my mother shut me down immediately.

“Nicolette, you listen to me. Your daddy is your daddy and you will not disrespect him with your childish lies,” she chastised. “Your father is the pastor of the church and I don’t want you going outside of this house telling people our business. That would not look good.”

I could not believe the words that poured from her mouth. At the time, I wasn’t sure whether it was because she didn’t believe me or because she had decided it would be best if she ignored everything that was happening around her. I later realized that it was the latter. My mother used denial as a coping mechanism. She put up with all of his crap and kept all of his secrets.

My father was probably too selfishly wrapped up in his own world to even notice how miserably unhappy we all were. Then again, maybe he did notice but just didn’t give a damn.

I was determined not to live my life with that same discontent as my mother. I knew that there were other places for me in the world besides the kitchen and the bedroom. The first step to finding these places was for me to get the hell out of Prichard, Alabama and out into the real world.

Knowing that my parents didn’t have the money to send me to college meant I had to work extremely hard to earn full scholarships. I studied from sun up to sun down and gave the phrase “burning the midnight oil” brand new meaning. I don’t think I slept at all during my senior year of high school.

Lord, please give me the knowledge necessary to make excellent grades. I need to earn a scholarship so that I can escape this awful place.

My father would not allow me to get a job outside of our house. Instead, I babysat for my cousins and other neighborhood kids in our home in order to make extra money. That way my father could keep his eye on me and make sure I wasn’t out somewhere “sinning” with a boy. Yeah, boys were another issue where my father had definite opinions. We were not allowed to date, as he believed boys only wanted one thing. Sex. And, who would know about that better than a man who always had sex on the brain twenty-four-seven and usually it was with everyone except for with his wife.

I once made the mistake of having one of my male classmates call me to discuss a history project we were working on. My father almost had a stroke when he answered the telephone.

“You are not to have boys call or come by to see you. Do you hear me? They just want one thing and when they get what they want, you’ll be left with nothing but regret and a screaming bastard to raise. I will not allow that kind of shame on my house or my church,” he yelled.

My father’s attitude and behavior toward many things was what fueled my desire to leave home on the first thing smoking as soon as a viable opportunity presented itself.

When the news of my scholarship to Georgetown leaked, the entire town was excited. With an SAT score of 2100 and an ACT score of 32, along with my 4.0 grade point average, I had actually earned six scholarships. Three of the scholarships were to colleges within the state of Alabama. Turning down those three schools was an easy decision to make because there was no way in hell I was staying here. Another scholarship was to Stanford, all the way out in California. I wanted to get away but not that far away. The other was to Tulane in New Orleans. Far, but not quite far enough. New Orleans was still within driving distance. My decision was easy. Georgetown University was closer than California but farther away than New Orleans, which made it the perfect choice.

The members of the church raised money to help my parents with the expense of driving me to DC. Instead of using that money for gas, my father spent a huge chunk of it, on God only knows what, and purchased me a train ticket with what was left and, as usual, my mother didn’t say a single word about it.

Instead, she cried like a baby the entire week leading up to my departure. My younger sisters were little chatterboxes and begged to come to DC for campus visits and for me to send them each Georgetown t-shirts. They couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Alabama either. My father made sure that I had a brand new Bible, complete with a rainbow of highlighted scriptures to read whenever I was tempted to drink, smoke, steal, cuss or, his favorite, have sex.

“Satan is going to come at you now that your protective hedge has been removed.”

I just stared at him blankly and nodded my head, pretending to give a damn about his bullshit.

Just as soon as I am away from here, I plan to forget any and every thing you have ever said to me.

I couldn’t believe that I was finally going to be away from home and on my own.

Washington, DC. The nation’s capital. Once I stepped off the train and into Union Station, I realized that this was an entirely different world for me. I became anxious about all of the opportunities that awaited me on the other side of those doors. There was something about the unknown that made my heart race and my stomach quiver. It was as if my life was just beginning and I was the one in control of its destiny. I used some of the money that I’d secretly saved to take a taxi from the train station to the University. Once the Middle Eastern taxicab driver learned that I was new in town, he insisted on taking the scenic route through the city to get to Georgetown. I suspected that he was taking advantage of me but I didn’t care. I enjoyed the ride up Constitution Avenue, passing the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument. These were places I had only seen on television or read about in a book and it was well worth spending a few extra dollars just to see them in person. I closed my eyes and said a brief thank you to God for blessing me with this opportunity to set an example for my sisters. I promised not to waste it. I wanted them one day to feel the same safety and security I was feeling at that moment.

When I finally arrived on campus and checked into my dorm room, I fell on my bed and exhaled. I felt as if I had spent the last eighteen years running a marathon trying to find peace and now that I had found it, I was exhausted. My life now belonged to me. What choices I made from now on were also up to me. This was truly the time for me to grow up and become the woman I wanted to be.

Chapter 2

Ahmad Franklin Jacobs, Jr.

“So what, man? You think just ‘cause your black ass is gonna be ballin’ at Georgetown University, you can’t hang with us?”

When my homeboys made statements like that, it made me regret my decision to tell them the good news of my scholarship to play basketball at Georgetown. I thought it was a big deal and hoped they would be happy for me. Instead, whenever I had to do anything else besides hanging out on the neighborhood court with them, they would always throw college in my face.

“That don’t make you better than us, homie.”

“I ain’t tryin’ to be better than y’all; I just got things to do. Know what I’m sayin’?”

It didn’t matter what I said or how many times I said it, my boys were going to walk away spewing the same ignorant ass bullshit.

“Man, you changin’.”

I knew I couldn’t dwell on how they felt or even do anything about it. I had more important things to think about. I was going to play ball for Georgetown University. I had to make the most of this opportunity. Playing ball was all I had wanted to do all of my life. Like most athletes, I started playing on the streets using milk crates as goals and shooting with old beat up balls. In Junior high school, I began to hone my skills and navigating on a much better court. A real floor with a real ball. My mother almost flipped her wig when the coach from Xavier Prep in Manhattan began calling and coming to the house, trying to recruit me to play for their team.

“Mrs. Jacobs, I feel that Ahmad has a real future in basketball. Xavier’s exemplary academic program, along with our outstanding athletic department, can really help him develop into something special. Not to mention the fact that if he maintains good grades, Ahmad could get accepted and play ball for one of the top colleges in the country.”

The coach was right. I worked extra hard in high school to keep a decent G.P.A. and even harder at playing great ball. Xavier Prep was the state basketball champion for three of my four years there. When the opportunity came for me to play basketball for Georgetown University on a full scholarship, I was in the right position to grab it.

My mom worked full time for a dry cleaner and there was no way in hell she would be able to afford to send me to a private school like Xavier Prep or to Georgetown University. The child support payments she received about once every three or four months from my father were barely enough to pay for subway fare for one let alone feed four growing children. My father came around every now and then because he said that he wanted his kids to “know their father.” That was bullshit and I knew it. I was the oldest and had heard more of it than my siblings. He really came around for an occasional free hot meal and some needy pussy. My mom was always glad to see his broke ass and was more than willing to let him hit her sweet spot. Always true to form, he was gone again before the sun came up the next day. I begged my mother to leave this fool alone but she never listened. The subject of my father was an extremely sore spot for the two of us.

“Ma, we don’t need him for shit.”

“You watch your mouth, Ahmad,” she would yell in her deep Jamaican accent.

“I mean it, Ma. He ain’t worth shit. You let him bounce around here and play daddy for a minute, fuck you and leave. Then what? Huh? You’re right back where you were. Working like a goddamn dog and depressed as hell.”

“Ahmad! I’m gonna slap the shit out of you if you don’t watch your goddamn mouth. Now, I am still your mother and I pay the bills all up and through here. I’ll have whoever the fuck I want up in this piece.”

“Ma, I can get a job and help out. You don’t have to kill yourself like this. Please, let me help you,” I softly begged.

“Ahmad, you need to be concentrating on school right now. Not working. I appreciate you wanting to help but baby, I got this. I don’t want nothing and nobody coming between you and your education. You’re going to college.” She reached out and grabbed my hand. “Anyway, your daddy is doing the best he can and I still love him.”

“You know what, Ma? Whatever,” I said as I threw up my hand in her face.

I was glad that I would be leaving for DC soon and would not have to put up with this shit. My sisters and brothers, on the other hand, were not so lucky. They would have to continue to watch this bullshit drama from time to time. I didn’t mean to be disrespectful to my mother, I just wanted better for her. That’s all.

But, I couldn’t worry about that right now. The list of things to do before I left for Georgetown was more than ten miles long. There was a lot of farewell pussy to get before I left town and I planned to take all that I could get my hands on. I also had to say tearful goodbyes to a lot of special people in my life. My grandmother made sure I had plenty of her bear hugs and sweet potato pie before I left town.

“Don’t forget about the old lady,” she said.

The main person that was going to be the hardest to leave was my girl, Corrie. She had been visibly sad ever since the day she learned that I would be going away to school. The sparkle that had always been present in her chestnut brown eyes was now gone.

“When will you be back?”

“Corrie, I promise to call you every day and to get home as much as I can to see you. When my team plays games nearby, you can come and watch me play. Wouldn’t you like that?” I asked, trying to make her feel better. It broke my heart to leave her behind. She was the main thing that kept me focused on my grades because I knew that if this basketball thing didn’t work out, I would need something solid to fall back on. I couldn’t let her down because, unlike most of the people in my life, Corrie really believed in me.

“Can I come to Washington to see you?”

“Well, maybe. I need to see how things are down there first.

I’ll let you know.”

I knew that what I was saying must have sounded to her like I was leaving her for good. I closed my eyes and savored the feeling of her soft skin as I stroked her delicate cheek. Man, I am going to miss holding you in my arms.

“Corrie, you know how much I love you, right?”

I pulled her warm body closer to me and inhaled her sweet scent.

“I love you, too, Daddy.”

Corrie Samantha Jacobs was born on my fifteenth birthday. At first, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about becoming a teenaged father until Corrie was born and I saw my own reflection in her little innocent face. I had fallen deeply in love with someone I’d just met. Corrie’s mom, Kim, and I only went out twice. We had sex on our second date and boom, Kim was pregnant. At first, I tried to pretend like there was no way the baby could be mine.

“Ahmad! You know that I was a virgin when we got together,” Kim tearfully argued.

“How do I know that?”

“Ahmad!”

She was right and I knew it. I’d been having sex since I was twelve years old and I could damn well tell when a girl was a virgin. But, being told that I was going to be a daddy scared the shit out of me. How was I going to support a baby? I didn’t have two nickels to rub together. My own father wasn’t around to set a good example and I was worried about the kind of father I’d be.

Since the day she was born, I made it my business to see Corrie every day. I didn’t have a lot of money to offer but I gave her all of my love and a great deal of my attention. I was determined not to mirror my father’s trifling behavior. Even though Kim and I were no longer dating, I was still going to be there for my little princess. And that’s exactly the way I treated her each time we were together…like a princess. Luckily, Corrie’s mom and grandma were cool and not a couple of bitter, money hungry bitches. They allowed me to come by and see her whenever I wanted. Even when I was broke, which was most of the time. Sometimes, Mrs. Agnew would bring Corrie to basketball games in the city so she could watch her daddy play. I would take her for play dates in the park or for weekends at home whenever my mom had the time to help out. Corrie was the one person in the world that I knew I just couldn’t let down.

Georgetown was going to be the beginning of my plan to make a better life for her. I had a lot of work to do.

Chapter 3

Nicolette

My freshman and sophomore years at Georgetown flew by like I couldn’t believe. I was finally getting my bearings on how things worked up here. It took almost two years for me just to learn my way around campus not to mention the city. Washington DC was quite different from Alabama. The creative culture of my beautiful Black brothers and sisters mesmerized me from the moment I arrived here. There seemed to be an openness in the air that made it easier to breathe and be yourself. I truly felt like I belonged here.

Much to my mother’s dismay, I didn’t visit Alabama often. I only went back home for Christmas and for a week or so in May. After getting that first taste of living on my own, I knew there was absolutely nothing waiting for me in Alabama, so I came back to DC and made the most of my time by attending summer school.

During the second semester of my sophomore year, I pledged a sorority and now, in addition to my two sisters back home in Alabama, I had a sisterhood of women around the globe who were in love with the colors pink and green.

My sister, Shannon, would be attending Howard University in the fall and I was excited over the idea of having her

so close by. Like me, Shannon couldn’t wait to leave home. She was anxious to experience the sweet life that I’d bragged about in my letters home. Being miles away from our father’s reach was freedom. I tried to recruit Shannon to attend Georgetown but she was more interested in an HBCU.

“Ain’t hardly no Black people at Georgetown,” Shannon observed during her one and only visit to DC before she enrolled in school. “I need to be where the brothers are. Plus, I know Georgetown don’t party like Howard.”

“Shannon, you can’t party your life away. School is school and you are going to have to work just as hard at Howard as you would any other college,” I explained.

Even though my father stifled a great deal of our freedom, Shannon still managed to be the wild one. She pretty much did what she wanted to do regardless of the consequences. She was always being punished for one thing or another. It just didn’t seem as if she cared about the rules our father set.

“What else can he do to me that he hasn’t already done?”

“I would think that you would be tired of that by now. Your life would be easier if you’d just do what he says and stop fighting him,” I advised.

“Please. And then what? Be quiet and scared like you and Mama? No thank you.”

The dating scene on Georgetown’s campus was okay. Every once in a while, I would go out with someone from a class or that I’d met while working as a student assistant in the financial aid office. The only drawback about dating someone I’d met at work was that he would probably be on financial aid like me and couldn’t afford much more than a movie or the occasional splurges for lunch at Johnny Rocket’s. But never both at the same time.

I quickly realized that living in my father’s strict household had made me socially retarded. I was so uncomfortable around boys and grew deathly nervous each time one would try to kiss me goodnight after a date. My first kiss was with a boy that I really liked and wanted the relationship to grow but I allowed my painful past to sabotage it.

Marcus Wallcot and I met during an Economics 201 study group and the attraction was almost immediate. We talked on the phone every night until the wee hours of the morning. Marcus was kind and very pleasing to the eye. On our first and only date, we went to see Angel Heart. Sitting next to Marcus, and watching the explicit sex scenes in the movie, made my face hot and my hands sweat. Marcus never even looked my way. He just kept crunching his way through the tub of popcorn and slurping on his giant Sprite. When we arrived back in front of my dorm, Marcus leaned in to kiss me. It was my first kiss and I was startled by the tingle that erupted between my thighs. Thoughts of my childhood and the fucked up things that occurred between the walls of my parent’s shotgun house stampeded my brain. When Marcus slipped his tongue in my mouth, I jumped out of the car, ran into the building, and never looked behind me. Marcus called me for days after that but I refused to speak with him and ignored his confused stares at me during class. I knew that even if I were to attempt to explain my behavior, I would put my foot in my mouth and there was no way Marcus could possibly understand it.

To spare myself humiliation and embarrassment, I just spent most of my time either at work or in the library. I knew that once I moved into the sorority house my junior year, I would be forced into becoming a social butterfly. Our chapter threw a house party at least twice a month.

The school year began with the sorority’s annual back to school jam at the house and practically every Black person on campus would be there. The week leading up to the party was crazy. Not only did we have to deal with registering for classes and settling into the residence but we also had a party to plan.

The night of the party, I was having so much fun that I forgot to be tired and nervous. Shannon was able to come on Georgetown’s campus and I enjoyed introducing her to everyone. From the beginning, Shannon made herself right at home. She flirted and danced with every man in the place. I was amazed at how much more outgoing she had become.

“C’mon, Nikki. Stop holding up the wall, girl, and dance,” she begged breathlessly.

“No thanks. I’m having a blast just watching you.”

When the deejay played Push It by Salt N Pepa, Shannon shrieked, “Aww shit, that’s my jam!”

She grabbed the first person in her path, pulled him out onto the floor, and danced like a demon possessed.

What in the world is Shannon doing? Has she lost her mind? She doesn’t even know this guy.

Her movements were overtly sexual and left very little to the imagination. At first glance, it appeared that Shannon was just dancing and having fun. But, the more I watched her; it was as if she was in some sort of trance. Whatever it was, her fine ass dance partner was enjoying every minute of it. I, on the other hand, was a little embarrassed. And, to be honest, I was a bit envious of my baby sister. Shannon was so free and so uninhibited. She was doing exactly what she wanted to do and she didn’t care who was watching her or what they thought about it. I wished I could be that bold. I was also thankful that my parents were nowhere to be found because watching Shannon dance like a Soul Train dancer on crack would send the two of them straight home to see Jesus face-to-face.

I also began to worry about my sister. I hoped that she wasn’t moving too fast into the world of being free and on her own. There were dangers that she wasn’t aware of and probably couldn’t handle even if she did know about them. I definitely needed to have a talk with Shannon before her wild behavior led her into harm’s way.

Knowing Shannon, she won’t listen to anything I have to say.

Look at her. She is buck ass wild.

Chapter 4

Ahmad

The first two years at Georgetown flew by like crazy. Between workouts, practices, games and classes, I barely had enough time to shower. Playing basketball for the Hoyas was great but it was also a lot of hard work and now that I was an upper classmen, it was going to get even harder.

Corrie was growing up so fast. I felt guilty that I was missing her milestones like the loss of her first tooth and teaching her to ride a bike and tie her shoes. I didn’t go home much during the summer because I wanted to use every available second to stay on top of my game with my classes. I wanted my grades to be just as tight or tighter as my skills on the court. Failure on any level was not an option.

However, there was one milestone that I wasn’t going to miss—Corrie’s first day of school.

“Daddy!” Corrie screamed, when she saw my car pull up to the curve.

When I saw my bright-eyed little princess, standing on the sidewalk all dressed up and holding her Big Bird backpack, I could not believe how tall she had gotten since the last time I saw her. She was all legs. Her soft golden skin beamed with excitement as she anxiously waited for me to get out of the car. “Daddy, did you come to take me to school?”

“I sure did, baby,” I answered as I picked her up and gave her a bear hug.

“I’m not a baby anymore. I’m almost six,” Corrie corrected.

“You know what? You are right. My Corrie is a big girl.”

After I dropped Corrie off at school and handed her mom a few dollars for whatever, I headed back to campus. I still had to add a few more classes during tomorrow’s late registration and more importantly, I had to pick up the keys to my new apartment. Well, it was more like a room than an apartment but it was mine. No more sharing shit and no more nosey ass roommates. I’d rented the basement apartment of a row house over on Georgia Avenue. The apartments in Georgetown or anywhere close to campus were too damn expensive for a truly struggling student who worked part-time at Wal-Mart. I had to make sure that a large part of my funds went to Corrie. The Georgia Avenue area wasn’t so bad. Actually, it reminded me a lot of my Bed-Stuy neighborhood with kids playing ball in the street and tantalizing smells of great food wafting through open windows. But no matter where it was, it was mine, at least for as long as I could afford to pay the rent.

After I picked up my keys and moved a few of my things in, I planned to head back to campus to check out a party that a friend was going to at the AKA house. It was the first party of the year and from what I’d heard, it was going to be all the way live.

I usually didn’t party a lot because of the trouble some of my teammates had experienced when they allowed themselves to relax a little too much. Drinking and driving or getting involved with a girl who cried rape after realizing that the guy was not going to call the next day had ruined some of them. I refused to be caught up in bullshit. So, for the most part I chilled.

I had barely walked through doors of the sorority house when a beautiful but wild girl pulled me onto the dance floor. She danced with her round ass all up on me. I felt my shit get hard as I watched her gyrate like a voodoo priestess. After the fast song stopped playing, a slow jam began. When she started to walk away, I grabbed her hand and pulled her back to me.

“You’re not going to leave me now, are you?” I asked.

I’m all worked up.

“Umm…not if you don’t want me to.”

I pulled her closer and we began to move rhythmically to the sound of Keith Sweat’s voice.

“So, what’s your name?” she seductively whispered in my ear.

“Ahmad. And yours?”

“Shannon.”

Shannon was beautiful with smooth gold skin, long sandy brown hair and blue grey eyes that reminded me of Vanessa Williams. I could definitely enjoy getting to know her better. Her sexy perpetual body language told me that she felt the same.

Slow your roll, Ahmad. Stop thinking with your dick. This is how guys get caught up in some schizophrenic shit.

“You’re tall. Do you play basketball?”

“Yeah.”

I knew from her question that Shannon had to be new to the DC area because everybody around here knew that Ahmad Jacobs was the forward for the Hoyas.

“So, Ahmad, you got a girlfriend?” she asked, as she gazed in my eyes.

“Well, not really. Why?”

Shannon grabbed my ass and pulled me even closer. Her movements against my crouch became more defined. Her mission was clear and I suspected that it probably wouldn’t have mattered to her whether I had a girlfriend or not.

“It’s getting a little crowded in here, Ahmad. Is there someplace we can go that’s a little more private?”

Here we go.

“We could go back to my apartment but I’m not sure if that is a good idea,” I said. I was trying hard to resist Shannon’s vibes but it had been a minute since a brother had a piece.

“Why isn’t it a good idea, Ahmad? I know you want me. I can feel it,” Shannon responded, rubbing the diamond that bulged through my Levi’s.

My apartment was private but yet not comfortable enough to bring a girl to. But if that’s where Shannon wanted to go then that’s where we’d go.

“My car is outside.”

When we arrived at my place, I apologized for the mess. There were stacks of boxes and plastic shopping bags all over the place. Shannon didn’t seem to mind the cluttered chaos at all. Actually, I’m not sure that she even noticed because the whole time I was moving things around, she never took her eyes off me. She sat down on the old rust-colored couch that I’d found on the street the same day I rented the apartment and removed her leopard-print high-heeled shoes. She leaned back and pulled her sexy feet beneath her petite frame.

“Are you going to stand over there all night or are you going to show some hospitality and come over and sit next to me?”

When I sat down next to Shannon, she immediately straddled me with her body.

“So, Ahmad, you want to kiss me?” she asked, staring down at me.

Before I could answer, Shannon leaned in and kissed me. Her full lips parted and allowed me to have total access to the warmness inside of her. My dick jumped for joy inside of my jeans at the possibility of getting a piece of Shannon’s sweet ass.

This girl is hot as hell.

Shannon stood up and began to undress in front of me. Man, I couldn’t believe that she was this bold. Most girls would wait for me to make all the moves but Shannon was bolder than I had ever seen and I liked it. Underneath the black skin-tight leggings and the short red baby doll dress was a perfectly matched red lace bra and thong. When Shannon unsnapped her bra, her big country ass titties popped out and waved to me. She closed her eyes, grabbed one of them, leaned in and ran her tongue over the nipple.

“Mmm,” she moaned. Shannon seemed intoxicated with herself.

Dayum!

This was the kind of shit I’d only seen done by those freaky ass white girls in porn flicks. My johnson was rock hard and ready for a full on shock and awe attack.

“Can I taste?”

“You sure you can handle it?”

“Ain’t much I can’t handle. Come here.”

I enjoyed sucking on those big ass jugs. Shannon moaned and purred when I stuck my finger inside of her slick kitty. I knew that I was going to enjoy fucking a girl this wild. I mean, she was buck ass wild!

“Ahmad, I want you to tear my pussy up,” she said, as I pounded the hell out of her. I always gave a girl what she wanted.

Shannon was a lot different from girls that I was used to. She growled, bucked, and talked as much shit as I did in bed. After the both of us reached euphoria and I pulled out of her, she leaned down to lick all of our juices off my shrinking dick and appeared to savor every drop.

“We taste good together,” she said, as she smiled and continued to lick her lips.

What the hell?

This blew my mind. Shannon was a freak and I definitely planned to keep her number on speed dial.

Just then, I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I forgot to use a rubber. My thoughts were pounding my brain like a freight train.

Goddamnit, Ahmad! What the fuck were you thinking? You know better! Girls are always trying to get with you ‘cause you play ball. You’ve already got one child because of irresponsible shit like this. What’s wrong with you? You don’t know shit about this girl.

Shannon noticed that I had become distant.

“What’s up with you?”

“Umm…nothing.”

“Yeah, there is.”

“Well, I just remembered that we forgot to use protection.”

“What? Protection? From what? Oh, so now you think I’m nasty?”

“Well, Shannon, I don’t need no more babies. I already have one. And now that you’ve mentioned it, I don’t need no other shit either.”

“Please. I’m on the pill. I ain’t got nothing ‘cause this was my first time having sex.”

I couldn’t believe that Shannon had the nerve to say that shit with a straight face.

A virgin? Yeah, right. Your freaky ass ain’t no virgin.

I’ve fucked virgins before and none of them was as wide open as this. Shannon was lying but I let it go. I really hoped she wasn’t lying about being on the pill. I don’t need any more drama.

Chapter 5

Nicolette

Basketball was a big deal at Georgetown. It seemed that until the season was over in March, the campus stood still. Nobody talked about anything else. I’ve never really been into sports that much probably because my father wasn’t the type to spend his weekends watching sports of any kind. He was too busy cutting the grass or visiting one of the so-called “sick” members of his church. No one in the house was allowed to watch television at all on Sundays. After church, we would sit around our small home with our thumbs up our asses, listening to our hair grow.

“Television is a tool that the devil uses to control your mind and get you away from the things of God,” my father said.

And if anybody was able to recognize the devil and his tools, it would definitely be you.

I have a list as long as the Nile River containing all of the cruel and terrible things that I had to endure as a child. I kept this list to remind myself of what not to do as a parent.

“C’mon, Nikki. This is the game of the season. We are playing North Carolina and you know what that means? You know who is coming to town and I can’t wait to watch that chocolate drop jump twenty feet into the air,” Sabrina said.

Sabrina Jackson was my soror and roommate this year. She was from Raleigh, North Carolina, which partly explained her fascination with their basketball team. But mainly, she was in love with the talented and beautiful star of the team. She constantly talked about him. Her side of the room was practically wallpapered with posters of him. She defied Georgetown’s school spirit and wore North Carolina paraphernalia all of the time. Sabrina even had the number 23 on the personalized license plate of her silver Hyundai.

“That’s exactly why I don’t want to go to this game with you, Sabrina. How are you going to sit at a Georgetown basketball game and root for the opposing team? The place will be packed solid and you’ll embarrass me with all of your loud screaming. Anyway, too many people in one place make me nervous. I’m just going to stay here and study,” I explained.

Sabrina was annoyed by the fact that I could sometimes be a hermit. I just didn’t like crowds. At the end of the day, I was still a sheltered shy girl from Alabama.

“That’s some ignorant bullshit, Nic. Did you hear yourself? You can’t fool me ‘cause I know how you like watching those fine and delicious looking brothers run around the basketball court in their short shorts, getting all sweaty and—”

“Okay! I’ll go. No more descriptions, please! You are a trip, Sabrina.”

“Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty.”

I was right. The Capital Centre was packed to the brim with a roaring crowd of fans. It was hard to tell if all of the groundswell was for Georgetown’s number 33 or North Carolina’s number 23. Whatever the reason, it was apparent that this game was serious.

Sabrina was loud, as usual. She yelled out her favorite player’s name every time he was air bound.

One player caught my attention. Although he was not as flamboyant of a player as the other two, he was indeed a powerful force on our team. He was a mad hustler, scrapping for every rebound and assist. I’d seen him somewhere before but I just couldn’t remember where. His long legs and tight ass made my heart skip a beat or two. When he went to the line to shoot free throws, the way he bent over and grabbed the leg of his shorts made my heart pound.

Look at him!

“Who are you starring at?”

I was busted. I was so busy eyeballing Mr. Free Throw that I forgot there was anyone else in the entire arena.

“Umm…”

“Yeah, umm is right.”

“The guy who just made the shot, what’s his name?” I asked, hoping to sound a little disinterested.

“Oh girl, that’s Ahmad Jacobs,” Sabrina answered as she loudly slurped her Dr. Pepper.

“And?”

“And what?”

“Sabrina, stop playing. You know the low down on everybody, especially the basketball players. What’s up with him?”

“J. Edgar Hoover was not my daddy and I ain’t the fuckin’ FBI,” she said, rolling her large dark eyes and popping her chewing gum. “I mind my own business.”

I stared at her for a minute until we both burst into an uncontrollable laughter. Sabrina knew everything about everybody on campus. I never understood how one person could have the 4-1-1 on so many people and maintain a stellar grade point average. The funny thing is that whatever Sabrina ever told me about other people’s business was never just a meaningless rumor. It was the gospel truth.

“Okay, Okay. Ahmad is from Bed-Stuy.”

“Where?”

“Oh damn, I forgot you’re from Alabama. Bedford-Stuyvesant is a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. A predominately

Black neighborhood.”

“So, why don’t they just call it Brooklyn and be done with it?”

“Look here, Nic. I ain’t got time to sit here and give you a goddamn history lesson on why they do what they do in New York City. Okay? I am trying to watch the fuckin’ game. Now, do you want the Cliff’s Notes scoop on Ahmad or not?”

“Well, you don’t have to get an attitude. Yes, tell me about Ahmad.”

“Like I said, he’s from Bed…Brooklyn. He went to some private high school and came here, on scholarship, of course. He’s not a frat and from what I hear, he’s a true playa from the Himalayas.”

Number 23 scored, again, and the Capital Centre went crazy and so did Sabrina. It was a good thing we were not in New Orleans because I truly believe she would have lifted her shirt and showed her titties to him every time he made a shot.

A player? He was so fine and so talented. What a waste.

“How do you know that he’s a player?”

“‘Cause he is! When he goes to bed alone, it ain’t because he has to. He’s probably screwed every girl between here and New York City.”

“What about you?” I asked, curiously.

“What? How you gonna sit there and ask me some bullshit like that, Nikki? I thought we were girls.”

“Well…”

“No, I haven’t slept with him.”

“Why not?”

“‘Cause he hasn’t asked me, bitch.”

We both laughed again, louder this time. Sabrina was funny and I could always trust her to tell me the truth about anything.

“So, have you ever met him?”

“Why are you being so damn nosey, Nikki?”

“I’m just curious.”

“Yeah, I met him a few times. Actually, he comes to the house to party every now and again.”

Sabrina stopped watching the game and began staring at me suspiciously. I knew what she was thinking and hoped she wouldn’t say anything out loud but deep down inside, I knew better. I couldn’t make eye contact with her.

“You want to meet him, don’t you?”

I couldn’t hold my smile, no matter how hard I tried. Yes, I wanted to meet Ahmad. The way he moved on the court made me warm in strange places.

“Girl, I don’t know if your goodie-two-shoes ass is ready for somebody like Ahmad Jacobs,” Sabrina warned. “You may need to start with somebody mild. Somebody like Kobe Ayo.” “Who?” I asked, confused.

Sabrina pointed to the short round South African student wearing horned-rimmed glasses and pocket protectors sitting across the aisle from us.

Chapter 6

Shannon Evans

I wasn’t sure about a lot of things in my life but there was one thing I knew without a doubt. I was happy to get away from my father’s house and his rules. If I live a million years, I will never understand how my mother put up with all of his bullshit and never said a word about it. It wasn’t like her ass didn’t know what he was doing. She knew. She knew because we tried to tell her what was going on and she would not even pretend to listen. She just sat quietly by the wayside in her own little world and let him do whatever the hell he wanted to do to her and to us.

I couldn’t wait to leave because I hated my parents and I knew that if I stayed one day longer, I would have probably killed one if not both of them.

In my eyes, my father was a miserable tyrant. The only thing that mattered to him was him. No one else in the household was allowed to do anything that would take our focus away from his needs. If my mother failed to do the simplest thing for him, he would say that it was because she had put something above the needs and desires of her husband. He would loudly continue to quote Bible verses about the role of the wife before finishing his speech with an open-handed slap across her pitiful face.

I watched him humiliate my mother by bringing home his “friends” and ordering my mother to cook for these women and wash their clothes while he openly had sex with them in the next room. This same man would get in the pulpit on Sunday mornings and preach to other folks about repenting for their sins.

We were not allowed to date nor were we to have boys call us on the telephone because our father was convinced that dating would lead to sex and we would end up pregnant and alone in the streets.

“I will not allow you to bring shame on me by showing up on my doorstep with a bastard child in your arms.”

I certainly couldn’t vouch for my sisters but I knew that the real reason my father didn’t want me to date boys was because he wanted to be the only one who fucked me. He wanted to be my one and only lover.

I have no memory of a time when my father was not molesting me. The innocent kisses exchanged between a father and his daughter turned into a vulgar robbery by a pedophile to his victim. As a child, I was powerless against him. When I turned to the one person in the whole world who should have helped me, she didn’t believe a word I said. I was too ashamed to talk to my sisters because I wasn’t sure if they would believe me either.

“You can’t tell your sisters. They will be jealous of the fact that I give you more attention than I give to them and they will want to kill you. Remember the story in the Bible about Joseph and his jealous brothers and what they did to him?”

My father was a sick man who treacherously twisted the Bible to promote his own agenda.

Once, I even threatened to call the police on my father after he came into my room one night and raped me. The look he gave me sent chills of horror down my spine.

“You call the cracker police on me and I will kill you with my bare hands.”

When I was a freshman in high school, I began to rebel by sneaking out of the house whenever my father was asleep. I hung out with what most people would consider the wrong crowd. I drank, smoked weed, consumed stolen prescription medications by the handful, and had sex with anybody that would have me. I desperately needed something to dull the ache of what was happening to me at home and I used anything I could get my hands on. I knew this behavior was destructive but I was powerless to stop it as long as I lived in that house.

By the time I was sixteen, I’d already had three abortions. To this day, I cannot say, with any amount of certainty, that those babies were not the result of my father’s blatant violation of me.

By the grace of God, I didn’t flunk out of school. School was the only thing that I seemed to do right. Although I wasn’t a National Merit Scholar like my sister, Nikki, I managed to graduate with a decent grade point average. I was thrilled to be accepted to Howard University.

Nikki came home less and less and, although I really missed my big sister, I understood why she stayed away. I was very excited that soon we would be just across town from each other.

On the train ride to DC, I thought a lot about Nikki.

Has being away from home for so long made Nikki more outgoing or is she still the colored Little Miss Muffet?

After seeing her at a party at her sorority house, I knew she was still as shy and as introverted as ever. I, on the other hand, was there to let my hair down and party like my life depended on it.

“Girl, this is your sorority’s party and you’re sitting there looking like you are scared to death. You need to get your ass up and dance,” I said.

“You know I am not a good dancer. By the way, where did you learn to dance like that, Shannon?”

“Please. It’s not hard. Just let your body respond to what feels good.”

I couldn’t believe I had just repeated the same words my father said almost every time he wanted to have sex with me.

A group of tall fine brothers walked into the house just as my song came on and I grabbed one and pulled his ass on the dance floor. He looked nervous at first. I could tell that he was probably used to being the one to make the first move. After I rolled my body against his, he relaxed and we danced all over the place. I knew he wanted to fuck me when I felt his hard dick against my stomach. Truth be told, I wanted to sex him crazy, too. He was a pretty, light-skinned basketball player with an ass as tight as a fat man’s pants.

Hmm, a basketball player has a lot of potential.

We went back to his apartment. Although it was dark, I could tell his place was in the hood. Inside, there were boxes and plastic bags everywhere and it looked as if this brother had no clue of how to use a vacuum. The mess didn’t really bother me

because, after all, I was there for one thing and one thing only.

To be fucked.

“Who’s the cute kid?” I asked, noticing the snapshot of a fat faced toddler on the otherwise bare mantel.

“That’s my little girl.”

“You have a kid? She’s cute.”

“Yeah, thanks.”

Ahmad didn’t seem to want to talk much about the child and, frankly, neither did I.

“Do you have a roommate?” I asked, as I sat on the old looking couch that reeked of aged piss and Lysol, and removed my shoes.

“Naw, it’s just me.”

Hmm, he has an apartment of his own. He must have some money.

“Wow, your own place. It must be exciting.”

“It’s cool,” Ahmad answered from across the room. He acted as if he was scared to come over and give me what he knew I was obviously there to get.

You know you want me.

I decided I would have to make the first move, again, so I

invited him to come and sit next to me.

Once he was closer, I didn’t waste any time taking the evening to another level. My pussy was calling Ahmad’s name loud and clear.

You are an okay fuck. I’ve definitely had better but you have so much potential. I think I’ll keep you around. A basketball player for Georgetown University has a good chance of playing ball in the NBA. If I play my cards right, some of that big time money could be mine.

After I had fucked him blind, he started tripping and spouting some bullshit about forgetting condoms. Funny thing is, he didn’t think about covering his dick while he was fucking me all up in my stomach.

“So what? You think I got something?”

“I hope not. But I don’t need no more babies either, Shannon.”

I got tired of listening to this nonsense so I put his mind at ease with the first lie that came to mind. I told him I was a virgin.

I can’t believe I got that lie out with a straight face.

Between my father and numerous fuck buddies, I hadn’t been a virgin in a really long time. Frankly, I was surprised I hadn’t contracted some dreadful disease by now. There was no telling what kind of nasty shit all of the people I had slept with had been doing. It was a chance I took every time I opened my legs to welcome someone new.

I knew that my behavior was bad and maybe even destructible but I did it anyway. I just needed to be able to have fun and forget all of the bullshit. Any attention, however inappropriate, was better than no attention at all.

Chapter 7

Nikki

Never in my life had I been this nervous. My hands shook, my heart raced and my stomach was in a million knots. All week long, Sabrina had been laying out her plan to introduce me to Ahmad if he came to our house party this weekend.

“I’m so sick and tired of you asking me all these questions about Ahmad. If he comes to the house this Friday, I’ll introduce you and then you can ask him anything you want your damn self.”

I went through every outfit in my closet and nothing seemed appropriate. I wanted to make a good impression.

It really doesn’t matter what I wear because it has been months since he has been back to our house so the chance that he will be here tonight are pretty slim.

And even if he came, I doubt if that would really mean anything for me. There was no way a popular athlete would have anything in common with someone like me. Everybody knew Ahmad and I’m sure he was never short on female companionship. Men that fine never are.

The party was going well, as usual. The house was packed and people were dancing up a storm. The Deltas and the Zetas had houses on our street and were having parties on the same night, as well. The street was paved with Black people, a few wearing Howard University gear, wandering about and socializing.

Seeing the HU paraphernalia made me think about Shannon. We talked daily but it had been a few weeks since I’d seen her. I felt responsible for my little sister even though it was obvious she wasn’t a baby anymore. I still needed to make sure she was okay. Every time we spoke on the phone, she said she was on her way to study with some guy. I knew exactly what was really happening and I warned her that she would develop a reputation if she continued to hang out with a bunch of different men. She seemed unmoved by my concern and continued to do just what she wanted.

Maybe I should call home and talk to my parents about it. What difference would that make? Mama won’t do anything and there is no need to anger my father and give him a reason to come up to DC and show his ass. I’ll talk to her again and see what happens. Who knows? Maybe Shannon will get the message and slow down on her own.

“Nikki, I need you to come with me,” Sabrina called, summoning me from deep thoughts about my sister.

“What’s up?”

“Look out on the lawn,” Sabrina said, as she pointed to a group of tall fellows walking toward the house.

“Is that…”

“Yep, it sure is.”

“Oh no, I need to go. Maybe this is not such a good idea, Sabrina,” I whispered, turning to walk away.

“No you don’t. You have worried the hell out of me and now you are going to stand right here and meet Mr. Free Throw for

yourself,” Sabrina insisted. She grabbed my forearm and held me firmly in place. I didn’t know what to say or do.

As the group of men approached us, the sound of my heart pounding became louder and louder in my ear.

“Sabrina!” one of them yelled out as he gave her a hug.

“Hey, Ty, what’s happening?”

Damn, does Sabrina know every Black person in DC?

“I can’t call it.”

“Hello, Ahmad,” Sabrina sang as she squeezed my arm tighter, almost cutting off all blood circulation.

“Hello, Sabrina,” he sang back.

“Ahmad, this is my soror and roommate Nicolette. Nicolette, meet Ahmad.”

“Nice to meet you, Nicolette.”

I saw Ahmad’s lip moving but I couldn’t hear any sound coming from his lusciously thick lips. I was instantly hypnotized by his dark eyes and the tight curls in his hair.

Can a man have natural curls that pretty or is it a Jheri curl?

His face was wrapped in smooth caramel with a set of dimples that were as deep as the Grand Canyon. His awesome biceps were clearly visible even though he was wearing a long-sleeved white button down shirt.

Sabrina’s full body nudge broke my trance. When I realized that I had been standing there, mute, I felt like a complete idiot.

“Oh, I like that song. Nicolette, dance with me,” Ahmad said, taking my hand and leading me onto the dance floor while his boys slapped him five behind his back. Ahmad was a really good dancer. He didn’t dance with excessive animation or overt sexuality unlike most of the guys that frequented our parties.

His moves were smooth and unassuming. I liked the fact that he didn’t try to talk over the music. He just stared into my eyes with an occasional glance at the slight movement of my hips.

When the deejay slowed the music down with Anita Baker, I signaled to Ahmad that I was done dancing by turning my back and walking away.

I don’t know you well enough to rub against you in a slow dance.

“It’s hot in here. Can we go outside for a minute to cool off and talk?” he asked.

Sabrina smiled and winked at me as Ahmad followed me out of the backdoor and onto the patio.

“So Nicolette, what year are you?”

“Call me Nikki. I’m a junior. And you?”

“Same.”

“Where do you live?”

“Here.”

“In the sorority house? I’ve partied here before. Why haven’t I seen you?”

“I don’t know. Maybe because I don’t socialize a lot. I’m sort of a behind-the-scenes girl.”

“You look way too good to stay behind the scenes,” Ahmad said, smiling.

Ahmad Jacobs just paid me a compliment!

Before I knew it, I was wearing a smile as big as all outdoors.

“Thank you. I’ve seen you play basketball,” I admitted.

“Oh, so you’re a fan?”

“I’ve been to a few games. You’re pretty good.”

“Oh snap! Pretty good? Ladies and gentlemen, the lady says that I am a pretty good basketball player,” he joked. “No one has ever said that to me before.”

“Really?”

Oh no. I hope I haven’t offended him.

“Really. I usually hear that I am an awesome and great basketball player. But that’s okay. You saying that I’m pretty good is incentive for me to do better. It will definitely keep me on my toes.”

Ahmad was easier to talk to than I expected. I knew that most ballplayers seemed to have a superiority complex. They thought they were better than most and that only the most popular and most beautiful were worthy of their time and attention. However, something about Ahmad was different. He spoke with a calming confidence that I had not heard before. I could actually picture myself sitting and talking with him for hours.

Ahmad was attending Georgetown on an athletic scholarship. He was majoring in pre-law but he wasn’t sure whether he was actually going to law school after graduation.

“It depends on how this basketball thing works out. It’s great to have options,” he said.

Just as I was beginning to feel comfortable around Ahmad, one of his friends called out to let him know they were about to leave.

“My partners are ready to bounce. Unfortunately, I didn’t drive tonight so I got to go. Can I call you some time, Nikki?” he asked as he stood.

“Yes, you can call me. I’d like that.” I couldn’t believe those words rolled out of my mouth so easily. I’d never said anything like that before to a guy. I wrote my phone number down on the back of a Wal-Mart receipt Ahmad pulled from his pocket.

“Until then,” he said as he kissed the palm of my hand.

I watched him walk away and admired the shape of his tight ass.

Sabrina came running outside, screeching like an owl. “Oohh, girl, I saw him kiss your hand.”

“So?”

“Oh, now your nervous ass is standing here acting like Ahmad Jacobs kissing your hand is some shit that happens every day and that it is no big deal, huh?” Sabrina said, rolling her neck like a bonafide Black woman.

“Girl, please. He’s just a guy.”

“Okay. But you can stop trying to play smooth with me. I know that kiss has your panties soaking wet.”

“The things you say sometimes, Sabrina.”

“Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty.”

We both laughed because we both knew that her statements were true. There was something about Ahmad left me with a safe feeling. From our brief conversation, I could tell he was really a nice guy. But I couldn’t help remember that one of the first things Sabrina said about him was that he was a player. I just didn’t see that side of him.

Sabrina has to be wrong about that.

I crawled into bed that night with the conversation with Ahmad playing over in my head and let the memory of the sound of his voice lull me into a sweet sleep.

Chapter 8

Ahmad

“Man, who was that girl you were sitting outside with?” Ty asked. “She was fine as hell.”

“I just met her tonight. Her name is Nikki.”

I agreed with my boy Ty. Honey was fly. But fly in a way that was different from what I usually dealt with. She seemed to have it all together, brain wise, as well as a slamming body. Most girls were easy to read but her eyes were beautifully mysterious and I liked the fact that I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. My campus celebrity status didn’t easily impress her either. Again, I wasn’t used to that.

“Dude, you get those digits?” Ty asked.

“You know it.”

I pulled the receipt from my pocket and looked at the number. After getting a girl’s phone number, I usually waited a week or two before I called. Hell, most times they were a little too eager and would call me first. I didn’t think I would wait that long to call Nikki. She didn’t seem like the type to tolerate playing games. There was something about her that was calling my name. Not since Corrie had I felt this way about someone that I’d just met.

You can’t be falling for a chick you just met. That’s ridiculous.

You don’t know anything about Nikki.

After a quick run to Mickey D’s, my friends and I went back to my apartment to kick it for a minute. I was the only one with my own place and the fellas hung out there every chance they got. A couple of them even used the place to bring their honies to for a little private time. I didn’t mind as long as they didn’t fuck on my bed and they lit some incense after they left.

As I put my key in the door, I heard my phone ringing.

“Hello.”

“Hey, Ahmad. You know who this is?”

“Yeah. I know.”

“Who?”

“Shannon.”

Shannon and I had become fuck buddies. She’d hook a brother up any time I wanted it, and however I wanted it. She wasn’t shy about shit. I could call her up a three o’clock in the morning and she’d be ready to go when I arrived to pick her ass up. I didn’t have to take her out or spend money on her. All she cared about was dick and I wasn’t about to argue with that. Besides, every man needs to keep a freak on standby in case of an emergency.

“What’s up, Shannon?” I asked, as I munched on a fry.

“What are you doing?”

“Eating and hanging out.”

“I know something you can eat all night long if you come and get me.”

I laughed because I knew there was no way in hell my lips would ever touch Shannon’s pussy. I knew that if she would fuck me at the drop of a dime, surely other men were benefiting from her generosity as well, and I did not want the taste of another man’s dick on my lips.

“I can’t come and get you right now. My boys and I are about to hook up the Nintendo and hang out.”

“Come on, Ahmad, please,” Shannon begged. “Come pick me up. You know that I’ll make it worth your while.” I need some ass.

“Let me finish my Big Mac and I’ll be there in a minute.”

I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to go and pick Shannon up for some quick pussy. Hell, it had been a week since my dick had seen any action and the thought of Shannon deep throating me was extremely motivating.

When I pulled up to her dorm, Shannon was sitting outside on a bench thumbing through the pages of her chemistry book. At first glance, she appeared pure and innocent. Her hair was pulled back with a bow in a Whitley Gilbert-esque style and she wasn’t dressed provocatively. She was wearing what most girls on college campuses wore- sweatshirt and jeans. But I knew the real Shannon. The Shannon that was as much of a freaky bitch as I had ever seen.

I wondered what her parents were like. She probably came from a home where her mother had a bunch of different men in and out of the house all the time and Shannon didn’t have a clue who her father was. He was most likely a drug-dealing pimp.

When we arrived back at my apartment, Ty and Frankie were loud talking and cussing each other out as they battled at Super Mario Bros. The two of them were so caught up in the game that they didn’t see us walk past.

“I’ve been thinking about you, Ahmad. It’s been a minute since you’ve called me,” Shannon said, as she removed her HU sweatshirt.

“Yeah, I’ve been busy, you know.”

“Too busy for me?”

I didn’t answer her question. I knew she really didn’t want to know the truth. There are so many freaks in and around here and I had my pick of any one of them.

“Come here,” Shannon demanded.

She sat booty butt-naked and spread eagle on my bed. She grabbed my belt and began to remove my jeans. My rock hard dick poked her in the forehead as she slid my pants down. The warm sensation of her mouth felt good as she sucked on my shit like a baby sucking on a nipple. I pushed the back of her head down, signaling that I wanted her to take it all in. Shannon was one of the few girls that didn’t gag when my dick hit the back of her throat.

“You gonna let me hit that pussy?” I asked, breathlessly.

“You know it,” Shannon answered, slowly taking her mouth away from the mic and lying back on the bed. She pulled the lips of her pussy back with one hand and stroked her swollen clit with the other.

I reached over, grabbed a horse from my nightstand, and slid it on before diving into Shannon’s slippery snatch.

“You know that I can’t enough of your dick, Ahmad,” Shannon moaned.

I showed her pussy no mercy, beating it like a drum. She always liked it rough and raw. I closed my eyes and saw Nikki’s face.

I wish I were making love to Nikki. Her naked body would feel so good close to mine. I would take my time with that sweet ass. Nikki. Sss…Nikki.

It wasn’t long before I exploded and filled the condom with my juice.

As usual, after I came, the party was over. I threw the rubber in the trash, got dressed, and left the room. Shannon was not the kind of girl that I wanted to cuddle with after I fucked her.

“So you just gonna leave me hanging, Ahmad? I didn’t cum.”

“So? I did. What you want me to do about it? I ain’t responsible for what you do.”

“You can lick my pussy for me or something. I need to get off.”

“Hell naw. I ain’t licking shit.”

“Well, you can at least play with my clit for a minute. Come on. Do something, please.”

“I ain’t doing none of that shit, Shannon. You can lay here and play with your damn self. I’m going out here with my boys. I’ll take you home later.”

“Oh, you can fuck me and let me suck your dick but I can’t get off?” Shannon screamed, as I opened the door and walked out of the room.

I can’t believe that bitch is clowning me.

She knew I didn’t give a damn about how she felt. I didn’t know why she was tripping.

“Send one of your goddamn homeboys in here then. Maybe one of them can finish the job you couldn’t. Punk motherfucker.”

“What the hell is going on, man?” Ty asked as I sat down on the floor beside him and popped open a Budweiser. “That bitch is in there mad ‘cause she didn’t cum.” The guys laughed.

“Man, you left her hanging?”

“Man, I don’t care about that shit, man. I ain’t responsible for her ass. I gets mine and I’m done.”

“That’s messed up, niggah,” Ty said.

“Please, Ty. Shut the fuck up. That’s a ho. Ain’t no pleasing a ho no matter what. They are programmed to be insatiable. You know that. The best a niggah can do is get his and then get gone.”

“Man, you probably hurt her feelings or some shit, Ahmad.”

“If you’re that concerned with it and you think you can do a better job than me, then by all means, man, go and help yourself to the sloppy seconds. She’s asking for it anyway.”

Ty took a long swig of his beer. “You serious, Ahmad?” he asked.

“Hell yeah, man. If she’ll have you, be my motherfuckin’ guest. But I warn you. Don’t go down on her and by all means, wrap your ship up tight.”

“Oh, it’s like that?”

“That it is.”

Ty took me up on my offer. He went into my bedroom and Shannon hooked him up. He had her ass squealing like a fat ass country pig.

“Damn, man. That girl is a freak,” Frankie said, as he looked in the direction of my bedroom.

“Yep. She sure is.”

Frankie couldn’t concentrate on the video game. He kept his eyes planted on the bedroom door.

“Frankie, what’s wrong with you? Play the fuckin’ game, man,” I chastised.

“I’m sorry, man. But you’ve got to admit that it is hard to stay focused when your partner is hitting it in the next room.”

I laughed but just then, I read something strange on Frankie’s face.

“Aww shit, Frank, you wanna get some of that, don’t you?” “Naw, man. I can’t do that,” he answered.

I knew he was lying. Frankie hated to be left out of anything. He got mad as hell if Ty and I took a shit without him. The three of us met during freshmen orientation and had since been as thick as thieves.

“Come on, Frankie. I know you want to fuck her. You ain’t got to be ashamed ‘bout it, player.”

“I don’t know, Ahmad. I’m not sure, well, I just don’t know.”

I’d seen Frankie unsure about shit before but this time he actually seemed afraid.

“You do know how to fuck, right?” I asked, laughing. As I thought about it for a minute, I never remember hearing Frankie talk shit about a girl. Ty and I always had a story to tell about fucking a freak. Frankie didn’t answer my question. He didn’t even look me in the eye.

Oh no. He can’t be a virgin.

“Right, Frankie? Frankie. Frankie, don’t tell me that you’re a goddamn virgin, niggah.”

“Yeah man, alright. I’m a virgin. You ain’t got to be all loud about it, fool,” Frankie defended.

“I’m sorry, man. I’m sorry. How a young, attractive niggah such as yourself get to be twenty-one goddamn years old and ain’t had no pussy?”

“It happens, man.”

“Yeah, to girls and white boys, man. I know that you’ve had girls around you that were more than willing to give up the drawers.”

“Yes, I had girls offering. I just didn’t do anything about it.”

“What? Are you religious or something or are you saving yourself for marriage?” I asked, really trying hard not to laugh at my boy.

“Naw, man.”

“Okay, niggah, I tell you what. Tonight is your lucky night. There is a freak in the next room willing and very able to set you free from the bondage of virginity.”

“Naw, man. I can’t do that.”

“Why the fuck not?”

“‘Cause it ain’t right. Anyway, how do you know that she’ll be down for something like that?”

“Is a pig’s pussy pork, man? Of course, she’s down for exactly that. She’ll fuck anything on three legs,” I explained. “Don’t worry ‘bout it, I’ll hook you up as soon as Ty comes out. Consider it an early gift. Happy Kwanzaa, motherfucka.”

Frankie tried hard not to look like a scared deer caught in headlights but it didn’t work. I knew he wasn’t going to punk out in front of his boys and risk months, maybe even years, of Ty and I teasing him. I went into the kitchen and brought out a bottle of Seagram’s gin. I poured Frankie a couple of shot glasses full.

“Here, drink this. Let the knotty head take effect. It is called liquid courage. Please, don’t forget to look in my nightstand and get a rubber.”

Shannon was more than happy to do me a solid and devirginize my friend.

“It ain’t no big thing to fuck three guys in one night,” she bragged. “The last one to fuck me has to take me home.”

I’d known some nasty hoes in my day but Shannon won the prize for the nastiest.

My boy Frankie was out of there in three minutes flat and Shannon followed him to his car as if she hadn’t fucked all three of us that night. The thing that amazed me was that she wasn’t embarrassed by what she’d done at all.

Chapter 9

Nikki

I was really beginning to worry about my little sister. I couldn’t remember the last time that Shannon and I had spent any time together. It was becoming increasingly difficult to get her on the phone and, if by chance, I were lucky enough to catch her, the call would be short and vague, at best.

According to Sabrina, Shannon was partying like an animal on campuses all over DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

“Girl, you, and your sister are as different as night and day.” “What do you mean? “ I asked Sabrina.

“I mean that last weekend I was at a house party over at Bowie, and Shannon was there. The weekend before that, I saw her riding in the car with a bunch of guys in Richmond.”

Damn, my little sister was getting around a lot more than I could believe. Is this what years of living in the house with my father had done to her?

“Wait a minute, Sabrina. How do you know all of this? What were you doing in all of those places?”

“What the hell do you mean?” Sabrina asked, defensively.

“Well, why were you in Richmond?”

“Bitch, I have a car and can go wherever the fuck I want to. If your nosey ass must know, I was at Bowie because I was invited. I was running some errands for my Aunt Charlotte who lives in

Richmond, or have you forgotten?”

For a minute, the fact that Sabrina’s aunt lived in Richmond had slipped my mind. I was so focused on Shannon; a lot of things were eluding me.

“I’m sorry, Sabrina. I really am. I wasn’t…”

“You wasn’t what? Accusing me of being a runaround ho?” “No!” I defended.

“Yeah, sure,” Sabrina said as she rolled her dark eyes.

Runaround ho’? Is that what people think of Shannon? Has her reputation become so blemished?

“Girl, you know that I would never think anything like that about you. I honestly forgot about your aunt. I am just overwhelmed with worry about Shannon,” I explained, apologetically.

Sabrina looked at me for a minute, rolled her eyes again, and sucked her teeth. She then flashed a wide smile that was filled with what appeared to be a million bright and shiny braces on her pearly white teeth. I knew she had forgiven me. One of the things that I loved about Sabrina was her ability to understand me and then to quickly move on to the next moment. She never dwelled on the past even if it was only five minutes ago.

“You should be worried about her. You know people are talking a lot of shit about her, too,” she explained.

“People like who? What are they saying?”

“I’ve heard some guys on our campus say some stuff but you don’t really want me to repeat what I’ve heard. There is no way your little virgin ears could handle it.”

Oh my God! Sabrina won’t repeat it! It must be more awful than I thought.

“When was the last time you saw her?” Sabrina asked with concern in her voice and a frown on her yellow round face.

“A while ago.”

“Listen, why don’t you call her and invite her to go with us today. That way you’ll get to spend some time with her and hopefully find out what the hell is going on. We could swing by and pick her up on the way.”

Sabrina had invited me to go to an author book signing with her at a mall over in PG County, Maryland. She was extremely excited about a new author she had quickly become a huge fan of and couldn’t stop talking about since reading the book. She had made plans to attend this signing when she learned about it three months ago.

“Ooh, that’s a good idea. Thanks for offering. I’ll call her right now.”

I called Shannon and I was surprised and excited when she agreed to go and hang out with us for an afternoon. I’d invited her to spend the weekend with me here at the house several times over the past few months but she would always decline.

When Sabrina’s Hyundai pulled in front of Shannon’s dorm, she was standing out front, hugged up with a man who looked to be twice her age. I got the feeling that he’d seen the inside of a jail cell a time or two. At least four thick gold chains adorned the neck of his white wife beater. His baggy jeans held a pager on each of the front pockets.

Why does someone need two pagers? I know that he ain’t no doctor with that many gold teeth in his mouth.

It was mid-afternoon and he was still sporting a doo rag. Something about Shannon wasn’t quite right either. She had

never been a thick girl but now she looked thinner than usual.

Paper-thin. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

What is going on with her? She looks sick.

“See what I mean?” Sabrina said, her hazel eyes peering over the top of her black sunglasses. She blew the horn.

“Break that shit up,” Sabrina yelled out of the car window.

The man waved one hand in our direction and smacked Shannon on the behind with the other as she walked away.

“Hey y’all. What’s up?” Shannon said, as she climbed into the back seat.

“Who the fuck was that?” Sabrina quickly asked. Subtlety was never one of her strong points.

“Oh girl, that’s Bone,” Shannon replied, fastening her seatbelt and loudly popping her gum.

“Bone?” Who’s Bone? How do you know him? Does he go to Howard?” I inquired.

“Does Bone sound like the name of someone who’d go to Howard, Nikki? Plus, he looks old enough to be all of our daddies,” Sabrina said, sarcastically. “He ain’t no damn student.”

I glanced at Sabrina with a “let me handle this” look on my face. Sabrina easily read it and winked in agreement.

“I met him out.”

“Out? Out where?”

“At a party.”

“What party?” I asked. I had become very annoyed with Shannon and her short ass answers. She knew what I wanted to know, and was being purposefully difficult and vague. This was the same game Shannon played with my parents whenever she didn’t want to be bothered with their questions or hear their advice. She usually became more compliant after one of my father’s open-handed slaps stung her cheek.

“What the fuck difference does it make, Nikki? I left my mama in Alabama or have you forgotten?” Shannon defended.

“It makes a big difference, little girl,” Sabrina interrupted even though she had agreed not to. She peered at Shannon through the rear view mirror as she drove. “You up here in DC running around with just about any and every guy in the tri-state area, like you know what the hell you’re doing. You don’t know shit. Any one of these trifling motherfuckers could have your green Alabama ass raped and cut up like Swiss cheese and left for dead in an alley.”

Although Sabrina’s description of my little sister’s behavior was harsh and vividly animated, it was true. I knew that Shannon dramatically needed to slow her roll before something horrible happened to her.

“Whatever, Sabrina. You don’t know shit about me to be talking to me like that,” Shannon responded to Sabrina’s scolding.

Why is Shannon scratching like that?

“I know more about your skank ass than you think I do,

Shannon.”

“Skank? Bitch who you talking to?”

“Bitch?” Sabrina pulled over to the side of the road and put the car in park. I knew that things had truly gotten out of control.

“You, Sabrina! I’m calling you a bitch! Sitting up here talking to me like I’m a dog!”

“Get the fuck out of my car, bitch!”

“Wait a minute, Sabrina. You can’t put her out here. What about the book signing?” I interrupted.

“Oh you and I are still going to the book signing, Nikki. Ain’t nothing changed that. But your little sister gots to get the hell up and out right here, right now. Ain’t no fucking crackhead gonna ride in my goddamn car and call me a bitch.” Crackhead? Could that be it? Shannon is on drugs?

“Shannon, apologize,” I demanded.

“Fuck this,” Shannon said as she got out of the car and slammed the door shut. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. My sister and my best friend were at each other’s throats and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. Truth is, I agreed with Sabrina.

“Let her go. I’m sure one of her tricks probably lives nearby anyway. She’ll be fine,” Sabrina calmly said, pulling away from the curb. “Plus, we’re already five minutes behind schedule and I don’t want to be late. I’ve waited too long for this event to have your skank ass sister fuck it up for me.”

“Sabrina! That’s my sister.”

“Oh, Nikki, please. Grow up. Shannon sure has. Fuck her. If she is going to make what she thinks are grown woman decisions then she needs to experience grown woman consequences.”

I stayed quiet for the remainder of the ride. It was obvious that Shannon was making choices that were definitely going to lead her down a tragic road but I didn’t know what to do to change that. She was right about one thing. I am not her mother. But that didn’t stop me from feeling responsible for her. I’ve always felt responsible for her, even when we were little girls. As the oldest, I tried to bear the brunt of the abuse in a feeble attempt to keep Shannon and my other sister safe. I did whatever my father wanted, whenever he wanted because I never wanted them to know the pain.

Maybe leaving home after high school was a mistake. Was Shannon’s behavior because she was abused after I left? Did I do this to her?

All of these questions and a ton more drag raced through my mind as I sat waiting for the author to come out.

“Stop sitting over there beating yourself up, Nikki,” Sabrina leaned over and whispered in my ear.

“What?”

“You are sitting there thinking about Shannon and how you are responsible for her outrageous ass behavior, aren’t you?”

“How’d you know?”

“Because your face is all scrunched up like you’re trying to pass a bowling ball. You do that when you’re worried.”

Sabrina knew me all too well. We had only been friends for a short time but Sabrina knew me better sometimes than I think I knew myself.

“Stop worrying and have a good time,” she comforted.

“Shannon will be just fine.”

I hope Sabrina is right.

Just as I flashed Sabrina a quick smile, the author came out to a thunderous applause of all of her adoring fans, including Sabrina, holding their copies of Mama and Disappearing Acts, waiting to have them signed. I had never heard of Terry McMillan but apparently, I had been living under a rock because the crowd gave her a celebrity welcome. I found myself caught up in the excitement of the crowd over what I realized was a literary phenomenon. I loved to read but the only books I read, besides those required for a class, were the cheesy Harlequin romance novels because that’s what my mother read because that was what her mother read. As I listened to Ms. McMillan talk briefly with the readers about her books and her journey as a writer, I decided that I would purchase and have her sign my own copy of Disappearing Acts. It sounded like a great book. Besides, all of these people crowded into this little bitty bookstore must be on to something.

I’ve never met an author before.

“I don’t understand how you can call yourself an educated Black woman and have never heard of Terry McMillan or Toni Morrison or Gloria Naylor,” Sabrina chastised on the drive back to campus.

“The only books in our house were the Bible and my mother’s romance novels. What you don’t seem to realize, Sabrina, is that my family didn’t get out much. Book signings were something for rich white people.”

“Forget getting out. Did y’all have a television? Did you ever go to the damn library?”

“Ha ha heifer, yes, we had a television and I went to the library. There wasn’t a huge African American section in it if there was even one at all.”

“Well, I’m glad that I found your ass before you got any more ignorant.”

“Excuse me? Did you just call me ignorant?”

Sabrina laughed heartily. Truth be told, I was glad we had found each other as well. We had a connection that I just didn’t have with my sisters. Sabrina seemed to get me from the first moment we met. Her humorous honesty was one of the things that I loved most about her.

“Girl, I can’t wait until Terry’s latest book, The Interruption of Everything,” Sabrina said, before pulling into the KFC drive thru. “I know that it is going to be the bomb.

Chapter 10

Ahmad

I couldn’t stop thinking about Nikki even though I barely knew anything about her. There was something about the way she made me feel during our brief conversation that was exciting. She appeared to be genuinely interested in me and not that I played basketball. Ninety-nine percent of the girls that I had encountered the entire time I’d been on campus were only fascinated with being with a brother who could potentially secure a NBA contract. I knew this and I must admit that I took advantage of it and used those girls any way they would allow themselves to be used. This was a common practice among male athletes. There was never a shortage of pussy, money, food, clothes, or whatever a jock wanted. Some would even have girls who would write term papers for them. I never took it that far. My grades were sacred and there was no way in hell I was going to trust some chicken head to fuck me over by writing some lame ass paper. If I were going to fail, it would be with my own dumb shit.

Nikki’s vibe was definitely different. She seemed like one of those “good” girls that my Gran Nana always talked about. Nikki’s calm demeanor made me want to lay aside my player card for life and be a gentleman.

“Baby boy, a good girl is what you want to marry and bring home. You will know exactly what a good girl is when you meet one ‘cause she’ll make you want to be a better man,” Gran Nana insisted.

I thought about what Gran Nana would say if I brought that nasty freak, Shannon, home. I could see the look of disgust and disapproval on her elderly face. Shannon was definitely the ho to keep in the closet and away from company. She and Nikki were not even in the same league. I was happy that the two of them didn’t know each other. I would be embarrassed if Nikki even thought that I fooled around with someone like Shannon.

I’ll have to kick Shannon to the curb if I plan to pursue Nikki.

I decided to pull out Nikki’s number and give her a call. If she was game, maybe we could check out the new movie directed by my homeboy, Spike.

Just as I was about to pick up the phone, its ring startled me.

What? Could Nikki have read my mind and be calling me?

She wants me. I knew it.

I laughed out loud at my own arrogant thoughts.

“Hello.”

“Hello, Ahmad.”

I barely recognized my mother’s voice. It sounded weak and distracted. I could tell that something was off.

“Ma, what’s up?”

“Ahmad, you need to come home as soon as possible,” she began. “Something awful has happened.”

My heart began to pound uncontrollably in my chest. No matter what happened at home, my mother was always able to handle it on her own or at least make me believe that she could. To hear her say that she needed me to come home meant that some shit has happened that is out of her control.

“Ma, what’s up? What’s wrong?”

“Corrie…”

“Ma, what are you saying? What’s happened to Corrie?”

“Corrie is in Roosevelt hospital. I really don’t want to go into it any deeper over the phone, son. Come on home. Your little girl really needs her daddy.”

“Okay, I’m on my way.”

I didn’t know why my mother would not give me the details of why Corrie was in the hospital but I didn’t have time to sit and argue with her about it. I needed to hit I-5. I called my coach just to give him a heads up that I would be away just in case he tried to reach me for whatever.

On the drive to New York, I tried not to imagine the worst. But it was hard not to. Corrie meant the world to me and I would die if something awful happened to her. She was the reason I pushed myself so hard on the court and in the classroom.

How bad could it be? God, please don’t take my baby girl away from me. I love her too much to lose her.

My eyes filled with tears and because I was alone, I didn’t bother trying to hold them back. Being hard didn’t matter now. I was scared for my daughter. I prayed all the way to the hospital. God must have kept the cops off the interstate because I had my size 14 shoe to the floor pushing ninety miles an hour, passing other cars as if they were standing still.

When I arrived at the hospital, I saw my mom in the hallway of the emergency room talking to an older white woman wearing a white lab coat and several badges hanging around her neck. Even though I was walking toward them as fast as I could, it didn’t feel like I was moving at all.

“Ma!”

“Oh, Ahmad, baby, you made it,” my mother said as she began to sob.

“What’s going on? Where’s Corrie?”

“Are you Corrie’s father?” the woman asked.

“Yes, this is my son, Ahmad,” my mother answered.

“Mr. Jacobs, my name is Greta Rubenstein and I am a social worker here at Roosevelt,” the woman said, extending her hand.

“I have been assigned to Corrie’s case.”

Corrie’s case?

“Social worker? Will somebody please tell me what the fuck is going on with my daughter?” I had become annoyed with the continued vagueness of the situation.

“Ahmad, there has been a terrible accident,” the social worker began.

“Accident? Is Corrie—”

“Oh no, Ahmad. Corrie is alive but she is hurt.”

“Where is she? Can I see her?”

After I asked that question, I realized that neither Corrie’s mom nor her grandmother were anywhere to be found. I turned to my still sobbing mother for answers.

“Ma, where is Kim and Mrs. Agnew? Why aren’t they here for Corrie?”

My mother pulled herself together long enough to tell me what happened. Apparently, Kim’s new dope dealing boyfriend

had been physically abusive to her for some time now and no one bothered to tell me.

“She had this niggah dealing from her apartment? Around my daughter? Did he put his hands on Corrie?”

“No, son, we don’t believe he touched Corrie but we can’t be sure. According to a neighbor, Mrs. Agnew tried to put him out of the apartment several times but he refused to leave. She had even called the police on him, but nobody did anything. Corrie says that today, he and Kim were arguing and he slapped her. Mrs. Agnew picked up the phone to call the cops and he pulled out a gun and shot her in the head. Kim ran to grab Corrie to try and get away on the fire escape. Just as Kim was climbing through the window, he shot her four times in the back.”

My entire body was filled with rage. The more I listened to my mother, the more I wanted to find this motherfucker and kill him with my bare hands.

“Did Corrie get shot, too?” I asked, barely able to form the words.

“No. Although Kim’s body shielded her from the gunshots, Corrie did sustain injuries from a fall from the third-story fire escape to the sidewalk. She has a broken arm and several bruises,” the social worker continued.

“What about the asshole who murdered my daughter’s family? Do the police have him?”

“No. They are still looking for him.”

“I need to see my baby.”

“Of course, Mr. Jacobs. Right this way.”

Walking into the pediatric unit and seeing my little girl lying there with her arm in a cast and bandages on her face broke me

down. She was just a little innocent creature that had been hurt by some crazy motherfucker and I wanted him dead. I held her small hand as she slept peacefully. My heart was thankful that I still had Corrie in my life but I was saddened that her life had now been senselessly turned upside down.

Why didn’t Kim let me know what was going on?

The social worker gently tapped me on the shoulder, indicating that she needed to speak with me outside of the room. I was hesitant to leave Corrie alone, even for a minute. I kissed her black and blue cheek and whispered, “I love you,” in her ear.

“Mr. Jacobs, we realize that you are a college student at Georgetown University but you and your mother are Corrie’s only family now.”

I nodded as I listened to Mrs. Rubenstein. I didn’t have a clue where she was going with these statements.

“Well, in situations like this, it is the policy of the Office of Children’s and Family Services that the child be placed unless there are family members available and willing to take the child.”

“Placed? Oh, hell no. Corrie has family. I will take care of my daughter. She will not be placed in foster care, if that’s what you are about to say.”

“Mr. Jacobs, you are a student in college in Washington, DC. I hardly believe that you have the time or the resources to properly take care of a child.”

Just as I was about to cuss this white bitch the fuck out, my mom stepped in and assured the woman that she would take responsibility for Corrie.

After Corrie’s release from the hospital and the funerals for her mom and grandmother, there had to be some serious decisions to be made about our future. It is amazing how one incident can change your whole life so drastically. I was now Corrie’s only parent. The social worker was right. How was I going to provide and care for a child properly? I barely had the money to feed myself.

My whole life had changed quickly and without my consent, and I had some hard choices to make. I loved playing ball but there was no guarantee that I’d play pro ball.

Hell, I’m an average player, at best.

Now, I wasn’t even sure if I could continue to play basketball at Georgetown. Whatever I did from now on had to be in Corrie’s best interest. I knew my mom would help out as best as she could but the truth of the matter was that she already had her hands full with my other brothers and sisters, and Corrie was going to be just another mouth to feed.

I needed to sit down and wrap my head around all of this.

Ahmad Jacobs, it is time for you to man up.

Chapter 11

Shannon

For months, I stayed as far away from Nikki as possible. She was getting on my fucking nerves. All she wanted to do was ask me a bunch of stupid ass questions about where I was going, what I was doing, and whom I was doing it with. She acted like I was a child and she was my goddamn mama. The last time I saw her was when she and her girl, Sabrina, asked me to go with them to some bullshit book signing. But I soon realized what the two of them really wanted was to get all up in my business and I wasn’t having it. Nikki claimed to care so much about what happened to me one minute and then the next minute, she just sat there and said nothing while Sabrina practically threw me from a moving car. From that moment, it was perfectly clear that Nikki didn’t give a shit about me. I should have realized that fact when she left home.

Nikki knew what Daddy would do to me when she left.

My first couple of semesters at Howard had surely taught me one thing. College wasn’t for me. Although I enjoyed the party scene, I just couldn’t get into the going to class thing. When I was living at home, going to school wasn’t an option. It was a requirement. My father didn’t care whether it was rain or shine or whether we were sick or well, we had to go to school. It was one of those as long as you live in my house rules. Well, good thing that I’m no longer living in his house now because I have had enough of rules, books, class and all of the other shit that goes along with it.

Besides, it is not as if I had a choice in the matter. The university had placed me on academic probation because of my less than stellar grades. My first semester’s report card was filled with three D’s and an F and not a lot had changed since then.

When I found out that I was pregnant, I figured that it was just the confirmation I needed to finally quit school and find a job. I definitely planned to stay in DC. There was no way in hell I was going back to Alabama to live with my parents. I wasn’t going to have an abortion this time either. Been there. Done that. Unlike with the other pregnancies, this baby’s daddy could actually be worth millions. I knew exactly who I was going to pin this one on even if the baby was not his. My baby and I were going to be set for life.

I knew that sooner or later my parents would find out I

wasn’t in school and about the pregnancy. Hell, Nikki’s 007 friend, Sabrina, had probably printed up press releases already. I realized that I had to get a job to insure that my father wouldn’t insist that I come back home. A husband would be better but a job would satisfy him.

Finding a place to live wasn’t going to be that hard. I had already practically moved out of the dorm and in with my man, Bone. I knew that Bone wouldn’t have a problem with me living with him full time. He barely lived there himself.

Bone was the real deal and had it going on unlike these lame ass college boys. He had two houses, one here in DC and another

5

one in New York. Bone drove a BMW and always, always had plenty of money to spend and didn’t mind spending it on me.

For a minute, I thought that something serious might happen between Ahmad Jacobs and me. He would call me sometimes, usually when he wanted some pussy and I was fine with that. Hell, I was even gracious enough to fuck a couple of his boys on occasion if it meant getting hooked up with a moneybags ballplayer. I did whatever he wanted me to do. I knew that Ahmad didn’t have money now but the potential was worth millions. Everybody around town was talking about Ahmad being drafted into the NBA. I’d even heard some people say that he might play for Detroit. I was glad that I’d snatched one of the condoms from the trash when his ass left the room.

He was so stupid. Always wrapping his little shit up before we fucked like that would make any difference.

It never occurred to him that I could take his sperm home with me and squirt it in. A turkey baster from the dollar store is a gold digger’s best friend.

One thing was for sure, I needed a man with some money. Some real money. Right now. None of the brothers that I’d met had anything like that until I met Bone.

I met Bone at a party a few months ago and, even though he was seven years older than I was, we had a connection. We left the party and went to Waffle House for a late dinner and have been into each other ever since.

Bone was not the type of man that my parents would approve of at all. He was not a college man and he was hard. My father would call him a thug because of his big diamond stud earrings and saggy pants. I knew what Bone did for a living wouldn’t win him any brownie points with my family either, but I didn’t care because I knew Bone was a good man regardless of the fact that he sold drugs. It could have been worse. He could have been a drug user.

“Bone, can I ask you something?”

“Yeah.”

“I need a place to live. Can I crash with you for a minute?”

“Why? What happened to school?”

“I don’t know. I just ain’t feeling it anymore.”

“You know you can stay with me as long as you want, baby girl.”

“I have something I need to tell you. I’m pregnant.”

“What the fuck? Pregnant? Bitch, it ain’t mine ‘cause I ain’t fucked no crackhead. You sucked my dick but I ain’t fucked you. Naw, bitch, you ain’t fixin’ to stick me!”

“Chill out, Bone. I know it ain’t yours. I have a pretty good idea who the father is. I just need some time to get my head together,” I explained. “I need to find a job to tie me over until I can figure out the right time to tell the father. I’m thinking that I should put in a few applications at Wal-Mart and check into some restaurants.”

“You don’t got to look for no goddamn minimum ass wage job. You can’t survive on that shit. That bullshit will barely keep your belly full. And you going to have a baby, too? Shit, that’s why I do what I do. I make more money in an hour sellin’ rocks than niggahs working at Wal-Mart make in a month, maybe even a year. Shit, you’ve got to get yours where you can ‘cause these white folks is getting theirs,” Bone explained. “You can live with me. Hell, I need somebody to look after the spot when I’m in New York handling my business. I’ll take care of you until you get your shit straight.”

“When my daddy finds out that I ain’t in school, he’s gonna try and make me come home especially if I don’t have a job.”

“How is he gonna know what’s going on if you don’t tell him?”

“My bitch ass sister Nikki will tell as soon as she finds out.”

“You ain’t got to get no job. You can help me with my shit. That’s your new job. You ain’t got to worry about your daddy or your sister either. I’ll handle it if anything jumps off. I got your back, baby.”

“Bone, do you mean it?” I asked, excitedly.

“Hell yeah, I mean it. You know I love you, girl. Now, come here and show me how much you love me by giving my little bone a suck before I leave for New York. I got business to take care of and I need to relax.”

Hearing those words from Bone was all the reassurance I needed. I would live with him until I got my plan together and had this baby. After the child is born, it will be smooth sailing.

Chapter 12

Nikki

I had managed to stop worrying about Shannon so much. I took Sabrina’s advice and moved on. My sister thought she was grown and she flat out refused to listen to anything I had to say. After a couple of unreturned phone calls, I got the message loud and clear. When I spoke to my mom, she said Shannon had decided to move out of the dorm and into a friend’s apartment. She also said Shannon was going to take a semester off from school and work. I could smell that bullshit through the phone lines but if my parents bought it, who was I to object. I also knew it probably wouldn’t be long before this problem escalated out of control, but I continued to keep my mouth shut and mind my own business.

Business issue number one was Ahmad Jacobs and why he hadn’t called me yet. I could have sworn that we’d made a connection the night of the party but I hadn’t seen or spoken to him since.

“Girl, you know how ignorant some of these guys are. I wouldn’t worry about it too much if I were you,” Sabrina consoled.

I didn’t want to worry about it but I couldn’t get him off my mind.

It feels like I’ve fallen in love with a man that I really know nothing about. How childish is that?

“Let’s go get some dinner, Nikki. I’m starving,” Sabrina suggested, jolting me from my thoughts of Ahmad.

“Where are we going?”

“Let’s go to the mall and get some Sbarro’s.”

It was Saturday night and the mall was packed with teenaged shoppers and moviegoers. There was no place in the food court to sit. Why in the world Sabrina loved pizza from Sbarro’s so damn much was a mystery to me.

We could have stayed at the house and ordered Domino’s.

I’d hoped that as soon as she realized how long the line was, she would want to leave. I was wrong. We stood in line and waited for her favorite greasy ass pizza.

“Have you been hiding from me?” a voice asked from behind me. I turned to see whom the owner was and was pleasantly surprised to see Ahmad’s smile.

“I’m not the one who’s been hiding,” I answered as I turned back around. I was happy to see him but there was no way I was going to let him know that.

“Who are you talking too?” Sabrina asked, turning to see what was going on. “Well, well, well. If it isn’t the illusive Mr. Jacobs,” she sang.

“Hello, Sabrina.”

“Don’t speak to me. I’m not the one who’s been sitting by the phone for days, waiting for you to call,” Sabrina said as she turned to me and winked her eye.

I can’t believe you’ve just said that out loud, Sabrina Jackson!

I could have choked the life from Sabrina’s chubby body. Although she was right about me waiting for Ahmad to call, she was equally wrong for telling him about it.

“So, you’ve been waiting for me to call?”

“Not really,” I lied. I had to try to save at least a shred of my dignity.

“Yeah, right,” Sabrina chimed.

Will you shut your damn mouth? You’ve said enough.

“I’ll have to figure out some way to make it up to you.”

“I guess you will.”

“How about right now?” Ahmad proposed.

“What?”

“This place is packed full of Negros and I could definitely do without this greasy shit pizza. Do you want to go and have some real food with me and talk about why I haven’t called?”

“Don’t diss Sbarro’s, Ahmad,” Sabrina turned and defended. “Some people like greasy shit pizza.”

“Well, I can’t just leave Sabrina. I mean I did ride here with her,” I said.

“Yeah, you rode with me. You didn’t drive. Go on with Ahmad.”

I really wanted to go and have dinner with Ahmad but I didn’t want to leave my friend hanging at the mall alone.

“Sabrina, will you be okay?”

“Nikki, I’m at the mall, not a Klan meeting. I’ll be fine. Go have dinner with Mr. Free Throw. He is paying, right?”

Sometimes, I couldn’t believe some of the things that my best friend would let escape her lips. I didn’t need Ahmad to pay for my dinner and I certainly didn’t want him to think that I was one of those gold-digging sisters just looking for a basketball playing sugar daddy.

“Of course, I’m paying. I asked her to join me, remember? And who are you, Sabrina? Nikki’s agent?” Ahmad joked.

“Yep. My commission is paid by knowing everything that goes on with you two,” Sabrina answered as she stepped up to the counter to place her order.

Ahmad and I left the food court and headed for Ruby Tuesday’s located at the less crowded end of the mall. Once we were seated at our table, Ahmad began to apologize profusely for not calling me. He explained that he had to rush back home to New York to deal with a family emergency.

“A family emergency? Yeah right. You can’t come up with a more original excuse than that? I’m disappointed.”

I laughed out loud but I soon realized that I was laughing alone. Ahmad was dead serious. He didn’t go into any detail about what happened but sadness on his face spoke volumes.

“Ahmad, I’m so sorry. I was joking. Is everything okay?”

“Well, not really but I’m dealing with it.”

“Is there anything I can do?”

“You just did it by accepting my invitation to dinner,” Ahmad said, smiling.

Dinner with Ahmad was fun. We talked and laughed for hours. He was not the smug athlete I’d heard about. He really was easy to talk to and seemed genuinely interested in me. His caramel dimples made me want to giggle every time I looked at them.

Intermittently, the faint scent of his Polo cologne would dance across the table and tickle my nose. I hated to see the evening end.

“We must do this again,” he said as he pulled his car in front of the sorority house.

“Yes, we must. I had a great time. Thanks for dinner.”

“It was definitely better than Sbarro’s but don’t tell your girl that,” he joked. “Can I call you?”

“For real, this time, okay?”

“For real. I promise.”

I had barely got inside of the house and closed the front door behind me when Sabrina walked up on me like a night stalker in the dark.

“Well, how was it?”

“Damn, Sabrina! You scared me. Can I at least pee first?”

“Nope. You might forget something.”

She followed me to the first floor hall bathroom and leaned impatiently against the wall outside of the door.

“Did he say why he didn’t call?”

“Yeah. He had a family issue in New York.”

“Yeah, right.”

“No, Sabrina. I truly believe him. There was just something about the way he said it. He didn’t go into any real details about what happened but I don’t think he’s lying about it.”

“Humph, sounds like a lie to me but, okay, if you bought it.

Well, did he pay for dinner like he said he would?” “Yes, he paid,” I answered, flushing the toilet.

“You ordered anything you wanted or did he give you a cheap ass limit?”

“No. There was no limit. I ordered shrimp alfredo, a side salad, and a Coke.”

“What did he order?”

“A burger and fries.”

“When he dropped you off, did he try to kiss you?”

“No. He didn’t even look like he wanted to kiss me. We just talked about hooking up again soon and that was it,” I explained, drying my hands.

“He paid and he didn’t get a kiss? That’s a new one.”

“Yeah, I thought so, too. But, Sabrina, not every guy is after that. There are a few gentlemen out there, you know?”

I was actually glad that Ahmad did not try to kiss me. I don’t know what I would have done if he had.

Would I have kissed him back? It was like we were on an official date. I’m not sure if I’m ready for a kiss from Ahmad. I wanted us to be friends before moving into a serious relationship.

I opened the door and saw Sabrina still leaning against the wall, filing her nails.

“Honey, this ain’t Tara, Miss Scarlet. Gentlemen be damned. These fools around here are all after one thing and Ahmad Jacobs is no different. All I’m saying is that if he didn’t get a kiss tonight, your ass is indebted to him for one. He’ll get it next time y’all go out and maybe then some. Trust.”

As time went by, it turned out that Sabrina was right. The next time Ahmad and I went out, we shared a kiss. And what a wonderful kiss it was. The taste of his lips on mine was intoxicating. My body tingled all over as he held me tight in his arms. Our tongues snaked around each other as if we were fresh out of hibernation. When the weight of his kiss became more urgent and I felt his strong hands begin to crawl beneath my t-shirt, I knew we were on the threshold of going a lot farther than I was prepared to go. Sex with Ahmad, or with any other man, was something that I was definitely not ready to get into.

“What’s wrong?” Ahmad asked, as I broke our embrace.

“Nothing. I just think we should stop before we go too far.”

“What’s too far?”

“Ahmad, I’m just not ready to go there right now.”

“Okay. I can respect that,” he said. He then pulled me in for another kiss.

I was happy that he didn’t pressure me or ask questions as to why I wasn’t ready. The thought of having to tell him about my father’s abuse was frightening. Until now, I hadn’t told anyone about it. Not even Sabrina. It was hard to know whom to trust with something so personal and so embarrassing. I couldn’t handle the look of pity or the possibility of being avoided and seen as someone who was an emotional basket case.

“I can wait until you’re ready,” Ahmad reassured.

I was happy that Ahmad understood or that at least he pretended to.

I won’t be able to put him off forever if I want this relationship to go beyond the friendship realm. It is obvious that Ahmad wants more than friendship. My body is telling me that I do, too.

Chapter 13

Ahmad

The next year of my life was going to be organized chaos. I knew I couldn’t do what I needed to do for Corrie and stay on the Georgetown basketball roster. The rigorous practice and game schedule wouldn’t allow enough time for work and class. Something had to go. I made the agonizing decision to quit the basketball team. It was necessary. I needed to work as many hours as I could. Corrie continued to live with my mom in New York. I sent money home every two weeks to help with whatever she needed. It wasn’t much but it was something. After I paid my rent and bought minimal groceries and gas for my car, every cent that was left over went to my daughter. I wanted to do more but for the time being, that was the best that I could do. I started thinking a lot about my future and my options after graduation. I could take my pre-law degree, hit the job market like every other college graduate in the country, and hope to get lucky. Getting a job was going to be a crapshoot and I really couldn’t risk going on interview after interview and potentially risking being without a job for months. I thought about working fulltime at Wal-Mart but that didn’t excite me either. But I would do it in a heartbeat if that’s what it took to put clothes on the back of my child. I started entertaining the option of going to law school while continuing to work part-time. I realized that I still would be making shit money for a while but in the long run, if I worked my ass off, I’d be in a better position to provide a descent future for Corrie. My first hurdle was to apply, take the LSAT, and get into law school. I was sure that my grades were not going to be an issue. I’d managed to maintain a strong 3.5 G.P.A. even while playing basketball.

How am I going to pay for three more years of school?

Another hard choice was going to be deciding on whether or not to stay here at Georgetown, where I already have a part-time job and an apartment with fairly decent rent or go back to New York and attend NYU or Columbia Law. I could live with my mom, which would be rent-free for a minute, and get to be with Corrie every day but I’d have to search like hell for a job in the city.

Here I go again with a bunch of decisions that need to be made in a short period of time.

I needed to get my ass in gear and find out everything I could about law school, deadlines, scholarships, and grants.

One thing in my hectic life that was going right was that Nikki and I had become a lot closer. We were spending a lot of time together since that night at the mall and I was really getting into her. After the news of me leaving the team circulated throughout the campus, the amount of interested females decreased significantly. But that was to be expected. I could spot a wallet ho’ from ten miles away and I was cool with it as long as I got what I wanted in return. But those days were gone. Now, I was just another regular broke-ass college student waiting to graduate.

7

Nikki didn’t care whether I played ball. She seemed genuinely concerned about my sudden decision to quit the team. She didn’t question my choice or, like everyone else, blast me for making what was felt to be a stupid ass decision. I assured her that I was cool with it. Just some things were more important to me now than dribbling a ball for the rest of my life.

I didn’t tell Nikki about Corrie at first because, well, I didn’t think that it was any of her business. I needed to see whether she cared about me as much as she said she did before I introduced the subject of my daughter. I’d had more than enough of my share of girls who talked out of both sides of their mouths, saying one thing and meaning another. I soon learned that Nikki wasn’t like that at all. She was the type of woman that I could see myself being with for a long time. I knew that our friendship had grown into something much more. I decided that if I was going to continue to see her, I had to be totally honest and tell her the whole truth about my situation and I needed to tell her soon. We couldn’t truly get serious until I did.

What if the idea of a kid is too much for Nikki? This could be the end for the two of us.

Nikki and I had planned to spend next Friday together at the Smithsonian. I thought about waiting until then to talk to her about it but I decided that I didn’t want to put this off any longer plus I didn’t know if I had the balls to look into her hazel brown eyes and tell her about this in person. I picked up the phone and called her, realizing that her reaction to my news could be the end of our relationship if she decided that she didn’t want to be involved with a guy who had a child.

“Hey, you,” she said pleasantly when she heard my voice.

“Hey, Nikki. What’s up?”

“Nothing really. What’s up with you?”

“Umm, well, I need to talk to you,” I began, nervously.

“Okay. Sounds serious.”

“It is. Do you have a minute?”

“For you? Of course. Do you want to come over?”

“No. I can say what I have to say over the telephone. It may actually be better that way.”

“Okay, I’m listening,” she said with a suspiciously confused tone in her usually melodic voice.

“Nikki, I need you to know that I care a lot about you and I need to know that I can trust you.”

“You can trust me, Ahmad.”

“Nikki, I have a daughter.”

“A what?”

“A daughter. Her name is Corrie and she is eight years old.” Complete silence loomed over the phone line like a dark cloud in the sky. “Nikki, are you there?”

“Yes, I’m here.”

“Why are you so quiet?”

“Because you are the one with the story. You were saying.”

“Corrie is eight and she lives in New York with my mom.” “What about Corrie’s mom? Where’s she?

“Dead.”

“Dead?”

“Yeah. She was murdered last year. My mom has been raising my daughter since then.”

“What made you decide to tell me about this now?”

“Well, when it first happened, we weren’t really seeing each other. Actually, we’d just met. When we finally got together that night at the mall, I wasn’t sure if we were going to continue to go out. I’d hoped we would but I couldn’t be sure. Now, I feel as if we are getting closer. Like I said, I’m really feeling you and I believe that you feel the same way about me. I needed to lay all of my cards out on the table before we go any further.”

My throat was dry as the Mojave Desert and my heart pounded like a drum as I explained all of this to Nikki. It was hard to tell from the tone of her voice exactly how she felt about what I was saying.

“Is that why you left the basketball team, Ahmad? Is this the family emergency you spoke of?”

“Yeah. That is exactly why. I needed to focus all of my energy on school and working to support Corrie. Her world was turned upside down when her mom was killed. She needs to know that she can depend on her father to do whatever it takes to be there for her. Her mom and I were young and acted irresponsibly when we made her. She doesn’t need to suffer the consequences when none of what has happened was her fault.” I was overcome with emotion as I talked.

Don’t cry.

“Were the two of you in love?”

I was surprised by this question. It never occurred to me that Nikki would go there.

“No. We hooked up one time. That’s it. We never even went out again after that. I cared about her because she was the mother of my child but I was not in love with her.”

“Wow,” Nikki sighed, “that’s deep.”

“Yeah. I know that it is a lot to digest all at once but I had to tell you.”

“I’m glad you did. It explains a lot.”

Even though Nikki spoke, she wasn’t saying a lot. She wasn’t saying what I was waiting to hear.

“So, what now?” I asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Does this change anything?”

“It doesn’t change the way I feel about you, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“That is what I’m asking.”

“Ahmad, I admit that you having a child is a big deal. I mean, you’re a father and there is absolutely nothing I can do to change that. When I first met you, I thought you were a wonderful guy. Now, sitting here listening to the way you talk about your daughter, and the responsibility you have taken for her in the face of this tragedy, confirms for me that you are a wonderful man.”

I’ve seen women like you on television but I never knew they existed for real.

Nikki was truly rare. I was glad we were talking on the phone so she couldn’t see the tear that fell from my eye. At the moment, my heart was filled with love for her. I couldn’t speak.

Stop crying.

“Ahmad?”

“Yeah,” I answered as I cleared my throat and pretended to cough.

“When do I get to meet this amazing little girl?”

“Now, how do you know that Corrie is amazing?”

“She’s your daughter. How could she be anything other than amazing?”

Chapter 14

Nikki

Ahmad had dropped a huge bomb on me. He was a father. I was not expecting that. I knew a few brothers who had become teenaged fathers but none of them was half as committed to their children as Ahmad seemed to be to his daughter. I was impressed with the way he was handling everything, considering it all had been dumped in his lap practically overnight. His complete focus on his daughter’s future was clear and I knew that if Ahmad and I were going to have a future together, it would require my total acceptance of the situation.

The weekend after Ahmad told me about her, I went to New York with him. I wanted to meet the girl who made his eyes dance when he spoke her name. Everything about Ahmad’s mood changed when he talked about Corrie. It was perhaps the sweetest thing I’d ever witnessed in my life.

It would be nice if all fathers felt that way about their little girls.

I thought a lot about my father as I sat peering out of the car window. The only thing my father saw when he looked at me was a victim, someone he could use for his own enjoyment. He was a tyrant and a pedophile. I prayed that one day someone would stand up to him about all of the horrible things he did.

Part of me wanted that person to be my mother but I realized that would never happen because of her own paralyzing fear of him. She wouldn’t have the strength to fight him. I wasn’t sure whether I even had that type of strength either. Like my mother, I found it easier to just be quiet and let him do what he wanted. Maybe that’s how I survived his torment without killing myself or losing my mind.

“Where are you?” Ahmad asked. His words jolted me. I was so deep in thought that I’d forgotten that he was sitting next to me in the car.

“I’m sorry. What?”

“Your body is here but your mind is elsewhere. What’s up?”

“Oh, nothing. I was just thinking about something.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“No. It’s nothing.”

“Nothing? It looks like a big nothing to me. Are you having second thoughts about meeting Corrie?”

“No. I’m looking forward to meeting her. It has nothing to do with Corrie. Please believe that.”

“Well, are you having second thoughts about us? Are you skeptical about being in a relationship with a man who has a child? Be honest with me, Nikki.”

“Ahmad, I am not having second thoughts about us. I am sure that our relationship is right. What’s on my mind has absolutely nothing to do with you. I was actually thinking about my family.”

“Your family? Is everything okay?”

“Depends on what you mean by okay. No one is sick or hurt, if that’s what you meant.”

“Girl, please. Everybody has a crazy messed up family. You’ll get to meet mine in about an hour,” Ahmad said, laughing.

You have no idea.

“Speaking of family, have you heard from your sister?” Ahmad asked.

“No. I haven’t heard from her in months.”

“Months? Are you serious? Damn.”

“Yeah, I know. I’ve called her dorm number and nobody has seen her. My mother said that she spoke with Shannon two weeks ago. Ahmad, I just know that she is headed for trouble.”

“Sounds like it. It doesn’t make sense for her to be going to school so close by and not keep in touch with you on a regular basis. I tell you what; we can drive down to Hampton tomorrow afternoon and see what’s happening, if you want.”

“Hampton?”

“Yeah. That’s where she goes to school right?”

“No. She goes to Howard. My little sister is just across town.”

Ahmad’s facial expression suddenly changed. His dark brows dropped as he released the hold he had on my hand since we left DC. There was a faraway look in his eyes. He stopped talking.

“Ahmad, what’s wrong?”

“Umm, nothing. Nothing’s wrong.”

“Something is wrong.”

“No. I’m just embarrassed that I forgot what school your sister goes to. That’s all. I mean, I’m your man and I can’t remember something as simple as that.”

“Don’t be embarrassed. You’re a man, for God’s sake. Y’all are always forgetting stuff. It’s a part of your DNA,” I joked. But Ahmad didn’t seem to get it. He never even cracked a smile. He just continued to stare straight ahead. “Hello,” I sang.

“Yeah, baby?”

“Never mind.”

“What?”

“I’m talking to you but apparently you are lost in another world.”

“Naw, I’m here,” Ahmad said, looking at me this time. “I hope mama has lunch ready. I’m hungry as hell. You are in for a real treat, Nikki. My mom’s cooking is off the hook.”

I wasn’t sure why Ahmad forged a shift in the conversation but I didn’t press the issue. After all, we were on our way to see his mom and his daughter. We should be talking about them instead of my wayward little sister.

“Is it?”

“Yeah. She grew up in Jamaica and cooks a lot of the foods that she grew up eating.”

“Wow, I’ve never had Jamaican food before.”

“What? You’ve got to be kidding. You’ve never even had jerk chicken?”

“Nope. Remember where I’m from? There ain’t no Jamaicans living in Alabama. If there are, they certainly don’t live anywhere near my parents.”

Ahmad was laughing again. He seemed to have snapped out of whatever brief daze he had been in. We continued to laugh and talk for the remainder of the drive.

It suddenly occurred to me that this was going to be my first trip to New York. All of my life, New York always seemed like a mystical place that I saw on television but didn’t exist in reality. If it did exist, it did so as a part of another country that occupied its own space and time.

What if I don’t fit in? What if Ahmad’s mom doesn’t like me? What if she thinks that I’m a country bumpkin who doesn’t know shit? Oh my God! What if Corrie doesn’t like me? I know that would be the end of Ahmad and me.

“Don’t worry. You’ll be fine,” Ahmad said, smiling and grabbing my hand again. His voice jolted me from my anxious thoughts. I was touched that Ahmad had read my mind and tried to put it at ease. It didn’t work. Knots that were the size of bowling balls grew rapidly in my stomach as we followed the New Jersey Turnpike through the Lincoln Tunnel and into New York City.

“Welcome to New York,” Ahmad said proudly. “If you can’t find what you want here, it doesn’t exist.”

This certainly doesn’t look like the New York City I’ve seen on television. Where is Carnegie Hall? Where are Broadway and Times Square?

Living in DC had made me used to crowds but this was definitely different. Everyone seemed to be in a hurry and the expressions on their faces were tense. New York appeared to grow brick buildings from the ground instead of green grass.

“Well, what do you think of it so far?” Ahmad asked. The vibe of his city seemed to give him a high.

“It’s okay, I guess,” I answered, peering out of the window at a woman walking on the sidewalk, dressed as a can of dog food.

“Why is she dressed like that?”

“She probably is an actress either going to or leaving work.” Before long, we pulled in front of a red brick building.

“This is it. This is where I grew up. Come on, get out.”

Ahmad waved and high-five some men as he walked around the car and onto the sidewalk. As I opened my door, I was instantly assaulted by the smells of onions and bus exhaust.

“This is Bed-Stoy?”

“What? No, baby. Bed-Stuy. And please don’t let anybody on the street hear you say that.” Ahmad laughed, kissed my cheek, and grabbed my hand. “Let’s go inside.”

Here we go, I thought as my heart pounded in my ear.

Chapter 15

Ahmad

What the fuck? Shannon is Nikki’s sister? No, it can’t be the same Shannon. I know there is more than one girl named Shannon at Howard University. There has to be. There can be no way that the Shannon I know and Nikki can be related.

When Nikki revealed that her little sister, Shannon, was a student at Howard University and not Hampton University, I almost swallowed my tongue. I could have sworn she said Hampton. It was hard to keep my car on the road as I thought about all of the nasty shit Shannon and I had done and, on occasion, were still doing. Although I wasn’t calling her as much, there were still those nights when my dick needed a hole to fill and Shannon was right there.

For whatever reason, Nikki and I were not having sex yet. Every time we’d get close to doing it, she pulled away, saying she wasn’t ready. I didn’t understand it but I didn’t want to press the issue either. I didn’t think there were many girls on any college campus that were not ready. I had not met any. Nikki was the first and that was one of the things that intrigued me about her. Sex didn’t seem to matter to her, unlike her little sister, who wanted it all the time.

I decided the best thing to do for now was to keep my damn mouth shut about Shannon. I couldn’t risk telling Nikki just yet. I was grateful she and her sister were not talking.

How long will that last? They will talk sooner or later and then what? My ass will be grass. I can’t think about that right now.

When we arrived in New York, I was surprised that Nikki was less than impressed. I thought it was funny that someone from Alabama would not be in awe of the Big Apple. As we passed through the Lincoln Tunnel, her facial expression changed drastically. She seemed to go from excited to disgust in thirty seconds flat.

“What’s wrong? Why are you frowning like that?” I asked.

“Umm, no reason.”

“Don’t lie. I can see it on your face.”

“Well, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, Ahmad.”

“Hurt my feelings? You can’t hurt my feelings. Tell me what it is that you’re thinking. Seriously. I want to know.”

“New York is a mess.”

I laughed. She was right. The city was a messy and loud place to be. I loved it but I could certainly understand why someone who was not used to it would hate it. There was obviously much to take in. The streets were crowded with noisy yellow cabs and buses. On every street corner were vendors of food or African goods. People, all kinds of people, were everywhere.

“Yes it is. But it is a wonderful mess.”

“We’ll see.”

I was excited for Nikki to meet my daughter. As I thought about it, I realized that this was the first time I had introduced my daughter to one of my girlfriends. I kept that part of my life totally separate from my life with Corrie because I didn’t want to confuse her, but mainly because I hadn’t been as serious about anyone as I am about Nikki. I can potentially see us together for a long time.

When we pulled in front of my mother’s apartment building, Nikki’s mood changed from disgusted to nervous. It was as if the anxiety of meeting my mom and my daughter was overwhelming.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m a little nervous. That’s all,” Nikki said as she adjusted her pink sweatshirt.

“Ahh girl, there’s nothing to be nervous about. I love you and so will my family.”

Damn, did I say that out loud? I said I love you. I hope she didn’t hear me. I didn’t mean to say it. Not yet, anyway.

Nikki raised an eyebrow and smiled. She heard me. Loud and clear. I couldn’t take it back now.

“You what?” she asked.

“What?”

“What did you say just now?”

“I said that my family is going to love you.”

Even though it was a comfortable sixty degrees outside, I had begun to sweat like I had just finished the basketball game of a lifetime.

“Yeah, right.”

“Why wouldn’t they love you?”

“I heard what you said, Ahmad Jacobs. I heard all of what you said. It’s fine if you want to act like you don’t know what I’m talking about,” Nikki revealed.

“Come on. Let’s go inside.”

I heard Corrie shriek from the third floor window. She had obviously seen my car parked outside. As soon as I opened the front door of the building, I heard the pitter-patter of her feet running down the stairs, calling my name.

“Daddeee,” Corrie screamed as she jumped into my arms.

“Corrie-boo.”

“Daddy, I didn’t know you were coming today. Did you come to see me? Did you bring me something?”

“Of course I came to see my Corrie-boo. Yes, I brought you something. First, I want to introduce you to someone special.”

Corrie turned and looked at Nikki as if she’d just realized that someone else, besides the two of us, was standing in the hallway.

“Corrie, this is Nikki.”

“Hello, Corrie. I am so happy to finally meet you. Your dad has told me some wonderful things about you. He talks about you all the time.”

“Yeah, I know he does. My daddy loves me,” Corrie answered as she kissed my cheek and melted my heart. “Are you my daddy’s friend?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Nikki goes to school at Georgetown, too,” I explained. “Oh. Come on, Daddy. Let’s go. Poppi is here, too.” Damn, not my pops. Not today.

I was feeling pretty good about the day so far until Corrie said those words. I was not in the mood to deal with my pops. I knew he was going to have a lot of shit to say about me quitting the basketball team and God knows what else. I hoped that he had enough respect for me not to bring it up in front of Nikki and Corrie. It would be great if he didn’t bring it up at all but I knew that was wishful thinking.

I grabbed Nikki’s hand and led her up the rest of the stairs and into the apartment.

“She’s adorable,” Nikki whispered in my ear.

“Ahmad, what are you doing here,” my mom asked when we walked through the door.

“Hey, Ma. I just wanted to come up for a minute to see how y’all were doing. Mama, I want to introduce you to Nikki. Nikki this is my mother, Pat Jacobs.”

“Hello, Mrs. Jacobs. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Call me Pat. It is nice to meet you as well.”

My mother glanced curiously at me and smiled. I thought it was strange at first then I realized that Nikki was the first girl that I’d brought home to meet my mom. Even though I dated many girls in high school, I never brought them home. What was the point? When I found out that Kim was pregnant with Corrie, I told my mom about her. My mother didn’t actually meet Kim until after she had given birth to Corrie in the hospital.

“Ahmad, your dad is in the room asleep. You can go in and say hello,” my mom said.

“Naw let him sleep. I know he’s tired from working,” I said, sarcastically. I knew good and well that niggah didn’t have no fucking job. My mother rolled her eyes and turned her attention to Nikki.

“Have a seat, Nikki. Would you like something to drink?”

“No, thank you.”

“Nikki goes to Georgetown with Daddy. Nana, I think she’s his girlfriend,” Corrie said, giggling and covering her mouth.

“Corrie Samantha Jacobs!”

Nikki and I laughed. Corrie was so cute.

“I’m sorry, Nikki,” my mom said, waving her finger at Corrie.

“It’s okay.”

“She’s right. Nikki is my girlfriend.” Those words poured from my lips a little too easily.

“See, Nana. I told you,” Corrie defended, still giggling.

“Oh, I see. Okay. Congratulations you two.”

Nikki turned to me and smiled. I could tell from the sparkle in her eyes that she was pleasantly surprised by my announcement. To tell the truth, so was I.

Girlfriend? Committed relationship? What are you saying?

Where did that come from? What the hell am I doing?

“Have you guys eaten anything?”

“No, Ma. You know I was waiting to get home and get some of your good cookin’. I’ve been bragging to Nikki about how you can burn in the kitchen.”

“Lunch should be ready soon,” my mother responded as she went into the kitchen.

“Do you need any help with anything?” Nikki asked, rising to follow my mother with Corrie on her heels.

Nikki seemed to fit right in. More importantly, she was a winner with Corrie. I could tell instantly that Corrie liked Nikki. She sat close to Nikki on the couch and held her hand while we talked. Now, Corrie was following Nikki around the house like they were new best friends. I must admit, I liked it.

Just as things were going good, my pops appeared from the bedroom. If there ever was a way to fuck up a good thing, he was the man to do it. If I’d had any idea that his sorry ass was going to be here today, I would have stayed my black ass in DC.

“Well, if it isn’t my arrogant son,” he spewed.

“What’s up?”

Normally, I would have just ignored him. But I didn’t want to make Nikki uncomfortable and more than that, I didn’t want to disrespect my father in the presence of my daughter. I tried to avoid that at all costs.

“What’s up? Looks to me that I should be the one asking you that question, Ahmad. What’s up is that I heard you quit the basketball team without talking to me about it first. What’s up with that?”

“I didn’t need your permission to start playing basketball for Georgetown University and I damn sure didn’t need your permission to quit.”

I was beginning to lose my temper.

“You don’t think I’m owed an explanation?”

“Man, I don’t owe you shit.”

My mother appeared from the kitchen carrying a platter of akee and salt fish.

“Come on to the table. Food is ready,” she called.

Nikki walked behind my mother but her questioning eyes were glued to me.

“Daddy, Nana made your favorite. She made callaloo,” Corrie said.

“Everything smells wonderful, Pat,” Nikki complimented.

“Thank you, Nikki.”

“Nikki, is it? I am Ahmad Franklin Jacobs, Sr.,” he said, rising from the arm of the couch.

My father took the opportunity and introduced himself to

Nikki because I sure as hell wasn’t going to introduce them.

What would be the point?

“Oh, Mr. Jacobs, it is nice to meet you.” That’s what you think.

We all sat down at the table and began to serve ourselves. I hoped that we could do so in silence because I knew that pleasant and civil conversation was out of the question while my father was present.

“Nikki, have you eaten Jamaican cuisine before?” my mother began.

“No, Ma’am. This is my first time. Ahmad tells me that I’m in for a treat.”

“You are, darling,” my mother continued. “I was born in Kingston and lived there until my family moved to New York when I was seventeen years old. All I know is Jamaican food. Over the years, I’ve tried to get used to the bland American pallet but it is just too difficult.”

“Wow,” Nikki said, putting the first taste of akee into her mouth. I looked into her face for an expression of like or dislike, but neither appeared. I could feel my father staring at me from across the table.

Why don’t you evaporate?

“Nikki, you and Jr. are obviously close so I’ll ask you the same question I asked him. Why did he leave the basketball team?”

“Frank…don’t do this. Not today,” my mother begged.

“No, Pat. I need some answers and somebody is going to tell me why my son, an excellent basketball player at Georgetown University, up and quits the goddamn team, throwing away all possibility of being drafted into the NBA.”

“If you came around more, you’d know why. But since you don’t and won’t shut the fuck up about it, okay, fine, I’ll tell you,” I said.

“Corrie, why don’t you take your plate and go into Nana’s room and watch television,” my mother interrupted.

“But Nana, I want to sit next to Nikki and eat my lunch.”

“Corrie, you heard me.”

Corrie recognized the urgent tone in my mother’s voice and did as she was told even though she didn’t agree. When I saw that Corrie was safely in the confines of the other room, I continued with my explanation.

“That little girl is the reason I quit the damn team.”

“Corrie? What does she have to do with it?”

“Where have you been, man? Corrie lost her mother. Kim is dead. I am responsible for Corrie now. Me. Her father.”

“Yeah, but you could be a much better father with a million dollar contract. Hell, you’d be a better son.”

“What the fuck could you possibly know about what it takes to be a better father? Man, I can count the times you were here for me when I was growing up on one hand.” “Ahmad…” my mother whispered.

“Naw, Ma. This needs to be said and then I’m out. A man, a real man, puts the needs of his child above his own. He thinks about what is best for the child not just what is convenient for himself. What is best for my daughter is for me to finish school and to be able to provide for her. There was no guarantee that the NBA was going to be beating down my door to play ball for them. Even if I did get drafted, the chances of being cut are still there. I couldn’t gamble with my daughter’s future like that. So I made the decision to quit the team and that’s that.”

“So what now? Huh? You gonna work at Wal-Mart for the rest of your life? Is that how you plan to provide a wonderful future for Corrie?”

“If that’s all I could do, yes, I would. But fortunately for me, I have other options.”

“What other options?”

“Law school.”

“What?” my mother asked.

“I was saving this for later but I might as well tell you all now. I’ve been accepted to Columbia University’s School of Law. I start next fall.”

“That’s wonderful, Ahmad,” Nikki said, clapping, “Congratulations.”

“Oh, son, I’m so proud of you,” my mother said as she wiped her tear stained face.

“So you see, I have a plan and I have my priorities straight. I must have picked that shit up on the street ‘cause I damn sure didn’t learn that from you.”

Things had gotten out of control and I was sad that I couldn’t do anything to stop it. Nikki had seen a part of me that I wished she didn’t have to see. All of this strife had caused me to lose my appetite. I decided to leave the table and check on Corrie.

What an asshole. Did he think that I wouldn’t tell his trifling ass off because we had company? He thought he could play the

concerned father role in front of Nikki and get away with it. He should have known better than to question any of my decisions. I gave him exactly what he deserved. Sorry ass motherfucker.

Chapter 16

Nikki

Oh my God! This feels so damn good. My mind is saying that we should stop but my body is begging to go on. The wet touch of Ahmad’s tongue on my nipple is a clear sign that it is too late to turn back now.

“Do you know how long I’ve wanted you,” Ahmad whispered, as he gently sucked on my hard nipple. His hands eagerly explored my body, setting it on fire.

I couldn’t remember making the conscious decision that tonight would be the night that Ahmad and I would make love. It just seemed to be happening naturally.

Would this technically be considered as my first time or did that happen years ago when my father molested me? “Your skin is so soft.”

Ahmad kissed every part of me as he removed my clothes. Before long, I was laying on his sofa completely naked. He stood and began to undress himself. Even though Ahmad was no longer playing ball, he still had the hard body of an athlete. His arms were strong and muscular and his six-pack was clearly visible. My eyes became fixated on the mass that hung boldly aroused between his tight thighs. The throbbing that was going on between my own thighs intensified.

I can’t believe that this is actually happening. I am about to have sex. I don’t know what to do. Ahmad is experienced. Am I doing the right thing?

Ahmad pulled a condom from the end table drawer and rolled it slowly onto his hard dick. He laid his heated body on top of mine. His kisses were deeper as be began to guide himself inside of me.

He’s hurting me. Oh my God! It feels the same as when my father did it. I can’t do this.

“Am I hurting you, Nikki? The last thing I want to do is hurt you,” Ahmad said in my ear as he continued his painful descend. “I’m here to make you feel good.”

Yes, you are hurting me. I can’t tell him that. He’ll think that I’m an idiot. I really don’t want to do this.

Ahmad’s gyrations began as slow and as deliberate as a baby’s first step. It was as if he was being careful not to move too fast and leave me behind. He continued to stare into my eyes, looking for a response.

“Nikki, what’s wrong?” he asked, stopping all movement.

“Nothing’s wrong,” I lied.

“Yes there is. Tell me what’s going on. Am I being too rough?”

Go ahead, fool. Tell him the truth. There is no need to pretend that everything is fine when you know that inside your soul is screaming bloody murder. You can’t expect to have an honest relationship with Ahmad until you tell him what the real problem is. He trusted you with the truth about his daughter. You can trust him. You can totally trust him to understand.

“Ahmad, I can’t…”

“You can’t what?”

“I can’t do this.”

“Why not?”

“It’s too painful.”

“I’ll be gentler,” he said as he kissed the cradle of my neck. “I promise.”

“That’s not what I mean. I’m not only talking about it being too painful physically. There is something I need to talk to you about.”

“Right now?”

“Right now.”

Ahmad pulled his hardness out of me and sat on the other end of the sofa. The look on his face was one of frustrated concern. I had put him off as long as I could with the I’m not ready defense. Now that it appeared that all systems were a go and we were into the act itself, I had once again slammed on the brakes. I grabbed my t-shirt from the floor and sat up.

“Nikki, I am really trying hard to be patient with you. Losing your virginity is a big deal and I understand that you want to take your time but baby, the time to change your mind is not when my dick is pumping inside of you.”

“No, Ahmad. I don’t think you understand at all. I’ve had sex before.”

“Excuse me,” Ahmad’s facial expression changed from frustrated to confused, “I thought you said you were—”

“I was molested by my father.”

“Molested? By your father?”

“That’s why I have such an issue with sex. Just now, all of the memories of how it felt with him came rushing back to mind and

I just couldn’t…”

“First of all, you weren’t with your father,” Ahmad interrupted. “That niggah raped his own child. Secondly, why didn’t you tell me this before now?”

“I didn’t know how to tell you.”

“You sure picked a helluva time to tell me,” he said, removing the rubber from his now limp penis and pulling on his boxers.

“I’m sorry.”

“Why are you apologizing? You haven’t done anything wrong. You are clearly the victim as far as I’m concerned.”

“I’m sorry that I let things get this far without being totally honest with you.”

“How long did he molest you? Sorry, you don’t have to talk about if you don’t want to.”

“No. I’m ready to talk about it. Off and on since I was six years old. Whenever he couldn’t get it from my mother or one of his women, he would do it to me.”

“Did your mother know what was happening?”

“I’m sure she did.”

“And she didn’t kill that motherfucker?”

“Nope. She didn’t do much of anything where my father was concerned. I’ve come to realize that my mother is a weak-minded woman with absolutely no self-esteem.”

“Damn. That has to be the most messed up thing I have heard in my life. I know that if I even suspected that Corrie was being abused in any way or by any one, the earth would not be big enough for that person and I to occupy at the same time. Know what I’m saying?”

“Yeah, I feel the same way.”

“What about your sisters?”

“I’ve never actually witnessed it but I’m almost certain that he did. I strongly believe that is the main reason why Shannon is as out of control as she is.”

“What can I do to help you? Have you been to counseling?”

“No, I haven’t been to counseling. I thought that would be the first place I’d run after I left home and came to DC but it hasn’t happened yet.” “Why not?”

“I honestly don’t know, Ahmad.”

“Would you like for me to go with you?”

I can’t believe that I am sitting here, practically naked, talking about my sexual abuse with Ahmad. We could have had this conversation months ago if I’d known that he would be this caring.

I turned to see concern on Ahmad’s face. He held out his arms and invited me into safety and I gladly retreated there. The sound of his heartbeat in my ear made me feel more secure than I had felt in all of the years of living in my father’s house.

“Go with me? You’d go to counseling with me?”

“Of course I would. If you needed me to,” he answered as he planted the sweetest kiss on my forehead. It was almost as if Ahmad had assumed the role of my protector.

“That’s really sweet of you to say.”

“I didn’t say it to be sweet, Nikki. I mean it. I think counseling would do you a lot of good. You have been violated and you need to talk with someone, besides me, about it.”

Ahmad was right and I knew it. I needed help getting past all of the hurt and resentment that had been buried for years. I wanted the relationship with Ahmad to grow and I knew this was the one thing preventing me from allowing our relationship to go to the next level.

“You’re right. I’ll call someone in the morning.”

“Good. Let me know. I want you to know that there is nothing too horrible to share with me, okay? I’m here for you. Do you believe me?”

“Yes, Ahmad. I believe you. I do.”

“Do you believe that I love you?”

“Yes, I know you do. I love you, too.”

“Okay then. Nikki, I won’t lie to you and tell you that I am not eager to express myself physically with you. I want more than anything to make love to you. But I also want to be made love to in return. I don’t think that we can truly make love to each other until we get some help for you. Now, let’s go to Burger King. All of this sharing has made me hungry as hell,” Ahmad said, laughing.

Those words meant so much coming from Ahmad and I knew he was truly speaking from his heart. I loved this man and I wanted this relationship to work.

We laughed and talked about so many things as we drove to Burger King while holding hands in the car. I felt that the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders, and in a way, I guess it had. All of a sudden, there was a change in Ahmad’s mood. He had stopped laughing and had become serious again.

What’s wrong now? Does he want to ask me another question about the abuse but is too afraid to?

While we were waiting for our turn in the drive-thru, Ahmad turned and looked me square in my eyes. The look almost sent chills down my spine.

“Nikki, will you marry me?”

Huh? Will I what? Marry you? Where the hell did that come from? We’re in the drive-thru at Burger King.

“I’m sorry. What did you just say?”

“Will you marry me? It just occurred to me that I don’t want to live without you in my life. I love you and I want you to be my wife.”

“Ahmad, what? Are you high? Where did that come from,” I asked, still stunned.

“It comes from my heart, Nikki. I can’t explain it. It just feels right to me.”

“Ahmad…”

“Nikki, I knew it when I first saw you. I also knew it when I saw you with my daughter and I felt it today. I know you feel it, too.”

Stop talking and drive up before these fools behind us blow their horns to death. Marriage? Being Corrie’s mom?

My thoughts raced from every direction. Nothing was truer than my love for Ahmad. There was no denying that. But I

wouldn’t only be marrying Ahmad, I would also be a mother to Corrie. I was beginning to question whether I was ready for that kind of responsibility. Once I looked into his eyes, it all became clear.

“Yes.”

“Yes, you felt our love today or yes, you’ll marry me?”

“Both”

“Well alright then,” Ahmad said smiling, “you know what this means?”

“What?”

“It means that today, you can get cheese on that Whopper.”

We burst into uncontrollable laughter. The girl at the window probably thought we were high as hell.



“Married? What the hell kind of schizophrenic crackhead move is that, Nikki? He must have really put something on your ass tonight?” Sabrina said when I broke the news.

“It is not a crackhead move. We love each other.”

“Do you know what you are saying? Listen to yourself. Better yet, listen to me. Not only will you be somebody’s wife but also you’ll become an instant mama. Ahmad has a daughter or have you forgotten? Can you honestly sit there and tell me, with a straight face, that you are ready for that?”

“I honestly can, Sabrina. Corrie is a great kid. I’d make a wonderful step-mama.”

“Yeah, she’s a great kid because she’s living in New York. Wait until she’s yours full time. I’m sure you’ll be singing a totally different tune then.” Sabrina stopped talking for a minute. It was as if a light bulb had gone off in her head. “Oh my, God! You’re pregnant!”

“Stop it, Sabrina. Don’t be ridiculous. I’m not pregnant. Be happy for me,” I begged my best friend as I sat on her bed.

“You make it hard for me to be happy for you when you do dumb shit. What do you really know about Ahmad? Didn’t you say that y’all haven’t even had sex yet? Shit, his ass could just be asking you to marry him just so he could get in your panties.” “Sabrina! I can’t believe you. That is not why he asked me. Why is this so hard for you to understand? People get married without having been in a long relationship at the time,” I defended.

“First if all, where’s the engagement ring? Ahmad asked you to marry him without giving you a ring? And you took it seriously? Second, when are you going to get married? Third, where are you going to live?”

Even though I knew Sabrina meant well, she was beginning to piss me off. Why couldn’t she just let me have my moment?

“Ahmad did not have a ring for me because he hadn’t planned on asking me this soon,” I explained.

“Problem number one,” Sabrina pointed out.

“Anyway,” I continued, “we’re going to get married the day after graduation in the campus chaplain’s office. Ahmad will start work as a clerk at a law firm in Manhattan the Monday morning after graduation. He’ll work there full time during the summer and then go to part time when he begins law school in the fall. I’m checking into teaching positions at several high schools in the city. I’ll begin as a substitute, if I have to. And to answer your third question, Ahmad’s grandmother is moving to Florida with her new husband and she has agreed to let us sublet her two bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. That way, Corrie won’t have to change schools.”

“Sounds like you’ve got it all figured out,” Sabrina replied, in a softer tone this time. I knew she meant well.

“Working hard at it anyway. There is one thing that concerns me?”

“What? What your folks are going to say when they find out about this foolishness?”

“No, girl. My parents are the least of my worries.”

“Then what is it?”

“Will you be my maid of honor?”

Sabrina covered her mouth and let out a muted scream. Initially, I couldn’t tell whether she was excited or angry.

“Me?”

“Yeah, who else?”

“I’d be happy to, girl. You know that. I’m sorry for being an ass about this whole thing earlier. It’s just that I worry about you. This just came up so suddenly, you know?” Sabrina said, apologetically.

“Yeah, I know.”

“Well damn, that sure doesn’t give us a lot of time to shop for dresses. We better get to looking ‘cause I don’t know about you but I plan to be fly as all get out.”

Everything sounded good as I explained it to Sabrina but I was beginning to wonder whether it would all come together as perfectly as we had planned. Ahmad and I had made some major decisions that would affect not only the rest of our lives but also Corrie’s life. Sabrina was right about one thing. Corrie could be more of a problem than I’d bargained for. She could actually resent me for trying to take her mother’s place.

I had enough trouble effectively dealing with my own screwed up childhood. How could I take on the challenge of helping Corrie cope with all that she’d been through?

I decided to pick up the phone and call home. I had to tell my mother the news regardless of how it went over.

“Hello.”

“Hello, Mama.”

“Nicolette? Is that you?”

“Yes, Ma’am. How are you?”

“I’m fine now that I’ve heard from you. How are you?”

“Good. Mama, I’m getting married.”

There was dead silence on the other end but I wasn’t surprised by it at all. I continued to talk.

“His name is Ahmad Jacobs and we met here at Georgetown University. We’ve been seeing each other for a while. The wedding is planned for the day of graduation. I just wanted to let you know.”

“The day after graduation? So soon? Are you—”

“No,” I interrupted. “I’m not pregnant. Just madly in love.” Why the hell is that always the first question people ask?

“Oh, well, congratulations, honey. You do know that we’re planning to drive up there for the graduation, right?”

What? My parents are coming to DC? In the four years that I’d been here, there has never been any talk of my parents coming here.

“No, I didn’t know that.”

“What? Did you think that I was going to miss my first-born child graduating from college? Your father plans to charter a bus and bring some of the people from the congregation, too. Ooh, wait ‘til I tell everybody about the wedding.”

I wish you could come to DC alone, without my father.

For the first time that I could remember, I actually heard excitement in my mother’s voice.

“Wow, a chartered bus?”

“Yes, indeed. I look forward to meeting your husband-to-be.

Is he handsome?”

“Yes, Ma’am, he is,” I smiled as the image of Ahmad’s face flashed in my head.

“Where is he from?”

“New York.”

“Oh my. That’s so far away. Is that where the two of you are going to live after you’re married?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Nicolette, have you spoken with Shannon?”

“No, Ma’am. I haven’t spoken to her in a while. I’ve stopped trying because it’s obvious she doesn’t want to be bothered. She’s grown. I’m sure that she’s fine.”

“You can’t give up. Shannon’s your sister. You can never give up on family.”

Is she serious? Mama gave up on so many things. She didn’t give a damn about any of the things that were happening right under her nose. Now she wants to lecture me on the importance of family? What a joke.

“Well, when you come to town, you can track her down and find out what’s going on.”

“Yes, I pray so. But I tell you, I’ve got a feeling that Shannon is in trouble.”

“I wouldn’t doubt it. Okay, Mama. I need to go and study for finals. Tell everyone I said hello.”

When I hung up the telephone, I was instantly flushed with dread at the thought of having my family in town for graduation and the wedding. These were times to be celebrated. But all

I could see was a weekend filled with schizophrenic drama. I didn’t bother to mention Corrie. My mother would find out all of the details when she got to town.

Chapter 17

Shannon

My ever-growing stomach was a constant reminder that I couldn’t put off telling Ahmad about the baby any longer. I figured now would be the perfect time. He should be graduating from Georgetown in a few weeks and the draft is a just a couple of weeks after that. My baby and I were going to be set for life. I didn’t necessarily need Ahmad to marry me. I don’t think I could be tied down to one man for the rest of my life. I just needed to get in on the ground floor to insure that we’d be first in line for our cut of millions.

I’ll go to his apartment after my doctor’s appointment tomorrow afternoon. Maybe I should call him before I go. That way, he can come with me and be there when they do the ultrasound.

He’ll be shocked at first but I know he’ll do the right thing.

I couldn’t wait to have this baby either. Three more months to go. The kid wasn’t even born yet and already was cramping my style. There were so many dos and don’ts; I could hardly remember them all. I was used to doing what I wanted, when I wanted without hesitation or accountability. Now, it was hard for me to get laid because when men caught a glimpse of my protruding belly, the thought of fucking a pregnant woman would make some of them feel guilty and ultimately sent them running in the other direction.

Every two or three months, I would go to the free clinic for a checkup. I knew that I needed to get some prenatal care. I hated going because those nosey ass nurses asked me all kinds of stupid ass questions and rolled their eyes at my responses. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to drink or smoke while I was pregnant but I needed something every now and then to calm my nerves. A little bit of this or a hit of that was not going to hurt this baby. Hell, it probably helped to calm the baby’s nerves, too. Nothing was going to stop me from partying like I wanted to. This was my child and my body. I would do as I damn well pleased. Once the child was born, I’d have the money to hire a nanny or something to take care of it while I did my thing.

I wonder which team will draft Ahmad. It would be nice if the Lakers drafted him. I’ve always wanted to live in sunny California. If I had to, I could see myself living in Boston, if the Celtics picked him up. It really doesn’t matter. The money will be green no matter what state we’re living in. What if Ahmad does ask me to marry him? He’d probably want the baby to have his last name. I guess we could do it right after graduation. That way I’d already be his wife by the time the draft comes around. Yeah, that’s all I need to…

“Hey, Shannon,” Bone called from the other room, interrupting my thoughts.

“What,” I answered, waddling down the hallway.

“What’s up with your boy?”

“What boy? Who are you talking about?”

“Ahmad Jacobs. They say on the news that he quit the Georgetown basketball team a while back.”

“What?”

I sat down on the couch next to Bone to listen to the story for myself but it was already over.

What? Ahmad quit the team? There has to be some mistake.

“So, does that mean he won’t be drafted into the NBA?”

“Bitch, please. That’s exactly what the fuck it means. Hell, his ass wasn’t even that good of a ballplayer any damn way,” Bone explained, laughing. “What? Don’t tell me you didn’t know that?”

“No,” I said, almost in tears.

Bone and his boys laughed harder and louder.

“That bitch thought she had tricked a niggah with some money,” one of them said, continuing to laugh.

“See that’s what’s wrong with these crackhead ho’s. They ain’t smart enough to do their research. Now, a resourceful bitch would have hooked up with that flying fool down in North Carolina,” Bone explained. “That niggah right there is ‘bout to be crazy paid.”

How could I have been so stupid? What am I going to do now? No clinic is going to give me an abortion this late in the pregnancy. I don’t want to be tied down to a kid for the next eighteen years. There has to be a way out of this mess. Shit!

“What are you gonna do now,” Bone asked.

“I don’t know.”

“I bet you don’t.”

“Have you told him yet?” one of his friends asked.

“No.”

“I’m a charitable type of niggah so you can stay here until you have the baby. But as soon as you drop that load, you’ve got to bounce. Babies is bad for my business,” Bone said, as he and his crew got up and left the apartment, still laughing.

Months of planning had all been destroyed in five minutes. I didn’t have a Plan B. It had never occurred to me that I needed a backup plan. Everything was lined up perfectly.

Why in the world would Ahmad quit the goddamn team? His ass has made a huge mistake and now he is the one who is going to suffer the consequences. Not me.

I need to get a hit to calm my nerves so that I can plan my next move.

Chapter 18

Ahmad

Things in my life were moving so fast, I could hardly keep up. In the next few weeks, I’d graduate from college, get married to Nikki, move to New York and start a new job. Not to mention that for the first time, Corrie will be living with me full time. I was a little apprehensive about telling Corrie about Nikki and I getting married. I didn’t know how she would handle it after all of the changes she had already gone through in her short life. I wanted to make sure she would be able to adjust to living in yet another new place and having yet another woman in her life. But to my surprise, Corrie was cool with it.

“Corrie, I have something very important to talk with you about,” I began.

“What is it, Daddy?” she asked, looking at me with those big doe eyes that always melted my heart.

“How do you feel about Nikki?”

“Ooh Daddy, I really like her. I think she’s nice and I think she’s pretty.”

“Well baby, I asked Nikki to marry me. Do you understand what that means?”

“Yes.”

“Tell me what you think it means.” I needed to be sure that Corrie had a clear picture of what was about to happen. I couldn’t take her “yes” for granted.

“It means that you and Nikki will have a wedding and then you’ll live together, happily ever after forever.”

“Okay. That’s close. Nikki and I will have a wedding and we will all live together. You will come and live with us.” “Will she be my mommy?”

Oh shit! How do I answer this one? I have to be careful.

“Well sweetie, Kim will always be your mom. Even though she is no longer here with you, nothing can change that. But Nikki will be my wife and that will make her your step-mommy.”

“Like in Cinderella,” Corrie asked with a look of sheer horror on her otherwise innocent face. It was hard for me to keep from laughing.

“Kind of but not really. She will not be mean or anything like that. She will help me take care of you and be there for you just like Kim would if she were still alive.”

Corrie didn’t respond right away. She sat on my mother’s couch in deep thought with her eyes closed. I had no idea what was going to happen next. Although she hadn’t done it before, I braced myself for an all-out tantrum.

“I don’t think I like that, Daddy,” she finally said when she opened her eyes.

Okay, here we go. I can do this. I can do this.

“You don’t think you like what?”

“I don’t want Nikki to be my step-mommy.”

“You don’t?”

“Nope.”

“Why not?”

“‘Cause I don’t like step-mommies.”

“Why not?”

“Step-mommies are ugly and hateful. I want Nikki to just be my mommy. Mommies are pretty and nice.” Whew! My balls could drop now.

“Okay then. Nikki will be your mommy, if that’s what you want.”

“Do you think she’ll let me call her mommy?”

“Why don’t you ask her that?”

“Okay.”

I felt like Corrie’s seal of approval had single-handedly lifted the weight of the world from my shoulders. She was truly my wonderful little fighter and I admired her strength. I became even more excited at the thought of all of us living together as a family.

I drove back to DC with what seemed like ten million thoughts racing through my head. There were so many things to do and so little time in which to do them.

When I arrived at my apartment, I noticed someone sitting on the stoop in front of the building. At first, I couldn’t tell who it was.

Why is a pregnant woman sitting out here this time of night? Who in the world could she be waiting for? It can be dangerous out here. I bet whomever she is here to see is not at home and none of these jackass tenants would let her wait inside. These neighbors can really be inconsiderate assholes sometimes. Oh shit! Is that Shannon? Shannon’s pregnant. Why is she here? Shit!

I just sat in my car and peered out of my window at Shannon. She remained on the stoop, motionless. From the look of her protruding belly, she had to be at least six or seven months pregnant.

Why is she here? I know damn well that I’m not the father of her baby. Besides that one time, every time I had sex with Shannon, I made sure to put on a condom. Shit, sometimes I even wore two. What could she possibly want from me?

I finally emerged from my car.

“Hey, Shannon, what’s up?” I asked as I removed my bag from my trunk.

“Can’t you see what’s up, Ahmad?”

“What’s that got to do with me?”

“Everything.”

“Naw, bitch. That ain’t got shit to do with me.”

“How can you say that? Do you know how many times you’ve fucked me?”

Shannon’s voice was booming. I noticed a few people peeping at us through their blinds. I figured I had better move this little conversation inside before everybody on Georgia Avenue knew my business.

“Shannon, I only had sex with you once without a condom, two years ago. The way you fuck around, this kid could belong to anybody.”

“It’s yours, Ahmad.”

“The only way it could be mine is if your ass has been pregnant for two damn years.”

For the first time, I noticed the resemblance between Nikki and Shannon. Their skin was the same caramel hue and their

eyes, although different in color, were the same slight almond shape. I felt like a complete idiot for not noticing all of this before now.

“It’s yours because I made it yours.”

“What the fuck does that mean?”

“It means that after we fucked the last few times, I stole your condom from the trash and took them back to the dorm with me. It means that I took a turkey baster and filled it with your shit and squirted it inside of me,” Shannon explained as she sat down on my couch.

“What!”

“You heard me. You heard me loud and clear. Of course, this was when I thought you were gonna be about something. I thought your ass was going to be a NBA star.”

What kind of nasty ass bullshit is this? You stole a condom? What in the hell have you done to me?

I had to fight the instinct to grab Shannon around her throat and choke the life from her. Then I realized that Shannon’s little story didn’t mean a thing. The fact remained that she had a reputation of being a tricky skank. This baby could belong to any man in the tri-state area. There was no need for me to catch a case over this bitch.

“Yeah, right. That still doesn’t prove a goddamn thing. You could have done that same scandalous shit to any niggah in the tri-state area and now you’re just trying to hang me with it.”

“Why would I do that? What would be in it for me? You ain’t got shit and you ain’t fixin’ to be no NBA draft ‘cause your ass up and quit the goddamn basketball team for whatever reason. So you tell me why I would be here if this baby wasn’t yours?”

“I don’t know, Shannon. You tell me. Why ain’t you trying to hook a niggah with some money since it’s obvious I ain’t got none?”

“‘Cause that wouldn’t be right, Ahmad. The person responsible for this mess is you.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Shannon was trying to sell me a big pile of shit and I wasn’t having it. I was beginning to lose my patience with this whole scene.

“Okay Shannon, I’m going to ask you for the last time. Why are you here?”

“I want you to do what’s right by me and this baby.”

“What the fuck does that mean?”

“I don’t have anywhere else to go, Ahmad. I need your help. My baby needs a father.”

“That is not my problem. Why don’t you just go and get rid of it?”

“Look at me, Ahmad. I’m too far along to have an abortion now. It is your problem because it’s your child. ”

What if it is my child? Could Shannon have been so low down that she would have stolen my shit and impregnated herself? What am I going to do? I already have a child that I can barely provide for. What would I do with another? What about Nikki? What will she do when she finds out that I’m going to have another baby?

“It is not my problem until you provide me with proof that it is,” I answered, as I tried to sort through my thoughts.

Shannon looked around the room as if she’d just noticed all of the packed boxes stacked in the corner. The only items that were not yet packed were two photographs on the mantle. She got up and waddled over to the fireplace. She picked up one of the picture frames. She smiled slyly as she turned around and looked at me.

“Is this your new girlfriend?”

“What’s it to you?”

“It’s everything to me ‘cause Nikki is my sister.”

“So?”

“So, I bet your little miss goodie two shoes has no idea that you’ve been fucking her little sister, does she?”

I refused to answer Shannon’s question. I knew exactly where she was going with this. She was going to threaten to tell Nikki everything. There was no way I was going to let Shannon ruin everything for me.

“Of course she doesn’t,” Shannon continued with a smirk on her round face, “because there is no way she’d still be your girlfriend, if she knew. I must admit, knowing that Nikki is your girlfriend certainly explains a lot. I know that her stuck up ass ain’t giving up no pussy. So, you have to get it from another source. What would Glenda, the good witch, say when she finds out that your alternate source of entertainment is her baby sister?”

An unfamiliar rage swelled inside of me. I lunged over to where Shannon was standing, grabbed her by her shoulders, and slammed her into the concrete block wall, lifting her fullness from the floor.

“Listen to me, bitch. You are not going to tell Nikki a goddamn thing, do you understand me?”

“Ahmad, you’re hurting me…”

“Yeah, I know. If you say anything to Nikki, you’ll hurt much worse.”

I removed my hands from Shannon’s shoulder and let her drop to the floor like a rag doll.

“Your threats don’t scare me. I know people that can make your punk ass evaporate,” Shannon said, struggling to stand on her feet.

“Your threats don’t scare me either. I meant what I said. Now, until this little bastard of yours is born and we can get a blood test to prove who the father is, you ain’t gonna say shit to Nikki or anybody else.”

What am I saying? This baby can’t be mine.

Shannon left my apartment without saying another word. I prayed that she wouldn’t run straight to Nikki and tell her everything. Nikki would be devastated and that would be the end of our relationship. I wouldn’t have a chance to explain to her how Shannon tricked me. She wouldn’t understand that I met Shannon long before I met her. Nikki wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say ever again.

I thought about confessing everything to Nikki myself. Then she would have to listen to my side of the story.

No she wouldn’t. No matter what you say, all she’ll hear is that you fucked her sister. That will be the end of the road for the two of you. Don’t say a word. Just sit back and see how this all plays out. Shannon ain’t gonna say anything. She doesn’t have anything to gain by telling Nikki. Just wait. Meanwhile, go on with your plans to marry Nikki. Just wait.

Chapter 19

Nikki

If there was one thing I learned about myself from the last few weeks, it is that I am not good at multi-tasking. I had taken four final exams, interviewed for two teaching positions in New York, packed all of my belongings, and made arrangements for the wedding ceremony. The wedding was going to be very small and intimate but there were still details that had to be taken care of, like making sure the chaplain would be available for that date and applying for a marriage license.

I was excited about beginning my new life with Ahmad. It would be a challenge to have him working and going to law school while I worked and helped to raise Corrie but it would be well worth it. I loved Ahmad and I wanted nothing in this world more than I wanted to be his wife.

The thought of becoming an instant mother made me more than a little nervous.

I began to doubt if I had what it took to be a good mother. My own mother struggled to gain balance between the two roles. Sometimes I wondered if she had just given up on even dealing with it. I didn’t want to be that kind of mother to Corrie. If Corrie had a problem, I would not bury my head in the sand and pretend not to see what was going on. It was important to me that Corrie and I develop a close relationship where she felt safe and loved. I wanted her to be able to come to me and talk about anything, and know that I would do whatever I could to help. Corrie wouldn’t have to worry about me trying to take the place of her mother, Kim. I knew that I could never do that. I wanted her to remember her mom in any way she felt was appropriate.

What will she call me? Nikki? Step-mom? I’ll let her decide. Remember, don’t push her.

With so many thoughts racing through my head, it was hard to stay focused on getting ready for the graduation ceremony. When my parents arrived, my father called to let me know that they were staying at a motel across town and they would see me at the ceremony the next day. He didn’t mention anything about the wedding and, frankly, I was glad that he didn’t. I absolutely had no interest in getting into a conversation with him about Ahmad because my father’s opinion about marriage or anything else meant less than a damn to me. The thought of Ahmad meeting my father for the first time had me a bit concerned. Ahmad did not hide how he felt about my father and everything that he had done to me. I knew how serious and passionate Ahmad was when it came to the role of a father in a child’s life and I had no idea how he would react seeing my abuser face to face.

I had taken Ahmad’s advice and sought counseling about the abuse. Although I’d had only a few sessions with the psychiatrist, she was helping me to effectively sort through some things. My decision to be open with Ahmad had helped as well. He was always willing to listen and be there when I needed a shoulder to cry on. Ahmad was an amazing man and I knew that I was truly lucky to have him in my life.

Sabrina and I were emotional wrecks as we dressed for graduation. We had spent the last four years together and it was going to be hard getting used to living apart. After graduation, Sabrina would begin working as a nurse at a hospital in Silver Springs and I’d be living all the way up in New York.

“Girl, what am I going to do for some juicy gossip?” I asked, wiping the constant flow of tears from my eyes.

“You’ll call me, just as you’ve always done,” Sabrina joked. Her eyes were just as watery. “Ahmad better hurry up and become that big time lawyer ‘cause these long distance phone charges are going to be crazy expensive.” “We could write,” I offered.

“Nikki, are you crazy? Writing letters are for people stationed overseas or in prison. I don’t think that talking on the phone once or twice a week will put either one of us in the poor house. And it is not like I can’t hop on I-5 and drive up to see your ass on some weekends. That is, if you’ll let me stay with you and your new husband and child for a few days. I know that some women are funny about that sort of thing.”

“Don’t be silly, Sabrina. You are welcomed to stay the weekend with us anytime. You know that. Now, let’s dry these tears and get ready to go before they start graduation without us.”

“I know that’s right. My parents will have a fit if I’m not there to march in with the rest of the class,” Sabrina explained as she looked in the mirror and applied one more coat of mascara.

The ceremony was long but well worth the cramp that had developed in my behind from sitting for hours on end. I had accomplished what no one else in my family had. I was a college graduate. When I had my degree in hand, I couldn’t help but to search for my mother’s face in the crowd. Her tears of pride spoke volumes over the applause.

Wow, I did it! I really did it! Thank you, God.

“I’m so proud of you, honey,” my mother said after the ceremony was over. She laid her hands on the gold sash that hung around my neck that signified that I had graduated with honors.

“Thank you, Mama.”

“I called Shannon again this morning to see if she could join us but no one seemed to know where she was. Your father and I planned to drive over there after we leave here. Can you ride with us and show us where she lives? I am really worried about your sister.”

No. I’m not about to waste my time. Shannon has made it clear that she doesn’t want to be bothered.

Before I could answer my mother’s question, Ahmad walked up and put his strong arms around my waist.

“Congratulations, Miss Suma Cum Laude,” he said, kissing my cheek.

“Congratulations, yourself Mr. Cum laude. Ahmad, I’d like for you to meet my mother.”

My mother was excited to meet Ahmad. When he reached for her hand, she grabbed him and gave him a hug instead.

“Mama, this is Ahmad,” I introduced. My father was standing right there but I didn’t acknowledge him.

“Ahmad, it is nice to meet you,” my mother said. She glanced in my direction as if I had forgotten something. I turned my head and ignored the implication.

“I’ll introduce myself since my daughter seems to have forgotten that we taught her better than that. I am Nicolette’s father, Reverend Hosea Evans. I understand that you plan to marry my daughter tomorrow. I think that is a bit presumptuous of you since you haven’t had a conversation with me, asking for my permission.”

I could see that Ahmad struggled to remain calm and civil. The expression on his face and his posture did a total three-sixty and I immediately detected the disgust for my father in Ahmad’s eyes.

“I would say that it is a pleasure to meet you, Hosea, but that would be a lie.”

Oh no! Ahmad went there.

“Excuse me, young man? Who do you think you’re talking to?”

“I’m talking to, from what I’ve been told, a pitiful excuse for a father.”

Ahmad didn’t blink when my father stepped closer to him. He just stood there. My mother’s face was frozen with panic. Neither of us knew what was going to happen next.

“Please, Ahmad, not here,” I said as I wedged my body between the two men. If Ahmad was going to confront my father, I definitely didn’t want it to happen in front of the entire graduating class of Georgetown University and their families.

“Nicolette, what have you been telling this boy? Have you been up here spreading lies about me?” my father asked as he angrily grabbed my elbow and pulled me to his face.

Ahmad snapped and pushed my father so hard; he fell flat on his ass on the floor of the coliseum.

“Get your fucking hands off her!” Ahmad yelled.

Everything and everybody stopped and focused their attention on us. I’d never been so embarrassed in my life. Sabrina quickly made her way over to where we were standing.

“Nikki, is everything okay? What’s going on?” she whispered.

“What’s going on is that Nikki’s daddy is a goddamn child molester,” Ahmad said, loud enough for more than a few people to hear.

“Oh my, God,” my mother said repeatedly, covering her face. I felt my own anger rise inside because my mother was hiding again just as she had done for so many years.

“Nikki,” Sabrina whispered, louder this time.

“I don’t know what…” my father began as he struggled to stand but Ahmad pinned him to the floor by putting his foot in the center of my father’s chest.

“Let me make one thing perfectly clear to you, Rev. If you put your hands on Nikki again, ever, I will rip off those raisins you call balls with my bare hands and shove them down your fucking throat. Do you know what that means? Huh? That means that I will kill you, motherfucker.”

I knew that Ahmad was serious and that scared me.

“Come on, Ahmad. Please, baby, let’s go,” I begged.

More people had crowded around us and the three campus police officers were quickly making their way over.

Ahmad just stood there, breathing fire into my father’s shocked face before he decided to move. When Ahmad removed his foot, my father stood and rearranged his jacket and tie. He looked around at all of the stunned people that included seven members of his own congregation.

“Lies. All lies,” he said, pointing in my direction.

“Is there a problem here?” the young white officer asked my father.

“Naw, there ain’t no problem,” Ahmad answered, holding the stare of death he’d had on my father the entire time.

“Is that true, Mister?”

“Yes, it’s true. Everything is fine. Just a misunderstanding, that’s all,” my father answered. My guess was that he wanted to avoid any further embarrassment.

“If there are any more outbursts like this, we’ll have to escort the entire party off of the campus. Does everyone understand?”

We all nodded. Ahmad turned and walked over to his mother and Corrie, who had both watched this whole scene in horror.

The rest of us moved toward the nearest exit.

I can’t believe this.

“Molester,” Sabrina asked, following me. “Nikki, what in the hell is Ahmad talking about?”

“I don’t want to talk about this right now, Sabrina.”

It was time to go. What should have been a momentous occasion had become a three-ring circus. I should have known that something like this was going to happen.

“Nicolette, what time should we be at the chaplain’s office tomorrow,” my mother asked, sniffling.

What? Did you just see what happened? Do you think I want a repeat of this madness on my wedding day?

“Mama, I don’t know. Maybe it would be best if—”

“Don’t say that. Don’t say that. I don’t want to miss your wedding.”

“Why not? You’ve missed everything else.”

“What does that mean?”

Okay, you want to go there. Fine.

“Don’t stand there and act like you don’t know that what

Ahmad just said was the truth.”

“Come on, Estelle. We came all the way up here to celebrate

Nicolette’s graduation, not to listen to a bunch of lies.”

“Lies? You having sex with me, and countless other women, including my sisters, is not a lie, Daddy and you know it.” “Oh no, please,” my mother was crying again.

“Yeah Mama and you knew it was happening. Did you do anything about it? No. You didn’t do a damn thing about it. You just sat by and let him do what the hell he wanted to do to us and you said nothing. How can you live with yourself knowing what you know? You are our mother. Your only job was to protect us and you couldn’t even do that.”

I can’t cry. I can’t cry. I’ve put this off for far too long. I have to get this out. Confronting my parents will help me move on. I have to get it all out. This may be my only chance.

My entire body was shaking. Sabrina grabbed my hand and steadied me.

“Let’s get out of here. My own daughter will not accuse me of something so unspeakable. You should be ashamed of yourself. God is going to punish you for this, Nicolette.”

“He already did that when he gave me the two of you as parents.”

I knew those words hurt my mother when I saw her grab her chest as she entered the passenger side of the van. But those words truly expressed how I have been feeling all of these years. My parents drove away and I knew that would probably be the last time that I would see them. I should have been upset about that but I wasn’t because I had done nothing wrong. I only told the truth.

“Are you okay?” Sabrina asked.

“No.”

“What do you need me to do?”

“You’re doing it,” I answered as I looked down at our intertwined hands.

“Girl, I had no idea that you were molested. We’ve been friends for years and you never said a word about it.”

“Sabrina, it was simply too hard to talk about and it was embarrassing.”

“Ooh, you’re right. That ain’t a subject a person brings up to break the ice. The bottom line is that I’m here for you. You know? I’m here for whatever.”

I knew that she would be. I just didn’t know how to tell her. I had barely found the strength to tell Ahmad.

“Hey, baby, are you okay? I heard what you said to your mom,” Ahmad said, grabbing me from the back.

“Hello, Nikki,” his mother said.

I nodded my head. I didn’t think I would be able to speak without sobbing. Corrie was standing there and I didn’t want to be emotional in front of her. She had seen and heard enough.

“Is this Corrie,” Sabrina said, changing the subject.

“Oh, Sabrina, I’m sorry. Yes, this is my daughter. This is Corrie.” Ahmad quickly picked up on what Sabrina was trying to do and played right along.

“It’s great to meet you. You are a very pretty little girl.”

“Who are you?” Corrie asked, looking suspiciously at Sabrina.

“Corrie, this is Sabrina. She is Nikki’s best friend,” Ahmad explained.

“Are the two of you ready for tomorrow,” Ahmad’s mother interrupted with her thick Jamaican accent. “Tomorrow is the big day.”

“I’ve never been more ready for anything in my life,” Ahmad answered as he brushed a lonely tear from my cheek.

I’m ready, too. I’m ready to start my new life and leave this old one behind.

Chapter 20

Ahmad

“I do.”

When I heard Nikki say those two words, it was like music to my ears. We were now husband and wife. At first, I thought I had made a hasty decision by asking Nikki to marry me. After all, we hadn’t known each other for very long.

Look at her. She is so beautiful standing there in her white dress. You made the right decision.

“You may kiss the bride,” the chaplain announced.

I couldn’t wait to kiss my wife for the first time. Nikki’s eyes danced as I pulled her body closer to mine. I just wanted to hold her in my arms first, so she could feel safe from the hurt she’d known so much of her whole life.

“Would you just kiss already? Some of us do have to go to work,” Nikki’s best friend, Sabrina, said from the sideline. “It ain’t legal until you kiss her.”

The five other people in the office laughed at Sabrina’s quick wit. I leaned in and planted a passionate kiss on Nikki’s soft lips.

We kissed for what seemed like hours.

“I said kiss her. Not make another baby.”

“Sabrina, do you ever quit,” Nikki asked, giggling like a little schoolgirl. I loved her laugh. I promised myself that I was going to do everything in my power to make sure that Nikki laughed like that every day. I never wanted her to be sad another day in her life.

“Now you know better than that, baby. Sabrina is all mouth,” I said.

“Whatever, Ahmad,” Sabrina answered, rolling her eyes. “You just make sure that you take good care of my friend, Mr. Jacobs. I’d hate to have some of my homeboys to jack you up.”

“Are you threatening me?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing.”

We all laughed. I assured Sabrina that she didn’t have a thing in the world to worry about. I fully intended to take extra good care of my new wife.

“I’ve never been happier than I am right now, Ahmad,” Nikki said, as she hugged me again.

Nikki kneeled down to Corrie’s level and looked her in her eyes. “Corrie, how do you feel about what just happened? Are you happy?”

“Yeah, I think it’s cool. Can I ask you something?”

“Yes, sweetheart, you can ask me anything you want.”

“Can I call you Mommy?”

I could see Nikki fighting back tears. As hard and as emotionless as Sabrina always tried to be, there were even tears in her eyes.

“I would love that but only if you’re comfortable with it, Corrie.”

“Okay then. Mommy.”

Corrie is right. This is so cool. My two best girls are loving on each other. What could be better than that? Life is going to be good for us.

“Well, I hate to break up this little love fest but like I said, I’ve got to get to work at the hospital,” Sabrina chimed.

“Thank you so much for being here, Sabrina. You know I love you, girl,” Nikki said, giving her best friend a hug.

“Yeah, Yeah. Where else would I be? ”

“I love you, too, Sabrina,” I said, kissing her cheek.

“Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty.”

After the wedding, Corrie went back to New York with my mother. Nikki and I planned to finish packing our things here and drive the moving truck to New York in two days. My grandmother’s apartment on Flatbush Avenue was all ready and waiting for us to move right in.

I had so many wonderful things planned for Nikki and me on our wedding night. After all, she had been through, I knew I would have to be patient with her and not push. Things had to happen in their own time.

“Is everything set up?” I whispered to Sabrina before she left for the hospital.

Sabrina had agreed to help me with the hotel arrangements. I wanted to surprise Nikki with a beautiful room overlooking the Potomac River at the Watergate Hotel for our wedding night. I knew that it would be something she would definitely not expect or even think we could afford.

“Yeah, it’s all set. I went by earlier and picked up the keys. I

even took some rose petals and spread them all over your king-sized bed,” Sabrina said as she discretely dropped the keys in the front pocket of my blazer.

“Thanks, girl. You know that if I wasn’t marrying Nikki…” “Niggah, please. As if I would even have your pretty ass. Nope. Give me an ugly dude any day.”

Sabrina and I both burst into what seemed like uncontrollable laughter. I could see why she and Nikki were so close.

“Okay, let’s break this little chat up,” Nikki interrupted.

“Look, I need to get to the hospital before they fire my ass. Congratulations, y’all. Nikki, girl, call me before you leave for New York.”

Nikki and Sabrina hugged. Both of them were trying desperately to fight the tears.

On the drive to the hotel, Nikki drilled me about where we were going and I refused to tell her anything.

“Ahmad, you’re not going to tell me?”

“Nope.”

“That’s just wrong. I’m your wife now and you’re obligated by law to disclose everything to me,” Nikki said, pouting and folding her arms, looking out of the car window.

“Yeah, okay,” I said laughing, “and where did you read that?”

“I don’t remember. It’s probably in the Bible,” Nikki said as she moved closer to me, laying her head on my shoulder.

When we pulled up to the Watergate Hotel, Nikki put her hand over her heart and gasped.

“Ahmad! This is the Watergate! How on earth…”

“Don’t worry about it. I did it for you. I wanted us to spend our first night together someplace special.”

Once we were inside of our hotel room, I realized that Sabrina had done a lot more than she’d told me about. Not only were there red rose petals all over the white linen draped king-sized bed, but there were several bouquets of flowers placed in the room. A bottle of Moët sat chilling in a silver ice bucket next to the bed along with a basket of white grapes and chocolate covered strawberries.

“Oh baby, this is so beautiful,” Nikki said as she tearfully surveyed the room.

It sure is. I’ll have to remember to slip Sabrina a few more dollars because I know there was no way in hell she could have done all of this with just the money I gave her.

“All for you.”

I took Nikki’s hand and pulled her close. In her eyes, I saw expectation and fear. Her body had begun to tremble a bit. I held her tighter hoping she could feel the security in the strength of my arms. I lifted her chin with my hand and planted the first kiss of the evening on her perfectly shaped lips. She hesitated at first but soon let her lips melt into mine. I slowly began to unzip her dress and stepped back to watch it drop to the floor.

Her skin glistened flawlessly beneath the white lace of her bra and panties.

“You are so beautiful,” I said, removing my shirt.

Nikki didn’t say a word. She just stood there and smiled. I took her in my arms again and was amazed at how turned on I was by the touch of her soft skin against mine.

I want you so bad. I’ve wanted you from the first moment I

saw you. Finally.

“I love you, Nicolette Jacobs,” I whispered in her ear, gently nibbling the lobe.

“I love you, too,” she responded, breathlessly.

“Can I make love to you?” I asked, staring into her eyes. Although we were married, I didn’t want to take advantage of this delicate moment.

She nodded.

“You can trust me. We can take this as slow as you need to.”

She nodded again. This time she wiped away a lonely tear as it slowly rolled down her cheek.

Just as I’d promised, I took my time touching and kissing her warm body all over, trying hard to contain the fire that raged out of control inside of me. I reached between her legs, hoping to feel her sweet wetness saturating my fingers, indicating that she was ready but instead, she was as dry as a desert. Even though her body was there with me, I could tell that her mind was somewhere else.

“Nikki, are you okay, baby?”

“Yeah. I’m fine.”

“Are you sure because you’re not…” “I told you that I’m fine. Just do it. I’m fine.” Just do it? Oh hell no.

“Nikki, talk to me. What’s going on? I don’t want to just do it. I want us to take this trip together.”

She pulled the covers over her naked body and turned her back to me.

What the fuck? Okay, man, remember to be patient. Your wife has been molested. Did you think this was going to be easy? You’ve got to show some patience here or you’ll fuck up everything.

“Nikki,” I said, touching her shoulder.

“Ahmad, this is very hard for me. Okay? There is nothing I want more than to make love to you right now but I can’t get the image of what my father did to me out of my mind.”

“Baby, I’m not your father. I’m your husband. There is a huge difference. We’re supposed to do this.”

“I know that, Ahmad. I can’t help it. I thought, I hoped, that going to counseling would help me deal with this better but it hasn’t. I don’t know what to do. What if I can never…”

“Shh…” I said as I spooned my body against hers. My dick was as hard as a rock and aching for some pussy. I started thinking about how much I wanted to kill that motherfucker who was the blame for all of this bullshit. “We have all time in the world.

Don’t worry about it.” Goddamnit!

I held her until we both fell into a deep sleep. The startling ring of the telephone awakened us.

Who in the hell could that be? No one knows where we are.

“Hello. What? Hold on.”

Sabrina was on the other end of the phone. Her voice sounded frantic when she asked to speak to Nikki.

“Oh my, God,” Nikki screamed as she jump out of bed.

Goddamn, she’s fine.

The sight of my wife’s body made my shit harden again.

“Okay, we’ll be right there, Sabrina. Thanks for calling.”

We’ll be right where? It’s three o’clock in the fucking morning.

“Baby, what did Sabrina want? What’s going on?”

“Ahmad, we have to get to Doctor’s Hospital as soon as possible. Shannon is in the emergency room,” Nikki said, searching through her suitcase before disappearing into the bathroom.

Oh fuck no! Shannon! What in the hell am I going to do now? I can’t go to that hospital with Nikki. What do I tell her? I can’t tell her the truth. Not right now. She’s going to question me if I don’t drive her to the hospital. Fuck! I have to know what’s going on first.

“She said that Shannon came in the emergency room in labor. I didn’t even know she was pregnant,” Nikki called from the bathroom.

Fuck!

“Ahmad, get dressed,” Nikki instructed when she opened the door and saw me sitting motionless on the side of the bed.

“Oh, okay.”

Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. I didn’t know what to expect anymore. One part of me wanted to crash the car just so I wouldn’t have to come clean with Nikki about the whole Shannon situation and my role in it. The other part was screaming for me to tell her the truth.

But what is the truth? That I’m the father of Shannon’s baby? We don’t know that for sure. It could be anybody’s. There is no need to say a word until you know for sure.

Should I at least tell her that I used to fuck her sister? Naw. Let’s just see what happens at the hospital. No need to go admitting to something no one has accused you of, yet. That’s a player’s number one rule. Come on, man. Pull yourself together.

Fuck!

Chapter 21

Nikki

Shannon is about to give birth to a baby! Mama was right thinking that Shannon was in trouble. Why wouldn’t she come to us with something so serious? Not keeping up with my little sister was a big mistake. How could I have been so selfish?

Ahmad and I rushed to the hospital to see what was going on with my sister. During the ride, neither one of us said a single word to the other. I had so many thoughts racing through my mind about everything that had happened in the last twenty-four hours; I felt the beginning of a migraine coming over the horizon.

Ahmad is too quiet. I know he must be angry with me for behaving like such a child when it came to making love. Ahmad is my husband. That’s what married people do. Why am I tripping over something that should be a no brainer? My behavior was unacceptable. Now, what should have been the most special night of my life has been made even more tragic by this emergency. Ahmad has to be pissed.

My heart ached knowing that I had ruined our wedding night for Ahmad. He’d been so patient with me. For whatever reason, I allowed my mind to keep retreating to the darkness of my past and my body followed.

“Ahmad, are you okay?” I asked, rubbing his tight thigh. His eyes remained on the road.

“Yeah, baby. I’m fine.”

He’s so angry, he can’t even look at me. “I’m sorry about what happened earlier.” He didn’t respond.

“Ahmad. Baby, did you hear what I said?” He still didn’t respond.

“Ahmad!”

“Yeah, what’s up?”

“What’s on your mind? You seem a million miles away.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Nothing is really on my mind. I’m just concentrating on getting us to the hospital.”

You’re lying. You are angry with me but you don’t want to admit it. You’re afraid to hurt my feelings.

“Are you angry with me about what didn’t happen tonight?”

“No, Nikki. I told you that I understand what you’re going through.”

“I heard what you said but you still seem upset.”

“I promise you that I am not upset about that. Like I said, we are on our way to the hospital in the middle of the night. I just want to get you to your sister. I know how worried you are about her. That’s all.”

Okay. If that’s your story, I’m not going to press the issue. But we will talk about this later.

When we arrived at the hospital, Ahmad dropped me off at the emergency entrance while he went to find a place to park the car. As soon as I walked through the sliding doors, I felt my heart pounding in my chest.

“Excuse me, can you tell me where Shannon Evans is?” I asked the person sitting behind the desk. “She came in tonight in labor.”

“Nikki,” Sabrina called from the hall before the receptionist could answer my inquiry.

“Where is she?”

“Follow me.”

Lord, please let everything be okay.

“Sabrina, what is going on?” I asked as we rushed down the long corridor.

“Somebody dropped her off in the ambulance bay. Her water had broken and she was in active labor.”

“I still can’t believe Shannon is pregnant and nobody knew about it. How crazy is that?”

“Girl, I know what you mean. Where’s Ahmad?”

“He’s outside looking for a parking space.”

“Shannon is in here,” Sabrina said, pointing to a room at the end of the hall. “You go on in and I’ll wait for Ahmad in the lobby and let him know where you are.”

“Push! Push!” I heard a woman yell from behind a curtain when I opened the door.

“I’m pushing!”

I recognized my sister’s agony-laced voice.

Oh my, God! She’s having the baby right now! This can’t be happening.

I pulled open the curtain and rushed to Shannon’s side. For the first time in a long time, she actually looked happy to see me. She reached for my hand with desperation in her eyes. I realized that now was not the time for us to get into the when’s and why’s of what was happening. My little sister needed my strength to help her through this.

“Okay, Shannon. Come on and push as hard as you can,” I instructed.

She leaned forward, grabbed her ankles, and did as she was told.

Oh my, God! I can see the baby’s head.

“You’re doing great, young lady,” the nurse said. “We’re almost there. All we need is just one more big one.”

I placed my hand on Shannon’s back as she leaned forward again. This time, her push was accompanied by a gut-wrenching scream.

The baby is out. I’ve just witnessed a new life coming into the world.

“It’s a girl,” the nurse announced, cutting the cord.

“Shannon, you did it,” I said, wiping the sweat from my sister’s forehead. It was hard for me to believe what had just happened.

“Nikki, how did you know I was here?”

“Sabrina called me.”

After weighing the baby and cleaning her up a bit, the nurse brought the baby over and placed her in Shannon’s arms.

“Five pounds and three ounces,” the nurse said.

“Oh, Shannon, look at her. She’s beautiful.”

Shannon just looked at the baby without saying a word and without any emotion.

“Is the baby okay,” I asked the nurse.

“Everything looks fine. But the doctor will further exam her in the nursery,” she answered, looking at Shannon and waiting

for a reaction. There was none. “Someone will be by shortly to get you admitted and take you to a room on our Labor and Delivery floor,” she continued.

I couldn’t understand how Shannon could be so quiet. She had just experienced the most incredible miracle in the world.

“Knock, Knock,” Sabrina said, poking in her head.

“Come on in,” I answered, never breaking my stare at Shannon, who was looking in the opposite direction.

“I just saw them take the baby upstairs to the nursery. Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, everything is fine.”

Sabrina looked at Shannon then looked questioningly at me. I shrugged my shoulders. Just then, another nurse came in to take Shannon upstairs.

“I’ll be up in a minute,” I comforted as the nurse pushed Shannon’s gurney out of the room.

“What’s up with her?” Sabrina asked.

“Girl, I don’t know. She hasn’t said much of anything to me.

Where’s Ahmad?”

“He is safe and sound in the waiting room.”

Okay. Let him know that I am on my way upstairs and I’ll see him in a few minutes. I want to make sure Shannon and the baby are okay.”

I went to find my sister and hopefully to get some answers to the many questions surrounding this whole ordeal.

“Shannon, why didn’t you let me know what was going on?” I asked as soon as I walked into the room. Shannon had a semiprivate room but she didn’t yet have a roommate so I sat on the unoccupied bed.

“Like telling you anything would have made a difference,” she snarled back.

“You could have at least told Mama. She’s been worried sick about you. You haven’t called home and every time she’s called you, no one could say where you were. Did you move out of the dorm?”

“Nikki, I haven’t been in school for almost a year. If you really cared anything about me, you’d know that.”

“I do care about you. Whatever gave you the impression that I didn’t? I just didn’t like the things you were doing because they were dangerous.”

“Yeah, right.”

A knock came at the door and an older woman walked in carrying a clipboard.

“Miss Evans, I’m Rose Gaines from the hospital admissions office and I’m here to get some information from you.” Shannon rolled her eyes in my direction.

What the hell is wrong with you?

“What is your full name?” the woman asked.

“Shannon Marie Evans.”

“Your date of birth?”

“October 21, 1971.”

“Occupation?”

“Unemployed.”

You should say student.

“Have you chosen a name for your baby?”

Shannon paused for a minute. Then she smiled and looked at me.

“Nikki, why don’t you name her?”

Me? Why me?

“Are you sure?”

She nodded. “Yes, I’m sure.”

“How about Aliyah Nicolette,” I responded.

“Aliyah Nicolette. I like that,” Shannon said, nodding at the woman.

“What is the name of the father?” the woman asked.

“Ahmad Jacobs, Jr.”

What the fuck did that bitch just say? Ahmad Jacobs, Jr.?

My head spun around like that little girl in the Exorcist.

“What did you say?”

“I said Ahmad is the father of my baby. Oh what? You didn’t know?” Shannon asked, laughing.

“Didn’t know what?”

“That your man and I used to be fuck buddies.”

“What?”

“That’s all I need for now, Miss Evans,” the woman said as she sensed the growing tension and got the hell out of the room.

“Ahmad and I know each other very well. Just ask him about me. He’ll tell you. He’ll tell you a lot.”

I just stared blankly at Shannon. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

This can’t be happening. Shannon has to be lying. Ahmad doesn’t know her. Why is she doing this?

“How do you know that Ahmad is my man, Shannon?”

“I know because when I went to his apartment to tell him about the baby, I saw your picture there.”

I have to find Ahmad and put an end to this bullshit.

16

“You’re lying. I don’t know why but I know that you’re lying.”

“You think I’m lying? Why don’t you ask Ahmad and see what he says?”

I left Shannon’s room in a daze, not noticing anything or anyone along the path to the waiting room. Shannon’s words had stabbed me in the heart. I felt the temperature of my blood rise three hundred degrees. My vision had become blurred and all I could hear were her cold words muted by loud static.

When I arrived in the waiting room, Ahmad and Sabrina were standing by the coffee machine.

“Hey, baby, how’s everything?” he asked as I approached him.

“Is Shannon okay? Has she told you anything?” Sabrina inquired.

“Oh yeah, she has told me something. Now, I need you to tell me something, Ahmad. Are you the father of Shannon’s baby? Have you been fucking my sister?”

I didn’t care that the waiting room was almost filled to capacity with people. It didn’t matter to me who heard what I said to my husband.

“Huh?” Sabrina said, almost strangling on her coffee.

“Nikki, let me—”

“Let you what, Ahmad?”

“I need to explain.”

“Explain what? There is no need to explain shit. Either it is true or it’s not.”

“Ahmad, please tell her that this is a joke,” Sabrina begged.

“Nikki—”

“Yes or no, Ahmad.”

“Yes, I—”

Before Ahmad could finish his sentence, I grabbed the coffeepot from the machine and cracked him over the head with it. The hot liquid and shards of glass went everywhere.

Ahmad fell to the floor, holding his bleeding head, and groaning like a wounded moose.

“Nikki, wait,” Sabrina yelled as she grabbed my arms from behind just as I was about to stomp Ahmad’s ass into the tiled floor.

The security guard and another nurse rushed over to Ahmad and helped him into an exam room.

“Nikki, what in the hell just happened here?” Sabrina asked.

“Shannon says that Ahmad is the father of her baby and Ahmad just admitted to fucking her. Sabrina, please shake me and tell me that this is all a horrible dream. Wake me from this nightmare, please.”

I began to sob uncontrollably. I lost my equilibrium and went limp in my best friend’s arms.

“I’m so sorry,” Sabrina repeated again and again, as she held me.

“I’ve never felt so betrayed in my life. I put my trust in Ahmad. How could I have been so stupid?”

“There has to be some mistake, Nikki. You know how Shannon is. She could have said that just to hurt you.”

“But Ahmad said—”

“Just because he had sex with her doesn’t mean that he’s the father of the baby. That kid could be anybody’s, Nikki, you know that,” Sabrina explained. She was trying her best to make me feel better but it wasn’t helping at all. It still felt as if someone had ripped my heart out with their bare hands.

How could one day be filled with so much drama? Less than twelve hours ago, Ahmad and I were so happy. We’d just begun our lives together and looked forward to the endless possibilities of the future. We’d made so many plans. Now, everything has fallen apart. What if this is Ahmad’s child? What does that mean for us? Even if the baby is not his, how can I live with him knowing that he has been with my sister?

“I’m going to check on Ahmad and see if I can get to the bottom of this bullshit. Will you be okay while I’m gone?” Sabrina asked.

Chapter22

Ahmad

“I’ll take over from here,” Sabrina announced to the nurse who was assessing my wounds. The nurse left the room and I began to dread what was coming next.

“Sabrina, I don’t—”

“Shut the fuck up, Ahmad,” Sabrina said as soon as the doors closed. “I’m asking the goddamn questions now, niggah. My girl, my best friend is out there in the waiting room, crying her eyes out over this bullshit and I don’t like that one bit. I told you that you’d better take care of her and what would happen to you if you didn’t. Did you think I was playing? Huh?”

“This is all a big misunderstanding, Sabrina,” I began to plead my case.

“Misunderstanding? How’s that?” Sabrina had begun cleaning the side of my face and she wasn’t using any of the care and compassion that I was sure she’d been taught in nursing school. Her strokes were just as harsh and painful as I’m sure she’d intended them to be but I knew it was in my best interest not to object.

“Will you just be quiet and listen to me, please? Yes, I had sex with Shannon, several times. It was before Nikki and I were serious. Hell, I didn’t realize that the two of them were sisters until recently.”

“Recently meaning nine months ago?”

“No, more recent than that. Anyway, I always used condoms with Shannon.”

“Really? Then, how could the baby be yours?”

“Because she told me that she stole the rubbers from the trash and made herself pregnant.”

“Oh come on, Ahmad! Why in the hell would she do some nasty shit like that? Looks like you’re going to need stitches. Nikki cracked your ass pretty good.”

The thought of Sabrina stitching up my head was terrifying. I knew she probably would not numb the area first.

“Are you going to get someone else to do that?” I asked, nervously.

“Nope. I can do it myself. You were saying?” Oh shit!

“She did it because she thought I was going into the draft and she wanted to hook a gravy train.”

“What?”

“Yeah. When she found out that I quit the team, it was too late for her to have an abortion.”

“Don’t you watch Oprah or read Essence? Women do this type of crazy stuff all the time just to trap a successful, or in your case, potentially successful man. Didn’t your dumb ass know better than to throw your shit in the trash? Did it ever occur to you to flush it down the toilet and then watch it go down?” Now you tell me.

“I don’t know, Sabrina. I guess I wasn’t thinking.”

“Yeah you were. You were just thinking with the wrong head. Why didn’t you tell this to Nikki when you found out about it?”

“I don’t know. I know that I should have but I didn’t want to admit anything until I knew for sure. I was hoping that it would all just go away.”

“Yeah, well, we can all see what a smart ass solution that was.”

“I know that now.”

“So, how can you be sure that the baby is yours? Shannon could have saved anybody’s sperm.”

“I can’t. I need to have a blood test done.”

Sabrina stopped working on me for a minute. She stared at me questioningly. I hoped she believed the unbelievable story that I’d just told her because as crazy as it sounded, the story was true. I knew that Sabrina believing me was the first step to getting Nikki to believe me.

“Okay, Ahmad. What you’ve just told me sounds like a load of shit but I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt.” Damn, my face hurts.

“Can you give me something for the pain?”

“Nope. Not yet.”

“Sabrina, my head is killing me.”

“At least you’re still alive to feel it. Be thankful for that. Now, be still so I can suture you.”

When Sabrina was done, she agreed to arrange to get a blood test done for me. She got Shannon’s permission and, if the cards are in my favor, we could all put this night behind us.

I wanted to talk to Nikki but I knew that she would refuse to listen to anything that I had to say. I needed to assure her that I hadn’t betrayed her. I would never do that. Against my better judgment, I went to find her.

Look at her. You are responsible for Nikki’s sadness. After all, she’s been through, you’ve just added to her pain. Selfish bastard. You have to do whatever you have to do to make this right. Nikki doesn’t deserve any of this. She loves you.

I walked over to where she was balled up in the fetal position on a hard chair in the waiting room. I looked out of the hospital window and saw the sun beginning to make its presence known in the sky.

Damn, is it morning already?

“Nikki,” I whispered, as I leaned over her.

She looked up at me with coldness in her eyes that chilled me to the bone.

“What is it, Ahmad?”

“Are you okay?”

“That has to be the dumbest ass question anyone has ever asked me. Do you think I’m okay? Would you be okay if you’d just found out that I might possibly have a baby with your brother?”

“You’re right. I’m sorry.”

“Sorry about what? Huh? Sorry that you fucked my sister? Sorry that she just gave birth to your baby? Sorry that you lied to me? Sorry that I busted your skull wide open when I learned the truth? What, exactly, are you sorry about, Ahmad?”

“All of it. I’m sorry for everything. I hurt you and I hate that. Have you spoken with Sabrina?”

“Yeah, she told me what you said. The problem is that I don’t know if I can believe any of that. It all sounds a bit too far-fetched to me.”

“But it’s the truth, I promise.”

“Regardless, Ahmad, as soon as you realized what was happening, you should have said something. Now I realized why you were so quiet on the ride over here. It wasn’t because you were upset because we didn’t make love. Your balls were in a knot because you knew your game was about to be peeped.”

The sound of Nikki’s voice was different. The loving tone that it once held was now replaced with a painful hatred that I’d caused. Her language was hard and uncaring.

“Nikki, you have to believe that I didn’t mean to hurt you. I love you,” I said, moving closer to her. I looked around to make sure there wasn’t anything close by that could be used as a weapon.

“Don’t tell me what I have to believe. I don’t have to believe shit, Ahmad.”

“Nikki, please, you’re my wife and—”

“Ahmad, just stop talking to me, okay. Let’s just wait and see what the tests say.”

I so desperately wanted to hold Nikki in my arms but I knew that she wouldn’t allow me to get that close. I decided to walk away and give her the space she needed right now.

I found myself taking an elevator ride up to the Labor and Delivery unit. I hoped that Shannon’s ridiculous story had changed, naming someone else as the father.

As I walked down the long hallway that was filled with endless doors adorned with pink and blue bows, I passed a glass wall with the word nursery etched on it in black. I stopped and looked inside. There had to be at least seven or eight babies lined up in row after row of clear bassinets, all squirming like caterpillars.

Where is the little person that was at the root of this issue? “Which baby are you here to see?” the nurse called from the intercom.

“Umm, Shannon Evans’ baby.”

Is it a girl or boy? Neither Nikki nor Sabrina had said.

The nurse checked the cards taped to the end of each bassinet before picking up a baby wearing a pink hat and approaching the window. She was the tiniest in the room. The closer the nurse got to the window, the more my heart pounded.

Oh my, God! That is Corrie’s sweet little face.

I no longer needed a blood test to tell me what my heart already knew. This was my child. I saw my reflection in her innocent face just as I had seen in Corrie’s on the day she was born.

It’s true. I have another child. What in the world am I going to do with two children? What is going to happen to Nikki and me? Can we survive this? Am I asking too much of her? What will Shannon want from me now?

I managed to smile and nod at the nurse before she returned the baby to her spot in the row.

“So, Ahmad,” Sabrina said from behind, startling me away from my thoughts.

“Yeah,” I admitted.

“Damn.”

“I know. I mean she looks just like Corrie. Sabrina, what am I gonna do?”

“Hell if I know. I would just wait until the test results came back, if I were you. Just to be one hundred percent sure. If she is yours, you’ve got some big decisions to make, my friend.”

“Okay, that’s what I’ll do. Does the baby have a name yet?”

“Yeah, Aliyah Nicolette.” Nicolette?

“Shannon gave the baby Nikki’s name? That’s messed up.”

“Shannon didn’t name her. Nikki did. That was before all of this drama.”

Wow! Nikki must really feel like a fool.

“Have the doctor’s talked to you yet?

“Talk to me? About what?”

Sabrina took a deep breath. Her eyes soften as she moved closer to me.

“Shannon was using while she was pregnant, Ahmad.”

“Using? Using what?”

Sabrina didn’t answer. She raised her eyebrow and looked away.

“Are you telling me that Shannon pumped crack into my baby?”

My baby? I can’t believe that I said that out loud.

“Yeah.”

“Shit!”

“Quiet down. This is a hospital. Now, they don’t know how affected the baby is yet but she has been exposed to drugs.”

How much worse can things get? My daughter is a crack baby. What does that mean for her life? Will she have medical issues that require special care?

“Do you think I should talk to Shannon?”

“What for?”

“I don’t know, just to see—”

“No. There’s no need to say anything to her right now. Besides, she’s a crackhead. What is she going to tell you? Nikki is the one you should be concentrating on. She’s your wife or have you forgotten?”

“I haven’t but I think that she has,” I answered, dropping my head in shame for all of the hurt I’d cause her.

“No she hasn’t,” Sabrina reassured. “She’s just in a lot of pain right now. I mean, after all, you did fuck her sister.”

“Yeah, I know that, Sabrina. You don’t have to keep saying it.”

“Hey, don’t get an attitude with me. I’m not the one responsible for any of this. You are.”

“I’m sorry. I’m just, I don’t know. How long will the test take?”

“Usually a few days but the guy in the lab has been flirting with me for a minute and I promised to have lunch with him if he could speed things along. We should know something in a little while. Why don’t you and Nikki go to the cafeteria and get some breakfast? I’ll come and get you when I know something.”

“Like Nikki will go anywhere with me.”

“You’ll figure something out,” Sabrina said, walking in the opposite direction.

I’ll figure something out? Never in my life have I had so many things to figure out.

Chapter 23

Nikki

The last twenty-four hours of my life had been an ill-choreographed dance in hell. The test came back positive for Ahmad being the father of my sister’s baby. I’d cried so much that my eyes were almost swollen shut. I stood staring out of the hospital window at the ambulance bay.

How do I deal with this? Shannon is the mother of my husband’s child.

Ahmad had tried so hard to talk to me but I couldn’t even pretend to be interested in anything he had to say. My life had just been turned upside down by his lies and deceit. I couldn’t even stand to look at him.

“Nikki, you have to talk about it,” Sabrina said.

“Are you still here? I thought you got off of work at seven this morning.”

“I did but I couldn’t leave you. Not like this.”

“Thanks but I’ll be fine,” I said. I wasn’t sure if I even believed my own words. How could anyone be fine with this situation? “Go home, Sabrina. I know you must be tired.”

“I ain’t going anywhere until I know that you’re cool.” Ahmad walked up and motioned for Sabrina to leave.

“Nikki, are you ready to talk to me?”

“No. I don’t have anything to talk about. You’re the one with the problem. You do the talking,” I snapped.

“Well, you’re right. I’m just happy that you’re willing to listen.”

“Whatever, Ahmad.”

“Can we go back to the hotel and have this conversation in private?”

“Private? Why be private now? All of our business has just played out in an emergency room like a daytime television drama and you’re concerned about privacy now? Unbelievable.”

I couldn’t believe what Ahmad was saying. Taking me back to the hotel would not make any difference.

“Please, Nikki. Let’s go.”

“What about your daughter?”

“I’ll come back later and deal with that. I need to talk to you first.”

I am tired and I’m hungry. Going back to the hotel is a good idea. Can I trust myself not to kill you when we are alone? I want you so dead right now, Ahmad Franklin Jacobs, Jr.

“Okay, let’s go,” I said, gathering my purse.

I looked for Sabrina at the nurse’s desk but she wasn’t there. The receptionist assured me that she hadn’t left the hospital yet. Just as I was about to have Sabrina paged, I saw her walking down the hallway with a handsome young man who was wearing a white coat and carrying a clipboard. I could tell by their body language that the conversation between the two of them was serious. A part of me smiled inside.

Sabrina has a man? Hmm, that figures. In the middle of my tragedy, she makes a love connection. I wonder if he is a doctor.

Sabrina looked up, made eye contact with me, and pointed in my direction.

“Nikki,” she said as she got closer, “where’s Ahmad?”

“He’s over there waiting for me. We’re going back to the hotel for a minute.”

As I spoke, I noticed concern in Sabrina’s eyes. “Can you get him, please?” “Sure,” I said, hesitantly.

What’s wrong now? Has something happened to the baby? Oh my, God, I will feel just awful if there is something wrong with her.

“Nikki and Ahmad, this is Carlos Scott. He is a social worker,” Sabrina explained.

“Social worker? Why do we need a social worker?” I asked.

“Are you Shannon Evans’ sister?” Carlos asked, watching me carefully.

“Yes. Why?”

“Nikki, she’s gone,” Sabrina blurted out.

“Gone?” Ahmad and I said in unison.

“It appears that Miss Evans left the labor and delivery floor at some point during the night. Probably shortly after she was admitted,” Carlos explained.

“How does a woman who has just given birth just get up and walk out of a hospital undetected?” I asked.

“Where is the baby? Where’s Aliyah?” Ahmad asked, franticly.

I didn’t realize that you knew her name.

“The baby is still safe and sound in the nursery,” Sabrina assured.

“Do you have any idea where Miss Evans has gone?” Carlos asked.

“No. I don’t have a clue. My sister and I are not that close. I only found out about her pregnancy last night.”

“What about you, Mr. Jacobs?”

“I don’t know.”

“Has anyone notified the police?” I asked.

“We’re doing whatever we can to find her. But, in all honesty, we don’t expect that we will. There is no evidence that points to a possible kidnapping. This has all of the signs of child abandonment. That’s why the Department of Children and Family Services was called in.”

“What?” I still could not wrap my mind around the words that were coming from Carlos’s lips.

Shannon just up and left her baby?

“What does this mean for the baby?” Ahmad asked. If nothing else, Ahmad was consistent when it came to the welfare of his children. I had to give him credit for being a concerned father.

“It means that the baby will stay in the hospital for forty-eight hours and then be placed with a foster family,” Carlos explained.

“No. No it doesn’t. I am her father. I’ll take her home with me.”

What! Home with you? You mean home with us.

“Ahmad, we need to—”

“We need to what, Nikki? Didn’t you hear what the man just said? Aliyah, my daughter, your niece, has just been abandoned by her mother like some animal in the woods. Shannon is gone God knows where. Can you actually stand there and tell me that there is anything to talk about? I know that this whole situation is fucked up and it is my fault but Aliyah will not go home with a foster family.”

Although I wanted to, there was no way I could argue with Ahmad. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t step up to the plate for Aliyah. None of this was her fault and she didn’t need to be with strangers when her family was right here.

If I ever get my hands on Shannon, I will ring her goddamn neck for this. The story about how Aliyah came to be didn’t seem so far-fetched to me now. Shannon did trick Ahmad. Hell, she was still tricking him. She left him with all of the responsibility while she got away foot loose and fancy-free.

“You’re right. Carlos, Ahmad and I will take the baby when she’s ready to go home.”

Ahmad reached for my hand. It took everything inside of me not to snatch it away. I knew that he was truly sorry for all of this. Part of me still wanted him to pay for my pain but now was not the time to concentrate on that. There was a little girl upstairs who needed both of us. I had to pull up my big girl panties for Aliyah’s sake.

Chapter 24

Ahmad

How did I get here, again? Another social worker was threatening to take my child and put her in foster care. This whole thing was like a never-ending nightmare.

Nikki and I never got to catch our breath. We still had to move to New York and I still had a new job to start on Monday. Now, there was a newborn baby in the picture.

After we left the hospital that day, I tried to talk to Nikki about everything. I still felt the need to explain the situation to her, hoping to make her understand but she wouldn’t discuss it.

“What is there to talk about, Ahmad? None of that matters now. Let’s just move on the best way we can.”

Among other things, I had to figure out how I was going to explain the new baby to Corrie. She was never going to be able to understand any of this.

Corrie’s world has changed again.

We packed everything up and headed for the hospital to pick up Aliyah on our way to New York. Nikki had gone out to Wal-Mart the day before and picked up a few things that we would need immediately for the baby like a car seat, bottles, formula, and diapers.

I’d made the difficult phone call home to my mother to give her a heads up on what was happening. Just as expected, she was not happy with any of it but she agreed to check and see if she still had any of Corrie’s baby items packed away.

When the three of us arrived at our apartment in Brooklyn, my mother and Corrie were there putting the crib together for Aliyah. Although I was relieved to find Corrie excited about the new baby, a part of me was still ashamed of my irresponsible actions and myself.

Ahmad Franklin Jacobs, Jr., you have got to get yourself together, man. You’ve fucked up, big, this time. The two people you love the most, you’ve hurt the most. Yet, here they both are, stepping up to the plate and helping your ass out, without complaining about it. You don’t deserve them.

“Daddy, where is my baby sister?” Corrie asked soon as I opened the front door. For the first time, I noticed that Corrie’s baby face was changing. She looked more like a big girl now. I couldn’t help but to feel sad that my little girl was growing up.

“Nikki has her. They are right behind me.”

My mother rolled her eyes at me as she passed by to get to Nikki and the baby. No matter how old I was, my mother’s look of disapproval still sent chills down my spine.

“Oh my goodness,” my mother whispered as she held Aliyah in her arms. “She looks just like Corrie. Look at all of that black hair.”

“Daddy, she is beautiful.”

“Nikki, how are you?”

“I’m fine, Mrs. Jacobs, I mean, Pat. I’m just a little tired.”

“I’m sure you are. Any woman who’d gone through what you’ve gone through in the last three days would be tired,” my mother stated, rolling her eyes at me again.

As if I don’t already feel like shit.

“Daddy, can we keep Aliyah?”

“She’s here to stay, Corrie,” Nikki said.

“What did the doctor’s say? Is the baby alright?” Pat asked, looking at Nikki.

“Aliyah seems to be fine. The doctor said that the tests came back normal but also that some developmental problems might not show up until later. We’re just going to have to pray and wait and see what happens,” Nikki explained.

“Well, I’ll be doing plenty of praying for this little one. I’m going to go and leave you to get settled in. I’ve set up the baby’s crib in the master bedroom. Corrie’s room is all set up as well.”

“Thank you so much, Pat. I really appreciate all of your help,” Nikki said, hugging my mother.

“No problem.” “Thanks, Ma,” I said.

My mother didn’t respond.

“Nikki, do you want me to take Corrie back with me for tonight?”

“No, Nana. I want to stay here,” Corrie whined.

“Corrie can stay. This is her home now. It’s okay,” Nikki answered. “We’ll all be just fine getting used to each other, right

Corrie?”

“Right,” Corrie answered, grinning and hugging Nikki’s waist.

“Well, if you’re sure.”

“I’m sure.”

“Thanks, Ma,” I said again, louder this time.

“I didn’t do it for you, Ahmad,” she snarled back. “I did what I did for Nikki and Aliyah. Not for you. If I were to give you what you deserve, I—”

“No, Pat. Not now. Not in front of the girls,” Nikki interrupted, taking Aliyah from my mother’s arms. “Believe me, I understand how upset you are with Ahmad but now is not the time to chastise him. He is a grown man, for God’s sake, even though his behavior has not illustrated that fact. If I can move past this little episode as his wife, you certainly can as his mother. Do it for the girls, Pat, please.”

What? Nikki is taking up for me? She does still love me.

“Ahmad, I hope you realize what you have here,” my mother said as she hugged Corrie and Nikki, closing the door behind her.

I do realize the woman I have in Nikki.

The four of us stood around the apartment for a few minutes as if we didn’t know what to do next. Aliyah began to cry and Corrie and I began to scramble for ways to calm her.

Not Nikki. She just held Aliyah closer to her heart and began to sing to her in a soft tone. Before we knew it, Aliyah was quiet. I stood there and watched in amazement with a warmed bottle in my hand. I walked over to where the two of them were sitting for a closer look. Nikki grabbed the bottle from my hand, went into our bedroom, and closed the door behind her.

I knew better than to interrupt that scene.

“Corrie, let’s go to McDonald’s.”

“Okay.”

Our first night together as a family felt a little strange. Corrie was living with me for the first time, I was a married man, and there was a new baby in the house. It was a lot for me to get used to, but all of it was my doing so I had to dive right into the role of husband and father.

After putting Corrie to bed, I went in to join Nikki and Aliyah. Nikki was sound asleep with her hand on Aliyah’s crib that sat next to our bed.

Nikki looks so peaceful but I know that her peaceful world has been interrupted. Would Nikki allow me to sleep in the same bed as her? Would she let me touch her? We’ve been married for three days and still had not made love. I want my wife.

I slowly undressed and climbed into bed.

Whew, she didn’t wake up.

I wasn’t there long before the baby began to whimper. Nikki sprang up, grabbed her, and left the room.

Damn, she hasn’t said one word to me all night.

Once Aliyah was fed and changed, Nikki laid back down. I was still awake.

“Ahmad?”

“Yes.”

“Can I ask you something?”

“You can ask me anything,” I said, sitting up.

“Did you love her?”

“Who?”

“Shannon.”

“No Nikki. I never loved Shannon. Are you kidding me? Shannon was just something to do to past the time, that’s all.”

“Wow.”

“Nikki, I know that sounds bad, but that’s the reality of what happened. Your sister was an easy lay not just for me but for a whole lot of guys.”

I hated to have to break it down like that for Nikki but it was the truth.

“I’m sorry, Ahmad.”

“What in the world do you have to be sorry about?”

“You tried to explain this to me and I wouldn’t listen. All I wanted to do was to hurt you as bad as you had hurt me.” Nikki’s voice was cracking.

“You don’t have to apologize for that. I deserved all of it. Don’t be sorry. You did what any woman in your situation would have done. I’m just glad that you are here with me and we can be a family.”

“Where else would I be? You’re my husband and I love you. The vows we took said for better or worse. And one thing is for sure, it can’t get much worse.”

“You’re right.”

“Ahmad, I need to know if there are any more surprises. Have you been married before? Are there any more babies or could be babies out there with your blood running through their veins? Is Ahmad your real name? I need to know everything no matter how awful it is; you have to tell me. I can’t take another train wreck like the one I’ve just been in.”

“Nikki, I swear before God and twelve prominent White men, there is nothing else,” I said, raising one hand and putting the other one over my chest.

I wanted to kiss Nikki but I was afraid to. We were talking again. But were we ready to get back to where we left off before we got that dreaded phone call? I had to try.

I leaned in to touch my lips against hers and surprisingly she returned the kiss.

Whew!

Our bodies moved closer to each other as we caressed each other’s faces. Finally, everything seemed to be going right. Nikki moved even closer to me laying her head on my bare chest. The feel of her deep breaths against my skin soothed me. I felt as though she was beginning to trust me again.

We made love, silently. Nikki didn’t make a sound when I entered her. I watched her face for a reaction but there was none.

Tears just flowed down her cheeks with each thrust.

“Nikki, are you sure that you’re okay?” I whispered.

She nodded. Still no sound.

“Am I hurting you?”

She shook her head, not uttering a word. I wasn’t sure whether I should continue. I had no clue what was going through Nikki’s head. When I began to pull out of her, she finally spoke.

“No. Don’t stop. Please.”

I kept going until I could no longer hold back. I exploded inside of my wife and filled her completely with my love. I

hoped that she could feel it.

Chapter 25

Nikki

After beginning our marriage with a whole lot of drama and turmoil, Ahmad and I were finally able to settle down into family life. The first years flew by like lightening. I was amazed at how being a wife and mother so easily came to me. It wasn’t as if I’d had a proper role model that equipped me with the knowledge of how to be successful at either role. Most times, I felt as if I was flying by the seat of my pants but the girls didn’t notice that at all.

I loved them as though they were my own. Although I was the only mother that Aliyah had known, I was more worried about how Corrie would adjust because she was old enough to remember her mom. Surprisingly, she didn’t give me any trouble. Sometimes it appeared that she tried harder to please me because I was not her real mother. There was never a you can’t tell me what to do ‘cause you are not my mother moment between she and I. I encouraged Corrie to keep a picture of her mom in her room and to talk about her whenever she wanted.

While Ahmad was in law school, we barely saw him. If he wasn’t in class, he was working or studying. I taught high school history during the day and except for the occasional parent conference, I was home every afternoon when the girls got home. It was rare that Ahmad would make it home before Aliyah and

Corrie went to bed. For three years, I felt like a single parent but I kept telling myself that after Ahmad graduated, things would get better. And they did, for a minute.

After graduation, Ahmad was offered a position at the law firm where he had worked as a clerk for three years. We were able to move out of the two-bedroom apartment and into an entire three-story brownstone. Ahmad was so excited. He was determined to out work and out shine all of the new associates. I sometimes felt as if the love affair Ahmad had with his work was more intense than the one he had with me.

“I have to work harder because I am the only Black associate at the firm, Nikki. I want to make partner in two years and that won’t happen if I just settle for being a good attorney. I have to be exceptional,” Ahmad explained time and time again.

“I understand that, Ahmad. I truly do. You don’t have to be an exceptional attorney at the absolute exclusion of everything else, do you? You also have to remember to put as much energy into being an exceptional husband and father. We need to see you and spend time with you. Corrie and Aliyah need their dad. I need my husband. Ahmad, when was the last time we truly took time to make love? I’m not talking about a quickie on the couch. I’m talking about truly savoring each moment as we love on each other.”

“I know that you do not want to talk to me about what’s wrong with our sex life.”

Ahmad was right. I didn’t want to get into that conversation. It was a subject that was older and more tiring than the one about

his work. I had so many hang-ups when it came to sex and I knew that it drove Ahmad crazy. No matter how hard I tried, I was never able to let go and enjoy the lovemaking experience. I

enjoyed the closeness of having Ahmad inside of me but I longed for the day when he would make my toes curl and my eyes roll back in my head. It never came and it wasn’t because Ahmad didn’t do his best to try to make it happen but it was because my memories kept me from meeting him half way. He was patient but I knew he wanted more because the frustration in his eyes said what his mouth wouldn’t. I wanted things to be different for us. Sabrina almost had a fit when I talked to her about it and revealed that I’d never experienced an orgasm.

“What? Girl, you’re a grown ass married woman,” she said.

“That doesn’t mean anything.”

“Yes, it does. It means that Ahmad ain’t on his grind like he should be.”

“It has nothing to do with Ahmad. He’s fine. It’s me.”

“Tell me this. Have you ever brought yourself to orgasm?”

“Huh? Are you asking me if—”

“Yeah, do you masturbate?”

At first, I couldn’t believe my ears but then again, nothing Sabrina said ever really surprised me.

“No,” I said, frowning.

“You ain’t got to look like that. There is nothing wrong with making yourself feel good. How can a man know what you like if you don’t? You know that they are not the smartest animals on the planet.”

“I don’t know, Sabrina. Do you do it?”

“Every other day and twice on Sundays.”

Oh my!

“You and Ahmad can do it together. Better yet, let him watch you do it to yourself.”

“What?” I asked, laughing.

“Nothing will get him hotter than walking into the bedroom to the sight of you having the time of your life all by your damn self. Shit, he’ll be begging to join in. Trust.

Maybe I should try masturbating. Alone first. Maybe we should see a sex therapist. I’m sure Ahmad would agree to anything that would get him the sex he wants.



“Nikki, I promise, when I make it where I want to be, we’ll spend more time together as a family and as a couple but I just can’t afford to slow down and do that right now.”

I do not want to argue with you about this for the six-millionth time.

“Ahmad, you are the father of these girls. I’m just their–”

“Don’t say that. I mean it, Nikki. I don’t want to hear you ever say that. You are their mother. Period.”

I could see that Ahmad was getting angry. He hated it when I went there. Even though I felt like their mother in every way that it counted, deep down inside, I knew that I really wasn’t.

“You know what?” he continued. “We’re going to put a stop to this right now. I want you to legally adopt Corrie and Aliyah.”

“What? Adopt?”

“Yes, adopt. That way if anything happens to me, there will be no questions and no problems. It is the best thing to do.”

“Ahmad, Aliyah is too young to understand but do you think that Corrie will be okay with it?”

“There’s only one way to find out. Ask her.”

“Me?”

“Why not you?”

“Because you are her father and you brought it up. You should be the one to ask her.”

“Let’s ask her together, okay?”

“Fine.”

Ahmad and I went into Corrie’s room to discuss what felt like a spur of the moment decision.

Ahmad didn’t even ask me how I felt about adopting Aliyah and Corrie. He just assumed that I wouldn’t have any problem with it. I don’t have a problem with it but it would have been nice if he’d asked. Now we are going to talk to Corrie about it. If I say anything now, Ahmad will think that I’m having second thoughts.

“Ahmad, aren’t you going to knock first?” I asked when he reached for the doorknob.

“Knock? Are you serious? Whose house is this?”

“It’s our house but that is Corrie’s room. She is a thirteen year-old girl and entitled to her privacy.”

“Where did you hear that shit? On Oprah?”

“Ahmad!”

“Damn it, okay, I’ll knock.”

The talk with Corrie went really well. Ahmad did most of the talking, explaining the why’s and how’s of adoption to his teenaged daughter. She didn’t have any questions neither did she offer any objections. After talking with Corrie, Ahmad decided that he would get started on the process right away.

“Ahmad, will Shannon be an issue?”

I hadn’t seen or heard a word from my sister since Aliyah was born but I still worried that one day she would just show up on our doorstep, demanding to be a part of Aliyah’s life. No one knew where Shannon was. My mother hadn’t even heard from her and it made her sick with worry.

Shannon truly redefined the word “selfish.”

“No. Shannon abandoned her child. I wish she would show her trifling face anywhere around here.”

“Are you sure?”

“We’ll have notices published in New York and in DC newspapers. If she sees them and wants to contest the adoption, we’ll, I mean I’ll, deal with that. But I doubt she’ll see the notice and even if she sees it, I doubt she’ll even care.”

You’ll deal with that? What does that mean? I thought you said that we were in this together. I hope you’re right in assuming that Shannon won’t care about the adoption. Aliyah does not need to be a part of Shannon’s drama and neither do I.

It turned out that Ahmad was right. We waited the required time and Shannon did not show up. I was legally Corrie and Aliyah’s mother. After the adoption was finalized, I wanted the entire family to go out and celebrate but as usual, Ahmad had to go into the office. So, there I was. A single mom out on the town with her two daughters while her husband was buried deep in paperwork and conference calls.

Chapter 26

Ahmad

I don’t understand what you want me to do. I’m working hard to afford a good life for my family. You want for nothing. Still, you complain.

Nikki and I always argued about the same thing. Me spending too much time at the office. She didn’t complain when she went on frequent shopping excursions to Bergdorf’s or Saks. She didn’t complain while she was driving Aliyah and Corrie to private school in her spanking brand new Lexus or when she was picking out new furniture for our newly renovated three-story brownstone in Brooklyn Heights.

My girls need me? I work as hard as I do because of my girls.

I was determined to be a better husband and father than my father ever was. Corrie and Aliyah were never going to have to want for anything. I remember plenty of times when my mother didn’t eat dinner because there was only enough for her children. She would try to play it off and say she was on a diet but I knew better. She had to sacrifice for us because her worthless ass husband couldn’t or wouldn’t step up to the plate and take responsibility for his family.

These were not the memories I wanted my family to have of me. Lack was not a word I ever wanted my daughters to have. I wasn’t able to be present at every soccer game or piano recital and I knew they were disappointed. Quite frankly, so was I. I made it when I could.

The girls were growing up so fast; I could hardly believe my eyes. Corrie was thirteen years old and getting more beautiful every day. The fact that her body was quickly changing from that of a little girl to one of a maturing young woman literally scared the shit out of me. I saw the way young boys looked at her when we were out and I didn’t like it one bit because I knew what they were thinking.

Hell, I was thinking the same things when I was their age.

But what could I do? That was just the natural progression of things. I knew that soon, she’d come to us about dating. Aliyah was still my baby girl. At four and a half, she had a precocious curiosity about everything in the world. Much to Corrie’s dismay, Aliyah wanted nothing more than to do everything just like her big sister. Luckily, Aliyah hadn’t developed any health or behavioral problems. She was just as normal as any other preschooler was. What pleased me most was the wonderful job Nikki was doing with teaching the girls to grow up to love and to have respect for themselves and each other. She was a great mother.

“You should at least try to make it home every night for dinner,” Nikki chastised.

“I do try, Nikki. But it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes there is no way to get around working late.”

“Yeah, I wonder about that sometimes.”

I know good and hell well that is not Nikki’s way of accusing me of cheating. Does she really think that I would…

“Do you think that I’m cheating, Nikki?” I asked, trying to maintain my cool.

“No. I don’t think you are having an affair with a woman, Ahmad. I know better than that. But you are having an affair with your job. I believe that is much worse.”

“What?”

“You can’t say no to it.”

“Do you hear what you’re saying? You sound ridiculous.”

An affair with my job? Are you out of your mind? I’ve never heard of anything so absurd. Do we have to argue about this again and again? You can talk until you are blue in the face. I’m not changing my mind about it. You should know that by now and just adjust your expectations. You’ll be a lot happier.

“I’d might be more inclined to stop working so much and come home if you actually gave me something to look forward to when I got here,” I snarled.

I really hate to go there but it’s been a long time coming.

“What does that mean?”

“It means that I don’t know how much more of this I can take, Nikki. I understand that you have been through a lot in your life. I truly do. But damnit, I’m your husband and I have needs.”

“Don’t go there, Ahmad. We make love.”

“Yeah, missionary position only. Half of the time, it doesn’t even seem like you want to be there at all.”

“How can you say that to me?”

“I can say it because it’s true. And let’s not get started on the way you shut down when I want us to please each other orally.” Truth be told, I hadn’t had my dick sucked since Shannon. I shouldn’t be thinking about this but I can’t help it. I think about it all the time.

“Ahmad!”

“I am not your father, Nikki. I am your husband and I love you. There is nothing wrong with us making love in every way imaginable. Absolutely nothing. I’ve been patient but—”

“But what? Huh? What are you going to do? I am doing the best that I can. Now, I’m sorry that you are upset because I don’t give you head but—”

I was glad the phone rang and interrupted this idiotic conversation between Nikki and me. I was sure this topic would come around again. It always did.

When Nikki answered the telephone, her voice went from strong and demanding to sad and sorrowful.

What’s going on? Who is on the other end?

“Oh no!”

“Nikki, who’s that?” I mouthed. “Okay, we’ll be there as soon as we can.” We’ll be where?

After hanging up the telephone, Nikki slid down the wall of the kitchen to the floor and began to sob uncontrollably. I rushed over and lifted her into my arms.

“What’s wrong, baby? Tell me what’s wrong.”

“That was my father,” she started when she was able to speak clearly. “My mother had a stroke.” Oh no!

“Is she in the hospital?”

“No, Ahmad. She’s dead.”

Dead? Damn!

“It’s okay sweetheart. I’m here for you. Shh…”

“What’s going on?” Corrie asked, walking into the kitchen.

“Nana Estelle has died,” I whispered.

“Oh no! I’m so sorry, Mom.”

Corrie grabbed her mother’s hand and held it to her cheek. The relationship between Corrie and Nikki was one of mutual respect and unconditional love and had been that way since day one. Corrie always referred to Nikki as her mom although sometimes Nikki was doubtful about her place in the girls’ lives. The adoption helped but I could tell that Nikki still was a little unsure at times, no matter how hard I tried to convince her otherwise.

“Do you need me to do anything for you?” Corrie asked.

“No, sweetie, not right now. Go check on your sister but don’t say anything about Nana Estelle’s death to her. I’ll tell her later.”

Corrie kissed Nikki’s forehead and then left the room to find Aliyah.

“Ahmad, I need to get to Alabama as soon as I can,” Nikki said, sniffling.

“Of course. We can leave first thing in the morning.”

“We?”

“Yes, we.”

Do you honestly think I would let you travel to your mother’s funeral alone?

“Okay. I don’t know what to do next.”

“You’re too upset to do anything. Why don’t you go and lie down for a while and I’ll call and make the travel arrangements.”

“But I need to finish preparing dinner.”

“I’ll handle that, too. Now, go,” I insisted.

Nikki nodded and did as she was told. I hoped that she would be able to relax a bit but I doubted it. Although they spoke on the telephone regularly, Nikki had not seen her mom since that whole ugly scene that went down on the day we graduated from Georgetown.

After we were married, Nikki never expressed any interest in visiting her parents in Alabama and I must admit that I was not mad at her for that at all.

Okay, I’ve got to get airline tickets and make hotel reservations. I refuse to spend a night in the same house as her father. Oh yeah, we’ll probably also need to rent a car.

After the girls and I finished dinner, I called and put all of our plans in motion. We would leave for Mobile tomorrow afternoon. Corrie agreed to help by making sure to get Aliyah’s things packed and ready to go.

I am not looking forward to being in the same city with Nikki’s father, I thought as I showered. The last time I saw him, I was ready to kill him. I had to maintain my temper this time, for Nikki’s sake.

There is nothing I can do for my family from a prison cell. I have to stay calm.

Chapter 27

Nikki

I was tortured on the plane ride to Alabama by the memories of my childhood. Although I knew there was no way to avoid going home for my mother’s funeral, I had already begun to regret the visit. I closed my eyes and prayed for God to show me a bright spot in what would otherwise be a dark occasion.

It will be good to see Jessica again. I haven’t seen my youngest sister in so many years. I wonder what she is like. The Christmas card I received from her last year was postmarked Toronto, Canada. She traveled around so much, singing back up for different musical artists, it was hard to keep up. Did my father molest Jessica as well? If she was, what affect did it have on her personality? When we were growing up, Jessica never had a whole lot to say to anyone, including us. Shannon had turned out to be scandalous with an overactive sexual appetite and highly addictive personality whereas I have so many fears and hang-ups about sex and intimacy that it drives my husband crazy.

“It’s going to be fine, honey,” Ahmad said, sensing my anxiety and taking my hand in his.

I smiled, hoping he was right. I didn’t want any confrontation with my father this time and I especially didn’t want Aliyah and Corrie to witness any hostility. That is why I planned to leave for New York as soon as the funeral is over. The less time I spend in that house the better.

I wonder if anyone was able to find Shannon. Will she show up? Will she make a scene about Aliyah if she does show up? It’s horrible for me to feel this way but I really hope Shannon stays away. I don’t want Aliyah to be upset by a stranger whom she knows nothing about. There is no telling what Ahmad will do if he sees Shannon after all this time. Yeah, I think it would be best for all concerned if Shannon stays away.

“Baby, would you like something to drink?” Ahmad asked when he noticed the attendant coming our way. I usually was not an alcohol drinker but I needed something strong to calm my nerves and to quiet the voices that were filling my head with all of the things that could go wrong in the next three days.

“Yeah, get me a Jack and cola.”

“Huh?” Ahmad asked, confused. “Are you sure about that, Nikki? You are not a drinker so you may want to start with something light like a glass of white wine or something.”

“No, I want Jack Daniels and Coke.”

“Have you ever had that before?”

“No but that is what Sabrina always orders when we go out.”

“Sabrina? Baby, you can’t hang like Sabrina. She’s probably been drinking that since she was Aliyah’s age,” Ahmad continued, trying to change my mind.

“Jack and Coke, please,” I said when the attendant came to our row.

Ahmad shook his head. I assured him that I would be able to handle it although I seriously doubted if he believed me.

When we arrived at the airport, I realized that this was the first time that Ahmad and the girls had been to Alabama. I knew that growing up in Brooklyn, there would be nothing here that would impress them. Mobile, Alabama with its Battleship and beautiful azaleas is an historic city but sometimes it seemed as if time had stood still and not always in a good way.

“Mommy, Alabama looks boring to me,” Aliyah concluded. She was sitting in the backseat of our rental car with her little brown face pressed against the window.

“Sure does, baby,” Ahmad agreed.

“It’s a lot different from New York, I know. Aliyah, think of it as an adventure that you’ll be able to share with your class when we get back home,” I offered.

“Yeah, a country ass adventure,” Ahmad said in a low tone that was only audible to me.

Oh my, God! My parents’ house looks a lot smaller than I remember. It’s so run down now. It doesn’t look like there has been a fresh coat of paint on it in years. The outside of it looks as sad as my life was inside of it.

When we parked the car in the driveway, a heavy-sized woman peered at us out of the torn and dingy screen door before running out of it.

“Honey, who is that?” Ahmad asked.

“I don’t… oh my…that’s…”

“Nicolette!”

“Jessica!” I screamed, jumping from the passenger side to run and hug my sister.

You have put on a ton of weight but you still look good.

Jessica’s face was still the baby smooth high yellow that I had always remembered. I always used to think that she was the prettiest of the three of us. I still do.

“Big sister, it is so good to see you again,” Jessica said, continuing to hold me tight.

“Same here. Same here.”

Ahmad and the girls emerged from the car with unsure expressions on their faces.

“And who do we have here?” Jessica asked.

“This is my husband, Ahmad, and our two daughters, Corrie and Aliyah.”

Please don’t ask me to give you the rundown on the family dynamics right now. I’m too tired.

“Very nice to meet you, Ahmad. Corrie and Aliyah, I’m your auntie Jessica.”

The girls smiled and nodded.

“Well, let’s go inside,” Jess said.

“Is he home?” I asked. I needed to know what to be prepared for before I walked through those doors again.

“No. He’s down at the funeral home. At least that’s where he said he was going.”

“Have you gone over the arrangements?”

“Nope. When I arrived this morning, he said that everything had been taken care of,” Jess explained as she guided us inside.

Nothing has changed. The house still reeks with the stench of my stolen childhood and my father’s cigars.

I felt Ahmad’s hand on my shoulders as I stood still in the living room, surveying its contents. The same pictures hung on the pitiful faded wallpapered walls. The wood furniture was dusty and the mustard-colored couch was ripped.

Time has stood still.

“So when is the funeral, Jess?”

“Tomorrow at eleven o’clock.”

“Tomorrow? Why so soon? We ain’t Jewish,” I joked.

“I don’t know what is running through Daddy’s mind. Hell, if we hadn’t arrived when we did, we would have missed it.

We? Whom is she talking about when she says “we”? Is Shannon here? I’m afraid to ask.

“Nikki and Ahmad, this is Elaine,” Jess introduced as a woman walked out of the kitchen. “Elaine and I are partners.”

Whoa. Partners? Is Jessica telling me that she and this woman are lovers? My baby sister is a lesbian?

“Very nice to meet you, Elaine,” Ahmad said, shaking her hand.

“Umm, yes, Elaine. It is wonderful to meet you,” I offered, still very much in shock.

“And it is an honor to finally meet Jessica’s big sister,” Elaine said. “She has spoken of you often.”

To my surprise, Elaine spoke with a beautiful soft British accent. She was tall and slender with long dark tresses. She looked like a model fresh off a Parisian runway.

“You’re British?” Corrie asked.

Oh God, there Corrie goes with the questions. Please don’t let her ask what Jess meant by “partners.” I’m not ready for that conversation.

“Actually, I am,” she answered smiling.

“Elaine and I met while I was touring with Smokey Robinson in Europe last year.”

After a couple of hours playing catch up with Jessica and Elaine, Ahmad and I felt that it was time to get checked into the hotel and to get the girls some dinner. My father still had not come home nor had he called.

Typical. He’s probably with one of his women. It’s a crying shame that he can’t even take time out from whoring around to mourn the death of his wife.

“I don’t know what’s keeping Daddy,” Jess said, looking at her watch.

“Yes you do,” I said.

“Humph, yeah. You’re right. So, where are you guys staying?”

“At the Radisson.”

“So are we. Let’s all leave and have dinner together. I’m done here anyway,” Jess said as she and Elaine followed us outside.

I’ve been done with this place for years.

It was great being with my sister again. Later that night, Jessica and I met in the bar of the hotel to talk. My one drink on the airplane was enough to last me a lifetime but Jessica ordered a couple of glasses of wine. I was there to keep her company.

“So Shannon just left the baby at the hospital?” Jessica asked after I told her the entire sordid story about our middle sister.

“Yep.”

“And after all that went down, you stayed married to Ahmad and you’re raising the child he fathered by your sister?”

“Yep, sure am.”

“Damn, girl. If you ain’t going to heaven, ain’t nobody,” Jessica said, shaking her head and ordering another drink.

I laughed at Jessica’s humor but deep down inside I understood exactly where she was coming from. Not many women would have chosen the route I did. After all, women leave their husbands for far less crimes.

“When was the last time you heard from Shannon?” I asked, taking a sip of water.

“The last time I talked to Shannon, I was still in high school and we both know how long ago that has been. She has always been the wild one, Nikki, you know that. None of what you have just told me about her behavior surprises me one bit.”

“Speaking of surprises. You and Elaine?”

Jessica laughed out loud. “What about me and Elaine?”

“Stop playing, Jessica. You know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I do. Like I said earlier, we met last year in Europe.”

“And…”

“And what, cow?”

I folded my arms and didn’t say another word because I knew that Jessica was being evasive on purpose.

“You want to know how long I’ve been a lesbian, don’t you?”

I nodded.

“I’ve been into women ever since I left home. Women have a better understanding of women. After Daddy, I never wanted to have another man put his hands on me.”

After Daddy? Oh God no, not you, too.

“I can definitely understand that. What Daddy did to you, he did to us all,” I confessed. “I think we’ve all dealt with it in different ways.”

“Do you think Mama knew?”

“I know she did. She had to. At my college graduation, I confronted her about it and she just cried like she always did. Daddy just denied it and called me a liar.”

“Why do you think she stayed with him through all of the women, incest, and other bullshit? Did she love him that much? Did she love us at all?”

If I had a nickel for every time I’d asked myself those same questions…

“Maybe she did. Maybe she stayed with him because she thought that she couldn’t do any better. However much she loved him, she loved herself a whole lot less.”

“You’re damn sure right about that,” Jessica agreed, taking another long swig of her drink.

Chapter 28

Shannon

My mother is dead? How did this happen and why didn’t my sisters let me know? Well, I guess I really have no one to blame for that but myself. I mean, look at me. I’m a mess. For two years, I’ve been living on the streets of New Orleans. If it weren’t for one of my home girls, who lived there and volunteered at one of the shelters where I sometimes go for a hot meal and a goodnight’s rest, I still wouldn’t know what was going on with my family.

Look at Aliyah. She’s absolutely gorgeous. She looks so happy and healthy. I wish I could take the credit for that but I can’t. I tried to do everything in my power to hurt her. Ahmad and Nikki have done all of the hard work, I just gave birth to her. Leaving Aliyah with them was the only sane decision that I have made throughout my entire life. Oh, how I would love to go and hold her in my arms but I can’t. I would love to feel the love of both of my sister’s arms around me. Instead, I’m reduced to mourning my mother in a phone booth across the street from the cemetery. How pitiful is that?

I’m angry with myself because I know that it didn’t have to be this way. My life could have been about something but I threw away every opportunity given to me with both hands. I allowed the ghosts of my past to get in the way of a promising future. Why did I do that? How did I get stuck there but Nikki and Jessica was able to move on? It seems that they were only scarred by our father’s abuse but I was the one that got broken. Were they able to feel more loved than I was? I don’t see how they could but something was different for them. I have to believe that. Maybe it wasn’t that at all. Maybe they were just able to find the love inside themselves and that’s what is different.

I looked for love and acceptance everywhere except for inside of myself. I looked for it in every type of drug imaginable and in sex with a lot of different men and a few women. For a while, I thought that going away to college would somehow cure me but all that did was present more opportunities for me to fuck my life up even further.

Oh my! Look at Aliyah. She is so big. I wonder if Ahmad and Nikki have told her anything about me. I hope not. I would hate her to know that her mother just abandoned her. Yeah, I read the notices that were put in the newspaper about the adoption but there was nothing for me to contest. No judge in his right mind would have allowed me, a crack whore, to take Aliyah home. No, I knew it was best for me to do what I do best. Stay away.

My father looks so old with his receding gray hair and bent back. I can see that he is still The Right Reverend Gigaho. He has brought a date disguised as the church secretary to his wife’s funeral. Some things never change. He should be the one in the casket not my mother. What was my mother thinking staying married to that man? Couldn’t she see him for what he really was? Why didn’t she kill him when she realized that he was fucking her daughters? I still remember the first time he touched me like it was yesterday. He didn’t even have the decency to be subtle about it. He just grabbed me right there in the pastor’s study and made me suck his dick. I was only seven years old and too scared to raise an objection to anything my parents said. To object would have been disrespectful, my father taught. “Children must obey their parents.” He even went so far as to show me the scripture in the Bible that said as much. My mother knocked on the door and I thought that I had been saved. He told her that he was disciplining me for chewing gum during church service and he needed her to go away and she just left, without questioning him. By the time I was older and understood that what he was doing was wrong, it didn’t matter anymore because I was already dead inside.

So many times, I’d wish that I’d had the power to kill him but instead, I chose to kill myself, literally and figuratively. My irresponsible lifestyle has cost me my life. I don’t know how much longer I have before this disease leaves me in one of the wooden boxes that my mother is lying in. I’ve lost so much weight. When I look in the mirror, I don’t recognize the face looking back at me. I didn’t think this could happen to me. I guess no one ever does. It’s the chance you take believing that you’re invincible and putting yourself out there like I have.

After I left Aliyah at the hospital that day, I ran back to Bone. He said that I could stay with him but that I would have to earn my keep so I hit the streets, selling my body. I didn’t have a problem with it. I thought that after all, who could suck dick better than I could. I’d been doing that shit since I was seven. I know now that I should have gone back to school or someplace where I could get my life together. In order to work as much as Bone wanted me to, I had to have a little something to keep me going and I got hooked on that hard shit. I relied on it to numb the pain inside so that I could do what I had to do. I wasn’t careful about it at all. If I needed to get high, it didn’t matter where the needle came from. When one of my tricks literally kicked me from his car without paying for his blowjob, Bone accused me of stealing and beat me within an inch of my life. I roamed the streets of DC for a while, fucking whomever I could for a fix and a warm bed.

It looks like the service is over. Everyone is leaving the cemetery. Jessica has certainly put on quite a bit of weight. Looks good though. Jessica and Nikki both look like everything is going well for them. I’m happy for them. I really am. Ahmad is just as fine as he ever was. I wish that I could apologize for what I did to him. He didn’t deserve that. I was just being selfish. I wanted everyone around me to hurt because I was hurting. Would he and Nikki forgive me? Will God?

There is Sabrina. I wonder if she is still working at the hospital in Maryland. Nikki is lucky to have found such a great friend. I wish now that I had listened to Sabrina that day in the car. Her words were harsh but she was speaking the truth only I wouldn’t or couldn’t hear her. At the time, I thought nobody knew more than I did. It is clear to me now that I was delusional about so many things.

I wish I could cross the street and be closer to my family. I’d love to hear my sister’s voices one more time.

Let me take one last look at Aliyah. She’s the only thing that I have done right my entire life.

Chapter 29

Ahmad

Mobile, Alabama was the last place on earth I wanted to be but I had to be there for my wife. She didn’t need to come back alone to a place that held so many horrible memories for her mother’s funeral.

I was more than relieved when I learned that the funeral was going to take place so quickly. The less time we spent here, the better. I knew that I couldn’t say that to Nikki but a part of me knew that she felt the same way.

We didn’t see Nikki’s father until we arrived at the church because she didn’t want to go back to the house before the funeral. From everything she’d told me about her childhood, I was surprised that she was able to go back there at all.

He should be thankful that we’re in the house of God because after what he did to my wife, I have a constant urge to kill him. How could a father be so vile toward his daughters?

I looked at Corrie and Aliyah sitting next to me. They looked like little princesses in their pretty dresses.

I wish I could keep them like this forever.

The small church was filled with the unfamiliar faces of mourners. Nikki’s father was sitting on the front pew with some woman while the rest of the family sat behind him.

That woman must be his sister. Nikki never mentioned an aunt. She’s sitting too close to him to be his sister. They look more like lovers. Oh snap! Did he bring another woman to his wife’s funeral?

The service was short and even though I didn’t know a lot about Nikki’s mother, I thought it was a respectful funeral. The minister spoke well of the woman who was stretched out on the altar in front of him. It was obvious that Nikki’s father didn’t spend a whole lot of money on his wife’s last rites. The casket looked like it was purchased at a scratch and dent sale and the flowers that draped it were on their last pitiful petals.

Nikki hasn’t cried. Not one tear has fallen from her eyes. Neither has Jessica. I know that their mother was flawed but she was still their mother. Both of them are sitting there completely void of any emotion. I would be sitting here sobbing like a little bitch if my mother was lying there in a casket.

“I’m hungry, Mommy,” Aliyah said, breaking the silence that lingered in the car on the way to the cemetery. “When are we going to eat lunch?”

“Soon, baby. I promise,” Nikki answered, straightening the bow that hung at the end of Aliyah’s long sandy colored ponytail. “Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust,” the officiating minister spoke as he dropped a few flower petals onto the casket before the cemetery worker began lowering it into the freshly dug grave. I tightly held Nikki’s hand because I thought that she would fall apart but she didn’t.

She seems so cold. Is this how she really felt about her mother? Damn, this is so sad.

I noticed Nikki’s father slowly making his way toward us and I was instantly flooded with anger. The sight of this no good niggah turned my stomach.

“So glad you were able to make it home for your mother’s funeral, Nicolette,” he said, sarcastically.

“How are you, Daddy?” Nikki asked, dryly.

He brought a date to his wife’s funeral. Apparently, he’s doing quite well.

“Ahmad,” he said, nodding his head in my direction. I did not want to respond but Corrie and Aliyah were watching and I never ever intentionally wanted to be disrespectful to anyone in their presence.

“Wassup?” I nodded back.

“Who is this?” Nikki asked, pointing to the woman on her father’s arm.

“This is Miss Julia Wilson. She’s a good friend of the family.”

Yeah, I bet she is.

“Oh,” Nikki responded, rolling her eyes.

I know you know better, Nikki. You know what she really is.

“How long are y’all staying?”

“Our flight leaves at three,” Nikki answered, checking her watch.

Don’t worry. We’re not going to miss it. I can’t wait to get back to Brooklyn.

“Daddy, have you heard from Shannon?” Nikki asked.

“Nope.”

You don’t seem upset by it either. I don’t know what I would do if I hadn’t heard from Corrie or Aliyah. It would break my heart. But then again, I’m a different pedigree of a father than you.

“So these are my granddaughters,” he said, turning his attention to the girls.

“This is Corrie and Aliyah,” Nikki said, patting each on their head as she called their names.

“Oh I see. They are pretty.”

The way he looked at Corrie caused the hair on the back of my neck to rise.

“Nikki, we need to get moving if we want to stop and eat before catching our flight,” I said.

“You’re right. Let me say goodbye to Jessica and Elaine.” Hurry up.

“You know, Ahmad, when I was a young man, I used to pray for God to give me a son to carry on the family name. But I got three girls instead. I must admit that I was disappointed every time one of them was born. Then, one day I realized what a blessing being the father of girls really is. They bring such joy. You have to enjoy them while they’re young because they grow up so fast,” he said, stroking Aliyah’s chubby cheek.

What the fuck did you just say to me, motherfucker?

“Don’t put your hands on my daughter,” I said, slapping away his hand. “Corrie, take your sister to the car.

“What’s wrong with you, man? I was just showing my granddaughter a little affection.”

“I told you years ago that if you ever put your hands on anything that belonged to me that I would kill you. Now, I came here out of love and respect for my wife but I won’t hesitate to give those boys over there another grave to dig.”

“Ahmad, let’s go.”

Nikki rushed over as soon as she heard the commotion. She knew that I fully intended to make good on my threat. She grabbed my arm and began to pull me to the car.

“Bye, Daddy,” she said as we walked away.

“Bye.”

I opened the door of the car and stuck one leg inside.

“I’d love to have that little one come down to spend the summer with me,” he yelled out as he turned to walk away. “She needs to get to know her grandpa.”

That’s it. Your ass is dead. Jail be damned.

“Ahmad, no!”

“Daddeee!”

The shrieks and screams of my family were muted by the deadly rage that fueled my cheetah-like movement toward my intended victim. My mission was to kill this pedophile with my bare hands.

As I moved closer to him, three loud pops passed my head, narrowly missing my ear. By the time I reached my target, he was already flat on the ground. Dead.

Chapter 30

Nikki

It took months of counseling for Corrie and Aliyah to get passed what happened last year in Alabama. For a while, I wasn’t sure if their nightmares and anxiety attacks would ever end. The horrible effects of that day haunted our entire family. It all happened so fast yet everything seemed to move in slow motion.

Those last words my father spoke instantly took me back to my childhood. I knew exactly what he meant by them. The fact that he said them about my daughter made me tremble with anger.

My mind flashed back to a scene in my parent’s bedroom.

I had fallen asleep on my parent’s bed one night after my mother said that I could watch television in her room. I woke up to the foul smell of gin on my father’s breath in my face. He pinned my hands to the bed with the strength of his own as he lay on top of my back.

Daddy, don’t,” I pleaded.

Daddy don’t what? Huh? You sound just like your stuck up mama. She always says don’t. Well, you are gonna do what I want you to do and what your mama won’t do.”

I cried as he lifted my nightgown and stuffed himself into my asshole, and humped me like I was a dog. I passed out from the pain and awakened the next morning soaked in blood and semen.

I was determined that no child of mine would ever go through the hell that I had to endure.

I knew what Ahmad was capable of when it came to protecting his girls. He fully intended to kill my father. I just couldn’t let that happen. I had to stop him. Corrie and Aliyah needed their father at home with them and not locked up in the pen for murdering a worthless son of a bitch like my father. He wasn’t worth it.

When I saw that Ahmad was about to pounce on my father, I jumped from the passenger side of the car. Before I could get to Ahmad, there was a loud noise and I saw my father fall to the ground. At first, no one knew what happened. I knew Ahmad didn’t have a gun. I turned to see where the shot came from and saw what appeared to be a homeless woman standing behind our car, still holding the gun in her trembling hand.

Who is that? I’ve seen her somewhere before.

One of the cemetery security guards ran up behind her and pushed her to the ground, extracting the weapon from her hand.

“Call the police! Get an ambulance!” someone in the crowd yelled.

“Oh my, God,” Jessica said, walking toward the woman.

“Jess, what is it?” I asked as I cautiously followed her.

“Shannon?” Jessica questioned.

It can’t be. Oh my, God, it is Shannon.

“I couldn’t let him do it again. I couldn’t let him do to Aliyah what he had done to me. I had to stop him,” Shannon tearfully confessed.

We were all shocked to see Shannon. She was a mess. Her clothes were torn and dirty and her face was terribly scarred and thin. Her eyes were void of life.

Where did you come from? What has happened to you?

Shannon had killed our father. Shot him down like the dog he was. Now, she would have to spend what was left of her life in prison.

Jessica and I were saddened when we learned what life had been like for Shannon these last few years. She’d been living on the streets and prostituting herself. It was harder to hear that she had contracted HIV.

“I had nothing to lose by killing that bastard. Prison can’t do anything to me that would be worse than what I’ve already been through. I’ll probably be dead long before they get around to executing me. At least in prison, I’ll have a soft place to sleep and food to eat and I won’t die on the streets,” Shannon explained. “Don’t worry about me. I’m at peace knowing that I finally did something good for Aliyah.”

Shannon insisted that Jessica and I forget about her but that was much easier said than done. Even though our relationship had been estranged for years, there was no way I could forget Shannon. I would remember her every time I looked into Aliyah’s face.

Shannon was in prison but something about my father’s death released me from mine. It was as if I had been washed with emancipation. I saw everything through new eyes and felt a peacefulness that was unfamiliar but welcomed.

Although the demons of my past still lurked in the darkness, I no longer felt the need to surrender to them.

Also on Kindle


Mr. Wrong After All

Nikki's painful past and Ahmad's irresponsible behavior has led them down a road that takes many tragic turns. On the outside looking in, they seem to have it all together. Happiness, innocence, love, and a connection many envy. But just beneath the surface are deep rooted secrets that lead to adultery, lies, deception, and murder. Nikki's past is exposed and it takes a toll on her relationship with Ahmad who seems to have fallen into the evil plans of Shannon, Nikki's sister. They fight for their love, but will they win against a game of lies and lust? You won't believe the twists and turns they go through as Nikki fights for what she soon discovers may be indeed Mr. Wrong

  • ISBN: 9781370518210
  • Author: Delphine Publications
  • Published: 2016-11-27 03:20:20
  • Words: 52225
Mr. Wrong After All Mr. Wrong After All