Don't Want No Sugar
BLUES ALL AROUND MY HEAD
Lord, He's Got That Sweet Somethin'
Charles Brooks squinted through the smoke from his cigarette, smiling at the sight of Nadine Cooper pacing back and forth in the doorway of the abandoned barn. She was looking for him. Charles leaned against the side of his gray pickup truck parked less than half a mile away in a wooded area, out of view. Nadine had no idea how close he was. If she did, she'd have surely cussed him up one side and down the other. Even from where he stood, it was easy to see how mad she was, with her lips poked out and hanging low enough to damn near drag on the ground.
Charles laughed and muttered to himself, "Don't trip on 'em, girl."
He'd played this game for months with Nadine Cooper, and he'd learned to play it well. It was the kind of game a man made up the rules to as he went along and kept them all to himself, because that was the only way to win. But Charles knew betterthan to take too much for granted. Nadine Cooper played games of her own, and despite his best efforts Charles usually found himself a step behind, licking his wounds, and wondering what the hell had happened.
Nadine was the kind of woman who would stomp a man under her heels if he let her. When they'd first started seeing each other, she crushed him too many times, belittling him when the opportunity presented itself in those rare moments when he let his guard down. Nadine was poisonous, like a snake that would bite the hell out of him if he wasn't paying attention. All it took was one word from her--"boy," her usual weapon of choice--to shrink him down into his boots. It was the way she used it that cut into him like a razor, the tone she took, like a mother takes with her son when she wants him to know he's never too grown or too big for her to tear his ass up if she wants to. Nadine called him boy like white men called him boy, making sure he knew that in her eyes he was less than a man. Never mind that he might spend an hour being a man all up inside her.
Women came easy to Charles, especially as he got older. There wasn't a day that went by that he didn't have a woman close to him if he wanted. Pretty women like Heddie May Walker, quoting scripture out one side of her mouth and pushing her tongue out the other side and down his throat, nearly choking him to death. And Linda Dobson, the smart girl who always had her nose stuck in a book and carried another one under her arm. She got on his nerves sometimes because all she wanted to do was to teach him how to read. Hell, he worked in the sawmill and would probably always work in the sawmill, so Charles could see no point to reading. And neither did Linda Dobson, once he slipped his hand up her skirt. Then that girl would forget all about Benjamin Franklin and George Washington and anybody else she'd been reading about in those books.
"Charles! Pay attention! You ain't even tryin' to--Oh? Oh my! Oh--Charles!"
He enjoyed their company well enough, but neither of them could make him feel the way Nadine made him feel. She'd left a mark on him, one that singed his insides. No other woman he'd known had ever left an impression on him like Nadine had. She hadn't been the first women he'd been with, but she'd certainly been the best, opening herself up to him, filling his plate with her every time he'd licked it clean, like it was Thanksgiving and Nadine was the meal. He'd eat so much of her, he thought he'd bust open if he took one more bite. And he always wanted just one more.
But that smart mouth of hers tended to get in the way most times. Nadine was only five years older than he was, but she went out of her way to act as if she were so much older.
"What do I want with a boy like you, Charles Brooks? You think you grown, but you ain't. You ain't no kind of man ... yet," she'd say with a twinkle in her eye and a curl at the corners of her mouth. Touching her, making love to her, was his chance to prove her wrong and show her how much of a man he really was.
She sure is a pretty woman, he thought, watching her from his hiding place.
Nadine had a whole lot of pride that blinded her to the truth most times. Like the kind of truth that dragged her out here to see him every chance she got. Charles figured that Nadine had probably turned a deaf ear to that truth a long time ago, but he hadn't. Charles knew it and relished the reality that she needed him just as much, if not more, than he needed her. He could admit and accept that but knew good and damn well Nadine never would. He'd made the mistake of telling Nadine that he loved her and Nadine had chewed him up and spit him out because of it.
"You are such a fool, Charles," she laughed in his face. "But Iain't the least bit surprised. Of course you love me, boy. But me and you--we ain't nothin' more than a fleetin' thought. Just a notion, that's all. I couldn't bring myself to love someone like you, though."
"Why not?" he'd asked, trying to hide the offense he felt. "You meet me here all the time. If that ain't love, then what is it?"
"It's a good time, Charles. I like to have a good time every now and again. But love ain't got nothin' to do with it. Never will. So stop actin' silly."
He never mentioned the word around her again.
She insulted him like that all the time in the beginning. Eventually he got tired of it and decided that he'd had enough of Nadine and her disrespect. Charles had decided not to meet her one afternoon and left Nadine waiting all that time, knowing full well that she'd probably never speak to him again. A few weeks later, though, he caught a glimpse of her automobile following his down Smith Road. Charles slowly pulled over to the side, expecting Nadine to keep on driving and turn up her nose at him when she passed. Or to stop long enough to cuss him out and then leave him choking on the dust left behind as she drove off. Sure enough, like any good snake, Nadine surprised him and pulled her car up right next to his.
She batted her pretty brown eyes and spoke sweetly, "I missed you the other day."
Charles hesitated before answering, then shrugged indifferently. "I had some bus'ness to tend to."
Nadine just smiled and asked, "Will I be seein' you next time 'round?" He was stunned, and the look on his face told her as much. Nadine laughed. "I really would like to see you again, Charles. That is, if you don't have no bus'ness to tend to."
"I'll be there," he remembered saying just before she drove away.
That had been almost six months ago, the most important lessonin his life. Women like Nadine didn't appreciate a man being too good to them. They were quick to take him for granted, mistaking his kindness for weakness and walking all over him like he was the ground. From then on Charles learned to be accommodating enough to keep her coming back for more, but not so accommodating that she could ever get too comfortable.
The two of them met at that barn the third Wednesday of every month at three-thirty in the afternoon. That's when Nadine's husband Edward Cooper made the rounds of his sharecroppers to inspect his property and collect his money. Cooper wasn't much better than a white man in Charles's eyes. In some ways he was worse--a colored man taking what little they had from other colored men. No, he had no respect for Cooper. Nadine claimed she loved the old man, but Charles knew better. Nadine was in love all right, but only with the old man's money.
There were days when Charles would've robbed a bank if he thought he could get enough money to buy her like Cooper had bought her. As fine as she was, though, some other fool out there was probably thinking the same thing. It would've been a matter of time before a hundred banks were robbed in Nadine's name, and she'd eventually leave Charles behind for the next man who had more than he did. The best he could hope for was that she'd forget about money for a few minutes, long enough to fall in love with Charles, making it real easy on him to steal her away from Cooper, take her off to Louisiana or someplace, and marry her.
She'd been waiting in that barn for Charles for ten minutes longer than she'd planned on waiting, and she'd wait ten minutes more if he had anything to say about it. Charles dropped his cigarette on the ground, then snuffed it out with his boot. He pulled another one out of his pocket, lit it up, and slowly inhaled. He'd get to her soon enough--right after he finished this last cigarette.
She was so angry she didn't even hear him come in, and she nearly jumped out of her shoes, when he slipped his arms around her waist.
"Charles Brooks!" she screamed, pulling away from him and shoving him hard in his chest. "How dare you sneak up on me like that! You crazy?"
Charles stood back, rubbing his chest, grinning mischievously from ear to ear. "I gotchu good, didn't I, honey?" he laughed. "I gotchu real good."
He'd fallen in love with her when he was a boy. He ran around with her brother, playing the whole time, hoping to get a glimpse of her. She'd been beautiful back then, but was even more breathtaking now. Nadine was dark and the shade of black that people sometimes made fun of--blue-black, the color of midnight. But Charles had always been enchanted by her. Growing up, he'd often wondered if she tasted like blackberries or something else dark and sweet. He'd dreamed of running his fingers through the thick mane of hair she'd worn braided and hanging down her shoulders when she was a girl. Even back then Nadine's full hips held captive the attention of boys and men. She swayed them from side to side like a cat-o'-nine-tails, caught up in a rhythm all their own and threatening to lure some unsuspecting soul to a place where he'd be lost forever and wouldn't give a damn, either.
Nadine glared at him. "You too full of yo'self, Charles, and you know what?" she said, turning up her nose. "You can be full of yo'self by yo'self, 'cause I'm leavin'."
"Now, Nadine," Charles groaned, pulling her close to him. He kissed her softly on the neck. "I'm sorry, darlin'. You know I am."
"Get off me, Charles," Nadine fussed, trying to pull away from him. "I'm goin' home."
Charles refused to let go. "Didn't you miss me, girl? 'Cause I sho' missed you."
"Oh." Nadine stopped struggling and turned to look him directly in the eyes. "You miss me so much you more than twenty minutes late?"
"I got held up down at the mill," he lied.
"That ain't my problem, Charles. Now let go of me." She started to struggle again.
Charles squeezed her closer to him and melted into her eyes. "I'm sorry, Deen. You know I was comin'. You know I was gon' be here."
"You late, Charles," she said, exasperated.
"But," he smiled radiantly, "I'm here now, honey."
Nadine felt herself weaken in his arms. Yes, he was here, and that was all she'd wanted. She'd wanted him since the last time they were together, and she'd want him even more the next time.
"You know better than to keep me waitin', Charles." Nadine pouted.
"But it's always worth it, sweetheart," he said before kissing her. "It always is."
Nadine slowly began to unbutton his shirt. Charles slid his hands down her thighs and slowly raised her skirt up around her hips. He cupped her bare behind, then chuckled at the fact that she'd already removed her undergarments.
"Damn! I missed you too, Nadine." Charles backed her over to the blanket she'd laid out on the ground and eased her down onto it. He stood over her and slowly removed his shirt.
"Hurry, Charles." She moaned, writhing at his feet, arching her back as she unbuttoned the front of her dress. He smiled at the sight of dark nipples jutting up at him, then Charles knelt down and took one of them in his mouth, then the other, nibbling on them gently with his teeth.
"Mmmm," Nadine moaned, and then bit down on her bottom lip. Charles fumbled with his zipper until he freed himself. Nadine slid his pants down and gripped him with both hands, pulling him to her. He nestled himself comfortably between her warm thighs.
"Slow down, honey," he muttered between kisses. "We got time. Ain't no need to hurry."
But there was a need to hurry Charles had a way of leaving her hungrier for him each time they were together. Muscles in his arms flexed as he raised himself up and hovered over her, and his shoulders spread like butterfly wings. He commanded Nadine to call his name out loud, and she did as tears slid down the sides of her face. All the money in the world hadn't been able to satisfy her like this. Nadine ached for Charles. She ached because her own husband hadn't been capable of filling this void inside her, and she ached knowing he never would.
Fourteen-year-old Roberta crouched low in the loft above and watched silently while the couple made love. She loathed Nadine Cooper. As far as Roberta was concerned, the woman was a dirty, two-timing whore pinned down at the moment under the weight of Charles Brooks. Roberta loved Charles enough to run through fire and water for him if he asked. But he hadn't asked. Not yet, anyway. She stared mesmerized at the way Charles had of making Nadine look delicious, and she wished more than anything she could switch places with that woman. She wished she was beneath him like that with her legs spread wide open, running her fingers up and down his broad back and gripping his full behind, forcing him into her as far as he could go until he disappeared inside her.
"That's it, honey! That's ... aaaaah!" Charles threw back his head and growled. Nadine grabbed on to him and raced to meet him with her own release before it was too late.
"Charles? Charles!" She clamped him between her legs and locked her ankles until, finally, she screamed too.
Charles collapsed on top of her and both of them lay breathless and empty.
Roberta slid back into the shadows of the loft.
Charles and Nadine rested for awhile and kissed each other tenderly. He ran his finger softly down the side of her face and whispered, "That sho' was some good lovin', Nadine Brown."
Nadine giggled and kissed his chest. "How many times I got to tell you that ain't my name no mo'? Brown was my maiden name, boy. I'm Mrs. Cooper now." Charles sighed and rolled off her.
The two lovers dressed quickly and prepared to leave. "I hope you ain't late next time, Charles. You know I don't like waitin'," Nadine said, adjusting her hat.
Charles laughed. "It's always better when I make you wait, Nadine. Why you think I do it?"
Nadine rolled her eyes. "One of these days, Charles, you the one gon' be waitin' on me."
Charles bent and kissed her one last time. "I'll wait fo'ever on you, girl," he said teasingly.
Nadine patted his face and left.
Roberta waited in the barn and watched them head off in their separate directions. Nadine Cooper drove away in her husband's fancy automobile, and Charles pulled off in his truck until eventually he disappeared over the horizon and faded away like a dream. Roberta dusted off her coveralls and shook her head.
"You ain't in yo' right mind, Charles Brooks," she muttered. "That tramp ain't good 'nuff fo' you. You jus' too dumb to know it."
Roberta buried her hands deep in the pockets of her coveralls and headed home. Nadine was foolish to think he wouldn't be late next time. As long as Roberta had been coming to that barn, Charles had never been on time. It just wasn't in him.
DON'T WANT NO SUGAR. Copyright © 2004 by Jaclyn Meridy. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.