Read an Excerpt
Where I’m Going
My cell phone rings like it’s screaming for help. I smile when caller ID indicates it’s Jeff. Like a dying flower that craves water and sunlight, I yearn to hear the man’s voice.
Maybe Jeff’s having second thoughts. I know I am.
Perched comfortably on the couch of my living room, I quickly answer the call. “Hey, how’s it going?” I ask, trying to sound extra sweet and sexy. Trying to make him remember what he used to love. But Jeff ? doesn’t respond to my sensual, tender voice. He says nothing. At least not to me. Yet I hear him talking. The commotion of background noise and other voices. A conversation. I press my cell phone securely against my ear and listen in.
Jeff says, “Oh, shoot, sorry.”
“Hmm, you must be thinking about Rachel. Why else would you mention her?”
“Yo, sorry about that. I promise not to mention her again...That is tacky since technically this can be considered our first date. Now, as I was trying to say before, would you like for me to order more wine?”
“Yeah, go ahead. I’m fireally in the mood to celebrate.”
“I’m just glad I can share this moment with you, Marlene.”
“Mmm, you have no idea how good that makes me feel inside.”
Well, damn. Is that...Marlene’s voice? Where are they, and why is my half sister with my Jeff talking about ordering wine?
Jeff says, “So does that mean you wanna do this? You don’t feel like you’re...?”
“Baby, it’s not even necessary for me to explain the way I feel about you. I’ve been wanting you?.?.?.” The clattering background drowns out Marlene’s confession.
What the hell? Speak up, tramp. I want to shout so bad, scream straight into my phone so both these scumbags know I can hear them. Know that the Cheaters camera crew is all up in their faces. They’re busted. Can’t lie. Truth always cancels lies.
And then, I instantly understand what’s going on. It’s obvious Jeff ? didn’t intentionally call me even though his phone accidentally did. This man isn’t trying to talk to me!
I continue to eavesdrop in on their conversation and hear Jeff say, “Your hair looks so pretty. You just got it done?”
What’d he say? A couple of hours ago I stunk up my and Marlene’s bathroom and hovered over her big head so I could style this chick’s hair. After she shampooed her own dark brown locks, she twisted my arm and sweet-?talked me into flat-?ironing them; I said okay, and, as an added bonus, I put those cute little crinkle waves in it so her hairdo would look long and wavy and have lots of body. If I had known the skank was—
“Yeah, um, Jeff, I’m so happy you like my new do. It is cute isn’t it?”
The smile in Marlene’s voice drips with pure ecstasy. I can imagine her broadly grinning as if a nice hefty tax refund check just arrived in the mail. Smiling and profiling and looking like a sheer fool. That girl oughta be ashamed. I distinctly remember when she hopped out of the shower tonight, she twisted her dried-?looking lips and told me she was going to church of all places. A lying Christian. The only place she’s going to is hell. Jeff, too.
“Hey, baby, taste this,” I hear Marlene say.
She calls him “baby”? Okay, who just kicked me in the gut? I reach down and clutch my belly, rubbing it to ease my pain.
“Mmm, it’s good. Oooo, hey, don’t do that,” Jeff says, laughing. I stare at the phone, wishing it was a webcam so I could clearly see what they’re up to.
What doesn’t Jeff want her to do? What are they doing?
“Ooo, sss, mmm.” Oh my God, I hope she’s not sucking my honey’s fingers in public. Marlene knows that’s one of my favorite moves that I’d always use on my Jeff. I’d take two of my sweetie’s thick fingers, lick my lips with saliva, and get down to business, slowly and seductively shoving his fingers deep inside my slippery mouth. Lightly kissing, licking, pecking on the tips. Then, using lots of tongue, I’d feverishly devour all his fingers as if they were a different, delicious, and engorged part of his body. I’d watch my honey squirm, his eyes roll deep in the back of his head until I could see the whites. And I’d hear him moan. “Awww ooo ohhh yeah, Rachel.” Hearing him moan got me super hot, too, especially when he’d say my name; his voice alone could cause a pool of wetness to totally soak my panties. And I’d start smelling that smell that you smell when you’re about to make love. A stinky yet erotic odor that adds to the nastiness of the moment. And I remember, whenever I kissed, licked, and sucked Jeff’s fingers, he’d always return the favor. Always.
“Um, damn, Jeff,” Marlene says. “Let’s get out of here.”
I stand up, panic-?stricken, and yell at my cell phone.
“You unconscionable prick. Your stupid phone...no, your smart phone with its voice activation feature...Apparently it... How can a damn phone with no feelings expose you and tell me what you’re not brave enough to tell me?”
I toss the phone on the carpet. I’m talking to Jeff but, of course, it’s apparent he’s too involved with my sister to hear my frantic outbursts. I am standing in the living room of my and Marlene’s two-? bedroom apartment. It’s ten-?thirty at night. I know one ?thing—?that girl better be home within an hour. She has to be at work at seven-? thirty tomorrow. She works at the bank. And if she’s too drowsy to pay attention to what she’s doing, she’ll screw up big-?time and count out the wrong amount of change to her customers, and then I can enjoy watching the skank get fired. Yeah, that’ll be good for her. Get her nasty, scandalous, Mo’Nique-?looking self fired so she can be broke. Then Jeff won’t give a damn about her chubby cheeks, because he’s always said he prefers women who have a job.
I know unflattering information about her:
1.She’s big as hell and has to use lots of soap and water to smell halfway fresh.
2.She passes gas in her sleep; how romantic is that? I pray to God he never gets to find out that little detail. But then if he does, hopefully it’ll be a deal-?breaker.
3.She’s a big-?time sucker for anybody who gives her a compliment. A man can be sitting in a wheelchair at the corner of a crowded intersection holding a cardboard sign on his lap, but if the loser gestures at my sister to roll down her car window and calls her “cute,” the gullible dummy blushes like she was just propositioned by Barack Obama, and she’ll fork over a few crinkled five-dollar bills. Someone needs to send Marlene a slow check real quick, because she is so naive it’s embarrassing. For centuries men have told women everything they think we want to hear. Doesn’t mean any of it is true.
I’m so upset I swallow this huge lump that’s lodged in my throat; a lump so sore, harsh, and burning it feels like I’ve swallowed acid.
I bend down and pick up the phone, not wanting to miss anything else they’re saying.
“It’s getting late, Baby Doll.”
“I’m not worried about that. I’m good.”
“You wanna go hang at my crib?”
“Uhhh. Yeah, Jeff, that makes more sense.”
Oh, God, no!
I hear silence. Giggles. More moans. I want to throw up. How can she claim to be a Christian and be in public practically screwing a man she’s only been with a minute? Unless they’ve been slipping and sliding behind my back all the time Jeff and I were together.
I knew him first. He loved me, too. I got to experience ten months of being loved by a man who made me feel like I’d been born again. He’d still be mine, too, if I hadn’t gotten scared. Hadn’t run away from his love. Love and fear don’t mix, do they? I had to learn that the hard way. And I hate hard. Hate it so much, because it means I could have learned the lesson but didn’t. I failed. Failure equals losing. I hate losing and not knowing how to guarantee that I’m going to win, be successful, be truly happy.
And maybe that’s why the relationship thing with Jeff got messed up. He blames me. I don’t know who to blame or what to think. Especially now. I am in no condition to face my sister after hearing what I’ve heard. What is she thinking? Who is she trying to fool? How can someone twist her mouth to say she’s going to church? She distinctly told me, “Rachel, Solomon’s Temple is having something tonight, so I’m heading over there. I’ll be home later, okay sweetie?”
“Oh, okay, shoot. I know it’s last minute, but maybe I could go with you.”
“What? For real? No, girl, you haven’t been to church in a month of Sundays. Why do you want to join me tonight?”
“Well, you look so happy I want some of what you’re getting,” I said, laughing.
She laughed, too. Rolled her ugly cow-?looking eyes, and didn’t say anything else. So I left that one alone.
I fireally didn’t care if I went to ST with her or not. Like she said, I hadn’t attended church in months, since last autumn. The church has thousands of members, and I always felt like a number, never a person. I wasn’t convinced the pastor and ministers could meet my needs, and smaller churches depend on their members too much. So I chose to stay home and watch “church” on television. But lately I haven’t even been doing that.
So I wasn’t serious about going with her at all. Shoot, in my mind my Friday night was already set, and I was happy as a singing little sparrow. Had a couple great DVDs to laugh at (one featuring Queen Latifah, the other starring Ben Stiller). I had some of that buttery and salty microwave popcorn, plus several ice-?cold Capri Suns stashed in the freezer, waiting for me to place my lips around their itty-?bitty orange straws. Hey, I was gonna kick back at the crib and, once again, try not to mentally torture myself for my recent decision to split with Jeff.
The wounds are so fresh it’s like I’ve been hacked with a saw and am lying on the floor bleeding to death...again.
Yeah, I know I initiated the breakup, but don’t think for a second that Jeff was the only one hurt.“What did you say?” Jeff asked the day I mustered up the courage to tell him “we” were over. Earlier I had asked him to meet me near our spot, a beautiful jogging trail in Memorial Park. In times past, we’d go there to do our power walks, or to talk, hold hands, and engage in some serious PDA, not caring if anyone saw us. But on that chilly January day, we sat next to each other at a picnic table that was partially damp, and I remember my pants felt cold, moist, and uncomfortable.
“Jeff, baby,” I murmured, nervously rubbing my hands together. “I can’t do the wedding thing right now.”
“Right now? Does that mean you are getting cold feet? You need a little time to think? If so, that’s not uncommon—”
“Jeff, I have thought carefully about it. It’s all too much. Too soon. I’m flattered, but it bothers me that we’ve been dating less than a year. I feel there’s so much more I ought to know about you. And to be honest, I don’t feel at peace about taking this big of a step. I’m scared we’re moving too fast.”
“Rachel,” he said with widened eyes, “you didn’t think we were moving too fast when you said yes a few weeks ago.”
“I know, Jeff, I know. I was so flattered that you asked that I got caught up in the moment. And, the ring, my God, that was an incredible surprise. But I haven’t been able to sleep well the past few nights. Can’t think straight. Marriage is a serious step. I don’t want to make any wrong decisions...so I’m choosing to not do anything.”
“So breaking up with me is not doing anything?”
“Call it what you want Jeff, but no, we’re not getting married. We’re just not.”
No doubt, I was crazy about Jeff, but at times during our courtship, I would feel deep twinges of emotional pain. Jeff wouldn’t always call me back when he promised he would. He’d have me waiting by the phone, picking it up, looking at it, making sure the volume was turned up as high as possible; sometimes I would neglect going to the restroom when I had to pee, just so I wouldn’t miss the man’s call. And I’d wait for him so long my mind started talking to me.
Where is he this evening? Why did he say he was going to do one thing and ended up doing something totally different? This isn’t the first time, either. He has you waiting for hours sometimes. And the excuse is always about how he had to work. Nobody works that much. Jeez, the guy is his own boss. He can make time to call.
Bottom line is I never could completely turn my heart over to a man who I don’t fully trust. And when my mind would ask me probing questions, I’d want to scream and yell and cover my ears with my hands trying to drown out undeniable warning signs. It’s those nagging inner voices that most women who are dangerously in love frequently ignore. But when my mind advised me to cool things off between us, I listened. That’s why I had to tell him even when it hurt.
“Do you mean you want to postpone everything? Give yourself more time?” Jeff softly asked me, obviously just to be sure I meant what I said.
“Um, I mean that I won’t be marrying you anytime soon.”
Even though I spoke firmly, I ?couldn’t help notice how his face was stricken with frustration, a stunned gaze, as if he’d just been sacked by several 350-?pound football players.
Strangely enough, I felt as frightened as Jeff looked. I never wanted to be responsible for someone else’s sorrow. It’s not that I didn’t love him; I just didn’t feel prepared to go the demanding distance that marital love requires. And as much as I felt he loved me, I ? wasn’t sure Jeff was as ready for this big step as he believed he was.
“I–I don’t understand.”