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Continuing in the bestselling Brown Sugar tradition, this fourth installment brings together the finest award-winning and critically celebrated up-and-coming African-American writers contributing sexy, scintillating, never-before-published short stories.
|Publisher:||Washington Square Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.31(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Carol Taylor, a former Random House book editor, is now a freelance editor, writer, and editorial consultant. She is the editor of the bestselling Brown Sugar series, the first of which was a Los Angeles Times bestseller and Gold Pen Award winner. Taylor is the “Off the Hook” relationship columnist for Flirt.com. She lives in New York City.
Read an Excerpt
PRESTON L. ALLEN
When Johnny reached to change the radio station, his shirtsleeve receded, exposing a muscular forearm the color of slate, glistening with sweat despite the cold, cold air conditioner. Johnny switched stations until TLC's "What About Your Friends" came on. The truck pulled to a stop. Already we had arrived, again.
"Same time tomorrow," he said, something distant in his voice.
"I'm off tomorrow," I said. "My car should be ready then."
"Oh." Was that disappointment in his voice? "They must be charging you an arm and a leg."
"A whole paycheck."
"Mechanics are such a rip-off."
"Here. Thanks," I said, passing him two dollars for gas.
"No, Pam." Johnny shook his head. "Don't even try to offend me."
Our hands touched once as he said good-bye. As always, I moved away from his truck hoping that Johnny watched me with longing. But when I whirled expectantly, he was looking straight ahead, leaving only his sensuous side view to my inspection: the easy sweep of his forehead, the broad promontory of his nose, his thick lips and strong chin, one heavy-lidded eye focused on something, but not me. I stared at his handsome, impassive profile with longing, and then I remembered that Johnny was Nadine's husband, and regardless of what I thought about Nadine, she was still my sister.
I waved and the truck crunched through the gravel and pulled away with anoise like rocks in the engine. Johnny would have to fix his muffler soon. Maybe next week I would be giving him rides home.
I kissed him once, back when I was thirteen. My breasts had come in that summer, fleshy like the rest of me was quickly becoming.
We were in the toolshed Johnny had built for Daddy. Sunlight seeped through the wooden slats in a swath of light that highlighted the pucker of his lips, the twin swells of his chest, the nipples. His belt buckle hung too low, revealing his washboard-tight stomach and the top of his Calvin Klein briefs. Every part of him the slanted light touched seemed to glow. He should have worn a shirt with a ripe thing like me following him around.
He was irresistible. I kissed him. Once. He pushed me off, wiped my surprise from his lips with a T-shirt he used as a rag. That stung more than his words. "I love Nadine. I'm a one-woman man. You're like a sister to me. A kid sister."
"But I love you, Johnny!"
"That's so sweet, little sis."
"Stop treating me like a child." I gave him my best pose, with my head flung back seductively, my lips pouting, and my hands akimbo so as not to block his view of my budding chest. "I'm only four and a half years younger than Nadine." I caught him looking at my chest. "They're almost as big as Nadine's."
"Bigger," he said.
"I think so." He glanced at them again. When he looked up, his face was awash in embarrassment. "But that's not her best quality. Her best quality is that I love her."
"Are they really bigger than Nadine's?"
"You are such a silly little thing." He showed his even white teeth in a broad smile and threw his arms around me in a hug. "Now what would Nadine say if she heard you say that?"
"She wouldn't say anything. She'd kick my ass."
He laughed. "So don't be messing with your sister's man. You got to love your sister, girl. You're just a kid."
"Nadine was just a kid, too, when you married her."
"Go to school, little girl, before you get in trouble with your fresh mouth."
He turned away from me, wrenched the cover off his mower, and oiled the clutch and the blades.
The birds sang their morning song as I slunk from the shed in time to catch the bus. I spent lunch on the nurse's cot. I was sicksick with all the delicious things Nadine had told me about him over and over, and now sick too with his rejection. In Johnny's eyes, I was not as good as Nadine.
But he was wrong.
I was the good one. She was the bad.
After Johnny drove away, I went up to my apartment and shed my uniform, which smelled of grilled cheese and cigarettes. My bra and panties were next to go. I released my toes from the clumsy work shoes that had cramped them all day. In the bathroom, I stood before the full-length mirror and thought, not bad, really. My eyes had a catlike mystery to them, aided by the natural pencil-thinness of my eyebrows. My hair was a mess of healthy fullness. I was thinking of going dread. I could stand to lose a few pounds. But why should I? Too many men had told me I look good. Not goodthe word they used was "juicy." They said I was honey-filled. They said I was a tall glass of sweetness. I was tall, somewhat, at 5'9". I was juicy, too, maybe. I wouldn't call myself a size twelve exactly because I could still slip into some of Nadine's size nines, and then I really looked juicy with my cinnamon-colored breasts oozing over the tops and my wide hips and healthy booty stretching the fabric in the back.
Not that it mattered to Johnny.
All Johnny wanted was Nadine and her pixie-like cuteness.
We were the same cinnamon complexion. I was the tall one. She made up for it with heels, which she wore even at work. She always got the biggest tips. My breasts were much larger than hers were. In fact, now that I saw things from an adult perspective, she was rather on the flat side. Boyish, but cute. Around her small, angular face, she wore her hair cut short like a helmet. Her eyes were small and intense. She always looked you straight in the eye, even when she was lying. Each ear had three piercings. She wore a gold stud in her nose. Over the years, she had shown me all of her pierced parts, including her vagina. Recently, she had challenged me to do the same.
I said to her, "Does Johnny approve?"
She snorted. "It's not for Johnny to like. It's my body."
So, of course, I passed on it.
I stretched out in the tub and urged hot water from the tap with my foot. It burned good. I refused to kick the cold tap, refused to feel anything but the pleasurable tingle between my legs, that and the heat from the steaming water. I was determined not to use my hands. Not yet.
The water rose until it covered my face except my mouth and nose. Only then did I stop the flow with a deft movement of my big toe. If I didn't move, the water wouldn't spill from the tub, and I would fall asleep like that and maybe dream of Johnny. Or perhaps I would inhale too deeply and drown.
Speaking of water, Nadine was sleeping with big, water head Christopher, the night manager, who was twice divorced and spent an hour longer than necessary tallying the day's receipts with a pencil because he didn't trust the computer. Nadine said Christopher made her feel like Johnny no longer did. I couldn't see how; I mean, he had that big water head and wore a played-out flat top and droopy-crotch Sansabelt pants like he was some old man when he was only about the same age as the rest of us. I'm not even going to talk about how he waddled when he walked, because the man couldn't help being born with feet that point out at right angles. Just like his ears. But I'm not going there, because it ain't right.
Now Johnny's walk was a psalm of praise, going or coming. Hallelujah, the man could move. He led with his chest, followed by his impossibly narrow waist and brawny legs. Going or coming, take your pick. Do you want the face so beautiful it could heal? Do you want the chiseled flesh packed into faded blue jeans? Curly-headed, smoky-eyed, slate-gray brother, Johnny was sculpted to make a tired woman remember that she could bend at the knees to do more than scrub floors.
And here was Nadine tripping with old water head.
Johnny deserved a woman who had trouble breathing when he entered the room. Johnny deserved a woman who had loved him from that first day her big sister had brought him home and presented him as both her husband of two hours and the cause of the three-month swelling in her abdomen. Johnny deserved a woman who had picked all of her lovers based on how closely they resembled him and dumped them at the first sign they were becoming less Johnny.
"Johnny deserves me!" I told the walls.
Now it was time to use my hands. I found my clit beneath the bubbles. I massaged one nipple with the other hand, Johnny's hand. And the water became Johnny's body engulfing me. I squeezed my thighs together and pressed down with two fingers, Johnny's mouth, and Johnny's dick. Water spilled out onto the tiles as I came.
My hot bath turned into a warm one, the warm one into cool, then cold. I was shivering, my lust unabated. I gripped the chain between my toes and pulled. The water seemed eager to leave my body. Soon I lay naked in the empty tub, looking between my breasts, which leaned to either side like melting sundaes.
I thought about masturbating again. I thought about attacking the tub with Ajax. I thought about my calico, Cassiopeia, who watched me from atop the wicker clothes hamper. Cassiopeia purred and licked a paw. Somewhere beyond the bathroom, from outside in the street, there came the faint but familiar rattle of a car whose muffler needed fixing. Could it be? I strained to listen.
A few minutes later, someone knocked at the door, and Cassiopeia leapt from the clothes hamper and darted out of the bathroom.
It could only be one person. I jumped out of the tub. "Wait a minute," I said, reaching for a towel, a comb, and the first tube of lipstick, burnt cedar, I found in the shoebox of makeup under the sink. I wiped on the lipstick in two quick passes, dropped the tube with a clatter onto the counter, then patted my breasts, my underarms, my stomach, and between my legs with the towel.
The knock came again, insistently. Cassiopeia purred.
"Coming!" I shouted.
I floated through the living room picking up my discarded work clothes. I raked my hair back with a comb. In the bedroom, I shoved my uniform, underwear, and shoes under the bed. I tied my hair with a scarf I found on my night table. There was no time to decide between good and better panties so I hauled on my silk housecoat over skin still damp from the bath. I knew I should wipe on some lotion, but the knock came again.
I opened the door, wondering how I looked, my hair in a silly scarf, one hand holding my housecoat closed. "Johnny," I breathed.
"Pam," he said, falling into my arms.
"Nadine's screwing around on me." His chin rested in my hair. He was soaking with sweat. He was wonderful to touch, wet or dry. He smelled delicious, the mint, the cut grass, the man musk. "She's fucking Christopher."
We held each other in the doorway, and he told me about finding them together.
"After I dropped you off, instead of going back to the restaurant to finish my shift, I went home. Christopher was just leaving. I saw her lean into his car and kiss him on the lips." A shiver passed through his sculpted body into mine. "He took off when he saw me. She ran into the house."
Johnny's deep voice boomed down the hallway. A neighbor's door opened, a head wearing rollers was stuck out, then disappeared, the door slamming.
"She was flushing them down the toilet," Johnny said. "Poems he had written her on napkins from the restaurant. She fought me when I tried to take them away."
Reluctantly, I let him pull away, and he showed me the red imprint of Nadine's nails under his chin. He opened his shirt. There were more scratches, just above the nipple, so small I could hardly see them on that great expanse of chest until I stopped focusing on the chest. Little things they were, like birthmarks. Then I went back to that chest.
He began to button his shirt. I took his big hand. "Let's go inside."
I was aware of touching his arms, his knees, his thighs, his hands, as we sat on the couch and he poured out his heart. The air seemed parched. The water on my flesh had completely evaporated.
"I never hit Nadine before, but I had to have those poems. I needed proof. I had to see with my own eyes ..." He couldn't finish.
I put my hand on his knee to give him strength. It would serve Nadine right if I slept with him.
"You hit her," I said with a dry throat. "You hit my sister?"
"I just pushed her," he corrected. "But she collapsed right there on the bathroom floor, bawling. She said I had hit her for nothing, for accepting a few poems from a harmless geek. She loved me, she said. Couldn't I see that?"
"She said that?"
"That's what she said," he said. "And I believed her."
"You believed her?"
"I believed her," said Johnny, who had a bachelor's degree in African Studies. When he was not waiting tables at the restaurant or cutting yards, he was working on his Master's. He was as studious and hard working as he was gullible. He actually thought Nadine was a good girl.
I was her sister, so I could tell him about her wild days before he arrived. I could tell him about her drug dealer boyfriend, J.H. I could tell him about the threesomes with J.H. and his homeboy. I could tell him what "BUTT F LOVER" tattooed on her ass really meant and why J.H. put it there. It was their primary means of birth control. I could tell him about the year she dated only womenthe same year that she got the fake ID and worked as a stripper to raise money for a lawyer to appeal J.H.'s conviction. Mom and Dad were glad to get her off their hands when Johnny came along. Nadine was a wild child. I could tell him that during their first year together, the year I kissed him in the toolshed, Nadine was still visiting J.H. in prison once a month. But Johnny already knew that part. He had caught her in the act and forgiven her. He believed she had changed. Now she was screwing big-headed poets. Poor, blind Johnny.
But gullible had its advantages. He actually thought my hand was on his knee for support.
"Christopher's poems weren't much, really. I guess I should be flattered. Who wouldn't be attracted to Nadine? She looked so helpless crying like that on the floor. So innocent. I have to admit it turned me on. She said that she and Christopher had done nothing."
"She said that?"
"That's what she said," he said. "And I believed her. It was crazy to imagine. Nadine and Christopher fucking. Think about it."
I was thinking about it. It was getting me as hot as it must have gotten him earlier that night. I moved my hand higher up on his thigh and put my face against his neck.
"I tore up the poems and flushed them down the toilet." He looked at me with those smoky, gray eyes. "I was sure they had done nothing, just like she said."
She was my sister, but I was not going to let her get off that easy. "Didn't you see them kiss in the driveway?"
He shrugged. "I love Nadine so much. It took something else to shock me to my senses." He clasped his hands together. "When I went to make love to her, I discovered a passion mark in a private place."
He got up, went over to the window, and leaned his head against it. I followed him.
He wailed, "It's killing me just thinking about them in our bed. Nadine rolling on our sheets, looking all nasty and coy at the same time. That damned Christopher with his big head on my pillow and his mouth between her legs and she's making that sound she makes when she comes! I can't take it, Pam. I can't take it."
I put my arms around his big body. "It's all right, Johnny."
"I saw the mark, Pam. What did he thinkI wouldn't see it? This is worse than what she did with J.H. I can't take it."
"Poor, poor Johnny."
He turned around. I reached up to throw my arm around his neck and bring his head down to my chest. My housecoat, which had many years ago lost its sash and each of the four buttons that fastened it, fell open. In a characteristic show of decency, Johnny turned his head.
I sighed, and covered myself.
"I'm sorry. I better put something else on."
"It's kind of like in the toolshed," he said, "when I had my shirt off."
Stung by rejection and embarrassment, I whispered cautiously, "You remember that?"
"I remember your lips were soft."
"You do remember."
"And your breasts were about the size of grapes."
"What! Now you're hurting my feelings."
"They were still so small, and you were so proud of them. Typical teenager."
"You can just get the hell out of my house right now, Johnny," I joked.
The lines in his face relaxed. "This is hard for me, but I'm starting to feel better, Pam."
"Well just keep right on picking at me if it helps. With Nadine as a sister, I'm used to it."
"Nadine used to pick at you?"
"I've always been chunky."
"Chunky? You crazy women have no idea what men like. We like ... chunky." He appraised my body with his eyes. "Is that why you're always trying to take your sister's man?"
"I guess they taught you something in college after all." I pulled the housecoat around me tight. "I better go change."
"Did you have a crush on J.H., too?"
"All his teeth were gold. Yuck."
Johnny gave a piercing look he must have learned from Nadine. "Well?"
"No. I did not have a crush on J.H. I'm not like that," I said to Johnny. But I was like that, at least with him. "I'm sorry, I better go put on something decent." I turned to leave.
"No." Johnny pulled me to him. He was strong. "Stay here and talk to me some more. I'm really learning a lot."
"You're picking at me, is what you're doing." My body was pressed to his.
"Then let's change the subject," he said against my face. "Tell me about Nadine. Tell me everything you know about her."
I was holding him. He was holding me. It was an effort just to speak, I said, "Nadine's my sister."
"Good observation," he said into my neck.
"Nadine's the pretty one."
"You're the pretty one."
"Johnny," I breathed, warming to the touch of his inquisitive hand, "this is not like you."
"This is the new me."
I pressed against him hungrily, my housecoat falling open, and somewhere between kiss and shame, I said, "Nadine is going to be pissed."
"Nadine has Christopher," he said, his lips thick with burnt cedar, "Water head Christopher." I sucked on his tongue like sweet candy.
One hand massaged the back of my head as the other snaked around my waist. I undid the last remaining buttons on his shirt, shoved my hands inside. I felt the forest on his chest, reached down, and pressed my palms against the knotted stomach. The knots were soft, giving. I went behind, took the dare, plunged my fingers under the elastic of his underwear. I cupped a cheek in each hand and drove his hips against me, controlling the motion of our grind. I rode him down to the carpet like that.
When our lips separated so that we might breathe what was left of the air, he said, "Wow," and then lowered his head to my big breasts. He was a wet licker, not a nibbler. My nipples stiffened under his tongue, became sensitive as salted nerve ends under those licks. I chewed his neck and then his earlobe when it presented itself. His mouth was driving me crazy.
He was on all fours over me with my hands still in his shirt, around his torso, gripping his cheeks. I wrapped my legs around his buttocks too and pulled myself up into him like a possum clinging to her mother's underside. I pressed my breasts up against his chest to escape the licking, which was driving me crazy. I cried, "Hallelujah."
"You're so juicy."
"So I've been told."
Finding my mouth, the one-woman man lowered me to the carpet and traced my leg with a finger until it reached my open wetness. The finger raised tiny bumps where it passed. My flesh tingled. Johnny bucked my clit with his thumb. I parted my legs. He inserted a finger and stirred. I released his tongue and said, "Love me, Johnny. I'm so hot."
Johnny kissed his way down to the finger in my pussy. His lips kissed the mound of Venus in small, respectful dabs. Then with more fervor, like the way Cassiopeia drinks from her bowl, with a twick-twicking sound. Another finger was up to the second knuckle in my anus. Then I felt his teeth.
"Oh, Johnny. What are you doing to me?"
"I'm leaving a passion mark."
"Watch out. I'm all gushy when I come."
"You taste good."
My arms flailing, I thrust my hips against his tongue and the bootie finger in wild orgasm. Johnny kissed his way back to my mouth. I tasted my joy on his lips.
I kissed my way down his chest.
I unzipped Johnny's jeans and dragged the crisp, white drawers down to his ankles and stared at his stately dick, which curved slightly like an on-ramp. The topside was smooth, but the bottom was gently wrinkle-veined. How, I wondered, could Nadine seek pleasure in napkin poetry when she had this great, mahogany epic at home? I held it with both hands. I kissed the length of it. It was warm under my tongue, pulsing. I placed it between my breasts to feel its size. I brushed the underside of my chin with the head. Johnny put his hands on my head and hummed. I took him into my mouth.
Johnny was juicy, too.
He stopped just short of coming and said, "I want to be in you."
That was fine by me. I lay on my back.
Looking up beyond the curls of Johnny's chest, beyond his magnificent head, I made out the outline of a turbaned man smoking a pipe in the stucco ceiling. I heard the squeak of a properly stretched rubber sliding against wet flesh.
"You're so big. Don't hurt me."
Johnny entered me. I pressed my knees to my chest. My hips danced on his sturdy dick. Waves of pleasure washed over me.
"Turn over," he said a few minutes later.
"I like it like this."
It was our first fight. Johnny easily flipped me over, winning the fight.
On all fours now, staring at my silent television and the ashtray on it that held the remains of my last cigaretteeleven months since, I'm proud to sayI felt his tongue, his finger, and then he entered me again. He filled me like no man ever had before. He did not fuck me in the usual way of big men, all clumsy power and push. He fucked with a plan. He fucked my flesh in the direction he wanted it to go. I had no idea where I was going to get off. And just before I got to there, he would take me somewhere else. If I resisted, he inserted the bootie finger.
Water head Christopher must be a really special poet, I thought, because when it came to fucking, no man compared to Johnny.
"You like it, baby?"
"You are so juicy."
His rhythm changed. Two sudden deep thrusts robbed me of a breath.
"No," he said. "I want to see your beautiful face."
He sat me on his lap, facing him, with my legs around his impossibly slender waist.
He bit my neck. "I'm ready to come, baby. I can't hold it back no more," he growled. He bounced me on his lap with redoubled vigor.
"Can't hold it back."
My pussy was slick and full as it rose and fell on Johnny's dick.
"Come, baby, come."
"Can't hold it."
I closed my eyes. Johnny pounded up into me in a frenzy. I lost it all. Control of my limbs. Track of time. My silly scarf. I screamed and exploded into Johnny's pounding rhythm.
We slept together that night, without sleeping much. All night, some part of him was in me. I thought we would break the bed.
In the morning, before he left to go cut yards, I gave him a good dose of my big legs and behind so that he would return. I served him breakfast in a pair of Nadine's shorts. He liked chunky. He fucked me standing up at the sink with the water running over the broken breakfast dishes. When he left, I prayed he wouldn't go home. I prayed he wouldn't go see her.
She called me around two.
"Johnny didn't come home last night."
"What happened?" I said with mock surprise.
"I don't know where he is. I don't know where he slept last night."
I removed all guilt from my tone. "You guys had a fight?"
"I fucked up real bad, sis." Then between sobs and brief pauses to tell the cook to leave her alone because she was on break, she divulged what I already knew about Johnny, the water head, and her. She ended with, "If you see him, tell him to at least call me."
"I will," I said, and hung up, But I would not. And it served her right. Treating a good man so bad.
Around three, I took a cab and picked up my car from the mechanic's. Then I went grocery shopping, came home, and cooked. Cassiopeia scratched to be let out, so I opened the sliding doors to the porch. I went out there, too, and sat down, watching over the parking lot, listening for the rattle of mufflers. I was relieved when he returned that night. I had prepared a special meal for him, but he went straight for the dessert.
"This time," he said, "I'm going to try something new."
"Something new?" I squealed.
"Put your panties back on."
We had been going at it for about a half-hour already. "I'm soaking wet," I complained.
"Wait till I get through with you," he said slyly.
I found my panties in the heap of tangled sheets on the floor. I tugged them on and hopped back on the bed. "Turn over," he said. "Bootie up. Close your eyes."
"This isn't going to hurt?"
"Worm love," he said. "I have no arms. No hands. No penis. Only this tongue. Close your eyes, I told you."
He began with my feet, his tongue, patiently loving the heel, the sole, then the stiffened toes digging into the mattress. I could feel no part of him, except for the wet, darting muscle. It was not kissing the skin, exactly. It felt light against the fine hairs, like an insect descending. The worm. It was frustrating. It was stimulating. I wanted to push him away. I wanted to pull him nearer.
With my eyes closed tight, I followed the worm's languid journey from my ankle to the backs of my knees. I became aware of the warmth of his mouth. I imagined I could smell his sweet breath through the pores in my skin. I became my skin. He moved up my thigh, over the rise of my butt. I could sense his weight hovering just above me but not touching, only the tongue. The worm. It made contact with the panties, tracing the contours of each buttock through it. He lingered in the cleft. I could feel it lifting the material of the panties from the cleft as a finger would. I could feel it anxiously probing, but not really touching because of the thin barrier of silk. I was gushing into the crotch of my good Victoria's Secret.
"Jesus. Let me take them off."
"I have no arms. No hands. No penis. Just this tongue to love you with."
I arched my butt to help him. He probed and probed and cheated. To unsheathe one cheek, he used his teeth. Cheating again, he nudged the material aside with his chin. He sucked the exposed half of my pussy, chewed the hairs. His face pressed into me from behind. The burrowing worm found my sweet spot. I was gushing onto the bed now. I juiced around his tongue. The worm passed in and out of me. He was emitting sounds of hunger. I was breathing in short gasps. He was slurping. I was grinding against his face. The worm ran over the perimeter of my pussy. I wanted to come in his face. He was cheating again, controlling my backward thrusts with his hands on my thighs. I would come in his face. I was too far gone to stop.
"Stop using your hands if you're a worm. Cut me loose so I can come. Stop cheating!"
He said, "I have no arms. No hands. No penis"
I was too far gone. I would make his tongue my penis.
I would come.
I would come.
There was no time for rest. He lay atop me, our tongues intertwinedthe worm in my mouth. The other worm, the big one below the waist, throbbed against my opening like a heavy club. It slipped in through the slick entrance with electric friction. I slammed upward to meet his thrusts. A loud slap was heard each time our bodies met. I wanted to cry out, I will love you forever Johnny, like Nadine never could.
"Johnny," I said afterwards as I lay in his arms with the radio playing Kevon Edmond's "Love Will Be Waiting," "I'm not a kid to you anymore, am I?"
"You're all grown up." He snuggled against my neck, his big arms encircling my hips.
I covered his hands with mine. "I've always loved you, Johnny. I always will."
"Now I know how it feels to be loved back. Nobody's ever loved me like this."
"Not even Nadine?"
He stiffened. I pressed my hands into his until our fingers interlaced. "She's your sister."
"You saying I should tell her?"
"No. That's my job. I'm her husband." He was quiet then. There was only the movement of his chest against my back and Kevon's velvet voice pulling at our heartstrings. Finally, he said, "There'll be trouble for everybody."
"It's not wrong what we did, Johnny, is it?"
"She did it with Christopher."
"It's not the same. We love each other. We found each other."
"We found each other," he said. "At last."
We went to sleep around midnight, exhausted and pleasantly, happily sore.
I rose early for the breakfast shift at the restaurant. I felt relaxed, confident, pretty. Nadine was there, looking disheveled and short, in clunky, flat-soled shoes. She kept asking, Did he call you? Did he come by? You think he'll come to work tonight? I kept my mouth shut.
Johnny was scheduled to work the night shift. He had not seen her in two days. The plan was for him to stay out of trouble with Christopher, work his shift, pick up his check on Friday, and Then make a clean break. Nadine had to be told, the sooner the better.
Johnny did not follow the plan.
That afternoon, after I got off work, Johnny made love to me furiously, from behind, then hauled on his uniform and headed out to his rattling truck. About an hour after the sun set, Nadine called to ask if I had any money. There had been trouble at the restaurant.
"Christopher's hurt bad. They took Johnny away in handcuffs," she shrieked.
On the way to the ATM machine, Nadine kept saying it was all her fault, she should never have slept with Christopher. I kept my mouth shut about Johnny and me, but I was angry. Why hadn't he told her? He should have told her about the woman who had trouble breathing when he entered a room. He should have told her where he had slept the last two nights. He should have told her about the passion mark he put on my pussy.
"When I get him back, I'll be good to him. I'll never treat him bad again. I love him so much." She wrung her hands. She cried. She looked out the window as we roiled through neglected neighborhoods to get to the part of town where the jail was. "I never knew it would hurt so much to lose him."
I said, "You need to prepare yourself for whatever happens."
"I'm never going to lose him. What we got is special." She turned on me. "What the hell do you mean prepare for whatever happens? Ain't shit gonna happen. I'm getting my man back."
"You just can't go and do things and not expect ... reactions. You messed up, now you've got to accept whatever happens."
"What the hell are you talking about, Pam? He fought for me today. He kicked Christopher's ass."
"He may kick your ass too."
She considered this, then spoke in a quieter voice. "When Christopher wrote me those poems, I was at a weak point. I'm not wild anymore. J.H. was killed in prison last week."
"That's no excuse!"
"Johnny and me have been together almost ten years. We have a child. If he looks like he's going crazy on me, Pam, you got to back me up." She said, "You tell him about J.H. He'll believe it coming from you."
"I don't know if I can do that."
"You have to," she said. "You're my sister."
"I don't know if I can."
At the jail, I gave the bail bondsman the $500.
We sat in a filthy, cramped reception area with a half dozen broken, depressed-looking people waiting to see their wayward loved ones. Nadine cried on my shoulder so much she had to take out her nose ring. She said it was itching.
Finally, Johnny appeared, looking a little shaken after his first time in jail. Nadine held my hand as he walked toward us. I tried to catch his eye, but it was no use. He went straight to Nadine and kissed her. She let go of my hand, and they really started going at it: I'm sorry, baby, me too, I love you baby, me too, there's a reason I did what I did, baby, I hope you'll listen to my reason, I'll listen, baby, I'll listen.
My heart sank in my chest. I wanted to shout, don't listen, Johnny. I'm the one who loves you. She's hurt you for ten years. I've loved you for ten. Even longer. Forever.
Then he asked her, "Where'd you get the money to bail me out?"
She said, "Pam."
He turned to me then. I looked up into his eyes. He put his big arms around me in a dramatic hug, I breathed in his sweet man musk, I relived in a moment our passion of the last two nights, and he said, "Thanks, sis. Thank you so much for everything."
I held him. I locked his eyes with mine.
If he didn't tell her, then I would tell her, then we would go away, and live happy together forever.
But there was nothing in his eyes. And that stung most of all.
Table of Contents
A Letter in April
The Day After You
Preston L. Allen
The Little Barton Job
Until We Meet Again
My Brother's Wife
Where He's Getting It Now
Gar Anthony Haywood
A New Tale of Two Cities
jessica Care moore
A Ballistic Affair
About the Editor