“Black Gold” (by Cortney Joseph)

 

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The Agony & The Ecstacy (by Cortney Joseph)

He met her at their usual spot; Downtown, at the Prescott Hotel on the corner of Wilshire and Hamilton. They signed in under false names, took separate routes to the seventh floor, the ninth room on the right.

Cream colored walls, with furniture accented in white and gold. Lights of the lamps dimmed, clothing strewn about that led from the foot of the bed to the front door where she greeted him in nothing but her black lace bra and panty set.

It had been magic; fire ignited within them once again as they rolled and tussled about the large bed, entangled in a love affair that should have never happened.

Her small and delicate hand rested against his chest, her fingertips and nails playing along the thin hairs of his chest. His hand, gently rubbing her back as he pulled her closer; unsure of if he should speak, or remain silent.

Either way, the moment was wrong, and there was no correct action that could make it good unless they found themselves entangled with one another again.

 

She would have to go when all was said and done. Home to a husband that demanded more than she could give of herself. Home to children who were young enough to not understand the things their father did, and the damage and wrong it led to.

He would have to go when it was all said and done. Home to a wife that sought nothing but his money, and the right to control his every move. To a wife that would take him for all he had, and win, if she knew of his side activities.

“I can’t even begin to understand how we ended up here. How we met, came to be friends, how we fit into each other’s lives.”

“To make it seem right; I’d like to think it was destiny. Only, our paths crossed at the wrong time. Me, married with kids. You, married. Unhappy, the both of us, but unable to leave because of whatever separate problems we face.”

“And we love one another.”

“Dearly.”

“But we have to steal each other’s love, ‘cause it’s never free. It’ll never be free, will it?”

She shrugged. “Jake would never let me go. You know he wouldn’t. I’d get as far as filing the papers, and he’d drag me right back with the one thing he knows I could never bare to lose.”

He nodded. “And I’d never ask you to take that chance. But won’t this have to end, somewhere… some way?”

“It was just supposed to be fun, between friends. An escape from reality. My escape from the abuse, your escape from your own issues with Isabella.” The thought of his own ‘divorce’ was as laughable as hers.

“Do we keep dealing with personal agony and anguish after moments of passion and ecstasy; just for these brief moments of happiness whenever we can get them?”

Looking into his eyes, she answered the only way she knew how. “Can’t have one without the other, right? But maybe we should step away for a while, see if we can’t work out our personal problems. See if we can’t rid ourselves of the personal agony, so that the ecstasy is worth it the next time we meet.”

“How long, Richelle?”

 

As she climbed out of his arms, out of bed, and began to grab her clothing, Richelle looked over her shoulders. Tears slid down her face. “I’ll call you, Damien.”

At least, she hoped she would make it to the day when she’d be able to call him, freely.

Sign Your Life Away (by Cortney Joseph & Sage Johnson)

Colby and Idina sat in an uncomfortable silence, sharing a meal put together by his mother in hopes of getting the two of them to communicate. It had been two long weeks; and they spent each day walking around, moping, acting as if there weren’t things that they needed to discuss. She’d tried appealing to their common senses, tried mentioning the vows they’d made to one another, the promises to work through any and everything.

But time had finally brought along a rift that seemed beyond repair. At least, in the eyes of the young couple, it seemed as if nothing in their fifteen-year relationship was worth talking about, saving.

Idina felt she was right. Colby felt like he always had to take the blame to appease her, and quite frankly, he was tired of accepting faults that were not his own. Each claimed they were always the first to apologize, always the first to compromise; when honestly, neither of them knew the true meaning behind either of those words.

 

It’d been close to an hour since they were left alone, and all either of them could do was stare occasionally and hope the other made the first move towards reconciliation.

“Look, this could be over and done with; your mama, my mama, and everybody else can get their nose up out of our business if you would just swallow your pride and apologize.”

Colby set his fork down, taking a deep breath. “I’m not apologizing for anything. I haven’t done anything, and I know that I haven’t because you would have told me and everybody in this town what I’d done. Your problem is that you’re spoiled, and you hate to not get your way. You hate not having the final word, you hate not being right. Well guess what, Baby, stay mad about whatever imaginary bullshit you’ve come up with this month because I’ve got nothing to be sorry about.” Grabbing his glass of water, he took a few sips before setting it back down. “Of course, I have been having to rethink our wedding day a couple of times when ‘regrets’ come to mind. Timing was all wrong.”

Idina looked at him intently. “Oh, so that’s how you’re feeling Colby?”

“If you want me to be honest; yes. That and a whole lot more. No man, no good man has to sit in his own house feeling sad and depressed because he can’t keep an ungrateful woman happy, no matter what he does.”

“Shit, you acting like I haven’t been right here fighting for this too! I put my life on hold for you!”

He shrugged, very nonchalantly. Not because he wasn’t grateful for everything that she’d ever done for him. But because he’d never forced her to do anything she didn’t want to do. That was an impossible task. “I didn’t ask you to. I told you follow whatever dream you had, would have put up the money for every little thing you chose to do. I also gave you the option to be a stay at home wife, and that’s what you chose. You’re mad because you chose to be miserable when you could have lived your dream like I’m living mine? I know you hate sports, but I also know that you loved me; therefore, you could have skipped each and every single game and ventured off wherever your heart and dreams took you.”

“Whatever.”

“I think I’ve dealt with more than enough in the last fourteen years of the fifteen we’ve been married, more than enough in the seventeen we’ve been together. I do everything in my power to make this work, and nothing is ever enough. Nothing pleases Queen Idina. I could literally give you the entire world; and you’ll say that ain’t shit. I don’t know what else you want.”

She nodded her head, tossing her fork down before she pushed her chair back and got up.

Without saying anything else, Idina headed straight for her work-study area. Walking in the room and around her desk, she reached into one of the bottom drawers and pulled out black folder.

Walking back into the dining area where they’d been sitting, she slammed the folder down in front of him and retook her seat. She resumed eating, calmly, acting as if that very folder didn’t hold what could become one of the hardest trials in their lives.

“The hell is this?”

“Your wish come true.” She enunciated each word clearly in a monotonous tone; devoid of any type of emotion. “Sign them, pack your things, and all of this can really be over.”

 

Colby laughed, something he normally only did whenever he was annoyed; wondering where she found the nerve and audacity to come at him with some bullshit. He simply slid the folder back in her direction, shrugging his shoulders when it hit the floor and the papers formed a mess next to their dining table.

“That’s your answer for everything, huh? Trouble comes along and instead of trying to talk and work through them like an adult; you run to your father and have him draw up divorce papers, most likely in your favor.”

“Sign them; since you regret marrying me.”

“You don’t even listen. I said the timing was wrong. I regret marrying you young; when we were both still teenagers; dumb, trying to act grown when neither of us knew a damn thing about managing situations like the one that we’re in now. As much shit as I talk, as much as I say that I’m tired of you; never once did I say I’m so tired that I’m giving up. But that’s always your first answer, Idina. No let’s seek counseling. No let’s pray and ask God to help us work through these situations. No let’s sit and have a real conversation and get to the bottom of what BOTH of our problems are, or let’s see what problems have we both contributed to this mess. Just run, run, sign these divorce papers and get out my face.”

“If you say so.”

“I do.” He cleared his throat, resting his arms on the table as he clasped his hands together and looked directly at her. “So, when I sign these divorce papers, what are you going to do for yourself?”

“Excuse me.”

“I didn’t stutter, Idina. What are you going to do for yourself? You signed a pre-nup, and though I would be generous and give you more than what we initially agreed on, I can’t promise that my lawyers won’t go to bat on my behalf and make it impossible for you to receive more. Where are you going to go, ‘cause I won’t be the one packing up and leaving. This house was left to me, not you.”

 

“That is so cute; trying to keep me here with money and things that don’t matter. I had a life before you, I had money before you.”

“No, I’m asking you these questions because I genuinely care about your well-being, I always will. Are you going to live on your own? Would you like me to help you find a safe neighborhood like this one? Want me to make a few suggestions on what to invest in so that settlement money lasts you a while? Might want to avoid those Housewives shows because with your personality; you’d either get kicked off, or someone would be fighting you every week.”

“Do not patronize me.”

“I am being serious! You want the divorce, fine. I’ll give you that if it’s what will finally make you happy. However, I want to know what you’re going to do afterwards. As someone I love, someone I will always love, I want to know that you’ll be fine without someone taking care of you.”

She rolled her eyes. “Oh, so now I need to be taken care of? Like I’m some type of child?”

“As if you’re a child? No, of course not. As if you’ve never, ever lived alone… or spent time alone… or looked after yourself without the aid of others? Yes. Tell me what you’re going to do and I’ll sign the papers.”

Idina looked at him, seeing the seriousness in his face. She couldn’t tell if he was masking the emotion that usually shone through his eyes, or if he was honestly fed up. His expression was plain, poker face in play as he waited for her response. “I’m going to finally live my life. That’s all you need to know, Colby.”

Nodding his head once, Colby stood and moved to where the papers had fallen. He gathered them all and stacked them neatly before setting them on the table. Pulling a pen from the pocket of the black folder, he removed the cap and leaned down, signing his name on all dotted lines where it was required. Sliding the folder in her direction, gently, he gave a half smile. “I hope you find that happiness you couldn’t find here.”

 

Staring down at the paper, in total shock that he’d done it; Idina took several deep breaths, wondering what she’d started.

A Friend In Need (by Cortney Joseph)

Cyn walked into her best friend’s home with caution. At his worst, emotionally, he and his actions were unpredictable. As she knew she’d find, his place was a complete wreck.
Cyn walked through each room, praying this wouldn’t be the day her own heart would break. From the foyer to the kitchen, the living room and both of the bedrooms; Michael was nowhere to be found. Only a complete mess of clothing and random objects tossed about without a care. Destroyed, torn, some things even burned from a half-assed attempt at, she was certain, setting the place on fire. Both bathrooms, cleared.
Cyn’s last hope, the backyard. And when she stepped over piles of mess, there she found Michael, sitting in a lawn chair with his head down on the table.
“Mikey…”
He said nothing, and for a moment she feared she’d found him unconscious, or deceased. Michael exhaled sharply, only looking up to see if his ears had decived him. They had, it was only Cyn and immediately he dropped the harsh tone and angry words that threatened to slip past his lips.

“Who called you? My nosy ass mother? Her husband and his fake concern?” Michael forced a laugh. It was as dry as his tone. “Boy, I bet he can’t wait to see me and say ‘I told ya young and dumb ass this would happen. Now look at ya. Ya look like a really dummy.’ A fucking dummy.”
Cyn sighed, choosing to tell a bit of a lie. She knew his parents well, and he was right. They had called. And like her they were concerned, but they’d made their assumptions and they couldn’t wait to hop on Michael’s case with the I told you so attitudes and judgment.

“I hadn’t heard from you in a while, Mikey. It’s been two weeks and I was worried. I missed your ugly face.” She chuckled lightly, but Michael’s usual rich laughter didn’t follow. “I’m not here to judge you. Your my best friend, I care about you and I am worried. If you’re not ready to talk, I understand. But I’ll stand here all day and wait until you’re ready.”
They were both silent for a long time, with nothing but the wind blowing around them. Michael broke that silence, trying his hardest to hold fresh tears at bay. “You know me, Cynthia. I’m not always the best dude, not always the nicest or the kindest but I try my best. When I love someone I truly love them. Down, faithful, trustworthy. And it always seems like I get fucked over in the end.”
“That’s not true. The part about you getting fucked over. You’re loved and appreciated.”
“By who? Other than you and my daughter? Who really got me? Who really loves me?”
Cyn remained silent thinking for a moment. “It’s about Paris, isn’t it?” His long time girlfriend, and the mother of his daughter. The woman he was so excited about proposing to. In fact, Cyn gasped as she recalled today was the day he had it all planned out. “She said ‘no’?”
“Did she say ‘no’?” His tone was sarcastic, but she could hear so much pain in Michael’s voice. “I didn’t even get to ask, and you know why?” Cyn shook her head. “I walked in… on the love of my life… fucking my brother. But that ain’t all.”
What could be worse, what more could their be, Cyn asked herself. “Mikey…”
“She cheated with him, and my neighbor. But before that shit even happened, she was pregnant.”
“Not yours?”
“It was mine. And she aborted. ‘Cause another child would have slowed her down. She sick of me and I’m stopping her life and she telling these bastards I’m not treating her right when I’m the only one that gave a damn about her. Made sure she was straight when her parents kicked her out. Assured her that she and my child would be safe and taken care of. Assured her this child would be taken care of.” Michael slammed his fist down, bursting into tears. “And she took my baby from me, ’cause she’d rather be in and out of clubs, hopping on this nigga, the next, and the third. Fuck! Why not give me my babies and go on with your life? Why not let me decide what I can and can’t handle? Why would she do that to me?! I stayed strong for my baby girl,but once I got her to my sister and I came back,everything hit me like a ton of bricks. What did I do so wrong in my life to deserve this, Cyn?”
Michael had never cried, over anything. Cyn didn’t know what to say. So she said nothing, hoping her silence wouldn’t be taken the wrong way. Instead, she carefully sat beside her best friend, inching closely until she knew he wouldn’t flinch or jerk away at her touch. Slowly, she wrapped her arms around him, whispering gently as he put his head down and cried. “As long as you want me here, I’ll be right here to hold you and lift you back up. I’ll take care of you, I’ll help you with Destiny. But what I will not allow you to do is let yourself waste away or harbor ill and negative feelings towards yourself. We’ll get you through this.” A small grin etched itself across her face, to which she expected no reply to her next comment. “And when I see her, I’ll drag her by that ratty weave all up and down the Lane.”
Michael chuckled. “Thanks Cyn.”
“I love you Mikey… that’s what I’m here for.”