Lose My Mind (by Cortney Joseph)

Jacie sat on the arm of their couch, pouting as her husband dressed himself for work. “You look at me like that every morning, and as much as it pulls at my heart, you know I can’t stay home.”

“I know, and I truly understand you have to work to provide for us. I appreciate you so much, I thank you so much for affording me the opportunity to stay home to follow my own dream, but…”

“What?”

She sighed. “It hurts so damn much to miss you.”

“I’m only gone for eight hours. Nine at the most.”

She rolled her eyes. “I know. But you don’t understand how much I miss you, how much I hate to be apart from you, how much I hate to share you with others. Can’t focus on myself or my own work, because I’m missing you all day. It’s hell when you’re not here.”

He laughed, leaning forward to give her a kiss. “You’re silly.”

“I don’t care. When you turn around to grab your shoes and jacket, I’m going to miss you. You take a single step towards the door, I miss you.”

 

“I’m thinking it’s because we just got married and you’re a bit spoiled off of the two weeks we had together, uninterrupted.”

“No, has absolutely nothing to do with that. This was even before. Every morning, like clockwork, I open my eyes excited to wake up next to you. And then, I remember that you have to get out of bed and leave the house. When I start remembering that I have to tell you goodbye, that I have to let you go, that I can’t cuddle up under you all day long. There’s not a bit of peace I get until you come back here eons later.”

“You’re being dramatic.”

“But you love me and my dramatics.”

He laughed, nodding his head. “I do, and I promise that I miss you just as much. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten in trouble for not focusing because you’re on my mind at the most inappropriate times. But you’ll be okay, Jacie. We’re always okay when we’re apart from one another.”

“You’re okay, I’m not. I feel like I lose a piece of my heart and my mind.”

“Just promise me you won’t cry when I walk out the door today.”

She shook her head. “I told you, I’ll never make a promise I can’t keep.”

“It’s just a few hours.”

“I don’t care. I’m addicted to you, out of control, and I have no shame. Every day, every time you’re gone away. Five minutes, an hour or more, I’m out of it. Just one day. Stay home with me today, and I promise I won’t ever act this way again.”

“Thought you won’t make promises you can’t keep.”

She sighed, hanging her head. “It was worth a try, Kyle.”

 

Kyle smiled, giving her a kiss before he grabbed his keys and walked out the door. When Jacie heard the bottom lock click, she fell back on the couch and let out a deep sigh, trying her best to get her attitude in check.

Yes, she knew her interests should lie elsewhere, outside of her husband, but the way her joy and love for her husband and their life together was set up… she’d spend almost all of her days feeling incomplete until he returned. He was the muse and inspiration for her songs and stories, the blue print for every heartthrob in the romance novels she wrote. The man that drove all of her passionate love ballads. How could she ever work properly and thrive if her main inspiration was never around.

Her friends called her crazy, said she was a bit too obsessive, assumed he controlled her. These were the same friends who always asked for tips on how to find a man like Kyle. “What do I do now?”

As she turned to face the back of the couch, she heard locks clicking. Sitting up just a little, her face lit up when the door opened and he walked through the door. “I guess the good thing about being the boss, I can take off when I feel like it.”

Jacie jumped up, heading straight for his arms. “Admit it, you’re just as love sick and silly as I am.”

“I mean, with someone as beautiful and loving as you are, can you blame me? I’ll stay home today, but whatever story or song comes from this; it better be a number one hit or best seller.”

“Deal!”

“Good. Now let me get on my real job and inspire my baby to create a couple of masterpieces.”

She smiled, hugging him tightly.

Case Of You (by Cortney Joseph)

Aaron pushed the top of his comforter down and took a deep breath, stretching as he forced himself to wake up fully. As usual, the spot beside him was empty and cold, as if it’d gone untouched.

Of course, thoughts of the night before played in his mind, and thoughts of Sidney came flooding in.

It was strange, now. They’d had these casual encounters numerous times, even came up with the agreement that they would leave each other’s apartment before the other awoke the following morning.

No strings, no expectations, just fun.

 

But lately, he found himself missing her presence, wishing he could wake up one morning and find her lying there sleeping peacefully, just so that he could turn and wrap his arms around her. He’d never felt that way, not even with the women who’d earned the title of girlfriend.

Sitting up, he took notice that the shirt he’d given her was neatly draped across his computer chair. Traces of her lipstick adorning the wine glass she drank from. And, if he moved to the exact spot where she’d lay, he could still smell the perfume she wore.

Suddenly, he could see her in every bit of space that his apartment offered. Something of hers, something to remind him that she’d been there and affected some part of him and his life. Something to wish the space was one they shared permanently.

It never happened when she was around. These thoughts and feelings, wondering if they should be more than just friends with benefits and if their love, if it could be called that, would last. Only when she left, only when she gave him room and time to allow her to run and dance across his imagination.

Was he sick? Was he tripping? He was coming down with an unusual feeling, and it scared him.

 

So, as he jumped up and prepared to start his day, he forced himself to think of all that had to be done. Responsibilities; his job, bills, family, friends, and promises he’d made to associates. And it worked, for a while. But, as the day dragged on; he found himself feeling weak, at some points it was hard to breathe, as Sidney and her infectious laugh trickled back into his mind. Her smile was all that he could see, her sultry voice all he could hear anytime someone spoke to him.

It was all new, no woman had ever had this affect and he could not handle it.

Forcing himself to take a break in his day, he assured himself that a nap, a refresher would do the trick.

It hadn’t. And when he woke up, angry at himself, he pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed the only number that seemed to come to mind.

“This is Sidney Wiley, what can I do for you?”

“Get the hell out of my mind. And possibly my life.”

On the other end, confused, Sidney looked at her phone and sighed. “This is why I need to start checking my phone before I answer. What the hell is wrong with you now, Aaron?”

“I hate you and what you’ve done to me.”

“What exactly did I do?”

And there, Aaron found himself tongue tied. Unable to express himself, he felt, competently. “Y-you…” He sighed, shaking his head as he looked down at his feet. He was dizzy, his mouth was dry. It was a complete mess. “I think I’ve been lying to myself for a long time. At least six months.”

“That’s a long time?”

“Yes, Sidney, it is.”

“Alright. What have you been lying about, Friend?”

“That! That word.”

“Friend?”

“Yeah.”

 

Still confused, Sidney closed her laptop and decided to entertain Aaron and his antics. “What, you don’t want to be my friend anymore, or something?”

“That’s exactly it.”

“What did I do?!”

“Y-you… I’m in love with you.”

Shocked, Sidney dropped her phone. When she picked it up, she was met with the sound of Aaron groaning, almost as if he were on the verge of crying. “Well, I’ve always loved you, but assumed you’d want to hoe it up for the rest of your life so I kept that to myself.”

“You’ve loved me forever, and you’d allow me to treat you badly by relegating you to the title of Friend with Benefit?”

She shrugged, for her own benefit, unsure of how he thought she’d react. “I’m grown, I can handle what comes with that. You’re the one over here tripping because you finally caught feelings. I mean, I told you this stuff was powerful, but you ain’t believe me.”

Covering his face, Aaron finally pulled himself together. “Why you?”

Sidney giggled. “Y’all never realize when you have everything you need in front of you. It’s always something you think you’re missing, or you simply choose to believe something might be too good for you. Sometimes we get tired of waiting and move on to someone we think would appreciate what we offer, and sometimes we stick it out because we believe eventually y’all will come to your senses.”

“And you?”

“Boy, you’ve been my man since ninth grade, I just knew any title other than ‘friend’ scared you. Some people said I was tripping, but I know what I want and if I must wait for it, I will. So, what you tryna do? What are you trying to have now?”

Aaron sat quietly for a few moments, truly thinking. “I want you, but I also want to know that I’ll do right by you, because you deserve someone so much better than me.”

“If I felt that way, I wouldn’t have even entertained casual sex with you.” She giggled. “I can’t believe you really treated your feelings like some type of ailment, like you came down with a bad case of something.”

He smiled. “Don’t judge me. That’s a hard realization when you’ve never felt it and it’s real. I love you, I’m in love with you.”

And for some odd reason, to him, he couldn’t wait to spend the rest of his days showing her exactly how much he loved her. For the first time, love was something he looked forward to.

Candy Rain (by Cortney Joseph)

Jase excitedly walked through the halls of his high school, hoping to reach the senior hall with enough time to spare before the first period bell rang. All of his boys were clowning him, bright and early, on the bus but none of their comments mattered. He was starting the school year off right.

Great grades, captain of the basketball team with recruiters checking him out, and finally… the girl of his dreams. He’d spent all summer working up the nerve to ask Samantha out, and she’d said yes.

 

To say that he had a crush was an understatement. The boy was in love, and had been ever since they were young children; only keeping his feelings at bay, out of respect for his mother and her insistence that he stay focused on school and his future career as a sports star.

This year would be different though. This year, he had time for it all.

Spotting Samantha at her locker, Jase smiled and walked up to her, placing his hands over her eyes. Speaking in a lowered voice, as if his wasn’t already deep enough. “Good morning, Beautiful.”

Samantha smiled, loving that she was finally getting to see this side of Jase. For so long she’d assumed, with a few exceptions, that he’d played as if he were only interested in himself and playing with the hearts of their many school mates. To hear that he’d been, basically, pining away, just as she was for him, was an eye opener. Despite her father’s best attempts to keep her from dating, she saw no reason to waste her chance at a relationship that could bring so much happiness into her young and dull life.

 

Turning around, she leaned back against her locker. Wanting to keep her there, Jase put his hand against it and stepped closer to her, pressing their lips together in what was officially their first kiss.

It was cute, and sweet, and they found themselves wrapped up in the moment. So much so that they were almost willing to take a detention charge for defying a teacher that passed by. “I’ve been thinking about you all morning.”

She giggled. “As if you didn’t just speak to me before we left our houses.”

Jase shrugged, pulling her into a hug. “Call me crazy, but this is how I feel about our whole situation. I’ve waited for years to tell you exactly how I felt. Kept it to myself for so long, felt like I was so dumb, and now that I’ve got you… I almost don’t wanna believe it’s real.”

“But it is, Jase.”

“And as long as we’re together, I’m gonna make sure you know exactly how I feel. I already threw the L word out there, but hey, that’s just what it is. Now, we’re just making up for lost time and missed opportunities.”

Samantha nodded. “I like that.”

 

Taking her hand in his, they began to walk down the long senior hall, towards her first class of the day. “You don’t think we’re entirely too serious though, do you? My pops forced me to sit through a speech today.”

“Yeah, what’d he say?”

Samantha cleared her throat. “That it’s nice that we’ve always had these feelings, or whatever, but we shouldn’t just jump all in with it. He was basically acting like we haven’t known one another our whole lives, like he hasn’t seen us flirting back in forth in church, at summer camps, and everywhere else.”

“Right. Remember that time my mama snatched me out the grocery store ‘cause I was stuck staring all in your pretty face.”

She laughed. “Nah, that was your own fault. You know Ms. Nancy has no patience and you were supposed to be putting her groceries in the basket, not looking at me.”

“Shit, I couldn’t help it Samantha. You were there with your mama, looking good as hell. Those blue jean shorts that stopped at those thighs. That black t-shirt that you thought was hiding your figure, but was really making it more visible. Man, that was after the summer they separated us. You left looking like a stick figure and came back with them thick hips, swayin’ from side to side. Thighs, breast, and ass. I had lost it before, but after that I was gone.”

“You’re so silly.”

“It’s the truth though.”

 

He cleared his throat. “And no, I don’t think we’re too serious. I feel like what we’re working on, it’s meant to be. Don’t think I’m buggin’, but I feel like you are my soul mate. Ever since we first met, it’s always been about you. Not like, not lust, love. It’s always been love.”

Samantha smiled, walking with her head down for a moment. They both stepped closer to one another as more students began to walk past them.

“It sounds so crazy to feel this way, ‘cause we’re so young, but now that you’re officially in my life as my girl, I don’t know what I would do if we fell off.”

She cleared her throat. “Well, you don’t have to worry about that. As much as I chased after you, behind my parents back, ain’t no way I’m letting you go now. These hoes ‘round here mad, and they finna stay mad all through senior year, college, and the rest of life.”

“I believe you’d fight one of these chicks too.”

“And your big headed ass too, bet not try me.”

“Haaa, I ain’t gon’ do it. But I do wanna make one thing about our relationship clear.”

Stopping at the door of her Calculus class, Samantha adjusted her backpack on her shoulder. “What’s that?”

“Anything you want, all you gotta do is ask and it’s yours. I’ll give you the world and more.”

Biting down on her bottom lip, Samantha hugged Jase and gave him a quick kiss. “All I want is you, your time and your love. You’re my love.”

“You’re the same.” He cleared his throat, catching himself as he was about to randomly start singing. “Look at you, got me out here ‘bout to burst into random ass throwback songs already.”

“Boy please, you’ve been singing Candy Girl, Candy Rain, and Alone With You since we were like nine. Whipped.”

Jase rolled his eyes and shrugged, not even ashamed to admit it. She’d had his heart since before he was even old enough to comprehend ‘love’ beyond loving your family or friends. “Aiight then, let me say that, all I want… all I need, now I know, I know I found it in you. ‘Cause you are, my love.

Samantha smiled, blushing as many of her classmates passed by whistling and clapping. “You can not sing, Jase, but I definitely love when you sing to me. Get out of here, before we get written up for PDA.”

“See you later.”

 

He finally let her hand go, walking away with her pretty smile etched in his mind to get him through the struggle that would be first period English IV.

Tell Me If You Still Care (by Cortney Joseph)

Strolling confidently into the party being thrown in his honor, Lucas smiled and waved to all who called out to him. Pulled to the side immediately, he slapped hands with his former best friend, surprised that he still looked the same after so many years.

“Damien! What’s up?”

“Nothing much, nothing much. I was starting to think you were going to pull your infamous graduation day stunt and not show up at all.”

“Ha, and have my mama choke me out again, nah.”

“Smart man. How have you been? It’s been so long since you left, since you basically vanished.”

Lucas cleared his throat, knowing that would be the main question he’d get all night long. It was one he hoped to avoid, but the way he’d just packed up and left, no warning and no explanation, he’d just have to grit his teeth and answer.

“I was just going through so much, a lot of it couldn’t be fixed. You know my mama tried so much, paid so much to get me help and nothing worked. I figured why not just get out in the world and figure things out for myself.”

Damien nodded, clearing his throat. “And how did that work out for you?”

“Not the way I expected. I mean, I’ve got wealth, I am well mentally and physically. But you know, there’s always something missing.”

Damien smirked, looking over Lucas’ shoulder, knowing exactly what he meant. “And I guess the thing, or the person rather, missing is your relationship with Monique.”

Lucas nodded.

 

Clearing his throat, he grabbed a drink as someone his mother hired passed by with a tray in hand. “Yes, but I’m more than sure she’s moved on with her life. I know she has to have a husband, kids, and all of that. That good life.”

“I don’t know Man. But you know, she’s over there by the table with your cake. You could always ask her yourself.”

Damien smirked as Lucas turned around, and quickly made his way across the room to find his own girlfriend. Turning back around to finish his conversation, Lucas shook his head. He wanted to make the assumption that this was somehow a set up, but he brushed the thought aside. Lucas downed his drink and slowly made his way across the room.

 

He hugged the few family friends that grabbed him and stopped him before continuing on to his destination. So many different apologies ran through his mind, lines he could say that wouldn’t lead to a slap. Things to say if she did slap him. Excuses, lies, the truth, and more.

What could he possibly say? What should he say, if Monique even gave him the opportunity to talk.

Laughing at a small joke made by a former classmate, Monique shook her head and looked away. Laying eyes on her ex, she sighed and began to turn away.

“Monique, wait.”

Staring at Lucas, Monique wanted more than the ability to hit him. Curse him out, yell, or tell him off. She wanted him to get out of her face. But she couldn’t. The fact that she’d actually missed him so much over the years, the fact that she wanted nothing more than for him to take her into his arms; it kept her still and quiet.

“Are you still in love with me?”

“No Lucas, I’m not.” That much of it was the truth. Those special feelings had crept away a year after Monique realized that he was never coming back to their small town. A year after she realized he was never coming back for her, never calling or writing to her. How could you be in love with someone and you don’t even know where they are, what they’re doing, or who they’re with? That was always what she asked herself.

“Ask me anything Monique, I promise I will answer truthfully. I owe you nearly ten years of answers, and so much more.”

“Where did you go? No, better yet, why did you leave? Why couldn’t you tell anyone you were leaving, why couldn’t you tell me?”

“I don’t know.”

“Nah, that’s not a good enough answer. See, what pissed me off so much about you just disappearing was the fact that you lied to me. You told me that you would always tell me what was going on with you. You told me that you’d never keep anything you were feeling or going through from me. You’d never leave me with NO answers. So, if you’re going to sit here and expect me to talk to you, I need real answers. Why couldn’t you tell me you were leaving? Why have I had to spend nearly ten years wondering if you were alive or dead?”

 

Lucas sighed, pulling her outside onto the patio where they could be alone. “I was sick, and I felt alone. It was something I felt that I couldn’t control and I was so scared that eventually I would hurt you, physically, if I stuck around. If I had told you I was leaving before graduation, you would have fought tooth and nail just to stick by me, to come with me.”

“You’re damn right I would have. Because I loved you Lucas, I would have done anything to help you.”

“I know that Monique. But, I wasn’t well. And there would have been no reason for you, as an eighteen year old, fresh out of high school, to be responsible for taking care of someone with a mental illness.”

“Shouldn’t that have been up to me? After all, I did know about that. I dealt with you, the mood swings, the tantrums, the fits of rage in public and everything else for years.”

“Yes, and you were always there for me. But I was at a low period. I refused to take my medication or seek medical help; I was living on the streets, in shelters, and other places I should not have been. I was violent, hurting and taking from the few who tried to help.” Lucas looked away and sighed. “At my lowest, I felt the need to try and take my life. I feel like, if you had been there with me through all of that, I would have hurt you as well. And I couldn’t have that, I couldn’t allow you or anyone else around me.”

“Why not Lucas? Didn’t you trust that we would love you regardless of you being ill?”

“I didn’t trust myself. I didn’t trust that I was hearing voices. If they told me to kill myself, what would they have told me to do to you? What wouldn’t they have told me to do? I never knew if I was going to get better, or if I even wanted to get better. I just wanted to end it and get rid of every little aggravation that came along with this problem.”

Monique nodded, understanding perfectly. Still, that didn’t stop the tinge of anger she felt. “I still wish you had told me. Maybe explained all of that to me, and let me decide if I wanted to deal with all of those risks or not.”

He shook his head. “I didn’t want help, so it would have been pointless. Listen Monique, I can’t take back all of these years I’ve been gone. I am so sorry for all of the hurt I’ve caused, I’m so sorry for worrying you, scaring you. But I’m back.”

Monique looked at him, trying her hardest to keep a look of disgust from etching itself on her face, but it was there.

 

“But you’re back? And I suppose that I’m supposed to just say ‘GREAT, let’s get back together. Let’s pick up where we left off’. As if I didn’t spend nights crying and stressed, I was supposed to still be madly in love?”

“That was the hope, yes. But honestly, I don’t know what is supposed to happen between us. I just want you back in my life. I want to repair our friendship, rebuild what we had. I want to know that you still care, that I still have someone I can trust with my secrets. Someone I can count on when I need help. If there is anyone that I know can keep me on the right path, who won’t make me feel bad or as if I’m dangerous I know it’s you. There is no one else I can go to that will look at me day in and day out without making me feel like what I have is contagious.”

“No one would make you feel that way.”

“Really?” Lucas cleared his throat. “My own mama hugged me, escorted me into her house, and proceeded to wash her hands and spray herself down as if what I have is as common as a cold. Then she sprayed her car down with some type of disinfectant spray, washed the outside of it after I touched and closed the door. She insists on washing the sheets every day when I get up. I have my own separate set of dining utensils, bowls, plates, and cups. If I sit on her couches, I have to sit on the parts with the brand new plastic covers. Me getting in her face, something that damn simple required her to use a face mask. You know, because evidently I missed the memo that said Schizophrenia is the new Flu.”

Monique frowned, not understanding how anyone could be that ignorant, or petty. Seeing that he was wiping away tears, she pulled Lucas into her arms.

 

“I just need to know that you still care Monique, nothing else. Tell me you still care about me, just enough to support me emotionally.”

“Yes Lucas, I still care. I told you years ago, I will always be here. But you, you can’t run away when it gets too hard for you. LET ME BE HERE.”

 

The patio door opened behind them and Damien smirked, knowing in his heart that the two of them would most likely work something out. “Happy couple again?”

“No Damien. We’re just talking, and I’m apologizing for being a damn fool.”

“Damn fool is right.” He smirked. “Hey Monique.”

“Hi Damien. Go away Damien.”

He gasped, feigning as if he were actually hurt. “Just like high school, I see exactly how this is. See if I make up excuses and lies the next time y’all nearly get caught having sex in someone else’s bed.”

Lucas laughed and Damien walked away, going to catch up with a few of their other old friends. Lucas turned back to Monique and thanked her, apologizing once more.

“I love you Monique. Always have, always will.”

“Yeah, I know you do. I still love you, as a friend, but I most definitely still care about you. Don’t worry, I’m here for you, whatever you need.”

“Thank you.”

 

Hearing his mother’s voice booming, calling for everyone’s attention, Lucas took Monique’s hand in his and they headed inside. He was glad he’d finally made the right choice in coming home.

Suitcase (by Cortney Joseph)

Giselle lay quietly as her husband stirred in his sleep. Soon the grip he had on her body loosened and he began to move around, climbing out of bed once he’d woken up enough to move around without hurting himself.

Giselle kept her eyes closed, not wanting to give him the slightest idea that she was awake, or ready to fight once again. There’d been entirely too much of that lately.

 

Once she heard the bathroom door close and lock, and the shower followed, she sat up. Looking down at her arms, she took one deep breath. Bruises, cuts, and scars from old wounds that he hadn’t allowed to heal properly. All because she dared to question the true state and nature of their relationship. All because she dared to have an opinion, because she dared to know what she wanted.

She deserved better, and Giselle knew that.

Moving around lightly as she climbed out of bed, Giselle paused when she heard her name being called.

“Giselle, get up now! You need to be dressed by the time I finish my shower.” That meant she had twenty-five minutes. “Gise-”

“I’m up, Travis.”

“Good.” There was a long silence, and once she heard his terrible singing, she began to move around. The only difference between today and every other day she spent in this hell; she would be leaving for good.

 

 

Tiptoeing to their closet, she carefully and quietly pulled out the suitcase she’d packed. Tossing last minute items in, she quietly zipped it up and carried it to the door. Giselle was so careful not to make noise, all the while listening for her husband’s voice.

He was still singing, off-key and messing up lyrics. “Gonna make this a niiiiiight to remem-beeeer. Get ready! Too-ooo-ooo-night! Whoo!” Giselle shook her head, quickly throwing on a pair of sweats and a jacket. She slipped on a pair of sneakers and pulled her hair into a ponytail. “Giselle, Baby, I want to apologize for last night. I know that I shouldn’t have taken my frustrations out on you; I’ve just been going through so much lately.”

 

Giselle said nothing as she grabbed a piece of paper and a pen. Standing over her vanity, she began to lay all of her feelings out in a short note to her husband. “You hear me, G?”

“Yes, Travis, I hear you.”

“Good. I know I say it over and over, but I really mean it this time. I am so sorry. I don’t treat you the way you deserve, I hurt you a lot and I’m trying to do better. I promise I am. I won’t be stepping out anymore, I won’t put my hands on you.” Giselle continued writing, letting his words go in one ear and right out the other. “You forgive me, Baby?”

“Yes, Travis. I forgive you.”

“I love you, Giselle. I truly love you. If it weren’t for you supporting me the way you do, staying by my side all of these years, I know I’d have nothing.”

Signing her name at the bottom of the note, Giselle set the pen down and quickly grabbed her purse. She took one quick look around the space that’d been her home for years before she walked out of the room, grabbed her suitcase and walked out the door. Forever.

 

Running as quickly as she could down the three flights of stairs and out the back door of her apartment building, she threw her suitcase into the backseat of her brother’s car. He’d been waiting there for the majority of the morning.

Just as sure as he was that she would change her mind, he was surprised. Usually when he saw Giselle, there was some type of sad or depressing look spread across her face. This time; there was confidence. “Are you ready to go Giselle?”

She looked at her brother and nodded. “Yes. Let’s go, quickly, before he looks out the window and sees us. You know our apartment faces this back alley.”

“Alright.”

Since he’d never turned his car off, her brother quickly switched gears and pulled away, driving his sister to the safety of the home she’d left years before to be with a man she thought loved her.

 

 

Stepping out of the shower; Travis wrapped a towel around his body and stepped back into the bedroom. It’d been entirely too long since Giselle answered him and that left him concerned. She knew better than to go back to sleep, especially when they had something important planned.

“Giselle! You better be in that closet getting ready.”

Still, something was different to him. Passing her vanity, he caught glimpse of a paper that hadn’t been there before. He was meticulous, slightly OCD, and anything that was out of place caught his attention immediately.

Picking it up, he began to read aloud.

 

“Dear Travis, I wish I could have done this in a braver way. Simply put; I can’t take anymore. Days when you hold me entirely too close, and nights when you blacken my eye for trying to move away for just a little bit of air; I am tired. Had you not taken the extra precaution to keep me held captive in your tight grasp all night long, you probably would have woken up to this same letter.” He took a deep breath before continuing, feeling his blood begin to boil. As he read, he began to look around to see what things were gone. “I have tried so hard to please you, to keep you happy. In the process I lost my own happiness. You’d always tell me that I had nothing to want for, and that much was true. I should have been happy to have a man love me so much that he wanted to control every aspect of me and my life. And for a while, it was fine. I never thought of having or needing anything or anyone else. But it became too much. I can’t go through life hiding cuts and bruises, making excuses for the scars and ‘accidents’. I can’t keep crying over something that won’t change, and I can not allow you to use and abuse me as you please. I’m tired of the explanations, the excuses, the empty promises and the false apologies. Nothing about you has changed, and it never will. If you’re reading this, it means I packed up the few things I needed, zipped my suitcase and finally made my way out. Goodbye, and enjoy living alone in the hell you’ve created. Signed, Gone Forever.”

 

Travis balled the piece of paper up, throwing it across the room as he frantically searched for the suitcase she spoke of. Surely, it was gone.

Moving about their bedroom, many hints of her presence had been removed. The one way he could contact her, her phone, sitting on their dresser. She was gone. “How the fuck could you do this to me, Giselle!?”

 

 

Slouching down in her seat on the passanger side of her brother’s car, Giselle took one deep breath. “Are you okay, Sis?”

She nodded slowly. “Yeah, just trying to figure out what I’m going to do next.”

“What do you mean?”

“I can only live out of that suitcase for so long, and trust me, I didn’t bring much. I bought my plane ticket in cash, under a fake name, weeks ago. I didn’t bring any other money with me, didn’t want him to get suspicious when he checked his accounts weekly.”

“Think nothing of it, Giselle. Big Bro’s got you. You’re safe now, and I’m gonna make sure you’re good.”

“Thanks.”

She sighed again, looking out the window. Giselle hoped she was truly safe now. She hoped Travis would just let go.

Walk Away From Love (by Cortney Joseph)

I gave a small smile as Jazz, my girlfriend, kissed my cheek gently before she took her seat in front of me. Between our work schedules, issues within our families, and other priorities; it’s been about two weeks since we’ve seen one another. I must admit, though she won’t, that things have been rocky between us long before this brief period of separation, but I felt that now would be as good of a time as any to discuss things.

 

“So, Baby, how have you been? Oh my gosh, I have missed you so much.”

I smiled again, admiring her delicate features. Skin tone, like honey. Big, beautiful brown eyes that always gave away her true emotions. Today, at this very moment, she’s filled with excitement and happiness. “I’ve been okay. Been a rough time in my life in general, but I’m okay. I’m making it.”

“Want to talk about it? You know that I am always here to listen.”

I looked away and shook my head, feeling glad that we were actually alone in the restaurant we agreed to meet at. “No. How about you? How have you been, Jazz?”

“Getting better. My mom has finally stopped threatening to beat Dad’s ass, so that’s always a good thing. Grandma sends her love by the way. She said that she misses seeing your chubby face.”

I chuckled, thinking about her grandma Esther. The one woman, aside from Jazz, who never made me feel bad about being a larger guy. Ya fine as hell, ya got style and class, and ya can move around on the dance floor is what she would always say to me anytime she overheard someone putting me down. “Tell her that I miss her too. Not sure if I’ll be able to visit her anytime soon.”

“And why is that? Still too much going on with work? Or are your parents still trying to get you to move back to Virginia?”

I sighed, unsure how that I can go about this situation. I stayed silent for a moment, trying to decide if my decision is truly worth it.

 

See, Jazz and I met nearly four years ago. We fell in love quickly; she respected me, as I respected her, and we built a genuine friendship that enhanced our love. From the way I would speak of her and our relationship, everyone and their mama knew she was my best friend. The love of my life. I would do any and everything for her, lay down my life. But, there were times that I felt I couldn’t say she felt or would do the same.

There was one instance, where her insecurities got the best of her. She thought I was cheating so she stepped outside of our relationship. I forgave her, thinking that things would improve. I swear, I try my hardest not to dwell on old feelings, I try to trust and believe that she wouldn’t hurt me again.

After all, she tracked me down and followed me all the back to my home state of Virginia, begging for a second chance. She refused to give up on us. I thought that over time we would rebuild, be stronger. But that nagging feeling always sits.

Late nights when neither of us have a heavy workload. The fact that she acts differently, looks at me differently, even speaks to me differently sometimes. Almost as if she’s tired of having me in her life, as if I’m holding her back.

 

“Davis, are you okay? You’re sitting there, looking as if you’re lost and alone.”

“Lost, no. Alone, yes.”

Jazz looked at me. “I-I don’t understand.”

“Do you love me, Jazz?”

Her face softened, and she smiled, reaching over to rub my cheek gently. “Baby, you know that I do. I know that you and I have had our problems, mostly because of me, but you’re my everything.”

I sighed, nodding my head. “Then why do I find that so hard to believe? Why is it that after all of this time, I still don’t trust that you’re faithful?”

“You know that I am, Davis.”

 

You know how they say the eyes are the door to someone’s soul? That you can often tell their true emotions from the look in their eyes. As expressive as her big, brown eyes usually are, they’re blank in this moment.

No, not in the evil way. Just, devoid of true feeling and emotion. She’s lying, and my gut won’t let me believe otherwise.

“Davis, Baby, haven’t I worked hard to prove myself, to earn your trust back?”

“Yes. But you’ve also gone back to those sneaky ways, and I just can’t avoid or turn a blind eye to the many red flags in our relationship.” I sighed, wishing my next statement wasn’t something that I had to say. “I believe that if it weren’t for the fact that I have money, you wouldn’t even still be here. And, I wish I had never taken you back.”

Jazz gasp, looking at me as if I’d lost my mind. “H-How could you say something like that?! With you for your money? Really?”

I nodded, standing up. I was about to leave without saying anything else, but I owe her one last explanation.

 

“It’s not that I don’t love you, Jazz. In fact, I sometimes believe that I love you more than I love myself. And that’s an issue, because it means I will stay here and take anything that you do; right or wrong. I know that people can change once they make mistakes, but I can not shake the feeling that I have in my gut. There is no one else for me, but I already know that you’ve found someone else. Instead of wasting our time, and getting my heart broken in the process, again, I’m walking away.”

“No.”

She jumped up, grabbing my arm. Touching me in ways she hadn’t in months, in over a year. I must admit, I felt that old spark. But it’s not enough. “I have to. I don’t want to end up the way you were when we met; broken, bitter, and belittling someone who truly loves me. I love you so much Jazz, but I’m leaving.” I gently pushed her hand off of my arm, kissing her cheek before I turned and walked away.

I wish her all the best.

I Cry To Myself (by Cortney Joseph)

Walking the last of my guests to the front door, I smiled and giggled as one older gentleman told a joke. I didn’t even know half of the people that had shown up, but out of the politeness I was taught as a child, I respectfully invited them to stay.

Although the day hadn’t gone the way I planned, I still had plenty of food and drinks to offer to those who’d gone out of their way to make it to my event.

 

What was today? What was so special about it?

My engagement party. And what is meant to be one of the best days of my life has turned out to be one of the many terrible ones that seem to fill the majority of my life. Twenty-seven and nothing goes right.

 

Shutting my door tightly, I leaned against it for a moment before finally locking it and making my way back to my living room. Immediately, I came undone.

Amazed at myself, amazed at how I manage to put on the show of a lifetime every single day. To my family, to those who only see me in passing, I seem to be one of the happiest people in the world. Even in times of pain and sorrow, there’s a smile that can’t seem to fade away. I brighten days, I inspire, I heal with my positive attitude and kindness.

Ha. The type of person I am; I’d tell you that all is fine. I’m fine, I’m great. But deep down inside, I’m as broken as a porcelain doll that’s fallen to the floor and shattered into tiny pieces.

In the light, I’m happy. But when the lights are out and darkness creeps in… I cry.

 

Before I could fully make it to my bedroom, to the comfort of my bed; I’d slid out of my heels and collapsed in the middle of the floor. My body convulsing, heaving heavily as I tried to regain control of my emotions.

And once that guttural scream found it’s way out, slipped past my lips and echoed through my empty hallway, I knew there was no way I’d get up from this spot quickly. Tears falling for the fact that my ex-fiance just dumped me and took back his ring today, in front of family and friends and strangers. Tears falling for the heartbreak I felt as soon as the words “it’s over” slipped past his lips. Tears for the excruciating five hours I forced myself to sit through everyone telling me that it was his lost, and all would be fine. Tears for every compliment that was followed by “you poor dear”. Tears for the fact that I couldn’t let my family see that I’m in pain. Tears for the fact that the only bit of happiness I’ve ever truly felt was snatched away from me.

Tears for the fact that I have no one to turn to, no one to comfort me. Tears for the fact that once this moment is over, I have to return back to the notion that I’m a well put together woman that simply hasn’t found the best of luck or the right one or gotten her lucky break in life. Tears for the fact that I feel so sorry for myself.

 

This nightly cry, this heart wrenching feeling that all I may ever do for the rest of my life is cry to myself, alone and defeated. Wishing I could turn to someone but knowing that I can’t because no one else would understand. No one else would cry for me, with me. No one else would care how I truly feel… because it wouldn’t be the Angel that they’ve raised and become accustomed to. My feelings would be as invalid as they’ve always been, brushed aside as ‘just a phase’.

 

Lying on my back, I took deep breaths, wiping my eyes as more tears replaced the old ones. I just cry to myself.

Keep You Home (by Cortney Joseph)

-Charmaine-

 

Not exactly thrilled to be in Dutch Town, I continued down Mill Gate Avenue before turning right on Old Millstone Drive, passing four house before parking directly in between the fifth and sixth and turning all of my lights off.

 

My best friends Deena and Marilyn sat quietly in the passenger and back seats, probably finding it hard to believe that I actually went through with my ‘stakeout’ idea. I know that they think I’m crazy, foolish for wasting my time when I could just confront the problem face to face, but they honestly don’t know the way things go in my house.

I suspect, I accuse, he sweet talks and guilt trips, I forgive and forget until the next time I get suspicious again. At one point, it only happened once every few years. And then, every few months. Every month, and now it’s a weekly thing. I don’t have to wonder, I know my husband is cheating on me, over and over again.

What’s worse? I feel he has another family aside from me and our kids together.

 

I know what you’re thinking. Why stay if I know? Honestly, when you get caught up in trying to keep appearances, trying to show everybody that you have a happy home, trying to prove to doubters that you can make it, you kind of turn a blind eye to the obvious.

“Charmaine, don’t you think this is a bit drastic?”

I looked at Deena. I won’t say that she’s a woman that’s scary, or wouldn’t do this type of thing herself if her husband cheated, but she’s not the type to go ‘Jessica’ Bond and start following or spying on him. I already know, and no one has to tell me that I’m the type of woman that needs to see it happening for me to believe it.

“You didn’t have to ride with me if you think I’m doing too much.”

“I’m just offering you some support, like Marilyn and I have always done. I’m not judging you Charmaine, but it’s not like you’ll be seeing anything that people haven’t already told you about.”

I looked between the both of them and took one deep breath. “Yeah, I know. But I need confirmation, I need to see it.” I looked forward, watching the house where his BMW was parked. And we waited.

 

After an hour that seemed like an eternity, he came strolling out. Walking hand in hand with a much younger woman, at least in her early twenties. Even with nothing but a streetlight offering a little light, I could see that she was skinner than me, and prettier, with cocoa brown skin. Her long, black hair flowed down her back in loose curls, and she was dressed a lot less conservative than I would dress.

I watched in sheer horror, my body trembling as his hand moved up to her shoulder and down her backside before it found a place beneath the short skirt she wore. Tears ran down my face as I felt Marilyn’s hands on my shoulders, trying her best to comfort me. “Let’s just go and pick up the kids and we can have one big party at my place.”

I just shook my head, watching as he drove past my SUV. Starting my ignition, I waited a few seconds before I turned and began tailing him. “Oh shit.”

I ignored Deena’s short remark, making every turn and stop that Paul made. “I’m sitting at home with three kids, two toddlers and his ass is running around town like he doesn’t have responsibilities.”

“Charmaine…”

Deena and Marilyn tried their best to talk me out of following my husband. It didn’t work. From Dutch Town to Prairieville to Baton Rouge and all the back to our hometown of New Orleans. He took her out on Bourbon Street, took her for drinks, dancing, dinner, and of course it wouldn’t have been complete without getting a hotel.

Did that make me go home right away? Nope. I left my best friends in the car and I walked into the hotel. I walked up to the front desk and I asked if Paul Boudreaux checked in. Yes. Was it for one night or more? The whole weekend. Was he alone, or with a guest, even though I knew the answer to that. He had a guest, a female. Who are you Ma’am?

I couldn’t even answer, I just walked out.

 

It was so damn hard walking back to my SUV, so hard keeping my tears in, holding myself together. It was so hard to stare my girls in their faces because I should have listened to them from the very beginning.

I closed my door and buckled my seatbelt, tapping my steering wheel with my fingertips. “Charmaine, please say something Hunny. Your silence scares me.” Deena said ‘yeah’ in agreement with Marilyn.

What do I say? My heart is broken, my mind is going over a million different scenarios and each and every one of them could end with me in jail or in a mental institution.

“I do everything right Marilyn. I cook, I clean, and I give that man any and everything that he wants! I take care of his kids, I would kiss the damn ground he walks on and he’d just do this to me. He cheated once, I forgave. He did it again, and I stayed and I’m ashamed of myself. This is what I deserve!”

Deena wrapped her arms around me as best as she could and cried with me. “It hurts so bad, it’s not fair. It’s not fair!”

“It never is Charmaine, but it will be okay. It will be okay. We’ll stay with you all weekend. Come on, switch spots with me, you’re in no shape to drive right now.”

 

I shook my head, assuring her that I was fine. I pulled myself together, turning up the volume on the Waiting To Exhale soundtrack, that we’d been listening to for most of the night, and I made my way across New Orleans. Stopped quickly at my mom’s to get my kids and then I dropped Deena and Marilyn off. I just wanted to be alone with my kids.

The three of my babies were the only ones I knew would stop me from doing what was truly on my heart at the moment. Kill my husband.

Crawling into my bed after stripping down and putting on an old gown, with the three of them lying under me, I took one deep breath and replayed everything I saw in my mind. Realizing that I’d never be able to keep him satisfied, I’d never be enough for him and I damn sure can’t compete with a younger woman.

I cried myself to sleep.

 

******************************

 

-Paul-

 

Before opening the door, I pulled a small bottle of cologne out of my work satchel and sprayed it on.

The alarm went off and I quickly reset it after closing the door, sidestepping my wife’s dogs as soon as they ran towards me.

For once I couldn’t hear the kids, didn’t even hear Charmaine yelling or talking on the phone. I won’t complain though. With the weekend I’ve had, I just want to relax in peace and quiet.

It’s hard being a man as great as I am, with so much responsibility and weight on my shoulders.

 

Walking towards my bedroom, I finally heard noise. Music. Despite the fact that she knows I hate Xscape, Charmaine is playing their music.

I took one deep breath and walked in, startled to find the condition in which my wife sat.

On the floor in nothing but some shorts and a bra, with a bottle of alcohol next to her, eyes bloodshot red, and her hair all over her place. She knows that anything less than perfect is unacceptable in our home.

“What the fuck is this? What are you doing?”

She looked up at me. Her eyes, swollen and red, makeup streaked all over her face. If I had to guess, I’d say she hasn’t moved from that spot in at least two days. The fuck is wrong with her, acting like she don’t have kids to take care of.

Psh, this is exactly why I hate coming home. It’s always some new shit with her. One minute she’s crying, the next she’s extra needy, the next she’s angry. She knows I hate this emotional shit.

 

“I said what are you doing?”

“Waiting for you, Paul. I was waiting for you.”

“I didn’t ask you too…”

“But then I remembered that every time I wait for you, it’s a complete waste of time. I end up sending the kids away, crying to myself, smoking and drinking. Trying so damn hard to convince myself that you actually love me. Trying to convince myself that you’re actually working or on real business trips and not cheating on me.”

“Watch your mouth.”

“Or what?” She looked at me, so much anger in her eyes. I would lie, but I can tell that she won’t fall for it this time.

 

She stood up slowly, looking me in the eye as she drank straight from the bottle. “It’s a shame all that I do for a man like you Paul.”

“A man like me?”

“An asshole. Ungrateful. Don’t even know when you’ve got the best thing in the world right in front of you. What used to be a beautiful wife, amazing kids… yet you were so willing to lose it all for a couple of hoes who only see dollar signs when they look at you.”

“Oh, shut that shit up. You know damn well I’m not cheating on you and this is the last time we’re ever going to have this discussion!”

Charmaine chuckled and smiled, taking another swig before throwing the bottle my way. “The fuck is wrong with you!?”

“I’m stuck in this house all day long; caring for your babies, washing your dirty ass boxers, cooking your dinner, keeping your money and business in order. Going crazy trying to figure out why you’re not here, driving myself to the brink of madness, following you around when I could be living happily.”

“Charmaine…”

She pulled a cigarette pack from her pocket, Kool short, and lit one, tossing the rest on the bed. “Sneaking in and out of this house late at night, two cell phones, and new passwords. You don’t eat here. Must be with that bitch, or those bitches. How many? Two, five, ten?”

 

Charmaine threw the cigarette down, hitting the curtain and walked away. I immediately ran and picked it up before a fire could start.

“Bitch, have you lost your mind!?”

“Yes Paul, I have. I try.” She started crying, but there was still so much anger in her eyes. I have to admit, it scares me.

“Listen Charmaine, I know that you’re upset.”

“You don’t know! You don’t know shit Paul! I love you so much Paul, so much. I love you more than life, more than I love myself and I would do anything in this world for you! I’m stressing, killing myself trying to figure out what is so fucking wrong with me that I can’t keep my husband home where he belongs! I’m killing myself trying to change to keep you happy, to keep you away from other women. Babies hanging off my titties, attached to my leg, and you’re running around with other bitches as if you don’t have a care in the fucking world!!”

There was so much hurt in her voice, and it hit me just how much I’ve damaged this woman. It’s true; I’ve cheated on her, for just about our entire relationship, dating and marriage.

“Everybody’s always telling me smile Charmaine, smile. How can I smile when my heart hurts so much? And you don’t care, you hear me and you see the tears but you ignore me. Walk right out my door and into these other bitches’ arms. You don’t understand. You don’t know, you don’t know a fucking thing about how I feel!”

“I-I’m sorry, Charmaine.”

“So am I Paul. Better leave this house or lock this bedroom door tonight. I’m not feeling suicidal anymore, but I damn sure want to kill you.”

 

My wife walked out of the room, slamming the door behind her. For the first time ever, I realized that I truly fucked up.

Can’t Get Over You (by Cortney Joseph)

Mark lay in bed with his freshly cleaned, white comforter pulled to his chest. His arms over his head, he stared at the ceiling, sighing as he willed himself for the thousandth day in a row to stop crying.

At least it felt like the thousandth day to him. In actuality, it’d only been nine months since the love of his life, Emilee walked out on him. Day in and day out it seemed as if his mind would only focus on her. From the way her long, curly and natural hair bounced as she walked, to the way she smiled anytime he made mention of her stunning, mocha skin tone. He loved Emilee, from the very bottom of his soul to the very top of his heart, and no matter how many days passed he’d always love her.

 

He wiped away the cold tears as a few managed to slide down his face and hit the part of his pillow where his cheeks would normally rest. Mark took one deep breath and sat up, squinting his eyes as he tried to adjust to the brightness of the sun that shone through his window.

He couldn’t even remember leaving it open, and no amount of sunlight would cheer him up. Of that he was convinced. On his dressers and night stand, there still sat pictures of the two together when they were happy and in love. Their very first photo together, pictures from tiny photo booths, vacation pictures, engagement photos, their wedding photos.

Each morning Mark would stare at them, trying to decide if he wanted to smash and break the frames of every last picture, cut the photos with the broken shards that matched his broken heart. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Doing so would mean that he’d have to face getting over Emilee, and he simply wasn’t ready.

There was so much more convincing that he had to do. He had to win her back, make her see that they were meant to stick it out through thick and thin.

And Lord knows, things had gotten thin for the two of them just months before she called it quits.

 

Why had she called it quits? That was all he could think of as he played the old heart break songs that Frankie Beverly would croon over his speakers. He was barely in his thirties, but somehow the songs his own parents enjoyed in their youth seemed to sooth him and his aching heart.

He was hurting, deeply. Mark wanted nothing more than to wake up from this nightmare that had suddenly become his life. Why had Emilee called it quits? There was no one else, not for either of them, yet she was so willing to walk away as if the last seven years of their lives had meant nothing.

 

Mark had heard a week ago, through the grapevine that was his best friend, that Emilee had moved on. Though it disheartened him, he couldn’t deny the fact that he’d tried to move on himself. He tried once, and only once. Talking to, flirting with, fawning over another woman just didn’t sit right with him.

He couldn’t imagine himself falling for someone else, it just didn’t seem right. His heart belonged to her, their bond and ties still strong even though she’d cut them abruptly. He didn’t know what to do with himself, or his feelings.

To his boys, he was approaching this situation like a bitch, crying and sniveling behind a woman who obviously never gave a damn. Only with you for your money. I bet she ran off with one of her so called ‘bros’. She gave off lesbian vibes anyway, I bet she ran off with her best friend.

All ignorant responses from dudes who couldn’t even keep a woman in their lives for longer than five minutes. True, Mark was a rich man, a self-made millionaire. But Emilee had been there for him when he was dirt poor, standing by his side and encouraging him when everybody else told him his ideas and dreams were foolish.

 

Deciding to get out of the house, he threw on a dark pair of jeans, his vans, and a white t-shirt. Opting not to shave, as he normally would once a week, he grabbed a hat and his keys before walking out the door. Wanting to avoid attention from the true gold diggers who could spot him from a mile away, Mark hopped into his black Chevy pick-up and drove around downtown Los Angeles. Though he had money, very seldom did he splurge. Anything of luxury that he owned was a gift to himself for some large amount of hard work he’d done over a long period of time. He had a simple, comfy little home in a decent part of Los Angeles and he made the choice of keeping three different cars in his garage, one for each of his usual temperaments.

 

Since it would be closing soon, Mark decided to pop into B.B. King’s blues club for one final listen. Surprisingly, as he walked in, he couldn’t spot anyone that he knew or recognized. It was an older crowd, around his parents’ ages but that suited him just fine. He was certain that the rest of the twenty-somethings, mainly his own friends, would piss him off before the evening was over and he’d be right back in his bed. Crying again.

Three drinks ordered, enjoying the sounds of Rose Royce’s I’m Goin’ Down, he sat quietly as he lost himself in thought.

 

Of course, Emilee popped into his mind and for the first time in nine months, he asked himself what had he done wrong.

He was faithful, he provided well, he never worked late, was never afraid to show his affection, and treated her with the utmost respect. She was his queen and everyone knew that.

 

They’d met in high school, started off as friends because her father didn’t allow her to date, and most of all, he didn’t allow her to date Hispanic men. Once she turned eighteen they took their friendship to another level, falling in love as quickly as they’d become a couple. At least Mark thought they were in love with one another.

After three years of dating they married, living every day to the fullest as he built a mini empire by working in real-estate, selling the best homes in California to everyone from young couples just starting out to some of Hollywood’s top celebrities. Since he’d always kept side jobs and dabbled a bit in his families different businesses for quick paychecks, he was able to earn and save his commission from each sale over the years, eventually making him the third man in his family, after his father and grandfather, to make a huge success of himself. Just eleven months earlier, he’d opened his own real-estate office and things were perfect in his world.

 

Focusing back on the present, Mark cleared his throat and took a sip of the crown royal he’d ordered once he realized all three glasses had been placed in front of him. If he was going to drown out his problems, it would be with liquor. “Maybe I was too needy, too pushy, and too emotional. Perhaps I needed to toughen up, be more of a man. Or maybe I just didn’t show my love enough, maybe I did work too much.” He drank more as he contemplated where he could have gone wrong.

It had to have been all his fault, no one else was to blame. Not even Emilee. She wouldn’t have walked away if he hadn’t done something to make her unhappy. Yeah, that was it. I made her unhappy, he thought to himself as he drank more.

Once again the sounds of Maze feat. Frankie Beverly filled his ears. Mark pushed the three glasses away and put his head down, taking deep breaths to stop himself from crying right here and now in a club full of strangers. Not that drinking alcohol would aid in keeping his emotions at bay. If anything, he’d be a blubbering fool by the time he was halfway done with the second glass.

 

He probably sat there for a good hour, looking like a poor and pitiful fool. A handsome man that could get any and every woman he wanted with a small smile, his deep voice, and something sexy spoken in Spanish for good measure. Yet, there was only one woman he wanted.

 

And unless his mind was suddenly playing tricks on him, or the alcohol had him going crazy, he’d heard Emilee’s voice. Her laugh; it was unique, cute, and unmistakable.

“Lee-Lee, I refuse to deal with you.”

Looking towards the door, Mark saw as Emilee stood there talking to a woman he’d never seen before. Throwing caution to the wind, he took quick strides, catching her off guard as he gently grabbed and pulled her to the side.

“Say Dude, who do you think you are grabbing on her like that?”

Mark looked the woman up and down before ignoring her, turning back to his wife. Yes, she was still his wife.

“It’s okay Morgan, I know him.” Morgan, a woman with manly features rolled her eyes before stating that she was going to go and find a seat near the stage. Emilee simply nodded as she finally pulled away from Mark’s loose grip and rubbed her arm. Unsure of what to do, or say. She hadn’t seen him since the day she walked out of his life, and truth be told, he still looked as depressed as he did nine months before.

 

It wasn’t something she ever planned to do, leaving a man she’d spent most of her adult life with. Someone she did love dearly, but things happened. Her needed to leave happened and if he was stopping her for an apology, he just might not get it.

“I miss you Emilee, so much it hurts.”

“That’s, that is … I don’t know what to say to that, to be honest.”

“Don’t you miss me too? I know you do. I know that you think of me every day, just like I think of you.”

She didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Truth was, in her new life and enjoying her freedom, Mark hadn’t crossed her mind once since about a week after she walked away. “Sometimes Mark. Only a few times.”

“Baby, why won’t you just come home? Whatever I did wrong, I’m sorry, and I will make up for whatever it was. If there’s something you want me to change about myself, I will change it. I just want you back.”

“Mark, I promise there was nothing that you did wrong. You don’t need to change because you’re the perfect guy.”

“Then, why’d you walk away.”

Emilee looked down at her feet, trying to think of a decent lie Mark might believe. But then how much more hurt would she cause if he found out from someone else. “I wasn’t happy anymore.”

“What’d I do to make you unhappy?”

“It’s not what you did Mark. It’s what I did.” Her voice was dry, monotone, and lacked the emotion he was hoping for. He was looking for any sign that she still cared. “I cheated and while I felt guilty, it also made me realize that I’d been living a lie our entire marriage. Yes, I loved you and I fell in love with you but… it was never enough for me to suppress my true feelings.”

“True feelings for what? For who? It doesn’t matter, we can work through this. I will work on myself for you.”

She held her small hands against his chest, smiling as she gave him a tight hug, hoping that would eventually find closure after what she had to say next. “I’m not coming back Mark. I would say that I hope we can be friends someday, but I know that won’t happen. You’ll probably hate me after what I have to confess.”

What else could there be, he thought to himself as he stared into her doe like eyes. “I’m with a woman now. I’m with the woman you just saw me with, Morgan. I uh, I like women and I want to explore this side of things. I’m sorry for hurting you but I’m not sorry for wanting to be happy.”

Emilee gently kissed Mark’s cheeks as she turned on her heels and headed towards the table where Morgan was sitting and waiting. Ironically, the song playing over the clubs speakers spoke volumes for the way he felt, and would probably always feel.

Even though he knew he had to, he’d never be able to get over Emilee.

Buddy (by Cortney Joseph)

Sitting on the steps of my brownstone, I looked around my street. We called this section of the neighborhood The Jungle because that’s exactly what it looked like. A bunch of random trees planted by the neighborhood’s Better Community Committee, and a gang of ignorant children running around like wild animals.

With the exception of me and my best friends, those animals included three boys that we know very well. Fife, Dontez, and his twin brother Tazmin.

Me? I’m Nadia, and my best friends are Tamara and Kani.

As usual, the boys took it upon themselves to sit on my steps and harass us, saying any and everything in an attempt to get us to go on dates with them.

 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like they aren’t cute. But the type of boys that these three are, it’s better if you keep them as friends if you don’t want your heart broken. What are they? Hoes.

 

“I feel like we should have a little talk.”

Tamara ran her fingers through her hair as she popped her gum before looking at Tazmin. “What kind of conversation?”

“About our friendship.”

I looked at him in total confusion. “Taz, who said we were friends? Tamara, Kani, and I are friends. You, Tez, and Fife are friends. WE, the six of us as a collective group, are not friends.”

“But we should be.” That was Dontez. He grabbed my hand and flashed a smile. Any chance he got to show that he no longer wore braces, he took, and he was always glad to smile in my face. Probably thinking that I care about whatever little feelings he might have for me.

“Come Nadia, you and I go all the way back to elementary days, kickin’ it in the sandbox and knockin’ ugly kids over.”

“Y’all were the ugly kids.”

“Shut yo ass up Fife.”

Fife flipped me off and focused his attention on Kani, trying to figure out why she wouldn’t talk to him. Truth was, any time any guy came around she’d stay as silent as a mouse. She was just shy like that.

 

“Come on Buddy, stop acting all brand new.”

He knows I hate that word. The definition of buddy to the male population of our high school and the smart female population are TOTALLY different.

“Don’t call me ‘Buddy’ Tez. I know that’s what you call all of the skeezers that let you hit.”

“Nooo, not at all.”

“So that’s not your definition of Buddy?”

The boys looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. “Tazmin, I remember you specifically walking down the halls at school saying ‘Tish is my buddy, she gives that good head. Dominique is my buddy, she know how to throw it back and twerk on a nigga while she ride. Veronica is my buddy, she ain’t afraid to put on a show and invite another buddy for me to play with.’ Do we need to run this down?”

“Shit yeah, let’s run some definitions.” I looked at Fife with his ol’ ugly, gotta prove a point ass. “I won’t lie, that is my definition of a buddy. A damn good buddy at that. If a girl is willing to be extra friendly, why not take advantage of it.”

“Spoken like a hoe.”

“I’m far from a hoe Nadia. My body count isn’t as high as Dontez’s.”

I jerked my hand away from his, unintentionally showing how mad that actually made me. “Ooo, Nadia feels some type of way. You might as well get with the Buddy System ‘cause we all know Tez is not about to give up any chick he messes with.”

“Shut up Fife. Nadia, don’t listen to this fool.”

“I know that fool ain’t lying. Anyway, what’s your definition of a buddy?”

Dontez took a deep breath, probably preparing to lie or try to throw some tired ass game my way. What he doesn’t know is I’ve heard everything there is to hear from a dog ass dude, and he won’t be getting any play this way. “I don’t have a definition for buddy. I’m guessing it means whatever De La Soul said it means.”

“Buddy means body, bodies of all kinds. Bodies that make you horny, bodies with fat asses. Bodies that feel good under my body.”

We all looked at Tazmin and he shrugged before Dontez continued. “I call you buddy because that’s what we are, buddies. Friends, we see each other around and we talk every now and then. We chill and we clown around. It doesn’t have to be anything sexual.”

“But you want it to be.”

“I’m saying, you bad as shit Nadia but I’m not gonna play you out like that. Yeah I do have a little system or whatever you wanna call it…”

“The Buddy System.”

“No Tamara…” He focused back on me and I arched one brow, waiting for him to continue. “I don’t call them my buddies. We mess around but it ain’t serious like I would be with you, Nadia.”

“So sweet to know I’m a nigga’s last choice.”

“You’re my first choice Baby, but you ain’t tryna give a nigga no type of chance.”

“And when y’all refuse to give us chances, we get other buddies.”

“That’s them fools; I’m not on that type of buddy system. But if you would stop playing around with my feelings, you could be my boo and I could be yours.”

I looked back and forth between Dontez and Tazmin before rolling my eyes.

 

Tamara popped her gum again before leaning back on her elbows. “Well I’m in agreement with Taz and Fife; I don’t mind having a little buddy or two. Hell, chasing Buddy is the fun part.”

“Thank you! Tam, what’s your definition Boo?”

“Any nigga that’s not you, Taz.” We all laughed and he rolled his eyes before moving down one step.

“Let me see, my buddy has to be perfect. Mm, light skinned.”

“D’aaah!” Tazmin threw his hands up and moved to the very last step. “Y’all love them old ugly ass light skinned clowns.”

“Hey, hey!” We all looked at Fife. “It’s not our fault that we’re the sexy ones and you black ass niggas can’t catch a break. Y’all went out of style with Wesley Snipes, get over it.”

“ANYWAY, as I was saying, he’s gotta be light skinned. Blemish free with brown eyes, nice juicy lips. Not too big though, I don’t wanna be kissing on no dry ass or super wet lips.”

“Hell nah.” Tamara and I slapped hands before she continued.

“He’s gotta be tall, at least 6’0”. He’s gotta have a deep, dreamy voice, and he’s gotta be intelligent. He’s gotta be fit, athletic. Y’all know I love football players. If he had a six pack for me to rake my nails across, I wouldn’t need anything else.”

“Don’t forget, he needs a job and his own car. If he still staying with his mama, he’s gotta have absolute privacy.”

“Yaaaaaaaaaas!” We slapped hands again and fell out laughing at the way the fellas stared at us.

 

“Well damn Nadia, since you seem so upset about Tez having buddies…”

“I don’t.”

“Nigga, shut up. Nadia, what’s your definition of a buddy?”

“I don’t have one Fife because sleeping with multiple people is pointless to me. Why tell one person that you’re committed and then turn around and lie to them and others?”

“There’s no commitment! That’s the beauty of being buddies.”

“Ain’t nobody got time for that. I might be young, but when I’m in a relationship I’m all in and if a dude can’t be faithful then he don’t get what y’all out here tryna get from these dumb broads that’s okay with being treated like a hoe.”

“I wouldn’t treat you like that Nadia, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you for two years.”

“You’ve been trying to get the cookie for two years and Tez ain’t shit you’ve said worked yet.”

“If the cookie was all I wanted from you I would have given up two years ago. Come on Buddy, you know I got real feelings for you. You just break a nigga down like he’s nothing.”

He pouted his lips, trying to give me puppy dog eyes but I mushed his face. Poking her in her side, Kani finally took a deep breath after I asked her to give her definition.

 

“As the only virgin in the group, I don’t know nor do I care about this buddy and friends with benefits bull.”

“Who said anything about friends with benefits?”

“Nadia, that’s basically what these dumbasses are saying a buddy is to them.”

“Kani gets it!” We all watched Fife as he stood up and did some type of praise dance. “And since I see you kind of serious about what goes on with your V-card, I’m gon’ leave you alone.”

“That would be best Fife, before you and your Jimmy meet some type of harm.”

“Mm, be careful Kani, I like ‘em violent. Damn that turned me on.”

I shook my head, jerking my hand away from Dontez again. “Would you stop touching on me? I don’t know whose body your hands have been on today.”

“They’ve been on my own body.” He smiled wide and I shook my head, feeling so disgusted.

“I’m real sick of you. Stop coming to my house.”

“Don’t do me like that, Buddy.”

“Don’t call me that!”

“Okay, Baby, don’t do me like that.”

“I’m not your damn baby!”

“Not yet Nadia, not yet. But you know it’s only a matter of time before you and I become more than friends. I’m just waiting on you.”

“Boy, whatever. As long as you screwing around with them sluts we ain’t gon’ be nothing more than friends.”

I gasped, realizing what I’d said. “Ooooooooo, Nadia got feelings for Dontez!!!”

“Forget all of y’all.” I tried to get up to head in my house but Dontez grabbed my hand, standing up with me. Leaving the four of them to their conversation, he stood with me next to the front door of my brownstone as I leaned against it and folded my arms.

 

He rubbed my arms before smiling. I won’t lie, the only thing I wanted to do was run my finger tips through his hair. And I won’t lie, Dontez’s cocoa brown skin would look so good next to mine. “I don’t have time for you or the games that you be playing.”

“I don’t play games with you though Nadia. I’ve always been honest with you. Now let’s be real about this for a second. We both got some strong ass feelings for one another but we don’t act on it because you assume that I would treat you the way that I treat these girls I don’t care about. And I kind of feel you’d treat me the same way you treat the dudes you do mess with, the ones who do use you and add you to their lists or body counts.”

“You don’t know what I think about you.”

“I know you like me, as more than a friend, and I like you too. I really don’t see you the way that I see these other girls. You’re one of my best friends, but I think that’ll make a relationship for us even better. If you gave me a real chance, it’d just be me and you, Tez and Nadia.”

“And what would we be?”

“We’d be buddies, boyfriend and girlfriend, and confidantes. One day we’ll be lovers, and hopefully someday you’ll be my wife. You’d be my everything and more.”

“Corny ass.”

“Aye, I bet you like it though.”

“I might.”

Dontez leaned forward and kissed me, pulling me closer as I leaned into it and wrapped my arms around him.

 

“Oh shit! Tez finally got her!”

I wiped my lips before flipping Fife off. “Hey, hey, this is my baby so keep your childish ass comments to yourselves.”

“Yeah, me and my buddy don’t like that hating ass shit.”

“Oh, now she wanna be somebody’s buddy.”

“We’re not on that hoe shit like you and Tamara though.”

“Girl, have fun with that monogamy. I’m too young to settle right now.”

I shook my head as they continued discussing what buddy and friends with benefits and all of that other crap meant to them.

 

I guess I can give Dontez and I a real try. He’s right, we have always been friends and I have always felt that he’d treat me like a hoe. But I guess we’ll just have to see how our friendship and relationship goes from here. “I have one stipulation to this Tez.”

“What’s that Nadia?”

“Don’t call me Buddy.”

Fly Buddy, don’t you know you make me go nutty.

“Oh God.” I sat with my head down, listening to the five of them as they started rapping the De La Soul song word for word. Why can’t I have normal friends?