Please Don’t Go (Part 2) by Cortney Joseph

September 25, 1996 (Three Weeks Later) :


Tani –


Losing myself in the beat of a dope, new song, I disregarded the fact that the lyrics of the song was some shit that kind of reflected Keith and I. Since the fallout, he’d made many attempts to get us back on speaking terms, but I just couldn’t go back as quickly as I normally would.

While our relationship had never been physically violent, the verbal arguments finally hit me. Every last one and I became angry with myself for tolerating it, and letting myself continue to go back and forth when I could have easily moved on after our first  major fight.


Baby we can try again… if you’re ready. Maybe we can take it slow… if you’re ready. I’ve been around, you know the things I used to do. Girl I never thought, never thought I’d find someone like you Babe. Girl, I need you in my life.


Since it was the first chance we had to kick it in a while and the wedding, scheduled for last week, had been called off, I jumped at the first chance to go out with my girls. I needed it. All I’d done for the last three weeks was sit around my house, moping and eating because I’d cleared out my touring schedule.

I grabbed Shana, dancing against her on purpose just to annoy her. “You ain’t shit Tani. You know I’m up here missin’ my current boo, and you wanna rub on me and shit. I’m not playing the bi games tonight.” I laughed, hugging her before I backed away, dancing with Vita and Danika since they were more relaxed. Soon the drinks were flowing and before the night was over, we’d danced to damn near every song the DJ played.

Once Shana got the page she was waiting on, she ducked out and that just left me with Danika and Vita, chilling in the VIP section since none of us were ready to go home.

I was bobbing my head to the beat of some Pac song playing over the speakers. “I ain’t wanna ask with Shana’s ass around, know how judgemental she can get. But um, how are you really feeling Tani?”

I looked at Vita and shrugged. How was I supposed to feel? I fucked around and caused the end of my relationship ‘cause I wanted to be real about problems for a change. “I’ll get over it. I always do.”

“No you don’t.” We both looked at Danika and she took a sip of her drink. “You don’t get over anything, you internalize.”

“How are you going to tell me what I do?”

“Because, it’s the truth.”


I cleared my throat. I’m not really in a mood to fuss so I just let her go on believing that. “I cope and deal with what needs to be dealt with. Obviously, trying to talk about all I had ‘internalized’ backfired on me, so what else is there for me to do but move on and get over it? I’ll be fine.”

“I swear fo’ Lawd, you and Keith irk me. Y’all are the most backwards ass couple ever. Have nothing to fight about, but fight about every damn thing. What for?”

I dropped my head, trying to tune Denika out. She was playing Shana’s role of calling people out. “Why are we talking about this? Let’s go and eat something.”

“You’re becoming a chubby bitch like us.”

“And, so what Denika? I don’t have a man to keep myself up for anymore. And we all know my fans aren’t here for my looks. Shit, let me be the female Heavy D if I wanna be.”

Vita shook her head. “You’d have to stop cursing first. And learn how to dance.”

“Know what, goodnight y’all. I came out to get away from my problems, not have them thrown in my face. If I wanted to be bothered with the truth of this shittiness that is my life, I would have gone to my mama. Bye.”



Once I stopped to get myself something to eat, I headed straight home. Showered to clear my mind, got dressed in nothing but some boxers and a sports bra and set up camp in the center of my bed.

Covers pulled to my chin, surrounded by all of my favorite snacks. My phone rang a couple of times but I knew it was the girls, and the last thing I wanted was to hear more of their sermons on what to do with my life and relationship. I mean, so what if I bury my feelings and my problems? I made it through the first twenty-two years of my life without sharing my feelings and until I came across Keith’s ass, I was just fine.


My phone rang again and I sighed, reaching over and picking up the receiver without checking my caller ID. “What?”

“Tanisha, please talk to me.” I sighed, shaking my head as I mentally cursed myself out. “Baby, you know damn well I didn’t mean what I said.”

“But you said it Keith, and you got what you wanted so now you have to accept it.”

“I don’t have to accept shit.”

“Ugh, why won’t you just leave me alone? You said that you were tired of me acting petty and childish, right? You said us going back and forth is annoying as fuck, right? You said that you’re over it, we’re over, right? Leave me alone and let me move on.”

“Hell no. You said you wanted to talk, right? Let’s talk, right now.”

“I don’t have anything to say.”

He cleared his throat. “Looks like we’re about to be on this phone all night then until you say something.”

I pulled the receiver from my ear and looked at it for all of two seconds. “Nah, you’re about to be holding the phone to your ear, listening to a dial tone all night.” I hung up, sinking lower under my covers after grabbing one of the snickers I had sitting beside me. My phone rang repeatedly, but I ignored it as I watched the various shows playing on FOX.


That lasted for a couple of hours. I was just getting into an episode of Mad About You when I heard a loud series of knocks at my door. Grabbing my bat from the corner near my closet, I quickly threw on a t-shirt I had laying on my nightstand and went to my front door. At four in the morning, I don’t give a damn who it is; they gon’ get swung on.

Lowering my voice, I finally spoke up. “Who is it?”

“Tani, I told you last time we went through this that your dude voice is weak. Open the door.”

I kept my chain on, opening the door just enough for him to see my eyes. “What?”

“Please talk to me.”

“We’re talking right now, Keith, what do you want?”

“I want you. You know this. Let me in before that old cop next door tries to tase me again.”

“Nah, I can hear you just fine, right here.”

Keith sighed, zipping his jacket up as he tried to give me puppy dog eyes. “Look, you know I’m not one for soft shit, but if I have to, I will sing outside of your door or next to your window all morning until you let me in. Do you want me to embarrass you; one of the only three black people in this whole damn neighborhood? I’ll do it.”

“I don’t believe yo ass.”

He looked at me before stepping back. I closed my door, turning on my heel until I heard the first note. It stopped me dead in my tracks. And no, not because his ass sounded good. He sounded HORRIBLE.


But I was caught up in physical attraction, but to my satisfaction, Baby you were more than just a face. And if I ever…. ever fall in love agaaaaain…


I got fed up quickly, opened my door, pulled his dumb ass inside and slammed my door. After I locked it, I turned to face Keith. Irritated to the max. “What the fuck is your problem!?”

“I do stupid shit like this when I don’t have you in my life. Is that what you want to hear? Are you happy?”

“No Keith, I’m not!” I sighed, shaking my head. “I’m miserable and I’m mad because this could have been avoided if I’d just kept my fucking mouth shut. Right now could have been avoided if you’d just accepted that you got what you asked for.”

“I didn’t ever ask to be away from you. If I was truly done with us and our relationship, I would have never proposed. And I damn sure wouldn’t have gone through three years of highs and lows with you. I care! I love you! I just don’t know why you felt that we needed to postpone or stop to talk about shit we already know. Yes, we fight. Who doesn’t? We talk mad shit, that’s what got us caught up in one another in the first place. If you didn’t have this hard ass demeanor, slick mouth, and crazy ass attitude, I wouldn’t have anything to look forward to when I see you. I never said I wanted an easy relationship. I like a challenge, I love to have my opinion and authority tested. I love what we had, why do we have to change just because it seems like shit is wrong?”

“Because it was wrong. I don’t like fighting when I don’t have a real reason to, Keith. Getting mad because you didn’t put the cap back on my toothpaste or because you kicked the damn rug away from the tub, that’s so damn stupid to me. And I get mad over small shit like that all of the time, for nothing. I nitpick because I have issues but don’t talk about them, and I’m stupid and…”

“Shut up.”


I cut my eyes and he grabbed me, rubbing the side of my face. “Don’t tell me what to do.”

“Shut the hell up, Tanisha. I know that you are not easy to get along with, and I know that you have issues. You and I, we’re not talkers. We could just lie in bed and never say a word, just lay there in silence and be so content. And that is okay with me because we say what needs to be said, when it needs to be said. We’re not the emotional type, we’re not out there or extra with our shit. It’s easy ‘cause we just go with the flow. If we fight, we fight and we make up when we’re ready. I don’t mind that. At the end of the day, I know you love me. And you know I love you more than anything. It’s a lot of shit I would do for you, give up for you. What we got, it’s perfect to me.”

“But it’s so pointless, and it’s not healthy.”

And he knows I’m right.

Keith started rubbing my shoulders. “So what are we going to do? I don’t care how much you yell or curse me out, but I’m not giving up on us. I don’t want to be with anyone but you.”

“You need somebody that won’t get on your damn nerves.”

He groaned, pulling me closer as he pressed his lips to mine. Wrapping my arms around him, I smiled, leaning into the kiss for a few minutes before he finally pulled away. “I’m going to tell your stubborn ass one last time; I don’t want anyone but you, Tanisha Harrison. Whatever you’re feeling, I promise that we’ll work on it together as we go along, but I am not giving up. Now please stop this madness so I can stop acting like a bitch.”

I fell out laughing, hugging him tightly.


I took a deep breath, smiling as he pulled my ring out of his pocket and quietly slipped it back on my finger. “I don’t think we should rush back into planning or going through with the wedding.”

“That’s fine. Just please don’t ever leave me, don’t give up on me or us again. Don’t go, don’t take your love away.” I continued holding on to Keith as he swayed me back and forth, kissing all over my face and neck as he spoke. “Whether you believe it or not, I need you just as much as you need me. Don’t go, because ain’t nobody else in this world gonna put up with our shit.” I nodded. “Please don’t ever go anywhere; as your number one fan, I need to know that I’ll always have a place in your life to cheer you on. I’m sorry for everything; old shit, new shit, future shit. I’m sorry about it all and I’ll keep apologizing, just please don’t leave me.” He sighed. “Lord, Woman, you’ve got me out here crying and sniveling like a hoe. Baby, this is real love.”

“You love me enough to sit in therapy?”

“Yes Tani. I love you so much that I will go and talk about my feelings, if it would make you happy. Just tell me that you’re mine, and that you’ll always be mine.”

I smiled, nodding as he picked me up. I wrapped my legs around his waist, giggling when he began to palm my ass. “Chill out Keith. Even though I want to, sex is not something we need to involve ourselves in right now.”

“That’s cool Tani. Long as I can hold you, I don’t care what else happens. Now tell me you’re never going anywhere.”

“Don’t tell me what to do.”

“Just say it, Damnit.”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m not going anywhere, Keith. And when we’re ready again, I can’t wait to be your wife.”

“Good, with your rough ass.”

“Ugh, can we at least wait a couple hours before we start fussing again?”

“Sorry; that was the ‘no sex’ revelation registering. I was trying to start some shit just to makeup the right way.”

This fool here.




December 2014 :


Kendall finally took a deep breath and shook her head. “So basically, years of therapy kept you two together?”

“Nope. Your dad lied, he never went to any of those sessions.”

Keith cleared his throat, smiling. “And she never forced me to go, but I spent so many nights on the couch behind that, but everything else I said was the truth. The point is we both had our issues. While Tani cared and they affected her, I wasn’t really bothered by my own. I knew our personalities, and that’s why we clicked eventually. I fell in love with her when she was as tough as nails, cussing me out just as quickly as she said a sweet hello. I never told her, or anyone for that matter, but I didn’t like women who were just willing to do whatever was expected or what they were told. I did and said things just because I knew it would upset Tani. I liked seeing her short ass get riled up, still do.”

“So why was that specific moment so big? Why was that the time you were willing to give up, Mama?”

“Just feeling like I didn’t deserve it all, outside of my career. Not knowing if that was what I really wanted because that was my first time really being in love. Having never gone through that, not knowing myself the way I should have.”

“I thought you were pretty confident from all the other stories I’ve heard.”

I shook my head. “Always overcompensating with a bad ass attitude, only toning down when it came to my career. Years of letting things build up… in those three weeks, I was willing to let go of Keith and my career. I was fed up with a lot.”

“Wow. Would you have been happy if you gave up both?”

I shook my head. “Nope. I’d have been depressed for real then.”

“Why’d you keep trying to push Dad away though? I rarely even see his soft side and you broke him down. Dad was begging harder than Keith Sweat.”


Keith laughed shaking his head while I played with his curly hair. “I felt like he deserved better than my unstable ass. But like he said, he was my number one fan and he meant that, and eventually I learned to appreciate that. And I was his number one fan as well.”

“Y’all still supported one another after the break up.”

I shook my head, hating to admit this. “No, I had my claws out. Ready to talk bad. I’d done this one media interview for some award show and they asked if I hoped he’d win…”

“She said ‘No’.”

Kendall gasped. “I was in my feelings, okay. That was like three days after I gave the ring back. But anyway, I had said that and when they asked him the same question, Keith said he hoped I won everything I was nominated for. Said I deserved it all.”

“Dang.” She sighed, turning her camera off. “Y’all got some serious issues. Now I’m gonna be slightly concerned when y’all argue.”

“Concerned for what? Those are all fake arguments, most of them are anyway. The rest are never that serious. Just your mama being her usual, petty self.” I nodded, cosigning Keith.

“When was the last real, serious one?”

Keith didn’t remember so I had to sit and think about it for a few seconds. “Oh, the night I went into labor with you. Hell, that’s a story in itself.”

“Y’all got stories for everything.”

Keith got up, nodding his head as he stretched. “We’ve had crazy ass, amazing lives. Now we’re in our forties, and still got more to live. This was real nice though Kendall, and I really hope this project comes out the way you want it to. I’m gonna call up a few of my old friends, see if they want in on it.”

“Yaaas, thanks Dad! Oh, and I am so glad y’all worked it out. I could have used the sugar coated version but I’ve gotten pretty good at editing.”

I shook my head. “You know good and well that your dad and I can’t sugar coat anything, even if we tried.”

“And still, I’ve managed to avoid having a foul mouth.”

“In front of us; you know better.” She smirked before gathering up her things and headed to her bedroom.


Keith looked at me and smiled. “What about you? Are you glad we worked it out?”

“Yes. I got a little sad thinking about that time though.”

“You good? Want me to help you feel better?” He winked his eye and I rolled mine.

“No Keith, I will be just fine without the type of help you’re trying to offer.”

“You’re just trying to avoid giving me my Jr.”

“Um, Sir, don’t you think we’re a bit too old for another baby?”

I stood up, brushing past him. Slapping him when he popped my ass. “You are shit out of luck. This is the one thing I am never compromising on.”

“Yeah, we’ll see about that Tani. I know your weakness, a nice glass of wine and your little fight is over.”

I groaned, finally remembering the reason I said I was going to stop drinking. “Goodbye Keith. Merry Christmas. Come back when you’ve stopped tripping, and have my gift in hand.”

“Oh, it’s gon’ be a very merry Christmas.”

“I can’t stand you!”

“Bet you won’t leave though.”


I’d just made it into the kitchen but I peeked around the corner, smiling wide. “If it wouldn’t result in you sniveling like a hoe again, I would. Whipped ass.”

“You’re whipped too. You haven’t gone anywhere since then.”

“Can I have my roughneck back? Damn.”

“He’ll be waiting in the bedroom.” Keith smirked before blowing me a kiss and walked out.

This dude here. I love him.


Please Don’t Go (Part 1) by Cortney Joseph

December 2014 :

Keith and I were sitting comfortably in the living room of our New York apartment. Although we lived on the west coast permanently, there was no way we couldn’t keep a place out here. For vacations, to visit family, or just to get away from all the bull that goes down in Hollywood. A little over twenty years in the business, and just hitting twenty years in our relationship, we did quite well keeping ourselves grounded.

Today, Christmas, we were just sitting around, waiting for our daughter to get up and open her gifts. It wasn’t a tradition, but we wanted to see the look on her face this year. This year we finally decided to spoil her, giving her the things she needed and the things she wanted most.

We ended up just sitting around for an hour, watching Christmas episodes of some of the shows he and I grew up on. Then, wiping her eyes and stretching, Kendall came walking into the living room.

“Ma, Dad, I figured you two would be off recording somewhere.”

“On Christmas?”

She smirked, laughing like Keith. “You’ve done it before. Merry Christmas.”

“To you too, Kendall. Gifts all under the tree. You don’t even have to pretend that you wanna wait.”

“Ayeeee! Thanks Ma, after fifteen years, we finally understand one another.”

“No, I’m just tired of seeing that anxious and annoyed look on your face every year. Since we embarrassed you for your birthday, we’ll save you the pain of having to sit through Christmas dinner.”

Kendall smiled, pumping her fist as she pretended to get emotional. I swear, she don’t get this over dramatic side from nobody but Keith.

There were so many big boxes, and we both laughed as she paced back and forth, unsure of which to open first. “Okay, I’ll start with these two tall ones. I bet it’s something you’ve gotta assemble.”

Keith nodded. “Yep.”

“Oo-hoo.” Kendall smiled, shrieking in delight every few seconds as she opened box after box. “I can not believe this!” Two box lights, a circle light. Her own sets of microphones, three different ones, so that she could stop borrowing mine. A new, updated editing program. “All of this to go with the camera you got me last year?”

I moved over as Keith removed his arm from around my shoulder, standing up so that he could get her last gift from behind our smaller couch. “Not quite, Kendall. I was skeptical at first about you and this filmmaking passion of yours. You know, you switch it out every two or three months.” She chuckled, knowing he was right. “But I noticed that you’ve been doing your little studying and what not, taking the time to sit and talk with the folks who do videos for me and your mama. Even got you those four week lesson at that film institute in Cali, and you stuck with that too. So, to show you how proud we are of you finally getting serious with something… we got you all of that.” He motioned towards the stuff she’d already opened. “Plus this Canon XA20.”

Kendall screamed. “No way!”

“Yes way. I was gonna go smaller since this will be just a hobby when you’re not focused on school work, but you’ve earned this. You gotta take good care of it though. As much shopping around as your mama and I did, this ain’t one of those cheap cameras. Best quality a beginner can get.”

“Thank you so much! I love you both so much, and I promise I will be extra careful!” She hugged both of us tightly, taking the box from his hand as she opened it and began to pull her new camera out.

“No problem Kendall, I also got you multiple memory cards. Three or four, I forgot which. Got you a brand new tripod since your cousin broke the other one you had. And, I’m finally clearing out that spare room back home so you can have your own space.”

“Oooo, I got the best parents ever!”

I nodded my head, standing up so that I could sit on my legs, resting my head in my hand as I watched her open the rest of her things. “You sure do.” Of course, there were more things for everyday use. Clothing and shoes. Keith and I lucked out with Kendall being one of the few kids in the world who enjoyed getting new clothes for the holidays. Tops, bottoms, undergarments, hats, coats and sweaters… she loved it all. Of course, I got her a couple of the new albums by her favorite artists since she was as much of a music lover as I was. She was also an avid reader like me, so I added to her already outrageous personal library with some of the sci-fi and teen-fiction novels she’d been asking for. I also had the feeling that along with this filming, she might get the urge to get into writing.

I’d come across some of her stories years ago but kind of thought nothing of it since she kept them to herself instead of telling us. Not wanting to pressure her, but encourage her a little, I got her a laptop of her own and one of those storyboard pallets that she can hang on her wall to write or sketch stuff out. Although we’re allowing her to use it all, in moderation, these are things I don’t have to worry about going to waste because she is a tech kid, totally into it all.

Anytime Keith and I go all out, as she gets older, we know it will be worth it.

Kendall was also like her dad in the sense that nothing went to waste. The both of them will keep something until the screen is cracked, black, and damn near too dangerous to use if I let them. I can’t tell how many times I’ve randomly run my hand across one side of Keith’s face and he’s had cuts and scars from holding the cracked and broken screen of a phone to his face when he could have easily gotten it replaced or repaired.


I blinked, seeing Keith standing in front of me. “Aye, I don’t care how many years we’ve been together, you know not to call out my full first name like that.”

“Then learn to answer me when I talk to you.”

I felt my left eye start to twitch, felt the urge to slap his ass. “What were you saying?”

“I said Tani, would you like your gift now or would you like to wait until I take you out to dinner later?”

“If it’s making up for all of the shit you’ve put me through over the last twenty-one years, I’ll wait so that it can be worth it.”

“You know what? I’m tired of you. Getting that same, ugly attitude you used to have.”

I shook my head. “I never got rid of it.”

“And here I was thinking this Christmas was going to be awkward. Just wouldn’t be right if you two didn’t fuss over nothing.”

I shrugged and Keith blew me a kiss, smirking. “Ugly ass.”

“Kendall, your mama loves me so much. She couldn’t bare the thought of losing me.”

I cleared my throat. “Oh, I could bare it. I often think about what it’d be like to not have you around, every time I watch Snapped or 48 Hours on ID.”

Kendall fell out laughing and Keith bit down on his bottom lip, throwing a piece of balled up wrapping paper in my face. I flipped him off before focusing on Kendall. She was sitting in the middle of the floor, staring wide-eyed as she read over the directions for all of her stuff. Keith blew me another kiss before moving around to set up all of her lighting equipment. “Anyway, Kendall, what is your first film project going to be.”

She smiled, but never looked up. “That’s easy. Love and Hip-Hop, and the correlation between the two.”

“You’re going to do something based on that trash reality show?”

“Haha, no dad, I’m going to do a documentary on the real aspect of it. Love in Hip-Hop, love for Hip-Hop and the culture, love between artists involved in Hip-Hop. The mainstream aspect, the underground aspect. I most definitely want to talk to all of the fathers and mothers of Hip-Hop. Since I know we’ve got a project coming up for the new semester, this could be what I turn in. I could show my classmates and friends what’s really up.” Kendall cleared her throat. “And I was thinking that I could start with the two of you.”

“Why your dad and I?”

“Because Ma, y’all literally came up in what I consider to be the golden age.”

“Golden age was when it all started Kendall, late 70s, early 80s. Your dad was already in it, producing and whatnot, but I didn’t get my foot in until ‘93.”

“But you’ve gotta admit, your era, early 90s to mid 2000s and when it was really poppin’.”

Keith nodded his head, agreeing. “I’m in. What I gotta do?”

Having put in one of her memory cards, and already turned her new camera on, she decided to test it out right then and there. Kendall got up and turned on the lights since Keith was still messing with her boxes and circle lights. “Okay, this is just a test run. It will be done again. But since I’m throwing in the love in Hip-Hop aspect too…”

“And what is the purpose of that?”

She shrugged. “Lots of my friends believe that there can’t be mutual love and respect between two artists in the same genre. Two males, two females, a male and a female. It’s like there’s some unwritten rule that there has to be beef between everybody. I don’t agree with that; like you always say Ma, there’s enough room for everybody to make money.” My child really had it all thought out. “Not only do I want to show the both of y’all and the friends that you’ve made over the years, I think it’d be pretty dope to show that you two are both Hip-Hop artists, and you’ve been together for like a hundred years.”

Keith nudged her and she laughed. “I’m just saying, yes y’all argue but it’s not like y’all hate each other for real. Everyone can see that there’s love, respect, admiration, and pride that you two have in one another. I remember there being one point where y’all were up against one another a lot in joint categories for awards, and y’all supported each other. If you didn’t win, you wanted Dad to win, and vice versa. It’s possible, I’m living with it so I wanna show case it.”

“Alright, count me in to. Since this is a test run, where do we start?”

Kendall smiled and turned the camera on herself as she gave a small introduction to herself and the project. “Hello. My name is Kendall Tiara Ruffin, and I am thrilled to welcome you all into my brand new project. ‘Love and Hip-Hop : The Ins, Outs, and Reality Of An Ever Changing Culture’. In this mini-documentary, we’ll be exploring all aspects of both love, and the world of Hip-Hop, and how the two have come to be greatly associated with one another. I’ve come across many who believe that there is simply no room to love and genuinely support others, without some type of motive, and I hope to dispel a bit of that before the end of this.” I gave a goofy smile, a bit surprised. “At the age of fifteen, I’ve had a great amount of luck in my life. The daughter of two important figures of 90s Hip-Hop, I’ve had a good bit of insight into what goes on behind the scenes. The time it takes into creating the perfect beat; the kind that captures you and pulls you into the exact mood that you want to be in. Through the guiding and expertise of my dad, I’ve learned that. The time it takes into perfecting lyrics with meaning and a message, maintaining a positive outlook and strong belief in yourself, and most importantly… never trading your values and sticking to what you believe is right. Through the guiding and nurturing of my mom, I’ve learned that.”

Keith smiled at me, setting up the two box lights he’d finally put together. Kendall turned and gave him a thumbs up once he turned them on. “To start this project off, I thought I’d speak to my parents, and reintroduce them to what is considered my generation, so that they can fully understand why it is important that artists of our generation give major props to those who came before them. Having recently celebrated twenty-one years together, and eighteen years of marriage, they are also proof that there can be genuine love and respect for peers and loved ones within the same business, and genre.”

She finally turned the camera on me. “To start us off is my mom Tanisha Ruffin, known to the world by her stage name, Tani Harrison. Her time in the industry began officially when she performed an unreleased, and currently rare, single titled Take It Off at a park event in New York back in 1993. Of course, she began her journey some time before that, but true success didn’t find her until a few weeks before she debuted on the original run of the Arsenio Hall Show in October of 1993, performing her first number one hit ‘Ruffneck’. From there, as they say, the rest is history. Before we get into her great accomplishments in Hip-Hop, I’d like to discuss the love aspect of her life.”

“What would you like to know?”

Kendall paused for a moment and smiled, almost like a light bulb went off in her head. “As your daughter, I’ve heard many stories of how you and Dad managed to work your way through the struggles of life itself and life in the industry. But I’ve never heard of how you two came to be. How did you and Keith Ruffin meet?”

I smiled. “It’s not really that big or fancy of a story. He doesn’t know it but I was out with my friends one evening. We were talking about the type of guys we liked and after I described my ideal guy, I spotted Keith. I didn’t know his name and I wasn’t about to walk up and ask him. I was just enjoying myself.”

“So how did you come to meet one another, officially?”

“Through a friend, another producer who only went by his first name. Hakeem. I was recording and fighting with this real disrespectful dude and Keith walked in.”

“Was it love at first sight.”

Keith fell out laughing and we both looked at him. “Sorry to ruin the shot.”

“No Dad it’s good. It’s genuine, that’s staying in. But seriously, was it love at first sight between the two of you?”

I shook my head. “Not at all. I couldn’t stand Keith.”

“Why not?”

“He was arrogant, annoying. He thought the world revolved around him. Controlling, thought he knew everything.” Keith rolled his eyes as I continued. “He was so disrespectful and rude. Oh, I can’t tell you how many times we got into it behind him calling me out of my name. Did I mention that he was cocky, for no reason. Immature, uncompromising. Petty, selfish.”

“So basically, he was the male version of you.”

Keith burst out laughing again, saying yes a few times as I rolled my eyes. “Yes, he was. And I hated it because I was a strong-willed person. Much like now, I hated to be told what to do. I had a very clear vision for myself so for someone like Keith, and others, to come in telling me what to do or what they thought would be better, that didn’t sit well with me. We butted head for months.”

Kendall nodded, clearing her throat. “So the whole process of falling in love, what was that like. How did you two go about keeping the business and personal aspects separate so that you wouldn’t break up.”

“That was simple. He finally got it through his thick skull that I was the one running my career, even though he was my manager later on. And I finally learned how to just go with the flow and understand that some of his ideas were better than mine.” I sighed. “That was the hardest thing. In the end, we learned to work together and that boosted both of our careers and we maintained a somewhat healthy relationship.”


I nodded. She knows good and well her dad and I could argue for hours, over nothing, and be cool thirty minutes after it’s over. It’s often petty, and pointless, but that’s how he and I have operated for years.

I cleared my throat, looking down at my watch. “Know what would be a better story to show what you’re trying to show? That there can be arguments and tough moments but two artists can still be together and support one another.”

“No, what?”

“Your dad and I almost didn’t get married.”

Kendall’s eyes bugged as she looked back and forth between the two of us. “What?”

“We broke up like two weeks before the wedding and I called everything off. Set your tripod up so that you don’t have to hold the camera the whole time. This is a somewhat long story. Keith, baby, come tell the story with me. Since most of it is your fault.”

He laughed and shook his head. “We agreed to share responsibility in that moment.”

He sat beside me and we smiled at one another while Kendall got her things together. I know saying that shocked her, but it really will be good to tell it. Listening to her give her introduction, I got the feeling that she believes everything between the two of us has been perfect all of these years. That if we could make it through, everybody else can and that’s not always the case.

“Okay, before you start the story, tell me one thing.” We both looked at her, waiting for her question. “What brought you back together?”

She cut the camera back on and I cleared my throat. “Love. As much as Keith and I fight, I love him. I get on his nerves, and sometimes I go overboard with how I react to things. Once I pull myself back, it allows me to see what I could lose by acting crazy for no reason..”

He smiled and took my hand in his, speaking up. “And I love Tani. In life, and love, you say things that you don’t often mean and you could end up hurting the person or people that mean the most to you. If you honestly love and care for that person or those people, you’re gonna put your pride aside and do everything that you can to win their forgiveness and trust again. I have an ego, and it sometimes gets the best of me, even after all of these years. But that ego is never worth losing what means the most to me. For me, that’s Tani and the life and family we’ve built.”

September 4, 1996 :

Keith –

Yawning as I walked through the door, I closed and locked it behind me before putting the key Tani had given me on the hook and headed straight for her bedroom. Trying to prepare myself ahead of time did no good because I already know I’m about to be right back in the damn dog house.

Our frequent fights and breakups is the only reason we still don’t live together, even though it was our initial plan to do so once we got engaged last year. Walking in, I noticed that she was lying on her side, dressed in lingerie instead of her usual pajamas, or my boxers and t-shirts. As always, her crazy ass was watching America’s Most Wanted.


Looking over her shoulder for a moment, Tani rolled her eyes before focusing back on her TV. Never answered me, didn’t even bother hitting me with the usual ‘where you been’. “I said wassup?” Nothing. “My bad. Hi Tani, how are you this evening, Baby?” Still nothing.

I shook my head and started removing my clothes. It’d been a long day and all I really wanted to do was lay up for a while. “You can keep all of that on.”


“You heard me. Ain’t no way in hell you’re about to get in bed with me and think you’re going to touch me anywhere.”

“Uh, you act like I was out doing some grimy shit.”

“For all I know, you might’ve been.”

I rolled my eyes. “Come off that shit Tani. You know damn well I’m not cheating on you.”

“Yeah, but I also know damn well you and your crew weren’t just sitting around a bingo hall or some shit all night. Nigga you smell like nothing but liquor, cigars, and cheap ass perfume to hide the musk coming off them funky ass strippers.”

I cleared my throat. “So you just gon’ question me, like you haven’t been to this very strip club with me? I told you where I was gonna be and who I would be with. If you ain’t read the note I left, that’s on you. Can we not fight over stupid shit, for once?”

Tani shrugged, moving over and climbing under her covers. “We ain’t fighting.”

I smirked, sitting next to her after I kicked my shoes off. I ran my fingers along her arm, laughing every time she attempted to jerk away from me. “Stop fucking touching me, Keith.”

“What you mad for? I wasn’t tossin’ money this time, I promise.”

“Kiss my ass.”

“Haha, gladly Baby. For real, tell me how I fucked up this time.”

Tani sighed, pushing my hand away again before pulling her comforter up to her chin. “I read your stupid note, and I kept paging you repeatedly, waiting for your ass to call me back.”

“You know I could go days without looking at my pager, even if I hear it.”

“Which is stupid as hell! What if something happened to me?”

“Well, did something happen?”

“Nope, I’m good. But you ignoring me repeatedly makes me feel like you don’t care as much as you claim.”

I threw my head back, apologizing. “I’m sorry, okay. You know I care, and you know I love you. And you’re right, after fifth page, I should have called you back.”

“Know what? Get out, since you wanna count and shit. I’m through with you.”

“No you’re not.”

I pulled her comforter back, attempting to climb on top of her. Her little ass had the nerve to wanna use her strength this time around. “Get off me, Keith, you stink. I’m not playing, you ain’t getting shit tonight. I don’t care if your balls are blue, black, red, or orange. Move.”

I pouted, kissing her lips before I sat back on the free side of the bed. “Aiight. But for real, you mad at me?”

“Hell yeah, I’m mad. I had plans, real special plans and your ass forgot, or you just brushed them off like it ain’t matter. It would have been cool if you’d just called me back after I paged you. I could have did some other shit with all these hours I waited for you.”

Yep, definitely in the dog house. Although she’s become a bit more caring and somewhat nicer towards others, she still don’t do random or spontaneous things for people, and that includes me. I already know, her plans had something to do with today, my birthday, and I blew her off just to chill with my boys for a chance. “What you want me to do? I’ll do whatever you want, just to make it up to you.”

“Kick rocks.”

I sighed, heading into her bathroom to take a shower after I grabbed a pair of my boxers from one of her dresser drawers.

After a twenty minute shower, I got out and dried myself off and put my boxers off, making sure to leave her stuff the way I found it. There was no need to have her mad at me about something else.

Walking back into her room, I set my clothes where I could get them and got in the bed, making a second attempt to get back on her good side. “I’m really sorry Tani. It’s late as shit, but I bet there’s at least one part of your plan we could still do.”

“Mmhm, there is. But whatever, I’m over it. Goodnight.”

I took one deep breath before moving away from her.

After a rough night, on my part, I woke up to find Tani gone. I’d just made my way out of her room when she walked through the front door, dressed in a pair of sweats and a t-shirt. “Where you been?”



“Yes. Is there an issue?”

I held my arms out for a hug but she walked right past me. Following her into the kitchen, I watched as she let her hair down and grabbed a cold bottle of water from the fridge. “So, how about we do everything today? I’ve got nothing to produce or record today. Got plenty of time to relax before my flight tomorrow.”

I watched as she quietly started pulling things out of her fridge, all of which looked to be some of my favorite dishes. Things I told her my mom would cook for me growing up. “No can do. I’ve got soundcheck in an hour with Missy. You know I just dropped my album last week, I’ve gotta promote it before we drop this second single.”

I nodded. “What about when you’re done?” She didn’t say anything. Instead, she began to warm everything up, grabbing a plate from the cabinet. “Come on Tani; you know I hate it when you slip into your lil’ petty mode. We get married in two weeks and we aren’t past this childish stage yet, how does that work?”

“I told you that I’m not mad anymore. And after I finish the soundcheck, I’ve got two interviews and some other stuff. I’m busy today.”

“All day?”

“Basically. I mean, why do you think I insisted that we be together on your birthday. I have a full schedule today, and I knew you had to fly out tomorrow.” I sighed, apologizing again. “Anyway, after I fix this plate for you, I’ve gotta go. Your gifts are in my room, in the closet. You can let yourself out when you’re ready to go because I doubt I’ll be back anytime before midnight.”

I grimaced, mad at myself for missing our moment. Sure we both got a break coming up, but it’s literally been months since we’ve seen one another for longer than an hour and not only did I miss one day, I have to miss a second.

So much has changed since I found her a new manager so that I could focus on my own smaller career. I sat at the table, running my hands over my face. Once she’d warmed everything up, she sat a full plate in front of me and kissed me. “Happy birthday, enjoy.” One of the coldest kisses ever.

Grabbing her wrist before she could walk up, I looked her directly in her eyes. “Tani, we good, or is this the prelude to another breakup?” They all start this way.

“I told you, I’m not mad. I’m good, you good.”

She walked out, heading to her bedroom to change.

Tani –

After rehearsing for a little over two hours, I was finally taking a few minutes to sit back and chill. I was watching JD and Missy as they moderated some argument between the girls of Xscape, the featured artists on my current single. It was going on noon, and I still had more to do. Interviews, a meeting with my label and manager, and a recording session with the newly formed LSG. That last one would take a couple hours because there were supposed to be about six of us on one song. Then, I still had to stop by and visit my mama. To say I’ve gone damn near a year, with reason, without seeing her is ridiculous and I needed to speak to her without wedding plans being the main focus of our conversation.

“Yo Tani, they’re leaving but JD swears up and down that they’ll have it together by the time y’all get ready to do that final show before your big day.”

“Thanks Miss. You leaving too?”

“Nah, I got somebody else to rehearse with. We’ll probably bump into one another later today though. You know I gotta head into my session with LSG too.” I nodded, jumping a little when I felt my pager vibrate.

“Damn, this my mama. I’m gonna get my visit with her out the way, but I’ll talk to you before the week is over if I don’t see you later today. I wanna get one more rehearsal in with you for our song.”

“Alright Tani, I got you. Tell Mama I said hey.”

“Will do.”

Once I stopped and called to let her know I was on my way, I made the drive to Brooklyn. It’d been a minute since I made my way back to my home town, but nothing had really changed. There were still kids, mostly dudes, hanging on the corners rapping and battling, waiting for their chance to come up in the game. I spoke to those who recognized me, gave a little of the advice they asked for and went on my way. Using my key, I walked in and called out.

Wasn’t too surprised to find Mama in the kitchen, cooking as if she had more than two mouths to feed. I spoke to her boyfriend as he walked out and leaned against the counter after she gave me a hug.

“You’re getting a little thick there Tani, something you want to tell me?”

I shook my head. “No, I am not pregnant, Mama. Stop trying to put that on me and I haven’t even married that fool yet.”

“Y’all stay calling each other fools and every other name imaginable. I find it hard to believe y’all have made it to three years, almost.”

I chuckled. “Yeah.” I sighed and sat down, blurting out what had been on my mind. “So, as always, I made something bigger than what it really is and Keith thinks I’m mad at him?”

“Are you?”

“Nah, not anymore. But you know how I get, even after I calm down I can still be…”


I rolled my eyes. That was the second time today the world ‘childish’ was thrown my way. Even though I’m about to turn twenty-six, that has me thinking a lot. “Mama, is it possible to be grown, of age, but still not be an adult.”

“Yes. That is you and Keith to the fullest.” I frowned, hating that she could readily admit that. I mean, I don’t care if she feels that way about his ass. But I’m her child.

I sighed. “Okay, what makes me childish? What are the qualities?”

“Both of you are still very selfish; always disregarding what one does for the other, or brushing it off as if it doesn’t or didn’t matter. Any time you get into it, the both of you are in my ear asking for advice or talking mess about the other when you could simply talk things out together. Y’all don’t like to talk. Instead, you go through the motions for a few days, then y’all break up. Then both of y’all asses mope around and act as if you’re gonna die from a broken heart, but still refuse to talk things out.” Instantly I regretted asking. “Although it’s very easy to see that you love one another, neither of you have ever been willing to sacrifice something for the other.”


“I take that back. He’s actually sacrificed quite a few things, even toned his own attitude and behavior down but you still act the same way you did when y’all met. If you want me to be real, if it were me, I would have left your rude ass.”

“Mama! How can you say something like that? I am your child.”

“I know, that’s why I’m saying the shit you don’t want to hear. You don’t pick your battles wisely, neither of you do. If it’s not you getting mad at something simple or small, it’s him getting mad at you for the wrong reasons. I’m not Oprah or Sally Jesse, neither one of y’all are paying me for the drama y’all put me in the middle of when I get calls.”

“Great to know, what else?”

She turned and looked at me. “I don’t know how many times I have told the both of you not to go to bed mad; whether you’re together or at your own houses. Say how you feel regardless because what, you don’t know what will happen to one another.”

“We’re not guaranteed another day.”

“Exactly. As for your own personal issues, Tani, it is okay to let your guard down. It is okay to be soft and feminine. It is okay to be a little needy, it is okay to be a little submissive. YOU don’t have to be the only one to wear the pants in the relationship. You can’t control everything.”

Mama cleared her throat, sitting down after she set a bowl of cabbage and pigtails in front of me. “I would say that I don’t know why you fight so much, or why you’re so damn stubborn but you get that from me. As far as you not knowing how to handle a relationship, that’s always been an issue for you. Probably ‘cause your dad was never around to show you how you were supposed to be treated.”

“You did just fine Mama. The dudes I messed with just weren’t shit.”

“Every nappy headed boyfriend you’ve ever had, you had issues with.” That was true. “Keith is the only one who has stuck through it, and that says a lot. Y’all mistreat each other, but y’all are still together so obviously there’s something real there. But you know what Tanisha?”

“No Mama, what?”

“Through every relationship you’ve ever had, you never took the time to discover things about yourself. Always had a bad attitude. You never figured out what, aside from music and whoever you were seeing, made you happy. Keith may or may not be a part of the problem, but the majority of the issue lies in you.” She cleared her throat, looking down at her watch. “I love you both dearly, and I know that regardless of how much y’all fight, that boy is going to be my son-in-law. But figure out if you’re really ready for what’s coming in two weeks. Don’t go into that marriage without finally talking about things, that’ll only lead to bigger problems down the line.”

I simply nodded, taking my time as I ate since her whole ‘Truth’ speech made me lose my appetite.

I got through the rest of my day as quickly as possible, ending that recording session around 8:30 p.m.. Since I knew Keith would be home, I headed straight to his house. Once I was inside, I gave him a hug, letting him know that we had something to discuss.

Although I had a ton of work related things on my mind, it didn’t stop me from mulling over everything my mama had said. It was all the absolute truth. While Keith did make me happy, that happiness never extended beyond being with or around him and being on stage somewhere.

It wasn’t just him I had a bad attitude with constantly, I had a nasty attitude with everyone I came in contact with. And I know they all notice it, my mama is just the only one willing to say something because she’s not afraid to hurt my feelings. All of the overcompensating issues I told Keith about before we officially got together, it was all still there.

I had fame, I had a good life, and I had him … but I am still, always, so damn angry and I do not know why.

“Keith, I’m sorry. I blew the whole thing up when it really wasn’t an issue. You work just as much as I do, and while you could see me whenever, I know it’s hard for you and your boys to get together.”

He shook his head, kissing my hand. “You don’t have to be sorry. Like you said, I should have called. I shouldn’t have ignored you paging me. I knew you said you had something planned and I didn’t even consider calling you to make changes or let you know what was up. I’m sorry. I just don’t want you to be mad at me anymore, I don’t like that.”

I smiled. “I was over it five minutes after you left out to take a shower. I was just being petty, as usual. But look, that’s not the only thing that I came to talk about.”

“Okay, what’s going on?”

“You feel like you and I are meant to be together, right?”

“Hell yeah Tani. I know we talk mad shit, but you’re my everything. And of course, I know you’d be so lost without me.” He chuckled, and I know he was joking, but that was something I was kind of afraid of. Being so into us that I lose myself. “I was kidding, Tani.”

“I know. Um, remember what you asked me this morning?”


I sighed. “We get married in two weeks and we’re still at our childish stage, how does that work?”

“Almost three years, I’ll say it works for us quite well.”

“What about after we get married though? What if we have that one argument or fight that we can’t come back from?”

We were sitting on his couch, and he inched away a little. “Why are you asking me this? You know how we are; we fuss, we curse one another out, we break up, and then we’re good again. It’s annoying as fuck, but it’s us.”

“I don’t want that to be us, Keith. I don’t want to always be angry at you for no reason. Playful and fake fighting, sure, but getting mad over irrelevant shit… nah, I’m tired of that. We fight too much, and one of these days we gon’ fuck around and say some shit that hurts for real.”

“So what you saying, Tani?”

“I think we need to postpone the wedding and, once we get all of our business out of the way, we need to spend a few days together. Talking all of our problems out. There are so many personal issues I have and I feel like I can’t talk to anyone about them, nobody but you. I know it’s short notice as hell, but, better than getting to the altar and freezing up, right?”

Keith didn’t say anything at all, for a long time. Instead, he looked at me, with a look in his eye, as if I’d done something wrong. “Yeah, whatever. I’ll call and get everything canceled tomorrow.”


“Don’t worry about it. This is your way or saying you wanna end it, cool.”

I groaned, clearing my throat so that my voice wouldn’t crack. I was trying so hard not to cry. “I didn’t say that I want to end the relationship. We’re still engaged. I love you Keith, and I just want to make sure we’re good. Isn’t that what you asked me earlier, are we good?”

“You good, I’m good. That’s what you told me. Take your lil’ time, I don’t care.”

He got up, heading towards the staircase. “You don’t care? What the fuck is that supposed to mean, Keith?”

“Just what I said. I don’t care. You’re right, we fight entirely too much. And yeah, I know it’s always over something stupid. You wanna talk, okay? I was over it all, especially trying to please someone as difficult as you.” I sighed, taking that one blow because I know it’s the truth. But now his ass is doing a bit much. “Maybe this needs to be the final break. ‘Cause obviously, whatever we’ve been doing isn’t enough.”

I wiped away the single tear that fell, standing up. I attempted to pull him into my arms but he pulled away. And his actions weren’t anything like when we play like we’re mad at one another. “Why are you so upset with me now? I’m just being honest. I want us to be in a good place.”

“Shit, stupid me for thinking that us working through real problems, regardless of how silly or real they were, meant we were in a good place. I was thinking this all while we dated, when I proposed…”

“Keith, come on. You act like I said it’s over. That’s not what I’m saying.”

“Well I’m saying it. I’m over it. It’s over.”

For half a second, it literally felt as if my heart had been ripped out. There was the most dry look on his face and I knew he was serious. I nodded and wiped my tears away, pulling my engagement ring off and handing it to him. “Glad I brought this up before it was too late.”

I headed towards the door. “Tani, wait, you know I didn’t mean it. I thought this was one of our usual…”

“Fuck you, Keith.”

I slammed his door behind me, running to my car as quickly as possible. Pulling out of his driveway, I took a few deep breaths and shook my head. “It wasn’t supposed to go like this.”

I’m Goin’ Down by Cortney Joseph

I took a deep breath, resting my head against my window as I watched the rain fall. Way past midnight, pitch black in my bedroom, and the only sound to be heard are my sobs and deep sighs. I don’t know how I even got to this point, but the tears don’t stop. I couldn’t stop them, even if I tried.


It seems like just yesterday, I was on top of the world. Riding on a cloud of fantasies, hopes and dreams. Now, my whole world has caved in. Everything is upside down, topsy turvy. My mama always said, never let a man drag me down so low that I can’t lift myself back up.

But… I’ve never listened to my mama, and here I am, going down.


Clearing my throat, I picked up my phone and dialed his number. The only number that was important to me. Maybe if I could just hear him say hello, I can hang up and be okay. Maybe that will help me get out of this spot I’ve been in. Maybe.

“Yo, it’s mad late. Who is this?” I held my breath, unsure of what to say. “Who is this?”

“C-can you just tell me why? What did I do that was so bad, so wrong? Baby, why’d you leave me?”

I could hear him taking a deep breath, sounding as if he was sitting up or moving around. And then I heard it, a very faint whisper. But I know another woman’s voice. “Yo, Cassy, now’s not a good time for us to talk about this.”

“It needs to be a good time! You won’t talk to me; not returning my calls, ignoring me when you see me in public. Couldn’t you see it in my eyes, the pain you’re causing! I just need an explanation.”

“I-I I can’t give you that right now, Cassy. It’s not a good time. Bye.”


“No, no wait.” I sighed, finding it hard to believe that I’d gotten to this point. “Please, just hear me out. Tell me what I did wrong? Tell me how I can fix it. I will do whatever. I just, I can’t lose you. I don’t know what I would do without you in my life. I’m sorry, whatever I did, I am so sorry.”

“Cassy, please stop with this. Look, you and I had something and it lasted a long time, but sometimes you just have to move on.”


“Yes. It’s not that you did something wrong. I’m just moving on with my life.”

“But I need you in mine! Baby, I’m drowning in my tears over here, I’m losing my mind. I need you!”

He groaned. “Cassy, please have some type of dignity about this. “You’re not drowning, you will be just fine once you realize that it was just time for us to part.”

“No, I can’t be without you.”


And he hung up in my face, causing me to throw my phone just as it began to rain harder. The raindrops hitting my window pain with as much force as I felt my heart trying to beat it’s way out of my chest.


Everything; my life, my world… it’s all crashing, going down.


One To Grow On by Cortney Joseph

Holding it together as best as she could, Támar made it to her designated spot without missing a step, falling in line and sync with four other dancers. There was a high kick, and though she felt she would mess up, she landed on her feet perfectly, bending down as she and the other dancers did a little move they’d picked up in New Orleans.

Támar threw a smile on her face, kicking it up a notch as they came to the breakdown. She prayed that it wasn’t showing in her face; for the first time since she’d begun dancing professionally… eight counts, multiple routines, excess amounts of high energy, and the requirement to be UP at all times were wearing her down.


Before them all stood the girl group they were dancing for, Ex-Girlfriend, singing their biggest hit as they fed into the crowd’s participation. Houston was the largest crowd of the entire tour, and Támar knew she had to be at a hundred. She was looking for her next opportunity, her next big career move. And in the house this particular evening were some of the industry’s biggest stars. This was not the night to slack, fall back, or be lazy. No matter how she felt and the reasons she felt it, she had to be at the top of her game.

When she noticed the member singing lead approaching her, Támar perked up and step forward, taking her cue to start the moment where she and the other dancers were given time to shine independently.

“Ladies and gentlemen, our choreographer, the super talented, Támar Valez!”

As the crowd sounded off, she took one final deep breath and gave it her absolute all. The band switched up and began to play what was quickly becoming associated with House Music, one of her favorite genres of music as of late.

Támar began to feel herself, putting all her emotions into her movements and the facial expressions she made as she moved to the front of the stage, showing off just a bit more than she normally would as everyone cheered her on.

When the beat stopped, she paused and laughed, taking a quick bow before she stepped back and made room for the next dancer.


Once the show came to an end, Támar graciously declined an invitation to hang with the crew at an after party, reminding them all that she wasn’t much of a partier anymore.

Instead, she stayed behind in the dancers’ dressing room, allowing herself sometime to regroup and rest her feet before she gathered her things and made her way out of the auditorium.

She would catch a cab back to the hotel, get some extra hours of sleep so that she could be at her best for their final show the following evening.

As she walked across the parking lot, she heard her name being called. The voice familiar, and one that suddenly annoyed her each time she heard it in recent weeks. Támar stopped in her tracks, adjusting the strap of her bag on her shoulder as she waited for Dominic to catch up. As usual, he was dressed down from head to toe, sticking out like a sore thumb in a sea of tracksuits, jeans, and more casual clothing.

He looked good though. She couldn’t even bring herself to deny that this time. “What do you want, Kermit?”

Dominic rolled his eyes, standing in front of Támar once he finally reached her. “At least I know you still love me. Your mean ass wouldn’t have given me a name if you didn’t.”

“I gave them to you more frequently when I hated you, Tiny Tim, so don’t feel special.”

“Yo,” Dominic sighed, shoving his hands into the pockets of his slacks as he looked down. “What is it this time? And why haven’t you been answering my calls? Got me feeling like a stalker trying to get a hold of you in every city.”

“You’re that pressed to talk, you followed me all the way to Houston?”

“I’m saying though, if you hadn’t run away so quickly when y’all hit Boston, I wouldn’t have had to come out here.” Her brow rose, wondering if he were really admitting it. “No Tam, I did not follow you here. I’m here trying to find funding and support for my show. But I knew you would be here tonight, and I decided to take my chance.”


Támar sighed, pulling away when Dominic tried to grab her hand. “Look, I’m sorry, but you know as well as I do that we’re just not a good match any longer, Dom. We don’t even have time for each other anymore. We should let go now, while we’re still young. While we can pick up the pieces, rebuild, and move forward with our lives.”

“If I wanted to build this life and chase my dreams without you by my side, I wouldn’t be running up my phone bill trying to have one damn conversation via collect calls. I wouldn’t be hoping for awkward run-ins when I know we’re in the same city by chance. You get me exactly where you want me, an emotional sap for you, and you wanna dip?! Tam, come off the bullshit.”

“What bullshit am I on, Dominic? I’m just being realistic! Life is steady pulling us in different directions, especially with us both succeeding so much lately. We’re in different spaces altogether. When we are together, it’s never the same. We’re detached and struggle to reconnect. We don’t talk, don’t make efforts to be as close as we should be. It feels like we’re both still in it for convenience; because we know one another now, and we’ve opened up and neither one of us want to go through the hassle again. That’s not good, Dom. And I’m kind of over it. We’re supposed to be building a life together, but we can’t even come together or agree on simple stuff anymore. I can’t imagine what will happen when life-altering things come into play.”

“All you had to do was tell me all of that Tam. Did you think I was going to go back to that little period where I wasn’t listening, where I wasn’t acting right?”

“Don’t you always find your way back to that little period when you become overwhelmed? Our situation becomes one-sided a little too often for my liking now, and it starts to feel like I’m the only one trying. And once I feel that way, I check out and stop trying too. Only now, I’ve started trying to break away from you for good. And unless you’re going to make a real and lasting effort, stop dragging me back for another twenty rounds of foolishness. I’ve got too much to focus on now, something much more important than you and I. I refuse to keep around going back and forth with you.”

“I’m sorry, Tam.”

Támar groaned, jerking away when he reached for her hand again. “Why do you think that just saying sorry is all it takes? I know that you’re sorry. Approaching twenty-five and you still have more growing to do.”

Dominic sighed, admitting that he sometimes grew too comfortable, forgetting that as they got older and experienced more in life, there were more things they both required from one another to be happy. He could admit, Támar always gave and gave freely. Most times, he’d forget to do the same, feeling he no longer had to work to keep her after being together so many years. “Because I’m an idiot, we know this.”

She nodded, exhaling as she brushed her hair out of her face. “It’s not funny anymore. It’s not cute anymore. And I wasn’t speaking on growth to diss you about your height this time. Wanna know what all the moods have been? Why everything you’ve have and haven’t been doing has annoyed me so much lately? Why I’m suddenly as scared as you used to be about us being together?”



Támar nodded, setting her bag down on the ground. She unzipped her jacket and untucked the Ex-Girlfriend tour shirt she was wearing. She lifted it up, slowly running her hand over the tiny bump she’d done a decent job of hiding while on the final leg of the tour. Dominic’s eyes bulged, shock written all over his face. “I’m pregnant. And every time we’ve fallen out lately, I’ve felt that you would be as neglectful as you are when you get in these asshole-ish modes of yours. I love you with all of my heart Dom, but I’d rather break up and deal with you in a smaller capacity. You know, work things out where it won’t harm our child. He or she is more important at this point.”

Dominic stood quietly for a few moments, collecting his thoughts. Without thinking about it, he stepped towards Támar, placing his hand on her stomach. “The reason for all of the please grow up comments.”

“Among other things. Listen, I’m tired. We can talk about all of this when I get back home on Tuesday.” She pushed his hand away, fixing her clothing before she picked her bag up.

“Tam, you know I’ve struggled with being a better person. I’ve never hidden that, and I can’t thank you enough for how patient you’ve been since day one. I just need one last chance; I’ll be everything you and our child need. That’s my promise.”

“We’ll talk about it Tuesday. For now, use the weekend to decide what it is you really want. Bye, Mighty Mouse.”

Dominic stood quietly, watching over Támar as she hailed a taxi. It wasn’t until minutes after she was gone that he’d taken a breath, allowing her words to settle as he headed back to his car. Life-altering was one of the most perfect phrases she could have thrown his way.

New responsibilities, new decisions to make; and she was giving him time to think it all through. Certain of where she was, and what she would do for herself, Dominic knew he had to make the right choice. He had to grow up, to mature, finally.


What You Gonna Do With Me, Baby? (by Cortney Joseph)

Eli walked in calmly, speaking politely as the love of his life invited him into her home. It’d been a little over three weeks since they’d last seen one another, since they’d last argued, since she’d claimed she never wanted to see him again.

Having gone down the breakup road numerous times, he finally decided that he would not be the first to initiate a sit-down to talk out what was slowly becoming an ongoing problem with the two of them. Though it pained him greatly, he only made a move when she called. And even then, he made her wait a few extra days, just to see if she’d change her mind.

“I’m glad that you’ve agreed to see me.”


He paused mid-step, turning to face her. As mad as he wanted to be, his look only softened as he stared into her doe-like eyes. She was as beautiful as ever, petite and fragile. He only wished to pull her into his arms, shower her in his love and kisses, the way he always did.

Still, he held his ground, simply nodding before he continued into the living area. Thanking her when she offered a seat, he sat comfortably and waited. He would not initiate the conversation either.

Caitlyn sighed, wondering if the last time she sent him away had been the final time he’d allow her to cross the line. She’d admit, shamefully, she played with his heart and emotions one too many times. So bent on testing his loyalty, his desire to be with and around her, so certain that at some point his actions would stop matching his words. And just as she knew her own actions were always foolish, sending him through hoops that seemed impossible to jump through, she knew eventually she’d lose him for good.

Standing before him, as he sat silent and stone faced, she prayed for a last chance she was certain she didn’t deserve.

“How have you been, Darling?”

Eli shrugged, cutting her off just before she could begin rambling. “I didn’t come for small talk, Cait. What are we doing?”


“This. Us. This back and forth. Is it on, or off? Are we hot, or are we cold? Are you done? Because I’ll be honest; it’s becoming frustrating, and downright annoying, to be pushed away when I’ve done nothing but proven myself time and time again.” Without warning, a surge of pent up anger burst through. “I mean, one moment I’m you’re king and the next you’re casting me aside like some jester. One minute you’re thrilled and delighted to say that yes, I am yours. And the next, you’ve disowned me. Walking around as if you’ve never even known me. Telling people you’ve never even loved me. Try as I might to break from it all, I can’t. I stay and I take it, can’t bare to walk away because it hurts too much to be without you. Temporary love and constant rejection, that’s the cycle.”

Caitlyn ran her fingers through her hair. “I-I-I…” She sighed heavily, shrugging her shoulders. This infuriated Eli. The sight of him angry, foreign to Caitlyn, sent a bout of guilt through her. He spoke up again, and she allowed him, giving him the room to finally vent.

“Unfortunately, I feel I’ll always be that fool that keeps running back. I’m yours, no matter what happens because you’re all that my heart has known. You’re the only one I’ve never been afraid to give it to. I was made to love only you, but I truly believe you’re too blind to see just how true and beautiful this love, designed just for you, can be if you would let it flourish.”

“I just need to know that you’re in this for the long haul. I need assurance, constant assurance.”

“By doing what? Testing me!?” He stood tall, shaking his head as she took quick steps back. “Nagging and dogging me every chance you think is perfect when all I have ever been is honest and forthcoming, a man of my word. Bending over backwards to do any and everything only to be told constantly that it’s just not enough? What do I need to do? Prove how deep this love is, how much stronger it grows each hour, pinpoint every little moment that solidified my love for you?”

“I-I…” She groaned, stumbling over the words that she couldn’t find or piece together correctly.

“I am enchanted, under your spell completely. You could tell me to jump in the ocean, off a cliff, into a lake of fire and I would do it if it reassured you that my heart and soul are yours, that I belong to you and only you. Tell me, what will it take? And once I do it, what are YOU going to do with me? If it’s nothing, and there’s nothing you feel you can do, please let me go so that I can attempt to break away and move on. I won’t, but at least give me the room to finally try. Tell me, because I need to know.”


“I just don’t know if the constant need for assurance will ever go away. I don’t know why I doubt you, your love, I don’t know what brings about these thoughts that things between us will end badly. I just, I don’t know, Eli. I want things to always be great, I want to be with you. I don’t want to go back and forth, breaking up and making up. But I can’t change the way I am. I don’t know.”

He nodded, willing himself to grow calm again. Stepping to her, Eli gently pulled Caitlyn into his arms. Placing a soft kiss on her lips, he pushed her away after a few moments and smiled. “Then there’s nothing for us to work out.” Her heart sank. “Not at the moment. Perhaps, after you’ve taken time for yourself; to figure out what you want and what you want to do with this, and us, we can talk again. I’ll be waiting.” Though he wasn’t sure how long, Eli gave her a bit of reassurance that he hoped she’d hold on to, a bit he hoped would wake her up. “Call me when you know, Pretty Baby.”

And with those final words, he walked out. Broken, unsure of what he would do with himself until she made her choice.


My Bed of Thorns (by Cortney Joseph)

I suppose I should have been like most fools; lie some more and deny. Speak softly and sweetly in hopes that my beauty and presumed innocence would let me off the hook. That my gentle nature and presumed meekness would give him reason to doubt the rumors he’d heard, that he’d keep believing I could never do such a thing to break his heart.

Perhaps if I had done something menial like overdraft our account or been the cause of a scratch or dent appearing on his car, perhaps the outcome would be a little different.

That wasn’t the case, nor could I worm my way out of the problems I’d caused. Reaping what I’d sown, I silently watched as my husband walked in and out of the home we once shared, making numerous trips as he packed and boxed up his belongs, carrying them out to his car. Leaving me and our life behind for good.


No matter how I sought and tried to explain, he wanted to hear nothing.

You had plenty of time to talk when you were running to the arms and bed of another man. Instead, you lied and kept me in the dark, too busy finding satisfaction with another. It didn’t matter how many times I’d uttered the words I’m sorry, or how I meant them with every fiber of my being.

I would be left to deal with the pain and guilt of what I’d done alone. Suffer by your lonesome.

Those were his words, and I had no choice but to rest with the mess I’d made.

As he began picking between the photos that lined our dresser, I noticed the way he caressed our wedding photo with his fingertips. His shoulders dropped, a low sigh escaped his lips as he finally turned to me.

Eyes bloodshot red, boring into mine with fire that left my face heated until the painful expression he held became too much for me to bare. I dropped my head, inquiring about if there was anything he wanted to say.

I hoped against hope that his words would be more loving than they’d been over the past three weeks.

“I just want to know, where’d I go wrong? What I’d do? All of the love and trust, the life it took us years to find and build; you throw it all away in a split second, for what?”

Foolishly, I shrugged my shoulders, jumping when he made one swift move, punching his fist into the side of the dresser. “It wasn’t you, it was me.”


He scoffed, no doubt feeling I was throwing out a cliché excuse. I wasn’t. “I became comfortable, began feeling as if our little life wasn’t enough. I became bored, began to feel you were too nice, not exciting enough. I was so dumb,” tears slid down my face, dropping one my one against my arm. “searching for something that I thought was missing in my life. I went looking elsewhere, instead of bringing it to you.” Finally, my truth found it’s way out. “I was so used to having you, so used to your devotion to me and our relationship, to our life together; I thought I had you all wrapped up tight, that you’d never leave. I took your love, your kindness… you, I took it all for granted, and I am so sorry. Lawrence, I am sorry.”

“Who was it?”

I shook my head, begging him not to ask that question. I couldn’t bare the thought of giving a name, thoughts of how he might react clouding my mind. “It doesn’t matter.”

“It does! You want to finally come clean, after a whole year of lying to my face, come clean about it all. Who was it?” I stuttered the name, sobbing as he groaned in anguish. “Teddy. My coworker.”

“I didn’t mean for it to happen. I didn’t mean for it to go on, Lawrence.”

“Do you love him?” My voice was low, shaking as I tried to get my answer out. “Do you love him, Cassy?”

“No, I don’t. It was just a thing, a mistake.”

Looking up, I could see as he clenched his jaw, holding back the fresh tears that begged to be released as he stared at me intently. The pain shifted to hatred. “You’re right, I shouldn’t have asked who. Still love you so much, I was thinking that I could work through this.”


I stood, rushing to his side. Clinging to him, I pleaded heavily. “We can! I’ll do whatever it takes. Lawrence, please, please let’s work through this. I’ve been so lost without you, this house has been so empty, my days so dark. There’s not a day that hasn’t passed since you’ve walked out that I haven’t regretted hurting you.”

He pushed me away, prying my hands from around his arms as he shook his head. “No, not now.” Lawrence turned from me, walking out the door without another word. Out of my life once more, and possibly for good.

My eyes filled with fresh tears, threatening to spill over as I looked towards the dresser. Grabbing our wedding photo, I clutched it to my chest before moving back to my original resting place.

Climbing into the center of my bed, I lay quietly. Curled into fetal position, I clung to what had been the happiest day of our lives, and to my hope, as the realization that I would have to pay the consequences for all that I’d done to chase away the only man that had ever loved me. The bed beneath me grew cold, the sheets prickling my skin as bits of pain began to pang through my body, resting at a heart now attorn.

I laid myself down to cry in the bed I’d made; surrounded by the seeds of deceit I’d sown with my own selfishness.

“I’m sorry.”


A Little Melody [Part 3] (by Cortney Joseph)

I’d just walked backstage after talking with the hosts of 106 & Park after debuting my video for my 2nd single, All Of Me. It was a track I’d co-written with Shayne and so far it’d proven to be a huge fan favorite.

Any time I went to a club, alone or with someone else, it was played. It’d become a hit for lots of DJs in many cities. So much so that Percy decided to make an extended dance version.

It was unbelievable. After I pushed my album back another month, to give Gia’s ass a chance, and myself a chance to debut a proper first single, I released it this past Tuesday. Taking the number one spot, almost instantly. It was INSANE! My twitter blew up. Mostly my peers, some I’d written for, asking why I never said I could sing. A few wanted to do collabs, and I’d even gotten invited on a tour. Of course there were still the negative people, mostly young ass kids who wouldn’t know how to hold a note if their life depended on it. The fat jokes, the she can’t sing as good as… comments, the continuous questions wondering how I’d gotten Tyrese’s fine self to play my leading man for my next video, Make Love … I just took it in as motivation to keep doing better.


My parents looked at me, smiling. Starting off congratulating me in English, my mom eventually trailed off into Cantonese as she cried her tears of joy. I hugged her tightly before turning into my father’s arms, inhaling his scent as his deep voice spoke perfect English with a THICK accent. “I’m proud of you.”

“Thanks Daddy.”

“So am I Sis. Didn’t I tell you not to doubt me?”

I looked at my older brother and nodded. “Yes Shayne, you told me. And I promise, I won’t doubt you anymore.”

I won’t doubt myself anymore. And I definitely won’t let my looks define what I do with my talent. Nope, not anymore.