Authors: J. Lovelace
Loraine sucked in her lips and sipped on her tea. She wanted to snap back, but she had it coming. Even though I was the friend whose shoulder she cried on when her ex-husband of two years revealed his year-and-a-half-long affair, I callously reminded her of the pain it brought when after lettin' him back in, she let him do the same damn things for another year. The heavens opened up when she finally broke free from that prison sentence. “Let's get back to work.”
The Christian in me wanted to apologize. She was obviously still hurt by her past, and I had no right to flaunt her mistakes in her face. But the crying little girl in me felt it was best to end the lunch date early. We parted ways without any more words. Usually, we'd end with a hug and a promise to call each other later. This time, we gathered our belongings and walked away in separate directions. Once I got back to work, my guilt would overpower me and I'd apologize for my rudeness. However, as I walked away from my real friend, all I could selfishly think about was how good it felt to be the one causing the pain instead of feeling it.
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I went the entire day without calling Loraine back and apologizing. I kinda wanted her to call me first and have my apology be a response to hers. But as I walked into my big empty apartment, I was compelled to pick up my phone and face the problem I had caused. However, as always, a knock at the door interrupted my plans.
When I opened my door, my initial hope that I'd see Loraine
on the other side holding a bottle of wine and a
Waiting to Exhale
DVD in her hand was cast aside by the appearance of Tariq's face.
I rubbed the skin between my eyes and placed my phone back in its holder. “What are you doing here?”
For the first time, I wasn't dizzy from his fragrance. When I stared in his eyes, my knees didn't go weak. My stance was firm and unwavering.
“Can I come in?” He looked good, too. He never spared me the opportunity to see him in a shirt that caressed his skin in ways that revealed his muscles or pants that gripped a butt I could imagine myself grabbing between my thighs. Still, I was steady.
“No. I have plans.” I pushed the door to shut it in his face, but he held it before I got the chance.
“I'm not tryna spend the night. I wanna talk about the other night.”
“Why? You had your chance to talk and you walked out.”
“You kicked me out.”
I looked down at his hand that held on to my doorknob. “You need to leave, Tariq. I have better things to do.”
“You not gonna give me the chance to explain?”
“You had ample time to explain yourself. All of a sudden I'm supposed to stand here and let you tell me some bullshit story you came up with because
He licked his lips and scratched the back of his head. “You're right. I should've talked to you 'bout all this butâ¦I dunno. Iâ¦I've been real out of it lately.”
I shook my head. “Tariq, I can't do this tonight. Like I said, I have plans.”
When he didn't say anything in response, I could tell he didn't expect to hear me deny him. I wasn't quietly beggin' for him to
rip off my clothes or suck on my lips. I honestly wanted the chance not to cave in to a man who didn't deserve it. He let go of the doorknob and nodded his head. “All right. I can respect that.”
“Good.” I tried to close the door but he held it. I breathed deeply and twisted my hip to the side. “What, Tariq?”
“Call me when you get free, though.” I nodded my head. “I'm serious, Erin. Call me.”
“Okay.” I closed the door and abandoned all plans to call Loraine. Her apology could wait. Tonight, I reveled in my win over a man who I used to let win every time before.
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I called Loraine the next morning but got her voicemail. I assumed she went in to work early, but by the time five o'clock hit, I realized that she wasn't tryna speak to me. I was hurt but not hurt enough to beg her for her a phone callânot yet at least. When I walked up the stairs to my apartment, I noticed a half-dressed woman lying on the floor in front of my door. I pulled out my cell phone and prepared to call the authorities if necessary. By the time I reached her, I realized that it was Teona passed out at my doorstep. I ran my fingers through my hair and took a deep breath.
I called Loraine again. This time, it rang twice before going straight to voicemail. Certain that she was ignoring my calls, I opted to send her a text informing her of her little sister's whereabouts. Once my text was sent, I nudged Teona awake and unlocked the door. “What are you doin' here, Teona?”
She looked up at me as if she didn't recognize me. We stared at each other for a second. She looked around to verify her surroundings. “Erin?” she asked.
“Get inside, Teona.” I helped her to her feet and led her to my
living room sofa. Whatever led her to my doorstep had to be something serious, but I didn't wanna risk my neighbors findin' out about it as we discussed it in my hallway.
When she swiped the few flyaways from her forehead, she scanned my apartment and smirked. “You have a really nice place. Damn! How much does a copy editor make?”
“Teona, what are you doing here?”
Teona opened her mouth to say something before she drunkenly scurried to my kitchen sink to throw up. “Fuck!” was the last thing she yelled before filling up my sink with yesterday's stink. She kicked off her heels and hugged my counter as she let the water pour over her head.
“Does your sister know you're here?”
After coughing up her own spit, she wiped her face, smeared her makeup, and washed her hands. “My sister doesn't give a fuck where I am.”
“You know that's not true. How did you even get here?”
“I'm surprised I remembered how to get here.” Teona turned around and slid down to the floor with her elbows on her knees and her head sunk in her lap. “I have someone waitin' on me.”
“You do? Where?” I took out a washcloth and ran it under some warm water.
“Downstairs.” She struggled to stand back up but fell atop my kitchen counter. I grabbed her arms and led her back to my sofa. As she laid her head on the back of my sofa, she wiped her eyes with the sweaty palms of her hands. “I was supposed to come up and see if you were home so we could come inside.”
After handing her the washcloth, I snapped. “Who's
“Timothyâ¦or Travisâ¦or Rick or maybe it was Alfred o' somethin'. Whoever he is, he's downstairs.”
“Teona, you have some random man downstairs waiting to come inside
apartment? What the hell is wrong with you? Don't come bringin' some man you don't even know to my home.”
“Calm down, Erin. You sound like Loraine right now.”
I walked into my kitchen and grabbed a cup from my cupboard. I filled it with tap water and shoved it in Teona's face. “Drink this, lil' girl.”
“I'm not a fuckin' lil' girl, old woman. Calm down. Todd or Mike is harmless; he wanted to have some innocent fun.”
“How long have you been here?”
“Since like ten o'clock, I think.”
“Ten in the morning?”
“Yea, what time is it now?”
“It's almost six at night!”
“Oh!” She burst into a hysterical laugh that caused her to slide off the sofa trying to hold her balance. When her bottom hit the floor, she yelped. “I guess Alfred or Jonathan ain't outside no mo' then, huh?”
“You been here since ten in the a.m. and no one called the police?”
She shrugged her shoulders and mumbled. “Some nigga named Torontoâ¦Rudolphoâ¦Reynaldo or somethin' said he'd check up on me 'til you got home. He tried to invite me in but I wasn't tryna be alone in that weirdo's apartment.”
“Alonzo.” I corrected her. I grabbed my cup from her hand. Trying to help her up, I jumped when I heard someone banging at my door. Hopefully, it wasn't Tariq, Alonzo, or the random man she had waiting downstairs for half the day. When I opened my door, Loraine brushed past me, going straight for Teona. “Girl, what the hell are you doing here?”
Teona rolled her eyes at Loraine. Then she glanced over at me and snarled. “You called her?”
Loraine turned her around to face her. “Lil' girl, what the hell is wrong with you?”
Teona pulled on my sofa cushion to pull herself up to a standing position. “I thought I tol' you not to call me
Loraine grabbed her arm. “Let's go.”
Teona yanked her arm away and pushed Loraine. “Don't touch me, bitch! I ain't ask you to come here an' do me no favors.”
Loraine glanced back at me, then back at Teona. “Fine,
I'm done.” Loraine turned on her heel and stomped toward my door.
“Loraine, don't walk away from your sister.”
“Leave me the fuck alone, Erin. I'm doneâwith both of you.” I pulled on her arm to stop her from leaving. She tried to pull herself free but my grip was strong. “What do you want from me? Let me go.”
When I noticed the tears in her eyes, I realized that my words may have cut deeper than I thought they would. On the heels of her sibling turmoil, the last thing she needed to hear was her only friend bringin' up nonsense from her past. “I'm sorry. I was wrong for bringin' up mess about your ex-husband. That wasn't meant for me to bring up; especially at the time I did.”
“It's not that, Erin. I may not cry and whine about every little problem in my life, but I am going through a lot. And then I gotta deal with this fast-ass lil' girl fuckin' strangers fo' gas money. I'm really tired and the last thing I need to hear is bullshit from someone who I
was my best friend.”
“I know, and I'm sorry. I was feelin' a lil' heartbroken.”
Loraine wiped her face and took a deep breath. “I was wrong for coming down on you, but you needed to hear that. I don't need any of this shit I'm going through. I'm sorry if I hurt you, but you didn't have the right to bring that shit up. You know what he put me through.”
“You're right. But I'm still here andâ¦” I looked over at Teona who had collapsed on my sofa. “Teona will be back in school in a few weeks.”
Loraine squeezed her fists and bit her lip. “No, she won't. She got her ass kicked out of school.”
“When did that happen?”
“It happened when her dean found out she was fuckin' her professors. I told you that girl was fuckin' for As.”
“Hey, I can fuckin' hear you talkin' 'bout me!” Teona yelled.
Loraine leaned up against my refrigerator door and wiped her face again. “I don't know what to do wit' that girl.”
“Well, like I said, I'm here and we'll figure this mess out together.”
Loraine took another deep breath and held the back of her neck. “Thanks. I appreciate that.” She looked over at Teona. “I dunno how I'm gonna explain all this to our parents. She got kicked out wit' only a year left. My mama is goin' put all this on me.” Loraine sighed. “What would you do?”
“Thank my mama for not givin' me any lil' sisters.”
y mama set me up on a blind date.” After an uncomfortable visit with my mama leaving me frustrated and more aware of my loneliness, I had to hang out with Loraine and make up for the time we missed while being mad at each other.
Loraine tried to hold in her giggles but was unsuccessful. “Really?” We sat on my sofa watching
. On any other day, Loraine would be at her house while we played phone tag. But ever since her lil' sister set up shop in her guest bedroom, she jumped at any chance to make her way over to my apartment. “What's wrong with him?”
“Girl, I don't even know. I tol' my mama about Tariq, an' next thing you know we're discussing Deacon Benson over fish and grits.”
“Yo' mama cooked fish and grits and you didn't invite me?”
“Well, I tol' her you're the one who hooked Tariq and me up, so she wasn't ready to see yo' face.”
“How was I supposed to know Tariq was
guy? It's not my fault. I can't believe you blamed me!”
“I didn't blame you. I told her the facts. Come to church with me on Sunday and we can meet Deacon Benson there while you find the time to kiss up to Mama. Hopefully, this one at least has all his teeth.”
“I have to go to yo' mama's barely air-conditioned church to say sorry? I can't send her a gift basket or something?”
“The only place Mama forgives is in the house of the Lord. Any other day, you better pray.”
“Fine. I'll go, but I better be invited to dinner next time.”
When my phone vibrated, I put it on silent. “You wanna open a bottle of wine?”
“Who are you ignoring?”
“Tariq. He's been blowing me up the past few days.”
“Wow! And you've been ignoring him all this time?”
“I told you. I'm done.”
“I'm impressed. I can't lie. I thought you would cave.”
I smacked her shoulder. “That's not even right. I'm a grown woman; I don't need to be chasin' after no married man.”
“I know that, but I see Tariq at work all the time and he is too fine. If I were you, I'd be tempted too. Hell, if I were me, I'd be tempted.”
“Please, girl. Being fine only made him stay one day longer. When a woman's fed upâ¦” When my phone lit up again, I placed it on my end table. “I will say the sex was on point. My insides quiver every time I send that fool to voicemail.”
Loraine nodded and grinned. “Really? I can only imagine.” Her tone was calm and unsurprised. I thought about dismissing it, but she left me vexed. Usually when I brought up the possibility of talkin' sex, Loraine readily chimed in. With her not-so-active sex life butting its head in our lives every so often, Loraine would sometimes live her sex life vicariously through me. Tonight, she was eerily unresponsive.