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Authors: Eric Jerome Dickey

The Blackbirds

BOOK: The Blackbirds
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An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street

New York, New York 10014

Copyright © 2016 by Eric Jerome Dickey

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

DUTTON—EST. 1852 and DUTTON are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC

eBook ISBN: 9781101984116


Names: Dickey, Eric Jerome, author.

Title: The blackbirds / Eric Jerome Dickey.

Description: First edition. | New York : Dutton, [2016]

Identifiers: LCCN 2015045477 | ISBN 9781101984109 (hardcover)

Subjects: LCSH: Female friendship—Fiction. | African American

women—Fiction. | Man-woman relationships—Fiction. | BISAC: FICTION /

Romance / Contemporary. | FICTION / Romance / Adult. | FICTION / Urban

Life. | GSAFD: Erotic fiction. | Love stories

Classification: LCC PS3554.I319 B58 2016 | DDC 813/.54—dc23

LC record available at

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


For Koko and



“You are terrifying and strange and beautiful. Something not everyone knows how to love.”

—Warsan Shire, “For Women Who Are ‘Difficult' to Love”

“Once you had put the pieces back together, even though you may look intact, you were never quite the same as you'd been before the fall.”

—Jodi Picoult

“Those of us who color outside of the lines get called sluts. And that word is meant to keep us in line.”

—Jaclyn Friedman

“Depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.”

—John Green,
The Fault in Our

Chapter 1

The door to the airplane opened, and the four women were so terrified they were unable to cry out. The fear was tangible. Legs were weak. Palms sweated. Hands trembled.

They were ten thousand feet in the air.

A second later, Kwanzaa Browne took a deep breath and yelled into the wind.

Destiny Jones and Ericka Stockwell looked down at the earth and screamed.

Indigo Abdulrahaman had done this several times, and still she had been anxious and quiet on the two-hour ride north. Her palms had been sweaty all morning, same as Ericka's.

Kwanzaa shouted, “For the last time,
black people don't jump out of planes.

Ericka retorted, “Kwanzaa, I love you, but I will kick your rotund ass out of this plane.”

Indigo snapped, “You're jumping, Kwanzaa. This is one of my birthday requests.”

Destiny laughed another nervous laugh. “Must we argue about every damn thing?”

Destiny, Indigo, Ericka, and Kwanzaa were attached to their instructors with harnesses. They were moved toward the door, and one after another they rolled out, having paid to jump out of a perfectly good plane for no reason other than to do so for kicks, and were in free fall, accelerating toward earth, the ocean to the west, mountains here and
there, the wind in their faces. They were flying, cheering, arms out like they were all Team Supergirl.

In that moment they were weightless, without problems, high above Santa Barbara.

The g-forces were incredible. Intense. Emotional.

They all released that same orgasmic sound at the same moment.

It was a unified screaming, a shrill they imagined was heard around the world.

When they were together they were in their second childhoods.

That was what Ericka loved the most, capturing what she had missed as a child. Everything she did, she did as if she would never get a chance to experience it again. As she fell she looked at the world. She noticed everything. She wanted to remember every sight, sound, smell, every noise, and all that she felt. This was life. She took nothing for granted. Nothing.

She had thirty-five things on her bucket list.

She planned to do them all before she died.

Chapter 2

Some weekends they were all channeling Beyoncé, on the roof of the Standard Hotel, imbibing and dancing like they didn't care, dresses short and heels high. Some weekends they were indulging in a few calories at the world-famous Hawkins House of Burgers in Watts, then down at Venice Beach bowling before Rollerblading to Santa Monica, maybe hiking the hills at Runyon Canyon. Most evenings, while Ericka was at her dining room table grading papers and doing lesson plans, Kwanzaa and Indigo were in the Crenshaw-Imperial public library studying until it closed. Destiny would come in from her job at FedEx and study until sunrise, nap, and then zoom to USC. A time or two, they were all broken-down Taylor Swifts, in someone's apartment in pajamas, hair every which-a-way, four bottles of wine from Everett Ridge Winery in Sonoma County on the table, bitching about men, or bitching about bitches, or giving their thoughts on thoughtless thots, drinking and doing shots, crying, hating the men they had loved and fucked, or had fucked with love, or laughing about the men they had stopped loving long after the men had already stopped loving them and were already fucking the fucking love out of someone else.

But there was more to them than conversations about men and love. Many days they had talked to each other and the topic or issue was not a man, so with flying colors they had passed the Bechdel test, that is unless the issue of oppression and blatant racism was considered a man.

When the need had arisen, wearing Guy Fawkes masks, they were with thousands of protestors, a multicultural protest that had kicked off
at L.A. Live. There were
signs, people carrying upside-down American flags to symbolize that the country was in distress. They all held colorful motorcycle helmets in their hands as they marched arm in arm in the night through downtown Los Angeles toward Ninth and Flower, loud, boisterous, blocking traffic, while others in the demonstration carried banners that read
LAPD tried to surround the protesters by circling the crowd. Kwanzaa was terrified, but Destiny held her hand. Indigo was yelling in Yorùbá and Ericka cursed the system in English. Sirens blared. Helicopters shined down lights. Kwanzaa, Destiny, Ericka, and Indigo fled by demonstrators cuffed with zip ties, being thrown in police buses to be taken to the grown folks' Hoosegow. They ran toward their vehicles. On normal days there were at least two helicopters patrolling the sky from 8:30
until 4:30
., looking for lawbreakers and people to criminalize, flying over corruption hot spots and disturbing communities with noise pollution, inspecting the infrastructure, and providing backup and eyes for officers who had boots on the ground. Every helicopter in the city was hanging over them at that moment, a thousand suns shining down, and that infamous Nightsun was maddening.

Destiny wasn't going to leave anyone behind to be taken to Hoosegow.

Kwanzaa became the passenger on Destiny's colorful yellow, white, red, and blue CBR. Ericka became the passenger on Indigo's motorcycle, hers too a CBR, only new and customized, painted bubble-gum pink with red rims to match her new hair color.

Two CBRs roared like lionesses.

Indigo sped away first, Ericka holding her waist. Destiny pulled away next, Kwanzaa her passenger. Kwanzaa had her face shield flipped up. Her middle fingers were flipped up as well.

Destiny's personalized tags on her motorcycle read:

See. You. Next. Tuesday.

BOOK: The Blackbirds
7.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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