“Hey guys,” I said, breading the fried chicken wings and dropping them into the deep fryer. “How was school?”
“It was okay,” Jade said, kissing me on my cheek and heading upstairs.
Mari offered a small shrug. “School was school. Still feels pointless considering I’m only there for like three hours.”
“Which should make the possibility of failure nonexistent,” I said, kissing Mari on the forehead. “Hello, Brandon. Are you staying for dinner?”
Brandon reminded me of a young Trey, smooth brown skin with a neat Caesar and a politician’s smile. He was also smart, captain of the basketball team, and on his way to Penn State with a full ride on a basketball scholarship. At first, I was a bit apprehensive about letting Mari date, but Brandon was always keeping her on her toes and on the right track.
“Sure, Mrs. Romano,” Brandon replied, shrugging out of his coat and tossing it across a neighboring chair. “Are you making your famous fried chicken?”
Mari rolled up her sleeves and washed her hands. “Need any help?”
“I’m almost done cooking but I haven’t made dessert,” I said, throwing the bait and hoping Mari would take it. “Think you could whip something up?”
“How about lemon coconut cake?” Mari began to pull out the ingredients to make one of her favorite cakes. “I can probably make some ice cream if the prep doesn’t take too long…”
“Sounds like a plan,” I said, opening the oven and checking on the macaroni I had baking. “Have you seen Gigi?”
“Not since I left school. He was hanging with that no good friend of his.”
“Mari, he seems like a nice boy,” I replied, wiping my hands on a dishcloth.
“He smells nice too, after Gigi hoses him down before bringing him over. He reeks of weed. I’m convinced it must be all his parents feed him since he’s so darn skinny.”
“Must you always?” I asked, biting back a laugh. “Do me a favor and watch the chicken. I have a conference call coming through in a few minutes.”
Mari shot me a thumbs up, waving for Brandon to come over and help her. With dinner now under control, I snuck away to Gino’s office where I knew I could find some expensive treat. Locking the door behind me, I plopped down into the large high-winged chair and rummaged through the desk drawers until I came upon a box of Swiss chocolates. I was spinning around in the chair when my call finally came through. I pressed the speaker button and crossed my feet on the large desk, dominating the otherwise cozy office, ready to talk with my business partner of nearly twenty years.
“Hey, girl,” I smacked on the exquisite chocolate. “What’s up?”
“Vixen, I am at my wits end with this girl. It’s like Carlo is always tryna use this bullshit ass logic to raise our child, and now it’s all coming back to bite ME in the ass,” my best friend, Kenya, fumed on the other end of the line.
Kenya was always at odds with her daughter, Quianna, and often used me as a sounding board to figure out how to handle the colorful situations she found herself in, raising a teenage girl.
“What happened now?”
“I caught her, Vix,” Kenya said, pausing for effect. “I caught her.”
“Doing what?” I inquired, pilfering through the box of chocolates until I found one with a peanut butter center.
“Washing her own damn drawers. What do you think?” Kenya exclaimed. “FUCKING!” she screeched before I could swallow the thick blob of chocolate in my throat.
I nearly choked, rummaging through Gino’s mini fridge and coming up with a bottle of mineral water. I chugged it and after catching my breath, said, “Uh-oh. And she’s still alive?”
“Unfortunately, yes. Here I am, walking into my house, minding my own damn business when I hear all this banging. Then screaming. I kicked that door open like SWAT and their li’l rabbit asses nearly died,” Kenya huffed. “Then, that li’l cone headed boy had the nerve to start apologizing like I ain’t just catch him on top of my daughter.”
I could hear a bunch of doors slamming followed by Qui screaming “I HATE YOU” at the top of her lungs.
“TAKE A SEAT BEHIND MY EX-HUSBAND!” Kenya yelled back. In a regular voice she continued, “Now I have to have ‘the talk’ with her. Have you had it with Mari yet?”
“I’ll have it when I feel like she’s having sex.”
Kenya cackled wildly. “Girl, are you delusional? Mari’s been getting the D.”
“No, she hasn’t.”
“Yes, she has,” Kenya said, catching her breath. “You mean to tell me that you honestly thought Mariposa was coming home from school every day to an empty house with her boyfriend, and they were just studying?”
My brows creased in frustration. “Yeah….”
“Bitch, are you blind?”
“Bitch, are you deaf? How deep did you get into your house before you realized they were fucking?” Kenya was silent for a beat, which told me she was probably deep in her house before she knew what was up. “Exactly.”
“Whatever,” Kenya said with enough stank to let me know she was feeling salty. “I’m dreading this entire talk. I can’t believe she did this in my house.”
“I’m sure your mama said the same damn thing when she came home early from her church convention and caught you and Terrance fucking on her couch.”
Kenya huffed. “You know what? I’m signing off. See you tomorrow.”
“Okay, girl. Just remember –you got the hard part out the way. Literally.”
“OOOOO, I can’t stand you.”
I giggled in delight at the dial tone blaring throughout the room, sobering as I turned and admired the dusky sky. Life had been good to me so far. All I could keep hoping for was more blessings to come.
Gigi pulled a black plastic bag out of his book bag and tossed it at his girlfriend, Jazlene. Jazlene dug in the plastic bag and pulled out a box of Plan B pills, her face screwing up in disgust.
“Gino, what the fuck is this for?”
“Jazlene, I’m not ready to have a baby and neither are you.” Gigi ran a hand over his thick curly hair. “So can you take the pills while you still have a chance?”
“I’m not taking shit,” Jazlene countered, rolling her neck with every word.
Gigi plopped down in her computer chair and spun around a few times, figuring out how he would get this done. When he first met Jazlene, he loved her laid back demeanor along with her wicked sense of humor. She was pretty, too: long blonde hair paired with pretty hazel eyes that came with her Afro-Cuban heritage. However, once they started having sex everything changed. Jazlene went from being cool to feeling like she had something to prove to the entire school. She spent all of her money on knockoff clothing, which was embarrassing, especially when Mari and her clique walked by snickering. Then her insecurities started to get out of hand. Before Jazlene knew Mari was his sister, she almost attacked Mari in the hallways after watching them hug briefly. Mari didn’t approve of Jazlene, but she kept her mouth shut about her to their parents.
“Why I gotta take it, Gino? You ashamed of me or something? I’m not good enough for your rich ass family?” Tears welled up in Jazlene’s eyes. She sniffed hard in a feeble attempt to make them go away.
Gigi couldn’t stand seeing her cry so he walked over and held her face. “Jazlene, this has nothing to do with being ashamed of you. I just want to be in a good place before starting a family. You know… have a degree, my own place, plenty of money in the bank. We’re only sixteen. There ain’t no need to rush.”
Jazlene nodded her head. “You right. Can you get me some water?”
Gigi pulled a bottle of water from his bag and opened it, placing it in Jazlene’s hand, and taking the empty pillbox and wrapper from her. When Jazlene swallowed the pills, Gigi felt a weight come off his shoulders. He kissed Jazlene on the forehead and promised to see her at school tomorrow. Checking his watch, he realized he was probably on his parents’ shit list for missing dinner.
Once she heard the front door slam, Jazlene spit the pills from under her tongue into the wastebasket by her bed. She had been practicing the technique all day with Tic Tacs, the moment she got the text from Gigi saying he was buying the pills. She lay back in her bed patting her belly happily. Yeah, she had missed her period.
A month ago.
Jazlene had always imagined living a nice life with a handsome guy like Gino taking care of her, buying her nice things and taking her to places she had only read about in magazines. After four months of having protected sex, it wasn’t hard to convince Gino to slip in raw once. Especially since she had thrown away all of the condoms he had purchased, claiming they were expired. One time turned into plenty more times and finally he slipped up, going in too deep way too long.
Now I can be part of his family, Jazlene thought as she rubbed her belly.
Once and for all.
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