Excerpt from Essence of Us -only my Love Noters have access to the code

The security guard alerted me that I had a visitor.  I checked the camera and saw Tarik. What is he doing here? “Yes, send him up.”

I quickly changed out of my nightgown and donned one of Montana’s sweatshirts and threw on shorts. I rushed to the door and opened it, the moment he knocked. With worried eyes, Tarik half-smiled in greeting.

I stood in the middle of the door. “Montana isn’t back from practice yet.”

“I know. Can I come in? I wanted to talk to you.”

 “About Z.” I confirmed, feeling a wave of nausea.  Zena and I still hadn’t really spoken. She’d sent a couple of texts checking on me and the baby, but that was it. A wall had been planted between us and though I wanted to tell her about Tarik and Cali, I didn’t know how Z would receive it. Would she somehow blame me and our friendship is forever destroyed?

Tarik didn’t quite meet my eyes.  “Yeah. Cali told me you know.”

 I stepped aside and folded my arms. “I can’t believe you would cheat on Zena. She loves you, you’re her world.”

“I didn’t cheat,” Tarik protested as he passed me to walk into our living area.

 “Only because Cali came to her senses or at least that’s what she says,” I said the last part quietly, unsure if Cali really would leave Tarik alone.  He was her great love and she still loved him deeply. I’m not sure I could ever resist Montana if he had moved on to another relationship but still wanted me.

Tarik looked down and put his hands in his pockets. “I had a moment, okay? It’s been hard with Z. Ever since you and she got into it, she’s grumpy all the time. And then her focus has completely become Taj. I know our son needs her, but I do too.”

“Then you talk about it with her. You don’t cheat.” I placed my hands on my hips feeling somewhat pleased that she did miss me too, though she was too stubborn to ever say it to me.

He lifted his head, frowning. “You don’t think I’ve tried. Jamaica was supposed to be a reminder to her of the love we have, the promises we’ve made to each other and you know how that ended. When I tell her how much I still need her, all she can say is I should be more understanding because she’s juggling being my wife, motherhood, and work. And you know her, she didn’t say it nicely to me either.”

 I nodded. Zena could be mean, and she had a mouth on her. I knew she had struggled with all the transitions in her life but not to this extent. No wonder she felt jealous of Cali, who just had this sunny disposition all the time. “I know how she can be, and you married her knowing how she could be. Stop making excuses. If she even thought of cheating, you would be so done with her.” I dared him to deny my words. At his silence, I continued, “What am I supposed to do with this information? She’s already mad that I’m friends with Cali. What do you think she’s going to do once she finds out you almost stepped out with Cali and I knew about it and didn’t say a word?”

 He moved closer to me and pleaded. “She doesn’t have to know. We just texted and had a couple of phone calls. That’s it. Cali is done with me. You don’t have to say a word.”

My heart sunk. “Do you hear yourself? You said since ‘Cali is done’, like if she wasn’t you would still mess around with her.”

Tarik frowned and stuttered, “You…you know that’s …not what I meant. I just meant that you don’t have to say anything because there’s nothing to say. I messed up and I won’t do it again. I was feeling sorry for myself…and Cali knows me.  Besides, if you say anything, Montana will be pissed too. He never liked that I dated his sister. It’s the only argument we ever had as adults.”

I disliked that he tried to use Montana to get me to change my mind.  I shifted my feet because we had been standing this entire time.  I was still angry and hurt that he and Cali had reconnected and I couldn’t fake that I welcomed him into my home, though it was his best friend’s home too. “Either you tell her, or I will.”

“Jasmine, nothing happened.” Tarik repeated.

“Because I caught you.  Hell, I’m not even sure if Cali would have left you alone if I didn’t see the text you sent her.”

He touched my arm. “You know how Z is. She won’t forgive me, and nothing happened.”

“But it did. Even though you didn’t act on it. You wanted to. Cali stopped it, not you.”

Tarik’s grabbed my wrist and said desperately, “It’s not your place. She’s my wife.”

“And my best friend.” I shrugged his hand off and he tried to reach for my arm again.

“What’s going on?” Montana walked inside, slamming the door behind him, startling me and Tarik.

Tarik looked away.

I folded my arms and didn’t say a word.

Montana barked, “Someone better say something and quick.  What the fuck is going on?”

I touched my womb protectively at the anger in his voice.  I looked at Tarik and he kept his eyes down. “Tarik…”

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