Autumn Falls

(Not actual cover)

Chapter 1

“Are you freaking kidding me?” I yelled in the phone. “I can’t afford this rent by myself. Who waits until the week before a semester starts to say I’m not coming back?”

“Autumn calm down,” said my former best friend, Akila. “I have movers coming today to pack up my things and put it in storage.  And I already have someone who’s ready to move in. I didn’t want to tell you until I had someone to replace me. I know how you are about money.”

My temples pounded. “What time are these movers coming here? And why couldn’t you come get your own things? This is fucking unbelievable. How are we best friends and you don’t think I need to know what your plans are, especially when they concern me?”

“I wouldn’t have two off days again until three weeks from now.”

“What the hell? You have a job now? You left here end of June, told me you’ll see me in August and now you have a full-time job and staying in Charlotte. We talk several times a week and you never thought to tell me any of this?”

 “Because I know you would think that staying home to finish school for Kaleb is stupid.”

I snorted derisively. “And you would be absolutely right. I should have figured you would be going through all of this for him. We only have one more year of school. He couldn’t wait one more year or better, yet, he could have transferred here. Didn’t you say he has friends here anyway?”

“Come on, Auti that makes no sense.  I’d already planned to move back home after graduation. He already has his own place, a good job, and I’m living with my parents for now.  I’m able to transfer colleges with little problem. And everyone’s thrilled that I came home for my last year. You should be happy for me.”

I paced in the living room of our, I mean my, two-bedroom townhome. “Maybe if you told me when you told everyone else, I would be. But we’ve been roommates and best friends since we started FAMU and now you plan to live in Charlotte? This was supposed to be our year. We finally both got food stamps and good paying part time jobs in our field. And you’re leaving me with Kim and Nikki? You and I were supposed to go to parties and hang out all night in between cramming for our exams in our fab townhome.”

“We did that last year.”

“Yeah, but now we can actually afford it.” We were both nursing majors and we’d both always earned high marks and barely scraped by to afford the townhome ten minutes from campus.  This year was about coasting and living it up since most of our hardest courses were behind us.

Akila pleaded, “Please forgive me, Auti.  I’m sorry for dumping this on you at the last minute. But honestly I didn’t know how to tell you because as much as I want to be here with Kaleb, I’m going to miss my best friend even more.” Her voice broke at the end. “What am I going to do without you?”

I dropped on my red sofa and hugged my red pillow.  Tears sprung to my eyes at the finality that Akila really was gone and not coming back.  She hated confrontation and would avoid it like the plague, where I met it head on. This was so her to wait until the last minute, though it annoyed the hell out of me. “Yeah, me too. That’s what hurts the most.  You made FAMU fun and I know we planned to part ways after graduation, I just thought I had one more year with you.  I didn’t think you and Kaleb were that inseparable couple.”

“I didn’t either until this summer. We had an amazing summer and I don’t want to leave him.”

“You’ve been apart for more than a year, already.” Akila had met Kaleb, last summer when she went home, and they’d had a long-distance relationship. “What’s one more year?”

 “Autumn, I love him and maybe if you let a man love you too, you would understand.”

“I have plenty of time for love. I need to finish school first and I refuse to let a man deter my dreams. For too many years, my mother put aside her career for my father, who got to be this big-time orthopedic surgeon. And what does he do, as soon as my oldest sister graduates from high school, he’s gone.  My mother made sacrifices for our family for what?”

“I know, I know. Your mother’s story won’t be yours. My parents are still together and they both in careers they love.”

I hugged the pillow tighter. “You forget I have three older sisters and their stories with men leave much to be desired, no thank you. I’m good.”

              Akila sighed. “Love happens when it happens, and you keep blocking it. Every time a man gets close to you, you find reasons why it won’t work.”

“I’m not finding reasons or excuses.  My future isn’t worth any of the men I’ve dated. Just think if I was serious about Chuckie what would have happened to me? I would be fighting with two baby mamas as we speak. I’m not against love, I just want to get mine first.  I’ve seen it happen too many times where a woman has to give up what she wants to be with a man.”  I propped my legs on the matching red ottoman.  Summer, my oldest sister who was a pediatrician, had provided the living room, dining area, and patio furniture, replete with a fifty-inch flat screen.  Akila and I had each taken care of our own bedroom furniture and décor.

“Not every man wants his woman to give up what she wants for him.  And everyone dates idiots, but what about Hakim and Cole? They were good guys.”

“And? They wanted too much of my time and couldn’t get it that I needed to study.  I still have my Masters’ program on the horizon.”

“Fine. I can’t convince you to live a little.”

“You know I have my fun with men.  I love sex as much as the dudes. I’m just not trying to be serious about anyone. You act like I’m a nun and shit. I just don’t need a relationship like you do.” I looked around our cute apartment, suddenly assailed by loneliness. “What am I going to do without you? I’m mad as hell as I am at you for dropping this shit on me, but  I know how much you missed Kaleb and your family. You were meant to return home while I don’t ever plan to go back.  Will I even like this new roommate?”

“Okay…here’s the thing. I really didn’t decide until two weeks ago to stay here and…”

I said skeptically, “I don’t like the way you’re sounding. I don’t need any more surprises right now, Akila. Who is she?”

There was a knock on the door.

“Someone’s at the door and I’m not expecting anyone. What time are the movers coming here?” Then realization dawned at the silence on the other end.  “Wait, so she’s here? Moving in right now? I swear if you weren’t so far away, I would slap you through the phone.”

“Ummm…it’s going to work out…he’s going to pay you one hundred and fifty more than I paid.”

“He? What the fuck? I can’t live with a boy.” I got up annoyed, put my phone on mute, and looked through the peephole and saw a light-skinned black woman with two tats on her neck and two long pink cornrows standing at the door. She frowned when I opened the door. “Can I help you?”

She said with a slight twist of her head. Great. Am I rooming with ghetto girl? “I’m just making sure this is the right place?”

“I don’t know what apartment you’re looking for?”

She stepped back to look at the number on my door above my head. Her shorts were even shorter than mine and she had way more hips than I did. “Does an Auti live here?”

“Autumn. That’s me.”

Her eyes widened. “I thought you were supposed to be a man?”

“And I thought you were supposed to be a man too.”

She immediately became defensive. “That trifling ass bastard. Who the fuck are you to Q?”

I frowned in confusion. “Q? I don’t know anyone named Q. You got the wrong place.”

She put her finger in my face. “Too late to lie now, bitch. You already told me your name. He told me this is where he’s staying.”

Livid, I retorted, “Get your hands out my face. Autumn is my name, but I don’t know a Q. I ain’t got no reason to lie.”

And before she or I ended up in jail, I backed up and slammed the door in her face. She immediately started banging and cursing. I quickly unmuted my phone. “Have you lost your damn mind allowing ‘Black Ink Tallahassee’ to room with me?”

“I don’t know who that woman is. I heard the whole convo…but Q,.. I mean I do know Quincy Jackson.”

“Quincy Jackson, the head drum major? So, the psycho was looking for you? You were messing around on Kaleb with a drum major? When did this happen? I didn’t realize you kept secrets from me.” The banging continued and then she’d started kicking my door too. I yelled through the door, “I’m about to call the fucking cops if you don’t stop. I don’t know Q. My old roommate knew him, not me.”

Akila said, “Auti, I didn’t mess around with him. He went to high school with Kaleb.  Quincy is your…

“Cinnamon, what the fuck you doing here? I told you to come over tonight after I got settled. Stop that shit.” I heard a male voice yelling.

The crazy girl hollered back, “You live with a stuck-up bitch and you told me you were single. That’s my motherfucking problem.”

What kind of name is Cinnamon? I took a peep through the hole and my stomach fluttered.  Quincy was a gorgeous, tall, brown skinned man with reddish undertones, soft black hair braided in small short corn rows.  He wore a loose-fitting tank and long shorts that displayed his muscled arms – of which one shoulder was completely tatted- and his toned legs well. He now smiled at Cinnamon and had placed both his hands on her waist, and she was like putty in his hands. “Babe, you don’t have any problems with me. I haven’t even met my new roommate yet and you here causing confusion.  I’m glad I stopped by when I did.  She could have called the police on you, cutting up like this over nothing.  I don’t have a woman.”

“I could be your woman.” She pulled his head down and before she could kiss him, I opened the door, arms folded.

“Akila is this my new roommate?” I shoved my cell in his hand in between the two of them.  He took it giving me a quick once over and I self-consciously tugged my short shorts down.  He obviously liked what he saw based on the tiny smile he had before he turned his back to answer the phone.  I heard the smile in his voice as he spoke to my friend so I knew without a doubt he would be living with me for the next year.  I patted my foot impatiently at Cinnamon who had been scowling ever since I interrupted their kiss.  “Look, I’m just as confused as you. My old roommate who’s on the phone with him just told me she isn’t coming back and that I have a new one who I didn’t even meet until right now.  I’m not trying to get with your man. And I definitely don’t want him.  So, leave the drama for the other women he’s seeing and not at my home.”

“Other women?” She growled at me. “He just said he doesn’t have a woman.”

“Because he has many.” I gestured toward his turned back.  “Look at him, nothing about him, says he’s only seeing you. And he’s the head drum major? Deep down you know it which is why you were ready to jump my ass.”

“Hey…hey…you don’t know shit about me.” Quincy turned back around angrily and passed me back the phone. “She wants to speak to you again.”

I clicked the phone off, too angry with Akila to talk to her and retorted, “You’re right I don’t but I know your type. And if you fuck up my last year of school with your women and parties, you’re out.”

He raised his voice. “I can do whatever the fuck I want. Akila subleased this apartment to me and I plan to pay my half of the bills, so half is mine.”

“She did it without my permission and if I didn’t need your part of the rent and bills, I wouldn’t have opened my door to this.” I gestured to him and Cinnamon. “And you better keep her on a leash, she’s the type that will stalk you thinking when she’s not with you, you have someone else. Although in your case, it’s probably the truth.”

His admittedly pretty brown eyes flashed, his mouth tightened and when Cinnamon was about to snap back he grabbed her wrist. “Look, I’m moving in later today. I wanted to meet you first and talk but I see you already judging folks. You and I don’t have to speak but half this place is mine. I already have a key.”

I stepped back from the door and snarled, “Fine. Use your key next time.” I slammed the door in both their faces this time and stormed off to my room, frantically calling Summer, hoping that somehow she would have enough to support me my last year in school.

              She answered on the second ring. “What’s up Buttercup?”

I sat down in my desk chair. “We still doing this? I’m twenty-two.” My oldest sister was twelve when I was born and had always been more like a second mother than a sister. Her nickname for me was “Buttercup” until I was five and told her to call me Autumn.  

“You’re twenty-one for another month or so. And you’ll always be my Buttercup.”

“Whatever, Summer. I did call for a reason.”

“Hence me asking, what’s up?”

“Fine smart ass. I need a huge favor.”

“What Autumn?” The serious tone had replaced her more playful, loving one.

“Calm down. It’s not that huge of a favor. Okay…maybe it is.”

              “Spit it out. I don’t have all day.”

“Akila’s not coming back and she found a new roommate.”

“Really? Why? This is your last year?”

“I know.” I leaned back in my chair and said with disdain, “she wants to be with Kaleb. Isn’t that stupid?”

“Auti, there’s nothing wrong with that as long as she finishes school at some point. They’ve been together for a while.”

“I can’t believe you’re saying that?” My big sister has always been about her career. She’s dated men and even has a child, my nine- year- old niece, but her focus has always been on being the best pediatric doctor in Houston. She’s always said that marriage will come when and if it comes.

“I know but sometimes maturity brings about clarity. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so focused on my career at the expense of everything else.  If you find the right man, he’ll support your dreams and you can do it together.”

“Well, not the men I’ve met.”

“That may be true, especially at your age. Just don’t be too hard on Akila. She’s not like you.”

“Well, I’m pissed with her now, but it’ll pass.”

“What’s the favor?”

I closed my eyes in prayer. “You think you can cover her half of the rent? I can work a few more hours and pay a little more. Or maybe I can ask Mama to help too?”

She responded rather impatiently, “Auti, I thought you said Akila found a new roommate?”

“She did but it’s a man. And I can’t live with a man.”

“A man? Does Akila know him?”

“Yes, he’s a friend of Kaleb and the head drum major of the band, though I’ve never met him until today.”

“Head drum major? How was he?”

“Already drama, his woman was here banging on my door pissed he was going to be living with me.”

She exclaimed, “What! What did he do?”

“He charmed her into calming down. You know how men like him can be?”

              “He’s cute?”

Sexy as fuck, popped in my head. “He’s alright.”

“Did he sublease the place?”

“Even if he did, I’m sure I can get out of it.”

“Auti, I’m sorry but you’re going to have to figure it out. I’m trying to save for my own practice and with private school for Bella, I really don’t have it. And don’t ask Mama. She’s finally back into dancing and spends most of her money doing so.”

“What if he’s a rapist or something? I can’t live with him.”

“I trust Akila and he’s the head drum major. He’s probably solid. And you can’t just kick him out legally. What does your gut say about him? Are you worried? Does he scare you?”

I sighed. “No. He doesn’t. Just want peace my last year.”

“You want Akila back. No matter who she picked you would have been upset.”

“Don’t you think it’s foul how she moved out on me and then chose another roommate without my knowledge?”

“Extremely foul and I’d be furious. And I’m not telling you to stay there if you’re unhappy or uncomfortable, just that you’re almost twenty-two years old as you just reminded me. Time for you to figure it out on your own.”

My head started pounding again, that she wouldn’t help me. “That’s what I’m doing, Summer. You know I can’t afford to work full time and finish school. I need your help.”

“No one told you to choose an expensive ass townhome while in college. When I was in college, I barely had enough money for McDonalds. Meanwhile, you’re eating at steakhouses courtesy of all of us. I furnished your place and that’s it. And you better not call Mama,” she threatened.

“I’ll just call Daddy.”

“You do that. I gotta go.” We both knew I wasn’t going to do that. My father had more than enough money to fund my education and lifestyle.  I hadn’t spoken to him since I went off on him at my high school graduation party for not being there for me like he’d been for my older sisters. When he left Mama, he’d left me too.

I said testily, “Bye, then if you have to go. Sorry if my problems are a bother to you.”

              “Bye, Autumn and grow the hell up.”

I threw my phone before myself on the bed, totally feeling fucked. This was so not how I pictured my last year at FAMU, living with a sexy man who already got me hot, truth be reluctantly told.

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