Chapter 13

Standing in front of Tisha’s apartment door, I felt nervous, like I needed an antacid. I had never experienced that when it came to women, that somehow, I would mess up, make a fool out of myself. I wanted her to be happy to see me, for her face to light up the moment she saw me, to grin until her cheeks hurt. My stomach ached because I wasn’t sure how she would receive me. Maybe I had doubts about how she felt about me because for most of the years she’d known me, she didn’t like me, whereas I didn’t have any feelings toward her either way. She was Kam’s best friend, but she lived in another state and as long as Kam loved me, I didn’t care what her best friend thought. Or maybe it was the way I handled our last conversation and that I had refused to answer her texts or calls. Or maybe because I knew she had a man who she seemed to love and all I would ever be is a friend. Or maybe she reconsidered forgiving me for ghosting her for a month after we’d had sex.

Damn, that night. That night had been so unexpected, so needed, so special, so full of passion that I ran from it. I literally eased out of her bed, gently kissed her forehead, grabbed my discarded clothes, dressing in a hurry as I let myself out of her apartment. I’d driven to the airport, confused with so many emotions on how two people who barely tolerated each other, shared an unbelievable night of passion.

“Aaron? Are you okay?”

Shaking my head to clear the naughty memories of us and focus on the here and now, I clasped my hands in front of me to hide my arousal. I sheepishly smiled at a frowning Tisha who’d just opened her door.

“What are you doing here? You don’t speak to me for weeks and you just show up? Dewayne could have been here.” She wore a long pale pink Minnie Mouse cotton nightshirt and a black scarf around her head and self-consciously touched the satin as she explained, “I heard a noise and I thought it was Kam.”

“So beautiful,” I murmured, soaking her in from head to her pretty gold-polished toes. “I needed to see you.”

The edges of her lips finally curved, and she backed up to let me enter her place. I moved past her and stood just inside her cozy apartment.

Closing the door, Tisha rested against it. Her partial smile gone, arms folded across her braless breasts, probably protecting them from my view. “So, what do you want?”

I started to respond “you”, instead, I answered, “I had to make sure you accepted my apology for how our last conversation ended and I figured face to face visit was the best course of action.”

Tisha snorted. “Next time bring a gift.”

I solemnly pulled a small white bag with a cinnamon roll from West Egg Café out of my jacket pocket. “I did.”

Tisha rolled her eyes, grin returning as she reached for her favorite treat. “You totally suck, you know that?”

“I know and I would tell you my selfish ways won’t happen again, but…”

“You would be lying.” She pointed at me. “Look, we can be angry at each other, but you can’t cut me out of your life when it suits you.”

Nodding, I opened my arms for a hug needing to touch her. “I can promise that because I missed you too much to ever cut off communication again.”

She shook her head. “No, you just trying to cop a feel. I don’t have anything under this.”

When she moved forward, I blocked her path, and her eyes widen slightly. “My body is fully aware that the only thing separating me from your sexy body is that thin piece of cotton.”

Tisha blushed though she pushed me aside using my chest. “Boy, let me put something else on because you and I are not having sex.” She gestured toward her gray sofa. “Take a seat and I’ll be right back.”

As she walked past me, I grabbed her and hugged her from the back, and kissed her cheek. Although she swatted at my arms around her waist, her body relaxed into me and she let her head fall back on my chest. She exhaled and admitted, “I missed you too.”

I squeezed her to me and whispered in her ear, “Let me show you how much I missed you.”

Tisha teasingly brushed her thick ass against my hard dick. “I can already tell.” She unwrapped my arms from around her and spoke over her shoulder while she headed to her bedroom, “If you need to take a cold shower, you know where my bathroom is because you’re not getting any this morning.”

I groaned in disappointment and flopped down on her sofa, willing myself to mentally focus on the friend I needed more than the lover. She’d been right to stop anything from happening. I was still caught up in the memory of that night of shared passion, but Tisha and I had become more since that night.

A few minutes later, Tisha walked back in the room with leggings and a Hillman sweatshirt, fluffing her short, relaxed shiny black hair that framed her brown round face well. “I heard it didn’t go well with you and Kari.”

I propped my arms against the back of the sofa, while she sat down and tucked one leg underneath her, and faced me ready to talk.

“How much did Kam tell you?”

She touched my arm. “Why don’t you tell me what happened?” 

“In a minute…did you eat yet?”

“No, but suddenly I don’t have much of an appetite.” She covered her face with her hands and then peeked through them at me. “Why do you affect me so?”

“I don’t know because I feel the same. I stood outside for the longest scared to knock, scared you would reject me after how I’d treated you. And I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared to approach a woman.”

Tisha gave me a soft smile. “You’ve been through a lot. I wasn’t angry with you. I just hoped you believed me that Kam didn’t ask me to look after you and that you would speak to me again.”

“Did you really miss me?” I asked.

“I can ask you the same question.”

I laughed loudly. “Tisha, I drove four hours exhausted and slept in the car because I didn’t know if you had company. What do you think?”

She quirked one eyebrow. “Maybe you drove all the way to see Kam, thinking she was here.”

“I did have breakfast with Kam but seeing her wasn’t the plan.”

Wrinkles marred her countenance. “You had breakfast, what happened?”

I teased, “You’re sounding jealous again.”

Now, she looked annoyed. “No, just concerned. You two haven’t seen each other for a long time.”

“Our conversation went amazingly well. Jealous?”

With a slight roll of her neck, Tisha snapped, “No, that would be I’m jealous of you and Vonni.”

I moved my arms from across the back of the sofa and shifted my body towards hers. “Whoa, what did Kam tell you?”

“Bakari told her that you and Vonni behaved like a couple.” She stared into my eyes defiantly, but I could see the hurt. “Are you getting back with her?”

Her question was a complex one that I wasn’t quite ready to answer. I hopped up and pulled a reluctant Tisha into the kitchen, leading her to her glass table. “I’m going to cook you something to eat.”

She chose to sit with her back facing the window, so she could watch me. “You cook now? Kam said you rarely cooked?”

“And I didn’t. I’m different now. I realize that I need to take care of my next woman more than just financially.”

Tisha warned, “I’m not going to be your woman.”

I opened her pantry searching for pancake mix. “In time.”

“Aaron, you have too much shit going on. And Dewayne is simple.”

Cringing at the truth of her statement, I placed the box on the counter and went to her refrigerator. “I remember you don’t like eggs. How about pancakes and turkey sausage? Is Lacy here?” Lacy, “Sweetpea”,  was Tisha’s seventeen-year old daughter.

“No, she slept over her best friend again thinking she grown since she a senior in high school. Pancakes and sausage sound good.”

I listened at the familiar irritation in her voice.  Tisha and I had countless conversations about her teenage daughter who often gave her the blues with her sass and smart mouth.  I told her they only butted heads because they were too much alike, but Tisha couldn’t see how similar she and her daughter really were. “What time does baby Kari wake up?”

“Any minute. She loves pancakes too, but Kam and Kari don’t give her meat.”

I smiled at Tisha. “I can’t wait to hold her again. I should’ve brought her a doll or teddy bear, so she can remember her Uncle AJ.”

“That’s what you want her to call you?”

“That was my nickname until Kari started calling me ‘Ron Ron’. I mean no one else called me that but once he started, the rest of my family began to call me Aaron.” I brushed off the twinge of sadness at Kari’s insistence of calling me the name he did when he was a little boy.

I grabbed the plastic container of apple juice and poured her a glass before placing it in front of her. Tisha looked at me warily. “Are you trying to make me love you?”

Holding on to the back of the empty chair next to her, I looked down at her. “You already do, just aren’t ready to admit it.”

Tisha threw her head back dramatically. “Damn, Aaron. You are too much.” She then straightened and confessed,  “I do love you but I’m not in love.”

“Okay.” I backed up to the counter, heart full at her admission. “Good enough for now.” I smiled at the exasperation in her sigh.

While I made a quick breakfast of pancakes and sausage, we talked about the latest world news and pop fluff, an unspoken promise to not address anything serious until I finished cooking.  The moment I handed her a plate of two pancakes and almost burnt sausages, I eased down in the chair next to hers. “Truth time.”

Tisha ingested a forkful of pancakes. “Needs some work on your batter, turned down the gas while cooking the sausages, but it’s a start.”

“Not talking about the food. You asked me a question about Vonni and I want to be as honest as I can with you.”

“Please do. How can you expect me to take you seriously if you still have another woman on your mind?”

“She’s not on my mind as much as you.  And I don’t know how I feel about Vonni. I’m still attracted, and she is to me, but I’m not sure we fit or should be together. Especially after she tried to hit on Kari.” Still uncomfortable with the thought of the two of them, I looked down at the table.

“The fuck?” She dropped her fork. “Kam didn’t tell me that part. Did Vonni really try to get with Kari? For the record, though your brother is a babe, I have never wanted to be with him that way.”

I reminded sarcastically, “I didn’t need to hear that he’s a “babe” from you.”

She held her hands up. “Being honest, I’ve always told Kam that the Youngbloods are beautiful people. That even your dog was sexy.”

I chuckled. “Yeah, if we had a dog, my mother would have picked out the most attractive one.”

“Back to Vonni, so she hit on him this weekend while she was trying to get back with you?”

I shook my head vehemently. “Years ago, Kari beat up one of her dudes, who’d been abusive and because she was feeling grateful, she tried to kiss him. Kari moved before she could make contact.” I picked up her glass of juice and sipped.

“Is that why you left in the middle of the night? Because you were upset?” She squinted her eyes assessing me. “Did you sleep with her?”

I met her intense, speculative gaze. “Yes, and yes. I left angry because it was too much of a reminder of Kari and Kam. Surprisingly, I believed Kari when he swore that nothing happened. I guess after having such a good moment with her, it was disappointing to find that she would try to get at my brother.  Especially when I wanted to see if she and I were possible again. 

We hadn’t been intimate, for years, and we’re both available now. Timing is everything and maybe it’s our time. The thing is there’s a large part of me that feels like I would be settling if we were to have a relationship, even before I knew about her and Kari. Vonni’s a good woman and all but there’s something missing between us that I’ve never been able to explain. The compromise of being with her, which is almost worth it, is that I get to be with my son on a full-time basis. And maybe it really is about me choosing my son’s happiness over mine.”

“Does Dominick want you to be with his mother?”

“He’s never said, but he used to hate whenever I left him. I hated it too. Like every time I had to go, I lost a part of me. I really should’ve told Kam about him, not for the sake of our marriage but for the sake of my sanity. Living a double life took a toll on me, pretending to Kam that the most important part of me lived in another state missing me.”

Tisha pushed her plate away. “Surprised you’re being this honest with me.”

“I don’t have anyone else that I trust to talk to about these things, so at the risk of losing you by talking about another woman, I hope you allow me to do so.”

“Can I talk about Dewayne to you?”

I groaned. “I don’t like talking about your man with you.”

“If I have to hear about you having sex with your child’s mother, then you have to hear about Dewayne.”

Snatching a link off her plate, I took a huge bite before speaking, “Fine. I guess I do need to know about my enemy.”

“Your enemy?”

“Well, he sure in the fuck not my friend.”

She grinned. “You two would like each other. Maybe we can do a double date.”

“Fuck no. You sound crazy. I don’t want to be on a date with another man who knows how it feels to be inside you.”

She took the rest of the sausage out of my hand. “Just checking. Because if you and I are going to be friends, this sex and love stuff has to go. I have a man and it’s enough I slept with you and occasionally fantasize about you while being with him. You and I can only be friends.”

“Mm…fantasize?” I wiggled my eyebrows. “Am I your love slave? Walking around naked, except for a bow tie, waiting on you hand and foot, while doing whatever you want me to do to your body at your command.”

Tisha giggled. “Why are you so fucking stupid?” She tapped my forehead. “What goes on in there?”

I enclosed her finger in my hand. “Why don’t you see me as potential?”

“Umm…because you go through women like water. You were just with your ex either last night or Friday, right?”

“So, like you just hadn’t been with your man at some point this week.”

She sighed loudly, “Aaron, you don’t know what you want. Besides, you still hurt over Kari and Kam. Maybe that’s why you bonded with me because I am the one person you can talk to about the pain you still feel. Maybe it’s not that you’re falling for me, maybe I’m just a comfort and once you’re fully healed, you won’t need me anymore.” Her voice drifted off.

Entwining my hand with hers, I protested, “I know I have things to work out with my child’s mother, my child. And every day the thought of Kari’s betrayal hurts less and less. I just want to know if I’m at least potential for you. Like I want to date you. I come to see you, you travel to see me.”

“While you mess with all these other women?”

I asked pointedly, “Are you planning to drop Dewayne?”

“Why would I give up a perfectly good man who lives here to just date you in another city?”

Confidently, I responded, “Because I would make you happier.”

Instead of her expected retort, Tisha took another bite of her pancakes with her free hand.

“Look, if you worried about Kam, I’m almost certain she approves of us.”

She almost choked before she bit out, “You told her?”

“She guessed there’s something between us because she did catch me outside waking up in my car.” I squeezed her hand tighter and added softly, “She also said some bullshit that I smile brighter when I say your name.”

Her eyes sparkled when she looked at me. “You really like me, don’t you?”

“Yes. I do. I more than like you.” I leaned closer to her. “But your friendship is most important. I told myself that on the drive here if all you ever wanted to be is my friend, I would accept it. That maybe that’s all we were meant to be. And that special woman for me is still out there and you’re only in my life to show me that it’s possible to trust and love again.”

Tisha’s eyes now glistened as she reached across the table and traced my lips slowly with her index finger, her eyes focused on her actions, and I opened my mouth to taste her skin again. When I sucked on her finger, her gaze raised to meet mine and as I pulled her to sit across my lap, once again a Kari intervened in my love life. The cutest little person I’d ever seen with Kam’s curly hair and dimples like her father ambled in the kitchen rubbing her eyes. Although she couldn’t possibly know me, since the last time I’d seen her she’d been about three months, baby Kari smiled and raised her arms to me. I let go of Tisha’s hand to joyfully pick up and cradle my niece to my chest falling in love with her all over again.

I cooed, “Your Uncle AJ is here. You hungry…want some pancakes?”

Her little chubby hand happily tapped my mouth. “Hi.”

Tisha commented wryly, “Damn, you even have an effect on baby girls.”  

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