I climbed out of bed, used the bathroom, and headed to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee, two creams, and two Splendas. I looked out of my condo’s window into the rising sun, thinking that I would take my coffee and read CNN from my phone on my balcony. Once I finished preparing my coffee, I carefully carried my steaming Wizards coffee cup back to my bedroom to grab shorts to cover my lower half. If my balcony were more private, I would sit naked soaking up the sun. Kam used to joke that I must have been a nudist in my past life, I so preferred nothing covering my body.
I settled back in my lounge chair and enjoyed the brisk morning and sipped on my coffee. I’d been a morning person for as long as I could remember and usually woke up at five, to reflect, to breathe, sometimes to exercise. Rarely did I work or want to have conversations with anyone. I didn’t even desire to have sex until much later in the morning. No, this time was only for me and though I’d been living alone for two years and had plenty of time to myself, I still reserved this time of day to reflect.
I’d been back home for almost two weeks and had spoken with Tisha every day. I smiled as I sipped on my coffee. My surprise brief trip brought us even closer. I still didn’t quite know what would become of our friendship. She told me she didn’t want our conversations to be deep that I’d been through too much lately and we spent time talking about our day, our children, and our varied opinions about current events. Occasional flirting but not too dirty at least on her part. It didn’t matter what we talked about just seeing her number pop up on my cell made me smile.
“Good morning,” a woman’s voice greeted, interrupting my morning thoughts about Tisha.
I looked to my left and an attractive dark-skinned woman with a curvy body outlined by her satin robe slightly leaned over her balcony. She flipped her braids over her shoulder as she smiled. Placing my cup down on my table, I returned her smile. “Just moved in, about a month ago, right?”
As I was headed out of town for a business trip, I saw movers. I didn’t wait around to see who my new neighbor or neighbors would be. “Are you from D.C?”
“No, I’m from Jackson, MS. I’ve been offered a position at Howard University.”
“Oh, a professor from the deep South?” I smiled.
“Actually, I’m the new Director of Student Affairs,” she said with such pride, I figured this position meant something to her.
I lifted my phone in the air. “Congratulations.”
“Thank you.” Her nice lips spread wider, a faint dimple appearing in her right cheek. Prettier than at first glance. She continued, “I haven’t officially started yet, just orientation and learning the city.”
“Do you know anyone here? Mississippi isn’t right around the corner.”
“I have a cousin here, but she’s married with a family, so she doesn’t always have the time to show me around.” She twirled the end of her hair.
I stood and moved to the end of my balcony near hers. As I expected her pleased gaze traveled from my head to toe. “Name’s Aaron Youngblood by the way.”
Her forehead wrinkled. “Youngblood? That’s an interesting name.”
Shrugging, I agreed. “I know. I used to believe my ancestors had to be vampires or into voodoo or some weird shit.”
Her flirty brown eyes danced with interest. “I like your name. Mine’s Raquel Scott.”
“Like yours too.” We smiled at each other a moment too long and she definitely piqued my interest. I slightly bent and crossed my arms over my iron wrought railings. “You should have breakfast with me in a couple of hours.”
She now seemed amused. “I should?”
“Yep. It’s going to be a gorgeous day. I know this great spot we can walk from here. And in case you need to let your cousin know what man is taking you to breakfast, tell her my name and the name of my company so she can see you’re in safe hands.”
“You have your own company?” Raquel couldn’t hide her interest in me if she tried now.
“Yes, it’s called Imagine. I can tell you more over breakfast.” I stepped back to pick up my coffee. “At eight, I’ll stop at your door and we’ll take it from there.”
“What if I have plans?”
“If it’s not work, cancel them or do them later.” I sipped on my coffee watching her barely contained smile as she contemplated an answer, I already knew she would give. I’m thinking my day is about to go better than I expected. “Raquel, I’m about to go inside. See you at eight.”
“Not accepting ‘no’, huh?”
“Unless you’re married or in a serious relationship, then no, I’m not taking ‘no’.” I opened my glass balcony door, still needing my personal time and she looked like she’d prepared to be on the balcony for a while with her own coffee and planner.
She finally responded, “Mr. Youngblood, I like waffles and bacon.”
“They have some of the best.” I waved before stepping inside and closing the door.
Promptly at eight, I knocked on her door, and Raquel walked out her braids now in a flirty ponytail on top of her head and attired in a colorful sundress and a jean jacket and low heels, perfect for walking.
I held my hand out. “Nice to meet you.”
“I’ve seen you around. I just didn’t know your name.” She smiled and accepted my hand. Her palm was smooth, soft, and warm. I would’ve held it if we had said more than a few words to each other.
“Really?” We headed to the elevator at the end of the hall. Each floor of the complex held six to eight condos and there were ten floors. We were on the eighth floor.
“Yes. You’re usually on the phone with mail in your hand, focused on whoever you’re talking to.”
“Sorry I can get focused and don’t pay attention to what’s around me or I would’ve introduced myself sooner.” I smiled thinking that Tisha had accused me of not paying attention to my surroundings and missing the life around me.
We stepped on the elevator and I gave her some space and stood against the wall since our elevator was small. It also gave me a chance to view her from the back. Raquel had a nice, shapely ass, that I’m most certain was all hers. I liked her choice of dress, she wasn’t trying too hard or being too flirty in choosing a loose dress that didn’t show cleavage. I probably could convince her to have sex later, but I didn’t want to. Something told me she was potential.
She smelled good like flowers and sunshine when she brushed past me when I held the front door open for her to pass through first. “The restaurant is about five blocks away. They only serve breakfast, and their chicken wings and waffles are superb…oh but you just want waffles and bacon. Too bad, you missing out.” I teased. Raquel was tall and with her low heels, her shoulders almost reached mine. With heels, she probably stood at my nose.
“Chicken sounds better. I am open to trying new things. Like I can’t believe I’m on an impromptu date with you.” Raquel lightly touched my forearm. “This morning, I planned to eat cereal and run errands. Instead, I’m having waffles with my handsome neighbor.”
Enjoying our light banter, I added, “And I’m learning to take life as it comes. I’d only planned to eat breakfast alone and catch up on work, but a beautiful woman changed my mind.”
Raquel blushed. “You’re really charming so what’s your story? Don’t believe in commitment, have a girlfriend who I’ll see coming out of your apartment later tonight or a wife in another city?”
“Or maybe I just hadn’t found the right woman for me yet.”
She snorted. “You haven’t found the right woman? Forgive me for not believing you even though we just met. But I’m too old to not put everything on the table while there’s nothing to lose or gain.”
I smiled. “Fair enough. Why don’t you believe me?”
“I’m a never-married professional black woman with no children and within a month of moving here, I meet a handsome, articulate, and self-employed black man who actually asks me out within a few moments of talking. No guessing games if he is attracted, will he ask me out, or will I have to do it. Those dating games I’m so damn tired of, something tells me with you I won’t have to wonder. Either we mesh or we don’t. Either today is our first and last time of hanging out or our first of many. Am I wrong in my assessment of you?”
Chuckling, I responded, “You’re not wrong at all. Is this why you’re Director of Student affairs? You can read people pretty quickly. Help those Bisons be better prepared for the future.”
“One reason,” she boasted. “Did you go to Howard?”
“Naw, I’m from here but wanted to go away to school. I’m a Rattler.”
“FAM, god damn U?” she asked.
“You went to FAMU?” I asked in surprise, she appeared to be around my age and she would have been the type of woman who would’ve caught my eye back then.
“No, born and raised in Jackson and a proud Tiger, but been to football games when we played against your school. I graduated with my masters’ from Jackson State, worked in administration there before being offered a job at Howard.” She raised an eyebrow. “I’m even more impressed… an HBCU graduate. If you’re still single and none of those FAMU women caught you, then I really want to know why?”
“I am divorced from a FAMU woman actually. I still like the idea of commitment and marriage, but I have some things left to work out in me to see if it’s in me to get married again.” I bumped her shoulder slightly. “This is the first time I could say I’m divorced without feeling any type of pain.”
She met my eyes. “Good. A sign of healing. Heartbreak is hard. Makes you scared to take another risk.”
I nodded liking our direct conversation as we continued to stroll on the bright, colorful flowers blooming, breezy spring morning in Northwest, D.C. “It is. Sometimes I wonder, why try at all. Just be happy with my damn self.”
Raquel giggled in agreement. “I’m almost there. I’m in a new city on my own, taking the biggest risk of my life at thirty-six by leaving behind family, friends…
“A man?” I interjected.
She looked down and her pain was tangible at that moment. “Main reason, I wanted to start fresh in a new place. Make new, happy memories. I’ve had more peace on my own and being with myself than with any man. Start to think that sharing a good life with someone is damn near impossible.”
Feeling the overwhelming urge to comfort this bright, beautiful woman I met only a couple of hours ago, I hooked her pinky with mine and said, “Then God reminds you why it’s still possible.”
Raquel tightened her finger and leaned into me briefly, her joy returning. “Yes. He does.”
Later that night, I’d just come home and sprawled out on my sofa watching Pistons and Pelicans, when I noticed my text notification.
Where you been?
I checked my phone and saw I had two missed texts and a call from Tisha. I texted back.
Can you talk?
I called and she picked up promptly.
I started, “I had an all-day date. Hadn’t done that since Kam.”
“With who? I just spoke with you yesterday. You told me you were going to stay home all weekend.”
“Plans change.” I lowered the volume with my remote. “Her name is Raquel and she moved in next door about a month ago. This morning I was on my balcony and she was on hers. She seemed cool, so I asked her out.”
“Were you naked?” Tisha asked suspiciously. “I know how you like to be around your place. Bet you’re butt ass naked on the sofa right now”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” I teased.
“Aaron.” When she said my name like that, I knew she wanted answers.
“No, Tish, I’m still dressed now and I know better than to sit on my balcony nude. I threw on shorts. I swear my next home will have a private balcony so my nuts can blow in the breeze.”
Tisha complained, “Ugh. Gross.”
“You love it.”
“Why do I even talk to you?”
“I make you laugh.” My cheeks were starting to hurt. After a day of smiling and talking with one woman and now doing it with another woman, I was exhausted but a pleasant exhaustion I’d welcome any day. “Seriously, we said a few words to each other. She’s new in town and I invited her to breakfast.”
“She agreed so easily because she saw your chest that you like to flaunt every chance you get.”
“Nope, it’s you who gets tongue-tied whenever you see my chest.” Besides the night we spent together, a couple of times she stopped by Kam’s and she caught me shirtless. I’d noticed then that she had trouble focusing on my face to relay a message for me to give to Kam.
“Aaron, you’re so annoying.” I could hear her blush through the phone.
“I wasn’t trying to flaunt anything. I woke up about five, fixed coffee, pulled on shorts, and sat on my balcony. She was on her balcony and we started chatting, so I didn’t purposely try to tempt her. I invited her to breakfast and the more we talked we enjoyed each other’s company. She’s still decorating her apartment and I hung out with her as she shopped for more décor.”
“So, did you have a quickie or something? It’s not even eight.”
“I didn’t have sex with her. About an hour ago we made it back, I kissed her forehead. Told her I would see her later.”
“You spent all day with a woman shopping, and you didn’t want anything from her? You must not be attracted.”
I shifted on the sofa thinking of Raquel and how I found myself taken with her. “I am completely attracted. She’s beautiful, smart, can hold an intelligent conversation, and I enjoyed today. Look forward to spending more time with her.”
“She lives right next door and you’re home alone on a Saturday night?”
“Raquel is potential. Want to take it slow.”
She grew quiet.
“I thought you weren’t seriously dating until you got your shit together.”
“Which is why I’m taking it slow. I didn’t plan to meet her, but we clicked. You would even like her. She seems direct and honest.”
“You mean you finally giving a woman your time who has substance?”
“She does. She’s a good woman.”
“You really like her already, don’t you?”
I could hear the sadness in her tone. “Hey…hey, I thought you would be happy for me. You know what I’ve been through. I deserve a win and she may be that win.”
Tisha sighed, “I know. I should be happy for you. I guess I didn’t expect you to be wifed up with someone new already.”
“I don’t know about ‘wifed’ up or if anything will come out me and Raquel, but I already want to see her again. It’s been a long time since I truly enjoyed a woman’s company.”
She reminded with a tinge of anger. “I thought you felt that way about me? Or was that just a line?”
I sat up on my sofa, surprised by her seriousness. I figured she’d be a little jealous because we were very much attracted to each other, but anytime my flirtation went too far, she’d remind me about her man. “Shit, Tisha. I’m not trying to hurt you or make you mad. Of course, I love being around you, we talk every day. But you also don’t see me as a potential for you and you have Dewayne. It’s why I didn’t call you as soon as I had a chance to tell you about my date because it’s Saturday night. Where is he anyway?”
I sighed. “Judging how irritated you seem, it is important. Tell me.”
“Thought you didn’t like hearing about Dewayne?”
“I really don’t. But trying to be a real friend.”
“We got into it about Sweet Pea and I told him I didn’t want to see him tonight.”
“Lacy? What happened?”
“He pissed me off because he tried to tell me what to do with her. Last night, she didn’t come home until midnight after she went to the movies with her friends. Her curfew is ten. She and I had words and I took her cell away and she’s grounded until I say otherwise. So, she’s been locked in her room all day mad with me accusing me of ruining her social life.”
“And what did Dewayne say?”
“He said, she’s going away to college in a few months anyway that I need to loosen up. That ten is early for a senior who’s graduating in a couple of months. But she broke my rules and she’s been defiant a lot lately and I have to be harder so she’s not thinking she can fuck authority just because she can. If I don’t do my job, then the world out there is harder, unforgiving.”
Hearing the rising frustration and anger in her voice, I responded softly, “Tish, all of this conflict between you and Lacy is because you’re worried that she’ll end up pregnant like you did before she has a chance at college.”
She agreed enthusiastically, “Yes, you understand, and I don’t know why he doesn’t. Dewayne’s daughter is almost sixteen. Then again, he became a father at eighteen with his girlfriend and they were in love at the time. My story was different. I was a senior and a virgin and let some nigga I thought loved me get it and he never looked back once he got it. I don’t want my child to feel the pain, loneliness, and disappointment of being a teen mom.”
I continued, “I do understand your worries but he’s right. I’ve been saying the same thing to you. You have to trust your daughter and that’s what she’s feeling and why she fights you, that you don’t trust her. As long as you know where she’s at, midnight is a reasonable time to come home for a young woman who makes good grades, already has scholarship offers. You raised her well and she wants to go to college before she has a family. You’re her mom and she’s lived your struggle with you, but she also has Kam to compare what happens when you wait to have a child. She knows it’s better for her to get her education and become a mother later. You have to start letting go. Come on, Tish, you and I have talked about it.”
Tisha sniffed. “I know, I’m just so scared for her.”
“And even if she gets pregnant, you’re going to be there for her, unlike your mother who wasn’t there for you. You will do whatever it takes to help her reach her goals and not make her feel that her life is over because she got pregnant.”
“I would be there for her.”
“Then tell her your fears without yelling at her and reassure her that no matter what you’re there for her. You can keep her cell and she’s grounded for the rest of the weekend for disobeying you, but let her know starting next week, her curfew is midnight.”
“I don’t know…”
“Tisha, I know you don’t like no one telling you how to raise your daughter but I’m a parent and he’s a parent of a daughter. We once were those young men who you’re afraid your daughter will become mixed up in and forget her goals. If both of us are thinking you being too strict about her curfew, listen.”
She laughed through her tears. “My God, I still can’t believe that I’m actually going to listen to you. I’ve been so so wrong about you.”
“In some ways, yes, but in others, I was too self-involved, uncaring about Kam’s feelings a lot of the time, and one day I might tell you why.” I stared at the ceiling and thought about how I’d blocked my feelings for so long that I’d appeared callous, selfish indifferent to others. Tisha wasn’t blinded by my looks or my charms, she took me as I was. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to her, that she could see me and called me on my ways. Maybe that’s why Raquel appealed to me too, I sensed she wouldn’t hold back on her opinion of me. For years, I had a wife who never told me how she really felt about the decisions I’d made in our marriage for us, she never told me how she’d started falling out of love with me. She didn’t allow me to really know her and it’s partially my fault because I wanted our life to be perfect, blemish-free, too scared to fail. I don’t want a woman again who won’t be honest with me because I won’t be dishonest with her.
I adjusted to lay on my side, the next basketball game between the Knicks and Bulls silently played as I preferred my conversation with my friend. “Tish, I know you mad and all but that’s not enough of a reason for him to be at home and you on the phone with me. What’s really going on?”
“I love Dewayne and he’s the best man I’ve ever been with, but sometimes he can be too nice.”
“What? You’re actually complaining about ‘Mr. Perfect’?”
“He’s not perfect.”
I grunted. “Damn near, the way you wax poetic about him.”
“Well, anytime his daughter’s mother wants something, he goes running. And now that it’s apparent that he loves me, she’s calling him all the time about something. I don’t know I’m thinking we need a break or something.”
“A break? You think he’s cheating with his ex?”
“No, but then he wouldn’t believe I fucked around with you.”
I chuckled. “True. Then why ask for a break? He’s a good father from what you tell me which means he’s an attentive father. If he’s telling you what he’s doing and where he’s going, he’s not hiding anything.”
“What if I want a break so I can see you?”
My heart stopped for a second. “Tish, you want to risk your relationship for me?”
“I don’t know. All I do know is that I think of you all the time and when you showed up at my door, I wished like hell I was single because all I wanted was for us to make love.”
My dick grew rock hard and I closed my eyes willing my body to chill so I could think rationally. I remained quiet processing my thoughts.
I opened my eyes and spoke, “All I know is that the first person I wanted to tell, about Raquel is you. I don’t know why I want to tell a woman who I’m already half in love with about another woman that I like, but I do.”
“You keep saying shit like that and it fucks with me.”
“I’m not trying to confuse you, just want to be transparent. That day we spent together, with baby Kari, was one of the best days I had in a long time. It reminded me that I want a relationship again. Not sure I want marriage, but I do want a woman, a girlfriend to spend a lazy weekend with. And you know you want marriage. You and Dewayne are on that path.”
“So, you’re saying that I shouldn’t want to be with you because you might not get married again? Deep down, I believe you would get married again because you believe in it too much. Not understanding if you’re feelings are so strong for me, why you are pushing me away.”
“I’m not pushing you away. You tell me to catch a flight to see you, I’m there or you want me to fly you in tomorrow, I’m down. But don’t end things with Dewayne unless you know he’s not the man for you. As you said, I’m still figuring shit out. And he knows what he wants, which is you. And I’m almost positive that if I didn’t tell you about Raquel…”
She snarkily asked, “Who’s that?”
“You so fucking hilarious. As I was saying, you only admitted your feelings because you’re scared you’re going to lose me to another woman. And I get it because every day that passes, I worry I’m going to lose you to another man. But here’s the thing which I know from the depth of my soul, if you and I are ever meant to be more than friends, it will happen. Before you break things off with him, make sure it has nothing to do with me.”
Tisha sighed loudly in frustration. “Fine, but if Dewayne and I break up and you already in a relationship with this woman or some other woman, you and I are fucking at least one more time. Not an affair or breaking up any relationship, just a good fuck.”
I groaned. “Tisha, you making me want to fuck what I just said and fly your ass up here so we won’t be interrupted.”
“Ooh, you getting me hot…I need a few days break from you, to get my mind right.”
“Fine, don’t call me until Wednesday.”
“Because I have important meetings on Thursday and Friday and headed to Sacramento for the weekend that I can’t miss. You call me any time before then and I’m flying in town to see you and not taking no for an answer this time. Now, get off this phone and call your man.”
“Damn, Aaron. I might need a two-week break from you. But I’m about to call Dewayne.”
“Good. Whatever you need, I’m here.”
Before I could hang up, Tisha said quietly, “Thank you for being a real friend tonight.”
“Always.” I clicked off the phone, looked down at my semi-hard dick, and apologized. “I’m trying to make better decisions for both of us.”
Then someone lightly tapped on my door. I hopped up with a smile, knowing it was my new neighbor. I opened the door.
Raquel had changed into pink leggings and a long striped fitted t-shirt with slippers, looking much younger than her age and prettier, with her hands behind her back. “Thought you might want to come over to my place and see how I decorated since you helped me pick out most of it. We never exchanged numbers, so I had no choice but to knock on your door.”
“Hmm…what’s behind your back?”
She pulled out a bottle of sparkling cider. “Figured I could tempt you to come over for a glass. You told me you don’t handle your liquor well.”
I laughed aloud taking the bottle from her hand and pretended to study the label. “Welches’ 2018, I heard that’s a good year.” I glanced at her lips and back at her sparkly brown eyes. Without any more thought, I tugged her to me and kissed her gently. “I would love to see your place.”
She took my hand and pulled me next door.
***This week been rough…finally could get back to Youngblood…are you liking Raquel? Or think Aaron might be rushing it? Is Tisha still in the running for his heart or should she be in his heart?***