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Authors: Meesha Mink

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BOOK: Kiss the Ring
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“Get the fuck out of my face,” he snapped, pushing her shoulder.

Naeema stumbled back. She couldn't front. He surprised her.
What if he flips on me? Can I beat his ass?

He was at least twenty pounds heavier.

But fuck that. This white dude just put hands on me. Fuck, this look like the 1860s in this bitch?

Naeema slapped him across the face twice.

WHAP! WHAP!

“Hey,” he cried out, his blue eyes wide as he pressed a hand to his reddening cheeks.

“Hey hell. Keep your fucking hands to yourself,” she said, curving her fingers into tight fists in case he tried it. “And that comes to getting physical with a female
and
fondling little boys.”

His blue eyes shifted again. “I didn't—”

“You
did
,” she emphasized, feeling her anger at him rise. “Your bullshit caused one little boy to drop out of school.”

“I—”

“Shut up,” Naeema snapped, looking back over her shoulder at the sound of voices. “You don't get to molest boys. You don't get to use them for your perverted bullshit. You don't get to front to your wife,
Olive
, like your ass don't love dick. And you don't get to work in a fucking school around kids.”

She saw his surprise as she flung his wife's name at him. Naeema had a picture of the pretty redhead in her phone too.

“I got proof,” she lied. “And if I see your ass back at West Side or any other school, I'm going to your wife and then the police. Just try me.”

Naeema turned and walked back out of the lot, brushing past the people who were headed to their cars. She crossed the street, passed the bus stop, and headed down two blocks
to where she hid her motorcycle behind a pizzeria. Unlocking the helmet and the bike, she was soon racing down the street, leaving behind the man whose actions made her son drop out of school.

“Motherfuck him,” she muttered.

Facebook was a tattle-telling bitch.

It had taken her less than ten minutes to search his name and pull up his public Facebook profile and a lot of his business along with it—including his plans for the night. He led her right to him.

She didn't think Mr. Warren had anything to do with Brandon's death—although she wasn't striking him off her list of suspects. Rico was another thing. Brandon stole his girl and whipped his ass in front of the school. Still, Brianna said he was locked up and couldn't do it.

Naeema didn't think it could hurt to double-check that and it didn't mean he couldn't have gotten somebody else to handle his dirty work.

6

I
t had been a week since the bank robbery, and Naeema only felt some of her nerves about it fade since she knew the Feds were the “sit it out and wait until the evidence was real good” type of law enforcement. They would wait it out for years just to make sure their case was airtight. Still no word from Bas but she knew everything was straight through Vivica. She kept her focus on her own investigation. In the time since visiting Brianna at the diner, Naeema had discovered that Rico, the boy Brandon fought at school, had been in jail but got out a month ago. She hadn't been able to find him—especially with school out for the summer—but his Facebook posts were all about his new boo so she had a feeling he was laid up somewhere with her. Mr. Warren's Facebook page was now private. So was his wife's. Didn't matter. As soon as school was back in a couple of weeks she was going to make damn sure his ass wasn't strolling through the halls of West Side High.

As much as she didn't trust the police, if she had any real proof she would turn his ass.

Sitting on the middle of her bed in nothing but a sports bra and shorts, she read through the police file for the hundredth time and studied the crime scene photos wishing her CSI game was tight enough where something out of the
ordinary would be clearer to her.
That shit always seemed so easy on television.

Closing the file, she laid back on the bed and wished her new ceiling fan produced cool air and didn't just cut through the heat. She'd made good money at the barber shop over the last few days and she was steadily putting it into her building fund. The house needed major repairs and that would take major coinage. The robbery cash was still in her purse. She hadn't added it to her own stash in the shoe box and she never could bring herself to spend any of it.

She wasn't ready to do something noble like donate it to charity or something like that either.

Picking up her phone, she opened up her pictures and flipped through to the photos of Brandon she swiped off his Facebook page in the days after Ms. JuJu told her about his death. She smiled sadly at him sitting on a stoop with a bunch of other teenage boys, with his hands posed up in the air. Her boy was handsome. Tall and thin with a square chin, high cheekbones, and long lashes, smooth caramel skin. She could see plenty of herself and his father in him.

What kind of future could he have when she gave him away and his father ran away before he even came into the world . . .

• • •

“So whatchu gon' do, Naeema?”

Naeema pressed her hands against her belly swollen with nearly six months of pregnancy and felt the baby inside it move as she looked up at her boyfriend Chance's mother standing over her with a fat blunt blazed. Ms. Mack—or just Mack, like she said to call her—was a stud. Long hair
in cornrows. Titties taped down. Oversize white tee and sagging jeans in place. Lover of pussy.

Naeema knew that for sure when she woke up one night while Chance was out slinging dope and Mack was in their bedroom pulling down her drawers and asking to eat her out. She made it clear to Mack that she didn't roll that way. Thankfully she let it be and strolled her dyking ass out the room.

From then on Naeema slept in jogging pants and wedged a shoe under the thin fake wood door whenever Chance wasn't there. She never told him about it. She wanted to but she didn't want Mack to throw her out on the street.

“I don't have nowhere to go, Mack,” she said, feeling her fear rising.

Mack shrugged one broad shoulder and flicked the ashes from the tip of her blunt onto the grungy floor. “Not my fucking problem, bitch,” she said. “Chance said that
ain't
his fucking baby, so you and your burden need to get the fuck up outta my place.”

Naeema's eyes got wide as she looked around the room, stalling for time, trying to think of some way to make things different. In the year since she'd moved in with Chance and his mother, the dingy little bedroom had felt more like home and stability than anything since her grandfather's death.

Four months ago Chance was rubbing her belly and coming up with baby names. Then the touches came less. No more names were mentioned. His attention toward her faded.

And now this?

“Chance wouldn't say that,” she said, looking at a
picture taped to the wall that they took months ago in New York on New Year's Eve.

“You calling me a liar, yo?” Mack asked, coming over to stand where Naeema sat on the edge of the thin mattress.

Naeema, pushing the memories of happier times away, looked over at Mack.

“Get what little shit your homeless ass got in here and get the fuck out,” Mack said, kicking a pair of Naeema's shoes with her Timberlands.

Naeema didn't know what the fuck to do. Chance had left the apartment that morning and ever since he hadn't come back and he didn't answer the phone whenever she called. She didn't trust Mack not to fight her or call the police. She started pulling what little clothes she had from the two large garbage bags in the corner.

“I ain't got all night, Naeema,” Mack said, coming over to roughly brush her out of the way before she picked up both garbage bags and emptied them onto the middle of the bed. “You got ten minutes. Whateva shit ain't packed by then . . . then oh the fuck well.”

As soon as Mack left the room, Naeema reached for her prepaid phone. She called Chance's cell number twice. No answer. She texted him: “Your moms throwing me out. Come help me.”

After a few minutes there was still no reply.

Does Chance know already?

“Tick fucking tock, Naeema,” Mack called from the living room.

What'm I supposed to do?

Fighting back tears she grabbed one of the now empty bags and pushed as much of her stuff into it as she could. It
still didn't fill even half the bag. She reached across the bed and pulled the picture off the wall. She pushed it into the back pocket of her jeans.

Where'm I gonna go?

Picking up the bag, she left the room and didn't let herself look back. It wasn't her home no more. Chance just had to find them a new place but Mack didn't want her there no more.

“Yeah, her ass in there packing now. I took care of it,” Mack said, her back to the bedroom door.

Naeema frowned a little as she paused in the doorway.

“She ain't pushing nobody else's baby off on you.”

She felt like all the breath left her body. She went weak at the revelation that Chance knew his mother was putting her out on the street. She forced herself to lock her knees to keep from falling as she walked down the short length of the hall with one hand on her belly. He was by no means her first lover, but once she got with him, he was her one and only. The baby was his.

“Shoulda let me eat dat pussy.”

Naeema paused with the doorknob in her hand but she didn't look back at Mack's snide and mocking words. She left the apartment and walked down the hall to the elevator. She wasn't gonna let Mack see her cry, and the tears were about to flow like crazy.

Project life was just as loud as usual but Naeema barely heard any of it as she stepped on the elevator and leaned back against the wall. She closed her eyes just as a tear raced down her cheek.

What'm I gonna do?

“Damn, yo, you a'ight, shawty?

Naeema nodded, not even bothering to open her eyes
and see who took a moment out of their night to give even a small fuck about her.

“It'll be a'ight, yo,” he said just as the elevator gears ground to a halt.

When Naeema finally opened her eyes and pushed off the wall to exit the elevator, she was alone. She walked through the lobby and left the building. It was late September and the air was cool. It pushed right through her short jean jacket without a care. Shivering, she wrapped the bag around her wrist some more and then crossed her arms over her chest.

She had to see Chance and convince him this was his baby. She just knew if she could talk to him to see where that lie came from and then defeat it, that shit would be okay. I'm'a wait for him to come home,' she thought, looking around for somewhere to sit.

Naeema moved across the courtyard to one of the benches. For thirty minutes she shivered, watched the endless activity around the buildings, and either called or texted Chance. She was just pulling out her phone to text him again when someone called out, “Yo, Chance. Whaddup?”

She stood up and her head jerked left and right as her eyes searched the scene for a sight of him. Her mouth fell open and her heart sank to see him walking up the street with his arm around a girl she didn't recognize. She stood there feeling like the fool she was as her babyfather and his new boo laughed and played and kissed as they walked into the building together. Naeema knew from the bags they was carrying that he was moving his new bitch in to fill her spot in his life and in his bed.

Naeema and the baby weren't wanted or needed anymore.

“They'll run right through a pretty girl like you.”

Her grandfather's words came back to her so clearly.

She started to step to them and fight the girl.

She started to go upstairs, knock on the door, and bust them.

She started to call his phone for the thousandth time.

In the end she reached in her back pocket for the photo and tore it in half before she counted the last of the money she had to her name in the world. Twelve dollars, left over from a twenty she begged out of Chance last week.

Before she got with him she had mad hangout partners that used to let her stay with them, but once she locked in with Chance, she turned her back on hanging out and partying to sit up in that apartment and be his fool while he was out in the world living it up.

“I ain't got nobody in the world. It's just me,” she whispered, her voice broken and shaky from the betrayal. The pain. The shame. The fear.

BOOK: Kiss the Ring
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ads

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