Authors: Cydney Rax
Table of Contents
To my mother,
who is not just a mother,
but also a friend;
great, supportive, and loyal.
And to the memory
of my father,
I know you’re
watching over me.
It was the second Thursday in November. It was also
the day that my daughter, Lauren Hayes, turned seventeen. As soon as I thought she’d woken up, I burst into her bedroom with a card, a glass vase stuffed with pink spray roses, and a tiny rectangular birthday cake punctured with a single burning candle that spelled out the word CELEBRATE. We ate one thick slice of her favorite, German chocolate, and my daughter then informed me that the festivities would continue that night. She’d been invited out for a bite to eat.
Later Lauren was surging through the apartment looking for her slingbacks and fussing with her French twist. And because I like to cool down after putting in my eight hours of workplace labor, I started my weekday ritual. As soon as I get home, I close the blinds and disrobe—my way of enjoying my world in comfort and without distraction. This particular evening I had on some white lace panties and a matching bra.
I was passing through the dining room, which has a mirrored wall. Everything was fine until I noticed my reflection. For most people there’s always one body part or another that they don’t like, and I’m what some might consider “thick,” but even so, I’m proud of my creamy-looking legs and voluptuous thighs.
I was captivated by my appearance, but felt annoyed when I caught my daughter staring.
“Don’t you have to get ready, girl?” I asked her from the mirror.
My daughter, five-seven compared to my five-five, inherited her daddy’s fair complexion and long skinny legs. Although several people accuse Lauren of tinting her hair, those reddish and blond roots come natural. She has a mole above her lip. And she is blessed with some Beyoncé-type eyes: wide, exotic, and sparkly. In spite of Lauren’s cockeyed stare and her mouthing off that “Ugh! Nobody wants to see you half-dressed,” I was too unnerved to admonish her for her ill manners. She shoved a red T-shirt and some black leggings in my hand, and stormed off to her bedroom. I slipped the T-shirt over my head, but thought it was too warm for the leggings, so I laid them on the brown leather sofa.
Once Lauren disappeared, I stole a look at my surroundings. Under normal circumstances our apartment was low-maintenance and free of excessive clutter. But tonight the place looked jacked. Piles of T-shirts and musty-smelling jeans made a trail from my bedroom to the living room. Dirty plates and crusty silverware littered the kitchen counter, and I wanted to start organizing the magazines that had multiplied all over the front area.
There’s a wide column of built-in shelves that take up a wall in my living room. I was crouched in front of it, busy doing my domestic thing, back turned, when I heard this voice rush from behind.
“Well, hellooo, Mrs. Davenport.”
I turned my head so sharp I heard a bone pop. A flush of heat penetrated my face from the inside out. I had on the T-shirt, but he could still see my panties, and my legs were uncovered. I didn’t know if I should excuse myself, or skip the apologies and shove a huge throw pillow against my lower half. But, paralyzed as I felt, all I could do was stare.
Even though he’d been dating my daughter for quite a few months, it was always hard to catch him for long stretches of time; it seemed he and my daughter were always running in and out of the apartment to be with each other.
But tonight, Aaron Khristian Oliver hovered over me dressed in a wine-colored suit and a multicolored necktie. In some ways his looks reminded me of a tall version of the actor RonReaco Lee. His dark wavy hair, lightly trimmed mustache, and athletic body made it difficult to deny that Aaron Oliver put the “hot” in “hottie.” His hands were shoved in his pockets and he tried to play things off, raising his eyes a little, but I knew he noticed my legs.
I turned from Aaron and my mind said,
What the—okay, don’t
say nothing, just leave the room, no, no, his staring feels kinda—but this
ain’t cool, Lauren’s only a few steps away . . . what if she . . . oh God,
Once those thoughts vanished, I felt a teensy bit tensed, but managed to sigh like his standing near was no biggie. I don’t like letting any guy intimidate me, even if he does intimidate me. But just when I thought I was the one who controlled my world, I heard Aaron say real low yet audibly, “Mmm, mmm, wow.”
At first his flirtation seemed silly.
Yeah, right, he’s gotta be kidding,
Young fool, he’s just messing with me. Ha ha ha, funny, funny
I started to go on about my business, but Aaron wouldn’t stop staring. Usually when men stare, I get annoyed and want to look anywhere except at the man whose eyes won’t let me go. But with Aaron, this was different. I felt myself blushing, wanting to smile almost. Yet something screamed,
He’s crossed a line. Perform tongue-fu on him. Tell him his ass
is grass and you’re the lawn mower.
But then another instigating inner voice said,
Eat it up, Tracey Lorraine Davenport. It’s okay for him to stare.
It felt weird to admit that I liked the way he lifted me. And after what I’d been through on my lunch break that day, hearing a long whistle and assuming it was a man, just to find out it was a bird, this was definitely an upgrade.
I turned and smiled at Aaron as widely and sweetly as possible. His body was so close he could have reached out and caressed my arm. I felt frozen to the floor.
“Mmmm, you look . . . never mind,” he said in a low voice. Then he made a what’s-the-matter-with-me groan and looked at the ceiling, at the floor, then back at me. I waved my hand at him so he could keep on talking, but without warning, he gave me a hardened stare and backed away.
Can you believe I felt a tiny stab of loneliness, just that quick? From enjoying the highs of feeling like an “it” girl, to being so-last-year, just that fast?
I stood only a couple feet away from him, but it felt like he was on the other side of the earth. He was standing next to the door, mumbling what sounded like “damn,” and he was clutching and turning the doorknob.
“Hey,” I said, stepping close to Aaron and forcing him to look at me again.
Aaron lifted his head and opened his mouth, but instead of hearing his words, I heard, “Mom, what are you
Right then I felt like the child and not the mother. I jumped back from the guy far enough to create some innocent distance between us. I covered my thighs with my hands, then grabbed a few magazines and placed them in front of my crotch with an overdue “This is so embarrassing. Aaron, don’t you know how to ring a doorbell instead of just walking in here?”
I glanced at Lauren, apologized with my eyes. Her terse expression softened a little, but not enough to make me feel totally at peace.
The entire atmosphere shifted, the tantalizing moment escaping with few promises of a return. I even retrieved the leggings from the couch and scurried to my room and slid my legs inside them. Once my hands stopped shaking, and when I felt calm enough to emerge, I rushed past Aaron and resumed stacking magazines.
Aaron hung around for a little bit longer, until Lauren was ready. She grabbed him by the hand, snatching him through the door and toward the safety of the outside world. Yet before they left, and all the time he was standing there, I never made eye contact with him again. But I’d bet a hundred bucks, even though all three of us were in the same room, that my daughter’s boyfriend sneaked another peek at me.
She didn’t have to worry, though. I liked his attention, loved how good his stare made me feel, but after thinking about things long and hard, I decided I wasn’t going to be a fool. Once I knew they were gone, I said out loud to the mirror with a strong voice, “Aaron is just a kid. And I don’t do kids.”
Once Aaron and Lauren departed for her birthday out
ing, I was moping around the apartment waiting for my honey, Steve Monroe, to call. He and I have been seeing each other going on seven months. Steve is thirty-eight, six-foot-two, and a thick-bodied type with muscles that ripple like waves on the ocean. Most days he wears his thick brown hair in a neat-looking ponytail, and he has a fondness for stylish eyewear.
Steve is a manager in the shoe department of Foley’s at Memorial City Mall. He loves his job and works long rotating hours, but he always tries to check in when he gets a free moment. So there I was, sitting on the couch and watching the telephone. It was mocking me,
No, he has not
called yet, and staring at me won’t make him call any sooner.
I turned my head away from the phone and retreated outside. When I want peace of mind, some nights I sit on my balcony for hours, lifting my head toward the sky, examining the shape of the moon, counting stars, and trying to figure out the shape of my life.
“Thirty-one, thirty-two . . .”
The phone began to ring, and I lowered my eyes.
I glanced one final time at those blinking stars and ducked through the tiny crevice left open by the sliding glass door. At the third ring I pounced on the phone before the answering machine could do what I purchased it to do.
“Hey, babe, Daddy’s home.”
I smiled into the phone and collapsed on the couch like a teenager in love. Nestled my head on a couple of oversized pillows and propped my feet on one end of the couch.
“Can Mommy come see Daddy?” I cooed.
“Uh, sure. Give me a little time, though. Gotta take a shower and relax a bit. Those customers ’bout drove me nuts today.”
“Mmmm, I’m sure, with y’all having that forty-percent-off sale. You lay aside any shoes for me?”
“You know it. Picked out a couple just for you. Looking at ’em right now. They’ll be waiting on you when you get here. But I gotta go now. Pager’s going off. Hear it?”
Gripped the phone a little tighter. I hated when I did that, hated when my insides reacted to any adverse information Steve told me. Out of the five lovers I’ve had since the age of fifteen, Steve Monroe is the one who rates the best. So far, he’s the only man who can make me shake, rattle, and scream like my butt is on fire. Finding a man whose prowess can make you scream is about as rare as finding a five-hundred-dollar bill on an inner-city park bench. So you can guess that having Steve in my life is a top priority.
“Steve, Steve,” I said sitting up. “Do you really have to get off the phone right now? Why don’t you call whoever that is later?”
“Ahhh, baby. You want to see me that bad?”
I settled back and resumed resting my head on the pillow.
“Hey, tell you what, Tracey. Give me a half hour. Let me return this page and get myself situated. And, uh, don’t bother coming out tonight. I’ll call you before I swing by your place. How’s that sound?”
I hoped he didn’t perceive my frown. Hoped he couldn’t feel my heart drag like time had doubled. I wanted to say, “Does
always have to go your way?” But fear imprisoned my question and instead I offered a languid “No problem. Sounds good. See you soon.”
I hung up without hearing if he ever said good-bye. The fact that he seemed to brush me off made me feel bad. In the past he’d given me a lot of attention, but recently, and without a clear-cut warning, the attention vanished. That made me wonder. Was there anything about me that turned Steve off? What could I be doing that made him not want to hold me like he used to?
Last time we did anything worth screaming about was damn near five weeks ago. Oh, believe me, I’ve gone without for a lot longer than five weeks. But that was when I was between relationships. Going without because you don’t have a man is one thing. But when you have a man, or think that you have one, and you’re still going without, well, that makes you tend to question everything. From your personality to your looks, you start questioning your value, your appearance, and your existence. You start comparing yourself to the shapely, light-skinned sister in the grocery store, the one with the flawless skin, good, long hair that cascades down her back, and who always seems to have on the classiest outfits and is unaware that dozens of men, black, white, and Hispanic, are taking longer-than-necessary looks at her. Trying to look their way into an introduction and trying to stare their way into her future. I look to see the woman’s reaction and abruptly turn my eyes away, pretending I’m interested in the price of artichokes. I don’t give a foo-fee-fang about artichokes, but no one would know that. I’m touching and caressing, sniffing and rubbing the artichoke as if my whole life depends on it, yet my mind is taking me back to Steve. Does he look at these types of women when I’m not around?
The ringing of the phone pulled me back down to the realities of the earth.
“Lauren there?” he asked.
I raised my eyes to the ceiling. “Whatever happened to ‘Hello, how are you?’ ”
He didn’t say anything.
It isn’t hard to sigh. “No, Derrick, Lauren’s gone. It’s her birthday and she’s out on a date.”
it’s her birthday, Tracey. That’s why I’m calling . . . to wish her a happy birthday and to see if she wants to do something either tomorrow or Saturday night.”
“How freaking thoughtful of you to want to take your daughter out one to two days after her birthday. I’m sure she’ll be thrilled.”
“Look, Tracey, you told me Lauren’s on a date. How am I supposed to take her out if someone else already has?”
“Plan ahead, Derrick. Call her a month in advance and secure this date so she won’t have to choose to go out with someone besides her father.”
“Uh, well, I . . . I didn’t think about it like that . . . but if she’s not busy this weekend, I’ll make it up to her.”
“Well, last time I checked, I wasn’t Lauren and I can’t speak for her. I don’t know what she has planned for tomorrow. But thanks for call—”
“Hey, Tracey. Don’t hang up. I’m not done. What’s up with you? You sound like you’re a woman who hasn’t had any decent dick in a while. At least not one that has a man at the other end of it.”
I stood up.
“What did you say?”
“You heard exactly what I said. That’s why I hate calling over there, because every time I do, you have that stank attitude. Take it from me, Tracey, no man is going to want a woman with a piss-poor attitude.”
“Derrick, when I want your advice, I’ll give it to you. And furthermore, you have a lot of nerve. Ain’t no telling when you last had a woman.”
“You’re right about that. I’m not telling. If it weren’t for you, neither of us would be going through this mess.”
“Derrick, don’t drive us down that street again.
You’re almost forty, but no one would ever know it. It is
my fault that we have a daughter, it is
my fault you had to drop out of college to get a full-time job, and it is
my fault you never married.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve heard that BS before. But you know good and well what I’m talking about. Seriously, Tracey, if it weren’t for you—”
“Derrick, why—how can you still . . . you know it isn’t even worth talking to you. Your life is your life because of
not me. So get over it!”
Slamming the phone down, my hand was shaking as if I had Parkinson’s disease. I wondered how I could let a man I don’t even like, let alone love, get me all riled up.
Derrick Patrick Hayes, my baby’s daddy, also happens to be the man who took my virginity. He and I met while he was a sophomore at Texas Southern University. He was nineteen. I was fifteen. I don’t know why I liked him, because he’s a high yellow guy, and I don’t really like high yellow guys, but for some reason I liked him. He was tall, intelligent, a little bit on the nerdish side, and he didn’t get frustrated or threatened when I argued with him.
I consider Derrick my first real boyfriend. Back then my mom, Grace Davenport, didn’t approve of me seeing someone so old. But the more she and I butted heads, the more determined I was to hang out with him.
“Tracey,” Derrick said one Saturday night when we were wrestling on the floor of his brother’s van.
“What?” I said barely able to see because for one thing it was dark as hell and for another, his soft hands were caressing my legs, thighs, and very sensitive booty.
“Will you let me make love to you?”
Nobody had ever said that to me before. Hell, it made me blush and feel like I was special. So I said what any other warm-blooded person with a smack of sense would’ve said.
“When? Where? What time?”
Derrick smiled broadly, like I’d just announced he’d won a full scholarship or something.
That weekend, when my mother was away at work, Derrick came by smelling different than I’d ever known him to smell.
“You didn’t have to drench yourself with cologne, Derrick. I wasn’t going to change my mind,” I told him.
He laughed. Thought I was so cute.
Derrick spread my favorite quilt on the bed and forced me to put on a Prince record—which one I can’t remember, they all sounded outlandish to me. I thought all that ceremonial stuff was cute but such a waste. What? Would listening to Prince help Derrick get a higher rating?
Then we got totally naked. Well, not quite. I left on one sock. For some reason I didn’t think losing my virginity would seem as bad if I left on one article of clothing. Derrick stretched out next to me and started kissing me the way I like to be kissed. Lots of tongue, spit, and sucking and stuff. He’d just finished drinking a cold glass of lemonade and his tongue tasted like fruit, which to me was even better, because regular tongue tasted boring.
Okay, long story short. The guy humped me like a coyote in heat, and I felt as woozy as a senior citizen on roller skates. First time I ever screamed because something good happened. We pounded against that bed like horses running around a field. I’m screaming, he’s moaning, pulling, and tugging at my hair. Had to slap his hands a few times because I definitely wasn’t turning into Baldy Locks just so he could get his. By the time we were done, Derrick was singing like he just got back from happy minute. I was perspiring, sore, and sleepy but I had no doubt that we were going to be doing the nasty again and again.
Well, as you might have guessed, after doing it using part-time contraception, you’re going to get full-time pregnant. I found out I was expecting when I noticed I was yawning and wanting to crash at eight every night. And, of course, the clincher was the fact that my period did a disappearing act. Although I always hated when my cycle came, boy, did I ever wish that sucker would hurry up and make an appearance back in those days.
But nothing happened.
At least nothing that I wanted to happen.
I remember the night I called Derrick. It had been difficult trying to get in touch with him. He was busy catching up on his studies after returning from a week in Corpus Christi. “Spring break,” he claimed. Anyway, once I finally caught up with him, I was so scared. Part of me wanted him to share the fear I was feeling. The other part of me wanted to see what he was made of. Would he run off like he was being chased in a manhunt, or would he hang around and be a man?
“Derrick, I got something to tell you,” I said with caution.
“What’s that, baby?” he said with a smile in his voice.
“I think I’m . . .”
“You think you’re what?” he asked, smiley voice gone.
“The ‘P’ word.”
“ ‘P’ as in . . . popular?” he asked, sounding dumber by the minute.
“Ha! I wish. Keep going.”
“Hey, I think I rate a little bit higher than pretty. One last guess.”
“Look, Tracey. I’m drawing a blank. Why don’t you help me out?”
“Shoot, that’s what I need to be saying to you, because I’m going to have your little bambino in eight months or less.”
“You—you—you—you, what did you say?”
“I—I—I—I said you and me are going to be a daddy and a mommy.”
“Hello?” I clicked the line to see if he was still with me.
I was feeling tense because I’d heard about girls who’d have these guys all hot for them until the girls tell them the bad news. Suddenly those hot guys get real cold and swear “it’s not mine.” And this claim would be made even after these dudes had been freaking the girls like freaking was going out of style.
I couldn’t imagine Derrick switching out on me like that. Not him, no way.
” he finally replied.
“And why is that?”
“Because this wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“News flash, Derrick: I came, you came, and now the baby’s coming.”
He went on and on about how his plans didn’t include a child, he wasn’t ready for this, and was I sure it wasn’t anyone else’s? Just a bunch of defensive crap that wouldn’t change anything about what was happening. I was so mad I felt like slamming down the phone, but instead I kept listening.