“Aye Ma, lemme holla at you for a sec. Aye, c’mon, why you actin’ like that?”
Walking past a group of aggressive looking men, their hands posed shamelessly at their crotches as she strutted, Jordyn Bailey rolled her eyes, trying her best to tune out their commentary on her behind and thighs. She could see them drooling at the mouth, foaming as the catcalls soon turned to harsh adjectives of what they now felt she was because, once again, she would not give them the time of day.
“Stuck up bitch.”
She shook her head, wishing that for once in her life she could step past a group of men who didn’t act like callous fools whenever they faced the possibility of rejection.
Walking up to her apartment building, a large brownstone that maintained a decent upkeep among a row of rundown and dilapidated buildings, she came upon a sight she wasn’t too familiar with.
A crowd of folks, screaming and carrying on as if something major was happening. Getting closer, she caught sight of the cause of the commotion, a local celebrity with no shame over the sudden attention he was garnering from people who hadn’t had a kind word to say about him a day in his young life. He most certainly took no issue over the young and slightly older women of the neighborhood fawning over him. Chaz Hemphill smiled devilishly, licking his lips as he looked down at a girl that had dogged him since elementary school, taking full advantage of all his recent good fortune had bought him.
“I think we could make something work, Kelsey. I gotta check my schedule, of course, but I’ll be sure to get back to you.” The girl smiled, eager to be penciled in to what was becoming a full roster of bodies for a man enthused about soaking up all the attention his instant fame was garnering.
Jordyn shook her head, politely excusing herself as she brushed through the crowd that blocked the stairway and entrance into her building. After dealing with rowdy toddlers and their rude parents all day, the last thing she wanted to deal with was a crowd of nobodies leaching onto a newly formed ego begging to be stroked.
“Excuse me, excuse me.”
“Oh, Jordyn, look who’s home!” Stopping in her tracks for just a moment, the twenty-two-year-old turned to face her elderly neighbor Mrs. Washington; Mama Lena, as everyone in the neighborhood affectionately called her. Jordyn gave a polite smile, nodding her head. Out of all the bodies surrounding Chaz, the little old lady might have been the most genuine of all. A friend of their mothers, and someone that had helped raised them, she looked forward to seeing all of her ‘babies’ doing well in life. Her bronzed hand, etched in wrinkles extended towards the young man, an overjoyed expression painted across her thin lips as she spoke. “I knew it wouldn’t be too long before my Chaz came home.”
“Yeah, that’s real nice Mama Lena.”
“Aren’t you gonna stay out and celebrate with us? You know it don’t take long for anyone to jumpstart a block party around here. And it’s been so long since you’ve joined any festivities or socialized with anyone. I miss seeing that pretty face out and just enjoying life.”
Jordyn shook her head, politely declining. “I’m really tired, but I’ll be sure to drop by and have a cup of coffee or tea with you, Mama Lena. I promise.” The old lady nodded, a bit disappointed that the young girl wouldn’t even stop to talk to her former friend. She’d hoped that by now the two would have settled their differences, even if it were only for the sake of having a cordial conversation whenever they came across one another.
Rolling her eyes at the sight of other women her age throwing themselves onto Chaz, literally, Jordyn rushed past the scene and disappeared into the apartment building without uttering another word.
Taking notice, though his attention was immediately shifted back to the throng of individuals surrounding him, Chaz made a mental note to figure out why Jordyn was the only one to walk past as if he didn’t exist.
“Ladies, ladies, relax. There’s more than enough of me to go around.” He chuckled, taking numbers one by one while accepting compliments and congratulations from old neighbors and new friends alike. He reveled in the new attention, excited to be back on his home turf.
Walking up flights of stairs at a slowed pace, Jordyn couldn’t help but smile as the little children of the building ran past her, down the stairs with little notebooks and pens in hand, chattering about getting the autograph of the guy from the music videos.
The raucous Chaz’s sudden appearance was causing would be ongoing, of that she was certain. And if she was going to get any type of peace, she may as well get herself settled in while much of the noise was still happening outside and not in any of the apartments surrounding or above hers.
Coming up on her apartment, she found her father sitting outside the door. As usual, Darnell was sitting on a crate, one leg resting across the other as he thumbed through days old newspapers. A cigarette dangled from the corner of his mouth, his fedora tilted just enough to hide his eyes from those passing by. “Dad, why sit in the hallway when we have a kitchen, a living room, or you could sit outside where it’s warm?”
“I like my spot right here, Jordyn, it’s comfy.” He folded the paper, looking up at his only child with a smile. He took one final drag, putting the cigarette out in the nearly empty bottle of water resting beside him. “You also don’t like the smell of smoke in the apartment, so I was trying to respect that. Didn’t feel like walking up and down those stairs today. And no matter how old you are, I still look forward to waiting at the door for you. I get happy when I see you walking up and I know you’re safe.”
“The fear of me not coming home is a bit irrational at this point in my life, don’t you think?”
“Never. Anyhow, why are you up here and not downstairs?”
Jordyn looked on in confusion, shoving her hands into her pockets as she waited for her father to continue with his question or make another statement. He said nothing as he began to gather himself and his things. “Downstairs for what?”
“Your best friend is home, isn’t he? I heard he’s back for good. Though I can’t imagine returning here after so much success.”
She rolled her eyes again, wondering if this would become a repetitious topic from both him and Mrs. Washington. “You and everybody else that has lived here knows that me and that boy haven’t gotten along in years. I’ll forever wish him the best, but it is not my concern, nor do I care what he does or where he goes in his lifetime. I’m sure Ms. Hemphill is happy he’s home, and I’m happy for her because she’s always worrying about the fool, but other than that, I do not care.”
Darnell looked at his daughter, unconvinced by her admission. “Then I’m sure you won’t mind that I invited him and his mother over for a little welcome home dinner.”
Jordyn shrugged, letting out a low yawn. “That’s mighty nice of you, Dad. I’ll be knocked out, so enjoy yourselves.” She rushed inside, leaving the door cracked a little so that her father wouldn’t have to struggle getting inside with his crate and other bits of mess.
Walking through the apartment and towards her bedroom, she caught a whiff of what her father was cooking. All she could do was shake her head at the fuss he was making. Instantly, her plans to lounge about and watch a little trash TV in the living room changed. A quick shower, something light to snack on, and she’d make herself scarce by hiding out in her bedroom until her father’s company was gone.
She needed to maintain a bit of peace for herself, if only until the following day where she’d have to repeat her struggle with the toddlers and their parents.
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