Not Gon’ Cry by Cortney joseph | #ThrowAwayWeek2019

I lay in bed staring at the ceiling, listening as the love of my life packed up everything possible. I should have expected this, should have seen this coming after recognizing the signs and the changes. Still, the fact that I’m being left for someone else; someone younger, someone better looking… it hurts so much.

 

I can’t help but think that I should have beat them to the punch. Should have done my own experimenting and exploring, should have taken my own two weeks out of the country to ‘find myself’, should have done any and everything to be the one causing pain instead of feeling it.

For better or for worse, for richer, for poor. In sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part.

Ha, more like ‘til I find someone willing to accept bullshit without speaking up or questioning things.

I was everything anyone could have wanted.

Quiet, supportive, gentle, respectful, honest, appreciative… Would have done anything in this world for my love, … would have given my last, taken my last breath just for her.

“James, please, just whatever you do… don’t cry. That’s so unbecoming of a man.”

I sat up, resting on my elbows. “Unbecoming? Just as unbecoming of a woman leaving her husband and kids for a stranger she just met two weeks ago, right? You know, I did everything for you, Sloan.” She took a deep breath, resting her hand on her hips as she looked at me. “If it weren’t for me, you’d still be living under your mother’s control. If it weren’t for me, that tiny ass business of yours wouldn’t have gotten off the ground, wouldn’t have expanded, and wouldn’t be one of the top businesses in the nation today. Thirteen years I’ve spent, sitting and working behind the scenes, building you up while taking little to no credit. Day in and day out, taking the brunt of your frustration, working my ass off to make sure you were comfortable and happy. I loved you wholeheartedly, with everything in me, but it never mattered to you. You loved yourself enough to be content without my love. Selfish.”

“Stop it.”

“Always selfish.”

“Oh grow up! Be a man! I’m leaving you, and you’re going to deal with it.”

 

I nodded, lying back as I cleared my throat. “You’re right, I am going to deal with it. And no, I’m not going to cry. You’re not worth a single tear, and if I could stop my children from feeling bad and crying for the fact that they’re losing their mother, I would. You don’t deserve their tears, you don’t deserve them, their affections, or to be missed by them.”

“Excuse me?”

“I didn’t stutter Sloan. Go ahead and finish packing your bags. Have all the fun in the world in your new life with your little friend. But please understand that when you return; there will be divorce papers, alimony and child support petitions, and I am seeking full custody.”

I could hear an audible gasp, and I just know her jaw dropped. And before she could start bitching and complaining, I grabbed my phone and headphones, turning on one of my favorite Latimore blues albums as I zoned out.

 

Sure as I said I wasn’t going to cry, but I couldn’t help it. They weren’t for my soon-to-be ex-wife though. Just for all we’d lost, for my kids and the pain they’d have to go through. I was strong enough to handle everything else. I’ve been lonely for the majority of this marriage anyway, more than half of it, been doing things on my own for quite some time too. I can handle the stares, the gossip and anything else that has to come from our family.

Thoughts of me being the one to leave first, at the very first sign of her stepping out replayed over and over. Sad how she could leave like it’s nothing after two weeks, and I’m still struggling even though I know it’s over.

It’s unfair, but that’s life.

Someone’s Watching [Intro] by Cortney Joseph | #ThrowAwayWeek2019

Teary eyed, vision blurred; I looked back and forth between Peace and Omar as they stared at me in complete shock.

What am I doing?

 

Before that one night that changed my life, I was living a life many wished they could. A young adult, free to make my own choices without facing judgment of family and friends. A highly respected and top student in her senior year of college. Loving and supportive parents, money at my disposal and I wanted for nothing.

Popular, pretty, talented, caring, ambitious, proud…

 

All I am now is a shell of a woman; the end result of living in a hell I helped create, hiding from a problem I let spin out of control when I could have simply walked away the very first time I was warned. Afraid of my own damn shadow.

I turned slowly, looking at myself in the broken mirror. And as I caught a glimpse of myself; bruised, bloody, barely recognizable … my life flashed before my eyes.

 

The youngest daughter of hardworking parents, never afraid to go for what I wanted. I was a studious child, an obedient child. Taught to share and follow any and every dream I had, and I did.

Elementary and high school sports star. Part-time model. Spokesperson for youth who struggle with their racial identity. Singer. Dancer. Actress. Musician. Writer. Student of life.

Love surrounded me in all forms; never was a girl who lacked paternal or maternal love. Very self aware, I grew to be confident. Loved myself.

Somehow, I lost myself.

 

“Tai.”

I looked over my shoulder, hearing the concern in Peace’s voice as she called my name. “What?”

She moved towards me, slowly. “Give me the knife, please.”

By now Omar was crying, as was she. Me; I’m all cried out. “I just want it to end.”

“It’s over Tai, okay, it’s over.”

“No… not yet.”

“Girl, I promise you that it is not worth ending your life. Okay, nothing bad is going to happen to you anymore. Please…”

I noticed that I’d backed up to the wall, and she’d followed me. “I don’t want to be afraid anymore.” Omar grabbed my wrist and I loosed my grip on the knife, watching it fall as I slid down the wall, shaking uncontrollably as my best friend wrapped her arms around me.

“You don’t have to be. It’s all over.”

 

“Is she Tai Lee Harris?”

“Sir, can we just have a few moments to console her.” Omar spoke so softly, a huge difference from his naturally cheerful and sarcastically funny tone. “Just a few.”

“I’m sorry Young Man, but we have to take her in.”

The officer pulled me up, apologizing as I winced when he touched the open wounds on my arms and wrists while he handcuffed me.

What now?

 

“Tai Lee Harris, you are under arrest. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to consult with an attorney and/or have an attorney present. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you at no cost by the courts. You have been given the appropriate Miranda Warning, do you understand your rights as they have been told to you?”

My voice cracked as I spoke. “Yes.”

 

I should have stayed quiet. I should have kept to myself. I should have walked right past him as he called out to me that night. I should have kept control over my life.

Boys Will Be Boys [Part 2] by Cortney Joseph | #ThrowAwayWeek2019

Leaning across his desk, Quincy Todd took the loose-leaf paper he’d balled up and sent it flying two desks in front of him. Landing exactly where he wanted it to land, he smiled when his intended target turned to face him.

There was a smug look on her face. The girl knew she was fine, and she knew it was a matter of time before he came to gain her attention. She’d been waiting. “What, Quincy?”

He licked his lips, cutting straight to the chase. At this point in his young life, at his level of experience, Quincy saw no point in beating around the bush. “You and me, tonight at Melrose.”

“Boy, ain’t nobody about to let us up in Melrose. I’m still sixteen.”

“And I’m seventeen, but that’s what they got fake IDs for, Ma. I got one, and I know you do too. Come on, Bianca, you know you wanna join me. You know I’ll show you a real good time too.”

She bit down on her bottom lip, nodding. “And what’s Janine going to say about that?”

Unfazed, Quincy responded quickly. “She ain’t got me on no leash. I do what I please, and what I’m tryna do now is get close to you.”

“Probably just close enough to get on top of me.”

“Shit, that too. What’s good? We could kick it tonight, and a little while longer if you’re down.”

Bianca smirked, turning in her desk. Ripping a small piece of paper from her notebook, she jotted her number down and stood up. Walking to his desk, she stood before him and pushed the paper into the pocket of the shirt he wore and moved back to her desk. “And you better call.”

“Trust, I won’t keep you waiting long.”

 

“Damn man, can you and your crew of piranhas leave a girl for the rest of us?”

Looking behind him, Quincy let out a low laugh as he shook his head. He came face to face with Lionel Kent, one of the few people at Echelon High that seemed to always find some type of reason to beef with him and his friends.

Much like Quincy, Lionel was a pretty boy. A fair skinned athlete with ‘good hair’, the perfect smile, and a voice that wrapped around girls’ hearts like silk. He too could get any girl he wanted with ease, if they chose to go for the whole unibrow look on a dude they wanted to get close to. But unlike Quincy, he had nothing that most girls cared for beyond flashy clothing, money, and a nice car. When he wanted to act caring or as if he wanted more than sex, Quincy could at least hold the attention of young girls with good conversation, an interesting personality, a sense of humor, and charisma. They were about the same height, Lionel the huskier of the two, while Quincy had thinned out his freshman year and kept in shape while playing for Echelon’s varsity basketball team. “Maybe you should move a little quicker. Don’t tell me you can’t get a single date just because of us. Between the six of us, we can’t take ‘em all.” Though they’d try.

“Not one that wouldn’t be used or sloppy seconds.”

“Ohh, and that right there is why no girl wants you. How you disrespect the very girls you’re trying to get down with by calling them out for being what you are and doing what you do. If the act makes them something bad, what the hell does it make you?”

“Excuse me, Mr. Todd, I’m so sorry to interrupt your conversation…” Quincy turned in his seat, apologizing. “But I would like to start my class. Are you and Mr. Kent done?”

“Yeah, Mrs. Corbin, I’m done.”

“Thank you. As I was saying,” Almost immediately, Quincy tuned the lesson out. Thoughts of the evening he hoped to have in mind.

 

Out in the commons area, keeping his voice low and his tone even, Dominic DeWitt took one deep breath before speaking. “Now Marcy, you were acting so calm this morning. Suddenly you copped an attitude? You knew what it was, so why you buggin’?”

“I’m buggin’ because you’re an asshole!”

Dominic stood with a stale look on his face, waiting for the young girl to point out something about himself that he didn’t already know. “Okay.”

“How do you immediately jump in some other girl’s face the same day you break my heart?”

“First; I was having a simple conversation with the office aide. Since you wanted to be watching like a hawk, you should have been ear hustling too. You would have heard us talking about how I can get taken out of Ms. Patrice’s class. Second; that was at 7:30 this morning. I’ve had three class periods, a small break and enough time for me to change my schedule, all before lunch. Third; I don’t have to look to you for permission on what I do with my time. Now I was real respectful, but you’re doing too much and I’d hate to be even more of an asshole, so please leave me alone.”

“There is a waiting period, you miniature dwarf! Everybody knows that. You don’t just rush to the next chick. We had something special.”

Dominic chuckled dryly, instantly annoyed that she would make mention of his height. A low blow, considering her tone and how she yelled it out for others around them to hear. Completely disregarding the hurt look on her face, he spoke curtly. “We both know what’s not miniature. We both know you had some good rides on it too. Tuck that in your memory and hope it lasts you until you get over what you thought we had.”

When she reached for him, Dominic jerked away and walked away.

 

Reaching the cafeteria in no time, he walked in with a scowl on his face. Immediately, he spotted most of his crew as everyone took seats at their designated table. Avoiding the lunch line, he took a seat and finally exhaled.

Marcus looked over the rim of his sunglasses, a goofy smile spreading across his face. “Somebody’s drop went terribly wrong.”

“Nah, Dom was smart enough to get his out of the way early.”

“Or so I thought.” Jason took a bite of his food, urging his best friend to go on. “Man, just know the shit was enough to make me wanna chill this year.”

Collectively; Jason, Marcus, and Adam burst into laughter, startling students sitting at the table surrounding them. Dominic found nothing about his statement funny. Adam said what they were all thinking. “Bruh, you, single… a complete joke. By the end of the day, you’ll have at least three options if you haven’t already set your eyes on someone.”

Jason chimed in. “And tomorrow, you’ll be hugged up and making false ass promises for the following six months.”

Dominic sighed, hating that they were right. “There is this one honey that just moved here over the summer. I met her at my parents’ country club. If I ever peep her on campus, I’m definitely going for it.”

“I’m surprise ain’t nobody throw themselves on you today. You know, the customary Dom Day antics.”

Dominic’s usual smile returned as he remembered that it was his birthday. “The only great thing about school always starting on my birthday. With my luck lately, all my exes have probably teamed up to surprise me with something bad.” He turned around, checking over his and his boys’ shoulders for a few seconds before he relaxed. “Nah, on the real, I had to stop girls from doing that. Always ruined my prospects and chances at stepping to someone new. You just got a bunch of lap dances from all them skeezers, and you think I’m ‘bouta give you my number so you can dog me with one of them? I’d rather start with my regular disadvantages.”

“Which are?”

He looked at Marcus. “My height and my ways. At least I can smooth talk through those. The next girl I want watches me get rubbed down or tongued down before I step to her, I have no chance.”

“Especially with the type of girls you be chasing. Happy birthday though, Dom. Seventeen, almost grown like the rest of us.”

“Jason, you’re younger than me. Shut the hell up.” They fell out laughing while Dominic reached across the table to steal one of the four bags of chips Adam had near him, thanking them all for their well wishes before they continued with their conversation.

 

An amused look on his face, Lewis Braxton leaned against the fence that separated the football field and track from the bleachers and concession stand; watching as two young girls fought it out.

It was thrilling, the first time he’d experienced a rivalry that ignited over him. It was heated, and he loved every single second. “You can’t be on his mind too often, Trick. He was screwing me last night!”

He watched as both girls swung at each other, shaking his head. “Ladies, ladies, can’t we all just get along.” When neither responded to him, he threw his hands up, watching for another minute as they went back and forth about who was better and who he loved more. The truth was, neither. They weren’t even really his type, just two girls who eagerly occupied his bed, or the backseat of his jeep, from time to time.

While it was true that he’d been seeing them both at the same time, for the same length of time, he had no true attachment or interest outside of sex in either one of them.

They were wasting their time, ‘battling’ for his heart. Once again, he tried to calm the storm. “Ladies, please, settle down.” He cautiously stepped between the two of them, flashing his pearly whites. His voice was low, sending a tingling sensation down their spines as he spoke to them. “I’m just going to be honest with you both. I’ve led you both on. For that, I am deeply sorry. It was just,” He exhaled, putting on the works. “It just got to be so hard to choose between the two of you. There’s so many wonderful things that I love about you both, things that made it difficult for me to decide.”

“Well you need to choose now.”

Rebecca, the shorter of the two, flipped her brunette hair over her shoulders and folded her arms across her chest. She was very shapely, and it fit her stature perfectly. A figure she’d acquired and maintained from rigorous workouts required by her softball coach. It was all Lewis loved about her. “It should be an easy choice. I’m obviously the better girl. I certainly do more for you, treat you better than this skank ever could.”

Shalonda, the raven haired beauty scoffed. Her skin was that of slightly burned toffee, glistened in the sun, and left Lewis dying to touch all over her body as often as possible. He was struggling to control himself in that very moment. “You white hoes sleep with a black boy one time, and automatically you think you’re above somebody? Get over yourself.”

“You should get over yourself. It’s me he wants.”

Lewis winced at her assumption, chuckling lightly as he stepped in once again. “Actually, I’m not interested in a relationship. I’m just out to have a little fun. Now, I feel that we should all set our differences aside. Become real good friends, and maybe from time to time, we can all link up. Have a little … fun, together.”

 

Shalonda pushed Lewis back, feeling no sympathy or remorse when he fell. “You must be out of your rabbit ass mind if you think I’m going to, not only play second, but start having threesomes with you and Sleeping Bimbo.”

“You better watch your mouth!”

“Or what?!” Shalonda stepped in front of Rebecca, watching as the girl flinched. She chuckled to herself, making the decision for Lewis as he stood and dusted the back of his jeans. “You know what, I’m canceling myself. You ain’t nothing but a dirty dog, Lewis Braxton, and I hope like hell you wake up with the fleas this hoe gon’ pass to you. Lose my number.”

Lewis watched with glee as Shalonda stormed away. She’d only made the first part of his mission easy. Turning to Rebecca, he awaited the same reaction. “Lewis, I can’t believe you would sleep around behind my back.”

He shrugged, his eyes darting back and forth before he finally responded. “I don’t know why you can’t believe it. I never said we were or would be exclusive.”

“That’s what I thought you would be bringing up today! You said you had something important to talk about.” She huffed, trying her hardest not to let tears spill from her eyes. “I feel so betrayed.”

“Listen,” He sighed, shaking his head at himself. “When I’m in between situations, or just looking for some quick action, maybe you and I can link up and do what we do best. Other than that, Love, I’m not making nothing exclusive. Not with you, or anybody else.”

Before he could blink, her manicured hand flew across his face. “Ugh, you make me sick! I never want to see you again!”

Rebecca stormed off, leaving Lewis to rub the side of his face. “Sounds perfect.” He pulled himself together, mentally checking what he thought would be a hard task off his list. “Me, in a relationship, willingly? These girls are funny.” Gathering his booksack from the bleachers where he’d left it, he rushed off to his next class just as the bell signaling the end of the first lunch period rang.

Boys Will Be Boys [Part 1] by Cortney Joseph | #ThrowAwayWeek2019

The halls of Echelon High School were bursting and bustling with the bodies of uneager and equally unhappy students; some rushing, and others dragging, to reach their destinations.

Bold enough to do so, in hopes of an early suspension, someone propped a boombox in their locker and blasted Erotic City by Prince, causing some of the cheerleaders to break out into little dances while other students began to find a little energy.

Cliques formed immediately at surrounding lockers, jocks pairing off with their boys, while band students, members of the student counsel, the self-proclaimed and proud ‘nerds’ went off in separate directions. Loud talking, trash talking, giggling, and gossiping starting off at 7:05 a.m., bringing about a headache for Principal Parker as he took a count of the many familiar faces he knew he’d see in his office daily for the next nine months.

It was only the first day of school; he was drained of patience and energy.

It was going to be a mad house, raging hormones burgeoning the instant girls and boys laid eyes on the ones they wanted most. Tempers and attitudes flaring as young girls caught sight of the ones they hated most.

Threats here, talks of linking up there, and most of all plans for social gatherings already being put into play as the main priorities of school were brushed to the side. As Principal Parker passed with a stern look that seemed to warn the couples already in action, they gave polite smiles and knowing looks until he was clear out of sight.

And it was back to the intense make out sessions that caused a parade of on-lookers throughout the junior and senior hallways.

 

Leaning against his locker, sixteen-year-old Jason Reynolds threw on wild charm as he spit a little game to the newest object of his affection. Seemingly, she wasn’t going for it. He, however, was confident. It would not take him long to shake down her guard, to get himself exactly where he wanted to be.

The young girl popped her gum, side-eying Jason before she posed a question every girl in her situation knew to ask. “Don’t you have a girl? I heard you do.” She pushed him back when he tried to step closer. “Ain’t nobody down for playing second.”

“You of all people should know not to listen to rumors.”

“Oh, it’s rumors?” He nodded, smiling devilishly as he finally got closer, caressing her cheek. Below average height for a boy his age, he made up for it with confidence and a bit of bravado. “You must take me for some kind of fool, Jason.”

“Lalani, why you acting like this?” Taking her hand in his, he gave a genuine smile and spoke gently. “Now you know that I’ve had my eyes on you since Freshman year. You never wanna give a brother any play, and when I finally work up the nerve to step to you, you just shoot me down. You’re breaking my heart, Beautiful.”

Lalani, one of many girls that had often dreamed of being in Jason’s company, looked away, taking a moment to think. She’d always felt they’d be the perfect couple. He’d be the one athlete to step outside of the box, and outside of the prechosen social circle, and date a girl that held and entertained activities outside of cheer. In her eyes, he was the finest boy attending Echelon. His dark brown skin was enticing, and it often took everything she had not to reach out and touch him, run her fingertips along his arms in admiration and appreciation. She loved eyes the most; large and expressive, often leaving her in a spell that she wanted desperately to shake. Lalani knew a chance with Jason would only lead to heartbreak, she’d heard it time and time again. But it didn’t stop her from thinking, dreaming, fantasizing of what one night with the boy would be like.

She rolled her eyes, folding her arms across her chest as she pouted. “You sure ain’t ever act like you’ve had your eyes on me. Everything from your eyes to your hands have been on other girls around here.”

“None of them have meant anything. I’ve been waiting for my chance to be with you, to see what kind of love thang we could work out. I see your boy Darryl is out of the picture for good, so what’s really stopping us now?” She shrugged, and Jason nodded, throwing his arm over her shoulder. “Walk with me, Lalani, let me tell you all that could be if you were my girl.”

Blushing, she giggled at the first thing he whispered in her ear, liking immediately the way hateful eyes fell on her as they passed through a group of girls that shared her same desire.

 

Down the corridor, stumbling out of a closet that many students had become too acquainted with over the years, Adam Shaw straightened out his letterman jacket. An intense make out session had occurred, and he found himself struggling to regain his composure and remove the filthy thoughts that clouded his mind. Nodding his head as a young girl said goodbye and slipped past him, walking in the opposite direction, he took a moment to make sure he was well put together with no signs of his early morning activity evident.

He’d made it as far as the water fountain before he heard an accusatory voice and tone. “Damn, Nigga, can the first day of school get underway before you start, at least.”

Busted by one of his best friends, he laughed and made the short walk to their lockers. The sixteen-year-olds acknowledged those that spoke to them, eying the bit of ‘candy’ that passed them by before refocusing. “Listen, she took me by surprise and dragged me in the closet. What was I supposed to do? Brush her off?”

Marcus Tucker gave a devilish grin, looking up at Adam. “Since today is Drop and Draft Day, damn right you should have brushed her off. You just complicated shit for yourself.”

Adam smirked, taking a moment to put his combination in before opening his locker. Removing his booksack, he set it on the floor and began looking around for his little black book. “It would be a problem if it were Destiny that had pulled me into the closet. Since it was Trisha, I don’t see my day going wrong.”

“Ooh, pulled the next one off the bench early? Smart.” Marcus bent down and opened his own locker, groaning as he spotted a folded piece of paper.  “And here I am feeling like Mercedes is going to give me complete hell.”

“You crazy. You pulled one of the baddest girl around here, got her hooked, and you don’t wanna hang on just a little longer?”

Marcus shook his head, removing his jacket and shoving it into the locker before he closed it. As he stood, he unfolded the note, instantly annoyed by the first line. “You know the rules. Six months, no feelings, drop ‘em like flies, and move on to the next. I’ve still got more work to put in before I go a little longer with anybody. We’re already two days over and my skin is itching. She’s cramping my style now, making all these ridiculous ass plans when she knew from jump my black ass wasn’t committing.” He held up the letter, rolling his eyes as he watched Adam glance over the content.

“Yeah, she got it real bad. Let that go as soon as possible before she snaps and shaves your Gumby off.”

“Think I’m not? Soon as she walks in Ms. Dupree’s class, I’m calling her to the back, hitting her with the smoothness. I’m going to be as gentle as possible.”

Adam nodded. “I remember the last time you hit somebody with the smoothness. Y’all broke up, but not until after she popped up pregnant. Be real careful.” Pausing, Adam threw on a small smile. “And how’s MJ?”

Leaning against the lockers behind him, Marcus shook his head. “Of all the girls I mess around and get pregnant, it’s the evilest of them all. She calls me a deadbeat but does everything to keep me from seeing my kid. I gotta go through her sister to find out how my boy is doing. I mean, that alone should make me feel like she’s playing me like a sucka.”

“You feeling like he ain’t yours?”

“I should, but I was tryna at least be upstanding about that. You know Moms would kill me if I flaked on a responsibility that big. Check it, I’m not stressing it though. She wants to be childish, I’m going to let her be that. She just ain’t getting nothing outta me. Everything I send my child, I buy it myself and make sure he gets it. She’ll will never see a dime.”

 

Adam shook his head, glad he was always careful with his sexual exploits, glad he was overly selective in how he went about picking his girls. No one, absolutely no one would trap him or set him up. “I never want those problems.” Checking himself in the mirror, making a half-attempt at reshaping the side of his high-top, Adam took notice that he had red lipstick on his neck. “Damn, I knew she was gonna leave her mark. It’s always when you’ve gotta go around the girl you’re trying to let down with there’s no other girl as your main lie.”

“Ha! And you wanna clown us chocolate brothers, at least our passion marks are hard to spot. I hope you get punched out.”

“Forget you, Marcus.”

Just as Marcus was about to reply with another joke at his best friend’s expense, he caught sight of Melody Wyatt. Every year since they were in the fifth grade they’d taken at least one class together, and every year she shot him down without any hesitation. This year, he told himself, would be different. “Aye Lite Brite, I’m gon’ catch you later. I got some things to line up before this afternoon. Catch you and the fellas in the commons at lunch.”

Adam nodded, finally grabbing his little black book. Closing his locker, he picked up his booksack and rushed off to remove the evidence before he came across his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend.

 

As the first bell rang, the halls began to thin out. Loud talking and raucous laughter faded out, students rushed to find their rightful places before they could find themselves with tardy slips and detention write-ups.

Over the intercom, Echelon’s main secretary cleared her throat and delivered the first morning message of the year. The cheerfulness and excitement in her voice annoyed some of the students. “Welcome back to Echelon all returning Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors. For those of you joining us for the first time, Freshman as well as foreign exchange and others, we welcome you with open arms and hope that you enjoy your time with us.”

Throughout the building, her voice was either drowned out or tuned out, antsy teenagers already trying to figure out how to liven up their days before they could die of intense boredom.

Collectively, though in different areas; Jason, Marcus, and Adam all began to plot out their first official moves of the year. The dropping of one girl and jumpstarting the chase of another.

Down & Out by Cortney Joseph | #ThrowAwayWeek2019

He sat quietly with his eyes closed, pinching the bridge of his nose as he mulled over the notice in his in left hand. It stirred up more anguish and stress, piling on to the trouble that had been riding his back for months. Worry lines etched along his forehead as he furrowed his brows, no alternative solutions coming to mind.

“Daddy, do I really have to stay with grandma for a while? Her house smells like old people and funky feet, and that’s not a smell I want sticking to me. I like the floral, lavender, and lemony fresh scents of our home much better.”

Shaking his head, forcing himself not to laugh, Nathaniel opened his eyes to see his five-year-old daughter, Winter, standing in front of him with a serious look on her chubby face. To his surprise, her hair was still neatly nestled into the ponytails he’d struggled with earlier that morning. They were sitting in the park; her bright idea when he announced they wouldn’t be able to spend the day at a local eatery that offered games galore for overactive children to burn out on. He wondered if she was disappointed in him.

 

She quickly encroached his space, stepping between and leaning against his legs with her elbows while attempting to peek at the paper he held. Nathaniel crumbled the paper in his hand before she could pick up specific words and ask more questions. She was a bit advanced, already a good reader with great comprehension skills.

Winter was highly inquisitive, what Nathaniel considered to be outright nosy. One question would spin off into a million more, and she would not stop until she got the answer she felt was closest to the truth. While he was proud of her, always enthusiastic about her love for learning and discovery, a love that had evaded him as a child; there were things he did not want her to know or think about while she was so young. He wanted her as worry-free and carefree as possible. He would protect her innocence and happiness at all costs, even if it meant hiding things from her.

She faced the playground, starting with her first question of the hour. “Daddy, what was that?”

“Nothing you need to worry about, Winnie.”

She huffed, poking her little lip out. “You always say that. I want to know what it is.”

“It’s grown up things, Winnie. Grown up things that only Daddy needs to worry about, okay.”

She stomped her feet, folding her arms across her chest. “I never get to know any grown up things.”

Nathaniel shook his head, hugging her tightly just before planting a kiss on her cheek. “I love you. And yes, you have to stay with your grandma. The way things have been between she and I, we should be very thankful she’s helping. And I want you to be and remain respectful.”

 

Winter nodded, sighing as she turned to face her father. “And where will you be?”

“I have a lot to take care of so I’ll be gone a lot.”

“We won’t see each other anymore? Are you leaving me there, by myself?”

The sad look that settled on her face tugged at Nathaniel’s heart. For the first time, it dawned on him that it had only been the two of them. It had been him that nurtured Winter, sacrificed and went without for her, made sure she had all that she needed and wanted. He jumped through every hoop known to man to ensure and maintain her happiness, protected her, provided relentless care and love when she was sad, sick, or hurt. “I’ll be living there too. You’ll see me every morning and every night before you go to bed, I promise.”

She smiled, nodding her head as she stood up straight. “I don’t have to share my stuff with Penelope, do I?”

“It would be very nice if you shared your toys with your cousin. What have I always told you?”

“It’s not very nice to be selfish. But she breaks people’s stuff. I’ll share everything else, but can I keep my dolls to myself, please?”

Nathaniel stared into his daughter’s eyes, seeing the faux anxiety. He was tickled by how dramatic she was acting suddenly, the way she stretched her words as she went on to explain the way her older cousin Penelope tended to ruin every single baby doll she got her hands on. Still, he kept a stern look on his face. “Be polite when saying that you don’t wish to share a specific toy, instead of jerking it away the instant you see someone else with it.”

Winter exhaled sharply, nodding as she agreed to do as her father said. “Daddy, may I wear your hat?”

“For what?”

“Because I like it. And I asked the correct way. And you can’t tell me no because I’m cute, like you.” He finally laughed, sending her on her way to finish playing.

 

Alone with his thoughts again, Nathaniel straightened out the paper and read over it once more, as if the words would have changed in his favor as he put on a front for his daughter.

It still read EVICTION. It was still a final notice.

And he still had no idea what he was going to do.

 

 

Returning home just as the sun set, Nathaniel sent Winter straight to her room to finish packing. She’d procrastinated long enough. Whether she wanted to or not, they’d be leaving out around ten p.m., making a long but necessary drive to his parents’ home.

“Can’t we just leave in the morning?”

“No, we have to meet her early in the morning so that we can get you settled in the house while she’s at work. Don’t want to go there and be locked out, do you?”

Winter stood in her bedroom doorway, her eyes darting from side to side as she tried to decide if she wanted to tell the truth. “If it meant we could come back home, I vote to be locked out.”

Nathaniel groaned, in no mood to argue back and forth with a five-year-old. “Go and finish packing, Winnie. Next time I tell you, it’ll be with a belt in my hand.”

Winter frowned, dragging her feet as she walked into her room, speaking her young mind. “Sheesh, can a kid at least try to worm her way out of things she doesn’t want. What happened to me being too cute to spank.”

“The cuteness comes and goes. Mostly when you try my patience, like you are now. Go and finish packing, and move quickly.”

“Yes Sir.”

Hearing her bedroom door close, Nathaniel took a deep breath.

 

Walking into his kitchen, he picked up the receiver of his phone. Thankful that it hadn’t been disconnected yet, he dialed out to the only number he knew by heart.

Tapping his foot as he waited, he listened as Still Water by The Four Tops played from the tiny radio that rested on his kitchen counter. Hanging up, he stood for a few seconds before picking up the receiver again. Carefully turning the rotary with his index finger, he made sure he selected the correct numbers, waiting again.

“Hello?”

“Ma, hey.”

There was a long pause before his mother’s sour tone rang out, offering little to no mental comfort or relief. Without evening seeing her face, he knew that her lips were pursed and a permanent look of disappointment rested on her youthful face. He had been the constant disappointment, the difficult child. The thorn in her side, as she’d stated without a single regard to his feelings. And Maxine Deveaux never wasted a chance to make it known.

It was why, until now, he’d never bothered to pick up a phone and call his mother for anything. And this time, he’d only done so out of dire need, a last resort. “What you calling for? I don’t know how many times you need to remind me that you’re coming back.”

“It’s not because I want to, Ma. Right now, I don’t have a choice. I don’t have anyone else or anywhere else to go.” He exhaled sharply, resting the palm of his free hand on the counter next to where he stood. “You know how prideful I am, so you should know how hard this is for me. To reach out, to ask. To be forced to beg to come back. I don’t want this. But you’re all I have, Ma.”

“Could have gone to that girl. You’re not a scientific wonder or miracle. You ain’t lay down or produce that child by yourself. Why she can’t do for her own?”

Nathaniel sighed, rubbing the back of his neck as he felt tension building. “I don’t wanna talk about that right now, Ma.”

“Something needs to be said! I told you what would happen. You ain’t want to believe me. Had to go out and make a point and now look at you.”

 

Nathaniel rolled his eyes, choosing to remain silent. As strained as their relationship was, had always been, the one thing he would never allow himself to do was disrespect his mother. Not intentionally. Not when he needed a safe place for his child. “You can rest your nerves. I haven’t forgotten, I won’t leave you locked out. Everything is set up and ready for you and that child. There will be rules, and as long as you’re going to be here, you will follow them all. Am I understood?”

“Yes Ma’am.”

“Mm.” She grunted, shooing away her youngest son as he tried to listen in on her conversation. “And first time you mess up, you’re out the door. I won’t send Winter away, but you will be out my door. I mean it. I will not tolerate your old ways, Nathaniel.”

“I understand, Ma. Thank you. I just called to let you know that we’ll be leaving at about ten tonight. We should make it to you around six a.m.. I don’t plan on making any stops.”

“I’ll be up. Just don’t come here with a whole lot of noise. Going out my way for you, that don’t mean I’m gon’ let you disturb or inconvenience everyone else living here.”

“Yes Ma’am.”

Maxine’s voice finally softened, though she remained silent for a full minute before saying anything else. “Be careful driving late like that. If you have to stop, do so and rest. And make sure that baby eats something.” Nathaniel dropped his head, remaining silent. “Your brother will still be here if you miss me. He can let y’all in.”

“Alright. Bye Ma, see you in the morning.” Hanging up the phone, with no pleasantries, Nathaniel shook his head.

Mentally, he was scolding himself. Beating himself up for how far he allowed himself to fall when he had been so intent on living his life his own way. “It’s just temporary.”

Thank You!

I just want to say a big thank you to those who took the time to read the shorts I featured in my #ThrowAwayWeek!

I consider it to be a big success, because after getting a few opinions, I’ve been re-reading and trying to figure out how I could make quite a few of these old stories work again.

Anyway, thank you to all who read, who may have shared, commented, or simply liked the post.

It is greatly appreciated!

 

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the seven stories I featured this past week. You can search the sight by searching “#ThrowAwayWeek”, visiting the short story section,  clicking any of the links shared below, or just by taking a glance through MyPenWritesNice.com as a whole.

Happy reading!

 

New Horizons | #ThrowAwayWeek

Batiste | #ThrowAwayWeek

Rules Of Engagement | #ThrowAwayWeek

Sparrow | #ThrowAwayWeek

Tramp | #ThrowAwayWeek

Blinded | #ThrowAwayWeek

Your Precious Love | #ThrowAwayWeek

Your Precious Love | #ThrowAwayWeek

“Heaven knows that I long for you, every night… every night. And, sometimes I yearn through the day.” – Marvin Gaye

 

Still like the Gargoyles of the Cathedral behind him, Wesley sat in a trancelike state as a lit cigarette dangled between his fingers, the chill of the winter air failing to bother him.

Watching from a distance, unsure of how to approach, his young daughter stood with tears in her eyes as she said a silent prayer for the broken man that had once lived in a world of color and vibrancy.

Everything about and around him reeked of bleakness, shades of his favorite colors becoming dull variants of gray and black as his wardrobe began to encapsulate his emotions.

Just inches away, a small band unpacked their equipment and began to play the melody of Purple Snowflakes, hoping to get the passing public in the Christmas spirit. Some stopped, tossing loose change into the guitar case that rested in front of the keyboardist. Others continued along their usual path, hustling and bustling to get out of the cold and into the warmness of their homes.

 

“Daddy.”

Loren sat beside her father, snaking her arm through his before resting her head against his shoulder. It was then that he finally moved, taking a drag from the cigarette before it could burn down to the butt. “What’s wrong?”

“I woke up and couldn’t find you. I figured if you weren’t sitting with her, you’d be sitting on these steps, willing yourself to go inside and pray for strength to move forward.”

He attempted a smile, though it looked more like a slight twitch of his top lip. “You worry yourself too much over me, Lo.”

She caressed the side of his face, tugging at a strand of gray hair that boldly flashed itself in her eyes. He’d aged incredibly in such a short amount of time, overtaken by bouts of sadness that seemed never-ending. “Someone has to now. You’re going to get sick sitting out here all day like this.”

“I’ll be fine.”

“And what exactly are you doing when you come out here day after day?”

“Talking to God.” His voice was low, much softer than the smooth and velvety tone she was used to.

Loren looked at her father, catching the new wave of grief that flashed in his eyes as he lowered his head and exhaled. “I would like to think that he tells you to go home, go inside. Or, at the very least, to wear a jacket.”

Wesley shook his head. “He tells me a lot of things Lo, but never what I want to hear. He never gives me the answer that I seek.” He took one last drag of his cigarette before tossing it and blowing the smoke away from his daughter’s face. “Then, I suppose, I don’t get the answer I seek because we’re not supposed to question his ways and wills.”

“Were you talking to anyone else?”

“Yes. But I’ve no sign that she hears me. I’ve no way or sign of knowing if she knows how much I love and miss her, how I long for her presence.” Gently pushing his daughter away, Wesley stood and looked around, shoving his hands into his pockets. “We can go now. I’ve told them all that I needed to tell them today.”

 

Loren stood, walking side by side with her father as they began their semi-long walk home. “Considering how things are for the moment, I think you should give me special privilege to drive your car when I need to come and find you. I might be skinny, but I’m not fit at all Daddy. All of this walking back and forth is exhausting.”

He chuckled lightly, allowing his personal problems to dissipate for a moment as he focused his attention on his daughter. Though she would never say so, he knew he’d been doing poorly as of late, leaving her to fend for herself when he should have been holding himself together just for her, if for no one else. “Little Girl, you’re just that. I might be in bad shape, but I’m not irresponsible to the point that I’ll allow my twelve-year-old to drive a car. If it will make you feel better, I’ll make my excursions while you’re at school and I’ll be home when you return.”

“No, that won’t make me feel better at all, Daddy. But I understand why you take them, I think of it as your own way of trying to heal. I just have to work on not worrying so much. I guess I just fear your grief overtaking you, of losing you too.”

Wesley stopped walking. Turning, he placed his hand on her shoulders and asked Loren to look him in the eye. “Let me tell you something, no matter how close to falling off the cliff I am, I won’t fall. I won’t leave you, Lo. I promise.”

She smiled, hugging her father tightly before they began to walk again.

 

Silently, Loren prayed to God that her father would keep his promise. Because as much as she wanted to believe him, she also knew how much pain he was in. And it was a pain that would last until his very last days. Of that she was sure.

 

 

___________

 

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