STORIES


Chapter 1

Hicksville, NYC 1979

Saturday mornings, you’re guaranteed to find all the ladies and girls of the neighborhood getting their hair done at the local salon, Starr’s. My mother and I included. It was our thing. A sacred ritual exclusive to us, the only females in our immediate family. Starr, a product of Houston, Texas, was a gifted individual who moved way up north about six years ago for college. She had the ability to transform even the ladies lacking in the edges department, into something spectacular.

My mother and I had come in earlier than usual for our bi-monthly appointment. It was an uncomfortably humid summer morning and everyone seemed to be up and out earlier than usual. All the regulars were up and at it, from the local crackheads and homeless people to cop cars from the nearby precinct patrolling the adjacent streets. We were still reeling from the effects of the blackout two summers prior that eclipsed the whole city, the influx of heroin and freshly introduced crack cocaine and devastating crime rates. But for what it’s worth, Hicksville was relatively decent, within a certain radius, considering the deprivation of the surrounding areas.

Regardless, Hicksville, New York City was my home and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

“Cadence, won’t you get up and sing a lil’ somethin’ for us, baby?” Starr asked me, as she helped my mom over to the dryer. Starr still had a prominent southern twang in her speech. It was so charming and stuck out amongst our rough Hicksville accents.
She hadn’t started my hair yet and still had, about two more customers to do before mine.
I looked up from the Avenger’s comic book I had stolen from my brother Cameron, glanced quickly at Starr and then over at my mother.
My mother wasn’t very encouraging when it came to my singing. I didn’t understand why at the time. I mean, I thought I was pretty good and had always been told I was gifted in that area.

She rolled her eyes at me.

“Now don’t you start with that singing stuff, Starr. Do not encourage her.” She said waving her hands.

“Oh come on, Marg’, this little girl can sing, let her sing a little somethin’ for us”
Some of the other ladies in the salon chimed in which I knew pissed my mother off even more but I didn’t care, I was ready for my performance.
She picked up a magazine from the small table beside her and hid her face.

“Come on, baby” Starr took my hand and walked me to the center of the shop floor.

I wiped the invisible crumbs from the bottom of my denim skirt, closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I kept them closed for the remainder of my performance, it was just my thing. I sang a song I had written myself called ‘I Can Only Be Me.’
By the time I’d opened my eyes, a small crowd had formed outside the salon and almost spilling into the salon itself.

It was at that moment, I’m sure, my mother realized the strength of my voice and my capability to draw in crowds of people.

They all clapped and cheered as I went into my rendition of Michael Jackson and Diana Ross’ “Ease on Down the Road” from The Wiz. This time, my eyes open so I could occasionally glance over towards my mother’s direction but purposely avoiding her gaze.

By the time we got home from the salon and supermarket that day, my mother had ceased all communication with me. The reasons were obvious; this response however, was unnecessary.

“Cash and Cam go get the bags in the car!” my mother screeched as we entered the house.

Cassius (Cash) and Cameron (Cam) were my two eldest brothers, Cash being 14 had completely convinced himself that he was a full fledged member of the Adults and could do as he pleased, especially when our father was away working. Cameron, at 12 was a little more level-headed and responsible, making him my mother’s favorite without question, coupled with the fact he resembled her the most out of the five of us.

“Cash ain’t here mom he went to the rec center” Cameron declared as he came running down the stairs from the room they shared.

“Cash isn’t here, Cameron. Please go get the bags” She corrected him, rubbing his face as he walked past her and headed towards the car.

She was very strict when it came to the way we spoke and presented ourselves. Her parents -our grandparents, being from an upper middle class upstate NY background, were exactly the same way. My father and his family on the other hand, were much more relaxed. His family came from Mississippi and had more important things to worry about than the differences between saying “ain’t” and “isn’t.” You know, dealing with the consequential events of slavery, Jim Crow and the civil rights era and all.

I followed my mother into the kitchen to help unpack the grocery bags we had brought in.
“Chaz, Chadwick, get your butts in here and help put this food away!” She screeched again.

Charles (Chaz) and Chadwick were the youngest boys. Charles was my favorite; we maintained sweet spots for each other amongst all the arguing and fighting. He was just a year older than me at 11 but he never failed to defend me against my other brothers and even other kids at school and in our neighborhood.
Chadwick, was 8 and the youngest of all of us, was my father’s twin and evidently, his favorite.

“What’s that boy doing at the rec center anyway?” Whether my mother was asking herself  or me, I wasn’t sure, given the earlier circumstances. So I kept quiet as she handed me the egg carton to put in the fridge.
I said a small prayer for Cassius in my head because I knew whatever time he decided to return home, he wouldn’t exactly be coming home to a warm embrace.
We soon heard shuffling and jumping coming from upstairs and my mother wasted no time running up to see what was going on. Surprise surprise, Chadwick and Charles were at it again.

Cameron came running into the kitchen, two brown grocery bags in either hand, which he immediately threw to the ground before taking off to follow our mother upstairs.
“Cameron! There’s glass in these bags!” I scowled after him.
Not long after that, my mother came fumbling down the stairs dragging the pair of them with her. Charles’ t-shirt clasped in one hand, his body attached, Chadwick’s sweater, his body attached also, in the other hand. It was a ridiculous sight. The two fools were still wrestling with each other even while still in our mother’s grip. And then you had Cameron dying of laughter at the top of the stairs.

I think my mother was cursed.
Four boys?!
Not many women could deal with that and a husband who worked so far away, especially in our community. My mother had many friends and acquaintances who had sons who were at the mercy of inner city NY. Gangs, drugs, addiction, prison, murder -you name it. We were one of the few families in our neighborhood where both parents were present. Both were determined to ensure and maintain that all four of my brothers made something of themselves, my mother especially.

“I’ll let your father deal with you when he gets home, go get the bags!” She scoffed at them, sucking her teeth.

The two of them ran out of the door so fast, they knew she was mad and didn’t want to further her madness.

Once I had finished putting the food away from my bags, I went up to my room. I realized I had left the window closed and the sweltering heat that attacked me as I opened my room door ushered me straight to the window.
I hurried over to open the window and saw my friend, AJ Ramirez playing outside behind our house.
“ AJ! Girl, what you doing?” I yelled down at her.
She looked startled as she looked up at the sky and then located me, my head sticking out of the window of my second floor room. She was with two slightly older boys I didn’t recognize.
“Hey Cadence, I didn’t know you was back already from Starr’s, come on down”
“You know I can’t mess up this hair. My momma will kill me” I said lowering my voice and patting my head.
She, along with the two boys she was with chuckled.
“I know that’s right. Well, see ya later” She said as they headed in the direction of the rec center. It hadn’t occurred to me to ask or find out who the two random boys were at the time. I’m sure one of my brothers would know but I decided to save that enquiry for later.

AJ was what a lot of the older women in our neighborhood would describe as “fast.” Well they were indeed right, she did have to grow up fast. Before they moved to our block, she was mostly responsible for looking after her two baby sisters -well until they all got taken in by Child Protective Services.

Her mother was a known drug dealer and user and would often leave the three of them to fend for themselves. AJ would show me pictures of her mother and father before the drugs and they were an extremely handsome couple that gave into the temptation of the streets. Her mother was a beautiful dark skinned woman of Dominican origin with the softest looking skin and hair I’d ever seen. Her father was much lighter complected, very tall with very pretty boy-ish looks of Puerto Rican descent.

AJ herself was an attractive girl and she clearly had her parents to thank for that. She was tall for her age and already had a great figure, curves in all the right places.
She had the silkiest black head of curls that she always kept in a low ponytail, the curls cascading down to the small of her back. Her eyes, big and brown, her lips full and pink and always glossed up. Her most distinguishing feature however, was her gorgeous mahogany complexion. She was a stunning girl all around which is ultimately what got her the most attention.

I think she or her mother may have lied to CPS and stated that she was 16 instead of her actual age of 13, but you couldn’t blame them for believing she was 16 and I guess that’s why she was granted independence over herself. She lived by herself it was a very strange living arrangement, especially since her mother wasn’t locked up or anything, there was no need for the girl to be living by herself. I guess that was the arrangement that worked best for them while her mother was out selling her body and selling drugs. Her mother would come by every few months to check on things but it was almost like she was ostracized from Hicksville. She would never stay longer than a few days and would never engage in conversation with anyone whether she knew them or not. Her father’s whereabouts were unknown also, most of us presumed he had been murdered in a drug deal gone wrong. AJ would also have various “Aunt’s” and “Uncle’s” come by to check up on her, although I often wondered why they’d never stay very long either. I’d heard stories that she was definitely abused by them, especially some of her “Uncles.”

One of our other neighbors, Mrs May, had called the cops on more than one occasion to go around there and investigate but each time the cops would report back with nothing to worry about other than just the regular family disagreements going on.

Mrs May had even gone around there herself bringing snacks and food she had baked over to AJ’s house, in the hopes that she would open up to her or at the very least, let her inside the house, but to no avail.

I had been around to the house once the day before her birthday to help her pick out an outfit, last year for a supposed “date” she was being taken on by one of her older boyfriends. I never found out the details of said date or what outfit she had decided on, for that matter. But from what I could remember the house was in a decent condition and nothing looked suspicious or out of place.
I sat at my vanity, turned on my radio and began to unwrap my doobie. My favorite song ‘Cruisin’” by Smokey Robinson had just come on to which I proceeded to blast and sing along.

My father was due home later that day, we hadn’t seen him since the weekend before last and we all had many stories for him upon his arrival. He, unlike my mother appreciated my singing and I smiled at the thought of his praise when I would inform him of my latest performance. I hummed the rest of the song while I began to make my bed until Cameron came knocking on my door. He was the only one who did so, so I knew it was him before he even announced himself.

“What do you want, Cam? I have to clean my room before dad gets back.”
“I already did mine” He boasted. Walking in and placing himself on my bed, the bed I had just made.
“Get off!” I yelled. “Did you just come in here to mess everything up? Because you can leave now”
“Chill out, lil’ sis’ why you always yelling?”
I rolled my eyes.
“Mama said we gotta go get Cash from the rec center”
“Why do I have to go? Chaz is here”
“I didn’t ask her all that, she just told me to get you and go. So let’s roll” He got up and headed towards the door.
I guess she really was mad at me, making me have to walk the 10 blocks or so to the Arden Ave Recreation Center. Emphasis on ‘walk’ as Cameron had his new bike and was waiting for an opportunity to take it for a ride to show it off. I knew my other two older brothers would never let me use theirs so I was left with no other choice.

I changed into some shorts and a tank top and put on some Nike tennis shoes. I dragged my feet all the way down the stairs and guess who was down there to meet me?

“You two didn’t leave yet?” My mother stood at the foot of the stairs with her hands on her hip.

“We’re leaving now.” I mumbled under my breath knowing it was a semi-rhetorical question.  I walked down past her and towards my brother who was already on his bike and ready to go.

“Don’t take too long, you hear me?!” She yelled after us.

“This is all your fault, I bet you offered to go get him” I hissed at Cameron.
“Shut up and make sure you keep up, flat head!” He took off down the street ahead of me.

I sucked my teeth and ran after him trying best to keep up.

“You’re so annoying!” I stopped and panted when I couldn’t keep up anymore. We had only done about 4 blocks and had arrived in a neighborhood we were very familiar with. We had some cousins that lived on this block and some of them were outside playing with the fire hydrants, while some of the older ones were on the court and the females were standing around the court.

“Cadence! Come here girl” My older cousin, Shawna yelled as she spotted me. Embarrassed, I walked over to her and let her give me a hug. She was standing in front of a taller brown-skin guy who was smoking a joint. I’m sure it was one of the guys I would overhear her calling her “boyfriend” but in reality they were just guys she had crushes on.

“Hey baby girl, where you heading to? and don’t tell me you’re by yourself”

Shawna was 17 and our relationship was quite awkward. I feel like she only liked me because she wanted to be as pretty and as feminine as me. She was from my father’s side of the family who were very dark skinned and quite rough looking -the women of the family included.
She was quite short and round and her hair was always a mess and desperate looking, as my mother would put it. I don’t think she had ever stepped into a hair salon in her life, not Starr’s one anyway. It seemed like she preferred one of her neighborhood friends to do her hair instead of going to seek professional help.
if you really looked at her, she wasn’t bad looking at all, she just needed a little help with her presentation

She would always touch and play in my hair as if it were something new that she’d never seen before. My hair was pretty nice, thick and a little past shoulder length and always permed. My mother hated my natural curls more than she hated her own. Her hair was pretty similar to AJ’s and was lucky enough to get that silky texture, she always made reference to some distant Indian ancestry on her mother’s side of the family but that was the extent of the details she had to share. My hair was a lot more coarse like my Father’s but when it was straightened, it resembled my mother’s texture more.

“No, I’m with Cameron we’re going to get Cash from the rec center” I replied, trying not to look annoyed as she played in my freshly pressed hair.

“I heard there was a fight over there earlier, it better not be Cash and them lil’ boys he rolls ‘round with”

I stood silently ignoring her comment and wondering when this was going to end.

But it only got worse.

Some of her high school friends began to walk over to us and their eyes lit up when they saw me.

“Who’s this lil’ cutie?” Her friend Yolanda asked.
“This my lil’ cousin, Cadence, girl”
“She’s adorable and look at her pretty hair!” of course, she too proceeded to run her fingers through my hair also and it took everything in me to not burst into tears. Luckily for me Cameron came circling around the basketball court and rescued me.

“What y’all doing? Cadence we gotta go before Moms come down here herself”

“You can’t say hi Cameron? Get over here boy!” Shawna yelled, chasing after him on his bike as he rode circles around her and her friends.

I snuck away from them and started walking towards the rec center, trying to fix my hair back into place just in case our mother really did come down here herself.

Cameron caught up to me panting while still on his bike.

“You’re welcome” He spat out.
“For what?”
“You know I saved you from that girl. She was damn near pulling your hair out”
“Right. Putting her dirty hands all in my hair ugh!” I scoffed.
“Shoulda kept your doggie wrap on!”
“It’s called a doobie wrap, stupid!”
“You’re stupid!”
He took off ahead of me.
“Cameron! Wait up!” I turned around to see a group of  girls from my school calling out to and running towards Cameron.
He noticed them too and slowed down. Cameron was a cute boy, he had the same small facial features our mother had and her caramel complexion and had a head full of curls and I guess that instantly made him a ladies man.

“We like your new bike” Simone said, surveying the vehicle.
“Yeah, it’s so fast” Rhonda butted in.
“It’s super fast” Cameron excitedly proclaimed.

I stood on the opposite side of the sidewalk, staring at them, wondering if we were ever going to make it to this rec center.

“You should show us” said Camille.

No sooner had she spoken than Cameron whizzed down the street towards the rec center, leaving us speechless in his dust.

“Cameron, wait up!” I screamed running towards him and not by myself this time, I had his three cheerleaders trying to keep up with him also.

It wasn’t until another 3 or so blocks before he slowed down again.
“That’s really messed up, Cam” I said in between breaths, as I finally made it to where he had stopped on the corner of Beaumont Blvd.

“They said they wanted to see how fast it could go. Where did they go any way?”
Knowing those three girls, they probably got distracted by something shiny on the way.

“God knows” I simply said.
It wasn’t long before we could see the rec center in the distance. It was packed as usual for a sunny Saturday afternoon, kids of various ages were piling out onto the street with the bass from the sound system blasting for the whole street to hear. It sounded like some local Djs were engaging in battle.
As we got closer, it was indeed a DJ battle and a whole lot of other noise and chaos.

“I’m going to wait out here Cam, can you just go in and get that boy and come back out so we can leave?” You would think I was the elder one the way I bossed that boy about sometimes.
“Nah uh, I wanna see this.” He parked his bike on the wall behind me and pushed past the drove of people to make his way to the rec center playground area.

I was so pissed off with Cameron at this point I grabbed the bike from the wall, attempting to ride it back towards home but was finding it hard to keep my balance, his bike was huge!

After more attempts of getting on and off the bike, an older boy, about 15 came over to me and tried to help.
“You need some help over here?” He grinned.

“I’m ok thank you” I shyly responded, avoiding eye contact.
“You sure?” He grabbed both handles to stabilize the bike while I climbed back on.
“Thank you” Smiling, I noticed Cassius walking towards us. He was holding his left eye and his shirt was ripped in multiple places.
“Cash, what the heck ha-” His eye was swollen shut and leaking everywhere.

“Yo, get away from my sister, man!” He started walking towards us faster and faster, a group of his friends right behind him, all with the same enraged expression on their faces.
The random boy immediately became defensive and his friends who had witnessed the whole thing got up off the wall they had been sitting on and went to join random boy.
At this point I had moved well out of harm’s way with Cameron’s bike and watched as the two groups approached each other.

Of course by now, people were starting to form a crowd, anticipating this inevitable throw down.

“This fool must wanna chuck ‘em ‘cause he looking at me crazy!” I overheard Random boy say to his friend.

“Why you talking to my sister?!” Cassius yelled, his voice shaking a little.
The opposing group, clearly a few years older than Cassius and his friends, chuckled amongst themselves.

“Aye man, I was just helping her with her bike-”
“Do she look like she need any help with her bike?” a taller, unfamiliar, lighter-skinned boy from Cassius’ group quizzed.

“Y’all ain’t had enough ass whoopin’’s for one day?” Random boy spat out.

“What you tryin’ to say then? We’re ready to go! One more ass whoopin’ don’t mean nothin’!” Cassius spat back.

It was quite comical hearing my brother talk like this, knowing that would not run in my Mother’s house.
I spotted Cameron in the crowd trying to make his way over to Cassius.

“Ay man, we don’t wanna fight, we just trying to get outta here, dawg” Cameron said trying to get Cassius to walk away with him.

Before anyone else could say anything else, Benny, the manager of the Rec center came running out.

“You all need to get out of here before I call the cops! Come on! Everybody get to steppin’!”

The thought of the cops getting Cassius was more than enough for me.

“Cassius this is stupid, let’s go.” I gave him a look as if to remind him that he knew what would already be waiting for him the minute we got home and it would be wise not to make things any worse.
He understood, rolled his eyes and we, Cameron and Cassius and his crew started heading home.
Cassius and his friends were way ahead of us, I guess they were reliving and talking about what had happened that lead up to him getting injured.

“Man, Cash is gonna get it from mom and dad when we finally make it home.”
“You’re right about that. Even I’m scared for him.” Cameron and I whispered amongst ourselves.

As we finally made it back to our block, we were greeted by our Father, leaning on his parked car on the curb. He was lighting a cigarette, something he only did outside of the house.

(Mom would surely have a conniption if not!)

My eyes lit up instantly, “DADDY!” I lunged towards him.

His megawatt smile and powder white teeth exposed. My father was indeed a suave man; smooth, laid-back and calculated.

“Baby girl” He managed to spit out between puffs of his cigarettes. I ran into his arms and gave the biggest hug as far as both arms could stretch.

Cameron came running behind me and then Cassius.
“Aww man, my big boys” He said rubbing their heads. I spotted Cassius trying his best to hide his swollen eye but my father started becoming suspicious.

“Where you youngin’s coming from?” Our father quizzed, stepping on the cigarette butt.
There was an extended silence, as we all contemplated withholding the truth.
“Daddy, I wrote a new song, you gotta listen” I responded.
He looked down at me and then across at my two brothers. Then noticed Cassius’ eye.
Cassius did his best to avoid eye contact but better my father notice than my mother
“Come here, son. What happened to your eye, boy?”
Cassius hesitated but he knew, as we all knew, our father was the only person, other than my mother who could make Cassius feel like the kid he was fighting to not be anymore.
“Nothing, Dad. Just got into a fight with some cats at the rec centre, nothing serious.”
“Somehow I don’t think your mom is gonna see things that same way, boy.”
He then went into the trunk of his BMW New Six Coupe and retrieved a clean, white cloth and ushered Cassius to go over to him. He held the cloth to Cassius’ injured eye.

He squirmed around until our father had a firm grip on his shoulder to stop him from moving. Cameron and I stared at Cassius realizing that he was not nearly as bad as he thought he was. He was just a baby. Like he would call us.

Not long after, our other siblings, Charles and Chadwick came running out of our brownstone apartment.

They screamed as they jumped on and climbed all over our dad.
“My main man, Chad” He hissed smoothly, lifting him into the air as the rest of us looked up at him in sheer awe. Dad was Superman to us!
“And the smoothest cat of them all, Jazzy Chaz” Chaz had stolen our dad’s sunglasses that were hanging on his shirt, at this point and traded them for his regular glasses.

I caught our mother standing on the stoop, a few meters away,  staring at our little reunion. She had a half smile on her face.

Our dad soon turned his attention her way as well, put the boys down and walked over to her.

We stayed put and watched.

He pulled her into his arms and swept her off her feet literally. It was like they were dancing to no music. Then he showered her face with kisses. The boys, as usual, made yucky noises and covered their eyes but I couldn’t take my eyes off them. It wasn’t everyday I got to see my mother turn into complete mush. She kept a poker face for the most part, unless she was extremely mad.



--------------





10. The Love you Save

Entry 10: Saturday August 5th 2017, 7:17AM

Dear Diary,

I met a guy!

This is still so fresh and so weird, the way it happened and it's all down to my interfering ass sisters.

Ava forced herself into my house insisting that we all go out tonight since her boyfriend had just sold his first house. I guess it was a reason to celebrate but I still wasn't convinced. She went on Instagram to see what events were going on tonight in central and I had a look on Twitter. Ultimately, we decided on Paper in Soho. I actually hadn't been since it had re-opened. I was kind of excited at first since it'd been too long since I'd been out in London. Plus, the thought of dressing up and looking cute was appealing to me.

"Make sure you look cute, yeah?" She smirked. I was offended.
And when did she develop this Essex accent anyway?

She left the house momentarily, only to return about 30 mins later with some Jamaican food - my fav!

"What is all this about Av' (her nickname)? Are you trying to butter me up or?"

"Okay, please don't get angry at me but it was Mili's fault..."

"...What have you two done?" I said with a straight face.

"She set you up with one of Omari's friend's..."

"No, she didn't" I laughed.

"I'm dead serious. He likes you. He said he followed you on IG but you didn't accept the request."

"I haven't been on Instagram since we got back from holiday. What's his name on there then?"

"Go on it and you'll see."

This was absurd even for Mili and Ava. They had really outdone themselves this time. Do I have desperate written on my forehead?

Anyway fast forward to around 7pm, all the girls came to mine to get ready. I remember feeling so blessed to finally be at this point where I wasn't living and breathing for DJ. I was finally doing me, wholeheartedly, truly and genuinely for the first time in about 15 years. This is all new to me but I have no other choice but to embrace it.

Anyway, the plan was to all meet at Omari's place for pre drinks before heading out to central. Me, Mili, Jen and Ola went in Mili's car and Ava, Dorcas and Seraphine went in Ava's car. Sydney couldn't make it.

We didn't get to Omari's house until about 11pm - never mind the fact that we had left at like, 10:15pm and were only going to Brixton. I mean, I already knew it was going to be one of those nights, but I digress.

So as soon as we pulled up, we could hear the bass from Omari's friend Curtis' (I'm guessing) new Audi Coupe and soon enough we saw him get out of the car and another friend I hadn't seen before got out of the passenger's side.

"I think that's him, that's the guy" Mili nudged as we started piling out of the car.

"Curtis!" She yelled. He and the mystery guy were heading towards the door of the apartment complex but quickly turned around.

"Oh shit, evenin' ladies" He waited until we caught up with them to introduce us to mystery guy.

"This is my cousin Midé" I noticed that this Midé guy kept his gaze on me from the moment we approached them so I purposely avoided eye contact with him after that because he was just weird.

I didn't believe at first that this was the guy they had set me up with. His personality didn't match what Ava had told me, along with the fact Ava hadn't confirmed this was indeed him. Now that I'd had a better glimpse of him, I was even more confused.Why would they think we would look good together? He was really light skinned, really skinny and way cuter than what I'd ordinarily find attractive. I guess this was there attempt to make sure I don't compare him to DJ. They always said I could do better looks-wise. Just because both their boyfriends looked like guys straight off of the IG 'explore' page, doesn't mean that's what everyone wants or likes.

After all the pleasantries, we all walked to the entrance of the apartment complex where another of Omari's friends was waiting by the door to let us in. We all greeted him and followed him into the lift. By this time, I was beginning to wonder if Ava or Mili were just playing with me because still no indication, alert or green light as to if this was the mystery guy they had set me up with. I was steadily getting annoyed having to be around him. He was giving me funny looks on the whole ride up in the lift.

There were way more people in Omari's apartment than I think we'd all anticipated, making this set up even more awkward.

But finally Ava said while looking around, "Erm the mystery guy isn't even here yet, where is heee?" Sounded more like she was asking me than asking herself.

She continued scanning the room and I eventually joined in despite not knowing who or what for that matter, I was looking for.

"Mili told me that she thought that Midé guy... so you mean to tell me neither of you know him or spoke to him?"

She hesitated.

"I've met him and spoke to him. Mili was just trying to make you anxious."

Yeah? Well I have enough anxiety for this whole room of people right now, I thought to myself.

Not long after, two more guys walked into the room. I noticed them as I sat on the love seat nestled between Seraphine and Mili. Seraphine was in on project 'Set Up' too, being Ava's right hand, so she nudged me. A little too hard to be honest.

"The one in the middle, that's Nyeem, your mystery man!" She squealed.

So this was him. Brown skin, about 6'0-ish, shirt crispy white against his chest and just the right amount of buttons left open...yeah I think it's been established now that I notice these kind of things.

Thick, thick beard and once again, he was cute. Like really cute. My kind of cute.
The girls did well looks-wise, I'll give them that.

Mili  being the eldest of the three of us was always the loudest and most bold, immediately got his attention and motioned for him to come towards us.

I was not prepared but with all my new found confidence and assertiveness, I had something to prove to myself.

"Mili... you're so annoying!" I chucked nervously, slightly pushing her. She got up to hug him as he strutted over. I noticed Seraphine and her friend had got up to leave, making more space (and less eyes and ears) on the love seat.

"Hey Nyeem, this is my little sis, I was telling you about..." I shuffled over to give him enough space to sit down, then stuck out my hand as he sat down.

"Nice to meet you Nyeem."

"Likewise." He grinned.

His teeth a blinding white against his black gums. I guess I was staring a little bit too hard at his teeth because he finally ejected:
"You like my teeth huh?"
"I mean, yeah they're nice- you have nice teeth." Stuttering like an absolute fool and he was reveling in my awkwardness.

"So do you." He grinned again.

"Thank you. So, do you-"

"Listen everyone, we need to start making moves right now. Everyone got a ride yeah?" Omari belted from the other side of his apartment.

There were about 20 people in his apartment at this point so I knew that alone was going to make for an interesting night.

"You wanna ride with me?" He asked super casually, as if we'd known each other for longer than 5 mins. "You can finish asking me what you were about to ask"

Everyone else in the room now gathering their belongings and heading out of the apartment and towards the lifts. Then, out of nowhere:

"You coming with us babe or?"

Mili.

I told you already she was the loud one. I looked up at her and then back up at him as he stood up patting his pockets for his car keys.

"I'll see you guys there." I said calmly. Secretly ecstatic that I had played it so cool.

He grinned for what had to be the 1000th time tonight, took my hand, helped me up and we headed out of the apartment. His arm over my shoulder, the last ones to leave.



9. Some day, we'll look back fondly

Entry 9: Tuesday July 25th 2017, 9:57PM

Dear Diary,

Today I finally went through some of DJ's things that he had left behind when he had moved out. I'm not sure why he hasn't come back to retrieve them. I hope he's not expecting me to invite him over to do so. 

I found his roley that he had worked and saved up so hard for when he turned 18, a hotel key fob from when we went on our first bae-cation for my 20th... or was it my 21st?? He spoiled me crazy for that whole week. I found a pair of his velvet Christian Louboutin loafers I hated with a passion! He made them work somehow, like he did with everything. He wasn't the most attractive by most standards but he was attractive by most standards but he was attractive to me and attracted to me and that was enough for me. He was an excellent dresser.

Still is.

GQ Man of the Year every year as far as I'm concerned.

His cocoa dark chocolate skin and pearly whites will never leave my mind. That stark contrast... his body too. His body was more beautiful than mine. He was really something to look at when he had on  his Sunday best and even when he had nothing on. 

I also found a polaroid picture we took from 2015. I think this was after the engagement was back on for the 2nd time. His Dad was in the background photo bombing as usual. Now that I look at it, they were like twins.

Beautiful beasts.

He was my beautiful beast. However, looking at this picture I see beauty. He's a good guy just a bit lost in the sauce, or lost in the stew as he'd put it.

The item that touched me the most was the promise ring he gave me when we were like, 15 or 16. Not going to lie, I didn't expect to find this here given that he did not keep the promise...


8. LaFamiliar

Entry 8: Friday July 21st 2017, 8:43PM

Dear Diary,

It's been difficult settling back in after that life-altering adventure. I say life-altering because my mind-set has been completely revamped. From the night everything happened almost 2 months ago, til' now, I've had so many Aha! moments. I thought I would never get over DJ, at the time. But we spoke the same day I came back. Something I thought wouldn't happen as soon as it did. I first spoke to Paulina, who kept mentioning that hr end in the room with her. Mrs Zuvari is a persistent woman who 9 times out of 10 gets what she wants. I know she wasn't trying to fix us back together but she just knew we both were dying to check in on each other. 

"Okay Paulina, can I speak to him for a minute?"

"Of course, my darling."

A couple of seconds passed until that voice I had fallen in love with all those years ago filled up the silence.

"Hello?! Baby- I mean..."

"Hello DJ, how are you?" I ejected before anymore awkwardness ensued.

"I'm doing ok, more importantly, how are you?"

He always had a way of making whomever he was talking to feel more important than he actually thought they were.

"I'm fine thanks, how's work?" I mustered up, although it literally pained me to continue the conversation. A simple

"Hello"
"How are you?"
"Good"

Would have sufficed but I guess I was trying to persuade him I was handling everything perfectly fine and was perfectly capable of having a normal conversation with him.

"Work is work. I don't remember the last time I've been home this early, though." He half smirked. Neither did I, but technically he wasn't home. Home should have been here with me and yet, he hadn't arrived.

I remained quiet in the hopes that he would realize what he had just said.

He laughed and I heard him lightly slap the side of his cheek.

"I miss you so much and I'm not saying that to make you reconsider. That's just truly how I feel..."

His words didn't phase me but I did smile at the fact he had been thinking about me at least.

"I appreciate that, I just don't see why you're sharing that right now though." I'm sure it shocked him that I was so outright with it. He paused... and he never did that. 

"It's important to me to let you know that I still love and care about you. It would hurt a lot more if you assumed anything other than that about me."

"Did your mum tell you I went to The Bahamas a few weeks ago?" It hurt that I couldn't respond to his statement. It also hurt that I didn't have a response to his statement. He seemed to give up after that and join me in this game I had created of not indulging in his guilt. 

"Actually, your Dad did. I wish could have heard it from you though. Would have loved to hear how excited you would've been."

Guess he hadn't given in.

There's no denying that DJ loved me, his exes will even admit that much but his love hurt too much. Everything about him was too much. He demanded too much and expected too much and when the same amount wasn't reciprocated, he cared too much. Way more than a reasonable person would.

He loved me too much while loving himself too much. There was no balance so how could it have ever worked? He was the leader, CEO, creator and founder of #TeamTooMuch

"What would that have done for you?" I began to ask, while instantly beginning to regret it.

"Look, I know you don't believe it now but I really do want you to be happy. You deserve that. I love seeing you happy. It makes me happy. I love-" I heard his voice start to change, it was a tone I hadn't heard in him before. He sounded nervous but still sincere.

"I love that you're talking to me, babe. I really do. I fucked up really bad this time, I'm reminded every moment and everyday I don't speak to you."

He never curses by the way.

"And I'm not saying this to win you back. I just love you and miss you and I don't know what I'm doing."

I couldn't say anything. I couldn't relate. Yes I still loved him and even missed him but I knew telling him would only give in to what I'd been fighting since our first break up. DJ is a lot of things but he isn't someone who won't rise to the occasion. If given the opportunity. And that's the point of this whole thing. 

I'd given him too many opportunities.

He did indeed rise to the occasion but not in the way I'd hoped. I truly didn't have any more pieces of my heart left to give him.

"I have to go now, but can I call you sometime?
I know you don't want to see me but can we take it slow?"

"DJ, it's not a good idea. It's-"

"I'm not trying to change your mind, I promise and I'll give you time. Whatever you need, I just need you to know I love you."

"Just give me time."

"Like I said, whatever you need. Take care of yourself ok?"

"You too"

He didn't know it but it was also important to me for him to still tell me he loved and cared for me. It has definitely made it easier to not be with him. I guess it showed that we are not hateful people. The love was and is still there but we abused the love, took it for granted way more times than we didn't. But we also have the ability and potential to love beyond  this relationship.

DJ will probably be the hardest guy I'll ever have to get over but I'll get there one day, I have to, for my sake and his.



7. Serene State of Mind

Entry 7: Wednesday June 28th 207, 10:46AM (Local Time)

Dear Diary, 

Wow!! We're leaving for Miami later tonight but honestly, I'm not ready.

Despite all the craziness getting here; bags being lost in transit and negligent airline staff, I'm overwhelmed by how inviting this place has been. Cable beach is everything I wanted it to be and more. When. I. Tell. You. The. Sand. Is. Gold!! I almost feel unworthy of being able to feel it and lay in it. It's simply stunning. Everything here is.

We visited Paradise Island and spent the day there yesterday until there were reports of an impending hurricane. I actually would have loved to witness it. To compare it to the last few weeks I've had and see which feels worse. I relate so much to this place and yet I can't relate at all. It's a relatively serene place but every so often a major storm will arrive determined to throw everything out of whack and off balance, cause extensive damage. But there's also beauty in the storm. There's always a lesson to learn, the picking up the pieces of what is left can give you the strength to weather another storm.

Thank you Bahamas and thank you DJ for the lessons. I'm as tranquil right now as I deserve to be. While my insides and outsides are at work to prepare me for the next storm coming this way. I know I'll be okay now. This vacation has confirmed that. I can still cry and be confused and hurt because it's part of the process. I realize that now.

"Help me shatter this Darkness
To smash this night
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!" - Langston Hughes, 'As I grow Older'



6. Calmin' Before There Is Stormin'

Entry 6: Wednesday June 14th 2017, 5:35PM

Dear Diary,

I left work early to get a start on packing for our trip tomorrow and Sydney is here helping. We're here just reminiscing about how innocent we were and when the only experience of hurt we had was not getting the latest Barbie doll that had come out. 

When the world didn't seem so bad because mum and dad made everything better. Before we actually understood what the severity of the news caster announcing yet another 'Terrorist Attack' meant and way before 'Black Lives Matter' was something people, black, white and in-between had to be constantly reminded of.

Before DJ and his amazing family came and ruined my life...

I can't believe there are still parts of the world I'm yet to discover. The Bahamas will be the first of many many many more. I have to make this a regular thing. I've missed out on way too much.




5. #Goals

Entry 5: Monday June 12th 2017, 6:18PM

Dear Diary, 

I'm going on holiday! I deserve this. The Lord knows it. My sisters and I leave on Thursday for two weeks in paradise and a week of shopping and partying. From The Bahamas to Miami - my fav place in the world! Mili really came through for us with an amazing deal.

Timing.

Me, Mili, Ava and Sydney.

Cannot
Wait
!

Getting a break from this place is exactly what I want and need. My goal is to give my mind a break and each day to serve as a reminder of how blessed I am - so basically I'm trying to live each day to the fullest.

Mrs Zuvari called again during my lunch break, but no mention of her son and what has transpired between us. She genuinely wanted to check up on me and see how I was doing. I guess she didn't want to know the details? I wouldn't either, if I were her. Or I guess he showed up and told the truth, for once. I appreciated her though. She has definitely been instrumental in my growth and maturity. After all, she's known me since I was 14. The truth is I adore her. Almost as a mother. A large reason I stayed with DJ as long as I did, was her, the vision she had for us...

This wasn't meant to be about him- ughhh.

Back to this holiday, I know it's so cliche to go on a girls trip after a big break-up but I definitely see the need and I for sure take it as being more out of necessity than anything else.



4. A Lil' About Me

Entry 4: Sunday June 11th 2017, 7:53PM

Dear Diary, 

This house is not a home. It hasn't been a home since he left, to be honest. But it will be a home to someone else one day, someone else who dreamed of a perfect life and family. As for me, this place will always be a symbol of my past, a reminder of then, a signifier of change, and encouragement for growth.

And growth is the right sentiment for this segment of my life. I have overcome so much and I will continue to.

I am surprisingly hopeful today. Church is really taking me to depths- or should I say heights, that I've never experienced. People are noticing, my friends, my sister, my Dad.

We spoke today and he said I will learn to love again and again and again. He said that God gives his toughest challenges to his strongest soldiers.
And I do feel like a soldier that has been fighting in a lengthy war that appears to be never ending. Blessed with the ammunition to get through it, cursed with the memories and consequences.

I've got to start living for me and not what could have been. I owe myself that much. I'm tired of wallowing in self pity and nothingness. I have a whole future ahead, whether he is part of it or not. I'm here and I'm living and I will always have love to give, no matter how hard it is, that's what will ultimately keep me going and I have to keep going until I can be the best version of myself possible.




3.  Letting go of the past... or nah?

Entry 3: Tuesday June 6th 2017, 4:22PM

Dear Diary,

His mum called...

I froze when her name popped up on the screen. I really did contemplate letting it go to voicemail but I knew I had to make a decision in a matter of seconds and just as I was about to slide answer she hung up. 

Timing, eh?

Obviously I was curious as to why she was calling... she wasn't trying to plead or bargain with me was she? She wasn't trying to apologize, was she? Was she going to try to make me see sense? Or was she just checking up on me? It's only been a week, doesn't she understand that people need time?!

Needless to say, I called her back right away, the curiosity was about to kill me. 

"How are you?" She answered instantaneously.

"I'm okay thank you, Mrs Zuvari"

Wow, that was going to be my last name. I swallowed the hard lump in my throat.

"How are you, Mrs Zuvari?"

"I'm fine dear, why do you sound like that? I haven't heard from you in a few days, what's going on?"

I swallowed a newly formed lump in my throat and remained silent. 

"Hello?"

"I'm here, Mrs Zuvari, I'm just not feeling too good right now. Can I call you later?"

"What's wrong? I'm really worried, sweetheart."

"I'm just gonna go lie down, I'll be fine I-"

"Where's DJ?" 
My eyes grew wide. Why would she ask me that? Doesn't she know I'm trying to get over that name and that portion of my life? I hadn't heard or seen or spoken that name in almost two weeks, yet it's a name that has constantly been on my mind. 

I managed to muster up a responsible while fighting back and forth with that shaky voice you get when you're about to cry.

"Mrs Zuvari you know he's not living here anymore. Please. I'd really like to go rest now..."

"Not living here anymore... what do you mean? What is going on? Please talk to me, sweetheart" Her accent thick now, her tone higher now. "Do you want me to come over? I can be there in a few minutes, darling?"

"Mrs Zuvari, please I-"

"Why won't you tell me what's going on? Did the two of you break up or something?" The silence was deafening, so the suspense must have been a killer. But you mean to tell me, DJ did not tell his own mother - his confidant, his best friend, his everything that he'd broken up a gazillion questions on both sides but mine had to be answered first. 

"Mrs Zuvari, DJ didn't tell you?"

"No, he did not. What is going on? Is he ok?"

"I'll call you back, I promise." I hung up the phone.

It's over an hour later and I'm still wondering if I should call her back. It's not my responsibility to tell his mother that we were no longer together and he had moved out. How do I look telling her that her son is a despicable human being right now, who I still love btw but want nothing to do with? He can tell her that for himself. As you can imagine, the 'why's and the why nots' have plagued my mind since I hung up the phone. 

I'm more confused now than I was last week and as with everything else in my life right now, nothing is going the way I thought it would.



2.  What the hell am I gonna do next?

Entry 2: Thursday June 1st 2017, 1:15PM

Dear Diary, 

It's been one of those days. Everything reminds me of him, what we had and now what I've lost. 
Ughhhh 

I just want to disappear. I had so many plans for this year, so much I wanted to achieve. How will I be able to do anything feeling like this? I feel worse than when we first found out his younger brother, Prince had that freak accident during New Years Eve two years ago.

Worse than when we called off the engagement the first time. 

Worse than when we had the miscarriage... I truly wonder if there is anyone out there who has endured as much as I have in relationships. 
Seriously.

I could write a dozen short tragicomedies about this part of my life. I've stopped socializing, I don't even go out with my girls. Everything turns me off except daydreaming of how everything has played out so far and countless alternative endings.

I've been doing that a lot actually.

Dreaming up fantasies of how things could have turned out. I definitely believe somewhere out there, there, there's another version of me who is living in an alternate universe, who is living a completely different version of my life. Maybe, this is just my reality but another me is flourishing and blossoming and loving in love. Who isn't always wondering where her fiancé is when he's not with her. Damn, I'm a mess, let me chill out. I have no idea where to go, literally just going through the motions. Clocking in day in and day out. Something's got to give, man and it better be soon.




1. The Break-Up

Entry 1: Monday May 29th 2017, 11:58PM

Dear Diary,

I did it.

We broke up.

I ended it.

Finally.

Although I'm in absolute pieces right now and tear are raining down hard on to this page, I feel lighter than I've felt in years. I feel like I've been stuck in a bubble and God finally burst it and I'm free.

I also feel conflicted.

Yes, I'm free and all but what if I can't make it on my own? What if everything and everyone reminds me of him? What if he tries to come back? What if he still loves me?... What if I still love him? I men, I hate him and I still love him. I still feel something for him and that's what makes all of this so hard.

How long am I going to feel this way? What if I was wrong?

Does any of this even matter?

I mean, the most important thing right now is that I did it... right?