One year ago…
Atlanta traffic was of the devil and if I never saw 75, 285 or any other highway that ended in five again, I’d be satisfied. I’d been in training for the past three days and I was ready to get home to Americus. The last day of training was canceled because the weather was supposed to be bad and Atlanta drivers thought that meant to drive like crazy-worse than they usually do. I sat in traffic for hours before I was finally far enough down 75 for traffic to let up.
To make matters worse, my cell phone died in training because I was bored out of my mind and I forgot the cord to my travel charger at the hotel in my haste to get out of the city. It started raining-hard. Too hard for me to stop and run into a gas station to buy a charger. I couldn’t even call anyone to make this drive better, especially my boyfriend Maurice. Just thinking about him made me smile. It had been 8 great months and I was looking forward to spending the rest of my life with him. Being away from him these past few days was hard but I planned to show him how much I missed him-if only this Atlanta traffic would let me be great.
It was after nine when I finally made it home. Maurice’s car was in the yard but all the lights were off so I figured he was in the bed. He never goes to bed this early. Maybe he went out with his boys.
My house was quiet so I figured he wasn’t home. I was disappointed but I needed to charge my phone and see where he was. I flicked on the light to my bedroom and I felt like I had been sucker punched.
My boyfriend Maurice was sleeping in our bed with another woman. In our bed. He was holding her, the same way he held me a few days ago. Tonight, he was holding her. They looked so peaceful, as if this was their home, their bed and I was invading their privacy.
I stood in my bedroom looking at my boyfriend and this other woman. I really didn’t know what to do. People always said what they would do in these situations but I was literally frozen. Besides, nothing about my relationship with Maurice made me think anything like this could ever happen. The longer I stood there my logic was becoming less prominent.
I snatched the covers off the bed and she sat up first, looking disoriented. It was then my blood begin to boil.
“Tara?” I said meekly.
“Oh shit!” Tara exclaimed while nudging Maurice.
He finally woke up and laid eyes on me. Neither of them moved. The heaviness in the room seemed to land on our tongues; no one said anything for a second. The silence was eerie. Maurice finally found his voice.
“Joy…I thought you weren’t coming back until tomorrow,” he said stupidly.
I wasn’t sure how that was supposed to justify this but it unlocked my feet from where I was standing.
I really don’t know what happened next; my rage made me black out. When I finally came back to my senses, I was sitting in the middle of my bedroom in handcuffs. An officer was standing near me and Maurice was speaking with him. He had scratches on his face and his shirt was torn. Tara was sitting on my bed crying. I noticed her eye was swollen shut and some of her tracks were scattered around the room.
I was assuming I did all of this but I didn’t remember any of it. What I did remember was catching my friend in bed with my boyfriend.
“When I was talking to you about him, you were sleeping with him? Behind my back?” I cried, directing my anger at Tara. “Why, Tara? Just tell me why.”
“Joy, we were going to tell you but…” her voice trailed off. “I’m so s-s-sorry!”
“Sorry? You’re sorry? Sorry is for bumping into someone. You don’t say fucking sorry when you sleep with someone else’s man!” I screamed at her.
The officer interjected because Maurice was too stupid to respond. “Ma’am, is there somewhere you can go tonight?”
“Why do I have to leave? This is MY house! This is MY bed! That is MY boyfriend!” I yelled.
The officer gave me a look of pity. Because we lived in a small town, situations like this were probably the most excitement he’s seen in a while.
“Joy, you can stay. We’ll go,” Maurice said quietly.
“We?” I replied incredulously. “We? How long as this been going on? Why are you screwing her in our bed? You told me you loved me! You told me you wanted to marry me! Why are you doing this to me?” I wasn’t sure if anyone understood what I was saying. My words came out in a mixture of crying, stuttering and screaming.
“I’m sorry,” was all Maurice could offer. He and Tara gathered their things and left the house, leaving me alone with the officer. I knew I was going to jail but at this point I didn’t care. Nothing could be worse than what I’d just experienced.
“Are you going to be ok?” the officer asked me.
“I want to take these cuffs off but I need to make sure you’re going to be calm.”
Take the cuffs off? Maybe I wasn’t going to jail but I didn’t know why. I dropped my head and cried quietly. The officer came behind me and helped me to stand up. He took the cuffs off me and asked me to sit on the bed. I refused.
“I can’t sit there. I can’t be here. I need to leave!” I started walking around my room frantically. I didn’t know what I needed to do.
“Hey, hey, hey, calm down. Just take a few deep breaths,” the officer said to me. He came close to me with his hands up. By the time he reached me, I fell into his arms sobbing out all the hurt Maurice and Tara caused me.
“Joy, where do you want this box?” Justin asked.
“Put it in the bedroom, baby. No, wait. I think that one goes in the kitchen,” I called from our bedroom.
I hated packing and I hated moving but I was proud to be moving into our new home. Two days after I caught Maurice in bed with my friend Tara, I broke our lease and moved home with my parents. It wasn’t that I couldn’t afford to pay the bills alone but I couldn’t stay there with the reminder of what they did to me. Three months later, I met Justin. I moved in with him two months after that. As usual, my daddy didn’t seem to care either way and my mama thought I was moving too fast but living at home was a challenge; I was used to having my own space. Plus, I needed to be able to keep my eyes on Justin. After what happened with Maurice, I developed trust issues. I was convinced that I missed something with Maurice so I vowed I wouldn’t be the fool again.
Even though I had to keep tabs on him, Justin knew I took care of his ass. I bought him Polo shirts. Every new pair of Jordan’s that came out. Akoo jeans. New iPhones. Any and everything he could ever want, I bought it. Justin didn’t want for anything when it came to me. I didn’t do that kind of stuff for Maurice and because I knew that Tara didn’t mind spending money on her men, I figured that’s why he was with her. Everything I did wrong with Maurice, I was correcting it with Justin.
Justin’s apartment was convenient because it was close to my job at Georgia Southwestern State University and I could get to work in a matter of minutes. But it was a one bedroom and we needed more room. Sharing a closet with him wasn’t working anymore. I convinced him we needed to look at bigger places and I really wanted to rent a house. Living so close to the college meant college girls were around looking at my man. After I chumped the second one off for asking to borrow something, I knew we had to go. Plus, having a house together was the next step in our relationship and marriage wouldn’t be too far behind. He wasn’t too keen on paying a higher rent but this three-bedroom, two-bathroom house off Lee Street was a steal at $700.
Watching Justin lifting boxes and putting stuff together made me smile. I was always attracted to a blue-collar kind of man; the kind of man that worked with his hands and could fix stuff. I reasoned that was one of the reasons Maurice and I didn’t work out. He was a pretty boy. He would rather pay someone to unclog the toilet than to do it himself. He wasn’t a take charge kind of guy and that’s what I was missing. Tara could have Maurice’s weak ass; Justin was the kind of man I needed.
Justin and his co-worker worked for two days to move us in. All the big stuff was in and now all we had to do was place furniture and unpack. I’d snapped a few pics to upload to social media to let it be known Justin and I were moving into a bigger place, especially for the women that always had to like or comment what he posted. No matter how much I solidified my place as wifey, some desperate hoes were always under his statuses commenting and laughing. Justin told me it was nothing to worry about but I’d told him all about catching Maurice and Tara in our bed. I wasn’t taking any chances.
“Hey bae. Roman Oven will be about an hour on delivery. It will be quicker if we go pick it up,” I told him while he was putting together my bookshelf. I am an avid reader and coupled with my books for school, this bookcase was a necessity. I actually thought I needed two. I was in school earning my master’s in human resources. I had a few more semesters then I would be looking for HR positions outside of Americus. Justin knew too many women here. I just wanted to start over where no one knew us.
“Ok, well go pick it up then. I’m almost finished with this,” Justin told me without looking up.
“Why aren’t you coming with me?” I asked putting my hand on my hip.
“If you want this bookcase put together, I need to stay here and finish it.”
I wasn’t going to let up so easily. There had to be a reason why he didn’t want to ride across town with me. “Well I guess we will just wait for them to deliver it then,” I snapped.
“Joy, just go get the damn pizza. I’m busy!” he exclaimed.
I started to argue with him but then changed my mind. In the time it would take me to go get the pizza, he would only have time for a conversation, a short one at that. I’ll just check his phone tonight, I reasoned before grabbing his keys and hopping in his truck. I often took his truck so that his fan club would know that he was mine and to see if any hoes came running up to his truck thinking it was him. Dating someone as fine as Justin required a put-them-hoes-in-their-place attitude. I definitely possessed that. He was just under 6 feet, deep waves in his hair and he was the muse for India.Arie’s Brown Skin. My man was definitely all that.
At Roman Oven, I gave them my name for pick up and the cashier told me it would be a few minutes. I surfed social media while I waited but I felt eyes on me. I looked up from my phone and locked eyes with a man. I felt uncomfortable so I avoided eye contact with him. After I got my pizza, he held the door open for me. Again, I was a little nervous.
“You don’t remember me, do you?” he asked as I slid past him.
“Ummm, not at all,” I replied trying to hide my irritation. I figured he was a student I saw at work. He looked older than a college student but I’m sure I had to have seen him around campus. He was kind of sexy though. Not as sexy as Justin but this guy was easy on the eyes. Tall and muscular with skin the color of coffee with no sugar, no cream. He was clean cut in a military sort of way but his eyes were soft, kind even.
“I figured. It’s been a few months and you were pretty out of it,” he informed me. “Plus, I’m not in uniform.”
I finally recognized him as the officer that came to the house that night I fought Maurice and Tara. “Oh, hey,” was all I could muster. I was still embarrassed by my behavior and having to be comforted by a stranger. I was grateful he didn’t arrest me though; I think he felt sorry for me.
“You seem to be doing better. I’m glad,” he told me with more sincerity than I expected from someone who saw me at my worse. He smiled slightly and that just added to his attractiveness.
I looked at him and offered a half-hearted smile. I was not accustomed to pity. I didn’t like this feeling. “Yeah, thanks,” I mumbled.
“Take care of yourself. I’m Officer Weston. Desmond Weston,” he announced even though I didn’t ask for his name.
“I will. Thanks.” I walked fast to the truck wondering why he remembered me. I guess a belligerent woman that fought two people was a memorable event for him. I pushed Officer Friendly out of my mind and hurried back home.
At home, I looked for our plates but they were still packed up. I called Justin to the kitchen to eat; we’d just have to eat from the box tonight. Justin took a break to eat and I got us bottles of water to drink. I took a bite out of my pizza and scrolled on social media. After about 10 seconds, I almost dropped my phone.
There was a video with the caption “Congrats Maurice and Tara”. I almost stopped breathing.
He proposed to her? He’s still with her. And he proposed? He went all out to surprise her with a romantic proposal. She was genuinely surprised as she cried and they embraced to cheers from a crowd of their family and friends. I watched the video about four more times and read all of the congratulatory comments. I was so engaged in the post that I didn’t even notice Justin was trying to get my attention.
“So you’re just gonna ignore me?” he asked while downing his bottle of water.
“Huh? What did you say?” I asked.
“Nothing. Don’t worry about it,” he grunted. “Stay in other people’s business. That’s your favorite past time.” Justin got up and left me in the living room looking at the video for the fifth time. I barely noticed he wasn’t there. All of my attention was on my ex-boyfriend proposing to the woman I caught him with in our bed.
I couldn’t decide if I was angry or if I was hurt. More than likely, it was a combination of both. I was everything Maurice could have wanted but he was marrying her. He was marrying my friend. The girl I’d known since undergrad. I gave him everything but he’s marrying her. He’s moved on and so have I but he’s getting married and I’m not. That didn’t sit too well with me.
I walked into the living room where Justin was finishing up the bookcase. He was cleaning up his mess when I approached him. I needed to know if he planned on marrying me.
“When are we going to get married?” I asked with more attitude than I intended.
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“What do you mean, what do I mean? I want to know why we are moving in this house but you haven’t said anything about getting married.”
Justin gave me a blank look and the logical side of me understood his confusion. We hadn’t talked about marriage yet. At all. Not even in casual conversation.
“Joy, we haven’t even been together that long. I didn’t think that was something to talk about just yet.” He was genuinely confused but I needed answers.
“So you can live with me but you don’t want to marry me? You think I’m going to shack up forever?”
I could tell Justin was getting mad. Actually, he was a cross between upset and confused but right now, I didn’t care.
“Are you cheating on me?” I asked.
“Oh my fucking God, Joy? What the hell is wrong with you?” he shouted. Justin walked in the kitchen and grabbed his keys off the counter. I was on his heels.
“Where the hell are you going? To be with her?” I yelled.
“I’m not about to do this with you, Joy. I’m getting real sick and tired of arguing with you about stupid shit!” He hopped in his truck and pulled out of the driveway.
I went back in the house and paced the floor. I needed to go after him but I had no idea where he went. I wish I had someone to talk to. After Tara slept with Maurice, I cut off all my female friends. I didn’t need any females around me that could get close to my man. The only person I could trust was my sister Faith. I called her but she didn’t answer. I knew she was probably doing something motherly with my niece and nephew.
I called Justin but he didn’t answer. I started texting him and initially, my texts were more arguing. Then I changed my tune. I apologized, not that I thought I was wrong, but because I thought he would be more apt to talk to me if I apologized. He still wasn’t responding. I finally gave up and went to bed.
I don’t know what time it was when Justin came home but I heard him come in the room. He got his phone charger out of our room and left again. I laid in the bed for a few seconds before getting up to go look for him. I wasn’t going to let him not talk to me. I found him sitting in the living room watching a movie on Netflix.
“Justin, can we talk?”
“It’s late, Joy,” he remarked, his eyes never leaving the screen.
“I just want to apologize.”
“Ok. You did that a million times already. Is that it?”
“You don’t have to be so rude about it.”
A smirked crossed his face and that got under my skin. “I’m not being rude, I’m being real. You accuse me of cheating. You go through my phone. You do all this stupid shit because you’re insecure. And I’m not the one who hurt you. I’ve tried to be understanding but you carry that shit around like a damn Michael Kors bag.”
“It’s not that easy to get over that kind of hurt. And it’s not fair for you to expect me to just forget about it. What do you expect me to do?” I wasn’t going to let him make me feel bad for admitting how I felt. “Plus, I don’t hear you complaining when I bought you all the Polo and Jordan’s you have in our closet. I bet I wasn’t crazy then.”
“I’m a grown ass man, Joy. I don’t need you to dress me. I don’t even wear that shit and I told you that but you keep buying it like a damn fool,” he stated matter of factly.
“Whatever. You do wear it. I bought you that shirt you have on now,” I replied. I wasn’t about to argue with him about this. Who the hell complains about being gifted with Polo?
“Joy, if you think that buying me stuff makes this a relationship, you’re more delusional than I thought. I’m tired of all this arguing about stupid stuff and being accused of doing something I’m not. I don’t like arguing and that’s all you wanna do. I don’t know why I even agreed to move with you.”
He continued to look at the TV like I wasn’t really in the room. He spoke so nonchalantly like we were talking about what to eat for dinner instead of him breaking up with me. I was hurt but instead of crying, it manifested as anger. “After everything I did for you? If it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t have half the shit you have now. You just use me and then once you’re done, you just throw me away like a piece of garbage?”
Justin’s jaw clinched and he finally turned off the TV. “If you need something to take care of, I suggest you have a baby or get a dog. A man is not something you take care of. The stuff I ask you to do, like cook sometimes, you won’t do. If think buying me a shirt or two is enough to satisfy me, then you have a lot of growing up to do.”
Justin got up and headed to our bedroom. He grabbed his work uniform and shoes and headed out the door.
“Justin where are you going? You’re just gonna leave like a punk? You’re not gonna handle this like a man?”
Justin ignored me and went straight to the front door. Before stepping out of the the door, Justin turned around and I thought for a split second he was going to apologize. “Oh and don’t think I don’t know all of this ‘why aren’t we getting married yet’ bullshit was because your ex proposed to his girlfriend. Do yourself a favor and get over him before you try to get with someone else. I’ll be by to get my stuff tomorrow.”
He slammed the door and I heard the hum of his truck starting up. I was mad but I didn’t take him serious; this wasn’t the first-time Justin tried to leave me. He just needed a few days and he would realize he needed me and then all would be fine.
I waited and waited and waited for Justin to come back home but he never did. He came to get his things when I was at work and I knew he was for real then. I called and texted him so much that he blocked my number. I went by his mama’s house and she told me point blank that I wasn’t welcomed over there. I was a wreck. Similar to what I experienced with Maurice, I just didn’t understand where I went wrong.
Maurice was my first serious boyfriend. He was the first man I lived with, the first man I trusted without any doubts. I sacrificed so much of myself to make sure he was happy and it got me nothing in the end. I wasn’t the most attractive woman in town but I thought I was the complete package: I was educated, I worked hard and it didn’t hurt that I was told I could pass for a relative of Nia Long. The icing on the cake was that I had no kids. That alone should have made me Americus’ Most Wanted eligible female. Instead, men like Maurice and Justin decided I wasn’t good enough to marry.
About three weeks after Justin and I broke up, I’d grown tired of sitting home hoping he would come back. I needed to relax and have a few drinks. I still loved Justin and knowing that Maurice was getting married just made everything hurt even worse.
It was a Friday night and I made my sister Faith come out with me. I’d heard about this new spot downtown called Urban. I hadn’t been yet but a lot of my social media friends spoke highly of it. As soon as I walked in, I was in love with the vibe and the grown folks feel. After my first two drinks, I knew this would be my new favorite spot.
“I’m just saying, Faith,” I began. “I’m just gonna wait a week or so and then try to work things out with Justin. He can’t be over me yet.”
I thought I saw Faith roll her eyes at me. “Joy, I don’t know. From what you’ve told me, he’s pretty much done.”
“Well that means he was cheating on me if he’s over me already,” I reasoned.
“That’s not what that means,” Faith said while nursing her drink. If she didn’t drink it soon, I was going to take care of it for her. She wasn’t much of a drinker but I ordered two drinks because I didn’t want to drink alone.
“What does it mean then? Cause I don’t get how he can block my number as if we weren’t ever together.”
Faith continued to stir her drink while looking intently at the ice cubes floating in her glass. “Maybe you just moved too fast with him. I mean, what happened with Maurice was a lot. Did you take time to heal and assess the situation?”
I laughed heartily at Faith and her old-school logic. She was five years older than me and sometimes, like right now, she acted as old as our mama. “Assess what? He cheated on me with my friend after I gave him the world. What else is there to be said?” I grabbed her glass from her and quickly downed half the contents. “And healing? That’s what Justin was for.”
Faith opened her mouth but I had to go to the bathroom. When I stood up, I felt all my drinks hit me. I tried to walk as carefully as I could so that no one would detect I was drunk. I made it to the bathroom without falling, a feat I was grateful for. But not as grateful as I was that Faith was driving; I wouldn’t be able to drive like this.
After I used the bathroom, I rounded the corner and bumped into a man.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I slurred.
“No problem, sweetheart,” he responded in a sexy, Barry White deep voice. “You good?”
Connected to this sexy voice was a sexy ass man. He had to be about six feet even with dreadlocks hanging down his back. I don’t like light skin men or dreads, but I would make an exception for him.
I smiled at him stupidly, too afraid to speak in my inebriated state. I walked slowly back to my place at the bar and the guy was sitting a few stools down from us.
“Faith, look down there to your left. Ain’t he fine?” I tried to whisper.
“Who?” she responded before looking down the bar. She saw who I was talking about and rolled her eyes hard.
“Girl that’s Tevin. He ain’t shit.”
I don’t know what surprised me more; her language or that she knew a man this fine that she never hooked me with up with. “How do you know him?”
“Who doesn’t know Tevin Rhodes? He’s the biggest player in Sumter County. He used to come out to the house with one of Eddie’s cousins but they argued one night and he hit her. Eddie almost went to jail that night. I told you about that.”
“You did. I just didn’t know he was the guy…he’s fine though,” I said with disdain. A man that fine wouldn’t beat on a woman.
“Just because he’s fine doesn’t mean he can’t hit a woman.”
I looked down at the Tevin and saw him staring at me. He smiled and I smiled back.
“Seriously, Joy? I told you he’s not the kind of man you want to be involved with.”
“Oh hush. I’m not doing anything but flirting with a fine brother! Ssshhhh, here he comes!”
Tevin came and sat in the bar stool next to me. “What’s up, beautiful? Hey Faith. Long time no see.”
Faith completely ignored him but I blushed. I’d been described a number of ways but beautiful wasn’t one of them.
“I’m Tevin,” he announced extending his hand.
“I’m Joy. Nice to meet you. Again,” I laughed while shaking his hand.
“What are you ladies drinking? I got this round.”
I started to speak but Faith interjected. “We’re done.”
“Speak for yourself,” I countered. “I’ll have a gummi bear martini.”
“Joy, I think you’ve had enough,” Faith interjected. I gave her a look of pure evil. I didn’t need her to be my mama right now.
“Maybe you should listen to your friend,” Tevin replied.
“Sister,” Faith corrected glaring at him.
“Ok,” I answered smiling like I was a kid at Staley Middle School finally talking to my crush. Faith said he used to beat on Eddie’s cousin but looking in his eyes right now, I saw nothing but kindness. Plus the way he saw I was drunk and didn’t let me drink anymore proved that he had heart.
“Are you ready to go?” Faith interrupted my thoughts.
I turned to look at her incredulously while trying to tell her silently that I was enjoying Tevin’s attention. She wasn’t getting it.
“If you have to go, that’s fine. Give me your number and I’ll hit you up.”
“I don’t have to go but she’s driving,” I said while looking annoyed at my sister. I couldn’t believe she was blocking like this. She knew I was still hurting from Justin; I just needed a little male attention to get over him.
“I understand. Just give me your number and we can talk.”
Faith was already heading towards the door and I shot Tevin my number. He locked it in and texted me so I would have his as well. Once in Faith’s car, Tevin and I continued texting.
“So you’re just going to ignore what I said,” Faith retorted.
“Please chill out! I’m not doing anything but talking to him! I’m not about to date him, damn!” I exclaimed irritated. She acted like I was about to go bust it down for him right now. There was nothing wrong with talking and flirting. It was a good confidence booster.
“I know you’re trying to get over Justin but I promise you Tevin is not the one to do this with.”
I ignored her and continued texting him. He invited me to go to breakfast at Three Squares and I told him to give me about 20 minutes. Faith dropped me off at home and she looked at me with disdain. I assured her again it wasn’t that serious.
I went in the house and waited a few minutes for Faith to leave before heading to the restaurant. I would show her there was nothing for her to worry about.
That’s how long it took for me to see Tevin’s other side.
After meeting him that night at the bar and going to breakfast, I couldn’t deny that I liked his company. He was funny, he was thoughtful and he was a great listener. As we got to know each, he proved to be a bit of a romantic. Tevin surprised me with roses at work, just because gifts and trips. Last weekend we went to Jekyll Island and it was just the getaway I needed to forget about Justin and even Maurice.
Unlike Justin and Maurice, Tevin was a little more hood. He used to sell drugs, spent time in jail and had four kids. I wasn’t accustomed to some of the things he said or did but Tevin treated me like a Queen. I was his WCM almost every Wednesday and he didn’t mind showing me off on social media. I loved every second of it. It was so ironic that I met him when I was out trying to get over Justin. Tevin swooped in and showed me a new life-a life that made me wonder how I ever lived before.
Tevin didn’t mind spending money on me. And by spending money, I don’t mean a bag here or shoes there. I mean paying ALL my bills then splurging on me. Dooney and Burke purses. 24-inch Virgin Remy hair. A brand new iPhone 7 plus. A new 50-inch Smart TV. Trips to Miami, Vegas and New York. Tevin spoiled me rotten. I used up damn near all my vacation time because of him. His job at an auto body shop was flexible so he wasn’t missing much time.
The icing on the cake was our sex life. Sex with men before was satisfying but with Tevin, it was an experience. He brought out the freak in me and if there was anything my man wanted, he got it. And I do mean anything. It didn’t take me long to realize I was in love.
But then all hell broke loose. I knew he was jealous but at first, it was cute. He didn’t want me hanging out at clubs and bars. He didn’t like dudes commenting on my pictures. He didn’t want to be disrespected. And because I loved him, I made sure he knew I belonged to him: I surprised him by getting his name tattooed above my left breast.
The first time he hit me, I blamed myself. I wasn’t thinking and I should have known better. My mama had recently been diagnosed with cancer and I wasn’t taking it too well. I just couldn’t bear to see my mama so frail. My daddy was a mess and Faith was the strong one. One day, when I was overwhelmed with my mama’s sickness after her chemo, I posted something about needing a break. One of my classmates commented to say he was praying for me and my family and to let him know if I needed to talk. If I remember correctly, his mother passed away from cancer a few years ago.
When I got home from work, Tevin was ready to argue about it.
“You’ve been talking to this nigga, Joy?”
“Huh? What are you talking about?” I asked exasperated. I really wasn’t in the mood for his shit today.
“He’s telling you to let him know if you need to talk. Why?”
“His mama passed away from cancer. He’s just trying to be nice I guess.”
“Let me find out you’ve been talking to this nigga,” he warned.
Today was an emotional day and Tevin wasn’t making it any better. “Whatever.”
I turned my back to him and in a split second, I was being yanked backwards. Some how he turned me around and quickly, he slapped me twice.
“I done told your stupid ass not to disrespect me! Don’t fucking play with me bitch or I will beat your ass!” He pushed me hard and I fell back into the sofa. Tevin grabbed his keys and walked out of the house.
It shocked me then it scared me. I couldn’t cry because it happened so quick. I rubbed my face trying to alleviate the stinging. I think I stayed in the same spot for about 30 minutes still trying to wrap my head around the fact that Tevin just hit me. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was wrong. I shouldn’t have posted that status. If I needed to talk, I should have went to him, not Facebook.
A few hours later, Tevin came back home and handed me a card. I reluctantly took it and opened it. $300 dropped out. As I read the card, tears welled up in my eyes.
“Joy, I’m sorry,” he said somberly.
“Ok,” I said nonchalantly.
“I mean it. I just worry I’m gonna lose you. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” he admitted. “I promise it won’t happen again.”
My heart melted and Tevin leaned down to kiss me. Tears spilled from my eyes and I believed he would never hit me again.
Until he did.
It wasn’t often and most of the time, it was just a slap here or there. And every time, he came home with some gift or planned a trip for us. But after that first time, he never told me he wouldn’t do it again. It was the night of a co-worker’s birthday that things started to get out of control.
I was getting ready to go to the birthday dinner at Ruby Tuesday. Knowing how Tevin was, I was very selective in how I dressed so I opted for a long African print skirt and a white t-shirt. My make-up was subtle. My hair was pulled back. I was cute but I looked like I was going to church instead of a birthday dinner.
“I’m gone, bae. I’ll be back around 11,” I announced. I told him about this dinner last week but he still didn’t want me to go.
Tevin looked me up and down with a scowl. He looked disappointed there was nothing he could fuss at me about. “Make it ten.”
I started to object but I didn’t want to start an argument before I left. I didn’t have a chance to worry about him at dinner; we were having great conversation, something I missed. I needed to make new friends because I was tired of sitting at home while Tevin went out. I was so relieved to be out of the house that I lost track of time. When I finally looked at my phone, it was 10:30.
I tried not to panic as I announced that I was tired. No one batted an eye because we’d been there for a few hours. Another one of the ladies walked out with me and I opted not to call Tevin because I didn’t want to fuss all the way home.
I walked in the house and put my purse down. The house was quiet and all of the lights were out. Tevin was a night owl so I knew he wasn’t sleep. I went to the kitchen to get a glass of water. I’d taken one swallow before the glass was swatted out of my hand. It hit the floor and shattered into a million pieces.
I couldn’t even process what was going on because Tevin was on me like white on rice. I screamed and struggled against him but he was too strong for me. Repeatedly, I felt punches to my face and I fell to the floor to curl up in a ball to stop his blows. Tevin kicked me in the stomach and left me lying on the floor in a daze.
I don’t know how long I’d been down there but when the room stopped spinning enough, I got up. My whole body was sore and I couldn’t see. I went to our bedroom where Tevin was sitting in the bed watching TV without a care in the world. Like he didn’t just beat my ass. He didn’t even acknowledge I was in the room.
I went in the bathroom and locked the door. I flipped on the light and looked at myself in the mirror. My face was a hot damn mess. My left eye was swollen shut and my already full lips were also swollen. There was blood coming from a scratch on my cheek. With shaking hands, I tried my best to wash my face but I couldn’t. I finally broke down crying, from the pain and because he broke his promise to me. He’d hit me before but never like this. It was at this moment I realized I was in an abusive relationship. I needed to get out but I had no idea how to make him leave my house without getting beat to a pulp.
I finally came out of the bathroom and changed my clothes. I eased in the bed with my back to him. I didn’t want him to hear me crying so I willed myself to go to sleep. It actually wasn’t hard; I was emotionally drained.
I don’t know what time it was but I felt my pants being pulled down. It wasn’t unusual for Tevin to wake me up like this but after last night, feeling him touch me made my skin crawl and I was momentarily afraid. Instead of being rough like he was earlier, Tevin was gentle with me.
He slid into me from the side and made love to me deliberately slow. I tried to resist this pleasure but he felt amazing.
“You know I love you, right?” he asked while giving my body the pleasure he was so skilled at giving.
I didn’t want to answer. I couldn’t. I was torn between loving this feeling but hating that I did. He pulled out of me and rolled me over on my back. Instantly he was back inside of me and there was no denying that I needed this.
Tevin continued to stroke methodically, knowing my body and the spot that held my pleasure. As I neared my orgasm, Tevin continued to repeat he loved me in my ear.
“Oh my God, Tevin! I love you, too!”
I was stuck with Tevin. I loved what he did for me but I just needed him to stop hitting me. It was getting harder to hide bruises and black eyes. One night when we were lying in bed, I asked him why he hit me.
“I don’t mean to. I just get upset,” he said nonchalantly like we were talking about a TV show. “Plus, I told you I don’t want to be disrespected.”
“So it’s my fault?”
“I mean…if you didn’t do things to piss me off, it wouldn’t happen.”
So that’s what I did. I did everything he asked, just how he asked for it. I did everything to stop him from hitting me. Of course, that didn’t stop it. Tevin would beat my ass just because the sun came up in the morning.
Today, I was at work trying to hide the bruise on my cheek. I had makeup on it but I felt self-conscious about it and felt that everyone could see it. If they did, no one said anything. Not even Faith. She knew Tevin was hitting me and refused to talk to me. I thought she was being petty when she said “I told you he likes to beat on his women! I don’t get why you still got with him!” I could do without her ‘I told you so’ bullshit.
Tevin told me he wanted Chinese for dinner so I headed to Ming Garden after work to pick up sweet and sour chicken for him and lo mien for me. As I was walking out of the restaurant, I saw Justin heading this way. I wanted to run away but I had nowhere to go.
“Hey, Joy. How’s it…” his voice trailed off and I knew he saw the bruise on my face. He looked at me with raised eyebrows.
“Hey, Justin,” I spoke and tried to push past him. He grabbed my arm.
“So I guess it is true,” he said while looking at me. I avoided eye contact.
“They say he’s beating your ass. I didn’t think it was true but I guess so.” I thought he’d be happy I was hurt but instead he looked at me with pity. “Why are you still there, Joy?”
“Don’t worry about me, Justin. I’m fine,” I said snatching away from him. “You don’t get to care about me anymore. You left me so…just don’t worry about me. I’m fine.”
I rushed to my car and I didn’t allow myself the time to cry. I didn’t want him to come talk to me. So people were talking about how Tevin beat on me? I was hurt, angry and embarrassed this was the topic of their conversation. Before it was everything he bought for me. I was almost home before the tears started to fall. I was so glad I got home before Tevin because I didn’t want to explain why my eyes were red.
I was sitting on the sofa eating when my phone rang. It was Justin. I ignored him but he called right back. I ignored him again but he called again. I finally answered, irritated.
“What, Justin?” I almost shouted.
“Answer my question, Joy. Why are you still there?”
“Because I love him. Something you wouldn’t know anything about!”
Justin sighed heavily. “I do love you but that has nothing to do with what we were talking about. Love shouldn’t give you bruises.”
Did I hear him correctly? He didn’t say he did love me. He spoke in the present tense. “You still love me, Justin?” I asked meekly.
“It’s not possible to just stop loving someone just like that. Maybe it is for you.”
“No, it’s not.”
“So I guess you still love your ex before me.”
I was quiet as I thought about what he said. “No but I still love you.”
My phone went flying out of my hand before another slap came across my face. I dropped my food when I tried to run. I didn’t even hear Tevin come in the house. I ran to the kitchen and immediately realized my mistake: I had no way out.
“Tevin, please. Just stop!”
“Stop? This is why I have to do shit like this. Just to see what you’re doing when I’m not here.”
So he was hiding in the house? Oh God, I have to go!
He didn’t even give me time to correct my mistake. Tevin dove at me and wrapped his hands around my neck. I was fighting to get his hands off me but he was too strong. Instinctively, I kneed him in his privates and he dropped to his knees. Coughing, I tried to run but Tevin grabbed my foot and I fell.
He was on me, hitting me hard. I tried to cover my face but some of his blows still managed to connect. I was screaming for God, anyone to save me. Suddenly, he wasn’t on me anymore. I didn’t know what happened to Tevin but right now, it didn’t matter. Unsteadily, I scrambled to the bathroom and locked the door.
I couldn’t breath and everything on me hurt. I avoided looking in the mirror because I didn’t want to see myself. There was a knock on the bathroom and I jumped, afraid it was Tevin coming back for more.
“Tevin, leave me alone! Just go! GO!” I screamed.
“Ma’am, it’s the police. Do you need medical attention?” a female officer asked.
I unlocked the door and practically fell into her arms. I startled her and we almost fell. “It’s ok, honey,” the officer said calmly. “He’s in custody.”
I was glad to hear he was locked up but I was still shaking. Four months ago Tevin was the perfect man. How the hell did I get here?
I’d been in a number of bad relationships but the one with Tevin was officially the worst. It didn’t matter what I did, he still found reasons to hit me. He was jealous. He was controlling. It threw me for a loop because Tevin is fine as hell; there was no logical reason for him to act like this. Especially when he had a warrant for his arrest in Alabama for violation of probation. He left Alabama to start over and then I found out he had three more kids by two other women there. I also found out that all the money he was spending on me was drug money; he lied that his drug dealing days were past tense. He didn’t work at an auto body shop. With every new lie I found out about him, I couldn’t believe how blind and naïve I was.
I was so frustrated with myself for getting involved with someone without really knowing much about him. I allowed myself to be bought with gifts and trips. More than anything he could buy me, I just wanted to be in love. I hated to be alone. Maybe I moved a little fast but when I met someone, my heart was almost instantly attached to them.
I was at Faith’s house drinking tea and talking. One thing about my sister, she was real but she wasn’t going to rub Tevin in my face. The situation was bad enough.
“So,” she began. “Really. How are you doing?”
I sighed deeply. “I’m getting better. It’s a lot going on at once. I’m just trying to deal.”
“Have you and Daddy talked yet?”
“Nope and I’m not going to.”
Faith looked at me before pleading with me to call our daddy. Last week we had a huge argument about the bills in the house. My mama took care of all the bills because my daddy acted like he wasn’t capable of going to Georgia Power. My mama called me to tell me their lights were off and asked me to come by to get her debit card to go pay it but my daddy was there. I was livid. After I took my entire lunch break paying the light bill and checking on mama, I cussed my daddy out.
“Joy, I just don’t get what is the issue between ya’ll. You’ve been mad at him for years. When are you gonna let it go?”
“Probably never. I don’t forgive easily,” I said nonchalantly.
“Plus everyone knows you’re his favorite child.”
“Come on, Joy! You know daddy loves you!”
“Whatever. Men who love their children, their family, don’t cheat on their wives,” I said somberly. “I see it’s not a big deal to you.”
“Joy, if mama forgave him, why can’t you?”
I placed my cup on her coffee table and grabbed my purse. “I don’t expect you to understand. I’ll talk to you later.”
I left Faith’s house deep in my feelings. I didn’t know why I still let my disdain for my daddy get to me. I was damn near grown and I had yet to deal with my daddy issues. Faith and my mama were too forgiving. I, on the other hand, couldn’t forgive this man for the hurt he put my mama through.
The next few days, I was completely out of it. I couldn’t keep anything down and I was just really tired. Initially I just thought I was stressed about my daddy, Tevin and my mama but it didn’t take a genius to figure out I was pregnant. Tevin and I stopped using condoms because he told me he needed to be able to trust me. I wasn’t on birth control because I used condoms with everyone else.
Tuesday after work, I went to CVS to get a pregnancy test. I wanted to die when the test came up positive.
It wasn’t that I was embarrassed to be pregnant; it was that I was pregnant by Tevin. This would be his eighth child that I knew of. I admired single mothers but I knew I wasn’t going to be one of them. Tomorrow I would be making an appointment. There was no way I was having this baby.
Faith and I were just getting back from Columbus. The ride there and back was quiet. Faith refused to talk to me. When I told her I was pregnant, she was shocked. Even more so when I told her I wasn’t going to have it.
“You are too old to use abortion as a means for birth control, Joy,” she told me.
I wore her down every day. I finally broke out the big guns. I told her that if she didn’t take me, I’d tell her husband she cheated on him three years ago. I didn’t care about playing dirty with her. There was no damn way I was going to be baby mama number six of Tevin Rhodes.
Having an abortion was a nerve racking experience. I couldn’t say I always wanted to be a mother; it always depended on who I was with. Maurice didn’t want children, Justin said he did. Getting rid of this baby sent me into a whirlwind of emotions.
I hated Tevin, Justin and Maurice. They all did me wrong no matter how good I was to them. I just couldn’t understand why I couldn’t find happiness. People around me where happy, celebrating wedding anniversaries, gender reveals and first birthday parties. Here I was losing every man that I met. I just didn’t get it.
Since I didn’t like being single, I was back to trying to find my soulmate. And just like my relationships before, these men were full of shit. I went any and everywhere to meet men. Bars, clubs, church, online…still, I had no luck. I found out Chris was married, Deontray only wanted sex and Rick lived with his mama. I even called Justin to see if we could work things out but he wouldn’t give me the time of day. I was over this shit.
I was at work on Monday, upset that one of my co-workers had just received an edible arrangement from her boyfriend. I smiled and commented how sweet it was but deep down inside, I was jealous. Where was my guy? Where was the man that was going to have me as the envy of the office?
I was hurt and I was bitter. It had been a few months since things went south with Tevin and I. I wasn’t accustomed to being alone this long. I was at my desk sulking when my sister called me. I wasn’t in the mood today so I ignored the call. She called me right back. I didn’t answer again. She texted me and asked me to call her ASAP but I didn’t feel like talking to her. I wasn’t in the mood for a lecture from her.
Just when I thought she gave up, my office phone rang.
“Student Services. This is Joy, how may I help you?” I sang into the phone in my most professional voice.
“JOY! I’ve been calling you!” Faith shouted.
“Why are you calling my job? And why are you yelling?”
“Come to the hospital. Mama’s here. Hurry up…it doesn’t look good.”
I hung up the phone and absently grabbed my purse. I told someone I was leaving; I don’t know who it was. I drove across town in a blur. I rushed in the hospital looking for my mama. Faith met me at the door.
“Joy, she’s gone. Mama’s gone.”
In the weeks following my mama’s funeral, I was just existing. I couldn’t get myself together no matter how much I tried. I did nothing but go to work because I couldn’t handle being around people. My sister tried her best to assuage my guilt but nothing she said helped me.
On top of the guilt from not answering my sister’s call and my daddy suddenly wanting to act like he was my daddy, I was still trying to cope with being single. It seemed like no one wanted me. I was averaging two hours of sleep a night and when I woke up, I was angry and I was tired. I was losing weight because I had to remind myself to eat and that was probably once a day.
On Wednesday after work, I was in Wal-Mart picking up a few things. I hadn’t been shopping in God knows how long and I was almost out of everything. I couldn’t remember everything I needed so I just got laundry detergent, paper towels and tissue. I’m sure that wasn’t it but that’s all I could remember. I was in the self-checkout line sliding my debit card into the machine and entered my pin number. It was declined.
I stood there in disbelief, trying to figure out why my card was declined. I got paid two days ago and I haven’t paid anything but my light bill. I know I had money. I tried again but it was declined.
“MAN WHAT THE FUCK!” I yelled causing people to stare at me. I was past the point of caring about what anyone had to say about me. This wasn’t the stress I needed.
“Ma’am is there a problem?” the Wal-Mart employee approached me slowly.
“Yes, Tisha,” I began reading her nametag. “Your machine is declining my card and you need to figure out why!”
“I’m not sure why it would be declining it. Are you putting in the correct pin number?” she asked trying to be helpful. She came closer to me and whispered, “are you sure you have the funds to cover your purchase?”
“Listen little girl, I don’t appreciate-“
“Hey don’t worry about it. I got it,” I heard from behind me. I was about to go off on her for insinuating that I didn’t have money. The employee couldn’t be more than 20 and she looked scared. I really didn’t process what was happening but the man pulled my card out and handed it to me, put his card in the chip reader and a few seconds later, the receipt came out. Tisha looked relieved this man saved her from the verbal assault I was about to unleash on her.
I finally recognized the man as Officer Friendly. I couldn’t remember his real name. He put my things back in my buggy and he began to scan his items.
“Ummm…thank you,” I said meekly. I didn’t understand why my card was being declined until I looked at it: it was expired. I remembered getting my new card and activating it. I looked in my wallet and sure enough, the new card was in there, too. Why didn’t I take the old card out? Just further proved I wasn’t all here.
“No problem. I’ve never caught your name,” he said while placing his things in my buggy.
“Joy,” I answered as we started to walk outside. “Forgive me but I can’t remember your name.”
He looked at me shocked. “So I’m unimportant, huh? I’ve only come to your rescue twice!”
I laughed at his dramatics and I felt like I hadn’t done that in forever. “You do seem to show up when I’m in trouble. Maybe I should keep you around…” my voice trailed as I waited for him to tell me his name again.
“It’s Desmond. But you can call me Hero,” he joked.
I laughed again, feeling at ease with this man. I realized we were in the parking lot but nowhere near where I parked. “I didn’t park down here. Get your bags out so I can take the buggy.”
“Where did you park?”
“About two rows over.”
“Alright, let’s go.”
Desmond and I made small talk as he walked me to my car. I unlocked my door and he put my things in the back seat. He then opened my door for me and helped me get in.
“Would you like to go grab something to eat?” he asked catching me off guard.
For a split-second I thought about not going but I needed something to get me back right. Maybe it was Officer Friendly. “Sure, I would like that.”
“Where would you like to go?” he inquired looking down at me. He was so sexy!
“Ummm…how about the Fish House?”
“Sounds good. I’ll meet you there. I bought milk and I need to go run it to the house. See you in about 20 minutes?”
He smiled at me before heading towards his car. It had been a minute since I’d been on a date or out of the house period. Since I had some time, I went home as well and took my things in the house. I started to change my clothes but I didn’t want it to seem like I was trying too hard to look good for him. I decided I already looked cute in my gray pants, yellow and blue floral top and blue cardigan. It wasn’t a first date outfit but it would have to do.
I got to the restaurant just as Desmond was pulling up. He got out and walked towards me. “Hello again, Ms. Joy.”
We walked into the restaurant and sat down. It was always cold in here so I wanted to sit in the bar area. Because it was Wednesday and it wasn’t that crowded, our waitress brought us our menus and drinks almost immediately. Seafood was probably my favorite food and I really wanted a low country boil but I didn’t want to eat something so messy in front of him.
“What are you thinking about getting?” he asked me. He wasn’t looking at the menu, he was looking at me.
I assumed he was talking about my food but my mind wandered a little bit. “I’m not sure. Everything looks good,” I commented looking at him.
He chuckled at finally looked at his menu. “I am thinking about the low country boil.”
I was relieved that he said that because I made up my mind that’s what I was getting. He couldn’t judge me for eating messy if he was doing the same.
Desmond and I ordered our meals and talked until our food came. Even then, our conversation didn’t stop. In between cracking crab legs and peeling shrimp, I learned that Desmond was born and raised in DeSoto, just outside of Americus and had been a police officer for the past four years. We were about the same age but I realized I didn’t know him because he went to Sumter County and I went to Americus High before they combined the city and county schools. Desmond didn’t have any kids of his own but he was raising his sister’s son after she passed away a few years ago in a car accident. His mom technically had custody but when he was off, his nephew lived with him. After he told me about the car accident, I remembered hearing about it. His nephew was 8 and Desmond always volunteered to coach his recreation football and basketball teams. He told me after his sister passed, he and his mama got closer and that made me miss mine.
The more he told me his life story, the more I was enamored with him. He was fine, a public servant, volunteered his time and he loved his mama. So why was he single? I just had to know.
“So where is Mrs. Officer Friendly?”
Desmond almost choked on a piece of sausage laughing at me. “Mrs. Officer Friendly? You can tell me where she is when you find her. Where is Mr. Expired Debit Card?”
I shot him an ugly look. “Out there somewhere I suppose. I’m not looking for him.” I lied but that sounded better than admitting I was getting sick and tired of the single life.
“I’m just chilling myself, maybe I’ll run into her in Wal-Mart,” he winked while diving into an ear of corn.
I laughed and took a drink from my lemonade. I tried to avoid looking at Desmond but his eyes were captivating. Similar to his conversation, I was intrigued and I wanted to get to know him better.
Desmond paid for our dinner and we left the restaurant. At my car, I anticipated him kissing me but instead he only asked for my number. “I want to see you again.”
Without hesitation, I gave him my number. “When are you free?”
“I’m on duty the next few days but after that, I’m free. I work at night and I usually get off around 8.”
Desmond and I lingered for another thirty minutes talking. Finally, I had to leave because it was getting late.
“Thank you for dinner. I really enjoyed your company,” I said as I got into my car.
“So did I Ms. Joy. Looking forward to seeing you again,” he replied.
“Me too.” Again, I anticipated him kissing me good night but he didn’t. It made me wonder why but I knew it would come soon.
The next few weeks were absolutely wonderful. Desmond and I spent a lot of time together and I loved getting to know him. He was funny, he was romantic and he seemed to really like me. Good morning texts, breakfast, lunch and dinner dates, flowers, and I even met his nephew Caleb. Caleb took to me my first day meeting him and he invited me to his football game. I loved seeing Desmond working with the kids; he was so passionate and knowledgeable about the game.
For as wonderful as Desmond was, there was one huge red flag: he wouldn’t sleep with me. We’d been alone, we spent the night with each other, we kissed and touched each other but he wouldn’t take it any further. After the second time he refused to sleep with me, I got upset and asked him why.
“Why do you want to so bad?” he countered.
I was stunned at his answer because men never turn down sex. “I’m just saying. Things are going great with us. I just thought this was the next step.”
Desmond laughed at me and that pissed me off even more. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to laugh. It’s just that…I’m a different kind of guy, Joy. I don’t believe in rushing into sex. I’m selective with who I allow in my bed. Soul ties are real and I’m not trying to be intimate with anyone unless I’m sure this is going to be a committed relationship. So let me know now if you can’t handle that.”
Soul ties? I don’t believe in rushing into sex? I’m selective with who I allow in my bed? I let his words roll around in my head. It should have been a relief to hear this but instead, I didn’t believe him. I figured there had to be a reason, namely someone else.
That didn’t stop me from spending time with him though. But spending time with a man without sex was different for me. He cured my loneliness but I was getting really tired of sleeping alone and having to handle myself after he went home. I was determined to get Desmond to sleep with me. I needed him to show me how he felt about me was real.
That opportunity came sooner than I expected. My cousin was getting married in South Carolina and even though I didn’t really want to take this trip, I was looking forward to getting out of Georgia for a few days. Faith was supposed to go with me but my niece got strep throat the day before we were supposed to leave. We wanted to save the ticket so I asked Desmond if he wanted to go because he was off this weekend and surprisingly, he agreed to be my date.
We arrived in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Friday afternoon. We checked in to our hotel and I called my cousin to let her know I was here. She invited me to her bachelorette party but I declined because I didn’t want to leave Desmond in the hotel by himself. He tried to convince me to go but I refused. I had plans for him tonight.
After Desmond and I went to dinner, we came back to the room. I took a shower to get ready for Operation Give Me That D. After my shower, I moisturized my skin with coconut oil and put on the lingerie I bought for this trip. The red and black baby doll with the matching thong and six inch heels would surely get Desmond to make love to me.
I emerged from the bathroom and stood in the doorway. I cleared my throat to get his attention.
When Desmond saw me, I saw the lust in his eyes and I knew I had him.
“Come here, baby,” I cooed.
“Joy, why are you doing this?”
He was sitting on the bed and I straddled him. “Cause I want you, Desmond. And I need you to make love to me.”
“Joy…” he began but I kissed him to stop him for denying me. I knew he could feel my heat because I could tell he wanted me. Quickly, he flipped on to the bed and climbed on top of me.
“Please, Desmond. Make love to me, please,” I begged.
Desmond kissed me and his hands roamed my body. He stood to undress before returning to the bed to remove my panties. I handed him a condom and within seconds, he was inside of me. I felt like I had died and gone to heaven.
Desmond made love to me so passionately, I wondered how I ever considered anyone else the best. Desmond drove my body to the brink, my pleasure cascaded over me and I clung to him for dear life. His impending orgasm caused him to push deeper inside of me and we released together. It was the single most satisfying moment I’ve ever experienced.
Instead of holding me after he just took me to ecstasy, Desmond got up and went to the bathroom. When he came back to bed, I snuggled up close to him and he seemed rigid.
“What’s wrong, baby?” I asked sweetly.
“Nothing,” he said dryly.
This wasn’t what I expected from him after we just made love for the first time. Especially when he made me wait for it. I sat up and looked him. His eyes looked distant.
“I don’t believe you,” I countered. I was getting worried that I hadn’t satisfied him.
“Are you used to getting what you want?” he asked.
I cocked my head to the side, unsure of why this question was relevant. “Why does that matter?”
“Because I’ve been telling you from the beginning I wanted to wait. This isn’t how I wanted our first time to be.”
“I’ve never heard of a man turning down sex. What’s wrong with you?” I asked with my attitude on one thousand. I just couldn’t understand why he didn’t want to have sex.
“I don’t know what type of men you’re used to dealing with but I told you before I’m different. I’m too old to play games and base a relationship on sex. So forgive me for trying to show you something different than you’re used to. But I guess you want the same old thing.”
Desmond turned over on his side leaving me to look crazy. I really didn’t know what to think but the only thing that stayed on my mind was why he was so against having sex with me. I figured he must have had someone else.
But why is he here? Why does he take me on dates? Why have I met his nephew? Why does he want to spend time with me? I was so confused. I really didn’t understand what was going on.
The rest of the weekend was a drag. The wedding was beautiful but I regretted coming. Seeing my cousin smiling at her husband and vow to love him forever made me wonder when my day was coming. Desmond was here but I didn’t think this was going to go any further than this weekend. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted it to. I didn’t want anyone that saw sex as a nuisance. When we got up this morning, he apologized for coming; he told me it was a mistake to put us in this situation. I rolled my eyes at him.
It was after midnight when we made it back to the hotel after the reception. I was tired so I took a shower and got in the bed. Desmond followed suit.
After he settled into bed, he asked “What happened to you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Why are you so against waiting?”
“Desmond, I’m a grown woman. I have had sex before and when you want to show someone you care, you have sex. This isn’t rocket science.”
“Sex isn’t the only way, Joy.”
“You’re right. There are also gifts, trips, passcodes to your phone and acknowledging me on social media,” I answered matter of factly.
He was quiet for a minute. “Are you serious?
“Ummm…yes. What else is there?”
“What about trust, communication, respect and friendship?”
“I mean, yes that stuff is important, too,” I replied.
“Any relationship I am in, those things are the most important. I might not give you expensive gifts and things like that but you will know how I feel by the way I treat you.”
I grew quiet because it was almost like he was speaking a foreign language. All of my serious relationships, it was based on material things and that’s what I liked. Buying me a gift or me buying gifts was proof of love. Never before had anyone talked about respect, communication and friendship.
“Tell me about your last relationship,” he said breaking the silence.
“Not much to tell. He tricked me into believing he loved me. Then he beat my ass. The guy before him decided he didn’t want to get married and the guy before him is marrying my friend.”
Desmond asked me to elaborate and we spent the rest of the night talking. I cried as I told him about all of my failed relationships.
“Are you over them?” he asked after I finished.
“I have no choice but to be. They all left me.”
“That’s not what I asked you. From what you’ve said, you really didn’t allow anytime in between your relationships.”
“No one likes to be alone,” I replied. I didn’t want to keep talking about me because the hurt was still there. “But what about you? Tell me about your last relationship.”
“I was engaged but she broke it off. I didn’t treat her right because I thought I owned her and didn’t value her. I was young and dumb and it took me awhile to get over her. As I got older, the way I dated changed and I’ve found that a lot of women aren’t used to a man like me and they don’t last.”
I was quiet because I was probably going to be one of the women that didn’t last. As if he was reading my mind he said,” if you’re going to go, then let me know now so I don’t waste my time getting my hopes up.”
I thought for a second and I decided Desmond was so much better than being alone. I didn’t want to be single and Desmond was great company. “I’m not going anywhere. I like your company.”
“Are you sure? Because we won’t be having sex again until I am sure you are ready for something serious,” he warned.
I wanted to scream. I just didn’t understand why he had to withhold sex from me, especially when the sex was good. But I resigned that if I got him to sleep with me once, I could get him to do it again.
“Yes, Desmond, I’m sure.”
Once we got back to Georgia, things went back to normal. Desmond was still the same person he was before and true to his word, he was not having sex with me. No matter how much I tried to give it to him.
My sister and I were eating lunch at Ruby Tuesday when she asked me about the wedding and Desmond.
“The wedding was beautiful. Everyone missed you,” I informed her. “And Desmond. I don’t know what to say about him.”
“I saw the pictures. I hate I missed it! And what did Desmond do?”
Before I could tell her what went down, our server brought our meals. Faith ordered the Shrimp Parmesan Pasta and it looked good. Every time I came here I ordered the New Orleans Seafood. I needed to step out of my comfort zone and try something new.
After the server left and we blessed our food, I told her about Desmond. When I was finished, she put her fork down to stare at me. I took that opportunity to snag one of her shrimp. I was definitely ordering this next time.
“So what’s the problem?”
“What do you mean what’s the problem? There has to be a good reason why he won’t have sex with me. It’s not normal!”
Faith opened her mouth but nothing came out. She did this a few times and finally she said what she was struggling to keep to herself. “Joy, I love you. But let’s just think about this for a minute.”
She sat back in her chair and folded her arms. She was looking directly at me and that made me uncomfortable, like when our mama used to fuss at me.
“You’ve always found yourself in difficult situations when it came to relationships. Some of it wasn’t your fault but some of it was.”
I looked at her with narrow eyes, not liking that she was blaming me for the hurt I’ve experienced. “So it’s my fault I got cheated on and beat?”
“Listen. Don’t get upset. Just think about it. Maybe not Maurice but even then, you rushed into living with Justin without dealing with the hurt Maurice left. You thought buying Justin stuff would make him want you but that’s not what he wanted or needed. You ran him away because of your insecurity that came from Maurice. And Tevin…well I told you he wasn’t shit but you got caught up in what he was doing for you. There was no reason for you to go through that.
“I’m not sure where this incessant need to be in a relationship came from, maybe it’s your relationship with daddy. I don’t know. But I need you to think about what you’re doing. All you’re doing is adding layers of hurt to your heart. Desmond seems like a great guy, the guy you need in your life. He’s making you develop a relationship that’s not built on material things. I think you need to give it chance.”
“It’s easy for you to say. You’ve been married for years. You’re happy. You have someone. You don’t have to go through the dating world and try to figure out who’s real and who’s not. It’s a struggle to be single these days.”
“Joy, you know my marriage hasn’t always been strong. You know what me and Eddie have gone through. You’re right that I don’t know what the struggle is to be single but I do know that if you want to experience a different relationship, you have to do something different. Just give Desmond a chance.”
I rolled my eyes and resumed eating. What my sister was saying made sense. Kind of. But I was still thrown for a loop about this sex thing.
“So why won’t he have sex with me, Faith? He told me he believes in soul ties. What does that mean?”
“From what I’ve read, soul ties are the connections you have with people. When you sleep with someone, you are depositing your energy and your emotions into that person. If you don’t successfully break your soul ties, you are harboring the souls of other people. You’re sharing their energy. It’s really deep. Look it up.”
My eyes bucked at the absurdity of this. Carrying the energy and soul of other people? Who the hell believed in this shit? It sounded crazy and I couldn’t believe people believed in this. “I don’t know Faith, it sounds weird. He won’t have sex with me because I’m harboring the energy of my ex-boyfriends?”
“Think about it, Joy. If you saw Maurice right now, what would you feel?”
“Fuck him,” I answered quickly.
“You’ve proven my point,” Faith replied. She didn’t sound like she was happy to be right. “The way you feel about them is coming out as anger, bitterness, insecurity and desperation. If it makes you think about it easier, just consider it unforgiveness.”
Faith reached across the table and grabbed my hand. “All I’m saying is you need to take the time to heal. You haven’t done that yet. With anyone. Don’t ruin this with thing with Desmond because everyone before him hurt you.”
I never thought about it like that. I always used a new relationship to get over my old one. Being alone was never appealing to me. Everyone considered single women to be weak, as if they couldn’t get or keep a man. I didn’t want that image.
Faith and I finished our lunch in almost silence. I was deep in thought about Desmond. And Maurice. And Justin. And Tevin. Maybe I did need to do something different…
Before we left the restaurant, Desmond texted me.
Desmond: Hey pretty lady. If you don’t have plans tonight, I want you to come over. I want to cook for you.
Me: I’m free. What time do you want me to come over?
Desmond: Around 7. See you then, bae.
I smiled and decided to give Desmond a chance.
At 7 pm, I was knocking on Desmond’s door. I knocked two more times but he didn’t answer. I called him but he wasn’t picking up. I was upset he invited me over but then he wasn’t here and ignoring me. Defeated, I left resigning that I was stupid for wanting to give him a chance. He wasn’t any different than anyone else.
I sat at home for about an hour, calling Desmond but his phone was now going straight to voicemail. I became angrier by the second. So he turned off his phone so he could be with whoever he was with and lie and say he didn’t get my calls. Ok. If that’s how he wanted...
I scrolled through my contacts until I found Deontray’s number. He only wanted sex and right now, that’s what I needed. As expected, Deontray came right over and we wasted no time. The sex wasn’t that great and all I could think about was Desmond. It lasted all of ten minutes and I regretted calling him over here.
When we were finished, I walked him to the door. I opened it and I was shocked to see Desmond standing there about to knock.
“D-Desmond. What are you doing here?” I stuttered. I don’t know why I was nervous all of a sudden.
Sensing it was about to be some drama, Deontray slid past me and out the door. Desmond stepped aside to let him by. I saw his jaw tighten and his hands were in a fist. I immediately became afraid. Having been in an abusive relationship, I knew the signs.
“I was coming to apologize for not being home. But I guess you went ahead and made plans.” Desmond turned to walk away and I reached out to grab him.
He snatched away from me and I saw the anger in his eyes. “Don’t touch me, Joy.”
Immediately, I let go, afraid he was going to hit me. I backed up but still tried to plead with him.
“Desmond, just listen. I was upset that you didn’t answer my calls and you weren’t home. I thought you were playing me like everyone else.”
“When we were in South Carolina, I asked you if this is what you wanted and you assured me it was. You jump to conclusions and your first course of action is to sleep with someone else?”
When he said it like that, it sounded as bad as it was. There was really no way to explain this away. So I stayed quiet and he continued.
“You know, when you told me about your relationships, I wanted to run away and consider you damaged goods. But I thought that all you needed was someone to show you something different. So I guess it’s my fault. It’s true what they say…hurt people, hurt people.”
Desmond went to get in his car and as much as I wanted to call out to him and beg him to stay, I knew nothing I said would make a difference. Before he got in, he turned around to say, “Oh and by the way, the reason, I wasn’t at home was because Caleb fell at my mama’s house and broke his leg. I had to take him to the hospital and I left my phone at home.”
As if I didn’t feel bad already, that just made me feel like complete shit. I know how he felt about Caleb; he loved him as if he was his own son. I’m sure he left his phone at home in a panic. I don’t know why I assumed he was with someone else. I take that back; I did know. Since Maurice, I assumed every man I dated would cheat on me.
I went back in the house and packed a bag. I needed to get out of town for a few days.
It wasn’t far but I drove to Macon to get out of town to think. I talked to Faith on my way there and she sighed heavily in the phone.
“You don’t have to say anything, Faith. I already know I messed up big time,” I acknowledged.
“What are you going to do, sis?” she asked genuinely concerned about me.
“I’m going to Macon for a few days. Lay low and think. I’m just…I don’t know. I’ll call you later.”
I hung up and checked into a hotel on Arkwright Drive. I needed to be secluded and away from people to get my mind right. I went to my room, put my bag down and sat down on the bed. It was late but I wasn’t ready to get in the bed. I was restless and not quite ready to ready to deal with me yet. There was a Waffle House not too far from the hotel so I got up to go there.
I enjoyed my All-Star breakfast and then went to the gas station to get some snacks. I didn’t plan on getting alcohol but at the last minute I decided to grab two Mango-Rita’s because they were two for $3. Back in the room, I took a shower and opened one of my drinks. I flipped through the TV and settled on Food Network. I zoned the TV out and decided I’d put off this talk I needed to have with myself for long enough.
When I was 15, I found out my daddy was cheating on my mama. I guess it didn’t bother Faith much because Daddy never left but it changed my entire relationship with him. I remember the hurt my daddy put my mama through and I hated him for doing that to her. My mama and Faith forgave him but I just couldn’t. Al I’d ever known was my parents. This was my first and only example of relationships and my daddy showed me that men were selfish and couldn’t be trusted.
Somewhere down the line, I guess I wanted to prove him wrong. I went through men like someone with a cold went through tissue looking for that one.
I wasn’t sure what my mama did to make my daddy cheat but I made up in my mind that no man of mine would ever do that to me. So I made sure I did everything to keep him satisfied. I quickly found out that wasn’t working for me. I did everything for Maurice and he ended up cheating on me. Then I tried to do the same thing with Justin, well, on a tighter leash. I still had issues of trust from Maurice and I put that on Justin. He gave me no reason to treat him the way I did. Then Tevin. Tevin was the biggest mistake I could have ever made. Faith told me he wasn’t worth fooling with but I hated to be alone so I dated him anyway.
And now Desmond. He told me he was different and for the most part he was. I was the one that jumped to conclusions. I was the one that tried to make him like everyone else. I was the one that ruined everything.
That realization brought tears to my eyes. What began as a few tears escalated to full out sobbing. I cried for Maurice, Justin, Tevin and Desmond. But most of all, I cried for myself.
The next day, I was going to go home but I decided to stay in Macon another day. I did something I never did before: I spent time by myself. I went shopping and got a pedicure. Needing to rid myself of him, I went to a tattoo parlor to get Tevin’s name covered up. I wasn’t too keen on having to go through that hurt but I didn’t need that reminder. I settled on a lotus flower to cover his name because lotus flowers grew beautifully despite being rooted in muddy water. That describe me perfectly.
After getting my tattoo, I ate dinner alone again. I know it sounds crazy but I really enjoyed my company. I went back to the hotel and opened my second drink and processed my day.
In light of everything that happened, I knew I needed to do something different and my something different meant I needed to be alone and get myself together. I wasn’t sure how to go about it but I knew I had to work on forgiveness. Justin was right; I was carrying around my hurt like a purse. Faith was equally right; I was a relationship hopper. But Desmond probably summed up my behavior the best: hurt people, hurt people. I had to learn how to heal because I didn’t want to be that person anymore.
3 months later…
When people talked about knowing their worth, I always thought I was living that. I was accepting the value other people put on me because I never took the time to define my own worth. These last three months have been liberating and not as lonely as I thought it would be.
I wanted to apologize to Desmond but I couldn’t find the words to say. I resigned that I lost him and let it go. That didn’t stop me from missing him. I apologized to Justin and he was surprised to hear from me. I told him that I was wrong for the way I treated him and I asked for his forgiveness. I was happy that he didn’t harbor any ill will for me. Tevin was locked up somewhere so apologizing to him directly wasn’t possible. I wrote him a letter, poured out my heart and then I burned the letter. It was empowering.
Forgiving Maurice was tough. It had been awhile but I wasn’t over the way he hurt me. I wanted to call him but I couldn’t. So instead of talking to him, I also wrote him a letter. I wrote a letter to Tara as well. Getting my emotions out on paper helped me to get closure. Burning their letters didn’t release me but it did open the door towards healing.
The most difficult person I had to forgive was my father. For almost 15 years, I have held on to a hurt that has cut me deep. The bitterness I carried affected every relationship I’d ever been in. We’d been talking more but forgiveness would be a process. We got together a few times a month; that’s all I could handle for now.
Of all the people I had to forgive, forgiving myself was probably the most important. I put myself in situations that I didn’t need to be in and I created obstacles for myself, or layers of hurt as my sister said. My heart was damaged because I allowed a poor representation of love to cloud my judgement. I didn’t want to be alone so I settled for men that couldn’t appreciate me and didn’t value me. I had to forgive myself for staying in an abusive relationship, for trusting men that didn’t deserve it, for taking my issues out on people that didn’t hurt me and most of all, for the child I refused to have because of my poor decisions.
I thought of that day often, the day I chose not become a mother. I wondered how much different my life would be if I had the baby. The more I thought about it, even though it still hurt, I knew I wasn’t in a position to be a mother. I still would have been hurt, angry and bitter and I would have projected that onto my kid. Or I would have treated the kid like it was my friend and not my child because I had no friends. No child deserved that. It was better for me to wait to have kids until I was mature enough and emotionally prepared to be a parent.
Forgiving the people that hurt me and the people I allowed to hurt me was very powerful. I actually felt free. It was like a weight had been lifted off me and I was truly living. Desmond was right again…soul ties are real.
It was Friday night and I was treating myself to dinner at Ruby Tuesday. The half-price appetizers were definitely worth me getting out of the house. Since going out by myself in Macon, I was much more comfortable with doing things by myself. I was working on making new friends but for now, I was cool hanging by myself.
I was sitting at the end of the bar so I could people watch and see who came in. I was having casual conversation with the bartender when I saw Desmond walking through the restaurant heading to the door. He wasn’t alone and while I wanted to be upset, a man like him deserved to be happy. Someone at the bar called his name and he went to go talk to them. His date waited by the door. I tried to avoid looking in his direction but he saw me and when he finished his conversation, he came to side of the bar where I was sitting.
“Hey Joy,” he spoke softly.
“Hey Desmond,” I replied. I was surprised he was talking to me while he was on a date.
“Funny that I always seem to run into you when I’m least expecting it,” he said with a smile. God, I missed this man.
His date must not have taken too kindly to him talking to another woman and finally came to get him. I started to panic.
“Hey Des, where are your keys? I’m going to get in the car.”
Desmond fished his keys out of his pocket and handed them to her. She smiled at me and turned to walk out. I raised an eyebrow wondering what woman would be OK with her man talking to his ex.
Desmond laughed and told me, “Don’t worry, she’s my cousin. She’s visiting from Augusta and we were just catching up. I know how, you get.”
The smirk on his face let me know he was joking. I playfully hit his arm and laughed. He continued to look at me with his soft eyes and I began to melt.
I looked away momentarily because I didn’t want to get caught up in that look. “About that. I just want to apologize-”
“Save it,” he interjected. “Let’s talk about it over breakfast tomorrow morning. Waffle House, 8 am.”
I paused before answering. After what I did, I couldn’t believe he wanted to see me. As if he could read my mind, he said, “I want to see you. But if you don’t, I’ll understand.”
“No, I do,” I answered quickly. “The Waffle House, 8 am.”
Desmond smiled and left me sitting at the bar wondering how he could still be interested in me.
The next morning, I got to the Waffle House right at 8 and Desmond was already there. I walked over to the booth he was sitting in and put on my jacket. I don’t know why it was always so cold in here.
“Good morning, beautiful,” he said as I sat down.
“Good morning to you.”
The waitress came to take my drink order and I went ahead and ordered my food because I already knew what I wanted. After she wrote down my order for my All-Star breakfast, Desmond asked if I was going to eat all that. I gave him a look as if he didn’t remember who I was.
“I’ve never seen anyone so little eat so much,” he exclaimed while shaking his head.
“How could you forget that I loved to eat?”
“I didn’t forget. That’s why I invited you to breakfast,” he smiled.
Even though the conversation was going easy, I decided to go ahead and apologize to him. I’d rehearsed most of the night and on the ride over here.
“Desmond, I want to apologize. I know I didn’t handle things right and it’s because you were right: I was a hurt person and I hurt people. I hurt you but most importantly, I hurt myself. My sister and I had a conversation before and she told me that if I wanted something different, I had to do something different. At the time, I didn’t understand what I needed to do different.
“After you left me that night, I left town for a few days. I spent time alone and decided I needed to forgive a lot of people, mostly myself. I’ve been taking the time to get myself together and I know how wrong I was. I’m not expecting you to forgive me but please know that I am truly sorry for hurting you.”
I exhaled, relieved that I finally got that off my chest. Desmond didn’t get a chance to respond because our food arrived.
“I accept your apology,” Desmond announced while drowning his waffle in syrup.
“Just like that?” I asked.
“Yes, just like that. I told you I saw you as someone that needed to see something different. My mistake was thinking I was the one that needed to do it; as you can see, you were the only person that could help you. I was wrong for trying to be your hero.”
“Your intentions were right; I just wasn’t ready for you.”
“Are you ready now?”
His question sent my emotions into a tailspin because I really wasn’t sure. “I don’t know, Desmond. I still have somethings to work out in my life but I’m better than I was a few months ago.”
“I don’t want to pressure you at all but since that night I responded to your call, I’ve been drawn to you. I don’t know what it is about you but something in you won’t let me leave you alone. I have feelings for you, Joy and all I need to know is if you’re willing to try. We can go as slow as you want.”
I tried to stop the tears that escaped my eyes but I couldn’t. I’d dated a lot of men in my life but Desmond was the only one that seemed to care about me, not for what I could do or give him, but for who I really was.
“I didn’t mean to make you cry,” he said gingerly. He came to sit beside me in the booth and he wiped my tears away. “I’m just being honest with you. I want to be the one to make you happy. I know I said I wouldn’t pressure you but, I’m just letting you know how I feel.”
Instead of giving him an answer, I leaned in and kissed him. It was soft and sensual, I forgot we were in public until I heard the Waffle House employees and customers in the background exclaiming ‘awwww’. We broke our kiss and noticed all eyes were on us. I laughed unaware that we gave everyone in here a show.
“That’s so sweet, girl!” one employee exclaimed.
“You better give him a chance cause if you don’t, I’m gonna put my cousin on him!” another one announced.
Everyone laughed, Desmond and I included. I kissed him again, this time a soft peck.
“Slow as I want, huh?”
“Yes ma’am. However you want it.”
“Well, let’s start with breakfast and then go from there.”
“Sounds like a plan!”
Desmond didn’t go back on his side of the booth. He sat beside me as we finished our breakfast. I didn’t want to be the person that said I regretted all the hurt I endured, even if some of it was self-inflicted. Instead, I wanted to be the person that understood heartache had its place because it made me appreciate the happiness I was experiencing in this very moment.