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Growing Pains-Full Story

August 22, 2019

 

Part I

Alexis

                As I walked backed to my dorm room, I crossed my arms over my breasts trying to hide the fact that I was still in the clothes I wore last night. Logically, I knew I couldn’t because my booty shorts and half shirt barely covered me. Last night, I walked into the Sandtrap with confidence. This morning, I was taking the dreaded walk of shame.

This was happening way too often.

 

It was early Saturday morning and most people on campus were still in bed so I could slip into the residence hall without drawing too much attention to myself. Thankfully my roommates were still sleep and I could take a shower without having to answer too many questions.

 

In the bathroom, I washed the night off of me. The weed. The alcohol. The sweat. The hands. The sex. I wanted to blame last night on the loud and vodka but the truth of the matter was these were some of the only moments I felt normal. When I was high and drinking, my life made much more sense. When I laid with some guy, I felt needed and desired.

 

I tried to explain to Anissa, one of my suite mates, why I did this. She just didn’t get it. My other suite mate Jalia did; we were similar which is why we got a long so well. But my behavior left Anissa wondering why I had to party, smoke, drink and sleep with different guys. Since beginning college at Albany State last semester, we all became fast friends. Our other suite mate April had friends in another dorm so we rarely saw her.  

 

“Lex, you’re beautiful. You make the best grades without having to study. You were an honor graduate. You have the best clothes, your hair is always fly, your car is the envy of everyone on campus…why do you do this stuff?” Anissa asked me one night after I threw up for thirty minutes after clubbing.

 

“Cause,” I began in between rinsing my mouth out. “I like it. It’s fun. I didn’t get to do too much of this back home.”

Anissa rolled her eyes and handed me tissue to wipe my mouth. I’m sure she didn’t believe me because I didn’t even believe myself. Truth was I could do this stuff at home. Hell, I used to smoke with my mama sometimes. She didn’t know I that I drank. If she did, she never said anything. My mama was only 35 and she still wanted to be young. She treated me like her friend or little sister as opposed to her daughter. Unless people knew me and my mama, they couldn’t believe my mama had a kid my age.

 

I was offered a scholarship to Georgia Southwestern but I couldn’t stay in Americus with my mama. I wanted to be somewhere else. I chose Albany State because I wanted to attend an HBCU and Albany was far enough away from home but close enough at the same time.

 

After I mentally washed away the night, I emerged from the bathroom wrapped in a towel and headed to my room. I lotioned my skin and threw on some cheerleading shorts and a tank and climbed into bed. Before I could close my eyes, Lia burst into my room.

 

“Bitch! You left me! Where the hell did you go?” Lia exclaimed while plopping down on my bed.

 

Even though I didn’t think anything was funny, I laughed. I didn’t want Lia to know that emotionally, I felt like crap. “Girl, I was tired. I just got here. You stayed with Lo last night?”

 

“Yep! Him and his roommate,” she announced proudly.

 

“Seriously? You’re such a hoe!”

 

“You’re one to talk! How many niggas came through DJ’s room last night?”

 

I cut my eyes at her and smirked. “Bitch, bye! You know I ain’t busting it down for anyone but DJ.”

 

Lia burst out laughing. “Ok. Tell that to someone that will believe you cause you know I don’t. I’ll hear bout it! Anyway…what are you doing today? Wanna go to the mall?”

 

“Maybe after I get some sleep. I’ll let you know.”

 

“Cool. Let me get some sleep, too. I had a busy night!” Lia commented with a wink.

 

I laughed but deep down I was embarrassed. I really could ‘t remember if I slept with anyone other than DJ. I was really feeling him but if slept with one of his friends, I’m quite positive there would be nothing else between us. There were a few other dudes I could sleep with if DJ wasn’t available but I really liked him. I just knew the feeling wasn’t mutual.

 

As I thought about where my life was right now, tears came to my eyes. I was tired of sleeping with different men trying to feel like I belonged somewhere but if men didn’t desire me sexually, what else was there? After I started having sex when I was 15, my mama taught me there was nothing wrong with having sex so long as I used protection. Now that I was 19 and I’d had my fair share of sex partners, sex wasn’t that big of a deal anymore.

 

I wiped my eyes and looked around my room for the blunt I had hidden the other day. I would have to go to my car to smoke it. The windows were tinted in my black on black 2017 Ford Mustang so I could get away with getting high. I found my blunt but before I could leave the room, my phone chimed with a text. I was surprised it was from DJ.

 

                               DJ: What’s up, girl. You ran out of here                                           quick. When are you coming back for                                        round 2?

 

       As much as I hated the feeling I got afterwards, the attention men gave me was almost as strong as the loud I smoked. I got high off men finding my thick thighs and stripper ass sexy. Attention was the most powerful drug I allowed in my body. Absently, I sent my reply.

 

                            Me: What’s up, boo. Whenever you want                                        me…just let me know

                           DJ: That’s what’s up, ma. I’ll be chilling at a                                   party off campus. You gonna come thru?

                          Me: Of course. Hit me up when you’re ready                                    for me

                         DJ: Bet

 

I guess I was wrong about things being over with DJ. Hopefully after last night, he realized that I’d do anything he wanted and that would make him see me differently. I put my blunt away, choosing to save it. I got back in the bed and scrolled through my call log looking for my mama’s number. I didn’t want to talk to her but I needed a couple of dollars to go find an outfit for tonight.

 

Nita

 

                “How much do you need, baby?” I asked my daughter. I knew she had money because I sent her money weekly as did her daddy. But her spoiled ass hated spending her own money. I couldn’t really complain about the spoiled brat we created because I always taught her to save her money and spend someone else’s. This logic had my savings account looking sweet while my boyfriend Ervan spent money on me left and right.

 

                “$50. I saw some jeans I liked in Dillard’s,” my daughter replied without pause.

 

                I put her on speaker while I went to my cash app to send  her the money. I went ahead and sent her $100. “How are your classes, Lex?”

 

                “Good, mama. I’ll probably end up with a 3.9 this semester. My English professor isn’t too fond of my writing. I’m sure I’ll get a B in there.”

 

                “A B?” I repeated. “Oh hell no. Who’s your professor? I’m about to light that ass up. A damn B? She must don’t know who she’s fucking with.”

 

                There were three things I didn’t play about: my kid, my money and my man. This professor had another thing coming if she thought she was going to give my kid a B. More than likely she was just jealous of Lex. That wouldn’t be anything new. Before she graduated high school, I had to stay at the school because teachers thought because she was beautiful she was a dummy. After I straightened their asses out, I had no more issues with them playing with her grades.

 

                “No, mama, I got it,” Lex replied. “I have a meeting with her Tuesday.”

 

                “Call me on speaker so I can hear what she says. I don’t have time for foolishness when it comes to your grades.”

 

                “Mama, I got it!” Lex argued. She sounded irritated and I don’t know why she got an attitude. She knew better than to tell me that kind of shit because I was going to make it right.

 

                I smacked my lips. “Ok, Alexis. But call me if she gets buck with you. I sent you the money but I think me and King are going to ride down there today. We’ll take you to lunch.”

 

                “What’s he doing anyway?”

 

                “He’s eating cereal and watching TV. He’s one of the smartest kids in his class, Lex! Didn’t you get the pictures I sent you of his work?”

 

                “Yeah you did. He’s writing his name so neat,” Lex answered nonchalantly.

 

                “He’s spending next weekend with his daddy so I’m going to Atlanta with Ervan. We’ll be down there in a few hours. Around 1.”

 

                “Ok, ma. I’ll see you later.”

 

                We hung up and I glanced over at King who was totally engrossed in watching Disney Junior. I needed to get him a haircut so we needed to start getting ready to go.

 

                “King, I’m going to take a shower? Stay right there for me, ok baby?”

 

                “K, ma,” he answered without even looking away from the TV.

 

                Before I got in the shower, I texted King’s barber to let him know I was coming and to make sure I didn’t have to wait forever. I loved Eric but I’ll be damned if I sat at a barbershop for hours. Then I texted Ervan to let him know King and I were going to Albany to eat lunch with Alexis.

 

                Ervan texted me back almost immediately. As I anticipated, he told me he sent me $200 to shop while I was there. I smiled and thanked him for his generosity. Ervan and I have been dating for close to a year and he knew what I expected. I let it be known early on that I wasn’t someone he was going to date for free. Ervan was retired military and he owned some rental properties in town; he wasn’t hurting for money.

 

                I got out of the shower and looked in my closet for something to wear. Before putting on my bra and matching panties, I snapped a picture of my naked body to send to Ervan. I liked to surprise him with pictures like that to remind him it was worth it to be with a woman like me. I looked through my closet and finally settled on a black Polo dress and my black and grey Michael Kors sandals. I wanted to go full glam with my makeup but Eric texted me to let me know he had three heads but he would save my place.

 

                At 35, I was blessed to be able to say I didn’t look a day over 25. I kept my hair cut short and my girl Maya was the best at keeping my hair looking fly. My body looked like it was coated in honey. My flat stomach, tiny waist and phat ass gave me the attention that I loved. When people found out I was 35, had a 19 year-old daughter AND my body looked like I could be a swim suit model, I always beamed with pride.

 

                I got King to wash his face and brush his teeth then I dressed him in a t-shirt and jeans. I would take a change of clothes so that he wouldn’t get hair all over his Polo shirt and shorts. King’s closet could rival any grown man’s. He was only four years old but he wore nothing but Polo, Jordan’s and Nike. That’s all his daddy wanted to see him in and I had no complaints in that. I kept Lex in Polo and Nike everything but when she got older, she started shopping at Rue 21 and Old Navy. I didn’t know why but that’s what she liked.

 

                I finished my simple makeup and King and I headed to the barber shop. As promised, Eric held my spot and we only had to wait about 15 minutes. It didn’t take Eric long because King got a haircut last week but I liked when his tapeline looked fresh. Eric only charged me $5 for his cut but I gave him $20 and told him to keep the change. That's how I was able to get Eric to hold my spot...he knew I would tip well. I took King in the bathroom to change his clothes and he looked like a little man in his Polo outfit.

 

                King and I left the barbershop and I put an extra sway in my hips for the men in there today. I knew I’d be the talk of the shop for at least 20 minutes. A lot of men have tried but very few could actually say they knew what it was like to be with me. Most men lacked the patience to wait for me. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to have sex but I had to make sure a man could be what I needed financially. I’ve been called a gold digger but no one could make me relax on my standards.

 

                King and I hit the road to Albany. I was wide open riding down Highway 19 blasting my 90s R&B station in my cherry red Camaro. Ervan got it washed the other day so my car was gorgeous when the sun hit it. I called Lex to let her know we were almost in Albany and to meet us at Olive Garden. I didn’t care for the restaurant but King did so that’s where we were heading.

 

                30 minutes later, we were all seated and prepared to order.

 

                “Lex, you need to call your daddy and ask him for the money for your hair. I think you should try a frontal with the mink Brazilian hair. I saw a girl at church with it and it was gorgeous.”

 

                “Ma, I just got my hair done two weeks ago. I’m not ready to take this out yet,” my daughter responded.

 

                I cut my eyes at her wondering why she is getting frugal with her money all of a sudden. Even though I didn’t wear weave, Lex sometimes got lazy with her appearance. I made sure her hair stayed done.

 

                “You can still order the hair. You don’t have to take it out yet. Are you getting your hair done for spring break?”

 

                Alexis acted like she didn’t hear me. She was staring at King playing a game on his tablet. She could be so standoffish with him at times but today it looked like she was going to cry. “Lex, what’s wrong?”

 

            "Huh?" She looked at me startled. “Nothing. He’s just getting so big. And he looks just like Nick.”

 

                “He does. But did you hear me? Are you getting your hair done for Spring Break?”

 

                “I don’t even know if I’m going,” she protested, finally tearing her eyes away from King.

 

                “Why not? I already reserved your room and ordered you three new bikinis.” There was definitely something wrong with her.  

 

                “Cause. Lia said she might not have the money to go and I don’t want to go by myself.”

 

                I smiled, thankful there wasn’t anything major going on with her. “Why don’t you ask that guy you’ve been chilling with? What’s his name? CJ? EJ?”

 

                “DJ, mama. But we aren’t that cool.”

 

                Alexis was never forthcoming with information so most of what I knew came from what I saw on social media. I saw a conversation they had on Facebook and I asked her about him. She claims they are just friends but I know better. I knew she wasn’t following my advice. Even though she was in college I told her to reserve sex for the guys she felt had a future-a financial future. Pre-med, pre-law, basketball players, business majors. I think she told me this DJ guy was a business major. “You slept with him, didn’t you?”

 

                Lex rolled her eyes and refused to answer. “Chile. You’re emotional just like your daddy. Love has no place in a 19 year old’s life. Right now, just focus on who’s going to be able to take care of you. I bet you gave it up easily, too. Didn’t you? I bet he hasn’t spent a dime on you yet.”

 

                Her silence told me what I needed to know. It couldn’t have been more than a month ago that I asked her about this guy. I was known to make men wait months; my daughter was busting it down at the drop of a dime. I know I taught her better than that.

 

                I messed up with her father, getting pregnant when I was 16. I was in love with her daddy and had no problem sleeping with him after only have known him a few weeks. He was 19 and I thought he’d be my ticket out of my mama’s house. Unfortunately, he went to the military shortly after he found out I was pregnant. Long distance wasn’t my cup of tea and I wasn’t going to wait around for him. He wanted me to move with him when he got stationed but I wasn’t about to have my baby living all the way in Texas. He finally grew tired of begging me and gave up.

 

                I never took out child support because Alex helped me with her. At first it wasn’t much and when he had his other children, he thought that meant he could short change my baby. I let him know that wasn’t going to fly with me. Even though he was out of the military and living in Augusta, he didn’t see Lex that often. He sent her money, bought her a car and let her go to school on his GI Bill. Alexis didn’t care if she saw her daddy or not, just as long as he contributed to her life financially.

 

                “What are you and Ervan going to do in Atlanta next weekend?” Lex questioned.

 

                My daughter bringing up Ervan meant she didn’t want to talk about her love life. It wasn’t a secret she didn’t care for my boyfriend and best believe the feeling was mutual on his end. I was so glad she went off to school to clear up the tension in the house.

 

 Lex wanted to be in love so bad but every time she liked a guy, she slept with him too soon and he lost interest. One day she would listen to me. Until then, she could expect to keep getting her heart broken by falling for these niggas that only wanted sex.

 

                “I’m not sure. I’m sure we’ll go to Lenox to shop and out to eat. Maybe hit a bar or two. He’s going to look at some houses up there.”

 

                “You’re moving to Atlanta?” Lex squeaked. She looked like a deer caught in headlights.

 

                “No ma’am. His cousin owns rental property and he’s going to check out a few houses to see if they are good investments. You know I ain’t going nowhere!”

 

                I was born and raised in Americus and there was nowhere else I’d rather live. I wanted King to grow up in a small town and to be educated in the same school system that educated me and my daughter. Even though the crime and death rate was going up, it was nothing compared to big cities.  

 

                I decided not to push the issue with Lex and her man problems. While we ate, King kept asking Lex questions and I could tell she was getting irritated with him. Since Alexis told me she was going to a party with DJ tonight, we went to Ulta to find her some makeup. She was against it but I insisted she get some new foundation. After I spent almost $200 in Ulta, we went to Dillard’s so she could find the jeans she wanted. I got her a few shirts, two pair of jeans and some shoes. She tried to protest about what I was spending but I told her plenty of times that we had it to spend it.

 

                When my father passed away, he left us a good sum of money. My brothers splurged on cars and mess but I sat on mine, letting it collect interest. My daddy taught us how to make money work for you; I guess my brothers were too enamored with having that much money at one time and couldn’t handle it. Ten years ago, I finally spent my money. I was able to pay off my house, add an addition and have a good amount set aside. On top of the money Ervan gave me, King’s daddy sent me child support. I kept about $200 to spend on him and put the rest in a savings account. When he turns 16, I’ll be able to buy him a cash car and still have money left over. Alex still sent me money for Lex and I sent most of that to her. On top of that, I worked from home as a medical coder and I made good money doing that. Spending $500 in a day was light for me.

 

                It was almost five and Lex said she wanted to take a nap before going out. We said our goodbyes and King asked for a hug before she left. She gave him a quick hug and left us in the mall. I bought King a new pair of sneakers and I got some new bra and panties from Victoria’s Secret. Since we came in through Dillard’s, I got Ervan two new Polo shirts. Satisfied with my purchases, King and I headed home.

 

                I called Ervan to ask what he wanted for dinner and he told me he wanted to go to the Fish House. Since I had King all day, I decided to call some of his daddy’s people to see if he could spend the night with them so Ervan and I could have a date night. Since King was an easy going kid, his grandma didn’t mind him staying. All King wanted was some cereal, cartoons, his tablet and he was good.

 

                I got home, packed King up and took him to his grandma’s house. He barely told me bye because he saw some of his cousins playing. I kissed him and told him to be a good boy. He didn’t even answer; he just ran to go play. I went home to go get ready with my date with my man.

 

                                         Alexis

 

                Most people wouldn’t object to their mama spending so much money on them but my mama was so damn extra at times. Scratch that. She was extra all the time. Sometimes I just wanted to have a normal mother/daughter relationship but since my mama was so young when she had me, we grew up more like sisters.

 

                I came in the dorm with my bags and Lia sucked her teeth at me. “I thought we were going to the mall. You didn’t even wake me up.”

 

                “My bad, girl. My ma and King came down here so I went shopping with her,” I muttered, showing her what my mama bought me.

 

                “How is King with his cute self?”

 

                “He’s good,” I offered and quickly changed the subject. “So DJ invited me to a party off campus. What do you think about this outfit?”

 

                I showed her the jeans my mama just bought me with a black shirt I got from Rue 21. The front was shredded and I was going to put a red tank top under it.

 

                “Oh shit! He invited you to a party? Daaaaammmmnnnnnn! I guess you put it on them last night!” she laughed.

 

                I swung at her playfully and she jumped back. We both laughed but I felt some type of way. I honestly couldn’t remember if I slept with anyone else besides DJ. “Anyway…what do you think about this outfit? And are you coming with me?”

 

                “You know I’m coming. I don’t think you should wear the tank top. Wear a cute bra.”

 

                Lia and I continued putting outfits together until DJ texted me and told me to come through around 9. We started getting ready and I declined on doing a full beat on my face because I didn’t want DJ to think I was getting all dolled up for him. Even though I was.

 

Around 9:30, Lia and I were ready to go. I liked the way my ass looked in these jeans and taking Lia’s advice, I wore a zebra print bra underneath my shirt. Lia looked equally sexy in a pair of black leggings and a pink halter top showing off her tats and belly ring. I grabbed my blunt from earlier so that Lia and I could hit it before we went into the party.

 

                “Hey, girls,” Anissa called from the sofa in our shared living room. “Be careful, ok?”

 

                “Yes, mama!” Lia laughed. Anissa tried not to show her irritation with Lia but I saw it. I assured Annisa we would be fine but I could tell she didn't believe me. 

 

                We headed to the east side where DJ was and there were only a few cars parked at the house. This was more of a kickback than a party. I didn’t really care because DJ would be there and he was the only nigga I was trying to see tonight.

 

                DJ and I took a class together last semester and I was instantly attracted to him. He wasn’t exactly sexy but there was something about him that I liked. He was a boss, a leader and he took control easily. On top of that, he was smart, just not as smart as me. I usually got higher grades on what we did in class, but I liked that he was intelligent. Once we started chilling outside of class, I discovered he had a little hood in him and that turned me on so much. After the first time we slept together, I was really feeling him.

 

                Inside the house there were nothing but guys. Lia’s eyes lit up with the possibility of being the center of attention to so many guys. DJ spotted us and gave me a quick hug.

 

                “What’s good, ma? You’re looking good as usual. What’s good, Lia? Ya’ll want something to drink?”

 

                “Hell yeah!” Lia exclaimed excited about being here. DJ got us cups of something with Jose in it and we chilled on the sofa to get in the blunt rotation. The guys were talking and joking. DJ would find ways to touch me and I was loving the simple attention. After a few pulls, I was good. The blunt came around again and even though I was good, I hit it again. I got up and stumbled around the house looking for the bathroom. I looked for Lia and she wasn’t in the living room anymore. When did she get up?

 

                I found the bathroom and touched up my lip gloss while I was in there. When I opened the door, some dude that was in the living room was waiting for me.

 

                “Hey shawty. What’s up?”

 

                “Nothing. Excuse me,” I slurred while trying to brush past him but he pushed me up against the wall.

 

                “Not so fast. I heard you like to get down. I hear you something like a little freak,” he grinned while grabbing my ass.

 

                Again, I tried to get away but he was holding me too tight. I tried to call for DJ but the music was too loud and he couldn’t hear me. The guy kept feeling on me and was pulling me towards a bedroom but I resisted as much as I could. The guy finally got me halfway to the door when Chris came towards us. Other than DJ , Chris was the only other person I knew here. I called his name, grateful he was here to save me. 

 

                “Hey man, I thought ya’ll said she was down?”

 

                “Give me a second, Dre. I got her,” Chris told the guy who reluctantly let me go. He pulled me back towards the bathroom and I breathed a sigh of relief.

 

                “So what’s up? I thought you were down for round 2?” He was licking his lips and looking me up and down. “You girl is already back there.”

 

                When I made sense of what he was saying, I realized DJ invited me over here to get set out. High or not, I had to get out of here. “I gotta go.”

 

                He smiled but wouldn't let me leave. “DJ told us all about you and we all want a taste. So what’s up?”

 

                I tried to get away from him but he had me pinned to the wall. “Come on, sexy. Let’s gone ahead and get the real party started.”

 

                I couldn't believe Chris was trying me up like this. He and DJ were cool. I was shocked that DJ told his boys about when we had sex. Hurt and anger gave me some kind of super strength and I pushed Chris off me and ran out of the house. I heard DJ calling my name but I didn’t stop. I hopped in my car and with shaking hands, started the engine. I forgot all about Lia but I couldn’t make myself go back for her.

 

                I felt stupid for thinking that DJ liked me. What I feared was really true: this was just about sex. I know I had to have slept with other guys last night and now he was trying to get me to do it again. He didn’t like me the way I liked him. The realization made my heart hurt and I started to cry. The combination of my tears, the weed and the alcohol made it hard to see and I crossed the line and almost hit a car.

 

                Unfortunate for me, a police officer was coming towards me on the other side and made a U-turn. He pulled up behind me flashing his lights and I was scared out of my mind. Reluctantly, I pulled over.

 

                The officer approached my car and asked for my license and insurance. He glanced at my license and I’m sure he made a note of how old I was.

 

                “Ma’am, do you know why I pulled you over?”

 

                I didn’t trust myself to speak so I just shook my head.

                “You crossed the line and almost hit a car. Have you been drinking tonight?”

 

                Again, I shook my head and wiped my eyes. He shined his light in my car and then he asked me to step out of the car. I looked in the middle console and my heart dropped. My damn blunt was sitting there in plain sight.

 

Part II

Alexis

 

                “Monroe! Let’s go!”

 

                I wasn’t sure who was calling me but I jumped up, desperate to get out of the holding cell. Then it dawned on me that they were probably calling me to head to jail for the night. I panicked until I saw my mama.

 

                “Let’s go Alexis,” she commaded through clinched teeth. Like a puppy, Ervan followed behind her. I avoided eye contact with them and followed them outside of the police station. Ervan drove my car and I rode with my mama in hers.

 

                When we pulled out of the police station, my mama started fussing. “Can you please tell me why in the hell you have a damn blunt in plain sight? Why do you even have a blunt in the car?”

 

                “I smoke in the car because I can’t smoke in my room. I forgot about it,” I admitted. She knew I smoked so I didn't bother hiding it. 

 

                “I just can’t with you sometimes, Alexis. You’re smarter than this. Your ass should have about four charges but because your daddy and Ervan know so many people we got that shit taken care of. The officer said you were pretty drunk. Why the hell are you drinking and driving?”

 

                “Lia and I went to a party but I left,” I searched frantically for my phone but couldn’t find it. Or my purse.

 

                “So where is Lia?”

 

                “Still at the party I guess. I don’t know.” I knew I wasn’t shit for leaving her there but I wasn't willing to be set out like she was.

 

                “Whatever. We’ll talk when you sober up.” I'd never gotten into any legal trouble before so I expected more from her but as usual she didn't seem to care.

 

                We rode the rest of the way in silence. When we got to my dorm, Ervan parked my car and handed me my purse. He tried to hand my mama my keys.

 

                “Why are you giving them to me? Give them to Lex!” she huffed.

 

                “You’re letting her keep her car? After what just happened?” Ervan asked incredulously.

 

                “She’s fine. I told her we’ll talk when she sobers up. Come on let’s go. My mama spoke so nonchalantly, it felt like I didn't do anything wrong. Ervan glared at me and it was no secret that he didn’t care for me. I wasn’t too fond of him either. Mama loved him so it didn’t matter what I thought.

 

                Ervan huffed and got in the car. I was sure they would argue the whole way home. I went in my building and went straight to my room. I wasn’t in the mood to wash my face or take a shower. I just got in the bed, fully clothed and thought about what happened tonight. I couldn't believe DJ played me like that. A few minutes later, I heard voices in our common area.

 

               I got up in time to see DJ and some other guy carrying Lia to her room. She was beyond fucked up and I knew it was wrong of me to leave her but those guys weren't taking no for an answer. I wasn't fucking with DJ so I closed my door and laid across my bed. I’d go check on Lia when he left.

 

                There was light knock at my door and DJ barged in. “Hey what happened to you?”

 

                “Why?” I retorted. “And who told you to come in my room? Get the hell out!”

 

                “Whoa, whoa, whoa! What’s wrong with you?”

 

                If looks could kill DJ would have been laid out on the floor dead right now. “So I’m a set out? That’s what you think I am?”

 

                DJ narrowed his eyes as if he truly didn’t understand why I was pissed off. His innocent act was pissing me off more. “What do you mean a set out? What happened?"

 

               I jumped up and got in his face. It didn't matter to me that DJ was taller than me and bigger than me. “Don’t play stupid nigga! I know why you invited me to that party! You slept with me so your homeboys need to do me too?” And what I didn’t want to happen did: I started to cry.

 

                “What the hell are you talking about? Someone tried you up? Who?” he asked and he looked angry but I wasn’t buying his act for a minute.

 

                “Whatever, DJ! I know you set this shit up so Chris and all your other homeboys could try to get some. I’m not stupid!”

 

                “Yo, Lex, I swear to God I have no idea what you’re talking about. But you best believe I’m gonna check Chris when I see his ass. Come on, now. Please don’t cry, ma,” DJ pleaded.

 

                But I couldn’t stop. I was so tired of being used and being looked at like I wasn’t good for anything but sex.

 

                I cried harder and DJ came closer and held me while I cried. He tried to get me to stop crying but I just couldn’t. I heard Lia throwing up and that helped pull me back to reality. I wiggled out of his arms to go check on her. The guy DJ was with was sitting in the living room waiting for him. I think I took a class with him before but I wasn't sure. I went in the bathroom and pulled Lia’s hair away from her face. It seemed we took turns being the ‘take care of the drunk person’ friend every weekend. You’d think we’d be tired of this by now.

 

                “Take care of your friend. Lex, I swear it wasn’t a set up, ok?” DJ asserted with a genuineness I’d never heard from a man before. He and his friend left and I was left with my drunk roommate.

 

******

 

                After my police scare, I chilled out with the drinking and partying. I was scared to be arrested and having a DUI on my record. The most I did was go downstairs and smoke in my car. My daddy called me the next day to ask how I was doing. He didn’t say anything about me smoking or drinking so I didn’t bring it up either. After we got off the phone, he texted me and told me he transferred $200 to my account. My mama’s idea of talking about it was sending me the confirmation email of the hair she bought me.

 

                But my biggest scare was probably Lia. DJ called the next day to check on her. He told me he wasn’t sure what she took but he thinks someone gave her an X pill. He said he went outside looking for me and when he went back in the house, all the guys were in the bedroom with Lia but she was passed out. He got everyone away from her and he and his home boy Josh brought her home. The dudes in the house swore only two guys slept with her.

 

I was reluctant to tell Lia but she needed to know. She didn’t remember shit.

 

“Oh my God, Lex are you serious? Are you serious?” she cried.

 

I tried my best to calm her down but it wasn’t working. She was hysterical and I couldn’t blame her. We did reckless stuff but didn’t consider the consequences of what we did. The funny thing is Lia just slept with two guys last night but these guys were strangers. I felt terrible that I put her in this situation and left her there. The only thing we could do now is go to the health center so she could get tested for STDs and take a pregnancy test.

 

“Are you going to get tested, too?” she asked me while we were waiting.

 

I cut my eyes at her and she was staring at me with sad eyes. I hadn’t even considered it. I only went to the doctor once a year for my pap smear but I’ve never gotten tested for STDs. I was worried but since I wasn’t sure what happened that night in DJ’s room, I knew I needed to.

 

They called Lia’s name and we went back. We let them know I was going to be tested as well. We filled out the paperwork, gave fabricated answers to the standard questions, and then took the tests. We were told the results would be available in a few days.

 

Waiting for STDs results was the most nerve racking experience I’ve ever had. Instead of studying, I was staring off into nothing, imagining my life with an STD. We received our pregnancy tests almost immediately but they were both negative. The nurse told us that because it was so soon, we’d need to test again in a few weeks just to be sure. My period was supposed to come on next week so I’d know then.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, we received our results. I was negative for everything but Lia tested positive for Chlamydia. Not that any STD was good but if she was going to have one, we were thankful it was something that was easily curable. The nurse didn’t have to tell us the seriousness of using protection when engaging in sex, especially with multiple partners.

 

After getting the results, we sat quietly in our living room. Anissa was out with some of her friends and we were trying to process. I was the first to speak.

 

“Lia, we have to do better,” I acknowledged but refused to look at her. Even though I was negative for an STD, it could have easily been me. Her diagnosis sacred me. 

 

I heard her sigh heavily. “I know. This scared the shit out of me. What if it was something worse? You’re lucky you’re clean.”

 

I snorted. “Barely.”

 

“Next semester, we’re going to chill out. Cause I promise this shit right here is for the birds.”

 

“You’re right. We have to get it together.”

 

“Lex, thanks girl.”

 

“For what?”

 

“For not judging me. For still being my friend. For helping me. We’re going to hold each other accountable next semester. I love you, girl.”

 

I smiled. And for the first time in a long time, I felt positive about the direction of my life. “I love you, too. You’re my girl.”

 

Anissa came in and found us sitting on the sofa. “Well if it isn’t my two favorite roommates!” She plopped down between us. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Anissa was drunk. But I knew better. If ever there was a Ms. Goody Two Shoes, it was her. She probably didn't even know what alcohol was. “I’m going to miss ya’ll when the semester ends. Are we still going to be suite mates next semester?”

 

“Of course, mama!” Lia laughed. “We’re probably going to need your help next semester.”

 

Anissa's chipperness faded quickly. “With what?”

 

“We’re giving up the partying, drinking and smoking. Well…probably not the smoking. And no one is as straight laced as you!”

 

Anissa popped Lia’s hand. “Whatever. I’m glad. It’s dangerous out there. You have to be careful.”

 

Anissa looked away when she said that which lead me to believe she was speaking from experience. But there was no way. I wanted to ask what she meant but, Lia reached across me and got her lick back. The two started play fighting with me in the middle of them. We all started passing licks and play fighting.

 

As simple as this moment was, this was the most fun I’d had in a long time.

 

******

 

Spring semester was coming to an end and I was glad. Lia and I did go to Panama City Beach for Spring break and since our pact was for next semester, we had fun partying. We met some guys from Grambling State and we partied with them most of spring break. I slept with one of the guys but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember his name. I made sure he wore a condom though.

 

On the way home, Lia was talking a mile a minute about how fine the guys were but I felt nothing but regret. Even though I was pretty much done with DJ, I didn’t want to get over him like this. But alcohol, weed and sex were the way I coped with everything in my life.

 

Finally finals week rolled in and I wasn’t stressed like everyone else. I wasn’t sure how but I didn’t have to study for hours for tests. I could look over stuff once or twice and be good. So while my roommates were cramming, I was chilling. Well, I tried to chill but I ended up helping Lia and Anissa study. There were a few other people in my classes that asked me to help them study because I caught onto stuff quick. My biology teacher even suggested that I sign up to be a tutor. I thought about it but I never got around to doing it.  

 

I breezed through my first few finals but I put a little more effort into studying for my English final. My professor had it out for me and I wanted to make sure I knew the material. I went into my final thoroughly prepared. I was working through my test confidently until my phone started going off like crazy. I ignored it but I was getting phone calls and notifications from Facebook and Instagram. I had to put my phone on mute so I could finish my test.

 

When I was satisfied that I aced my final, I packed up my belongings and headed out, glad to finished with finals and this professor. As I was walking to my car, I pulled out my phone to see what all the fuss was about. I checked my texts first and my cousin Tiffany on my daddy’s side told me she was sorry for my loss. Sorry for my loss? What did I lose?

 

I checked Facebook and my heart dropped down to my feet. People were sharing their condolences about my mama. I scrolled through post after post of people telling me they were praying for me and rest in peace to mama. There was no way my mama was dead. It wasn't possible. 

 

With shaking hands, I clicked on her contact to call her. Her phone went straight to voicemail and I almost lost it. I don't know who's care I was leaning on but I couldn't walk anymore. I dialed Ervan’s number and he answered calmly. How the hell is he so calm?

 

“ERVAN! WHERE THE HELL IS MAMA? WHAT HAPPENED?” I screamed.

 

“Whoa, Lex calm down. I’m not one of your friends so you’re not going to talk to me like that. Nita said you had finals so she told me not to call you yet. She didn’t want you worrying.”

 

“I’m getting all these messages and crap saying mama died in a car accident,” I barked. He was out of his mind if he thought I was about to calm down.

 

“What? That who died? I’m sitting here looking at your mama right now. Who said she died?”

 

“Everyone! It’s all over Facebook! What happened?”

 

“Ya’ll and this damn Facebook! Nita ain’t dead. She’s sitting up here sleep from all this morphine. She was in a car accident. A truck pulled out in front of her and she hit it then another car hit her. I’m not gonna lie, it was bad. She broke her leg,  arm and she has a few cracked ribs.”

 

It was then that I thought about King. “Where was King?”

 

“He wasn’t with her. She was on her way to pick him up, thank God.”

 

I’m not going to pretend my mama and I had the best relationship but losing her would kill me. As much as she got on my nerves, I couldn't imagine my life without her. I breathed a sigh of relief that my mama was ok. “I’m on my way there. What room is she in?”

 

Ervan gave me her room number and told me to take my time because mama was out. I hopped in my car and started the engine before I pulled out of the parking lot, I got on Facebook. I didn’t post a lot, just some pics to show the world my life was good, even if I didn't believe it half the time. But these people had it coming.

 

                    You people make me fucking sick! I’m in the                              middle of my finals and I get posts and phone                           calls saying that mama died in a car accident.                           Instead of waiting and getting confirmation, you                      stupid asses have to be the first to post shit. Like                      you get a damn prize or something. But guess                         what? MY MAMA AIN’T EVEN DEAD!! Get your                      fucking facts straight before you run to the book                       to post some shit. Now run and tell that.

 

                I posted the status and didn’t care who I offended. These folks were out of their mind if they thought I wasn’t coming for them. I hope they delete their posts before I get to mama’s room because I’m lighting everyone up.

 

******

Nita

 

                I don’t remember much about the accident but I do know I was in a whole lot of pain. When I was finally able to open my eyes, I saw Ervan, Lex and my brothers. Seeing the people I loved around me made me smile.

 

                “Where’s King?” I asked when I was finally able to find my voice. “Was he with me?”

 

                “No,” Ervan smiled. “You were on your way to get him. He’s with his grandma.”

 

                “Ok good. Lex, why aren’t you at school? I told Ervan not to call you.”

 

                “He didn’t call me, mama,” my daughter replied. “People on Facebook said you died so I called him.”

 

                “People said what? I died?” I chuckled to myself. “I know people hate me but now they are killing me off?”

 

                “No one hates you, Nita,” Ervan said. He was used to my dramatics but even he had to admit this was funny.

 

                “Of course they do. Look at my life.”

 

                No one said anything and I started to worry. I tried to move my arms and legs but only my left arm moved. I started to panic and Ervan read my face. “Calm down darling, you’re ok. You broke your leg, your arm and you have a few cracked ribs. No internal bleeding, nothing life threatening.”

 

                One thing Ervan was not was a liar. I knew he wasn’t just trying to pacify me but I was still worried about the journey ahead of me. Until Ervan showed me a picture of the car. It looked bad and then, I was just grateful to be alive.

 

                The next few weeks were hell. If I had to have a car accident, I was thankful to have had one when Lex was out of school so she could help me with King. She wasn’t accustomed to having to do so much because well, I spoiled her growing up. She really didn’t do much around the house. She couldn’t cook a damn thing and she was lost with King. It was sad but I never saw myself in this situation. But Ervan had to go to Atlanta for a few days which meant Lex would be alone.

 

                “Alexis! Lex! LEX!” I yelled from my room. I have told this girl over and over to stay close so she could hear me. I was annoyed I had to call her on her cell.

 

                “Yes ma.” She sounded so nonchalant like I wasn’t laid up with half of my body  broken. 

 

                “Has King taken his bath or are you in there on the phone?”

 

                She popped her lips and got up. “King, go take your bath.”

 

                “Go run his water girl! Jesus sometimes I don’t know how you can be so book smart but have so little common sense. And make sure the water ain’t too hot and that the tub isn’t too full. And you’re gonna have to stay in there with him and bathe him.” 

 

                “Ugh. Ok mama.”

 

                Lord. What was I gonna do with this girl?

 

Alexis

 

                “Lia, let me call you back. I have to make sure King takes a bath,” I sulked.

 

                “Girl, give that handsome baby a bath!”

 

                “Whatever. I’ll call you back.”

 

                We hung up and I went to run King’s bath water. I followed mama’s directions and made sure it wasn’t too hot. I went to his room and told him to come get in the tub. Without so much of an argument, he followed me in the bathroom.

 

                He took his clothes off and put them in the dirty clothes. He grabbed his bath toys and climbed in the tub. He was playing and splashing and he looked pretty cute. I let him play for a little while before bathing him and getting him out. I lotioned him down and helped him put on his pajamas. I took him in mama’s room so he could say good night. He remembered to be careful when giving mama a hug like Ervan taught him. He went back in his room and I turned off the light. He started whining and told me he was scared of the dark. I turned on the light in the hallway and he seemed ok with that.

 

                I went to mama’s room to see if she needed anything but she looked like she was drifting to sleep so I left her alone. When I got back in my room. I had a missed call from DJ. I went back and forth about calling him back and curiosity go the best of me. We hadn’t talked since that night.

 

                “Hello?” I grunted. I needed him to know I hadn't forgot what he did.  

 

                “What’s up, stranger?”

 

                Just hearing his voice made me smile and I forgot I was mad at him. “I’m not a stranger. Just dealing with a lot.”

 

                “Oh word? Like what? Figuring out what inch weave to buy?” he laughed.

 

                I popped my lips. “No. Helping my mama around the house because she had a bad car accident.”

 

                “Damn. My bad, ma. I didn’t mean no harm. Your mama good? You good?”

 

                “I’m good. She’s making it. Some broken bones and cracked ribs.”

 

                “Damn. I’m sorry to hear that.”

 

                There was an awkward silence and I was confused as to why he called me but wasn’t saying anything. “Ok well if that’s all…”

 

                “Nah…Ummmm…I want to apologize again. For that night. It wasn’t a set up.”

 

                I didn’t know what to say but I didn’t want him to know I was still bothered by that. “I’m good. I’m not even thinking about that no more.” I was lying through all of my teeth.

 

                “Ok, Lex. There is nothing wrong with admitting you’re hurt. You don’t have to pretend with me,” he said quietly.

 

                “I’m not pretending. My mama always told me that when someone shows you who they are, believe them. And that night, you showed me who you were. So…I’m good.”

 

                “I know you’re not and I’m going to keep apologizing until I feel like you’re really good. I just want you to believe me.”

 

                DJ sounded so sincere and I wanted to believe him but I wasn’t going to trust him again. I was done with all that. “Whatever. I gotta go.”

 

“Wait!”

 

“What?”

 

“You’re from Americus, right?”

 

“Why?”

 

“Stop being so damn difficult and answer the question.”

 

I don't know why I felt compelled to answer.“Yeah.”

 

“I’ll be there next week. My cousin knows a girl down there and he wants to ride down to see her. Can I see you?”

 

“Naw. It won’t be that kind of party.”

 

“No. I just want to see you. That’s all.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Damn Lex, you’re gonna make me work for this apology. I’m trying to show you how sorry I am.”

 

I really wanted to say yes but I didn’t think I could trust him. “I gotta go. I’ll let you know.”

 

I hung up before he could respond. I went to go check on mama and King before I called Lia back. I told her about the conversation and she was just as perplexed as I was.

 

“Sooooo…what are you going to do? Are you going to see him?”

 

“Hell no! And give him another chance to hurt me again?”

 

“Lex, I believe him. Cause if he was really trying to set you up, don’t you think he would have been trying to go first? Plus, I told you him and Chris had words.”

 

I popped my lips at Lia. “Whatever girl. I’m over DJ.”

 

“Lie to someone that doesn’t know you. Cause I know you’re crazy about him.”

 

“Uggh. Shut up. I gotta go check on, mama. I’ll text you later.”

 

“Seriously, Lex. I think he really likes you.”

 

“Bye, Lia.”

 

I hung up with my friend and tried to filter through my thoughts. A few days after I got pulled over, Lia heard from a girl in her class that Chris and DJ argued. The girl said she didn’t know everything that was said but she did know DJ said that I was off limits. Which lead me to believe DJ got down like that with other girls. Either way, I could forgive him but that didn’t mean I had to be cool with him.

 

But I still liked him. Hearing that he wanted to see me made my heart beat a little faster but I just wasn’t up to being made a fool again. I stepped outside to hit my blunt a few times then I fell asleep with my thoughts everywhere.

 

I woke up the next morning and took King to school. I went back home and with the help of the nurse, we got mama in the bathroom. After the nurse got her back in the bed, I went back to sleep and I didn’t wake up until it was time to go get King. I liked the days the home nurse came because that meant I didn’t have to do everything for mama.

 

I got King from school and took him to McDonald’s because I wasn’t going to cook him anything. We got back to the house and King ran to go talk to mama. He barely said two words to me in the car but he was a chatter box with mama.

 

I asked mama what she wanted for dinner and she asked me to get her a salad from Roman Oven. When I got back, Ervan was home and l wondered why mama didn’t ask him to bring her salad home. I was walking down the hall to her room when I overheard them talking.

 

“I’m just saying Nita. She’s here all day. Why hasn’t she done laundry?”

 

“The nurse started it. It’s not that big of a deal, baby. I’m glad she’s here to help since you have to work.”

 

“I’ve never in my life seen a child be so damn spoiled. She’s 19 years old and can’t even boil water or wash clothes. How the hell is she helping?”

 

I knew Ervan didn’t care for me but hearing it out loud made me wince. I waited for mama to defend me but she never did. Instead she laughed.

 

“She’s does what she can, I know it’s not much though,” she chuckled. “She wouldn’t know how to work a washing machine if her life depended on it.”

 

I was deeply offended that’s what my mama thought about me. It was embarrassing but I had to ask one of my roommates to show me how to do laundry at college. My mama always did everything for me and didn’t think it was important enough to teach me how to live on my own.

 

“If it were up to me, she’d be cooking and cleaning. You treat her like she’s fragile and can’t do anything but then when she almost gets a DUI, you barely bat an eye. Mark my words…she’s going to mess up one day and you won’t be able to save her.”

 

I’d heard enough. “Good thing it’s not up to you.” They both jumped at the sound of my voice because they didn’t realize I was standing there listening to them.

 

“Thanks for my salad,” she smiled, trying to diffuse the situation. I stood staring at Ervan waiting for him to say something.

 

“Oh you think I’m scared to repeat what I said? Cause I’m not,” he barked.

 

“Ervan, nobody gives rat’s ass what you have to say,” I countered.

 

“See, Nita. She’s so damn disrespectful. If she were my daughter I would have been slapped the shit out of her for that slick ass mouth.”

 

“What the hell ever! I wish you would put your damn hands on me!”

 

“Hey ya’ll chill out! I’m tired of ya’ll fighting!” mama wailed.

Almost every day, I complained to her about something Ervan said or did. I couldn’t wait for school to start back. I should have gone to summer school.

 

“You better tell her to learn how to respect grown folks. Cause I ain’t the one!” Ervan bellowed.

 

I hope he didn’t think he was scaring me cause he didn’t. He did scare King and he came running into mama’s room, shooting past me and jumped up on her bed.

 

“Even your own damn son knows you ain’t shit,” Ervan taunted. “The boy is four years old and doesn’t know you from Adam’s house cat!”

 

“SHUT THE FUCK UP, ERVAN! THAT AIN’T NONE OF YOUR DAMN BUSINESS!!” I screamed causing King to bury his head under mama’s pillow.

 

“Nita, I’m telling you this. So long as this disrespectful child is in this house, I won’t be here. I’m not paying bills here and letting some 19 year old spoiled brat who’s too sorry to raise her own kid talk to me like this.”

 

I smirked thinking that was the best news I’d heard all day. Things were always more peaceful when he wasn't here. 

 

Mama breathed in heavily, looking back and forth between me and Ervan. “Lex, I'll make you a reservation at the Hampton Inn. We’ll talk about this tomorrow.”

 

I glared at my mama and for a second, I thought she told me to leave. “What did you say?”

 

Mama didn't look at me, just stayed in her phone making my reservation. “I just can’t deal with you two fighting all the damn time.”

 

“So you’re going to put me out? Me? I’M YOUR FUCKING DAUGHTER!!”

 

“Lex! Stop being so damn dramatic! I told you we’d figure this out tomorrow! Ervan hand me my pills. Ya’ll have given me a headache.”

 

That did it for me. I really didn’t know what to say. I walked out, pissed off to the highest level. I went to my room, threw some clothes in my bag and left. I drove in a trance, unable to believe my mama choice him over me. At the Hampton, mama reserved a room for a week. So much for talking about this tomorrow. I held in my tears until I got to my room but as soon as the door was closed, I cried until I was tired.

 

I had a blunt in my purse so I lit it up but it wasn’t enough. Even though I was high, I texted my weed man and he told me to come through. I went to the south side to meet him and I was in such a rush to go smoke, I barely stopped at a stop sign. Just my luck a damn police officer was right there.

 

Part III

 

Nita

 

When Lex was 15, she got pregnant with King. I was upset because at the time I was only 31 and not nearly old enough to be a grandma. Lex was excited to be pregnant because she was head over heels in love with Nick. Nick was 19 and he was a good dude. I had no problems with him, not even when Lex got pregnant.

 

Since she was so smart, I didn’t want Alexis to fall behind in school so I just took care of King. King Jamir Dawson was more like my son than my grandson. Ervan wasn’t wrong; King called me Ma and called Lex by her name. He knew Lex was his mama but I was the one that took care of him. I just wanted to make sure Lex was able to take care of herself before she started to take care of King.

 

“Ervan, did you really have to say that shit?”

 

“Yes I did. That girl needs to learn some responsibility. You have made her think her shit don’t stink and when life hits her for real, she’s going to be lost. You won’t even let the girl take care of her own kid.”

 

“She needs to finish school.”

 

“Do you know how many girls go to school AND raise their kids? It’s not impossible! Before she went to school she didn’t take care of him! When she’s here you don’t make her spend time with him. It’s sad.”

 

I sighed but I disagreed with him. “I’m just doing what a parent is supposed to do. I’m making sure my daughter and my grandson are ok. You wouldn’t understand.”

 

“You’re right, I don’t. My kids aren’t much older than Lex and I’m not saying my kids are perfect but I taught them how to take responsibility for their actions. They don’t look to me to help them in their everyday lives. I taught them how to live without me. Lex ain’t gonna make it.”

 

I was about to respond to Ervan but my cell phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number so I didn’t answer it. Whoever it was called me right back.

 

“Hello,” I answered irritated. I put the phone on speaker because holding the phone was uncomfortable.

 

“Hey, Nita, it’s Mike Lewis. How are you doing?”

 

“Hey Mike. I’m good,” I looked at Ervan uneasily wondering why my classmate was calling me. And how he got my number. Ervan gave me a who-the-hell-is-that stare.  

 

“I have you daughter here and she’s high as the day is long. She ran a stop sign and I found weed in her car.”

 

Ervan threw his hands up and mouthed ‘I told you so’ before walking out the room.

 

“Damn it!” I couldn’t believe Lex went and did this shit again.

“Let me get Ervan to come get her cause I can’t get out.”

 

“No, you’re good. I’m taking her to the hotel she told me she was staying at. I just wanted to call and let you know. If it was any other officer, she would have had a problem but because I know you and I know she’s a good kid, I’m not charging her with anything.”

 

I breathed a sigh of relief and Mike continued. “But Nita, you need to talk to your daughter. It seems like she’s having a hard time.”

 

“I will. Thank you, Mike. I really appreciate it. When I get on my feet, I’ll make you a peach cobbler.”

 

I hung up the phone just as Ervan came back in the room. “What did I tell you? Already. That girl is heading for destruction. You want me to go get her?”

 

“Naw,” I smugly. “I went to school with the officer so he took her back to the hotel.”

 

Call me petty but I enjoyed seeing Ervan be wrong about my daughter.

 

Ervan shook his head. “Mark my words, Nita. When she falls, no one is going to be able to help her.”

 

Alexis

 

 It wasn’t late so I walked over to Ruby Tuesday and got the salmon with rice and broccoli and an order of wings. I had food. I had weed. And I had my own space. But I felt like shit. I ate the salmon and saved the wings for later. Then I smoked a blunt letting the marijuana ease my mind.

 

I called Lia but a dude answered her phone. “Who is this? Where is Lia?”

 

“Lex? It’s DJ.”

 

“Oh, “ I giggled. I didn’t mean to call you. I’m trying to call Lia.”

 

“Well you got me. What’s up?”

 

Maybe it was the weed or I just desperately needed to vent but I started spilling my guts to him. “My mama put me out of her house for her stupid ass boyfriend. Talking about I’m spoiled and shit. Fuck him. Do you know what he said, DJ? He told me my own kid doesn’t know me.”

 

“Your who? You have a kid?”

 

“Yep. King. He’s my baby. He’s four,” I admitted. A lot of people didn't know he was mine and it was strange to say it out loud.

 

“Wow. I had no idea. Why don’t you talk about him?”

 

“Cause my mama acts like he’s her damn kid. She never did let me take care of him. I just gave up trying.” I hit my blunt again and continued talking. “Generational curses. My mama was 16 when she had me. I was just a year younger. She knew I was having sex and did nothing to stop me. She acts like I’m her sister instead of her daughter.”

 

Tears threatened to fall but I held them back. “Anyway, DJ. I don’t wanna talk anymore. I’m gonna go.”

 

“No! Wait! Where are you?”

 

“In a hotel. Ervan won so I’m in a room while my mama and her boyfriend take care of my baby.” The tears fell freely now.

 

DJ was quiet for a second listening to me cry. “Aye, ma. I can’t stand to hear you crying. Don’t go to sleep. I’m on my way.”

 

“Wait, what? On your way where?”

 

“To you. I don’t want you to be alone. What hotel and what room?”

 

I wiped my eyes and tried to come back to reality but I was too high. “Naw it’s ok. I’ll be good alone. I always am.”

 

“Why do you have to do that?”

 

“Do what?”

 

“Try to act hard like you don’t need anyone?”

 

“I don’t. Everyone I’ve ever let in disappoints me. I’m better off alone.”

 

“You’re not getting rid of me so easily so just tell me where you are.”

 

I sighed heavily and gave him the address and room number. He told me he’d be here in an hour. I ended up falling asleep but I heard him banging on the door. I got up, opened the door and got back in the bed.

 

When I woke up the next morning, DJ was holding me. I was scared at first because for a second, I didn’t remember him coming.

 

I got out of the bed before him and went to the bathroom. My cell phone was dead but the clock said it was almost 11. DJ stirred in his sleep and when he saw me, he smiled.

 

“You know you’re beautiful when you don’t wear all that makeup.”

 

“Is that supposed to be a compliment?” I shot back.

 

DJ laughed. “It was but I guess it didn’t come out like one. I’m just saying. I’ve seen you runway ready but you look even more beautiful right now.”

 

I blushed but I didn’t say anything. Mostly because I didn’t believe him.

 

“You don’t have to believe me but just know that I mean it.” How does he read my mind like that?

 

“Whatever. I’m about to go take a shower.”

 

I went in the bathroom and closed the door. The hot water was so relaxing that I stood there letting the water run all over me. It always amazed me what a hot shower did for me. DJ came in and started fanning.

 

“God damn girl! What are you trying to do in here? Suffocate?”

 

“Shut up! And get out!”

 

“I just want to tell you that you need to be comfortable for where we’re going.”

 

“What do you mean for where we’re going? Who said I was going anywhere with you?”

 

“Lex. Stop fighting me on everything and just do what I said!” I decided not to argue with him because anything was better than sitting around thinking about my life. 

 

I showered and left the bathroom wrapped in a towel. I didn’t like anything I grabbed but I didn’t want to go home so I just made do with the black leggings and Old Navy t-shirt in my bag.

 

“Can you do me a favor?” he asked.

 

“Sure,” I replied thinking he was going to ask me to go get breakfast or something.

 

“Can you not wear makeup?”

 

I looked at him strangely. “Why?”

 

“I want you to see how beautiful you are without it.”

 

I wasn't in total agreement but I decided to do what he asked. We left the room and DJ stopped at Wendy’s and ordered two 4 for $4 meals then drove up 49. We talked and joked the entire drive. Even though we'd been sleeping together for a while, we didn't really know each other. I found out DJ was from Perry, played basketball in high school and had an older sister. I told him about King and some of high school experiences. I told him things I never told anyone.

 

We talked until we made it to our destination. I wasn't sure why we were at Rigby's. Inside, I realized it was like a Chuck-E Cheese. “Are you serious? We’re too old for this!”

 

“Whatever! Have some fun for once. There’s more to life than smoking weed and partying.”

 

I kept a scowl on my face while DJ put $20 a piece on two cards. He handed me one and told me to follow him. We went outside to the go karts. I said I wasn’t going to race but DJ wouldn’t take no for an answer. I finally climbed in a go kart and waited for the race to start. I beat him easily. He wanted to race again because he said it was a fluke but I won again.

 

“How did you learn to drive like that?”

 

“Well, I do have a Mustang,” I laughed.

 

We didn’t have much money left on the cards so I refilled them with another $20. He declined to race me again but we went in the arcade and played games. DJ asked if I wanted to play laser tag and instead of arguing with him, I just went with it. Since I never played before, DJ kicked my ass but I didn’t care; it was a lot of fun. We finished our afternoon with a game of bowling and DJ won but barely. We grabbed sodas from the café in Rigby’s and got on the road.

 

“What are you smiling at?”

 

I didn’t even realize I was smiling or that DJ was watching me. “Nothing. I just had a good time today. So much fun that I just realized I left my cell phone in the room.”

 

DJ reached over and grabbed my hand and squeezed it. I looked at him and blushed.

 

We made it back to Americus and DJ asked where was a good place to eat dinner. I was in the mood for Mexican so we went to La Hacienda. There were quite a few people in there and we sat side by side in a booth to be able to talk. We ordered and ate chips and salsa while we waited for our food. Sitting next to him, enjoying dinner was new and different. I don’t think I’d ever talked to a man as much as I talked to DJ today.

 

It was still kind of early and I asked DJ to take me to Walmart. I didn’t really need anything but I wasn’t ready for him to leave. We walked around, played with toys, looked at the electronics and I finally picked up a pack of underwear and pajamas. We checked out and went back to the room. I kicked off my shoes and laid across the bed. DJ sat beside me and turned on the TV. I remembered my phone was dead and sat up to put it on the charger. It felt good to be out all day and not worry about my phone.

 

DJ moved to the foot of the bed and grabbed my foot and started massaging it. It felt damn good. But…I wasn’t sure of his motives.

 

“Why are you doing this?”

 

“Doing what? Treating you nice? That’s what normal people do.”

 

“But why, DJ?”

 

“I already told you. I’m going to apologize until I know you’re good for real,” he responded while looking at me intensely. His stare did something to me and I broke eye contact. DJ put my foot down and climbed on the bed on top of me. He hovered over me for a second before kissing me. Even though we’d slept together plenty of times, we never kissed before. It almost took my breath away.

 

Next thing I know, DJ was taking off my clothes and making love to me. We had sex plenty of times but tonight it felt…different. Almost special. After we both climaxed he held me for a long time. And for the first time in my life, without being drunk or high, I felt at peace.

 

The next morning, I woke up more relaxed than I ever have been. I didn’t smoke a single blunt yesterday and I had no desire to. I didn’t even want one now.

 

When I thought about the fun I had with DJ yesterday, I smiled. It was the most simple date I’d ever been on. When I really thought about it, I can’t say I’d ever really been on a date. The closest I got to a date was a guy taking me to go get something to eat and chill in his room. I cringed when I realized I’d slept with more guys than I’ve ever been seen with in public.

 

I heard my phone buzzing and I picked it up but it wasn’t my phone that was buzzing, it was DJ’s. He was still sleep and I was going to give it to him but it stopped ringing. I looked at his notifications and there was a message from Asia asking where he was at. His phone buzzed again with another text from Asia telling him that it was foul that he wasn’t picking up for her.

 

I sat there looking at the texts wondering how DJ could be so kind to me but have another chick blowing him up. And just like that, all the wonderful things I felt about him went out the window. DJ was just like every other nigga. Instead of waking him up, I waited for him to wake up. Which only gave this hurt time to fester. When he opened his eyes, he smiled at me.

 

“Good morning, beautiful,” he said sweetly.

 

“Who the hell is Asia?” I snapped.

 

“Huh?”

 

“If you can huh, you can hear. Who. The. Hell. Is. Asia.?” I repeated slower so he couldn’t pretend not to hear me.

 

“She’s someone I chill with from time to time. Why?”

 

“Cause she’s been blowing you up for the past thirty minutes.” I threw his phone towards him.

 

He sat up and looked at me. “Listen, Lex. I’m not gonna lie. I kick it with Asia from time to time. She lives in Macon and goes to school in Atlanta so it’s really only when I come home or go to the city. It’s not like that.”

 

“Whatever, DJ! God I’m so stupid!”

 

“Stupid? Why?”

 

“Here I was thinking you liked me and you’re entertaining other hoes,” I spat at him and got up to go the bathroom. He hopped up and followed me.

 

“Please don’t play the victim, ma. You think I don’t know about the niggas you smashed around campus?”

 

How did he know about them? I was silent because I had no come back for him.

 

“Niggas talk just as much as women do. I thought you were feeling me but you also slept with other guys so I just stayed in my place.”

 

I was hurt but I wasn’t going to let him see me like that.“So that’s why you let your homeboys sleep with me?”

 

DJ cocked his head to the side and looked at me like I was crazy. “What the hell? What are you talking about?”

 

“I swear I ain’t never seen nobody lie like you do,” I yelled. “The day before the party you invited me to. I know you set me up that night because you let your boys do me the night before.”

 

“Yo, I ain’t let nobody do nothing to you. Why do you think that?”

 

“Cause you texted me the next day and asked for round 2. And I know other guys were over there that night. And that’s the type of nigga you are. I don’t know what I even saw in you…you ain’t shit!!”

 

DJ left me in the bathroom and started getting dressed. “Even after we chilled all day yesterday, you think I’m the type of nigga to let my boys smash? When Chris tried you up, I checked that nigga cause he knew that shit was foul. Hell, I had to get your friend out of there cause you left her!” DJ was fully dressed and prepared to walk out the door. But he wasn’t done giving me hell.

 

“I don’t know why you’re so fucked up but something is seriously wrong with you. I have no reason to lie to a bitch that couldn’t even tell me she had a kid. Fuck you, Lex.”

 

DJ grabbed his stuff and stormed out of the room leaving me hurt, ashamed and embarrassed. Weed wasn’t going to help this. I needed alcohol. And lots of it.

 

Nita

 

It’s been almost a month since I’ve seen Alexis. She won’t answer my phone calls but she responds to my texts as long as it’s a yes or no question. She’s never stayed mad at me this long. No matter how much money I sent her or no matter what I said I bought her, she wasn’t hearing it. I didn’t even know where she was staying. She checked out of the hotel and since it wasn’t time for her to go back to school, she wasn’t in Albany. Ervan told me not to worry about her but I couldn’t help it. I felt like I lost my best friend.

 

I’ve been going to physical therapy and I was able to get around better now. I had to use a cane sometimes but I was glad I was able to get out the bed. My life pretty much went back to normal with the exception of Lex talking to me. Seeing I was in a funk, Ervan tried to cheer me up by talking about marriage. I hope he didn’t think mentioning marriage over dinner was a proposal. He better come correct and my ring better be big as hell. There was no way I would marry him with anything less than three karats.

 

I was working one morning when Alex, Lex's daddy called me. We rarely talked but when we did it was always about Lex. I answered because I needed to see if he had talked to her.

 

“Hey, Nita. Are you busy?” he asked.

 

“Working but you’re good. What’s up? Have you talked to Lex? She’s mad at me.”

 

“That’s why I’m calling. She called me about 15 minutes ago and she sounded drunk. I thought you were going to talk to her about that.”

 

“Drunk?” I glanced at the clock and it was just after 11. “I have talked to her but like I said, she’s not staying here because she’s mad with Ervan.”

 

“So you have no idea where she is?” Alex sounded concerned. “Why is she mad at Ervan?”

 

“Because he told her she was spoiled. Anyway, that doesn’t matter. What did she say?”

 

“I don’t really know. I couldn’t really understand her but she was crying and slurring her words. I’m on my way down there. I don’t like this.”

 

“Umm…Ok but I’m sure she’s fine,” I said nonchalantly. I wasn’t going to panic cause Lex was being dramatic.

Alex and I hung up and I finished working. I stopped to go pick up King from his grandma's and then came back to finish my work day. I couldn’t stand for prolonged periods of time so I had to cook something quick for dinner. I thawed out ground beef to make spaghetti.

 

King was sitting in the kitchen with me playing with his tablet while I cooked. Ervan came in and told me to sit down and rest and he finished cooking. When dinner was done, King, Ervan and I sat down to eat. One thing I loved about Ervan was that he could cook. He actually cooked more than I did.

 

We put King to bed and sat down to watch TV. We were into reruns of Martin when my phone rung. It was Alex.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Hey, I’m in town. Still haven’t found Lex and she’s not answering her phone. Can you try to track her phone?”

 

“I told you she’s probably fine. She’s just mad at everyone but she’ll be good tomorrow. I promise.” I was getting frustrated with him. I saw her day in and day out and I knew she was ok.

 

“I’m not trying to argue with you Nita but you didn’t hear her on the phone earlier. I’m concerned about her. But I won’t call you again.”

 

Alex hung up and I threw my phone down with a huff.

 

“What was that about?” Ervan asked.

 

“Just Alex being dramatic like his damn daughter. He said she called him earlier crying and sounding like she’s drunk. He drove all the way here from Augusta and he’s looking for her. I told him she’s just somewhere being the dramatic child that she is.”

 

“Oh ok,” Ervan replied and went back to watching TV.

 

“That’s all you got to say?”

 

“What am I supposed to say, Nita? My opinion about your daughter doesn’t matter.”

 

“Whatever, Ervan.”

 

We went back to watching TV but I was barely concentrating on Martin’s antics. I was wondering if something really happened to Lex. About an hour later Alex was calling again.

 

“What Alex?” I shot off. “I though you weren’t calling me again.”

 

“I found her. I’m bringing her home,” Alex said then he hung up.

 

Ten minutes later, Alex was knocking on my door holding Alexis up. She was fucked up and smelled terrible. “Uggh take her in the bathroom so she can take a shower!” I complained.

 

Ervan helped Alex get her in the bathroom and but she couldn’t stand up. They gave up and took her to her bedroom. I was going to have wash her sheets because Lex smelled like she bathed in damn Hennessy. Her hair was holding up but I was going to take it out tomorrow and see if Andrea could do her hair.

 

I went back to the front of the house where Alex and Ervan were talking. “Where did you find her?”

 

“She was at her cousin Tiffany's house. Tip told me she’s been staying there and doing nothing but smoking, drinking and sleeping.”

 

I popped my lips. “Her stubborn ass wants to be close to homeless when she had somewhere to stay. Sometimes I don’t get this child.”

 

Both Ervan and Alex looked at me. “I know I really can’t speak on this but, I think we need to get her some help,” Alex said.

 

“What kind of help? Lex just needs to sleep it off and she’ll be fine. You know how teenagers can get.”

 

“Nita, she’s 19 and drunk as a skunk and high off God knows what. We can’t just ignore this,” Alex protested.

 

“So you didn’t drink when you were a kid? Alex, we used to get high together!” I countered.

 

“I know we did but I never drunk so much I passed out.”

 

Ervan was trying to stay out of it but I know he was dying to say something. “What Ervan?”

 

“It’s not my fight but I agree with Alex. Your daughter needs help.”

 

“Ya’ll don’t know her like I do. Alexis likes to party and there is nothing wrong with that. She’s young. She has a 3.9 GPA and she’s beautiful. She’s just having fun!”

 

“She’s also a mother, Nita,” Ervan replied. “What if the accident was worse? What if you died? What was going to happen to King? Lex would be lost trying to take care of him.”

 

I rolled my eyes at Ervan. “Why would you say that? I’m her mother and I know what she needs. She just needs to sleep it off then get ready to go back to school.”

 

“And I’m her father,” Alex countered.

 

“When’s the last time you’ve seen her, Alex?” I asked. When he was quiet, I continued. “Exactly. Good night. I’ll handle MY daughter.”

 

I left them standing in the living room. I went to check on Lex and she was sleeping peacefully. Men, they think they know everything. But I know my daughter and I know she’s fine. She’s just having fun.

 

Alexis

 

I was so glad when August rolled around and I could go back to school. I was miserable in this house. I remembered waking up in my mama’s house but I didn’t remember shit before that. I overheard Ervan telling my mama I may need to go to the hospital to make sure I didn’t have alcohol poisoning. She declined saying that I was fine. Just once in my life I wished she’d take care of me, like a mother and not a friend.

 

When I woke up at home, I tried to piece together the last few weeks of my life but I couldn’t. I remember going to my cousin Tiffany's. She had no kids and a two bedroom apartment. I stayed out her way and spent my days and nights trying to stop the hurt. The last few weeks of summer was just a series of moments when I was drunk and/or high. I hated being sober. My thoughts were too loud.

 

My mama drug me out of the house the next day to get my hair done because she said even if I felt bad, I didn’t have to look that way. I wanted to scream at her that I was hurting but she would just find something to buy me.

 

On move in day, I wouldn’t let her take me. I just packed my car with as much as I could fit and went to Albany. I would even make another trip if I meant my mama didn’t have to be around me. It was getting so bad that I hated hearing her voice and seeing her name on my phone.

 

When Lia and Anissa arrived, we set up our rooms and met in the living room to catch up on our summers. I lied about how great my summer was because I didn’t want to admit how fucked up it was. When we finally got tired and went to our rooms, I was drained. Pretending to be ok was hard as hell.

The first few weeks of the semester was a breeze for me. True to our word, Lia and I calmed down and we chilled in the room more instead of going out.

 

A month later, I was walking back to my dorm after class one day when I saw DJ. I hadn’t spoken to him since that day he left me in the hotel. When I saw him, my stomach felt funny and I felt like I had to throw up. I tried to avoid looking at him but I could feel him staring at me. As much as I wanted to hate him, I couldn’t. And I didn’t know why.

 

In my room, I felt uneasy and I thought it was strange that I felt this way because I saw DJ. I got up to go to the kitchen to get a bottle of water but I never made it. I went down and everything was black.

 

I woke up to Anissa wiping me with a cool cloth. I looked around and tried to figure out why I was on the floor.

 

“What happened?” I asked groggily.

 

“I’m not sure. I found you down here. Are you ok? Can you get up?” she asked gingerly.

 

“Yeah, I think so.”

 

Anissa helped me up and we made it over to the couch.

“So you’re not drunk…why other reason would you have to pass out?”

 

“You see me and Lia drunk a few times and now you’re an expert?” I laughed trying to take the seriousness out of the situation. I had no idea why I fainted.

 

“Nope. I used to drink like you did,” Anissa admitted.

I looked at her confused. There was no way Anissa got drunk. I couldn’t picture her taking a single drink.

 

She noted my confusion and continued. “I fell off a little last semester but I had to remember why I stopped. My first semester of college, I went to school in Alabama and I was kind of like you. I liked the party and I liked the attention. One night, I got drunk and when I came to, my whole body was sore, especially between my legs. I knew I had sex with someone but I had no idea who. I later found out it was more than one guy. I went to the health center even though I was embarrassed and afraid of what the tests would say. I got the morning after pill and got tested for STDs. I tested positive for Gonorrhea. My whole world stopped. The nurse asked for a list of my sexual partners but I couldn’t tell her. Because I had no idea who to say I slept with.

 

“I couldn’t believe I risked my life trying to have fun. When I see you and Lia…I see myself. I don’t want you to go through what I did. My roommates gave me hell. Guys called me names. I was blasted on social media. I became depressed. Suicidal. I had to drop out of school because I couldn’t handle it. I was too drunk to consent but the guys saw some easy sex. I was the school slut and the guys were almost congratulated. After I got myself together, I came to Albany to start over.”

 

I listened to Anissa’s story and I know I was lucky I haven’t contracted anything. It’s not that I was doing anything different. I was just as reckless as my roommates.

 

“Why did you drink so much?” I asked quietly.

 

“In high school I was quiet and nerdy. When I came to college, I wanted to reinvent myself and for some reason, that is who I picked to be. Attention is one hell of a drug. Why do you do this? The real answer?”

 

I sighed heavily. “It’s the only time I feel normal. When I’m sober, my thoughts are everywhere and I can’t handle it. When I’m drunk and high, my mama treats me like I’m her daughter and not her sister, my daddy doesn’t show his love by sending me money and I am a parent to my son. Men notice my intelligence before they notice my body. When I’m sober, my life is fucked up.”

 

“You know you’re only masking your pain when you do that. I’m not judging you but in order to fix your issues, you have to face them. Ignoring them only makes them fester.”

 

I shook my head and wiped my tears. I didn’t want to cry but hearing the truth about my life was hard. Anissa hugged me and told me I needed to go see the therapist on campus. I told her I would but I knew I wouldn’t.

 

“Sooo…why do you think you fainted?” she asked getting back to the start of this conversation.

 

I shrugged my shoulders. Anissa got up and went to her room. She threw a box at me. “Go pee on the stick.”

 

I looked at her like she was crazy because there was no way I was pregnant. But…

 

I hadn’t had my period since before DJ came and stayed with me in the hotel. When I stayed with Tiffany, I didn't sleep with anyone. But we used protection, right? I refused to go take the test because I wasn’t prepared to deal with the reality that I may be carrying DJ’s kid.

 

Reluctantly, I went to the bathroom and took the test. I went to my room and laid down the bed. A minute later, Anissa came in my room holding the test. The look on her face told me what I needed to know.

 

How much worse could my life get?

 

Part IV

 

Nita

 

My life was finally getting back to normal after my car accident. I was glad because I was tired of having to depend on other people to do things for me. Ervan has been great during my recovery and I was grateful to have him here.

The only thing that wasn’t the same was my relationship with my daughter. I couldn’t believe she was still upset with me. She would talk to me but she was nonchalant and dry. When I asked when she was coming home, she always declined to come telling me that this semester was very demanding. She didn't even come home for the holidays choosing to spend that time with her roommate's family.

 

I told Ervan to reach out to her and let her know she could come back but he refused initially. He finally apologized to her, even though I know he didn’t mean it. Alexis still refused to come home. Her ass could be so stubborn sometimes but she’d come around soon. She'd have to come home for the summer...she couldn't run forever. 

 

******

 

I was packing King up for his spring break trip with his dad. Nick was an awesome father and King was blessed to have a father that went above and beyond for his son. Not too many kids could say that even from South Carolina, their dad was still heavily involved.

 

With King gone for the week, Ervan and I decided to take a trip to Savannah for a few days. We left on Saturday and Nick met us there to get him. For the next few days, Ervan and I enjoyed the city, the food and the sites. I hadn’t been to Savannah in a while and I forgot how beautiful the city was.

 

On Wednesday night, Ervan and I were eating dinner on River Street. Ervan knew I loved seafood and made sure I was happy. Ervan and I were talking and I was really enjoying his company. It times like this that Ervan’s money didn’t matter to me; being with him was all that I needed.

 

I’ve been called a gold digger but it wasn’t like I needed  a man’s money; money just brought security. I’ve dated men that couldn’t do a damn thing for me but stress me out and I got tired of that. I set my standards and I refused to settle. Ervan knew what I expected so we had no issues. 

 

After dinner, we took a stroll on River Street and it had been a long time since I enjoyed something so simple. We were walking hand in hand in silence. This didn’t need words.

 

A few moments later, Ervan broke the silence. “I love you, Nita.”

 

I beamed with pride because I believed he did. The way he took care of me after my accident was enough to prove that he really did love me. “I love you, too.”

 

“I mean it. After my divorce, I swore off love and relationships but when I met you, all that went out the window. You're spoiled as hell but I don’t mind spoiling a woman that handles her business. You deserve it, babe.”

 

By now, if I smiled any harder, my face might just break. I wasn’t the emotional type but Ervan’s words really touched me. “Thank you, baby. I really appreciate everything you do for me.”

 

Ervan stopped walking and pulled me into his arms kissing me deeply. Before we got too carried away, he pulled back and reached into his jacket pocket. I really didn’t realize what was happening until Ervan opened a ring box and presented me with what looked like an engagement ring. It couldn't have been more than a karat.

 

“Will you marry me, Nita?”

 

“Of course, Ervan!” I gushed with all the excitement I could muster. This ring wasn’t my style. It wasn’t enough carats. Ervan didn’t get down on one knee. He didn’t get a photographer to capture the moment. Ervan knew me better than this.  

 

He placed the ring on my finger and I smiled, praying he didn’t notice my disappointment. He grabbed me again and hugged me tight. Meanwhile, I was trying my best to figure out how I could let him know I didn’t like this ring. I was jolted out of my thoughts by my cell phone ringing. I was relieved to have this distraction but I was perplexed to see Alexis’ roommate calling me.

 

“Hello?” I answered uneasily. I knew something had to be wrong.

 

“Hey, Ms. Nita. It’s Lia, Alexis’ roommate. Umm…you need to come to the hospital.”

 

My heart dropped. “Why? What’s wrong with Lex? What happened?”

 

Lia paused before she responded. “I can’t tell you. She swore me to secrecy but…you need to come. It’s important. She’s ok but…just…she asked you to come.”

 

I wasn’t too thrilled with the vagueness she was giving me. “Just tell me what’s wrong with her. I don’t have time to play games!”

 

“I’m-I’m-I’m sorry Ms. Nita. She begged me not to tell you over the phone. I’m sorry.”

 

Lia hung up before I could curse her ass out. I called Lex but her phone went straight to voicemail.

 

“What now?” Ervan asked clearly irritated.

 

“Lex is in the hospital but her roommate won’t tell me why.”

Ervan’s jaw went slack and he dropped his head. “I guess we’re heading to Albany. Heaven forbid this girl doesn’t have some damn drama in her life. I don’t think she’d know what to do with a normal life.”

 

“Ervan, don’t start.”

 

Ervan opened his mouth but my cell phone rang again. This time, it was Alex. “Nita, what the hell is going on with Lex? Her roommate called me giving me bits and pieces of a story.”

 

“I have no idea, Alex. She called me too. I’m in Savannah so I’ll be there in a few hours,” I told him.

 

“I was actually in town visiting my mama. I’m heading down there.” He hung up and Ervan rolled his eyes at me. I knew he was mad we had to cut our trip short.

 

Ervan and I went back to the hotel to check out and get on the road. I had no idea what Alexis had going on but I was a little relieved because I didn’t have to think about the Ervan’s lackluster proposal.

 

Hours later, we made it to Phoebe Putney Hospital. Visiting hours were over but I told them my daughter was here and I needed to see what was going on with her. I was surprised she was in a room. Lex was sitting in a bed and she looked terrible. Her roommate was sitting on the sofa pretending to be engaged in her phone. Alex was already there and he looked stoic.

 

“What was so wrong that I had to cut my trip short, Lex?”

Lex didn’t say anything and looked everywhere except for at me.

 

“It is too early in the got damn morning to be playing these damn games girl! What the hell is wrong with you?” I snapped.

 

“Tell her, Lex,” Alex encouraged.

 

“I had a baby,” she whispered.

 

“WHAT? WHAT THE HELL DID YOU JUST SAY?” I yelled.

Lex started crying and her roommate handed her some tissue. Ervan walked out the room. I’m sure he went out there to laugh at my daughter’s ill fortune.

 

“Lex how the hell did you have a baby? Why didn’t I know you were pregnant? Who is the daddy? Why the hell would you do this? How could you be so stupid?” I fired off question after question without giving her time to answer any of them.

“Nita, calm down. This isn’t helping right now,” Alex said.

 

“Fuck you, Alex! You knew about this?”

 

“How would I know when I called you to ask you about it?”

I really didn’t appreciate Alex’s tone so I chose to ignore him and focus on my daughter. “What are we going to do with this baby? And who is the daddy?”

 

“I know one thing. This kid isn’t coming home with us,” Ervan announced. I didn’t even know he came back in the room.

“We’re already taking care of one of her kids. We are not her get out of jail free card every time she fucks up.”

 

Apparently Alex didn’t take too kindly to what Ervan said. “Hey, man. This doesn’t concern you.”

 

Ervan laughed. “The hell it doesn’t! I’ve seen your daughter more in the last year than you have her whole life. And King has to get to know you all over again when you do take the time out of your busy schedule to see your daughter and grandson.”

 

“Ervan, don’t start! Why do you have to say shit like that? We have to figure out what we’re going to do with this baby,” I exclaimed.

 

“Nita, you got another thing coming if you think we’re going to bail her out again. She needs to learn how to stand on her own two feet. Ya’ll baby her too much and she never learns from her mistakes.”

 

Alex stood up and walked towards Ervan. “I don’t know where you get off trying to tell me how to raise my daughter! I take care of her!”

 

“STOP! ALL OF YOU SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Lex yelled. We all looked at her like she was crazy. She got out of the bed and started pacing. A nurse poked her head in to see what all the commotion was.

 

“I’m tired! I’m tired of all of you! Daddy, you don’t take care of me! When was the last time you called to check on me? When was the last time you asked me how I was doing? When was the last time you told me you loved me?”

 

Alex looked at his daughter stunned. I smirked as he stumbled over trying to answer her. “Lex, I-I I do what I can! I give you anything you ask for!”

 

“BULLSHIT! I didn’t ask for a car! I didn’t ask for these clothes, the money, any of that shit you buy me. The both of ya’ll act like I’m so kind of baby doll you can dress up or something!”

 

I looked at Lex because I know she wasn’t putting me in the same category with her daddy. I’ve always been there for her. “I don’t treat you like that! If anything, you should be happy you have a mother that understands you and that we have the kind of relationship that we have.”

 

I really couldn’t believe how ungrateful she was acting right now.

 

Lex stopped pacing and gave me a piercing stare. “The kind of relationship we have? Are you that fucking stupid? I HATE YOU!”

 

My breath got caught in my chest and unexpected tears welled up in my eyes. “What? How can you hate me? After everything that I’ve-“

 

“I get caught with weed in the car and what do you do? Buy me hair. I almost get charged with a DUI and what do you do? Tell the officer you will make him a peach cobbler. You’re so wrapped up in yourself that you don’t listen. YOU THREW ME OUT OF THE HOUSE FOR YOUR DAMN BOYFRIEND!”

 

Lex was crying but she wouldn’t stop walking around. Her roommate tried to touch her and she snatched away from her. “I had a damn baby at 15 and what did ya’ll do? Not a damn thing! You’re more upset now then you were then! Mama you knew I was having sex and you did nothing. You didn’t talk to me about it. You didn’t prepare me for being a parent and now…now my own son doesn’t fucking know me! Do you know how fucked up that is?”

 

“Lex, calm down and stop being so dramatic! I wanted to make sure you finished school. I was only trying to help.”

 

“Yeah, Lex,” Alex chimed in. “We were just doing what was best for you.”

 

“So what’s best for me is my son thinking his grandma is his mama? You didn’t let me do anything with him. My own kid doesn’t know me!”

 

Alex and I stood quietly listening to our daughter tell us we are terrible parents. Hearing my daughter admit how she felt was like a blow to the stomach. I was almost having trouble breathing.

 

“Alexis, baby. Just calm down, ok?” Ervan said calmly. “Let’s just calm down.”

 

“It’s too late, Ervan,” Lex said. “They need to know how much they fucked me up! I drink and smoke to stop myself from hurting. My life is so messed up and you two think that buying me shit will make it all better. Well guess what? It hasn’t helped me yet! I didn’t need money, cars, clothes and that other bullshit you guys bought me. I needed my parents to be adults and parent me! Punish me when I fuck up. Talk to me about life, love, relationships. Let me be a mother to my son. But no. You two threw money at my problems and I didn’t’ do anything but smoke and drink that up. I’m tired of pretending. I’m tired of putting on a mask to be normal for you.”

 

Lia finally got Lex to stop walking around and was almost successful in getting her in the bed. It seemed she tired herself out. It was then I noticed two nurses and the security guard standing at the door.

 

“Alexis,” I began. “Ok. You hate your parents. A lot of teenagers do. But why would you even do this to yourself? Why didn’t you have an abortion? I hope this baby’s daddy has money to take care of this kid.”

 

Everyone in the room looked at me like I said something wrong but I looked at my daughter waiting for answers.

She sat there for a second staring at me. I raised my eye brows at her because I know she didn’t think I was going to back down. Suddenly, Lex hopped out the bed and charging towards me. I didn’t realized what was happening until I felt her hands on me. I was too stunned to do anything.

 

The security guards had to pull her off of me with Alex and Ervan’s help. Her friend was standing in the corner, not knowing what to do. Lex was screaming and crying for them to let her go.

 

“I HATE YOU! I NEVER WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN! I HATE YOU! I WANT MY BABY TO KNOW ME! YOU TOOK THAT AWAY FROM ME! I HATE YOU!” she wailed.

 

I stood there looking at my daughter. She looked and sounded like she was crazy. She was screaming and kicking with a strength only real pain could provide. They could barely hold her but I needed them to make sure she couldn't get to me again. Nurses ran in the room, brushing past me, going to sedate my daughter.

 

As the medication started to take effect, Lex began to calm down. But before she went completely out, she kept repeating “nobody loves me. Why doesn’t anyone love me?”

 

Alexis

 

I was lying in the hospital bed finally waking up from the sedation I was given. I flipped out on my parents and I tried to fight my mama. It was bad.

 

I finally had enough. For years, pretty much my entire life, I’ve kept everything in, pretending I was ok. I didn’t talk to my parents about how I felt. They just assumed the stuff they bought me was enough to make me forget they weren’t there for me the way I needed them to be.

 

My baby and I were supposed to be discharged today but I had nowhere to go. Plus, after my episode yesterday, I was sure they wouldn’t let me take my baby with me. I was staring at the wall trying not to cry when someone came in my room.

 

“Aye, ma. How you feeling?”

 

I rolled over and was surprised to see DJ here. “Who called you? How did you know I was here?”

 

“Is it true?” he asked, ignoring me and answering my question with a question.

 

I rolled back over because he was the last person I wanted to see. I was going to have to check Lia because I told her not to call him.

 

“Yo, Lex. This shit is serious. I know things went down real ugly between us but don’t do me like this. Is this my baby or not?”

 

“Yes,” I whispered.

 

DJ hung his head and inhaled sharply. “Why didn’t you tell me, Alexis? Why would you deny me the right to see my kid being born?”

 

He sound hurt. His sincerity warmed my heart but then gave me a pang of jealousy. Why didn’t my daddy feel like that about me?

 

“What did we have?” he asked.

 

“A boy. I named him Nasir Talik.”

 

“Nasir,” DJ smiled when he repeated the name. “Can I see him?”

 

“He’s down in the nursery.”

 

DJ started to walk out of the room but he stopped and came to the bed. “Thank you, Alexis.” He leaned down and kissed me on my forehead. Then he left to go to the nursery.

 

In this instance, I know DJ would be an amazing father and I regretted not letting him know this was his son. At the same time, I was scared to death.

 

Emotionally and mentally, I was fucked up. I could admit that. I was afraid to mess up another child. I’ve already done enough damage to King. When I found out I was pregnant, I was a little excited. I was determined to take care of this baby but how unfair would that be to King? What kind of mother would I be if I kept one kid but not the other? My children could grow up with all kinds of issues. Just like their mother.

 

Immediately, I got out of the bed and started putting my clothes on. My logic was fading fast because there was no way I could do this. DJ seemed like he was going to be there for our son but…I couldn’t do it. I was terrified. Without thinking or giving myself time to change my mind, I left the hospital. My kids and everyone else would be better off without me.

 

Part V

 

Nita

 

Leaving the hospital, I couldn’t wrap my head around what just happened. Even though the few of Alexis’ blows that connected with my face hurt, it didn’t hurt as much as what she said. When Ervan and I finally made it home, I went straight to bed. But I couldn’t sleep. I just kept hearing Alexis’ query as to why no one loved her. Because I loved my daughter. I didn’t understand why she didn’t know that.

 

When I got pregnant at 16,  my parents were pissed. My mama went on and on about how hard it was going to be but I didn’t listen to her. I should have. Trying to go to school and take care of Alexis was hard as hell. I graduated high school by the grace of God because I struggled big time. Even after I graduated, taking care of her was hard. I had to rely on food stamps, Medicaid and section 8 housing to make ends meet. After I grew tired of working at fast food restaurants, I decided to go to school for medical coding. Lex was in school by then but juggling work, school and her was draining.

 

By this time, Alex moved on and I regretted the fact that I didn’t go with him. My life was hard for no reason. He took care of Lex, or at least I thought he did. Alex came to his daughter’s graduation but other than that, he didn’t do much else other than buy her stuff. I assumed I was doing better than him because I was here. But that didn’t matter to her either.

 

Trying to wrap my head around the fact that my daughter hated me was hard. This was probably the hardest thing a parent could ever hear, especially when I thought I was doing everything right. I did what I did for Lex because I didn’t want her to struggle like I did. I took care of King because I wanted my daughter to have more options and not have to study for a test while nursing a baby. Lex only saw her grandparents on occasion. I didn’t want that for my grandbaby. Either of them.

 

Now we had to figure out what to do about this other baby. In all the hoopla, I didn’t even know what she had. I hopped out of bed, took a shower and headed to the hospital. Ervan said we wouldn’t take care of another one of Alexis’ mistakes but I planned on doing just that. If he left, then so be it. Alexis was in no position to do this alone. We had to make a plan on how to get her through this. She didn't have too much longer in this semester left in. After that we had to come up with something.

 

I walked into Alexis room to find some boy holding a baby.

“Where is Alexis? And who are you?”

 

“I’m Nasir’s father. I have no idea where Alexis is. I went to go see him in the nursery and when I came back, she was gone. Who are you?”

 

“I’m Alexis’ mother. I need you to put him down until I can make sure you are who you say you are,” I ordered.

 

“No disrespect ma’am but he’s my kid and my responsibility since Alexis up and left him. My sister is on the way down here to get him until I finish this semester out. Then, I’m going to get him and try to convince Alexis to be in his life as well.”

 

I stared at this young man who didn’t look much older than Lex. He sounded sincere. I could tell he’d never held a baby before but he was holding him like he was trying to protect him.  “Well where have you been. Why weren’t you here when she had him? Or during her pregnancy? You’re a kid yourself, why didn’t you tell her to get an abortion cause neither one of you can take care of a baby.”

 

“She didn’t tell me. I saw her over the summer when you made her leave your house and we got mad. We haven’t spoken since then. And as far as abortion, if I would have known since day one, I never would have asked her to get rid of my kid. I have to admit I wasn’t trying to make a life but I’ll be damned if I ended his because we were irresponsible.”

 

The way he spoke about his son and even my daughter let me know he cared about her. But Alexis would do nothing but push him away. “Ok. I know you want your son but like you said, you’re in college. I’m going to take him and when you’re done with this semester, we will see what’s best for…what’s his name again?”

 

The young man looked at me with raised eyebrows. “I don’t know how I feel about that. I know there are three sides to a story but from what Alexis told me, you took her other kid. That’s not going to happen to mine. As soon as the lady comes back in here, I’m signing the birth certificate and his name will be Nasir Talik Brooks.”

 

I was getting really irritated with the way he was talking to me. Lex must really like him if she’s told him about King. And about me. Before I could give him a piece of my mind, a woman and a nurse walked in.

 

“Hi, my name is Ms. Larkins with the Department of Family and Children’s Services. I understand the mother has left the hospital?” the lady said while pulling out a notepad.

The young man shook his head yes.

 

“And what is your relation to the baby?” Ms. Larkins inquired.

 

“I’m his father. My name is DJ. Sorry, David Brooks.”

 

Oh so this is the DJ that Alexis told me she wasn’t that cool with. Since when did not being cool result in having a whole baby? “And I’m his grandmother, Anita Carson. What’s going to happen since my daughter left him here?”

 

Without even looking up from her pad she explained that hospitals are a safe haven so Alexis wouldn’t be charged with abandonment. “So is the baby going home with you Ms. Carson?”

 

I answered yes and DJ answered no. Ms. Larkins looked at us as if we just made her job harder. I decided to help her out. “He’s in college and in no position to take this baby anywhere. So logically, he needs to come home with me.”

 

“But my sister is on her way down here to get him. She’s going to keep him until I get finished with this semester then I can take care of him.”

 

Ms. Larkins looked at both of us. “Mr. Brooks I commend you for wanting to be a true father to this little guy but since you have not gone through the legitimization process, I cannot allow the baby to go with you or anyone in your family. Legally, the grandmother is clear to get him.”

 

A smile began to creep up on my face because this little boy thought he was walking out of here with my grandson. But  the look on his face, the anguish that took the light out of his eyes, made me feel like crap for secretly gloating.

 

“I-I just want to be with my son. To know he’s going to be taken care of. What do I have to do?” he asked Ms. Larkins. The pleading in his voice was enough to break my heart and I decided to change my tune.

 

“Don’t worry, DJ. I’m not going to keep him from you or your family. I will have him for now. You can call me every day, come see him, whatever you need to do to make sure he’s ok. I promise that after this semester, we can talk about what’s going to happen. I’m not saying you can’t get him but I am saying that it has to make sense for him to go with you. Having a job, a place to stay, means to care for him, support. Me, you and your sister can talk about everything.”

 

DJ still looked worried but he seemed a little more at ease. It was in this moment I realized this is all I had to do with Alexis. Even though she was 15 when she had King, all I had to do was be a support to her and not take over his care altogether.

 

Ms. Larkins continued explaining the legitimization process to DJ and just by the questions he asked let me know this was serious to him; he was determined to be a father to his son.

 

After about 30 minutes, we were ready to go and I told DJ to follow me to Wal-Mart so we could get some things Nasir needed. He also insisted that he come to the house. I know he wanted to spend time with his son but he was probably also hoping Lex was there.

 

Alexis

 

My life was in a mess and it was hard for me to deal with it. Leaving my baby at the hospital was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. His small little body, his helpless little cries. It’s been close to a month and I missed him. But I couldn’t be a mother to Nasir if I wasn’t going to be a mother to King. And I had no idea how to be a mother to two kids. Or a mother period.

 

Thinking about my kids, the breakdown I had at the hospital and the overall shitty state my life was in was driving me crazy. So I did the only thing I knew to do: get high and drunk. There were times I had no idea where I was or how I got there, I was so fucked up. No one knew where I was, other than being in Albany. I took cash out of the ATM to pay for stuff so my mama wouldn’t check my account and know where I was. Everyone called and texted me but I put my phone on do not disturb and I deleted all my social media accounts. My life was too messed up. I couldn’t face anyone.

 

I couldn't go back to the dorms because I couldn't deal with Lia and Anissa right now. I was staying at some hole in the wall hotel that was close to a liquor store. I’d watch the liquor store for a young chick going in and ask her to buy me a bottle of Hennessy every few days. I was thinking about my kids today and it made my heart hurt. I couldn’t wait for a female to come to the liquor store and I stopped a man and he bought me the bottle. Of course, he tried to talk to me but I politely blew him off. He was a little persistent and I had to chump his old ass off. I got back to my room and immediately started in on my bottle. The taste was awful but drinking it straight got me drunk quicker. I took a few shots and then rolled a blunt.

 

I was on my way to the numbness I needed when there was knock on my door. I wasn’t expecting anyone so I looked through the peephole. I didn’t see anyone so I cracked the door thinking someone knocked on the wrong door. Suddenly, the man that bought me the liquor burst in. Startled, I stumbled back.

 

“I told you I just wanted to talk to you. I hate a stuck up bitch that needs a man for something but then acts like she’s too good for a simple conversation,” he bellowed. He was getting closer to me and I was against a wall; I had nowhere else to go. Panic hit me and I froze.

 

“I-I-I have money. Just take it and go!” I whispered.

 

“I don’t want your damn money!” He reached for me and I finally found my logic. I screamed and kicked wildly. I connected with his stomach which disabled him long enough for me to try to get out of the room. I reached the door and opened it, but the man grabbed me and pulled me back.

 

Thankfully, the hotel manager was going to another room and heard my cries. He came in the room and yelled at the man to stop. The man let me go and ran past the manager. I was sitting on the bed shaking and crying.

 

“Miss are you ok? Do you need me to call the police? Do you need to go to the hospital?”

 

I shook my head and cried harder. He told me he was going to call the police to report it just to cover himself. He looked around my room and saw the alcohol and I know he smelled the weed. He hung up the phone, probably figuring he’d get blamed in some way.

 

“You can stay here tonight but you have to leave tomorrow. I don’t need these kinds of problems here,” he informed me and walked out.

 

I was fooling myself if I thought I could handle the mess that is my life. I went through my phone and with trembling hands, I called Lia. She answered screaming my name.

 

“Lex! Oh my God! Where have you been? Where are you?”

 

“Lia,” I sniffed. “Can you come get me? Please?”

 

“Of course! Where are you?”

 

I gave her the address and room number and she told me she’d be there in 15 minutes. We hung up and I packed up the room. As promised, Lia was there in 15 minutes. When I opened the door, I practically fell into her arms crying. She held me and let me cry.

 

“It’s ok, baby. Come on, let’s go.”

 

I pulled myself off her and wiped my eyes. She grabbed my bag and we walked outside. I paused when I noticed she was putting my bag in DJ’s car. I froze, unable to face him.

 

“Lia, no. I can’t talk to him,” I begged.

 

“Lex, you have to talk to him. He’s been worried sick about you. He’s called me every day asking if I’ve heard from you. You guys really need to talk.”

 

I knew she was right but I wasn’t ready to face him. She told me to ride with him and she would follow us in my car. Reluctantly, I got in DJ’s car. Being this close to him made me uncomfortable. We drove in silence all the way back to campus. I couldn’t even look at him.

 

He and Lia parked beside each other and we all got out. Before we made it in our dorm, DJ handed me my bag.

“Alexis, I’m not going to bother you right now, but we need to talk. Let me know when you’re up for it.”

 

I looked at him but quickly averted my gaze. I had no intention of talking to him today or any other day.

 

Lia looked at me and him and sighed heavily. “No, DJ, you’re going to come up and talk to her now. She can’t avoid you.” I gave Lia an ugly look wondering what gave her the right to make this decision for me.

 

DJ sat down in our common area while Lia pushed me to go take a shower. I peeled off my clothes and stepped into the hot shower. I washed off the day but this shower did not give me that feeling I usually get. I still felt lost. I got out of the shower and got dressed. DJ followed me to my dorm room and closed the door. I crawled up on my bed and he stood by the door. I tried to prepare my mind for this lecture.

 

“How are you feeling?” he asked gingerly.

 

I was surprised with how calm and concerned he sounded. “I feel like shit.”

 

“You have a right to feel like that, ma,” he replied. "You don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to, but just listen. I was pissed at you for leaving Nasir at the hospital and disappearing. My plan was to get him legitimated, get him from your mom and move so that you could never see him again.”

 

I winced at his words but I knew I deserved this, if not more.

 

“But,” he continued. “I talked to Lia and she told me what happened when your parents came to the hospital. And I’ve been talking to your mama and she explained things as well. You’re dealing with a lot and you tried to cope with it the best way you knew how. I’m not saying your reasons are valid or you deserve a pass but I understand why you did what you did. Now I just need to know what you plan to do now.”

 

I was embarrassed he knew about my hospital incident. I was embarrassed he knew about my insecurities. I was embarrassed he knew that I struggled with just being a normal person. “I don’t know. I don’t think there’s anything I can do. I’ve fucked up my life beyond repair.”

 

“No you haven’t, ma. It’s not too late to fix any of this. But you don’t have to do it alone. There are people that are here for you. We’re here for you, let us help you.”

 

“Why are you doing this, DJ? Why are you still here? I’m not worth any of this!” I cried.

 

He moved closer to the bed and sat down. “I’ve asked myself why I’m still here and the obvious answer is Nasir. This little guy has changed my whole life and if you let him, he can change yours for the better. I've been feeling you for a while. I know you feel something for me, too but we were too stubborn to tell each other. But now that we have Nasir, I don’t want to give up on you. Even if you decide you want nothing else to do with me, I need you to be ok for our son. Well both of your boys. But more importantly for yourself.”

 

“I don’t know what to do! I don’t know how to stop hurting. I don’t know how to be better!” I was crying hard now.

 

“You don’t have to figure it out today or next week or even this year. All I’m saying is you don’t have to figure it out alone. Lia is here. Your mama is here. I’m here if you want me to be.”

 

DJ moved closer to me and pulled me into his arms. He held me while I cried out all the hurt I’ve been carrying. As he held me and promised me it would be ok, I felt secure. I had no idea how I was going to make it. I had no idea how I was going to change my life for the better. I had no idea if I was going to be ok. But just being in DJ’s arms gave the confidence to at least try.

 

Epilogue

One year later…

 

I walked out of the business building at Georgia Southwestern, having finished my last final for the semester. I was taking 18 hours this semester in an effort to finish school faster. I got in my car and headed to pick up Nasir from daycare. Nasir was a good baby but when he started walking he was so busy! King helped a lot with his brother and it was so cute to see my boys playing together. After securing Nasir in my car, I headed to pick up King from school. He hopped in my car and spoke to his smiling brother before telling me about his day.

 

“Ma. I’m going to be the line leader tomorrow. And I got a new AR book,” he exclaimed.

 

“Good job, baby. What did you make on your last AR test?” I asked even though I already knew. I checked parent portal religiously so I could keep up with his grades. He was very smart and his teacher told me that when he’s in second grade he would probably be tested for gifted. I was proud of my son for how well he does in school.

 

But not as proud of him for how he’s made the transition of acknowledging that I am his mother. I guess I need to be proud of both of us.

 

After talking to DJ that night, I checked myself into an inpatient substance abuse facility. Using drugs and alcohol to cope just added another layer of problems to my life. I wasn't necessarily an alcoholic. I didn't crave a drink or even weed. But I used it to stop experiencing the hurt from my life which is just as dangerous as being addicted. Maybe even worse on some levels. I’d ran from them long enough and making the decision to go for treatment was hard for me. But my mama, daddy, Lia, Anissa, DJ and even Ervan was there every step of the way.

 

When I finished the program, I went to therapy to continue to learn how to cope. We even had some family sessions that got really intense. The melt down I had at the hospital uncovered my true feelings and we all had to work through them. It was hard at times, there were a lot of tears but my parents and I were finally acknowledging our faults and working on forgiveness.

 

I’d been harboring a hate for my parents for years and they didn’t really understand why I hated them when they did so much for me financially. Material things don’t mean much to kids when all they want is time and attention. My daddy bought me a car thinking it made up for him not being here. Seeing him being a father to his other kids hurt me in ways I didn’t realize. We’re talking more and I’m trying to get to know my daddy, brother and sister. It’s a slow process but it’s going good.

 

Me and my mama’s relationship was harder. The anger I harbored towards her was tied up in my son. I blamed her for denying me my right to be King’s mother. I understood her reasoning but I felt cheated out of so much of his life. Our sessions were intense and often resulted in us not talking for a day or two to calm down. My therapist encouraged us to have a mother-daughter date at least once a week. At first those dates were strained but over time, we could make it through and have a normal conversation.My mama’s biggest concern was my ability to take care of King and Nasir. But with DJ there, I wasn’t doing this on my own.

 

I finally stopped trying to figure out why DJ was with me. With all the baggage I brought to this relationship, I didn’t get why he wanted me. When I began treatment, I tried to push him away but he refused to leave. When he admitted that he was in love with me, it freaked me out because I had no idea what love was. The love my parents showed me was wrapped up in gifts and money. I didn't know how to love someone or how to allow someone to truly love me. 

 

But now, a year later, he’s defined it for me. And surprisingly, it began with him teaching me to love myself.

 

DJ built me up, he encouraged me, he supported me and he was there in every way. When I felt like talking, he listened. When I didn’t want to talk, he left me alone. When I wanted to drink, he didn’t pretend to understand. He reminded me to call my Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor. He understood my healing was a process but having him here really helped me with my self-esteem and confidence.

 

Ervan let us live in one of his houses rent free but DJ insisted on paying something. He withdrew from Albany State and worked at Wal-Mart, became a referee for the recreation department and volunteered as a football and basketball coach. He didn’t want me to work because he wanted me to graduate. I insisted on working part-time because I didn’t want to have to depend on him and my parents for everything. I got a job at Harvey’s and they were great about working with my school schedule. We planned for him to go back to school when I earned my degree in business management. Working at the recreation department made him rethink his plan of majoring in business and change to education. I encouraged him to go ahead and enroll in school because we had the support of our families.

 

DJ was more than my boyfriend, he was my friend and my partner. The words he spoke to me stuck with me…I didn’t have to do this alone. Every day was a choice to be ok. Every day was an opportunity for me to be better than I was last year. Every day was a reason to be happy with me. I took the mask off and learned to be who I needed to be. My growing pains are molding me to be King and Nasir’s mother, Anita and Alex’s daughter, DJ’s girl, and Lia and Anissa’s friend. But most importantly, I was learning to be the most authentic version of me.

 

 

 

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