Growing Pains-Full Story


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 alo