Runaway love-Part I

Part I

“Earth to Saige. Did you hear me?”


I lifted one finger, pretending to be engrossed in my phone, giving myself more time to consider my words. “Give me a second. I just need to send this email.”


I typed in my notes, faking the importance of finishing this ‘email’, taking much longer than I needed to. Adrian was patient with me, waiting for me to handle my business. I was given more time because our server came to clear our plates, nothing left of our fried catfish, grits, and hush puppy dinner. She refilled our drinks, water for me, sweet tea for him.


I put my phone down and focused on him. He wasn’t immediately attractive, but I didn’t need to be physically attracted to him to be his friend. He was cool, a little on the goofy side, not the funny goofy type, but the nerdy type. But the sex was good. He was trying to mess up our chill vibe though. “Now what did you ask me?”


“I asked if you wanted to go out of town next weekend. Destin. Jacksonville. Savannah. Anywhere.”


There was so much sincerity in his voice. There was so much hope in his brown eyes. I usually had a strict ‘keep it real at all costs’ position in dealing with people because it left no room for assumptions or hope. But Adrian didn’t deserve that. How we even got to this point, I don’t know. I wasn’t going to hurt his feelings with a gut punch. He deserved a kinder approach. A lie.


“I’m not sure. I have a couple of big projects coming up and I don’t want to commit until I know me, and my team can meet deadlines.” I was sure Adrian knew I wasn’t being completely truthful with him, but of course, he wasn’t going to push it.


“Ok cool, no big deal,” he shrugged. “I just wanted to do something nice for you. You deserve it.”


Oh boy, he’s going the ‘you’re a queen and deserve the world’ route, I thought.


“You don’t have to do that. Your friendship is enough for me.” I wasn’t lying about that. Adrian and I have been kicking it for a few months and chilling with him was cool. Conversation was good, he was a great cook, and he scratched that itch between my legs when I needed it. But a weekend getaway was too much like a relationship. And I didn’t do relationships.


“I know I don’t, but I want to.” Adrian looked at me, rather, he looked into me, and I shifted in my seat. The way he looked at me made me uncomfortable. Adrian’s eyes told me this wasn’t just a friendship, and we weren’t just chilling, as I’ve told him a couple of times. He was feeling something else.


“Adrian.” I avoided looking at him because his stare was intense. Instead, I stirred my water with my straw, concentrating on the way the ice cubes swirled and danced in the plastic cup. “You know that-“


“All you want is a friendship, that’s it,” he finished for me, proof he heard me when I said it a million times; he just wasn’t listening. “But when we’re together, I can tell it’s more than that. I can feel it and I know you can feel it, too. You don’t have to be afraid, Saige. Let me in.”


Adrian’s words were heavy, heavier than I was capable of carrying. Once again, I avoided his eyes, this time focusing on the décor of the basic red and white checkerboard tablecloth at this hole-in-the-wall restaurant. I was glad we were in public so this conversation could stay on the surface.


“You know I’m not the relationship type,” I said finally, still refusing to look at him.


Adrian’s eyes never left me. I could feel his gaze on me. He was really working to get inside my head, and I wasn’t going to let him. I had to admit, I may have gone a little too far with him, more quality time than I usually granted. We talked and texted more than I did with other people. We slept together, sex and literally sleeping. I could see how he could want something more.


“Please don’t act like you don’t know I’m feeling you. And don’t pretend you don’t feel the same.”


He spoke calmly but his voice held conviction. He meant what he said, and he was going to try to make me admit I felt the same. I couldn’t lie and say I didn’t care about Adrian, because I did. I could care for someone and not act on it. Or I would just distance myself. More often than not, by moving.


When I didn’t answer, mostly because I was trying to find the gentlest way to let him know we needed to take a few steps back, he continued. “You are absolutely beautiful. You are different. You make me think. You made me want to learn. You make me laugh. Before anything else, I consider you a friend. And that is the foundation for something deeper than what we’re doing.”


On the outside looking in, Adrian and I were complete opposites. Where he had a 9-5, 401K, health insurance, a five-year plan, and shopped at Macy’s, I flew by the seat of my thrift store pants. Always have. The only thing stable in my life was by on-demand graphic design company SaigeSight. Other than that, I was…I didn’t like to be still. If I got bored somewhere, I moved. If I got tired of my hair color, I dyed it. Right now, my natural curls were pink. I had 16 tattoos, most of which I got on a whim. I got my last one, a shooting star that started on my back shoulder and ended right above my left breast when I saw a tattoo shop on my way to the grocery store.


My dad and my sister called me a free spirit; I just felt like people weren’t meant to be tied down to one place. Or one person. Or anything that required a long-term commitment. Like mortgages and marriage.


But Adrian entertained my spontaneity. He wasn’t completely straight-laced, but he liked for his days to be planned. With me, he let himself just take things as they came. He listened to me ramble about my spiritual journey, something I hadn’t fully committed to, but I was enjoying learning about crystals, spiritual baths, and burning and smudging my namesake.


But no matter how much he entertained my quirkiness, for me, that wasn’t enough for me to think about being with him exclusively. “Adrian,” I started, making the mistake of looking at him and he held that same, pensive glare so I quickly averted my eyes. “I’m not interested in a relationship. That’s not my life’s focus. My business is what has my attention right now.”


“It can be your life focus,” Adrian countered. “You are one of the most intelligent women I know; you can walk and chew gum at the same time.”


Had I been a few shades lighter than a deep caramel complexion, my cheeks would have been red with embarrassment. Multi-tasking was a skill I mastered when I went to college; I could grow my business and date exclusively. But other than my degrees and my business, I never fully committed to anything.


“That’s not what I want right now.” I heaved and leaned my head over to play with my hair, something I did almost without even noticing it. “I value our friendship and that’s all I am interested in. I hope you can respect that.”


Adrian opened his mouth twice, but no words came out until he was finally able to ask if I was ready to go.


I nodded my head and stood, telling Adrian I needed to go to the bathroom before we left. I needed a moment to gather myself, hoping he wouldn’t want to continue this conversation in the car. I got my wish because we drove to my apartment in complete silence. I am sure he was thinking of what he could say or do to change my mind while I was thinking of something else entirely.


When Adrian pulled up to my Grove Park studio apartment in southeast Tallahassee, he didn’t turn off his car. I was relieved because I didn’t want to keep talking in circles. We wanted two different things; I don’t know why he was trying to force a relationship when I made it clear I didn’t want that.


“Good night,” I acknowledged while opening the car door. “Thank you for dinner.”


Adrian kept his eyes forward and I wanted to comment on his childishness but decided against it. I got out of the car and walked up the steps to my apartment. Like the gentleman he is, he waited until I was inside before he drove off.


Once inside, I exhaled deeply. I looked around my studio apartment. It was small. Tiny actually. It was an attic the homeowners converted into a small apartment for someone like me, someone who didn’t want or need a huge space, and someone who didn’t want the burden of buying furniture or home wear. I liked it here. My Southwood community appealed to the duality of my moods. When I need to recharge, the green space of Central Park and Lake helped replenish my energy. When I needed to experience connections and people, I was about 15 minutes from restaurants and bars in downtown Tallahassee. Even though I liked the city, liked my apartment, liked this community, it was time to go.


I took a shower and climbed into bed, needing rest for packing up what I came to Tallahassee with into my Honda Pilot.


The next morning, I woke up around 8, checked my emails, delegated tasks to my team. I took another shower, then busied myself with packing up what little I brought here, some clothes, my toiletries, and a couple of books. I moved frequently so I learned not to buy things that couldn’t fit into my truck. It really didn’t take long for me to fit my entire 300 square foot studio apartment into suitcases and totes that I kept in the trunk of my truck. I cleaned up and that didn’t take long because the space was small, and it was just me. I didn’t accumulate a lot of mess.


I sent my landlord a text, lying that my job needed me closer and that I’d be moving out in the next few days. I jumped on this place because it didn’t require a lease, long or short term. I knew Ms. Simon wouldn’t see my text until after I was gone so I made sure to leave my keys and locked the door behind me.


I gassed up and got on the road. I started driving north, and I had no idea where I was going. But when I crossed the Florida-Georgia line, I decided to I’d go to my sister’s place for a few days until I figured out where I was going next. Two and half hours later, I was pulling into my sister’s yard on Wanda Way in Americus. I’ve lived in quite a few places, but coming home was always…it was bittersweet. I loved the quiet, small-town life. The familiarity, the one-way streets, going to Wal-Mart, and seeing everyone you know from your 2nd-grade classmate to your cousin. But…Americus held some dark memories; I never could stay long.


I rang my sister’s doorbell a few times and even though her car was here, it seemed she wasn’t home. Finally, my sister came to the door, wiping her eyes, still in pajamas. It was almost 1 pm and she had a three-year-old…how was she still in the bed?


“Saige…what are you doing here?” my sister asked, stepping aside to let me into her townhouse. Even just waking up at 1 pm, my sister was a beauty. Smooth, chocolate skin, big beautiful brown eyes, and full, pouty lips. She was a little taller than me and more shapely. She always complained she needed to lose weight, but she was a card-carrying member of the thick thigh, phat ass club. And I wish I could join, too. The little curves I did have got me some attention from men, but not like my sister. She always got the second look.


“Good to see you, too,” I chided. “How are you still in the bed? Where’s Kason?”


“With his daddy. I went out last night.”


I went straight to her half bathroom because I had been holding it for a little while and joined my sister on the sofa. Her apartment looked the same as it did a few months ago when I was here. No new pictures. Her furniture was arranged the same way. I bet she even had the same comforter set on her bed. She was such a creature of habit.


“You didn’t tell me you were coming.”


“Last minute decision,” I shrugged.


“Saige.”


“Anise.” I mocked in her serious tone.


She didn’t say anything for a second, just stared at me. “How long are you going to be here?”


“Just a few days.”


“I thought you liked Tallahassee,” she quizzed, tucking her feet under her and turning towards me.

“I do. I did,” I corrected myself. “But it was time to go.”


“So why are you here?”


I cut my eyes at her. “I need a reason to come see my sister? And my nephew?”


Anise popped her lips. “You know you don’t. But you never just pop up just to say hey. What are you running from now? Or who?”


“No one,” I lied, waving her off.


“Hmm mmm,” she smirked, not believing anything I said. “Make sure you tell daddy. I got cussed out last time you were here, and you didn’t tell him.”


I grunted. Going to see my dad wasn’t the problem, it was having to see his wife that rubbed me the wrong way. “I’ll call him so he can come over here. I don’t want to go over there.”


Anise threw her head back on the sofa and groaned. “At what point are you going to let that go?”


“There’s nothing to let go of,” I explained. “She showed me who she was. She laid the groundwork, and I am just matching her energy.”


“It’s been almost 15 years. She apologized,” she countered.


I dismissed her with my hand again just as my cell phone rang. Adrian’s name flashed on my screen. I wasn’t going to answer, but there was no point in avoiding this conversation. “Hello?”


“Good morning. Can I take you to breakfast?”


I rolled my eyes while Anise raised her eyebrow. I turned my volume down because her nosey self could hear him. “I can’t.”


“Listen, about last night. I was just…I do respect what you want. And even though I want more, your friendship is more valuable to me.”


I appreciated a man that could apologize, but I still felt like he was pressuring me. After I told him I didn’t want anything but a friendship, he was still trying to see me. It felt like the opposite of understanding what I wanted. “I told you I can’t.”


“Why not?”


I leaned back on Anise’s sofa, staring at her ceiling. “I’m not in town. I came home. To see my family.”


Anise laughed and got up. She went to the kitchen and once I heard pots rattling, I knew she was about to whip us up some lunch.


“When will you be back?”


“I’m not.” The answer came out of my mouth quickly. There was no point in lying, but since we weren’t physically in front of each other, I was grateful I didn’t have to see his face.


“What do you mean you’re not, Saige?”


“I mean, I’m not coming back to Tallahassee.”


Adrian was quiet on the phone, and I knew his mind was working overtime trying to understand me. “But…”


“Adrian,” I interrupted. “I enjoyed spending time with you. I appreciate your friendship, but it was time for me to go.” His silence continued and I didn’t want to sit there holding the phone. “I’d like it if you didn’t call or text me again. Goodbye.”


I hung up and threw my phone on the sofa.


“Don’t you get tired of that?” Anise asked standing in the pass-through between the kitchen and the living room.


“Get tired of what?”


“Running? Starting over? Packing an apartment into boxes and driving to wherever your car goes?”


“You make it sound like a bad thing. I like being able to get up and go. It’s freeing,” I explained.


“Freeing? You’ve never stayed anywhere for more than a year!” Anise cried. “How long were you in Tallahassee?”


I mentally counted the months in my head. “4 months.”


“And Savannah?”


“Ummm…about a year.”


“Lexington?”


“Almost a month. Don’t remind me about Kentucky,” I laughed, wondering what possessed me to move to Kentucky.


“It’s not funny, Saige,” my sister fussed crossing her arm. She disappeared into the kitchen, so I followed her. I hopped on her counter while she diced onions and sautéed spinach. I saw the eggs out and I figured we were having brunch. Coming home for Anise’s food was always worth it. “You’re almost 30, sis. At some point, you need to settle down.”


“Settle down? Why? I have no reason to settle down!”


“To start a family! Buy a house! Put down roots!”


I groaned. “How many times do we have to have this conversation? That’s not my plan for my life. I am perfectly content having the freedom to move around as I please. I’m exploring, not too afraid to leave my hometown.”


“I’m not afraid. My family is here. My support is here. Kason’s family is here. Why would I pick up and move my son to another city or state when he has all the love and support he has right here?”


“You don’t have to live in the same place to get support from anyone. I support you and Kason wherever I am,” I countered. Anise couldn’t argue with that; I’d been paying her rent for two years since she moved out of her parent’s home.


If anyone was standing here listening to my sister and I talk, they would swear she was the one who was almost 30 and I was 22, recent college grad, and working as a medical coder. Anise was always so by the book, walking the straight and narrow, always consistent. Her son Kason was one deviation from her life plan. She planned to graduate college, become a nurse, and marry her high school sweetheart. After getting pregnant with Kason, she readjusted and was back to her very predictable life.


“I’m just saying, Saige,” she said sautéing the onions and adding the mushrooms. “Everyone isn’t going to leave you. You don’t have to run away every time someone gets too close.”


I took in her words, something she’d said before. And like the times before, they rolled off my back, never sticking in my mind. I hopped off her counter, heading outside. “I’m going to get my stuff.”


Anise said nothing, just continued cooking. Outside, I got my suitcase that contained some clothes, undergarments, and toiletries and my laptop bag. I took my bag upstairs and came back down. I powered on my laptop and checked on the progress of some outstanding projects.


A few years ago, I started SaigeSight, my on-demand graphic design company. I discovered that instead of being a freelance graphic artist, it was much more lucrative to be on-demand. I had a few companies I had monthly contracts with, and we produced unlimited graphics and revisions. Some small, medium, and even some large corporations saw the value in paying a flat monthly rate for their marketing graphics. It saved money annually because we weren’t on their payroll, so they didn’t have to pay benefits. Business was good, better than I anticipated, and I had to hire two other artists to keep up with the demand. Kemari, Thad, and I made a pretty good team, especially for three people who have never met before in real life.


But that was the beauty of SaigeSight. We could work remotely, from anywhere. So long as we could access the Internet, there was no need to hit a time clock in an office. Thad was a night owl; he produced his best work between 2-6 a.m. Kemari’s son was autistic, and the flexibility allowed her to create a schedule and routine for him. And it afforded me the ability to move around as I pleased without being tied to an office. I fully believed new sceneries helped my creativity flow.


Anise brought my omelet and thankfully she let our conversation from earlier go. Instead, she caught me up on all the latest city gossip. I wasn’t the type that moved and forgot where I came from, but since I hadn’t lived here in almost ten years, I was a little removed from what was going on here. Anise and I had a lazy Saturday afternoon, not even having to leave to get dinner. I was so surprised little ol’ Americus had DoorDash. We ordered in, watched movies, and talked for most of the night. Sunday, when my nephew came home, I missed being here. At 3, it seemed Kason grew more and more every time I saw him.


On Monday, I slept in to about 11, and Anise and Kason were gone, her to work and Kason to daycare. I boiled two eggs while I showered. I got my eggs and a couple pieces of toast and powered on my laptop. I put in my Air pods and shuffled my Ari Lennox station on YouTube Music. I had a few revisions to complete before a consultation for a potential small business in North Carolina. I finished up my workday by getting started on a design for an ad for one of my clients in Texas. They needed options for a marketing pitch in a few weeks. Some days I could work like I did today, a couple of hours, and then I was done. Other days, it took me all day, 8-10 hours sitting at my computer working on projects.


After my light day, I needed something to eat before my sister got off and made dinner. I wasn’t much of a cook, because it was hard to cook for one person and I didn’t have the time to devote to slaving over a stove. There weren’t a lot of options here, but I settled on Zaxby’s because it was close.


Since it was after lunch, I decided to eat inside. I liked the quietness and solitude of being able to eat by myself. I could be social if need be, but honestly, being alone was my preference. I remember reading somewhere that if you didn’t enjoy your own company, how could anyone else?


When my number was called, I got my food then went to get my drink. I moved over so that I could put the lid on my drink and out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the guy trying to decide what he wanted at the drink machine. He looked familiar, but because I moved so often, people’s faces tended to run together.


But this guy was handsome. Smooth butterscotch skin, deep, deep jet black waves, and the way his t-shirt fit him, I could tell he frequented the gym regularly.


“Yo! Is that you, Saige?”


I was initially confused because he caught me staring. It took me a second to realize he said my name. “Do I know you?”


“Damn,” he grinned. “I know I’ve gotten a little older, but I ain’t unrecognizable.”


I stared at him, my expression still blank. I couldn’t place him. “Sorry, I don’t know…wait? Deck?”


“In the flesh!” he grinned and my God, his smile was beautiful.


“Deck?” I asked surprised. “It’s been years!” Deck and I went to middle and high school together. He was a year older than me, but that didn’t stop him from asking me to call him and asking to take me out, but I turned him down. I wasn’t his type. I knew the girls he went with, and they could do what they wanted. My dad didn’t play that. That didn’t stop me from thinking he was fine.


“A few too many,” he smiled and even though he aged, it wasn’t a bad look on him. In middle school, he was a pest. In high school, he got fine, teenage fine but today…he was sexy. “You’re back in town?”


“For a little while.”


Deck finished getting his drink. He placed the cup down on the counter and crossed his arms. He stood close to me, towering over me. It was a little intimidating, so I backed up a little.


“Sorry.” He took a few steps back and dropped his arms to his side, sliding his left hand into the pocket of his basketball shorts. “Just a habit from work.”


“Where do you work?”


“I’m a police officer.”


“Cool,” I nodded even though my eyes probably held some shock. I knew him as a teenager, and he stayed in trouble at school. Committing crimes and getting sent to ISS or suspended weren’t the same things, but I could have sworn he had an aversion to obeying rules.


“Surprised?”


“A little. You weren’t exactly a rule-abiding person when we were kids,” I chided.


Deck hung his head and chuckled. His smile really was beautiful. “I’ve grown up.” The way he looked at me made me think there was another meaning to what he said.


There was a lingering silence. It was a little awkward for me on my end. The way he looked at me, his smile, hell just his presence was…it reminded me of the way Adrian looked at me the other day. I cleared my throat and let him know I needed to get back to my lunch.


I was drizzling bleu cheese dressing over my buffalo bleu zalad when he slid in the booth across for me. He opened his bag and took out his food. He bowed his head in a quick prayer and then dove in.


“So, what you doing now?” He dipped a chicken tender into his Zax sauce.


“I was eating and trying to catch up on some work,” I lied.


“Apparently you needed a break if you came out to eat lunch. Where are you living now?”


He was undeterred by my attempts to push him away. It would be rude to tell him to leave me alone and if truth be told, I enjoyed looking at him. What was the harm in chilling with an old classmate that had gotten finer as the years passed?


“Tallahassee,” I lied since I just left my apartment in Tallahassee and hadn’t made any real plans for my next destination.


“Cool, cool. How you like it?”


“I can’t complain. I’m not married to it, but it’s cool,” I admitted. “I see you never left.”


Deck shook his head. “I did. Just moved back about a year ago. I lived in Atlanta for about 8 years.”


“And you moved back here? Why?” I asked incredulously. I couldn’t imagine a situation worth leaving the city of Atlanta for Americus.


“Too much going on here. Too many kids going down the wrong path and I just wanted to try to do my part. Plus, my sister went through a divorce and her ex moved. So, I came to help with her son, my nephew.”


I put my fork down and stared at him. “That’s noble of you.” I really was impressed with his reasoning, both of them.


“Someone has to do something if we’re going to save the city. I gotta keep it safe for my nephew Caleb to grow up.”


Anise told me about the crime, how murders and shootings are much more common now than they used to be. My dad talked about how back in the day no one really got killed here and now, it was almost a regular occurrence.


Deck and I continued our lunch as he told me about some of his ideas, some of the things he wanted to do to help reduce the crime rate, other than being a police officer. I told him I’d do his advertising graphics for free because I was thoroughly impressed with his dedication to our hometown. We talked about everything from work to our high school days to music. Talking to him was easy, refreshing even. Having conversations when there were no strings attached or any expectations of anything beyond just talking was always a plus.


The restaurant started to get a little busy and I realized it was after five and the people who didn’t want to cook were piling in. “Wow. I didn’t mean to stay here so long. I need to get back to my sister’s house.”


“Ok cool. It was good to catch up with you.”


Deck and I cleaned our table, discarded our trash, and headed outside. We said our goodbyes again and I was surprised he didn’t ask for my number. I was even more surprised when he pulled into the driveway next to Anise.


“You following me Saige?” he joked when we both got out of the car.


I grinned. “No. My sister lives here.”


“Wait…your sister is Anise?”


I nodded. “Does she give you any trouble?”


He shook his head. “Nah. Nothing like that. I try to look out for her. Help her out with stuff when I can. She’s cool. And your nephew is…busy.”


“Call a spade a spade, Deck,” I chuckled. “Kason is bad!”


Deck joined me in laughter. “He’s like any other little kids I’ve met. My nephew is 5 and that joker is a handful.”


Anise pulled up and got Kason out of the car. I tried to hug him, but he took off running and I wasn’t about to chase him. He was disappointed I didn’t run after him.


“What’s up Deck. You know him, Saige?” She grabbed two Harvey’s grocery bags out of the back seat.


“You got anything else?” Deck asked her and she shook her head that this was it.


“Yeah, we went to school together. He graduated a year before me,” I informed her.


“Ok, well I’m going to cook. I’ll let you know when it’s ready.” Anise and Kason disappeared into the apartment, leaving me and Deck alone again.


“Were your parent’s chefs or something?” he asked.


I shook my head. Anise and I were 6 years apart so that means we didn’t always run in the same circles or have the same friends. Most people didn’t realize the commonality of our names. “Nope. I think my dad just liked Saige and I guess he wanted her name to be similar. I really couldn’t tell you.” I was a teenager before I realized our names were an herb and a spice. I asked my dad why he named us after seasonings, and he didn’t have an answer other than he liked it. I refused to believe it was unintentional.


Deck and I continued talking until Anise poked her head out to tell me dinner was ready.


“It was good catching up with you,” I said as I headed to the door with Deck behind me.


“Let me take out to dinner before you head back to Tallahassee,” he insisted instead of acknowledging what I said.


I didn’t hesitate to agree to dinner. I agreed…because why not? I had nothing to lose, and I’d be gone soon, so why not enjoy his company while I was here.


In the apartment, I picked up my plate of cube steak, rice, and peas. When Anise was learning to cook, I was rebelling against her mama and refused to learn. Some days I regretted my stubbornness, but I did get the benefit of Anise learning.


“How are you already entertaining someone else? After you just left someone in Florida?” she asked as soon as I sat down on the sofa.


“We just ate lunch at the same place and caught up, sis. Nothing serious about it,” I told her as I cut into cube steak that was covered in an onion and mushroom gravy. “He asked me to dinner tomorrow night.”


“Deck is a cool dude, Saige. He checks up on Kason and me. I just don’t want there to be any fallout.”


I rolled my eyes at my sister. “There won’t be any fallout. I’m just going to dinner, not taking his last name and birthing his babies.”


Anise didn’t believe me, and probably for good reason. I was known to pick up and leave whenever a man, or even a woman who wanted to be a friend, got too close and wanted something other than the occasional hanging out or chill vibe. But he already knew I wouldn’t be here long term, so I wasn’t worried about him trying to make this any more than what it was: classmates catching up.


The next day, I was looking forward to dinner with Deck, so I made it a light workday. Just being able to hang without the expectation of anything serious was always welcomed in my transient world. I checked in with Kemari and Thad and everything we were working on was on track. Around 2:30, there was a knock on the door, and it was too early for it to be Deck. I wasn’t going to open the door because anyone who knew Anise knew she was at work. But when I looked out the peephole, I saw it was my dad.


“Hey daddy,” I greeted when I opened the door. I already knew Anise told him I was here, and he grew impatient waiting on me to come see him. I preferred it just be him anyway, but it was too much like right that he came over here alone. Once the door was open, the passenger side door opened, and Carlene stepped out.


I glared at my dad because he knew I didn’t like being forced into a situation where I had to be around her.


“Hey Saige, how you been baby girl?” My daddy looked pretty good for his age. He wasn’t even old; he’d be 50 in a few months.


“I’m good.”


“Saige! Girl, look at you! I swear every time I see you your hair is a different color!” Carlene said as a greeting.


I rolled my eyes at her judgment of me. She never hid that she found my hair, my tats, my numerous piercings, and my clothes inappropriate. I left the door and went to the sofa, letting my daddy and his wife find their way inside. I powered my laptop back on so I could feign work.


“We just came to see you since you were in town. We’re going out to eat tonight…can you come?”


“I can’t,” I said shaking my head. “I have plans.”


My dad just nodded his head and said nothing, because he knew there was a possibility I wasn’t going. But that didn’t stop him from trying. “I just thought you’d make time for your parents since we haven’t seen you in a few months.”


“She’s not my parent.”


The words rolled off my tongue so quick, I couldn’t stop it if I wanted to. Not that I had any intention of mincing my words. The expression on Carlene’s face showed that I struck that nerve that would keep her away from me for another few months.


Carlene’s eyes filled with tears, and she quickly left the apartment, closing the door softly behind her.


“At some point, you’re going to have to forgive her, Saige. Both of them,” my daddy told me for the millionth time. His eyes were a mixture of hurt and anger, both of which I refused to acknowledge.


“Maybe. But today isn’t the day,” I shrugged.


My daddy got up and headed to the front door. He turned and looked at me for a long time. “Just remember who was there for you and who was not. It’s not fair for you to treat her like that. She loves you, baby girl. I do, too.”


He took his frustration out on Anise’s front door, slamming it unnecessarily hard. The sound of the door slamming, and his words pulled at the guilt I kept buried deep down in my heart. I didn’t want to deal with it, so I jumped up, grabbing my laptop and charger. I went to gather all of my stuff and threw it in my car. I saw Deck’s Tahoe and even though I knew he was home, I backed out of the driveway and got on 49 North, heading where I don’t know. I’d figure it out when I got there like I always did.


If I couldn’t do anything else, I would always make a way. Even if it meant running away from the people who wanted nothing more than to love me.