Runaway Love part IV




Part IV

I woke the next morning, my eyes fluttering as I tried to remember where I was. I sat up with a start, then the night before came rushing back to me. My head immediately started pounding. To my left, Deck was asleep, facing me. He looked peaceful as he slept like he didn’t have a care in the world. I was sure he didn’t have nearly the amount of baggage I did which is why he could sleep so peacefully.


It wasn’t until I slid out of bed that I realized that Deck and I slept together. He held me while I cried my heart out. He was there for me, in the most intimate way. The thought made me sit back down. I didn’t mean to drop down on the bed with the heaviness that I did. Deck stirred in his sleep, lifting his head to look at me.


“Good morning. What time is it?” he questioned.


I picked up my cell phone that was nearly dead and checked the time. “Umm…about 8:30.”


“Damn.” He got out of the bed and stretched. I wondered how comfortable he was sleeping because he was still fully dressed. “I have to go.”


I tried to hide my disappointment, but I couldn’t. I don’t know what I expected, but last night was something different for me. Yes, I’ve physically slept with someone before, but I barred my soul to Deck last night, and he stayed to see me through it.


“I have uncle duty and I don’t know if you’re going to be here later, but if you are, I want to see you again.”


I nodded my head, unable to speak. I had no plans to go anywhere, but I was not going to leave yet. Because I wanted to see Deck again.


Deck went to the nightstand and jotted his number down on a pad. “Call me later.” Before leaving, Deck pulled me into his arms. His arms around me brought a peace I’d never known. I didn’t know what he did to me last night, but with him gone, I felt alone, empty.


I went to the lobby to get breakfast and coffee. I ate, took a shower then pulled out my laptop with the intention of doing a few hours of work, but my mind was not in it. I couldn’t focus.


I was thinking about my mama.


My daddy and my sister knew my mama was not a topic I was going to discuss. I never talked about her with anyone. The fact that she started a new life, one that didn’t include me, was a tough pill to swallow and she did not deserve any of my thoughts, my time, my words. She was the reason I ran, why I couldn’t be stable, why I would never settle down. I was running to avoid dealing with the hurt my mama inflicted on me.


Without even thinking, I put on my shoes and headed out the door. I Googled the New Life Recovery Addiction Center and took the ten-minute drive to the place that was behind the courthouse. I thought this building was something else at some point, but since I hadn’t lived in Americus in years, I couldn’t remember. It wasn’t until I was inside that I realized my lack of impulse control failed me once again.


I tried to make a run for it, I had one foot out the door when I heard “excuse me, can I help you?”


I didn’t have to turn around to know it was my mama. I hadn’t heard her voice in years, but I knew it was her. I had a war going on in my head. One side of me wanted to run, run away like I always did, the other side of me wanted to finally face her. The war raged for a few moments, and the latter won.

Staring at the woman who abandoned me took my breath away.


She looked like I remembered her before her drug use got bad. Better than the last time I saw her which was about ten years ago. The older I got, the more I felt like I looked like my mama. We weren’t twins, but between her and my daddy, I favored her more. Her hair was loc’d and hanging down her back. She wore no makeup, and I don’t remember her wearing makeup when I was younger. But she wasn’t the frail woman I remember from ten years ago. She had some weight on her, but it was in all the right places.


“You want to come in and…” Her voice trailed off as she realized who I was. “Saige?” My mama gawked at me like I was a ghost or someone famous. She stared so long, I became uncomfortable. “H-H-How are you?”


She ran her hands through her hair, a nervous habit I must have picked up from her.


“Why didn’t you ever come back for me?” I didn’t mean to blurt that out. I intended to answer her question, but I couldn’t waste time on small talk and pleasantries.


My mama sighed, heavily. “You know, I always knew you’d come back around and want answers. I have a million different versions of what I’d say, but now, I’m just drawing a blank.”


We stared at each other, me waiting for her to answer my question. I assumed she was just taking me in. She hadn’t seen me since I was 18, and even then, she was so high, she probably doesn’t remember.


“Addiction is a tricky beast to deal with. I haven’t used in about 8 years, but I will always be in recovery,” she began, still playing in her hair. “But back then, when you were a kid, I didn’t know how to get out of it. I thought I was going to die somewhere with a needle stuck in my arm. But every time I got high, I always woke up, and then it became my mission to get high again. Nothing mattered but that next high. Eating, showering, parenting, none of it was as important as my next fix.


“I was forced into rehab, several times. But the last time was the time it stuck. It was hell, pure unadulterated hell, and I knew if I could get through that, I could get through anything. Except going back to be a parent.”


Her words the air out of the room. It was something I already knew, but it was devasting to hear it out loud. I saw the tears forming in her eyes and I couldn’t cry. I didn’t even feel sorry for her. I was angry.


“When I got out, the first place I went was to your daddy’s. He told me you were in Florida in college. He gave me your number, but I couldn’t call.”


Hearing her say she could have called but didn’t make my knees buckle. I leaned against the door, my thoughts running a mile a minute.


“I couldn’t call because you were doing fine. You were doing fine without me, and I didn’t want to disrupt that. What if I came back in your life, but couldn’t resist the temptation of using again? You were in college, making something of yourself. I just didn’t want to be the reason you didn’t finish or failed.”


My heart softened. I wasn’t over it, by any stretch of the imagination, but hearing her explanation gave me her perspective. And I kind of understood it.


“I think about you every day Saige. Every single day. I know I wasn’t the best mother, I mean I really wasn’t a mother at all for part of your life but look at you. You turned out fine without me.”


“But I didn’t though,” I retorted, speaking for the first time. “I am not fine. Nowhere close to it.” My mama creased her brow, unsure of what I meant. Yes, I looked ok. From my appearance, my aversion to stability was not apparent. My own tears formed in my eyes, and I wiped them away. She didn’t deserve this vulnerability from me. “I have no stability. I am afraid to let anyone love me. Friends, family, men…no one. No one makes it in here.” I pointed to my heart, then wiped my eyes again. “I am afraid of everyone. I am scared to commit to anything. I am scared to trust anyone. I am scared that if I do, they will just up and leave me like you did. If you think that is fine, then I hate to tell you that you are sadly mistaken.”


“Saige,” she exhaled. “I will never pretend that I understood what you went through because, at the time, I was going through something too. I just thought…I thought you were better off without me. It never occurred to me that-“


“It never occurred to you to call me? To check on me? To actually see how I was doing?” I had to work hard to check the tone of my voice, but it was getting harder. “How could you birth me and then not give a damn about me? How?”


I gave up the fight of not crying. It was easier to just let it go and let it out.


I saw the embarrassment, the shame on her face before she dropped her head. She leaned against a table, her hands still playing in her hair. She wouldn’t look up and that was fine by me. “There are a lot of things I could say to you, but it will just be excuses. I don’t have an answer for you, Saige. At the time, I thought it was best that I left you alone. I never wanted to see you hurt, and I see now I still hurt you and that is something I will have to live with for the rest of my life.”


“It’s not that big of a deal,” I snapped, wiping my eyes. “You have other children that can help ease that pain.”


“It doesn’t quite work like that,” she sighed. “My sons, your brothers, they knew me sober, recovered. You didn’t get to experience that mom. And every day it’s a struggle to be their mom, knowing that I failed you. So, I overindulge. Spoil them. Try to make up for not being there for you. And they can be ungrateful at times. We are in a battle ourselves.”


When I found out my mama was married and had two kids, I was livid. I felt like she moved on, like she never had me. Hearing that it was not all peaches and cream gave me some satisfaction. Usually, I would not be excited about someone else’s misfortune, but I felt like she deserved it. I couldn’t pretend I was relieved she was not living happily ever after.


“Listen, I am not going to pressure you, but I am going to give you my number.” She lifted herself off the table and scribbled on a piece of paper and handed it to me. “Call me when you are ready to talk. If it’s never, I understand. But the invitation is open should you want to.”


I contemplated if I should take her number or not. I finally eased off the door and took the paper. I opened the door, glancing back at her to see tears running from her eyes. I felt strange. My emotions vacillated between pity and anger, neither able to dominate my mind.


I walked out of the building, away from the woman who birthed me, but chose not to raise me. I drove in silence, letting my thought wander freely. I didn’t even realize I was at my sister’s apartment until she came outside and knocked on my window. I turned off the ignition and climbed out.


“Saige, what are you doing here?”


I could hear the annoyance in her voice, but that didn’t matter. I pulled my sister into an embrace, and she stiffened. I was not the touchy feely type and she had every reason to be alarmed. “I’m sorry, Anise. For everything. For hurting you. For leaving you. For making things difficult with your-with Carlene. I’m sorry.”


My apology softened her, and she finally wrapped her arms around me. We stood in her driveway, hugging and crying for a long time. It felt good to apologize to her, to get that hurt out of my heart and expel it into the universe. Anise didn’t know where this was coming from, and she probably didn’t care. She just let me hug her, let me apologize, and let me try to make up for everything I heaped on her since I was a teenager.


I finally released my sister and told her I needed to go. She wanted me to stay, but I was tired. All of this emotional release made me need a nap. I promised her I would call her later, but then I remembered I was supposed to see Deck. I’d just text her and let her know I’d spend tomorrow with her.

I got back to my room and dropped down on the bed. I was so tired, emotionally drained. I scrolled on my phone for a few minutes before falling asleep.


When I woke up, it was almost 7 p.m. I didn’t mean to sleep that long. I stretched and thought about my afternoon. I didn’t want to think about my mama, so I found Deck’s number that he left on the nightstand. I punched in his number, and he answered on the second ring.


“Hello?”


“Hey. Hi. It’s Saige.”


“I know your voice. How are you feeling?” he questioned.


“A little tired. Not physically, I just woke up from a six-hour nap. I am drained emotionally.”


“Are you up for going out? Nowhere public. I know a quiet little place we can relax at.”


As tired as I was, I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to spend time with Deck again. Last night, even though it was emotional, was needed. I wondered if he could work his magic on me again. “Sure. Just give me about 30 minutes to get ready.”


“Cool. Just text me when you are ready.”


We hung up and I went to take another shower and put on a green sundress. I didn’t bother with makeup, just some lip gloss, and told Deck I was ready. 30 minutes later, we were turning off Highway 27 into the Meadowwoods neighborhood. He pulled into the driveway of a beautiful, two-story home.


“Whose house is this?” I questioned.


“Mine.”


I cut my eyes at him. There was no way Deck could afford this house in this neighborhood on a cop’s salary. Unless he sold dope on the side. And I told him that which caused him to cackle.


“No, I do not sell dope on the side, woman,” he laughed. “I was just kidding with you. This is my parent’s house, but they are out of town. Come on.”


Instead of going to the front door, we walked around back. The backyard was stunning, like something that could grace the cover of a magazine. There was a beach entry pool in the middle of the yard surrounded by a patio with red lounge chairs and large red and black umbrellas. There were tiki torches strategically placed around the pool, giving the water a soft glow. On the other side of the yard was a fire pit surrounded by Adirondack chairs. Rose bushes and other flowers that I couldn’t name were all around the yard. This place was like a retreat from life.


“Wow, this is amazing! Your parents must be loaded!”


Deck laughed again. “Kind of. Years of working hard and a little lottery money.”


I nodded my head and followed Deck to the pool. He gestured for me to sit in a lounge chair, and he sat on the one next to me. I kicked off my sandals and curled my feet under me. I stared at the water, loving the kaleidoscope of colors from the tiki torches. Deck didn’t recline on the lounge chair like I did. He rested his arms on his legs, his gaze cast at me, not at the water.


We sat in silence for a long time. Words were just not necessary. For a little while at least.


“I went to see my mama today,” I announced, cutting our silence.


I didn’t have to look at him to know his face wore confusion. “How’d that go?”


“It was…it was something.” I laughed sarcastically and played in my hair. I immediately stopped when I remembered this was something she did. “I asked why she never came back for me.”


“And what did she say?”


I exhaled, never looking at Deck, still engrossed in the water. “She said she thought I was better off without her.”


Deck let out a low whistle. “And do you think you are better off without her?”


“In some ways, yes. I haven’t seen her since I was 18, haven’t lived with her since I was 14. By some estimations, I am doing fine. I have a career that I love. A successful business. I have money saved. I do what I want.”


“But in the other ways?”


“I’m broken. Scarred. Traumatized,” I admitted. “She made me feel worthless. She forced me to live with a woman who didn’t want me. And the only reason I stayed there was because my daddy wasn’t going to let me live anywhere else. There was a lot of pain and trauma in living with my daddy.” Deck nodded but didn’t say anything, so I continued. “She told me she overcompensated with her sons, spoiled them and they are ungrateful.”


“And that made you feel…?”


“Honestly?” I asked, looking at him for the first time since we started talking. His eyes were on me, studying me, but not in a negative way, just studying my mannerisms, the things I wasn’t saying. “I was relieved.”


“Whoa. I wasn’t expecting relief.”


I wasn’t even taken back by his words because I understood it was a strange emotion to have. “Me either. I was actually glad she wasn’t living this picture-perfect life.”


“What would it have meant for her life to have been all good?”


“It would have meant that…” I had to think about it for a second. “It would have meant that she just moved on with her life like I never existed. It would have meant that she didn’t suffer like I did, like leaving me was easy for her. Like she never wanted me in the first place.”


I didn’t think about that when she told me that. I knew I felt relieved, but I didn’t know why. Talking it out with Deck gave me perspective and I appreciated that.


“I can understand how that can make you feel relieved. So, what happens now?”


“She gave me her number. Told me to call her when I wanted to talk.”


“And are you going to?”


I shrugged. “I doubt it. I’m almost 30 now. I don’t know if I am interested in a relationship with her at this point.”


Deck nodded, and I wondered what he was thinking. I wondered if he thought I was being stubborn. “Do you think I should call her?”


“I can’t answer that for you, Saige. Only you know if that would be the right decision for you.”


I looked at him again, and again he was studying me. I didn’t feel uncomfortable though. I kind of liked his eyes on me. It felt…I felt like art. Art that he was appreciating.


“I don’t think I want to call. Not now anyway.”


“What about your siblings? Any plans to meet them?”


I shook my head. I didn’t know how old they were, but I also didn’t want a relationship with them right now. “I think I need to do some more soul searching, do some healing. I don’t think I’m up for it.”


“Understood. Last question…your sister’s mom. Any hope for reconciliation?”


I let out a loud breath. “One battle at a time, sir. I barely made it out of this one. I can’t tackle that one yet.”


Deck laughed a little and I loved the way the light played off his skin. He looked almost angelic.


“I have a question for you now.” I sat up and angled my body towards him. “Why are you doing this for me?”


“Doing what? Talking to you?”


“You’re not just talking to me though. You’re asking me questions. Helping me work through my hurt. Last night, you held me, literally held me together when I was breaking down. Why?”


“Come on, Saige, don’t play dumb,” Deck groaned.


“What?” I asked, confused. “How am I playing dumb?”


Deck rubbed his hand across his waves and shook his head. “Please don’t act like you didn’t know I was feeling you way back when.”


I gawked at him, dumbfounded. “Nah. No way. You didn’t.”


“You always gave me the runaround though, talking bout your daddy didn’t let you talk to boys and shit.”


“Wait…you were for real?”


“As a heart attack.”


Deck used to ask to come over, for my number, to go out, and I always told him my daddy wasn’t going for that. It was true, in a way. I could have talked on the phone, but it would have taken an act of Congress to go out with him or for him to come to the house. But I always turned Deck down because I thought he was playing.


“I didn’t know you were for real,” I laughed.


“Yeah whatever,” Deck grinned. “Your daddy didn’t play that, but you went to prom with ol’ boy your junior year, my senior year. You could have told me I wasn’t your type.”


“Jason Waiters,” I recalled. “Worst night of my life.”


My junior prom was something out of a teen movie. He literally left me because I wouldn’t leave to go have sex with him. He ended up leaving with Destiny Myrick and she got pregnant that night. I had never been so glad to avoid something my whole life.


“Would have been the best had you gone with me.”


“Whatever, Deck. You’re just saying that.”


“Nah, I’m for real. I was feeling you real tough. Especially when you wore that green shirt with the black pants. Or that dress. It was red and black. No, pink and black. And you’d put your hair up in that bun. Man…you’d give every girl in school a run for their money those days.”


By now, my mouth had dropped open. “You remember what I was wearing? That was like ten years ago!”


“And I told you I was feeling you, girl.”


I sat back on the chair in disbelief. “Wow.”


“Yeah, so when I saw you in Zaxby’s I was like here’s my chance. Then you bounced like a thief in the night.”


“I apologize for that,” I said quietly.


“No need to apologize,” he replied shaking his head. “I know now you were carrying some heavy shit.”


Deck and I sat in silence again. When I yawned for the second time, he told me he was about to take me back. I had no idea why I was so tired; I slept for hours this afternoon.


Deck helped me up and standing so close to him, I felt so comfortable, so protected, so valued, so appreciated. I didn’t resist when he bent down to kiss me. It was a soft kiss, soft and gentle. At least that’s how it started. When I felt his tongue dart into my mouth, I whimpered and wrapped my arms around his neck. His arms rested on my waist, and I longed for more than this kiss.


“I’ve been wanting to do that since 2010,” Deck moaned.


The way my body reacted to his kiss and his words made me weak. I needed him, all of him, right now. “Let’s go back to my room.”


Deck grabbed my hand and we walked to his car. We made the quick drive down highway 27 to the Hampton Inn. He parked next to my car and before we got out, he pulled my face into his and kissed me again.


“Are you sure you want to do this?” He asked.


I nodded eagerly. If I didn’t need anything else, I needed this.


We exited the car and Deck waited on me to come around to his side. He grabbed my hand and we walked towards the lobby.


“So this is why you jumped up and ran. Blocked me and shit. You were trying to get to this nigga!”


I heard the words, and I knew the voice, but it did not initially register in my brain. I barely had time to process that I was hearing and seeing Tay outside of my hotel room, much less time to realize a gun was pointed at me.


A loud bang pierced the air and I screamed, closing my eyes. I waited for the pain, for the hurt, for the realization that Tay shot me. But that never came.


Instead, I saw Deck dropping to his knees, and then he slumped over.


“NOOOOOOOO! Deck! NO! NO! Help me! Someone, please help me!”


Tay just stood there, looking at Deck bleeding. It seemed the gun was a scare tactic because he looked just as surprised as I did that the gun actually went off. Tay dropped the gun and took off running while I tried to figure out where Deck had been shot. It looked like he was bleeding from his side because his shirt was soaked in blood.


“Deck hold on for me. Hold on please!”


With trembling hands, I tried to find my cell phone, but I couldn’t. I had to run inside the hotel to call 911.


“911 what’s your emergency?”


“Help me! Oh my God help me, please! My friend-he’s been shot!”