The Hook Up Part IV
Nahji and Zion arrived at our door at 7:30 on the dot. I opened the door and was met with an eyeful of black deliciousness. Todd’s text retreated to the back of my thoughts as I took in the two gentlemen. Zion looked handsome in his tux, but Nahji was sexy as hell in his formal attire. I loved the pop of red in his red and black bow tie. Without even trying, we were matching again.
I was skeptical about getting this dress at first, but since I was running on such short notice, I didn’t have a lot of options. But this red one shoulder sequence dress looked better on me now that I was all dolled up. It had this drape in the front and a split halfway up my thigh. Just judging from Nahji’s reaction he was digging how the dress hugged my curves.
“Damn, you are beautiful,” he complimented.
“And you look good yourself,” I smiled. “And you were looking in my window again.”
“Or maybe you were looking in mine. I see the way you look at me, Marley,” he teased.
We continued our banter until Indya emerged from her room. I swear Zion's jaw hit the floor. Indya’s black ball gown was a two-piece. The ‘jacket’ was long sleeve and came down into a trained ball gown and covered a sheath mini dress that showed plenty of thigh and plenty of boobs. When she showed me the dress, I was in awe, even when she tried it on for me, it looked good on her. But with her braids pinned up and her makeup on point, Indya looked like a special edition black Barbie doll.
Zion had no words for Indya. He just brushed past me, took her in his arms and kissed her passionately. I could tell it was their first kiss and I had to fan my eyes to keep the tears from falling. If Indya didn’t know it before, I hoped she knew that Zion was damn near in love with her. He didn’t even have to say it…I could see it.
Nahji cleared his throat. “Ummm…maybe we should give them some alone time.”
“I think you are right,” I giggled.
We walked over to the multipurpose room with Nahji holding onto me as I navigated the sidewalk in heels. I really didn’t want to think about what his touch was making me feel. It was really making me re-think meeting with Todd.
Before we stepped into the ballroom, we were given masks and we were whisked inside a space that I could hardly believe was a game room and an open mic a few days ago. Tonight, the space was adorned in black, silver and green. From the backdrop to the table décor, this place looked like it could have catered to black royalty. The Hook Up certainly treated us like we were.
Nahji and I took a seat and fell into our easy conversation. Even while we ate, our conversation never stopped. I thought we would have run out of things to talk about, but we didn’t. The DJ, who had been playing a mixture of both new and old school, decided to slow it down a little bit. The familiar chords of “I’ll make love to you” by Boyz II Men filled the room and Nahji asked if I wanted to dance.
“I uhhhh I can’t dance,” I admitted to Nahji.
“No, I mean I really can’t dance. As in I have no rhythm. As in I’ll make you look like a fool out there.”
He chuckled to himself and pulled me up from my seat. I allowed him to lead me to the dance floor with the other couples that were probably remembering where they were in 1994 when this song came out. I was only 4 when the song was at its peak, but Auntie Tess’ parties had music from the Temptations to Mc Hammer to Boyz II Men. This was one of my favorites by the group.
I’d heard this song a thousand times, knew it backward and forward but dancing with Nahji and really taking in the lyrics made this song take on new meaning. Before the song ended, Nahji pulled back a little and forced me to look up at him. Without hesitation, Nahji captured my mouth with his. Maybe it was because I was feeling him or maybe it was the atmosphere but kissing him felt magical. When the song ended, so did our kiss. I inadvertently whimpered when his lips left mine. I wanted him to kiss me again and again and again.
Nahji and I spent a lot of time on the dance floor, despite my lack of rhythm. We laughed and he tried his best to help me, but I was a lost cause. He found ways to touch me and I loved his hands on me. I remembered the conversation I just had with Indya and even though I was scared to breach the subject, I didn’t want tomorrow to be the last time I saw him. But then, I remembered Todd. I really didn’t know what I needed to do. A few hours ago, I was debating between what I’d known for six years and what could possibly be. Nahji’s kiss just tilted the scale in his favor, and he didn’t even know it. Hell, I didn’t even know if he wanted anything to be in his favor.
When the ball started winding down, Nahji asked if I wanted to take a walk on the beach. I kicked off my shoes and we made the short walk over to the beach. We walked and talked, and it was something about the salty air and the waves crashing on the beach that just made me feel much more at ease. We continued to walk and talk until I got sleepy. Once at my building, he wanted to make sure he saw me before we left. I was hoping his wanting to see me before we headed back to Georgia involved him wanting to see more of me after tomorrow.
“Thank you for making my days enjoyable. I really had a good time with you.”
“I did, too."
Without warning, Nahji kissed me and I started to melt right into the carpet. We kissed like two teenagers trying to get our affection in before having to get on the bus to go home. Laughter coming from the end of the hall made us pull back from each other. As much as I wanted to invite him in, I knew I couldn’t. If I didn’t learn anything from DJ, I needed to chill on who I slept with, especially when I wasn’t sure what was going to happen tomorrow.
“Thank you for a wonderful evening, Mr. Steel. I had a really great time,” I cooed.
“Me too. See you tomorrow at breakfast?”
I nodded and after one more kiss, Nahji let me go into my room.
I took off my dress and ran water into the jacuzzi tub. I looked through the drawers and found a lavender bath bomb. This hot bath and my thoughts of Nahji were the perfect nightcap.
The next morning, Indya and I headed to the going away breakfast. I don’t know why I was surprised by the spread. The Hook up has shown and proved they were all about the extraness. And I was here for all of this extraness: the omelet station, a grits bar, French toast, pancakes and waffles with different topping options, quiche, salmon croquettes, muffins, cereal…anything that anyone wanted was there. Indya and I were devouring our meal and talking about her night when Zion and Nahji came to our table. Her eyes lit up when she saw Zion, but the second I laid eyes on Nahji, I knew something wasn’t right.
“What’s wrong?” I quizzed, foregoing a formal greeting.
“Ummm…can we go somewhere and talk?”
As much as I wanted to finish my breakfast, I needed to find out what was wrong. We walked out the side door and sat outside. I waited patiently for him to start talking. The past two days with Nahji were full of laughter and conversation. There was rarely any awkward silence between us. His silence was making me nervous.
“So what’s wrong?”
He sighed heavily. “I just got an email about a job I put in a bid for. And my company got it.”
He sounded so down that I truly didn’t understand what the issue was. “That’s good news, right?”
Nahji breathed deeply again and avoided looking at me. “Yes. On one hand very good news.”
“And on the other?”
He rubbed his hand down his face. “The job is in Kentucky. It could take nine months to a year to complete.” I was still not following. Noticing my confusion, Nahji continued. “I’ll be in Kentucky during most of that time.”
“As in moving there?”
I never planned on this. Sure I thought about what would happen after today, but I never imagined a scenario where this was an obstacle. I really didn’t know what to say so I just sat in silence. It was just my luck that I meet someone that seemed like a dream and just like that…it wasn’t an option.
“Well, there’s always phone calls, texts, and Facetime,” I replied weakly. The optimism I had about him was dwindling.
He exhaled. “I don’t want to do that to you.”
“Rely on phone calls for a year. Not when I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with you.”
I wanted to push the issue, but he was right. Kentucky was a bit far for a weekend getaway and since he’d be working, I wasn’t sure how much I’d get to see him. The reality that this, whatever this was, was about to be over hit me and I did not take it well.
I stood up abruptly. “I need to get back to my breakfast.”
“Marley, I’m sorry. This isn’t what I planned at all.”
“It’s cool, I mean, you have to work, right?”
Nahji tried to apologize again and I continued to tell him that it was fine. But once he was gone and I was alone, I was anything but fine.
The last week of my life has been one hell of a rollercoaster ride. I spent six years with Todd, holding out for a fantasy life that he was never going to give me. I came to The Hook Up and met DJ. In my loneliness, I slept with him and vowed to do better. But the very next day, I met Nahji and got sucked into his sexiness and his poetry. And the way he treated me. And the conversation. And the way he made me laugh. Now he was leaving, moving to Kentucky for most of the year. I didn’t want to accept that in the span of a week, I’d been dumped by three different men.
When I headed back inside, I saw that Zion and Indya seemed to be in an intense conversation. I decided not to interrupt them. Instead, I made a to-go plate and went back to our room, but I couldn’t eat it. My thoughts were too fixated on the conversation Nahji and I just had. Around 11, Indya returned, and we got ready to go. She asked what Nahji wanted to talk about and I didn’t have the emotional energy to talk about it yet. She understood and let me mull in my emotions as we headed back home.
By the time I made it to my house, I was drained. I promised Indya I would call her but right now I just needed to be alone. She would probably give me a day and then she’d force me to talk. It was crazy that just a few days ago, I was lamenting my breakup with Todd and today, my heart ached for what would never be with Nahji.
I wasn’t sure why I was feeling like this about him. I knew him for two days. But in those two days, I felt listened to. Understood. Adored. In six years, Todd never asked me what the inspiration was for a painting. The things Todd knew about me was basically through time, we never really talked to get to know each other. Not like I did with Nahji. Everything about him felt so familiar, so comfortable. In two days, he made me feel more alive than Todd did in six years. And now, I had nothing to show for it.
A week later, I was sitting in Odessa’s, my favorite brunch spot, eating with Todd. Since I came back from the Hook Up, we’d been talking and spending more time together. I wasn’t convinced he was sincere, but spending time with Todd was better than being alone. Being alone meant I would think. And more often than not, my thoughts were on Nahji.
“Did you hear what I asked you?” Todd inquired.
“Huh? No, I’m sorry,” I stated. Far too often I zoned out and thought about the time I spent at the Hook Up with Nahji.
“I asked if you wanted to go away this weekend? Maybe Florida?”
The mention of Florida once again made me think of where I was last week and who I was with, but at the same time, I could tell Todd was really trying. He was not really an outside person. He was going to do something he wasn’t comfortable with. For me.
But it felt forced. It wasn’t natural. It didn’t feel like the time I spent with Nahji. Nevertheless, I found myself saying yes even though I really wasn’t up for it.
“Great! Go ahead and plan everything. And I’ll pay for it.”
I put down my coffee cup and stared at Todd. Now the real Todd was creeping back in. “Why do I have to plan it? You invited me.”
Todd rolled his eyes. “I don’t have time to plan a trip.”
“But I do?”
“Marley,” he began while wiping his mouth. “I’m working on a new deal which requires a lot of meetings and not a lot of free time. When you get off, all you do is paint and hang out with Indya. So why not use that time to plan our getaway?”
I don’t know why I thought Todd had changed. He was the same person he’d always been. Sure, painting and drawing was just a hobby, but it didn’t make it any less important than his work. Besides, he was the one that invited me. How much time would it take to hop online and book a hotel room? In the few days I spent with Nahji, he showed me I didn’t have to settle for someone like Todd. No matter how lonely I was.
Before I could tell Todd that I was over him and trying again, I heard someone speak my name.
Both Todd and I both turned in the direction of the voice that interrupted our conversation. I was in disbelief that Nahji was standing there looking handsome as ever. But why was he here? And how did he know I was here?
Shit…Indya. She asked me what I had planned today, and I told her I was going to Odessa’s but I didn’t tell her with who. Matter of fact, I hadn’t told her that I’d been talking to Todd again because I already knew how that conversation was going to go. That should have been a good indication that I should have just ignored his text a week ago.
“What are you doing here?” I asked Nahji.
“Who is this?” Todd scoffed.
Nahji ignored him and continued to stare at me. “I wanted to surprise you before I left for Kentucky. But I see you’re occupied.”
“Yes, we are busy, so if you don’t mind,” Todd asserted.
Again, Nahji ignored him and everything I felt for him over the last few days came rushing back. “I was…we’re just…” I couldn’t get my words together.
“Marley, who is this?” Todd questioned again.
Nahji laughed a little to himself. “I’ll let you get back to it.”
Nahji’s eyes searched mine for truth and without him having to try too hard to pull it out of me, I admitted “I really don’t know what I’m doing here.”
“What?” Todd bellowed. “What do you mean you don’t know what you’re doing here? We’re talking about getting back together! We were just planning to go away for the weekend!”
I rolled my eyes at Todd. “We weren’t planning anything. As usual, I have to do everything.”
Todd scoffed and threw up his hands. “I don’t have time! Whatever, Marley, let’s go. We’ll talk about this back at your apartment.”
Todd pulled out his wallet and tossed a couple of bills on the table. He stared at me, waiting for me to get up.
But I stayed put. I would have much rather dealt with Nahji’s distance than Todd. “I’ll call you later,” I said quietly.
“Who? Me or him?” Todd’s eyes darted from me to Nahji. I stared at him and he knew I was dismissing him. And his fragile male ego reared its ugly head. “You know what? Fuck you, Marley. I don’t have time for you and this bullshit. You don’t know why you’re here? I don’t know why I even try with you. You two have probably been messing around behind my back. And you wonder why I never proposed! You’ve always been stuck up and an ungrateful bi-“
Before Todd could even finish his statement, Nahji was in his face. Startled, Todd backed up and tripped over his feet and hit the floor.
It took me a second to process what Todd said and by the time I was able to comprehend, Todd was on the floor. Unable to deal with what was happening in front of me, I jumped out of my seat and headed for my car. My tears were stinging my eyes and making it hard for me to see. Before I could get into my car, Nahji was running up to me.
Reluctantly, I turned to face him, not even bothering to wipe my tears away. “Why are you here?”
“I really don’t know,” he shrugged. He rubbed his hand down his face. He looked tired, drained. I knew it couldn’t be because of me. “The better question is, why are you here?”
It was my turn to shrug. I wasn’t going to admit that I was here with Todd because I was too afraid to be alone. I refused to admit that in the few days I’d known Nahji had been better than the six years I spent with Todd. I was not going to let him know I was only here because a future with him was uncertain. I knew what it looked like. And it was time that I really dealt with my emotions because right now, I was getting caught up in situations that I didn’t need to be in.
“Can we go somewhere and talk?” he asked me.
Yes was on the tip of my tongue. Yes would have been easy. Yes was what I wanted. But instead, another one-syllable word came out. “No.”
“No?” he repeated.
“I’m not…I’m not prepared to talk. I’m not prepared for any of this,” I admitted, gesturing towards Odessa’s. “I jumped up and went to the Hook Up just days after my breakup and since then, I’ve been ignoring what I need to do.”
Nahji folded his arms and stared at me. The frown on his face was a much different look than the way he looked at the Hook Up. “And what is it that you need to do?”
“Heal,” I sighed. “I’m just hopping here and there and just getting deeper and deeper. I need to just…be alone.”
Nahji opened his mouth but nothing came out. And I was grateful. Because if he would have tried to convince me to talk to him, I would have. He backed away from my car and let me get in. I drove away, leaving him on the curb, even though I wanted nothing more than to spend time with him before he left.
Instead of going home, I headed to Indya’s. This would require alcohol and my best friend. Even though I knew what I needed to do, it was still hard. As soon as I stepped into her apartment, I started talking. By the time I finished, I was lying on the floor with a death grip on the bottle of Stella Rosa Black she gave me. There wasn’t even a need for a wine glass; I was drinking straight from the bottle.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were talking to Todd again?” she questioned.
“Cause I knew what you would say.”
“And that didn’t tell you it was a bad idea?”
“Yes, but…I just…I don’t know,” I began. I took another long swig from my wine bottle and laid back down. I really don’t know why I was on the floor, but I refused to get up, no matter how many times Indya asked me to sit on the sofa. “It’s that, I didn’t plan any of this. I mean…I know I went to the Hook Up to get over Todd and it just made shit worse.”
Indya remained quiet and let me talk. A petty friend would have said ‘I told you so’ but she didn’t have to say it. I could hear it through her silence.
“In the span of two weeks, I got dumped by Todd, slept with DJ who snuck out and then told me he couldn’t hang with me because I slept with him on the first night, met Nahji, was feeling him but then he got a contract job in Kentucky so I went back to Todd. And Nahji came to…I don’t really know what he wanted.”
“Wait…wait…wait…DJ said what now?”
I cut my eyes at Indya, but then I remembered I never told her about that conversation I had with him. I tried to gloss over it, but just re-telling her what he said was proof that I just needed to let these men be and focus on me. “It’s me. I’m the problem,” I announced.
“You are not the problem!” Indya exclaimed. “Yes, you made some…questionable decisions but it’s definitely not you. Todd and DJ are assholes. And with Nahji…the timing wasn’t right.”
I dismissed my friend with a wave of my hand. “Thanks for trying to sugar coat it. But it’s definitely me and my fear of being alone. And I’m going to own that. It’s motivation.”
“Motivation for what?”
“To become a better me.”