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Which One?





Prologue


“Yeah,” he laughed out loud. His rough hands gripped the steering wheel of the sports car as he turned down the familiar street towards his house. “Yeah I know it. We’re going out tonight to celebrate it big.”

“What about Nadine? What about your wife? Mine has been on my ass since last month about the last time we all went out.”

“Yeah because your dumb ass doesn’t know how to move. Mine knows her place,” he boasted with his friend on the phone.


Another male of the same caliber.


“Let me tell you how it's done,” he went on, clearing his throat as he leaned coolly back in the seat, “see the thing is? You have to check em early when you first start dating. She knew what the deal was with me. I only married her because she had the look. My wife knows how to keep her body up right for me, even after having children. She knows to have my dinner ready by the time I get home. I don’t fuck with leftovers so she needs to come with it every night.”

“Every night?” the other male laughed out right. “Not every night. Bruh you a fool.”

“Listen, I’m tryna tell ya,” he went on as he turned down another street, “she knows to be in the bed waiting for me unless I’m out getting it from somewhere else.”

“Oh we know how you get down,” he laughed.

“It’s not cheating if she’s aware. I’ve brought Melody in the house before while the kids were away. My kids have met other women that I’m dealing with and I make sure to be open and honest with them. I hate liars, I hate betrayal and I hate unnecessary drama. Why not make it easy by being honest with one another?”

“Oh speaking of drama, my wife the other night tried to throw a fucking lamp at me. I got out of there so fast, that’s why I was calling around–––”

“And I would have thrown it right back at her,” he declared as the two males laughed. “That’s the problem with black women, they think they’re our equal. So busy trying to be on the same step as us when we’re not even competing in the same fucking race. Yet, they want to scream out all this pro feminist bullshit. Fuck em.”

“You ain’t neva lied. So does Nadine know you’re heading out tonight?”

“She’ll know in a few seconds when I tell her. I’ll be back on Sunday sometime. Bring the kids something back, bring her a handbag or something and the marriage continues it's cycle. I’m a man. A real man. My father taught me what it means to be a man. You need to take care of the home, make sure you provide a roof over your family, clothes on their back, and food at the table. Once you do that? You deserve the right to reward yourself as a man and there isn’t a damn thing they can say about it. I earned the right to do as I please as long as you’re taken care of, I don’t see the problem. That’s what’s wrong with these niggas now who cheat just to cheat with a broken home, no ring on the finger, nothing to show for it and a job making 7.25 hr. My brother, you got bigger problems to worry about on top of cheating? Nah,” he laughed. “Couldn’t and would never be me.”


He turned down the final street, seeing his home just at the end where the stop sign was planted. He waved to a few neighbors outside tending to their grass while pressing the button for his garage door to open. Just like clockwork, he smiled when he saw his wife’s car parked on the left side. The light upstairs was on which meant she was in the kids room getting them ready for bed.


“Yeah, I’ll hit you when I’m on my way out,” he told his friend, “I’m going to eat, shower and change.”

“Alright bet, I’ll get everyone else together to see where we’re all meeting at this time.”


The two hung up the phone as he closed the garage door and stepped out with his things. Something about coming home to his family, coming home to his wife quietly humming to herself in the kitchen, hearing the kids upstairs in the bathroom and his drink already poured made him feel proud. He was a successful black man in Atlanta with a high paying corporate job that afforded him the luxury that most couldn’t achieve. His wife was a beautiful, a degree educated black woman that made the decision to stay home and take care of the house and kids. It was her natural right afterall.


The male opened the door and dropped his things off, smelling the chicken in the oven. He was finally home. Just smelling the familiarities of his foundation made him proud as he shuffled through the mail.


“Nadine!?” he hollered out, eyes focused on the bills he was set to pay, reading over each to make sure everything was correct, “Nadine?! I’m thinking about a movie night, just you and me?!”


Surely he noticed that his wife hadn’t been herself lately and maybe he could have stayed home more to help out. Maybe just this one night, he would stay and see if his presence would help. Just this one night of course.


When he heard no response, he looked up towards the kitchen seeing the counters wiped clean, oven light still on with the chicken baking and his drink readily made by the sink. The house was eerily quiet. He walked around from the living room to the dining room, foyer and back, calling out for his wife but nothing.


“Nadine?!” he yelled again as he stormed back into the kitchen to grab his phone. Just when he was about to call in panic, he noticed a piece of paper folded underneath his glass and an envelope beside it. “Nadine?! What the fuck is going on….NADINE!?”


You are receiving this letter as a courtesy from Nadine Janelle Woodward. Please do not call the police as she is not lost, she wasn’t taken, nor harmed. Mrs. Woodward walked away on her own free will and will not be returning. The grandmother has been notified to pick the children up in the morning should you not be fit to take care of them. Dinner will be ready by 8:30. There is a timer set for you to take the meal out of the oven, and instructions on heating up the sides. The divorce papers are sitting on your desk upstairs awaiting your signature. She has agreed to leave everything behind in your name in exchange for sanctuary under our care.


I, Nadine Janelle Woodward, declare the information stated above to be factual. I am in a safe place and have no intentions of being found. I am not under distress and walked away from my family, my friends, and my children with no intention of turning back. The time is 8:13pm. Sign below if you agree to the terms stated above.


Nadine J. Woodward












In the Beginning




Late spring in 1990, it was a dark and muggy night in Atlanta. The rundown neighborhood was quiet aside from the dog barking behind one of the homes. The laughter from a sitcom blaring through the screen door, and rainwater kicking back up from tires as cars passed by.


Just underneath the streetlight where the bent STOP sign leaned was a parked Corolla. The headlights blinked off as a flustered pregnant woman by the name of Angela Wright, also known as my mother, stepped out with her keys in her hand. A head full of thick curls, wide chocolate nose and red eyes from crying, she tried to get herself together.


“Lord be my peace,” she breathed silently to herself as she exhaled. She looked up at the dark sky seeing trickles of light rain disappearing in mid descent. “Be my strength, and be my peace as I face this man.”


A second car pulled up, a pearl white 1987 Mercedes-Benz right in front of her as the window pulled down to expose two other pregnant women in the front seat. Jacqueline Jones was behind the wheel reapplying red lipstick on her lips as the chunky gold earrings clinged against her cheeks while Terri Shaw flicked her cigarette bud against the steering wheel and cut her sharp eyes towards my mother.


“I’m shocked you showed up scardy cat,” Terri let out as Jackie smiled through the pain. She was undeniably the beauty of the two with Terri always making sly comments about her light complexion and long stringy hair. My mother told me it was because Terri was jealous. I saw it as Jackie having nothing but her beauty to stand on with nothing else to offer.

“Have you been crying? Over him? Luke ain’t shit, won’t ever be shit and that’s why we’re all here now about to confront his ass,” Terri went on as she parked the car in the middle of the street. She was the first to get out with her stomach protruding as she lit one final cigarette to inhale before tossing to the side. Her short bob cut was tapered against her neck, dark circles underneath her eyes and ripped jean shorts that had week old stains on them.

“Funky ass nigga can’t even pick up the phone,” Terri let out as she turned to face the brick home with her hand on her hip, “but can sit here and knock three bitches up at the same time! NIGGA FUCK YOU!” she hollered with a wave of her hand.

“I’m not doing all that arguing and huffing and puffing,” Jackie said as she stepped out with a flip of her hair. She tucked her gun inside her fake Chanel bag, applied black lip liner and batted her light green eyes towards mother. “I found me a man with bank, and he’s going to help me take care of my daughter,” she said as she rubbed her stomach, “I don’t need Luke for shit.”

“Speak for yourself,” Terri spat angrily as she leaned to the side to let out a thing of spit, “speak for your mothafucking self. Yall ready?”

“Wait a minute,” Angela let out nervously, “just wait a minute...Can’t we–––”


The two were already crossing the street as the rain began to come down. Angela quickly caught up with them as Jackie cocked her gun to check for bullets while Terri was the first to wobble up to the door and bang on the frame. Just underneath the small light that hovered above, you could see her stomach pressing against the door as she continued to bang.


Jackie turned to Angela with a forced red painted smile as she went on about her new man.


“Maybe after all of this is over, I can hook you up with one of his friends. He got a real nice job, like one of them big wigs up in New York...He’s a real somebody Angie, you should come up there with me sometime…You won’t have to worry about a damn thing with him…”

“I know this nigga hears me,” Terri mumbled as she reached in her back pocket to pull out a butter knife. The two of them worked clockwork. Jackie pulled out a debit card without so much as being asked as she stepped up. The door popped open with a thick cloud of smoke piling out and all you could see was the kitchen light and hear the bass bumping from the basement below. Terri was the first to rush in, cutting the lights on and running straight for the back room they were all familiar with. Same place where this man told each of them that he loved them, they were the only ones and nothing would come between them. That is until Terri kicked the door down to the bedroom and saw my father laid up in his high with another woman.


My mother barely remembers what happened from there so I’m just going to make up the rest from pure imagination and rumors of that night.


“You sorry piece of shit!” Terri shrieked, jumping on the bed with the knife waving erratically in her hand, “you sorry no good piece of shit of a man! Yo mama should have swallowed yo bitch ass, and who is she?!”

“Angie! Grab a bag and collect!” Jackie demanded, cleaning out his drawers as she searched for money, drugs, whatever her thieving ass could get her hands on.

“FRANK!?” Lucas yelled out, grabbing the sheets to cover himself as the woman in the bed tried to knock Terri down. Big mistake. Terri who had no intentions on attacking the woman turned her attention to her and began to swipe at her face.

“Oh, you think you something because you sleeping with his ass?! Huh?! Bitch I was with him last week! I just had this nigga! I’m having this nigga!” she pointed towards her stomach, “we all are! We’re all pregnant by this nigga at the same damn time!”

“Terri?! Get the fuck outta here! I’m not gonna say this shit again! GET OUT!” Lucas yelled as he yanked his boxers on, almost stumbling over to shove his legs in. “GET OUT!”

“Or what?!” she spat.


Now, Lucas Godfrey wasn’t a man to be played with. High yellow man with pretty dark hair, wet curls that the women went crazy for, he was a pretty boy with a problem. He and his entire family were funding their music dreams at the time by running an entire street empire. Whether it was running weapons, drugs, or women, Frank and Lucas Godfrey were the brothers you didn’t want to cross. That never mattered to these women, especially Terri.


He gripped her by the throat and yanked her off the bed with one swipe as my mother screamed from the doorway. Jackie reached in her bag and pulled out her gun to aim towards him while Terri was on the floor hollering in pain.


“Touch another bitch in here,” Jackie threatened with tears in her eyes, “you were supposed to take care of me….You said you loved me, you would never do me wrong and I find out you…”


Her jaw began to lock as tears came down and her leg began to shake uncontrollably. One of the first of many mental breakdowns she had.


“You said we were gonna make it big,” she whined. “We were supposed to blow up in the music scene and we were gonna be rich together…”

“Jackie I–––”


She fired off one shot as everyone ducked, hearing the glass shatter into pieces. Terri was still screaming in pain on the floor while a group of men nearly pushed my mother out the way to get into the room. Terri was the firecracker. She would be the one to start something but Jacqueline was the wildcard. She swerved the gun towards everyone before aiming it at herself as the woman on the bed screamed.


“I will do it Lucas Godfrey...I will kill me and this child right here and now, and let the blood be on your hands...You laid with me in this very bed telling me the same...fucking...bullshit you’ve told every woman in this room…”

“Jackie listen, baby listen,” he pleaded. “You are the only one...Out of everyone here, I never said love to anyone else but you...I never said it to any other woman but you. You know you have my heart and I want to raise this baby with you–––”


Terri screamed again, crying out in pain but Jackie fought like hell to keep the attention on her as she placed the pistol in her mouth and closed her eyes. Even in the wake of confronting him, they still loved and fought for his heart. Lucas screamed out for her, jumping across the bed to grab her, pleading with her to not do it.


Of course with Terri being the firecracker, and Jacqueline being the beautiful wild card, my mother Angela was the heart, the foundation and soul. The one he screwed over the most. His first love, his first kiss, and first his best friend. She tried like hell to get him to look her in the eyes while he spewed off his lies to another woman but he couldn’t do it. Knowing she was there, knowing she was the one woman he couldn’t face or lie to because she would see right through it. Instead Angela disappeared amongst the chaos, she ran outside unable to take it anymore. She gripped the railing, almost blinded by this sudden sharp pain while hearing Terri’s screams and Jackie’s cries through the shattered window.


The Cosmic Ghetto Gods in the sky saw fit for each woman to go into labor that night at the same time, starting with Terri giving birth to my brother David Godfrey.


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