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Nicole


My day usually starts well before the sunrise with an impromptu phone call to interrupt what little sleep I do get.


Brrrnng

Brrrnng


I yanked my sleep mask up from one eye, listening to the basic ringtone in the dark room before groaning.


If I answer this call, there’s no turning back. I already know what it's about and–––


Brrrng

Brrrng


Wednesday morning. Sun isn’t even up but here I am.


“Hello?”

“Aye Cole, you know I hate bothering you but this nigga isn’t budging...You know how he gets after a show.”

“It’s my only night off Alex, my only night off–––”

“Where the fuck is Nicole at, bruh?!” I heard David yell out in the background, “where is she?! She out there….fucking with somebody else?! That’s my bitch! That’s mine!”

“He over did it this time. I told Ian not to let him touch the shit, but–––”

“Say no more,” I groaned, pulling myself out of the bed, “I’m on my way. Keep him close to a toilet. Maybe by the time I get there, he’ll be done throwing up.”


After the interrupting phone call on a day I’m supposed to be off, I usually got myself together with my outfits already planned. I made space in my apartment in the spare bedroom for my client who just happened to be an up and coming rapper named David Godfrey. Stage name, Davi Jones or DJ as I called him. The job paid well but when your client was on every pill, drug, powder, whatever known to mankind on any given day, it made my job that more difficult.


God, it wasn’t even 4 in the morning yet. Clubs were probably winding down with whatever straggler was left. I pulled out of the parking garage, waving to the attendant who I was certain had a crush on me.


“You heading out this early?” Rahmel asked as I pulled up to the glass box where he stood in his black uniform and smiled down at me. He hasn’t asked me out but the look was always there like he wanted to, and I would have said yes...if he just asked me out already.

“Yeah, I gotta pick DJ up,” I said, searching for my key card, “I was supposed to be off but you know…” fingering my soft fro back as the curls bounced back in place. “My job is never done.”

“I bet,” he said, checking the system like I didn’t live here, he was stalling for time. Cute. “You uh...you got plans this weekend?”

“I probably do,” I answered truthfully before recovering, “but I always know how to schedule and make room for something...never goes as planned so I’m open...Why?”


He handed the card back to me and smiled.


“I’ll ask you when you get back.”


We both grinned as the security bar rose up and I pushed through into the early night.


Then comes the impromptu phone conference about the state of Davi Jones where somehow I was taking on the weight of this man.


“Can you get DJ in the studio for his session by 9?” Ian asked as I slammed my hand on the wheel with frustration.

“Why is it always me? Huh?! Why can’t you self proclaimed homeboys help him out for once?! Why does his shit always fall back on me and whether I can get him to act like a decent human being for once?!”

“Nicole, this isn’t the time. You know he’s at the turning point in his career–––”

“And I’ve told you countless times he needs help! He’s always needed help, therapy and so much gah damn more but yall steady push him!”

“Who is yall?” Amber asked as she spoke into the phone. “I told Ian I was sick of this...You know how many times I have to pay the damn blogs off or these birds that sneak into the car with him, or find their way into his hotel room trying to dig up dirt on him? I’m sick of it too–––”

“Oh please, I bet you wish you were one of those girls–––”

“Ladies?!” Ian snapped angrily, “now isn’t the time! Can somebody just grab DJ before he self destructs?! We’ll figure out everything else when we get him sober for the morning. Right now, just get him Nicole before he does something stupid. He barely held it together at the club. Why didn’t you come? You’re the only one that can reel him in–––”

“Because I want to have a life too! My entire life has been wrapped around this man! Since we were children! I didn’t even ask to be his assistant!”

“Well trust me, we’ve been trying to find someone to replace you but….”

“Replace me? Since when?”

“This is a pointless conversation. I’m going back to bed,” Amber said as she hung up.

“Can you just grab him and we’ll talk about this another time? Please? Have him at the studio cleaned up by 9. I know you’re not my assistant but it's a known rule that you’re the only one to get to him. You’re his soft spot, his weakness so just…”


I sighed as I made a turn towards the packed club further down the street.


“I’m almost there…”

“Perfect.”


He hung up without so much as a thank you as I turned into the parking lot of the club. Everyone was still here and I could already smell the burnt wings, the old blunts, and alcohol lingering in the air. I could see familiar security as I walked in through the backway, being led straight towards the stage as the rest of the club continued on like church wasn’t in a few hours. I was the only one dressed in joggers, a concert shirt with DJ’s shirtless face on it, screaming into the mic from one of his hits songs and slides as I gripped my car keys tighter and turned the corner, ignoring the stares. I wasn’t worried. Part of this job meant I was protected by his entourage just as much as he was. Part of this job also meant that I had to pick up his mess whenever he made it like tonight. He was leaned over the railing with double cups in his hand, eyes barely there as I watched phones from all over record his high state. His dark complexion glistened with sweat, and the heavy gold chains around his neck and wrist looked to weigh him down as his head wavered from side to side. One blunt propped between his fingers holding the cup, he stood up right, almost falling back just as I stepped forward.


“DJ?!” I yelled over the music, “DJ?!”


His eyes were blank, spaced out as I gripped his arm to keep him steady.


“Gang gang in this bitch…” He muttered, lyrics to his song that played throughout the club as he swayed, and threw up his sign, prompting everyone around him to stand at attention. From the blue durag hanging over his fade to the bandana hanging out of his pack pockets, he yanked his lower lip down, exposing the gold grills to me before laughing as I grabbed his arm.

“It’s time to go–––”

“Where the fuck you was at? Huh?” he demanded. “Huh? Where was you Cole?”

“I had a day off like you told me to–––”

“Nah, never a day off from me though,” he slurred as his security began to move with us. “You was with somebody else?”

“Please, stop recording!” I yelled out to the anxious girls waiting for him to pass by, I held my hand up while protectively keeping in front of DJ, “stop recording! Nothing to see here!”

“You was with somebody else? Why you not answering me?” he demanded, coming up behind me with his drink spilling all over the place with each step.

“Because I don’t have to answer you, DJ! It’s none of your business–––”

“Since when is this not my business–––”


I gasped, feeling his arm wrap around my waist before his hand aggressively slipped into the sweats to grab between my legs. I turned around just as he backed away with a laugh while holding that same hand in the air with surrender.


“Oh you must of forgot!” he laughed with a nasty tone, “you forgot–––”

“I didn’t forget shit!” I yelled. “Don’t you ever put your–––”

“Aye, aye! Not here! Not here, Cole!” Joe yelled, pulling the two of us apart, “we ain’t called you for that! Just get him out of here!”


You couldn’t get us out the club and into the car fast enough when I laid the hardest slap against DJ’s face to the point where the cup officially spilled out of his hands and onto my seat.


“Aye!? Shit! D––DJ?! Don’t–––!” Joe screamed, trying to hold him back as he grabbed my arm in a drugged out rage. “NICOLE?!”

“Did you not see the way he grabbed me?!” I argued as they strapped his high ass in the back seat. “Why does no one ever see what he does to me?!”

“You know how he gets–––”

“So you ashamed we fucked?!” he spat with a harsh laugh while having the nerve to look hurt, “you ashamed of me? Is that it?”

“DJ that was….” looking around at his entourage who had no idea of our past, “that was years ago,” I hissed, beyond embarrassed. “Why are you bringing that up–––”

“We be fucking in my head though,” he slurred, grabbing himself as I shook my head, “but you too busy tryna move on from me–––”

“DJ...we were sixteen years old when that happened. You need to–––”

“You were my first,” he let out just as Joe closed the door. I could tell he wasn’t trying to look at me but I sighed.

“He wasn’t trying to leave the club without you,” was all he said. “You know I don’t like getting in his business, I just do my job and that’s it but–––”

“But what?” I snapped.

“That man is in love with you, anybody with eyes can see that,” he said as DJ proceeded to bang on the window, screaming out at me, “as many girls as I’ve seen him run through...he’s always asking where you are by the end of it.”

“And that’s supposed to make me feel better?” I asked as Joe’s mouth fell open before closing shut, “Let me tell you what’s going to happen….He’s going to continue his rant until he passes out...wake up briefly and ask what happened as if he doesn’t remember...then have me go out and find the easiest girl for him to hang with for the week before tossing her aside and doing it all over again. My job was supposed to protect him, keep him healthy with an organized life, and make sure he’s living out his dream. Not find random girls, getting sexually harassed, almost shot at and...it damn sure isn’t to get phone calls on my day off about him not wanting to walk out of a club without me. You all need to do a better job of controlling him instead of putting me through this...this embarrassment! I shouldn’t be out here fighting him and now you’re in my face telling me he’s in love with me? Please!” I spat. “He barely loves himself. Now, I’m not doing this anymore,” I said to each and everyone of his security detail, “either put him in rehab or I’m done. I’m not going to be a part of his downfall any longer and you can tell Ian that too. I don’t get paid nearly enough to put up with this.”


With that, I walked off, trying to control my own emotions as I sat back down in my car, releasing a breath I didn’t know I was holding.


They weren’t going to do it. They were going to continue to rape him of any money, attention, and success until he was no longer living. I’ve done what I could do and if his family doesn’t care, I refuse to place that guilt on my shoulders. I started to pull off when Joe stopped me, waving for my attention as I watched DJ’s limp frame get out on his own and stumble towards my car.

“NO! NO!” I hollered, rolling the window down, “I’m not–––”

“You know damn well we can’t control him and what he does!”


The back door opened as DJ shoved himself into the back seat, laying down as he sat up to close the door before sighing. All I could hear was the chains coming off, rubbing of his nose, and his sneakers being kicked off to the floor. I looked back seeing he had his eyes closed, durag gone and his tattoos on his backside tried to peek through when he opened one eye.


“I’m sorry,” he muttered, finally sounding in his right mind. “I’on know what just happened but I know I fucked up with you...like always...so I’m sorry. Just take me home. I’on wanna be around them niggas right now.”


I gripped the wheel with agitation as he reached in his pockets and pulled out a thick wad of money stacked together by a rubberband. He tossed it towards me, almost hitting my face before turning over on his back side altogether.


“I don’t want your damn money!”

“I ain’t giving you that shit Cole,” he mumbled, eyes squeezing tight, “just wanted the shit out of my pockets.”


He was still very much under the influence but he was trying, I could see the effort in trying to concentrate as I turned back and focused on pulling out of the parking lot. So much for my speech and standing up for myself in these fucked up work conditions.


“Why did you bring up us having sex?” I questioned.

“I said that?” he asked, lying through his teeth, he knows exactly what he said. “I’on remember that…”

“Yeah well you did, in front of everyone and now nobody is going to take me seriously when it comes to you.”

“Fuck em den…”


Total opposite of the hyper, overactive rapper most see in the public, he was normally quiet and kept to himself when he became comfortable with someone like now.


“One day DJ,” I said with a shake of my head, “I’m going to want to venture out and start my own business...maybe go back to school...travel a little...then settle down and get married...Even kids...I’m not going to always be there for you and I refuse to feel guilty for that. You need help. I want you to get–––”

“Just drive for me,” was all he said, “I’ll get right on my own, but right now? I just need you to drive me back to the crib.”


I started to say something until I heard a female voice pick up the phone like she was in the middle of sleeping.


“Where you at baby?” he asked.

“Nah uh DJ,” Ava let out, one of the more popular IG models he was connected with, “don’t call me like you–––”

“Baby I’m sorry….just tell me you at the crib right now…”

“I am,” sucking her teeth, “I’ve been waiting on you but you so fucking busy–––”

“Tryna get this money for us...I’ll be over there. Just stay up for me aight? I love you…”

“Hmmph,” she huffed as I took a deep swallow, hearing him say I love you after hearing what Joe said left a bad taste in my mouth,

“I know you fucking heard me...I said I love you.”

“I love you too, DJ. Just hurry up and come home.”


Soon as he hung up, I sat at a redlight, sitting in my silence.


“I need you to pick up some breakfast for me and her...it can be anywhere,” tossing another band at me, “and some coffee…”

“Fine,” I muttered, watching the sun begin to rise just up ahead.


One day soon, I was going to leave. I always told myself that I was going to break away from him, and do my own thing. It’s time I get that into motion because I can’t keep doing this...I can’t work like this anymore.


“That man is in love with you...anybody with eyes can see that…”


I shook the thought of my head and decided to be done with it. Emotionally, physically, and mentally David Jones Godfrey was taking a toll on me.







Audriana Sinclair


“How does it feel not living in a hotel?” Diega asked. “How does it feel not living at the very top of a building that you know sways back and forth on windy days.”


I glanced at the phone as I rubbed the makeup brush against my cheekbones and studied my work in the mirror.


“The building doesn’t sway–––”

“I know what I felt,” she insisted. “But how does it feel? You’re officially thee girlfriend now…”

“What does that even mean?” I laughed, opening another case of eye shadow as I looked over the palette. “You and everyone else are making this a bigger deal than what it needs to be. Michael and I barely notice a difference.”

“You know he’s going to propose to you soon,” she said as I smiled at myself in the mirror. “I can’t believe I’m the one that set yall up on some straight fucking shit...just to mess around and yall end up falling for each other. Well, I knew he would fall for you but he’s not your type by any means…”

“And what the fuck is that supposed to mean?”


I turned around, watching Michael walk into the massive closet that I made my own beauty room, facing the small window of our shared townhouse. With a green towel wrapped around his waist, he looked around for something in the drawers, still dripping from the shower as he squinted his eyes, trying to force his bad vision without his glasses.


We still had everything to unpack but for the most part, we were getting ready to have our first house warming. I wasn’t interested in living in a big fancy home in the middle of the suburbs or country. I still wanted to stay relatively close to the city, if not in the city. Luckily, Michael felt the same way. After dating for the past year and a half, we both decided it was time to put our name on the lease for one year to see what happens. So far...not so bad. Besides Diega, he’d become my best friend, the person I couldn’t wait to talk about my day with, or complain about my brothers who became his brothers or just hang out with. As different as we are, we were so much alike that it was scary.


“When is the house warming?” Diega asked, changing the subject now that she knew Michael was listening.

“Next weekend. Everybody is coming down so you know parking finna be stupid,” he said as he stepped back out of the closet with his clothes and shoes.

“I don’t know how we’re going to hold his family and my family in this small space.”

“I said you should have gotten something bigger.”

“No, the space is fine for the two of us but you know how my family is...combined with his...it's like one big party. I’ve already warned a few neighbors that next weekend will be a little crazy.”

“Wait until you have a baby shower,” she huffed as I nearly choked on my own spit. “What time are we meeting up again? Jason just hopped in the shower. You know he takes longer than me to get ready.”

“I think we have about another hour and a half before we head out. I’ll see you two there at….eight?”

“Sounds good.”


Double date night with the Turners. I was slipping my final earring on after smoothing my silk green dress down to get rid of any crease lines and eyed the back side with a dangerous smile. I grabbed the matching face mask and clutch and started for the stairs, meeting my date halfway down as he looked up at me with his own smile.


Michael Skye wore his classic flashy dress shirt full of patterns and colors I could never really make out, nice slacks and shoes with a watch my father got him for his birthday and a freshly picked fro that had the perfect curl pattern. No glasses which meant he was going to struggle with the contacts tonight.


“I swear you be tryna look better than me,” he said as I laughed, taking his hand. “I’on like that shit.”

“Well step your game up buddy,” I said with a shrug, chucking his chin as he grinned like a goof. We both laughed like we always do and began to lock up before heading out into the night.


It was always something about the way a man drives when he has a woman in the car beside him. I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed before with my past relationships but Michael made it look so smooth, so cool the way he calmly maneuvered through traffic, had his old school R&B playlist specifically made for this ride and one hand draped over the wheel. He would occasionally look over at me while I was texting and fix my hair or adjust the strap on my dress, but he was so calm, confident, and just downright sexy that I tried to play it cool. No need to show how thirsty I was for my own guy.


Best part about him is his ability to switch from calm to crazy in a matter of seconds. Some women may find that less appealing but his crazy did nothing for me nor did I respond to it. He found that out the hard way.


“You remember I told you about that client I had the other day tryna lock her cheating nigga in for life?” he went on, disrupting my thoughts as we parked in the parking garage, somewhere in the middle of downtown. “I told that girl it was gonna end up bad but for the right price, I don’t give a fuck. I’ll do it but it's not gonna end well.”

“So she came back with the money?” I asked, grabbing my mask as I stepped out of the car.

“Baby,” he let out slowly with a laugh, closing the door, “she came with the money and basically said, handle the shit or I’ma find somebody else. I said, you ain’t gon find another bone reader like me baby girl. Ain’t shit in Atlanta really about it and if there is, they’re fraud. If you don’t hear my last name, don’t fuck with em. So she said, here,” slapping his hands together before slipping his mask over his face. He held his hand out for me to take as I finished adjusting my silk face mask and we walked together towards the restaurant. The line was already out the door but we had reservations, now we just had to wait on Diega and Jason.

“I was like, aight so just so we’re clear? You want this man in your life forever. No matter what. This is the man you’re in love with...you never want him to leave. She said, I never want him to leave me.”

“Big mistake,” I said behind the material as we came up on the long line wrapped around the corner. We started to continue walking while he was going on about the girl when a man stepped to the side and directly in front of me with the back of his shoe smashing my toes in the heel, causing me to almost fall back before he turned around, looked back at me like it was nothing and kept talking to his girlfriend. Not an excuse me. Not a sorry or an apology, just kept on talking. I winced in pain, lifting my foot up with one hand holding Michael for balance when he suddenly snapped.

“Nigguh!? I KNOW you seen her walking up!”


The man turned around, startled as the man looked me over as if he just realized he knocked into me.


“I didn’t realize–––”

“Nigga you looked my lady in the eyes and turned the fuck around towards yo bitch, you knew exactly what you did. Apologize before I embarrass yo ass out here bruh––”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t–––”

“It’s fine,” I said, waving him off immediately.

“Are you okay?” he asked, looking down at my feet while his girlfriend gave Michael the ugliest look.

“I’m fine. Just be careful next time,” I said, trying to joke it off as I grabbed Michael forward.

“Next time?” Michael repeated out loud as we kept walking, “nah, next time I’ma drag yo ass out in the street and have you look stupid in front of yo bitch–––”

“Enough,” I said, trying not to laugh. “It’s fine. Honest mistake.”

“You know I don’t like nobody fucking with the toes….that’s the best part of a woman’s body–––”

“Weirdo,” I laughed. “You weirdo.”

“I’ll be that,” he retorted, looking down at my scuffed heel with agitation. “Fucking with the feet is a no no.”


We stood at the top of the line with Michael checking his phone, saying Jason just found a park. We checked in for our reservation but decided to wait for the other couple as we stood together, hand in hand. I stepped in front of him with a smile hidden behind the mask but the eyes said it all.


“Would you fight a man over my toes?” I asked as his brows raised.

“I’ll fight a man, a bear, a lion, a tiger over a single hair on yo head being out of place,” he stressed. “I’ll fight any and everybody...but yo brothers…”


I let out the loudest laugh.


“Sheeeit, I’m crazy as fuck but I ain’t stupid. You know that.”

“I do,” I nodded, pulling my mask down before pulling his down an inch or two as I leaned in and kissed him. I felt every kind of spark you could imagine with this man. “Thank you Michael Skye…” I told him softly against his mouth before pulling his mask back up.

“For what?” he asked, adjusting mine as I shrugged.

“You make me happy without even trying,” I said. His eyes widened like he was surprised to hear such a thing before he shook his head with a hard sigh like he had a sudden attitude.

“Audrey, I already got my date in my head on when I’ma propose and how I’ma do it. You need to chill out mama...Let me cook...Let yo man cook and stop tryna make me fall harder in love with you. You got me. Aight? You got me...My heart be hurting just thinking about you.”


I laughed at him really trying to fight off his own feelings just as I heard someone clear their throat.


“Is yall lovebirds ready or nah?” Diega asked as she looked at the two of us with her hand in Jason, practically swallowing it whole. “Double date night in full effect, leh goooo!”






Pia Milton


“What color do you think?” I asked, staring at the two colorful dresses laid out on the bed. Violet tapped her chin like the adult she thinks she is before pointing at the bright yellow one with the ribbon around the waist. It was her infamous princess gown she got from Disney World and since this princess phase wasn’t letting up, might as well put it to use. I picked up my phone to text Homer saying she chose yellow before grabbing the dress.


“Alright go ahead and finish washing up for me. You need to brush your teeth so your teeth can stay white.”

“What about my face?” she asked, touching her cheeks.

“Your face is perfect–––”

“I want wipstick,” she demanded, throwing her hand on her hip.

“Daddy would have a heart attack if I gave you lipstick,” I laughed. “I can give you some lip gloss, but just a little...okay? Not too much. We don’t want to mess up your clothes now hurry, go. He’s going to be here any minute.”

“Okay!”


She dashed into the bathroom and stood on her pink stool to turn the water on. I began laying out accessories for her. Occasionally looking up at James laying comfortably on the bed, propped against the pillows as he watched my every move with a smile.


Something about boys. I already told Homer if I have another one, I want another boy. Violet has my heart but this little boy here is my weakness. He could do no wrong in my eyes, despite Homer saying I’m going to end up babying him his entire life. Ironic that he would say that of all people.


“You going on a date with me tonight James?” I cheesed as he smiled with his fist up to his mouth. “You going on a date with mommy tonight? We’re gonna watch movies, lay in the bed...Eat snacks for dinner…”

“I’m finished!” Violet hollered, rushing back out with white toothpaste all over her mouth and hands from where she tried to clean herself. I had to drag her back into the bathroom, stand her on the stool and wash her face all over again before getting her ready. I had her nails painted sparkly clear polish on her toes and hands.


“Daddy is just going to have to deal because this is too cute,” I said, shaking the polish bottle as her eyes lit up with excitement and her waiting hand stuck in my face for me to blow. “How do you want your hair?”

“Mmmmm….up!”

“Yes ma’am… Now you remember, you always let the boy open the door for you, and pull your chair out...Make sure he doesn’t chew with his mouth open…He has to be really nice to you, and make you feel special…”


Ding dong!


Violet let out a loud gasp in panic as she turned to look into the mirror at herself. She was officially dressed in her yellow princess gown with the matching tiara that I wanted to burn.


“I’m not ready! I’m not–––”

“Just hold on..He’ll wait for you,” I said, trying not to laugh as I applied the lightest of lipgloss on her lips and told her to squeeze and pucker them out before nodding. “There. How do you like it…”


She eyed her hair knowing that was my weakness when it came to her but she smiled.


“Beautiful?”

“Beautiful,” she agreed.


Ding dong!