– 10 –

    Raquel stummbled in the house. It was around 4 in the morning and she was just getting home. No boyfriend or boo to spend the night with. It was common that she was the only friend to come home by her lonesome. She didn’t too much dwell on it. 

   Upon turning on the light she couldnt believe her eyes. The house was compeletly a mess. The 60 inch tv was gone off the wall, the lamps were broken and the furniture was turned over.

    “Oh my god!” Raquel slowly walked through the house. Still hesitant, she wasnt sure if the burgular was still there. Raquel closed and opened her eyes hoping this was a all a drunk vision. If so, stepping on some glass from the broken pictures definetly woke her up.

     “Shit!”

     “Raquel is that you?”

     “Ma?” Raquel hurridly went for her mothers room. Her whole entire closet looked like it exploded. Clothes were everywhere, the dressers were falling over and her bedroom tv was gone also.

     “Ma? Are you okay? What the hell happened?

      Denise was in a daze. Her face was bruised. The side of her face leaked.

      “Who did this to you? Talk to me!”

      She helped her mother up and they went into the kitchen. Dispite the mess, Raquel found a bag of frozen pees and held it to her mothers face. Though they had problems, she wanted to be there for her. She was still her mother.

      Who could have done this she thought. So many thoughts ran through her mind as she looked down on her mother. She was out cold. They laid together on the kitchen floor and she fell asleep along with her. Scared and confused, wishing tomorrows daylight would get here already. Hopefully it would shed some light on what just happened.

 

 

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– 9 –

Lea laid out on her bed, papers and books spread out all over. She had some music playing in the background while she sipped her Mascota wine. She had a paper to finsh by Sunday and she was almost halfway through.

Got to get my heart back to the way it used to love.
     The way it used to be.
     And the way it used to feel.
     Before I fell in love

Lea loved her some Keyshia Cole. She was raw, her songs spoke to you even if you’ve never been heartbroken. Lea never had a real relationship. She had dealth with guys here and there and her last relationship was when she was in high school, but she wouldnt really consider that real. She was in love, but being 18, she didn’t consider it true love.

First there was Rell. She had met him in the 11th grade, he was the first to meet her mother. He was a little older which concerned her, but he was a gentlemen. He was a provider and wanted the best for Lea. She loved spending time with him and his family. But after a year, things changed and Alex wanted a family. Being that he was 23 and Lea was still in high school. She had to let him go, there were on two different pages. She shortly cut him off, and quickly after some girl popped up pregnant by him. Needless to say, she didn’t dwell on that break-up and evidently, neither did he.

After that she never really took any one else serious. A few flings here and there but never anything that stuck. Being that her friends had enough guy-drama was enough for her. Besides, having a boyfriend this year was out of the question. Graduation was her number one priorty.

Lea’s phone rang and it was a text message from Raquel.

Come outside !!      

Lea hurried to the front door and opened it.

“Come on girl, get dressed!”

Raquel and Veronica walked in all dressed up looking like a million bucks. One thing about their group of friends, They were all very pretty girls. And if at times they didn’t have all their lives together, they ddefinitely made it look good.

The girls sat on Leas bed. They instantly went for the wine bottle. As always, Raquel took a sip from the bottle.

“I’m going to need something more stronger than this!”

Lea had a second thought but figured why not. Her paper was almost finished and they hadn’t gone out all together in a while.

“Okay, I guess.”

The girls squeeled in excitment. They waiting as Lea got dressed. And the so the night began.

It was 11:45 when the girls got the club Liquid. One of the most popular club at the time. Every saturday it was filled with people, if not inside, outside parking lot pimping. As the girls entered they went straight for the bar.

“I’ll have 2 sex on the beachs, 1 long island!” Raquel yelled over the crowd. She knew just what to order her friends.

“Here you go.” The bartender handed Raquel the drinks. Before she could take out money, the bar tender stopped her.

“No cost, you’ve been already taken care of.” He pointed to the end of the bar.

There sat a handsome guy. He smiled and lifed his drink, gestering a toast. Raqual raised her glass and sipped her long island. Tonight was starting off great. She gave Lea and Veronica their drinks. They immediately headed for the dance floor.

Hannah Montana, Hannah Montana, Hannah Montana, Hanna Montana

The Migos song screamed through the speakers and everyone went crazy. No one was thinking about their love lifes, school work, boyfriends, baby fathers, every one just had a drink in their hand and danced to the music.

Lea mingled off and made her way to the bar again. She had finished her sex on the beach and wanted something stronger.

“Henny and coke please?” She told the bartender.

“Oh, your a henny drinker.” she whipped around to face who was talking to her. “Come again?

“Oh nothing, I just wouldn’t expect a pretty girl like you to be drinking a mans drink.”

“A mans drink? Please! It’s the only drink that gets me where I need to be. Those girly drinks suck” Lea laughed to her self. Speakin of the sex on the beach she had. They were okay to drink to look cute but if you wanted to actually get drunk, stronger liquor was definelty needed.

He smiled. “Oh no, it’s cool. I’m just teasing. Make that two” he said to the bartender.

“I’m Mj”

She had never heard of him around before. He was dark, very handsome, white gold fronts and waves you could drown in. She couldn’t help staring at his muscles.

“Kalea. U can call me Lea.” She shyly smiled back.

He admired her beauty. He exmined the dress she was in which fit in all the right places, thanks to Raquel for picking it out for her.

Lea was about to take out some money out of her wallet, but Cee-lo stopped her.

“What are you doing? Oh no, I got this.” he took out a wad of money and handed the bar tender the tab, he then handed Lea a $100 bill.

“What’s this for?” she asked, hestitant to take it. She didn’t want him to expect anything in return.

“Don’t be scared, Lea. It’s for you and your girls. I won’t keep you up. I’ll see around.

He made Lea take the money and put it in her hand and disappearred into the crowd of people, leaving Lea stuck. Who was this mysterious guy. She smiled to herself and grabbed her drink and headed back with her friends. They partied all night til the last song played.

Everyone headed out to the after party spot which was a pizza place around the corner. If you didn’t go out or get in the party, that was the spot to be, either to eat or just hang around. The dudes with the nice cars parked and blasted their music, it was really like a after party spot.

The girls parked, went and found a spot to sit and chill.

“Oh my god, look, look!” Veronica pointed over to James, who was sitting close with another girl, very close. “You see that. Poor Bri. We should go over there.”

“Yea, right. And have James beat our ass. No thanks, I’ll stay right over here. Bri knows he cheats. Her stupid ass chooses to stay, that’s on her” Raquel said.

Lea and Veronica shot Raquel a look.

“What? It’s true. We tell her all the time about his no-good ass. The problem is you two baby her too much. She needs some tough love.”

“Tough love is apparently what’s she’s getting. Literally. I picked her up from work the other day and she had bruises on her arm.” Lea explained.

The girls all felt sorry for Bri. They watched James from afar as he was all in the girl face, kissing on her. It was no use calling her and telling Bri, it’s not like she would do anything, When Raquel used to work at Tru Religion in the mall, James had brought nother girl in and took her on a shopping spree. When he got to the counter, he didn’t even care it was Raquel She gave him the you know I’m gonna tell  look. He simply smirked and shot back you know I don’t care. They walked out with his arm around the girls neck completely unphased.

It was loud and getting packed. The server handed them their pizza. It wasn’t the best food, but the girls were drunk and hungry. Veronica got up to go to the counter to grab some napkins and someone tapped her on the shoulder. It was the guy, that bought them all drinks when they first got into the bar.

“Hey, sexy”

“Oh hey” Veronica smiled. She remember him instantly.

“Did you enjoy yourself tonight?”

“Yes, I did.” she said

“A pretty girl like you at the bar, I had to buy you your first drink.”

He had a bunch of tattoos on his brown chocolate skin. Tall, skinny but built. He had a red and black Era fitted on to the back, and shiney squared earrings in and the pinky ring to match. Not too much bling, but just enough.

“It’s getting to crowded in here, I’m about to head out, but I wanna see you again.”

“You don’t even know my name” she leaned on the counter towards him in a flirtatious way.

“Veronica.” he said. She stood back, surpised. “Yea, I know more about you that you think”

He grabbed her phone out her hand and stored his number, he then called his phone and it rang.

“Got ya number locked, I’ll be hitting you soon”

He winked at her then left.

Veronica watched as he left. It was nice to know she still had it. Most dudes wouldn’t even approach her because they all knew her and Jamar were on it. But this guy didn’t care. She walked back to the table and before she could even tell her friends what happened, they already knew.

“Yea, we saw” Lea explained “You know who that is right?” asked.

“Um, no”

Lea and Raquel laughed.

“Girl, that’s Sincere.”

Sincere was a hot commodity. He was known around town for getting money and spending money. Always on the go and having fun. He never was really in any drama. He stayed in his own lawn, never letting any one know his next step.

“You like him huh?” Raquel joked.

“Like him, I just met him” Veronica brushed off. She played it cool as if it was nothing. But the whole time he was on her mind and couldn’t wait for him to call.

 

– 8 –

   It had almost been 3 hours since Lea had been in the library. She had many missed calls and texts from her friends. It’s not like she purposely ignored them, she just liked to turn her phone on silent when she studied. This semester so far was tough. She had wished she took the harder classes first then her senior year would be a breeze. Either way she was determined and driven.

    Bzzzz, Bzzzz

    This was the 3rd missed call from Bri. She decided to finally call her back and see what was up.

    “Hello?”

    “Lea, where are you? I need you.” Bri said in a shakey voice. It sounded as if she was crying, or about to.

     “I’m at school, What’s going on? Are you crying?”

     “Can you come get me from work right now. I just got fired!”

     Lea knew this had something to do with James. He was hated the most amoungst all the friends and every one knew Bri could do a hundred times better. Lea was a little upset cuz she didn’t plan on leaving the libray any time soon but her friend needed her and she rushed to be there for her.

      Lea pulled in front of the hospital and Bri entered the car.

     “I could kill James! I told him this was my last chance. And what does he do. He stays out all night, oversleeps and forgets to bring me to work”

      Lea rubbed her friends back. She just let her vent.

     “Why do you continue to let him do this to you. What it is about him, Bri?”

     “I try and try to be independent. But without this job, I’ll still need him to help with the bills.”

      Lea noticed bruising on her arm.

      “What is this!?” Lea grabbed Bri arm “Do he do this to you?”

      Bri yanked her arm away. “It’s nothing, okay.”

      Lea pulled over the car so she could really speak to her friend. “You don’t see what he’s doing. He’s trying to control you. What will it take for you to leave him.”

     Bri was quiet and didn’t speak. She knew Lea was right. She heard the same thing from her friends from years. She didn’t know what it would take. James had a hold on her and she was too weak to let go.

       The girls just took a drive and rode around for while. Bri just needed some air and a clear mind. Meanwhile, James was blowing up her phone. Lea could tell Bri wanted to answer, as if she knew the consequences were going to bad if she didn’t.

      “I need to get home,” Bri opened her phone and showed Lea. “30 missed calls, do you see this?”

      “You want me to come in with you?” Lea suggested. At least if things got bad, James wouldn’t make in scene with her being there, at least she hoped.

      Yes, is what she wanted to say but she decided to go in by herself. She didn’t want to bring Lea in the middle of anything,

      James was on the couch sipping some Henny, watching tv. He turned around when he heard the door open.

      “The fuck you been at?”

      “Well, I got fired today. Does that even matter to you?”

       “I don’t give a damn about your job, I already told you. You need to keep you ass home anyways. Clean up around here. No food in the fridge. What kind of woman are you.”

         That struck a nerve in Bri. He was so degrading, so mean. She was the one going through it and he had the nerve to kick her even more while she was down.

         Bri waved him off “I’m going to take a shower. I can’t do this with you anymore. I really can’t.

         “And what’s that supposed to mean”

          “It means, fuck you!” Lea went into the bedroom and slammed the door

          “Fuck me?!”

          James rushed in after her. Bri tried to shut the door but James was too powerful and busted through.

           “After all I do for you, you bitch!” James smacked Bri and she fell on the bed. He climbed on top of her and held her down. Bri was no match for James powerful body on top of her.

          “Please James! I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. I love you.” Bri cried. She tried to break lose but it was no good. “You’re hurting me!”

          James started aggressively kissing Bri. Unbottoning her pants while still holding her down. 

          “You love me? Then prove it.”

           He took of his boxers and entered inside her.

          “Ahh! James! No, Please!” 

          James stroked hard and rough, sweat formed on his forehead.  Bri just laid there, no energy to fight back. If was if he was sexing a corpse. Tears filled her eyes as she let him continue.

           “I love you girl. You’re mines. Remember that. And If I can’t have you, no one will” James whispering in Bri ears just before dumping off his load. He laid on top of her and caught his breath. He rolled over and immediately went to sleep.

           Raped and face swollen, Bri waited to hear James snore as she slowly got up and went into the bathroom. She looked in the mirror and she was instantly disgusted with herself. She gently touched her busted lip. She carrassed her bruised arms. She felt nasty and degraded. That person in their wasn’t her baby father, wasn’t her boyfriend or the man she loved. The look in his eye was pure evil.

            She ran some warm bath water and slowly, foot by foot got in and laid out in the tub. So many thoughts ran through her mind. She needed to get away, far away. But who knows what James would do then. Her baby couldn’t see her like this. And she couldn’t bare to face her friends. She needed to come up with a plan, and come up with one quick. 

             Bri completely submerged herself under the water. The warmth of the water soothed her cuts and bruises. She had wished she had a brick to lay on top of her anything, to keep her under the water. She didn’t want to come back up. She didn’t want to live.

– 7 –

   Raquel walked into her house and plopped on her bed. She was completely unsatisfied with her life and how things were at the moment. She dwelled on the fact that she never really lived the way she wanted. Her and her mom lived in a small 2 bedroom apartment in not the nicest neighborhood. Just the other day their neighbor was robbed.

  She rolled over to her nightstand and pulled out her photo album. Whenever she felt down, she would look through photos of her baby. Well he wasn’t a baby anymore, he had just turned 5. Raquel’s sister downsouth would send her pictures frequently.

   The pictures showed happier times. When she was with her childs father, Richard. Tears ran down her face as she went through the album. Her smiles in the pictures were qenuine. In a matter of a few years she managed to get the one thing taken from her and she was determined to get custody of her son back. But that took stability and money. No judge would ever grant any rights to Raquel the way she lived now.

   The bedroom door flew open and it was Denise, Raquel’s mother. She quickly hid the pictures and wiped her face to act like everything was normal. Music filled the room and the smell of cigarrettes. She glistening wet and hair was just recently washed. Fresh make-up and she smelled really good. She must was going on date, Raquel thought.

   “Denise, what the hell are you doing,” Raquel watched as Denise just made her way into her closet rummaged through her clothes.

   “I need something to wear tonight! Lance is taking me out.”

   “Who?”

   “Don’t be funny, Raquel” Denise said holding up a shirt. She dropped her towel and tried it on. It was two sizes to small just the way she liked it. Denise was the spittin image of Raquel, just older and way more experienced. Part of the reason Raquel acted the way she did with guys is because Denise always had a different one, in and out the house since she was kid. She didn’t even know her own father.

    Most times they would get mistaken for sisters and Raquel hated that. She wanted a real mother, not a friend and that’s the main reason why they bumped heads so much.

   “No, take that off and get out of my room!” Raquel put the covers over her head. Denise ignored and continued to try her clothes on. She examined herself in the mirror. Clearly obessed with herself.

   “What’s up with you today?” She said puffing her ciggarette. 

   “Nothing, I’m fine. ” Raquel called out from under the covers. She wanted her to get out of her closet. She had personal things in there that she didn’t want her mom’s hands to get a hold of.

   “I think he’s the one, Raquel, I really do. About time a man has put a ring on it.”

    Raquel rolled her eyes. “Can you just leave please”

    Denise shrugged her shoulders and grabbed some clothes and left the room. She could careless about how Raquel felt, and sadly that’s how it always has been.

– 6 –

    It had been a long week and Veronica was tired. She had put in some overtime these past couple of days and getting in the bed to relax was what she looked forward to the most. Baby Jamar was already put down for bed. Veronica took a shower and hit the sheets. She instantly fell asleep.

     It was almost 1am when she was woken up out of her sleep. It was Jamar kissing on her.

     “What are you doing Jamar,” Veronica tried to move away. “I’m tired, get off of me”

     “Come on baby,” He said trying to restrain her. He began kissing her neck down on her stomach. As much as Veronica enjoyed the affection, she was tired. After doing 12 shift, she wasn’t really into having sex right now.

     “Jamar, I’m tired. Can’t we do this another day.” Veronica closed her legs and rolled over.

     Jamar just sat there and looked at her. It had been over a week since they had sex and he was horny. He loved Veronica with all his heart but this was getting out of hand. He didn’t say anything. He just got up and left the room. Veronica knew Jamar was upset and kind of felt bad. She got out the bed and followed him in to front room. He was on the couch watching tv sipping some Remy.

      She straddled his lap and begin kissing him softly.

       “I’m sorry babe. I just had a long day.” Veronica said in between kisses. She knew she would get to him. Kissing him behind his ear always put him in the mood. She gently grabbed his face and kissed his lips.

       Jamar was completely unphased, eyes fixed on the tv. Veronica noticed how uninterested he was which turned her off. She got off him and sat beside him on the couch.

     “So this is what is it now?” Veronica shook her head. “Baby I said I’m sorry, I was tired. I’m up now”

     Jamar didn’t even reply. He sipped some more Remy and ignored her, eyes never leaving the tv.

     “Hello, I’m talking to you” Veronica agressively grabbed him chin and made him face her.

      “What do you want me to say, man. You always deny me. I’m used to it.” Jamar yanked his face away and got up and began putting on his jacket as if he was about to leave.

      “Where do you think your going Jamar.” She followed him.

      “Just out”

       “To go meet with Chanel?” Veronica stood there, arms crossed. She didn’t want to bring that girl up but it was weighing on her. Jamar lived life as if he had no care in world but could still come home to a hot plate every night and a comfortable bed, while Veronica was out working, running around making their baby got to daycare everyday.

       Jamar just looked at her then began to speak.

      “These girls ain’t shit to me. Just entertainment”

      “Entertainment? What, I’m not enough?” She stepped closer to Jamar. “The fact that I maintain this household and don’t ask for a dime from you, cook, clean, wash your dirty drawers, that isn’t enough?!” Her finger was pointed all in his face. Jamar stepped back carefully. He didn’t want this is escalate.

       “Man, I’m out” Jamar pushed past Veronica and left out the door.

       “You’re so ungrateful!” she yelled after him “Don’t bother coming back!”

        She slammed the door behind him so loud it woke the baby. She went into his room and laid in the bed with him. She soothed him with a bottle and cried her self to sleep. She felt so unappreciated. So hurt. Enough was enough.      

 

– 5 –

    “You’ve got to be kidding me”

   Bri sat in the lobby at her job. It was 11:30 and her shift had been over at the hospital. She was a CNA just getting off from doing a double. She has already said her goodbyes to her employees mins ago and her ride still wasn’t there. It was just her and the security guard at the front desk, Jerry.

    “Again, Ms. Perez” Jerry noticed from day one Bri was always late getting picked up and even getting dropped off. He kinda felt sorry for her.

   Bri gave Jerry and half fake smile and looked at her phone. It was now going on 11:45. She was going to be late picking up her daughter from her moms and she was not in the mood to hear her mouth. But overall, Bri appriciated her more than anything. She was really the only help Bri had.

    She could see some light from afar and noticed it was her car pulling up.

    Finally

    She gathered her things, went outside and got into the car. Her baby father, James, was driving. She didn’t even bother starting with him. He knew he was late and she was upset and he didn’t even apologize. He lit his weed, turned up the music and drove off.

    Bri looked at him in disgust. She angrily turned the down music.

    “I would appriciate it if you didn’t smoke in front of my job please James. How disrespectful can you be.”

    She examined her car. They were liquor bottles and trash all in the back seat. She could tell he had his friends in the car with him previously. Normally he did, all day he would ride around while she’s at work. Which aggravated her more, she couldn’t see why he was always late.

   “My boss gave me a final warning. If I’m late again, I get suspensed.”

    “Forget this job. You don’t need it. I got you Bri. I always told you that” James said, feeling on her leg. He tried to calm her but Bri wasn’t having it.

    “What do you mean forget this job? I need this job. I have bills to pay. Our daughter to take care of. I don’t need your money” Bri movied away so James could stop touching her.

    Bri loved the money James showered her with when they first got together. But it wasn’t just the money, it was everything about him. He was cute, brown skinned and had the best personality. But it wasn’t til they were a year in where everything changed. He used the money to control her, and things turned physcial when she had her baby. James would always call Bri his property.

    “I’m taking my car to work tomorrow with me.” Bri suggested. “Have one of your lil friends you ride around with come get you.”

    James looked at her as if she was crazy.

    “You don’t complain when I’m bringing in the money. When you couldn’t pay rent last month, I had you. Who took you and all your friends to Atlantic City last month for your birthday. I can’t take your car? I take care of this damn car! If it wasn’t for me, this shit would be somewhere sitting in somebody garage. I own this car!”

    Bri couldn’t argue. She just turned away and looked out the window. James had won, once again.

   “Take me to my moms to get my baby, and take me home.” Bri mumbled.

    James relit his dutch, turned the music back up. The conversation wasn’t nearly over.

 

– 4 –

   “What for love mean to you?” Lea asked.

   The girls met up at Lea’s apartment. She had a roommate who was outta town so she had the apartment to herself for the week. Lifetime was playing on tv and some music is on in the background. Food, alcohol and a few dutches rolled were on the table. Raquel was the only smoker, the weed was mainly for her.

   “When you love some one unconditional, no matter what the circumstances.” Veronica answered. She took a sip of Hennessey then chased it with some soda. She passed the bottle with Lea who faced it, no chaser.

   The girls did this often. No matter how often each of their lives got, they always made time to just hang together and vent. For some, their friendship was the closet thing they had to family.

   Veronica was the oldest, 23 with a son with her boyfriend, Jamar, of 8 years. She was beautiful but humble. Half domican, half black. Long, shiney black hair. She currently worked as a bank teller at the local Credit Union. She knew a thing or two about unconditonial love. Dealing with her baby father for almost a decade and putting up his mess, she had been threw it all.

   “I guess, I’m just bored though,” Veronica started to say. She took a puff of Raquel weed. She wasn’t normally a smoker but it really calmed her nerves. She was under some stress lately.

  “Like every day I get off work, pick my baby up from school, go home and cook, then bed. Then do it all over again the next day. Like, where is the excitement in that? she complained

   “Well I dont need any excitement. I’m focused, this is my last year in college and I dont need anything getting in the way of me graduating” Lea bragged. She was the only one out of all her friends in school.

   “I’m just trying to live.” Raquel chimmed in. “I can’t be on no one’s schedule”

   “Yea, it that’s why you were fired, from what your 2nd job this month,” Lea joked.

   It was true, Raquel couldn’t keep a job to save her life. She was very unstable. More of the reason she didn’t have custody of child, who was currently staying with her sister down south. Raquel dropped of out high school when she was pregnant and been on her own every since. She stayed with her mom, the times they actually got along.

    Lea felt the glare Raquel gave her for the comment. Raquel didn’t take it to personal though. And they were friends and if your friends can’t keep it real with you, then who can?

   “I live for the weekends, I work 9 to 5 monday through friday. Momma needs a day off. I can’t wait for the club on saturday. You know it’s been a while for me” Veronica said. She finished the rest of the Henny bottle.

   “Yea, if Jamar lets you go?” said Raquel

   “Let’s me go? Oh no, no one let’s me go anywhere. I go where I want. I don’t say anything when he’s out all night with his friends. Did I tell you I caught him texting that same girl he supposedly deleted her number” Veronica started to explain to the girls how Jamar has still been involved this chick named Chanel. They had all went to high school with her and she definetly was the type of girl to mess with a guy with a girlfriend. 

    “You need to give him a dose of his own medicine, Veronica. I’m telling you. Guys can’t handle when we pull a them on them.” Raqual said matter of factly.

    “What, you mean mess with someone else?”

    “Duh,” Lea chimmed in. “Raquel is right. And you said it earlier. You want some excitement. A new man in your life is exactly what you need.”

   With Veronica always being the faithful one, she never really thought about cheating. But attention is what she craved. She’d love if it was from the Jamar, but with things so bland, they both were too comfortable with eachother. He was dealing with another girl, so why couldn’t she. The thought consumed her, but to acutally act upon it, was another story.