"Three's Company" (excerpt)
In the opening to this new WIP, Rashaad comes home from a long day at the job and has an impromptu run-in with one of his new roommates-- the one that's good for unintentionally creating confusion. The resolve testing kind.
I know I said I could make it to the holidays, but a few more days like tonight and got dammit, I don’t know. Walking down the sidewalk, dodging low hanging branches and grossly unattended bushes that reach for me like adoring fans, I can’t help but to think about my night. It’s currently 11:48 pm, the sky is a dark shade of prussian blue and the few stars winning the fight with the moody clouds overhead are partnering with the occasional light pole to give me just enough light not to walk into anything.
You would think that I would be a little more on alert, with the mugging that was said to have happened on this same stretch of concrete a couple weeks ago. But fuck, I’m tired and seriously trying to decide if I can keep up this two job pace for two more months. Jonathan, one of my two shift managers, tried it with me tonight over some pallets that one of my college-aged coworkers didn’t stack. It was cool until he decided to try and raise his voice in front of everyone. The look I gave him shut everything down though, according to my girl Jasmine.
“I thought I was gonna have to grab you and take you to the back,” she told me during our break.
“You funny. I got you by nine inches and seventy pounds easy. You wouldn’t have moved shit. But I appreciate the thought.”
Swinging the bright purple company polo around and draping it across my other shoulder, I hustled across the four lane highway doubling as a street. My keys rattled against the Kindle in my bag that I subconsciously pressed against me to quell the noise. Why I did that, I have no idea. I’m not even remotely close enough to anyone’s apartment to bother them.
“Hey, the train still running?” A voice called from my left.
I could barely make out the shape from the shadow cast by a large dumpster, but it was clearly a dude that had taken down at least one brown paper bag full of happy juice tonight.
“Nah. I was on the last one coming into the station. The last one leaving out left at 11:05.”
I never broke my stride just slowed down enough for him to hear me.
“Y’all hiring,” he slurred from behind me now.
Shit you can have my job if you want, I thought. Hell you can probably do Jonathan’s too.
"Yeah they’re always hiring. Just call the number in that cheesy ass commercial they run every other hour.”
He said something else, but I had already picked up my pace. Did I say I was tired yet? I need to get to the crib and get off my feet.
My phone started vibrating against my leg, just as a football sized possum scurried out of the bushes, ran towards me then u-turned and headed back to the shrubbery. If anyone was out this time of night they would have been impressed with the way I absolutely lost my shit at the sight of that thing.
Looking at the caller id, SANDY glowed back at me in white letters.
“Just checking to see if you’re okay. Wanted to see how far away you were,” she added in a heavy, breathy tone.
“Yeah, maybe five or so minutes tops. You need me to stop by the gas station and grab you something?”
“Nope, just checking to see how close you were. I’ll see you when you get in babes.”
She clicked off and I shook my head, easing the device back into my pocket.
Cassandra Davis was one of my two newish, temporary roommates. She was somehow laid back and chill, yet a livewire at the same time. She held a degree in Public Accounting, but for fun, handled a hammer and a nail gun like a carpenter. While she enjoyed a good cabernet, she preferred a Guinness if she had her druthers. And though she oftentimes complained about needing to get in better shape, was a sneaky good source of eye candy that had a penchant for crop tops and leggings, her standard at-home uniform.
Out of respect for her and Max’s situation, I tried my hardest not to get caught staring at her when we were home at the same time. But her overly caring nature mixed with a naturally flirty way of talking confused things regularly.
I had been living with her and her loafing ass boyfriend Maxwell for the past month and a half in a spacious two bedroom apartment in Greenbelt, MD. Why? Because my cousin who I had been roommates with for the past two years decided on a whim to move to Detroit to be with this dude who slid in his DMs on got damn Twitter of all places.
The apartment was in his name. So I was left with four days to find a place for three big ass boxes, two suitcases and a beard & mustache trimmer.
You gotta love family.
The friend of a friend at work who went to school with Cassandra reached out to her knowing she had a spare bedroom and set-up a chat. A quick back and forth email convo led to a face-to-face at a nearby Mahogany Bookstore and the rest was history.
Initially I had discussed needing to stay for about six weeks. Sandy countered with six months, rent free and threatened to up the timeframe if I didn’t fix my face. To say I was taken aback would be an understatement and honestly, I didn’t really know how to respond. I mean I didn’t know this woman from a can of paint and here she was offering me shelter rent-free for half a year. What about your man, I remember asking. Is he cool with this?
Maxwell was a twenty year old soccer phenom from Florida. Now I know jack and his good friend shit about the sport myself, but I do know an athlete when I see one. The son of Brazilian and Italian parents, the kid looked like the modern day prototype of a soccer player with looks that would make a marketing department commit the most heinous of sins to get their hands on him.
There was one problem. The dude loved to smoke and was falling in love with every vice imaginable that would keep him from fully maximizing his potential. The positive in it all, for me anyway, he had a paid for living space off-campus and his relationship with Sandy who was seven years his senior was one of convenience. Hell, I didn’t actually meet the guy until my second day living there. He saw that I played video games, asked if I smoked, smiled and walked out of the room.
When I opened the door to the apartment, the lamp in the far corner was turned on, and the television was on CNBC. My favorite late night channel. I shook my head, dropped my bag beside the bookshelf and moved as quietly as possible into the kitchen. Dropping the Frost Glacier, blue Gatorade I grabbed from the gas station on the counter, I washed my hands and pulled some spiced rum from the cabinet and apple cider from the fridge. One minute and fifteen seconds later I pulled a mug of hot apple cider from the microwave and generously poured some rum inside.
Instantly, the smell of the holidays filled my nostrils.
“Shit, mighta been a touch heavy handed,” I said under my breath.
Grabbing some light sea salt flavored almonds off the microwave, I turned the heel of my closed fist to my lips, leaned my head to the side and dropped a few in.
“There he is.”
I turned at the sound of her voice and saw my roommate walking in my direction in a heather grey nightshirt that said, Coffee and Cocktails in a circle. The letters spelling out tails were distressed.
The rounded hem of the nightshirt hit above mid-thigh, mercilessly putting bare legs the color of golden brown blondies fresh out of the oven on display. Her thighs looked soft to the touch but held the faint definition of a former runner. I lost the battle to keep my eyes from staring at the spot between the tipping point of a man’s undoing-- that sweet meeting space where legs ended and sex of all forms and every way imaginable began.
I settled for a stolen glimpse that I fake coughed away as she intentionally leaned in and brushed my shoulder with hers, before hopping on the counter. Her being this close removed all moisture that existed behind my lips, making me pull another sip from my mug.
“You should take your jacket off and stay a while.”
“Shit man, how much of the Captain did you pour in there?” She nodded in the direction of my drink, “you should take your jacket off, unless you plan on running back out.”
“Oh yeah, nah I’m in for the night. Long night. Been thinking about this drink for the last three hours.”
“I gotcha. Lemme see what you working with over there.”
Listen woman, I’m not in the mood for none of your shit right now. I’m actually tired, so my resolve ain’t working at an optimal level, I thought.
Handing her the mug, Sandy brought it to her lips and blew softly at the sight of the steam rising off. Each careful breath allowed her lips to go back to their normal resting state. She had beautiful wide lips that seemed to smile even when she was not intending to. They weren't full nor plump and definitely not thin. They were just...perfect. Despite the fact that her bare legs and overall warmth were less than an inch or two away from me in this instant, it was her lips that were threatening to ruin me.
I have zero clue why, but I clumsily let her know that I had brought her a Gatorade from the gas station on the way in. I wasn’t sure if she was going out on an Uber run tonight or in the morning, but I knew she liked to have an ice blue Gatorade with her when she did.
Yeah, that was a fucking mistake.
Sandy sipped from the mug and lifted her eyes in my direction at this. Those rich, chestnut brown, doe-like eyes were transmitting all kinds of wrong signals. Or was I just that exhausted?
“Thanks babes, you didn’t have to do that.”
The tone in her voice, a little heavier than usual, wrapped itself around my body and caressed my cheek.
“Least I could do with you and Max agreeing to let me stay here. By the way, happy six week anniversary,” I said with a grin.
“Awww, I didn’t get you anything. How are you gonna have me out here looking like the bad one?”
Before I knew what was happening she leaned over and kissed me on the cheek and hopped down off the counter. When she walked over to where the bottle was resting and put it inside the fridge, my eyes drank in her frame like always.
Cassandra was a beautiful black woman with an understated and effortless sex appeal. Her wild dark brown mane was tied down under a brightly colored scarf of grays, blues and oranges. And tonight she smelled like vanilla.
When she turned around, the spirit of le petit mort filled the kitchen. I really need to go the fuck to sleep.
“Come on, let’s get you to bed,” she said walking over and grabbing my hand.
As she turned to lead me out of the kitchen, I blacked out.