And we’re back.
Here’s a little sample from, The Lessons We Learn, coming later this Spring!
(If you missed last week’s #samplesunday, you can find it here!)
(Note: Sample is copyrighted, unedited, and subject to change because ish happens.)
“So your LoLo’s little friend, right?”
“Here we go with this shit…” I thought, releasing a heavy sigh since it wasn’t the first and surely wouldn’t be the last time I got the question. And it wasn’t like I was naive about the shit, meaning I completely understood how unconventional it was for two attractive people of the opposite sex to be as close as Londyn and I were without fuckin’ around. But it was our truth, and it had been for the last few years, something I would never shy away from since it was a friendship I valued more than anything. And if that meant standing up to her former jailbird daddy about it…
“Yeah. I mean, no. We’re friends, yeah. But I’m not her “little” friend. That’d be Chance,” I explained, getting ready to point Chance out to him in the crowd just so I could take the spotlight off myself.
With a nod and a sip of his drink, he put two-and-two together. “Ellen’s boy. Right. What do you think of him? Is he good for my baby girl?”
“Uhh… yeah. Chance is cool,” I rushed out, quickly deciding I was going to need a drink of my own to survive this interaction.
“Just sip slowly, bruh,” was what I told myself as I put together a mix of Hennessy and pineapple juice. But when I brought the cup to my lips for a swig, ready to take on whatever else Mr. Langston was going to throw my way, I caught a glimpse of Jayla walking through the door, the sight of her damn near making me choke on my drink.
Nah, I really did start choking.
In fact, Mr. Langston called himself trying to help me out, using his heavy ass hand to slap the fuck out of my back when he said, “Loosen up, Young Blood!”
My eyes started to water as I tried to hold the next cough in, not wanting to draw too much attention to myself even though I doubted anyone was really paying attention to us. But just because no one noticed us didn’t mean Mr. Langston didn’t notice the person who had caused me to choke in the first place, his usual stoic expression turning into more of a grin as he stopped patting my back to say, “Ohhh. So that’s who’s got you swallowing your damn tongue, huh? She’s got nothin’ on my Annie, but I get it. Looks like a handful.”
Jayla was looking like a lot more than a handful, the flats from earlier replaced with thigh high boots, her blouse and jeans exchanged for a black off-the-shoulder dress that fit her in all the right places, and the baseball cap traded for long, flowy curls that fell perfectly against her mocha brown skin.
She wasn’t playing fair.
After a more successful sip of my drink, I finally told him, “We’re just friends.”
Calling her a friend felt like a stretch since we hadn’t interacted as much as that implied and I damn sure didn’t want to be just her friend. But that generic title was as much as Mr. Langston needed to know, though that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to challenge it when he replied, “Nah, y’all can’t be just friends. Because the way you said it right now is not the same way you said it about my baby girl. This is somethin’ different.”
“Niggas read a few books in jail and suddenly think they know it all…” I muttered more to myself than him, taking another sip as I watched Jayla look around the crowd for a familiar face. But it was quickly decided that that familiar face was going to be me once I heard Mr. Langston growl, “What did you just…” prompting me to leave him in the kitchen as I rushed out, “Nice talkin’ to you, big homie!” before heading Jayla’s way.
I did my best to duck through the crowd, peeking over my shoulder a few times to make sure he hadn’t followed me. And I was glad to find him still posted up in the kitchen with his drink and his scowl, bringing me the relief I needed to take on the woman who usually left me tongue-tied.
Not tonight, though.
Tonight would be different. At least that’s what I told myself as I gave her a little wave to get her attention before pulling her into a mostly-innocent hug.
My hands may or may not have gone a little low.
“Jayla, hey. You made it.”
The smile on her face when she pulled away gave me moths – cause real niggas don’t get butterflies – , making me smile too as she replied, “And you actually called me Jayla.”
“I’m sorry. Mrs…”
She quickly held up her hands to cut me off. “No, it was perfect. Remember?”
Thinking back to our conversation from the store earlier, I gave her a short nod of acknowledgment, lifting my glass to ask, “Can I… get you something to drink?”
“I’m fine for now,” she answered, taking her attention back to the crowd that had seemingly doubled in size since I first arrived. “This is… not what I expected. In a good way.”
“Told you, Miss. Annie throws the best parties,” I replied, catching the low murmurs of people beginning to cheer, “Go, Annie!” from across the room meaning she was surely up to no good. And once I glanced towards where the chants were coming from and saw Londyn also heading in that direction, I extended my hand to Jayla. “Come on. Let’s go check it out.”
She didn’t argue against it, just slipped her warm hand right into mine and let me lead the way through the crowd until we found the source of the noise – Miss. Annie breaking Mr. Langston off on the makeshift dance floor.
“Damn, how’d he get all the way over here without me seeing him?” was my first question, something I kept to myself as Jayla said, “Wait a minute. I’m pretty sure I saw this woman in a video on Facebook. No, maybe it was Twitter? Either way, they’re adorable!”
I was quick to rebut, “Ain’t nothin’ adorable about that buff ass nig…” catching myself once I realized Jayla would have no idea what I was talking about.
“I mean…. yeah, they’re dope,” I covered with as the impromptu dance circle fizzled out and the music changed to something a little slower; the timing so perfect you would’ve thought I made the playlist myself.
Finishing off my glass with a thick swallow, I sat it to the side and asked, “You wanna dance?”
“Dancing isn’t really my strong suit. I prefer to watch,” she replied almost shyly, the last thing I expected from the woman who exuded confidence every time she stepped into the building. And it wasn’t only her confidence inside of the building, but also the memories of the first time I saw her outside of it; the sight of her letting her hair down that had made me crazy about her in the first place.
I was sure to mention it once I told her, “Nah, I’ve seen you in action before. Hair swingin’ all over the place, hips rollin’, ass boun…”
Before I could finish, she cut me off, her expression a little panicky when she squealed, “When was this?!”
“Some weeks back. You were out with your girls.”
It was the same night Londyn hadn’t let me forget since I had shown up to her place afterward drunk as hell, and had accidentally interrupted her time with Chance. But I could tell when the memory finally came back to Jayla, her panicked expression falling flat as she pushed out, “Oh my God. That… is a night I still can’t remember.”
With a shrug, I insisted, “No sweat. We all have them.”
“Of course you have them. You’re still young. But someone like me is way too old for that shit; as proven by the days I spent recovering afterward,” she replied, making me smirk just as the song changed to, Permission by Ro James, not really giving me a chance to challenge her on the whole age thing since getting her to vibe out with me was much more important.
“This my shit, though. You really gonna leave me hangin’?” I asked, extending my hand to her the same way I had done earlier. But this time, instead of taking it right away, she made me sweat a little bit, her smirk eventually matching mine as she slipped a little closer to accept my invitation. And with my hands at her waist and her hands resting against my shoulders, we found an easy groove, my night officially made when I told her, “I’m feelin’ this dress on you.”
“Well my bad bitch break got cut short thanks to you. So if you see me with sweatpants on in the middle of the week, you’ll know why,” she replied with a little giggle, making me laugh too since I knew good and damn well that wasn’t happening.
Not that Jayla didn’t ever dress down. I mean, she had already proven she was capable with the little outfit she had on at the store earlier. But I highly doubted she’d actually show up to work looking like that.
Unless she’s not talking about seeing each other at work…
With that in my head, I tightened my grip on her waist just slightly, gnawing on my lip when I said, “Balance, right? And besides, I wouldn’t mind seeing you in sweatpants. Or anything less, for that matter.”
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