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He’s an aspiring entertainer from the dark side of the inner city. Survival for Isaak is very much an option he plans to conquer. He has to make it out of his impossible circumstances, and sacrifice is definitely the name of the game, even if it means running the risk of sacrificing one of the most delicate and positively influential bonds he’s ever made.
A social experiment has never been so revealing and frightening for either one of these unassuming individuals. How could two people from the starkest contrast of rearing build an impenetrable bond in just three months? How long will it take for them to dig through their differences to understand those forces that connect them? At what cost will they find harmony to coexist?
Note: This is the first installment of a three book series. It contains expletive language, sexual content, and ends on a cliffhanger. If you do not wish to have these elements in your reads, this is not the venture for you.
Musical vibes of Wayward Love
I squeezed my muscles and shifted in my seat, incredibly uncomfortable.
Is it here or not?
“Okay. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of today’s agenda on your syllabus: the big group assignment.” The handsome professor leaned over the desk he sat perched from and grabbed a loose document. “This group project counts for seventy percent of your semester grade, so it should be taken seriously.” A few sighs of discontentment rang in the stiff air of the classroom. “Yeah… Yeah… Yeah.” He chuckled…rather adorably, a crooked smile exposing half his teeth and gums. “I know most of you in here are freshmen, ideally who this assignment was created for. Those of you who are upperclassmen, will benefit just as much once I explain.” He stood and quietly counted heads. “Good. Even number, just like last week,” he murmured then pulled a stack of envelopes from the desk. “Take one and pass the rest back. There’s just enough for everyone present today.” He passed handfuls of envelopes to the people in the front row.
I shifted in my seat again. I didn’t feel wet on my hind cheeks. My cycle was driving me nuts. And for what? I wasn’t pregnant. No chance of that happening. It just made me miserable for a day and a half or so. For no reason!
I sat in the third row from the door. My friend Alyssa, another freshman, eyed me suspiciously from my right side.
“Period,” I mouthed and watched her nod in recognition, though she truly didn’t understand; we’d just met recently.
“It’s the second week of classes, so it’s safe to say, the only people who are registered for the semester are here,” Professor Dre, a young, black, light skinned cutie continued as we began opening the standard white envelopes simultaneously. “The cards inside are color coded. There are thirty people registered for this class. As such, there’s one of three colored cards inside. The persons who have cards matching yours will be your group members.”
An impressed and lopsided smile opened on his full lips as he observed everyone glancing around in a scurry to find their respective partners. There were scrapes of chairs as people peered over their shoulders and whispers of confirmations of partnerships and arrangements to discuss further after class. Professor Dre—he requested that we not refer to him by his last name during our first class last week—was serious about this assignment, I mused silently.
“Okay.” He walked down a row as he spoke. “Now the assignment: there’s a summary of it in your sylla—”
He was interrupted by the door swinging open in the Raubinger Hall classroom. My eyes trailed behind the professor’s to the other side of the room. The first thing I saw were legs. Long and clad in relaxed denims. Underneath were black leather combat Timberland boots. My eyes then roved up to a black, cotton, short sleeved shirt revealing multi-colored ink from the hem to his hands, one holding a cup of coffee. A black and white paisley cashmere scarf was ornamentally arranged around his neck. And if that metro sexual feature wasn’t the kicker, his high hair stacked elaborately atop his head nailed his eccentric look. I never paid much attention to men with locs—or braids for that matter—but there was something rugged, but polished about his appearance. Something magnetic about his presence.
Alyssa kicked me from across the aisle. How she managed that was just as baffling as her strike was startling.
“You are…?” Professor Dre asked pointedly, obviously thrown by this guy’s abrupt arrival.
“That’s him!” she mouthed audibly.
I stretched my forehead to question that statement.
“The guy from this morning’s Lit Across the U.S. class.”
I nodded in remembrance. That was another class Alyssa and I had together. I hadn’t shown for it because I ran off campus to get my aids for my impending period.
“Afternoon.” He glanced down at a paper in his hand. “Professor McCollum—”
“Dre,” the professor corrected him.
His eyes ballooned and his head angled at the swift correction. “Oh,” he muttered humbly. “My bad, Professor Dre. This is your Sociology in the U.S. class, right?”
The professor stood in one place. “Yes. Again, you are?”
The guy cracked a humble one-cheek grin. That’s when I noticed his golden-yellow skin. It was…different. His hair was dark brown—black almost, but his skin tone was a wheatish hue. And he was a brother. There was no doubt about that from the timbre his chords produced and the cadence of his speech.
His tongue darted to gloss his narrow and plump lips that were a shade darker than his face. Must be a smoker… “Isaak Beckwith. Mrs. Cabezas told me to apologize to you for my late registration.”
“Tawana over in EOF?” Professor Dre asked with tented brows.
“Yeah. There was a mix up with my paperwork. I just got the clearance last night. So, I’m here…if it’s all good with you?” He studied the professor expectantly.
“That’s the same line he gave when he came in late to Lit this morning,” Alyssa whispered at the back of my head, I was sure to me, but for some reason I couldn’t rip my eyes from his long and lean stature. I wondered how tall he was—without the added feet of height from his locs. He had a strong jawline with a goatee and thin mustache. His eyes were pitch sable and striking as he studied Professor Dre. I noticed the slight squint in his gaze. He was thinking behind those raven irises.
“Sure.” The professor sighed as he dropped his eyes in sudden dismay. “Tawana and I go back—well, kinda. She and my godmother went to school together. I’ll kick it with her later. Have a seat.” He pointed to the corner of the classroom where there were several empty desks. The room sounded in a miscellany of tiny whispers, disrupting the captivated quiet the professor was able to establish before the guy joined us. I noticed Professor Dre pouted pensively. “Aye, Isaak,” he addressed the new student. The guy lifted his chin in response. “This poses an unforeseen issue with the semester assignment. I’ll have to disproportionately add you to a group.”
“S’all good, Professor Dre,” the guy cordially replied.
“Uhhhh…” the professor hummed as he blindly scanned the room. Alyssa’s chunky arm shot into the air. “Yes,” he granted.
“I work best in groups. It’s a…” her eyes danced in the air in search of her next word. Her open palms waved over her desk, willing the word to come. “…distinctive talent of mine. Therefore, I don’t have a problem absorbing a new partner.”
Sputters of laughter rang across the room. A stifled smile broke across Professor Dre’s face. And my mouth dropped. I was trying to determine if she was now flirting with him—again—or the new guy.
“I appreciate your generosity.” The professor offered a neck bow. “I’ll even take you up on it.” He observed her card then glanced across the room to the guy, Isaak. “Mr. Beckwith, you’re that quickly assigned to a group. Everyone with purple cards, please raise them in the air.”
Alyssa was the first to raise her card. I paid a brief glance around the room and was shocked when I saw Trinka’s hand up, holding a purple card. Well, ain’t this something… Trinka was my roommate; what were the odds? I slowly raised mine, sheepishly for some unknown reason.
“Good.” The professor smiled. “Now that we have that settled, let’s move on to the fine print of the assignment.” He made his way back to the desk in front of the room. “Okay. The assignment is called Reshaping the World by Embracing Its Many Cultures and Changing Our Perspective. How we achieve that is by…doing it.” His chin dipped. “One of the biggest problems in America is not race related, in general. It is its divide on culture. We are an assortment of various cultures and sub-societies. So many people from the same continents, countries, and sometimes villages, hold altered doctrines. If we can find those human commonalities—those shared and basic principles of humanity—we can possibly co-exist in cohesion.
“This is a semester long project, because according to a Swedish study on human relations, it’ll take that long for you to get to know each other considering your responsibilities outside of this class.” He sat on the edge of the wooden desk again and straightened. “You will spend time together; talk to each other; disagree and peaceably argue your culture’s applications and beliefs; hate each other for a minute; challenge your previous notions about said counter-cultures and then come back to the table with solution-oriented perspectives for harmony.”
My face twisted and I shifted in my seat again, feeling for moisture.
The professor continued. “The deliverable is for you as a group, in your term paper and via presentation, to describe each culture and explain how collectively you’ve noted conflict and individually your solution for overcoming them. Understood?”
As I faced Professor Dre, I noticed his brow line lifting in recognition of someone. “Yes,” he acknowledged.
I turned to follow his line of vision. It was a guy who looked to be Middle Eastern, though I could be way wrong with that. I wasn’t good with identifying ethnic groups.
“What if there are no resolutions, sir?” His accent was light, but detectable.
Professor Dre didn’t take long to reply. “Then you would have to write a damn compelling paper on why there weren’t. C’mon, guys! You’re in training to be members of the elite class of this country, armed with degrees denoting your well-rounded studies during your tenure here. Be the ambassadors of amiable humanity. Just like your college-career, this class is supposed to not only challenge you, but improve you—change you. This assignment should do just that.” He paid a few moments of deep regard to the kid.
I chewed on the inside of my mouth, counting down the minutes to get out of here, silently panicking at the prospect of leaking through my shorts: I didn’t double back with a pad and tampon. My period was heavy and brutal for no good reason!
So useless, this feminine cycle.
“Any more questions?” the professor prompted.
I sat uncomfortable for the next forty minutes or so of the class, being tortured. At some point in time my eyes roamed the room, feeling compelled to venture to the back corner. They locked on pitch black sables, burning a hole in my head. The kid, Isaak, gaped at me with a blank expression. He was brash about it, not even flinching at being caught. There was something about the way his raven pupils were up while his chin and lids were low. It made me feel…weird. I did us both the honor of rolling my eyes away from the back of the room.
I was beyond grateful when the professor dismissed the class. Unlike last week, I didn’t bide the time ogling and wondering just how young he was. Alyssa and Trinka agreed on thirty years old while my bid was on mid-twenties.
Today, I had to go. I had Statistics next, but needed to shoot back to my room across campus first. I was just at the door when Alyssa pulled me in the opposite direction from where I needed to go.
“Hang on!” she whispered hard through gritted teeth, annoyed.
“I have to go. My Elementary Statistics class is next in the Science building, but I have to hit my room first.”
“You and this damn period.” She rolled her chocolate eyes. “You’ve been talking about it since I met you this summer. It’s like a big event of sorts. Get over it already. We all piss, shit, and bleed,” she hissed while fluffing her dark brown silky hair. “Even some men, so they say.”
I rolled my eyes at that. Then I scanned the hallway, people cutting between us to leave the classroom.
“Why are we waiting here?” I asked with a screwed face.
“Trying to make contact with my new baby daddy,” Alyssa spoke through one side of her mouth, her eyes trained ahead to the door.
Trinka exited into the hall next. She was smiling into her phone as she tapped away. Alyssa snatched her over to the wall we now stood against.
“Cut that lovey dovey shit,” Alyssa hissed to Trinka with her eyes still to the door. “I’m trying to get a campus boo, too.” When Trinka met her with questioning eyes, Alyssa answered, “Wait here. He’s coming.” Her nose was flared as she straightened her shoulders, used her fingers to swipe the sides of her mouth, and smooth her eyebrows.
I rolled my eyes while shifting my weight from one hip to the next.
“This guy?” Trinka whispered with an unimpressed tone.
I glanced up to find the guy, Isaak, gaiting out into the hall, glancing around while sipping his coffee. Now that I was on my feet at the same time as him, I could really see how tall he was. His locs were long, stacked high in some impressive style that screamed metro-sexual, but his posture was too lax for that label. His eyes swiped against our trio, standing adjacent to the classroom door like hounds.
“Mr. Beckwith!” Alyssa called, raising her butter pecan digit in the air, fingers curved delicately. “Hey, over here!” He strolled over to us, chin still low.
“What up?” he asked, his voice flat, unlike how it was with the professor earlier.
“Well,” Alyssa began, “I know it’s still early in September and all, but I hear Professor Dre can be fair as long as we don’t bullshit and miss deadlines. I thought we could exchange numbers to set up a meeting time for our first group discussion.” Her delivery was honeyed with feminine allure.
Isaak snorted, one side of his mouth curved higher than the other. “A’ight. Gimme ya phone.”
Alyssa pulled it from her bountiful cleavage practically before his six syllables were up.
We watched raptly and quietly as he typed his number in her phone, taking his time doing so. When he was done, he stood still, seemingly with his eyes roaming randomly down the hall. Within seconds, his phone dinged and he retrieved it from the pocket of his jeans that were low on his hips from how loose fitting they were. He tapped into it a few times before nodding and pivoting to walk off. Before he did he brushed eyes with me, but in a quick, cool, and unimpressed way. Isaak stalked off as easily as he joined us.
I swallowed hard, wondering what that look was for exactly. It was uncouth and loaded with something else.
“Fuck! That was hot, right?” Alyssa exclaimed breathily as she twisted around to face us. Then she gasped when her phone sounded of a text. “This is him!”
“What he text you?” Trinka asked with a screwed face.
“Look!” Alyssa shoved the phone in her face.
“Isaak?” Trinka sucked her teeth and rolled her eyes, preparing to take off, too. “He’s a hood dude. A thug,” she accused.
“How do you know?” Alyssa’s jaw seemed to have dropped to the floor.
I wanted to know, too. We all began down the hall to the entrance of the building.
“Look at how he’s dressed, all baggy and shit. He barely gives eye contact and used little words when speaking to you.”
“Okay. And what’s wrong with a thug?” Alyssa demanded.
“They breed more thugs and this world could do without them. I’m surprised he’s enrolled in school. Bet fifty dollars he won’t last two weeks, much less the semester. This isn’t their speed. I’m surprised he met all the requirements.”
“What if he’s a wannabe thug?” I asked. “You know…one of those who look the part and might have even gone to school with some to emulate.”
Trinka shrugged a shoulder while lifting her brows. “That’s possible. Either way, he’s got some learning to do. No college girl is going to want a future with him once she graduates and finally “gets” his trajectory.”
“Which is?” Alyssa asked.
“If he doesn’t grow out of that ghetto-mocking mentality: either in jail or dead,” Trinka delivered with wide eyes. Her mocha face made up nicely.
Although she was a cute stubby little sight to see animated, I didn’t have the time or energy to participate in this conversation.
“Or maybe he’s built a persona for his freshman year to score some ass,” Alyssa mused out loud.
“Who said he’s a freshman?” That slipped from my brain through my lips.
Trinka shrugged, uncommitted.
Still considering her words, Alyssa continued with her theory. “So, he’s a freshman with a manufactured image to get ass? You think he’s a virgin?” She gasped at her own revelation. “Holy shit! A guy that hot can’t be a desert dick!”
Trinka stopped in her tracks, placed her fist on her shapeless yet bountiful hips, her chunky arms forming like arrows on either side as she peered angrily at Alyssa. “Of course he isn’t a virgin! No student shows up on a college campus with their V-card, silly!”
At that proclamation, both girls’ heads swung over to face me: Trinka’s apologetically and Alyssa’s pretty much the opposite. To save my feelings, Alyssa continued to walk, grabbing Trinka with her.
I hung a right as they went straight ahead. “All right, ladies, I gotta go. I’ll see you guys in the cafe for lunch, right?”
They answered at the same time before going back to their debate. It was all tied in together. My undecided and uncontrolled cycle…and my sole mission my freshman year, here at William Paterson University.
© Love Belvin @ MKT Publishing
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Things went left when they met, and while they were able to form a bond of sorts, it wasn’t what either of them hoped for. Before this wayward love settles for the straight path, there has to be a low. Right?
The wayward connection of Isaak and Kennedi is now under new terms. This new playing field has them both caught in a whirlwind. They’re outside the classroom and in unfamiliar territory; the semester assignment seems a lifetime ago, and now those cultural differences that separated them aren’t enough to keep them from exploring more with each other and about each other.
But to what expense? What’s sacrificed? What will be revealed? How low can love go before it ceases to exist?
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“So, now that you know what we do on paper”—she flicked her neck to motion out on the floor—“let us show you what we do live and in action.”
Her crimson hued lips spread into a billboard quality smile. Rebecca had the palest skin I’d ever seen, but her makeup was remarkable. Her deep auburn hair was parted in the center and slicked back into a face-lifting ponytail. I watched as she stood from behind her glass-top desk, rounded it in her black fitted midi skirt and crisp white ruffled blouse. She stopped and waited for me to place my portfolio inside my briefcase.
I heard her howl, “Squeeeeee!” It was a non-projected one that didn’t reach beyond her glass encased office walls and was accompanied by clenched fists that shook mid-air. “I’m so happy my uncle has finally agreed to this. I’m not clueless on website building, but the maintenance of it can be a bitch when you have competing job roles.”
I smiled as I stood, smoothing down my dress. “I completely understand, which is why I’m the woman for the job. Based on what we’ve gone over so far, I can see a few changes I’ll be updating by the end of the night.”
Grabbing my portfolio, I followed behind her to the door. When we stepped out onto the floor, my phone rang. It was an unknown caller. Usually, I would never take a call while closing on a business deal, but now I was the emergency contact for an eight-year-old who couldn’t exactly fend for herself.
“Hey,” I called over to Rebecca just ahead of me. “You mind?” I pointed to my ringing phone.
“Oh, of course not. I’ll go to the ladies’ room and meet you over by the break room. It’s near where you came in.”
I nodded, answering my phone at the same time.
“Kennedi,” he sang in a manner I wasn’t accustomed to hearing from him.
Thick, sultry, longing…making my pulse beat effectively in my neck.
My eyes skirted around. “Uh… Hey, Isaak.”
Instinctively, my nose lifted in the air and nostrils widened at how formal that sounded. For a while he didn’t speak, making me feel he had a reaction to how sterile my greeting was, too.
“I ain’t heard from you in two weeks.” Even his voice sounded different now. My body certainly responded to it differently.
It was deeper, softer, more commanding, and…intimate.
I licked my lips, tortured by his throaty tenor. “You have too heard from me. I said thanks for the iPad Pro.” He’d, in fact, sent three of the devices to me. One for me, another for Joy, and the last for Martin and Shiya to share. It was a mark of his observant behavior while I was out there. Apparently, my old device didn’t fit the bill. And the one I’d purchased for Joy wasn’t his preferred Apple product.
“That was a text. A mad short one.”
Swallowing the lump in my throat, I muttered, “I know.” I chewed on my lip and rolled my eyes.
“I didn’t wanna wait for you to finally call or not call.” His voice was even, too calm.
There was no music or rumblings from tablemates in the background on his end, which let me know he was alone. For privacy.
That state made me think of all the…nasty things he’d done to me. My stomach churned in that manner again.
“Why would I not call, Isaak?” I actually sounded offended…argumentative.
“Cut the bullshit, Kenny. Something’s changed between us?”
I’d been an adulterer…with him. A willing one. And I’d do it again and again. I wanted to do it again and again. I just didn’t like the cheating or sharing aspect of it. But who was I to come into their game and dismiss the rest of the players? Besides, Isaak and I were friends. Best friends. It was silly of me to have such thoughts. I hadn’t worked it all out in my head yet, which was why I hadn’t called.
“No…” I gripped my face with my palm, squeezing my eyes in utter frustration with myself. “No. Of course, nothing has changed between us!” I made sure to keep my voice low in the middle of the open office.
I could hear Isaak take a deep breath. “Good ‘cause…” he hesitated. “Because you’re like family without the bloodline…like real special, Kennedi, and I don’t wanna fuck that up.”
Sucking in a breath, I immediately returned, “You won’t!” My eyes squeezed shut again. I was overly assuring him. Dweeb-like. I licked my lips, eyes cast to the floor. “We’re good.”
“Then can we talk about it?”
“Talk about what?” I breathed in a panic.
“Talk about me eating ya—”
“No!” My tone was alarmed at this point. “You don’t have to…”
My throat closed on me and I shifted in my stance, turning to face the few enclosed offices behind me with my palm to my face again.
“Okay.” I swallowed. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Because talking about it would do lots of things,” I whispered painfully. Already, I was being melodramatic, feeling that actually talking about it would reveal everything.
“Like what?” He sounded stressed.
“Like expose how sexually immature I am!” My left hand shot in the air. “I never knew what intelligence and emotions it took to be…sexual.” When he didn’t respond right away I let it rip. “There are so many things that happened that night I don’t understand. So many latent emotions and sensations I’ve been dealing with that’s driving me crazy.”
“Well, we can talk about them—”
“No!” I whispered. “It’s too embarrassing!”
“What’s so embarrassing about it?” he argued, telling of his short patience.
“Everything! Do you know it amazed me that you had pubic hairs?” I whispered hard into the phone. “Pubic hairs! Isaak, your pubic hairs fascinated me. That’s ridiculous!”
“We can talk about that, Kenny.”
“No, we can’t. Absolutely not interested in you knowing how much of a dweeb I am. I like you not knowing exactly where I land on the spectrum of underdeveloped.” I shook my head at the thought of that prospect. “Besides, I have friends.”
“I’m your friend.”
My face contorted again. “I know, but—”
“And I’m gonna always be your friend. That’s not changing, Kennedi!” he demanded—threatened.
“I didn’t say you wouldn’t be.”
My brows shot in the air. “Good?”
“Yeah. Now, if you wanna talk about the subject, talk to me. I can give you the best feedback ‘cause I was there.” I rolled my eyes. “And one last thing.”
“What?” I straightened.
“If you wanna do it again, call me. I wouldn’t mind being that person either.”
I sucked in a breath. “Isaak.”
“Bye, Sunset.” I could hear the chuckle in his words before he disconnected the call.
And there was that familiar roiling in my groin again. He made me unfairly feverish. After a long, dramatic sigh, I created a contact for Isaak in my phone. This would be the only true way to avoid my current adult issues.
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“After the hot sex comes the real world.”
“What was that?”
“My therapist once said, ‘after the hot sex comes the real world. Or in wayward love, the drama is sprinkled in between passionate lovemaking’.”
“That sounds more like one of them novels you like to read.”
“No. Ours is too hilly to be a traditional romance story.”
And it is. Journey the conclusion to Love Belvin’s riveting “Wayward Love” series, and see how errant the path to Isaak and Kennedi’s happily ever after is. What is a perfect love story? Does it not include disappointment, betrayal, distractions, guilt, and anger?
Just how much can these two take before they decide the victory of love isn’t worth the pain?
Note: This is the final installment of a three book series. It contains expletive language, and sexual content. If you do not wish to have these elements in your reads, this is not the venture for you.
My eyes shot to the ceiling, the hanging chandelier blinked a few times.
“This isn’t the first time that’s happened. Could be those heavy winds out there.” Viola snapped off a piece of asparagus with her teeth and chewed as she eyed the chandelier.
“Ut-oh…” Willy sat at the head of the table, looking up there, too. “I’ll take a look at it tonight. Young can help me.” He went back to his food.
“Kenny, baby, you want more veggies?” Viola asked as she pushed the serving platter of grilled asparagus over to Kennedi. “There’s more than those string beans and grilled chicken. I feel like we made three meals for tonight.”
Kennedi’s shaky eyes came up to me. She smiled shyly, tensely and cleared her throat. “No thank you. I’ve had enough. Plus, I’ve cut back on asparagus.” She chuckled nervously.
“When?” Willy asked with a mouthful. “That was one of your favorite vegetables.” He went back to stabbing more greens in his plate with his fork.
“For a while now.” Her eyes darted over to me then fell back into her plate.
“Yeah, Daddy,” Kennedi hummed, sounding a little annoyed, but she maintained a soft expression. “There’s lots that’s changed about me recently.”
Willy paused, his fork was mid-air as he thought about that. Then he hiked his brows and continued. “Yeah. I guess so.”
“Isaak,” Viola stood, gathering dishes, “can I offer you dessert?”
“Not right now, sweetie.” Willy’s tone was as gentle as I’d ever heard it for his wife. He even gave her a big ass fake smile. I wanted to shake my head. It was clear there was still some shit in the air between them, and probably because of his new baby. “I thought Young and I could have an evening tumbler.” He winked.
“The drink Kennedi brought by for us.”
Viola’s eyes flew to Kennedi, who frowned at no one in particular. “A drink?” Then she went back to Willy. “On a Sunday, just a few hours after morning worship?” She met Kennedi with hard eyes again. “Kennedi Tramelle?”
Kennedi’s eyebrows met and her closed mouth pouted, making a stank face as though she was thinking. “When I called to invite you over, you asked if you could bring anything like your turkey wings because Isaak would be coming, too. I told you it was cool because I was bringing him a bottle of Mauve. I never said it was for after dinner or for the both of you.”
I pulled in a deep breath, feeling uncomfortable. She didn’t have to bring me anything. A good home cooked meal was enough, but I forgot; Kennedi couldn’t cook. That was probably her contribution. Whatever the hell the reason, it felt good to know she’d thought of me.
“I thought you were bringing the family back,” Willy posed to Kennedi.
She stood and helped her mother with the dishes. “I am. Should have done it a long time ago.” Kennedi stacked plates and serving dishes along with her mother.
Willy huffed, pulling a glass of water to his mouth. “You should’ve never broke it apart.”
Kennedi froze. She looked winded.
“Willy.” Viola warned, her chin in the air like the mother hen she was when it came to her only child.
Willy lifted his hands in the air and rolled his eyes to the corner of the room. Kennedi started moving again. She filled her hands and arms with dishes and left.
“I can help,” I offered Viola.
“No, baby.” She pointed toward my chair with her forehead as she moved to leave the dining room, too. “You just relax. If you want a drink, Kenny’ll get you one. We just want you comfortable and feeling at home.”
She left out and my eyes went to Willy. He waved off the ladies behind their backs.
“They should’ve never shut us out,” he whispered. “It wouldn’t have gone down like that had I had my mess together.” He frowned, bringing his elbows on the table.
Willy looked every bit of eight years old like Martin when he got screamed at for picking with his damn sisters.
I chuckled quietly, more in my head.
Willy’s a wild dude, man…
“So, how’re you making out?”
“I’m good. Just putting one foot in front of the other.”
“No new news.” I exhaled, and pushed my elbows on the table, folding my arms over each other. “We still have our hopes high.”
“That’s a sad story, man. I’ve been praying for him. I swear.” His face turned hard. “You know we don’t all make it out?”
I nodded. “This is true.”
“He’s holding it down. Ain’t got no choice, really.” I tried to chuckle.
Smiff had been in solitary for over two months. He got into a fight and was thrown in there. I’d been trying to find out for how long, but they kept those prison walls tight administration-wise.
Willy scratched his mustache. “I read that article you did in Time. They talked about your incarcerated mentor? I didn’t know you had one, man. And then he had that heart attack around the same time Guap was shot.” I nodded, eyes to the centerpiece of the table. Fresh flowers I brought with me today. Viola found a vase and made them a focal point. “How’s he?”
“He’s alive. Got ‘im on meds, but…” I waved my hand in the air. “I don’t know how good they are. Not confident he’s getting quality care in there.”
“Yeah. He’s got sight issues happening because of his bad kidneys.”
They transferred him to a minimum level security prison in Colorado. A smaller joint where they were supposed to give him the special care he needed. Touchie was hoping to finally see him next month.
“You just stay encouraged, man. I know the timing of everything last year was messed up—including my issues. They had my hands tied behind my back. You know if I didn’t already have Viola on my back, this separation thing would have never gone down.”
“But we’re back together now,” Kennedi butted in, carrying a tray into the dining room. She gave us both small glasses and unscrewed a bottle of limited edition Mauve.
“Limited edition?” Willy read the bottle, too. “The regular one is the good stuff, but the tightwads on the dentistry board drink this after hours in the piano rooms.” He clapped his hands together, excited as hell.
Shit. The first time I had the limited edition kind was in Connecticut at the party Jordan Johnson invited me to. Apparently, the Jacobs dude owned the company. The shit tasted different.
Kennedi setting up four glasses instead of two snatched my attention. Viola stepped in, carrying a tray with a red velvet cake and peach pie. She set it next to the platter where the Mauve was and sat down.
“Kenny,” she called out, recognizing the glass finally. “You know I don’t do this hard stuff.” She laughed.
Kennedi hummed as she poured a thumb in her father’s glass. “You’ll thank me later.”
Willy laughed, his eyes going to his wife. “Watch out now!”
Kennedi moved closer to me, but her smiling eyes were on her mother. Kenny was plotting.
“This is limited edition Mauve!” Willy repeated after swallowing his first sip. “Wow! That’s…that’s good!” He nodded, lips poked.
“What’s the difference between limited edition and the regular?” Viola asked while watching Kennedi pour hers.
“Apparently, it was distilled during World War I,” Kennedi answered.
“How do you know, young lady?”
“I looked it up after I got the bottle.” She moved to pour her own finally.
I took a swig of mine and remembered how good and potent it was on sight. Mauve had a combination of flavors in it. I could taste lime, grapefruit, walnuts, and some type of spices I couldn’t name.
“Where did you buy this from?” Viola asked, smelling it first.
“I didn’t.” Kennedi laughed. “I can’t afford this stuff. The cheapest bottle can cost more than a pair of designer shoes. This one is a mortgage payment!” Kenny’s eyes widened and she pulled the glass to her mouth.
As if she knew I was looking at her, her eyes narrowed and she winked as she took her sip. I caught myself. It almost happened. Again. She almost had me caught up and seduced. I couldn’t think of Kennedi that way anymore. Sex with Kennedi Armstrong was off the table. It would probably fuck me up, and I didn’t need that in my world anymore.
Willy made an act of whistling after taking a sip. “Where’d you get this one from then?”
“Mom, slip slow.” Kennedi laughed. I fought my own, watching Viola take a long draw from her small glass. “Mauve has been known to sneak up on you.”
She swallowed. “Really?” Viola’s eyes grew big. “It does taste alcoholly, but it’s rich in taste. I can detect thyme and grapefruit.”
“Oak, too,” Willy chimed in and winked at his wife.
Viola giggled, going in for more.
The apple don’t fall far from the damn tree at all.
“Ahhhhh!” Willy stretched his arms wide in his seat. “This is nice. Real nice. I was looking forward to sipping with you and jiving around about manly things, but having my girls with us ain’t so bad at all.”
Kennedi smiled and grabbed her glass again for more.
“It’s been a while,” Viola agreed. “I like having my girl home. And Isaak being here brings back fond memories. Real warm.” She smiled at me.
Things went quiet for a while. Maybe this wasn’t so bad. The Armstrongs were still like a family I never knew. They had their issues, but were together. Good people. It made me wonder what type of legacy I would leave for my own kids, knowing I didn’t see marriage in my future. I still believed we had a shot at a decent one as a family.
“So, what’s the occasion?” Willy asked. “What made you bring us all together?”
That reminded me that Willy still wasn’t back at home. Hopefully after this Mauve, he would be. I laughed inside.
“Kenny thought it would be nice to have everybody all together—minus my babies.” Viola’s lashes fluttered guiltily. She’d brought up the forbidden topic.
It was all good, though. My guard was down. Our bellies were full and now we were stunting with Mauve. Everything was breezy.
“We’re not going there.” Kennedi tossed soft eyes to her mother, but she had a sweet tone. “Yes. I thought it would be nice to get the gang back. It’s good for us to discuss our new dynamic.”
“What’s that?” Willy sipped again.
I followed suit.
“You and Mom need to decide what you’re going to do with this marriage,” Kennedi stated so calmly. Matter of factly, reminding me of how she was with my kids.
My face opened in shock. I wondered if I should even be here for this.
“And why do you think it concerns you?” Willy gave back to her just as stern…and smooth. “You’re an adult with your own life. You don’t even live here.” No matter how calm he looked to be, I could tell she’d ruffled his damn feathers.
“My point exactly. And I don’t plan to be moving back. It would be nice to sleep at night, not wondering if my mother is sad or crying because the man she decided to devote her life to doesn’t know if he fancies Viola or Violas.”
“Kenny,” Viola warned.
“Excuse me?’ Willy lowered his glass from his face.
“Willy!” Viola warned him.
Kennedi smiled. “I don’t mean any disrespect, Daddy. Quite honestly, I have my reservations about her taking you back, but as an adult, I understand I have no voice in the matter. This woman loves you and has demonstrated it for a quarter of a century.” Her eyes on him seemed so sincere, so honest. I’d never seen this side of her.
Viola dropped her face in her hands and cried. Willy sat frozen, eyeing his daughter, possibly deciding on how he’d respond.
“Why would you bring this up like this?” His face straight, mine hanging open. “And why in front of him?” his voice so low, so affected.
Yeah. “Maybe I should go,” I tried.
“No. You shouldn’t.” She shook her head softly, eyes falling below. Kennedi turned back to her Mauve and took a sip, not looking at me at all. “Because he’s going to be around for a while.”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
Her head came up. “You didn’t let me finish. I want to start the road to honesty. This family’s had too many secrets.” She nodded over to me, her face still to him, but eyes scanning me. “I’m in love with Isaak.” The room got quiet and I lost control of my lungs for a minute. I could see as she swallowed. “I’ve been in love with him since we met at William Paterson. He left—to pursue his career, of course.” She swallowed again. “And his absence intensified it. When he came back, I was too afraid to explore it.”
Willy laughed, but I could tell it was laced with sarcasm. “You embarrass me in front of him to announce you’ve had a petty crush on him all these years?” Viola’s wet and red eyes shot up so fast, I caught it in my peripheral. “That ain’t being a grown woman, Kennedi. That’s being a chil—”
“Isaak and I were once lovers.” Kennedi’s eyes closed. “Passionate lovers.” My back fell into the chair. “So passionate we created a love child that I lost stupidly.” Her eyes squeezed.
Willy turned to me. His face was blank at first. Then it was like slow motion when he jumped from the table and lunged for me.
© Love Belvin @ MKT Publishing