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Excerpt from Almost Doesn't Count

One

“Damn! That was sooo good, unbelievable,” I shouted, basking in the afterglow of some off the chain lovin’. ”Made my toes curl and shit." My body was still trying to claim and relish the last remnants of that delicious feeling like a crack addict trying to hold onto her last high. My plumbing would be good to go for at least another week, then it would be maintenance time again. However, I had another plumber in mind.

I had already scoped out this new guy at work. Dude was tall, dark chocolate like a Hershey's candy bar, and wore at least a size twelve shoe; just like I liked 'em. I am not going to front and act all prim and proper. I craved myself some good lovin’. I keep it real. Some people enjoy a nice glass of wine after work or maybe a few puffs on a cigarette or cigar to relax. For me, sex, a good fuck, relaxed me. Took the edge off. Sex made me forget my worries for the moment. Gave me a natural high.

As much as I couldn't stand his crazy ass half the time, no make that most of the time, Raheim knew how to throw down in the bedroom. In the kitchen. In the living room. Hell, even in the bathroom. Had a sistah walking crooked the next day with a big Kool-Aide smile on her face and an occasional orgasmic flashback and twinge that made her pause for a moment. I had enough good sense to realize that was the only reason I tolerated his ghetto, ignorant, gold-tooth, thug-ass, drug-dealing self.

As I glanced over at him, sprawled on my new navy bedspread, with a stupid grin on his face as he cupped his now limp dick, my orgasmic high quickly faded. I wanted him out. Now! I didn't care if it is two a.m. on a rainy, Saturday morning.

I intended to enjoy my last few hours in my cozy apartment that I shared with my life-long, best friend Shaneeka. Raheim had served his purpose. Well now, it was time for his ass to step. The sooner, the better. He knew you didn't get no cuddling, cooing and catering here. I didn't play that shit, not me. I had no need for any emotional attachments. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am worked for me.

By noon, I planned to have completed my drive down to South Georgia to spend the summer with my mama, Miss Betty, as she preferred for me and others to call her. Double damn. Miss Betty was another person who got on my last damn nerve after the first ten minutes. Sometimes first five. Yeah, she brought me into the world and shit, but you just had to know my mama to understand. She wasn't Claire Huxtable from the Cosby Show.

After a nasty fall at work, which damaged a ligament in her left leg, Miss Betty was recovering from knee and leg surgery and wouldn't be able to get around much for the next six weeks or so. Seeing how I was her only child, lucky me, I would play the role as her slave for the entire, damn summer. My company, National Bank, was kind enough to transfer me to my hometown's banking center for the summer. Yeah right. Hell, I was doing them a favor. Who wanted to spend a hot-ass, Georgia summer in of all places, South Georgia? Someone not in their right mind. That's who. I grew up there and know the deal.

“Raheim!” I shouted, nudging him with my left foot.

He didn't answer, only lightly moaned and turned over onto his taut stomach. He looked like he was out for the count.

“Raheim. You gotta go boo.”

He still didn't move, so I kicked him this time. No, not hard. Just hard enough.

“Shit. Mercedes, what? What the hell do you want? Let me get some sleep baby and then I’ll be ready for you again. Slow your roll for a minute.”

“No baby, you gots it all wrong. You ain’t gettin' no more of this. Not tonight anyway. You gotta go," I said in true sista girl fashion.

”Girl, you must be out of your damn mind if you think I’m gettin' out of this warm bed at two o'clock in the morning and driving half-way across town,” he said, glancing over at the digital clock that set on my nightstand and then he rolled back over. Still laughing.

Oh no he didn’t. “Raheim, get up!” I shouted, nudging him harder this time. “I mean it!”

“Mercedes stop. You must have lost your damn mind! Girl, leave me the hell alone.” He snatched and pulled the bedspread tighter around his muscular shoulders.

“Okay, okay fine. That’s how you want to play?” I said, quietly and quickly edging myself out of bed and walking out of my bedroom. I was on a serious mission. "Two can play this game."

“No he didn’t ignore me and tell me what he was going to do in my house! Oh hell no! I DON'T play that!” I cursed to myself as I hysterically opened drawer after drawer in the darkened kitchen. I was so mad that my head was hurting right behind my eyes.

“Here it is. Lets see what his black ass has to say now.”

I quickly walked down the hallway, back to my bedroom. Raheim was lightly snoring, not aware of what I had in store for his ass. He’d soon find out. He had known me long enough to know I didn't play. Female or male, it didn't matter. If you messed with me, you'd better be willing to get your ass kicked and served up.

As I tightened my grip on the wooden handle of the eight-inch butcher knife, I snatched the covers off Raheim in one swift, fluid motion. My favorite bedspread landed on the floor beside the bed. The moment Raheim opened his eyes to see what was going on, I had the sharp tip of the steel blade pressed against his Adam’s apple, before he could utter one single damn word. For a flicker of a second, I saw fear in his eyes because he knew I was crazy enough to cut his ass. Yeah, I could be one crazy bitch if I had to. Don't push me unless you wanted to be pushed back even harder.

“Now, what did I just tell you?” I was not even trying to hide my nakedness. I knew anyone looking in the bedroom window would have thought I was a crazed lunatic on the loose. With a crazed look in my eyes, I was looking wild with my hair all over the place as I raised the blade higher.

Raheim finally found the strength to talk. “Bitch, if you don’t get that blade out my face, I’m gonna to beat your ass up and down this room. Don’t make me go there. I promise you won't like the end result.”

“No, you got it all wrong. You gonna get your black ass cut up in here. I’m not playin'. I'm not one of your lil' tricks.”

Catching me off guard, Raheim quickly jumped up and tried to grab my right wrist, but I was too fast. By reflex, I glazed his Adam’s apple with the steel tip of the blade. I immediately saw a trickle of red. His blood. A faint smile escaped my chapped lips.

“Damn! Damn! Damn! You crazy ass bitch, I know you didn’t just cut me,” he screamed, making a sudden move in my direction. He wiped blood onto the back of his right hand.

For a moment, I was a little afraid. Just for a moment though. I knew Raheim's reputation on the streets, you didn't mess with him. But I didn’t, couldn’t, back down now. He'd have to back up his words. I started swinging the butcher knife back and forth, up and down, all around his face and balls.

“Call me a bitch one more time. You’ll be the bitch up in here with no balls to claim. Once word gets out, see how much respect you get on the streets.”

Raheim just looked at me with pure rage in his eyes.

"That's right. Come on. Try me. Yeah, try me."

"Bitch. . . "

“Did you hear me? Get the fuck out! Now!”

As he threw a pillow at me, somehow, Raheim managed to get the bed in-between us and continued to scream obscenities, rant and rave. That pissed me off even more. An internal rage erupted. A couple of seconds later, I was chasing his ass through my two bedroom apartment, ducking chairs, throwing shit, screaming profanities, my breasts bouncing, his dick swinging, and telling him to get the fuck out.

I’m glad Shaneeka wasn't there to witness my latest outburst. But then again, knowing her, she probably would have looked at us, shook her head and went right back to bed and a deep sleep. Shaneeka had seen me in action before. Tonight, she was over at her man’s apartment.

Fifteen minutes later, I tossed the last of Raheim’s clothes out my front door, and I heard him cussing as he struggled to find his dirty draws, get dressed, and put on his new sneakers. Maybe he'd be able to get the bloodstains off them.

After rinsing off a few specks of blood, I carefully placed the butcher knife back in the kitchen drawer and slowly walked back down the hallway to enjoy the rest of the morning in my apartment. I didn't give Raheim a second thought. I had important things on my mind.

The little girl was suddenly awakened. Was that a noise she had heard? The girl strained her ears to hear. Nothing. She had long ago become a light sleeper. She pulled Sweetmouth closer into the cradle of her arm and smoothed down the doll’s dark black hair. She dared not breathe. She waited for a sound. Strained to hear. Nothing.

As she cautiously and slowly raised her head up and peered into the pitch-black darkness, the girl anxiously held her breath. Fear had made small chill bumps appear up and down her thin brown arms. She shivered uncontrollably and pulled her covers tighter. Just as she was preparing to drift back off to sleep, she heard the sound again. Louder. Voices. Footsteps. As fear paralyzed her, Sweethmouth was crushed against her chest.

If she were human, Sweetmouth would have heard the frantic pitter-patter of her heartbeat.

 

Two

“I’m gonna miss you girlfriend,” Shaneeka said in that whiny voice she sometimes used; the one I hated with a major passion. “What am I going to do the entire summer without you?” she exclaimed into the phone.

“I’m sure you and Jamal will manage somehow.”

“See girl, I’m trying to be serious. I am going to miss your stupid ass.”

“Yeah right, just don’t let Jamal move in and take over. Keep him out of my shit.”

“Now, you wrong for that. Anyway, I think he got some heifer on the side he screwing. He's always canceling our dates and disappearing for days at a time. Can't even reach him on his two-way. He won't answer his cell. I’d better not find out who the bitch is.”

My roommate Shaneeka was Jamal's girlfriend. Jamal was a low down dog, like most men I knew; had been for as long as I had known him. I didn't understand what Shaneeka saw in that loser, but evidently it was something because he had been around, off and on, for almost five years, doing the same ol' BS. Personally, I didn't see any redeemable qualities in him. If it were me, I would have kicked Jamal to the curb years ago. I definitely wasn't Shaneeka. Jamal wouldn't step to me the way he stepped to her. No way in hell.

“I wouldn’t be surprised and it wouldn’t be the first or last time Shaneeka. Why do you continue to put up with his shit?” I questioned, shaking my head slowly from side to side.

“Girl, everybody is not like you. Okay?”

“And what is that suppose to mean?”

“Girl, don’t make me go there; I'll break it down for you.”

“Yes, please do,” I said loudly with much attitude creeping into my voice and my head bobbing from side to side with much finger action thrown in for good measure.

“You know what I’m talking about “Miss I don’t need no good for nothing, low down man, I can do bad all by myself, Miss I’m Independent and can buy my own shit and a man can’t do nothing for me but give me some. And better yet, if I have to, I can buy a toy and handle that my damn self too.”

There was a moment of silence, then a series of small snickers filled the phone line. They started out small and elevated to a boisterous laugh. Minutes later, we were both laughing so hard that tears were rolling down my cheeks. I'd wipe them away and more would fall. Shaneeka had me, had me to the tee. I had quoted that motto many times. Too many to count.

We finally recovered enough to talk. “Oh no you didn’t. Girl, you’d better be glad I’m your friend, and I love ya like a sista. You got me, but I’m gone miss your crazy ass too. But I mean what I said about Jamal.”

“Yeah, whatever! Call me when you get there and tell Miss Betty hello for me. Listen, try not to argue with her for at least twenty-four hours. You’d better be glad she can’t walk or y'all would probably tear down the house this summer.”

“Oh, you wrong for that too. By the way, there was some minor damage to some items in the living room. I’ll pay for anything of yours that was accidentally broken.”

“Jaheim?”

“Yeah, Jaheim.”

“Are you okay?”

“I’m cool.”

"Or should I ask, is he okay?"

"Lets just say Jaheim won't mess with me again."

“Girl, you're too bad. Drive carefully and call me when you get there; I should be home by then. I’m sorry I overslept and didn’t make it over to see you off. “

“Girl, I’m not gonna hate. I know Jamal put it on ya. And good. You probably couldn't even walk straight until this morning."

“ And you know it. Bye crazy.

“Peace sweetie.”

With a smile, I hung up the phone.

Forty minutes later, I entered the expressway with 97.1 blasting some of my favorite hip-hop songs on the radio. My Chevy was packed to the max with all my essentials for the long, hot summer ahead of me. I had packed plenty of shorts and of course work attire. I think I had brought every pair of shoes I owned. I was a shoe person, shoe freak to be exact. I'd buy one style of shoe in several colors if I caught a good sale.

I had to admit, I was definitely going to miss my girl. Shaneeka and I met back in first grade, found out we lived in the same low-income apartments, and basically became inseparable through high school. We did everything together. Smoked, cursed and shared our adventures with men. After high school, I chose to go off to college, Albany State University on a scholarship and Shaneeka went to hair-beauty school.

Now, at thirty years old, we have reconnected, both are unmarried, have no children and are best friends as well as roommates. Over the years, we have been through a lot together. Some good and some bad. We have cried together and laughed together. Even acted like fools together. I just hate how Shaneeka allows men to use and abuse her. They walk all over her. I was there when she had her first abortion. The first of many. That girl uses abortions like it is a birth control method.

Shaneeka is right, I can live without a man. I was actually celibate for a year, two years ago. Men are not special. Does a dick equate to special? I have seen too many bad relationships in my thirty years of living. I know you shouldn’t judge all men based on a few bad apples. True. But. . . my mama, Miss Betty, taught me early on how not to choose a man. Whether she realized it or not.

Sadly, it’s true. It’s a man’s world. Women are much smarter. Men know how to play the game to get what they want. They are results oriented. They just do it. Women bring too many emotions and hormonal shit into relationships. We got to analyze every damn thing. When good sex comes into the picture, women lose their damn minds. They think they own the man and got papers on him. Some women will put up with almost anything then, and the men really start tripping. I can’t really blame men because they are only doing what we, as women, allow them to do. If he fucks you over once, guess what, he'll do it again.

So, years ago, I consciously decided I would get them before they got me. It wasn’t a complicated decision to make; it was a natural step. Natural progression. I’m not searching for a soul mate in life. I realized a long time ago that I might never marry and have children. A man would have to be one hell of a man to get me to settle down because settling is what you are doing. Losing part of yourself to be with him. A soul mate, that’s the stuff fairy tales are made of, Lifetime movie of the week crap. And love, what in the hell is love. I think it’s a concept men came up with to keep women in check, to control women into wasting their entire lives searching high and low for this all evasive love. Like some song used to declare, "Ain't nothing going on but the rent."

I’ve had a few friends and co-workers who thought they had found it---this all-evasive LOVE. Look at Carol, this wannabee bourge co-worker of mine. I couldn't stand her fake ass. She wore a weave down her back and had green contact lenses. Carol met this fine ass brother in a club of all places. Clubs are simply meat markets. Places to legitimately hook up to screw. According to Carol, he swept her off her feet with flowers, romantic dinners, weekend getaways, the whole nine yards. A year later, they spend over $45,000, according to her, on a big fancy wedding. They invited everyone they had ever known in their entire lives and past lives. Went all out on the reception with a live band and open bars, etc. Everything was just beautiful. They had a European honeymoon. Perfect. Had sistas seeing the green-eyed monster, they were so jealous. They were smiling in her face and talking behind her back.

And then, two years later, Carol got a harsh reality check about this so-called thing called love. Unexpectedly, Carol arrived home early from work, didn't feel well, walked into their fancy pansy bedroom, in their fancy pansy $300,000 house, and found hubby in bed with another man. Screwing each other's brain's out. Get this, the other man was supposed to be her husband’s best friend. Carol had eagerly accepted this other man into her home. He'd wined and dined with them. Was like one of the family. Where was love then? I guess her husband conveniently forgot about it when he was taking it up the ass. Carol is just bitter now. Yet, she has a right to be because the image of two, big, strong, black men going at it, in her bed, grunting and grinding, huffing and puffing, will never leave her. She even burned the bed.

But see, I am a grown woman and myths and fairy tales have no place in my world. I put love in the same category that I place Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Believe me, living with Miss Betty shined a clear light on make believe and reality.

After re-adjusting and glancing in my rearview mirror, for the fourth time for the police, I checked my own reflection in the mirror. I was in such a hurry that I didn’t have time to put on my usual Wet & Wild brown spice lipstick that I usually bought at this Korean shop out at South Dekalb Mall. Without it, I felt naked. It complimented my chocolate complexion. I didn't have a blemish to be seen. Unlike some dark skinned sistas I know, I was proud of my dark complexion. The darker the berry, the sweeter the juice. Say it loud! I'm black and I'm proud!

As usual, Shaneeka had hooked my braids up. So, I was set for the long summer. I wore micro braids down to my shoulders because they were low-maintenance. If I must say so myself, I was looking kinda cute in my blue jean shorts that clung to my more than ample butt like a second skin. And my crop top from Target was showing just the right amount of 38C cleavage. Yeah, I am all woman. Big butt, full lips and all.

I glanced over at the illuminated clock on the dashboard. It was only a little after ten a.m. I was making good time. Traffic wasn't bad. Just a few trucks on their way into Florida were on the highway. Before I knew it, I’d be greeting Miss Betty sooner than I was ready to. I still hadn't prepared myself mentally. Yeah, you had to prepare for Miss Betty and her verbal assaults. She had a way of sneaking them in and catching you off guard. A stiff drink and a dick helped. I took a couple of sips of my bottled, generic water and switched stations as 97.1 started to fade. As I took my foot off the accelerator because there was no need to rush, memories of the past quickly flooded my daytime thoughts.