Dangerously in Love by T.J. Hope
From the Love Letters Book
“I didn’t kill him!” I yelled into the phone, while disconnecting the call.
It’s been two years since my love was killed in a freak accident, still the calls continue. A night like tonight reminds me of the way Maurice used to romance me. Local radio adding to my torture with its constant slew of love ballads.
It had begun snowing again and I was busy trying to keep up with Derrick’s car without being spotted. My phone began ringing again, another private caller. I shut it off, just as Derrick pulled in to park at Odyssey, a classy poetry spot that I’d attended once with Maurice. I pulled in a few cars back. I watched intently as he straightened and zipped his coat. He then headed for the club’s front door.
I hadn’t known where following him tonight would lead me. However, I’d dressed in a tight-fitting red suede dress, complimented by stiletto thigh high boots. I’ve always turned heads without trying. I could never really tell if a man liked me for me or for a shiny armpiece. So, I’ve learned to use my beauty for power. I’ve never worked a day in my life.
I have enough money left from Maurice’s will to live affluently for another ten years. Yet, money did not cure loneliness. I am used to getting what I want when I want it. Tonight, I wanted Derrick.
Tonight, was the night I’d get to have a real conversation with him. I was ecstatic that it was Valentine’s Day and he was out alone. I jumped out of my Mercedes Benz S 560 4Matic that had been given to me by Maurice as a Christmas gift, a few months before he died.
My stilettos were sinking in the snow. I quickly made my way to the sidewalk and up to the club. I could see his back before he disappeared inside.
I joined the line and paid my entry. The Odyssey is gorgeous, it’s décor reminding me of The Great Gatsby with a modern twist. It has high, grand ceilings that are painted like the sky. The walls are encased in cherry wood from ceiling to floor. It’s rich color, feel and aroma also spilling out onto the bar, which seats five. Across from the bar is a seated area of tables, with tufted leather chairs and couches. This was the place to be on Valentine’s Day.
I spotted Derrick getting seated at a tall table, closer to the stage. I decided to stop at the bar to gain some liquid courage before I approached him. The club was packed, still my drink was ordered and prepared quickly. I took a deep breath and headed over to his table. His resemblance to my Maurice was uncanny, he could have been his twin brother.
I could feel glances on me as I made my way to his table. I am petite thick at 5’2’, with faux crochet locs that fall to the middle of my back. I have a small frame, and my grandmother handed out titties and ass like pancakes. I could see the envy in other women’s eyes as I passed. I didn’t want any of their men or the attention, I was here on a mission.
“Oh, my goodness! Hello Derrick.” I greeted him, acting surprised to see him there.
He squinted his eyes for a moment before realizing who I was.
“Hi uh … uh …”
“Yes, Mya. We’ve been running into each other a lot lately.” He smiled.
Oh my God. He just fucking smiled at me.
“Yes, I guess we share some of the same interests. Is it okay if I sit down?” I said with my heart racing.
“Well, it would be but I …”
“Hi baby!” a high-pitched voice from behind us said. I turned to see a chestnut colored beauty with sparkling red lipstick throwing her arms around Derrick. She touched his lips with a soft kiss.
Who the fuck is she? The three months that I’d been following him around, this was the first I saw of her. She took the seat at the high table across from him.
“Uh, Janet this is Mya. She was just coming over to say hi. I think she lives by me. We go to the same gym and I’ve run into her a few times in the grocery store.”
“That’s Ms. Johnson to you. Anyway, nice to meet you,” Janet stated in a dry tone.
“Same here,” I said matching her tone and mistakenly giving them both the inclination that I had a thing for Derrick. I changed the subject.
“So, either of you gracing the mic tonight? I asked.
Janet looked as if she just wanted me to go away and Derrick seemed a little embarrassed that she was being so rude to me.
“Yes, I do a little sumthin-sumthin.” He said straightening his tie and smiling, attempting to lighten the mood. We both giggled.
“Well, if you are going to sign-up, the line’s open now,” Janet said to me in an annoyed tone.
I got you bitch! I smiled because I knew that I would find a way that she would not last the duration of this date.
“Thank you for letting me know. Nice seeing you again, Derrick.”
“You too.” He said.
Janet rolled her eyes and I turned and walked away. I hadn’t done poetry since before Maurice’s death, but the memory never forgets the things it loves. I used to frequent the local poetry spots faithfully. It seemed ironic that following Derrick on a day of love was leading me back to the stage. The last thing I pictured myself doing tonight, was poetry. I couldn’t let my true intentions be uncovered.
I made my way back over to the bar after signing up. The open bar seat on the end gave me perfect view of Derrick and Janet. I ordered another drink.
I looked toward the stage for some indication as to when the poetry might start. Then my eyes fell on the MC, Omari Rhodes. I knew of him well. We used to end up at many of the same poetry events. He is debonair with brown sandy hair and grey eyes that seemed to look right through you.
He has come on to me quite a few times, in the past. He’s an excellent host, but everyone knew that he loved women and had no loyalty. I had always declined his advances. But, I’d never seen him with a date before, this was interesting. There’s always that one girl that gets to their heart and she was Nubian Queen type gorgeous.
He and his date sat on a plush black couch with red pillows positioned in front of the stage. They mingled and chatted with various guests that came over to make introductions.
I glanced back over at Derrick and Janet, who were exchanging flirty glances with one another. I have to get rid of this bitch. I ordered another round of what they were drinking and had the server take it over to them ‘on the house’, after dissolving two volumes in hers. I waited anxiously for her to drink up.
Omari made his way to the microphone, “Good evening and welcome to the Odyssey’s Annual Valentine’s Day Poetry Mixer. I’m your host, Omari Rhodes.”
The place exploded in applause, come-on-with-its and whistles confirming that Omari was well loved, regardless of his personal indiscretions. I listened as he welcomed everyone.
I kept an eye on Janet, who had not yet touched the second drink. My attention was pulled back to the stage as Omari went into a poem about his girlfriend cheating on him. What? The cheater is getting cheated on? I guess what goes around truly comes back.
I think everyone was in shock. When he finished there was a thick silence before the room erupted in applause. I even clapped wildly, that took nuts. This was going to be an eventful evening.
The next poet made her way to the stage. She was a gorgeous brickhouse, dressed in a red lace shirt and leather skirt. She looked a little shy and as if she was working through a lot of pain.
“Hello. My name is Sierra Grady. I don’t normally do this,” she said with a chuckle.
“It’s alright,” yelled out a man from the audience.
“This is something that I wrote about two years ago. I want to dedicate this to the love of my life. It’s titled, Closer.”
She then went into this alluring poem about feeling safe wrapped up in the one you love. The audience again erupted in applause, as she made her way back to the dark corner in the back.
I observed her for a moment as an older gentleman took the mic with a poem adoring the woman he loved. The poets were on point tonight, hitting every emotion tied to love.
Then, one of the club’s owners took the mic. I remembered her from when I came with Maurice, she had just become a partner at Odyssey at the time. Her name was Skye.
Skye was cool people, outspoken and free. She’d added a lot of ambiance to the place since she came aboard.
She started a poem, “When Sierra Grady wears red, her face is like an ancient cameo, turned brown by the ages …”
Sierra Grady. Wasn’t that the name of the poet that went after Omari?
I turned to look at her again. She looked at the stage in disbelief. I did too. I didn’t know Skye liked women.
After her poem she rushed over to sit with Sierra. It was one of those beautiful moments when true love finds its owner. I tried to tear my eyes away, but it was stirring up thoughts of my own true love.
Maurice had been the only man that I ever truly loved. I was trying not to think about him, but emotions were running through me like a pint of gin at a spades party.
The first time I saw Maurice, it seemed as if time stood still. Love and lust at first sight, he reminded me of a tall glass of chocolate milk that I wanted to take my time to enjoy sip by sip. We’d clicked and fallen in love so quickly that it felt surreal.
He was the perfect mixture of rough neck and intellect. He’d gone from being the inexpensive barber at his high school to attending Morehouse College. There he escalated his vocabulary and excelled in mathematics. He became a Financial Analyst and promised that once we were married, I could concentrate on starting my fetish business. He was a man of many fetishes and I slowly satisfied each one. We were supposed to be one another's forever.
A small lipstick stain on his collar threw a rift in those plans. I got closer to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. I was unsure on how to approach him about it. I never imagined another woman. He'd always made me feel like the only one. I could feel my anger begin to boil over. I confronted him.
He looked at me calmly, his demeanor not bothered by my discovery.
"Would you like the truth or a lie?" he asked, looking directly into my eyes.
"What do you think?" I said. My heart speeding, understanding that our lives together was in some way about to change.
"You see, I lie to you so that I won't hurt you because I love you. There are things that I am selfish in and if I am honest about them, it will hurt you." he calmly stated with sincerity in his eyes.
"I guess I'd like the truth. I don't want to live a lie." I replied softly.
"That's Jazmin’s lipstick. They say you can't love two, but my emotions just light on fire for both of you. I don't know how much longer I can keep her a secret."
He took a deep breath as if he felt lighter now that I knew. I felt faint. I loved this man to my core. How could I have not known. He was always attentive to me, never giving a reason for me to feel suspicious of him.
He worked a lot, but I always knew that came with the territory of being kept by a man. He had to make the money, which meant less time with me. I never had a problem with that because I enjoyed living in a lavish home, driving luxury cars and shopping whenever I felt the inclination.
Thoughts and scenarios clouded my mind. We were to be married in a few months, but he’d already added me to his will because he always believed the next day wasn’t promised to you, and he wanted me to be taken care of if something were to happen to him. What if he loved this other woman so much he took me out of his will?
I figured he was leaving me for this Jazmin, and seemed to be growing angrier with every breath I took.
"Secret? How long has this been going on? You fucking her? How could you do this to me?"
"None of that matters, I don't want to further hurt you. I want to be with you both. Everything will continue as it's been. No one will know of her. I am very discreet."
"Discreet? So discreet that I just found lipstick on your damn collar! I can't believe this. I thought you loved me? I thought we were getting married?"
“I still want to marry you. She knows you are my fiancé. We just have this connection and energy with one another that I can't let go. I'm sorry. I feel that fire with you also."
He was so calm during this conversation that at that moment, I truly wanted to end his life. I felt betrayed and knew that he really had deep feelings for this woman. If I would have left him or not, he was still going to be with her. I was heartbroken, but was not going to hand him to her. If I couldn’t have him all to myself, neither could she.
The next morning, we flew out of Chicago O’Hare into Miami International to attend a VIP beach party we'd been invited to by one of his classmates.
We exited the plane into paradise. It was nothing like the chill we’d just escaped in the Windy City, we call home. We peeled off our coats to enjoy the warmth.
“Damn, this is what’s up!” Maurice said.
I didn’t reply. I was deep in other thoughts and feeling emotional. He seemed to feel like a burdened had been lifted off him now that I finally knew.
I felt broken and as if I was now in some type of competition on who could love him better. The constant pictures in my head of him passionately making love to another woman had my stomach in knots. I had no appetite.
On our way to the beach party, located on Haulover Beach, he gave me a pep talk. He spoke to me as if I was a kid that he was telling not to ask for candy before they went in the grocery store.
"Now listen baby, just act natural. We are still that dope ass power couple. She's not a factor. It does not change how I will treat you or how I will act towards you. I still love you like a fat kid loves cake. It’s just that now we don’t have any more secrets."
"Okay." I replied.
That’s all I could muster as the lump in my throat had gotten bigger from all the crying in the bathroom after our talk the last night. I wished for a bottle of water. I wanted him out of my life. I could barely stand to look at him.
I put on the act for him all day, then it was finally our turn on the Jet skis. Maurice had taken us out too far. He attempted to avoid a large wave that slammed right into us, ejecting both of us from the watercraft.
I held my breath until my life jacket pulled me up to the surface. I quickly spotted Maurice holding on to the jet ski about ten feet away. I began swimming toward him, I was approaching from his rear and realized he didn’t see me.
I tried hard not to panic. I tried to yell out but that was throwing me off balance and causing my head to go underneath. I tried to concentrate on making it those few feet over to him. He was still calling for me as he tried to climb back up on the jet ski.
He grabbed the handle to try to gain leverage to climb up on it. This engaged the gas and it took off full speed, his life jacket becoming entangled in it. The rescue vessels came soon after, but not soon enough. He had drowned from being caught underneath the jet ski.
Soon after his death, Jazmin came out as his other woman, making me look suspicious of his death. There are many theories on how I may have killed him out there in the ocean that day. Forensics labeled it accidental. I am forever taunted by that fateful day.
I was snapped out of my thoughts by loud applause, another poet had completed their poem. I glanced over to see that Janet still had not touched the second drink. Damn. Omari was talking again introducing the next poet, then I heard the lead up to my introduction.
“This next beautiful sister has been tantalizing our ears in the poetry scene for a while, but has been on a little hiatus. It’s cool we all go through our share, but nevertheless we are happy to have you here to kiss the mic on this Valentines’ Day. Please welcome to the stage, Mya the Poet!” he said enthusiastically.
I made my way to the stage ready to start some shit. I had the perfect poem to say to Derrick. I purposely strolled by their table so that Derrick could see this ass and Janet would be even more annoyed. Maybe then she’d finally drink the spiked drink.
I entered the stage, my nerves immediately calmed knowing that a major release was coming. The crowd sat quietly, yet anxiously, waiting for me to adjust the mic stand.
“It’s been some time since I’ve graced the mic so I’m happy to be here to share tonight. I see a lot of familiar faces and it feels like home up here. The piece I’d like to share with you tonight is a word-play piece that I call Tion.”
I kept my eyes on Derrick as I kissed the mic.
“Flow with me.” I said taking a deep breath and then starting my poem.
“I’m trapped in some type of addiction
Shit is real, this ain’t no Urban Fiction
The way you have me riding up and down on that dic-tion
Man, we gon’ fuck around and get an eviction
The neighbors already think they know your name Tion
Talking about can you and “ooo that’s my spot” join in our celebration
We’re on a higher elevation of elation, complex vibrations
Faced with temptations, laced with sensations
Slow down Daddy, you’re causing an over-flowation of stimulation
The way you hold a conversation
Your education, mental stimulation, elaboration
Meditation, I need just a few more injections of your medications
Honest confessions or regrettable reflections
That flipped and shattered and shifted into beautiful revelations
We got this fire attraction, reacting with dire reactions
The way you always keep me pointed in the right directions
And oooo your erections, are purely perfections
Please don’t provide a solution nor a correction
Damn, I’m so
Turned on by the melanin in your complexion
You got me hot baby I mean perspiration
Shit, I’m warmer than situations on a tropical vacation
Opened my eyes and looked at the ceiling for quite a duration
Realizing that Tion, was just a figmentation of my imagination
I finished my poem to loud applause and cat calls. Yes, I still had it. I left the stage again purposely walking back by Derrick and Janet’s table. I gave Derrick more eye contact and then looked at Janet with a smirk. She shifted uncomfortably in her chair, moved her arm over and spilled the spiked drink I’d sent her. Damn. I’d have to come up with something else.
I remembered her telling me to call her Ms. Johnson. Hmmm. Janet Johnson. I headed to the restroom to search social media to find some info on her that I could use to get her the hell out of there. I needed time with my future love and she was blocking tonight.
Before I could complete my thought, Derrick burst into the ladies’ room locking the door behind him. He rushed over and locked his lips with mine. We explored each other passionately, heavy breathing paved the way as he removed my panties from beneath my dress then lifted me with his forearms to taste me.
“I know you want me and I can’t wait any longer,” he said in between licks and strokes.
Giggles echoed in the restroom, I looked up to see two women standing in the doorway. I was lightly touching myself, no Derrick. I took a mental note to get back on my meds, I was hallucinating again.
“That poetry girl, got me a little hot, you know?” I laughed.
One of the woman laughed back, the other looked at me side-eyed and hurried into the stall. I continued my search for Janet Johnson. I came up with over 10 selections. Fuck! Which one was she? I decided to go through them one by one. The third one looked like her. She had on the same type of shiny lipstick in a purple shade and then I saw the same beauty mark above her lip.
I clicked into the page to look at the posts I could see without adding her as a friend. And there it was, she has a five-year-old daughter. Nothing makes a woman move faster, than a hurt child.
“Hey Siri.” I said into my iPhone.
“Hi Mya.” The voice answered back in the male British accent I’d assigned to it.
“Call Odyssey Lounge in Downtown, Chicago.”
“Calling Odyssey Lounge.”
I recognized the bartender’s voice over the clink of glasses and hum of conversation.
“Hello, thank you for calling Odyssey. How may I help you?”
“You have a patron there tonight named Janet Johnson. I’m babysitting her daughter tonight and there’s been an accident. She needs to come right away!”
“Oh my! Ok yes we’ll find and notify her right away!”
“Please. Hurry!” I said disconnecting the call.
I made my way to the bar to finish watching the show and to see Janet’s reaction. I could see the bartender stop Omari to whisper in his ear as he was making his way back up to introduce the next poet.
“A quick announcement before we resume. Is there a Janet in the audience? Janet Johnson?” Omari asked.
Janet looked confused as to why her name was being announced on the mic and raised her hand.
“Ok there you are,” he continued. “Please see the bartender.”
He continued to introduce another poet. I kept my eyes on the stage, reacting along with everyone else. Yet, my peripheral vision caught her putting her hand up to her heart at the news. She walked back over to Derrick to let him know that she had to leave. They both got up.
Oh no, please don’t let him leave with her. They embraced and then she quickly disappeared through the club’s front door. She was gone. Now, I had to find a way into that vacant seat at his table.
Omari was saying that we were taking a brief intermission and would be back to continue more poetry in about fifteen minutes.
Fuck it. It was now or never. I approached him.
“Where’s Janet?” I said to him turning my head to browse the club as if I was looking for her.
“She had an emergency, had to leave.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry, I hope everything is ok.”
“Yeah, something with her kid.” He said looking at me a little side eyed as my last comment must have sounded far from genuine. I had to watch it.
“May I sit down?”
“Won’t you lose your seat at the bar?” he asked looking down at his phone and then replying to a text message.
I’d been trying to get to him all night, so I sat and searched for soft conversation. I couldn’t go right in and tell him how much I wanted him. I needed to make this all seem natural.
“So, what did you think of my poem?” I asked.
He chuckled, “It was dope, it just seems like you were saying them both to me which is kind of disrespectful with my girlfriend sitting right here.”
“Oh, Janet is your girlfriend?” I had to ask. How could I have never seen her before, I thought she was just a new prospect.
“Yes. She’s actually my fiancé, she lives out of town but is moving here permanently end of the month.”
My heart sank. I’d fallen in love with Derrick under the pretense that he would immediately see in me what Maurice had. He was everything that Maurice was. He was handsome, intellectual, street smart and successful. He even wore the same scent as my beloved. The day I saw him I thought I’d seen a ghost. He had his mannerisms, his walk. I had to have him.
I’d invested so much in getting to know him. I believed that a moment alone with him would force him to see that I was his soul mate. But, now I find out he’s already in love. How could destiny be so cruel?
His phone began to ring, and he answered it swiftly without even offering an excuse me.
“Is everything okay, baby?” He asked into his cell phone.
I could faintly hear Janet’s voice responding through the phone in an irritated tone. I acted as if I wasn’t listening and played with my earring as I bobbed my head to the music.
“What?” he was saying in disgust. I glanced over at him to see him staring at me as if he knew that I had something to do with the fake alarm.
“Okay, no don’t come back. You are not here so I’m not even doing a piece tonight. I’m leaving, meet me at my house in 30.”
He disconnected the call. His demeanor had changed.
“I’m about to get up out of here and finish Valentine’s Day with my baby, but I’m sure I’ll see you around.” He said with a side-eye at me like he was on to me.
Damn. This had not at all going as planned. I tried to think of anything to make him stay just a little longer.
“Okay sure but uh before you go, uh …” I stuttered searching for anything that may get me just a few more moments with him.
“Yes,” he said pausing to hear what I had to say.
“Is her daughter okay?” I asked.
“It was a false call and I never told you she had a daughter.”
“I said, ‘her kid.”
I couldn’t come up with an excuse fast enough to explain how I knew that she had a daughter.
He continued, “Look, I don’t know what kind of issues you have going on, but I am madly in love with this woman and will marry her. I’ve been cordial to you every time we’ve run into one another. I thought I was trippin’, but now I realize you was following me. Stop showing up to places that I frequent. I can clearly see all your little moves.”
I looked at him baffled. The jig was up. He knew that I’d been following him. He must think I’m crazy.
“I thought it was kind of cute at first, this beautiful woman wanting to get to know me better. But now this shit is getting scary. Janet just told me that she remembered why you look familiar. You are the lady on the news suspected of killing your fiancé after you found out he was having an affair.”
“That’s not true. If I’d killed someone I would be in jail, right? Those are just allegations, I could never hurt anyone.” I defended myself.
“Just like you’d never make a false call that someone’s child is hurt, right?”
I did not know how to answer. He knew that I was the one that made that call. Now he was becoming irritating. He should be flattered that someone would go through all this trouble for him. I was starting to realize that just because he looked like Maurice, he was not him. I was trying to force a connection that just wasn’t there.
I was trying to hold down the fireball that was rising in my stomach, not to make a scene in the club. I wish I’d taken my meds. Fuck this! I gave him an evil stare, he was getting too loud.
“You are really crazy! If you come near me, Janet or her daughter you will no longer think I am a nice guy!” he yelled out.
He stopped speaking long enough to take a long look at me to make sure that I understood. I did understand. I understood that I was going to fuck his ass up for getting loud in the club with me. He didn’t understand who he is was fucking with.
He then turned and headed for the coat rack. I settled back into my seat at the tall table as various attendees made their way back to their seats. Many of them had heard Derrick’s loud outburst. I felt as if the stage spotlight had been positioned on my table, as the intermission was ended.
I smiled attempting to downplay the embarrassment I felt. I wish I had a drink or something to divert my attention to. I made my way back over to the bar, where the outburst was unheard. My previous seat already occupied.
I stood at the bar, the attentive bartender already heading over to me. She came back quickly and handed over me a chilled glass of vodka on the rocks. I pulled out my card to pay.
“You’re all taken care of, Sweetie. The man at the bar with the goatee picked up your tab.” She said with a smile.
I looked in the direction she was pointing in, to see a caramel God, with big brown eyes and a goatee. He waved at me, I waved back impressed with what I was seeing. He began walking over to me. I am rarely shy, but the confidence radiating from him was making me doubtful.
“You don’t remember me, do you?” he said approaching me.
“You look vaguely familiar.” I lied.
“Ouch.” He chuckled.
“Don’t take it personal. I’ve been through a lot these past couple of years, a lot of things are still a blur to me.”
“Yes, I know you have. We met at the Bereavement Center for Spouses after you lost your fiancé. I’d just lost my wife to cancer. We shared a lot. I can’t believe you don’t remember me.”
“It can’t be.” I whispered.
The only person I’d gotten close to be a scrawny fellow with big brown eyes with black circles around them from lack of sleep. His name was Josh. We talked about everything and offered one another constant comfort. He had moved to Chicago only to be with his wife and was planning to move back to his hometown in Atlanta, since she had passed on.
“Josh? It can’t be. You look so different.”
“Well, I was in a bad way when you knew me. I’d lost about as much weight as my wife had fighting the disease. Then, when she passed I stopped eating completely. But, I did survive. I started eating again and focusing on me and this is how I turned out.”
I smiled because he turned out so very handsome, he didn’t look like the weak, hurt man I remembered. He looked strong, healthy and wealthy. The blues and yellows danced on the diamonds in the bezel of his Bulova watch. The quality matched the diamond stud blinding me in his left ear. The Armani suit he wore had had been tailored to fit him.
“Well you turned out great. I didn’t recognize you at first.”
“I recognized you. You were up there doing a poem when I arrived. I was like Bingo, found her. I never forgot you, always wondered how you turned out. I see that you are as beautiful as ever.”
I smiled then allowed my eyes to move from his down to his lips, and then to his Adam’s apple. I observed his muscular forearms, whose form could be seen through the sleeves of the suit. The drinks were having their way with me and I was imagining doing all kinds of things with him. This could be the one. He had the wealth, I wondered if he had fetishes, too.
I tore my eyes away from his body to again focus on his face. His eyes met mine and in them I saw the same lust burning in them that I was feeling. I bit my lip as he licked his. There was nothing else that needed to be said. Our attraction to one another was animalistic. There was a centrifugal force pulling us together and we obliged.We left Odyssey together holding hands for the beginning of a passionate relationship. I hoped that he could remain faithful. After all that he’d accomplished, I didn’t want him to end up having a freak accident.