Part One

Began to Love When I First Met You

Chapter XI (Sense to Protect Yourself)

"If you know what's best for you," he drawled lighting his blunt, "you will keep yourself at home."

"You can't tell me what to do,"

"I know what's best. I'm older. I'm wiser," he said lazily blowing out a smoke. His eyelids drooped.

"You're smashed, old man. Piss off," She spun quickly, her jacket whipping in front of him. He snatched her coattails, dragging her to the floor. She fell with a loud thud. He leaned forward, his nicotine laced breath attacking her nostrils as he spoke.

"I didn't hear you correctly," he drawled. His grip on her coat tightened. She should have just kept her mouth shut. Should have kept her mouth shut and just left. "Like I said, you ain't leaving,"

"You're just angry because mom left you. Because you are mean, stupid, you're worthle-"

"Shut the hell up," he said pulling her closer to him.

"No! I'm tired of you! I hate you!" she screamed. He lifted his hand to give her a firm slap, but dropped his hand when she did not flinch. She looked at him, her eyes dry of tears , and it frightened him. He released her and shoved her away from him.

"Ass. Upstairs. Now." he snarled. She stood quickly and surprisingly to flee up the stairs, instead of outside, into the dead of night. Something had changed, she was no longer afraid of him. He was losing his grip on her. He was losing his grip on everything.


She gripped the edge of her bed, her head buried in her pillow, whimpering slightly. She turned to her side to bring herself some comfort, but it was to no avail. Finally turning onto her back, she let out an angry sigh.

It was that time of the month.

In the midst of the pain that would cause her to double over, Janae peeled herself out the bed and slowly dragged herself to the bathroom. The floorboards creaked as she walked down the hall, and the dim morning light illuminated her path. She turned the shower on "burning hot", and pulled off her bloodied wear and threw it into the bucket that was under the sink . She added hot water and detergent to dilute the mess.

She was almost nineteen and still could not pinpoint her menstruations to an exact day. It fluctuated constantly, and varied month to month. This month her menstruation was four days early. But she was not upset. This was a monthly confirmation that she was not with child, which was a blessing. Her life was already a disarray; she did not need to drag a child into her misery.

"It's not like anyone has been touching me lately," she grumbled to herself angrily. She hopped into her hot shower, letting the warm water soothe away her pain. She tried to remember the last time she was intimate. It was August. A couple of months ago. In Andy's attic, before it was fashioned into his bedroom. It was still vivid in her mind, although it was months ago. She remembered how hot that day was and how she did not want to go to Andy's room, but she was hungry for food and that was one of their stipulations. And she remembered how she was in silent hysterics when her period did not come on the expected date. Her periods never came on time. She was always early, just never late. Her mind raced those few days. She feared of becoming a teen parent like her mother, except like her mother, the father of her child would be younger. Almost two years younger.

She cursed herself for involving herself with a boy. Andy was a boy. His tough exterior, physical stature, and sexual experience did not change the fact that he was a boy. The number of times he made her forget about everything did not change the fact that he might not have been able to care for a child, especially when Andy was one himself. She scolded herself for ever accepting his invitation into his home … his bed. Thoughts of abortion swirled in her mind, and thoughts of keeping the baby lingered as well. But the torture was over a week later when she discovered her monthly gift on the back of her grey basketball shorts.

She had never been so happy in her life.

Janae, overjoyed, celebrated with three cigarettes and her father's secret stash of Grey Goose. His special occasion vodka. In her inebriated state, she had decided she would stay clear of Andy and his bed, only to break her declaration a few weeks ago when she went to his house that Saturday morning. There was something about Andy that Janae could not shake off. He was charismatic when he was not being a pain. And he never accused her of having venereal diseases. Janae turned off the knob of the shower, trying to banish her thoughts on Andy. She walked back to her room quickly, the floorboards creaking behind her. She dressed herself for basketball practice and packed extra clothes for the day. Her plan was to leave before Oct awoke and return when he was asleep.

Her mind drifted back to last night, where her father found her sobbing on the floor.

"Well, are you gonna sit out there all night? Or are you gonna get your ass inside?" His bald head had shone bright, as if he were holy (the irony). "C'mon girl, get inside." She had dragged herself to her feet with great effort and followed him. He was not a tall man and Janae towered behind. She had tried to make her way up the stairs to her bedroom, but he dragged her to the couch. "Sit,". She plopped onto the couch. Oct sat in the chartreuse lounge chair that was covered in food stains and liquor spills. He retrieved a cigarette from his shirt pocket, and lit it in front of her. The smoke had billowed to her face and she craved one.

"Do you mind?" Janae seethed.

"What?!" he asked. " You don't smoke anymore?"

"No, I quit. Basketball," Janae retorted.

"Hmph," Oct blew another breath of smoke in her face. "I see that there's beer in the fridge..."

"Yeah, I quit that too," Janae said sliding off the couch. "Can I go now?"

"Hold up, wait..." His eyes stared intently at her stomach. "You pregnant?"

Janae let out a deep sigh. "No, Oct," she replied tiredly. She walked from the couch and up the stairs, her father's voice behind her.

"You know if I find out that you're pregnant, yo ass is out. I'm not gonna be taking care of no babies. I know you dumb enough to be running out there with them boys, but I hope you got at least some common sense to protect yourself".

That was the closest her father ever showed that he cared. But this was pretty normal for Janae. He was a stranger months out of the year and popped back into her life for the remaining few weeks. It was almost customary that her father grill her after being gone after a certain amount time.

Janae snatched up her phone and stuck it in her basketball shorts. She made her way down the steps, happy that her father was nowhere in the vicinity. The hood seemed to shine bright today.

Hours Later...

Janae lingered on the swing set, as the cool Autumn breeze ruffled her curly dark hair. She tilted her head back, a melodic symphony only she could hear vibrated in her head. The sun would be setting in a few hours, but there were no children playing. This playground, her neighborhood playground, had long since been abandoned for a safe place of recreation; these days, the playground was a haven of crackheads looking for a safe place to sleep or a secret rendezvous spot for drug deals. However, Janae was still fond of venturing to the playground. It held fleeting sweet memories. Here was where she learned how to ride a bike.

The bike was slightly rusty but it was something her father had saved up for months to buy her. The handle bars were dented, the red paint that was one time glossy, was rusting. But it was her rusty red bike. Her father had taken her to the park on one of his few days off, pre-trucking job, and was adamant about teaching her to ride. Her father had carefully placed her on the seat of the bike, gave her explicit instructions. He picked her up when she fell. And he ruffled her twisted hair filled with rainbow barrettes, and affectionately called her Junebuggy, her childhood nickname.

What had changed since then and now? Janae thought to herself.

Janae knew.

She changed. Everything had changed that one night. Under those trees so long ago, where no one heard her cry for help. The approaching night sky was her only friend, and she was left with a sour taste of gin and stale cigarettes on her tongue. Hidden from the noisy barbeque, surrounded by a canopy of trees.

"Aren't you a little old to be hanging out here?' Janae did not realize her eyes was closed. His voice vibrated over her.

"I can say the same to you, Andy". She opened one eye to see him towering over her with a sheepish, childlike grin. The weather had to have been dropping in degrees because Andy adorned a thin windbreaker. Janae silently praised the heavens.

"Well, I'm here with my baby sis. Ash! Come say hi to the pretty lady. You remember her right, Ash?" Behind him appeared a pint size version of himself, with afro puffs and the cutest toothless grin.

"Yea I do. That's your girrrrlllfrrrii-"

"Whoa now," Andy said, covering his little sister's mouth. "Someone had too much candy this morning. Ugh, you spit in my hand you gross monster," He released Ash, and she went off sprinting to the slides, giggling the whole way. Andy wiped the spit on the side of his dark jeans, and sat in the swing beside Janae.

"So what brings you and Ash 'round here?" Janae said, staring into Andy's copper eyes. Andy wasn't the babysitting type, so it was weird seeing him here. It was weird seeing him period.

"Well, it's my parents date night, so I was in charge of babysitting the gross monster," Andy whined. Janae smiled, staring at her feet. She knew the importance of his parents' date nights. As described to her months ago, his parents would spend the whole day getting prepped for the date and would not return home till the following afternoon. His parents were ridiculously in love. And Janae knew it was something Andy wanted. A romance that could withstand the test of life.

Her mind wandered to one of the nights they spent together, months ago, where Andy spooned her in knotted sheets. Clothes were strewn everywhere, as well as her thoughts. She had lie there, still, in attempt to center herself. Believing she was asleep, Andy whispered quietly in her ear, with a slight laugh in his voice, on how they were a right fit and how they should start their own date night traditions.

"You seem to be out in space today... more than usual," Andy teased. Janae turned to him once more.

"A lot on my mind... Oct is back,"

"Oh," Andy sighed. He knew of the tumultuous relationship she had with her father. Many of the nights she would spend running into his arms were nights her father would be back in town. "Well, you are welcomed to come over and hang with me and Ash if you want. I'm making my world famous mac 'n cheese,"

"Lies," Janae laughed. "You can't even boil water,"

"Oh, for real," he said standing up. "Come over and find out." He turned away from her and called over his sister. Turning back to her and giving her an unintentional, but still sultry grin. He taunted: "My mac 'n cheese is so good, it's gonna make you rethink what you've been doing with your life,"

"Hmph," Janae replied, standing to her feet.


"You've been holding out on me," Janae said right before stuffing a fork filled of mac 'n cheese in her mouth. Janae was already halfway through her second plate. She ignored the smug look Andy gave her.

"What's in this, Ash," she turned to the little girl. She simply laughed, content to be up past her bedtime. The three of them sat at the kitchen table, eating dinner, being entertained by Ash's story about her kindergarten adventures.

"I can't say," she said in a sing-song voice. "Unless, you become my brother's girlfriend," She had whistled slightly on the f in friend due to her missing front teeth.

Andy chuckled nervously and scooped Ash out her seat. "Okay, grossness. Bedtime," he whispered loudly. This resulted in Ash trying to bargain with her older brother to further extend her bedtime, with no avail. Andy's heavy footsteps could be heard from the kitchen.

And for the first time all day, Janae felt alone.

To busy herself, she cleared the table and decided to get a headstart on the dishes. Surprisingly, for a simple dish of macaroni and cheese, Andy utilized four pots and pans. Janae shook her head and began to rinse off the plates and sud the pots and pans. Washing the dishes was a methodical task that did not require much thought, so Janae did not realize she had drifted into automaticity, until she felt strong arms wrap around her waist.

She stood still as his arms settled around her, and his lips graze the back of her neck searching for the sweet spot between her chin and collarbone. Finding her sensitive neck, he planted light feathery kisses. She found herself not pushing him away, but pressing herself against him. She lowered the sponge and plate in the sink. Responding to her acceptance, his kisses grew hungry and moved to her shoulders. One hand crept under her hoodie, her shirt... closer and closer to her bosom.

"Wait!" Janae cried out. A silence passed between them, but Andy held her still. "I- I- it's that time of the month." His arms fell to his side and he mumbled his apologies, pulling away from her. Janae released a silent sigh. She mustered her courage and turned to him, watched him lean against the kitchen counter, a nonchalant expression on his face.

"Because you are on your period,and not because you are doing that white boy? Right?"

"What?" questioned Janae.

"You won't let me touch you because it's that time and not because you upgraded to that bougie white boy?"

"Upgraded? Andy what are you talking about?!"

"Don't front Janae. I saw the two of you together that night in the parking lot! What you think you're better than me now cause you riding that white boy?!"

"You don't know what you're talking about..." Janae said turning away.

"Really?" Andy rustled behind her. "I don't know what I'm talking about. Isn't that the new thing? Black girls and white guys? Forget about me, you don't need me. You traded up,"

"I never said that," Janae retorted, spinning to face him.

"But you never really had to," His copper eyes showed a combination of hurt and frustration. Andy was never good at taking rejection. Janae sighed.

"Look, we went over this. There was never a you and I," Janae mumbled, her body suddenly tired. "This thing between KC and I..."

"That's his name?" Andy snorted. Janae rolled her eyes.

"This thing between KC and I... we are trying to work it out. We are trying to make sense-"

"Has he done it yet?" Andy interrupted.

"Done what?" Janae asked, annoyed that he once again cut her off.

"Has he made your eyes roll back. Or your toes curl. Or what about that squeaking noise that you make when I would-"

"I don't squeak," Janae shouted.

"Yes, you do. And don't try to change the subject. I bet he hasn't even touched you, yet." Andy said walking towards her. "But I know you. I understand you. And he's not doing it. And he's not right for you."

Andy stopped in front of her, his eyes now blazing fire. Janae was paralyzed where she stood, barely breathing. "So when you are over this 'white boy' phase, I'll be here. Waiting. Because I can make your eyes roll back. Make those piggies curl. I helped you discover that squeaking noise.

"But..." he said brushing away a stray curl that fell in front of her eyes, "...most importantly, I understand you. Better than he ever can."