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Places (Pt. 1)

I remember vividly when he pulled up in his Caddy (Cadillac). It was light silver with real shining rims; one of the prettiest cars I had ever seen. And then I saw him step out of it; the prettiest King Dream I had ever seen. We locked eyes and it felt perfect. I don't even remember how but, he ended up by my car window. "What's your name?" He asked. "I'm Ericka," I said. "Nice to meet you Ericka. Everybody calls me Place." He walked closer and asked me where I was from. "Here," I responded. He shook his head and asked for my number. He claimed he would call me later that evening but I didn't believe him. He was too pretty and that car was like a magnet. I went on about my business and headed to my sister's condo. Later on that night though, around 10pm, an unfamiliar number called me. "Hello?" I answered, already knowing who it was. "Can I speak to Ericka?" I smirked. "This is she...” “Hey Ericka, this is Place. You remember we met earlier?”

"Of course I remember. How you?" I asked. He went on to tell me that he was out with his friend and wanted to see me. I was initially against it, but he and my sister insisted. "That's perfect - I can bring my friend for your sister. Send the address love," he said. I rolled my eyes at my sister for even allowing these shenanigans. "It'll be fuuuun. We can smoke up all them nigga's weed," she said and laughed. I went into the bathroom to freshen up and my sister straightened up the living room a bit. Moments later, Place was texting me to tell me that he and his friend were outside. It was a beautiful summer night, so my sister and I went out to meet them. "Wassup baby," he walked up on me and said. He came to give me a hug and his cologne smelled crisp. He was much taller than me, as I only stand at 5'6. He had a full goatee and light brown eyes, coffee brown skin and a medium stature. I could tell from his walk though, that he could handle his business. His friend was shorter than him, about 5'11 and was a dark brown skin with wavy hair. His name was Leo and I liked the way he spoke. We walked up to my sister's condo and all introduced ourselves. Place had a seat on the couch and asked me to join him. He pulled out a large sack of weed and asked me to roll up. My sister and I gave each other head nods and she passed me some papers. 

The living room was full of smoke. And the Reggae music blasting from the television speakers was making me want to wind my spine. Place's friend Leo and my sister were on the other couch, conversing nicely with weed of their own in rotation. I looked back over at Place, who was staring at me. "Tell me about yourself?" He whispered in my ear. I knew he wouldn't hear me over the music, so I gestured for him to follow me to my sister's guest bedroom. He sat down on the bed and I closed the door behind us. "Can you hear me better in here?" I asked. He shook his head and I had a seat next to him. "What is it you want to know?" He smiled and lit up another blunt. "Tell me whatever comes to your mind love." I smoked more of his weed and reminisced about my childhood, high school years and the government job I had been working for the last 7 years. Talking to him, I realized just how dull my life was. Where had the thrill gone? I was 25 years old and I spent most of my nights drinking wine on my couch and passing out. I used to love spending time out on the town, drinking at different bars and meeting people. A few traumatic experiences left me afraid to trust myself again though. These were all things I realized from just an initial conversation with Place.

"You okay?" I heard him ask. I imagined all of these thoughts were showing on my face as well. I tried to play it off, "yeah, I'm cool. Tell me about you though," I said. He sighed, deeply. "I mean, I'm out here Ericka, everyday. I'm young, I like money and I love a Queen with her shit together." I smiled at Place, he already had a way with words. "Mmm hmm, and what is it exactly that you do?" I already had an idea from the car, his fresh clothes and gold watch - along with the gold chain he had tucked under his hoodie. He smiled. "I mean, I do a little of this and a little of that," he replied. I couldn't help but to chuckle. "Okay," I said. I guess I didn't really think much of it. I knew he meant he had a complex occupation but I didn't ask too many questions.

"You ever fuck wit' somebody like me before?" He asked, being hella cocky. I liked it though. His eyes were low and his juicy lips were calling my name. "What you mean? A street nigga?" I asked back, just to be clear. "Nah, a street King," he corrected me. I shook my head. "I hear you...King." We both laughed and he slightly caressed my hand. He continued to feel on them. "I like your hands because they're soft. I can't wait until you give me a massage," he said. I gasped. "And how you figure I'ma be giving you a massage?" I asked. "I mean, I hope you do. I plan on giving you plenty." He eyed me up and down and licked his lips a little. I didn't have time for these shenanigans, just like I told my sister. Place had me feeling vulnerable, and I couldn't remember the last time a man made me feel that way. Besides, I learned that I was three years his senior. His 22-year old ass thought he was spitting some game! He was so adorably handsome though, I couldn't keep my eyes off of him. He continued to roll his weed up until my eyes got so tight, I couldn't smoke anymore. I laid back on my sister's guestroom bed and got a little comfortable. To be honest, I may have forgotten that he was in the room with me.

"Can I lay with you?" I heard him ask me. "Of course," I found myself saying. I moved over to give him room and he lightly placed his arm around my petite waist. He left a respectable amount of space between us. Besides, it wasn't like my booty would be poking out anyway because it wasn't that big. I drifted to sleep, his breath lightly caressing my neck. I tried to remain calm and not let it affect me, but every time I closed my eyes, I felt his vibes deeper. "Turn around Ericka," he finally said. Faded, I did and instantly my lips met his. I really didn't mean to allow his mouth to devour mines like that. My head was spinning and my mind was traveling to places; places that it had never seen or even dreamed of before. He sucked on my bottom lip a little and I let out a moan, much louder than I intended to. "Wait," I said and stopped him. "I can't do this. I just met you." He backed up a little and just said "okay." In one movement, he had his arms back around my waist. I turned back around and drifted, for real this time. I woke up a few hours later. There was no more music playing in the house but I heard faint voices. They grew louder and I realized they were moans and cuss words. Leo and my sister were out in the living room fucking! All I could do was laugh. Leo did look good as fuck and obviously the energy was in the air. I began laughing so hard that I woke Place up. He moved around a little and pulled me closer. "What you laughing at, huh?" He asked, nibbling my neck a little. "Listen," I said. A few seconds later, he heard my sister scream out "fuck....yes Leo!" Followed by moans and more cussing. "Ohhh shiiiit," he whispered to me. We both laughed loud, trying to be as quiet as we could. I was sure Leo and my sister heard us because they scurried out of the living room after that. I knew they were going to my sister's bedroom. "Your boy is wild," I sat up in the bed and said. Place licked his lips and touched my face a little. "Nah that's your sister. They both wild, really."

I was turned on by his conversation. His entire thought process was different than any other person I had met. We talked about love, music, books, art and sensuality. Who would've thought a hustler in the streets was so well-informed and cultured? He said he was the King though. After our conversation that late night, I could see why. I fell back asleep and he woke me as day was breaking. "Come walk me to the door, please." I really didn't want to move from that comfortable ass bed and I didn't want him to leave either. But I went ahead and got up. "I'ma call you later, aight," he said and kissed my forehead. That shit woke me right up. No he didn't I thought to myself. He and his friend walked out the door after that. I went and got back in the bed. I tossed and turned until I decided to check my phone. I had a new message from Place. I opened it and it read "See you later Ms. Ericka. You know I'm coming back for what's mine...."

I agreed to go to dinner with him the next night. We went to this elegant Seafood Restaurant and he ordered champagne bottles and all kinds of entrees and small plates to sample. I was in heaven. "How did you know I love seafood?" I asked. "I have my sources," he smiled and said. I knew my sister had probably run her mouth. We enjoyed the rest of dinner and Place paid for everything. I didn't really know what to expect because I mean, I've been on dates with men who have literally asked me for my portion of the bill at the table! How refreshing it was to be with a young man that didn't have a problem spending. We exited and he even opened the car door for me. The Caddy looked and felt even better inside. We pulled up to the liquor store a few minutes later. "Oh, you just tryna get me all fucked up huh?" I asked with a smirk. "If that's what you want," he smirked and said back. I couldn't believe his audacity. Did he think I owed him pussy just because he bought me some seafood?

"I mean damn, you don't have any cut cards do you Place?" I didn't know whether or not to be offended. He turned the music down. "What's wrong Ericka? Why you be acting like that shawty?" I looked over at him. "Acting like what?" He shrugged. "Acting like...I'ma hurt you or something. Why you so...forgive me for saying this...but uptight? Just loosen up baby. What you want to drink?" Again, the audacity! "First of all, I'm not uptight. I'm just cautious. I don't really know you Place. And I don't know if I should be getting drunk with men that  I don't know." I couldn't even look at him when I said that shit. We had literally just finished a bottle and a half of champagne at the restaurant. He wasn't amused by it at all. "So it's like that now? Ericka what's wrong? I mean, I was just at your sister's house. We just spent the night together and...you know what, you want me to take you home?" He asked. I didn't, but I also didn't know how else to react. "Yes, please just take me home." He just sighed and backed out of the liquor store parking lot. We rode in silence until we pulled up to my apartment complex. "Can I at least walk you to your door. I want to make sure you get in safely," he said. At that moment, I felt stuck. I wanted nothing more than to be in Place's arms and go back to his condo to listen to oldies, just like we had discussed. But I felt blocked, blocked in the way that trauma blocks you. I couldn't express myself. It hurt me so bad because I wanted to be with him, but I couldn't tell him. So instead, I reached for the door handle while saying lightly "I'm okay Place." He stopped me and slightly grabbed my hand. "Ericka, please, talk to me," he said.

I let out a deep breath and I felt tightness in my chest. How could I tell him that I felt damaged in more ways than one and I promised myself to never trust another man? There was no way he would want to hear all of that shit. "I can't, Place. You wouldn't even want to hear all this shit," I looked at him and said. He tilted his head. "Try me." And in his eyes, I saw that I could trust him. I told him to park his car. He did and cut the engine off. "Listen, can we still go to your place, like we originally said? I never actually wanted to come home," I admitted. He smiled and grabbed my hand. "Of course. Are you okay though? You gonna tell me what's going on?" I couldn't believe that he actually cared. I mean, what man really wants to know the detailed trauma of a woman he just met? I guess I made him feel different though, because he certainly made me feel different. "To be honest Place, speaking with you the other night just brought up a lot of old memories. It made me think of places I've been and people I've seen, some of which I wanted to forget." He shook his head. "Oh believe me, I know all about that. Probably more than anybody, I can understand what it's like to want to forget some people, places and things." I grabbed his hand tighter. "Yeah, so you understand?" I asked. "I do Ericka, for real. So if you're ready, I can head over to my house now?" I finally was to spend more alone time with him. "That's cool. I'm ready. And I'm sure I can trust you."

We pulled up to Place's condo in the outskirts of the city. They were brand new, I could tell by the smell of fresh paint and extra clean carpet in the hallway. Place's spot smelled like incense and a hint of weed. He turned on the light for me and I had a seat on the living room couch. He had a huge mounted flat screen, a fireplace, cherrywood tables and aged wine bottles. I appreciated the artwork sprinkled throughout the walls and hallways. "Make yourself comfortable Queen. I have to take this call real quick." He didn't wait for a response, just disappeared up the steps with his phone in his hand. I sat back and relaxed, taking it all in. The vibe was clear, I could tell he didn't spend much time at home. I saw a few pieces hanging up from the dry cleaners by the dining room table. I scanned the room with my eyes to see if I could spot any evidence of another woman being there. In the midst of it, a particular framed picture captured my attention. It sat on his fireplace mantle and was of an older black woman. I knew it was a picture of his grandmother, I could feel it. I got up and walked closer to it, admiring her natural beauty and stance. Suddenly, I felt a presence in the room with me. Place was still upstairs so, I wondered what his Grandmother wanted. I looked more closely at her picture, noticing that she was out in nature and surrounded by water. I knew since a child I could communicate with the other side, so this was nothing new to me. I closed my eyes and stood still with my hand over her picture. I could hear her voice, it was sweet and slow. "Well hello darling. You're one of the few that I actually like," I heard her say. I chuckled and my ear started twitching. That meant she was probably sizing me up and had plenty more to say. She went on to tell me about her grandson, whose real name is Terrell McCain, and how he desired a stable woman and relationship. "He's had enough of the running around with different women. Besides, Terrell isn't built like that, it just kinda goes with his lifestyle." It wasn't uncommon for me to go into certain spaces and hear the voices of the transitioned - this had also contributed to some of the trauma I experienced. It had been a while since I had made contact though, and Place's grandmother wasted no time. 

"Sorry about that," Place said as he walked down his steps to join me. He had changed into some sweatpants and a hoodie. "No problem love," I said back. He turned on his loud speaker, playing a mix of Marvin Gaye, Al Green, The Whispers and all the other Oldies classics. He poured us some wine and asked me to dance with him. How romantic he was. When I met him two days earlier in the parking lot, I never would've thought we would be slow dancing in the living room of his luxury condominium. He pulled me close by my waist and smelled my neck. I let him indulge. When I heard "Voyage to Atlantis" by The Isley Brothers come on, I knew it would intensify my energies. You see, that song does something to my soul chakra. When that first guitar string hits, I lose it. It hit and I rolled my neck around and my hips followed, in such a natural flow. "Can I go onnnnnn my way without youuuu," Ronald blared through the speakers. The way Place had his hands on me set my body free. I exhaled, over and over until I nearly fell into his arms.

"I'll alwaaays....come back to youuu," he sang along in my ear. "I'll alwaaaayss.." I closed my eyes, and the tears began to fall. I hugged him tighter, and he rocked with me. Through the second verse, I continued to release my tears. At first, I wondered if Place would judge me, but I felt safe. He said nothing, just kept my body close to his and rocked with me. "Atlaaantiiisss...is back to you. I'll alwaaaaayyys come back to you..." he continued to sing along in my ear. I shook my head and finally gained my composure. There I was again, traveling to places that I never even knew existed. The song ended and I now felt open enough to share my story. I hadn't ever told anyone. He turned the music down a little and poured me more wine. I knew that my eyes were still puffy from crying. He got me some tissues to clean my face and I took a deep breath. 

"You good now?" He asked. I laughed. "I'm much better now. I just had some shit to release. Obviously..." He came over to sit right next to me. "I knew something was bothering you. And I knew that it would come out, sooner or later. The Isley Brothers always get the job done, huh?" I laughed again and agreed with him. It felt good to feel vulnerable, and the tightness in my chest had lifted. 

"I'm ready to talk now," I admitted. "And I'm ready to listen." We sat back and I exhaled again. My mind took me back to three years before, with an incident involving a dangerous young man. "You helped me to realize that I don't go out as much anymore because, I'm still traumatized. I would even go as far as to say that I sometimes avoid going out, just because I don't know what might happen." Place looked at me and grabbed my hands. "Just let it out baby. Don't keep holding these things inside. Just speak your piece and I'ma roll this tree. I'm here for you," he said. He kissed my forehead and gave me the go ahead. Although I was hesitant, I was ready to let it all go. "It all started about three years ago when I was messing with this guy named JR. I was like 21, and we met in my old neighborhood one night. He lied about his age, he was much younger. And then he... hold up Place, are you sure you want to hear about this?" I asked. He shook his head and touched my hand, "Ericka, I'm not about to judge you baby. Let me know what's going on, for real," he said. Okay I thought, bracing myself. "Well like I said, I got with JR - if that's what you want to call it. After about a year and a half on and off, the strangest things began to happen. He had this cousin and his name was Tay. I remember when he first came home from jail, he just always rubbed me the wrong way. But one night me and JR were in bed, and there was a loud ass knock at my door around 3 in the morning. JR got up to get it, almost like he was expecting it, and then within seconds I heard a lot of loud talking and arguing. When I walked up on them in the living room, I saw JR standing there with his cousin Tay and a big ass gun. I had only seen Tay in public with JR, so I wondered how he knew where I lived and why the fuck he had that gun in my house. I asked JR what was going on and he told his cousin to leave. Tay shut his mouth and left out the door, but I could tell that he was very angry about something. JR promised me that I had nothing to worry about - but I asked him how his cousin knew where my house was and about the gun, to which he responded 'that's my family. I gotta let him know where I am at all times.' I couldn't sleep the rest of that night. He didn't even answer me about the gun. You know how you can just feel when something isn't right?" I asked Place. He nodded his head to agree, I could tell he was listening intently. So I continued, "So after that night, JR started acting real funny. He would disappear every other day and then when he did come around, he was acting real paranoid and would be getting all of these mysterious phone calls and shit. Two weeks later, I ran into his other cousin Brandon and he told me that JR had gotten locked up. I hadn't heard from him in a few days but I counted my blessings. Because come to find out, this nigga JR had made the news and everything! I turn the fucking t.v. on and the story about this young boy's murder was a headline. It happened right by where his cousin Tay lived. And that's how I also found out his real age. I knew his cousin was bad news the moment that I met him. So a few days later this man calls me from jail. I accept the charges like a dumb ass and of course, JR is claiming that he didn't pull the trigger. But he was there, so they charged his ass with first degree. I hung up on him, I didn't know what else to do! I didn't know if I was in the mix or what - especially since that gun had been at my house. And right after that, JR's cousin Tay started popping up at my crib and shit. JR was locked up, so I didn't know what to think at this point. You know?" Place shook his head and looked like something clicked in his brain. He passed the weed to me and I inhaled. "If this is too much Place, I can stop..." I said. "Please continue Ms. Ericka. I feel like this is very therapeutic to you and I want you to get it all of your chest. I don't mind at all," he responded. I closed my eyes and really began to relive this time in my life. "So then a few weeks later, after JR's conviction, a couple of my girlfriends invited me out for drinks and dancing. But as we were leaving, we heard shots in the air and had to run and duck and shit. Can you believe that I saw Tay there? And then I found out that another nigga ended up dead that night? Me and my friends all decided to stay at my place that night. And guess what? That nigga Tay came knocking at my fucking door again, at like 4 in the morning! It's still all so surreal to me..."

"Hold up? This nigga Tay popped up at your crib, right after you saw him shooting at that club?" Place asked. "Yeah! But he didn't see me there though. I was in the car when I saw him running on the street with two guns in his hand," I said. "Mmm, well I wonder what his infatuation with you was?" Place rubbed his chin and asked, more rhetorically than anything. I figured his insight would be helpful with deciphering a way to feel about all of this. "I don't know. But that same night, my girl Shaya answered the door and told Tay I wasn't there, and that he needed to stop coming by. He replied that JR had told him to keep an eye on me and that's what he intended on doing." Place passed me the weed again. I could tell he was really deep into my story, and his disdain for Tay was growing. "That Tay character is something else huh?" He asked as his eyes gazed. He bared the same rhetorical tone. "Yeah because...he kept coming back Place! And it was always off the late night like that. I hated it, I was so scared and didn't know what to think. I hadn't been accepting JR's calls and I wanted nothing to do with any of it. I even saw Tay outside of my building one night when I was getting off work. I just drove by and went to stay at my friend's house that night. I ended up moving like a month later because my lease was up, but that nigga Tay was really something else. All them niggas were too hot, and he was caught up! I just wondered how I couldn't see any of it coming, you know?"

Place looked at me and blew out a deep breath. I did too. Then he passed the weed back to me. "Damn shawty, I see why you feel the way you feel now," he said. "But look, you couldn't have possibly seen any of that coming Ericka - and it seems like you still don't even know the entire story now. Don't you worry about any of that now though - you hear me? Can't none of them niggas touch you Ericka. You with me now. And if you need me, I'm here for you."  

I wondered how to thank Place for putting my mind at ease. I know that for the first time in a while, I slept through the night with no interruptions. I faintly remembered him getting a call very early in the morning, but he didn't make enough noise to wake me all the way up. Again, his forehead kiss brought me out of my slumber later that morning. I wondered what time it was. "You want to go to breakfast?" He asked. "Sure," I replied. I got up and got myself together in his bathroom. We ended up at a small cafe called "Table Talk" and both ordered French Toast with eggs. I offered to pay, but Place wouldn't hear of it. "Put your money away when you're with me Ericka," he said. And that was like music to my ears. 

As a summer baby technically, my birthday lands in mid-August. I agreed to let Place take me to this small, private beach in North Carolina. They had a cute carnival and we stayed in this beautiful beachfront condo with the best view. We went shopping during the day and bar-hopped at night. Our last evening there, we rode out to this Casino with big, bright lights and real good food. Place knew more about gambling than I did and he ended up winning a little over $2,000. He let me keep most of it. "Happy Birthday Boo," he said as he handed the bills to me. I watched him move around that place like the street King that he was. Everything about his walk, his posture, the way he spoke all let me know that he was very sure of himself and that he had put in plenty of work. His Grandmother's words stuck with me since that first night in his condo, about him needing to settle down after juggling so many different women.

"How many other women are you seeing?" I asked him as we lay in the bed that night. I saw him ball his lips up a little. "It's been reduced to only two, and they're on their way out my life. Why? You got something to tell me?" He asked and smirked. "Haha, don't try to make this about me. I was just wondering. We've been spending a lot of time together and I just wondered if it all meant anything. That's all," I said. I looked into his eyes and he looked back into mine. He got up and told me to follow him to the courtyard. It was beautiful with glowing flowers, a running pond and dim lights illuminating the walkways. He sat down on a bench and grabbed my hands. "Come sit with me," he said. I did and he began to talk. "This is where my Grandmother would always bring me - when I spent summers with her. She lived not too far from here. We would call this place our secret beach. Nobody knew about it then and they still don't. I brought you here for your birthday because yes, all the time we've been spending together definitely means something." I was speechless. Place didn't know that I already knew about his Grandmother, or that she had made spiritual contact with me the first night I was in his condo. I couldn't help to think that this trip was divinely ordained. There were forces larger than us at play, for sure. "I care about you too Place," I admitted. "I'm happy I decided to spend my birthday with you."

He had his hands gripped around my waist, moving my body back and forth nice and slow. He sat at the edge of the bed with my bare body on top of his - sweat glistening on the both of us. I knew it would be this good too. I purposely waited to build up the momentum and yesssss....Place was giving me everything my body and soul needed. He didn't mind eating my pussy or my ass, and wouldn't stop after I came again and again. His dick was long and huge, and I took every inch of it with pleasure! I looked back at him, biting his bottom lip as he gave me backshots. I rolled my eyes into my head and enjoyed the ride. I promised myself to never trust another man but, Place wasn't really leaving me with a choice. After two rounds, I lay back in his arms and smiled sweetly. The next morning, he got me up super early by placing kisses all over my face. "Wake up sleepy head," he whispered. I smiled and opened my eyes to see what he wanted. In his hands was a black box, I quickly adjusted my eyes and then looked at him. "Open it up," he said and handed it to me. I sat up in the bed and held the black box he gave me. When I opened it, I saw a 5-carat Blue Nile diamond ring. It was light pink with Morganite and the halo, just like I had mentioned. "Oh my God! Place...when did you get this?" I asked. "Does it matter? I heard you mention it and I picked it up for you. It's a promise ring Ericka," he said. I looked into his eyes as he took the ring out of the box and placed it on my right ring finger. 

"I am who I am Ericka. And I can't have anyone around me that isn't with me...100%. So either you're with me, or you're against me Queen. And if you choose otherwise, I'll get you home safely and let you go on your way. But if you're with me...." I didn't need him to finish. "You don't even have to ask Place. I'm all in baby. I appreciate you bringing me here and this promise ring that you just blessed me with. I'm with you, 100%." He smiled and put his arms around me. We kissed and made sweet love once more before packing our things and getting on the road. On the way back, Place finally admitted something to me. "Since we're here Ericka, I thought I needed to let you know something. I know exactly who your ex, JR, is and my peoples don't fuck with him or his cousin Tay. Do you still have any feelings for this man?" He asked me. We were sitting outside of a gas station and I looked over at Place with squinted eyes. "What you mean do I still have feelings for him? Of course not. I told you how that man nearly ruined my damn life. Shit, I could barely sleep through the night before you started sleeping by my side Place. But, how do you know JR and Tay though? You were there the night of that shooting at the club, weren't you?" I had already put it all together in my head. The looks on Place's face as I told him that story weeks earlier told me most of what I needed to know. I figured it would only be a matter of time before he admitted he had some type of connection to my past. 

Place shook his head. "Yeah I was there that night. And I didn't even want to be there that night, something told me not to go. Intuition I guess. But my man Leo was there and that was the night when our man Anthony got killed. Right there in the parking lot of that lounge," he said. I looked at his face, full of sorrow. I couldn't believe he and i were in such close proximity on that tragic evening; especially with the series of events surrounding it all.

"Why though?" I asked. "Why did Tay shoot Anthony that night?" Place looked at me. "Because...Anthony knew who them niggas were. The young boy who's murder made the news? That was Anthony's little cousin. Tay pulled the trigger on him and then pointed that same gun at Anthony that night. The streets talk baby, like they always do. It was a set up. The whole shit was connected. You were right, this shit is deep. And it's very traumatizing." Now I was in shock. It's such a small world we live in. I thought for sure that the nightmare was ending, but somehow meeting Place was a continuation of this shit.

"Place, I gotta go. I gotta go to the bathroom," I said. I felt like I was going to be sick. My stomach was in knots and I raced to the gas station bathroom. I breathed heavily. All of this was too much to take in. I looked down at the diamond ring on my finger. It looked so damn good. I felt like Place picked an opportune time to tell me about his connection to my greatest fears. He should've told me sooner. I thought that I could trust him, but this proved otherwise. He was the main one talking about someone being with him or against him and he was the one concealing shit! I stepped back in the Caddy with him and I wanted to give him his diamond ring back. He started the car and we left from the gas station without another word. I was sure he could feel my discontent. After a few minutes he finally said "are you gonna tell me what's wrong?" I sighed and shook my head. With my face towards the window I answered "how do think I should feel? All this time you knew, and you didn't say anything. That whole situation still gives me the creeps and you just....ugh!" I really couldn't believe him.

Eventually he put his hand on my thigh. "Ericka please...it's not like that. I just, didn't know how to take that shit either. I mean, it surprised the fuck outta me to know that you used to deal with this nigga JR. I didn't know how you felt about him or if, you was working with that nigga..."

"What! How could you think something like that about me? All that shit I told you, after just two nights of knowing you. And I told you, that same night, that I trusted you. I guess it's just a harder pill for me to swallow that you didn't feel the same! Look, I'm just over it Place!" I exclaimed and folded my arms.

"Over what? Look Ericka, I understand where you coming from love. But try to understand me too. Being who I am, I can never be too careful. And besides, I care about you. I really do. And you think this shit is easy for a nigga? Man look, I don't even tell women how I feel - I don't have to. But you're different Ericka. And I'm sorry if I hurt you but, that's why I told you now." I continued to shake my head. I looked out the window at the passing trees and fields. I just wanted to get back to the comfort of my own home.

"So you mad at me?" He asked. "I don't know how to feel Place. I mean, you just gave me this ring and then you tell me that you know my ex; who happens to be a convicted murderer. It's all too much," I admitted. "Yeah, I know. Being the type of woman you are, warriors are going to naturally be attracted to you." I looked up at him. He continued, "but I don't want any other warrior with you. I want you with me Ericka. I gave you that ring because you mean something to me. I don't know why I feel the way I do about you, already, but I do."

I smirked and looked away. He was right, but a part of me felt uncomfortable with him knowing so much about me. Even the things I didn't tell him, he could always fill the blanks in, accurately. As we conversed more about it all, he claimed to have met me before, but I felt I would've remembered. "Maybe it was in a past life," he said, referencing our previous meeting. That made me wonder. I believed in reincarnation, soul mates, karmic ties and all of that. We definitely had a strong pull towards one another and a connected past. Once we pulled up to my apartment complex, he helped me to take my bags upstairs. "Can I come in?" He asked. I didn't say anything but just held the door open for him and smiled. I joined him on the couch after I used the bathroom. I continued with our conversation from earlier. "So, if we did know each other in a past life Place, how would we know now?" I asked him. He looked at me and said, "we just have to keep going to be sure. And see if we end up in those same places..."

To be continued....

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