#ThrowbackThursday Fiction: Watermelon Season

I dreamt I ran him over, and the white women from work watched. Their eyes sought to spite me. I screamed to get help, but no one moved. “You’ll burn in hell for this, bitch,” the woman in the center sneered. Her face grew redder with the inflection in her voice.

Looking in the rearview mirror, I see his blond hair first, combed to the right, the sides buzzed a little too close to the scalp. He stands behind my trunk, and I think about my dream, how I stood before a lynch mob as he lay dying. I’m tempted to shift the gear in reverse, fulfill the prophesy and accept my fate, but I take the key out of the ignition, shoulder my purse, and step out.

“Hey,” he says, waving both hands.

I nod, glance over my shoulder at the eight-floor office building looming over the parking lot.

“So do you have any plans for the weekend?”

I shrug. A car pulls into the empty space beside me. It’s the woman from my dream. Her brunette hair is chopped short to her ears, with an inside hook curl at the ends all around, not a strand out of place. She cuts her eyes at me, and I quickly look down at my feet.

“Well, if you’re not busy, I was wondering if you wanted to go to the watermelon patch.”

“Seriously?”

He shakes his head, and his hair shuffles to the front of his face. He smiles, but I don’t smile back, and the loud door slam to the right turns our attention to the woman spying us over the top of her car.

I step closer and whisper so she can’t hear. “Because I’m black, you think I like watermelon.”

“No, no!” His eyes widen. He backs up and instinctively looks to the woman, who still stares. She’s barely taller than her own car; she has to stand on her toes to watch us. I wish she’d go inside already. My throat tightens at the thought of her lassoing a noose around my neck and stringing me up on the branches of one of the magnolias lining the walkway leading to the building.

“It’s watermelon season. My uncle owns a watermelon patch.” He slaps his chest. “I like watermelon. I thought…”

“You thought what?”

The woman finally leaves us, but not before casting a scolding look in my direction. She must be content that he’s in no danger. He’s completed his job in offending me, and now I will leave too, scurry off to my tiny cubicle in the back of the office, segregated from the rest of them, and do my work silently as I’m told.

When the woman is out of earshot, he shoves his hands into his pockets and sighs. “I’m trying to ask you out on a date. Obviously, I’m not doing a good job of it.”

I watch him as he looks everywhere but at me, and I wonder if he too is thinking of the consequences of my saying yes, if he’s dreamt of my death by his hand, of a mob of angry black women shooting curses, taking off belts, breaking off switches to whip him with—the same weapons his people used to beat our souls down into the ground.

“We don’t have to go to the watermelon patch. We could do something different, like the movies, or dinner—what kinds of food do you like? I just wanted to do something different, something out of the box. You’re special, you’re different. I just wanted to do something nice for you.”

“Just be quiet.”

He instantly shuts his mouth, midsentence, and I lean against my side mirror. He waits for my answer, but I’m lost for words. My mind is stuck on “You’re special, you’re different.” Is he referring to my blackness? And again, I fear this proposal will only lead to our combined demise, that I will again be reminded of what we are. I am black, and he is white, and the world will always hate us for what we mean together, for what we are about to do.

And so I tell him, “I like watermelons too.”


Originally published May 27, 2017.

Waiting for Him to Call

It’s so easy these days to creep…

Even our government does it.

Don’t think for one second that the CIA isn’t watching you with your hands in your pants through your TV. It could be a matter of national security; they must watch.

And they’re also slightly turned on by the way you feel yourself. Moan a little louder, touch a little deeper, spread your legs a little wider. Really give them a show.

Social media makes creeping even easier. Twitter? Anyone can destroy your reputation and career just by digging up old tweets from ten years ago. Purely despicable or only joking, it doesn’t matter, in this era of the easily offended, you are swiftly lynched by the PC mafia.

And there’s no place to hide on Facebook. Remember that guy you gave your number to on that dating app? He used it to look you up. They can do that, you know. If you have your number posted on Facebook. And you do. Like a dumbass. So, he found your page and clearly saw something he didn’t like. That’s why he hasn’t called. Maybe you’re not as attractive on Facebook—all those poorly lit pictures of you half drunk, highlighting all the bad angles, you were tagged in in by your friends from college, friends you barely talk to now. Or maybe he found a status update from when you were 14 years old—- though he didn’t bother to check the time stamp— (racially insensitive, bigoted, homophobic, you pick, we’ve all posted at least one) that could ruin your reputation and career, if you had one.

So you sit on your couch, with your hands in your pants (though you’re dryer than your phone at this point), Hulu and chilling by yourself because you’re too cheap to get Netflix too, wondering if it’s possible to get any lonelier than this.

Tomorrow, you will break your own record.

#1MinFicton: Just Coffee

Jack places a paw on her hand. Her heart pounds through her chest, pulse reverberating up her neck. The sweat on her fingers smear the phone screen as she types the message.

She glances at Jack, whose puppy-dog eyes encourage her.

He called for a reason, not just to say hi.

She’ll ask him out for coffee. Just coffee. So they can talk. Only talk. And she won’t take no for an answer.

—Nortina


Killing two birds with one stone, and it only took me a minute. Here’s my response to the last two #1MinFiction prompts: This cute photo, and the phrase, “won’t take no for an answer…”

#LyricalFictionFriday: Ruff Nite

Another commerical. eHarmony.com. FarmersOnly.com. BlackPeopleMeet.com. I receive spam emails from Match at least every week. How they got my information remains a mystery…

Like how Michael already knew where I lived before our first date, could describe my sandy colored Toyota Camry with his eyes closed, along with what was inside, even down to the pile of dirty clothes in the back seat that I still haven’t taken to the laundromat.

As I watch these “couples” force smiled for the cameras, sit together— knees barely touching—holding hands—fingers closed—and proclaim how these websites brought them together with their best friend, their soulmate, the love of their lives, I wonder how many tries did it take?

How many I-still-live-at-home-with-my-mom’s did they have to go through? How many middle-aged I’m-still-finding-myself’s? How many unemployed “entrepreneurs”? How many do-you-think-you-can-cover-the-check’s? How many my-girlfriend-wants-to-spice-up-our-relationship’s?

Or is that only on the free dating websites?

I press the power button on the remote. There’s nothing on TV at this hour anyway.

Benny, my chocolate lab, who’s been laying at my feet, jumps up when I move. He wags his tail, licks my palm, bows his head for me to pet him. He did the same at the door when I returned home from another demoralizing evening of being groped in a movie theater by a man who couldn’t repeat my name two minutes after introductions but remembered that my profile said I was a Pisces, and according to some magazine he read, Pisces are freaks in bed.

He was sadly disappointed when I showed him how fast my rear tires could spin as I sped out of that parking lot, leaving him in the fumes of my 20-year-old car’s exhaust.

“Oh Benny,” I say with a sigh, scratching behind his ear. “Your cocoa fur against mine is all I need to help revive me after the night I’ve had.” I slap him on his hind leg, and he scurries off ahead of me toward the bedroom.

Sad as it may sound, Benny is the only male I’ll be sleeping with tonight.

—Nortina


It’s been a ruff two weeks, but hopefully in the next couple of days, it’ll be well worth it. (Yes, I’m intentionally being cryptic here. 😉 )

I had to take a brief hiatus while I got some things back in order. But I’m back, catching up on some prompts that I missed while away. Here’s my contribution to a previous Lyrical Fiction Friday prompt: Your cocoa skin against mine…Is all I need to help revive me… 

#ThrowbackThursday Fiction: Once Upon an Alcoholic’s Dream

Dear Craigslist,

I never thought I’d get this lonely. That you and this half-emptied Jack Daniels would be my only companions. My pint of Coke fizzled away after I mixed it all, downed it with whiskey. Now I throw back straight shot after shot until my words blur on the screen and the burn fades to a smooth glide like water.

Don’t send me any more boys who think my alcoholism is cool. Who take me to parties where my eyes burn red in the THC-induced clouds and my liver ferments in yeast. Where they pull out their cellphones to film my head hanging low under a funnel of foaming beer, shouting, “Worldstar! Worldstar!” Sideline the daddies who string me along while they decide if they want me or their kids’ mom. And Craigslist, use your promised anonymity to hide me from the men with anal fetishes, the men who don’t believe in love and marriage but wish to impregnate me with their fifteenth child, the men who, at age thirty-five, are still trying to get on their feet, the men with credit card debt, the men who aren’t looking for a relationship but will screw me anyway, the men who say I remind them of their ex-fiancé… or their mother.

Where is my Renaissance man, Craigslist? Send my ad, scribbled on parchment, by way of carrier pigeon to his bedroom window. Tell him to meet me at the Barn House Theatre where they put on morality plays in the winter. The final showing of Doctor Faustus begins at eight. I’ll be waiting in the lobby, wearing a ruffle, black dress, a wilted rose pinned in my hair. Direct him to blow on it, Craigslist, the magic from the cool breeze escaping his lips causing it to bloom three months before spring.

Sincerely,

Drowning in Sorrows


spf11-23Originally published November 23, 2015 in response to the Sunday Photo Fiction prompt.

 

M is for Makeout Session

Originally posted April 15, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge.

He kissed her. And he kissed her again. And again. And before they both knew what was happening, Jessica had one leg wrapped around Bruce’s hips, his hand running up and down her thigh. She cupped the back of his neck and dug her fingers into his scalp, pulling him closer, biting and sucking his bottom lip, all while the music played and couples danced around them, oblivious to the rising sexual tension at the center of the dance floor.

Bruce was the first to break away.

“Let’s get out of here,” Jessica said under heavy breathing.

“Following you,” Bruce said.

***

When Bruce pulled into the parking lot of Jessica’s apartment complex, he had barely enough time to put the car into park before Jessica was on his lap, showering his neck with quick wet kisses.

“Should we give your neighbors a show or go inside?” Bruce asked. He had one hand underneath her shirt and the other inching closer and closer inside her yoga pants.

“It’ll be more comfortable.” Jessica swung the door open and climbed out, honking the horn in the process.

They raced up the stairs. Once on the third floor, Bruce picked her up in his arms and wrapped her legs around his waist. Kissing her, he pinned her against the door to her apartment. The door gave way behind their pressure, and they fell inside. Jessica hit her head on the hardwood underneath the thin carpet of her living room floor.

“Ouch!” She rubbed the back of her head.

“Your door is flicted,” Bruce said. He pulled her to her feet and closed the door behind him.

“You have to slam it,” Jessica said.

“It’s alright.” He turned the deadbolt and pounded the door with his fist to make sure it was secure.

“So . . .” Jessica said, rocking on her heels.

“So . . . ” Bruce imitated. “What do you want to do?”

“Well that entrance kind of killed the mood.”

“It doesn’t have to.” Bruce leaned down and lightly kissed her chin, grazing over her bottom lip.

Jessica felt like butter. She sunk into his embrace as he tilted her head back and kissed her chin again, and then her lips, nose, forehead, and back down. “I wish I met you two years ago,” she moaned.

“Tell me what you want now,” Bruce whispered in her ear. He closed his mouth around her earlobe and sucked it gently.

“I want—” Jessica closed her eyes and let him massage her face with his lips. She wanted to forget about Whitmore. Not just for the moment, but forever. If only Bruce could kiss her forehead and absorb the memories of the last two years onto his tongue like a sponge and wring them out over the balcony. If she could spend one night with him and be free of her contractual obligation of love, marriage, and children to Whitmore. Just to lie in Bruce’s arms and not have to worry if it would produce a relationship, if he’ll want more than just sex from her, or if he’ll try to force her into something she wasn’t ready for.

She wanted something easy. Comfortable. She wanted to feel without a controlling hand. She wanted to live for tonight and not worry about tomorrow. She wanted spontaneity. She wanted to fuck. She wanted to have an orgasm. She didn’t care that it was cheating. That it would kill the man who had been killing her slowly for the last two years, draining her with his expectations, his demands, his insecurities, his need for a woman to be the foundation of his existence.

She was sick of planning, Whitmore. She was sick of having to prove herself, Whitmore. She was sick of feeling shackled down, Whitmore.

She tugged at Bruce’s pants. “I’ll tell you what I don’t want,” she said.

“Tonight, he doesn’t exist.”

Jessica nodded and backed down the hallway, swaying her hips. “Are you coming?”

“Lead the way.” Bruce undid his belt, and Jessica grabbed the buckle and pulled him down the hall to her bedroom.

—Norina

G is for Girlfriend Whisperer

I love the Girlfriend Whisper! It’s probably one of my favorite scenes from “Love Poetry.” Here, you get the entire transcript from the show, but in the novella, you’ll experience snippets of it through Jessica’s ears. Yes, she will be tuning in. By the way, I’ve completed chapter one of “Love Poetry”! Twenty-six pages and just short of 8,500 words long! We’ll see how much gets edited out later, but for now, I’m on to chapter two, where this scene and others will take place.

Originally published April 8, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge.


DJ Ronnie G: Good morning, good morning! The time is 11:21AM. I’m your boy, DJ Ronnie G, and I’m here with our host, Bruce, aka . . .

Bruce: *in a deep voice, close to the microphone* The Girlfriend Whisperer.

DJ Ronnie G: And we’re here taking your questions. Fellas, are you struggling to understand what the hell’s going on in your lady’s head? My boy Bruce has the answer. Caller, what’s your name and from where are you calling?

Caller #1: Uh, hey. This is Rodney from Charlotte, and I’ve been dating this girl for about two months now. We’re starting to transition out of that ‘Honeymoon Phase.’ I’m just wondering what I should do to make sure she’s still interested in me.

DJ Ronnie G: What you got, Girlfriend Whisperer?

Bruce: What is this ‘Honeymoon Phase’?

Caller #1: You know, when you’re hanging out every day. Maybe I’ll send her a ‘good morning’ text, or she’ll send me one. I’ll randomly send her flowers. She’ll tell me she misses me. That’s not happening anymore. I’m trying to figure out what I should do.

Bruce: Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Caller #1: What?

Bruce: You heard me. You wanna keep this girl? First of all, stop calling your relationship the ‘Honeymoon Phase.’ You’re not married. You’re just dating.

DJ Ronnie G: Yea. It’s like you’re trying to say you’re already serious. You’ve only been dating two months? You’re still allowed to see other people as far as I’m concerned.

Bruce: Yea. Don’t think that because you’re talking to her every day, that means you’re exclusive. You’re just getting to know each other. Now that you know each other a little more, all that ain’t necessary.

Caller #1: But what if she’s bored? How do I keep her interest?

Bruce: Play it cool, man. Have you ever had a girlfriend before?

Caller #1: Yea.

Bruce: Well, you don’t sound like it. Listen. Don’t assume that because she’s not calling you every day, she’s lost interest. Asking for too much will just scare her off. Give her some space for a couple days. Then take her out to a nice dinner, nothing fancy, just your run of the mill dating place. It doesn’t even have to be dinner. Lunch will do. Girls freak over lunch dates, they think you’re trying to let them down easy that you only want to be friends. Yea, tease her a little. Let her think you’re out the door. Don’t ask her any questions about whether or not she likes you. Give her the opportunity to get a little antsy. See where it goes.

DJ Ronnie G: That’s some great advice, Girlfriend Whisper. Aye, Rodney, be sure to hit us up, let us know what happens! *mumbling away from the mic* I have a feeling he’ll screw this one up. *in a louder voice* Alright, next caller, what’s your name and from where are you calling?

Caller #2: Yo, this is Shawn from Winston-Salem.

DJ Ronnie G: Tre-4!

Bruce: What’s your question?

Caller #2: So the ladies call me Thunder Tongue, ’cause when I rumble down on them, they rain all over my tongue.

DJ Ronnie G: Aye!

Caller #2: But lately, this girl I’m messing with been dry like the desert.

DJ Ronnie G: Hey, it rains in the desert too.

Caller #2: Not this one. I’m thinking maybe ’cause she’s young, she never had an orgasm before.

Bruce: How old is she?

Caller #2: 21.

Bruce: Nah. By that age, most women know exactly what gets them off. The problem is most likely you, my friend. Lemme ask you, where do you lick?

Caller #2: Where do I lick? I lick . . . I lick the pussy. Oh, shit. Can I say that on the air?

DJ Ronnie G: Well, you just said ‘shit,’ so we’re all fucked. *hits drums and laugh track*

Caller #2: *laughing*  Sorry about that, man!

Bruce: You’re good. So where do you lick? You go inside?

Caller #2: Yea. You know . . . I do her with my tongue.

DJ Ronnie G: Stroking it with the tongue.

Caller #2: You know, I be getting the job done!

Bruce: Obviously not if she ain’t raining, Thunder Tongue. Look. When people can’t read, that means they’re illiterate, right?

Caller #2: Yea, I guess.

Bruce: Well you, my friend, are ill-clitorate. Ladies get off when you stimulate that clitoris. Open up those lips and find that second tongue, she’ll be raining all night.

DJ Ronnie G: Aye! Remember that, fellas! Get clitorate. Alright, last caller, what’s your name, and from where are you calling?

Caller #3: Hi. My name is Jerry. I’m from Lexington.

Bruce: Jerry, what you got?

Caller #3: I would consider myself one of the good guys. I’ve been trying to get with this girl and—

Bruce: Lemme guess. She friendzoned you.

Caller #3: Yea. She chose this thug wannabe over me. How’d you know.

Bruce: Trying to validate that you’re a ‘good guy’? Classic friendzone syndrome. Being a ‘good guy’ is not going to automatically get you in her pants, bruh. If she doesn’t want you, she doesn’t want you. Accept it and move on.

DJ Ronnie G: Damn, man. That was pretty harsh.

Bruce: I’m sorry. Look. Most women want to build a friendship first. If you jump right into a relationship, you have nothing to fall back on. Look at the friendzone as a beginning, not an ending. Is that better?

DJ Ronnie G: I think he hung up, man. You pissed him off.

Bruce: Aw. He sounded desperate anyway.

DJ Ronnie G: So what’s going on with you? The way you just snapped, it sounded like you had your mind someplace else.

Bruce: Yea, man.

DJ Ronnie G: Well, let’s hear it! It’s not often the Girlfriend Whisperer is in need of advice!

Bruce: Well, I met this girl a couple days ago. Sexy. Smart. Funny. Beautiful smile.

DJ Ronnie G: Alright, so what’s the problem?

Bruce: She’s in a relationship.

DJ Ronnie G: The Girlfriend Whisperer got friendzoned!

Bruce: Nah, it’s not that. Looking at her, I can tell she wants out. But this guy, he’s not letting go. It think he’s one of those friendzoned guys that, as soon as he gets a girlfriend, he wants to make her feel guilty for all the women who friendzoned him.

DJ Ronnie G: Oh, that ‘Don’t you understand that I’m right for you?’ kinda whiny guy?

Bruce: Right. So, I really want to ask her out. There’s this new club opening next Saturday, kind of a tribute to those juke joints from back in the day. I think she’d really like it, but I’m not sure if she’s ready to leave her man. I told her to call me, but—

DJ Ronnie G: Maybe she just needs some persuasion. You should call her.

Bruce: Aw. You think I should?

DJ Ronnie G: How ’bout we turn it to the callers. People, our man the Girlfriend Whisperer is in a dilemma. Should he steal the girl? Hit us up at 980-365-7413. Tell us what you think. We have to take a little commercial break, but when we come back, we want to hear your answers!

*cuts to e-Harmony commerical*

—Nortina

B is for Buzzzzz…

Originally posted April 2, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge. This scene is where “Love Poetry” opens. Here, Jessica and Bruce meet for the first time on a date that keeps getting interrupted by something . . . or someone . . .


Jessica wanted to give Bruce her undivided attention, but she could hear it. The buzzing. That incessant buzzing. It vibrated inside of her skull in the way that a fly with all the space in the world would hover over one’s ear, buzzing.

She was having lunch on the patio at the popular, gourmet burger restaurant,  Newk’s. Bruce sat across from her, eating a cheese burger with lettuce, tomato, pancetta, mayonnaise, and a quail egg. Jessica, on the other hand, had ordered a chicken wrap, which lay on her plate untouched, getting cold. She watched the other patrons at the surrounding tables bite into different variations of the classic hamburger and could only guess that a Southwestern chicken wrap was ordered once or twice a day.

Jessica dipped a steak fry into a glob of ketchup and took a small bite. She dropped the fry onto her plate and looked down at her purse on the floor next to her feet where, inside the front pocket, her cellphone continued to vibrate as it had been doing for the past ten minutes. She didn’t need to remove the phone from the pocket to know who was calling. She could  already picture Whitmore’s face displayed on the screen. When she had taken that photo of him at the botanical gardens in Uptown, she laughed at how silly his crooked smile and uneven eyebrows made him look. He was self-conscious of his flaws, but Jessica had simply kissed his lips and massaged his eyebrows, saying, “I love a man who can make me laugh.” Two years later, and she can’t remember the last time the corners of her lips curled upward into a wide grin at his corny jokes and his involuntarily awkward facial expressions.

Bruce looked up from his plate and smiled. Mayonnaise clung to the corner of his mouth. Jessica kept quiet about it. She liked how it made him appear as a little boy, and she didn’t want him to wipe it away, erase the youth, and remind her that she was on a date with another man. She couldn’t deny that Bruce was attractive, and when her buzzing phone wasn’t distracting her, she struggled to resist the urge to reach over the table and play in his soft, brown hair. She was curious about how he made it swoop over his forehead. Did it swoop naturally, or did he use a mousse to achieve the style? So adorable, she thought. She needed that. Something adorable to remind her that life could be carefree, without demands, restrictions.

“You must not be hungry. Or your mind is somewhere else.” Bruce licked the mayo from the corner of his mouth.

“I’m sorry, I—” The fly was flapping its tiny wings next to her eardrum again. She quickly scooped her vibrating purse up off the floor. “I have to go to the little girls’ room. I’ll be right back.”

—Nortina

I Think I Do

“What happened to us?”

I wish I had an answer for him. I twist the engagement ring around my finger. A diamond egg on white gold. Some days it’s heavier than my hand, like the weight of the promise I made to Larry.

“Do you love him?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“It does.” He reaches across the table and snatches my hand, inspects the ring as if a jeweler.

I ball my fist. “We just drifted apart.” Truthfully I don’t remember why we broke up—a fight, a misunderstanding, something he did, or I. Larry came soon after, swept me right off my feet. He’s everything I should want in a husband. He has a well-paying job, owns a house; he’s a godly man, a tither, and respects his mother.

But he’s not Dom.

“As much as I love you.” He squeezes my hand. The edge of the oversized ring digs into the side of my middle finger. I feel it piercing skin.”Look at me,” he says. I wince and try to pulled away, but his grip tightens. “I still love you, Charlotte.”

“Please, Dom! The wedding’s tomorrow.”

“You haven’t married him yet. There’s still a chance for us. You wouldn’t have met me here if there wasn’t. Give me a reason why we shouldn’t be.”

I looked down at my hand as he slowly draws the ring off my finger. I feel his eyes on me, watching me, waiting for me to stop him. I don’t. It hits the floor, and the echo is so loud, it’s as if the entire restaurant pauses to listen.

This isn’t right. But who knows the difference between right and wrong anymore? Every moment I shared with Dom felt right, from our first kiss freshman year in health class, to now, at this dinner meant for closure, where he caresses my naked ring finger and waits for me to tell him what I’ve always wanted to say.

Yes.

—Nortina



It is Short Story A Day May! Today’s prompt, “Self-Reflection,” comes from Stuart Horwitz. And with that, week one of Short Story a Day is done! I hope you liked this story, because I’ve gotten a bit sick of the sad love stories. Fingers crossed that tomorrow’s prompt will be good, because I need a change…

 

Waitress in a Small Town Diner

I don’t like his teeth, yellowed like the worn beige fabric on Ryan’s living room couch.

“What’re the specials, darling?”

Don’t call me darling. Ryan once called me Mama while biting my nipples. I didn’t like that—the nipple biting, that he was thinking about his mama while fucking me.

“The Greek chicken’s pretty good?”

“How good could it be. This a soul food restaurant.”

Because the wait staff is black? But I hold my tongue, turn away and pretend to scratch at piece of lent caught in my eyelash so he doesn’t see me roll my eyes. Ryan treated me like forbidden fruit. He could explore all his sexual fantasies with me; everything he saw a big-butt vixen do in a rap music video he commanded from me. I was his BET After Dark.

“Well, we’re American. We serve your typical American cuisine.”

He stares at me, and in case he sensed the sarcasm in my voice, I force a smile.

“Greek ain’t ‘merican.”

I drum the end of my pen on my notepad. “Mac and cheese then?”

“Naw, I want the chicken. But gimme the mac ‘n cheese as the side.”

I write it down and head for the kitchen to give the cook the ticket. I feel his eyes on my ass—he wants to touch it, feel how soft it is between his rugged fingers. Ryan could never keep his hands to himself either, especially in public, always slapping me on the behind whenever I walked by. I’d asked him to stop, but he’d only say, “I can’t grab what’s mine?”

No, because it is the twenty-first century, and I am no longer property. But even while free, we can still become slaves in the mind.

“Uh, darling, you forgot my drink.”

I put on my “Yes, suh” grin, the one I practiced with Ryan, perfected every visit with his family, while his mother picked in my hair, wondering how it “curled like that,” and his father prodded me with invasive questions—“Why not a black guy?” “Do you plan to get married?” “Have kids?” “How did you sink your teeth into my son?”

But I was the one bitten. And wasn’t marriage like ownership already? And kids, kids—I was pregnant once.

“What can I get you?”

“Sweet tea, sweetheart. Make sure you put the tea in the sugar, hon. Thank you, gorgeous.”

Enough with the pet names. I hate names. Even my name tag is blacked out. What would they call me then, when all they have is their own prejudices, how they perceive me, stereotypes and all?

“Shaniqua, Jamisha, Bonequisha.” Ryan recited the ghetto fabulous names for our unborn baby with a smirk on his face, as if preparing for a standup comedy gig.

“Be serious.”

“I am, we have to give it a black name.”

“I don’t even have a ‘black’ name.”

“That’s why I thought you were white.”

I hide in the kitchen for thirty minutes while the food cooks. There’s no one else in my section, and the two other waitresses on the floor can check on my customer if he needs a refill.

I need to stay off my feet for a while, take pressure off my swollen ankles. The baby could come any minute. Not Shaniqua or Jamisha or Bonequisha, but Michael, after his father, who is black, and not Ryan. Ryan left when it finally registered that his black baby wasn’t the punchline to an ill-conceived joke, that I wasn’t just his wet dream anymore, but flesh and bone.

I was supposed to be five months then. He never asked why I was not yet showing. He packed his things, a couple t-shirts and boxer shorts—no more than an armload to carry to the car, for he never officially moved in, too real, I suppose—and left in the middle of the night, knocking my pain prescription off the kitchen table during his escape.

“Table 52’s ready,” the cook says.

I rock to my feet and take the hot plate.

“When’re you due?”

“S’posed to’ve been last week.”

“This one’s stubborn.”

“Ain’t he.”

The man is watching me as I exit the kitchen. His tea is nearly gone. I slide the plate down the table and ask for his glass.

“I was starting to think you went into labor back there.”

“No, not yet,” I say, grateful he saved the “darling” this time. I pour the tea behind the lunch counter. It’s more ice and water. I think to give him a couple sugar packets, but Michael’s mom died of diabetes—the doctor says I have gestational too. No more fries or pasta or sugary sweet drinks, at least until I deliver. I do him a courtesy and plant the watered down tea next to his plate.

“Thank ya, ma’am.”

“You’re welcome.” The smile on my face genuine now. I used to hate being called ma’am, but with the new title, it’s the first time I feel like a woman. Not Ryan’s black girlfriend, or Michael’s baby mama, or another statistic the government can use to condemn Planned Parenthood, but a woman, future mother, vessel to bring a new life into this world.

I rub my stomach for good luck.

—Nortina


It is Short Story A Day May! Today’s prompt, “Getting Emotional,” comes from Angela Ackerman. The irony about this prompt is that although I have a plethora of emotionally traumatized characters, I had difficulty coming up with a story. After much brainstorming, I’m satisfied with the story that finally came out of my foggy brain.