I never had any intention of this day coming. Hadn’t dreamt, fantasized, or even entertained it until one month ago. Kicking Khembrell to the curb was the best decision I’d made in a long time, but I had no idea that Stokely’s fine ass would be waiting at another, more inviting curb a few blocks down with a baby in tow. My head was spinning like a basketball on the finger of a Harlem Globetrotter, whipping up my signature spaghetti while Khassidy spruced up our tiny living room in preparation for our handsome dinner guest. She didn’t seem nervous at all about this meet and greet. I don’t know where the hell she got her chill from.
“Is he bringing the baby, Mama?” She asked, looking up from the pillow she was fluffing.
“I don’t think so.” I said, holding my hand under the serving spoon while I blew on my spaghetti sauce and tasted it. “I think he’s with his Mama this weekend. Come taste this.” I left some sauce in the spoon for Khassidy, smacking on the little bit I had in my mouth.
She propped the pillow against the sofa and rushed over to me. “Umm, you must really like him.” She sipped the sauce off the spoon, wearing that damn dimpled grin that always reminded me of her father. “You never made it this spicy for me and Daddy.”
“Don’t start.” I slanted my eyes, stepping to the side in front of the sink to rinse the spoon. “Besides, your Daddy didn’t like spicy food.” I rolled my eyes.
“Excuses.” She was careful not to roll her eyes back. Khassidy knew that my size was no indication of how hard I could hit if need be. “I’m gonna go change. You need me to do anything else, Mommy Dearest?” She joked, propping her hand on her little narrow hip.
“No, silly.” I leaned in and kissed her on the cheek. “I got it from here.”
She smiled and spun away on her toes, prancing down the hallway to her bedroom like she was in a marching band. “Khas?” I spoke up before she opened her bedroom door.
“Ma’am?” She turned around to face me.
“You sure you okay with this? Cause if you ain’t—”
“Mama, I’m fine.” She dropped her shoulders and fanned her hands out to the side. “As long as he’s cute, and has a job, and treats you like a queen, we’re good.” Her eyes and shoulders went up. “Now can I go get dressed? You know how long that takes.”
I smiled and shook my head, shooing her off with the dish cloth in my hand. “Fine.” I said in defeat. “I love you, lil girl.”
“Love you too.” She said, disappearing into her room for the grueling process of finding one damn outfit.
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Why did he have to look this damn good all the time? Almost made me wanna tell Khassidy never mind, you can meet him next week. I don’t know which aroma was more inviting; the spaghetti sauce in my kitchen or the cologne on Stokely’s neck when I stood up on my tiptoes to give him a hug.
“Smells like you know what you’re doing in that kitchen.” He said, lips grazing my neck on accident before he released me from his embrace to hand me not one, but two bouquets of roses. “One’s for you, the other’s for Khassidy.” He smiled that sexy smile as I took the flowers from his hands.
“They’re pretty. Thank you.” I smiled, winking before turning around and leading him into the living room. “Khas’ll be out in a sec. You know how these teenagers are with their fashions.” I laid the flowers on the coffee table. “Have a seat. I’m gonna go grab a vase and put these in some water. You thirsty?” I couldn’t help the flush of heat that traveled down my center watching Stokely’s long legs bend and spread as he took a seat on my sofa—the sofa that Khembrell bought for me a little over a year ago.
“Yeah. I’ll take some water.” He said, looking tense as his eyes canvased my living space.
“My Daddy liked water.” Khassidy’s voice pulled my attention away from Stokely as she emerged from the hallway wearing a pair of jeans and a Tupac t-shirt that she made on some printing machine at Veda’s “Think he left some in the frig. You sure you wanna drink another man’s water?”
“Khassidy?” My voice went up. It’s like she’d actually gone into the room and turned into Tupac by slipping on that shirt. “Stokely, please excuse her. I swear she didn’t have this attitude an hour ago.”
“It’s cool.” He nodded, taking his eyes from me back to Khassidy as he stood from the sofa. “Nice to meet you, Khassidy. Like the shirt.” He extended his hand for a handshake but Khassidy just stood there with her arms folded.
“Nice to meet you too.” She said. Probably the driest response I’ve ever seen her give to anyone. “Can we eat now? I’m starving.”
“Khassidy, don’t be rude.” I gazed at her with a look that I knew full well she understood.
“What? I said it was nice to meet him.” She sassed. I would hate to have to whoop my child’s ass in front of company but the shit was on the edge of my mind.
“You know what, maybe we should just eat.” Stokely broke in just as my last nerve started twitching. “We’re not ourselves when we’re hungry. I feel you, Khas.”
“Only my parents call me Khas.” She rolled her eyes. “And you ain’t my Daddy.” She stomped over to the kitchen table and slumped down in her seat.
“Excuse me? Get your behind in here and grab some silverware.” I damn near shouted. I couldn’t believe this lil girl was showing her ass like I wouldn’t make her regret it later.
“It’s alright.” Stokely stepped in once again, walking his long-legged self into my kitchen and grabbing the stack of plates that were sitting on the counter-top. I slowly made my way beside him, eyeballing Khassidy the whole time, still wondering where all this attitude came from when she was all sunshine and smiles before Stokely showed up.
“I’m so sorry.” I stood beside Stokely, speaking just loud enough for him to hear. “I swear she was just fine before. I don’t know where all this is coming from but I promise you, I’ll get her straightened out.”
“It’s ok.” He picked up the dishes and kissed me on the forehead. “You think I came over here expecting her to be all kumbaya? I’m a stranger, Camille. And she’s right, I’m not her father. We’ll just have to go from there.”
I looked around him to lay my eyes on my daughter who was zoomed into her phone like the world around her had disappeared. “You’re lucky your baby’s not old enough to be a butthole.” I said shaking my head and looking up into Stokely’s eyes. “I’ma go grab these pretty flowers, even though somebody doesn’t deserve them.” I raised my voice and looked directly at Khassidy to let her know exactly who that somebody was. Her big eyes followed me from the kitchen to the living room as I picked up the flowers and brought them back into the kitchen. “Silverware, lil girl.” I snapped. She knew to take that tone as a threat and slid out of her seat to gather forks from the cutlery drawer while Stokely sat the plates in front of their respective seats.
“I don’t know what the hell has gotten into you, but you better fix your damn face and act like you have some home training.” I spoke through my teeth. “This man is company and you will treat him as such. You understand me?” I bucked my eyes. She didn’t respond.
“Khassidy, please don’t make me embarrass you in this damn kitchen. I said, do you understand me?” I gave her one last chance to dodge an ass whooping.
“Yes ma’am.” She mumbled. And that would have to suffice until Stokely left.
Khassidy looked at me from the corner of her eyes, no doubt checking to make sure I didn’t have my hand cocked back. When she discovered that I was retrieving a vase from under the cabinet, she slumped on over to the dining table and placed the forks next to the plates that Stokely had set up.
After arranging the flowers, I took drinks to the table then came back and spooned heaping helpings of spaghetti onto each of our plates. Khassidy was sitting as quiet as a lamb, leaving Stokely there with an awkward look on his face. I should’ve known not to expect things to flow too easily. Nothing in my damn life ever had.
“So, how’s middle school, Khassidy?” Stokely broke the silence as I eased into the seat next to him.”
“Same as it was in the eighties.” Khassidy breathed out in annoyance, spinning her fork in her spaghetti.
“Damn, I look that old?” Stokely squinted. His facial expressions could be so comical sometimes. I really thought Khassidy would like that about him but she didn’t even look up.
“I’ll take that as a yes.” Stokely cleared his throat, taking a sip from his glass of water before forking more food into his mouth. “Spaghetti’s good, baby.” He smiled at me.
“Thank you.” I smiled back. “How about you, Khas? You like it?”
“I told you it was good when you asked me to taste it earlier. Answer’s still the same.” She mouthed off without looking up at me. And it was in that moment that I decided I’d had enough.
“You know what, maybe you should have dinner in your room.” I said, standing from the table. “Stokely, if you’ll excuse us for a second.” I walked around the table and grabbed Khassidy’s plate, then waited for her to stand.
But she didn’t get up.
Instead, she busted out laughing. And what’s worse is Stokely joined her in a fit of laughter.
“Excuse me, what’s so funny?” I asked, face wrinkled with confusion.
“That was too easy!” Stokely reached across the table to shake Khassidy’s hand, wearing a grin the size of Texas.
“I told you!” Khassidy was laughing so hard she couldn’t even sit back in her chair. “I’m sorry, Mama. But he agreed to it.” She breathed through the end of her laughing fit.
“Agreed to what?” I stood there with my eyes jotting between the two of them. “What the hell are y’all laughing at?” I propped my hand on my hip.
“Khassidy hit me up and asked if I’d take part in this prank.” Stokely caught his breath long enough to speak. “And I’m so glad I said yes. You should see you face right now.” He chuckled.
“Oh, so, y’all think this is funny?” I smirked, never one to be content with being the butt of a joke. “I should whoop your behind anyway, Khassidy Nicole.” I stepped closer and nudged her in the side. “And how did you get in touch with him anyway?” My Mama sensor came on and sent me into interrogation mode.
“I messaged him on Facebook.” She answered, grabbing her side where I’d pinched her. “You need to start closing your apps when you put your phone down. Thank God I didn’t find any nudes.” She balled up her face.
“Khassidy!” I shrieked.
“What? It’s what old people do these days.” She hunched her shoulders.
“Wait, you gotta chill with this old people stuff.” Stokely cut in, jokingly cutting his eyes at Khassidy. She shrugged and smiled back. It was apparent from that moment on that it would be me against them. I’d have to start working on Jace asap so I wouldn’t be out numbered.
With my head on his chest and a new episode of Insecure playing on the TV, I felt a level of contentment that couldn’t be put into words. Khassidy had watched so much of Stokely’s stand up on Youtube that she talked herself to sleep reciting his jokes and asking when he’d be available to do a show at her school. It almost felt too good to be true, this fast friendship that they’d developed with no help from me. I needed to be sure this wasn’t all a show and that Stokely wasn’t just pretending to enjoy my baby to stay in good standings with me. Because the last thing I needed was to walk out of one bad situation-ship and enter into another.
“What’s on your mind down there?” Stokely tilted his head down and spoke into my ear.
“Nothin.” I lied, breathing out and nestling my head further into his chest.
“So, you mean to tell me that Lawrence just knocked Issa down on the sofa and your heart didn’t skip a beat, but you ain’t thinking about nothin?” He teased, moving his body to the side, forcing me to raise my head. “Come off it, Camille. I know how much you look forward to sex scenes. Especially the ones involving Lance.”
A guilty blush reddened my cheeks. He was right. I was the self-appointed president of Lawrence’s fan club. But I’d have to revisit that scene via OnDemand later because Lawrence’s naked ass was the last thing on my mind.
“You really okay with this?” I sighed, looking over at Stokely’s handsome face, pretty white teeth flashing a hint of a smile.
“Okay with what?” He questioned, always seeking clarity before answering my spontaneous questions. Smart man.
“This.” I waved my hand around. “Me, Khassidy, the potential baby daddy drama that comes with us. Are you sure you want that?”
He paused for a moment and my heart sank in my chest. I wished I hadn’t asked but I didn’t have a choice. I mean wouldn’t it make sense to find out now rather than wasting more years that I didn’t have, accepting the bare minimum?
“You know what I want, Camille?” He looked at me intensely, melting my insides on accident, making me wish I could climb on his lap. “I want you. And wanting you means accepting everything and everyone that comes with you.” He slipped his fingers under my chin and tilted my face up, bringing his lips to mine and kissing me. “And that baby daddy shit is the least of my worries.” He said as he pulled away from my lips. “Khassidy’s his only priority. I can take care of everything else. Including this.” He slipped his hands between my thighs and pushed them apart.
“Stokely.” I whispered, looking over the back of the couch to make sure Khassidy hadn’t woken up and came out of her room.
“I know.” He said, lifting my hand from my lap after I covered his with it. “I ain’t tryin nothin. Just want you to know that I got you, in every way. You understand me?”
I nodded, tingling between my legs, fighting against my desires to take this man by the hand and lead him into my bedroom. There weren’t many lines I wouldn’t cross with Stokely, but fucking him while my thirteen-year-old daughter was sleeping in the next room wasn’t one of them. It was too soon and we were too loud to even think of doing some shit like that. Oh but it was hard, in more ways than one.