Brooklyn, December 30, 2017
I rolled off my back and onto my right side, my arm extended for my iPhone. This was what I normally did first thing in the morning. Reach for my phone to check the time. It was the weekend, so the time wasn’t a concern but still, time checks were my routine.
But when I stretched my hand, instead of feeling the edge of my night table, my fingers met nothing but air.
With eyes still closed, I grunted and raised my palm to my forehead to slap.
This meant only one thing. I wasn’t home.
“Shit,” I said as my eyes slowly peeled open.
I fell asleep on his bed at his apartment again.
“Stupid,” I spat at myself, slapping my forehead a second time.
My focus settled on the ceiling before I pushed my elbows into the mattress to lift up. I shook my head and glanced to my left to see his spot temporarily empty.
“He didn’t even bother to wake me up?” I asked out loud.
The he is Meki.
Yes, that Meki.
My next-door neighbor the asshole. The very sexy asshole with kissable lips, a body made for urban book covers, and who I’ve been allowing to sex me for 12 months.
A whole damn year. Something that wasn’t even supposed to happen had extended way past the limit of a hookup.
Don’t judge me.
I sniffed the air and noticed the comforting aroma of coffee.
“Mmm.” I sighed to myself. Some caffeine at that hour would be useful. My head felt light which meant the tequila shots I downed the night before still pulsed through my veins.
Intoxicated as hell was the best way to describe the last five or so hours. The aforementioned was typical whenever I spent the night with Meki. No, I wasn’t drunk with him always, but drinking games had become our thing. Who could drink more? Hold their liquor better?
I kicked my legs off the mattress and grabbed his shirt that laid on the floor on my side of the bed.
I wasn’t even supposed to be over there the night before. But boredom fueled by horniness struck me like lightning. So, I stepped out of my apartment, left my door unlocked, and knocked on his door, naked. Left all my clothes on my bed. I knew he’d get a kick out of it and I had no interest in sugarcoating the motive behind the visit. Sex influenced my arrival to his door… only sex.
A year of knocking on each other’s doors, inviting one another in to do things lovers did when we didn’t so much as care for each other.
After pulling his shirt that was three sizes too big over my head, I poked my arms through the short sleeves. I made my way to his closed bedroom door, opened it, and instantly heard his voice.
“So tomorrow night,” I heard Meki say as I walked closer. “Do I really need to be in attendance?”
The moment I turned the corner and saw her I almost lost my footing.
The two sat at his kitchen table and glanced up at me. A smirk pulled at his lips as he leaned back in his seat and gave me his full attention.
“Good morning,” he said, his focus on my legs as he bit his bottom lip.
I didn’t even bother returning the greeting because I found it hard to believe who my eyes saw sitting beside him.
“Josephine,” I blurted.
Her name just rolled off my tongue and tumbled out my mouth. We never met until that moment, thank God. But it shocked the hell out of me to see her in his apartment.
Meki told me often how his mother limited her visits to his home. She considered the neighborhood to be too below her standards I guess. Well, that’s what he told me.
I understood, and I didn’t fault her for feeling that way.
Bushwick in Brooklyn wasn’t everyone’s first pick to live, but the area improved from decades past.
“Oh!” She blushed.
Josephine was beautiful. Gorgeous warm sepia skin, flowing light brown hair and eyes that sparkled. She looked a lot like Beverly Johnson with the height to match. She must’ve been close to 60-years-old but didn’t appear a day over forty. Even seated I could tell she took good care of herself. And even in the twenty-degree weather New York had on that chilly Saturday morning in December, she kept her cleavage in full view.
“Have we met?” she asked.
My jaw dropped as her words found their way into my ears. Words accompanied by an accent.
“You’re English?” I asked, managing to stop my jaw from hinging open. My eyes moved to Meki for answers. He snorted at my shock.
“So we haven’t… met.” Josephine smiled. Her smile was so picturesque, welcoming.
She likes me.
I refused to allow it.
“No, we haven’t,” I said. “And we shouldn’t right now.”
She turned her head to glance at Meki who chuckled in response.
“In fact,” I added, walking backwards toward the front door to leave. “I’m not here. Let’s pretend like I wasn’t even here.”
Josephine scratched her head. “Um…”
I turned to face the door.
“Darling?” Josephine cleared her throat. “You’re not wearing any pants.”
I glanced down at my bare thighs as if I wasn’t already aware. “Oh, it’s fine. I didn’t come here with any clothes on last night. Plus, I’m just right there across the hall.”
I reached for the doorknob. “It was nice meeting you… or not meeting you.”
Meki burst out laughing.
As I pulled the door closed, he said, “See you later Cadence.”
“Yeah, whatever,” I mumbled, shutting the door behind myself.
An hour later, showered, and with pants on, I made my way out into my living room. The moment I sat on my couch and reached for the latest issue of Yoga Journal Magazine, I heard a light knock at my door.
I glanced at the door then at the digital clock on my cable box.
“Jehovah’s Witnesses,” I said to myself.
With that in mind, I began leafing through my magazine. I was prepared to ignore and peruse, but the knock came again.
“I’m not interested. Thank you,” I said from the couch. “Go away.”
“Cadence, it’s Josephine.”
I jerked my head back and furrowed my brows.
“Uh… oh… kay. One moment, please,” I replied.
I did a quick scan of my place to make sure it looked decent. Having company when my apartment was a mess just wasn’t my thing. But my place looked great. Thankfully, I straightened up that Friday, a routine. I loved routines. Saved me from moments like this. Needing to scramble, picking up this and that and for my place to still look like shit.
In front of my door, I pulled it open to see her standing on the other side with the same warm grin I left her with in Meki’s apartment.
“Hi again,” she said.
“Yeah, hi.” I offered a cordial smile. “Did I leave something in Meki’s apartment?”
“Yes,” she answered. “An interesting first impression.”
I bit back my laugh before briefly looking away.
Her eyes journeyed over my shoulder to inside of my home.
“Oh my,” she said, pushing the door wider for a better view.
I had no choice but to step to the side when she crossed my threshold and stepped right past me.
I watched this woman invite herself in and couldn’t find the words to stop her.
“Why don’t you come inside?” I snarked.
She laughed. “I’m sorry darling. How rude was that? But my goodness…” She walked closer to the painting I had mounted to my wall between two windows. “Is this Basquiat?”
She was referring to the self-portrait of the late indie artist I purchased at a vintage art auction a few months back. I’d received a bonus at work and just as quick as the money landed in my bank account it waltzed right back out and into the hands of an indie art dealer.
“Yes.” I beamed. “I’m broke because of it but, meh.”
She giggled. “You’re too cute.”
I blushed in response.
The portrait was the one piece of art that added such class to my place. It hurt to part with that money but the rewards of seeing the Basquiat portrait every day was worth it. It gave my place a sophisticated urban touch. Plus, it was so me.
She turned to face me for only a moment before her eyes were back to visually digesting everything around herself. Her view moved from my tan couch to the solid gold figurines that lined the shelves nailed to my walls. The medium-sized bookcase shaped like the continent of Africa drew her closer where she peered at the spines of books stacked side-by-side.
“Your place is gorgeous Cadence, considering.”
“Considering?” I asked.
“Well,” she said removing her coat.
Dammit, she’s getting comfortable. Great.
“This neighborhood is just not my cup of tea. But what you’ve done here is nothing short of magnificent.”
Well, if she was looking to get on my good side she sure achieved it with her compliments.
With her coat off, I confirmed just how well Mrs. Knight cared for herself. She stood there donned in a simple black wrap dress that stressed her slim curves. With no need to ask, it was clear she worked out or at the very least ate right. I doubted Meki would have it any other way being a personal trainer and all.
“Bushwick has gotten better over the years.” I folded my arms. “I apologize for being so forward, Mrs. Knight, but did you need something from me?”
“Mrs. Knight?” she challenged. “Darling, you’ve already referred to me as Josephine. You might as well continue to do so.”
I dropped my view down to my feet to stop from smiling. “I’m sorry about that. I was just shocked to see you.”
“Obviously. And yet you recognized me and knew my name without us ever having to meet. Does Meki speak of me often?”
“Sometimes,” I replied. “But I recognized you from the research I’ve done. Google is an excellent resource.”
She giggled. “I like you Cadence. You’re full of spunk. You remind me of… me.”
Comparison. It’s true, she likes me. Maybe a little too much.
I closed my eyes and exhaled sharply. “Can I be honest with you, Josephine?”
“Although I am very flattered by your words, you liking me means very little.”
She tilted her head to her right.
“How can I put this delicately? Umm… well, I can’t. I don’t like your son. At all.”
“I’m sorry?” she queried.
“I mean, maybe I like him a little. But very little and not in the normal way. Sometimes I just cannot stand him.”
She blinked in response but said nothing.
“I’m confused, dear. Were you not just in his apartment wearing no trousers?” she asked.
I snorted a laugh. “Yes, I was.”
She wrinkled her brows while holding her stare with me.
“What Meki and I have is… really just… well, physical.”
She twisted her mouth to one side.
“It’s just sex,” I blurted.
Her brows suddenly arched. “Oh!”
“So,” I continued, “you liking me is not something I care for at the moment or ever. Considering the relationship your son and I have. Which isn’t a relationship at all? It really is just sex between us. Nothing more, nothing less.”
“Wow,” she said, scrubbing the middle of her forehead with her fingertips. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before. Every woman who has ever fancied my Meki found themselves infatuated with him.”
“Well,” I said, shrugging my shoulders, “there’s a first time for everything, right?”
“Right.” She smiled.
Josephine stood quiet for a moment, holding her smile with me and the silence made things awkward.
“Listen,” she interjected before I had the chance to continue, “I’m having a New Year’s Eve gala, tomorrow night starting at 7 p.m. I want you to be there.”
Oh, hell yeah!
Okay, now, Meki I couldn’t care less for but Josephine Knight’s galas I would give my right arm to attend. Her galas, from my research, were one of the hottest tickets in town. Everyone who was anyone attended every single one. Celebrities, politicians, the crème de la crème of black entrepreneurs. It was the place to be. And for someone like myself who was broke but liked being around money, the invitation was something I had to accept.
“Okay… but just as a guest right? Nothing more?”
She smiled then giggled. “Only as a guest.”
Josephine picked up her coat and held it out for me to take. “Do you mind, darling?”
I accepted her Yves Saint Laurent wool pea coat and smiled, admiring the cut as I held it opened behind her so she had room to glide her arms through the sleeves.
“Nice coat,” I told her.
“YSL,” she said as she shrugged it over her shoulders.
As if I didn’t already check the label.
“So,” she said making her way over to my door and pulling it open. “Tomorrow night at 7 p.m. wear your best and come prepared to mingle. It’ll be a night to remember.”
“I’m sure,” I said. “Thank you, Mrs. Knight.”
She stepped out into the hallway, turned and pointed at me.
“I mean, Josephine.”
She winked and made her way down the stairs.
A night with the Knights.
This would be interesting.
Unbeknown to me, the next night would set off a series of events that would change my life and my relationship or lack thereof with Meki forever.
End of Sneak Peek!
A Love Deferred, coming 12/7/18!