Inspired by true events
One morning I noticed a fledgling sitting in a bird’s nest outside of my window, chirping his lungs out with his wings spread. He seemed to peep over the edge of the nest, trying to garner the courage to try out his wings. He reminded me of myself. Trying to gather the nerve to leave the nest of my comfort zone, spread my wings, and fly. I guess that’s what led me to make what turned out to be a poor decision.
I took the exit that led to Brooke’s apartment and stopped at the red light. Going to a club was way outside of my comfort zone. However, I had been trying this new thing called getting out of the house more often. Both my mom and my sister suggested that it would be good for me. They both complained about how much I stayed in. Getting out was one thing, but going to a club was on a more advanced level. How had I allowed Brooke to convince me to go out with her tonight? Oh right. The fledgling. My natural habitat included my bed with a hot cup of tea and a cozy mystery novel. After all, I am an introvert.
Yet, here I was. I had gotten all dressed up to go out with Brooke and another one of her friend’s Tiffany. Ironically, we had all went to undergrad together at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. It was a small school, in a college town called Pine Bluff, AR. I had met some amazing people there. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the best when it came to staying in touch. I’d recently relocated to St. Louis, and my mentor, Ms. Tasha, connected me with Brooke.
I recalled seeing Brooke around the college campus, and we’d had a few conversations, but mostly we hung out in different crowds. She ended up pledging a sorority, which is a huge deal when you attend an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges/Universities). I remembered having a few conversations with Tiffany as well. Like me, she didn’t pledge, but she did end up joining the cheerleading squad, which kept her just as busy. Me? I was the studious one. It paid off when I was able to secure an internship two summers in a row as an engineering student. I graduated Summa Cum Lade with a job offer at a top civil engineering company. My professional life couldn’t be better. My social life, however, could stand to use some improvement.
Brooke’s apartment was nestled within the Central West End. The Central West End was a quaint area in St. Louis, MO that housed a number of retail shops, restaurants, bars, and businesses. Two major healthcare organizations employed a host of medical staff that typically took residence in the area. A prestigious medical school connected to both the adult and pediatric facility. As a result, it was quite natural to see a wealth of medical students grabbing a quick bite at St. Louis Bread Company (when they were able to get out of the hospital) or the Starbucks that sat a few blocks down. I found the area to be too expensive to live in, as I preferred to get the bang for my buck. However, it was my favorite neighborhood to hang out in within the gateway to the Midwest.
I pulled into a street spot on Euclid Avenue that wasn’t too far from Brooke’s apartment and marched to her door. While waiting for her to answer, I looked down and gave myself a once over. I had on a royal blue halter dress that stopped just above my knees. The white platforms caused me to stand at 5’7 instead of my true 5’3. So far, my feet weren’t hurting. We’d see how long that would last.
The door opened, and I was surprised to see Jesse, Brooke’s boyfriend.
“What’s up Faith?” He greeted me.
“Hey Jesse. What’s up with you?”
He shrugged. “Nothing much. Brooke is still getting ready. Come on in.”
I stepped over the threshold and into Brooke’s apartment. It was a charming place with mauve accent walls in the living room and dining room area. I admired the open space in her kitchen and the modest five-piece dining set. The simple rectangular table made of faux wood had matching chairs whose existence seemed to be for admiring, not sitting. In her living area, a couch the color of caramel sat against the wall in front of a mocha-colored coffee table and two matching end tables. Small lamps sat on both end tables and gave the living room a soft glow.
“Brooke!” Jesse yelled. “Faith is here!” he turned to me. “She’s back there with Tiffany.”
I nodded and headed towards the back of the apartment. A hallway led to the bathroom which was catacorner to her bedroom. When I made it to the bathroom, I saw her in the mirror. Brooke was average height with a round face and round eyes. Her fair skin was a stark contrast to her long jet-black hair. Tiffany was shorter and a little darker than Brooke but still lighter than my cinnamon brown complexion. She had more of an hourglass figure with a small waist and wide hips. Tiffany’s hair was styled in goddess braids that fell to the middle of her back. Both were pretty girls. While Brooke was fussing with her hair, Tiffany was leaning into the door with a glass of some concoction in her hand. Her almond shaped eyes revealed irritation.
“Brooke, will you come on?” Tiffany complained.
“Alright Tiff, dang. Calm down; I’m almost ready.”
Tiffany rolled her eyes. When she noticed me, she gave a small smile. “Hey Faith. You look cute.”
“Thanks.” I told her and returned her smile. To be honest, Tiffany had always come off as intimidating to me. But she always treated me nicely.
Brooke looked at me through the mirror. “Okay Faith! I see you!” she told me with a giggle. “Girl, we are going to find you a man, tonight.”
“Aw come on. We don’t have to do that. I just want to have a fun girls’ night out.”
“Hmph. Good luck with that.” Tiffany mumbled, sipping her drink.
I furrowed my brows in confusion. Brooke rolled her eyes at Tiffany. “Jesse is coming with us. You don’t mind, do you?”
It seems it wouldn’t have mattered if I did or not. I figured she was just asking to be polite. My eyes met Tiffany’s who shook her head and rolled her eyes again. I looked back to Brooke.
“No, of course not. I’m just glad you invited me. I’m trying to get back out there.” I responded sheepishly.
She waved off my comment. “Of course, girl. You’re always welcome to hang out with us. You know that.” She fished through her makeup bag searching for some cosmetic treasure.
“Where is my lipstick?” She said to no one in particular. “Ooh. I think I left it in my bedroom.”
Tiffany moved slightly so that Brooke could exit the bathroom. I stood there beside Tiffany.
“It’s gonna be some shit tonight.” Tiffany asserted.
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
“Because Jesse is coming. There’s always shit blowing up when he’s around.”
I nodded but stayed silent. Truthfully, I couldn’t agree or disagree. As far as I knew, Tiffany and Brooke were best friends. They even attended the same high school together before coming to UAPB together. She knew Brooke much better than I did.
I thought back to our college days. While I would never tell Tiffany, I did get the impression that Brooke was a little naïve. Jesse went to UAPB as well and played football. I admit, he was an attractive guy, and awfully charming. Brooke seemed to be in love with him even back then. I’ll never forget my roommate mentioning to me how distracted Brooke seemed to be in Biochemistry class looking through different engagement magazines. I had even witnessed Brooke shoving the magazines in Jesse’s face in the café a few times. That had been 7 years ago, and she still wasn’t Mrs. Jesse Jenkins.
“Brooke! Are you ready yet?” I heard Jesse yell.
“Almost!” she yelled back.
Tiffany huffed. “I’m gonna need another one of these.” She then took her empty glass into the kitchen.
Tiffany and I climbed into the back seat of Jesse’s Cadillac Escalade. After I buckled in, she poked me with her elbow and nodded towards Jesse as he helped Brooke into the front passenger seat. I looked back at Tiffany expectedly. She rolled her eyes again, but I didn’t see anything wrong. Had I missed it? While I had always liked Tiffany, I was now beginning to wonder if she was a hater.
“Tiffany, are you dating right now?” I could have sworn I heard Jesse snicker at my question. She must have heard it too, because it seems she shot him daggers through the rearview mirror.
“No. Not right now.”
“Are you open to dating?” I inquired.
“Sure. I’m just at a point in my life where I want something real, you know? I need a man who knows what he wants, and someone who wants a relationship; because that’s what I want. That’s what I’m ready for.”
Her tone was soft; a complete 360 from the bravado she usually wore.
“I hope we can find a nice area where we can all sit.” Brooke stated.
“Are we going to a club to sit or to party?” Tiffany asked.
“To party. I’m just saying for when my feet start to hurt in these heels.” Brooke replied.
Amen to that.
“Don’t worry, baby. Your man got the hook-up.”
“What does that mean exactly?” Tiffany spat.
“Don’t worry about it. You’ll see when we get there.” Jesse shot back.
Tiffany folded her arms across her chest but didn’t respond. I was surprised.
“As long as your hook-up isn’t Yolanda.” Brooke stated with much attitude.
“Why you always gotta bring up Yolanda? I told you ain’t nothing going on between me and her.”
“Hmph. Then why is she always hanging around you?”
Jesse sighed. “Her sorority is linked with my fraternity. You know that. It ain’t nothing more than a brother-sister thing.”
“Okay. We’ll see.”
I saw Jesse open his mouth to respond, before snapping it shut. I had to give him credit. He wasn’t a complete idiot.
One thing I did appreciate about Jesse was his connections. He wasn’t lying when he said he had the hook-up. The three of us were sitting in VIP dancing. The lounge was crammed with people dancing, drinking, and having a good time. I appreciated that the music wasn’t ratchet but more so popular hip-hop and R&B. After dancing for a few songs, we sat down on the long white couch when a slow jam played.
Tiffany finished off her drink and sat it on the small table in front of us. “Where is Jesse with our drinks? I’m still thirsty.”
“I think he’s still at the bar.” I craned my neck to try to find him, but the dim ambiance made it hard to make out anyone.
Brooke stood up. “Come on. I’m thirsty too. Let’s just meet him down there.”
Tiffany’s face twisted into a frown. “What’s the point of being in VIP, if we’re walking down to the bar?”
“Just come on.”
You ever have that feeling that something crazy was about to happen? That was the feeling that settled in my stomach as we followed Brooke to the bar. I got the feeling that Brooke just wanted to find Jesse, so I shook off the uneasiness. For the first time, in a long time, I was out having a good time with some girlfriends. In retrospect, I realized that Tiffany was wiser than I gave her credit for.
Brooke bulldozed her way through the crowd of people, and Tiffany and I followed. Standing at the bar, Brooke worked to get the bartender’s attention. Tiffany and I sang and rocked to the music when a Michael Jackson song came on. After a few minutes, Brooke passed us our drinks and we all clinked glasses. Brooke took a sip of drink before stopping suddenly. Her eyes resembled a deer caught in headlights.
“Brooke, are you okay? Do you not like your drink?” I asked.
She didn’t reply. She just stood there looking past me. I followed the line of her gaze to see what had caught her attention. Even with his back to us, I knew it was Jesse talking to some brown-skinned girl. He towered over the girl, so I couldn’t get a good look at her face. What I did witness was Jesse hug the girl, and Brooke take off towards them.
Tiffany noticed my questioning gaze and responded, “Yolanda.”
“Brooke!” Tiffany yelled. I trailed her as she went after her friend. But Brooke didn’t stop; not until she got to Jesse, that is.
“What the hell?” I heard her yell. She looked from Yolanda and then to Jesse. In a swift motion, she threw her drink in Jesse’s face. Yolanda jumped back in an effort to not get wet. Jesse stood there motionless, eyes closed, and a cocktail running down his face and shirt. When her scene came to an end, Brooke stormed off. Tiffany and I followed after her.
“I can’t believe he would do this to me.” Brooke sobbed.
I was trying to keep up as Brooke raced down the sidewalk. Tiffany was right by her side trying to call an Uber. My feet were begging me for mercy. Damn heels.
While I was debating on whether or not I was going to take off the heels and brave walking the filthy sidewalk, I noticed several people staring at us as we walked by. Their questioning looks screamed: What in the hell did ya’ll do to her? Slightly embarrassed, I picked up my pace. We finally stopped, and I noticed a black Chevrolet Malibu slowing to a crawl in front of us. Tiffany put Brooke into the backseat and she got in the front. I climbed in the back with Brooke.
“How could he do this to me?” Brooke continued to sob. Tiffany turned from her seat in the front.
“Brooke it’s going to be okay. Just try to calm down.”
Brooke ignored Tiffany and continued to wail. Meanwhile, I was sitting next to her quiet as a church mouse. I noticed the Uber driver’s eyes plead with me from the rearview mirror. The only thing I could offer was a shrug. I was in the same uncomfortable situation that he was in. I felt I didn’t know Brooke well enough to comfort her, and it definitely wasn’t my practice to get into the middle of others’ relationships.
“Fuck him!” Brooke spat. She had finally calmed down enough to become angry.
Things had taken such an unexpected turn. What I didn’t know at the time though, was it wasn’t over yet.
Back at Brooke’s apartment, she resumed crying. Tiffany and I sat on either side of her trying to console her. Every 30 seconds or so, Brooke would break for crying to ignore Jesse’s calls. Ironically, his ringtone was Jon B’s They Don’t Know.
The silence was broken by a pounding on the door.
“Brooke! Open up.”
“Go away!” Brooke shouted.
“Baby, please just open the door.”
“She doesn’t want to see you. Go away!” Tiffany yelled.
The knob rattled. With no luck, he went back to knocking.
“Baby, please. I can explain everything. It wasn’t what you think.”
Brooke’s tears subsided. Tiffany must have recognized the same look I did.
“Don’t do it.” Tiffany told her.
“Well…maybe there is an explanation.”
Brooke ignored her and went to open the door for Jesse.
He brushed passed her, and I hadn’t been prepared for what he said next.
“Ya’ll gotta get the hell out.”
I blinked. Surely, he wasn’t talking about us. Tiffany must have thought the same thing. Neither of us moved.
“I’m serious. Ya’ll gotta get the hell out.”
He held the door open for us.
Tiffany rolled her eyes again, but stood. She glared at Jesse as she passed him. Without saying a word, I followed Tiffany out the door.
We were almost to our cars when Tiffany turned to me. “Sorry you had to see that.”
I shrugged. “It wasn’t your fault.”
“I just get so tired of seeing him treat her like that. I’ve told her time and again she could do so much better than him. It doesn’t matter that they’ve been dating since freaking sixth grade, and he was her first, blah, blah, blah.”
It seemed Tiffany needed to get some things off her chest. I always prided myself on being a good listener, so I remained silent.
“You would think 7 years later, after he still hasn’t proposed…” her voice trailed off and she shook her head. Her mind seemed to drift before returning to the present. Tiffany was hard on Brooke. From my perspective, it just seemed she hated seeing her friend hurt.
“Anyway. We’ll have to do this again. Without Jesse.” She told me and gave me a hug. “Drive safe and let me know when you make it home.”
“I will.” I told her. I opened the door to my Honda Civic and drove home.
One week later…
My phone buzzed, and I noticed a text from Brooke.
Hey, Faith! Tiffany and I are going out for ladies’ night tonight! You should join us!
It took me all of five seconds to make a decision. I shut my phone off, grabbed my cup of hot tea, and settled in my bed with my cozy mystery novel.