It was halfway through the afternoon when Marissa and her sister, Melanie Coldwell, woke up. Both women had a rough day yesterday. Although Melanie was reluctant to talk about hers, Marissa wasted no time venting. She remembered all too clearly how her encounter with Jamoy went.
When she finished her tale, Melanie’s face was practically glowing.
“You’re quite bold aren’t you?” The woman laughed, seemingly enjoying her sister’s suffering.
“Not helping Mel. Not helping at all.”
“Oh lighten up. I’m actually surprised. This is so not like you. You’re such a prude after all.”
Marissa couldn’t believe her ears. “Melanie! I’m no such thing…am I?”
“Girl, you’re 22 and never even had a real boyfriend.” Her mouth opened to protest when Melanie continued, “And no, that ‘fling fling thing thing’ you had in your freshman year of college does not count. I won’t even get started on that relationshit.”
Leave it to Mel to throw salt all over her wounds.
Her parents were completely against her dating while she was in high school. Being the good little girl she was, she managed to do that, but when she entered college she met a guy that she thought would be the one. Sadly, he was just a worthless sack of shit.
Her parents were so disappointed as well. Which begs the question, why did she even tell them? They gave her so much hell about it, which is why she moved out in the first place. She was tired of them babying her. She was no child! It was about time they let her live a little. It’s no wonder she was ignorant to the real world. However, the blame was not completely theirs. She should have put her foot down sooner.
“Let me just say that I am proud of you. My little girl is finally growing up.” Her sister cried, dabbing the corner of her brown eyes with a tissue.
“Will you please stop it? This isn’t funny. I can’t be a slut! Suppose he’s telling people how easy I am?”
Melanie cut her act quickly and sucked her teeth. “The Valley is way too small. Trust, if he said something, you would already know. You know these people ain’t got no filter and they’re damned nosy and rude. Someone would have said some shit by now.” She folded a loose strand of hair behind her ears and then cracked her knuckles. “And should anyone press you about it, I’ll beat the bitches for you.”
“You just want to fight.” Marissa rolled her eyes.
“And? You should be grateful you have such a kick-ass sister. Anyways, I’m out.” Her sister rose and slipped on her sneakers. “Oh! I forgot to tell you. I’m going to the Shutdown this weekend, coming?”
“You know I don’t dance Mel.”
“Oh Christ, will you live a little. You ain gotta dance, just come out, drink with me and if you’re drunk enough it won’t even matter if you can dance or not.”
Marissa thought long and hard about it. She could use a little pick me up. “Can I drag Sehjada along?”
“You can bring the bum off the corner if you want, just get out the damn house.” She gave her sister a tight hug then grabbed her things and left.
Marissa knew she could always count on her sister to make her smile. Crude as she was, she was her closest friend, right next to Sehjada.
She still didn’t feel right about her encounter with Jamoy. She knew nothing about him.
He sure wasn’t hanging around Abdul until recently as well. She wondered how they knew each other.
Only one way to find out.
Taking out her cellphone, she dialed Abdul’s number. He answered on the 3rd ring.
“Kitten! How are you?” He asked joyously on the other line. Her middle name was Katherine, Kat for short, but he preferred how “kitten” sounded.
“I’m fine boo, hey, I got a quick question for you.”
“How do you know Jamoy?”
“Why the inquiry?” He asked.
She hated when people answered her questions with a question. “You guys just seem really close for people who only met this semester…you did just meet this semester right?”
“Actually, we met the summer of last year when we both worked for an Airline. He was going to another University before he transferred here.”
“So he’s a nice guy then?”’
Suddenly, he burst out laughing. “You’re asking this now? After you’ve slept with him?”
“How the hell—”
“Like I wouldn’t know what’s going on in my own home Marissa.” He cut her off in a stern tone.
Silence covered both ends before Marissa managed to speak again. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to disrespect you like that.”
She couldn’t see it, but he waved it off. “It’s fine. I did set you up for it. I just never expected you of all people to do that. You’re kind of a stick in the mud.”
“Why is everyone saying that?” She muttered under her breath.
“Because it’s true. Sure you’ve finally started drinking, but you don’t like to party, you don’t date, you don’t have sex, you don’t socialize so you barely have friends, you don’t go out, you spend too much time with your parents whom by the way don’t approve of anything you do that isn’t reported to them. I mean, come on. I love you, but you’re boring.”
Marissa was speechless. She hadn’t realized that she was that bad. “I’m boring?” she repeated.
“You know I wouldn’t lie to you.”
Maybe she could use some less honest friends. It kind of hurt to hear how dull she was. And did she really hang around her parents that much?
“Um, well, I’m going to the Shutdown.”
“I’m proud. I’m actually going there myself.”
She didn’t bother to ask why he hadn’t invited her. After that lengthy rundown of how awful she was, he must have been sure she would have declined. “Is Jamoy going with you?”
“How about you ask him yourself?”
“You know I don’t have his number.” She joked.
“That’s because you never asked me for it.”
Her laughter ceased upon hearing the new voice on the line. She was going to kill Abdul when she saw him again.
“You’ve been thinking about me? How cute. And here I thought you’d still be mad—”
“You arrogant, disrespectful son of a bitch! How dare you chase me away like some pest! Do you have any idea how EMBARRASSING that was.” Her hands clutched her phone tightly while her body radiated with rage.
She heard him sigh, but he didn’t say anything which only served to tick her off more.
“I don’t want your fuckass apology!”
Again, there was a sigh followed by some mumbling. She couldn’t make out the words, but then again she didn’t care to. Honestly, she did want an apology, and an explanation, but she was too angry to see reason.
“You know what, I’m not sorry. Maybe next time you should pay attention to your surroundings.”
“Excuse me?” Marissa gasped but he kept going.
“And I don’t think you’re mad I chased you, I think you’re upset that I didn’t give you what you wanted. You should be grateful I respected you enough to not fuck you in a filthy bathroom. In fact, you should be thanking me.”
Oh, this was rich. He thought she should be grateful. The statement was so funny she couldn’t fight the fit of laughter that came.
“So it’s my fault, that’s what you’re saying? Like you’re not the one that left the door open?”
“I told you to leave, didn’t I? So why didn’t you?”
When she didn’t say anything, he filled the silence. “You can lie to yourself all you want, but don’t feed that bullshit to me. You wanted me, and I bet you still do.”
“Fuck you.” She hung the phone up and tossed it across the bedroom. What the hell was wrong with him? But she learned something new. All this time she was under the impression that he wasn’t an asshole, but boy was she wrong.
He thought she wanted him still? After today, he’d be lucky if she even remembered his name!
“You’re an idiot.”
Jamoy placed the phone on the table while trying to reign in his temper as well. Abdul didn’t need to tell him he was stupid. He already knew it.
His intention hadn’t been to talk to her like that, but damn if she didn’t make it hard to be civil. He apologized and what did she do? She yelled at him, insulted him even; the same with the bathroom incident. He told her to leave for her own good. It was hard enough for him to restrain himself when she entered the gym, and it took all he had not to bend her over the sink when she came in the bathroom. He was a ticking time bomb when she was around and he didn’t know why.
“She started it.” That was all he said. He should just kick the damn door down, go next door and give her a piece of his mind. He groaned then. If he went next door he’d probably just throw her on her bed.
“Oh, that’s mature.” Abdul retorted. “Now calm yourself, I don’t want you ruining my place because you don’t know how to act with a girl.”
“I know how to act around girls. Your friend is just difficult.”
“I don’t know why I’m even condoning this. You’re going to slip up again at this rate or must I remind you of the last time you didn’t manage to control yourself.”
Jamoy growled, gripping the table with more force than needed. “This isn’t the same situation.”
“Like hell it isn’t! It may not be rage, but your lust is going to get you fucked up!”
A vicious snarl came from Jamoy. He grabbed Abdul by the throat and slammed him against the wall. “It wasn’t my fault and you know it!”
“Learn to control your temper!” Abdul snapped as he forced Jamoy’s hand away from his throat. He rubbed his throat while glaring at his furious friend. He watched him look at his reflection on the cell phone and shook his head as the male cursed.
“They changed when I was with her,” Jamoy muttered in a much calmer voice.
“I’m not surprised.” He didn’t need to explain what he meant. Abdul was fully aware he meant he started to shift next to the girl, which was the last thing any of them needed.
Jamoy shook his head. “I want her.”
“And you already had her.”
It wasn’t so simple. He didn’t have her the way he wanted. It wasn’t enough.
“Besides, she’s probably not going to speak to you again after the way you talked to her.”
He didn’t think about that.
Abdul shook his head at his friend. Jamoy’s interest was growing too much. He of all people should know it wasn’t going to work out. This was bound to end badly.
“Let it go. If you’re so bent on getting your fix, I’ll handle it for you. I know plenty of girls just looking for a quick fuck. Just leave Marissa alone. She isn’t the one.”
“Because she’s your friend?” Jamoy asked accusingly.
“Because that’s not what you were sent here for. You have a mission in case you’ve forgotten. So get over those feelings you think you have.”
Jamoy huffed, but he figured this conversation was over. There was no persuading Abdul once his mind was made up. Too bad he wasn’t going to just give up on the girl. This was one conquest he planned on seeing through.
“Why did you lie to her though?”
“How you knew me. Work? Really?”
“She doesn’t need to know and it doesn’t matter because this is the end of this game you two are playing. Understood? Do your job and that’s it.”
Jamoy just waved his hand. “Yeah yeah, whatever.”
As if this was over.
“How long do you plan on staring at yourself in the mirror?”
Melanie had grown impatient with her sister. The girl went through at least 12 different outfits and was still unsatisfied. Let’s not get into how many times she did her hair as well. It was obvious to anyone that the girl hadn’t been out in a long time. As such, she was putting too much time and effort into looking good.
“You don’t think it’s too much do you?” Marissa asked as she spun around for her sister, whom just sucked her teeth. Her last outfit was a sleek, burgundy form-fitting dress. It was perfect for flaunting her curves and the sweetheart neckline flattered her bust. She wore peep-toed pumps on her feet which brought on a disapproving look from Melanie.
“You look fine, but you won’t be able to dance in those. In fact, it’s not really party attire at all.”
“It’s not like I planned on dancing.” Marissa frowned and plopped down on the bed. She gave up. She didn’t want to overdress or underdress. Not being the party type, she had no idea how to avoid doing either. “I’ll just stay home.”
“Don’t piss me off, you’re going.”
“Shut up and get in the car.”
Without any more protest, she grabbed her purse, phone, and keys and went to the car. She still felt overdressed but maybe she could escape somewhere else where she wouldn’t stand out too much.
Before heading downtown, they stopped to pick up Sehjada who lived almost on the other side of town. Safe to say she would not be going back home tonight. Too long of a drive, but she knew this and walked with a bag with a change of clothes.
“You seriously meant you weren’t going to dance,” Sehjada commented as she looked at her friend’s attire. Marissa hid her face, starting to feel overly insecure about her clothes.
“Just take me home.”
If Melanie had fangs, she would be baring them. “If I have to tell you to relax one more time, I’m gonna put you out and run you over. You look great. Shut it up already.”
“Yeah girl, I never said you looked bad. I’m just saying you’re not dressed to dance.”
“You can’t call what yall are going to be doing dancing anyways.” She snapped. It was more like dry humping; nothing but ass shaking and grinding on whoever was dancing with you.
“Just stay somewhere and be cute then.” Jada retorted with a heavy eye roll.
The silence held for about five minutes until Melanie couldn’t take it anymore and turned up the music. They spent the rest of the drive singing badly at the top of their lungs until arriving at their destination.
The entire downtown area was packed. They had to park far away from the clubs because of how full it was and to avoid knocking down any pedestrians.
After getting a glimpse of some of the other women there, Marissa didn’t feel out of place anymore. Some of them were way flashier than she was.
There were too many people there to make out any faces. The girls made sure to stay close to each other as to not get lost. That is until Jada heard a certain song and escaped into one of the clubs. It didn’t take long for Melanie to do the same, leaving Marissa on her own.
She found herself inside seated at the bar in Club 96. It was just as packed as outside was, but most of the folks were on the dance floor grinding on each other.
She went unnoticed, except by the bartender who tried to keep conversation with her. The interest was false, he was just being kind. She knew she must have looked lonely.
“How about a drink on the house?” He offered.
For a moment, she thought to turn him down but gratefully accepted his offer.
One drink turned into two.
Two turned into four.
Four turned into several.
They spoke about nothing, but it was enough to keep her entertained for a while.
“Feel better now?” He asked and she merely nodded. She felt way too good. “Good, now go have some fun.” He shooed her.
“Awww, come dance with me.” She drawled as she leaned over the counter.
“Don’t tempt me. Sadly I have to man down the station here, but save a dance for me beautiful.”
She gave him a thumbs up before slipping away into the crowd.
Amidst the flurry of moving bodies, it was hard to tell if what she was doing was actually dancing or just her being shoved around by everyone else. In truth, it was the latter.
Uncoordinated as she was, the girl still tried her hand at dancing. All she had to do was mock the bodies that were swaying her. It felt strange at first, but soon she got into it.
Someone’s hand held onto her waist and began to move with the rhythm behind her. Man, woman, she couldn’t tell nor did she care. Everyone kept calling her boring; well she’d show them that she could party as good as the rest of them.
Strong arms traveled up and down her sides while grinding against her. She felt them go down to her thigh, and then as they came back up, her dress was raised a little, showing off more skin. She responded in turn, arching her back, and then was spun around to meet a firm chest.
Man. It was definitely a man. No question about that.
She drew closer to him, hands resting on his chest while his hand encircled her waist.
He remained her dance partner the last four songs. However, she began to feel sick. Several times she had to fight the urge to empty her stomach on him. She refused to allow that happen. She would die of embarrassment if she did. But the more they dance, the strong the urge became until she just couldn’t hold it anymore.
She roughly shoved him away from her and sped towards the bathroom, pushing the girls that were in front of her out of her way. There was no time to shut the stall door, she just ran to the toilet and heaved her guts out.
Smooth Girl, Real Smooth.
She thought as she emerged from the stall and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. She wasn’t deaf to the giggles coming from the other girls inside.
Looking at herself in the mirror, she saw that some vomit landed on her dress and her hair even had a little.
Kill me Now.
Carefully, she washed the ends of her hair and dabbed her dress clean of the mess. Party time was over. She was ready to escape before anyone could add to her humiliation.
Outside the club was still loaded with people, the majority of whom were wasted off their ass. They probably couldn’t tell up from down.
Sehjada and Melanie were still nowhere to be found but if they wanted her they would call. Oh, how she wished her phone would ring.
“Hey! Where are you going?” Someone asked, but Marissa kept walking as she wasn’t sure it was directed at her.
“Slow down for a minute.” When they grabbed her shoulder, she tried to run, but they kept a steady hold on her. “No need to run, I don’t bite.” He laughed. The humor escaped her. All she wanted was to escape.
“We danced for so long and now you want to run away?”
“Come again?” She stopped trying to shimmy out of his grasp—he was now holding her by the waist—but remained tense. “I don’t recall…”
“Well, it was dark so I’m not surprised you can’t make out my face. But we were having a good time.” He let her go slowly. “Are you okay? You took off in a rush back there.”
Her body relaxed when she was released and took the time to finally get a good look at the man.
Dark skin, buzz cut hair and a freshly shaped goatee. Bright hazel eyes seemed to smile down at her as he regarded her as well. The body she’d been dancing with was covered in a black leather jacket, black T-shirt, and dark jeans. The guy must have thought he was Blade.
“I just needed some fresh air.” She finally answered.
“Are you sure?” He began, sounding genuinely concerned. “I’d hate to leave you alone if you’re not okay.”
“Really, I’m fine. My friends will come get me soon, so…” She lied. Her eyes shifted away from him and she took a step back trying to ease into her escape.
“At least let me stay until they come. You can’t really want to be left alone. It’s not safe”
A persistent guy this one. She could see he wasn’t going to let up anytime soon. “If you insist.” Without waiting for his response, she began walking with no clear destination in mind.
He followed beside her quietly, as though he was just content with being at her side. It was unnerving really.
She grasped her shoulders with her arms, regretting her choice in clothing. The crisp breeze was unforgiving to her skin.
“I’ll never understand women. You choose to be cute over being warm.” He draped his jacket over her shoulders.
“I didn’t expect it to be cold,” Marissa said, and then added a polite thank you. She fixed the jacket onto her body, grateful for the warmth it brought.
They returned to silence as she had no idea what to say to him. Marissa had never been big on conversation, especially with strangers.
“It’s a beautiful night wouldn’t you agree?” He asked, startling her as he cut the silence.
Her eyes traveled up to the sky, seeing it lit up with stars. When last had she enjoyed such scenery? It was gorgeous.
She stopped walking, giving herself time to enjoy the sight. Knowing herself, she would never find another opportunity. Between school and work, she barely had time for anything. Or rather, she kept herself busy so that she didn’t have to. Idle hands were the devil’s playground.
They had managed to walk far enough into town, away from the busy crowd. She hadn’t even noticed, though her feet were now screaming at her. She needed to get out of those shoes. She took a seat on a nearby bench and slipped them off.
“Ah, this is heaven.” She said while rubbing her aching feet.
“Again, I’ll never understand women. Why not wear comfortable shoes?”
“Beauty is pain, my friend.” She joked and he laughed along with her. “So what’s your name anyway?”
He didn’t answer immediately, and then he shrugged his shoulders. “I guess it doesn’t matter.” He said, leaving her confused. “It’s Shawn. Shawn Belfonte.”
“Oh, I already know who you are miss Marissa Coldwell.”
Warning bells went off as he said her name. Immediately she was on her feet. “Goodnight.” She saw enough movies to know when to get the hell on when something wasn’t right. That’s what she got for hanging around a complete stranger.
“I’m going to need you to sit back down.”
Her face paled at the sight of the gun in his hands. He pointed it at the spot where she rose from and she sat back down quietly. Her mouth was dry and she could feel the tears threatening to overflow in her eyes.
“Oh come now, don’t cry. Just behave alright? I promise you won’t get hurt”
She nodded her head slowly, but the tears still spilled over. She should have just stayed home. Better yet, why had she even walked with a man she knew nothing about!
“Now then, where are you?” He was speaking to himself, freaking her out even more. “I know you’re there. You’ve been following us for some time.”
Oh great, she was being held hostage by a psychopath. Her thirst for excitement had long faded from the sight of the gun. If she lived through this, she promised to remain her old boring self. She wouldn’t party. She wouldn’t stay out late. She wouldn’t drink. She would remain the good, safe girl her parents had raised. Her eyes were frantic, searching for any signs of someone else, but she didn’t dare scream for help.
“I see, so it’s come to this then.” He began and sighed, “Shame, I hate to ruin a pretty face.”
Marissa was lost for words as she lay on the ground. Her head was throbbing from both the impact with the ground and blow she took to the head his hand. One minute she had been sitting obediently then all of a sudden he punched her.
“Sad, because I hate to break promises.” He sucked his teeth, and then looked down at her with anger written in his eyes. “Guess I was wrong and no one’s here then. Oh well.” He aimed the gun at her and her eyes widened with terror.
A deep growl rose from the darkness of the neighboring alley, followed by a bright pair of golden eyes, and the large sleek body of a panther.
Its fur was pitch black and its movements were careful as it crept forward, growling at Shawn who didn’t even flinch at the sight. He even laughed.
“It’s about damn time.” In that instant, Shawn shifted his aim to the animal and it leaped at him.
Unable to take any more, Marissa passed out as the shrill sound of a gunshot echoed through the air.