Many of us fall into unrelenting cycles that lead us to inevitable heartbreak—a knee-weakening, nearly unbearable period of withdrawal where we curse our indiscretions and promise to do better next time. But why? Why do we do this to ourselves?
That’s the question Erin is constantly asking herself.
Along for the ride is Tariq, a young man battling his past as well. While their romantic lives intertwine, they find it almost impossible to break free of the merciless beast that is love and its ugly stepsister, heartbreak.
At first, Erin’s attraction to Tariq is like a drug addiction she can’t ignore, but as drama ensues and the ugly past comes back to visit, both Tariq and Erin realize how bad—as in good—love truly is.
Bad as in Good
Released July 29th, 2014
Chapter 1: Tariq
Four years ago…
There she was. My boo. My wifey. My ace boon-coon. Whatever people or I was willing to call her, minus the official title of wife, she was. And there she was tonguing some other poor soul down in the middle of the Japanese steakhouse she’d been fighting to get me to take her to. I wasn’t down for all that teppanyaki and sushi. I always passed, but that ain’t stop her from going out and finding her another dude to take her there while she used the guise of “shopping with the girls” to keep me from being on to her games. I eventually realized that when she kept coming home glowing with no shopping bags, she wasn’t really shopping.
She ain’t know I followed her this time. Well, technically, I wasn’t really following her. Ain’t like I waited ten minutes after she left to hop into my car, turn off my headlights, and tail her from streetlight to streetlight while I stayed two cars behind. I was smart and less crazy about all this. Outside of her credit cards not being maxed out on Prada bags and Gucci shoes, I had no real proof that she was stepping out on me. I couldn’t justify, to my mama or myself, that I had a reason to stalk my own woman. However, I had to consider the asinine possibility that my congeniality may have forced her into the arms of Mr. Convenience. I thought up the least likely place she’d expect me to spot her, grabbed the darkest table I could find, and posted up.
The first hour there, I was amped. I sat there with the menu covering my face, dodging waiters and customers who ain’t feel comfortable with a black man hiding out in a dimly lit booth of a Japanese steakhouse. Every time a woman walked in, I hid my face and gorged on saké. The second and third hour, I couldn’t dodge the waiters anymore. I had to order something or risk being thrown out for looking plain weird. After filling up on Kobe beef, rice and broccoli, I lost the initial zeal I had. I started to settle into the notion that I was paranoid and my woman really was out there watching her money and enjoying the comforts of window-shopping.
The fourth hour, I asked for the check. To my server’s delight, he dropped my dinner bill on my table and skipped away. As I pulled a few bills from my wallet, I noticed a tall, statuesque woman stroll in. Large bumblebee shades covered her eyes and rested on top of her high, taupe cheekbones. She wore a tight black dress that pushed her breasts together and cuffed her ass in all the right places. Her brown, curly hair bounced on top of her shoulders as she glided to an empty table. I stared her down and watched her remove her glasses. Bright, almond-shaped chestnut eyes, shaded by long overlapping eyelashes, almost took my breath away.
My waiter returned asking for his money, but I shooed him away to watch as my woman sat alone and waited. I was hoping she was waiting for her girls to roll through. Maybe they needed to eat before heading home, I thought. After a quick glance at my cell, I ignored the fact that she didn’t call me to let me know she’d be home late while I focused on how that wasn’t the dress she was wearing when she left the house. When the waiter handed her a drink without even taking an order, it was clear that she’d been here long enough to have a usual.
Suddenly, some dude walked in with a bouquet of flowers and a big-ass smile. He was a tall linebacker-lookin’ dude with a thick neck and a wide frame. His skin was dark as night with eyes that were beady and mischievous. His long, oblong face reminded me of a walking horse, yet, as he held a bouquet of flowers, my woman stared up at him as if he was a modern-day marvel. Although according to her, she hated flowers, but her face lit up as she jumped up and down in her seat when he placed the bouquet in her arms. I wanted to believe that this was their first time meeting. I could forgive an innocent slip-up. But the way he kissed her hello, the way he wrapped his arm around her waist as if to proclaim that she was his boo, wifey, or ace boon-coon only solidified the telling fact that they were more than first-time acquaintances. I noticed the way she giggled and blushed as he brushed her hair behind her ears. The way he rested the palm of his hand on her lap irked me. But what really did me in was how he squeezed the back of her neck, my woman’s neck, to exude his dominance, then pulled her in close to devour her lips to prove his ownership of who I thought was my woman. From the outside looking in, she was his woman and I was another poor sap that couldn’t help but stare.
I glared at them. Even as my waiter rudely tapped his foot, my eyes stayed glued on the show they put on before me. She ain’t care who saw. I contemplated walking out and dealing with her when she got home, but that wouldn’t be the type of guy I was. I slapped the money for my meal on the table and bumped my server as I walked in their direction.
“Deja,” I said when I reached their table. “How you been?” I spread my lips to show off all my teeth and continue the charade she put on.
I wanted her to jump when she saw me and stutter her words as she scrambled to determine how to recover. When she looked up at me, she dropped her shoulders and took a sip of her drink. Her date asked her, “Do you know this guy?”
I tensed my jaw and squeezed my fists. “This guy?” I asked. “Yea, Deja, do you know this guy?”
My woman avoided eye contact but refused to move away from his hold. He kept his arm around her waist and she kept her hand between his thighs. Luckily, for them, a table separated my anger and my fists. “What are you doing here, Tariq?”
“I finally decided to try this place out like you been begging me to. It ain’t half-bad. What the fuck are you doing here?”
She took a deep breath and exchanged glances with her date. Staring at the dude, I realized that he had pulled his lips in while he squeezed his fists as if he were uncomfortable with me standing there. “I’m Traevon. How you two know each other, bruh?”
“Well, she used to be the woman I was fuckin’. The same girl I pay all the bills for. The bitch who come home to me every night. How the fuck do you know her, bruh?”
“Don’t cause a scene, Tariq.”
I was more pissed at how they still stayed so close together. The longer she touched him only introduced the blatant disrespect she had for me to my face. When her waiter came by, he only added fuel to the fire. “Is everything all right? Do I need to escort this gentleman to his table?”
I hated the role I was forced in. Deja and fucking Traevon were together while I stood back and watched—as if I was wrong for questioning the whereabouts of who I thought was my woman. I took a deep breath and refrained from doing anything that would get me arrested. “I’m gone.” Without saying another word, I walked away. I didn’t punch the dude’s eye socket in—even though my fists were itching for the feel of blood. I simply gathered the strength I needed to go home and contemplate how I handled being the man to play the fool in a relationship I had considered taking to the next level.
Deja snuck into my life and set up shop, but there she was dating another man in my face as if I didn’t matter. I’ll take blame in the matter and say that I ignored the signs, but who was I to think that my woman had it in her to lie and cheat? I drove back to the apartment we shared and gripped the steering wheel as if I was gripping Traevon’s neck. I wish he would’ve met me outside. I wished I had the opportunity to avenge my broken heart by tearing the fool apart. Then again, I wished I hadn’t caught my woman claiming another man right in front of me with no remorse. Even though my eyes watered, I wouldn’t allow myself to bitch and moan over a woman who obviously had no respect for me. I wiped my face and drove in silence. I patiently awaited the unraveling of the life I thought I knew.
J. Lovelace is a freelance journalist, editor, and published author. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of South Florida with a bachelor’s in Creative Writing and Public and Organizational Communications. She lives in Orlando, Florida, with her husband, daughter and son while pursuing a graduate education.