P is for Peacock

Originally published April 18, 2017 for the A to Z Challenge, this cynical scene won’t appear in the novella, but it raises an interesting question…

Jessica stuffed her phone in the locker so that it wouldn’t distract her. She hoped that someone stretching her legs in front of the lockers would hear it rattling against the metal door and take it. That would be the excuse she would give Whitmore for not returning his calls. I wasn’t ignoring you. My phone was stolen.

Jessica increased the resistance and incline on the elliptical and pushed harder. She wiped the sweat from her forehead and breathed through her mouth. She wouldn’t think about Whitmore for the next hour. She propelled her arms and legs back and forth. Closing her eyes, she pretended shed wasn’t confined to a small space under the thick, heavy air of a gym crowed with sweating bodies but outside in an open field, running through the light breeze, the ripe smell of freshly cut grass lifting her off her feet.

When she opened her eyes, reality struck her in the face, and her legs buckled underneath her. She looked at her statistics on the machine. “Eight miles an hour at level 15 resistance? I won’t be able to walk tomorrow.” She wiped down the handlebars with the moist towel. Out of habit she looked up at the TV above her. She hated that every one of the forty or more television sets hanging from the ceiling throughout the gym was on a news station—CNN, FOX News, MSNBC. Anyone exercising in an attempt to relieve stress would quickly regain it by looking up, and reading the closed captions—local middle school teacher arrested on twelve counts of indecent liberties with a minor; police officer fatally shoots unarmed black man in a routine traffic stop; protestors stage a “die-in” at Madison Square Garden; motorcyclist killed in wreck during rush hour on 1-40; Roger Peacock dead.

Jessica froze in front of the television set broadcasting the CNN report. For the last three days the entire city of Houston had been on a manhunt for Peacock after he walked onto the UH campus and shot five women in the head, execution style, all apparently his ex-girlfriends. All this time, he was crumpled in a corner of his apartment’s basement laundry room with half his face blown off after turning the gun on himself that same day.

Jessica hiked the steps of the stair climber. She was never a fan of this machine. The steps were too steep and she often tripped if they were moving too fast. She didn’t care today. She wanted to trip. She want to fall hard on her face, break her nose on the edge of the steps. Anything to get her mind off of what she’d just read, and how familiar it sounded to her current predicament.

Roger Peacock was another one of Bruce’s bitter friendzoned characters. However, after years of rejection from women who this self-proclaimed good guy believed wouldn’t find anyone better than him, he finally snapped and slaughtered them all. It was as if dating him meant life or death. He held their futures in his hands. He was their god. Do not deny me, or face punishment: Death.

What frightened her most about Roger Peacock was how much he reminded her of Whitmore. That self-entitlement they both contained within their hearts. They believed themselves to be good, respectable men and assumed women would throw themselves at their feet, willingly open their legs to them, devote their every being to them, and when those women didn’t, they couldn’t comprehend why not.

It ate at Peacock, tormented him, a molesting parasite, chipping at his brain, until he finally concluded that women dumb enough to refuse a “good man” deserved to die.

But did Whitmore believe Jessica deserved to die too?

—Nortina

O is for Optional

Originally published April 17, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge. A version of this poem will appear in Chapter One of the novella, when Jessica looks at another “option” from Whitmore on her blind date with Bruce. 😉


Optional
A poem by Jessica Ryan

Relationships are optional.
You cannot mandate my marriage
to cure your loneliness, and I
do not need your love
to make my life complete.

I’ve kissed more boys
than I can count
and have loved less.
My feelings intensify and
fade like the seasons.
Do not mention marriage in the summer
and never children in the snow.
Laugh at my jokes and I’ll
pretend your confessions of
undying infatuation don’t amuse me.

I do not require the world,
only a small park bench outside where
the wood can rot; the paint can chip.
Sit next to me and hold my hand.
Ask of nothing; demand even less.
If mandates spew from your lips,
eliminating my free will, I’ll add you
to my list of boys I’ve kissed
and never loved.

—Nortina

 

N is for Nice Guys

This poem, originally published April 16, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge, received a major revision last month (see “Chivalry is Dead”). The revision will be in the novella as part of Chapter 2. In fact all of Chapter 2 will see some significant changes from the A to Z Challenge. While I didn’t break the original challenge up into chapters, G is for Girlfriend Whisperer, I is for Insecure, J is for Jealous, and this post are all part of Chapter 2. When I finish the novella, you’ll see how much they’ve changed. 😉

While I did revise the poem, I still enjoy reading the original. It describes Whitmore and his “priorities” so well! I hope you enjoy it too. 🙂


Jessica stared into her blurred reflection as the steam filled the bathroom and condensation accumulated on the mirror. She thought about something that Alex once told her:

“It’s the ‘nice guys’ you have to watch out for. They think that because they don’t curse, or drink, or smoke, or do drugs, or beat you, or cheat, or do whatever, they deserve special privileges. And when they don’t get those special privileges, when they don’t get the girl, when they don’t get the mind-blowing sex from the beautiful damsel that misogynist TV promised them, they go nuts. Whitmore is a ‘nice guy,’ and he’s going nuts right now because you won’t give him what he wants.”

Whitmore wasn’t a nice guy. He wouldn’t be so cruel as to make a woman feel guilty for not loving him. She did care for him in the beginning, but it was so hard to fall in love with a man who tried to make her become his personal savior, who would die if she weren’t near. Why put her under so much pressure? Why give her so much control? Why have his life and happiness so dependent on whether she loves him back?

“Nice guys always finish last,” Whitmore had told her when they were still getting to know each other. They were on their third date and had arrived to the movie theater half an hour early. Jessica had suggested they play in the small arcade in the lobby while they waited. Because that was the type of woman she was. She liked to dive back into her childhood whenever she could. She wanted to race, shoot hoops, play air hockey, battle in Mortal Kombat, swing her hips and jump on arrows while Dance Dance Revolution played “It’s Raining Men.” Whitmore was too serious. After she beaten him in a motorcycle race through the streets of Los Angeles, he wanted to talk about why all his past relationships failed.

“I think it’s because we go for the wrong kinds of women. The ones who can’t see how lucky they are. They’d rather chase the dirt they’ve been with most of their lives than cherish the good thing they have in us.”

Jessica turned around and unplugged the tub drain for the second time that night. At this rate, she would never take her bath, but she needed to write how she was feeling while it was still fresh on her mind. Maybe a poem could assuage her torment better than a hot, bubble bath.

 

Last in the Race

A poem by Jessica Ryan

He runs.
And runs.
And keeps running.
But there’s never a finish line.
Never a blond, busty babe
Waving a checkered flag,
Indicating he’s won.
And why should there be?

Why should he expect the
Congratulatory kiss from
A woman who’s last love interest
Was his reciprocal?
A 6’5 delinquent who
Blanketed himself in tattoos,
Wore his hat cocked to the side,
Held his pants up by the crotch
Because he didn’t believe in belts,
Had a drawer full of wife beaters,
And become one himself.

He runs.
Runs towards his unattainable dream girl
At the end of the tunnel.
A woman he believes he can
Save from all the heartbreaking, abusive
Cheaters of the world.
His heart driven only by
the smile on her face.
Until he realizes heartbreak and abuse
Are what she craves.
She jerks her hand away
When he leans to kiss it.
She speaks of feminism
When he opens doors,
Guides her through.
Chivalry is dead.
Chivalry is an excuse for men
To treat us as objects.
She breaks into hives
When he sends her daisies.
She complains.
Why ask me what I want all the time?
Stop being so nice.
I can’t stand a Yes Man!

He runs blindly,
Chasing after an angel
With a devil’s attitude,
Not realizing her independence
Will drive him away,
Too desperate to have
Her lustful appearances
Strike jealousy in the hearts
Of the boys back home
Whose definitions for beauty
And booty are the same, and
Intelligence is of no relation.

He competes against able-bodied men
Who can hoist their conceited winnings
Above their heads
Without trembling.
His only trophy is an hourglass.
Each grain of sand
Falling to the base,
Counting the hours, minutes, seconds
He runs in a race he’ll never finish.

M is for Makeout Session

Originally posted April 15, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge.

He kissed her. And he kissed her again. And again. And before they both knew what was happening, Jessica had one leg wrapped around Bruce’s hips, his hand running up and down her thigh. She cupped the back of his neck and dug her fingers into his scalp, pulling him closer, biting and sucking his bottom lip, all while the music played and couples danced around them, oblivious to the rising sexual tension at the center of the dance floor.

Bruce was the first to break away.

“Let’s get out of here,” Jessica said under heavy breathing.

“Following you,” Bruce said.

***

When Bruce pulled into the parking lot of Jessica’s apartment complex, he had barely enough time to put the car into park before Jessica was on his lap, showering his neck with quick wet kisses.

“Should we give your neighbors a show or go inside?” Bruce asked. He had one hand underneath her shirt and the other inching closer and closer inside her yoga pants.

“It’ll be more comfortable.” Jessica swung the door open and climbed out, honking the horn in the process.

They raced up the stairs. Once on the third floor, Bruce picked her up in his arms and wrapped her legs around his waist. Kissing her, he pinned her against the door to her apartment. The door gave way behind their pressure, and they fell inside. Jessica hit her head on the hardwood underneath the thin carpet of her living room floor.

“Ouch!” She rubbed the back of her head.

“Your door is flicted,” Bruce said. He pulled her to her feet and closed the door behind him.

“You have to slam it,” Jessica said.

“It’s alright.” He turned the deadbolt and pounded the door with his fist to make sure it was secure.

“So . . .” Jessica said, rocking on her heels.

“So . . . ” Bruce imitated. “What do you want to do?”

“Well that entrance kind of killed the mood.”

“It doesn’t have to.” Bruce leaned down and lightly kissed her chin, grazing over her bottom lip.

Jessica felt like butter. She sunk into his embrace as he tilted her head back and kissed her chin again, and then her lips, nose, forehead, and back down. “I wish I met you two years ago,” she moaned.

“Tell me what you want now,” Bruce whispered in her ear. He closed his mouth around her earlobe and sucked it gently.

“I want—” Jessica closed her eyes and let him massage her face with his lips. She wanted to forget about Whitmore. Not just for the moment, but forever. If only Bruce could kiss her forehead and absorb the memories of the last two years onto his tongue like a sponge and wring them out over the balcony. If she could spend one night with him and be free of her contractual obligation of love, marriage, and children to Whitmore. Just to lie in Bruce’s arms and not have to worry if it would produce a relationship, if he’ll want more than just sex from her, or if he’ll try to force her into something she wasn’t ready for.

She wanted something easy. Comfortable. She wanted to feel without a controlling hand. She wanted to live for tonight and not worry about tomorrow. She wanted spontaneity. She wanted to fuck. She wanted to have an orgasm. She didn’t care that it was cheating. That it would kill the man who had been killing her slowly for the last two years, draining her with his expectations, his demands, his insecurities, his need for a woman to be the foundation of his existence.

She was sick of planning, Whitmore. She was sick of having to prove herself, Whitmore. She was sick of feeling shackled down, Whitmore.

She tugged at Bruce’s pants. “I’ll tell you what I don’t want,” she said.

“Tonight, he doesn’t exist.”

Jessica nodded and backed down the hallway, swaying her hips. “Are you coming?”

“Lead the way.” Bruce undid his belt, and Jessica grabbed the buckle and pulled him down the hall to her bedroom.

—Norina

L is for Lesbian Feminist

The original story behind how Whitmore and Jessica met, posted April 14, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge. Their background has changed significantly since then (see here).

As you know, I’m trying to make Whitmore less of a creeper—he was “likable” at one point. Ultimately I want the reader not to like Whitmore, not to hate him either, but just to feel sorry for him. He just flew too close to the sun…


Whitmore was never a confident man. He attended poetry readings and stalked women from the corners of darkened auditoriums, hazy hookah bars, and damp cafeteria halls, praying that one of them would notice his stance against the wall—left hand under right armpit, right hand scratching goatee, left leg crossed over right leg, ankles touching—the soft-spoken, introverted gentleman no woman could resist ignoring. He stared intensely as women chanted, “What happened to me was not my fault!”

“Excuse me. Is anyone sitting here?” he would ask softly to the women chanting the loudest, and they would shake their heads, invite him to join their tables, remark on how well dressed he was in his dark, gray vest, and burgundy shirt with cuff-links, the collar spritzed with a cinnamon scented cologne. He would show off that crooked grin, one eyebrow raised higher than the other, one eye squinting while the other wide open, and the women would laugh at his sense of humor, deceived by a mask that hid a broken man inside who was hurting because of a woman, and who wished to fool other women into assuming those wounds under the illusion of love, respect, and loyalty.

If only Jessica had told him the seat next to her was taken. If only she had told him that her best friend had gone to the ladies’ room and would be right back, or that she was expecting her boyfriend to arrive very soon. But she didn’t. She saw him hovering over her and she smiled, invited him to sit down.

“I love Staceyann Chin,” she whispered to him while the poet performed. “She is so inspiring! So liberating! She motivates me to be angry. To confront all the bullshit in this world. The bullshit done to women!”

“Do you come to her readings a lot?” Whitmore asked.

“Oh, yes. And before you ask, no, I am not a lesbian.”

“Why would I ask that?”

“I’ve been to at least five of her readings, and there’s always one guy surfing through the audience using that tired-ass pick-up line, because apparently, all feminists are men-hating lesbians. Please tell me you’re not that guy tonight.”

“Nope, just a fellow lover of poetry.”

“It’s like therapy, isn’t it? Do you write?”

“I’m not as dynamic as she is,” he said over the roaring crowd as Staceyann Chin finished her final poem and held her arms out to the side to bow in front of her applauding fans.

Jessica stood to her feet, clapping and screaming over everyone else. She turned to Whitmore. “Write me something,” she said, pinching his upper arm, “and I’ll be the judge of that.”

Whitmore nodded. “Can I call you sometime?”

“Sure.” She recited her number as he keyed it into his phone. She was gone before he could ask for her name, pushing her way into the line for autographs and pictures. He thought to follow her, but decided against it. He watched as Jessica’s face lit up when her favorite poet wrapped her arms around her and posed for a picture. Staring into her bright eyes and glowing smile, Whitmore forged lines of poetry in his mind.


 I lay dead this morning



 then an angel descended from heaven



 clothed in silk 



 breathed divine oxygen into my lungs



 her smile 


“I have to see that smile again,” Whitmore said to himself. “It is my therapy.”

—Nortina

K is for Kitt

Originally posted April 13, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge

Bruce arrived a few minutes early. The sound of his knocking rattled against Jessica’s brain. Paranoid that Whitmore might have returned, she drew her knees to her chin and curled into a ball on the couch next to the door, waiting for him to burst in. By the time she mustered enough courage to unlock the door and pull it open, the clock had already struck nine.

“I thought you might’ve changed your mind,” Bruce said. He was wearing a blue cardigan with a dark gray button-up underneath. He ran his fingers through his hair, making it swoop over his face the way it had on their lunch date. He tugged on the bottom of his jacket and coughed into his fist. “I noticed the wood in your door was split down the middle. Almost like someone tried to beat it down. You might wanna—”

He paused when Jessica stepped outside. Her nose was red and her eyes swollen from crying. She still wore her yoga pants and t-shirt from the gym, the collar of her shirt soaked from where she wiped her tears.

“What happened? Was it him?” Bruce asked as if reading her mind. He placed both hands on her checks and brushed away the tears with his thumbs. He pulled her into a hug, resting his chin on top of her head.

“He’s more delusional than I thought,” she cried into his shoulder.

“I’ll take you to a place where you can forget about him,” Bruce said.

eartha

Jessica didn’t know much about Eartha Kitt—only that she had played Catwoman in the Batman television series and had an affair with Eddie Murphy’s character in the film, Boomerang—but as she sat at the table in the dimly lit restaurant, listening to the jazz musicians’ tribute to the late singer, she couldn’t help but feel intoxicated. Transcending the problems of her current relationship, she snapped her fingers, rolled her neck, and let out a deep moan.

“She just makes you want to forget everything around you,” Bruce whispered in her ear. He was suddenly standing behind her, massaging her shoulders.

“Just to live in the moment,” Jessica said. She had forgotten how underdressed she was. All she wanted was for Bruce to wrap his arms around her and move her body with the soothing notes of the trombone, saxophone, and trumpet in harmony.

Bruce leaned in, nuzzled her neck, and inhaled her perfume. “Lilacs, and a hint of must,” he said smiling.

“Shut up and dance with me.”

Bruce took her hand and together they glided to the dance floor just below the stage. The music had stopped, replaced with a rhythmic beat on a djembe drum. Jessica placed her hands on her hips. She bounced and rocked as the woman on stage sang into the microphone deep from the back of her throat.

“Come oooonnnn-a my house . . .”

Jessica danced and spun and let Bruce take her by the hips and pull her into him, his lips grazing behind her ear. She threw her head back, wrapped her arms around the back of Bruce’s neck, pulling him closer to her.

The final beat on the drum sounded, and the piano, bass, and horns returned.

“Oooooh, John, pleeease don’t kiss me. Ooooh, John, pleeeease . . .”

Jessica rubbed her cheek against the coarse stubble on Bruce’s chin.

“Oooooh, Bruce,” she echoed. “Pleeease . . .”

And he kissed her.

—Nortina

J is for Jealous

Originally published April 11, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge

“Why don’t you ever answer my calls?” Whitmore turned to shut the door.

He must have beat the door down, Jessica thought, noticing that it was now completely off the bottom and middle hinges.

Whitmore drove his shoulder into the door. The wood creaked, and the edge of the door knocked against the jamb, refusing to close.

Jessica took that moment to back away into the kitchen. She yanked open the first drawer on the end of the counter fumbling through it for anything she could make into a weapon, all while keeping her eyes on Whitmore. She didn’t think she would be forced to defend herself against him, but she also didn’t know what he was capable of anymore. The fact that he thought it was alright to break into her home because she ignored a few phone calls frightened her.

The door finally clicked into place. Whitmore returned his attention to Jessica, approaching her behind the counter. She enclosed her hand around the handle of the first object she could feel: egg beaters. They would have to do for now. She slammed the drawer shut and quickly put the egg beaters behind her back just as Whitmore stepped around the counter.

“I want to explain myself,” he said, “the reason why I’m so protective of you.” He sighed, and bowing his head, continued. “I worry when you don’t pick up the phone. When Layla didn’t pick up, it was because she was cheating.”

“But I’m not Layla, Whitmore.” Jessica tightened her grip around the egg beaters. She looked toward the door. How secure was it? Could she easily escape if Whitmore were to lunge after her?

“I need you to understand what happened between us.”

“She cheated and broke your heart.” Jessica shrugged her shoulders. Whitmore never let her forget it. The memory of Layla was always inserting itself in the middle of their relationship, making him paranoid, jealous.

“She did more than just cheat.” Whitmore turned and leaned his back against the refrigerator door. He crossed his arms over his chest and looked up to the ceiling. “When I found out, I didn’t break up with her right away. I still loved her. I wanted to make us work. I wanted her to see that we could work. I thought—” He shook his head as if embarrassed by what he was about to say. “I thought if I could make her the mother of my child, she would open her eyes and realize we were meant for each other.”

Jessica dropped the egg beaters onto the floor behind her. She bent over to retrieve them, but Whitmore was already there. He tossed them into the sink and took her by the hands, holding them underneath his chin.

“After a few months, I noticed that she still wasn’t showing. I asked her if we should go to the doctor, and she said, with no emotion, no change in facial expression—-” He closed his eyes as tears fell from the corners. He used her fingers to wipe them away. “She said she got an abortion . . . and that it was over. I could’ve died.” He turned around and leaned over the sink, curling his back and sobbing down the drain. “I wanted to die,” he continued. “I had a bottle of vodka, half a bottle of sleeping pills. I closed myself up. I had every intention of never waking up that next day.” He sniffed and wiped his nose. “But I did wake up.” He lifted his head. “And I got out of the house. And that night I went to a poetry reading and met Heaven’s Angel.” He turned around and grabbed Jessica by the hips, pulling her into him. “I met you.”

Jessica pushed him off of her. “So you’re saying I’m just a rebound?” She scooted to the other side of the counter, putting distance between them.

“No, not at all.” Whitmore followed her and again put his arms around her. “I’m saying you saved me. I was in a dark place with Layla, but with you, you smiled and I saw nothing but light.” He brought his hand to her face and leaned down to kiss her lips. “That’s why I want to make us work.” He dropped his hand to her stomach. “Our family too.”

Suddenly, it all clicked. His obsession with Layla. How he refused to wear a condom the night of their anniversary. How he pounced on her the next morning, unrelenting until he released his seed inside of her. Layla had ruined him, made him calculating. Because of her, Whitmore would never give a woman a legitimate reason to leave. He would cry about the one who had broken him, and trap her, either using guilt or motherhood.

Jessica wanted to run. She heard the sound of gushing water spilling over the tub and remembered she left the water running. She raced for the bathroom and slipped on the tiled floor covered in a layer of sudsy water, falling hard on her hip.

“Careful! The baby!” Whitmore dropped down beside her and cradled her in his arms as if she were a bruised child. He kissed her neck, rubbing her stomach in circular motion. “Shhh.”

“Stop it!” Jessica swatted his hand away. “I’m not pregnant.” She reached over the tub, turned the knob and pulled up the plug in the floor to let the water drain. She scrambled to her feet and took three towels from the rack, tossing them onto the floor and using her feet to wipe up the water.

“What do you mean you’re not pregnant? Are you on your period?” Whitmore stood up, patted his soaked pants with his hands as if that would easily dry them.

“No.” Jessica concentrated on getting all the water, not wanting to make eye contact with him.

“So you’re late.”

Jessica paused. Was he keeping up with her cycle? There was no way for her to tell if the morning-after pill had worked. Her period wasn’t due for another three days, and it was naturally a few days late. It could easily be a week before she would know for sure. However, she couldn’t tell Whitmore that. She had a feeling plan B carried the same weight as plan A, and if Whitmore were to learn that his angel from Heaven was no different from Layla, he would descend back into that dark place. This, Jessica realized, was how he would force her to stay. The guilt that if she left him, rid herself of his seed, his blood would be on her hands.

“I need to think.” She collected the damp towels off the floor.

“About what?”

She didn’t answer. She carried the towels back to the living room. She pulled the door open. It shook as if were about to fall on top of her. She prayed that it would to end the nightmare she couldn’t seem to wake up from.

“You’re kicking me out? I don’t understand. What have I done?” Whitmore asked, following behind her.

“Whitmore, please! I just need time to myself.”

“You’ve had all day.”

Jessica scratched her forehead in frustration until it started to burn. “Do I need to call someone?” she asked. She wanted to rip the door off the last hinge and beat him with it. The rage built inside of her. She hated him, and she hated herself for letting things get this far.

“Fine, I’ll leave.” He moved to kiss her, and she turned her head, only letting him peck her cheek. “I’ll do anything for you, Jessica,” he whispered in her ear. “I love you.” He waited for her respond, but she only pressed her forehead into the door and pointed for him to go.

Once he was outside, she slammed the door, kicking it in and turning the deadbolt. She threw the towels down and screamed until her voice went hoarse. “Why!” she whined, wanting to cry. A jingle came from the couch. She dug between the arm and the cushion until she retrieved her phone. She didn’t recognize the number, but she answered anyway.

“Hey, you. Are you busy tonight?”

“Yes!” she shouted.

“Oh, OK. Well, how about tom—”

“No, I mean yes, yes. Whatever you want to do. Yes.” Jessica said.

“Ahh, great,” Bruce said. “How about nine?”

“Perfect.”

 —Nortina

I is for Insecure

Originally posted April 10, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge.


“Jessica! Did you listen to 96.1 this morning? Bruce was talking ’bout you, girl. Why’d you tell him about Whitmore?”

Jessica held the phone away from her ear as she walked toward her car in the parking lot. She had just finished a stress-relieving workout at the gym, spending forty minutes on the elliptical and another twenty on the stair climber. Although she had stretched in the locker room before she left, her calf and thigh muscles immediately tighten at Whitmore’s name.

“His radio show, The Girlfriend Whisperer. He comes on right after my top twenty countdown,” Alex said. “Today he needed advice on this beautiful, smart, funny girl who’s stuck with a loser boyfriend. I knew right then he was talking about you.”

“Advice about what?”

“Asking you out, girl! He likes you. I knew he would. You couldn’t tell on your lunch date?”

Jessica collapsed into her car and laid her head back on the headrest. “I was too distracted by guilt!”

“Oh please! You and Whitmore are done. The city has spoken. Everyone was calling in saying, ‘Steal her! Steal her!’ A couple pathetic, insecure douchebags chewed him out for trying to date someone already in a relationship. I swear, one of them sounded like Whitmore. Does he listen to 96.1?”

“I don’t know.” Jessica sighed and rubbed her temples.

“You OK?”

“Whitmore’s been calling me all day.”

“Wonderful!” Alex said sarcastically. “Where are you?”

“Just finished at the gym.”

“OK, go home. Take a nice, warm bath. Turn off your phone . . . well, don’t turn off your phone, because Bruce may call. Just, don’t answer if it’s Whitmore. Give yourself a break from always having to explain yourself to him. He’s such a crick in your neck. I bet Bruce could get it out. Give you a nice, oily, back massage too.”

“Oh my god, Alex. I’m hanging up.” Jessica ended the call, chuckling to herself. She turned the ignition and put the car in gear.

On the drive home, she thought of Bruce. Would she be happy to hear from him if he were to call? Would she pull away again? Would she allow Bruce’s advances to be the kick she needed to end the relationship with Whitmore?

“I’m seeing another man,” she said aloud. Would Whitmore accept that? She’d tried ending the relationship before: You’re smothering me. You want too much. I need my space. I’m not ready for that kind of commitment.

Whitmore had rejected her arguments. “These are problems that are easily fixed,” he’d said, “and don’t I make you happy?”

In Whitmore’s mind, he did everything to make her happy. If she was happy, she had no reason to leave him; she had no reason for not wanting to marry him. But what did he define as her happiness? Smiling, laughing, kissing everyday—was that happiness to him? Having sex when he wanted? Overtly showing gratitude when he bought her gifts she never asked for, or took her out to expensive dinners neither of them could afford? The truth was, she wasn’t happy, and ‘happy’ was such a generic, unmoving term; she cringed whenever he spoke the word. He had this false sense of security that as long as he continued to do what he thought made her ‘happy,’ she would always belong to him.

Jessica pulled into the Clemmons apartment complex. She noticed a white Nissan Sentra parked in front of her neighbor’s apartment. Whitmore drove a white Nissan Sentra. She brushed it off. A lot of people are driving that car, she told herself. She hiked the stairs to the third floor.

The door to her apartment hung crookedly on the hinges and rubbed noisily against the jamb whenever she tried to open or close it. Jessica often had to pull the door up using the loosely screwed door knob, slam it shut, and then deadbolt it for it to close properly. If she didn’t, people could simply push the door open and enter her apartment, not needing to turn the knob, not even needing a key. Her cheap apartment manager still hadn’t called anyone to fix it, and with the recent string of break-ins, she didn’t feel safe.

She leaned against the door and kicked it at the lower corner under the hinge to keep it in place. When she pulled the knob, the door didn’t budge.

Satisfied, Jessica walked straight to the bathroom and turned on the water for a nice, hot, bubble bath. She squeezed the cherry blossom scented soap into the water, allowing the perfume to rise back to her nose with the steam and lift her off the floor.

The sudden sound of rattling and banging from the living room startled her to her feet. She went to investigate, and found Whitmore standing in the middle of the room—the door wide open behind him—holding up his phone.

“How’d— you get in here?” Jessica asked. She didn’t mean for her voice to crack. She didn’t want to sound fearful.

“You haven’t been answering my calls.”

“Was that your car parked outside?” She made sure to sound more assertive. He wouldn’t intimidate her.

“Did you listen to 96.1 this morning?”

—Nortina

H is for Heaven’s Angel

Originally published April 9, 2017, this poem was written by Whitmore and dedicated to Jessica. If you read the prequel post, “Love Poetry,” you know that “Heaven’s Angel” was edited down to just four lines:

When the sun sets, I still have light
Because your moon brightens my nights.
My precious angel descended from Heaven above,
saved me from the heartache of unrequited love.

Since Whitmore actually proposes before the novella starts, these lines will appear in the novella in a flashback memory.


Heaven’s Angel

When I thought God
Had abandoned me,
Left me to wallow in pity,
Heartache consumed
My body in darkness.
I had no pulse,
Until an angel
Descended from heaven.
She kissed me with lips
Red as apples.
She resuscitated me
With her magnetic touch.
She shocked my skin with
The electricity of her love.
Fresh blood raced to my heart
As she breathed her divine
Oxygen into my lungs.
And I arose.
Living and breathing
In the silk-clothed bosom
Of heaven’s angel.
May she never again
Let me plummet
To the hellish grave
Of love unrequited.

—Nortina

 

G is for Girlfriend Whisperer

I love the Girlfriend Whisper! It’s probably one of my favorite scenes from “Love Poetry.” Here, you get the entire transcript from the show, but in the novella, you’ll experience snippets of it through Jessica’s ears. Yes, she will be tuning in. By the way, I’ve completed chapter one of “Love Poetry”! Twenty-six pages and just short of 8,500 words long! We’ll see how much gets edited out later, but for now, I’m on to chapter two, where this scene and others will take place.

Originally published April 8, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge.


DJ Ronnie G: Good morning, good morning! The time is 11:21AM. I’m your boy, DJ Ronnie G, and I’m here with our host, Bruce, aka . . .

Bruce: *in a deep voice, close to the microphone* The Girlfriend Whisperer.

DJ Ronnie G: And we’re here taking your questions. Fellas, are you struggling to understand what the hell’s going on in your lady’s head? My boy Bruce has the answer. Caller, what’s your name and from where are you calling?

Caller #1: Uh, hey. This is Rodney from Charlotte, and I’ve been dating this girl for about two months now. We’re starting to transition out of that ‘Honeymoon Phase.’ I’m just wondering what I should do to make sure she’s still interested in me.

DJ Ronnie G: What you got, Girlfriend Whisperer?

Bruce: What is this ‘Honeymoon Phase’?

Caller #1: You know, when you’re hanging out every day. Maybe I’ll send her a ‘good morning’ text, or she’ll send me one. I’ll randomly send her flowers. She’ll tell me she misses me. That’s not happening anymore. I’m trying to figure out what I should do.

Bruce: Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Caller #1: What?

Bruce: You heard me. You wanna keep this girl? First of all, stop calling your relationship the ‘Honeymoon Phase.’ You’re not married. You’re just dating.

DJ Ronnie G: Yea. It’s like you’re trying to say you’re already serious. You’ve only been dating two months? You’re still allowed to see other people as far as I’m concerned.

Bruce: Yea. Don’t think that because you’re talking to her every day, that means you’re exclusive. You’re just getting to know each other. Now that you know each other a little more, all that ain’t necessary.

Caller #1: But what if she’s bored? How do I keep her interest?

Bruce: Play it cool, man. Have you ever had a girlfriend before?

Caller #1: Yea.

Bruce: Well, you don’t sound like it. Listen. Don’t assume that because she’s not calling you every day, she’s lost interest. Asking for too much will just scare her off. Give her some space for a couple days. Then take her out to a nice dinner, nothing fancy, just your run of the mill dating place. It doesn’t even have to be dinner. Lunch will do. Girls freak over lunch dates, they think you’re trying to let them down easy that you only want to be friends. Yea, tease her a little. Let her think you’re out the door. Don’t ask her any questions about whether or not she likes you. Give her the opportunity to get a little antsy. See where it goes.

DJ Ronnie G: That’s some great advice, Girlfriend Whisper. Aye, Rodney, be sure to hit us up, let us know what happens! *mumbling away from the mic* I have a feeling he’ll screw this one up. *in a louder voice* Alright, next caller, what’s your name and from where are you calling?

Caller #2: Yo, this is Shawn from Winston-Salem.

DJ Ronnie G: Tre-4!

Bruce: What’s your question?

Caller #2: So the ladies call me Thunder Tongue, ’cause when I rumble down on them, they rain all over my tongue.

DJ Ronnie G: Aye!

Caller #2: But lately, this girl I’m messing with been dry like the desert.

DJ Ronnie G: Hey, it rains in the desert too.

Caller #2: Not this one. I’m thinking maybe ’cause she’s young, she never had an orgasm before.

Bruce: How old is she?

Caller #2: 21.

Bruce: Nah. By that age, most women know exactly what gets them off. The problem is most likely you, my friend. Lemme ask you, where do you lick?

Caller #2: Where do I lick? I lick . . . I lick the pussy. Oh, shit. Can I say that on the air?

DJ Ronnie G: Well, you just said ‘shit,’ so we’re all fucked. *hits drums and laugh track*

Caller #2: *laughing*  Sorry about that, man!

Bruce: You’re good. So where do you lick? You go inside?

Caller #2: Yea. You know . . . I do her with my tongue.

DJ Ronnie G: Stroking it with the tongue.

Caller #2: You know, I be getting the job done!

Bruce: Obviously not if she ain’t raining, Thunder Tongue. Look. When people can’t read, that means they’re illiterate, right?

Caller #2: Yea, I guess.

Bruce: Well you, my friend, are ill-clitorate. Ladies get off when you stimulate that clitoris. Open up those lips and find that second tongue, she’ll be raining all night.

DJ Ronnie G: Aye! Remember that, fellas! Get clitorate. Alright, last caller, what’s your name, and from where are you calling?

Caller #3: Hi. My name is Jerry. I’m from Lexington.

Bruce: Jerry, what you got?

Caller #3: I would consider myself one of the good guys. I’ve been trying to get with this girl and—

Bruce: Lemme guess. She friendzoned you.

Caller #3: Yea. She chose this thug wannabe over me. How’d you know.

Bruce: Trying to validate that you’re a ‘good guy’? Classic friendzone syndrome. Being a ‘good guy’ is not going to automatically get you in her pants, bruh. If she doesn’t want you, she doesn’t want you. Accept it and move on.

DJ Ronnie G: Damn, man. That was pretty harsh.

Bruce: I’m sorry. Look. Most women want to build a friendship first. If you jump right into a relationship, you have nothing to fall back on. Look at the friendzone as a beginning, not an ending. Is that better?

DJ Ronnie G: I think he hung up, man. You pissed him off.

Bruce: Aw. He sounded desperate anyway.

DJ Ronnie G: So what’s going on with you? The way you just snapped, it sounded like you had your mind someplace else.

Bruce: Yea, man.

DJ Ronnie G: Well, let’s hear it! It’s not often the Girlfriend Whisperer is in need of advice!

Bruce: Well, I met this girl a couple days ago. Sexy. Smart. Funny. Beautiful smile.

DJ Ronnie G: Alright, so what’s the problem?

Bruce: She’s in a relationship.

DJ Ronnie G: The Girlfriend Whisperer got friendzoned!

Bruce: Nah, it’s not that. Looking at her, I can tell she wants out. But this guy, he’s not letting go. It think he’s one of those friendzoned guys that, as soon as he gets a girlfriend, he wants to make her feel guilty for all the women who friendzoned him.

DJ Ronnie G: Oh, that ‘Don’t you understand that I’m right for you?’ kinda whiny guy?

Bruce: Right. So, I really want to ask her out. There’s this new club opening next Saturday, kind of a tribute to those juke joints from back in the day. I think she’d really like it, but I’m not sure if she’s ready to leave her man. I told her to call me, but—

DJ Ronnie G: Maybe she just needs some persuasion. You should call her.

Bruce: Aw. You think I should?

DJ Ronnie G: How ’bout we turn it to the callers. People, our man the Girlfriend Whisperer is in a dilemma. Should he steal the girl? Hit us up at 980-365-7413. Tell us what you think. We have to take a little commercial break, but when we come back, we want to hear your answers!

*cuts to e-Harmony commerical*

—Nortina