Thursday, December 29, 2005

...Ain't Gold (Part Twelve)

Rich didn’t flinch as he pumped two shots into the body of the man before him. Once Toots ID'd them, it wasn't long before Rich knew who and where they were. He caught them by surprise and that quickly, he had his money back.
He was now back at his apartment, sitting in the window, looking out over Central Park. He was a regular people watcher, always had been, and he sat in his window when he needed to think. Now that he was here, he couldn't. His mind was ablaze with thought; Toots, Nicole, Cookie, Maxell, Nicole, Prage, Shadow, Money, Nicole, Nicole, Nicole...
He hadn't seen or heard from her in a week. He wondered if that meant anything. He laid a hand on his hip and, removing his phone, dialed her number.
She answered on the fourth ring. “Hello?”
“Hey, Nik.”

"Who's this?"
“Rich! Hey! I was just thinking about you! How are you?”
Rich wondered about the validity of that statement before answering. “I’m fine. What happened? You wasn’t gone call me back?”
“No, it’s not that. It’s just that I’ve been so busy for the past few of days. I had a lot of things to take care of. As a matter of fact, I just walked in the door. You’re not mad, are you?”
He softened when he heard her childlike innocence. “Nah. I could never be mad at you, ma. I was just thinkin about you, that’s all. What you doin?”
Something heavy dropped in the back. “Nothing, really. I need to relax. These past few days have kicked my ass. I've been working like a madwoman. You?”
“Same old same old. Just doin me. What your schedule look like?”
“Um, well, I don't have anything booked for the rest of the week so it looks like I'm free.”
“So you're good to go then.”
“Yes sir.” She wondered where this was going. She needed to relax and he needed to see her. “You planned on goin out tonight?”
“I might be persuaded,” she said softly. She gave him her address.
“Cool. I’ll pick you up in a half hour.”

Nicole wasn't used to the star treatment so when Rich got out and opened her car door she was skeptical. Does he think I'm crippled? she wondered. Chivalry was indeed dead with the clowns she had dated. It was a touching gesture, she had to admit. They drove in silence for a few blocks. Nicole laid her head back on his leather and breathed in his scent. She could wake up to that every day, she really could.
He stopped at a red light and leaned over to take her hand in his. “I missed you, ma. You got me whipped.”
She smiled at him. “I’m glad. I kinda missed you too.”
“Kinda? Or missed me?”
She smiled wider. “I missed you.”
The light changed and he pulled off. “Where you wanna go?”
She shrugged. “Wherever you want is fine with me.”
They drove to a small intimate restaurant in the village. Apparently, he had been planning to take her out because there were seats waiting for them when they got there. They both ordered beers while they waited. Now that they had a real chance to talk, Rich found Nicole to be incredibly open and inviting, and he had no problem talking to her. She wasn’t judgmental and took him very seriously. She’d led a very boring life though, from what she’d told him. Nothing out of the ordinary ever happened to her. He remembered reading the Phantom Tollbooth in fifth grade. Welcome to the Doldrums. Where nothing ever happens and nothing ever changes.
“So you can still do the split?” he asked, biting his lip slyly.
“Yes, I can, with your nasty ass. I do a lot of yoga. It keeps my body flexible.”
Rich’s Jones jumped at the mention of her flexibility. Nicole wasnt going to deny the obvious sexual attraction, so she quickly changed the subject. She sipped her beer. “How long you been—you know?”
He frowned. “Bout six, seven years now.”
“Do you like it? I mean, wouldn’t you rather be doing something else?”
“Of course.”
Nicole wanted to know what. She was sincerely hoping Rich wasn’t just another pretty face. She saw him sit forward and clasp his hands together, leaning in to her. “I really do. I don’t wanna hustle for the rest of my life, but what can a nigga do? I can read and write. I can add and subtract. I can use million dollar words and look good in a suit. But none of that shit matters without no degree. Soon’s I get everything I want together, I’ma quit the game.”

And do what, she said to herself. “Have you ever been to school?”
Rich snorted, taking a pull of beer. “School of hard knocks.”

Their food arrived. He took that question as an invitation, then proceeded to tell her more about his life. He had never known either of his parents, only what his grandmother told him about them. His mother had OD’d on heroin and his father was killed in a gang shootout the year after. His grandmother brought him up. He had a younger brother in prison and a sister that he didn’t see as much as he’d like to. At sixteen, he started hustling to take care of the family and help with the bills. He dropped out of high school after tenth grade.
Nicole found herself strangely intrigued by his story. She was so sick of going to those stuck up parties and meeting men who only spoke the language of “trust fund” and “Harvard grad.” She wanted a man who was successful, yes, but she wanted a taste of the poison on the side. Her own story sounded exactly like what she didn’t want to become, but she knew there was nothing for her in the streets but pain, horror, and despair.
He shook his head. “Not yet. You?”
“No. I want to focus on my career so I can have something to offer them.”
“And what is that?”
“The best. Stability, happiness, love, good fortune. I don't ever want my children to go without. I don't ever want them to not know the finer things in life. My life's goal has always been to have my own happy family and I'll be damned if I don't see it happen.”
“You got real high hopes, ma,” he said. He looked down and pushed his fork around on his plate. “You think you could see me in those plans somewhere?”
Nikki could distinctly see him in her plans. “If you play your cards right, maybe,” she replied.

They stayed in the restaurant talking long after the last customers had gone home. The manager had to come out and tell them they were closing up. They left and once outside, Rich took her hand in his as they walked back to the car. He had purposely parked down the block because he didn't want her to leave him just yet. He wanted to spend as much time with this goddess as possible.
They were almost there when he stopped suddenly. He looked in her eyes, his hazels glistening and dancing in the moonlight.
“You wanna be my lady, Nik?” he asked, almost shyly.
The smile on her face answered for her.

Copyright © 2005 Jacki Simmons
All rights reserved.


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