Monday, January 30, 2006

...Ain't Gold (Part Twenty-Two)

Nicole smiled as she closed her day planner and pushed her Rolodex back into place. Yet another successful party was over with. She added another happy client to her ever growing list. Nicole giggled and smiled again as she lifted the check to her nose and breathed deep. There was nothing better than the taste of her own money.
She worked hard to get where she was. She graduated college, got her loan from the bank and within a year paid it off and now here she was, making her own money. She was young and rich and life couldn't be better. The word rich made her think of the name "Rich" and her mood elevated even higher.
Now that they were living together Nicole had to no longer wonder when she would see her man. She looked at her watch and remembered there were a few things to pick up from ehr old apartment before she went home. When Mookie and Smash moved her things to Rich's place, they only brought her clothing. Between working and tending to Rich, she had neglected her own apartment. She had to keep making return trips to pick up forgotten belongings. Almost a month had passed since his accident and Rich was healing quickly, thanks to her watchful eye.
Nicole cruised through the early evening traffic with one hand on the wheel, the other helping herself to leftovers Munchkins from Dunkin Donuts. There were groceries besides and she wanted to get her things as quickly as possible so she could get home and make dinner. She parked outside her old building, grabbing her purse and click-clacking up the stairs leading to the front door. She was checking her mailbox when two men brushed past her.Nikki sucked her teeth at their rudeness, slamming the mailbox shut and walking towards her elevator.

She pressed four and looked down at her mail. Publisher's Clearing House, Verizon, an Essence Magazine, an old high school friend, and a few other obscure pieces thatwere of no interest to her. The elevator came to a stop and she stepped off, still tearing open one of the envelopes. Her heels clicked and echoed as she went for her apartment keys. She dropped them on the floor and cursed as the mail followed. Reaching down to pick them up Nicole came face to face with a pair of black boots. Looking up, Nicole saw two ski masked men standing over her. One of them roughly pulled her to her feet, the other man grabbing her purse.
“Where is he?” the man growled.
Nicole shrank away from him in fear. “What are you talking about?”

"You know what the fuck I'm talkin bout. You tell me where he is."
She thought about screaming, but then he grabbed her throat so tight she couldn’t breathe.
“Lying bitch. We gone find him and then? Then we gone come get you for lyin. Where is he?”
“Who? I don’t know…who you’re talking about.” The other man was digging frantically through her mail.

He was choking her. One hand around her throat, he lifted her up against the wall. Nicole kicked her legs out, trying to stop this from happening. One hand clawed at the man's face, the other at the hand gripping her neck. The more she struggled the harder it was to breath.
“Please!" she whispered. "Please! I-can’t-breathe!” She didn't know what was going on behind his cold dark eyes but at last he threw her to the floor.
Nicole hit the floor hard and winced as pain shot through her arm. She was afraid they were going to kill her if she made a noise. “Get away from me!” she whispered, a hand trying to protect her bruised throat.
The man that had been digging in her bag shoved something in her face. Nicole reared awya from him in fear. He smiled at her, eyes glimmering. It was her State ID. He waved it in front of her. “I know where you live,” he whispered in a singsong voice. “And I know where you work.” He never gave her back her purse. They left her there terrified.

Nicole couldn't move for the next five minutes, she just held her hurt arm to her chest and tried to will herself of the floor. Shuddering and whimpering like an abandoned puppy, she was too afraid to even cry. She knew better than to call Rich, she didn’t want to put him in any danger. So she went to the next best place.

Chuchi made Nikki lay down and gave her a cold compress to put on her neck. “You sure you didn’t see they faces?”
Nicole shook her head. She held the ice to her bruised neck, wishing this were all a dream. The ice pack kept slipping from her hands because she was shaking so hard. Chuchi sat next to her on the sofa, stroking Nicole's hair. “You gone tell Rich?”
“I-do-I don’t know. If I call him, I know-I know they're going to find out. Th-th-they said th-th-they would kill me. And him.”
Chuchi was angry with her friend, angry for making this choice. She’d met Rich. She liked him sure, but Nicole was so much better than this life. She could have any man she wanted and she kept choosing the ones who got her in trouble. Nicole was smart and talented and beautiful, but she was so naïve. She fell for anyone with a nice smile and a nice bank.
“He don’t got no friends that could call him for you?”

Nicole’s mind came to rest on Toots. “He-he's got a girl friend. You think I should call her?”
Chuchi nodded. “But not from here. Come on. It’s a pay phone outside.”
Toots answered on the second ring. “Hello.”
“Hey Toots? It’s Nicole.”
“Hey shorty. Where you at? Rich lookin for you.”
Nicole took a deep breath. “Toots, I got robbed.”
“What? What happened?”
Nicole told her what happened, nearly bursting into tears at the end. Toots was silent on the other end of the phone. She was making four mental calculations at once. Whoever robbed her was undoubtedly watching her. If she returned home, she could be attacked again, maybe raped and murdered. If she went to Rich’s place, they’d follow her there and kill them both. Yet, if Toots came and got her, she could take them over to Mookie’s and go see Rich from there. That sounded as good a plan as any.
“I be there in twenty minutes,” Toots replied. She placed a call to Mookie and within the hour, Nicole was changed and on her way to Mookie’s apartment. Chuchi called Rich and told him what happened. He was in his car and out the door before Chuchi finished the sentence.
When Rich banged on the door, he gave Toot’s one look and she nodded her head to the back. Nicole jumped into his arms when she saw him, crying again. He winced in pain, but didn't say anything. Letting her down, he stormed into the living room.

“Somebody tell me somthin,” he said.
Chuchi was on the edge of the sofa, snapping gum. She was terrified on the inside, but stayed strong for her friend’s sake. “She came straight to my house after. You gotta ask her.” He turned and sat Nikki down on the couch. “What happened?”
Nicole started gently shaking again and Mookie got up to make her a drink. She accepted it gratefully, hoping the burning scotch would calm her nerves. The ice clinked against the sides of the glass as her hands quivered. “I-I was getting my mail and they went past me in the building. I got on the elevator-and-and when I got off, I dropped my keys and they were there.”
“Did you see their faces?” he asked.
She shook her head. “No. They had on ski masks.”
Rich thought, I get mine the fast way, ski mask way. “Go head. What happened after that?”
“Then he choked me and…”
“He choked you?” Rich lifted her neck and saw the imprint of a hand. He clenched his teeth down to keep from getting up and murdering everybody on the East Coast just on GP.
“He kept asking about you, I think.”
“What he say?”
“He just said where is he, where is he? Then he called me a lyin bitch and said they would find you and come back for me for lying. The other one took my purse and he said I know where you live. And then-and then they left.” The ice clinked in her glass again.
Toots was in deep thought. Nicole had left out the part about the ski masks when she told her over the phone. “Nik, could you see his eyes? When he choked you, what he looked like?”
Nicole thought about it. “He looked angry. His eyes were brown. He had angry eyes. That’s all I remember.”
Toots stood up and flashed her own eyes at Rich. He followed her into the kitchen. “What?”
She lit a cigarette and ran the water under a glass. “That’s the same niggas that robbed me and Smash.”
“Ain't no way them nig-”
Toots silenced him with a shot from her eyes. “I know what the fuck she’s talkin about. That nigga shoved a gun in my face and took the money. He had them same eyes she was talkin about. If that nigga Stretch ain't do this, I don’t know who did.”
Rich trusted Toots. “You really think you right?”
“I know I’m right.” She pulled hard on the cigarette. They returned to the group.
“Nikki, what’s in your bag?”
Nicole thought about it. “My wallet, a couple credit cards, and a few dollars. They took my ID.” All items with addresses on them. They knew where she lived. And that was a problem. She could never go back.
“You gotta shut off all your credit cards. You can’t go back home. And you can’t go to work.”
Nicole pulled the ice pack away from her forehead and sat up. “What am I supposed to do? I’m supposed to just sit in a box somewhere and hope they don’t find me?” she shouted hysterically. Chuchi, Mookie and Toots silently left the room. Nicoel stood up. “They said they would kill me, Rich! They said they would kill you! I can’t go anywhere! What am I supposed to do?” She collapsed against him. Rich pulled away from her ever so slightly as she rubbed against one of his wounds. The pain of hearing her tears hurt worse than his side.

“Baby, let me handle this. You let me take care of this.”

2006 © Jacki Simmons
All rights reserved.


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Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take and may this song play all the way, through. And if it skip a beat, hit repeat, this the realest shit I ever wrote, this is me. If it skip a beat, hit repeat, This the realest shit I ever wrote, this is me. -Juelz Sanatana, This Is Me, What The Game's Been Missing