Sunday, February 05, 2006

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

It seemed to Rich as though Stretch disappeared off the face of the earth. Everywhere he looked was deserted; every person he asked, knew nothing, saw nothing. He had hit up all the popular spots and the man was literally nowhere to be found.
Rich brooded moodily, wincing in pain as he reached for the Newport's on the coffee table before him. The doctor warned him to stay away from cigarette's until he was fully healed but he couldn't wait that long. He needed a quick stress reliever and one wouldn't kill him. He kicked his feet up and looked around him.
He hated it here; his New Jersey apartment. He hated the stench, the quality of life, the general ugh-ness of everything. There was a black cloud hanging over the city. He wanted to be back home. Back in the grimey, hard ass streets of his native New York. This stagnant, sit-around-and-wait-for-something-to-happen crap was killing him. His team was doing their thing, moving weight in a major way and he was itching to get back to his money. He would be back at the head of the table shortly, as soon as he knew no one else would try to start some shit around his baby girl.
Lighting up, Rich leaned back and wondered why Stretch was so intent on fucking his life up. First, he’d robbed him. Rich was much more than sure it was he who had shot him. Then he threatened Nicole. It made no sense. He hated Stretch, sure, but these extreme attacks were puzzling him. What had he done to the man? Not a goddamn fucking thing, he thought angrily as he blew smoke out of his nose.
After being in deep thought for over an hour, Rich finally lifted his head and watched Nicole clean up around him. He studied her closely, wondering what lengths he would go to for her protection. He lifted his legs as she ran the vacuum under them. Nicole was nervous about something. As of late, he noticed whenever she got moody, she cleaned like a maniac. The house wasn’t that bad to begin with, but she’d gone wild, taking things down, dusting, alphabetizing and replacing them, waxing and polishing, sweeping and mopping. As she went past him again with the vacuum he reached over and yanked the plug out of the wall.
"What the hell?"
"Come on sit down here," he said, patting the couch next to him.
"I wasn't finished, Richard." She looked at his face and sighed, sitting down next to him. He passed her the rest of a cigarette and lit a fresh one, talking around the smoke.
He knew she was disturbed. He’d told her not to call her mother and they’d both gotten new cell phones. He wasn’t stupid. She was missing her family. She had long since forgiven her mother in her heart, but couldn't make a move to go see her or call her.
“What’s the matter, mama?” he asked, leaning his head on hers. She blew out smoke, frustrated.
“Don’t you think I know you a little bit by now?” He put his smoke in the other hand and put his left arm around her. Nicole snuggled next to him.
“I’m worried, Richard. This, this thing is bigger than me and I don't know how I'm supposed to deal wth it. And I'm worried about my mother. I know she's probably got the Feds out looking for me by now, but I’m scared if I go see her, something bad will happen.”

Which was exactly why he didn’t want her going back to her old hood. All somebody had to do was say they knew her and that would be that. He hated having this happen, but these precautions were all for her protection. Only Mookie and Toots knew where they were and they weren’t giving up that information. Smash took it upon himself to make sure no one messed with Chuchi and Cris looked out for her mother and sister.
“Look, mama, I know you worried, but this how it gotta be for a little while.”
“I know. I know. It’s just,” she trailed off. He shook her, making her finish. “I didn’t sign up for this, Rich,” she said, looking into his eyes. “I’m scared. I've never been afraid for my life before.”
He didn't like the sounds of that. “What you mean by that?”
“You said you didn't sign up for this. What is that supposed to mean?”
“It means I didn't think being with you would be this hard.”
Rich pulled his arm away from her. He pulled hard on his cigarette, the smoke punctuating his words. “Being with me is hard now?”
She sat up on the couch, tucking a leg under her. Nicole turned his face towards her and looked in his eyes. “I don't mean it like that, Richard. Don't twist my words around.”
“Please, tell me what you mean then.”
“I mean I didn't think all of these crazy things would be happening to us. I’m not saying I regret being with you, no, I’m just saying I’m not used to all this negative stuff happening at one time.”
That was better, he thought. “This is the life, mama. Shit happens like this sometimes.”
Nicole sighed as she put out her smoke. “I know. Just make it go away, Rich.”

He kissed the top of her head. “I will baby. You know I will.”

Cookie had a serious decision to make. She ran her hands over the money once more, lifting it into her face and breathing deep.
"Does it smell good?" he asked, laughing as he lit a cigar.
"It damn sure does," she laughed back.
"Well? What does it mean? Do you want to keep it?"
"I do."
He reached over the table and had his hand out. Cookie looked at her hand, then smiled as she gripped his. She had made her bed and now she was sleeping in it. And she had to admit, Downy soft comforters, goose down pillows and all, it felt damn good.

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