“Maybe friendship is all that’s realistic for us right now.”
With those words, Zora ended their long-distance relationship, shattering Deuce’s vision of a life with the only woman he’s ever loved. But after months of silence, he thought he was over it. He’d moved on, hadn’t he? And as far as he knew, she might have done the same. Now Zora is back from California, and he’s thrown into an immediate tailspin. Nothing’s changed.
She’s the one, the only, his rhyme, and his reason …
But this ain’t no college romance. There are serious, grown-folks’ obstacles standing in the way, and the other woman in his life isn’t even the half of it.
And sometimes growing up might mean moving on …
Over a few short summer weeks, Deuce and Zora will have to decide whether the great love they shared in the past, is enough of a foundation to build a future.
“Hey. Could you FaceTime me?”
“What?” she asked, thrown by the unexpected turn of the conversation.
“FaceTime. You still have an iPhone, right?”
“Yeah …” She let the word drag.
“So, I want to see you while I talk to you.”
“That’s not safe. You’re driving,” she said.
But she was already considering it, inventorying herself. The headscarf, the puffy eyes, the ratty old tank top stretched-out and hanging low at the neck and armholes. But he had seen her at her worst, and at her best. It wouldn’t matter to him whether she was in full makeup or had none on at all; whether she was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, or had sleep-swollen, puffy eyes.
“It’s on a holder thing, on the dashboard. I’ll be hands-free.”
“But you’ll be looking away from the road,” she protested.
Still, it excited her a little, and pleased her more than a little that he wanted to see her. For the first few weeks when she was in California, if she called, he would decline the calls, and FaceTime her instead.
You’re so pushy, she’d complained half-heartedly. What if I was sitting on the toilet or something?
I’ve seen you sitting on the toilet, he’d answered, matter-of-factly. Many times.
“I promise I’ll only glance away from the road,” he said now. “I feel like I understand what you mean better when I can see your face.”
“Fine,” Zora said sighing. “I’ll call you back in a minute.”
She took her breakfast sandwich with her out to the living room and arranged her phone, propping it against some of her textbooks. Sitting opposite it, she tested the camera to make sure that when she was seated, it didn’t train itself up the leg of her shorts.
Grabbing her sandwich and taking the first bite, she initiated the video-call. Deuce picked up right away, and there he was. Wearing a white t-shirt, his face was a little scruffy, like he hadn’t cleaned up the edges of his goatee. He looked sexy as hell, like he had just rolled out of bed.
Glancing away from the road for a moment, he flashed her a grin and Zora smiled back, unable to help herself.
“Still got that same old scarf, huh?” he said.
“It’s been broken-in,” she said, laughing. “It’s irreplaceable. You wouldn’t understand.”
“Oh, I understand,” he said, shaking his head. “That scarf is like an old friend of mine.”
“More like an old nemesis,” she said remembering how he always tugged it off her head before they had sex.
“So, before I asked you to FaceTime, what were you about to say?”
“I can’t remember,” she lied.
“I think I know,” he said.
“Then tell me. What was I about to say?”
“You were about to dump me again. You were about to say that you don’t think it’s a good idea that we talk. That I shouldn’t call you.”
He glanced at the camera, and Zora looked down, because he was right. It was an impulse, understandable as far as she was concerned, to distance herself as far as possible from a source of pain. And if Deuce had a girlfriend, that was what staying in touch with him would be. Possibly more painful than not being in touch over the past several months had been.
Instead of responding, she reached for her breakfast sandwich and took another bite, chewing slowly to buy herself time.
“That’s it, right? I was about to get cut?”
Zora kept chewing. Even through a camera lens it was difficult to look directly at him.
“You don’t think that might be …”
“A good idea? No,” he said before she was finished.
He looked at her for what felt like a few moments too long, and Zora almost had to tell him to keep his eye on the road.
“How ‘bout we just talk about … law school?” he suggested.
“You want to hear about law school?” she said, skeptically.
“Yeah. If you can listen to me talk about music, I can listen to you talk about law school. You made the Dean’s List, didn’t you?”
“Actually, I didn’t,” she said.
Deuce glanced at the camera. He looked surprised.
Zora shrugged. “Distracted, I guess. I made good enough grades to transfer, so … that was the most important thing.”
“Why were you distracted? And why didn’t you tell me when you decided to transfer?”
“A lot was going on.”
“Like you breakin’ up with me? A lot like that?”
“Okay,” he said. “I promise I won’t talk about that. Just so long as you promise me something …”
“What’s that?” she asked, cautious.
“That you won’t cut me off again. That no matter what happens, we’ll keep talkin’. No matter what.”
About Nia Forrester
Nia Forrester lives and writes in Philadelphia, PA where, by day, she is an attorney working on public policy and by night, she crafts woman-centered fiction that examines the complexities of life, love and the human condition.
She welcomes feedback and email from her readers at email@example.com or tweets @NiaForrester.
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