Chapter Five


He opened his eyes slowly, letting one adjust before opening the other. His head pounded. A gray wintry light stretched across the comforter and he blinked a few times, registering his surroundings. The black wire frame bed. The Outkast “Elevators”-themed painting on the bedroom wall. The mass of dark, curly hair peaking under a mountain of burgundy bedding next to him. He was at Lexi’s.

DJ stretched his limbs beneath the covers and brushed against soft, bare skin. He reached around. She was naked; so was he. Last night…what happened last night?

New Year’s Eve. The Rondell Fisher Foundation NYE Benefit party. She wore that dress; black and sequined, long-sleeved, backless. Champagne flutes and brown liquor-filled tumblers. Laughing and snapping photos with Davis and Tyler. Swag surfing with his loose tie flapping against his shirt.

His hand up Lexi’s dress on the Uber ride back to her place. His face between her legs on the kitchen counter. He swiped a hand down his face and smirked through dry lips.

She stirred next to him and turned over slowly, doing the same slow eye-opening he’d done a few minutes prior. “Shit,” she said, shielding her eyes from the light. “I need aspirin.” She groaned and rolled out of bed, pulling a plush gray robe from her bed post.

When she returned with two waters and a bottle of pills, she looked nervous.

He popped the aspirin and chugged half the water bottle. “What’s wrong?”

“Our clothes are all over the house. Just inside the door, over the couch, on the floor in the kitchen. But I can’t find a condom or wrapper anywhere. Not in the kitchen trash, not in the bathroom. You remember using one?”

He closed his eyes, searching for a through line between the memories and his throbbing head. He saw her flesh jiggle under the force of his hand. Their reflection while they did it against the floor-length mirror in her bedroom. Condom…condom… he commanded, but his brain wouldn’t produce the thought. “Nah, but I don’t remember much.”

She rubbed her temple. “Fuck-fuck-fuck.”

“Are you on anything?” he asked. “Do we need to get you a pill or something?”

She shook her head. “IUD. Are you clean?”

“Of course.”

She narrowed her eyes. “When’s the last time you got checked?”

“At my last physical, so…three months ago. You?”

“I’m good. I got tested right after this started.” Word? The thought must have come across in his facial expression. “I always get checked after a new partner. Look. I don’t wanna ask this, but now I kinda have to. Are you — ”

“ — fucking anyone else? No. You?”

“No,” she paused. “You said that kinda quick. When’s the last time you were with someone else?”

“Definitely before this.” Who was it? Trina, one of Tyler’s baby’s mother’s friends. “July, I think?” Lexi leaned against the doorway and crossed her arms. He knew that look. “I’m serious.”

“You’re for real not seeing anyone? No long-suffering girlfriend-in-all-but-name waiting for you to put her love on top?”

“Other than the girl who’s at my house every weekend? The one I had intense raw sex with last night?” His dick jerked at the thought. If they were crossing this line for good, he looked forward to doing it again. Preferably before he left her apartment.

He could tell she wanted to be annoyed, but she smiled. He liked when she couldn’t keep the smile off her face, no matter how hard she tried. “Just so we’re clear,” she pointed at him, “I’m not waiting on anything from you.”

“I know,” he drank the last of his water. “That’s why I like you.”

She smiled again; not hiding it this time. “I feel gross. Gonna hop in the shower. You sticking around for awhile?”

“At least until my head stops spinning.”

Lexi nodded, eyeing him with the coy face she made when she was thinking dirty thoughts. She’s remembering last night, he realized. She wanted to see how it felt skin-to-skin as much as he did. “Think you’ll feel better after a shower?” she asked.

It was as good as he imagined the night before had been. Careful — like shower sex had to be. Less so when they made it back to bed and he got to revel in the feel of her. Her fresh, post-shower scent. The slickness of her wet curls sliding through his fingers while she rode him. How she drove him out of his mind when she clamped down around him and begged him to finish inside her.

They woke up a few hours later, hangover free. It was the best New Year’s Day he’d had in awhile.

“Why are we on Skype?” DJ asked.

Jordan, his 27-year-old sister, rolled her dark brown eyes. “Because Mommy refuses to get an iPhone and I have to tell you both at the same time.”

“It’s not hard to guess what it is. How far along are you?”

“Shut up, DJ. Wait till Mommy logs in.”

“Wait a minute…you didn’t get knocked up in my guest room over Thanksgiving, did you?”

“Oh my God, Derrick…”

“Just cuz Zeke married you don’t mean y’all get to buss down in my hou — .”

“Is this on? Can y’all see me?” Their mother’s face appeared onscreen. She was in a paint-splattered smock; her sandy brown, gray-streaked hair pulled off her face. At 51, the Irish half of her heritage started to show in the form of lines under and around her glimmering green eyes. Still, she glowed with a youth that defied her age and recent widowhood.

“Hi, Mommy,” Jordan chirped, obviously happy for the interruption. “What are you doing? Why do you have on a smock?”

“I’m doing an accent wall in my bedroom. I wanted to warm the room up a bit.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” DJ asked. “I would’ve done it for you.”

Pat shrugged. “I just decided when I woke up this morning. And I’m not an invalid, Derrick. I can paint a room. Now, what’s going on? I didn’t get on here to be lectured by my children.”

“One second,” Jordan said. “Zeke! Come here!” DJ and his mother exchanged a knowing look as Isaac, Jordan’s husband of two years, came into view. The 30-year old software engineer beamed as he put a loving arm around his wife. “Hey, Ma. Hi, DJ,” he said.

“So,” Pat began. “How long before I meet my grand-baby?”

DJ bust out laughing. Jordan’s eyes bulged out of her head. “MA!”

“Why else would you call this emergency family meeting?”

Zeke chuckled along with DJ, placing his hand protectively over Jordan’s still-flat belly and kissed her cheek. “It’s okay, baby. We’re due in the middle of August.”

“You’re about 12 weeks along, then.”

DJ did the quick math in his head. “You DID get pregnant in my house!” He’d never seen a grown man’s face turn as red as Isaac’s in that moment. Jordan shook her head. “It’s cool, man,” DJ said. “I’m just giving Jay a hard time. Congrats.”

Their mother’s eyes shined with pride. “This day is full of good news. DJ’s got a new girlfriend. I’m about to have a grand-baby — ”

Hold up, DJ thought. “I’ve got a WHAT?”

Jordan, suddenly happy to not be the embarrassed party, perked up. “Oh, does he now?”

“What are you talking about?” DJ questioned. “Who told you that?”

His mother held up an issue of Scene Magazine. “I saw y’all in a picture from some event.” She flipped through the pages and held up a photo of he and Lexi at the New Year’s Eve gala. Her back was to the camera, showing off the dramatic dip in her dress. She smiled while he whispered in her ear. “You make such an attractive couple,” Pat cooed.


He watched his sister smirk; smelling blood in the water all the way from Raleigh. “So that’s where you came walk-of-shaming from the morning after Thanksgiving. She’s cayuuuuuute, Uncle DJ.”

“Before this gets out of hand,” he started, attempting to re-gain control of the conversation. “She’s not my ‘girlfriend.’ We’re just seeing each other. Nothing as serious as Jay and Zeke’s announcement.”

“Mmmmmhm,” Jordan prodded. “Continuing your streak as a Waste Her Time All-Star, I see.”

It was his turn to glare at her through the screen. He’d heard enough of that shit during his break up with Ayesha.

“Well,” his mother sighed, looking down at the magazine. “She looks lovely. I hope I get to meet her one day.”

Maybe you will. He caught the words before they left his mouth. “We’ll see.”

Zeke, sensing the awkwardness of the moment excused himself from the conversation. DJ decided to do the same before Jordan could drill him any more. “Imma let y’all talk about baby stuff. I have to get to the gym.”

“We’re just gonna talk about how I’m actually the older sibling,” Jordan said, putting on her law school voice. “You know, starting a family while my ‘big’ brother can’t even call a girl his ‘girlfriend.’”

“Bye, Jay.” He smiled at his mother. “Love you, Ma. I’ll talk to y’all later.” After he hung up, he went to the magazine’s website. Sure enough, there they were. Looking like the couple they swore they weren’t. It was only a matter of time before more people hit him up being nosy. Jay was probably the worst of it, he thought. Everyone else would accept “We’re just seeing each other.” Not Tyler. He’d react like Jordan did. But DJ could handle that. No big deal.

No big deal at all.