“Are you going to get that Donte?” Nyla was on her way out the office door when her boyfriend’s cell went off.
“No, it can wait,” he says. Nyla walks over and takes his cell, seeing Kia’s name flashing on the screen. “What if something is wrong with Kai?” she asks. “You need to answer the phone when your child’s mother calls Donte.”
Donte knows Nyla is pissed because she keeps saying his name. With a sigh, he moves to answer the call. “Put it on speaker,” demands Nyla, crossing her arms. Shaking his head he hits the answer button and presses speaker.
“What’s up Kia? I’ll be there by 6 to get Kia,” he says.
“Oh, that’s fine,” says Kia, “but that’s not why I called.” She pauses, “I was thinking you could come by before Kai gets home so we could spend some time together. We really need to talk about last week––I could tell you wanted to be with me and you know that’s what I want too.”
At this point Nyla is bright red and visibly shaking. Donte looks caught. Shaking his head he mouths the words “nothing happened” to his girl. Nyla mouths back “answer the question.”
“Kia, I’m not sure why you went there last week. You know I’m in a relationship and that, along with this conversation, is disrespectful,” he replies. Kia laughs lightly, “You and I know that bougie broad you moved into your house is not for you. You even said she was too book smart, with no street smarts. And the fact that you had trouble leaving my room proves that you ain’t in love.”
Nyla looks at Donte and turns to leave. “Wait!” he yells. “Kia, you’re wrong,” he says before ending the call and running to catch Nyla. “Baby, nothing happened, let me explain,” he says, catching her at the elevator.
Nyla looks at Donte, refusing to cry in front of him or in her place of business. “I will not talk about this here,” she says. “Whatever’s been going down is at best inappropriate, and I don’t want to show these people up in here how ‘street’ I can get.” She gets on the elevator and Donte knows not to follow.
Lynda walks into her room in her college campus apartment and collapses on the bed. She looks at the clock; it’s nearly 5 a.m. “Ugh,” she moans as rolls over and flips open her laptop. “Yep. That blank page is still blank,” she says to herself. She touches the stethoscope around her neck and smiles. “I guess it was worth it.”
As much as she enjoyed last night, it left her more confused than ever. Dylan had candles lit when she got to his place, chocolate covered strawberries and her favorite wine––white zinfandel. It was like something out of a movie, and when he gave her the engraved stethoscope, she was honestly shocked. He had been so sweet last night, but last week he hadn’t called her or even replied to a text message. She was thoroughly confused and that usually meant a call to Nyla. But it was so early. “Tracie’s probably up painting,” she says, dialing the number.
She was right, Tracie answered on the second ring, Tupac blasting in the background. “Who died?” she asks, turning down the music.
“No one,” replies Lynda. “I just need to bounce something off of you.”
Tracie puts her brush in the water cup. “And you just knew I’d be up at 5 a.m., huh?” she asks.
Lynda smiles: she knows her girl. “You like painting as the sun comes up. I bet you’re half through some new masterpiece and a pot of coffee by now.“
Tracie puts her coffee cup down and looks at the painting on her easel, a half done portrait of Tyler. “You don’t know me,” she says laughing. “What’s going on?”
“Ha, I know you too well. What I don’t know is why men do what they do,” replies Lynda. Tracie laughs again and settles into her oversized chair. She knows this could take a while. “Well, I’ll try to be of some assistance, like I know more than you!” she says.
Tracie is listening to her girl talk about her night with Dylan, when Tyler walks in from the family room where they had both fallen asleep watching movies the night before. He takes her coffee cup from her hands and sits on the arm of her chair.
"Who are you talking to?” he asks. Tracie mouths “Lynda” and he gets up, figuring they are talking about him, Dylan or both. As he turns to head back to the couch he just left, he sees Tracie’s painting.
“Wow,” he says out loud. Tracie, a little embarrassed, as she hates for people to see her work unfinished––especially something this personal––moves to cover the canvas. “It’s not done,” she says softly.
He stops her, kisses her forehead and tells her, “It’s perfect” before walking out the room.
“Hello!” yells Lynda on the other end of the phone. “You there?” Tracie snaps back to the call. “Yeah, sorry about that. Continue.”
“That’s it. What do you think? Why would he avoid me all of last week and then buy me an expensive gift and all that this week?” she asks.
Tracie sits back in the chair. “I don’t know baby,” she says. “They do that stuff. But it sounds like last week he had something else going on that he didn’t want you around for …. And this week he wanted you around.”
Lynda sighs, “But why? If you didn’t want me around last week, what changed this week?”
Tracie shakes her head, trying to be as thoughtful as possible. “Because he knows he can see you when he wants to. It sounds like he may actually like you, but he’s still got other things going on, which I think you know already.”
“You mean other women when you say 'things,' right?” she asks. “I know that, we're just kicking it, but last night was so nice. Like, maybe he wants something more.”
“I think you want something more," says Tracie. “And I won’t tell you that’s crazy, clearly, I can’t,” she says, glancing at her painting again. “Only you can decide if this is something you want to pursue, and if it’s something you really think he may want. Just be careful. He doesn’t have the best track record.”
Lynda replies with “I know,” before suggesting a girl’s night. “I need a white zin night with you and mama,” she says. “Tomorrow?”
“That works for me,” says Tracie. “I’ll check with Nyla and hit you back later.”
After they hang up, Tracie heads into the family room where Tyler is watching Looney Tunes. “Really?” she asks, laughing.
“What? Babs is mad hot!” he replies.
“Uh huh,” says Tracie, sitting next to him. “So, I inspired you to paint at 5 a.m. after a night of conversation and movies,” he says. “I wonder what our first night together will inspire.”
If she were not a brown girl, Tracie’s cheeks would be bright red. “Who said anything about a night of that kind of togetherness?”
“Right, right. Who said?”
-Photography by GMO Photo Editor Billy Montgomery.