A/N: Sorry this one took so long. I lost my way again writing-wise, and it showed in the chapter I had ready to post back in mid-April of ’17. Between losing my dad and having health problems of my own, I spent an average of five minutes a day on writing. I had good ideas and some not so good ideas when planning this chapter. I made severe changes from the original version that I had posted on another site. This is more well-rounded with more secondary-character interactions. I hope you enjoy it! The progression of the story will become more frequent (hopefully) as the year progresses.
Walking into the house, I hear Ma talking on the phone in the kitchen. Not in any hurry for her reaction to my eye, I hang back and listen.
“Chris is working half days at the office and at-home to help with the packing. I’m working my last two weeks from home, and Skyping in on conference meetings. I’ll only go in if there’s a problem that I can’t fix over the phone,” she pauses. “Yeah, we’ll arrive in Boston on Sunday, not this upcoming Sunday, but the next. The movers are driving the big truck up early that Thursday morning and my cousin’s gonna drive in from New York to help them with the setup. We’ll leave early Sunday morning.” She pauses momentarily. “No, we’re driving a trailer with the more personal and expensive items ourselves. I’ve heard some horror stories about movin’ companies who have moved people long distance. So, I thought it’d be best to have the important stuff with us, just in case we ended up being one of those stories ourselves.” There’s another pause. “The kids don’t start school ’til the following week. So, they’ll have time to rest and adjust.”
Slade suddenly takes my hand and pulls me towards the kitchen. “You gotta face the music sometime, baby.”
Upon reaching the archway, I watch my mother’s smile disappear when she sees me. With a short wave, I greet her. “Hey, Ma.”
She stammers, “Ma-max-ine, honey, I’m gonna have to call you back.” Ending her call, she stands in front of me before I can blink, pulling my head down for a better look. “Aaron, sweetie, what happened? Who did this to you?” My gaze drifts towards Slade. She turns to him and asks, “You did this?”
With an uneasy smile, he replies, “Yes, ma’am.”
Joking, I stand behind her. “Get him, Ma! Give him what for. Don’t let him get away with hurting your precious baby boy.”
She shrugs dismissively. “It’s okay. No harm, no foul.”
“What?!” I exclaim.
Ma turns to me. “Slade gets a pass for clockin’ ya. You’re lucky a black eye is all he gave you.”
I shake my head as they both try to hide their snickers with no real effort. “Wow, I thought you loved me. I guess I was wrong.”
She smiles, but the concern is still in her eyes. “Oh, hush up. All kidding aside, are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine, but I have a headache. The stuff I took isn’t working.”
“How long ago?” she queries.
“About an hour and a half,” I answer, rubbing my right temple.
“Go upstairs, lie down, and I’ll check in on you in a bit. You need to wait a couple more hours before you can take something else. Are you hungry?”
“No, ma’am, not really.”
“Okay. Go on upstairs. You look horrible.”
I mutter, “You’re truly comforting, Ma.”
“I do my best. Go on.” Ma plants a kiss on my cheek turns me around and ushers me from the kitchen when I catch Slade’s eyes.
I turn, put on my best pathetic, exaggerated pout, and bat my eyes. “Can Slade come upstairs too, Mommy?”
She looks at us and sighs, “Yes, but you have to leave your door open, is that understood? You may not be able to give me grandkids, but that doesn’t mean I want you practicing under my roof.”
The heat of embarrassment courses its way throughout my body. Mortified, I groan. “Really, Ma?”
“Inappropriate…definitely, necessary…yes, but you’d be getting the same speech if you were dating a girl.”
“I’m walking away now before you say somethin’ else.” Slade laughs as he follows me upstairs. “You wouldn’t think it was funny if the shoe was on the other foot, Jones.”
He laughs lightly. “You’re right. But since it’s not, it is.”
We enter my room, Slade gasps at only seeing my bed and the television sitting on a crate. “I know it looks and sounds weird in here, doesn’t it?”
He nods sadly. I wrap an arm around his shoulder, bury my nose in his hair, and then kiss his ear. He says, “I could’ve helped.”
“I know, but I didn’t want to put you through it. So, I did it myself while you worked your back-to-back doubles,” I answer, feeling a little nostalgic and sad, as I look around my soon-to-be-former bedroom. We made so many unbelievable memories together in this room.
Suddenly, my vision blurs as my headache pulses, and I stumble into Slade.
“Whoa! Baby, you okay?” he asks, instantly cupping my cheeks in his hands.
Dazed, I close my eyes, cover his hands with mine, and nod. bahis firmaları “Uh, what, yeah. I’m sorry. It’s just this headache has me all messed up.” I open my eyes to see the worry etched in his. I smile. “Hey, Jones, I’m fine. Don’t worry, okay? I’m gonna go use the bathroom.”
“‘Kay, hurry back,” he says warily. “You need to get off your feet and rest.”
“I’ll be right back,” I tell him a departing kiss.
After using the bathroom, I stare at my eye in the mirror. It has gotten uglier in the time it has taken us to drive back. It looks like movie special effects makeup. I didn’t think he hit me hard enough to cause the ugly bruising. The only good thing is the swelling is not as severe as I had expected it to be. I wet a washcloth with cold water, wipe my face and neck before heading back to my room.
I hear the multiple stations Slade’s flipping through and waiting for something to catch his eye. I enter the room, and he’s sitting with his back against the wall with a pillow behind his head. He smiles lovingly at me, and it warms me to my core. Sitting next to him, he wraps an arm around me, turns the TV off, and with a few maneuvers has us lying down with my head on his shoulder. I rest my hand on his chest, which he covers with his, and our legs entwine. He places several kisses on my forehead, raking his fingers lazily through my hair. Content, I sigh and snuggle closer to him. My eyelids get heavier with each stroke of his hand.
Sleepily, I murmur, “I love you so much, Slade.”
As I drift further, I hear him say, “I love you more, baby.”
“Aaron, wake up, sweetie.”
I turn away from the voice trying to awaken me from my slumber. “Go away,” I whine.
Ma’s persistent with the light shaking of my shoulder. “Aaron, c’mon, wake-up,” she whispers.
Peeking from under the sheet with my right eye; I groggily say, “I’m trying to sleep, Ma.”
“I know, but you’ve been sleeping for three hours. I’m checking in to see if you still have a headache.” I nod. Ma hands me two pills with a glass of water. “Here take these. Migraine pills work better sometimes on headaches. This could also be a hunger headache. Have you been eating?”
I take the pills and confess. “Not really. I’ve eaten, but I haven’t had much of an appetite lately. Plus, I missed a couple days of my meds.”
“WHAT?!” Ma exclaims. The force behind it makes me shrink away and grab my head. “Shoot! I’m sorry, Aaron. But you know how important it is to take your pills every single day. Do I have to call Dr. Patel?”
“No, ma’am! I’m fine, Ma. Normally, I’m on top of everything, but this has been a stressful weekend, and I forgot. I’m sorry. Don’t worry. I’ll be back on track tomorrow, and it won’t happen again, okay?”
The disappointment in her eyes is hard to miss, but Ma sighs, “I’ll let it slide this one time. But, if it happens again, I’ll shove the pills down your throat myself, is that understood?”
“Yes, ma’am,” I answered looking around. “Where’s Slade? Is he downstairs?”
She shakes her head slightly. “No, April called an hour ago, and asked him to go over to the house.”
“What? Why?” I bolt up, regretting the joggle, and quickly lie back down. Ma takes the glass from my hand. I can’t hide the panic in my voice. “What about Mr. Jones? He’s home from work right now.”
Ma runs her hand soothingly across my cheek. “Sweetie, breathe. Calm down. She told Terry she wanted to make sure Slade was okay. She also wanted him to be the one to pack up his things instead of Terry throwing them out on the lawn.”
I mutter. “Miss April’s still gonna send him away?” Then a thought occurs to me and my heart begins to race. “Tell me Dad went with him?”
“He did,” she answers, smoothing back my hair.
Relief flows through me, and I relax. “Good. Why didn’t Slade tell me he was leaving?”
“He was gonna, but he couldn’t bring himself to wake you. Said, ‘it’s the most restful sleep you’ve had in a while.'”
Looking at her, I say, “I wish he would’ve at least let me tag along.”
“Sweetie, I don’t think that would’ve been a good idea. You being there would’ve made an already tense situation worse. Slade did the right thing by not taking you. But don’t worry, he’ll be back soon to tell you what happened,” Ma says, kissing my cheek.
“You’re right. You’re right,” I sigh. “I hope she doesn’t hurt him again. He was so upset after their conversation last night.”
“April calling him is a good first step. Hopefully, she does right by him. Okay, I’ll let you go back to sleep, my sweet baby boy,” she says, in her annoying baby voice.
I cringe. “Please, stop! You know I hate it when you talk like that.”
She continues. “Why should I stop when my baby is in bed with a black eye and headache?”
“Ma, go away,” I say, throwing the sheet over my head.
“Fine, I’ll go,” Ma chuckles softly, pulling the sheet down, and kissing my forehead. “Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
Smiling, kaçak iddaa I watch her leave the room before rolling over to go back to sleep.
About two hours later, I awaken to a growling stomach, a sore eye, but my headache’s gone. I hear Slade’s rich voice waft in my room from downstairs. Giddy that he’s back, I quickly change into a pair of basketball shorts and t-shirt and head towards the stairs. When I reach the top step, I see Dad and Slade at the bottom talking. They look up when they hear me walking down.
“Hey, bab-uh, Aa-Aaron,” Slade stammers, looking uncomfortably over at my father.
Dad chuckles softly shaking his head. “Yeah. This is awkward, but we all need to get comfortable with it. No. That’s not true. I need to get comfortable with it. Y’all are a couple, act like it,” he says with sincerity looking at both of us. “I’ll get there. Promise. Okay?”
“Yes, sir,” we answer in unison.
Dad’s attention turns to me as I take the step above him and Slade. “That’s quite the shiner you got going there, kiddo. Some word of advice for next time, d. Don’t just stand there like a sack of potatoes.”
Straight-faced, I say, “Hilarious, Dad. I’m holding my sides from laughing so hard.”
He winks and says, “I am hilarious. I’ll book me a gig at a comedy club when we get to Boston, and become world famous. Soon, everyone will know the name, Christopher Brooks.”
I can’t help rolling my eyes. “Yeah, good luck with that, Dad.” Turning to Slade, I can see that he’d been crying, and I put my hand to his cheek lovingly. “Jones, are you okay?”
“Hold up,” Dad interjects. “Before you get into that, I promised your mama I’d make you eat. She cooked you somethin’. It’s wrapped up on the counter.”
“Where is Ma anyway?” I inquire.
“At the movies with Candy. They should be back soon.” Dad looks at his watch. “Well, I have paperwork I need to finish for tomorrow morning. You go eat. Let me know if you’re gonna go out.”
“Yes, sir,” I answer.
Before he leaves, Slade stops him and holds out his hand. “Thanks again for going with me, Mr. Brooks.”
Dad shakes it firmly with a soft pat on his shoulder. “You’re welcome, Slade. Now, you two go on and enjoy the rest of the night.” He nods, winks at me, and ascends the stairs. The soft click of his bedroom door closing has my attention back to my boyfriend.
Slade rests his forehead against my chest and holds my waist. “You feelin’ better, baby?”
I kiss the top of his head wrapping my arms around him. “Yeah. But, I’m so hungry I can eat a freakin’ horse.”
Slade rises on his toes to kiss my chin and smiles. “Well, let’s get some food in your belly.”
When we walk into the kitchen, I see my food on the counter with a sticky note attached to it. I can’t help smiling when I read:
When you reheat this, don’t overdo it, or you’ll dry it out!
Love, your amazingly beautiful talented mother
Lifting the plastic lid from the plate, I salivate looking at the pile of food.
“Dang! She went all out: chicken fried steak with country gravy, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, and a cheddar jalapeno biscuit. I’m not even gonna heat this up.”
Slade shakes his head. “No. Heat it up. You know how your stomach gets when you eat cold, greasy food. You always feel queasy.”
“Fine,” I say, rolling my eyes and pout. “You’re such a buzzkill.”
“It’s not my fault you have a delicate stomach,” he smirks.
I stick my tongue out at him, place the plate in the microwave, set the timer, and it comes to life. Sitting on the counter, Slade moves to stand between my legs and wraps his arms around me. When I lean forward, he tilts his head back, allowing me to kiss him deeply.
“It’s true what people say about a black eye,” he whispers against my lips when we break apart.
I lean back confused. “Black guy?”
Slade gives me a cute lopsided smile and shakes his head. “No, dummy, not a black guy… a black eye. It makes the person with it look like a sexy badass.”
I sit up straighter. “I am a sexy badass. I lasted a whole two minutes against my boyfriend in the ring today. He’s the one who did this to me,” I say, wiping away a fake tear.
Slade gasps dramatically. “Your boyfriend laid the smack down on you?”
I slide off the counter waving my hands frantically. “Whoa, he didn’t smack anything down on me. I let him win.”
Slade laughs. “Yeah, sure you did.”
Getting serious, I look at him. “Okay, maybe I didn’t let him win, but the black eye is for a good reason.”
He moves in closer. “Is this boyfriend of yours really worth having a black eye?”
I take him in my arms. “He’s worth a million black eyes.”
“He must be pretty special to you,” Slade whispers.
I can feel his heartbeat against my chest when I hold him tighter. “He’s my everything. What can I say? He’s my boo.”
Slade laughs softly pushing me away, and says, “Call me ‘boo’ kaçak bahis again, and I’ll blacken the other eye.”
The microwave beeps before I can respond. I carefully grab the hot plate and take a huge whiff of the aromatic goodness. My stomach growls its approval. “It smells so damn good.”
“It tastes even better. I killed my plate in about five minutes. Your mom knows how to throw down.”
My happy moans of contentment fill the kitchen after I take my first bite. “Hey, boo, can you grab me a can of soda, and the butter please?” I can’t hold back the laughter when I peek out the corner of my good eye and see Slade sneering at me. I quickly change the topic. “How did it go with your mom?”
“I’ll tell you about it after you eat,” he says, walking over to the fridge. He grabs what I asked for placing them in front of me.
“Thanks, honey,” I say happily, and liking the way the endearment sounds coming from my mouthnow and then.
Grabbing the butter, I spread a generous dollop on my biscuit and along the steaming cob with a few dashes of pepper and salt. Even though I’m famished, I take my time to savor the food in front of me. There’s a calmness flowing through me as I sit here with Slade. His hand rests on my knee with his thumb stroking it back and forth.
Once I’m finished eating, I wash my dishes and resume my place in the seat next to Slade. He sits astride my lap, places his hands on the sides of my neck, and tilts my head back. Staring him in the eyes, he clears his throat. “If you don’t start taking better care of yourself, you and me are gonna have a big problem, Aaron.”
“What are you talking about?” I ask, but then it dawns on me. “Ma told you, didn’t she?”
He grips my hair. “Baby, you know you can’t skip taking your meds.”
I roll my eyes. “I know this already.”
I try to stand, but Slade doesn’t let me. He tightens his hold on my hair, and he growls. “Aaron, you promised me that you wouldn’t make me worry about you. I hope that wasn’t a lie.”
I look him in the eyes. “It wasn’t a lie, Slade. It’s only been two days. I’ll take them tomorrow, okay?”
“You’d better not be lying. I’d hate to have to kick your ass again,” Slade says with a fake uppercut to my chin making us both laugh.
I quickly pout and ask, “You still love me?”
“Yeah, I guess so,” he answers with faux exasperation.
Kissing the tip of my nose, his hands glide down to my chest. Palming his firm ass in my hands, I pull him in closer. He leans forward, rubbing his nose against mine, and kisses my chin. My eyes drift to his lips as he licks them and bites the bottom one. He drapes his arms over my shoulders, scoots further up my lap, kissing me deep and hard. Once we part, we stare at each other, and I lose myself in the sapphire-blue of his eyes.
It’s the sound of giggling that ultimately breaks the spell.
We both turn to see Candace standing in the doorway smiling at us. She walks over to the fridge. “Y’all are so lovey-dovey. It’s sickening.”
Slade moves from my lap back to his chair. I quickly pull my shirt down to hide my erection. Slade’s warm hand resting on my upper right thigh doesn’t help the situation, and I suppress a moan by biting my bottom lip. “You have the worst timing ever, squirt.”
Giggling, she replies, “That’s what I’m here for, Aaron, to ruin all yours romantic overtures.”
Candace stands on my left side, gives a two-finger salute, and lightly smacks the back of my head.
“What the hell was that for?” I ask, smoothing back my hair.
She leans in close. Her eyes are intense. She hisses, “You’re lucky I’m not kicking your ass. I overheard Mama and Daddy talking about what you did last night. How could you do something so completely boneheaded? You could’ve been hurt, dumbass!”
Slade’s grip on my thigh tightens, and I give his hand a squeeze. I look in her eyes, silently pleading, and gestures towards Slade. Candace turns her attention to him and sighs, but acknowledges with a slight nod. She sits down and changes the topic. “Mama told me you had a black eye, but this is downright disfigurin’.”
I recoil when she reaches to touch my left eye. “Shut up. It’s not that bad.”
“You should dump him for someone cuter,” Candace says, smiling at Slade.
He breaks into hysterical laughter, “Great minds think alike, ’cause I said the same thing to him.”
They continue to make fun at my expense.
Slade jokes. “He went down like a ton of bricks. You should’ve heard the thud he made.”
“I wish I’d seen it,” she chuckles.
“It was funny seeing my six-foot-tall, a 175-pound boyfriend sprawled out in the ring, ’cause of five-foot-seven, a 155-pound me.”
“Well, hopefully, you knocked some sense into that pea brain of his.”
Bewildered, I stare at them. “Y’all can stop talkin’ about me like I’m not here.”
Slade stands and moves behind Candace covering her mouth. “I’m sorry, baby. We’ll stop. Eeewww! She licked my hand!”
He wipes his hand repeatedly on her shoulder, which only makes her laugh harder.
I howl gleefully at their exchange. “That’s what you get for laughing at me, Jones. Hey, where’s Ma?” I ask, turning to Candace.