Chapter 13 First Kiss
With Dominique and Brandon now tagging along, it had become an official double date. They chose to go to Coast, a hip-hop skating rink, about 5 minutes from Manny’s and Brandon’s neighborhood. It was packed. Music, mostly bass, was bumping and big hips guided by roller skates swayed all over the joint, riding the beat. Brothers were right behind them. The smoke cocktail made up of tobacco and marijuana was thick in the air. Lights were dim, aiding the alcohol in making folks look better than they ever did. Khia loved the place on sight. Came in clapping her hands and swaying her arms in the air. Dominique was taking her time warming up to the new scene.
Dominique was a classic Hillary Banks in the looks department. Long bushy curls and yellow skin. She was shorter and thicker tho. Ass and tits for days, however her demeanor, and outfit gave way that she ain’t have the slightest clue of what to do with them. Brandon wasn’t paying attention to neither her demeanor nor her outfit.
“Damn, she righteous!” He whispered to Manny as they headed to a booth in a corner. He was walking slowly behind Dominique rubbing his hands together like a preacher watching his offering plate grow.
Dominique wore a floral bohemian style wrap dress with a denim jacket and tan gladiator sandals. Her toes were perfectly manicured and matched her short neat cream colored nails. The over-sized flowy dress would have swallowed most girls whole but Dominique’s bodacious curves were taking on a life of their own and had taken full possession of the fabric. Her accidental bounce teased the brothers and intimidated the sisters as she squeezed through the crowd to get to their table.
“I’m sorry. Excuse me,” Dominique said about twenty times. Her tone quiet and polite .
Manny stole a quick peak, himself, just so he could know if his boy was exaggerating and being unnecessarily thirsty. He wasn’t. He looked at his own date, who was walking like she had been here before, confident and sexy. Her waist smaller than Dominique’s, ass smaller too but rounder and firmer. Manny licked his lips. Khia must have felt the eyes on her because she looked back at Manny and smiled. He produced a sheepish grin biting down on his bottom lip, making his dimples appear.
Manny and Khia sat next to each other across from Brandon and Dominique.
“Ya’ll wanna order something to drink or eat, or ya’ll wanna get skates or what” Manny asked.
“Ya’ll can skate. I’m trying to get to know Miss Dominique here” Brandon flashed his pearly whites towards Dominque. She eyed him down cautiously. Manny laughed shaking his head. He wondered how his boy was going to catch this one. He usually had no trouble in the fishing department but with Dominque he was going to need to find some new bait.
Khia touched Manny’s hand, “Let’s skate,” she said. Her tone asking but her eyes demanding.
Khia could skate her ass off but Manny was no novice, himself. Aunt El had held a few of his birthday parties at this exact Coast. He grew up knowing a thing or two about dancing on roller skates. Now with Khia next to him, the two of them were looking like a modern-day Soul Train couple while they bumped, twirled and glided from all angles to Beyoncé’s “Hold Up.”
“I see you trying to keep up,” Manny joked. Khia was skating backwards with her hands in Manny’s. opening and closing her legs and moving her torso up and down like a roller coaster. She smiled.
“Yeah, I can do a little something-something,” she responded as her body moved fluidly. She turned around, bent over, dancing up and down and side to side. Manny followed, this time, letting her lead the way.
When the song was over, out of breath, they traded in their skates for their shoes and headed over to the bar. Needing to take a break but still wanting to be alone. Neither of them was old enough to buy alcohol so they ordered sodas, Khia a cherry Coke and Manny a Sprite.
“So, Manny, are you getting home sick yet” Khia asked for the mere sake of small talk.
“Nah.” Manny shook his head.
“You don’t even miss your parents?”
“I don’t have parents” he said, regretting his answer as soon as the words left his mouth. He didn’t want to ruin this moment with his sad ass story.
“Oh, really. You were created through some sort of spontaneous combustion or something, huh.”
Manny laughed then nodded his head, “I have parents. My mom is dead and my father has never been in my life. Never knew the motherfucker.”
“Damn, sorry” Khia said compassionately.
“Don’t be. I’m not” Manny said casually.
“Who raised you?” Khia wanted to know. Her eyes squinted with worry.
“My Aunt El. My mother’s older sister. Only family I have, for real, for real.”
“Not really, it’s some pretty common shit for broke people. You wouldn’t know nothing about that, Miss Moneybags.”
Khia rolled her eyes, then lowered them. “Boy, you don’t know me.”
“Trying to get to,” Manny said, sending the conversation back down a path he was more comfortable with. He softly pulled on one of Khia soft curls, let it go and watched it spring back to her sit at her shoulder.
Khia’s demeanor relaxed back to how it was before she felt judged.
“So what about you?” Manny asked.
“What about me?” Khia asked as if she couldn’t think of one thing exciting to tell about herself in all her eighteen years.
“You always lived in Westerlynne?” Manny asked.
“No, I moved in with my dad last year after he and my mom got divorced,” Khia answered.
Manny was quiet. Thought about saying sorry for her circumstances, but in all honesty, he would have traded anything for the life Khia had. Rich kids had the liberty of being mad at silly shit like parental custody battles while hood kids were just trying to get parents to acknowledge their existence which they themselves had created.
Manny suddenly remembered what he had seen at the welcome party with his own two eyes, behind door number one, and was thankful that Khia wasn’t part of some incest bred family.
“So Yasmine, who your father was looking for at the party, isn’t your mother?” Manny asked nonchalantly, as if the answer was of no importance. He didn’t want to let on that he knew anything of the drama brewing in Khia’s home.
“That bitch is only nine years older than me. Hell nah, she ain’t my mom.” Khia blurted out, her face chopped and screwed worse than the Paul Wall joint playing in the background. Out on the floor a line of skaters moved in sync all leaning to one side.
“Anyway, she’s about as light skinned as Dominique. Her and my daddy couldn’t pull off a cocoa colored dream like me if they tried.” She rubbed both of her hands down her face until they met in a clap at her chin.
“Damn! So, what, she’s like twenty- six, twenty-seven years old?” Manny asked giving Mr. Jameson props for bagging such a PYT.
“Twenty-seven,” Khia answered. Her tone unenthusiastic.
“So, I take it ya’ll don’t get along too well?” Manny asked.
“What makes you say that?” Khia seemed confused and still a little annoyed by the topic of their conversation.
“You addressed her as, that bitch,” Manny reminded her.
“That’s what she is. She was my mom’s friend and assistant before she met my dad. My mother trained her and got her the job with my father. She started working for my father and within months of her working for him, they were telling my mom the good news. I tell you, boy. Bitches ain’t shit.” Khia as starting to sound like the girls from his high school. Her neck rolling, lips smacking, fingers popping and the whole nine.
“Damn, that’s dirty. Your momma whoop her ass, at least?” Manny asked.
“Oh no, my mom is a true woman of class. She’s was born in Ethiopia and only come to America in the 90’s. The way her morals and character are set up,” Khia shook her head, “she would never get caught looking like the women you see on these realty shows.” Khia laughed a little to herself.
Manny stared at Khia. Now he understood why her beauty was so damned mesmerizing. Why her movement so gracious. She was half Ethiopian. Her features were so strong and ethnic, her color so dark and rich. Her eyes twinkled like little diamonds, and that body of hers, just ridiculous!
“Boy, why are you staring at me like that? Are you even listening to me?” Khia’s head was tilted sideways.
“Yes, I’m listening to you,” He took a sip of his Sprite and stared into his cup. “It’s just hard to pay attention because, well, you’re so cold to me, Khia.” Manny surprised himself with his candidness. Did he say that out loud? He looked to see if she had heard him.
Khia blushed earnestly. She put her head down and shook it. When she looked back up, her expression was different. Her eyes were wanting. Manny knew what she was asking for. He took her small hand in his.
“Let’s walk outside for a second,” Manny said. Khia had been tamed. She followed Manny. Hand in hand, they walked passed Brandon and Dominique, who seemed to hitting it off okay. Dominique had switched seats and was sitting across from Brandon, but her eyes were softer than before and her guard seemed to be set aside for the time being.
“Hey B, we gon step outside for some fresh air,” Manny informed Brandon.
“Aight, dawg” Brandon replied, voice drenched in new found puppy love.
Khia and Dominique held a telepathic conversation, using only their eyes, then they both giggled.
Out on the balcony, looking out into the endless night sky, the city was without division. There was no prejudice between poor and rich, black and white, good and evil. The dark had swallowed all that nonsense, leaving only naked truth and real emotion. Soon enough, with the dawning of new day, the biases and stipulations would be regurgitated and come spilling back to plague the minds. Anyone with sense knew better than to take this moment for granted.
A little light shown from a bulb in a faraway corner, played peek a boo with Manny and Khia’s features.
Although she was facing Manny, Khia stared downward and played with ends of her long tank top. Her body was propped on the balcony railings. Manny walked up to her and placed his hands on each side of her body. Khia bit her lip and looked up. The same needy look she had worn before.
“Like I was saying inside,” Manny started, “I’m really feeling you and well…” Manny had no clue on how to get over the bridge. How to get from where he was to where Khia’s eyes were saying she wanted him to be. Khia supplied a hand.
“I like you too, Emmanuel Wright. Thank you for taking me out and showing me the west side,” she blushed and licked her lips.
Manny took one of Khia’s hands and kissed it lightly still staring into her eyes. Asking her, with his own, if it was okay.
Khia adjusted her footing and exhaled softly. Her eyes told Manny that his actions had only made her want more. He kissed her hand again and then pulled her body into his. Khia let out a soft moan. The kiss sent them over the moon. Manny was tasting sunsets in Ethiopia and fine wines from lands he had never visited on Khia’s tongue. Khia was swathed in every hood romance novel she had ever read. Manny was her Midnight. Nothing and nobody else mattered.
Manny and Khia floated back to their table on cloud nine but Brandon and Dominique had fallen under and were looking at each other from beneath a haze. Something had gone awry, and they were no longer feeling each other.
“I’m ready to go,” Dominique said, staring off into nowhere, pushing her pink little mouth to the side.
“What’s wrong girl, what happened?” Khia asked, upset that her girl wasn’t floating on the same cloud as her.
“Somebody needs to teach this little boy some manners,” Dominique spat out, looking at Brandon and then rolling her eyes.
“What little boy you talking about, Bitch?” Brandon said looking at Dominique, as if he really needed her to answer.
“Really, Brandon?” Manny stated more than questioned.
“You know my name. Don’t disrespect me.” She shot back. Her eyebrow letting him know he had one more fucking time. “Ugh, I knew better than to step out with your ghetto, no home training, uneducated, broke ass in the first place,” Dominique was getting loud but Usher’s “No Limit” made sure anyone not standing within three feet of her couldn’t hear it.
Manny could tell that Dominique’s last comment had left Brandon wounded. Shots fired had left his boy’s spirit with a hole in it.
Brandon attempted to shake it off. “Man, fuck her.”
“You need to get your boy.” Khia said to Manny.
Manny looked at Khia, struggling not to slip off the cloud they had floated in on just moments ago. He looked at his childhood homeboy, who was still pretending to not be bleeding from his soul. Brandon chewed at the inside of his mouth, face frowned, leg bouncing under the table.
“Everybody just need to chill out,” Manny replied, trying to play the middleman. The was no respect for the undecided referee. Brandon looked disappointingly at Manny and shook his head. Khia tilted her head and looked at Manny like he was tripping.
“Fuck this. Take me home, now. I have better shit to do than to waste my time on some charity case.” Dominique spewed calmly as if she hadn’t just pulled out a machete and sliced Manny’s ass back to reality.
Dominique’s insults cut Manny deep but they were true. He may have come up on some money but he wasn’t from money like his spoiled date and her bratty ass friend. In Khia’s and Dominique’s eyes, Manny and Brandon were just something to do when they wanted to take a break from the monotony of a life with no problems. Manny wished he had never strayed away from his plan. He was at Westerlynne to do one thing, and like Mrs. Lemon had warned him, just this morning, Khia was not it.
“Yeah, you’re right” Manny said to Dominique, then looking at Khia, he said, “I don’t know what I was thinking either.”
Khia’s eyes fell to the floor. Cloud nine had completely evaporated.
Copyright © 2017 by Aja Brown Crowder