Authors: Tracy Brown
Tags: #Fiction, #Anthologies (Multiple Authors), #Urban, #African American
“Nah, no kids. No girlfriend. None of that.”
“You live out
?” she asked, wondering how a guy this perfect had evaded her for so long on Staten Island.
He nodded. “Yeah, I just moved here, though. I’m from the Bronx originally. I’ve only lived out here for like a year. I live over on St. Marks.”
She smiled. St. Marks was just a few blocks from her home. This was all too good to be true. “Really? So, we’re practically neighbors. I live on Jersey Street. But in the houses, not in the projects!” She crossed her legs.
Trey frowned a little at Chloe’s disdain when she’d clarified that she didn’t live in the projects. “Well, I grew up in the projects in the Bronx all my life, sweetheart,” he said. “So it wouldn’t matter to me if you lived in the projects or not. I’m not like that.”
Chloe wished she could eat her words. She hadn’t meant for her statement to sound so demeaning.
“I wasn’t saying it like that,” Chloe backpedaled. “Not at all.”
It wasn’t that she was stuck up. Chloe and her sister, Willow, were the product of a single-parent household. Their mother had raised them on her own after their fathers—Chloe’s a deadbeat from the get-go, and Willow’s a guy who supported her financially but was never around—took off. Rachel Webster constantly reminded her daughters that even though they lived in the hood, they didn’t have to act like hoodrats. She never wanted them to limit themselves. She taught her children that there was no goal outside their reach and that they should
settle for less than the best.
Rachel Webster worked hard at her clerical job at a Midtown Manhattan bank so that she could afford for her daughters the luxuries most girls their age could get only from their drug dealer boyfriends. It was no big thing when guys tried to lavish Chloe and Willow with designer clothes or expensive gifts. They had already been lavished with all of that. Monthly shopping sprees and biweekly hair and nail appointments were the norm for them. Rachel insisted that they look like classy young ladies whenever they went out, monitored their grades like a hawk, and never let them date thug niggas.
Not that she raised her daughters to be bourgeois. In fact, they lived in federally owned housing, so they couldn’t be stuck up even if they wanted to. Granted, they didn’t live in the projects. No pissy elevators or crackheads in the hallway.
Instead, they lived in the “McDonald’s houses” right up the block from Staten Island’s New Brighton projects. They were known as the McDonald’s houses because they resembled the color and shape of a McDonald’s restaurant on the outside. The patch of grass in the front and the two-family town house–style layout made them feel slightly more privileged than their counterparts in the apartment buildings. But it was still Jersey Street, and it was still the hood, no matter how superior they’d convinced themselves they were.
“You live alone?” Trey asked, changing the subject. “Or you got a man?”
“I live with my mother and my younger sister, Willow. She goes to Murry Bergtraum High School. And no, I don’t have a man.” Chloe knew she was telling only half the truth. She was a pretty girl with a nice body, so she had no shortage of male companionship. She was seeing a few different guys, but not any
exclusively. She was a free spirit. The kind of girl whose motto was Life is short, play hard! She was young, single, flirtatious, and was living her life like it was golden.
He nodded. “So you think I can call you, take you out or something?” He licked his lips as he asked her, and Chloe had to fight the urge to pounce on him. All her nervousness faded.
“Sure,” she said, smiling.
Trey pulled out his BlackBerry and programmed her phone
number; then Chloe entered his number into her Sidekick. The announcement came on that the boat was about to dock, and they stood to join the throngs of other passengers preparing to get off the ferry. Chloe adjusted her over-the-shoulder North Face book bag and stood beside Trey. Now that they were standing up, she could see he was maybe six feet tall and very well proportioned. His shoulders were broad, and his walk was strong and sexy. As they exited the boat, they made small talk until they reached the R train station.
Chloe turned to Trey and smiled again. “Don’t wait too long to call me,” she said.
Trey smiled back. “Don’t worry. I won’t,” he assured her.
Chloe skipped down the stairs and boarded her train—just in time. She caught her balance on the speeding train, holding on to the pole. Suddenly Mondays weren’t so bad after all.
Her school day held no surprises. It was business as usual, with Chloe eagerly devouring the knowledge her professors dispensed. She took notes, asked questions, and offered insight in each class and was almost pissed that class had ended just when Professor Burke was getting deep in his Sociology lecture. Chloe loved being a college student and felt smarter with each credit she earned. She liked the luxuries she enjoyed, and she watched how hard her mother had to work in order to provide her children with those things.
Rachel Webster always reminded her daughters that a college degree was the difference between the meager wages she received as a bank teller and the six-figure salary her boss pulled down. She drilled it into her daughters’ heads that ignorance,
men, babies, marriage—those were things that weighed a woman down. She told them that children were a blessing, but only
you’ve lived a little yourself.
Chloe didn’t care to be burdened with any kids or responsibilities at this point in her life. Instead she wanted to stay focused, get educated, and live a fulfilling life. She didn’t want to fall in love. She’d had one serious boyfriend when she was in high school. He broke her heart during her senior year by cheating on her with one of her biggest haters.
Because of their doting mother, who stressed education and the dance classes Chloe and her sister took after school two days a week—while most of her peers came from homes where these things weren’t priorities—Chloe was hated on by most of the girls she knew. When she was in high school, many times girls from around the way had hissed that she was a “prissy bitch” as she walked by or picked fights with her purely out of jealousy.
Chloe was pretty, built like a brick house, smart, and she caught the attention of males wherever she went. She was also picky about which boys she gave her attention to, and most often ignored the advances of boys most girls were swooning over. Chloe was not interested in guys with no future, no potential. She could look at a boy and size him up after only a few seconds of conversation. If there didn’t appear to be potential, Chloe would move on. Her refusal to entertain the advances of most guys only made her more coveted by them. Every guy wanted to be the first to hit it. Most girls hated her for this popularity, and the slights only drove Chloe to be better than
ever. It drove her to succeed in school, always look her very best, and try her hardest to be the envy of all those bitches.
She had only two females whom she considered true friends. Dawn and Kim were like sisters to her, and the three of them were always the center of male attention and usually the target of female envy.
During senior year, Chloe had been going out with the captain of the football team—Daniel Grand. She really gave her heart to Daniel and had been devastated when she learned that he had slept with Nikki Means—the girl who hated on her the most and who also tried the hardest to be like her. Chloe was crushed, more out of embarrassment and anger that he had cheated on her with
—the same pimple-faced no-flavor-having chick who taunted her and dissed her under her breath whenever she walked by in the hallway.
After their breakup, Chloe had spent only three days crying and listening to sad songs in her room. It was enough to show her that she never wanted to feel brokenhearted again. Her mother had consoled her, told her that everything would be fine given some time, that soon she wouldn’t hurt so much, and that she didn’t ever need any guy to make her feel special.
“Your name is Chloe Webster. If you want that to mean something,
have to make it mean something. Go out there and make your mark in the world. Nobody’s gonna make it for you.” Her mother had smiled at her, stroked her hair. “Don’t waste your tears on idiots. When a good guy sees that you’re about your business, that you have it together and you’re independent, he will fall at your feet.”
That had been Chloe’s mantra ever since. She thought about her mother’s advice as she passed the Aldo shoe store on her way to the train station. If she was gonna have dudes falling at her feet, she just oughta have some hot shoes. She knew that the debit card her mother had given her was supposed to be for emergencies only. But the honey-colored shoes with the stacked heel in the window were calling her.
She didn’t resist them, and after she went inside, she thought of Willow. She picked out a cute little purse for her sister and charged that as well. Chloe loved her younger sister and always looked out for her. Even though her family was far from rich, Chloe often fantasized about living the life of the rich and powerful. She wanted to have enough money to shop whenever she felt like it, wanted the chicks from high school to see her and hate even harder than they had before. It was the three Webster women against the world, in Chloe’s mind. She had plans to run her own media conglomerate someday—TV, print, radio, the whole nine. She was determined to be the next Oprah, just more stylish. Chloe wanted nothing more than to be That Bitch—the woman all the guys wanted and all the women envied. She wanted to be the Beyoncé to the next Jay-Z.
Chloe walked to the train station with a gentle sway in her hips that had the fellas calling out to her at each step. She smiled, feeling like she had the world eating out of the palm of her hand.
The next morning, as she ran for the boat once again, Chloe thought about her encounter with Trey the day before. She was pleased that he hadn’t called her yet. She hated meeting a guy
only to have him call the same day. It made them seem eager or desperate. Chloe enjoyed the thrill of the chase. The fact that he hadn’t rushed to call her was a plus.
As usual she barely caught the boat. She huffed and puffed, out of breath from her sprint down the ramp, and headed for the same seat she’d occupied the previous day. She was pleased to find Trey there once again.
Chloe smiled, tried to catch her breath faster than she had the day before. “So up until yesterday, I never saw you before. Now I see you two days in a row. Must be my lucky week.”
Trey smiled back. “I see you’ve been running again,” he observed.
She laughed and so did he. “I’m always late,” she said. “I gotta work on that.”
Trey shrugged his shoulders. “We all have our faults.” He handed her a folded newspaper and watched her face light up.
“You got me the
?” she asked, grinning from ear to ear.
He smiled. “Yeah. You said you never have time to get it in the morning so I figured I’d pick it up for you.”
Chloe could not stop smiling. “That’s so sweet! Thank you.” She loved the fact that he had obviously been listening closely to her during their conversation yesterday. It was nice to see that a man as fine as this one could also be so attentive. Her cheeks burned from smiling so hard. She was thinking that if she could get him to buy her a newspaper from one conversation, there was no telling what else she could get him to buy for her while attempting to woo her.
Chloe believed that all men were ultimately after one thing only—sex. She knew that’s what had crossed Trey’s mind the second she’d first sauntered in his direction in her painted-on jeans. She was no fool and wasn’t blinded by a few kind words and thoughtful gestures. She wondered how soon he thought that surprising her with newspapers would net him some ass. Little did he know, Chloe’s sole intention at that point was to flirt with him enough to bleed his transit paycheck dry.
Just as they’d done the day before, the two of them talked during the half-hour boat ride to Lower Manhattan and got to know each other a little better. Trey hung on her every word as she told him about an assignment she had to do for her creative writing class. She asked him about his own course load, but Trey seemed more interested in her than in talking about himself. How refreshing. Chloe had become accustomed to guys who were so self-involved that it was tough to get them to listen to the things that were important to her. Trey was different, and she was definitely feeling that!
By the time the boat docked, they had established a tentative courtship. When they parted ways at the train station, Trey watched her walk down the stairs to her train, and then he smiled. Chloe was definitely the kind of girl he could see himself with. She turned and smiled at him before she disappeared into the crowd. She was fantasizing about a shopping spree on Trey’s payday, and that put a spring in her step.
o, what the fuck is his problem?” Kim asked, her face twisted in a disgusted grimace. She slammed her cell phone shut and tossed it into her fake Gucci bag.
“I don’t know why you keep answering when he calls you!” Chloe chastised.
Kim’s boyfriend, Chris, was blowing up her phone and cursing her out over and over. Each time she answered, he asked some rhetorical question like, “You think you’re smarter than me, huh?” Then he’d launch into a verbal assault, and Kim would hang up on him.
This had been going on for close to an hour, and both Chloe and their mutual friend Dawn were fed up with the bullshit.
Kim rolled her eyes. “That nigga’s just mad ’cause I found out about him and Lynn. That filthy, nasty bitch!”
While there was a break in Chris’s phone calls, Dawn decided to try once again to get the whole story.
“So explain this to me from the beginning,” she said. “You went through Chris’s cell phone?”
Kim nodded, lit a Newport, and exhaled the smoke. “Yeah. And I saw all these messages from her about how she wants him to go down on her, and she can’t wait to suck his dick—”