Authors: Tracy Brown
Tags: #Fiction, #Anthologies (Multiple Authors), #Urban, #African American
“Yeah, Trey!” Willow could hardly get the words out, she was so anxious. “I saw him today. Did he tell you?”
Chloe set her backpack down and sat on her bed. “No. I just had dinner with him, and he didn’t mention anything about you. Where did you see him?” Chloe backtracked in her mind and thought about her conversation with Trey over dinner. She tried to recall if he had mentioned Willow at all, but he hadn’t. She was certain of that. In fact, most of their conversation had centered around Trey asking her for details of how her day had gone at school. That had been difficult for her to answer, since she didn’t actually go to school today. Chloe had skipped class and spent the day holed up in a hotel room in Midtown with Jason. It was a great day of one earth-shattering orgasm after another, and Chloe still glowed from the sex. She had pried herself out of Jason’s arms just to meet Trey at Mr. Chow’s in time for their reservation. When he’d pressed her for details of her day, she had to think on her feet and make up a bunch of stuff on the spot. And when Trey stared at her in silence, her guilt caused her to wonder if he was onto her. But he wasn’t,
and the night had gone smoothly after that. She was certain he’d made no mention of running into Willow.
“I saw him on the boat. I walked over to him and said hi. But he didn’t say a single word to me. He just stood there, staring at me like he’d never met me before. At first I didn’t think it was him. But I kept looking at him, and I
it was. I know it was him. I waited for him to get off the ferry, but he didn’t. He just sat there like he was riding it back and forth to Manhattan or something. And the whole time, he just kept staring at me.” Willow was talking a mile a minute.
Chloe frowned. “Really?”
“I’m telling you it was him, Chloe. And I told him who I was, thinking that he must not recognize me. He ignored me and just stared at me. He had on a pair of black jeans, a Rocawear jacket, and some black sneakers. But he didn’t have a book bag. Does he usually carry one?”
Chloe mulled it over. Willow had described Trey’s outfit perfectly. And it was true: he wasn’t carrying a backpack. In fact, now she tried to recall if she had ever seen him carry any books since the day she met him. She shook her head and dialed Trey’s number. “Hey,” she said when he answered on the first ring. “Did you see my sister today on the ferry?”
Willow listened as her sister questioned Trey. When Chloe hung up, she could hardly wait to ask her, “What did he say?”
Chloe shrugged. “He said that you must be mistaken. He said he didn’t see you and he wasn’t even on the boat this afternoon. His last class is at five o’clock on Wednesdays, so it couldn’t have been him.” Chloe stood up and pinched Willow’s
chubby cheeks. “You’re just being too suspicious, Nancy Drew.” Chloe went to use the bathroom, leaving Willow sitting speechless in her wake.
No matter what Trey said or what Chloe believed, Willow knew it was Trey she’d seen that day. And the thought of his icy stare sent chills down her spine.
ver the next several weeks, Trey ran into Chloe in a number of places. He saw her at the mall while she was shopping with her friends, and he bought them all lunch before leaving them to continue their shopping spree. Of course, he peeled off a couple of large bills for Chloe before he left. Her friends loved him!
Kim was still going out with sorry-ass Chris, and nothing had changed. He was up to his usual bullshit. Seeing the way Trey doted on Chloe made Kim realize just how sad her relationship with Chris was. Trey was the perfect gentleman, and
Kim and Dawn had finally seen why Chloe was always bragging about him.
“You really like him, huh?” Kim asked as they looked at fake designer sunglasses.
Chloe smiled. “Yeah. I do.” She stared off in space, thinking about him.
“So what about Jason?” Dawn asked. “How come you’re still messing with him if you’re so crazy about Trey.”
“Jason is familiar. He gives me good sex and good conversation. That’s why I keep him around.”
“You’re still not having sex with Trey?” Kim asked incredulously.
Chloe shook her head. “Nope. Not till I’m ready.”
Kim made a face and wondered how long Chloe’s luck would hold up with a guy like that.
Trey later ran into Chloe at the supermarket when she was out with her mother. He’d shopped along with Chloe and Rachel and helped them load the groceries into their car before he went home himself. Chloe had been happy to see him and was even happier that Willow opted not to go shopping with them that afternoon. Willow was still convinced that Trey had given her the cold shoulder, despite Chloe’s assurance that it wasn’t him. Rachel still had her doubts about Trey as well. But Chloe believed their insistence that Trey was nothing but trouble was just a case of the green-eyed monster rearing its ugly head. Chloe knew she had chosen the perfect gentleman.
Trey even ran into Chloe at the bodega on Jersey Street one day, and she was surprised to see him.
“Hey,” she said. “I didn’t expect to see you here. Don’t you have class this afternoon?” It was a Tuesday, and Chloe’s one class had been canceled for the day.
“I was tired this morning, so I didn’t get up when my alarm clock went off.” Trey paid for his Sprite, and together they walked out of the store.
For a brief moment, Chloe wondered why Trey was at this particular store, since there was one much closer to his house. She wondered if he was coming from seeing another girl, and she was pissed. But then Trey said, “I’m glad I ran into you. I have a surprise for you.”
She beamed and forgot all about her suspicions. “You do?”
“Yeah.” Trey opened the passenger-side door of his white Camry for her, and she climbed inside. He got in the driver’s seat and smiled at her. “Wanna go to the movies? I don’t know if you had plans for this afternoon, but I want to see that new Tyler Perry joint.”
“Sure,” she said impatiently. “Now, where’s my surprise?”
Trey laughed and kissed her. Chloe’s enthusiasm was visible. “It’s in the backseat.”
Chloe saw a box in the backseat and reached for it before she even buckled her seat belt. She tore at the box and then quickly moved the tissue paper aside to reveal the same pale yellow sweater Trey had pointed out in the store window days ago. She tried to hide her disappointment. “Thank you!” she said, feigning excitement. “That was so nice of you!” But she was really thinking,
What a fuckin loser! I don’t even like this ugly shit. Shows how much he listens.
Trey smiled. He couldn’t wait to see her wearing it. “Ready to see the movie?” he asked.
Chloe pretended she was thrilled. “Yup!” she plastered an Oscar-worthy smile on her face and tossed the wretched sweater in the backseat.
She noticed Trey’s cell phone kept vibrating, but that he never answered it. She felt another unexpected twinge of jealousy as she wondered whether another woman was calling him. Chloe was still seeing Jason on the low, so she really had no right to be upset.
Still, as the phone vibrated for the third time in twenty minutes and Trey continued to ignore it, Chloe turned and looked at him. “Who’s that you’re ignoring? Your other girlfriend?”
Trey took his eyes off the road briefly and glanced at her before returning his attention to the traffic. He was honored to see Chloe so obviously jealous. And had she just implied that he was her boyfriend? Trey liked the sound of that.
“Nah,” he said, setting his phone down. “It’s my job calling me, trying to get me to come in and do a double shift. I don’t feel like going into work early, so I’m ignoring them.” He saw a gas station and decided to stop and fill up his tank.
Chloe nodded, feeling slightly silly. As they pulled into the gas station, she admitted to herself that Trey’s explanation sounded perfectly logical. He climbed out of the car to go and pay for his gas, leaving his cell phone lying invitingly on the driver’s seat. Chloe figured she should trust what Trey had told her, since he had never given her reason to doubt him. Just to be sure—and as usual, being slow to trust a man—Chloe slyly
reached for Trey’s phone and looked at the list of missed calls. Seven missed calls from
Chloe was confused. Why would he lie about his job calling him, when it was really his mother? His mother . . . Chloe had never heard him mention his mother before. She tried to recall if Trey had ever talked at length about his family. She couldn’t think of one instance when he had divulged much about his family, his friends, or anything personal. Chloe realized for the first time that she had been so caught up in what a great listener Trey was that she never noticed how little he spoke about himself. She decided to ask him about the phone calls from “Mom” when he got back in the car.
Meanwhile, Trey finished paying the Arab guy behind the counter for his gas and a bottle of water. But he was preoccupied as he did so, thinking about the phone calls he’d been ignoring for days now. Why couldn’t everyone just leave him the fuck alone?
As he stepped out and headed toward the pump where his car was parked, Trey yawned. He was exhausted after spending yet another late night sitting up, watching videotapes. As he stepped off the curb, a Nissan came to a screeching halt just inches from hitting him. His heart racing, he realized how close the woman had come to running him down. Scowling at the driver, he took a deep breath and told himself not to overreact. She hadn’t hit him, so no harm, no foul.
The woman behind the wheel couldn’t believe this idiot had the nerve to give her a dirty look. She stuck her middle finger up at him and yelled out her open window, “Move out of the fucking way before you get yourself killed!”
Trey erupted in rage. “You stupid bitch! You should watch where the fuck you’re going!” He charged over and kicked her car, then reached through the open window as if to grab the horrified woman. The entire time, he cursed her out viciously. The gas station attendant came running over and pulled Trey away from the driver, who had shrunk to the passenger side of her own car to get away from the raving black man.
The attendant tried to calm Trey. “Calm down! It’s okay.”
Trey was pumped and ready for battle. His chest was heaving and his muscles bulged. “That crazy bitch almost ran me down!”
“I saw it, my friend. I saw the whole thing! She was wrong. Just go. It is not worth it!”
The woman sped off, checking her rearview to make sure that crazy nigga wasn’t following her. Trey stood in her wake, furious, his chest heaving. He walked over to his car and pumped his gas as Chloe sat petrified in the passenger seat. Once he’d pumped his gas, Trey climbed back into the car and started it.
Chloe looked over at him. He was sweating, and the vein was throbbing in his temple again. She could tell he was pissed off. “What happened?” she asked, now too distracted to even question him about the mysterious calls.
Trey didn’t answer her. Instead, he shook his head, turned up the music, and peeled out of there.
Chloe sat in her anthropology class and text-messaged Jason for the hundredth time. She hadn’t seen him in weeks, and he
wasn’t returning any of her phone calls. She didn’t want to just pop up over his house, because their relationship wasn’t like that. It wasn’t like he was her man or anything. Still, Jason had never ignored her phone calls, text messages, and voice mails until now. She wondered what had made him switch up so suddenly. Then she shrugged it off.
she thought. At least she still had Trey to keep her occupied.
Weeks had passed since the incident at the gas station, and Trey had done everything he could to show Chloe he wasn’t a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. He hated the fact that she had seen him lose his cool, and he assured her that the behavior she’d witnessed wasn’t typical of him. Chloe told him that she understood, that everyone gets angry sometimes. But just to be on the safe side, Trey lavished her with more gifts and more attention than ever before. And Chloe was loving every minute of it.
One day, as Trey drove her to the library, he looked over at her and sized up her outfit. She wore a pair of denim capris that were so tight, he wondered how she had gotten into them. And her T-shirt looked like it was sized for a preschooler. “Why don’t you ever wear the sweater I bought for you?” he asked.
“Oh,” she said, caught off guard. “It doesn’t fit. Too big. I gave it to Willow.”
She noticed that Trey gripped the wheel a little tighter. Still, he said nothing. Figuring she was coming across as an ungrateful bitch, Chloe changed the subject and talked about all the compliments she was getting from the girls at school on the Coach bag he’d bought for her. She knew she would never wear that
ugly-ass sweater, no matter how it hurt Trey’s feelings. With all the other countless articles of clothing he’d bought for her, why did that damn sweater matter so much, anyway?
The following month, Rachel Webster warned her daughter again that she was letting Trey spend too much money on her. She liked Trey, but was wondering whether her daughter was in fact leading the generous young man on.
“Chloe, be careful, I’m telling you. You let a guy spend this much time with you and money on you, and they start to feel like they own you. Trey’s a nice guy and I don’t think he’s like that. But I want you to be sure that you’re not leading him on and taking advantage of his generosity. Playing with people’s emotions can be dangerous. Especially because you two have been seeing each other for only a few months.”
“Ma, I’m a grown woman. I can take care of myself.” Chloe hated when her mother acted like she was still a kid. Rachel should be saving all her lectures for Willow, who was still young, naive, and impressionable. Chloe was anything but.
“I know you can take care of yourself, Missy. I’m just making sure that you’re not getting caught up.”
“I’m not,” Chloe said simply. “But thanks for your concern.” She grabbed her new Bebe handbag and headed out for a day in the park with her two dearest friends.
Dawn and Kim were sitting in Mahoney Park on their usual bench. It was a beautiful and sunny May day, and the girls were eager to show off their new gear. School was officially out, and
that meant lazy hot summer days ahead. Dawn waved at her friend as she approached. Chloe walked over to where they sat and smiled brightly as she greeted them.