My only salvation from the shit me and Desiree were doing was my monthly visits to this cafÃ© located down the street from my aunt's house. I always squeezed an extra twenty out of my stash that went to my aunt and to Daddy's rent at the home, to allow myself something sweet from there. Sweet Tooth CafÃ© had the best desserts I'd ever had, and they weren't cheap. I only stopped by there once a month, my time of the month, when I had some serious cravings for something sweet. Usually I got their strawberry shortcake or their chocolate pound cake.
I glanced inside the cafÃ©. It was empty, except for an older woman sipping coffee. It was still early out, which explained why it was so empty in there. And now was as good a time as any to chew on something sweet to get my mind off my uncle.
I walked in and stared at all the desserts displayed in the glass. Even though my ass always got the same thing, I still looked at all the other desserts. There was cheesecake, strawberry and blueberry, lemon custard, something called soufflÃ©, apple strudel, chocolate mousse, and some other shit I couldn't pronounce.
“I'll be with you in just a second.”
I jumped and turned to catch the person behind the voice. When I did, I wanted to run the fuck out of the cafÃ©, despite how much I wanted something sweet and knowing nothing could give me the fix Sweet Tooth CafÃ© could.
It was Caesar, the dude from the strip club, the one who came in for his birthday. He must have not seen me or recognized me at first, 'cause he was balancing two plastic bags along with a box. He rushed behind the counter to sit the stuff down, and when he finally looked up and got a good look at my face, he stuttered and bumped into the counter.
I laughed, my embarrassment gone, and shook my head. “You know what,” I started, “I'll go somewhere else.” I regretted the shit even as I said it. This was the only real fucking luxury I had in my life, and I didn't want to give it up. Come to think of it, I had never seen him there before anyway.
I turned to leave when his voice stopped me.
“No, don't,” he said. “I don't want you to leave, and I'm okay with you being here, if you're okay with it.”
I smiled, showing him that I definitely was, and he smiled back, making me wanna blush. He was so damn cute. Why couldn't I have met his ass under different circumstances? Like on my way from school, at a dance, the movies, maybe the park, anywhere but the fucking strip club.
“What would you like?”
I stared at all the yummy desserts then I laughed at myself.
Confused, he smiled at me again. “What are you laughing at?”
“I have the same problem every time I come here. I can't make up my mind between the strawberry shortcake or the chocolate pound cake.”
He chuckled in a sexy way that rolled off his tongue.
I giggled happily when he made the choice for me. He handed me a slice of both on a tray and said, “The only catch is thisâCashmere, right?”
My smile dropped.
? I thought he was just going to be cool, just on GP. The last time a nigga had a “catch,” he had his dick out in front of me and my sister. He didn't get shit, except an ass-whipping, and this nigga wasn't getting shit from me either.
I shoved the tray away. “Forget it.”
He narrowed his eyes, confused, not quite knowing how to respond. I didn't wait for him to. I slid off the stool and rushed out of the cafÃ©.
I was half a block from the cafÃ©, when I heard him calling my name and chasing after me with a bag in his hand. I heard his feet hitting the pavement behind me. “Stop!” He reached for my shoulder.
I spun around with my fist. “Boy, you done lost your damn mind. When did I say you could touch me?”
Caesar held his hands up in surrender. “Sorry. I didn't mean to disrespect you.”
I grimaced. “What do you want? I got shit to do.”
“I just wanted to apologize for whatever I said to offend you, but, before I do, I want to know what I did wrong.”
“What you did?” I got all up in his face. “Muthafucka, I may be a damn stripper, but I'm not a ho. And you just treated me like one, a cheap one at that, trying to pimp me for some damn cake!”
His eyes widened, and his voice went up an octave. “How did I do that?”
I mimicked what he said about “catch.”
“I didn't”âhe shook his head. “Look, Cashmere, all I was going to say was, if you sit and keep me company while I stock the shelves. I wasn't trying to get you to sleep with me.”
I was considering what he was saying, but even as I did, I wouldn't stop frowning at him, even though silently I admitted to myself that I looked like a damn fool because what I was thinking wasn't what he meant at all. Still I wasn't just going to make it easy.
I crossed my arms underneath my chest. “Check this out, whatever your name is. I'm young but, homie, I'm not dumb. Why in the hell would you want me, the girl that just the other day had her young, damn-near-naked ass all up in your face, to sit and keep you company?”
He gripped his chin in his hand, trying not to blush at what I just said. “ 'Cause I never wanted you out of my face. I looked for you after you rushed out that night, and, Cashmere, it has nothing to do with sex, I swear.”
I smiled at that but, just as quickly, put my game face back on by frowning. “How you know my name?” I couldn't think of anything else to say.
Caesar chuckled, keeping his eyes on mine. “Because you told me your name that night.”
Most niggas forgot my name the moment I dropped my clothes. I was called everything from bitch, ho, trick, wifey, baby, boo, even Glennisha, Shaquida, Diana, Maria, Kimberly, Becky, but never ever by my name. Even if I danced for a dude on more than one occasion, which I have, it never failed; they always forgot my damn name.
Since I had given this dude such a hard time, I cracked a small smile at him 'cause the look in his eyes was different when he looked at me. Why was his different? Maybe he didn't see me like I feared he would, like a cheap stripper, or worse, a ho. Maybe he saw me like I was just a regular person.
“So that's what you chased me down the street for?âNo. Thank you for chasing me down the street.” My smile grew longer and seemed to make him smile too. My eyes locked with his, and I couldn't, for some reason, drop them.
“You're welcome. I also came to give you this, for the inconvenience, free of charge and obligation. I mean that.” He handed me the bag he was carrying.
Inside it had a huge slice of strawberry shortcake and a piece of pound cake. I laughed. I turned to go but noticed he made no moves to walk away, so I paused and looked back at him.
“Can I walk you back home? I mean, if you feel comfortable with it, just to make sure you make it there safely.”
“Are you propositioning me now?”
“You telling me the truth?” I kept my gaze on his, one hand on my hip.
He shoved his hands in the pockets of his baggy jeans. “Yes.”
I nodded. “Then come on.”
After a small moment of silence, he asked,” Do you come to the restaurant a lot?”
“Not too often. Just when I have a sweet tooth. And, come to think of it, I never saw you there before.”
“My parents just bought the place a couple weeks ago. It's a little project I'm taking on. I made a bet with my mom that if I can run the cafÃ© successfully and stay within the budget, I could pick what college I attend.”
“Damn! Y'all got money to burn like that?”
“It ain't mine, girl.”
I laughed. He had a very proper voice and speech, like he wasn't from around here, and it sounded cute when slang slipped out of his mouth.
“How about you? What does your family do?”
I stiffened. “I don't live with my mom and dad. I stay with my aunt. I know my uncle don't do shit, and all my aunt does is cook.”
“At a restaurant.”
“No. So the bitch can eat.”
He laughed hard as hell when I said that. Maybe he thought I was playing.
The next day my Uncle Byron cornered me. So much for thinking that he would cut me some damn slack. I was in the kitchen making myself a bowl of cereal. I felt something hit me in my ass then heard it fall to the floor. I looked down and saw a crumpled dollar bill then some size ten Velcro tennis shoes. I turned my back on him like he wasn't shit and poured the milk in my bowl and sat the milk down on the counter.
I spooned a spoonful in my mouth and chewed on my corn flakes but I had a hard time swallowing them when he stood behind me so close that his pot-gut and dick were rubbing up against me.
I took a deep breath and tried to slide past him. He wasn't having it. He blocked me between the sink and the fridge. Before I could protest he was sliding his finger up and down the crack of my ass.
“You like that, baby?” He had his hands on both sides of my face on the wall blocking me in. His tongue licked my ear lobe.
I sighed wanting to throw up. But I knew I was overpowered so I had to play it cool.
I yelled my sister's name as loud as I could, then my aunt's.
“They ain't here.”
My heart started to beat faster.
He grabbed one of my titties. “You like this, huh? Ain't this what you was getting paid to do at the strip joint?”
“No, you ugly muthafucka!”
He placed a hand over my mouth, muffling my words, and continued talking while gripping both my hands in his free hand. “If wish I had known that this is all it would take to get that young, hot pussy of yours,
,” he drawled.
I struggled against him and turned around to face him. He allowed me to and removed his hands from my mouth.
“Please get off of me.”
“Hell no, I paid for this.”
I spit the chewed-up corn flake in his face.
That pissed him off. He grabbed me and slammed my back into the fridge. I whimpered and felt tears shoot from my eyes at the pain, but I ignored it and struggled against him. He wouldn't budge. He pulled my tank top up and started licking on my nipples.
I started crying loudly and trying to free myself, but it didn't help.
He pulled down my shorts and jabbed a finger in my pussy then he licked it. “Sweet, like I thought. I usually don't eat pussy, but, Cashmere, I'll tell you what. I'll eat yours, if you suck on my dick.”
“No, please, uncle.”
He kneeled down to completely free me of my underwear. Once he was on his knees, he left his face all open to me, so with the quickness, I took one foot and stomped that nigga directly in his face so hard, he fell backwards. Then I took off running out that muthafucka half-naked. I slipped out the house, jumped off the porch steps, and kept on running and crying, screaming at what my uncle just tried to do to me, yet so happy I got away.
I stopped running and straightened my clothes. I wish I knew where Desiree was. I kept walking until I made it to the cafÃ©. Now was as good a time as any to chew on something sweet. I glanced in the windows and saw Caesar behind the counter. It was still early out, which probably explained why there was nobody in there. I opened the door and slipped in.
Caesar smiled when he saw me, and I managed one also.
I took the rag that was next to some silverware on the counter and started shining a fork.
“What's got you up so early, Cashmere?”
That mess that went down with my uncle flashed before my eyes. My eyes watered, so I blinked rapidly to stop them. And my hand started shaking so much, I dropped the fork on a plate.
I blinked my eyes again, looked up, and noticed that Caesar had abandoned the stuff he was putting away to sit next to me on a stool. He had a hand on my shoulder and another on my cheek. His eyes looked so damn concerned. I hadn't seen concern like that since Daddy. And without much thought, like a dumb ass, I buried my head in his shoulder and let out months of pent-up frustration and pain. And he just held me.
I didn't want to go home until I was sure that Desiree or Aunt Ruby was there, to be safe from my nasty-ass uncle, so I stayed at the cafÃ© with Caesar.
I learned a lot more about him. He attended private school, which explained why I had never seen him prior to the club, and was getting ready to graduate high school and go out of state to a good college called Grambling. I told him my goal was to graduate from high school and go to cosmetology school. He really was a nice guy, the kind of guy I was sure Daddy would have loved for me to date. He was nothing like the trashy guys me and Desiree shook our ass for, not at all.
It wasn't long after that he asked me to be his girl, and I accepted.
My monthly visits to the Sweet Tooth CafÃ© turned into weekly, then, any chance I could spare, which with school, stripping, and dealing wasn't easy. The only thing I never negotiated my time with was my Sunday visits with Desiree to see Daddy. We always stayed there until midnight. It had been a tradition since he came to Pine Meadows.
When I was home I would find any excuse to go to the cafÃ© and to see Caesar. Sometimes I would offer to get my auntie something sweet, and she would say, “Are you paying?”
And I would say, “Sure, no problem, Auntie. It's for everything you do around here.”
She would look at me for a moment like, and it was almost as if her face was going to soften up and she was going to say something nice to me. But all she'd mumble was, “You ain't as bad as your sister, but I still don't like you.”
I would always nod and race off to the cafÃ©. Then I would spit in whatever I was giving her and watch her eat the shit with relish. She never said thank you either.
Caesar was cool. He would walk me home and hold my hand like a real boyfriend, the calm after the storm, I called it, after having to do the shit I did. He was my salvation, I guess. Daddy used that expression a lot to describe Mama. But, boy, was he off.