It would be unfair to have her watch our babies all day then be exhausted all night when I have club business til late in the evenings. She’d basically be raising a child alone.
What kind of father would that make me?
I love Tina.
And that’s worth everything, right?
Sometimes love isn’t enough.
I’ve come to conclusion that maybe children aren’t in the cards for me. And I’m surprised with how I feel about it.
I’m okay with it.
I don’t love the idea but I never stopped to think about how raising a child would affect the lifestyle I lead. I love the club. It’s a big part of me. I don’t want to give that up.
I smile to myself, pick up my wallet and head out the door.
“Damn baby, that’s an unpleasant noise.”
My eyes widen as I turn slowly towards the door.
There stands a smiling Nik, dimple and all.
A little freaked out here. I thought we were over.
I don’t know what’s happening right now but he’s smiling. I swallow hard and shrug.
I explain quietly, “I keep forgetting about it. It just needs new batteries and someone to replace them.”
He walks towards me and puts his hand on my hips. He lowers his face til his lips meet mine and says against them, “I’ll get my guy to fix it, baby.”
My heart skips a beat.
I’m briefly stunned.
After a moment of allowing my brain to stutter I ask quietly, “Does this mean…?”
He pecks my lips lightly and answers, “Yeah, sweetheart. No kids. Okay with me.”
By the beard of Zeus!
Relief courses through my veins and a familiar warmth spreads outwards from my belly.
I wrap my arms around his neck and hold him tight. I do this awful laugh cry and don’t even care how stupid I look.
I kiss his lips hard and say whisper, “Oh my god!” Cry-Laugh
“I thought I’d lost you.” Kiss-Hiccough- Laugh
“Last night was the worst night ever.” Sniffle-Kiss
“Are you sure?” Snort-Kiss.
He chuckles and lifts me up. I have no choice but to wrap my legs around his waist. He holds me with one forearm under my ass and the other across my back.
He replies quietly ,“Got no life without you, baby. You’re it for me.”
I burst into tears and he rocks me. I wrap him up tight as if he might disappear.
I don’t care who’s watching.
Nat, Lola, and Mimi all cheer, whoop and laugh around the store. I hear Nat yell out, “Get her out of here, you sly son of a gun.”
I lift my face and he smilingly says, “You got boogers, baby.”
I laugh and wipe my nose with my sleeve. That’s the least of my worries right now.
I have Nik! Nik is my man! Again…
I’m going to do everything I can to keep him. I love him so much.
Leaning my forehead against his, I whisper, “Love you so much, Niki.”
His face softens as he replies, “Love you more, teeny Tina.”
Heavens to glory, thank you God.
After I went over to Safira and reunited with my girl, we went to lunch.
Tina sat in my lap. Well, she sat pressed so close to me she practically was.
We had sushi, stole kisses and held one another. Just appreciating each other after our almost break up.
When we left we stayed wrapped up in each other til we reached Safira. I kissed Tina long and slow.
I don’t know how I got on without her. More importantly, I don’t ever want to be without her again.
I check my wrist watch for the time. 2:11pm.
Time to get to a meet.
Two thirty comes and I arrive at the warehouse the Sixes own better known as the factory.
The factory is well known amongst gangs in New York. It’s heavily guarded during the day and at night; however, all that keeps it safe is an alarm system.
I know this because Marcus was killed trying to get papers with this information out of my father’s office. My dad never did give this information to Chaos and I’m not sure why. It would’ve been easy to arrange a raid and steal the drugs they have stored there. However, if Chaos did end up doing that it would’ve started a war between Chaos and the Sixes.
I guess that’s why my dad never gave this information away. Dad never was one for a fight.
I’m not stupid enough to come alone to see Uncle Jerm. I bring Ghost with me; people are generally scared of him with good reason. Ghost wouldn’t hesitate to shoot you in the face if he thought his life was in danger. Long gone is the boy who took his licks without a word.
We walk into the warehouse office and are frisked. This is not unusual.
It would be disrespectful to conceal a weapon at a meet.
We remove our guns but I know Ghost would never go completely unarmed.
We are escorted by a street thug, better known as a soldier, to Uncle Jerm’s office. I’ve only been here once before, when I was a teenager, but I remember it well. I was petrified the last time I was here. I thought I would take my last breath in this warehouse.
The door opens and Uncle Jerm is standing in front of his desk, smiling with open arms.
The thing about Uncle Jerm is you gotta love him. He is lovable.
Never without a smile or kind word.
I would tell you he wasn’t cut out for this work but I know some of the things he’s done.
The stuff of nightmares.
He will do anything to protect his boys.
I walk over to the short, sixty year old African American who always wears a suit and tie, hug him and pat his back. Ghost doesn’t hug. He just stands in the corner on watch.
Uncle Jerm pulls back from me and says, “Well, well, well. Looks like the little boy grew into a big man.”
I chuckle. I wasn’t very tall the last time we met. I was just a freakin’ kid. I’m surprised he remembers.
Smiling, I say, “Uncle Jerm. You look good.”
He pats his belly and replies, “Old lady’s on my back. Cholesterol this and cholesterol that. Won’t let me eat anythin’ anymore. Thinks I’ll have a heart attack or some such shit.”
He motions for me to sit which I do. Then he takes his place behind his desk. It’s very similar to mine.
He claps his hands together and says, “So, I believe we have a small problem.”
I nod and respond, “Yes, sir. I think we do. Your boy Omarr broke into my girl’s apartment and did a job on her cat. Ripped its head off and hung it like a Christmas ornament on the back porch. Luckily, the neighbor found it before Tina did.”
Uncle Jerm’s face droops into a frown. He mutters, “I don’t like this. Omarr… Well, he hasn’t been the same since Marcus died.” He straightens and reveals, “Always hated on me for not retaliating. Doesn’t tell me things like he used to. But I heard of your Tina. Chaos seem real pleased you found yourself a girl. Says she real pretty. I’m happy for you, son. You get something good, you hold onto it with both hands, ya hear?”
See what I mean?
I nod and he continues, “Omarr has been extremely disrespectful as of late. He don’t turn up for his shifts. He don’t answer to me anymore.” He leans back and with a sigh says, “He gone rogue, boy.”
This is what I was dreading. Omarr isn’t taking orders from Uncle Jerm anymore, which means he’s only answering to himself. This is basically Omarr making his own rules. If Uncle Jerm gets evidence Omarr’s recruiting behind his back, Uncle Jerm will have no choice but to kill him
which would be good for me.
I utter a hesitant, “I see.”
Uncle Jerm nods and says, “Yeah. I know you get me, son. Not much I can do about him right now but I’ll have my boys keep an eye out. Haven’t seen him in days. If I could control this, I would. Terrorizing an innocent girl is not the way the Sixes roll. I hear he wants her. You better up security from your end. If he wants her, he’ll take her. You take care now, ya hear?”
And just like that, we’re dismissed.
We didn’t get anything sorted but at least I got some information.
Looks like the next step is security.
It’s around four when I hear the god-awful bell go off.
I’m a little stunned when in strolls Ghost with three other men. Ghost doesn’t even look at us girls as he walks in and out of rooms giving instruction to the men. One man has a note pad and pen and is writing furiously all the while nodding. One man is taking measurements. And the other man almost pushes me out the way to get under the counter.
Well, excuuuuse me, Rudie McRudeAss.
Ghost finally notices that I’m alive and approaches. He says firmly, “Upping your security, T, considering you have…” He looks around Safira then back at me, “none. Getting that goddamn bell fixed, too.”
Yippee to the bell. I’m not sure about the rest.
I cautiously ask, “Is there a reason I need security in a store I’ve been at for two years without problem?”
He scowls at me and replies, “You got a problem, take it up with Nik. Just followin’ orders, T.”
I look around and see men are already drilling holes into my walls and getting dust on some of the clothes.
I run over to the clothes and rip them off the displays. I dust them off as best I can but I’m sure they’ll need a steam clean.
My face turns into a scowl matching Ghost’s and stalk over to the computer. I log onto the Instant Messenger and type.
TheTomicBomb: Nik the Dik, u got some ‘splainin 2 do!
I immediately get a reply.
Nik123: Okay, baby. Later.
Oh no, he didn’t!
TheTomicBomb: Can u pls explain y I have 3 men and Ghost ruining my damn clothes!?
Nik123: Be there in two.
That’s more like it!
Two minutes later, Nik strides into the studio and starts barking out orders. “Don’t put that there”, “These clothes are very expensive, watch it”, “Fix the damn bell before you do anything else, it’s an emergency.”
My face has since gone soft. I walk up behind Nik, hug him and press my lips to the middle of his back. I utter a muffled, “Thank you, honey.”
His hands rub mine that are gripped tight around his waist. He replies, “Anytime, sweetheart.”
Nik barks another order, “Don’t put the camera there. It needs to focus on the outside, as well.”
I quietly ask, “Nik, why do I need cameras?”
He barks another order, “Get the panic button in before the camera.”
Panic Button? What in the Dickens?
I’m freaking out!
I whisper, “Nik, you’re freaking me out.”
He turns in my arms so I’m hugging his front now. He kisses my brow and responds quietly, “All just precautions, Tina. I don’t think you’re in danger but it’s worth doing all this as a safety measure. You want your girls safe, right?”
Low blow right there, what am I meant to say to that? No?!
I reply sulkily, “Yes.”
He smiles and says, “Good. CCTV goes straight to our security room which Ghost or Trick will monitor. Panic button makes our security room go bananas. As soon as it goes, we’ll be half a minute away. Tighter than Fort Knox, baby.”
I must admit that sounds good. It makes me feel safer. But what am I meant to be afraid of?
I ask cautiously, “How much is all this going to cost, Nik? It looks awfully expensive.”
Nik’s face turns serious as he replies, “You ain’t payin’ a dime, baby. Don’t even try to argue with me about it. You wouldn’t need any of this shit if it weren’t for me. I take care of what’s mine.”
My heart squeezes.
That’s a bit sweet. But it must cost in the thousands of dollars. I don’t like that.
I try to argue, “But…”
Nik cuts me off with a deep kiss and immediately my traitorous body responds.
No fair you big meanie.
He pulls away slightly and says firmly, “No.”
Well, I guess that’s the end of that argument.
It takes an hour to install the cameras, panic button, and new door sensor.
Our doorbell actually goes Ding Dong again. I need to bake a cake to mark this wondrous occasion!
I kiss Nik, pat Ghost’s cheek, and thank the other men.
They all leave and I slump. I didn’t even do anything and I’m exhausted.
I wonder what would happen if I press the panic button right now?
I look around. When I’m certain no one can see me I peek under the counter. My fingers twitch.
You know the saying curiosity killed the cat? I’m sure it was written about me.
I slide my fingertips from the top of the counter down and just as I come into contact with the button…
I jump two feet into the air when the phone rings. My hand slaps my chest, I breathe heavily and my legs shake.
Seems I’m as skittish as a cat too.
I answer and before I say hello I hear, “Don’t even think about it.”
I stand tall, frown, and put a hand on my hip. I lie, “I wasn’t going to press it!”
Ghost sounds amused as he says, “Uh huh,” then hangs up.
I make an exasperated sound and stare at the phone. Damn fool of a man hung up on me!
Looking up, I scowl right into the camera.
The camera moves left then right. It looks like it’s shaking its head no!
Admit it, you got busted.
Yeah. Totally busted.
I spend most of the next morning teaching Nat and Lola how to use the new security equipment.
I see Nat’s finger twitch by the panic button. I smile and warn, “I wouldn’t if I were you. Ghost will hand you your ass on a platter.”
Her face falls and her lips pout. I giggle at her adorableness.
This is why we’re friends.