by DiAnna Williams
“I can never cook this right,” yelled Simone from the kitchen, as Natalie walked into their two-bedroom apartment. It was around 6:30 p.m. and Natalie had just returned home from her usual day at work. She was a bank teller at a credit union in Center City, Philadelphia. She threw her raggedy bag onto their ratty couch and picked up some mail off the coffee table. She sifted through a few pieces before coming across a Philadelphia Gas Works bill that had “FINAL NOTICE” written in the top right hand corner in bright red ink.
“Simone, why have you not paid this yet,” Natalie asked as she made her way into the kitchen. Simone hesitated to respond, but felt Natalie looking at her, demanding a response.
“I forgot, Lee. I’ll pay it tomorrow. Damien should be giving me some money.”
“What does Damien do that he always has so much money, again?”
“I don’t know, Lee; he works with his friend, or brother or something.”
Natalie sighed in frustration with her sister. She sensed a fight coming, which seemed to be the trend between them for the last few months.
“Have you checked on Mrs. Rose today, Simone,” Natalie asked her sister, attempting to change topics.
“No, um, I didn’t get a chance too,” Simone replied.
Natalie rolled her eyes and decided to check on the elderly woman who lived two floors below them. As Natalie walked towards the staircase, she passed by Curtis, a man who lived three doors down from them.
“You need help getting to your apartment, Curtis,” Natalie asked as she kneeled down to him. He was slouched against a wall near the staircase, clenching onto a brown paper bag folded only so the rim of a glass bottle showed.
“No, Simone, I’m fine right here,” Curtis muttered back.
Natalie smiled at his minor mistake but could not help but feel bad for him. By the time Natalie hit the second set of stairs the stench of alcohol and urine were too much to bare. She asked herself why she didn’t take the elevator. Natalie arrived on Mrs. Rose’s floor and reached to open the door leading into the hallway. At the same time, the door is pushed in her direction hitting her in the face.
“Oh, shit! My fault,” someone said from behind the door.
While holding her head, Natalie looked up and there stood Damien towering over her, starring down. Their eyes locked and the first thought that ran through Natalie’s head was how she never noticed how beautiful Damien’s eyes were.
“Are you okay? Is your head all right? I didn’t even see you,” Damien said
Natalie came back to reality.
“Uh, yeah, I’m fine; I guess you’re going up to see my sister?”
“Maybe I was going up there for you,” Damien said.
Is he flirting with me? Natalie asked herself.
“I guess you’re trying to be funny,” Natalie replied.
They moved past each other. Damien headed up the flight of stairs and Natalie exited through the door. Damien looked back, but Natalie was already gone.
“Mrs. Rose, are you home,” Natalie shouted standing outside of apartment 117.
She had been knocking for ten minutes. Natalie thought it was strange that Mrs. Rose was not home, but determined she could have been sleeping by now. Natalie headed back up to the apartment. This time she took the elevator. Natalie smiled as she replayed the conversation she had with Damien a few minutes prior.
Natalie entered the apartment to see Damien sitting on the couch. He was leaning into his hand, his elbow sitting on top of his knee. He looked up at her; Natalie felt a tingle inside of her stomach that forced her to walk away. Simone sat at the kitchen table counting the money Damien dropped off.
“Wow, only two-hundred dollars this week,” Simone mumbled under her breath.
“I heard that, Simone,” said Damien from the couch.
“I’m just saying, seems like I’m getting less and less money each week.”
Natalie couldn’t believe how ungrateful her sister was acting. Natalie sat on her favorite chair across from the couch and picked up one of her favorite books off the coffee table: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.
Damien admired Natalie; he felt as though he knew her better than he did Simone without actually ever speaking to her. He knew Natalie loved math. He could name all the books she has read from over the past year. He knew she was horrible at cooking, from the many times she attempted to make dinner when Simone did not feel like it. He knew her nose wrinkled when she laughed hard. He also knew he was falling in love with her.
Natalie tried her best to focus on what she was reading, but the scent of Damien’s cologne kept distracting her.
She decided to go bed.
“I cannot believe you’re doing this,” Natalie heard as she approached the door to her apartment. She stood closer to hear what was going on.
“Look, I’m not trying to argue with your ass, just take this and don’t call me anymore!”
Natalie recognized Damien’s voice.
The door swung open forcing Natalie to move back. Damien stepped out. He paused to look at Natalie and proceeded to move past her, but he dropped a piece of crumbled paper next to her foot. Natalie scooped it up, stuffed it into her back pocket and walked into the apartment. Simone was pacing back in forth across the living room.
“Damien said he doesn’t want to be with me anymore. He realizes that he needs something different,” screamed Simone
Natalie stared at her sister. She wanted to console her but could not help but feel relieved and she was not sure why.
“I’m sorry, Simone. He was a jerk, anyway,” said Natalie.
“No, Lee, he is going to be sorry.”
“Just relax, Simone, get some sleep. It’s getting late.”
Natalie entered the bathroom and closed the door behind her. She reached into her back pocket pulling out the crumbled paper.
I’m sorry about your sister. Meet up with me tomorrow after you get off work. I will be parked across the street.
Natalie squeezed the paper until it crumbled into a ball. She smiled and felt the same tingling sensation she had the last time she’d seen Damien. However, this did not last long. Suddenly she realized she was falling for her sister’s ex-boyfriend.
“Do you need anything else, Maureen, before I go,” Natalie asked her supervisor.
She thought all day about the note Damien left for her. As she exited the doors of the bank she noticed a car parked across the street with its headlights on. It was Damien. He flicked the high beams on and off to signal her to come over. Natalie crossed the street and approached a dark green Grand Marquis. The doors unlocked from inside. Natalie slid into the passenger seat.
“I’m glad you came, Natalie.”
“No problem. So where are we going?”
“Well, I wanted to take you to dinner, if you don’t mind?’’
“Oh, well, I guess that would be okay.”
They pulled up to a small Caribbean restaurant not too far from where Natalie worked. Damien hopped out the car and ran over to the passenger side to let Natalie out of the car. She noticed how hard he was trying to be a gentleman. They entered the restaurant and Damien nodded at the hostess who stood behind a podium. Damien took Natalie’s hand and led her to the back of the restaurant, nodding at a few workers along the way. He let go of her hand to pull out the chair for her to have a seat. A waiter approached Damien, speaking in a mix of what sounded like broken English and a little bit of French. Natalie listened in awe; she was impressed that he spoke another language.
“What language were you speaking,” asked Natalie
“Oh, some Creole some French. I’m Haitian.”
“Wow, Simone never mentioned that.”
Natalie regretted saying this the moment it passed her lips; she did not want to bring up Simone while she was on a date with her ex-boyfriend.
“Well, if it did not involve money, Simone did not care about it.”
Natalie examined Damien. She did not see the flashy or arrogant man she saw when he was with Simone. He was reserved and a little shy. But she still wanted to know why he wanted to see her.
“So, I don’t mean to be rude, but why are we here?”
“Well, I can’t lie. All I think about is you, Natalie. I know you don’t feel the same way, and I was with your sister, but I think you should give me a chance. I made a mistake dating her; she wasn’t the person I thought she was.”
Natalie felt her stomach doing flips as she listened to Damien. She felt so happy and guilty at the same time.
“Damien, I hate going behind my sister’s back, but I sort of have the same feelings for you. I hav to know… what you do for money?”
“Look I don’t want you involved in what I do. If you’re wondering if it is legal, no, it’s not. But I don’t plan on doing this for long. I want to go to school for business. I got caught up in the ‘family business.’ I hope this doesn’t discourage you from getting to know me.”
“Wow. Well, I figured it was something along those lines. You don’t seem like you belong doing something like that. If there’s anything I can do to help get you into school, let me know.”
“Thank you for understanding, but enough about that. Let’s eat! I ordered us some traditional Haitian food, if you don’t mind.”
Damien fumbles with his keys and finally finds the way to the front door. Natalie is surprised he lived in a home by himself. She walked in to find a surprisingly neat home. Better than her shabby apartment she had with Simone.
“Have a seat. I’ll get us something to drink. Do you like Champagne? That’s all I have,” said Damien.
Natalie sipped away avoiding eye contact with Damien.
“I cannot believe I am sitting in this man’s house right now,” Natalie thought to herself.
The silence in the room only made her thoughts louder—so loud she thought he could hear them. Damien didn’t take his eyes off of Natalie; he noticed everything about her, from her chipped nail polish to the way her shirt lifted up in the back exposing some of her skin. He could not control himself any longer. Before Natalie knew it, Damien grabbed the glass out of her hand, placed it on the table and pinned her down to the couch. Natalie struggled for a minute but without thinking simply stopped fighting it; she suddenly felt week and tired. Damien leaned in to kiss her. Natalie pulled back, completely out of breath.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have kissed you like that. You barely know me,” Damien said, pulling himself off of Natalie.
“No, it’s fine. I want you to kiss me.”
Damien took Natalie’s hand and led her upstairs.
It was around 12:00 a.m. when Damien heard a bang on his door. He looked at Natalie who was asleep on the other side of the bed. He admired her beauty. Then he heard another bang. He climbed out of bed.
“Open the damn door, Damien! I see your car is here,” Simone yelled from outside of the house.
Damien peeked through his bedroom blinds to see Simone standing out waving a pistol in the air. He panicked, ran down the stairs almost stumbling over the last few steps. He cracked open his front door.
“Simone, what the hell are you doing here,” Damien whispered.
“What does it look like? Damien, it’s been a year and you think I’m leaving that easy,” said Simone trying to force her way into the house.
Damien slammed the door in Simone’s face. Simone kicked the door and it swung open. Damien ran upstairs. Simone followed right behind him trying to see what he was hiding.
“Simone, go away! I don’t want you anymore,” Damien screamed.
Natalie was awakened up by the loud voices coming from downstairs. She threw on the closest shirt she could find and her jeans. She made her way to the steps.
Simone and Damien began to struggle as he attempted to kick her out of the house. Damien tried to grab the gun out of Simone’s hand but the gun went off. They both fell into the couch and Simone jumped up in panic; she checked her body for a gun wound.
Natalie ran down the stairs in a panic. Simone and Natalie locked eyes.
Natalie ‘s stomach dropped.
“Um, I know this is not what I think it is,” Simone screamed.
“Simone, I was going to tell you! I swear!”
“Bullshit! At what point were you going to tell me you’re fucking my boyfriend.”
“Ex-boyfriend,” Damien murmured from the couch.
“Shut up! I cannot believe this my own damn sister. Well, call us even, Natalie, because I fucked Walter!”
“Listen, Simone, it’s not like we was in love or anything. I apologize it is fucked up, but blame me not Natalie,” Damien interjected.
“OK, Simone. I know you don’t mean that; you’re just upset,” said Natalie.
“No, Lee, I did! In your room,” Simone said, smirking.
Natalie ran across the living room at Simone. Simone grabbed Natalie’s hair and the two wrestled like they did when they were younger. Damien pulled the sisters apart.
“It’s time for you to go, Simone!”
Simone grabbed her gun and left Damien’s house.
Natalie plopped down on the couch. Damien sat next her and they both looked at the bullet hole in the closet across the room. Damien put his arm around Natalie’s shoulder.
“So, who is Walter?”
The next day, Natalie arrived at her apartment. She walked in expecting to find her things soaking in bleach, thrown away, or burned. But none of the above had occurred. Simone was not there, which surprised Natalie. Natalie was relieved to know she could grab a few of her things in peace. She decided to stay at Damien’s for a few days until Simone cooled down. She knew her sister was upset, but she was happy she did not have to sneak around anymore. Natalie left the apartment carrying her things in a brown cardboard box. Damien waited for her across the street. She could see him smiling at her from the car. She could not believe how sweet Damien was.
“Did you get everything you need,” Damien asked.
He retrieved the box from her hands.
“Yeah, that should be everything for now. Hopefully Simone will forgive me. I know it will take some time, though.”
The couple arrived at Damien’s house that night after they grabbed some dinner. As Damien pulled up to his house, he noticed a police car in his driveway. An officer stood in front of his door.
“Oh, shit! What are they doing here?”
“Are they here for you? Don’t panic, just stay calm.”
“Are you Damien Calixte,” one of the officers asked.
“Yes, Officer, that’s me.”
“Well, we got call about some narcotics being on the premises. We’d like to take a look around.” The other officer stayed quiet; he looked around the outside of the home.
“Well, I know my rights, Officer. You are going to need a warrant for that,” Damien said.
Natalie was scared and felt guilty. She had nothing to do with Damien’s life in his extracurricular activities. The Officers smirked at Damien’s response; they told him to have a good day and left. Natalie and Damien entered the house.
“Somebody snitched on me,” Damien said, slowly losing his confidence he previously had in front of the Officers.
He paced back and forth in the living room.
“How do you know? Who would do something like that,” Natalie asked.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Simone did it.”
“No! She wouldn’t do it. Try and send you to jail because of me,” Natalie asked.
But even she did not believe the words that came from her mouth. Simone was capable of doing anything. She has always been a hot-head and sneaky. Natalie remembered in the 6th grade when Simone beat up a boy for teasing Natalie every day. Simone was always fighting when they were younger. At one point she even fought their step-dad.
“Well, who else could have done it, Natalie,” Damien asked. “She better hope it wasn’t her.”
“Wait ,what do you mean? You’re not going to hurt my sister? She is mad right now, OK. She’s not thinking straight.”
“I do not have to do anything to her. If my family finds out I went to jail and discover she is the reason, it will be out of my hands.”
Natalie knew she had to find her sister. She had to know if she was the one who called the police on Damien. If she did, Natalie was going to have to warn her.
The next day, Natalie took it upon herself to find Simone. The first place she went was their apartment. While taking the elevator, she decided to stop by Mrs. Rose’s apartment. She had been so caught up with Damien, Natalie had not visited her dear sweet neighbor in a long time. As she approached the door, she noticed it was open. There were two men inside wrapping up dishes in newspaper and placing them into cardboard boxes.
“What’s going on? Where’s Mrs. Rose,” Natalie asked the two men. One was young and the other looked to be his father.
“Mrs. Rose is my mother. She passed yesterday,” The older man said.
Natalie’s body became stiff. She felt so bad that she had neglected vising Mrs. Rose. She was like a mother to Natalie and Simone. Natalie remembered the first time she met Mrs. Rose. She was able to walk then and was slowly making her way into the apartment building with a few bags of groceries. Natalie helped her to the apartment with her bags. She sat on Mrs. Rose’s couch and they talked for the rest of the day. Everything from love to money and family. Mrs. Rose always expressed to Natalie how important family was. She would always say how nice she thought it was that Natalie and Simone lived together and helped each other. She always picked up on Simone’s personality from the first she met her.
“I am so sorry for your loss. Mrs. Rose meant a lot to me also,” Natalie said.
She left the two men to their packing. She headed up to her apartment. She heard someone in the kitchen.
“Simone, is that you,” Natalie screamed while she sorted through the mail.
“Yes, thank you. I’ll be in first thing tomorrow morning.”
Natalie heard her sister’s voice say from the kitchen.
Natalie walked into the kitchen and saw Simone sitting at the kitchen table with a few papers shuffled out in front of her with and a Target bag sitting on the counter.
“Hey,” Simone shouted as she saw her sister.
“Hi. You seem like you’re in a good mood.”
Natalie was not sure if she should be happy or curious about why her sister was so happy.
“You’re going to be an aunt,” Simone said, hugging her sister.
Natalie never returned her sister’s hugged. She pushed her sister off of her and took a few steps back.
“What? You’re pregnant?”
“Yup! Damien never liked using condoms, so, you know, life happens. But I’m sure you know all about that,” Simone said.
Natalie followed behind her. She plopped down on the couch.
“Well, did you tell Damien,” Natalie asked as a knot was forming in her stomach.
“Nope. He doesn’t want anything to do with me, remember?”
Natalie looked at her in disgust. “Why did she have to be so dramatic,” Natalie thought to herself.
“Are you sure it’s his,” Natalie asked.
“Excuse me? I was faithful to Damien. How dare you,” Simone said.
She slammed the door behind her.
“Hey, Babe, I’m home,” Damien yelled, walking into his home. Natalie had been worrying all day how she was going to break the news to Damien. She cleaned the entire house and cooked dinner for him to keep herself occupied.
“Hey, how was your day,” Natalie asked Damien.
“It was OK, I guess. I thought about you all day.”
Natalie smiled, but she quickly remembered what she had to do.
“Well, I finally spoke to Simone.”
“You did? What happened?” Damien asked, chewing on his food.
Natalie couldn’t stomach one bite.
“Well, she’s not as mad and forgave me, I guess. But she did tell me something.”
“She’s having your baby.”
Natalie busted out in tears.
Damien walked over to console his hysterical girlfriend. He let her cry. Because that was exactly what he felt like doing, too.