Chapter 1 Cheers to the Weekend
It’s 5:50 in the morning and I’m awake. The sun isn’t even up yet but here I am doing my morning shuffle to the bathroom with my eyes closed. I don’t become a person until I have thoroughly steamed up the bathroom and singed away any traces of sleep clinging to me.
It’s like magic. I go in like a zombie but, at some point, between scrubbing my body, my teeth and putting on lotion after I finish air drying, I morph into a bright-eyed functioning adult.
Monday through Friday during the school year this became my morning routine. When I didn’t have to work I still found myself waking up with the sun out of pure habit.
As I stand in my closet in my undergarments contemplating which variation of my work uniform I’m going to wear, I hear the front door open and shut. A few moments later I hear the low hum of music begin to play and cabinets opening in the kitchen.
I quickly step into a pair of jeans and grab a camisole from my drawer as I head down the hall to my daughter’s room. I always wake her first because she takes after me. I step into her princess themed room only to find her bed empty.
I don’t even know why I bother putting them to bed in separate rooms. Every morning I find one of them in the other’s bed.
As expected, I find Kadin curled right next to her brother KJ who has one hand in his pants and the other splayed out like he’s a starfish along with his legs. He sleeps wild just like his father and in the middle of it all Kadin sleeps peacefully.
I see her pink scarf-wrapped head on the pillow with her face buried in the nook of KJ’s neck. His black locks fan around on the pillow. With the rest of his hair cut, the long locks he usually rocks in his little man-bun are free for now. Thankfully, with the scarf still on her head, I know Kade’s braids are still intact.
Her beautiful soft curly brown hair is incredible. I love it, I really do. But, I didn’t want to add re-doing her hair to the already extensive to-do list. For that same reason I’d shaved the sides of KJ’s hair. Neither of them liked to sit still long enough to style their hair.
And it was super cute on him.
My little bi-racial beauties with their big brown eyes, adorable dimples and perfectly caramel toned skin looked like angels. You wouldn’t know that I practically had to drag them to bed kicking and screaming while threatening to make them clean.
I shake my head at the memory and proceed to add more chaos to the morning.
It takes 30 minutes to get them both washed and dressed in the underwear, socks and undershirts they are wearing when we all go tumbling into the kitchen at about 6:50. As usual, I managed to bounce between harassing them about one thing or another and finishing getting dressed.
I count it as a success that I’m not hobbling down the stairs still getting dressed.
As I’m thanking God for another successful morning I hear the twins screech, “DADDY” in unison as if he doesn’t come over every morning before school to cook them breakfast. His omelets and pancakes are too legit to quit.
I got lucky with Kai Carter; not lucky, blessed. Sure, he was an amazing father to our kids, but he was also my best friend in the whole world. We’d been rocking our friendship since the eighth grade. And even those few years we dated, and the subsequent children that followed, didn’t screw it up.
We grew together and adjusted to our change in circumstances. I had yet to be confronted with anything I wouldn’t do for that man. It went both ways. He had my back even when I didn’t have my own best interest in mind.
You can’t find friends like that so we’re going to ride this thing till the wheels fall off and the car catches on fire from the metal screeching on the ground.
I ate my pancakes and sausage as Kadin talked his head off. The day hadn’t even started so I’m not sure how she found so much to talk about. I didn’t get the opportunity to talk to him until we sent them to wash their faces, brush their teeth and finish getting dressed.
“Z, why you so quiet this morning mami?”
Kai began washing dishes as I stood in the half bath downstairs styling my hair. I decided to throw a few quick braids in the front and pull it into a quick bun to keep it off my neck and out of my face.
“I’m not being quiet. Your daughter just decided that this morning she wasn’t going to share your attention. So KJ and I just had to fend for ourselves and talk to each other,” I laughed.
“Man, I swear she is four going on fourteen half the time. I can’t keep up with that little woman. I’m just hanging on for dear life over here.”
I laugh at his antics because he was completely accurate. KJ is the most laid-back kid in the world just like his dad. He just laughs things off and doesn’t seem to care. If it didn’t have to do with his sister, me or his grandparents, he wasn’t super pressed.
And he only ever seemed mildly concerned about Kai and his uncle Ace. I guess he figured they were fine on their own.
Kadin was all me.
She was always ready to take it where it needs to go. She didn’t back down and made no apologies for it. She was so overprotective of her family; especially her daddy and brother. She even has a side eye to give for women checking her uncle.
That little girl is so much fun but she don’t take no shit. I love that about her, but it works my last nerve too. She has so much sass and independence it’s crazy.
We talked for a few minutes as I brushed my teeth and stepped into my work shoes giving each other a rundown of our plans before we heard the thunderous footsteps of our little angles. I gave Kadin’s braids a once over and brushed her edges down while Kai made sure KJ’s hair was thoroughly brushed.
In the blink of an eye I finished getting dressed and we were herding them to the door, making sure they had all their things before we were strapping them down in their car seats in my truck, Kai was kissing them goodbye and wishing us all a good day.
He left me with a peck on the forehead and a smirk as we heard Kadin begin to beg for the radio to be turned up. My baby girl likes her music turned up to ignorant levels like her mommy. We need to get our minds right before we take on the world.
Ten minutes later I was watching them practically jump out of their skin trying to race into school. As usual, a teacher had to slow them both down as they raced towards the doors holding hands.
Having twins was never my plan, and the two I have are more than a handful but it always made my heart flutter when I saw them do something so simple yet so sweet as holding hands of their own accord.
I had no time to dwell, so I bid them a final goodbye and waited for them to disappear safely inside the building before leaving. Off to go do some adulting.
I work in food service delivery. Sounds so glamorous right? So, I re-stock vending machines in hospitals and such but I also stock those little self-serve stores in plants. It’s like a little store and then you ring up your stuff at a little kiosk.
Anyway, moving on.
I know it doesn’t sound glamorous and it really isn’t, but I love my job. I spend my days driving around, going into all these different places and talking to all kinds of people. I’m always getting hit on and flirting harmlessly with people I know it won’t go too far with.
And the work is easy.
With hydraulic lifts and such the manual labor isn’t that difficult. Maybe I’m just used to it. I wrangle four-year-old acrobats on a regular so pushing a dolly full of sodas or boxes of chips is easy as hell. And do you know what the best part is?
Not only am I getting paid weekly, I make about $1,200 every check. And that’s just straight time. I get my babies up in the morning, have breakfast with them and drive them to school by 7:30 every morning because I don’t have to start my route until eight. I’m usually home a little after four every day.
Hell, working overtime I still get home by six.
And in the summer, when all these plants (especially automotive and distribution centers) are pulling crazy overtime hours, we stock them twice a day, so my day extends by another hour or two. Checks be fat as hell.
I don’t work holidays or weekends. I get full benefits and discounts out the ass all over the place. And you better believe I schedule my time off strategically, so I have plenty of time to myself while the kids are in school.
Grown and glamorous looks different when you’re about your business and your babies. Trust me. Adulting isn’t always fun but if you know how to handle your shit you won’t be out here living hand to mouth forever.
No matter how much I love my job I want more. I finished my degree two months ago and now I’m just waiting on the chance to start training for a supervisor position. I’m not spending my life in the truck. I want that promotion so that I have even more stability in my life.
I’m not feeling that high turnover rate for drivers. People always quitting and such but I’m just hanging in there. I’ve only been here three years and I worked my way up from a loader to a driver. I’m making moves.
By the end of the week everything in me is screaming for a release. I haven’t gone out in over two months. I’ve been so busy with the mom grind I put my youth groove to the side. I’m twenty-five and a lot of people my age are just starting their families. They got married and now pollute my social media timeline with pregnancy and newborn baby pictures.
My babies are four and my ring finger is empty. Sure, Kai and I have a better relationship than some of those married couples, but our mindset is different. They are happy to leave the club life behind. Naïve little puppies. I love my children more than life but that doesn’t mean I want to let my youth pass me by.
I decided to mention it to Ace when I stopped by the diner, Grub House, for lunch on Wednesday. And, of course, he had that little smirk on his face that told me my complaints were music to his ears. Ace loved to go out with me because he said I was a better wingman than Kai.
Ace is Kai’s older brother and my former roommate. I found myself very heartbroken and homeless when I was fifteen. He was nineteen and had a two-bedroom duplex apartment and a pair of open arms ready to take me in without hesitation.
He always looked intimidating and gave off a vibe that told you he wasn’t the type of guy to toy with. Kai has always been a pretty boy but not Ace. And yet, I was never afraid of him. I probably should have been a little concerned but no matter how gruff he was I knew he’d never hurt me and he’d never let anyone else hurt me.
I understood him.
Ace taught me everything he knew about selling weed. I had a job as a waitress at his family’s diner and he worked the kitchen there too. But he supplemented his income by dealing. I knew it before I moved in but when I was seeing it every day he decided that he would at least explain what he was doing.
Soon, I was weighing it, bagging it up and sealing it using a food saver. I learned how to break it down, split a gar and roll up without interrupting my conversation. Ace and I would roll a few fat ass blunts, get high and just talk.
Kai would come over and we were like three blind mice high as shit stumbling around and laughing at nothing.
If it hadn’t been for the two of them, and their parents practically adopting me, I don’t think I would have made it. Ace made sure I was safe, Kai made sure I kept my spirit up and their parents did all that parental stuff, including making me attend church, family dinner and checking my grades.
My last name might be Childs, but I’m pretty much a Carter and I have been since I was fifteen.
We faced everything together. Then of course, Kai and I started dating when I was nineteen, two years later I had a pair of babies in my belly while trying to figure out everything. I had Kai, but I had Ace too. He’s my babies’ God-father and sorta like my guardian brute; he damn sure ain’t no angel.
Ace didn’t really ask me if I wanted to go to the neon club party Kai had been hired to promote. I guess he figured that would have been a waste of breath. My answer was a non-issue. For the record, I would have been fine going to the bar and having a few drinks over a few games of pool. But Ace didn’t care to ask.
He sat right there and called his mother. I didn’t even have a say in the matter. He arranged for the kids to spend the weekend with their grandparents and I could hear his mother squealing with excitement through the phone.
Mama Anna loved my babies as much as I did. And she made it clear to her sons that she liked them better despite not having carried them herself.
“So, KJ is going fishing Saturday with dad while Kade and ma bake cookies and cakes and stuff for the church,” Ace said after hanging up the phone.
“Dang, I do like to spend some time with my kids. How do you know I wanted to give them up the whole weekend?”
“Kai said Red is spinning at the neon party he’s been promoting, so I know the place is going to be lit. And he said Miranda will be there, so we can chill with her in VIP when we aren’t out meeting our future wives,” Ace replied as if my objection didn’t exist.
It really didn’t. He knew I wasn’t serious and the kids had been asking to spend the weekend with their grandparents since last weekend.
“If the drinks are flowing you know I might have to hop in that booth and remind Red who I am. Plus, I’m off on Friday,” I laughed.
“Now that’s what I’m talking about. But who we gonna sucker into being designated? You haven’t been out in forever and I’m not missing out on turning up with you, so we have a problem.”
“Yea and Kai always drinks when he says he won’t, so we always end up calling Miranda. But I want my girl to let loose. It’s been forever since we threw back some shots together and I’ve twerked my ass on her,” I laughed.
“You gotta be the only baby mama I know that loves going out and shit with her baby daddy’s girlfriend. Shit, Mirada cool as hell so you right, she should turn up too,” Ace agreed.
“Know what that means,” I said.
“Lyft on you big money? Don’t think I don’t see my little sis making money moves,” Ace smiled before reaching out to pinch my cheek playfully.
I laughed at him. His face was always set in a permanent scowl but here he was teasing me and smiling. I returned his teasing by musing up his short black locks with both hands. He tried to pull away, but the damage was done.
I dissolved into a fit of giggles as he used the shiny surface of the napkin holder to look at his reflection and fix his hair.
I held my hands up in surrender when he flinched away from my approach. I gave him a warm hug, told him I would get in the group text later to set plans in stone and then kissed him goodbye. It was back to the grind for both of us.
I’m not going to lie, knowing I had actual plans for the weekend that didn’t include kid-friendly zones had me hype the rest of the day. A few people along my route that I always talk to told me I looked like I was glowing. I played it off and blamed it on sleep or whatever.
I didn’t want to admit that I had gone from being this exciting person to a lame that honestly passed up on going out and acting my age to lay on the couch watching movies. I couldn’t even blame it on parenthood. I had a pair of eager grandparents and a loving father for them babies.
I just got lazy. Not about going out but about the effort once I was there. Actually, I didn’t want to try with relationships. And there was that whole issue of post-partum. Either way, my clubbing and partying was as inconsistent as my temperamental twins.
By the time Friday rolled around I was mentally and physically in need of a change of pace. Sure, I’d only had to put the twins in timeout about five times throughout the week which was an unusual uptick in their behavior, I was still ready to ditch my current life for a foray into a different world.
It didn’t help my mood that work was annoying. There are always going to be people at any job that seem to have nothing going on in their lives, so their job receives an elevated amount of attention which wouldn’t be a bad thing if they weren’t such dicks about it.
There is a new driver at my job that hasn’t been there five minutes and is already acting as if she invented the damn wheel. I try and ignore her most of the time, but I swear if she keeps knocking on that door she will get an answer.
I guess she sees my polite, professional kill them with kindness demeanor and thinks that makes me weak.
The only thing that provided me any relief during the stupid moments of the week, like when Kadin decided to go swimming in the tub with all her clothes on or KJ decided his bed was a trampoline, was knowing I was going to be blowing off months of steam with my people.
The neon party was going to be held in one of my favorite clubs, Jungle Fever. It wasn’t a typical club because it was larger than most. Built in an old remodeled warehouse, they would shut off part of the building most of the time unless they had big events and the Neon party was definitely one of those events.
The Jungle was mostly popular among locals and got really popular when a group of local celebrities, known as the six-pack, frequented it a few times. It’s because of their leader, a guy named Emerson, that the club installed bungee cords to allow people to “swing” from the top floor of VIP down to a platform next to the DJ booth.
Big events are always wild when the ropes come out. I’d never swung from the ropes and participated in a Tarzan race, but Kai and Ace had gone against each other a few times while I was in the DJ booth. Let me explain.
A Tarzan race is when two mostly sober people go to the top floor platform in the VIP section and strap up. They zip line to the platform next to the DJ booth, throw back a specified number of shots of some strong alcohol and then go up a set of stairs to zip back to the VIP area where the race started. But it’s not over until they throw back a few more shots.
At each stop a waitress meets the racers with their shots. And the whole thing is broadcast on a large screen over the DJ booth while the DJ spins some sort of mix and narrates it unless there’s some sort of host.
I couldn’t wait to be in that atmosphere, surrounded by half naked bodies smeared in fluorescent paint, and absorbing the overall good vibe. The Jungle was a wild place by nature, but it always maintained the type of vibe where you felt relaxed and comfortable to party.
Probably had something to do with the fact that it was rumored the mysterious crime Lord Danny Black had deemed the club a safe zone. Violence of any kind in an area Black deemed as a safe area was allegedly met with zero tolerance and severe consequences. But I can’t speak on that because it isn’t my world.
I was just hype to benefit from the Jungle’s atmosphere.
Everyone met at my house which wasn’t unusual. Kai literally lived behind the house across the road from me. It was an elderly couple that loved Kai and had no problem with him crossing through their backyard. And Ace had already lain claim to the pullout bed in the basement.
Ace brought a bucket filled with ice and twisted shots. He showed up wearing a white V-neck with holes that exposed glimpses of his perfectly sculpted torso, straight-legged black pants and a bright red duffle bag.
I didn’t even bother to ask about the bucket or the duffle.
He put the bucket down in the kitchen and took up residence in my family room vibing to Pandora. I was still working out my outfit. I’d settled on a pair of super short shorts with small split in the sides and slipped on a black bra.
I joined Ace on the couch where he promptly goaded me into throwing back a few shots with him. We laughed about all the crap that came up during the week and reminisced about past trips to the Jungle. Just as I brought the fourth shot to my lips Miranda came strutting in with Kai following behind.
I wish I could say that it was strange to be caught practically naked and laughing with Ace, but it wasn’t. I lost count how many times Kai had found one or both of us half-naked as if it was nothing. Miranda had gotten used to it over the past few years.
It was just a part of my relationship, better yet my familial bond, with Ace.
Miranda was looking sexy, as usual, in a form-fitting pair of low-rise white jeans, a white halter that made her already perky breast sit at attention while also leaving her flat abdomen exposed. Her five-foot-five stature stood a little taller in her bright red peep-toe heels.
Randy, a nickname I gave her when I was drunk and she snapped at an overzealous suitor flirting with her, had long thick black hair that she had in loose wavy curls tossed haphazardly on her head and fell around her chest. She’d even painted her torso with neon paint on her bare arms and torso.
It wasn’t until she turned around that I saw she had Kai’s name written across her lower back. Randy made sexy easy.
Ace greeted them both before shoving shots in their hands and making them catch up. We left the boys to talk when I dragged her to my bedroom. I guess you could say Kai and I had similar taste because shoe on the other foot, I would have loved to have Randy as my girl.
We shuffled through my closet before settling on a sheer black top covered in white specks. Randy took the opportunity to retrieve more body paint from her car while I styled my hair. I parted my thick curls down the middle before pinning my hair down with a black band around my head.
We had fun painting colorful tribal symbols on my exposed arms. She offered to paint the word “single” down my legs to make sure it was obvious, but I declined her offer. I wasn’t that desperate.
We made our way back downstairs to find Ace allowing Kai to put a little paint on his arms but nothing crazy. I took a moment to pay attention to Kai for the first time since he’d arrived. He wore ripped white jeans, white high-top shoes, a red button down with his sleeves rolled up.
Ever the pretty-boy, his hair was perfectly styled and trimmed to perfection. A little lighter than Ace’s jet-black hair, Kai’s hair was brown with a few natural highlights. And he had a perfectly manicured beard shadow. And, of course, he was rocking diamond studs in his ears.
The four of us danced around and took shots while we waited for our ride. Then we were off to the Jungle for some fun. We arrived early because Kai had host duties to attend to, but I didn’t mind. Ace, Randy and I had plenty of time to chill in VIP as the club filled up. And we got nice and lit.
I twerked my way through the VIP and into the crowd downstairs before joining Randy and Ace back in VIP for more shots. I was so gone I wasn’t holding back. And when I saw Red giving me sex eyes from the booth when I took a moment to do shots with a now shirtless Kai, I couldn’t help myself.
Zuri Childs the mother had been banished for the evening. I was simply twenty-something Z having some fun.