Hopefully Beautiful - "I more than survived... I thrived."

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Chapter 28


Several months had passed since I went to NC and I was celebrating my 19th birthday! My cousin Shell, Aunt Lula’s youngest daughter, and I was the same age and she was my club buddy. Once she was dressed and ready to go to the club, she would stand in front of the mirror and watch herself dance as she did the snake; too funny. Gina did not really like going to the clubs, but she went with us anyway; plus it was my birthday. Studio 117 was packed like sardines!

“Hot in here ain’t it, hee hee hee” I heard the voice chuckle. I looked to my left and there was a tall, skinny, dark skinned guy leaning against the wall, his long dangling earring brushing back and forth over his shoulder. His jheri curl was long and touched his shoulders. “I’m Devin. You are…” he asked? “Joye” I answered. “I am an airman with the Air Force”, he said. I was shocked to hear that because he kinda acted like a girl, yet he kept flirting with me; he was unusual and funny!

Devin and I started talking. Hanging out with him was like hanging out with your girlfriend and boyfriend at the same time. He took me to Seymour Johnson to show me his barracks and the military base.

The following week I rode with Devin to pick up his boy Eric, also in the Air Force, who needed a ride back to the base; from spending the night with two girls. Devin joked about how he was the ladies’ man.

Devin pulled up in front of the trailer house and blew his horn; we waited for Eric to come out. The door finally opened and Eric walked out onto the little wooden steps outside the door, turned around and kissed two dust-bunnies goodbye.

“Hoe” was my first thought! I instantly disliked him. As he walked toward the car, he looked at me “Hello” he said, as he got in. “Humph” I huffed and stared ahead like I did not hear him speak.

Gina dropped me at Devin’s barracks, she was going to be on the base for a while; I planned to hang out at Devin’s until she was ready. I knocked on Devin’s cracked barracks door and walked in; he was laughing really hard with a towel wrapped around his naked body.

There was another guy that I had seen around before in the room naked and wrapped in a towel, and the guy was reaching like he was trying to grab between Devin’s legs. Devin squealed with what sounded like ‘pure delight’.

“Okay!” I thought as I smiled. “I knew he was gay”. Devin tried to grab him back between the legs; he looked at me grinning! I smiled back at him and left out of the room. I headed back out to look for Gina.

As I entered the ‘common area’ to pass through, I saw his friend Eric sitting watching TV. “Great, the hoe” I thought. I had seen Eric around since picking him up at the trailer, but we had never talked to each other. I watched him from the door way, sitting there watching TV, before I went over and sat down.

“Hey, how you doing” I asked as I sat down. “I’m good” Eric said. “You waiting on Devin” he asked? “No, he has company” I snickered. Eric was ‘rolling’ after I told him about what I had just left Devin doing; I liked his laugh.

We sat and talked for the longest, about nothing in particular. It was the easiest conversation I had ever had; he actually listened to me as I talked.

He didn’t ask me questions and then half listen to my answer; only to cut me off to talk about himself. And he had the most beautiful and kind eyes I had ever seen; gentle. He was a very genuine guy.

Needless to say… Devin and I broke up.

That following weekend Shell, Gina and I went to the NCO club. I talked them into going, hoping that I would run into Eric at the club. I was looking cute, I even had makeup on and I never wore makeup.

We were there for a while before I saw him; I had almost left. I was at the bar looking around, when I saw him out on the dance floor with some girl.

He was so fine! He had on these tight, two toned pants; black in the front and red in the back. They fit him just right; his butt looked great in those pants!

I stood there watching him and the girl dancing. His rhythm was smooth and confident; he could really dance. I could have watched him dance forever.

They finally took a dance break and she went to a table and took a seat. He was headed to the bar! I stood there trying to look cool; but I felt my face grinning as he walked up.

His eyes said “She’s here” as he quickly looked back at the girl at the table. He looked back at me, “Wow, you look different in makeup” he said.

“Is that good or bad” I asked? “It is definitely good; you looking sexy, very sexy. But you sexy with it or without it” he said, smiling at me. Killing me with those eyes!

“Thank you” I blushed. “You waiting on Devin” he asked? “No, we don’t talk anymore” I responded. He had that “Oh word” look in his eyes; I tried not to laugh.

We talked for about 15 more minutes before I asked, “Don’t you need to get back to your date”? “She’s not my date, we are just friends. I know her from the base” he said. “Oh, so you can dance with me then” I said as sassy as I could. “Yes I can” he said smiling at me.

He took me by my hand and led me to the dance floor. We danced together the rest of the night; and I could have cared less about the girl he was originally dancing with shooting me dead with eye daggers the rest of the night.

Eric followed behind Gina’s car as he gave me a ride from the NCO Club back to Shell’s house where Gina and I were spending the night.

Gina and Shell went inside, leaving Eric and I on the front porch, where we talked for hours. I gave him Shell’s and Gina’s phone numbers to their houses; he left telling me he would call me tomorrow.

He called and was now pulling up in front of Aunt Lula’s on a motorcycle. He took me for a long ride on a stretch of highway. I held on tightly, as the front of my helmet, kept hitting the back of his helmet, every time he changed gears; until I got the hang of it. We rode far out and parked near a lake and talked a little, but mostly just sat quietly together.

By the end of the ride, I felt closer to him. He reminded me of my Uncle Robert Charles! I compared every man I met to my Uncle Robert Charles; I wanted my husband to be just like him.

Eric was just like him and I liked Eric a lot!

By now, Eric came to see me every day; and for weeks we would ride around Goldsboro on his motorcycle or in his car. We loved to get milkshakes at the burger joint, on the corner of John and Ash Streets. We hung out at a game room near the military base, playing video games and we spent a lot of time playing pool. I was pretty good too, that surprised him.

We went to H. V. Brown Park to sit; while talking and getting to know each other. I told him how I was going to be a super star music artist. He told me about him getting married at 18 and his two children Ericka and Eric Jr, and how he loved them very much. He showed me their pictures; they were cuties and looked just like him. They lived with his ex-wife.

We talked about our past. He told me about how he used to be the leader of one the ‘OutLaw’ gangs.

He told me about his run-ins with the law and how the judge gave him the choice of jail or Air Force. He said he was grateful to that judge because the air force was the beginning of better things for him.

He didn’t look at me like I was crazy as I told him about Momma, Corn and the other people who had hurt me. He just listened. He had a way of touching my hand or leg, while I was talking that made me feel safe. It had gotten to the point that all I had to do to stop the screaming in my head and feel safe was touch him in some form or another.

It had been three months and we had not had sex yet and he was not pressuring me. I was like wow! We had some hot and steamy moments, but nothing that crossed the line. He made me feel like I mattered to him. He made me feel like no matter what, he would not leave me; I was feeling like I could trust him with my heart.

My family on the other hand, had mixed feelings; he was a military man. “He don’t want nothing but what’s between your legs” my family said, “He probably sleeping with lots of girls here in Goldsboro; that’s what they do.”

“Didn’t you learn anything from your mama” they asked? Then I would have to hear how my daddy, an airman, used Momma and left her pregnant with me.

Whenever he came to visit me at Uncle Donnie and Aunt Dianne’s house, Uncle Donnie would sit and watch him; wiggling his feet and legs back and forth, but he never said anything mean. “Okay Joyebell, you be careful” he would say after Eric left.

The rest of my family gave Eric a hard way to go; but he didn’t let anyone chase him off, including me. As a matter of fact, he seemed to hold on tighter and I really dug that about him.

And he didn’t seem to have a problem with me wanting to be a famous singer; even though he had not really heard me sing.

I had entered a talent show in Greensboro and for the first time in a month we would not be spending the entire evening together. I would go and compete in the talent show and meet him later back at his barracks.

“Well, did you win” he asked, when I returned? I pulled out the $500 prize money and threw it up in the air over him on the bed. “Whoa! You must can really sing girl” he stated. I broke out into ‘Angel’ by Anita Baker. He was impressed! “My girl is a star” he said.

We dated for months and I was in love! He sealed the deal for me, when one day we were hanging out with his ‘friend’, the one he was dancing with at the club months ago. She was hanging around talking about Eric was her brother…

“Um humph, right”. I knew she did not think that I could not see that she was sizing me up, trying to figure out how to get rid of me and get Eric’s attention back. Well, she got the wrong one! I ain’t going nowhere; he’s mine! I wanted to smack her, but I fought the urge.

We ended up back at the barracks in Eric’s room. We were down to the last cigarette and we were ‘puff-puff passing’ it around as we talked. Eric smoked it down and there were two puffs left on the short. She reached her hand out and he passed the cigarette to her! She cut her eyes at me. I was done!

I looked at him with the ‘Oh, no you didn’t just put her before me’ face! His eyes widened; then went apologetic. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking” he said in front of his friend; he reached out and touched my hand. I knew he loved me in that moment. I looked at her and back to Eric. “Well, I guess we should take her home, it’s getting late” I stared into Eric’s eyes. “Yeah” Eric said, staring back into mine.

We took her home and came back to the barracks and made love for the first time. He was caring and exciting all at the same time. He did not just have sex with me, I knew what that felt like; he tried to consume me, making me a part of him.

I never saw her ass hanging around again!

The next night he took me to the Kmart parking lot and parked; it was our favorite spot to sit and talk. We talked and laughed for hours. “You are the most stable thing in my life” he said to me, looking into my eyes; “I love you”. I was shocked! “You are the only stable thing in my life” “I love you too” I told him. We were official! We feel asleep together in the front seat of the car; in the Kmart parking lot holding hands. The next morning as the sun kissed me awake in that parking lot, I felt peaceful for the first time ever!

“I’m pregnant.” I say to Eric, as we sat in the Kmart parking lot. Eric’s eyes showed surprise, as he looked at me. “Are you sure” he asked? “Yes, I’m sure” I said, as I started to cry. “What was I going to do with a baby, I didn’t even have a place to live” I thought. “Don’t cry, everything will be fine” Eric said softly, as he pulled me close to him.

“I was going to tell you today that my TDY is up and that I am not reenlisting” he said after a while. I immediately went on guard. “We have to come up with a plan” he said. I just looked at him while he talked. “So this is his way out” I thought, as I listened to him talk.

“You should move back to Dallas with your mother” “I don’t want to leave you here alone without any real place to live” he said. My heart started to race! “I am going to go back to New York to take care of some things and I will meet you in Dallas” he told me. I shook my head ‘yes’, but I did not believe it. He was leaving me and the baby!

“I told you that boy was only looking for one thing” my cousin said. “Now you are just like your mama”. That remark almost got my cousin slapped, but I just walked away. Everyone treated me like I was falling apart or my world had come to an end. They were not helping! I tried to act like everything was okay and that I was not scared.

The last couple of weeks Eric and I spent together, I tried not to act like he was leaving me for good. He tried to reassure me that he was coming to Dallas; he had a plan and we talked about it a lot. He acted as if everything was okay.

When it was time for him to leave, I helped him pack. We rode to the bus station where he bought a bus ticket to New York for himself and a ticket to Dallas for me. “Don’t worry Joye, I will come to Dallas as soon as I can” Eric said, as he boarded the bus.

I stood there watching as he walked towards the back of the bus and sat by the window. He stared at me and I stared back. “He’s never coming back” I thought as tears ran down my face. “I was Momma all over again”, “Now what was I going to do” I thought.

Two weeks later I was on the bus; pregnant and heading back to Momma.

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