Chapter IV: Anticipation
Three Weeks Later
Friday Morning, May 8th, 8:17 a.m.
Erica opened her eyes to the blinding sunlight pouring into her bedroom window. She stretched out in her bed, raising her arms above her head, stretching her body as far as it would go. She decided to take a much-needed day off work and planned to chill out for the entire day after a busy week. She had spent the entire week getting her apartment together and holding meetings with her new staff. Her best friend from childhood Jennifer was the office’s team leader. Jennifer had gone to college in New York after she and Erica graduated from high school and had moved to Chicago a year after graduating college. She had majored in business management so Erica knew that she’d be a perfect candidate for her office’s leadership.
Erica got up out of bed and as she was starting to straighten out her sheets and comforter, her phone rang. She knew exactly who it was before she even looked at the phone screen. She hit the speaker button.
“Hello Jen,” Erica sang out, placing the phone on her nightstand.
“Hey E,” Jennifer replied. “Don’t tell me you’re just getting up.”
“You know me so well,” Erica said, smoothing out her comforter. “I deserve to sleep in after all this preparation of getting my apartment together and getting this magazine off the ground.”
“I hear you there,” Jennifer said. “So, what are your plans today?”
“I have no plans today,” Erica said, picking up her phone and walking into the bathroom.
“What? Miss Busy-Busy has no plans?” Jennifer said jokingly.
“Nope, and I made sure that I didn’t create any either. I plan to stay around the house, watch some TV and snack all day.”
“Wow, you’re walking on the wild side huh?” Jennifer laughed.
“Yep, you only live once!” Erica laughed back.
“How about lunch? Can you fit me into your non-busy schedule for that?”
“You know I can. Where?”
“Remington’s. At the Loop.”
Erica and Jennifer sat at a table next to the windows with an up-close view of Downtown Chicago. They had just received their orders: Erica ordered the prime rib and Jennifer had ordered crab cakes. Erica admired the view of the city and she was glad she had decided to move there.
“So, what are your plans for the weekend?” Jennifer asked between bites.
“Well, as I said earlier, I have no plans today but tonight I’m hanging out with Dean’s brother Darren,” Erica said, sipping her Pinot Noir.
“Dean’s brother huh?” Jennifer said with a smirk.
“What’s that look for?” Erica asked.
“Well, you did tell me how attractive he is,” Jennifer said, dabbing her mouth with a napkin.
“That’s all it is Jen,” Erica said. “I can’t think of him in that way; he’s practically family.”
“Well, if you don’t want to think of him that way, can I?” Jennifer laughed.
“You are so silly!” Erica laughed. “It’s not a real date; we’re just hanging out, that’s all.”
“Well that’s good; at least you’ll have a male friend to hang with and nothing sexual going on between you.”
“You’re right; I’m glad that it’s only a friendly hang out,” Erica said, cutting into her prime rib and placing a forkful into her mouth. She finished chewing before she finished what she was going to say. “I don’t need any complications. I mean, he’s very attractive but that’s it. Nothing more. I’m trying to stay focused on my career and life.”
“How long has it been since you’ve been with a man, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Three and a half years.”
“Damn, it’s been that long since you’ve had a man touch you, kiss you…give it to you?” Jennifer asked, her green eyes sparkling with curiosity.
“Jen, it’s not that important to me,” Erica said. “My mind has been on this company; I haven’t had time to really concentrate on it. Plus, after the Ryan fiasco, I just needed a break.”
“So have you heard anything about that loser lately?”
“Last I heard he was back in New Orleans with a baby and a baby momma,” Erica said, looking down at her plate.
“Oh, so Mr. I-Don’t-Want-No-Baby-Mommas got himself a baby momma huh? Jerk,” Jennifer said.
“I’m just glad I dodged that bullet,” Erica said, taking in a forkful of her side salad. “Now I can concentrate on me.”
“A toast. To moving on and moving forward positively,” Jen raised her glass. Erica raised hers and they clinked their glasses together. Erica suddenly felt reborn.
Friday Afternoon, May 8th, 4:12 p.m.
Darren couldn’t wait for the day to end. He had been anticipating this night for three weeks now. After he’d met Erica at Dean and Bianca’s dinner get-together, the two had exchanged numbers and spoke on the phone at least once a week. He had wanted to call her more often but didn’t want to become a pest. He enjoyed her conversations; she always wanted his opinions on different subjects and she wasn’t the type to make the conversations all about her. They talked about a range of different topics: politics, crime, the plight of African Americans in America, music, movies, etc. He was going over their last conversation from a few nights ago when his co-worker Taylor interrupted his thoughts.
“What up bro-ham?” Taylor asked, giving him a pound.
“You got it bro,” Darren said, returning the gesture.
“What’s the haps tonight? You going clubbing with the fellas?”
“Nope. I’m going out but not with them,” Darren said, smiling and tapping his foot against the stairs he was sitting on.
“Who you going out with then?” Taylor asked, knowing that it had to be a woman the way Darren was smiling.
“I’m taking my brother’s sister-in-law out on the town,” Darren said.
“What? That’s not a date, that’s like taking your little sister out,” Taylor said.
“She’s not my sister and she’s definitely not little,” Darren said, whipping out his phone. He scrolled to a picture that he and Erica had taken, along with Dean and Bianca during their dinner. He had wanted a picture of Erica alone but he didn’t want her to get suspicious so he made it a group picture. He pointed her out to Taylor.
“That’s her?” Taylor asked. “Dayum! She’s fine, homie.”
“I know, right?” Darren said, smiling.
“I don’t blame you for wanting to take her out,” Taylor said, still zooming in on Erica. Darren put his phone in his shirt pocket. “So where are you taking her?”
“That’s the problem,” Darren said. “I want to take her to a classy place because she’s a classy lady. You’ve dated girls with money; where did you take them?”
“I usually took them to a high-priced restaurant,” Taylor said, taking a seat next to Darren. “But there’s a few clubs that are classy. They play varieties of music. What does she listen to?”
“She’s pretty open to everything,” Darren said.
“Does she like jazz and R&B?” Taylor asked, pulling a piece of gum out of his pocket.
“Yeah, especially jazz,” Darren said.
“There’s this nice jazz club called Refuge Live on Clark Street downtown. I’ve never been myself but a female friend of mine has been there a few times.”
“Got it. Do you have to have reservations or no?”
“Nope, you just walk in.”
Friday Evening, 6:38 p.m.
Darren had taken pains to get ready for this big night. After leaving work, he rushed over to the barber shop near his home to get his hair cut and his beard trimmed. He had gone full beard over the last few weeks but he didn’t mind. Neither did the women. A lot of them had told him how daring and dashing he looked with the beard. He decided that he needed to trim it, especially being that he would be on the arm of a beautiful sophisticated lady like Erica. The beard wasn’t as thick and long as James Harden’s, who played for the Houston Rockets. It was on the order of actor Aldis Hodge, who had worn a full beard on the red carpet after the premiere of the blockbuster music biopic Straight Outta Compton. Many people told him that he resembled Aldis in a lot of ways, including Erica, who was a big fan. Darren was flattered but he felt that he was a little more handsome than Aldis was. He wasn’t a hater: he knew that Aldis was a nice looking guy but he felt he had the upper hand on him. For one, he was taller and a little more muscled than Aldis. They had similar eyes and complexions though.
After visiting his barber and longtime friend Curtis and filling him in on all the details of the date, he drove toward home, wondering what the night would bring. He checked the mailbox on the first floor of his apartment building and walked up the stairs to the third floor where his apartment was. He stuck his key in the lock and turned the knob. As soon as he walked in, his phone rang.
“What up?” It was TyTy.
“What up my nigga?” Darren asked, browsing through the mail. Junk mail as usual, he thought to himself. He tossed it in the trash and walked toward the kitchen. He grabbed a gallon of orange juice and took a swig. If he had shared the apartment with someone, he would have gotten a glass but since he lived alone, he knew that only his germs were on the container.
“Not much, just got off work, about to get into some shit,” TyTy said. Darren already knew what that meant: he was going clubbing. “What you doing? You just got home?”
“Yeah, I just came home from getting cleaned up by my nigga Curtis. Got this date with Ms. Erica tonight,” Darren said, walking into the bathroom and stepping out of his shoes.
“Oh, so you’re stepping out with Ms. Supermodel herself huh?” TyTy asked, laughing.
“Yeah man,” Darren said, beaming over the phone. He sat on the side of the tub and removed his socks. He turned the tub faucet on, testing the temperature of the water.
“So you trying to see what’s up huh? Trying to see how the booty work?”
“Come on man,” Darren said. He couldn’t lie to himself; he did actually have a few fantasies about Erica. He wondered how she responded to soft kisses, light touches, nibbles on her neck, hands softly gripping her ass…
“You know I know you bro,” TyTy said. “You like fuckin just like the next nigga. You got a few notches under your belt. I know you done had some wet dreams about her.” They both laughed.
“Dude, I can’t be doing that though,” Darren said. “She might not be feeling me like that.” Darren secretly hoped that he was wrong. He wanted to know Erica on a more personal level. Erica had told him about her ex-boyfriends Cash and Ryan, about how she and Cash had parted ways on a good note and how Ryan had broken her heart and how long it took her to heal. She sounded so vulnerable that Darren wanted to reach through the phone and hold her in his arms.
“But what if she does?” TyTy asked.
“We’ll cross that bridge if we get to it,” Darren said, turning on the shower.
“When you get to it,” TyTy said knowingly.
Friday Night, 8:23 p.m.
Darren pulled up in front of Erica’s building and was instantly impressed. She sure knows how to live good, he thought as a valet walked up to his Escalade. He handed the valet his keys and stepped out of the truck. He walked into the lobby and pulled his phone out to call Erica. He knew she lived on the 15th floor but had no idea what the actual apartment number was. She answered on the third ring, as she always did when they talked.
“I’m down in the lobby,” Darren told her.
“I’m not quite finished getting ready yet; can you come up?” Erica said. At that moment, Darren’s spine started to tingle. “Apartment 1525.”
“I’m on the way,” Darren said. He walked to the elevator bank and wished for the elevator to hurry up. The elevator finally arrived and Darren stepped inside. The elevator quickly took him up to the 15th floor and he stepped off. He walked down the hall, not sure if he was going the right way. He looked at all the doors: 1511, 1513, 1515. He knew he was going the right way. He finally got to Apartment 1525 and he could smell a subtle scent of vanilla and cinnamon. He rang the doorbell and Erica appeared, looking like a dream. She was wearing a black Jaydan Pointelle trim scoop-back dress from BCBG and teardrop stone chandelier earrings dangled from her ears. She wore stockings but no shoes. Darren noticed her tiny little feet with her toenails painted with a dark pink polish.
“I’m sorry I’m running a little late,” Erica said. “Come on in and make yourself comfortable.” She stepped back and allowed him to enter. Darren was even more impressed upon entering. Her apartment was tastefully decorated and very classy. He sat on her sofa and watched as she made her way to the back. Her dress hit every curve and Darren felt his manhood rise. Don’t do this little bro, he told his manhood, willing it to go down before Erica returned. Erica returned to the living room with her shoes in her hand, a pair of strappy sandals. She sat next to him and slipped them on.
“How was your day?” Erica asked him, fastening her sandals.
“It was cool, typical day,” Darren said, noticing how her earrings sparkled in the light as her head moved side to side. “How was yours?”
“Uneventful, but that’s what I wanted,” Erica said, standing up and smoothing her dress over her thighs. “I wanted to just rest and do nothing today. I had lunch with my friend Jen and came home and watched a bit of TV.” Darren couldn’t help watching her hands slide down her dress and he became aroused again.
“That sounds cool,” he said, willing himself to go down.
“You ready? I’ve held you up long enough,” Erica said.
“Um…yeah. I’m ready,” Darren said, standing up slowly. He had hoped she wouldn’t see the bulge in his pants. He let her go out of the door first and they stepped into the hallway. Erica pulled out her key and locked the door.
“Let’s go have some fun,” Erica said with a big smile.