Chapter IX: Crossing from Love into Hate
Friday Evening, September 24th, 5:42 p.m.
As Darren sat waiting in an extremely long line at the downtown Chase ATM, he spotted a familiar face chatting with a very handsome guy in a tailored gray suit. Typical pretty nigga, Darren thought as he gripped his steering wheel with narrowed eyes. He watched from a distance as Erica punched something into a phone, a phone that didn’t look anything like the one she owned. He saw her hand the phone back to Pretty Boy and Pretty Boy took a phone from her and punched something in. Darren suspected that they were exchanging numbers.
“I can’t believe this bitch!” Darren mumbled under his breath, watching with intensity as Erica laughed at whatever Pretty Boy was saying. He saw her place a hand on Pretty Boy’s shoulder and Darren’s heart burned. “That’s why she didn’t want to fuck with me; she already had somebody.” He watched intently as Erica’s friend Jennifer emerged from a car with a huge smile on her face. She walked over to Erica and the guy and laughed loudly while nudging Erica’s side.
“That white bitch probably set them up,” Darren said. He gripped the steering wheel even tighter. Erica had told him that Jennifer dated outside of her race and it irritated him upon hearing it. He had never been a fan of interracial dating; he felt that sisters were the best thing since sliced bread. He didn’t understand the attraction that some black men had for white girls. He watched as Jennifer gave Pretty Boy a hug, then Erica followed suit. Pretty Boy whispered something to Erica and he grabbed her hand and squeezed it. The ladies got into Erica’s BMW and Pretty Boy walked to the parking lot and got into a silver Infiniti. They both pulled off simultaneously and Darren was watching so intently that he didn’t see that the car in front of him had moved up. The car behind him honked his horn and Darren flipped him off.
“Fuck you bitch!” Darren yelled out of the window. The guy flipped him off and Darren suddenly put his SUV into park. He jumped out of the SUV and headed back to the guy’s car. The guy saw him coming and his eyes grew wide. He rolled his window up as Darren approached.
“You got something to say to me?” Darren yelled. The guy shook his head as if to say No. Darren slammed his fist into the man’s window and the guy jumped. Darren narrowed his eyes at him and stalked back to his own vehicle. He sat in his ride fuming. This bitch think she slick, Darren thought to himself. She didn’t want me because she already had somebody on the side. Fuckin’ whore. Darren finally made it to the ATM machine, made his withdrawal and made his way toward the exit. He sped down La Salle Street toward home. When he got to his place, he immediately picked up his phone to call Erica and tell her what he thought of her. Just as he was about to punch in her number, he stopped himself.
This ain’t you bro, Darren thought to himself. You ain’t ever been thirsty for a woman so don’t start acting thirsty now. He sat down on his bed and laid back. His eyes and his mind burned with hate and jealousy. He hated Erica for using him, he hated Pretty Boy for coming into Erica’s life, and he hated himself for having feelings for Erica. He was jealous that Erica was showing some positive attention to Pretty Boy and jealous that Pretty Boy possibly had a better chance with Erica than he did. A slight headache began forming and Darren knew he had to do something to get his mind off the entire scenario. He decided to call his friend Deuce. He didn’t want to be bothered with Mario and TyTy, especially not tonight. TyTy seemed to be reveling in the fact that he was having relationship issues and Mario was on Team Erica. Deuce was the only one of the guys who seemed to understand his plight.
“What up my nigga?” Deuce answered on the first ring.
“Ain’t too much going on bro, just got off work,” Darren said.
“What you getting into tonight?” Deuce asked.
“Trying to hang out,” Darren said, taking off his work shirt.
“Sounds good,” Deuce said. “Where you tryna go?
“No clubs for me tonight,” Darren told him. “Not feeling the loud music, the loose females and the hood mentality tonight.”
“How about The Standard?” Deuce said.
“Aight cool. Meet you there at 9.”
Friday Night, 9:22 p.m.
Standard Bar & Grill was alive with activity. Darren and Deuce decided to sit in the bar area and enjoy a nice meal. They both ordered the award-winning Cortland Street burger with parmesan fries and bottles of Miller Draft Beer. Darren felt himself relaxing in the cozy atmosphere of the restaurant. It had been a trying day for him, especially after seeing Erica chatting with that guy.
“So you think she played you huh?” Deuce asked, picking up a fry.
“I know she did,” Darren said before taking a swig of beer. “How you gon’ cut me loose then I see you making goo-goo eyes at another nigga?”
“See, this is why I don’t take these bitches seriously,” Deuce said. Deuce was known for playing the field; he had no intention of settling for just one woman. “They play with your heart then when you get sucked in, they lose interest. That’s why I’m a hit-it-and-quit-it nigga; I keep my coins in my own pocket. I give them the long stroke and kick ’em out the door.” They both laughed.
“We always went dutch when we hung out,” Darren said. “I didn’t want her throwing nothing up in my face about her spending all her money on me if things went bad.”
“And things still went bad,” Deuce said. “You got in way over your head, nigga. A stuck-up bitch like that ain’t checking for a down to earth brotha. She was filling in a space until Mr. Brooks Brothers came along. That shit wasn’t right. If I were you, I’d pay her ass back.”
“I can’t do that man,” Darren said, suddenly thinking about Bianca. He knew that if he sought the type of revenge he wanted toward her sister, she’d be hurt.
“Why not? Don’t tell me you still hung up on that bitch,” Deuce said, taking a swig of beer.
“It’s not about being hung up on anybody; she’s still Bianca’s sister and I love Bianca,” Darren said. “If I hurt Erica, I’m hurting Bianca. I can’t do that. She helped me when I needed it most.”
“Damn…you right bro,” Deuce said, suddenly feeling bad. He had never had a one-on-one with Bianca but he liked her after being around her a few times. “I wasn’t thinking. But Erica’s gonna get hers, man; I truly believe in karma…and she’s a real bitch.”
“You got that right,” Darren said, raising his bottle and clinking it again Deuce’s.
Saturday Morning, September 25th, 10:13 a.m.
Darren was enjoying a one-on-one game of basketball with his big brother Dean. He hadn’t spoken with Dean in nearly a week so he hadn’t filled him in on the week’s activities. He wasn’t sure if he should speak on his situation with Erica though. As far as Dean and Bianca knew, Darren and Erica were simply hang-out buddies, nothing serious or sexual. If he told Dean too much, Dean may get suspicious. The brothers had taken a break on the sideline, drinking from their sports bottles and catching their breaths.
“So how was your week?” Darren asked Dean.
“It was great; I think I may be getting closer to a promotion,” Dean said, beaming with pride. “The promotion has been in talks for weeks now but it seems to be coming to fruition now.”
“Hey, that’s great Bro…congratulations,” Darren said, feeling proud of his big brother. As a child, he always looked up to Dean and he knew that one day he’d make his life a successful one. He had graduated with honors from high school and college, had married a beautiful smart woman and was living a comfortable existence in the ’burbs. Although he was happy and proud of his brother, he felt a slight twinge of jealousy as well. All he had wanted was to follow in his brother’s footsteps in life. He knew Dean wasn’t perfect but he didn’t have to deal with the kinds of stresses that Darren dealt with. Darren regretted the choices he made as a teen, as a younger man. He was determined to make a better life for himself, especially if that meant getting over his anger for Erica.
“So how’s life been treating you, Little Bro? You and Erica been kicking it still? I ain’t seen either one of you in a while now,” Dean said, sitting his sports bottle on the floor. Darren groaned inwardly.
“Life’s been pretty neutral,” Darren said. “Work as usual. As far as me and Erica…well, we just decided that we’re not on the same page when it comes to different things.”
“What do you mean?” Dean asked.
“I mean, she likes doing her thing and I like doing mine,” Darren said. “I did what you and Bianca asked; I showed her around, I took her out a few times and that’s all it is. She’s enjoying her life and I’m enjoying mine.”
“Wow bro…if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you caught some feelings,” Dean joked.
“It ain’t even like that,” Darren said, feeling irritated. “Apparently, I’m not on her level. I found that out soon enough.”
“What do you mean?” Dean said. “Erica’s not a snob. I’m sure that it’s not what you think.”
“Then what do I think bro?” Darren said.
“Whoa…it’s not even that serious,” Dean said, sensing that something was amiss. “I was just saying: Erica’s not shallow. If the two of you dated for the time that you did, then apparently she enjoyed your time together. Did you…wait a minute…did y’all get intimate?”
“Naw man,” Darren lied. “I kept it strictly friends-only. I just thought we would get closer and become closer friends. She’s the one who cut things off.”
“Do you know why?”
“I don’t know; I didn’t bother to ask. I’m not finna chase no woman around,” Darren said, standing up. “If she don’t wanna hang no more, that’s cool with me. She’s not obligated to me and vice versa. It is what it is. Let’s go back and finish this game.” Dean stood up and followed Darren onto the court. He had an idea that Darren was in his feelings about Erica but he knew not to push the issue. He had to come up with a plan to find out exactly where things went wrong with his brother and sister-in-law.
Saturday Evening, 8:28 p.m.
As Dean and Bianca sat in the luxurious NAHA Restaurant enjoying a couple’s night out, Dean’s mind took him back to the conversation he had with Darren earlier in the day. Darren seemed a bit irritated with the questions he was asked about Erica. In his mind, Dean thought that maybe Darren had fallen for her and that Erica only saw him as a friend, possibly family. Dean didn’t see it that way: Darren and Erica were in no way related so they were free to date and start a relationship if they wanted.
“You okay baby?” Bianca asked, sipping her Merlot.
“Yeah, I’m fine, love,” Dean said. “I was just thinking about the conversation I had with Darren today. It seems as if he and Erica aren’t kicking it anymore. I asked him what happened and he seems to think that she didn’t think he was good enough for her or something but I told him that was ridiculous.”
“It’s totally ridiculous; my sister is not a snob and Darren is a great catch for any woman,” Bianca said. She took a forkful of grilled salmon and placed it in her mouth. After she stopped chewing she asked, “But do you think that would have been somewhat strange though? Them having a relationship?”
“Why? They’re not related,” Dean said. “Erica is my sister-in-law and Darren is your brother-in-law but they aren’t tied together like that. They just happen to be our in-laws.”
“You’re right,” Bianca said.
“Have you talked to Erica lately?” Dean asked.
“I talked to her yesterday but it was a brief convo,” Bianca said. “She was telling me that an old friend of hers had moved to Chicago.”
“I have an idea; how about if we invite Darren and Erica to dinner next weekend? Maybe if we get them in the same room, they’ll sort out what happened and become hang-out buddies again,” Dean suggested.
“I hope so,” Bianca said. “I don’t think they’re angry with each other or anything like that; I think maybe they just like different things and decided to do their own thing with their own friends.” Dean thought back to the convo with Darren earlier and remembered hearing a bit of anger in his little brother’s voice. He hoped that the dinner would settle things once and for all.