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six months later.
From the tall fir tree decorated with bright white lights and colored ornaments, to the Santa red stockings for Hendrix and I hanging from the mantel over my gas fireplace, my 1,200 square-foot apartment was almost ready for Christmas, and it was only a week after Thanksgiving. TLC’s “Sleigh Ride” was blasting all throughout the apartment as I sat in the lotus position with my knees spread butterfly-style on the living room carpet finger-fucking myself to Hendrix via Facetime.
“Oh shit. That’s it right there, baby. Yessss,” I moaned, pleasuring myself faster and harder.
I pushed the pads of my feet together while tightening and releasing my pelvis and putting pressure on my G-spot. My fingers experimented with different patterns and rhythms as he talked his shit.
“Mmm, gush all over those fingers for daddy. Get ‘em nice and wet for me.”
He’d been coaching me through one mind blowing muscle contraction after the other for the past sixteen minutes and forty-two seconds, and he was showing no signs of stopping.
I squirmed, tossing my head back against the plush couch as my next orgasm washed over me. “Ooooh shiiiiiiiittttttt!”
“Soak that shit up, baby,” Hendrix’s baritone voice hummed through the other side of the phone.
I slowly opened my eyes to take in the views of the mountain through my floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room, while trying to bring my heartrate down to a resting level. “Mmm, shit. I squirted,” I announced.
“You know I’m gon’ break that back when I see you again, right?” He confirmed.
“Yes, baby. I can’t wait,” I assured him.
The moment we stepped off the island, photos of us surfaced when we arrived at the airport hand-in-hand. Suddenly, I’d gone from a fly on the wall to bloggers wanting to know each and everything about me. So naturally, I resisted him, hard. Within ninety days, I’d gone from fighting Hendrix tooth and nail on all the laundry list of reasons why a long-distance relationship would never work, to giving him the spare key to my apartment for when he’d fly in to visit and break me off. We’d been going strong ever since. Falling in love with the creature with the whiskey-colored eyes was never part of the plan, but it was safe to say I was head over heels for more than just the D. Hendrix awakened something inside me. Something I’d never felt before with any other man I’d dated, let alone fucked.
For the past six months, we’d been splitting our time between my condo in San Jose and his spot in Kansas City. He stayed true to his word and let me decide how fast or slow I wanted things to go between us. Not once had he pressured me to permanently close the gap and come to him, and I appreciated it more than he knew. I loved my place, and I enjoyed my space. There was something about stepping into my sacred space and closing out the world for however long I needed to that I craved. I enjoyed walking downtown to restaurants or visiting the Farmer’s Market on early Saturday mornings. I had no intentions on giving up the heated pool and world-class gym I paid for every month to move halfway across the country and fold my life into his anytime soon.
I ran my fingertips along the back of the couch as I made my way back to my bedroom to finish getting dressed. Hendrix had lucked up that he’d caught me fresh out of the shower with a towel on when we decided to have a little virtual afternoon quickie. But I had moves to make and people to see. I pressed the button to close the retractable drapes across the floor-to-ceiling windows inside my bedroom, closing out the view of the city and the garland and white Christmas lights wrapped around the railing on my private balcony. I smiled to myself, momentarily hypnotized by the twinkling lights, until the annoying hum of the air conditioning brought me right back down to earth.
“Ugh,” I groaned before dropping my towel on the floor.
“Baby, it’s almost December, and it’s like sixty degrees outside. I don’t want to spend another Christmas like this. For the first time in maybe ever, I actually want a fun, old-fashioned Christmas, okay?”
“And what exactly is an ‘old fashioned Christmas’?” he asked, while bending his fingers in air quotes.
“You know, a Christmas where the heat kicks on inside the house instead of the A/C. Or dare I say even a white Christmas?”
“Sounds like you need to move out here with me then. I know for sure they gotta get snow out this mothafucka. I got a hoodie on right now and it ain’t even December.”
My shoulders shrugged. “Maybe I do,” I said as my feet swept across the wide-plank wood floors from my bedroom to the kitchen.
Natural light flooded through my entire condo as I fished through the bowl of leftover Halloween candy on the quartz countertop. I locked eyes on the strawberry-flavored Fruit by the Foot and smiled to myself.
“What are you cheesing about over there?”
“Oh, you saw that?” I asked, momentarily forgetting we were still on FaceTime.
“Yeah, I did.”
“It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it,” I said, changing the subject. “I have to get ready to meet Lauryn so we can do some more shopping for decorations for her baby shower in a few weeks.”
“Yeah, Mark was telling me about that.”
“You know her and Donovan just bought that house in Oakland. I told her I’d come over and help her unpack and make the house a home before we go shopping since she’s all big and pregnant and not wanting to do shit.”
“So you gon’ go save the day, huh?”
I swiped my purse, keys, and box of decorations off the island and headed for the door. “You know me. But listen, I’m already late and you know how traffic can be, so I really gotta split.”
“Okay, I’ll let you go.”
“Never let me go,” I said, feeling myself turn to mush as the words fell past my lips.
“I’ll never do no crazy shit like that,” he confirmed before flashing me his killer smile.
I giggled. “Good. Bye, bae.”
“Bye,” he replied before ending the call.
One Ashanti Essentials Apple Music playlist, bumper to bumper traffic, and a grocery run later, I pulled up to Lauryn and Donovan’s two-story home bearing gifts.
“Merry Christmas!” I beamed as soon as Lauryn swung open the door.
“It’s not Christmas yet, Cass. Calm your holly jolly ass down.” She chuckled.
“Well, ho-ho-ho to you too, bitch.” I walked into the foyer and looked around. “Wow… where is your Christmas cheer? There’s practically nothing in here.”
“Did you forget we just moved here? You were the one telling me that you were gonna come over, help me unpack and sprinkle your little elf magic everywhere.”
“Yeah, and trust me, I will. We can get you some stockings hung over your fireplace for you, Donovan, and even one for the little baby boo on the way. We can get you some holiday throw pillows for the couch and get you some lights and some more decorations for that big tree for us to decorate.”
Lauryn’s face switched to a frown. I loved my girl, but I had the feeling that out of the two of us, I was the only one hype about the holidays. “Fuck Christmas, Cass. All I wanna know is did you bring what I told you to bring?” She fussed.
I held up the grocery bag with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Netflix and Chilled ice cream and a fresh bottle of Pinot Grigio for me. “Yes, damn.”
“Good. You may proceed to enter the rest of the house,” she said, turning to lead us to the kitchen.
“Why thank you. Now, let me see this tree,” I said, charging forward to the living room. When my eyes landed on the skinny, artificial tree tilted to its left side, I frowned. “This is it?”
She smacked her bow-shaped lips. “Shit, you lucky we got a damn fake-ass tree for you to decorate. With the stress of this move and having to pee every five seconds, I am not in the Christmas spirit.”
“Oh, you ain’t got to tell me. I can see it all on your grill. But don’t worry, I got some decorations in the car and I’m about to bless you with my Christmas magic. Let me just go back out to the car and get the box of decorations.”
I spun on my heels and walked back out to get the plastic, green tub of decorations filled with garland, ornaments, stockings, holiday knick-knacks, and more. Lauryn took one look inside the tub and shook her head.
“You don’t think you’re overdoing it?” She asked.
“Can I be honest?”
I huffed before sitting the tub down. “Yeah, sure.”
“I love you with every beat of my heart, but your obsession with Christmas is too damn much. You’re like a little holiday whore with a nice ass.”
I cracked a half smile before looking back at my booty. “I know, right.”
“I already know your ass got a Christmas tree in the living room by the window, and another tabletop one in the kitchen. You probably got one in your bedroom too!”
I rolled my eyes to the sky. “And don’t forget the big wreath on the outside of my door and the countdown calendar on my kitchen island that counts down the days til’ Christmas, and the garland on top of all my kitchen cabinets! It ain’t no secret that Christmas is my favorite holiday! I’m loud and proud with mine!”
The two of us walked over to the bare tree and I started putting up ornaments and lights while she sat Indian style on the couch with her ice cream in hand. Lauryn wore a half smile as she indulged in the sweet treat, but I’d known her too long not to be able to see through the bullshit. Pregnant or not, she was eating her feelings. There was something on her heart that she wasn’t talking about, and I had a feeling I knew exactly what it was.
“What’s going on with you, Lauryn? You good?”
She pulled the large spoon out of her mouth before shaking her head. “I’m fine.”
“Everything good with you and D?”
“We’re good, too.”
“So what am I missin’?” I quizzed.
She frowned. “Meaning what?”
“Meaning, how long are you going to lie to me and tell me everything is sweet when I can smell the bullshit?”
She huffed. “I just want to be happy, permanently. I want us all to be happy.”
“Is there such thing as permanent happiness, Lauryn?”
She shrugged her narrow shoulders. “I don’t know. Every time I feel like I get a glimpse of it, it’s always snatched away.”
“What do you not have to be happy about? You just bought a house, you’re engaged, and you’re having a baby with the man you love.”
“It’s everything I thought I wanted. And don’t get me wrong, I want it. I really do. I just—I just can’t help but feel like the other shoe is going to drop at any minute. Like, what did I do that was so good to deserve all of this?”
“It sounds like you’re dealing with some imposter syndrome issues. But you deserve every good thing that’s coming to you in this world, okay? You’re a great person, Lauryn. You’re gorgeous. You’re smart. You’re funny. You’re—”
“Okay, okay. I get it. I don’t know. I think I’m just nervous. Like what if this baby comes out and like never sleeps or rips my body apart on its way out? I swear I be having the craziest thoughts run through my head all hours of the day and night and I don’t ever say anything to anybody.”
“Why haven’t you talked to D about how you’re feeling?” I asked.
She shook her head. “No. I don’t want him to think I can’t handle this, and I definitely don’t want him breathing down my neck any more than he already is. I love him, and I don’t want to put any more pressure on him.”
“I understand, but you can’t go around harboring all of these emotions either. You know I’m always here if you want to talk.”
“Thank you, girl. Now, enough about me and my boring, normal people life. Tell me all about this relationship with Hendrix. What’s the tea? What’s the update? You’ve been very private with this one, and I’m utterly shocked.”
I shot up an inquisitive eyebrow. “Oh yeah? And why is that?”
“Because you’re you and I’m me. We share everything, bitch. You know, Mark can’t get anything out of Hendrix either.”
I snickered. “You just shaking all the trees, huh?”
“Every last branch,” she joked.
“I don’t know, Lauryn. It’s just different with him. I don’t know if it’s because we have a past or what, but I’m…dare I say, happy?”
She cheesed. “That’s exactly what you should be if he’s doing his job correctly, and from the looks of it, he is. You haven’t stopped smiling since you got here. And I know I’m cute and all, but I figured only D could have a bitch cheesing and showing all thirty-two like you are. So go ahead and tell me about this perfect little secret love life of yours!”
“Hmph. It’s good. We’re good. We’re, you know, taking it…day by day, month by month,” I said coyly.
“Do I hear wedding bells?”
“You must mean your own, because…”
“Because what?” She frowned.
“Because we’ve only been together for a few months,” I reminded her.
“Have you even thought about it?”
“Of course, I have. Every woman thinks of that, right? I’m just not trying to get hung up on that. Relationships aren’t always about having a piece of metal wrapped around my finger. No offense.”
She shook her head. “None taken.”
“I’m just saying, I like where we are right now and if a ring is in my future, then I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”
Truthfully, I’d been floating on cloud 99 for the past six months. Shit had been better than good. It was the first time I’d admitted out loud that I’d entertained the idea of changing my last name to Croft a time or two, but I was still going to play it cool.
“That’s it? That’s all you’re going to fucking give me? I’ve been patient with your ass for six whole months, Cass! So, no! Nah! You gotta give it up and you gotta do it right the fuck now or I ain’t puttin’ up another damn Christmas nothin’ in this house!”
I tried my best to stifle a smile. “I got everything that I want right now, trust me. You don’t have to worry about Hendrix. He’s taking care of me,” I told her.
She eyed me closely. “Mmm, physically or is he breakin’ you off with more than just dick?”
I sucked my teeth. “What do you mean?”
“You over here talkin’ like he feedin’ your soul and shit, so I just wanna know what else he’s putting down other than pipe.”
“I just don’t know why you think just because of his occupation, I’m living in the lap of luxury. I have my own and you know that.”
“Yeah, I do. That’s the best part! It’s exactly what makes your fuckin’ life so good. Stash yours and spend his!”
“Listen, before getting with Hendrix, I thought being the girlfriend of an NBA player was about the wining a dining, random vacations on a Wednesday, the shoes, God the shoes, you know? But now that I’m in it, being with someone that everyone worships is far from easy. For one, his schedule is crazy. He plays like eighty or something games a year. Half are in Kansas City and the other half are away and across the country. Sometimes he’s gone for a couple days, sometimes he’s gone for a week. And with my work schedule fluctuating the way it does, I can only really count on seeing him maybe one or two days out of the month.”
“Oh, so you delirious from lack of the hood wood, huh?”
“Very. My dick supply is almost fully depleted and my pussy is on life support. And trust, the phone sex ain’t cuttin’ it.”
“Girl, I bet. Can’t nothin’ compare to the real thang,” she said, spooning another mouthful of ice cream between her lips.
“Girl, and that’s what I’m saying. My real thang is across the country at any given moment. And these bitches swear they know more about my man than I do! They know his stats, all the teams he’s played for, where he’s staying, how long he gon’ be there, everything.”
“See, I’d have to cut a bitch. But you know, you wanna protect your peace and shit like your face wasn’t already in the blogs when those pictures were posted of y’all holding hands at the airport leaving the island like y’all was all in love and shit.” She snickered.
“Yeah, but there hasn’t been much talk about it since. We’ve been cautious. Mainly me, because I don’t want or need all my business in the streets at any given time.”
“So the reason y’all aren’t public all day every day is because of you?”
“Exactly. I told him I wanted to take things slow and that’s what we’ve been doing. Just taking things day by day and month by month, like I said,” I repeated.
We’d managed to keep the buzz to a minimum over the months, never confirming or denying anything. We’d order in instead of dining out and staying secluded behind the walls of his place or mine. We weren’t posting all our whereabouts on the ‘gram, because the only two people who needed to know about us, knew.
“You a better one than me, that’s all I’m sayin’.”
“I’m not above it, trust. And don’t get me wrong, it definitely bothers me sometimes because I know how scandalous some of these women are, but at the same time, these past six months have been so blissful because we’ve been lowkey for the most part. I enjoy a little tea and drama like the next bitch, but not when it’s about me and the dick I’m sittin’ on. I like my peace. I got my life and he has his. I don’t wanna get swallowed up in him just because I’m dating him.”
“Yeah, I feel you. I know I’d still be wanting to put these hoes in check, though. Belly and all,” she said, rubbing her round belly.
“I can’t quit my life for him, but I still support him by watching every game on TV and cheering him on from the comfort of my eating sweats and my couch.”
“What the fuck did I tell you about them pants, hoe? Damn! Christmas is coming up, I’ma get you right. Say less.”
I chuckled. “You’re a bitch.”
“And you still love me,” she said, blowing me a kiss.
Two and a half hours later, I looked around Lauryn’s house and smiled. “Wow…”
“What?” “It’s beginning to look a lot like…”
“Christmas!” She answered, hanging the last few decorations on the tree. “I still can’t believe I let you do this.”
“Admit it! It makes you smile, right?”
“Yeah, it does.”
“I mean, it’s nothing like my house, but we can’t all be number one,” I boasted with a chuckle.