Pick up the Pen is a new short story series where black authors, bloggers, and writers come together to create one short story. Each writer gets the same prompt (the prompt for this story is the picture).
The first writer starts the story and names the characters. Once the first writer is done the second writer comes in and picks up the pen right where the last writer left off (this continues until the final writer picks up the pen).
The last writer titles the story and brings it to an end. This is a great way to bring more of our creators together in the Black literary community. This is creating for the sake of creating. If you are interested in participating in the next Pick up the pen installment, please fill out this FORM
I Think I’m In Love With My Best Friend
It was always hot as hell in Momma’s house. No matter what the weather was like outside, that damned heater was on eighty, and my perfectly laid baby hairs could go to hell for all she cared. Poppa used to say she had low iron and she’d tell him to kiss her ass. And for that reason, I decided that instead of debating her on the subject, I’d just put on some shorts and a tank top, stop by for Sunday breakfast, and pretend I wasn’t sitting in the devil’s kitchen.
“It’s smellin’ good in here, woman!” I yelled from the living room, pulling closed the heavy wooden door that had been separating my grandmother’s living quarters from the rest of the world for the past fifty-five years.
“It better be!” A heavy voice that unintentionally carried like music, sounded over the crackling of bacon frying in a cast-iron skillet that was at least forty years older than me. “Come on in here. I haven’t laid eyes on you all week.”
“Sorry, Momma. It’s been a long week.” I stared a little harder at the plant, wondering why in the world she needed with another one.
“Every week is a long week when you’re seventy-five years old.” She returned with an attitude; one that I ignored because it was Sunday and I was too tired to argue.
“You ain’t got enough plants in here already?” I quickly changed the subject, dragging my eyes away from the beautiful mystery plant, heading straight for my grandmother and planting a kiss on her cheek when she leaned back from the frying pan.
“I got more than enough.” She tipped her head at me, big brown eyes giving me a look of suggestion. “That ain’t for me.” She used a spatula to scoop three pieces of bacon at a time out of the skillet and onto a bed of paper towels that were waiting on a plate beside the stove.
“Is it a gift for a friend? Did somebody die?” I asked, collecting two plates from the cabinets we’d recently painted teal and a set of eating utensils from the silverware drawer.
“Nobody died, girl. And that would be an insensitive way to ask if somebody had. Pauline ain’t taught you no manners at all.” She shook her head, pouring five beaten eggs into the skillet that was still sizzling with bacon grease.
“She didn’t. And I’m sorry.” I chuckled. My mother—her ex-daughter in law—was almost completely useless when it came to teaching me anything about being a good person. “So, you gonna tell me who this plant is for, or do I have to use my imagination?”
I set our plates in front of our respective seats at the table for four that had only been occupied by the two of us since Poppa passed away ten years prior.
“I can’t tell you who it’s for.” She replied, not showing an ounce of mercy to the eggs as she scrambled them to perfection. “But what I can tell you is that Doogie Wayne dropped it off this morning right before you came. Ain’t no card attached and I’m assuming that’s because he shoved it in his pocket when he thought I wasn’t looking.”
“If he brought it to your house, I’m sure it’s for you.”
Just hearing Doogie’s name sent a chill up my spine.
A chill that wasn’t there before the night before.
A chill that was highly inappropriate seeing as this man had been my best friend since we were fourteen years old.
“Seems that way, don’t it?” Momma said, placing a plate of bacon and fluffy pancakes on the table, pulling my mind out of the gutter. “Don’t nobody give me more hell about all these plants in my house than you and Doogie Wayne. So why on earth would he be stopping by to feed my addiction?”
Momma was nothing if not inquisitive, and all I could do to hide the lie pressing against my lips was shove a piece of bacon in my mouth and mumble, “I’on’t know.”
“You know, one would think that after all the meals I done fed you and all the ass whoopings I done saved you from, you would at least be able to avoid lying to me on a Sunday morning. I mean of all days, Amena.” Momma rolled her eyes, taking her seat beside me at the table after bringing over the eggs and two glasses for the orange juice that was already there.
“You and Doogie Wayne got something goin’ on, don’t you?” Here meaty shoulders sunk as she glanced over at me.
“And don’t you sit up here and lie to me twice, Knee Gal.” She cut me off, using that god-awful nickname that had been given to me when I was in her words ‘knee-high to a grasshopper’. “I don’t feel one way or the other about it. But he’d be a lot better for you than that Chris Brown boy.”
“His name is just Chris, Momma.” I corrected her, though it was no use.
“They’re all the same.” She flipped her hand. “And I heard he’s known for putting many knots upside women’s heads.”
“How many times are we gonna have this conversation?” I grabbed the spatula and served myself some eggs since my grandmother was too busy fussing to do it for me.
“Until I get a call from Herman Memorial about you being rushed up there in an ambulance because the fool done finally went upside yo’ head.” She huffed, taking the spatula from my hand to serve up her own eggs.
“Well, you ain’t gotta worry about that.” I returned, wanting to roll my eyes but knowing better.
“What, he done did it? I knew it. I knew the minute I saw that sawed-off mother fu—where is he?” She pushed back from the table.
“Momma, calm down!” I chuckled, reaching over and grabbing her hand before she could stand up. The woman was agile as fuck for her age. “He didn’t hurt me. Not physically, anyway.” I smiled because I’d cried a river already and was over the shit for the most part.
“He cheated, Momma. Turns out there are worse things in the world than having your lip busted.” I squeezed then released her hand, grabbing my fork and digging into my scrambled eggs.
“Well,” she said before picking up her fork. “I told you, you can do better.” She shoved a heaping helping of eggs into her mouth, nudging me with her elbow.
“Yeah. I think I’m probably better off alone for now.” I picked up the pitcher of orange juice and poured us both a glass.
“Alone ain’t good for nobody, baby,” Momma mentioned as I took a sip from my orange juice. “Poppa got on my nerves for a living, but I’d give my right hand to have him back here with me right now. And you know I use my right hand for everything.”
“I know. And I would too, Momma.” I sighed, picking up a napkin to dab the corners of my mouth. “But Poppa was different. Came from a different time. They don’t make men like him no more.” I dropped my shoulders and forked around in my plate. Suddenly, I’d lost my appetite and that almost never happened.
“Yes, they do.” She corrected me, taking a sip from her drink. “You’re just looking in all the wrong places. Going out to all these parties with your lil friends. Ain’t nothin’ at those clubs but a good time. And a good time don’t last long. Do you know where I met your grandfather? At a—”
“Filling station. I know, Momma. You’ve told me that story a million times. He offered to pump your gas and you told him to kiss your ass. It was love at first sight.”
“You damn right it was!” She was tickled. I only saw that sparkle in her eyes when we talked about Poppa. She loved that man more than anyone could love anything. “Yeah, I knew it and he did too.” Her smile hadn’t faded and probably wouldn’t for the rest of the day.
“You deserve a love like that, you know?” She rubbed my shoulder, taking notice of the food I was no longer touching. “A love that’ll spoil your appetite.”
“What?” I squinted, turning my head to look at her.
“Something is weighing on you, baby. I could feel it on you when you kissed my cheek. And whatever it is, you need to deal with it. You can’t afford to lose another pound.” Momma pushed away from the table and stood up. If I wasn’t gonna finish my breakfast, she wasn’t gonna finish hers.
At least not until I left.
Sitting there looking at the cold food on my plate, I decided not to go back and forth with her when we both knew she was right. And just as I stood from the table to collect the meal I’d wasted, the doorbell rang. And it wasn’t necessary for either of us to question who it was.
“Why are you here?”
Leave it to Amena Shondelle Ross to stand in her grandmother’s living room wearing a pair of ripped denim shorts that clung tightly to the same thighs that had been sprawled over my damn shoulders, acting like her thighs hadn’t been sprawled over my damn shoulders.
“Doogie Wayne, you hungry?” Mrs. Ross asked, round face glowing with the same mahogany skin as her granddaughter’s. “Somebody, who shall remain nameless, just wasted my time and my food. We got plenty.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Ross. I’ll take some to go.” I replied as kindly as I could. The last thing on my mind was some bacon and eggs. I hadn’t eaten shit since the night before.
And even then, it wasn’t food.
“To go? Did you see an Ihop sign on that door when you walked in? You better come on in here and get you something to eat. Come on. I’m not taking no for an answer.” I sighed on the inside but knew better than to breathe too hard out loud. Me being twenty-six years old didn’t matter at all to Mrs. Ross. And I doubt that she would hesitate to find a switch and beat my ass.
“Yes ma’am.” I nodded, cutting my eyes in Amena’s direction as I brushed past her in route to the kitchen, trying my hardest to shake off flashbacks of how sweet her lips tasted. She pivoted and fell in step behind me under her grandmother’s instruction, then flopped down in a chair next to me at the kitchen table, messy bun sitting on top of her head enticing my damn fingers.
“I was just getting on Amena for not stopping by to see me this week. Has she been neglecting you too?” Mrs. Ross knew Amena like the back of her hand and there was no way she didn’t notice her body language. All distant and tense, the exact opposite of what it had been like in my bed the night before.
“We just saw each other yesterday, actually,” I spoke up since a cat had caught Amena’s tongue.
“Is that right?” Mrs. Ross’s lips pressed into a smile as she folded her arms across her chest.
“Yes ma’am. She stopped by for some peanut butter.”
“And she didn’t even say thank you.” I slanted my eyes to the woman sitting next to me looking like she wanted to melt into the damn chair.
“Amena, is that true?” Mrs. Ross squinted down at her only grandchild.
“It… Yes, ma’am, it is.” Amena cleared her throat. “I meant to but, it must’ve slipped my mind. I mean, I wasn’t supposed to be having the peanut butter. So…”
“What do you mean, you weren’t supposed to be having it? You’re not allergic, are you?” Mrs. Ross had no idea what she was asking, and I was exactly fifteen seconds from busting out laughing.
“No, I’m… You know what, Doogie, can I talk to you outside for a minute?” Amena stood from the table.
“But I was about to—”
“Doogie, now!” She came pretty close to yelling.
“Momma, I’m sorry. I just… we’ll be right back. Okay?”
“Okay.” Mrs. Ross threw her hands up. “I ain’t never seen nobody act that crazy over no peanut butter.” Her voice trailed off as me and Amena headed out to the back porch.
by Sabrina B. Scales.
Brianna Jazmia PICKS UP THE PEN NEXT, READ THE SECOND INSTALLMENT HERE
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