Love Jam by Roz Carter

“Let me be clear, I will cut you,” Shay said. She was holding a chef’s knife, her hand gripped the handle in a perfect imitation of a guy in a slasher movie.  

Shay watched DeAndre’s eyes as his eyes shifted from her face to the knife. He wasn’t sure whether she would do it. Good. She wanted him to be unsure. She liked it when she scared them.

“Now, are you going to see her again?”

“Nah, you know I was only playing. Now put that down. You gonna hurt yourself.”

“Trust, the only person who gonna get hurt is you. Ask around if you think I’m playing Dre.”

Shay replaced the knife in the butcher’s block on the counter. She felt his arms slide around her waist.  

“We good?” DeAndre deep voice growled in her ear, before biting it playfully.  
“As long as you don’t play me, you’ll be fine.”

DeAndre laughed at her threat. Shay allowed her anger to melt away as she turned to face him. He led her to the bedroom, where he thought she would turn amnesiac. Shay didn’t suffer from amnesia, though. In fact, she spent the rest of the night thinking of ways to make sure DeAndre kept his word. She had one way that was sure to work. It always worked.  

 Shay slid from the bed, disliking the feel of the cheap sheets. At home, she slept on soft, silky smooth, luxurious cotton. DeAndre’s cheap cotton blend sheets made her itch. Tonight, everything about him was getting on her nerves, his cheap-ass sheets, the flimsy knife she almost cut him with, the nasty, cheap wall-to-wall greige carpet in his ugly apartment.

I can do so much better than this, she thought to herself. Except she didn’t believe it. DeAndre was about what she deserved. She wasn’t much, neither was he, so, there wasn’t any reason to let a bad thing go, in her mind.  

Shay rummaged in her bag. She found the velvet roll in the bottom of her tote. Let me just check one more time. She found herself tiptoeing into the bedroom, and she hated herself for it. Still asleep. Her eyes lingered over DeAndre’s broad shoulders.

He was turned away from her, the wide expanse of brown skin rose and fell as he slept soundly. Shay forced herself to look away and walk back into the living room. Confident that he wouldn’t disturb her, she turned on the table lamp and unrolled the case on the coffee table.

Her Aunt Cairi would have had a fit if she’d seen Shay performing a spell outside of the house, but desperate times…

As she walked around the apartment, Shay let the fine powder fall from her fingers. She said an almost-silent string of words, to what she liked to call The Old Goddesses and The New, after that show. What was the name of it? Ugh. No., not goddesses, gods. Whatever.  

Shay tried to concentrate. She knew that she should only be thinking of the result she wanted, not anything else. Not some stupid show.

She had a couple more things to find and incorporate. She found what she was looking for in the bathroom trashcan and in the kitchen. With her pile of findings, she had one more thing to do before it was sealed. Shay pulled the dining room chair under the smoke detector and stood on it. Her 5’4” frame barely allowed her to reach the cover. She turned the cover to the left and removed it. She shook the batteries into her hand and climbed off of the chair.

Shay touched the lit match to the pile in the saucer she’d taken from the kitchen. The smell that hit her nostrils was acrid; her eyes began to water, her free hand was occupied with the task of waving the smoke around the room. She ignored the tears that streamed down her round cheeks.

If DeAndre woke up now it would be a problem. I’ll tell him it’s bad incense. He won’t know. Once the room was filled with the smoke, once Shay uttered the appropriate words and all that remained in the dish was ash, she rinsed the dish, dried it, and returned it to the cabinet.

She knew she should return home, the kids would be looking for her in the morning, but instead, she slid beneath the sheets to breathe in DeAndre’s scent for a little while longer.

Every muscle in her body was so tight she felt like she was vibrating. The realization of what she’d done, again, made her stomach burn.  

The next day the twins couldn’t keep still and neither could Shay. She checked her phone every two minutes.

“Mommy, let me see,” Donny said, attempting to grab the phone from her mother.
“Donny, let go!” Shay said, snatching the phone from the girl. As if on cue, Dora cried in sync with her twin.

“Shut up, both of you,” Shay said, leaving the girls in the bedroom and locking herself in the bathroom. She had a feeling she’d get a call soon.

The call came later than she’d expected. Right before the call, she’d gotten that little twist in her gut. She’d felt the twist before. Every time her spell caught, she got the twist. This time the twist brought tears to her eyes. Even though she’d hoped it wasn’t true, that DeAndre would keep his promise that he wouldn’t cheat again, she’d known that was a lie. He would cheat again. They always cheated. Every single time. And every single time what she had to share with them got smaller.

 Shay imagined that her heart was the size of a walnut now. Barely able to sustain her. No longer the functioning organ that she needed to live and love in this world. No, men, stupid, horrible men had shrunken her heart to a walnut. Something bitter. She looked at her phone. He was calling again. She switched off the ringer. The insistent vibration made the phone slowly slide toward the edge of the table. Shay caught the phone just as it dove toward the floor.

Now that she knew the truth, that he had cheated, she didn’t know what to do with the information. Should she let him go? Or should she let him suffer for a while? The thought of him lying there the way she knew he would be made her head hurt. All jammed up this time, huh? Better to forget him.

As she prepared the twins their lunch, peanut butter and banana sandwiches on whole wheat with an extra drizzle of honey for Dora, Shay’s mind wandered to the scene that was most likely playing out in DeAndre’s apartment.

DeAndre had taken the ho back to his place. Keisha, Kimmie, KaMayMay, whatever her name was. And had taken her to bed or the floor or wherever. After they were done, they were stuck. All jammed up, she thought, and then giggled.

He probably played it off at first, making a joke. Ho-bag probably thought it was funny, dumb bitch that she was. Then when he tried and failed to extricate himself, he told her to stop playing and to let him go. That’s when the panic probably started to set in. Shay could imagine his face.

When he got frustrated, he would stick his lips out in the cutest way, and his forehead would wrinkle like he could actually think of how to solve the problem. Poor dummy. He couldn’t solve this problem. Oh no, he couldn’t, Shay thought.

Shay walked from the table to the sink, clearing the lunch plates. She didn’t acknowledge Donny’s little squeak of protest. The girl reached for the half sandwich. Shay didn’t mind. She would trash the crust later. She wanted to finish the clean up so she could go back to her room. Shay was certain that she probably had a few frantic messages on her phone now.

Now, where was she? Oh, yes. DeAndre, unable to remove himself from the ho-bag, was most likely frowning, sweating and swearing. Shay giggled just thinking about it. Sometimes it was really fun being a witch.

What would she do? Would she go to the apartment and free them? Or would she let them suffer for a while longer? Or, would she just mentally walk away and let them rot? They were probably screaming for help now.

No one in his building would be coming to help them. Shay had thought of that this time. She’d placed protections around the apartment. It was virtually soundproof now. She’d learned after the last time. That time, when the police had come, Markus had screamed for everybody to hear that she was to blame. Which of course made no sense. She hadn’t even been there when his penis had fallen into the toilet. But, she’d learned, oh yes she had.

She’d learned to only threaten a little bit. And to never tell them exactly what she was going to do. So, DeAndre, stupid as he was, would never be able to say that Shay had anything to do with this.

All of the imagining of possible scenarios had tired her. She could barely keep her eyes open. She went downstairs to find the girls. It was nap time. When she awakened, she’d decide then what to do, whether to unjam them or let them rot.

As she relaxed in her chair, watching the twins drift off to sleep, her last thought before she too drifted off was, let them rot.

Should "Love Jam," be turned into a novel?

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