Exclusive Excerpt from Boyfriend!
The following is an excerpt from Boyfriend
Copyright © 2015 by Faye McCray
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
I welcomed the feel of the cold air on every inch of my exposed skin as I stood outside of my building in South Jamaica smoking a cigarette. I leaned up against the dirty brick and looked out onto the project courtyard watching as two boys played basketball on the faded court adjacent to the back entrance to our building. I smirked as they continuously missed ambitious shots into the tall netless basketball hoops. A homeless man shifted angrily on a bench beside the court, grumbling incoherently every time the ball hit the pavement. I took another drag as a cute teenage girl in tight jeans and a short black coat caught my attention. She walked towards the entrance beside me, pausing to flash me a flirtatious smile before turning her key into the black, steel door of our building. I watched her ass as she walked in, laughing to myself, pretty sure she wasn’t old enough to be looking at me like that. I took another puff of my cigarette, letting the tobacco and cold air dance in my lungs.
“You should know better than that,” a familiar voice chastised.
I looked up, smirking sheepishly, my grin almost instantly turning to surprise.
Natalie stood in from of me in a white wool coat. Her hair was cut short around her face and an oversized, brown scarf was wrapped fashionably around her neck. Her hands were stuffed in her pockets, and her head was cocked to the side awaiting my reaction. I wanted to embrace her, but I held back. I was pretty sure I no longer had that right.
“Hi.” She hesitated for a moment and then reached for me. I accepted her embrace, eagerly wrapping my arms around her, squeezing her a little too tight.
“Are you okay?” I asked as we pulled away. The question sprinted out my mouth without a thought. I hadn’t laid eyes on Natalie since she walked out of my apartment almost two years earlier. I had gained pieces of information throughout the years from my mother. Information she gained from people in the neighborhood who had known her and the guy she left with. One rumor was that she was living on the streets and addicted to cocaine. Another rumor had her living in a halfway house after being arrested for prostitution. I took a moment to take her in. Looking for signs of abuse, addiction, pain… I watched small fogs of air escape her lips as she exhaled, the tip of her nose turning mahogany in the cold. She always did have sensitive skin.
“I’m fine, Nate.”
“What’re you doing here?” I asked, unsure why she would ever come back.
“I could ask you the same thing,” she said with a laugh. “Actually, I don’t know,” she answered after a moment. “I’ve come by a number of times, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to ring the buzzer.”
A number of times? My mind was reeling. How long had she been back?
“We got here in July,” she said as if reading my mind, still staring over at the buzzer to the building.
“You’re still with that guy?” I asked, struggling to remember the name of the guy she was with when she visited me in D.C.
She looked at me confused. “Who?” she asked. “Oh, Chris?” She laughed. “No. Well, not exactly. We had a son. I have a son. By we, I mean, me and my son.”
“Wow.” My mother had been right.
“Want to see a picture?” she said, beaming. I nodded. She reached into her pocket and pulled out her cell phone and began flipping through her pictures. “Here he is,” she said holding the phone in front of me. A small boy with big dark eyes and a head full of light brown curls sat in the middle of a blue carpet, with a smile so big, he looked like his face might crack. He had four teeth, two jutting out of the middle of each row of gums. “His name is Cole. He turned one in October.” I took her phone and studied the picture.
“Where is he?” I asked, handing her back the phone, looking to see if he was playing in the nearby courtyard.
“I wouldn’t bring him here.” Her motherly protectiveness was evident. “He’s with a good friend. We work together.”
I nodded. “He’s a cute kid, Natalie. Cole is a great name.”
Her face softened. “Thank you. Remember when Aunt Laura used to listen to those old singers?”
I smiled, remembering. “Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra…”
“Nat King Cole,” she added. “He’s named after him,” she explained. “I used to love sitting on her lap and listening to her hum to those songs.” She closed her eyes for a moment. “Off key,” she added, chuckling. “Remember, ‘smile, though your heart is aching, smile, even though it’s breaking…’” I nodded.
She hugged herself, staring into the air. For a moment, I could smell the sweet scent of Aunt Laura’s pies traveling through the breeze. I would give anything to be pulled into her warm embrace again. Just one more time. To feel loved… understood… without condition or disappointment. Natalie’s laughter pulled me out of my memories. I watched as she wiped the beginnings of small tears from falling from her eyes. She looked at me, her face growing serious. “Cole changed everything, Nate.”
I believed her. It was like someone had relit that candle inside of her. A candle I was sure had burnt out. Her newfound serenity emanated from her and I was both happy and envious. For a brief moment, happiness had seemed possible for me. I ran my hand across my forehead, once again feeling consumed with guilt for all the ways I kept fucking it up.
“How about you?” She nudged my shoulder playfully. “Are you still with that girl you were with in college? Kerry?”
I shook my head. “We broke up. Nothing much has been going on,” I continued changing the subject. “I’ve been back home since I graduated.”
“You’re living here?”
“I just assumed you were on your own,” she said surprised. I shrugged, feeling ashamed I didn’t have more to show for the four years I had spent at college. Considering it was the reason I had abandoned her, the least I could do was have more to show for it. I flicked away the embers of my cigarette and took another long drag. I imagined my parents settling down at the table, eating the chicken with their fingers, barely speaking to each other and guzzling their alcohol like water. This was their routine. Bubbling up each night like the scalding hot lava in a volcano, always on the verge of eruption. I watched as Natalie stared back at the buzzer, probably picturing the same thing.
“Look, Nate,” she started after a moment. “I know what it’s like here. No one should have to live here. Not even them.”
“It’s cool,” I began, taking another slow drag of my cigarette. It wasn’t. But, as far as I was concerned, there was no current solution. I didn’t have any money and frankly, I didn’t have any energy to try to fix it.
“No, it’s not,” she said. Her voice was stern. “I have an apartment uptown. It isn’t much, but we have an extra room. You’re more than welcome…”
I laughed cutting her off. “I’m not letting you go there, Natalie.” Not only was I not going to burden Natalie with my failures, I knew I wasn’t worthy of her help. After the way I treated her… after the way I abandoned her. “You don’t owe me anything,” I concluded.
“Nate,” she began again, reaching out and holding my wrist. “It was fucked up what you did that night,” she continued knowing exactly what I was talking about. “I have never felt so alone and afraid in my life. But I survived. We were both victims. You couldn’t have saved me. You barely saved yourself.” She took a deep breath. “If you need my forgiveness, fine, I forgive you. But, I’m not letting you stay here with them.” She looked into my eyes with a level of understanding only she could have. We were the only two people on this planet who knew what it was like to be raised by Nathaniel and Christine Best. We were the only two people who knew what it took to survive. I looked at the buzzer. The back of my eyes began to sting. A lump formed in the pit of my stomach. She smiled. “Get your stuff, there’s a bus coming soon.”
I nodded and went back into my parent’s apartment, feeling overwhelmed that she had managed to do for me what I had been too weak to do for her.Read more HERE.
Love and Light,Faye