The Double Life

By: Nia Wilson

“No thank you, Malik. I’ve got it.”

I walked on, hoping that he’d take the hint, but knowing it was wishful thinking on my part. He raced ahead of me and stood between me and the car. Hands outstretched, he silently offered to take the box from me so I could open the car door.

“I said I’ve got it.” I was already getting irritated, but Malik didn’t seem to mind. He never seemed to care what I wanted and it annoyed the hell out of me.

“Baby, I just want to help.”

I shot him a look that should have dropped him dead where he stood. Who did he think he was?

“Don’t call me that.”

“I’m sorry, Joy. My Joy.” He stopped and looked at me, his gaze intrusive. He licked his lips and winked at me.

I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. What did I ever see in this man?

“Malik, I’m not interested. Spare us both the drama and go back inside with your friends.”

I tried to walk around him, but he moved in front of me. My foot twitched inside my heavy boots, and I momentarily entertained the notion of kicking him between the legs. I could blame it on the twitch. It was my foot that was itching to kick him after all. How was I supposed to deny such a strong impulse?

I reached my hand into my pocket and fumbled around on the key fob, trying to find the button to unlock the doors. I hit the panic button instead, sending the after-market alarm into a frenzy.

“Shit, Joy. What the hell?” Malik stormed off, seemingly done with me.

“Well, if I’d known that was all it would take.” I knew he couldn’t hear me, but it felt good to say it out loud. I tapped the disarm button and set the box on the roof of the car. I looked over my shoulder and watched him enter the restaurant before I opened the door and set my box inside.

Chapter 3

I kept watching as I moved around to the driver’s side and got in. I held my breath until the engine roared to life and the car doors locked. Malik was nothing but trouble, and he refused to believe I wasn’t still in love with him.

I backed out of the spot and pulled onto the road, fiddling with the radio at the stoplight. I turned up the gospel station, enjoying the soothing sounds as the music washed over me. A rich voice flowed around the vehicle and I felt a twinge of longing for my grandmother. She’d listened to gospel every day of the week, not just on Sundays. The music reminded me of her so much that I could almost smell her sweet perfume surrounding me in the car.

I drove towards home, ready to get out of the car and shake off the encounter with Malik. As encounters with him went, this wasn’t that bad, but Malik didn’t let anything go. I hadn’t seen him in almost a year, since the last time he’d gotten out of jail. I’d left him almost five years before when he’d stolen a car and gone on a joyride.

I only had two rules: be able to keep a job and stay out of jail. Besides that, I wasn’t very picky. I liked all sorts of men, and I valued heart over looks. But Malik had been smooth-talking, sweeping me off of my feet and making me feel alive again after losing my grandmother a few months before.

It took me weeks to figure out that he wasn’t on the up and up, though at the time I assumed he was just being generous when he described his job. We’d all added a little flourish to our job description at some point. Well except me. You couldn’t really add flourish to “piano teacher”.

When he’d shown up to pick me up for a date in the third new car in three weeks, I knew something was fishy.

A car horn honked behind me and I realized the red light had turned green. I waved an apology over my shoulder and drove on, shaking thoughts of Malik aside and concentrating on the road ahead.

I’d never invited him to my home, so he didn’t know where I lived. Lew was a good guy, and I knew I could count on him to let me know if Malik was there when I came by next Saturday. If I had to, I’d change my habits to keep Malik away from me.

I turned down the cross-street before my turn and watched the mirror to make sure I wasn’t being followed. I pulled over and waited, watching the clock for five minutes while I waited to see if another car pulled in behind me. When no one showed up, I pulled back onto the road and made the next right down my street.

The house next door was dark, with one dim light on in the hallway on the second floor. It was nearly eight o’clock, and I was sure the boy and his dad were exhausted after moving all day. I didn’t really have room to talk; I’d be in bed within the hour if I was lucky.

I pushed the button to open the garage and slid into the building and turned off the engine.

Johann greeted me when I opened the kitchen door, his nose tilted into the air to investigate the scents that followed me into the house. He purred loudly.

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