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Second Chance at a First Love

Janelle pulled back the curtain on the shower rod and stepped into the steamy bathroom, which smelled heavily of her favorite passion fruit body scrub. Now that she’d rubbed it into her skin enough to make it raw, her whole body was also covered in the bright scent and every inch of her was baby smooth. No wiry hairs on her legs or stubborn stubble along her mound. She was trimmed everywhere and “Boo Boo the Fool” was stamped in bold letters across her forehead. 

“All this for a nigga that’s not even mine,” she muttered under her breath and draped her damp towel over the rod. As she lotioned up, the shame kept trying to worm in but there was a warm glow in the base of her belly that kept it at bay. No matter the nature of their relationship these days, Janelle knew she could count on Kayvon for two things above all else.

One, he would take care of Arnell like his life depended on it, no matter how many outs Janelle tried to give him during the first five years of their daughter’s life. And while she would’ve liked to find a reason to hate him, this was not an area that begged critique. 

And, two, Kayvon was gonna lay the pipe down, leave every part of Janelle’s body sore for days and her libido sighing contentedly. Their pregnancy was an unplanned accident, but nothing that led up to it was. Everything Kayvon did was deliberate and premeditated, including everything about the night that changed their lives forever, and her body more than appreciated it. Right now, it was primed and ready for the evening that lay ahead. Electricity buzzed along her fingers, butterflies beat their wings against the lining of her stomach and anticipation made her scalp tingle. She was too thrilled, too thirsty for it, to feel any shame about it.

With a sigh, Janelle crossed the hall to her bedroom, where she lotioned her body with whipped shea butter and put on a two-piece set that exposed her midriff and practically all of her thick legs. With a spritz of her favorite perfume and a scrunchie around her thick mane of hair, she was ready and had fifteen minutes to spare. There was nothing left to do, so she tidied up the living room and tossed the dying flowers on the dining room table. Her phone rang as the top to the trashcan clanged shut. “Hey, Mama,” she said, tucking the phone between her ear and shoulder so she could pull the box of Cheez-Its from the cabinet above the fridge. 

“Hey, baby. Did you pack Arnell’s purple elephant?”

On instinct, Janelle checked around the house, her trained hawk-eyes scanning the small kitchen and the open-concept living room, normally littered with the evidence of her and Arnell’s life together. There was no floppy-eared stuffed animal to be seen and she had a faint memory of shoving it in the side pocket of Arnell’s duffel. “It’s not in her overnight bag?” she asked her mom, setting the box of cheesy crackers on the counter.

On the other side of the phone, her mom rustled around and Arnell’s squeaky voice filtered through the sounds of whatever cartoon was blaring on the TV. Janelle’s heart squeezed and she had to take a few deep breaths to ease the aching in her chest. Missing her baby would never feel good, no matter how many years she had to grow accustomed to it. 

Her mom gave a triumphant holler. “Got it! It was buried under her blankie. Here you go, Arnie,” her mom cooed. Janelle heard and felt Arnell’s joy, the little girl unwilling to go to sleep without her favorite stuffed animal. Not even when Janelle tucked herself into Arnell’s child-size bed, made a crescent moon around her baby and promised to keep her safe. Arnell wasted no time voicing her disapproval and demanding her mother find Gerty, which Janelle had no choice but to do. Not finding it simply wasn’t an option and Arnell would sooner cry herself to sleep than go quietly, without her closest friend. 

“Thanks for watching her tonight, Ma,” Janelle sighed. 

“Of course, baby,” she said and Janelle could practically see her mother waving her hand in the air to dismiss her gratitude. “You know I always wanna see my baby girl. She’s gotten so big!”

“I know. It still makes me wanna cry and hold her close to my chest. I can’t believe it.”

Her mom laughed, nostalgia coloring her voice. “I remember when you were this age. Every day, there was something new about you. A word you learned, a television show that caught your attention. I hated watching you get older, but it was so fun watching you grow. Now that you’re a mom, you’ll finally understand why I kept you close all those years.”

“Ugh,” Janelle groaned. “I’m not looking forward to teenage years.”

Mom laughed again, a cackle that was both self-righteous and pitying. “Praying for you now, love. Now what did you say you were doing tonight?”

The shame Janelle had kept at bay came slamming into her chest like a wave of heat. “Um,” she stuttered, looking around the room in hopes that an excuse would pop up from behind the couch or come crawling out of a picture frame. She wasn’t embarrassed, but she didn’t need people in her business, wondering about the status of her and Kayvon’s relationship. Several seconds passed before she settled on, “Meeting up with a friend.”

“Oh, very convincing, Janelle.”

“Don’t be nosy, mother. It’s a date except we’re skipping dinner and going right to the fun part.”

“Oh, you're getting some dick! You should’ve just said that, girl.”

Mom!” Janelle chided. “Is Arnell in the room with you?”

Her mom gave a dismissive scoff and, again, Janelle could practically see the handwave and eyeroll. “She can’t even hear me, that TV’s up so damn loud. Well, enjoy yourself and wrap it up this time!”

“You’re the worst. Goodbye. I’ll call you tomorrow morning. Kiss Arnie for me.”

“I will. Love you, JJ.”

“Love you, too, mother.”

Janelle set the phone down on the counter and shoved her hand into the box of Cheez-Its, a pang of longing stabbing her in the chest. She usually avoided talking to Arnell on the phone while she was away if she could. Her baby girl would forget all about the fun she was having and beg to be raced back to Mom, complete with tears and a screaming match that she would definitely win. Janelle would do anything in the world to make her child happy, but even so, she needed this break more than usual. 

In the beginning of their journey as co-parents, Kayvon had been more than happy to help provide Janelle with as many breaks as she needed, offering to take Arnell with him to Maryland for two weeks at a time. When she was old enough, he volunteered to pick her up and drop her off at the school that was not quite halfway between their two homes, and for the first year of kindergarten, it had worked. 

Now that Arnell was six and in first grade at their neighborhood school, she was spending the majority of her time with Janelle and, suddenly, the days were shorter, there was ten times the amount of stuff to handle, and she was running low, low, low on fumes. She was happy to have her baby, exhausted at the amount of energy it took out of her, and reluctant to give up a second more of her time in favor of Arnell going to her dad’s. 

She ate one last handful of crackers and put the box back in its place. When she heard the doorbell sound, she took a deep, calming breath and put thoughts of missing her daughter out of her mind. Tonight was for Janelle the person, not Janelle the mom. 

Running a hand down her thighs, she unlocked the door and pulled it open. She’d never hook up with her baby daddy during the day if it could be helped, so there he stood, washed in moonlight, with a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a paper bag with things untold in the other. His broad shoulders filled the doorway before he even stepped through it, a ball cap pulled over his short hair and his signature Cuban link dangling around his neck.

The flutters in Janelle’s stomach were because of anticipation, she told herself, not nerves. Her last sexual encounter with a man was more than a few months ago and cobwebs were starting to grow between her legs. So sue her if her body registered Kayvon’s presence and immediately went into self-lubricant mode. He was still a dump truck of a man, only the last seven or so years had gifted him another 150 pounds, a scruffy beard and more than a few tattoos. The ones on his hands were her favorite and a huge reason why they were here today. Co-parenting, separated and lusting after each other like two college kids at the afterparty. 

“Hey, Janelle. Got these for you,” he said, his lips curving into a soft smile as he put the flowers before him.

She grabbed them from him then pushed them toward her face to take a discreet sniff and stepped aside. “Thanks, Kay. Come on in.”

When he walked through her front door, he brought the smell of sandalwood and cigar with him. He smiled, toed out of his sneakers and put the paper bag on the bench near his calves. The gray sweatpants he wore hugged his flesh like she hoped to be doing in a few short minutes. Her gaze traveled up his legs, over his muscular thighs and swung around to his ample behind. He was shy about it, but Janelle wanted to sink her teeth into the globes of his ass, especially when he bent over to put the shoes on the bottom rack. 

She forgot to look away, and when he stood, Kayvon’s eyes caught hers and he smirked. “Arnie left a couple of things at my house last weekend, so I figured I’d bring them by.” He turned to face the living room, his eyes scouring over her furniture and art. “The place looks good. How’s that new HVAC system treating you?”

“It’s doing just fine, and thank you. Follow me while I put these in water.” Once the bouquet was clipped and in her favorite vase on the table, she pulled a bottle of Merlot from the fridge and poured two glasses.

Kayvon took a whiff from his glass then a deep pull. “I’m glad your mom could take baby girl this weekend. Surprised she didn’t have any big plans.”

“Oh, she’s taking her to Bingo tomorrow morning, I’m sure.” Janelle took a sip from her glass and watched amusement play across Kayvon’s face. His eyes crinkled and his teeth glinted against his lips. She couldn’t help but be so focused on it, thinking about all the places he’d bite her. 

“Thank God for Irene. Arnie’ll never know a dull day in her life.”

“Not if I can help it,” Janelle said and threw in a wink for the fun of it. 

Kayvon did as expected and rolled his eyes. “I heard about your hiking trip last month. She said she swam in a lake.”

Janelle straightened a little and tried to keep the defensiveness out of her voice. “And loved it.”

“Oh, I’m sure,” he said. Then with a tilt of his head, he stared into her eyes and his mouth tilted at the corner. “Don’t worry, I managed not to race her to the doctor the moment she finished telling me about it.” 

“Oh, ha-ha,” Janelle pantomimed, taking a bigger sip from her glass. She ignored the excited jitters in her hands that made the liquid slosh the barest amount and savored the rich taste of her drink instead. She took another sip, felt more settled, and so took another.

Kayvon stepped further into the kitchen and perched on one of the island stools. Then, with a shrug, he said, “Just saying, you can never be too careful.”

“Oh, that’s new.” She snorted. “It only took you one baby to figure it out.”

“You can’t possibly blame me for getting a little excited. You were wearing my old jersey and those strappy heels you love.”

Shock stole through Janelle and she sputtered. “Wha- how do you know I love them?”

“You used to wear them for literally any formal event.” Kayvon sideyed her like she was the one being weird. 

“Yeah,” she agreed, recovering from her surprise with another sip of wine. “Until they fell apart on me.” Some of the residual heartbreak from losing her favorite heels knocked at her chest, trying to resurface as if they’d fallen apart only yesterday.

Kayvon gave her a curious look. “Why don’t you buy a new pair?” he asked ignorantly. Stupid, stupid man.

She bore her eyes into his and said, dead serious, “They’re eleven-hundred dollars, Kayvon. I caught them on sale my senior year for an obscene discount. Some fool was giving them away at an estate sale for one hundred dollars, and of course, that was all the money I had on me. But they’re limited edition Saint Laurent. So I got 'em. And then I was idiot enough to ruin them a few years later.” 

Her voice caught at the end and, goddammit, there went the heartache, fresh and new, a recently sharpened blade slicing through her chest then bathing in her spilled blood. Some people may call her dramatic or materialistic for mourning such a superficial loss, but they didn’t get it. She loved those shoes. Cherished them with her whole heart and built half her wardrobe around them. They were sleek, sexy, comfortable, sturdy, a rare find for her, and best of all, hers. So fuck whoever thought less of her for it.

Janelle swallowed the last of her drink and waited for Kayvon’s judgment. But he didn’t say anything, just sat in silence, his brows furrowed in the middle, the only hint of anything on his otherwise unreadable face. Well, mostly unreadable, because if Kayvon wanted you to know something, you’d know it. 

Janelle felt her cheeks heat and turned away from Kayvon before her face started tightening up and doing weird things that she couldn’t control while nerves pitter-pattered on her brain. She reached for the Merlot and helped herself to a second glass. Since it would do her no good to keep Kayvon at her back — at least, not right now — she turned around and sipped. His brows were back to normal and his face was passive.

Then he said, “I don’t think it’s your fault. For that much money, the shoes should last a fucking lifetime.”

Janelle gave a watery cough as her response. “Yeah,” she agreed lamely. “Thank you.”

“Always, city girl,” Kayvon smiled and Janelle fought a flinch. That damn nickname. 

“Anyway.” She fluttered her wrist, desperate to move on, and told him, “You look good.” 

Kayvon gripped the front of his jacket and lifted and dropped his shoulders, making a sound of cocky awareness. “Huh,” he coughed, not at all humbly. “You think so?”

“Yeah.” She really did. He had golden brown skin, dark, curly hair and was meaty all over. Underneath the worn brown leather, a t-shirt with a short row of undone buttons near the collar hugged his barrel chest and barely reached the waist of his low-slung sweatpants. The cotton barely concealed the muscle and fat of his thighs, wide and strong from work, or the imprint of his dick behind his thin boxers.

He’d been a big man in every sense of the word for as long as Janelle knew him, towering over most everyone around him. And even without the six-foot-five height and linebacker frame, he commanded attention. He moved with the weight of a planet, sucking in all the things around him, turning all the energy in a room his way. His shoulders broadcasted his entrance before his mouth needed to. As a twenty-something, that gravity inspired silly giggles and dimpled smiles from his admirers. In his late thirties, it stirred in Janelle a hunger so fervent it ached. 

His voice was low and flirty when he responded. “Well, you know I try.”

Janelle gave her wine another sip then set it on the counter so she could make her way over to Kayvon. When she was standing less than a foot away, she stopped and lifted her hands to his chest. She took her time trailing her hands up his pecs, licking a few drops of Merlot off her lips and scanning his face. Blatant desire was written across his face like etchings on a grave.  “You should take this off,” she suggested.

“Happily,” Kayvon obliged, shrugging out of his clothes. Once his arms were free again, he looped them around Janelle’s back and widened his stance so she could step into his lap. “You lookin’ good, yourself.”

“Mmm, thank you,” she murmured, shifting her hips so she could be comfortable. The slight movement, her belly nudging up against Kayvon’s semi-hardness, sent a thrill rushing through her. Judging by the way his dick grew harder, he felt the same. 

Kayvon lowered his hands to rest on her buttcheeks and hooked a thumb in the back of her shorts. “You should take these off.”

Janelle smirked. “Happily. Help me out?” Without speaking, he nudged the shorts down, careful to keep her panties in place. 

“Real good,” he moaned, fanning his large hands out over Janelle’s butt and cupping the cheeks. Janelle’s limbs were feeling a bit like noodles, so she leaned into Kayvon’s embrace, but not before snaking her hands up under his T-shirt. The warmth of his chest soaked into her hands and she didn’t even ask before lifting it up.

Kayvon grumbled because he had to move his hands, but once his torso was naked for Janelle, he realized he could demand the same. “You next,” he prompted. Janelle smiled but stepped back and gave him what he asked for. When her breasts were bare, Kayvon pulled her back and pressed their chests together. After that, they lost all pretense and undressed fully. They stood, fully naked in Janelle’s kitchen, pressed up against each other. 

She caught his eye and got stuck there for several long seconds, pregnant with desire and need. He wanted her and it was displayed on his face like a film on a projector. That made her hot from her toes to her scalp. They were good—no, excellent at this, even if they failed at so much else. 

Sure, they’d pretty much gotten this parenting thing down after six years of it, but beyond a quickie every eight months or so, that was the extent of their relationship and the end of the rope for them. Not even in another lifetime, without a baby being the thing that tethered them together, could they have worked. They were far too different. He was imposing, she was determined. He needed to be needed, she needed to be independent. 

None of that mattered, though, in moments like this. When the heat between them was ratcheted up to inferno level and she needed to come so badly, her heart beat in her clit. Once the veil of flirting was dropped, they were their most base selves, a territory that felt familiar to them both.

Kayvon kissed her first. He slanted his lips on Janelle’s mouth and used his grip on her bottom to shove their naked pelvises together. When he slipped his tongue inside her mouth and tangled a hand in her hair, Janelle lost sense of the world around her. She hooked her arms behind Kayvon’s neck and hoisted herself up so her vulva was pressed against the shaft of his dick. Long and thick, he nudged against her folds and the tip pressed against her belly button. 

Kayvon pulled away from her lips and Janelle almost protested until he put his mouth next to her ear and said hotly, “Go on, girl. Grind on this dick like I know you want to.”

Oh, this was heaven. Janelle had died and gone to heaven, where she could dry hump to her heart’s content. Years ago, she’d wondered if Kayvon secretly hated this position and considered switching it up. But then she stopped tripping and realized two things: 1) as long as her partner consented, she was going to do the moves that brought her the most pleasure as much as she wanted to, and 2) if Kayvon had a problem with it, he wouldn’t be moaning in her ear and snaking a hand down her backside to the tight hole in the center, now would he? 

Damn him, he knew her road to an orgasm like his route home. Instead of penetrating, Kayvon gathered juices from Janelle’s cunt and used it to rub a circle over her needy flesh. “I’m gonna come like this,” she told him, biting at his bottom lip and sucking. 

“I know. Come and I’ll take us to the bedroom, okay?”

She managed a sickeningly desperate, “Nnhuh, okay,” and used all the muscles in her arms to hold on. Only she didn’t need to because Kayvon bolstered her with his forearm and said into her mouth, “Use them hips, baby.” 

So she did that. Pressed into him and came quick and nasty. 

When she was done, Kayvon carried them into her bedroom, Janelle guiding him along the way, and tossed her onto the bed. From where she lay on her back, breasts spilling over to her sides, he towered above like a bear or a sequoia and she felt utterly covered. When he leaned down and bracketed her head with his hands, he pressed a soft kiss in the center of her forehead. It was soft and tender and Janelle closed her eyes against the feelings swelling in her chest. The only downside to sex with Kayvon was it made her wistful.

There was no space for romance inside this thing between them, only hard and fast.

“Fuck me, Kayvon.”

“Be patient, Janelle.” He licked a hot streak down her neck and into her cleavage. “It’s been a long time, okay?”

That was odd and it poked at something in her brain, which she chose to ignore. “With us, or in general?”

“Don’t be nosy,” he said into her chest. His head traveled down her torso, his lips tracing a line of kisses to her mound. Using the wide flatness of his tongue, he pressed his mouth against her pussy, spit mingling with her wetness and his hungry groan vibrating into her core. “I love how you taste.”

Kayvon didn’t speak anymore after that. He dove into her pussy with wild abandon, the cold hardness of his chain tickling her bum. He trailed his fingers up her sides, gripping her, and his tongue spelled love songs on her labia. Janelle’s mouth fell open on a sigh and she let her head drift to the pillows at the top of the bed. Her entire body felt good and she was well on her way to floating. The only thing keeping her tied to this earth was Kayvon’s hungry ministrations over her. 

With side to side motions, he spread her open and feasted on her cunt. His tongue curved around her needy, swollen clitoris and sucked the bud hard, sending a lightning bolt up Janelle’s spine. She cried out, arching off the bed, but he was vacuum sealed on her body, tugging at her bundle of nerves like he was trying to suck a Wendy’s milkshake through a straw. The pressure built and nearly crested when he took a hand off her hips to play with her entrance. She tried to squirm again, to give the pleasure-pain somewhere to go, but he held her close.

“Nuh uh.” Kayvon moved an arm over her hips and kept her on the mattress. “Don’t move,” he growled and her pussy contracted around empty space. All she could do was lay there and take the goodness he was offering. He moved his tongue from her clit and replaced his finger with it. 

In and out, his tongue went inside her channel while his thumb rubbed intense circles on her clit. She was groaning now, shameless grunts and long, low moans. The sounds coming from her were so obscene, sloppy and wet, she would have cringed if she weren’t being overtaken by a wave of pleasure. He was starving and she was his first meal in a year. 

She came again and nearly pushed him off with the force of her hips. Her body cracked open and her insides came spilling out along with the evidence of her satisfaction. If not for the promise of more, she would’ve sunk into a deep slumber right then.

But once the last sparks of the orgasm faded, she managed a rough, “Get a condom,” and waited for Kayvon to pull back so she could sit up on her knees. He watched her rise and licked her off her mouth.

He leaned over to grab his pants and Kayvon pulled a string of condoms out of his wallet. When he turned to face Janelle and saw her perched on the bed, he shot her a questioning look. “Don’t tell me you’re getting on top.” His tone was pleading when he added, “I’m tryna last here, Janelle.”

“Too bad,” she laughed and patted the bed. “Maybe in the next round, you can take the top.”

With a huff, Kayvon settled himself at the top near the pillows. When he was leaned up against the headboard in all his naked glory, he smirked up at Janelle. Unconsciously, her body lurched forward, and when her knees hit the bed, she crawled closer. “What’s that look for?” 

“Nothing.” That was a lie. Janelle could tell by the mischievous glint in his eyes. She couldn’t make her throat work to tell him she was onto his scheme, because his hand was snaking down his big chest and over his belly in a seductive journey that ended with his fist wrapped around his thick shaft. “Put the condom on for me, Jay.”

She had the presence of mind to frown at him, but not nearly enough to resist doing as he asked. When he was all wrapped up, face twisted in agony after a few passes of her hand up and down his length, Janelle seated herself in his lap. Wordlessly, they melted together. 

Despite her best attempts and years of wishing, Janelle would never get tired of this. Kayvon’s dick pressing into her was as satisfying as Thanksgiving dinner, a perfectly pearled blunt and a cool summer breeze all at once. He filled her up completely, pushed the air right out of her lungs and into the sliver of space between them. Kayvon, for his part, was not shy about his pleasure. 

“So good,” he grumbled before releasing a long, satisfied moan and snaking a hand behind Janelle’s head. With a quick look in her eyes, he pulled her closer and pressed their mouths together. At the same time, he began to move his hips. He pushed himself into her like he was trying to reach the deepest parts of her, then pulled out slowly, almost to the tip. When he came back, his pelvis kissing the back of Janelle’s thighs, he moaned long, hot, and deep into her mouth.

His hard kiss coupled with the deep strokes he was delivering overwhelmed Janelle’s senses. She couldn’t decide what to focus on. The ball of pleasure roiling in her stomach, the walls of her vagina pulsing around Kayvon, the feel of his tongue plundering in and out of her mouth, or the tingling of her scalp left behind from his tightening grip. All of it was too much for her sex-drunk brain to comprehend, so she gave up trying and let her body float away into bliss. 

Kayvon, somehow, maintained an intense focus on her. He broke the kiss for a moment to throw his head back and push out a gust of air. “I knew I shouldn’t have let you on top,” he mumbled.

Janelle’s answering chuckle was weak, as were her noodly limbs. Still, she managed to rally the muscles in her legs, steady herself on the mattress, and move her hips in slow, sinuous circles. Kayvon groaned and raced to bring his mouth back to hers. 

He took her with fervor, nipping at her lips, sucking her tongue and doing all he could to taste everything she’d eaten that day. At the same time, his hands stroked up and down her shoulders and arms and bare back. He was trying to touch her everywhere, grabbing her breasts softly, tweaking her hard nipples until Janelle was spilling desperate pleas for more into his mouth. She bounced up and down on his dick, trying her best to feel him everywhere. 

Her body would no doubt be sore tomorrow, but right now, she couldn’t be bothered to care. She needed to chase the feeling deep inside her center, growing bigger and bigger with every stroke. To break it out of its cage and let it go racing throughout her body until the waves dissipated. When the sparks in her belly started pushing up against each other, well on their way to a full-blown bolt of lightning, she cried out, “I’m gonna cum.”

Kayvon didn’t wait for her to say more, simply took Janelle’s hips in his hands and leaned against the headboard for support. Next, he used his strong arms to provide her more support under her thighs. Now she could keep bouncing and save her hamstrings from the pain tomorrow. It only took a few more strokes of Kayvon’s dick against the overly sensitive walls of her cunt for her orgasm to come crashing into her body. “Ohhhh, fuck,” she groaned.

It was too much, too quick, too good. Her brain shorted out as her body was overwhelmed by a wave of sensations. From the soles of her feet to the tingling roots of her hair, her body was lit up like New York City on December 31st. 

It was too fucking much. She didn’t know what to do with all the pleasure, so she did the only thing she could think of in this compromised state. Her back bowed, putting her mouth level with Kayvon’s shoulders, so she opened up and bit him. Hard. 

Part of her expected Kayvon to throw her off, but instead he closed his hand around the back of her head and pushed her closer. “Shit shit shit shit.” His strokes turned ferocious and uneven. With one hand on her scalp and the other banded around her waist, Kayvon held her onto his lap so that his dick reached as far as it could, stretching her wide enough to take all of him. 

He was as lost to his pleasure as Janelle, unable to offer more than a stuttered, “Cumming,” before tugging on Janelle’s head. Using her last functioning brain cell, Janelle planted her mouth on Kayvon’s like she knew he loved and pulled his tongue into her mouth. She sucked and sucked while he spilled himself into the condom.

They sat like that, wrapped around each other in a cocoon of an embrace, for several minutes. They breathed each other’s breath, kissed like teenagers kept apart for a day too long, and kept their limbs tangled in each other’s. 

Janelle was the first to move, shuffling her hips to let Kayvon know she was rising. 

She peed, he tossed the condom. Janelle avoided the mirror, not interested in studying her doubtlessly ruffled appearance or coming face-to-face with the evidence of some of the best sex she’d had in the last two years. All she could do was hope it wasn’t too evident and that Kayvon wouldn't know her truth. When she walked back to the bedroom, he was sitting on the edge of the bed in his boxers, with his hands folded in his lap. His face was oddly serious and his lost gaze was unfocused on the empty night sky. 

She settled down next to him, careful to put at least a foot of space between them. “What’s up?” 

Kayvon heaved a heavy sigh, and for a half a second, Janelle wondered if her performance was sub-par, despite the jolts of pleasure that made her body twitch every few seconds. That flash of uncertainty made her fingertips and toes cold, nonetheless. She bit her lip and scooted a few inches further away while she waited. 

Eventually, Kayvon spoke again. “I have something to tell you. It’s not bad news, so don’t be nervous.”

With more than a little skepticism, she responded, “Okay?”

Several more seconds of silence passed, however, and she almost nudged him. Then he said, “I’m thinking about moving to DC,” and she almost wished she’d told him to shut up and get out as soon as they finished.

“What?” she choked.

Sighing, Kayvon turned to face her more. “Yeah. My job is opening up offices in Northern Virginia, and I’ve been tasked with leading the transition and making sure the new team is settled in.” Kayvon had some super obscure job that Janelle never bothered to really understand, but now she wanted to know the name of his boss and HR director because she had more than a few choice words. 

“So you’re moving to Virginia,” she corrected, unconsciously trying to find a way to create some distance between them, even though if he was telling the truth, he was effectively going to be her neighbor. The thought of it made bile rise in Janelle’s throat, chasing away any post-coital feelings trying to burrow into her skin and heart and brain. All she could think was, He’s trying to take my baby from me. And maybe later she would be able to parse through that train of thought and analyze why it was wrong and unreasonable. But right now, it was a neon billboard flashing bright in her mind, and she was on her way to morphing into a rabid lioness.

Kayvon’s thick voice broke through her haze of thoughts. “No. I actually found a place in Southeast. It’s got three bedrooms and a nice yard. There’s a rec center nearby, and it’s only fifteen minutes from Arnie’s school.”

This time, Janelle couldn’t help her reaction. Blood rushed to her head, breath whooshed out of her lungs and she tried to answer, but it came out as a spit-laden sputter. She was choking on nothing. Well, there was the fact that her entire reality — which included a nearby mother and sister who helped raise her daughter and a baby father that lived miles away — was shattering into pieces. Except it was happening in slow motion and she was watching from behind a sheet of impenetrable plexiglass.

“Janelle?” Kayvon’s voice was faint, coming at her through a tunnel that morphed the sound and made her ears itch. By the time he’d called her name thrice more, she had almost tuned him out. Almost woke up from this nightmare where a man was threatening the sanctity of the bubble she’d worked so hard to put up around her and her baby. Damn him! 

But he put a hand on her shoulder and jostled her, and she was forced to acknowledge that this reality was the true one. “Jay, say something, honey.” And that pet name made her skin crawl so much, her brain itch so bad, she had to stand up and shake it off before she could respond. 

“Okay,” she huffed. “So you’re moving down here for work and you’ve already found a house,” she said more to herself than anyone else. Now that she was talking, though, she couldn’t stop the words from spilling out. “I thought you said you might be moving, but you have a place in mind already, yeah? What does that mean? You want to change the custody agreement? Arnell doesn’t need any disruptions to her life right now. She just started first grade, and we’ve got a pretty good rhythm going on. Just because your job relocated you doesn’t mean we can turn our lives around.”

Kayvon stood up too. “Hold up, Janelle.” He put a hand out like he was going to reach for her, but Janelle sidestepped him and moved closer to her closet. She grabbed her oversized plush robe off the door and wrapped it around her body. He’d already stripped her down with this announcement, she didn’t need to also be clothless in front of him.

“This feels weird. First, you’re saying you’re thinking about moving down here. Now you’re saying you’ve already got a place in mind and your job definitely expects you to be here. What’s the truth, Kayvon?”

Another deep sigh and he pinched the bridge of his nose, a move she recognized from undergrad. He was stressed. “I’m moving in a few weeks and I sign the papers on the house tomorrow.”

Gone were any fuzzy feelings left over by her numerous orgasms. In their place was a red-hot fire spreading to every inch of Janelle’s body, flames licking the edges of her brain as if to taunt her into being consumed. No worry, she was well on her way. “Did you buy a fucking house down here, Kayvon?” 

While she was forced to rent in her own hometown, here was her somewhat successful baby father, deciding willy-nilly to move to “up-and-coming” Southeast, DC and purchase a home that once belonged to natives! She was fuming! She should kick him in his shins, she thought. That’ll teach him to spring some bullshit on her so soon after she’d been cumming in his lap. Or had that been his plan? Butter up and then drop an anvil on her chest. Now she really would kick him.

As if he could sense the violence rising in her chest, Kayvon took a step back and rushed to say, “No, no, no. I’m renting from an elderly couple who just retired and wants to travel the country. I’m paying above market rate, and they were just about to take it off the market because there aren’t any bites. Apparently, not too many transplants want to live in Southeast unless it’s near the Wharf.”

Janelle huffed. She wasn’t sure if it had been on purpose, but those were the only words that could penetrate her brain at that moment. So he wasn’t pushing Black DC natives out of their homes. He was just infiltrating her territory and subtly threatening to split even more of Arnell’s time.

He interrupted her thoughts again and Janelle almost reached out and struck him with her fist. Didn’t he have any respect for her internal diatribe? Stupid man. “But I want to talk about something else you said. About Arnie.”

“Fine. Go ahead.”

Kayvon didn’t go ahead, though, and Janelle wanted to rip her hair out of her scalp for all his deliberate slowness. He looked her in the eyes for several seconds, but didn't speak. He got dressed. Took his time, too, searching for his drawls and the thirst-trap uniform he’d worn over here. When he was fully clothed and standing in front of her again, he made sure to face her head on. He even closed some of the distance between them, a move that made Janelle’s skin crawl. Since she was in her own home, however, she refused to budge. 

Kayvon sighed. “She’s my daughter too, Janelle.”

“Trust me, I’m well aware.” Despite carrying her for nine months, Janelle’s face was not the only one Arnell stole and made her own. She had Kayvon’s smile, his bell-pepper nose and dark, curly hair.

“You don’t act like it. You treat me like an interloper who has no right trying to be closer to his family. Yes, my job is relocating me to northern Virginia, but this is also where my child lives, Janelle. Why wouldn’t I do everything in my power to be closer to her?”

Anger climbed up Janelle’s limbs until they felt like iron rods. She stepped closer without thought and shoved a finger into Kayvon’s chest. “You’ve had years to be closer to her, Kayvon, and we’ve been doing just fine with you hundreds of miles away. Why the sudden change of heart?”

“Why does that matter? She’s my child! Unless, of course, you like having the distance so you have the chance to mold her into the mini-you you’ve wanted since the day she was born, without input from anyone else.”

“Don’t you dare go there.”

Kayvon stepped forward, pressing his chest into Janelle’s finger in a dare. “Go where, Janelle? It’s the truth. You want to do this thing on your own, in your own way. Let’s not fake the funk now, city girl.”

“Watch your fucking mouth, and don’t call me that.”

“Fine,” he acquiesced. “But don’t pretend like I’m not right.”

“You’re not. But you’re so scared of not being needed, here you are pushing yourself into our space without any forewarning, or even asking me if I was comfortable with it.”

“Are you saying I should’ve checked with you before doing what my job requires of me? Before trying to be closer to my own seed? Be serious, Janelle.”

You be serious, Kayvon. Like I said, we’ve been doing just fine with you where you are. And don’t act like moving to my neighborhood, in my hometown, isn’t a calculated move on your behalf. You want to hover. You want to be around. You want to feel like you’re needed, when the truth of the matter is you. Are. Not.”

Kayvon reeled back as if she’d struck him, and Janelle took a step back before she actually did. How dare he? Accuse her of trying to monopolize Arnell’s time and, what, turn her against her father? 

Janelle might wish Arnell had entered this world via immaculate conception, but she wasn’t maleficent. And she refused to be painted as the resentful baby mama. She may be both those things separately—she was his baby’s mother, and she did resent a lot of things like U.S. politics and his current accusations—but she was not abusing her power nor trying to create a chasm in Arnell and Kayvon’s relationship. His suggestion that she was doing so made her blood boil.

“No matter what you say, Janelle, I am that child’s father. She does need me, and I plan to be around, whether you like it or not. And if you don’t like it, you can fucking take me to court over it.”

She almost jumped out of her body. She almost tore her hair out. She almost spat in his face and ripped his skin off. Rage stomped craters into her psyche, filling her vision almost immediately with blood red ink. She could barely choke out, “Is that a threat?” Without waiting for a response, she spat, “Get the fuck out my house.”


“Now, Kayvon, before I call my brothers.” They all lived upwards of twenty minutes away, but that didn’t matter. They’d chase his dumbass all the way back to Philadelphia, where he currently lived, and hopefully make him stay there.

Kayvon wasn’t a small nigga, though, so she should’ve known her threat would be meaningless. “What is that gonna do, Janelle?” His tone suggested that he intentionally left off the be serious, that he didn’t care if her entire family showed up on her front porch with torches and pitchforks. Damn him and those broad shoulders and too-big muscles. “Look, I’ll leave because you want me to. But these threats to sic your family on me are silly and unfair.” 

Janelle was too angry to respond, so she watched him grab his wallet and the unused row of condoms before heading to the door. Before he walked out, he called her name again. Janelle gave him her back, though it didn’t discourage him from speaking again. 

“Arnell has a room at my house, and I’d like her to come see it as soon as I get our stuff moved in. It won’t be for another two months, but we need to talk this out, Janelle. Sooner rather than later, please.”

When she kept silent, he sighed and said he’d call her in a few days. She listened while he walked through her home, gathered the rest of his things and shut the front door behind him. All the energy flooded out of Janelle at once and she sank to the floor with a broken sound. There she stayed for several long minutes, hot, angry tears streaming down her cheeks.


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