CHAPTER NINE

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The cab ride was silent. The driver did not speak to me after asking my destination. Looking outside the window, I watched as Atlanta's city lights rush past. There was an energy to the city that I could not define in a way other than saying warm. The people were warm, and the summers were as well. If only I did not have memories for most of the streets, we drove through, I could see myself living there forever.

When I finally reached my apartment complex, I was quick to get out of the cab after paying and made my way to my apartment. The first thing that hit me was an aroma I had ever experienced before that moment. It was so bad that I recoiled from it. The scent of spoiled food, weed, and sex hung in the air. I worried that it had seeped into the drapes and chairs. The lights were all on so I could see the floor covered in dirty clothes, disposable dishware, and other debris. They had a party.

Seeing the surrounding mess was the last straw. I had enough of dealing with disrespect and disregard for my things that my roommate and his girlfriend always showed. Walking to my room and threw my things down purposefully making noise. I did not bother to kick my shoes off since the floor was disgusting. My next move was to unlock my phone and ask my friends to come over and left my phone on my bed without seeing if I received a reply.

Moving hastily into the kitchen, I retrieved garbage bags and barged into Khari's unwashed room. The terrible smell was so concentrated in the room I had to open a window before I began to throw things inside. I broke nothing; I was not bold enough to destroy his stuff. I only paused when I heard someone knock on the door.

"Come in," I yelled and heard my friends immediately complain about the stench.

"What's going on in here?" Sonny asked with his shirt over his face. The girls saw the bags and got to work gathering my roommates things while the guys reluctantly began working on the trash. After two hours, we cleaned and re-organized leaving me spent. The smell went when we placed the bags outside of the apartment. The living room was not anything special, just a couch, entertainment center, chairs, and a few tables filled the space.

"So you got yourself a ballplayer," Eon said a hint of disappointment in his voice. We all sat in the living room, engaged in our phones. I looked up at him and nodded my head.

"We're just talking," I replied. Everyone had their eyes on me to say more, but I did not have much to tell. I also would not tell them about the Wilmer fiasco. I also did not enjoy talking about a potential new relationship with someone I previously had a relationship. Even if it ended because of infidelity.

"Well, as long as he treats you right," he said, allowing the conversation to drop.

"Can you get me an autograph next time you see him?" Caspian asked. I laughed seeing him beaming like a child. I had forgotten that he was a huge baseball fan.

"I'd like one too," Joelle added. I turned to her with confusion clear in my expression. She smiled at me then winked. "What? He's gorgeous."

I could see Sonny turn red with jealousy. From the corner of my eye, I caught Nala's expression, which caused me to laugh. He looked at us annoyed, which only made us laugh harder. The joy came crashing down when we heard a screech from outside. Milan, Khari's girlfriend, stormed inside with her partner trailing behind.

They walked in with the scent of cheap weed accompanying them. It was one scent I had got out of the apartment through burning incense. Milan looked homicidal. "What's all this?" Khari asked with slurred speech.

"Your stuff you're moving out tonight," I intoned making sure he understood what I was saying in his impaired state. My body tensed as I stood up to prepare myself to fight. My older brother Kenya would get violent anytime he was high, especially if I said something in defense of myself to him. Khari looked confused.

"I'm sorry but we can't live together anymore. You will have to stay at Milan's for now on," I said, trying my best to be firm. Milan reacted to my words by kicking her kitten heels off. I hated confrontation, and she knew that. It was how she felt comfortable enough to walk over me.

"So you think you're going to kick us out," she shouted.

"No, darling he's kicking Khari out, you don't live here remember?" Sonny said, allowing his south Georgia drawl to slip out.

"Bitch who asked you? Cyprus, you think because you're on TV with that baseball player you can do whatever you want to do. His name is on the lease."

"He's been late on his half of the rent twice now. The agreement says that the third time allows the complex to kick you out. Khari do you have the rent, or will you have it before it's due next week?" He shook his head. "Well, it has been nice and I do wish you both well, but it's now time to make your exit."

"Bitch!" She shouted so loud the people in neighboring apartments yelled for us to quiet down.

"Call him another bitch I dare you, I just want you to say it one more time so I can give you this ass whooping you've been begging for since we've met," Nala said so calm that it was scary. While looking at Milan, she tied her hair up into a messy bun. Milan walked up to me and slapped me hard across the face and looked at Nala smugly.

"What are you going to do about that," Milan asked. She didn't realize that she provoked the best fighter in the room. Nala moved lightly on her feet and as swift as a hummingbird and clipped Milan on the chin with a right hook. The blow should have knocked her out, but Nala was toying with her. Nala who started throwing blows like a grown man, no hair pulling, no scratching just straight punches. Milan was high and way too slow to even put up a real fight.

Nala expertly guided her towards the door, ignoring Khari who stood dumbfounded. One punch knocked Milan to the floor and Caspian rushed to pull Nala off of Milan before she broke her nose. Joelle then walked up and grabbed Milan by the back of her dress helping her up and ushered her out the door forcefully until she got hit in the face.

Normally, she was the peaceful member of our group. Joelle rarely raised her voice and played the background, but she was not a pushover. When she got hit grabbed a handful of Milan's dreads and began slinging her around. Seeing his girlfriend be slung around and punished caused Khari to come back to reality and run to help.

He did not even get close before Sonny pushed him out of the apartment and then got hit by Eon who went to help. I walked past a restrained Nala and went to Joelle and removed her hands from Milan's hair. With the two outside, I shut and locked the door, noting that I would need the locks changed.

The group was amped from the adrenaline while I sank into myself. Shame rose inside of me from allowing them to fight my battles. Shaking the thoughts away, I began talking about the weekend and did what I could to not tell them exactly why Zion and I had spent the weekend together. They were engaged till the end and then they became tired.

"What are you going to do with the second room?" Nala asked me with a look that told me she had an agenda.

"Well, I was thinking, Joella and you could move in. I mean you two spend lots of nights here, anyway. Just pitch in where you can and I'm fine with that."

They both smiled widely and began talking about how they would change things. With that I excused myself and took a quick shower before dressing in something warm. Not ready to climb into bed, I left the apartment. The guys were asleep in the chairs and Caspian on the couch while the girls took their new room. My phone was in my hand and I looked at his contact before calling. My legs moved on auto-pilot taking my down the stairs and around the corner.

"Hey baby, what's going on," he said. I could tell he had been asleep.

"Sorry for waking you, just wanted to hear your voice," I said.

"How is it back home," he said. I pondered if I wanted to tell him about the fight for a while before explaining what happened to him. This led to me having telling him I did not need money to get a house. Luckily, the conversation turned to Halloween and what we both had planned. Reluctantly I agreed to go to one of his friends party, who happened to live in Atlanta, as I round the corner back towards my apartment.

As I made it to my building, I saw an unfamiliar car pulling into a spot near the stairs. When the person got out of the car, I turned to make sure he did not see me and tried to run up the stairs as silently as possible to the second floor. My heart pounding in my chest I listened and heard my name come out of his mouth and dread spread throughout my body.

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