Sample of Blessed Because I Have You


Copyright © 2017 Nikki Smith


All rights reserved. No part of the work may be reproduced without the expression written permission of the author. This book is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. All characters, events, and incidents in this book are a product of the author's imagination.


Chapter One

Fourteen year old LaToya Johnson winced in pain as her mother wrapped another piece of synthetic Kanekalon hair around hers and got started on yet another of the three hundred or so micro braids that she intended to put onto her scalp. “Ouch, mama! That hurted.”

Angela shook her head at her daughter and kept right on working. “You gonna have to learn to appreciate keeping your looks up and making yourself cute. Only the cute girls get men, LaToya. Ain’t no boy gonna give you a second look if you running ‘round here looking like something that the cat dragged in.”

LaToya’s frown got even deeper. Not because of the pain, but because she knew right then and there that her mama was about to lapse into the same old story that she’d been hearing for yearsthe one about how she’d let a good one get away.


Angela kept on speaking. “When I was about your age, LaToya, I met Jason Hunter.” She shook her head. “Lord, that boy had muscles like a grown man and he was like greased lightning out on the football field. He had a crush on me something terrible and kept asking me out. But he was an ugly thanghad a face that only a mother could love — so I told him ‘no’ to dating him. Told him to keep on stepping.”

Angela paused for a moment and her face was taken over by a nasty look. “Jamilah Overton didn’t have no problem going out with him, though. Me and her used to be best friends. One day behind my back, Jamilah’s mama told her that looks don’t really matter in finding a’s what he can bring to the table that’s important. Jamilah’s mama saw that that ugly, football-playing fool was going places in life. She told her daughter to hook up with him. Jamilah went right behind my back and stole that boy from me, became his high school sweetheart. Now she’s married to him and living with him in a mansion in the Hollywood Hills. He playing in the know? Got a Superbowl ring and everything.”

Angela pursed her lips together in a frown then added, “That coulda been me living rich and high on the hog. But nope, I’m stuck here in this two-bedroom apartment, barely making ends meet.” Then she smiled at her daughter. “But you a pretty little thang, LaToya. You got your looks straight from me and your grandma...we got Indian in the family you know. When you start high school tomorrow, you use them looks to your advantage. Don’t mess around with no fools that ain’t going nowhere in life.”

At that point, Angela wiped her hands off on the front of her jeans. Then she pulled out the newspaper, turned straight to the sports section, and smiled. “You see this boy right here?” She tapped her finger on a picture of the star football player of the high school that LaToya was about to attend. “You see him, LaToya?”

LaToya nodded her head. “I see him, Mama.”

This boy is going places. I see him eventually being signed on with the NFL. He’s a sophomore right now — only one grade ahead of you, but he made the varsity team already. You need to find some kind of way to be all up in this boy’s face, LaToya. You hear me, girl?”

LaToya glanced at the black-and-white picture that her mama was pointing to. He is kinda cute, she thought to herself. Then she began thinking about something else. She began thinking about all the struggling that her and her mama and her little sister had been going through over the past few years. Maybe what Mama is talking about isn't that bad of an idea. If I can get with a man with money, the benefits will go both ways. He'd have a dime piece on his arm to be proud of, to flaunt to all his friends. I’d have the clothes, shoes, and pretty things that I like. A smile suddenly made its way onto her pretty face.

Angela began nodding her head and grinning. She knew the look that had suddenly come into her daughter’s eye. "You starting to get the picture, ain't you girl?"

LaToya smiled right back. "Hook my hair up, mama. I’m not doing anymore complaining about how it’s hurting. If I find the right type of boy to hang with — like this Adrian Frost kid in this paper — maybe someday we'll be able to put me in a full-head, virgin hair weave. I'm talking the good stuff. The hair that them Koreans be keeping locked behind the counter."

Proud of her child, Angela laughed. “That’s what I’m talking about, baby. You got the idea now. Maybe you can even get a hookup for your dear ol’ mama...get you a man who wouldn’t mind kicking you down some dollars for me.”

Then Angela frowned. She’d begun to think about how back in the day, she would’ve been able to get cash from men for herself. But ever since putting on two hundred pounds that she hadn’t been able to get rid of, her ability to pull the type of man that she wanted had decreased. Yeah there were still plenty of men interested in her — because she was pretty despite her weight — but the men she now drew weren’t wealthy or on their way to being rich. I’m just gonna have to hope that my daughter someday snags herself a rich boy. I think this football player at her school is gonna be him. He’s NFL material.


* * *


The Next Day After School:


As her best friend, LaToya, took a seat beside her on the schoolbus, Mia looked at her girl and grinned. “LaToya, high school is just like I had thought it was gonna be. We ain’t babies no hear me, girl?”

First LaToya nodded her head, then she smiled right back. “Yep. That’s the for real...and I do mean the for real truth, Mia.”

They gave each other high fives and giggled. Then Mia said, “And the boys here are fine as they wanna be. Did you see Lamont Blackstone? That boy is gonna be mine before the school year over with.”

Grinning, LaToya nodded her head. “I got my eyes on Adrian Frost. Believe it or not, we have math class together. He’s the only sophomore in there with the rest of us freshmen. I sit right beside him in the back of the class. Some trick with braces on her teeth tried to get the seat next to him, but I beat her to the chair.”

Mia shook her head. “If you talking ‘bout Adrian the football player, he’s taken already. He’s Britney’s man. You remember Britney don’t you? She used to go to middle school with us a few years ago. She a junior now.”

LaToya smacked her lips then said, “Well, he may have been her man in the past, but he’s mine now. Dark skinned, conceited fools like Adrian always want a redbone by their side. Britney’s pretty and all, but she ain’t half exotic looking like me. All I have to do is give Adrian some play and he’ll drop her behind. I gave him my address and he’s stopping by my house tonight. You know my mama likes going to the midweek club down at Fantasies on Thursday nights. She ain’t gonna be home.”

Okay, okay. I see you got Britney covered. But what you gonna do about Jenelle?”

LaToya smirked. “Girl, you know all I have to do is give my little sister some snacks — some pizza, some wings or something — and let her play the R-rated games on my xbox. Then she’s outta my way for hours. You can trust and believe that me and Adrian are about to get our alone time...little sister in the house or not.”

Mia smiled. “Alright, LaToya. Gone ‘head with yo’ bad self. Since you ain’t on the Pill, you betta make sure that boy uses some protection. Plus, you don’t know what kinda disease that nasty ass Britney may have given him. I’m sure he’s been hitting it.”

LaToya simply nodded her head. Her mama had already had the condom talk with her. Then she smiled to herself. She knew she had the entire situation on lock.


* * *


Five Hours Later:


Laying naked in her twin-sized bed in her dimly-lit bedroom, LaToya propped herself up on one elbow and smiled down at Adrian. She was used to acting grown, but that had been the first time she’d ever had sex. Truth is, she’d been a little scared about how things were gonna turn out. But seeing that Adrian had taken things slow, everything had ended up just fine.

Well, Adrian...I just gave up the goods, you were my first, does that mean we a couple now?”

Adrian peeped up at the gorgeous girl staring down into his eyes. He was used to pulling beautiful women, but with her creamy, pale yellow-toned skin and almost-hazel eyes, in Adrian’s estimation, LaToya was the best-looking Black girl he’d been yet to bed down. I deserve a dime piece like this on my arm. All the fellas at school gone be jealous when I start stepping out with her fine ass. Then he smiled to himself. I’m kicking Britney to the curb. I got me a real showpiece now.

When he didn’t respond quick enough, LaToya got a little bit nervous. She had to fight to keep the look of uncertainty out of her eyes. “Well, Adrian?”

Adrian nodded his head. He grinned. “Yeah, girl. We a couple now.”

LaToya smiled to herself. She knew right then and there that she had accomplished the goal that she’d set out to achieve. He’s mine now.


* * *


Six Years Later:


As she walked across the stage to receive her bachelor’s degree in elementary education, LaToya had the widest grin on her face. Since she had taken two years worth of college courses in high school, it had only taken her two more years on campus to graduate from North Carolina Central University. She was indeed proud to have a degree at only twenty.

An hour later, she couldn't stop her lips from turning up in a grin as her best friend, Mia, ran up to her and gave her a hug. "Girl, we did it! We started out in kindergarten together fifteen years ago, and here we are graduating from college side by side."

"Yes, we did do it. Didn’t we, Mia?"

Mia nodded her head. "Yep. We’re both schoolteachers now. Who would've ever thunk it? You and me both were doing bad in elementary school and middle school...we both almost flunked out. But somehow, once we got to high school, we managed to turn it all around. I know that the Upward Heights Program had a lot to do with us doing better. But I also like to give God his due for his hand in everything."

Ever since becoming saved a year earlier, LaToya’s bestie always had something to say about God or Christ. At that particular moment, LaToya simply did what she always did whenever her girl went all religious on her — she nodded her head and smiled.

Mia frowned at that point. "I'm sorry that your mama chose not to come out here today and celebrate graduation with you, because of that disagreement y’all had with each other. And I'm also sorry that Adrian decided not to fly into town. You know you're welcome to come over and party with us. My family’s having a big graduation party at the church."

Just thinking about her mama and her boyfriend of six years, Adrian, made LaToya grimace. LaToya had pretty much done exactly what her mother had told her to do years earlier. She'd snagged herself the shiniest star on the Coleman High football team. And just like her mother had predicted, Adrian had made it to the NFL. He’d just been signed on to play football for the Concords a month earlier.

Her frown became even deeper. Holding on to Adrian had been borderline hell over the past six years. She knew he was sleeping with other women on the side. But since she was holding on to him for a future payout, she’d chosen to look the other way, to turn a blind eye. However, that didn’t mean that it still didn’t hurt to know that her man was stepping out on her. After all, somehow along the way, LaToya had actually caught feelings for him.

Hey, LaToya. Did you hear me, boo? You wanna come over to my graduation party? You know we’d be more than happy to have you.”

Since her girl had decided to get herself saved, sometimes LaToya wondered just how her and Mia had managed to remain such close friends. They were now living two very different lifestyles. LaToya was hitting up every party she could, while it seemed like her bestie was hitting up every church she could find.

LaToya gave Mia a smile. “Yeah. Alright, Mia. I’ll join the graduation party.”


* * *


An hour later, LaToya had parked her car in the spacious parking lot that belonged to New Day of Faith Tabernacle, right beside Mia’s. As soon as she stepped out of her vehicle, Mia’s mother, Marie, gave her a warm hug.

Lord have mercy, LaToya. It sure was good to watch you and Mia walk across that stage today and receive your degrees.”

In many ways, Marie Brown was like a second mother to LaToya. So she grinned and hugged the woman right back. "Thank you for your sweet words, Ms. Marie. I sure do appreciate them." Then she giggled. "I know it was a long road — and Mia and I probably worried you half to death along the way — but we've made it now."

Marie nodded her head. "You sure did, baby." Then she frowned and whispered, "I'm sorry about the situation with you and Adrian. I know you were planning on the two of you getting married."

LaToya didn't know what in the world her bestie’s mama was talking about. She brought her eyebrows together in confusion and asked, "What situation with Adrian, Ms. Marie?"

Now it was the older woman who was confused. "You and Adrian breaking up, baby. That's what I'm talking about."

LaToya shook her head. "Adrian and I haven't broken up. He’s not here to see me graduate today because he couldn’t just up and leave during practice season right now.” She smiled. “He’s a know? I'm supposed to move out to Los Angeles next month to live with him. We’re going shopping for a house in the Hollywood Hills when I get there. After we buy the house, we’re getting married. I just earned my degree today, but I honestly don’t know when I’m gonna use it. Being in the NFL, Adrian’s making more than enough money. I’m not gonna have to work."

"Lord have mercy," Marie muttered under her breath. "You don't know, do you, baby?"

LaToya loved Ms. Marie to death. But now she was starting to get a little aggravated with her. "What in the world are you talking about, Ms. Marie?"

At this point, Mia frowned as well. "Yeah, mama. What are you talking about?"

Marie shook her head. Then she pulled out her cell phone and opened up her web browser. She started playing a video and handed her phone over to LaToya.

When LaToya saw Adrian on the phone’s screen, with his arm wrapped around the waist of a famous actress while being interviewed by a reporter from BET, she frowned. When she heard him tell the news person that him and the girl he was with were getting married, LaToya almost dropped Marie's phone. This can’t be true, she thought to herself. There's no way I'm hearing what I just heard. There's no way I'm seeing what I think I'm seeing. There must be some type of misunderstanding. There has to be. Adrian has been telling me for years now that we're getting married. He just told me last month that he's flying me out to Los Angeles so that we can choose a house together before we start planning our wedding.

Mia shook her head. She knew that LaToya had begun dating Adrian because she’d wanted to eventually marry someone with money. But she also knew that along the way, her girl had actually fallen in love with Adrian’s behind. She gave her best friend a sympathetic hug. "Boo, I'm so sorry."

In a state of denial, LaToya shook her head. "This must be some type of publicity stunt or something. Adrian's not marrying that girl. He and I are getting married. I'm getting out my phone and I'm calling him right now." She nodded her head. "You guys’ll see."

The second she pulled her phone out of her purse, it buzzed letting her know that she'd received a new text message. She tapped on the screen and began reading it: LaToya, it's me Adrian. We’re not working out. I've decided to move on. Hope you have a good life.

LaToya knew right then and right there that the video she'd just seen on Ms. Marie's phone was legit. "I don't believe it," she whispered under her breath. "He texted me and said he's dumping my ass." She began shaking her head. “Thanks for the invite to your party, Mia, but I have to get out of here.”

Mia wrapped her hand around LaToya’s forearm. “Wait a second, LaToya. I’ll go with you, honey.”

With her insides trembling in hurt and disbelief, LaToya somehow managed to shake her head and whisper in a low, pained voice, “Your whole family is here celebrating you graduating. You need to stay. I’ll be okay — just need some time by myself.” She could feel the tears beginning to sting at the back of her eyes. “Yeah—,” she nodded her head, “—that’s all I need.”

LaToya didn’t want Mia and the rest of her family to see her breaking down in the parking lot, so with that being said, she rushed back to her car and sped off. As she drove away, the tears began to fall from her eyes. She made a vow right then and there to never again get with someone just because they were on the road to being rich or famous — or already there. She’d learned the hard way that everything her mama had taught her in that respect had been just plain wrong.


Chapter Two

Seven Years Later:


Hey, boo. I’m glad you could make it to our little ladies’ luncheon after all.”

LaToya smiled at her two best friends, Mia and Tamera. Then she slid her body into the empty chair at the restaurant that her girls had saved for her. “I’m glad I could make it, too. My mother’s doctor appointment didn’t last as long as I’d thought it was gonna last. I dropped her off at home and drove straight over here.”

Tamera nodded her head. “I know Ms. Angela feels blessed to have a daughter like you. You’re always looking out for her and the two of you are as thick as thieves.”

LaToya couldn’t stop the frown  — that only lasted a few seconds  — from appearing on her face. Her mind had flashed back to the state of her and her mother’s relationship ten years earlier. Back then, they had stopped talking to one another all together...for five long years. LaToya had been a freshman in college and had refused to get knocked up by Adrian like her mom had insisted she do. According to Angela, having Adrian’s baby was going to be an extra measure of financial securityjust in case Adrian decided not to marry her.

LaToya could hear her mother’s words in her head as if it were yesterday: You need to have that boy’s baby. He’s almost made it into the NFL, but there’s no guarantee that he’s gonna marry you. If you pop out a kid on him, then he’s gonna owe you at least ten grand a month in child support. Probably even more.

The mother and daughter had had an all-out, bang-out argument when Angela had given LaToya that little lecture and commandment. Why? Because LaToya had downright refused to do her mother’s bidding. LaToya had taken her mom’s advice and snatched Adrian up while they were in high school. But by the time she’d reached college, she’d somehow begun to develop a conscience and refused to bring a baby into the world just for the money. Angela had gone five long years without talking to her daughter after that fateful day.

Tamera’s smile drooped when she saw the look on LaToya’s face. “What’s wrong, boo?”


LaToya sighed. Then she gave her girl a tiny smile. “Just thinking about how good God is. Me and my mama haven’t always been tight like we are now. Believe it or not, we went years without talking to one another.”

Tamera frowned in disbelief, while Mia nodded her head in agreement. Since Mia had known LaToya practically all her life, she knew about LaToya and Angela’s fallout. Tamera and LaToya, on the other hand, had only known each other for the past four years. Therefore, Tamera hadn’t heard anything about it.

LaToya continued speaking. “I don’t like talking about all the messiness that happened between me and my mamait was real painful. It was nothing but the grace of God that brought us back together.”

Wow, that sounds like a testimony right there, honey.”

LaToya nodded her head. “It is.” Then she shared her story with her girl.

Tamera shook her head in disbelief. “You actually dated Adrian Frost? The Adrian Frost? Mr. End Zone?”

Yeah. But like I told you, he dumped me for Camaria Anderson...the washed up actress. But she wasn’t washed up back when I knew Adrian. She was an A lister and she stole my man.”

You must have loved him.”

LaToya sighed. Even though she’d initially gotten with Adrian for all the wrong reasons, she’d still had feelings for him. “In some ways I did — after all, we were together for almost seven years and he was the first guy I was ever intimate with.” She smiled. “But God does things for a reason. If Adrian hadn’t dumped me, I wouldn’t have broken down and cried out to God to ease my mental suffering and depression over the breakup. In many ways, I feel like losing Adrian paved the way for me to let the Lord into my life. After I got saved, I kept praying for me and my mama’s relationship. And like both of y’all know...the God we serve is powerful, so he closed the rift between us.”

Tamera nodded her head. “Amen to that right there, LaToya. Want God do it?”

Both Mia and LaToya agreed and said almost simultaneously, “Yes he will.”


* * *


Two Hours Later:


LaToya parked her sporty, but used, Ford Mustang convertible curbside and stepped out of the vehicle. It was the beginning of May, so the days in Durham were almost on the downright hot side of the temperature spectrum. She stepped into the alterations shop owned by China Moore, who was one of the ushers at her church, New Day of Faith Tabernacle.

A grin materialized on China's face as soon as LaToya walked through her front door. "Hey, LaToya. I have all four pair of your pants ready for you. They've been hemmed up and taken in at the waist just like you needed. Give me a sec and I’ll step in the back and bring them out...okay?”

Smiling, LaToya nodded her head. “Alright, China. Take your time.” She pointed towards the front of the shop. “I’m gonna take a look through those new scarves you have over there on the shelf. You know how much my mama loves scarvesespecially the fancy ones. Her birthday’s next week. I think one of them just caught my eye.”

Browse away, boo.” China winked her eye. “I have matching skirts for the scarves in case you’re interested.”

LaToya was interested alright. She loved China’s work. Not only was her friend good at alterations, she was a mighty fine seamstress, too. LaToya had had many a dress custom made by China. My girl’s hands have been blessed by the Lord himself.

Fifteen minutes later, LaToya had paid for the alterations on her new jeans and had purchased two skirts and matching scarves for her mom’s birthday. When they heard the blare of a siren rolling up, both LaToya and China looked out the wide front window.

It’s a fire truck,” China said with a frown on her pretty face. “And it’s going across the street to the bakery.”

By this time, LaToya was grimacing, too. She said a quick prayer under her breath, asking the Lord to protect everyone who was involved in whatever was going on. Then both she and China stepped outside into the hot humid air to investigate.

Seeing that there was only a small amount of smoke coming out of the second level windows right above the bakery, LaToya was hoping that it was only a small fire that the firemen were dealing with. With the fire truck parked smack dab in the middle of the street, she couldn’t see the bottom level of the two story building that housed the bakery. And since her car was parked right in front of the bakery, she couldn’t see that either.

Mr. Carson,” China said to the middle-aged man who came up to them. “What happened?”

The man shook his head. “That new boy that we hired, he was melting a couple of pounds of butter on the stove and somehow started a grease fire,” he said in a voice full of disbelief. “I tried to put it out using the extinguisher, but it got to be a little bit too much for me. We all got out okay and the Mrs. called in for help. I think they mostly got it under control now.”

Because she was no longer seeing wisps of black smoke rushing out of the upper windows of the building, LaToya pretty much figured that  the firemen had things under control. Now that her worry over the loss of human life was over with, another concern immediately came to her mind. “Oh, no! My car! I lowered the soft top…”

She couldn’t imagine what she was going to see when she made it across the street to her vehicle. In her mind’s eye, water damage to her leather seats and brand new stereo system kept popping up. Seeing that her car was parked right outside of the building that the firemen had directed their hoses at, she didn’t see how anything but damage to her interior could’ve happened.

The moment she saw her car, LaToya wanted to cry. There was at least an inch of water pooled on the floorboard. Everything was soaking wet. She shook her head in utter disbelief.

Ma’am, are you okay?”

How can I be freaking okay?! My car is ruined! That’s what she had wanted to shout at the brown-skinned, muscular man wearing the fireman’s uniform who’d just approached her.

Suddenly realizing what the problem was, the fireman said, “Oh.”

Oh! Is that all you have to say?! she thought to herself. Is that freaking all?!

A second, more heavyset, older firefighter with a shock of blonde hair began chuckling behind Mr. Muscles then said, “Somehow I don’t think your good looks are gonna get us out of this pickle with this beautiful lady, who probably owns this car, TJ.”

Terrance Jackson, aka TJ, turned around and shook his head at his work buddy, Mike. Mike was only thirty-nine years old — which was a mere six years more than Terrance’s thirty-three —  but the extra weight that Mike carried made him look almost fifty.

Terrance turned back around and flashed the beautiful woman standing in shock and disbelief in front of him a regretful half frown/half smile. “The fire department generally handles mishaps like this.” He pointed towards her car. “You can come down to the firehouse and fill out the paperwork. We’ll reimburse you for your repairs that need to be done.”

LaToya shook her head. “I don’t even know if it’ll start so that I can get to the firehouse. I don’t even know if it’s safe to start it. There’s at least an inch of water in there.”

Terrance felt sorry for the young lady. After all, he’d been one of the two guys operating the firehose and had had a hand in the damage. They’d tried to avoid getting her car wet, but it just hadn’t worked out that way. He shook his head. “We tried not to soak your ‘Stang — it’s a beauty by the way — but in emergency situations, we have to get the water to where it needs to be as quickly as possible.”

LaToya understood all of that. However, having that knowledge didn’t necessarily help her situation. She didn’t want to be stranded without a vehicle for days on end.

The good-looking fireman pulled out his cellphone. “It’s not usual procedure, but let me call the repair company that handles damage response situations for us. We’ll get your car towed right now. They’ll vac it out today and assess it for damage. That’s if it’s okay with you of course.”

Of course it was okay with LaToya. The sooner her car was fixed, the better. She nodded her head. “Give them a call.”

Then the blonde guy started speaking to her. He winked his eye and said, “Our deputy fire chief is doing his part for the hand he played in all of this—,” he waved at her car, “—I can take you out for dinner tonight as an apology for my little contribution.” He grinned. “What do you say, shawty? You sweet little thang you?”

Terrance knew what the girl’s answer was going to be, even before she smiled and said, “That’s very nice of you to offer to take me out,  but getting my car fixed is plenty thanks enough.”

Terrance wanted to laugh at fair complected, blonde-haired Mike’s attempt to get the lovely, brown-skinned woman to go out with him. Terrance’s co-worker had a genuine attraction to Black women — even though he was White. No matter how many times Terrance had tried to convince Mike that it wasn’t necessary to use slang in order to get Black women to like him, Mike never listened. Trying to sound cool, Mike more often than not ended up just sounding corny.

Terrance shook his head and grinned. He couldn’t believe that Mike had just called the girl Shawty. I don’t even use that term myself, and I grew up in the hood.

At that point, his call connected to the repair shop, so he tuned out Mike’s further attempts to snag himself a hookup. It took Terrance less than five minutes to wrap up his business on the phone and get an agreement from the shop to come out and take care of the young lady’s car. He flashed her a genuine smile, “They said they’ll be here in about twenty minutes. Is there anyone you’d like me to call to come pick you up and take you to the rental car agency? Our insurance will cover a rental for you for a couple of days.”

Smiling, LaToya shook her head. "Actually, my friend owns the alterations shop right across the street. I'll call one of my other friends from over there and get them to drop me off. Which rental agency did you call?"

"I'll give you their card. I keep a small stack of them in the fire truck."

A half hour later, LaToya was back in China's alterations shop. Her car had just been towed away and the fire engine had left five minutes before that.

China smiled. “Mr. Fireman was a hottie, boo. Did you get them digits?"

LaToya shook her head. "Girl, brothas that fine are generally taken. They have girlfriends or wives somewhere in the wings. Plus, you know me...I'm not asking any man for no phone number. If he were interested in my behind, I'm pretty much sure he would've said something to indicate that."

China shook her head. "I don't know, LaToya. Him and his crew got called off to another location on the emergency tip. Maybe he was about to ask you out or something and he just ran out of time."

LaToya sucked her teeth. "China Moore, you heard the middle-aged one try to hook up with the both of us didn't you? If he could somehow manage to ask us out, then I’m sure that Mr. Hottie had plenty of time...that is if he were interested.”

China grinned at that. “Girl, he had to have been in his mid-50s and he was trying so dang hard. I never thought I'd ever hear a middle aged white guy call me shawty or boo."

LaToya couldn't help but giggle at that her own self. "He was a little on the thirsty side wasn’t he?”

Yeah, definitely. Maybe we should give your little sister, Jenelle, a call. She’s always on the lookout for a sugar daddy."

LaToya frowned. She herself had learned the hard way not to try to hookup with men because they had money. Her little sister, on the other hand, was still conducting her life based on their mother’s horrible teachings. LaToya had tried to talk to her sister several times about her faulty beliefs — and so now had their mother — but neither of them had been able to get through to her as of yet.

LaToya shook her head. "I don't think a fireman is making the type of bank that Jenelle is after. When I saw her last week, she told me that she's only dating professional athletes and CEOs right now."

"See, that's why her butt hasn't been out on a real date in almost three months. Durham's a city, but it's not a major metropolitan area like New York, L.A, or Chicago. Where in the world is she gonna find a professional athlete out here? We don’t have no major sporting teams. No NFL, NBA or such.”

LaToya shook her head again. “I don’t know, girl. I’m pretty much sure you’re right. The pickings here in Durham for a single, available, professional athlete are pretty slim.”

China picked up one of the candies that she kept on the service table in her shop. She began unwrapping it. “See, that’s the problem with a lot of women...especially us sistas. We’re looking for the billionaire who’s impossible to find and passing up the decent, hard-working brotha down the street.” She shook her head. “Now I’m not saying that a girl should settle for less...or for a thug or something. I’m just saying we should maybe stop passing up perfectly good brothas just because they’re not the president of the bank or something similar.”

China frowned at that point. “I almost missed out on my man from being like that.” Then she smiled. “But God was gracious and chose to open my eyes at the last minute. Andre Jermaine Miller may be a blue collar worker — a UPS driver — but he makes pretty good money doing the job that he does.” She held up her finger and flashed her engagement ring. “He was able to pay for this upfront with cash and we’re buying a four-thousand square foot home in the ‘burbs. So I’m pretty sure he’s gonna be able to provide us with a comfortable lifestyle. Plus, he has his lawn care business on the side. And I know it's about to blow up and be mega successful.”

LaToya nodded her head. “You were indeed blessed to meet your fiancee, China.”

At that moment, LaToya spotted Mia’s car as it pulled up to the curb. She flashed China a genuine smile. “My ride just got here, so I’ll see you later honey. Okay?”

Okay, LaToya.” She winked her eye. “If that cute fireman comes back over here for any reason, I’ll get his number for you. Okay, boo?”

LaToya laughed at that as she made her way to the door. “Okay, China. You make sure you do that for me,” she kidded.


* * *


Across Town Later on that Afternoon:

Being deputy fire chief came with plenty of duties for Terrance. Not only did he have to go out and fight fires in the field throughout his day, but he also had to make sure certain paperwork was taken care of — paperwork that had been relegated to him by the senior fire chief, who was coincidentally his father.

The particular form that he was now double checking didn't really have anything to do with his father. It was a task that he’d brought upon himself and it had everything to do with the beautiful woman that he’d met earlier in the day — LaToya Johnson.

Just thinking about the girl made his lips subconsciously lift in a smile. Just like his co-worker, Mike, had said, LaToya Johnson was a real looker with a sweet personality to match.

Of course she’d been disappointed about what had happened to her car, but she hadn't gone off on him — like several other people who’d been placed in that situation had done.

Now, instead of subconsciously grinning to himself, he smiled on purpose. LaToya Johnson disproves that myth that I've been knowing all along wasn't true. She just knocked the wind out of that ‘angry black woman’ foolishness. She handled the situation with her car with dignity and refinement. She could've gone off on us — like that white dude did last month who had the very same thing to happen to his car — but she didn't.

Mike approached Terrance’s desk chuckling. “What are you smiling so hard about, Deputy Chief TJ? You not thinking about that pretty little thang that we met out on Fayetteville Street are you? The one who wasn’t engaged?” He rubbed his thick hands together like he was contemplating eating a treat of some sort. “Both of them were slaying...sweet chocolate at its finest. Both of them shawties had back...plenty of junk in the trunk, just like I like it.”

That’s exactly who Terrance was thinking about, but he’d never admit it to Mike. If he did that, Mike would keep bugging him to call her and ask her out. He simply chuckled and said, “Mike, like I’ve told you a million times, you need to kill it with the’s not coming off quite right.”

Mike pretended to pop his collar. “All the ladies love them some White Mike—,” he winked his eye, “—that’s the nickname my ex-wife gave me when she first met me you know...with her fine chocolate self.”

Terrance had never met the woman who’d left Mike and taken him to divorce court, but he could kinda imagine why she’d done it. Mike generally had a good heart, but he was a handful to deal with most of the time.

Terrance purposely opened another file on his computer that he'd been meaning to talk to Mike about. He pointed at the monitor. "You see this right here, Mike?"

Mike leaned over and took a real quick look at it. He skimmed over the heading. Then he frowned and nodded his head. "Yeah, I had forgotten all about that. I’m supposed to talk to those third-graders tomorrow about fire safety over at Grover Elementary.” His blue eyes met Terrance’s deep brown ones. “You think you can go take my place instead? I can't cancel my daughter’s dentist appointment again. Charmaine will probably never forgive me and then she’ll probably come after me for another increase in child support." He shook his head. “You know how she gets when she gets real mad.”

Terrance frowned. Based on the things that Mike’s told me about his ex-wife, I think she actually fits into the ‘angry-black-woman’ stereotype. But to her credit, Mike can be a butthole at times. And based on words from his own mouth, I can tell that he’s given her plenty of reasons to come at him like that.

"You owe me a favor, TJ. When you wanted to get your dad those tickets to the Panthers game — and you couldn't find any anywhere — who hooked you up?" Mike grinned and began patting his chest. "It was your boy, wasn't it? Good ol' White Mike."

Terrance sighed. Mike had done him a big favor coming through with those tickets like he had. "Okay, okay, man. I got you. I'll do the presentation at the school tomorrow morning."

Mike grinned. "Thanks, bro. Maybe I'll even do you a favor right back and call that sweet little thing from Fayetteville Street and talk her into going out with you."

Terrance chuckled at that. "Naw, that's all right, Mike. Something tells me my chances will be much better if I did the calling myself."

Mike grinned again. In his own eyes, his macking skills were on point, so he really did believe in the validity of his own offer. "I'm gonna keep the offer open. Just give me a call if you change your mind. Alright, dawg?"

Seconds later, after Mike had left his office, Terrance chuckled to himself again. Mike is delusional. But he also couldn’t stop himself from thinking about how attractive LaToya Johnson was. Something about the girl seemed to be keeping her on his mind.