Hood Love Part 1 - Leaf
“As-Salam-u-Alaikum wa-rahmatullahi wa-barakatuh.” I greeted Latif as I answered my phone.
“Wa-Alaikumussalam wa-Rahmatullah. What up bull? Are you ready for the meeting?” Latif inquired.
“Indeed. I have some big news to drop on y’all. I hope y’all are ready.”
“I hope it’s a new connect with a bigger shipment because we’re going through keys like . . .” I hung up on Latif mid-sentence. That was my right-hand man but sometimes - no, most times - bull was reckless. Latif would often speak before he thought about what he was going to say. He had been that way since we were young bulls. More than my friend, Latif was like my brother, so I bared his shortcomings just like he did mine.
Umi (mother), whom everyone called Kareemah and Abu (father) met in middle school and became good friends. It wasn’t until their junior year of high school that they decided to be in a relationship and become intimate. On the night of their senior prom, Abu was murdered by a drunk driver before either of them knew that I was growing in my Umi’s stomach. Shortly after, at a wellness visit, Umi learned of my existence, and our family demanded that she terminate the pregnancy. Not only was she an unwed Muslimah, but she was headed to college on a full academic scholarship, and they didn’t need me or any other obstacle standing in the way of her bright future. Umi gave birth to me in the beginning of her second semester of her freshman year of college, and our immediate family relinquished their support for her completely.
Once she returned home from the hospital, she was asked to move out of her college’s dormitory. Initially, we moved into a shelter for women with children until Umi was able to secure us a one-bedroom apartment on the north side of Philly. As you can imagine, the world had already figured out the odds for Umi and I, but Allah saw fit that we not only beat the odds, but also rose above them. I didn’t possess a lot of luxurious things growing up, but I was always clean, neatly groomed, and smelling good. Umi made sure that we were never homeless, hungry, dirty, or in the dark. Umi finished college with a perfect 4.0 GPA, while working full time, and raising me by herself. She was determined not to fall victim the statistics that our relatives and others had spoken over her life. A few years after Umi graduated college and got a better job, we moved to a three bedroom around the corner from our apartment. I was so excited to have my own room but that was short lived.
Latif’s Umi, Ms. Rasheeda, a Muslimah my mother had bonded with at the Masjid where we attended Jummah, soon came to stay with us when they fell on hard times. I was furious at first. I had slept with my mother since I was born and was excited to have my own space. I didn’t understand why Latif & Ms. Rasheeda couldn’t share the extra room we had in the back. However, I quickly discovered that having a roommate wasn’t that bad. Latif and I became inseparable. We were like night and day, but our differences are what bonded us. We did everything together – ate, shopped, dressed alike, got females, fucked females, everything! So, it only made sense that when Latif decided to start hustling, I did as well. Together we built an empire. Latif spent a lot of his money on cars, clothes, and hoes, but I’m pretty sure he had a nice savings. As for me, I was fine with a nice crib, a nice car, being able to take care of Umi. I saved most of my money and invested in legitimate business opportunities. So far, I had two restaurants, a barbershop, and recreation center. The recreation center was Umi’s idea so it was only right that she was the CEO/President of it. She did so much for the community and everyone who utilized the center loved her immensely. She truly ran that place with her heart. It was beautiful seeing her put her social work degree to use for herself. The phone rang again breaking me from my thoughts.
“Come on bull!! We fuck around and be late to the meeting we called fucking with you! Taking a hundred years to get dressed.” Latif yelled as soon as I picked up the phone.
“The meeting starts in an hour La! I’m almost there.” I responded.
“You probably haven’t even left the house.” Latif challenged me. I rolled down the window so that he could hear the wind blowing. “Yeah okay. Hurry up Ahk!” He said and I laughed after he hung up. I did take a great interest in my appearance as my mother had taught me. I smiled at the thought of her and decided to give her a call.
“You are going to live a long time. I was just thinking about you boy.” Umi stated excitedly as she answered the phone. I smiled as her voice always lit up my day.
“I love you lady. What are you up to?”
“I love you more. You know I’m at the center.”
“As always.” I teased and we laughed. “Make Dua for me.” I sighed loudly.
“Always. What’s wrong baby?” She asked concerned.
“Nothing at all. Just grateful I finally get to take care of you after all you’ve done to take care of me.”
“Son, what’s going on? Every time you talk like this, it means that you’ve made a big decision or you’re about to make a big decision. Spit it out.”
“After this meeting tonight, I’ll be a legitimate businessman. I’m done with the streets. Alhamdulillah!”
“Alhamdulillah. That’s a great thing. Insha’Allah, all your businesses will take care of you far greater than streets so that you can stay on a path of righteousness. Why do you sound so down about it?”
“I’m not sad. I wanted to close on the night club first. You know how I am about making decisions before having everything lined up.”
“If it’s meant to be yours, Allah will see fit.”
“You are absolutely correct Umi. I love you. I just pulled up to the restaurant so I will see you later. Are you still cooking tonight?”
“Ooooohhhhh! That’s the only way that I’ll see you. I love you the most. See you tonight.” She teased.
“Come on now. Don’t do that.” I said before we said our final salutations. I closed my eyes and thought about my life. At 23, I lived better than most retirees and I took care of Umi well. That’s all I ever wanted in life – to show her that her sacrifices were not in vain. She never cared about materialistic things because she always found a way to make a way but we were done with that. I thought back to the nights I heard her crying in her room at night from shorting one bill to pay another, her going to sleep hungry just so I could have more to eat, and all the pain and anguish that our family caused her. I wanted to make sure the rest of her life was the best of her life, and I was going to do just that.
“Man if you don’t bring your ass on!” Latif screamed outside of my window. I was so lost in my thoughts that I didn’t see him come outside. I hopped out and hugged my brother. “What’s up bull? It seems like you got a lot on your mind.” He asked.
“I do Ahki! But let’s eat first.” I responded and we walked into my initial establishment, Lux. Lux was my baby. It was my first business - an upscale restaurant located in the better part of West Philadelphia that served American, Asian, and African cuisine. “Aleelah, can you whip me and La up something good?”
“Yes sir. Of course I can.” Aleelah, my head chef, answered displaying a beautiful smile and her A1 customer service.
“You know what I want to eat baby!” Latif yelled out to Aleelah as she walked towards the kitchen. She turned around and looked at Latif with a look of disgust before rolling her eyes.
“Leave her alone man. I told you about that.” I demanded. Never could I understand how men could be so vulgar and disrespectful to women but would blow their top if a man disrespected a women close to them.
“My bad! My bad playboy. That’s your pussy? You hitting that?” Latif asked nosily.
“No man! I tell you all the time that you would knock a nigga head off if he talked to Aunt Rah like that.”
“You mother fucking right.”
“Alright then. Give Aleelah’s son the same respect.”
“Man whatever. I’m trying to be that young bull’s stepfather.” He said dismissively. We chatted a bit before Aleelah came back with our food. “Thank you beautiful!” He said to Aleelah.
“Please let me know if you need anything else Leaf.” Aleelah said totally disregarding Latif’s remark before walking away.
“Fuck you too then.” Latif said under his breath and I gave him a look of disbelief. “What?” He asked. “I tried to be respectful to that bitch. Fuck her.”
“Something is really wrong with your ass man.” I said and we laughed before devouring the contents of our plates. After eating, we made our way to the basement where the members of our crew, Rich Brothers, were all seated waiting for us to join them. “As-Salam-u-Alaikum wa-rahmatullahi wa-barakatuh.”
“Wa-Alaikumussalam wa-Rahmatullah.” They responded in unison.
“Good brothers, I know you are all wondering why I called this impromptu meeting. However, I am happy that you all are here in attendance. There are three very important announcements I need to make tonight.” I paused. “First thing first, give yourselves a round of applause for an increase in profit by over 50% in the last 30 days. Our commitment has secured us a new connect with even better rates, meaning more money for everyone.” I paused until the clapping subsided. “We have worked endless hours to achieve this success. I am proud of us and you should be proud of yourselves as well.”
“Couldn’t have done it without you, Boss!” Reek exclaimed.
“I always tell y’all there’s no big i’s or little you’s. There’s no one man above the crew. We couldn’t have done it without each other.” I assured everyone. “However, Reek, your leadership has not gone unnoticed. Your heart is different, and your loyalty is unmatched. I believe you have a very bright future ahead of you and will make such a huge difference in this world. I would like you to start where we’re from, North Philly.”
“What do you mean good brother?” Reek asked confused as I pulled out a contract and presented it to him.
“Announcement #2. Reek, You’re going to be the COO of the recreation center.”
“Really?” Reek asked in disbelief as the other brothers saluted him one by one!
“Yes, Really!” I assured him. Reek always volunteered his time at the center helping Umi with whatever she asked of him as well as consistently teaching the Introduction to Islam course without complaint. He even used his own money to give them small graduation ceremonies, cookouts, and other fun events. His heart was for the people and I wanted him to serve in that capacity at his fullest potential.
“You are more than deserving Ahki!” Latif said as he hugged Reek and rocked him back and forth.
“I know the numbers you bring in from the streets. Your new salary is not the same as that, but you should be able to maintain the same lifestyle you’re accustomed to.” I paused to let him discover his new salary which was actually twice as much as what he averaged from hustling. His kept his composure as he read over the paperwork, but I can tell he was pleased when reviewing his numbers. “I say that to say, by signing this contract, you agree to leave the streets alone completely. You will not hustle drugs with us or anyone else or involve yourself in any criminal activity intentionally. You know I keep this side of life as far as possible away from Umi and it is a requirement that it stays that you do the same.”
“You know I got Aunt Kareemah like she was my mother. I would never bring any crimes or harm near her.”
“I believe that. Outside of all that you already do, that is the main reason why I know you’re the perfect man for the job.” I said as I walked to the bar and pulled out three bottles of Moet for us to celebrate my finest announcement, which was the biggest. “Fellas, this has been a great 7 years. We’ve come a long way from being the corner boys we used to be. While everyone in this room has a heart of a hustler but I don’t know anyone who loves the hustle more than my good brother, La.” I paused and poured a glass of Moet for La. “Brothers, please pour yourself a glass of Mo and help me celebrate the new leader of Rich Brothers, La!”
“What?” Latif asked confused.
“Yeah bull. I’m leaving the game for good. This is all yours. Your connect, your product, your crew, your corners. Everything is yours now brother. I don’t know anybody else in life that I would ever have wanted to build an empire with. I know you have the potential to take Rich brothers to the next level. I’m forever a rich brother but I have to move on from this and follow my purpose. So, let’s toast to more money and finding purpose.”
“Yeahhhhhhh mother fuckers! More money, more bitches, more cars, more clothes, more trips, more hoes. Did I already say hoes? Well, let me say it again – even more of those bitches. We’re about get more money than we ever have. I hope y’all ready.” Latif said and started drinking Moet from the bottle. The guys went crazy laughing, popping bottles, and celebrating. Reek was sitting off by himself, so I decided to go talk to him.
“What’s on your mind Reek?”
“How did you know I wanted out?”
“Umi.” I responded.
“She is truly something special.”
“Tell me about it. I’ve spent my entire life with her.”
“You’re lucky to have her Ahki. You take care of her well. You take care of everyone for real. May Allah reward you with a beautiful wife who takes care of you.”
“Insha’allah! One day good brother.” I said.
“Let’s go playboy. We don’t want to be late.” Latif slurred and I instantly regretted giving him Moet right before we handled business.
“Alright good brothers. We have some business to attend. Latif will let you know when you all will meet with him as he is your point of contact when it pertains to business moving forward.” I ended the meeting by showing love to all of the brother individually. I decided to drive and let Latif ride with me due to his drunken state. Checking my watch, I realized that I had twenty minutes to get to the live auction if I wanted to have any luck buying that nightclub. When we pulled up to the spot, it was no one outside but two cars parked right in front of the club. I woke Latif up who clearly hadn’t sobered up a bit and we headed inside.
“As you can see the entire club was recently remodeled so the foundation this building is completely perfect. Even the coat of paint is still . . . fresh.” A little white man said to two beautiful ladies and a husky brother. They all stopped and looked back at us after the little white man did.
“It was advertised that the auction started at 6:00pm.” I looked at my watch and continued. “It’s only 5:48pm. Did you start early?”
“When you are early, you are on time. When you are on time, you are late.” one of the ladies said in a matter of fact tone. They were both beautiful but there was something about her that captivated me.
“Who the fuck are you talking to?” Latif asked and walked towards her. The husky brother stepped in front of her and flashed his piece. “Nigga we got guns too.” Latif said whipping out his pistol.
“Wow. Is it offensive to give advice?” The beauty asked stepping to the side of the husky brother. I was so paralyzed by her presence that I couldn’t say anything.
“Naw. Just know who you talking to and watch your mouth with any slick shit when it comes to us.” Latif spat still face to face with the husky brother but talking to the beauty.
“Who are y’all?” The beauty asked inquisitively, and you can tell that she was really confused.
“Chill La.” I finally found some words. He tucked his gun and stepped back.
“Chill Reg.” The beauty said to the husky brother. He didn’t move. “Reggie Reg. . .” He broke his stare and redirected his attention to the beauty. “Chill. You can wait for us outside.”
“Babs, I don’t think. . .” Shelly begin to question Babs’ directive to Reggie.
“We’re good Shellz.” Babs said to Shelly. “Right fellas?” Babs asked, turning to me and Latif.
“Yes ma’am. I just came to buy my club.” I responded and put my hands up to surrender.
“Your club?” Babs asked and screwed her face up. “This is our club.” She pointed to herself and Shelly.
“Well, ladies and gentlemen, it is 6:00pm on the dot. Let me check outside and make sure no one else is here. Then, we can get started.”
“Sounds good.” I responded. I was ready to place my bid and get on with my evening. It was no way that these young girls were going to outbid me unless they had cashed out a trust fund from their rich parents. Even then, I knew it wouldn’t happen.
“When we remodel the place, maybe y’all can come dance for us. Y’all both fine as shit with fat asses.” Latif said disrespectfully.
“Nigga, who the fuck are you talking to?” Babs spat making direct eye contact with Latif. Latif looked around mockingly.
“Y’all the only two pretty bubble butt jawns in here.” Latif retorted.
“La, chill! Please. You have to relax man seriously.” I said in a raised tone, truly regretting my decision to bring him with me.
“Mannnnn . . .” Latif started but was interrupted by the auction host.
“We are ready to proceed. My name is William Reed. I am your auction host. These are your bidding cards. When you want to bid an amount called, please raise it. Please only bid an amount that you can afford to pay immediately as payment is required directly after auction. Failure to pay immediately will cause your bid to be voided and offered to the next highest bidder at which they will have 24 hours form offer to pay. If that does not happen, we will host another one of these bidding auctions.”
“That won’t be necessary. Mines well show us where to sign.” Latif laughed and you can tell that that auction host, Shelly, and Babs was just as irritated as I was. Damn! Babs was even more beautiful when she was mad.
“Very well. Bidding will start at 10,000.” I raised the card. “$15,000. $20,000. $25,000. $30,000.” Soon, the auction host made it to $75,000 before there was a pause. “Would you like to continue to bid ma’am?” The auction host asked.
“No sir. Thank you though.” Babs responded defeated. “Congratulations gentlemen.” She said to us as she threw the bidding card on the table and motioned her head to Shelly that it was time to go. Babs put her shades on and lowered her head as she exited the building and Shelly rubbed her back for comfort.
“Thank you.” I called out to Babs but neither of them turned around. “Damn.”
“Damn what? Fuck them bitches! This club about to be lit. The hottest bitches in the city will be killing each to dance here.” Latif grinned and rubbed his hands together. I shook my head in disgust as I had enough for the day. After making the payment and getting a bill of sale receipt and documentation to obtain ownership, we left the building. I was startled to see Babz and Shelly still there. I walked towards them and Latif followed me.
“Hello. My name is Leaf. May I ask your name?”
“May I ask why you want to know my name?” Babs asked.
“I don’t know why the fuck you came over here fucking with these bird ass jawns.” Latif spat and I turned around quickly to face him.
“Go to the car La. I never asked you to follow me over here. I don’t need a sitter.” I said sternly.
“Man fuck this shit.” He said before walking to my car.
“I apologize for my brother’s behavior. He doesn’t carry his liquor well as you can tell.” I said to them all before diverting my attention back to Babs. “May I please know your name beautiful?”
“Babs. My name is Babs. This is Shelly and this is Reggie. They’re my family.”
“Nice to meet you all. Babs, I would like to take you out.”
“Why? So you can rub in my face how you outbid me for my business or because you think you’re getting some of this bubble ass?” Babs said and laughed.
“Neither actually. I would like to take you to dinner so I can get to know you.”
“Wherever you would like to go. Nothing’s off limits.”
“There’s a spot I passed a few times that I’d like to check out. I think it’s called Lux. I heard they serve bomb rotisserie wings. Think you can meet me there in an hour?”
“Absolutely. Let the host know your name when you get there. They’ll show you where to sit.” I said and smiled hard displaying my perfectly white teeth. She blushed and her dark toned cheeks turned rosy before retreating to the driver side of a car and hopping in. I walked to my car fast. So fast that I may have skipped. I had no idea what it was about Babs the more I was around her the more I wanted to know about her. Her accent was a dead giveaway that she wasn’t from Philadelphia which was even better for me. When I started the car, Mary J. Blige’s voice blared through the speaker, You’re all. . . I need . . . to get by . . .
“Mannnn! Turn that shit off bull. Put something else on.” Latif said anext turned the radio off. I texted Aleelah so she can have everything together.
Me: I’m having a very special guest coming. I need a private dining room with the works.
Aleelah: How much time do we have for set up?
Me: Thirty minutes. Make it beautiful.
Aleelah: Yes sir. I’m on it.
I turned the music back on and bobbed my head to the sound of Jon B singing Someone to Love.
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