Hood Love Part 2 - Babs
Nervously, I sat in my car outside of Lux debating if I truly wanted to go inside or not. I had encountered many men in my lifetime, but I had never been on a date where my time wasn’t being paid for. My mind pondered why I had chosen to oblige. Something about Leaf was intriguing. First and foremost, he was fine as a mother fucker. I mean extremely handsome. That mother fucker made my pussy jump. Secondly, he was respectful, and his demeanor was calm and soothing. Don’t get it fucked up though. You could easily tell that he wasn’t the one to be fucked with. A man with some mystery – that turned me on. Last but certainly not least, that mother fucker had moneyyyyyy! I could smell it on him. I knew when I came outside of the auction and saw his vehicle that he was paid. Though it was two of them, I knew that his friend was too drunk to drive, and he was corny as hell so the likelihood of him being the owner of the brand new S-Class Mercedez Benz was zero to none.
Checking my rearview mirror, I made sure Reggie was in his car not too far away. Yup, Reggie was in Philadelphia with us. A few weeks after we settled in for good, I got a call from Reggie about him needing some work. Shelly helped Reggie secure a legitimate security job at a strip club in Center City. I was nowhere near rich, but I was still sitting on enough money to make sure we all were straight if anyone ever fell short. Reggie, his wife, Sherri, and their 2-year-old daughter, Tierra moved into a small one-bedroom apartment in West Philadelphia. It wasn’t that far from Lux, so Reggie happened to get there before I did to make sure everything was straight.
After giving my attire a look over, I fixed my red lip liner and applied some gloss. Admiring my beauty, I realized I actually looked like a true Barbie Doll. My features were distinct and gorgeous. I had gotten them all from my mother. I smiled thinking about her. I hadn’t talked to her since I moved to Philadelphia for my own selfish reasons. I wanted her to stop talking to Kat, but that was her daughter and just like she had always had my back, it was no different with Kat. I respected that but I could not have Kat in my life at all, so I sacrificed my relationship with my mother. Shaking my head, I attempted to clear my mind of those thoughts. I got out of the car and made my way into the entrance of the restaurant.
“Wow!” I said as I was taken back by the restaurant’s design.
“It was designed by the owner’s mother.” A beautiful young lady informed me.
“It’s beautiful. My name is Babs and I have a reservation here. Should be under Leaf.” I said nervously. For the first time since entertaining this whole date idea, I wondered What if this nigga was stunting and don’t have shit set up?
“Yes ma’am. My name is Aleelah, and I will be your host and chef for the night. Follow me.” Cheffff? I was impressed to say the least and really looking forward to this date now. Aleelah led me through the restaurant full of patrons to a stairway. Before following her up the steps, I stopped, paused, and looked back at the restaurant. Given the things that had happened in my life, there wasn’t much I trusted at this point. Nothing seemed staged or out of place, so I proceeded up the stairs. When she opened the door for me, I could not believe my eyes. The set up looked like a scene in a movie. It was amazing so I took in the ambiance of the room and fell in love.
Candles lit the room as they were everywhere throughout the room and red rose petals covered the marble floor. R&B slow jams filled my ears and the angelic scent of Cherry blossom gently blessed my nostrils with every inhale. There was a table for two set up in the corner of the room with a bottle of Moet, two glasses, and small dishes of fresh fruit, sushi rolls, pumpkin spice cupcakes, and more. A vase full of pink and white roses occupied the corner of the table. In the middle of the floor was a chef’s table. Having a great appreciation for decor, I was extremely impressed. Nothing was out of place and no detail was missed.
“Please Ms. Babs. Have a seat. Mr. Leaf will be here shortly. May I get you anything while you wait?”
“Yes, a glass of water and a sheet of paper, please.” I requested.
“O. . .kay.” She chuckled confusedly and disappeared out of the room to fulfill my request. I turned around and gave the room a once over again. I took a seat and smiled widely, hanging my purse on the chair by the strap. Aleelah came back with the water and a writing pad. I wrote Leaf a letter and just as I was finishing it, he came in. I signed my name and folded the note, placing it in my purse before sitting my purse down on the table. Leaf dressed in skinny fit seven jeans, a pair of black-on-black Alexander McQueen sneakers, and a black thobe. He wore one gold chain that he had tucked his thobe and no other jewelry. The scent of Burberry Weekend could be smelled as soon as he walked into the room. I must admit, his attire looked good on him. Though, I doubt he would look bad in anything.
“Hello beautiful!” Leaf said and extended his hand for mine. I blushed while he took my hand and motioned with his head for me to get up. Once I stood, I pause to give him time to take in my outfit. Just like magic, he was hypnotized. “Damn.” He said under his breath before gently pulling me close to him.
“Hello Mr. Leaf.” I said as he hugged me and rocked me side to side. It felt good to be in his arms and I would guess that he felt the same because our hug lasted for a long while.
“You feel good.” He said as we finally let go of our embrace. Leaf pulled out my chair before taking his.
“You do too.” I responded and put my head down so that he couldn’t see me smiling.
“You don’t have to hide your smile from me. My only intention to make you smile and keep you smiling.” He reassured me but I still tried to conceal the joy I was feeling in the moment.
“Hello again to you both. I hope you’ll enjoy the appetizers set up for you but I am here to take your personal orders for the night. Can I either of you with something to drink?”
“Water.” We both said simultaneously. I chuckled.
“What are you laughing about?” Leaf asked and took my hand in his.
“Nothing.” I said with a while smiling and holding his hand a little tighter.
“Y’all are too cute. I’m going to get you both some water. You can then call me when you are ready to order. It’s no rush at all.” Aleelah said and left to go get water. Truth be told, I was just tickled about everything. Chile, for starters, I was on a date and that was a laugh in itself.
“What makes you happy?” Leaf asked.
“I don’t know honestly.” For the first time in my life, I felt comfortable being vulnerable.
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
“I don’t know Leaf. I am on a journey of finding out what happiness looks like for me. I’ve spent most of my life surviving.”
“Can I join you?”
“Join me. . .? I don’t understand.”
“On your journey of finding what happiness is.”
“I feel like happiness is personal. I don’t believe someone else can help you find happiness because it’s internal. You feel me?”
“I don’t know about that.” He started and I began to cut him off, but he continued. “I respect your perspective but hear mine. I agree that happiness is personal and comes from within, but I don’t agree that others can’t help you find it. Happiness is an emotion and emotions are discovered through experiences and how we feel towards those experiences. It is not until we experience something that we attach an emotion to it. Besides, different people bring out different things in us.”
“That’s an interesting point of view. I still believe that it is personal because we can have the same experience and attach completely different emotions.”
“Facts! But . . .having someone there with you through an experience and experiencing something on your own can alter the emotion you’d attach to the experience itself as well.” Leaf said and looked into my eyes.
“I guess. Is this a date or a political debate?” I asked and chuckled.
“It’s whatever it needs to be to make you happy.” He responded and I blushed. We talked and laughed for about an hour before I felt hungry. I told Leaf and he rang a bell on the wall. About one minute later, Aleelah came in and took our orders. She disappeared into a room connected to the one we were in, and we returned to our conversation.
“So, what’s your real name?” I asked.
“What’s does it mean?”
“Merciful one. What’s your real name?”
“My real name? Oh no sir. You don’t know me that well.” I said and we both laughed. “Sike. My real name is Veronica.”
“Nice to meet you Veronica.”
“Nice to meet you as well Ryheem.” Aleelah reappeared with fresh ingredients in containers on a cart and prepared our dinner right there in front of us on the chef style grill and oven that was on the other side of the chef table. This was, by far, one of the best days of my life. While I wanted nothing more than to get to know Leaf more. I had another agenda as well. I needed to know what he was doing with that club because since I loss out at being the owner, a bitch needed a job, and so did my team. I was not interested in scrambling once my money ran dry. “So, what do you plan on doing with the building?”
“Ahhhh. The building. I was going to make it a night club, but I have a few ideas floating in my mind. I know I have to make a move soon, but I don’t like to rush. I like to make informed decisions.”
“I’m sure whatever you decide will be amazing because you have a great mind. I just want to know if me and my team can get jobs there.”
“A great mind. . .Well, that’s the first time I heard that one. And of course. That’s a small thing. I can use a few janitors and dishwashers.” He said and I gave him a look that could kill.
“Now, listen. I’m not ungrateful at all but I know that my skillset would afford me a higher than a janitor. At least, put me behind the bar. Geesh.” I said trying to keep my composure. I wasn’t sure what Leaf was used to but I wasn’t going to jump the gun because it could have been a joke.
“Naw, I’m just playing with you. What positions did you have in mind?”
“Shelly would be your legal consultant. There is no one on this earth sharper with the logistics of all of that legal stuff like Shellz. She lives, eats, sleeps, and breathes the law. She’s actually about to graduate and she’s studying to take the bar exam. Reggie would be head of security. Not only is he thorough but he’s a great leader. And me, well, I can do a little bit of this and a little bit of that, but I think a management role would suit me best. On top of us all being great assets, we’re loyal. Be good to us and we’ll be great to you.”
“You got it all figured out, huh?” Leaf asked.
“Not actually. This is just a proposal. You know. Just in case kind of thing.” I said. Leaf looked at me directly in the eyes. While I maintained eye contact with him, I couldn’t figure out what he was thinking. He didn’t show any emotion.
“You are so beautiful. Do you know that?”
“Thank you handsome.”
“Oh, you think I’m handsome?”
“I do.” I said and just as he was about to respond, his phone rang. He answered hurriedly. As soon as he answered, a female’s voice could be heard screaming through the phone. It sounded like she was crying but I couldn’t be sure.
“Please calm down Umi.” Leaf said in a calming tone. “I’m on my way. Do not say anything to anyone until I get there.” He said and stood up. “Grab your purse and your flowers and come on.” I did as I was told but I was irritated, and it was quite noticeable. After we exited the restaurant, I started to walk towards my car, but Leaf stopped me. “Come on.” I followed him to a car that was different from the one he drove to the auction. He opened the passenger door, and I got in. Immediately after he closed the door, I quickly assessed the car in search of any items this Umi person may have left in his vehicle. It was squeaky clean like a luxury rental car. That’s probably why he didn’t drive his regular car. He got me fucked up. I faced forward and rode in silence. Why did I even get in this fucking car?
“Can you tell me where we’re going?” I asked.
“We have an emergency to attend to.” He replied without shifting his focus from the road.
“What do you mean we?” I asked concerned. He didn’t respond. I continued with my questions. “Is my car going to be okay? It won’t get towed right? What about our food? I really wanted that food. I’m really hungry Leaf.” I said in a soft voice.
“Ask me what you really want to ask me because you’re getting on my nerves baby.” He said and glanced at me. My mouth wanted to scream, ‘Who the fuck is Umi?’ but I chose to maintain my silence opposed to jumping to conclusions. As we rode from the restaurant through the streets of Philadelphia, it quickly transitioned from a nice neighborhood to the trenches. Soon, we pulled up to a community center. There was police caution tape everywhere and a bloody body on the ground covered with a white sheet, so it was evident that person was deceased. There was a woman wrapped in Muslim garbs who was crying profusely, and it saddened my heart. I figured the deceased was her family member or someone close to her. Before the car was fully parked, Leaf hopped out. Impulsively, I followed him. Once he got to the woman was crying, she collapsed into his arms.
“Leaffffff!” She cried out. “Leaf, they didn’t have to take him. He didn’t deserve to die. He just wanted a better life. He just wanted a better life. That’s all.”
“I know Umi. Please calm down. Let’s go inside.” Leaf pleaded.
“The kids are inside. I don’t want them to see me like this. I can’t take it Leaf. My heart can’t take this.” She said and broke down again. Kids? I wondered. What the fuck did she mean kids? I didn’t sweat it now, but he was going to explain. We did all that talking all evening and never did this nigga mention any kids. Not that it’s an issue but that’s something important to mention.
“Is there anything I can do to help?” I asked selfishly to remind them both that I was still standing here.
“Yes, go inside with the kids.” Leaf demanded as he held Umi.
“Excuse me?” I asked.
“Can you go offer comfort and support to the kids for me please?” Leaf asked again. I gave him a look that could kill but I made my way inside the recreation center. I couldn’t believe that this nigga wanted me to go comfort his kids while he comforted his baby mother. I pulled out my phone and started to dial Reggie’s number to come pick me up. It was quiet when I first went inside.
“Where the fuck am I even supposed to go?” I asked as I opened a door to a gym full of emotional children. Some were crying, some were hoovering under chairs and desks, but they were all visibly shaken up. “Hello. My name is . . .” I paused. “My name is Babs, and I am not here to hurt any of you at all.” I had no idea what to do but I remembered when there was a fire at the recreation center back home, what Ms. Knight did to make us feel better. “I know that what occurred must have been a tragic thing to watch, but I assure you that no one is going to hurt us.” I examined the room. “Is anyone hurt or in need of medical attention? Please look around and see if your friends are hurt may not be able to speak out.”
“We’re okay. Brother Reek shut us inside the door before the men started shooting.” A young man spoke out from across the room.
“That was very brave of Brother Reek. Can you all come to the middle of the gym floor? I want to grab a chair on your way to the middle and form a circle on the green line on the floor.” I instructed while I texted Shelly and Reggie to meet me at the recreation center. Once all the children were in a circle, I recited the serenity prayer quietly before proceeding. I had no idea what I was doing but I trusted God to guide me. “Please look around the room and make sure none of your friends are missing.” Everyone confirmed that no one was missing, and we sat in silence for about five minutes. I was panicking slightly. “I know that you all may have a lot of feelings and thoughts about what happened tonight, and you will be able to talk and process those feelings. However, listen to me carefully, do not talk to any police officer without a lawyer present. Does anyone know why that’s important?”
“Is Brother Reek still alive?” The same young man asked.
“What’s your name?”
“Brother Jamaal, can we be respectful and answer the questions in order? I did ask first.” I responded. My phone buzzed and I saw a text from Shelly that she was pulling up.
“It’s important not to talk to cops because they don’t care about our community. Nothing we say is going to help Brother Leek. I’m sure he’s the one that got shot, but they’ll make him look like the bad guy just because he’s a black man.”
“That’s absolutely correct.” Shelly, who had come in while he was answering, responded. “My name is Shelly, and I am an attorney at law. Well. . .almost but I’m close enough.” She paused. “The reason that you are not going to talk to the police officers is because it’s a violation of your rights. Because you are a minor, even if you have committed a crime, it is your right to have your parent and your lawyer present when being interviewed.” Before she could continue, Leaf peeked in the door and called for me and Shelly to come with him.
“Brother Jamaal, hold it down.” We reassured the kids that they were safe, then followed Leaf to an office in the back of the recreation center. When we entered, Leaf, Umi, Shelly, Reggie, and an unknown Muslim brother was present.
“Umi, this is Babs and her family, Shelly and Reggie.”
“Babs, this is Reek. He’s like my brother, he’s the second in charge here at the center. To answer the question that you refused to ask. . .” He chuckled and proceeded. “This my leading lady, Umi.” He paused. “My mother. She owns and runs this rec center. Please call her Ms. Kareemah” Embarrassed, I extended my hand to shake hers, but she embraced me with a hug. I welcomed the hug as it felt sincere.
“Wait a minute.” I said realizing that Reek was alive and well. “If you are alive, then who is. . . Scratch that! The kids are in there worried sick about you.” I looked around and noticed that Leaf and Umi weren’t surprised.
“The dead man is . . .” Leaf started.
“No. No. No. The less I know the better.” I said cutting him off.
“I like her Leaf.” Umi smiled but you could still see the pain of the events that transpired on her face.
“I do too.” He said and hugged me from the back. “We gotta go though. I have to close up. Reek, you got Umi?”
“You know it. Go ahead Good Brother. I got you.” Everyone hugged, and we left the office. Before leaving, I stopped in the gym to give all the kids my love and ended up giving a few of the girls my phone number. On our way out the door, I peeped Shelly giving her number to Reek. I smiled and kept going to the car. Leaf and I rode in silence until we were back in my car. Not wanting the night to end, I sat there for a moment. Leaf came around and opened my door. As I stepped out the car, Aleelah was walking out the front with two to-go bags – one with my name and the other with Shelly’s name.
“Awww. Thank you.” I said as she handed me the bag.
“Everyone is gone. The cleaning team included. I already locked up.” Aleelah said to Leaf.
“That’s why I love you Good Sister and I appreciate you.” Leaf responded and walked her to her car which was parked right behind mine. “Call me and let me know you made it home safe please.” He said as he closed her door. He was such a gentleman. “Since our date was cute short, can I make it up to you with a breakfast date?”
“Absolutely.” I responded as Leaf opened my car door.
“Oh! I forgot something. Give me a second.” He ran to his car, and I got inside mine. I sat my vase of flowers on my passenger seat, securing it between my purse and the food bags. I shut my door and rolled down my window. Leaf returned with a gift bag.
“Don’t ever touch a door when I’m around and don’t open this gift until you are home with Shelly.” Leaf stated.
“Ooo. . .k. May I ask why I can’t open my gift now?”
“You’re going to see why when you get home.” We exchanged numbers and I promised to call him after I got home. I gave him the letter I wrote and made him wait until he was home to read it. I smiled the entire ride home while listening to Eric Benet’s Spend My Life With You and singing Tamia’s parts as loud as I could on repeat. When I pulled up to the house, Shelly and Reggie were sitting on the porch, so I called out to them to help me with the bags and my flowers. I sat the vase on the kitchen counter and gathered around.
“So, how was your night? Give us details.” Shelly exclaimed.
“Man, fuck that. What the fuck you got us into?” Reggie asked.
“Truly, I do not know. I have no idea what that was about. I was just as confused. I’m confused about Leaf as well to be honest. Shelly, look up Leaf and see what’s his connection to Lux.”
“I was already on it. He owns it along with two other restaurants, a night club, and that Recreation Center we were at tonight. He is also the leader of Rich Brothers, a group of hustlers that own all the territory in North Philadelphia.”
“Damn. He’s touching some real paper.”
“He gave me a gift and said that I can’t open it until I’m with you. Are you ready?” I asked Shelly.
“Big date and he’s bearing gifts. Girl, open that damn bag.” After we opened the contents of the bag, Shelly screamed, and tears rolled down my face uncontrollably. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Sample Block Quote
Praesent vestibulum congue tellus at fringilla. Curabitur vitae semper sem, eu convallis est. Cras felis nunc commodo loremous convallis vitae interdum non nisl. Maecenas ac est sit amet augue pharetra convallis nec danos.
Sample Paragraph Text
Praesent vestibulum congue tellus at fringilla. Curabitur vitae semper sem, eu convallis est. Cras felis nunc commodo eu convallis vitae interdum non nisl. Maecenas ac est sit amet augue pharetra convallis nec danos dui.
Cras suscipit quam et turpis eleifend vitae malesuada magna congue. Damus id ullamcorper neque. Sed vitae mi a mi pretium aliquet ac sed elitos. Pellentesque nulla eros accumsan quis justo at tincidunt lobortis denimes loremous. Suspendisse vestibulum lectus in lectus volutpat, ut dapibus purus pulvinar. Vestibulum sit amet auctor ipsum.