I sat on the cold tile floor of the bathroom, huddled in a ball wondering how I had found myself in this situation. I wiped the blood from my lip on the back of my hand and tried to open my left eye which was beyond painful. The worst part was I didn’t even know what set Jamal off. One minute I was asking him about making things official between us, then the next I was being pinned on the bed and hit in the face. I was in so much shock that i just lay there for a bit after he had left the room before I came into the bathroom. I was embarrassed because i hadnt even done anything to fight back. I thought about calling Jada but I didn’t feel like hearing a lecture at the time so I called the one person who I knew would leave the questions and judgement at the door. I didn’t plan on calling and disturbing Cayden but i knew they would most likely be together. The last thing I expected was for him to say he was coming to get me.
I heard banging downtstairs and I jumped until i realized it was the door. I could hear Cayden talking, but just a few words here and there.
“I’m here to pick up China,” he said.
“And who the fuck are you?” I could hear Jamal getting ready to go off.
“Doesn’t matter who I am, she told me she wants to go home, and I’m here to make sure she gets there. Best get out my way nigga,” Cayden warned. There was a long moment of silence and I held my breath. I heard something break then another voice which I didn’t recognize, it wasn’t Cayden or Jamal.
“Hey hey hey, everybody relax. Alright?”
I heard loud, heavy footsteps then the door handle shaking. I jumped back and immediately covered my face, bracing myself for the worst. A hand touched my arm and I flinched.
“It’s just me,” Cayden said. I lifted my head slowly. His face hardened when he saw my face. “I’m gonna beat his ass,” he said turning back to the door. I quickly grabbed his arm and shook my head, tears in my eyes.
“I just wanna go home,” I said desperately. His face softened a bit and he nodded.
“Let’s get you out of here,” he said, and before I knew what was happening his hand was under my legs and I was in his arms. First I hesitantly put my arms around his neck, feeling awkward, but then I realized how tired I really was and I gave in, putting my head on his shoulder.
****end of flashback****
I woke up as confused as I had been everyday for the past couple of days, wondering where I was. Then I remembered I was at Randi and Cayden’s place, in the guest room. I felt relieved for a moment, then I laid real still for a couple of minutes. I would forget when I went to bed, then in the morning it would all hit me all over again and I’d break out into a sweat. This was my new routine.
Randi came in, all bright and cheery so I fixed my face so I didn’t look so sad. She went and opened the blinds.
“I should really go home…” I started, feeling guilty.
“For what?” She said, opening up the windows.
“Cayden is probably sick of me being here,” I said.
“Girl, Cayden suggested that you move some of your stuff over here, dont even play that” she came to the bed and started pulling back blankets. “Now, let’s go get some expensive lunch, hes paying. I’m sick of sitting in this house.”
“I could eat,” I said, my stomach growling.
“Great! Go get ready.”
China was still staying with us after the incident that happened 2 days ago. She wasn’t ready to go home and I didnt mind having her around. She had been there for me through my worst so the least I could do was let her stay with me.
We were out for lunch, just the two of us, Cayden was at home. We were talking about jobs and what I was gonna do once I graduated. I would have a business degree and she wanted us to go into business together.
“You know that I’ve always wanted to have my own salon, Jada too. We can do the work but you have the brains,” she said, looking at me with puppy dog eyes.
“That all sounds good, but do you know how much time and money goes into owning a business?” I said, hesitant.
“It’s an investment. I have a good feeling about it, I’m telling you,” she said. I nodded, listening to what she was saying.
“I’ll think about it, we gotta talk to Jada too before we go making plans,” I said. Her phone buzzed and she quickly flipped the screen down. My brows came together, but I decided to leave it. It buzzed again and this time I grabbed it before she could.
“What are we hiding,” I teased, giggling as I looked at the screen. There were messages from Jamal. “ ‘Okay baby I’ll see you tonight’ ” I read out loud. She went red.
“Can I have my phone back?”
“You’re still talking to this - this ass hole? Why on earth would you want to keep seeing him?” I couldn’t begin to understand.
“Because we love each other,” she said, taking her phone back.
“That’s not love China,” I shook my head in sadness.
“He apologized, and I forgave him. It’s up to me. I’m the one who got hit, not you,” she mumbled, pecking at her food. I looked at her in utter disbelief, my mouth open but no words coming out. I realized my words were falling on deaf ears and I pressed my lips tight together.
Three weeks later
For the last few weeks I had been on a mission, with the help of my mom and Cayden, to find a graduation dress. I personally had been ready to wear something I already owned, but neither of them was having it. We were about to weeks away from the actual day, so they insisted we start looking now. So Cayden woke me up, for the millionth time, super early in the morning so we could go pick up my mom and go out shopping.
I sat at the back of the car, as my mom had displaced me from the front, and watched them plan. I realized pretty quickly that this graduation was more for them than for me, so I let them have it and just looked out the window sleepily.
“I like that white one we saw the other day,” my mom said to Cayden.
“I liked that one too. The red one was pretty nice too though,” he said.
“Yes, you’re right,” she sighed, “this is going to be difficult.”
“So, are we gonna get food at some point or…?” I asked, and nobody responded. What had I signed up for?
The only thing that saved me was that I still had classes to attend, so they had to drop me off after a few hours. I never thought I would enjoy going to school so much. In class I just started thinking about how Cayden and my mom could just hang out without me like they were friends.
I got home first and texted Cayden to get some takeout on his way back. I took a shower and washed my hair while I waited for him. When I was putting leave in conditioner after, I heard him yelling from die stairs that he was home. I cleaned up the bathroom first then went downstairs to eat. .
“What did you get me?” I asked, watching him walk around the kitchen.
“Chicken fried rice,” he said. My mouth watered.
“Do you wanna see pictures of the dresses we saw today?” He asked.
“Nope,” I said, grabbing the fork from his hand and opening my takeout container.
“Fine. How was class?” He asked.
“It was good,” I shrugged.
After dinner, I sat up in bed with my back against the headboard, and Cay’s head in my lap. I was watching real housewives when he came in and he had been trying to get my attention ever since.
“Babe, I need to talk to you,” he was smirking. My eyebrows came together immediately in suspicion.
“If it’s about a dress I dont wanna hear it,” I said. He chuckled.
“No it’s not that.”
“About what?” I asked.
“Turn the TV off,” he said. I sighed and did as he had asked. He was so dramatic for no reason.
“There. What you wanna tell me babe,” I put my hand on his chest.
“So im gon say something and i dont want you to run away okay, not until I’m finished,” Cayden said with a faint grin. I nodded and agreed. I ran my hand up his chest. “I been thinking, and its about damn time we settled this thing and got married,” he spoke so casually. My hand stopped on his chest. I sat up straight, shifting my legs so he had to lift his head and sit up. “No running remember, just let me talk, aight?” He grabbed my arm. I hesitated.
“Okay…” I agreed.
“I dont want you to be my girlfriend, that dont mean shit. We grown and im done playing games. I talked to your dad since you all about tradition, he loves me, and he agrees. If we going any further its gonna be with you as my wife, because I don’t need a girlfriend no more Ran. I’m committed to you and I need this to show me you committed to me,” he stopped and I assumed he was done.
“Cay-” I started.
“I’m not done,” he said assertively, shutting me up completely. “Now Im not asking you right now, but im letting you know in advance since you dont like surprises, and you a little crazy, that its coming.” He finished with a shrug. How was he shrugging, this was not a shrugging matter. I scratched my arms, my nervous habit, looking for the words I wanted to say. I more just wanted to throw up. He chuckled. “You look terrified.”
“Because i am,” i mumbled. How had he talked to my dad about this and i was blind sided. I should have known they weren’t hanging out for nothing. I felt very uncomfortable and he could tell.
“Hey I’m being considerate giving you notice ahead of time, I think that’s fair,” he said. I just stared at him like he was speaking another language. “Why dont i give you some alone time, ill go shoot some hoops,” he suggested.
That was exactly what i needed, some time alone to react how i wanted without fear of hurting his feelings. I was so overwhelmed that I needed to let it out however it was gonna come out, whether it was tears, panic, or whatever.
“Yes please,” i nodded. He got up and left the room and i was left in silence, just the sound of my thoughts. My hand immediately went to my head and I started massaging my forehead.
I was conflicted because from the beginning Cay had agreed that we would take things slow. But now he was making demands and running into things-marriage, which was a huge deal. I was in love with Cayden of course, madly in love. He had me doing things i didnt even know i was capable of, like selling my own place and moving in with him. I was committed to him, i had. But I didnt see why i had to prove it by putting a wedding band on my finger. He had practically just said either I marry him or we’re done. I wasn’t sure if that’s how it worked with normal couples, but I thought I should get to say when I was ready. I had given him so much of me already, i wasnt sure how much i had left to give. At least he said he wasn’t asking at the moment, which meant I still had some time to run…
I wasn’t leaving for good or anything, and I wasn’t sure where I was going either, but I just needed to think. I packed an over night bag and snuck downstairs because I didn’t wanna run into him as I was leaving. That would just cause a scene. I made it out and to my car, and started driving.
After a couple of minutes I ended up at my old place, not even on purpose. I knocked on the door and Jada opened it. Her face fell when she saw me holding a bag.
“Oh no,” she said. I stepped inside.
“We didn’t break up,” I assured her, as her face said it all. She sighed in relief.
“What happened?” She asked, following me as I walked.
“He said he wants to get married,” I said, going up the stairs.
“He asked you to marry him?!” She exclaimed. I opened the door to my old room and went inside with her hot on my heels.
“Not exactly. He said he was giving me a heads up that it was coming,” I said, sitting on the bed.
“So why do you look unhappy? At least he’s not springing it on you.”
“Then why you here?” she pushed.
“I panicked! Okay,” I confessed.
“Aw sweet heart,” she said, grabbing my hand. I put my head on her shoulder.
“He’s gonna be pissed that I left…” I said.
“Don’t think about that now. You can go back tomorrow,” she said. I nodded and just sat there. I was thinking about what was going on in Cay’s mind, and at the same time what i was suppsed to do.
After a few minutes the door bell rang and my head shot up. I already knew who it was.
“How did he know where I was?” I asked. Jada got up.
“I’ll go get it,” she said, then left the room. When she opened the door I immediately recognized his voice. About a minute later there were footsteps on the stairs and then he was standing in my bedroom. I looked down in guilt. I was ready for him to start yelling at me, but he didnt. He came and sat beside me on the bed.
“I knew you’d be here,” he said, brushing my hair behind my ear.
“Look, I’m sorry I ran away but I couldn’t help it,” I said.
“I’m not mad,” he shrugged.
“You’re not?” I looked at him. He shook his head.
“No.” He said simply. He was unusually calm which made me feel worse. It was like when you did something wrong and you wanted your parents to yell and get it over with but they decided to guilt you instead.
“It’s not that I don’t wanna be with you. I just panicked,” I explained.
“I know, and that’s why I told you ahead of time. I’m not gonna ask you tomorrow or anything. Don’t be stressed. It doesn’t mean anything is different between us. We can pretend this never happened and go back to normal.”
“Okay,” I agreed.
“So you sleeping here tonight or you going home with me?” He asked.
“Let’s go home,” I took his hand in mine. He looked beyond relieved and I felt bad that I was playing with his emotions. He grabbed my bag and led me out of the room, down the stairs, and to the door. Jada looked at me and smirked. I mouthed a thank you as we left the house.