• JoyBussuAuthor

....they threw away the key!

Well, we are now on restrictions and locked down in Denver and while I am employed by a company considered essential, a contact exposure has me quarantined at home so what better way to pass my time and keep my mind fresh than a new blog, right?

I don't even know if anyone even reads these things but I will continue to post them as if someone does anyway! So tell what have some of you been doing to pass the time? I have seen dozens of posts of parents homeschooling their kids and I commend you all! I do not have the patience to do it and THANK GOD my kids are grown because it would be like the straight-up hunger games in this piece if I had to teach them!

All jokes aside, I pray we all make it through this crazy, unprecedented time and can adjust to our 'new normal' when it's over as easily as possible. Stay safe, stay healthy Lovelies, until next time!

Lead with light and love always!

Natalie L, Gamble

As per usual, I have included a couple of chapters of Light Eyed Girl for your reading pleasure!

Chapter 9

I was surprised to see Shawnie waiting for me the next morning on the corner as usual, the weight of what we had done came flooding back and brought me to tears, he just held me and let me get it all out.

When I regained some of my composure he held me away from him. “Better now?”

I nodded and grabbed a tissue out of my bag, “Yeah, Shawnie do you hate me for what I did to you?”

He shook his head smiling. “Girl you didn't do anything to me I didn't want to do to you.”

I blushed still feeling pretty low. “Shawnie I used you, you know where my heart is.”

He grabbed my hand and kissed it. “No if anything we used each other, I could have stopped if I wanted to.”

We made our way to school, at the main entrance Joseph was standing just inside the door.

“Hi Nikki.” I must have jumped four feet; he usually just waved at me these days.

“Oh hi Joseph.” Shawnie was still standing with me and unless I was mistaken I saw them exchange dirty looks.

“You ok?” He asked, grabbing both of my hands smiling down at me. “Yes I'm fine, what's up?” I asked with my voice shaking slightly, did he know? Why is he talking to me like this after all this time?

He frowned when he felt my hands shaking and shot another look at Shawnie, who glared over at him and stayed by my side.

“So, are you going to be home tonight?” He asked, pulling me away from Shawnie a little bit.

I nodded because I couldn't speak, my heart was in my throat.

“Well I will call you tonight if that's ok?” I nodded again looking at my feet. I didn't want him to see my eyes filling with tears again. I had wanted him to talk to me for months and now, right now right after I have sex with Shawnie is when he decides to do it?!

“Okay, I will call you tonight then.” He leaned over and kissed me on the cheek and walked away.

I looked over at Shawnie and again burst into tears of shame.

“Shawnie, I will see you after school, I have to find Raunda.” I choked out and rushed away holding my head down.

“Great going Nikki why did you have sex with DeShawn? You idiot!” I mumbled to myself.

I found Raunda at her locker. “Raunie I messed up everything you have to tell me what to do!” I sobbed walking up to her.

She threw her books in her locker and slammed it. “Nikki what happened?” She was walking me towards the nearest exit and to the courtyard.

I waited until we sat down before I fell completely apart. I filled Raunda in on everything, especially what had happened the night before. The look of shock on her face made me cry even harder.

“You had sex with DeShawn?!” I nodded covering my face. “Nikki what's the problem? You and Joseph broke up, remember? Its not like you cheated or anything.”

“Raunie, he wants to talk to me tonight, what do I tell him?”

She shrugged. “He doesn't need to know shit about you and Shawnie that's for sure, just listen to what he has to say then go from there.”

I considered her solution and had to admit it made perfect sense, why I hadn't thought of it myself I had no idea. I wouldn't tell anyone else, I knew Raunda wouldn't tell anyone and I knew Shawnie wouldn't either he valued his privacy as much as I did.

“Thanks Raunie, I was freaked out on what to do. I really made a mess of things.”

She smiled and her face lit up with excitement. “So tell me was this a better experience than with Reggie? I mean it has to be right? Since you initiated it.”

I sat back and thought about it for a minute, “Yes and no. It wasn't out of my control like it was with Reggie but it still hurt like hell! All that stabbing and poking my insides? I don't think I will ever enjoy sex.” I admitted.

She frowned. “Nah one day you will I promise you.”

Shawnie met me after school like normal, he had a look of concern on his face. “Nikki are you okay? You scared the hell out of me this morning.”

He asked, grabbing my hand. I squeezed his hand and pulled him closer to hug him.

“Yeah just emotional, thanks for being there for me Shawnie.” He chuckled. “Anytime Nik, so we started the day with you crying in my arms and we are ending the day with you crying on me any chance you will smile at all today?”

I pushed him away. “Yeah because I will be laughing when I kick your butt in dominos.”

He looked at me with a smirk. “Yeah, right, that will happen.” He grabbed my hand again and we headed towards my house.

“Shawnie what's up?” We were drinking lemonade sitting at the kitchen table playing dominos when I noticed he kept staring at me and frowning.

He shrugged. “Just thinking about you and Joseph.”

I sat my dominos down and sat back hard against the chair. “What about us?”

He reached across the table and grabbed my hands. “What if he never gets it together then what? I mean, how long are you willing to wait for him?”

I tried to pull my hands away and he tightened his grip. I looked up at him smiling sadly. “Shawnie I honestly don’t know, I mean you have to understand I have known him forever and a day.”

He sighed, “Nikki, after what he did he doesn't deserve your loyalty but that’s just you and one more reason that I think I love you so much.” His eyes caught mine as I started shaking my head.

“Shawnie, please don't say that, I don't want to lose another friend, it would be too much.”

He kissed my hand and smiled. “I ain't going nowhere I just wanted you to know how I felt about you.”

All of a sudden I had the urge to laugh and was fighting to keep a straight face. “Nikki what the hell? I’m over here baring my soul and you're about to laugh?!” He asked, looking a little hurt and at me like I was insane.

“I’m so sorry Shawnie but it just crossed my mind that if your actions yesterday in my room were any reflection of your feelings for me you must love me a whole lot!”

He turned beet red and started laughing. “Girl the way your mind works I swear.” He took a sip of his lemonade shaking his head.

“I just want you to be happy Nikki regardless of who you’re with.”

I smiled over and winked. “I want the same for you too Shawnie, it would suck not to see you as much if you started dating someone but I would understand.”

He sat back. “So are you brushing me off? You just the love em and leave em type Nikki?” He teased, his smile not as bright as before.

I shook my head, “No not at all, but I would never play with your emotions and just tell you what you wanted to hear, we both know I'm still hung up on Joseph and that's the reality right now.”

He sat staring at me for a moment processing what I had just said. “You’re killing me girl.” He picked up his dominos shaking his head with a sigh and laid one down.

I scored ten points but didn't call it, I was watching DeShawn to see if he was even paying attention enough to catch it. He was twirling another domino staring out the kitchen window.

He was so sweet and caring he deserved the same in a girlfriend. I hated to admit DeShawn was quite cute, my usual type mixed, crazy curly hair and dimples, gorgeous brown eyes but even with all of that going for him I couldn't fake what I knew, Joseph Peters name remained etched on my heart.

“Shawnie? It's your turn.” I said barely above a whisper.

He looked at his hand and sat all his dominos down on the table again and sat back. “Nikki look I have to say something then I'm going to go home okay?”

I swallowed hard and nodded. “Okay.”

He took a deep breath, “Nikki the day we ‘met’ I already liked you, it just helped that Jay liked Raunda too so I used that as a reason for us to stop and talk to you. The first time I saw you, you were laughing and walking to school with Raunda. Your smile got to me, you looked right at me but then Joseph walked up and I saw your entire face light up. Man I hated that but to see your beautiful face like that made my day, even if it wasn't me who could make you smile like that. I looked for you every day to see you smile. When the rumors started day by day your smile wasn't as bright and after a while it almost seemed forced, then the Monday after homecoming you lost your smile all together and then I heard why. Nikki you let him steal your smile, he took your joy and he still has it but ask yourself does he deserve any of it? Does he deserve your loyalty let alone your heart? I like to think that I brought some joy back to your life, these last few months getting to know you, laughing and talking and hanging out with you have been some of the best times of my life so far and I have tried to be a friend to you Nikki just a friend but it's not enough and it's torture to see you everyday still pining over that fool, knowing how good we would be together.”

He finished his lemonade and put the glass in the sink. He then grabbed his jacket and put it on and pulled his backpack on one shoulder. “Nikki I wasn’t joking I love you and I want you to be happy just be smart about it okay?” He leaned down and kissed me on the cheek and left.

I quietly closed and locked the door behind him and put the dominoes away fighting the urge to go after him because I wasn't sure because I had feelings for him too or if I was just afraid to be alone.

Joseph called me later that evening in the middle of me doing my homework so I asked him if he’d be home for a while so I could call him back when I finished. My personal life might have been a mess but I wasn't giving up my 3.4 GPA for anybody.

When I called him back he answered with an attitude “Hello?” He snapped, sounding impatient.

I frowned. “Joseph hey this is Nikki you okay? Did I catch you at a bad time?”

He sighed. “No I was just getting ready to call you again.”

“Why? Whats up?” I asked, still trying to figure out what was wrong with him. Lord this had been one long day and obviously it wasnt over yet, I was really beginning to miss my quiet, boring ass days before Joseph and me ever dated. My heart rate had already started to accelerate.

“First of all what was wrong with you this morning?” He demanded still sounding annoyed.

My stomach dipped nervously, “What do you mean?”

He sighed again. “Nikki come on now, how could you think I wouldn't notice how upset you were, that you had been crying? I know you better than most people don't play with me.”

I shrugged even though he couldn't see me. “Joseph I just have a lot on my mind.”

“You were crying Nikki, anything you want to talk about?” He finally sounded like he was calming down.

I closed my eyes and shook my head again. How could I talk about it when the problem was him and how do I tell him that everything that is wrong with me lately was mainly because of him?!

I think I might have lost a good friend today because I chose to hold out for him instead of letting this all go! Well I couldn't blame him for that, it was my fault for being so stupid for so long but it felt good to anyway. “Nikki are you there?” I pulled my thoughts back to our conversation. “I’ll be alright Joseph I will get over it in time.”

He was quiet for a moment and then blurted out. “So are you with DeShawn now?” I massaged the bridge of my nose with my eyes still closed, thinking of how hurt he looked when he left earlier. “Nope why?” I sighed.

“Because lately every time I see you, I see him that's why.” He snapped, he either dropped or threw something too, there was a loud clatter and a thud on his end of the phone.

I rolled my eyes heavenward, will this day just be over already?!

“Joseph, why are you trippin? I know you're not jealous of Shawnie.”

“No I'm not jealous and I’m not tripping, I just wanted to know.” He snapped again.

“Yeah ok.” I flopped down on the couch, laying back on a throw pillow in the family room, I happened to pick the one that smelled like DeShawn's cologne and felt even worse.

“So Nikki, who are you going to prom with?” He rushed and asked. I frowned at the phone.

Prom? What the hell?! My life was a freaking mess and he wanted to call and talk to me about prom?! “Don't know,haven't gotten that far, why who are you going with?” I asked dryly, bracing to hear him say something like Sylvia.

“You I hope.”

I sat up quickly. “Excuse me, what did you just say?”

“Nikki, I ruined homecoming for you. Will you go to prom with me so I can make it up to you?”

I wanted to scream, I wanted to be excited but I had so many mixed feelings, why was he trying to make things right now? Yes I still loved him but I was scared too.

“Joseph are you sure? I mean what will your football buddies think?” I asked sarcastically.

“Nikki I don't give a fuck what they think, I want us to go together and have a good time, will you go with me?” I smiled at the phone and took a deep breath, praying this wasn't a mistake on my part or jealous reaction on his part because of Shawnie.

“Sure, I will go with you.” Shawnie’s words were ringing in my head ‘I want you to be happy just be smart about it.’

Raunda flipped when I told her, “Nikki are you sure?” She asked me, we were outside eating lunch soaking up some sunshine.

No I wasn't sure, I was terrified but I lied to calm her down. “Yeah Raunda I’m sure why?”

She narrowed her eyes. “Why?! He ruined homecoming for you, I just don't want him to stand you up or something.”

“Raunie we are going as friends it will be ok.” She looked at me like I was crazy.

“See that's the shit I'm talking about! He better not pull anything.” She was no longer a fan of Joseph's as she once had been.

“Yeah I know Raunda, I know why you're worried but he seems sincere.” She still looked ready to kill as I slid off the brick wall we were sitting on.

“I hope so. Because if his buff ass does anything and I mean anything to ruin prom for you, I will be his worst nightmare!” She threatened.

I smiled back over my shoulder at her as I began to walk away. “ I already know you will Raunie but stop being evil, I better get to body works, I’ll see you after school.” I waved and headed to the gym through the side door.

I was passing the weight room when I heard Omar Wallace and Joseph talking, “Man what is it with you and this girl? Now you’re going to take her to prom?” Omar asked.

Joseph sounded irritated. “Yeah man I am, so what?”

Omar scoffed. “You ain't gone get any pussy then and on prom night too? You stupid as hell for that one Joe!”

“I'm going with Nikki because I like her man, it's not about pussy with her.”

Omar sighed. “Yeah well at least she got a tight little body on her, she’s been looking really nice in those jeans lately.”

I heard a weight drop. “Watch that shit Omar.” Joseph warned, I could hear his teeth were clenched when he said it.

I turned and ran the rest of the way to the girls locker room to change for gym class.

“Asshole.” I mumbled slamming my locker, replaying what Omar had just said, why the hell did Joseph even hang out with him?

“Hey girl what's up?” Joseph was leaning on the trophy case after my gym class, my heart had leapt in my throat in surprise, how did he know I had gym this period? Had he seen me listening outside the weight room?

“Hey, so um why are you here?” I asked nervously

“I thought I’d walk you to class and I need a piece of material from your dress to match to my tux, your Aunt Bettie is making your dress right?”

I smiled a little still taken aback, “But of course wouldn't have it any other way, gotta have a one of a kind dress for prom.” I quoted Aunt Bettie. “I’ll bring you a piece tomorrow. I have to go get fitted anyway tonight.”

We were walking down the hall towards the library since I had a free period and planned on studying for my math test.

I looked up and saw Shawnie. He smiled at me and waved. I waved back and mouthed. “Call me.” He nodded and went on his way to class.

“I hope I didn't chase ‘Shawnie’ away.” Joseph said sarcastically after seeing our exchange.

I narrowed my eyes looking up at him, “No you didn't, he’s not going anywhere so don’t be an ass about him, he’s my friend get over it.” I snapped.

He looked over at me in surprise, “ Okay, okay damn, I'm sorry. You know I have to admit it, I guess I was a little jealous seeing you with him, I mean look at you, body works is doing you good girl.”

He lead me to a table in the back corner of the library and pulled out a chair for me to sit before he sat down across from me.

I frowned at him for a moment, still processing what he just said, “Thanks I think? So Joseph seriously, what made you ask me to prom? Was it my body or you being jealous of Shawnie?” I sat across from him pulling out my notes and math book.

He sighed and smiled, shaking his head, “Over thinking things as usual huh Nikki?”

I smiled back and glared at him at the same time. “Yes I guess I am, huh Joseph? I mean can you blame me?”

He grabbed my notebook and tore out a piece of paper and started folding it. “Well if you must know Miss Howell if was neither one of those reasons. I asked you because I have to make it up to you, homecoming I mean. What happened was so messed up and all my damn fault , I swear I never meant to hurt you but I knew just ‘I'm sorry’ over and over again was never going to be enough. I had to make you understand that I still loved you, so I thought of prom.” He explained, handing me the orgami heart he just made.

I smiled, taking it from him, “I see.” I opened my book and notebook picking up my pencil. “So are you going to just sit here all period and watch me struggle knowing how much I hate math, or help me figure this mess out Mr Tutor?” I asked, looked over at him, math came easy for him and he tutored in his free time, before we dated and our nasty break up he always helped me through my math classes, I was passing but no one had ever been able to help me understand math like he did.

“Now you know all you had to do is ask Nikki. So what’s got you confused?”

He moved to my side of the table and leaned in closer to me. Smiling, he kissed me on the cheek before pulling my pencil out of my hand and writing down the problem I had pointed to.

My head was swimming, Joseph still loved me?! Somehow after all this time apart I thought I’d feel happier about that when and if he finally realized that, so why didn't I? Honestly I had no idea what I felt besides confused.

After school I went over to Raunda’s to try on my dress and get a piece of material for Joseph.

“Oh yeah Raunie I forgot to tell you I heard Omar talking about me to Joseph today.” I remarked making conversation as I slid into my dress.

She whirled around looking evil. “And?! What did he say?I know he aint talking shit about you is he?!”

Raunda dated Omar briefly freshman year, every since then she had a blind hatred for him. I had no idea why, I asked about him once and she damn near took my head off, needless to say I never asked again.

“No, not really, he basically just told Joseph to think twice before taking me to prom because I'm not giving it up.” I shrugged.

She gave me that evil grin of hers, before coming over closer to me. “Are you?”

I looked at her confused. “Am I what?”

She laughed. “Giving it up.”

I shrugged and blushed, “I don't know Raunda. It's weird I wasn't really afraid to with DeShawn but I'm terrified to with Joseph.”

She shook her head and turned me around to zip my dress. “You are a weird breed Nikki you sleep with one dude you don't love but won’t sleep with the one you do love that makes no sense.”

I zipped her dress for her, “I never said I still love Joseph Raunie, where did you get that from?”

She gave me an exasperated look. “Girl please you still love him and you got it bad too. Poor DeShawn didn't stand a chance.”

I looked over at her, confused, “What are you talking about?”

Another deadpan look from my cousin. “Nikki I'm not stupid and I haven't been struck blind in the last twenty four hours either. He likes you, he likes you a lot and you know it, too. Now I don't know what happened with him yesterday, but today was the most time I have ever seen you two apart since you met him and I know heartbreak when I see it and your ‘Shawnie’ has got it bad.”

I flopped down on her bed then jumped back up from the sharp sting of a straight pin in the back of my thigh, “Ouch! Dammit Raunda! I didn’t mean to hurt him! I didn't know how deep his feelings were for me.”

She shook her head, giving me the same look, “Nikki, yes you did but you chose to ignore it, I don’t know why, maybe thinking it would go away?”

She was right and I was a terrible person for it! I used DeShawn and of course he said it was okay for us to just be friends because he was holding out the hope that I would give up on Joseph one day and I chose to ignore it! What kind of a monster was I?

“Stop beating yourself up, Nik. You didn't do anything that he didn't want to.He could have taken the hint in the beginning and moved on and you could have not been so available for him to fall deeper, It’s on the both of you.”

She was right but I still felt bad and I refused to let her know she gave pretty good advice. Her head was getting too big as it was, little miss six prom invites.

By the time prom was a weekend away, I was a nervous wreck. I had a nightmare almost every night, my nephew spilled red kool-aid on my ice blue dress, but the worst was Joseph telling me he had joined the military and had to leave immediately, so we couldn't go to prom.

That fear amplified when he told me he had been accepted to the Air Force Academy.

“Oh my God, I have a run in my stockings!” I yelled from the guest room on prom night, I was getting dressed at Aunt Bettie’s, just in case there was any problems with my dress.

“Here, wear these.” My Aunt passed me another pair of stockings through the door. “And Nikki calm down!”

I was ready about an hour later and walked out of the guest room at the same time Raunda walked out of her room.

“Raunie you look so pretty!” She had a royal blue hi-low with dyed to match shoes.

“You look amazing Nik, Joseph is going to flip out when he sees you.”

My dress was ice blue, with lace overlay tea length, I was wearing matching white gloves. Raunda and I both had ‘rescue money’ tucked into our shoes just in case our dates wanted to act a fool.

Rachael had yelled out, ”12.50 for a cab, Nikki!” as we were leaving my mom's house after she got her pictures. Dinner was wonderful. I barely ate because I was afraid to get dirty before we took our picture.

When we got to prom, we danced to every song and Joseph went out of his way to show me how sorry he was and how much he still cared. He even walked me to the bathroom! When Joseph was elected First Prince in the court, he rushed off the stage and found me instead of dancing with the girl who was elected queen in the court.

The last song of the night ironically was ‘I wanna be your man.’ He sang it loudly and off key as usual.

To my surprise, Joseph and I went to after prom and even to breakfast together. The only time he left my side all night was when he was playing at the craps table, but even then when he heard one of my favorite songs, he came and found me to dance with.

“Hey Nikki, so do you want to go?” Joseph looked down at me. I had my head on his shoulder fighting to stay awake, we were still at the diner where we had breakfast.

“Huh, go where?” I asked, covering a yawn with my hand.

He smiled down at me, “We’re going to play golf. I will teach you how to play ok?”

I sat up and laughed. “Golf?! At 5 am, are you crazy?”

He was totally serious, too. “Come on Nik. It will be fun.”

I nodded and smiled. “Yeah, it sounds like fun, but I think I have had enough for one night. I am exhausted, I am not used to being out all night, party animal.”

He sighed. “Okay, I guess I have to take you home, even though I don't want to.” He helped me and we left the diner after telling all of his friends that were sitting with us ‘bye’ including Matt and Michelle.

“Nikki, I had a really good time. I hope you did too.” We were walking up my aunt’s driveway hand in hand. Her house was closer than mine and all I wanted was a bed and about 5 hours of good sleep!

“Joseph I had a wonderful time, thank you so much for inviting me.” I answered with sleepy eyes.

He pulled me to him and kissed me like he never kissed me before. His kiss awakened every single one of my senses, but most of all it was good to be this close to Joseph again.

“Sleep well, Nikki.” He whispered as he let me go. I walked into the house trancelike, and once the butterflies in my stomach calmed down, I went to sleep.

Chapter 10

We graduated a week later, and I tried to focus more on enjoying my summer vacation, and less on Joseph. He still had a strong hold on my heart, but I had to try to get over it and move on.

Shawnie and Jay had started performing in local talent competitions and were kicking butt, and winning awards.

We didn't hang out as much because they were so busy and because Shawnie felt it was better to distance himself a bit and while it hurt, I understood why it had to be the way it was.

As luck would have it, my brother and Serena were having another baby and hired me to babysit my nephew during the week.

Serena and I became very good friends. She was a very good listener, so I talked to her a lot about Joseph and my plans for the future.

“Nikki, phone.” It was July of the same summer, Serena handed me the phone while I was greasing her scalp for her.

“Hello?” I answered with a frown. No one ever called me over at Josh’s house.

“Nik-kay what's up girl?” I almost dropped the phone in surprise. “Joseph? Hi! How are you?! Long time, no talk to!”

He laughed. “Yeah, I know. I just got back from California.”

“Well, welcome back.” I brushed Serena’s hair into a ponytail and helped her to her feet, she waddled towards her room.

“So, how have you been, Nikki?”

I shrugged. “Fine, I guess, you know me not too much going on, and how have you been ? How was California?”

I picked up my glass of water and took a sip.

“Fine, I missed you though. That’s why I called you.” I spit water all over myself.

“Excuse me? What did you say?” I asked, mopping water off my shorts and legs.

“Nikki, I missed you, but hey wait before you say anything. I have to tell you what happened, okay?”

I grabbed my purse to re-lotion my legs, “Yeah, okay.” I shrugged frowning at the phone.

“Okay, so I went to the beach, and I was sitting on a rock, and I asked myself about you, I said: ‘Joseph, how do you really feel about Nikki? Do you like Nikki Joseph? And I said ‘yes’ so then I asked myself: ‘Joseph, do you love Nikki? And I said ‘yes.’” He went on like this, telling me about his back and forth conversation with himself for the next fifteen minutes, I was following the story, even though it was a bit confusing. When I couldn't follow his babbling anymore I had to interrupt him,

“Joseph, you are all over the place, what in the world are you trying to say?” I asked, flipping through a magazine that was on the table in front of me.

He took a deep breath and sighed. “Nikki, I love you and I want to marry you.” He blurted out matter-of-factly.

I’m sure my eyes literally popped out of their sockets, “What did you just say?”

He chuckled. “I said I love you and I want to marry you, Nikki.”

My heart was beating so fast and hard, I could see it through my shirt. “Joseph, are you high or drunk or something? Do you have any idea what you're saying?”

“Nikki, yes I know exactly what I’m saying. I want to be with you and only you, I love you girl, so what’s your answer?”

“Joseph, the answer to what?” My head was swimming, I hadn't talked to him since the second week of June and now at the end of July, over an entire month later he wants to marry me?!

“For now I just want us to be together, and we will get married when the time is right. So what’s your answer?”

My face lit up in a Cheshire Cat grin, yeah I knew he had done something pretty stupid but he had made up for it and since I was no longer feeling guilty about what I had done to and with Shawnie, I felt like I was ready to take a change again with Joseph. “Yes, Joseph. Of course I want to be with you, I love your crazy ass, that has never really changed.”

He sighed in relief. “Cool, so you know I'm going to the AFA right?”

“Yeah,I remember something about that. Why?” I asked feeling giddy and and happy.

“Well, because I leave for basic training on Friday, can I see you before I go?”

My smile fell a little and I started fighting the air, man, life was not fair sometimes! After all the mess we had been through, I finally get him back, and he’s leaving in four days?! “How long is basic training?”

“Six weeks, no phone calls, no visitors or leave, just letters, Nikki.” He said sighing.

I wanted to scream! “Well, you know I’m watching my nephew, but I can take him to my mom’s house and watch him there. How about tomorrow?”

“Yeah, that sounds good. So hey, I’m going to a party with Matt, so I need to get ready but I will see you tomorrow. Call me when you get to your mom’s, okay?”

I sighed, still tripping on this turn of events. “Yeah sure, I will see you tomorrow.” Shaking my head, the more things changed, the more they stayed the same, of course he was going to a party tonight, basic training was going to kick his ass!

“Nikki?” He called my name right when I was about to pull the receiver from my ear and hang up, I could tell he was smiling.

“Yes Joseph?” I sighed, smiling like a damn fool.

“I love you, Nikki. Thank you for giving me another chance.”

Eeeeeek! I wanted to scream and dance when he said that! “I love you too, Joseph, and you're welcome. See you tomorrow.” I hung up and stared at the phone in disbelief.

Joseph loves me and wants to marry me and I have a conversation with a rock on the beach to thank for him realizing it?

Life is so crazy, sometimes. I had pretty much given up on him. A smile slowly crept across my face, when I heard a little voice.

”Nikki?” I turned to my nephew, all chubby cheeks and smiles. “Yes, JJ?” He pointed to his room. “Pway, Nikki, Pway.” I scooped him up and tickled him all the way to his room. I love that little dude.

“Mommy? Rachael?” I called out when we got to the house the next day, as I put my nephew and his backpack down.

“Anybody home?” Nobody answered. “Well JJ, I guess it’s just the two of us.” My nephew smiled up at me and started jumping up and down happily.

“JJ, you know Grandma doesn't let you jump in the living room, you might break something, do you want lunch now?” I slipped off my tennis shoes and picked them up to toss them in y room downstairs.

“No, not lunch.” He ran off to his playroom.

I shook my head smiling and after throwing my shoes down the stairs, I went to call Joseph. I had almost completed the call when someone knocked on the door. Who the hell knew I was home already? Damn!

“Dammit!” I slammed the phone down in frustration. I wanted to catch him before he went to lift weights.

“Dammit!” JJ mimicked and slammed his toy in the playroom.

“JJ, you can't say that word. It’s a bad one, okay?” I called out and pulled the door open withour looking through the peephole.

“Joseph, I was just about to call you. How did you know I was home?”

He smiled and stepped inside the house. “You know me, I just took a chance.”

I shook my head smiling, closed the door, and followed him to the living room. “You got lucky, we just got here about five minutes ago.”

“Cool.” He nodded, grabbed me around the waist and kissed me.

When he let me go, I had to sit down because my head was spinning. “Damn, Joseph. Hi to you, too.” I teased.

“Sorry, I told you I missed you.” He sat next to me on the couch.

Josh Jr, the ever curious came running into the living room to investigate. “Hi.” He smiled at Joseph and climbed up in my lap, passing Joseph one of the cars he was holding.

“You remember JJ, don't you?” I asked kissing my nephew’s curly hair covered head.

He nodded. “Yeah he’s getting big, fast.” He held out his hand for JJ to shake. Who grabbed it smiling his dimpled, infectious smile.

“Well, I need to feed him lunch and get him ready for his nap. Can you wait while I get all of that done or do you have to leave?”

He leaned back on the couch. “Girl, yeah. I told you I'm here to see you, so I want to spend the whole day with you, if that’s okay.” He smiled over at me and ran his finger down my cheek.

“Yeah, that’s fine. So here’s the remote and get comfortable. It doesn't take me long to get him to eat and lay down. Now, sleeping is another matter.” I put JJ back on his feet, who ran immediately back to his playroom and moved to get off the couch when Joseph pulled me back down to him and kissed me again. “Hurry back.”

I just nodded and set off to take care of JJ. Holy shit! What in the hell had gotten into Joseph?! I had tingles and chills moving all over and through my body.

It took me about an hour and a half to get JJ to sleep. He was a heavyweight fighter of sleep.

“Man that boy gets worse everyday.” I flopped on the couch next to Joseph, pushing my hair out of my face. “So are you excited about the AFA?” I asked, hugging one of the throw pillows, I turned my body on the couch so I was facing him.

“Yeah I am, I can’t wait to practice again. Come here.” He reached out for me and pulled me into his arms, I dropped the pillow and grabbed him to me, kissed him deeply when I let go he was struggling to catch his breath.

“Damn Nik, you talking about me, where did that come from?” He asked, smiling over at me again.

I shrugged. “I don't know I just had the urge to kiss you, I guess I missed you too.” I admitted getting comfortable in his arms.

“Oh really?” He held me tighter and kissed me on the forehead, lightly touching my face.

“ Yes really. Joseph I want to be closer to you than we were before, I want to make love to you before you leave.” I heard myself blurt out suddenly out of nowhere! My heart dropped to my feet, the words had just tumbled out of my mouth before I could stop them! I jumped out of his arms and off the couch.

“Umm are you thirsty? I’ll go- go- get- get us something to drink.” I stuttered and rushed out to the kitchen and away from Joseph’s shocked expression.

“Oh my God, Oh my God, oh my God, why did I just say that?!” I whispered to myself pacing. I suddenly stopped pacing because I already knew the answer, for the first time in my entire life I wanted to make love to someone.

Not because they wanted me to or fear of losing them if I didn't or even out of hurt and fear of being alone, but because I loved Joseph. I really loved him and wanted to share this experience with him, I only hoped Raunda was right and this time I would actually enjoy it.

I grabbed two glasses of ice and two sodas out of the fridge and walked back into the living room.

He still had a stunned look on his face, blinking staring at the tv.

I handed him a glass and a soda and sat down next to him. That took him out of his trance and he opened and poured the soda in his glass.

“Nik are you okay?” He indicated my glass that was shaking so bad the ice was rattling. I set it on the table

“Yeah I'm okay.” I smiled weakly, terrified out of mind of what was going to happen next, I was actually racking my brains trying to remember it I had shaved my legs that morning.

“Nikki calm down girl! It's not like I'm going to jump you or something.” He laughed at my nervousness.

“Shut up Joe, it's not like I ever said anything like that to anyone before! I'm sorry I can't be all smooth like you fellas.” I folded my arms and pouted, trying hard not to smile.

“Come here girl.” He pulled me to him and held me for a minute. “Are you sure this is something you want to do?” He pulled me away from him so he could look at me and gauge my reaction.

“Yeah I do, just not here.” I admitted laying my head on his chest so I didnt have to look at him, I was blushing so bad at this point!

He moved my head away from his chest and made me look at him, “Are you sure about this Nikki?” I tried to look away again and when he wouldn't let me I just nodded.

“Alright let me ask you this when do you want to do this?” He asked me carefully, like at any minute I was going to freak the hell out and run away. Hell part of me felt like I should!

I shrugged, ”I told you before you leave.”

He chuckled. “Okay, so let’s say we go to my house to do this, when then?” I tried to look away again and he made me keep looking at him. My God I was so nervous and uncomfortable! “Joseph, you tell me it's your house.” I answered quietly.

He kissed my hand, “What about tomorrow? Would that be too soon?”

My heart leapt in my throat, hell in my lifetime at all felt too soon! “Sure, I will just ask Rachel to watch JJ for me.”

He leaned in and kissed me again, when we pulled away, he dropped his hand from my face and I rested my head on his chest as I curled up on the couch staring at the tv screen, my heart beating loudly and nervously in my ears.

“Nikki, JJ what brought you two our way?” My mom teased after walking in and seeing me and JJ watching TV in the living room when she got home that evening after work.

“It got boring over Josh’s plus I wanted to spend time with Joseph before he leaves.” I grabbed the bag of groceries she walked in with and headed to the kitchen.

“Oh yeah I meant to ask you what he wanted, he begged me for Josh’s number the other day. I normally wouldn't have even answered you and Tony’s phone but he kept calling and calling.”

She followed me into the kitchen with JJ hanging onto the hem of her dress smiling.

“Well believe it or not, he says he loves me and wants to marry me.” I told her blushing and smiling.

“Joseph said what?” She sat down in a chair and picked up JJ while I started to put the groceries away.

“You heard me mom, I was as shocked as you.” I smiled over my shoulder at my mom, still wanting to dance a jig every time I thought about it.

“So what did you tell him?” She asked me like she didnt already know the answer.

“I told him yes we could be together and we both agreed to wait to get married.”

My mom shook her head,“Rachael! Your sister is getting married, girl!”

My mom called out laughing,

Rachael came rushing from her room into the kitchen. “Married?! To who?!” She asked frowning from me to our mom.

“Mom stop! I'm not getting married anytime soon. Joseph and me are back together and he said he wants to marry me that’s all.”

Rachel smiled, “I always thought you still liked him, well I'm happy you’re happy Nikki. Congratulations.”

I snapped my fingers. “Oh yeah could you watch JJ for me tomorrow? Joseph invited me to the movies and lunch tomorrow.” I lied but it was for a good reason I told myself.

She acted like she was thinking really hard about it. “Yeah I will but it will cost you.”

I passed her a five dollar bill out of my pocket. “Yeah, I figured it would.”

I answered dryly walking to go answer the phone that had just started ringing. “Hello?”

“Hi baby it's me what are you doing?” Joseph asked as soon as I answered. I chuckled, “What if I had been my mom, you know we sound alike.” He had called on the mainline, not me and Tony’s phone.

“Naw I know my baby's voice, so what are you doing?” He asked again.

“Talking to Mom and Rachael and putting some groceries away.”

“Cool, tell them I said ‘Hi’ where is Tony by the way? That’s why I called you on this line, I figured he’d be on your line.” Joseph explained knowing I was going to ask why he didn't call on my phone.

I sighed and looked over my shoulder at Mom, Rachael, and JJ who were all watching me on the phone.

“I’ll tell them and I don't know, Tony is out somewhere, I haven't seen him yet since I got home, I think he has a new girlfriend or something,” I told him leaning against the counter.

“Okay, well I called to tell you I'm going with Bobbie and them to go lift and to tell you I love you.”

My face lit up and I was grinning from ear to ear immediately. “I love you too just be careful okay?”

“Aww she loves him too, ain't that tweet!” My mom and Rachel started making kissing noises behind me, I tossed a pen that was on the counter in their direction.

“Yeah I will, see you tomorrow?” He was laughing so I know he heard them. I nodded even though he couldnt see me.

“Yes I will see you tomorrow around two okay?” Mom and Rachel kept messing with me, “Shut up you guys! Joe just call me later ok?”

I ended my call and tried to look annoyed at Mom and Rachel. It lasted about five seconds before I started laughing. JJ was fighting with a banana trying to get it open completely ignoring us.

I walked to Joseph’s the next day finally making it up his block after turning back home twice.

“Hey I was wondering where you were.” Joseph was waiting for me on his porch.

“Yeah I'm sorry I had to deal with JJ, he was giving Rachael grief.” I lied not wanting to tell him the real reason I was so late.

He met me at the porch steps. “Well I’m glad you’re here now.” He took both of my hands and backed up the steps and into the house.

Once he closed the door he kissed me. “You okay Nikki You look a little scared.”

I nodded and he took me in his arms and just held me close to him until he could tell I had calmed down. “You know it’s not too late to say you're not ready.” He told me swaying from side to side with me in his arms.

I shook my head. “No, no I’m ready Joe.”

He led me to his room and I sat on the bed trying not to look so nervous.

“For the last time, Baby are you sure?” He reached out and pulled me back to my feet.

“Yes I'm sure.” I reassured him again.

He kissed me and pulled me on the bed with him.

“I love you Nikki and I'm so glad you want to make love to me I just want to make sure you're okay.”

I touched his face and smiled up at him. “I'm okay Joseph I mean it.”

He leaned down to kiss me again and his hands started moving up and down my body as his kiss deepened, the palm of his hand made contact with one of my nipples through my tank top and current shot through my body, making me take in a quick breath.

“You okay?” My intake of breath must have startled him.

I nodded and pulled his lips back to mine, the warmth and tingling I was beginning to feel had me shaking all over.

Joseph pushed his hand under my shirt and started to pull it over my head.

I froze the thought of Joseph seeing me naked scared me. “Um Joseph can we get under the covers and then take our clothes off?” I pulled away from him, slipped my sandals off and climbed under his bedspread.

I pulled off all my clothes, dropped them beside the bed and watched him do the same.

When he was completely naked, he pulled me towards him and began to kiss me, instantly I felt that tingling feeling again and a throbbing started between my legs almost like a second heartbeat.

Joseph continued to kiss and touch me all over, stroking my breast as he worked his way between my legs, in one quick motion he entered me and I bit back the cry of pain and closed my eyes to it.

“Nikki baby relax your legs .” He whispered he still hadn't moved all the way inside of me.

I willed my legs to relax and open wider them wider, he was able to penetrate me completely and he began to move,slow, gentle strokes and after a while the initial pain subsided and it wasn't bad at all, as a matter of fact I liked it.

When we were finished and dressed again I threw my arms around him and kissed him. “Thank you baby for making that easier.”

He kissed me back. “You're welcome Baby, Im glad you feel that way, I wanted you to enjoy this.”

I looked confused for a moment, and he looked at me with a knowing smile, knowing I was overthinking something. “Joseph it was so weird, at one I got all warm and tingly all over and there was this throbbing once I relaxed and it stopped hurting, that never happened to me before.” I was trying to understand what happened to my body.

“Hurting?! Nikki,I hurt you?!” He asked, his body suddenly tense.

“Well just in the beginning when you first went in but after that I was fine.” I assured him by touching his face.

He finally calmed down and held me in his arms, “ Oh well the tingling and throbbing, that’s what is supposed to happen but Nikki I don’t care how brief it was, if I was hurting you, you should have told me,” He looked down at me with concern. “Are you sure you're okay? I didn't hurt you?”

I shook my head. “No, you didn't hurt me I'm fine, but um Joseph? I called his name quietly.

“Yeah?” He leaned down and kissed me softly before I answered.

“Um, did you like it?” I asked nervously.

He kissed me softly again, “No Nikki,I loved it, because I love you and you wanted to share it with me.”

“I love you too, so would you want to do that with me again?”

He laughed. “Overthinking things as usual, yes of course I would want to again but only when you say you want to Nikki is that cool?” He pulled me even closer and a smile played with my face.

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