A Reunion

Writing Soundtrack: H.E.R. – Still Down

Kismet heard a knock at her door at exactly 5:55 PM the following Saturday evening. She had nag champa incense burning in her living room and DVSN played through her speakers. Brandon was early – a first for him. Kismet was a stickler for punctuality though, so he was actually right on time.

Kismet answered the door in her long chiffon robe and lace bra and panty set from SavageXFenty. She decided Brandon deserved to at least see what some of what she did with the money he gave her. And selfishly, she really just wanted to see the look on his face when the door swung open.

Brandon took a step back, marveling at Kismet’s mahogany frame, her DD-cup breasts nearly spilling out of her lace bra. “Damn,” he said, at a pure loss for words.

“Good evening to you too, Brandon,” Kismet said, letting him into the entrance of her home and kissing him lightly on the lips. Brandon was dressed more casual than before, in a jean jacket, Black Panther t-shirt, and camouflage pants. He carried with him a flat square-shaped gift box in one hand and a bottle of champagne in the other. Look at this nigga following directions.

“So…I brought you something,” Brandon said, sitting on the couch next to Kismet and placing his gifts on the table. The bottle of champagne was Kismet’s favorite: A. Laurens, champagne she tried for the first time in Paris when they first met. Not too shabby, Brandon Malveaux.

“You remembered,” Kismet said, trying hard to hide how sentimental it had made her.

“Of course I did, Kiz.” Brandon placed his hand on her thigh, and Kismet let him. “Thank you. So what’s in the box, Mr. Malveaux?”

Brandon looked Kismet in her eyes with a sly smile, “Girl, go ahead and open it.”

Kismet untied the ribbon and removed the lid of the box, revealing a vinyl record: Janet Jackson’s Velvet Rope album, the one Kismet had been searching for but couldn’t quite bring herself to pay the high price. She smiled looking at the album cover – her favorite of Janet’s. “Where did you find this?”

“It wasn’t too hard,” Brandon said, moving closer to Kismet. “It was out of stock on Amazon, but my cousin works at Amoeba in LA, so I paid him for it over the phone and he shipped it last week.”

Nostalgia is a drug, Kismet thought to herself. Amoeba was a fixture in her teen years. She’d spend hours there, wanting to get away from her neighborhood and her parent’s crumbling relationship. And somehow…Brandon knew.

“I have to admit, Brandon. This is really sweet. Thank you. I love my gifts.”

“Anything for you, Ms. Baltimore.”

Brandon put his hand against her cheek. He leaned in to kiss her, and Kismet responded by kissing him back. She straddled his lap, letting her robe fall to the floor but keeping her heels on. Brandon carefully unhooked her bra, taking her left nipple into his mouth and bit her gently. Kismet moaned softly, savoring the exquisite pain. He stood up and carried her into the bedroom, laying her down on the bed, continuing to kiss her body.

Brandon paused to take off his shirt, and it was Kismet’s turn to marvel. There were those shoulders she couldn’t wait to put her legs on. He had a hungry look in his eyes and he wanted nothing more but to devour every drop of her.

He pulled Kismet to the edge of her bed, sliding her panties off of her. He spread her legs wide, revealing her pussy glistening with her nectar. He teased her clit with his tongue, watching her squirm with pleasure. He then ran his lips across her labia and sucked her clit gently. “Shit, Brandon. Don’t stop,” Kismet hissed, her back arching to his touch. He continued to eat her pussy until Kismet cried out, coming all over his face.

Brandon stood up with a smirk, watching Kismet get her bearings while coming down from the orgasm he caused. Right as he started to unbuttoning his pants and leaning into her again, Kismet put one of her heels in her chest, blocking him.

“Not tonight, Brandon.”

Brandon stepped back. The look on his face wasn’t one of disappointment, but of surprise. Kismet sat up to face him. Of course, she wanted to fuck him, but she didn’t trust him yet. She couldn’t give in that easily to someone she didn’t trust, no matter what her body wanted to do.

“Are you…are you sure?” Brandon said, reaching for his t-shirt.

Kismet didn’t want to deny her feelings, no matter how conflicted they were.

“Honestly Brandon, I don’t know. You left, came back, and now you’re here. And I’m not too sure I trust you just yet, even if I still care.”

Brandon sat down on the bed next to her. “I understand. And I care about you too, I just need you to give me time to show you.”

Kismet rolled her eyes. “This is very similar to what you told me at dinner two weeks ago, Brandon. And you know what happened after that.” She’d never let him forget it. Brandon stared down at the floor.

“Look at me, Brandon.”

He looked in her eyes. She was still hurt, and he had a long road before she could trust him again.

“If we’re going to do this, I need you to know that I’m going to keep seeing other people right now. And I also need you to know that if you want my emotional labor, you’ll have to pay for it, just like you’ve been doing.”

Kismet held her breath. She couldn’t even believe the balls she had making this demand. Veronica is going to gag when she hears about this.

“You are going to be the death of me Kiz,” Brandon said with a sigh.

“And somehow, you’re still here, so I haven’t killed you, have I?,” Kismet said, walking down the hall back to the living room while Brandon followed her.  By now she had changed into a nightshirt.

Brandon resigned himself to the fact that Kismet wasn’t going to let him spend the night after all. He wrapped his arms around her from behind. “When can I see you again?”

Kismet smiled. She had to admit that being in his arms felt good. Natural, even.

“Depends on what my Venmo account is looking like mid-week. Once I–well, you figure that out, we can make a date.”

“Fair enough.” Brandon grabbed his jacket and headed for the door. “Can I kiss you good night, Ms. Baltimore?”

Kismet wrapped her arms around his neck. “Of course.” He kissed her gently, in a way that left her wanting for more.

Once her front door shut, Kismet decided now was a better time than ever to pop open the bottle of A. Laurens Rosé. She poured it into her favorite square champagne glass. Soon after she took her first sip, Veronica hit her up on Facetime. Kismet picked up with a grin. “Hey, girl hey.”

“Bitch, I was calling just to see if your ass would even pick up! Don’t tell me you sent him home with blue balls again….did you?”

Kismet grinned silently.

“YOU DIDN’T.”

“I did…it was hard but…I did. He has to regain my trust and it’s just…too soon. You know?”

“Oh, I know. And it’s okay to not trust him right now. But at some point, you gotta decide what trusting him again will look like. And you have to never, ever do unpaid labor for him again. Can you do that?”

Kismet took another sip of champagne. “I hope so. I also hope I hear from Solo. Do you know he hasn’t called me yet?”

“Bitch, you sure as fuck wasn’t thinking about Solo when Brandon had his tongue between your legs so let’s not start now, okay?” Veronica said with a laugh.

Kismet laughed too, “Okay, fine. I still want to see what’s up with him.”

“There will be time for that. For now, you’ve got Brandon. Stick to your rules, and don’t let him play you again.”

The two ended their conversation, then Kismet noticed a text message from Solo.

Hey Kismet, it’s Solo. I’m in DC for good next week. I’d like to take you up on your offer to show me around. I’m around this Friday if you are available then. I’ve been thinking about you since you were in New York.

Kismet felt like doing a twirl in her living room. Instead of stalling until the next morning, she texted right away. Why the fuck not?

Hey there, Solo. Yes, I’d love to show you around Friday evening. I get off at 6pm. Truckeroo maybe? Then we can figure out where the night takes us.

Just as Kismet was about to turn off her phone and continue her re-watch of Mad Men, a Venmo notification popped up: a deposit of $250 from Brandon Malveaux. He followed up with a text message of his own:

I’m not playing games this time. I promise.

 

A Weekend in New York

Writing Soundtrack: “Bonita Applebaum” by A Tribe Called Quest

A week after the infamous Venmo request, the tables had been turned.  Brandon was vying for Kismet’s attention, as evidenced by the 2 missed calls on her cellphone on a Monday afternoon. At this point, it wasn’t even about forgiveness for her anymore. Brandon could be sorry for all of eternity for all she cared. Kismet wanted to teach him a lesson. Specifically, she wanted to teach him the primary lesson in dealing with any Black woman: don’t ever have her out there looking stupid.

Besides, Kismet had more important things to worry about than a man with this nose suddenly wide open. She had just landed a huge contract: marketing and branding for the annual Essence Fest in New Orleans. She’d have the opportunity to manage a brand ambassador program for Fenty Beauty while there – her first time as the lead. She knew Brandon’s interest would be piqued if he knew she was going to his hometown, so she was sitting on the news so she could stay focused on getting the work done.

But the next day, Brandon texted instead of calling.

So Kiz…what did you buy with the money I gave you anyway?

Kismet looked up from her MacBook, looked at the message, and decided to go ahead and give him an answer

Does that matter? Once you give it to me it’s mine, is it not?

Kismet chuckled to herself, amused by how he was sweating her even after the night of the Venmo request.  She thought for a moment that maybe it would scare him off, but there’s no way he would have agreed to it had he not found some pleasure in meeting her demand.

Okay, let me ask you this then, Ms. Baltimore. Is it something you could wear, but perhaps…not outside the house?

Gotdamnit. He knows me too well. Prior to her 33rd birthday, Kismet and Brandon had been dating for about 8 months. Brandon was a quick study – he figured out pretty early on that if Kismet had some extra money, perhaps from a bonus at work or a consulting fee from a side project, she’d spend it on three things: vinyl, makeup, or lingerie. The way some women had shoe fetishes, for Kismet it was all about lingerie.

This time was no different. She put half of the money in her travel fund and the other half spend spent on a few of the new items from SavageXFenty: a lace bra and panty set and a long chiffon robe to match.

Kismet decided to keep playing coy.

If you act right, maybe I will let you find out..

****

Kismet changed into her yoga pants and Janet Jackson t-shirt, her Hello Kitty slippers pattering on the wood floor of her home. The house she lived in used to belong to her Nana who had passed away the year before and left it to her family. Both of Kismet’s parents had settled in Southern California – her father in Long Beach with his new wife and stepdaughter, and her mother in Ladera Heights, an affluent Black enclave in South Los Angeles. As the only grandchild living in DC, the family decided that they could entrust Nana’s home to her.

Her father helped her with renovations, and Kismet found deals on mid-century furniture that complemented the few pieces left in her possession when Nana passed. The house looked like it belonged to Kismet – Gordon Parks photos on the walls, a Mickelene Thomas print in her living room, and a two tiny corners in her office: one devoted to her sorority paraphernalia when she crossed the burning sands, and one for her ancestral altar.

Still, Luella Renee Baltimore’s spirit still lived between those walls.

Kismet sat down at her desk to FaceTime her mother. Desiree Thomas was a successful event planner in Los Angeles – a post-retirement career for her. It was the beginning of March, right before peak wedding season. For now, she had time to catch up with her daughter.

“Hey there, bunny!” Kismet ’s mother said excitedly.

“Hey, Mama. How are you?”

“I’m fine, baby girl, just catching up on my stories before dinner. You know your stepfather likes to eat before 6pm,” she said with a chuckle.

Kismet was a spitting image of her mother. They had the same wide smile, almond-shaped eyes, and sharp cheekbones that could cut through glass. Desiree was a dancer and model before she met her biological father, and she still had the lithe dancer’s body. Kismet wasn’t so lucky. She was shapely and plush like the Baltimore women on her father’s side. She had accepted that she wouldn’t be skinny like Desiree – her mother, not so much.

“Oh, I know, Mama. I’m doing pretty good, just very busy with work. You know I’m handling some branding and influencer marketing for Essence Fest now.”

“I know baby, I saw on Facebook! I’m so very proud of you. But bunny, you look tired. Are you eating? And I do hope you are exercising still.”

Kismet sighed. She just can’t let it go, can she? “Yes, mother, I box and do yoga every week. And yes, I am eating. I called to say hello and catch up, not to be lectured about my weight.”

Kismet hated that she had to set this boundary every time they talked.

“Okay, okay, we don’t have to talk about it,” Desiree said hurriedly. “So do you have plans this weekend?”

“Yes, actually,” Kismet said. “Veronica and I are heading to New York for a few days for some girl time. Going to hit up a spa, maybe go to to a party.”

“Ah, Veronica! I’ve always liked that girl. So smart.” Desiree grinned. She loved her some Veronica Marshall, treated her like one of her own daughters. “You know, I was hoping you would tell me you were going on a date at least. I don’t understand how a pretty girl like you is still single.”

“Mama, please–”

“I’m serious, Kismet. You aren’t getting any younger. Don’t you want  to settle down and start a family?”

Kismet wasn’t sure how to answer that these days. She absolutely wanted love for a lifetime, but she wasn’t too sure about marriage. So permanent. So binding. But love – she was ready for that. She chose not to tell her mother about Brandon, though she was getting close to it before that fated night of her birthday.

“I hear you, Mama. And I’ll give it some thought,” Kismet replied. “But right now, work is very busy, and it needs my attention. I’ll settle down in my own time. I promise.”

“Okay, bunny. You get some rest and remember to make dinner. I love you.”

“Love you too, Mama.”

Her mother’s words stuck with her. Even if Kismet wasn’t decided on marriage she knew she wanted love. But could she have that with Brandon? Of course not, she thought. Still, she wanted to see what they could build right now if he would just act right.

Brandon had left her alone for the rest of the afternoon, and Kismet stayed focused and productive throughout. She thought about when and if she’d see Brandon again, and how she’d make him pay next. As she headed to the kitchen to make a quick dinner, Brandon called her. Speak of the devil.

She picked up this time.

“Mr. Malveaux.”

“Ms. Baltimore.”

Kismet smiled to herself. He was wrapped around her finger and she knew it.

“So…how goes it? I know you saw my text.”

“I did. And I want to see you tonight. I can come by your place, see what you bought with my money in person.”

Kismet stopped pulling items out of her cabinet so she could focus on her next words.

“Brandon…let me explain something to you. I think you will remember that you are the one who fucked up. Twice, she said.  “So you don’t have the privilege of deciding when you will see me. I will decide when I want to give you my time…or anything else.”

Brandon sighed. “Kiz…what do I need to do?”

Kismet ran through her schedule in her head. She had to admit that she wanted to see him soon, if not for any other reason than to watch him grovel. But this particular week was packed: client meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, Yoga on Thursday, a girls trip to NYC from Friday night until Sunday morning.

So the following weekend it would have to be. And he was just going to have deal.

“Next Saturday. 6 pm sharp. If you roll up to my door at 6:01, turn back around and don’t even bother, dude. And one more thing: you need to come bearing gifts. No excuses. We good?”

Brandon chuckled. I knew it. He likes this shit. “All good. I’ll see you next Saturday. And I’ll try not to call before then.”

***

“Kismet Baltimore, I’ve taught you well!”

Veronica and Kismet had finally gotten settled in their digs for the weekend: a penthouse suite in the Tillary Hotel in Brooklyn room service and spa treatments paid for by Veronica’s, sugar daddy, Derrick Jones. Derrick made his early money throwing parties in major cities, including DC. He even owned a nightclub that Veronica and Kismet used to frequent in their 20s. Now, he was a record executive and divorcé; he and Veronica met while he was still married to his wife, a former model turned lifestyle blogger.

The last thing President Obama did before leaving office was funding high-speed trains from DC to NYC, so they got there with enough time to hit a restaurant, go to a bar, maybe a DJ set later on. Kismet’s childhood friend Tara lived in Harlem but her man had just moved to Brooklyn, so she could meet up with them tonight, too.

“I mean, who knows if his ass will even show up this time?” Kismet said, applying winged liner to her eyelid, her kinky hair billowing around her head like a halo.

“Oh, he will,” Veronica buttoned up her denim dress and put on her yellow stilettos. “He now knows that fucking up has a price tag on it. He’ll be damned if he does that again.”

Veronica walked over to Kismet, who was just finishing up her make up at the vanity.

“But girl…I have one very important question for you.” She cleared her throat and looked Kismet in the eye, feigning a seriousness that had Kismet bracing for what she may ask.

“When you gon let him fuuuuuuck, Ms. Baltimore?” Veronica erupted in laughter, impersonating Smokey from Friday.

“Hmmm…I’m not sure. Really depends on how next Saturday goes,” Kismet said, now throwing on her leather jacket with the Prince button on the lapel.

Mmmmhm. Famous last words,” Veronica said, grabbing her phone to call the car service to come to pick them up.  “I mean for him, this may be what this is all about. He does exactly what you need him to do until you let your guard down enough to give him some pussy.”

“Maybe,” Kismet said, as the two of them headed down the hallway to the elevator. “But I can get sex anywhere. What is it that you used to say? Dick is plentiful and low in value? I could throw a rock and find another one.”

“I know that’s right, Kiz!

The two friends were now heading to the car, heading to wherever the night took them.

***

Kismet and Veronica had already sat down at a table when Tara walked in. Always impeccably dressed, Tara had on wide-leg red pants and a white cropped cashmere turtleneck sweater. She normally wore her curls, but she loved a blowout for the early spring. She smiled wide when she saw Kismet, a girl she had known since they were both toddlers. Over the years, she and Veronica had become close as well. It was so good to see her DC friends in her city again.

“Kiz! What’s up, girl!” she said, giving her a big hug.

“Girl, I’m good, glad to be back in Brooklyn. Where’s Mark?”

“Oh he’ll meet us at the next spot, which is looking like the new bar down the street,” Tara said, “His boy is a bartender there, and his frat brother is in town from…wait, Kiz, Mark’s frat brother is moving to your neck of the woods! He’s back and forth right now, but he’s moving there for good in a few weeks.”

Kismet and Veronica looked at each other, puzzled. “Wait a minute, bitch,” Veronica said.  “An Alpha in DC that Kismet Baltimore did NOT fuck is a thing that exists?”

Kismet playfully punched Veronica in the arm “Shut up, girl! I can’t help it, I like what I like.”

It was true. Alphas were her Kryptonite from way back in the day. Her first boyfriend in college had crossed the same semester she did, and they were inseparable for two years before he left the area for law school. He was married with kids now.

“Well it’d be nice to meet someone while I’m up here,” Kismet said, taking a bite of her gumbo

“Sure would, bitch. Maybe you’ll stop worrying about keeping Brandon’s ass in line,” Veronica said, taking a sip of her whiskey neat.

Tara looked at Kismet, wide-eyed. “Kismet Renee Baltimore. Do you mean to tell me…that Brandon Malveaux is back in the picture? WHEN, girl?”

Kismet brought Tara up to speed. She told her everything: introducing Brandon to Stephanie, his finger fucking her on her Nana’s porch, and finally, the $500 Venmo payment from the other night.

Tara did a slow clap. “Exquisite. You a real one, Kiz. Just don’t let him hurt you again, okay? I don’t want another call like that again.”

Kismet had called Tara in tears when he ghosted the first time. Tara hopped on a train to binge watch Girlfriends and cook mac n cheese for her childhood bestie.

“You won’t. At least, not about him.”

****

The three ladies walked into the new Brooklyn bar to meet Mark and his friends. Mark’s work friend Jamal worked behind the bar – a short but husky man with the most luxurious beard in Brooklyn.

Tara fell into Mark’s arms and kissed him on the lips. “Hey there sweetheart. Kiz! What up! Lookin like DC is treating you well. You look aight too, V. I see you left that SZA wig at home this time.”

Veronica playfully gave him the finger. Veronica and Mark’s roast fests were legendary.

There was a man with them that Kismet hadn’t seen before – Mark’s frat brother. She noticed him right away, and who wouldn’t? He was a little shorter than Brandon, but his regal posture made it up for it. Dark brown skin the color of dark chocolate and long Black dreadlocks. The way he carried himself made her think of Mahershala Ali. Damn.

“And who is this?,” Kismet said. “I don’t think I’ve met you before.”

The man stepped forward, extending a hand to shake Kismet’s. “I’m Solo,” he said. He had a deep, raspy voice. “You must be Kismet, Tara and Mark told me all about you.”

Kismet giggled softly. “Solo…like…Han Solo? You done hopped out the Millennium Falcon on us, huh?” she took a sip of her French 75.

“More like Solomon,” he says. “I’m named after my great-grandfather. You got jokes though. I like a funny woman.”

Noticing what was happened between the two of them, Veronica decided to move the rest of the crew to the side of the bar to chat with Jamal.

“I have my moments,” Kismet said. She looked him over. He had on slim fitting jeans and a short-sleeved cotton button down that somehow reminded her of Cuba. The bright white against his deep dark skin was a sight to behold. Damn.

“So, Tara tells me you’re in the process of moving to DC. What part of the city will you be in?”

“Well, I’ll be staying with a friend in Silver Spring at first, but I’m looking at a place in Columbia Heights.” He took a sip of his Hennessey on the rocks. “I got an engineering job at Lockheed but should be settled in by the time  I start next month. What about you?”

“Capitol Hill near Barracks Row,” she said. “You should let me show you around the city.”

Solomon smiled at Kismet, showing his perfect white teeth. “I think I”d like that.”

Kismet asked him to put her number in his phone, and she did the same for him. “You coming to Brooklyn Bow for Jarobi One tonight?” she asked, hoping the answer was yes.

Solomon moved closer to Kismet, close enough to smell her Chloé perfume. “Only if you’ll save me a dance.”

***
By the time they reached Brooklyn Bowl, the place was packed. “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson blared through the speakers. Mark, Tara, and Veronica decided to grab a lane to do a round of bowling, but Kismet was in the mood to grab a drink and dance, specifically with Solo. She looked at him and grinned, doing a cute two-step over to the bar. Solo smiled back and followed her, taking in the view of her round ass in her red bodycon dress. He offered to buy her a drink, “Let me guess,” he said, “Gin & tonic?”

Kismet chuckled, placing her hand on his arm. “How did you know? Veronica told you?”

“Just an educated guess. I noticed you were drinking gin cocktails at the last spot,” he said, grinning sheepishly.

Kismet took a sip of the gin and tonic now in her possession. “Observant. I like that,” she said, looking Solo in his eyes. He looked back at her, with a gaze that made it clear he was feeling her. Kismet felt the urge to look away, her skin turning whatever color dark-skinned people turned when they blushed. “Well, thank you for the drink,”” she said, getting her bearings.

Solo took Kismet’s hand in his. “No need to thank me, Kismet. It’s my pleasure.” He led her to the dancefloor. By now, the dancehall portion of the night was in full swing. Kismet looked behind her and eyed Veronica across the room. They locked eyes, and Veronica mouthed, “Get your life!”

Kismet allowed herself to press her backside up against Solo as pulled his arms around her waist, their bodies slow winding in time to “Bam Bam” by Sister Nancy. The way Solo moved his hips against Kismet was a revelation. She thought about what those hips could do when…if… he’d ever find himself naked in her bed. He turned her around to face her. His locks smelled like shea butter a tiny hint of Egyptian musk. His scent made her woozy in the best way. She rolled her hips a little bit harder to meet his rhythm, then she looked up at him with a smirk.

“You better stop playin, Kismet,” he said right in her ear. “We can take this back to my place right now if you want to.”

Kismet felt a tingle in her nether regions at the sound of the rasp in his voice.  She pulled away slightly in, letting him know that she wasn’t fully opposed to fucking him, but that it wouldn’t happen tonight. “Not yet,” she said. “We’re just getting started.”

“I’m ready whenever you are. We can go a slowly as you want.” Solo  pulled Kismet into him with one hand, and with the other hand, he lifted her chin up to kiss her lips. He leaned in and let Kismet’s lips meet his halfway, kissing her deeply and slowly. Kismet hadn’t been kissed like that since her birthday by Brandon. Right now, at this moment, that night felt like it was eons ago.

Kismet and Solo pulled away from each other slowly, ending their kiss. “Can we do that again when you move to DC for good?” Kismet asked him sweetly.

Solo laughed a big laugh. He thought Kismet was adorable. “We can do whatever you want, whenever you are ready, love.”

***

The next morning, Kismet and Veronica headed down to the hotel spa for facials, massages, and mani-pedis all courtesy of Sugar Daddy Derrick. The two of them relaxed in the sauna, both of them agreeing to leave their cell phones in the hotel penthouse suite, not be disturbed by work, family, or men. Veronica was just as busy as Kismet was these days. She still kept working even as Derrick provided more for her, for the simple fact that she would never let herself be fully reliant on him. She wanted to have her own money, no matter what. She was the operations director at a large non-profit think tank in DC, and also worked as a personal shopper at Neiman Marcus for years before finding her current day job.

“Looks like you and Solo had a good time last night,” Veronica said to Kismet, stretched out on her towel.

“We did,” Kismet replied, grinning. “He’s fine as fuck, but I want to see him again in DC so I know what we’re both feeling is real, you know?”

“Oh, I know,” Veronica said.

The two sat in silence before Veronica told Kismet the thing she had been sitting on all week.

“Speaking of real feelings, I have a decision to make. Derrick wants me to marry him.”

Kismet sat back upright immediately, her eyes wide. “Bitch, what?! I thought he never wanted to get married again! Is he for real?”

“He’s for real, girl. He wanted to schedule an appointment at Tiffany’s to pick out a ring.”

Kismet sat closer to Veronica. “Well…what do you want, V? That matters too.”

Veronica put her head on Kismet’s shoulder. “I don’t know, Kiz. I care about Derrick and I know he cares about me…but I’m not sure I’m the marrying kind. Besides, how do I even know he’s the one?”

“Let me know when you find out,” Kismet said with a chuckle. For the first time, Brandon crossed her mind. She let the thought pass.

“It’s okay not to know, V. And if you need more time, tell Derrick that. If he cares and isn’t trash, he’ll understand. Be honest about your feelings, whatever they are.”

Veronica stood up to head to the steam room. “So, since we’re being honest…bitch, what are you gonna do with both Solo and Brandon are in the same city?”

Kismet took a breath, realizing she hadn’t even thought about it. “I mean…I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.” She wrapped herself in her towel as she and Veronica walked out of the sauna.

“Fair enough Kiz, but just know you never have to choose. Sometimes, trains are single-tracking, if you catch my drift.”

Kismet gasped, feigning shock. “Veronica Marshall! Well, I never.

“Hey, you didn’t hear that from me.”

 

FYPM

Writing Soundtrack: “Needed Me” by Rihanna. 

Kismet Baltimore waited in the hipster coffee shop, her acrylic nails tapping on the subway-tile tabletop. Brandon was ten minutes late, and Kismet had a client meeting in an hour. This would be Brandon and Kismet’s first time seeing each other since they fucked in the entrance of her home after her 33rd birthday party a month and a half ago. Heels to Jesus on her Jesus year. How on the nose, Kismet thought, remembering it again.

Soon after, he ghosted her. She should have been done with him after he stopped texting the morning after their tryst, but here she was, still waiting for him at 3:10 when he should have been there at 3:00 pm sharp. Kismet Renee Baltimore was a stickler for time and here she was, letting fuck-ass, pretty ass Brandon Malveaux waste it again.

He strolled into The Coffee Bar, looking even more gorgeous than Kismet remembered. This time, he had on a navy blue fitted Calvin Klein suit and a crisp white shirt, no tie. He had flawless skin, a full beard and lips to match, and piercing hazel eyes. He looked like the kind of man her mother told her to avoid. “Negroes with light eyes are trouble,” she’d tell her. Kismet hated when Mama was right.

Brandon hugged Kismet and kissed her cheek. Kismet could smell his sandalwood cologne, the kind that made her weak. She remembered she was still mad at him and quickly released herself from his arms.

“Sorry I’m late Kiz,” he said, sliding into the seat across from her. “The red line is fucked up again. Thank you for your patience.”

“Brandon,” Kismet sighed, taking a sip of her chai latte, “I have a client meeting in less than an hour now. Say what you need to say so that you don’t waste anymore of my time.”

Brandon adjusted the lapel of his suit jacket and took a breath. “So Kiz…you know I’m trying to leave my government contract gig. My boss denied my promotion a week ago.”

Kismet softened a bit. He was so excited about being in line for a promotion right around the time he ghosted on her. She had been rooting for him. “Oh. Well, I’m sorry, I know you wanted that role.” She paused and looked him in the eye. “So…what brings you across town?”

Brandon cleared his throat. Here this nigga go, Kismet thought, resisting the urge to roll her eyes. “Well, I was on LinkedIn the other day, and I noticed your boss used to work on marketing and branding over at Ogilvy.”

Kismet pursed her red lips. “I see. And?” her patience was growing thin.

“Kiz, I need a favor. Can you introduce me to your boss?”

Kiz worked for Stephanie Rodriguez, one of the few Black women –and the only Black Latina–running a mid-sized comms and marketing firm in DC.  Stephanie had worked with everyone from Barack Obama to Chadwick Boseman, and her reputation preceded her in every room she entered. Kiz was a junior partner there–and Stephanie’s favorite. If Kiz asked for it, she’d get it. And Brandon fucking knew that from jump.

Kismet narrowed her eyes, taking a pause. She could have slapped him. Instead, she took a breath of her own and steepled her fingers.

“Brandon, let me get this straight,” she said sharply, taking her glasses off and placing them gently on the table. “You fuck me in the hallway of my home on my birthday, disappear for almost two fucking months and now you bring your sorry ass back because you need a favor? Nigga, is that what we’re doing? Let me know. Explain it to me like I am five.”

Brandon looked down at the table. She had never seen him so deflated. The man she had met on a group trip to Paris was confident, sure of himself, and walked like he had a big dick. This Brandon was clueless and vulnerable.

“Kiz, I’m sorry. I don’t know what I was on–”

“That makes two of us, asshole.”

The two sat in silence. Kismet looked at her phone. It was now 3:32. She looked up at Brandon, and their eyes met. “You have ten minutes to explain yourself. Get to work.”

“I’m depressed as fuck, Kiz. I’m just breaking out of it now, and I need to put myself out there so I can leave this fucking hellhole. If you can just intro me to Stephanie, I’ll leave you alone if you want that.”

“Brandon, I know you’re depressed. I’ve been known. That is no excuse for what you did, and I don’t know if you deserve this solid you want me to do for you.”

“Kiz, please. I need this, and I know I need to make it up to you. And if you’ll allow me, I want to take you out as a thank you. Please, Kiz…”

He placed his hand on hers. She was weak to his touch, even then. “Okay. I can do this one thing–one thing–for you. If Stephanie says no or doesn’t email you back, that isn’t my problem. Are we clear?”

Now it was Kismet with the Big Dick Energy™.

Brandon smirked. He knew exactly what he was doing. “Crystal.”

Kismet started to gather her things. “So…where we going on this….hypothetical thank-you outing?” She said, gesturing with air quotes to emphasize the absurdity.

“Glad you asked,” Brandon said. I know the GM at Rose’s Luxury. Went to business school together. I know you hate waiting in line so he’s promised us a table. I told him you were dying to go.

“Oh, you told him about me, huh? Okay.”

“Look, I’m trying to make it right, Kiz. Give a brotha a chance.”

Kismet was at a crossroads. She hadn’t gotten laid since her birthday, but she didn’t think she should give in to Brandon so easily. He needed to learn a lesson. But what if he had? It took a lot for him to ask for help. His cocky ass needed to humble himself, and he did. Was that enough?

Kismet didn’t know. What she did know was that this fine ass Creole motherfucker was grinning at her, with broad shoulders that begged for her legs to be thrown over them.  But not yet.

“Okay, you win. I’ll do it. I’m free next Thursday at 8pm. I’m sure you can make the time work.”

“Thanks Kiz,” Brandon said hugging her goodbye. This time his hands lingered on her waist as they drew apart, and she let them.

“You’re welcome. Just don’t fuck it up this time, okay?”

“Bet,” Brandon winked at her and walked out of the shop and down 17th Street.

****

“Wait a minute, sis. He asked you to do what?

Veronica Marshall was Kismet’s best friend and former roommate who always gave it to her straight. She knew Veronica was going to clown her big time for accepting Brandon’s request, so at this point she was just here for the jokes. Veronica lived in Bethesda in a  loft apartment paid for by her sugar daddy. Kismet was certain her whole building could hear her laughter.

“Girl, you should have seen him. He looked like a hurt puppy dog, beggin like Keith Sweat. Kismet stretched out on her purple velvet couch, her earbuds in her ears. “I felt bad for a brotha, so I figure, what’s one email introduction for a nigga who is clearly going through it?”

“Whoo, girl, you better than me. I would have tossed my hot ass latte on the side of his light-skinned pretty boy face. He got some nerve.”

“I know, V. But… I still like him. I do. And you know the field is dry AF right now. I just don’t see the harm in giving him a second chance.”

Now Veronica knew where Kismet was going with this. It’s time to get down to the Black Ass Bottom Line. “So bitch, what is in this for you?”

“Well…he promised  me a private dinner at Rose’s Luxury.”

“ROSE’S–Kiz, you have got to be fucking kidding me. Sugar Daddy Derrick could have gotten you AND Me in there without a hookup. You’ve given up access to your esteemed, bad bitch mentor for–girl, you’ve got it bad.”

Kismet sighed. She knew Veronica was right. She could not shake her feelings for Brandon, and the only reason she agreed was that she still wanted to believe they could make things work. She had gotten rid of her entire roster of dudes for him before the night of her birthday. Then just like that, he was gone. Now that he was back, she wanted one more go of it. You only live once, she figured.

“I do. And I’m going to go out with him next Thursday. But we aren’t fucking, that’s for sure.”

Veronica howled with laughter again. “Bitch, please! He’s meetin’ you at 8, y’all finish dinner at 9:30,  you and I both know you’ll be heels to Jesus by 9:59. In fact…y’all end up fuckin, you owe me $50. You don’t, I will gladly Venmo it to you.” Veronica cackled again. The way she said “heels to Jesus” brought out her South Carolina accent in a way that always made Kismet smile.

The truth was, Kismet didn’t actually need Brandon; she just wanted him. Badly. The problem was that Brandon needed her. It wasn’t yet clear if he desired her. And that is what she intended to find out next week.

“Aight, bet,” Kismet said. “I’ll be requesting that $50 in no time. I’m not pressed.”

****

Kismet walked up to Rose’s Luxury, her stiletto heels clicking on the cement. She wore a Diane Von Furstenburg wrap dress that she had found at a thrift store in Kensington the last time she went to visit her auntie. She had great tits, and this dress showed off just enough cleavage to tease Brandon a bit. Her hair was in a large Afro puff at the top of her head and her winged eyeliner was crisp and sharp. She held on tightly to her Louis Vuitton clutch, another thrifted item. Brandon showed up in front of the restaurant in grey slacks and a cashmere sweater with the sleeves rolled up slightly, showing off his veiny arms. Lorde, help me. Kismet said a prayer to the Goddess, hoping she could stand her ground tonight. A smile stretched across his face as he took in Kismet’s beauty. “Well hello, Ms. Baltimore,” he said kissing her on the cheek. “You look radiant.” Kismet feigned aloofness. “You look aight, I guess.” The two laughed.

A host escorted them to their table. He wasn’t bluffing; they really were the only ones in the restaurant tonight. Their table had a simple flower cactus centerpiece and “Could’ve Been” by H.E.R.–her favorite song– played on the restaurant sound system. Kismet was impressed. He had remembered that she wanted to go to every Bib Gourmand-rated restaurant in DC, and he was delivering on his promise to go to all of them with her.

This nigga ain’t slick.

Once dinner was served, The two exchanged glances at each other between bites. Kismet decided to address the elephant in the room. “So Brandon, I gotta know…why did you ghost the first time? I mean for real.”

Brandon took a sip of his Merlot. “You want to know the truth?”

“No nigga, lie to me.” Kismet rolled her eyes. He was stalling.

“Well…the truth is…a few days after your birthday, my ex called me. She is thinking about moving here for law school and she wanted to get back in touch.”

Kismet was stoic. She didn’t want to give in to her feelings of rejection and definitely didn’t want to accept the jealousy that was raising up in her.

“Okay. Um…Continue,” she said, sipping her champagne.

“She said she missed me. We went out a couple times, I thought about starting over with her again…I was confused, and I didn’t quite know what I wanted. But ultimately, she let me go.”

“Oh. Oh…she let…you go. And so now, you want me back. Conveniently.” Kismet composed herself. There was no way she was going to go full Veronica and toss drinks tonight. This was about getting to the truth. This was about finding out where his desire for her was.

She looked away, her deep red lips in a near pout.

“It’s not like that, Kiz. I told her I still had feelings for you. I told her I wasn’t sure if I could commit to her again after…everything. And she couldn’t handle it.’

Kismet looked into his eyes again. Damn, they’re beautiful. “I get it.  I do. We weren’t dating at the time and you were free to see whoever you wanted so–”

“Kiz, look. I want you. I’ve had enough time to figure shit out. And I know you want me, too.”

Aw hell. He’s onto me.

He reached out to hold her hand and stroked his thumb across her palm. “Let’s start over, okay? I’m not going anywhere, Kiz. Not this time.”

Kismet felt her body soften again. It was happening. She was letting her guard down. She gave him a wide smile for the first time that night. “Well, we’ll see about that. But for now…this was fun. Good job, Mr. Malveaux.”

After dinner, Brandon drove Kismet home even though she lived around the corner. “I can’t have a lady walking home alone now, baby.” He said it in that New Orleans accent that he knew made her wet, guiding her to the car by gently touching the small of her back.

He followed her to her porch. This was the moment of truth for Kismet – she knew at any second, she could let him in that house and then she would owe Veronica a Venmo payment the next morning.

“Well, I guess this is it,” Brandon said. This sly devil. He knows if he asks me directly to come inside my ass would say no.

“Yerp.” Kismet initiated a hug this time, wanting to smell his neck again. He held her curvy body in his arms, holding her waist tight. He always made her feel…dainty. Soft. Girlish. Worthy of protection and tenderness. Things dark-skinned, voluptuous women like Kismet were often denied. And to her, that counted for something.

Kismet looked up at him. He towered over her at 6’3”. Her lips met his, she kissed him deeply. His hands wandered to her fat ass, giving her right cheek a squeeze. He backed her toward her front door so that she was standing between the door and his body pressed against hers. He nuzzled her neck and kissed that spot on her collarbone. Kismet reacted to his touch. “Brandon…” she whispered.

“Yes?”

“What are we doing?”

His hand made his way up her dress and between the thickness of her thighs. “Saying goodbye, baby.”

Lorde, if you get me through this I’ll never doubt you again.

Just as Kismet said that prayer in her mind, he had circled his finger around her pearl, marveling at how wet she was already. She stifled a moan. “Are you sure?” she asked breathily.

He slid two fingers inside of her pussy. “Are you?”, he said softly in her ear, moving his fingers inside of her in a “come here” motion. Kismet gasped as her body trembled with an orgasm.

Fuck you, Brandon Malveaux. You ain’t winning this time.

By this time, she could feel his dick poking through his pants. As much as she wanted to feel it inside of her, feel the weight of him on top of her….tonight wasn’t the night.

“You’re going to have to work a lot harder than this, Mr. Malveaux,” she purred in his ear. She gently guided him away from her, giving him a soft push on his chest.

“Oh? It’s like that?,” he said to her.

“It sure is,” Kismet said, reaching for her keys. “Besides, I have an early day tomorrow. How about you go home and get some rest too, huh?”

“You are too much, Ms. Baltimore.” He kissed her on the lips gently. “Goodnight, Kiz.”

Kismet closed the door and let out a sigh of relief. She pulled out her phone to text Veronica.

You owe me $50, bitch. I am in my home without letting Brandon over the threshold. Clap for me.

****

“Okay, so tell me everything Kiz,” Veronica stuffed a few truffle fries in her mouth at Proper 21, their favorite happy hour spot. “How did you manage NOT to fuck the finest man this side of the Anacostia? Teach me your ways.”

Kismet sat her French 75 down on the table after taking a sip. “Well sis, right when he thought he had me,  I remembered how we even got there in the first place and snapped right out of it. I can’t even explain it, really.”

“Well bravo, Kiz. Proud of you. But tell me something…has he called you since?”

Kismet smiled slyly. “He has, actually. Almost every day.”

“Girl you have him wrapped around your finger! I live for this shit.”

Kismet didn’t want to get too hopeful but also wanted to own that she was excited to have Brandon back in her life. She had missed him more than she thought, and maybe he had missed her too. But she couldn’t let go fully. She didn’t want to let him all the way back in only for him to dip on her again.

“Yeah well…he’s back home in New Orleans this week, and we’ve been Facetiming while I work in the evenings. But when he gets back…I might actually fuck him again. I just might.”

Veronica laughed again. “Might? Bitch, you’d do it tonight if you could, don’t play.”

Good ol’ Veronica, playing the devil on Kismet’s shoulder again. “Okay fine, I would. Tonight. Heels to Jesus by 9:59, right?”

****

Brandon was finally back from New Orleans, and Kismet decided that this Saturday night would be the night. He had scored two tickets to see Alvin Ailey on opening night and invited Kismet to join him. Kismet had spent the day preparing: getting her nails and Brazilian wax done, bought the sequin  Jason Wu dress she was eyeing at Eloquii, even bought new shoes. She had “Someday is Tonight” by Janet Jackson playing on her Bluetooth mirror while she did her makeup to perfection.

The plan was for him to pick her up at 6 pm. By 6:30, he hadn’t arrived. Kismet chalked it up to traffic since he was coming from Bowie.

Then 6:30 became 7. She called. There was no answer.

By 8:30 pm, she had opened a bottle of gin, and made a gin and tonic. The family drink, her cousin called it once. All the Baltimore women drank gin and tonic whether they wanted to laugh or cry.

8:30 became 9. The bitterness and the disappointment sunk in. Kismet Renee Baltimore was getting stood the fuck up.

She let the hot tears fall. The anger revved up in her. She had half a mind to throw the full glass against the wall, letting it shatter. Good thing it was her Nana’s antique highball. It lived to see another day.

Finally, she called Veronica. “Kiz, what’s going on?”

Kismet began to sob. “He never showed up,” she said through the tears. “Who does that, I mean is he fucking serious?”

“Oh, Kiz,” Veronica said. “I know you’re hurting right now, but I promise you he isn’t worth the tears. So here’s the deal: you need to make him pay…like, for real for real.”

“V! Are you talking about….killing Brandon?”

“Bitch, no! Fuck outta here, Kiz, you know I got priors!”

Kismet finally laughed. “Look Kiz, I know you ain’t about the sugar baby life just yet, but he owes you for the time he wasted. So lemme ask you, sis… How much did you spend on your nails?”

Kismet took a few deep breaths to get over the sobs. “Um…maybe about $45.”

“Okay. What about the dress and the shoes cuz girl, I knew you bought new ones.”

“I think… $250 all together. I missed the Eloquii sale by a day.”

Veronica paused. “Okay. that’s about $300. Now….did you wax your pussy for this nigga or nah?”

Kismet laughed again. “Girl yes, I went to my spa and everything,” She wanted to cry thinking of the pain she put herself through when she thought she was going to have a romantic evening with Brandon.

“Welp, that’s another 80 dollars. So….did you buy new panties?”

“I didn’t wear any,” Kismet said, making both her and Veronica giggle. “Well fuck it, let’s tack on another $125 for the therapy session you’ll need to get over this shit.”

Veronica took a hit of her joint and blew out the smoke. “Let’s do it, girl. Send that nigga a Venmo request for $500.”

Kismet nearly choked on her gin and tonic. “Bitch! Are you serious? I don’t know, V.”

“Girl, what do you MEAN you don’t know? He made you do unpaid emotional labor by introducing him to Stephanie after ghosting on you,  He manipulated you into thinking he was back for good, and now he has stood you up! Wipe those tears, put on your big girl panties, and make this nigga pay.”

“V…you are wild for this. But I am a bitch with a broken heart and nothing to lose. Let’s do this.”

“K. Call me back.”

Kismet’s hands trembled as she searched for his Venmo name. When she found it, she wrote out her request:

Fee for time wasted.

Kismet let out a deep sigh, scared as fuck about whatever would happen next. Not even five minutes later, her phone rang. It was Brandon.

“What the fuck, Kismet? $500?” She had never heard him so flabbergasted.

“What do you mean, ‘what the fuck’? You ghosted again. How do you think I feel?”

“Kismet, I’m really sorry. I had a family emergency, my cousin was in the hospital, and–”

“And you just couldn’t call, could you nigga? That would have been too much like right. And by the way, I know your cousin wasn’t in the fuckin hospital because your cousin graduated from Howard ONE YEAR AGO and now she lives in Brooklyn. So that means you’re a liar. Either pay up or don’t bother calling me again.”

She hung up. Kismet felt a rush like no other. Did she just demand $500 from a nigga? I did, bitch. And I’m worth every penny and more.

Her phone buzzed again. Brandon was now texting her.

Kiz. I’m so sorry. I fucked up and you don’t have to forgive me, but if you’ll let me explain I promise I can fix this.

Kismet smirked at her phone.

Oh, you’re sorry? Show me then. You saw the Venmo request. Those are my terms. Take it or leave it.

Kismet felt powerful again. She was never gonna let this nigga take her power away anymore. She called Veronica.

“So did you send it or nah?,”  Veronica said.

“I did,” Kismet felt proud.

“Oh, bitch!”, Veronica had taken her lacefront wig off at this point and was lounging on her bed.  “I know he called. On a scale of Incredible Hulk to Mad Real Mad Joe Jackson, how mad was he?”

“Girl…he was pissed. Then he told some lie about his cousin being in the hospital and that girl don’t even live in DC anymore. Now he claims he is sorry.”

At this point, Kismet had removed her makeup and slipped into a nightshirt. “Well, what do I do now, V? Like he could just ignore it, right?”

“He could,” Veronica said. “But if he knows what’s best for him, he won’t.”

****

Kismet woke up the next morning after sleeping in until 10 am. When she was fully awake, she had remembered that the night before, she had made the boldest move in all her 33 years: she sent Brandon Malveaux, who could have another woman in under 24 hours, a Venmo request for $500. She quickly reached for her phone. To her surprise, the Venmo request was fulfilled with a brief, two-word note:

You win.

 

 

Hot damn, hoe, here we go again.

I’ve been quiet over here since my new professional site is up. Go check it out if you’d like to work with as a consultant in conjunction with my new full-time role (more on that move here).

However, I’m back over here because I need a space for my other, non-career related writing. In other words, I needed a space for the fun stuff.  If fiction writing and creative nonfiction is your thing, stick around.

I’m working on a few new projects so be sure to watch this space.

Feels good to be back home. Thanks for rockin with me.

I’m working on a new book

It’s true.

I’m writing a new book, and this time it will be a collection of essays. The working title is Never Date a Rapper. 

This time, I’m doing something a little different. I will be releasing some of the essays via my Medium page before they are released. Think of it as my version of Kanye West’s Good Fridays (Remember those? I miss them)

Anyway, the first of those essays, “Cotillion is for White Girls,” is now up on Medium. I hope you can read and share! 

True Life: I wrote a book

A whole lot has happened since my last blog post. First, I started a new job. Second, I did the craziest thing I have ever done hands down: booked a flight to London for this fall.

Third, I did the second craziest thing I ever done: I wrote and published my first e-book, Win The Internet: Best Practices for Twitter and Facebook!

This book is geared towards people who want to use social media for their business or organization, but aren’t sure where to start…I wanted to do a little something for the beginners. It focuses on the basics of the two platforms and makes a great gift for a relative who just started a business or an intern who wants to learn new skills.

It is available on Amazon for $2.99. It is available on Kindle, so if you don’t have a kindle be sure to download the Kindle app so you can read the book.

And now, some background:

I started writing this book last year. I had lost a big consulting client due to them wanting to hire a full time person in their San Francisco office and was officially unemployed.  I can’t really explain why, but one night I sat in front of my MacBook…and just started writing.

It took me about three and a half weeks to write. I did some close re-reading and editing…and then I sat on it for months. I knew I wanted to publish it, but I just didn’t know when was the right time or how it would be received.

Then, a few weeks ago, one of my Twitter followers tweeted: “Pick that baby back up, whatever that baby may be.”

I knew she was talking to me. I knew my baby was this book I had been sitting on. 

The following week, I gave my book one last look…and I pressed “publish.”And I’m really glad I did.

I know this blog is mostly about social media, but I feel like there was a lesson there. I learned a lot during this process, but one of the biggest lessons is that sometimes, you have to take the leap. You take the leap and you trust yourself and your abilities. You can only win.

So, TL;DR: Buy my book. Write a review. Tell your friends, your aunties, your interns, your boo. 

 

 

Attend a Social Media Training in DC!

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One of my mentors Beth Becker and me at my wedding reception. Little known fact: Beth bought me my bridal shoes as a wedding gift!

In my last post, I stressed the importance of developing skills to be a successful social media strategist. I developed most of the skills I have gained  from attending trainings and learning from some great mentors along the way.

One such mentor is Beth Becker. Beth is a social media strategist and trainer extraordinaire. I learn so much from her, and she was one of my favorite coaches at New Organizing Institute’s New Media Bootcamp.

I believe that everyone who works in social should attend at least one of Beth’s trainings, and in next month you can get your chance. Beth is hosting a social media strategy training in DC! 

Beth has a wealth of knowledge — I can’t stress this enough. If you are in DC or can travel to the DC area on August 22nd, I hope those of you looking to brush on on your social media strategy skills can attend this live training.