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.
“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: