“Juju hurry up I’m wearing my sit down heels and my stand up jeans! This outfit has a time limit!” Chelle, Juju’s best friend looked glowy and goddess-like in curve-hugging jeans and a sequined tube top.
There was a party at one of the frats on campus and Juju had managed to convince Chelle to take a break on her premed study schedule to go to this party with her. Convince meaning she plucked Chelle out of the crowd in the quad and then strong-armed her into following her across campus to the dinky little apartment she shared with four other roommates.
They put on their Bad Bitch playlist and spent hours getting ready and filling each other in on their week. The two of them together gave Juju an adrenaline rush that made her makeup come out way better than it did when she wanted a quick beat for a morning class. The two of them felt good, but this party would feel better.
Juju knew pretty much everyone on campus and everyone knew her. The party was being thrown by the frat with two black dudes and an Asian fraternity head named Adam who had beautiful hair. It was by far the most diverse of the frats and played the best music. It was the week after midterms so Juju knew tonight’s party would be poppin.
Juju emerged from the tiny bathroom with her fro picked out and her skin glowing the darkest amber. She wore a mustard yellow halter top that could barely contain her titties and a white pencil skirt. The outfit showed off her curves and flat stomach (thank you gym membership). Her feet were all pretty too, ten white toes peeking out of the black open toe pumps Juju bought on sale from Rainbow.
“Biiiitch!” Chelle clapped excitedly and stared at Juju’s outfit appreciatively, “We killin them tonight”
“Gas me up! Gas me up!” Juju twirled in place. In unison, they started twerking. Chelle’s ass was a lot fatter than Juju’s but she knew how to make her little booty move.
Their fun was interrupted by Juju’s roommate, Becky walking into the living room, “I have an early class tomorrow, Obi…yanuju.” Her Caucasian tongue stumbled on Juju’s name.
They’d been living together for a semester at this point, the bitch should have figured out how to say her name. Obianuju was beautiful, so beautiful that Juju rarely told people her full name because they always butchered it.
Juju and Chelle sucked their teeth at the insult. Becky was unmoved though, so Juju rolled her eyes, grabbed her purse, and headed for the door. Becky wasn’t worth the effort, “Bitch lets go I want to get there before the white girls get wasted and start throwing up on everything.” Nothing stopped a party faster than someone puking.
Chelle insisted on a few photos, “For the ‘gram!” And then they were off. Greek Row was on the opposite end of the campus. They never had any reason to go over there so they weren’t all that familiar with the area. Juju walked with the confidence of someone who knew where she was going and was determined to get there. She could feel the gentle wave of excitement, intoxication, and giddiness pulling her body straight to a two-story, stone-faced Tudor style home bursting music and light and laughter out of every open door or window.
Like at any party there was a smattering of people lounging on the front lawn. They had red solo cups and joints in their hand and greeted Juju by name when she approached. A few of the men tried to get her to stay out there with them but she declined. There was only six of them and six was fine, six made her hair stand on end. But staying with them would be like going to a restaurant and only eating the appetizer. Though she didn’t stay with them she did bum a few hits of their joints before going inside the house.
The house had a red light coming from the living room, blue light coming from the kitchen, and the staircase leading to the bedrooms guarded by pledges that didn’t look young enough to drink. When Juju stepped through the front door goosebumps raised on her skin, the beat of the music synced with the beating of her heart. Juju was in her element, surrounded by the crush of bodies and awash in the happy feelings of everyone around her.
“Shit is that Rakim?” Chelle’s hand gripped Juju’s wrist tightly, snatching Juju out her own head.
Rakim is the long-necked nigga that Chelle had been thirsting after since homecoming. Personally, Juju didn’t see much to get worked over. He was light skinned an skinny. Juju preferred thick men, men who could pick her ass up and carry her around. Men that could fuck her against the wall and wouldn’t ask her to get on top because they were feeling lazy.
Chelle didn’t care, every year she found a light skinned nigga to thirst over and every year Juju helped her through the inevitable heartbreak. “Don’t do it, bitch,” Juju warned, “Look at him his hands are ashy. Are you gonna let yourself be pressed over a nigga who doesn’t even moisturize?”
Chelle looked conflicted for all of two seconds. Then a white girl Juju recognized from her financial accounting class approached Rakim and Chelle was off. Juju watched her friend until she stood in front of Rakim and his Vanilla Essence. They were putting off angry vibes, off-putting and out of place with the rest of the house. Everyone else felt giddy and intoxicated. The few hits of the joint she’d taken had nothing on the feeling of at least thirty or forty people all dancing, drinking, and having a good time.
Juju made her rounds, trying to find the most populated area of the house. People she’d never talked to for more than five minutes greeted her wherever she went. The main room, the red room, was packed with couples slow grinding and singles watching on appreciatively. There were little mini conversations happening all over the room but no one was connecting. Everyone was very much interested in doing their own thing so Juju moved on to the kitchen.
In the kitchen, the crowd was smaller but everyone seemed to be focused on one thing. At first, Juju thought it was the alcohol. There was a mess of solo cups, beer bottles, and other half empty liquor bottles littering the counter. Juju wasn’t much of a drinker herself but she knew that others enjoyed the loss of inhibitions that came with lots of alcohol consumption. No one in the room seemed to care about the drinks though, they were all locked on one guy standing at the center of the kitchen near the kitchen.
The second Juju locked eyes on him, she knew why everyone was ignoring the liquor. Erik Stevens was a name heard often on campus. He had a reputation for fucking every girl who looked at him and having a short temper. Juju didn’t have any classes with him and had never had a chance to actually speak with him. To put it simply, they ran in different circles.
“Juju, I knew you’d be here.” A voice, a smooth deep familiar voice spoke up from behind her. A warm, large hand rested on her curves and the smell of cologne assaulted her nose.
Fighting a grimace, Juju turned around, “Hey, Michael.” Michael was a theater major Juju had run into her freshman year. She’d used him for his car when she went to parties, then used him for sex when her stress during finals kept her from studying. She had hoped that after not texting him all of summer, winter, and Thanksgiving break he would figure out that she wasn’t interested in him. And yet…
“What I don’t get a hug.” He opened his arms for a hug and Juju smiled sweetly. Pretending to go in for a hug Juju instead grabbed a bottle of vodka, something cheap that probably tasted like lighter fluid, and turned to the crowd still surrounding Erik.
“Can someone find me a clean cup,” Juju held out the bottle to a guy nearest to Erik. He was wearing a red snapback and a jersey, unironically, and eyelashes pretty enough to be extensions. His mustache was meticulously groomed and small above his thin lips. Not really her type but he was the quickest to hand her a clean cup so she blessed him with a sweet smile and a kiss on the cheek.
As she poured herself a drink, Juju could feel the interest of everyone shift from Erik to her. She went to parties often, often enough that she knew everyone in the room by name if not by major. So she started talking, ignoring Michael at her back and focusing on the people in front of her. Juju joked about midterms, she joked about the pink panties seen on the statue of a slave owner in the quad that had caused an uproar with the administration for a week. Everyone listened to her, everyone wanted to talk to her. In seconds she had everyone under her thrall.
In the other room, the music shifted from something slow and frankly not worth listening to, to a PnB Rock song that Juju loved shaking her ass to. Addressing the room at large Juju smiled, revealing dimpled cheeks, “Who wants to dance with me?”
Everyone spoke at once, the loudest of all being Michael. Their attention fell over Juju’s body like a wave and she felt energized to the point of being hyper. Her legs wanted her jump and run. Her ass demanded it be shook and grabbed. Even her titties were ready, nipples at attention and poking through the thin material of her halter top in anticipation. From the inside out Juju was glowing, she needed someone who could continue that glow.
“You got moves?” A deep voice with an Oakland accent spoke up from the center of the kitchen. Erik, she’d almost forgotten he was here. Unlike everyone else, he was like a blank spot in her senses. He was fine and all, but that didn’t matter much to Juju. She was attracted to vibes and everything about him was either blank or volatile.
“Baby,” Juju purred, “I make moves. Can you keep up?” Heat flashed in Erik’s eyes and Juju felt that heat tenfold between her legs. Yeah, this nigga was fine, and he knew it.
Erik set his cup aside and Juju took his hand to led him into the red room. He radiated heat against her bare back, and his cologne smelled almost sweet in its masculinity. Erik tried to lead her to a less crowded corner, but Juju wanted to be in the middle of it all. There was a cluster of people twerking and dancing close enough to brush skin on skin and Juju wanted to be a part of that.
Erik put up only token resistance at being dragged along but as soon as Juju bent her knees to better throw that ass back he was much more agreeable. His hands landed on her hips but he didn’t mess up her rhythm the way other guys did. They moved in sync easily, grinding their way through one song and the next. The dancers around her felt like a mix of sexual frustration, and the mix bumping over the speakers didn’t help. Juju felt so keyed up from the dancing and the party but that didn’t touch the way Erik made her feel.
When she’d first met him, he’d been this blank spot. Never before had she met someone so in control of what he was feeling? Now, with his hands roaming her body confidently, his front pressed against her back, Juju was seriously reconsidering all her preconceptions. Erik radiated sex appeal like the sun. It was all heat and fire and Juju was working up a sweat being this close to it. If his natural charisma wasn’t enough to bowl her over then the want, the pure animalistic want that he practically poured into her with every meeting of their hips, every touch of skin, had her panting and glowing with a light sheen of sweat covering her skin.
They danced through four songs. Four, torturous songs that had Juju soaking her panties and wiping droplets of sweat from her forehead. When the song changed to something slower and Erik enveloped her in his arms Juju settled into his embrace like it was her favorite pair of shoes. Her hand came up to grip the back of his neck and he buried his face into her neck, kissing and licking the sensitive skin there.
“Fuck…” She heard him whisper, “You taste like peaches.” Juju smiled smugly. She would definitely fuck him tonight. If he was anything like she’d heard she could count on enjoying herself and then going back to her own life. She didn’t need another Michael thirsting after her.
Juju turned, ready to ask if Erik had a place they could go and be alone in, but Chelle walked into the room with her makeup running and her cute silk press looking messy. Juju snapped out of her lust-filled haze at the sight of her best friend so distraught and so disheveled.
“I’m ready to go,” Chelle demanded. No explanation at all. Juju almost whined, she was so close. He smelled so good. Why couldn’t she have this? Instead of whining she disentangled herself from Erik’s embrace and followed her friend to the front door.
“Wait that’s it?” Erik spoke up from his lonely spot on the dance floor. He looked odd standing by himself surrounded by couples only a few layers of clothing away from outright fucking in front of everybody.
“Get my number from somebody, hit me up,” Juju smirked and nearly laughed at the challenge that appeared in his eyes.
“Bet.” He called. Again, she felt that want. It was animalistic and pure. Juju didn’t doubt for a second that, should he want to, he would hit her up. Juju was intrigued, she wanted to see what he could do.
The cafe on campus was packed and noisy. Nursing students dominated the long lunch benches. Art majors sat at the counter in front of a bank of large floor to ceiling windows. There was a ridiculous line for the buffet that wrapped around the cafe and ended in front of one of many double doors. Top 40 played on the speakers but it was overwhelmed by the many voices and the cacophony coming from the kitchen.
It was the last place anyone wanted to study. Yet that’s where Juju got some of her best work done. As a Hospitality major, most of her courses revolved around financial literacy and project planning. While she hated math, Juju understood money so her financial accounting class was a piece of cake. She usually completed her homework while sitting at one of the booths closest to the coffee kiosk, nursing a cup of tea and people watching with her earphones on.
After the party life went on as usual for Juju. Chelle declared Rakim dead to her after she made a fool of herself confronting him and that white girl. Who turned out to be his girlfriend. Juju spent the weekend consoling her friend which left little time for her to get assignments out of the way for the week.
There had been no time to think of Erik. The only time he popped into her head was when Michael, in a fit of misplaced jealousy, tried to press her about their dancing. Juju blocked him and kept it pushing. She had no time for him nor his insecurities. Men like Michael made her skin crawl. All that insecurity and yet he lacked the emotional intelligence to deal with it himself.
For her Event Management class, she was tasked with planning a formal event that included dinner, speakers, and guests with specific security needs. Deep in thought, it took Juju a while to notice that someone was standing next to her booth, watching her. The cafeteria was often a chaotic mishmash of a lot of different emotions and focus. Even though someone was standing right next to her she felt nothing, blankness.
So when Erik Stevens, looking cute with a fresh fade and intricate cornrow pattern on his head and comfy looking sweats and a t-shirt on his body, Juju may have been startled. He slammed his books, huge tomes about mechanical engineering a history book about the Middle Passage, and a black binder on the table. The weight of the books rattled Juju’s mug of tea and startled her into painfully yanking out her earphones.
“You scared the shit out of me!” Juju glared. Erik barred his teeth in a mockery of a smile and then started spreading out on her table. He shoved her notebooks aside and opened his textbooks.
“Wait, wait, wait!” Juju had to move quickly to keep her tea from spilling all over her laptop and then move her binder to keep it from being shoved into her lap.
“You need to be more aware of your surroundings,” Erik said.
Juju stared at him in disbelief. Erik didn’t react to her stare. He was focused on his books. Reading a bit at a time and then writing something in his notebook. He read quickly. Juju probably watched him in stunned silence for about three page turns before realizing this man had just forced his way into her study session.
“Did you want something?” Juju asked, barely keeping the annoyance out of her voice. Juju didn’t like studying with other people. It felt too much like listening to radio static when she was supposed to be focused on one thing, her work.
The overall noise of the cafe didn’t bother her. The crush of bodies and the dull roar of a bunch of people talking over the person next to them acted like a white noise machine. Erik was usually blank to her, with the exception of that party. Even now, sitting across from her and taking up her table, she felt nothing.
Erik smirked, “You ignored a nigga all weekend,”
“So your fishing for attention then?” Juju sucked her teeth in judgment, “I didn’t think you were that desperate.”
Erik’s head snapped up and his eyes flashed angrily, “Never that. I just like to finish what I started.”
Juju rolled her eyes, “If you wanted a fuck I don’t see why you had to interrupt my study session.”
The look on Erik’s face when she said that was golden. It was obvious he hadn’t expected her to say that. Juju smiled sweetly at Erik and snatched one of his papers. She wrote down her number and gathered her things.
“Don’t text me before 9:30, I won’t answer.” With that said Juju left a stunned Erik staring after her.
* * * *
Back at her apartment, her roommates were cooking dinner and getting ready to go to a party. Juju decided not to join them because she didn’t like boiled chicken and snorting cocaine to Taylor Swift. She should have just listened to Chelle and roomed with her but Juju was tired of the dorms. The cinder block walls and hard floors made her think of a prison cell. And while the chaos of a lot of people living in one building kept her more wired than a shot of espresso, the petty drama’s that arises with a lot of people in one space was tiring.
Becky, Ashleigh, and Haley left drunk, in ill-fitting dresses and the tracks of their extensions showing. They left their dishes in the sink, as usual, but Juju wasn’t pressed. She had her own pots, pans, Tupperware, and plates stored in her room. She cleaned enough of their mess so that it wouldn’t interfere with her process. From the mini fridge in her room, she retrieved the container of kimchi she kept stored in her room. Kimchi fried rice was her favorite comfort food, and Juju was craving something spicy and delicious.
After Juju left him with her number and orders to only text her after 9:30 she’d called Chelle to tell her all about it. After the required two minutes of squealing and jokes, Chelle started in on her usual line of questioning.
“Is he the one that’ll make you hang your hoe heels up?” That was all Chelle cared about. Finding that one man to cuff her and stunt with her on the gram.
“There isn’t a man alive that could make me do anything,” Was Juju’s response. She wasn’t looking for a relationship, or a man, or anything. A relationship meant restrictions, someone in her business and in her space. Juju’s longest relationship has been her friendship with Chelle and they could go days without speaking to one another. Although she’s never been in one Juju is sure a boyfriend wouldn’t appreciate her ignoring him for days.
“That’s ‘cause you ain’t had a nigga dick you down in forever. Fucking with Michael in his car behind the library doesn’t count.” Chelle snapped back.
Juju changed the subject then, cause if she wanted to she could hurt Chelle’s feelings by bringing up all the men who’ve dicked her down real good and then turned around and cuffed a bitch with green eyes and a loose curl pattern. They talked for about an hour and then Chelle had to go to the library to meet her study group.
Was it so hard to believe she didn’t want a man? It wasn’t like she had a shortage of dicks to choose from. Michael was just one in a roster of niggas that Juju could call any hour of the day to get dick, a free meal, or some free weed from. They understood that she wasn’t looking for anything serious, why couldn’t anybody else?
Adding more kimchi juice to the mix of rice, bacon, chili paste, and butter, Juju decided to focus on her dinner and stop thinking about men and dating altogether.
A ding from her phone drew her attention from the heavenly smells coming from her pot. An unknown number flashed on the screen.
Unknown Sender: hey its E
The time on her phone read 9:27, so to be petty Juju turned back to her dinner and stirred it until 9:30. By then her kimchi rice was finished. After putting a portion aside for lunch the next day, Juju grabbed her still steaming bowl of rice and kimchi and sat down on the couch.
Juju H.: Do I know an E?
Unknown Sender: haha u kno who tf i am
Juju H.: are you textin me for a reason or you just want attention
Unknown Sender: wya
Juju paused, her apartment wasn’t a mess but it wasn’t as clean as she would have liked. Her afro was braided down and wrapped up in a satin scarf. She had kimchi breath which didn’t matter when she was home alone but…
Unknown Sender: i aint got all day
Juju H.: i can leave yo ass on read if thats how you feel
Unknown Sender: u still txtin
Fuck. He had her there. Juju bit her lip in thought. The last dick she’d had was Michael and she wasn’t hitting him up any time soon. Besides, that was else was she doing tonight? Eating kimchi and catching up on Real Housewives of Potomac? Chelle wouldn’t turn down what was obviously an invitation for dick and she wouldn’t let Juju do it either.
Before she could change her mind she sent him her address and hopped off the couch to start getting ready. Her phone dinged.
Unknown Sender: b there in 15
Dick appointment outfits had three requirements; they needed to be cute, they needed to be easy to remove, and they needed to be easy to put back on. Location didn’t matter as long as your outfit fit those requirements.
Fifteen minutes was the perfect amount of time to put her dishes away, change her outfit, and perform all the necessary hygiene checks. Since her hair was already braided down Juju focused on brushing her teeth to get rid of that chili and vinegar smell from the kimchi. For her outfit, she kept it simple, shorts, a sports bra, and a hoodie.
At the fifteen minute mark, Erik texted her.
Unknown Sender: outside
A quick check to make sure she had all she needed and Juju grabbed her hoe bag as she walked out the door. She didn’t know if he had a car, a lot of guys her age didn’t, and if he did have a car she had no clue what it looked like. Luckily Erik solved that problem by illegally parking in front of her building. Juju knew nothing about cars but the one Erik drove just screamed expensive. His rims looked like they could pay for a semester at their bougie ass school.
“You gone get in or nah,” Erik leaned over from the driver side to yell through the passenger window.
Juju rolled her eyes. She couldn’t take a second to appreciate money when she saw it? Sucking her teeth Juju entered the warm leather interior of his car. She hadn’t even settled in completely before he drove off with a skrrt. Juju was tossed around in the car until she managed to settle in her seat the right way. Dramatically putting on her seatbelt, she tossed a glare over at Erik. He had the usual hood nigga ten-and-two on the wheel and a slick smirk on his face.
“Oh, you think you’re funny?” Juju was annoyed. Here she was, going out of her way to grace this man with some pussy. And he was playing games. Worst of all, his whole side of the car was blank. Just, blank. Radio static. His car smelled like that cologne he’d been wearing at the party. The interior was dark leather and sleek high tech hardware. She’d never seen anything like it in her life. Juju may not know cars but she knew this wasn’t something you could just pick up off the lot.
“Yeah, I think it’s funny.” Erik teased.
Tonight he wore a dark hoodie with the map of Africa and the words ‘Lost Tribe’ on it. In the darkness of the car, Juju couldn’t see his pants, but his watch gleamed in the streetlight. On his other hand, which gripped the gearshift, sat a beaded bracelet with white characters stamped on each bead. When he caught her looking, he moved his hand closer so she could see it better.
“My cousin made it for me,” He said. A crack in the blankness hit Juju with a love so warm, so depthless her eyes started tearing up. When Erik dropped his hand back onto the gearshift and refocused on the road, Juju took the time to subtly wipe away tears.
It had been a long time since someone else’s emotions had affected her to the point of crying. The feeling shocked Juju. Erik was usually blank to her. Their dance at the party had opened her up to him. The feelings coursing through her, from him, had been better than anything she had ever felt before. Juju had never felt anything like it from anyone else. She wanted to explore the feelings he kept hidden behind that blankness.
Erik’s apartment is a three-story condo that probably costs as much as two years of Juju’s tuition. It shouldn’t shock her that a man like Erik had money but it did. She was used to college boys. Guys who asked her to go half on lunch and didn’t have enough gas money to pick her up and drop her off back at her apartment. She wouldn’t let his wealth intimidate her though. Aside from his wealth little separated Erik from the other men Juju met up with. They were at this boujee ass apartment for sex. The zeros in his bank account didn’t matter to her at the end of the day.
Erik didn’t waste time on a tour when they reached his third-floor apartment. Or, more accurately, Juju didn’t allow him to waste time on a tour. Upon entering the apartment Juju asked him where the bedroom was and after he answered she found her way there, stripping along the way. Juju wasn’t thick and curvy like Chelle. But her ass had the perfect curve to it. Her body had a slight hourglass shape to it that made watching her walk, whether to or away from you, a sight to behold.
There wasn’t a straight man alive who could resist Juju’s ass. Case in point, by the time Juju reached his bedroom she felt Erik crowding her against the door. He wrapped her in his arms and pressed the impressive hard length of his dick against her ass. With his hands on her, Juju felt all those tantalizing emotions she’d felt during their dance at that party. His blankness was gone. So Juju felt his arousal (and not because it was quite obviously pressed against her), she felt his shock at her boldness and his appreciation of her bluntness.
“You don’t waste time do you?” He chuckled against her ear.
“Why waste time?” Juju panted, overwhelmed by the emotions she could feel coming from him, “We both know what I’m here for.”
Erik chuckled darkly. Pressed against each other the way they were made it hard to walk into his bedroom, yet neither one of them wanted to pull away. When they did have to pull away, Juju did so to get out of the rest of her clothes, piling them in a corner so she’d have no trouble finding them the next day. Erik had stripped down too when Juju refocused on him. His chest was bare and tight, black briefs covered his lower half.
“Condom?” Juju asked. She arranged herself on his bed without losing eye contact. Her titties were spilling out of her bra, her panties left little to the imagination. Erik couldn’t look away from her.
“Yeah in my pocket,” Erik answered distractedly. With slow, cat-like movements he moved onto the bed, stopping to settle between her legs.
Juju could feel his want, his arousal, pulsing through her body in near orgasmic waves. When he touched her goosebumps raised on her skin. He settled between her legs and placed teasing kisses over her covered folds. His kisses went from teasing to hungry. With a strong grip on her hips, Erik slid her panties out of the way and began eating her out like a man starved. As if Juju had a banquet between her legs and it was all his favorite foods.
Erik sucked, nibbled, and licked at her center until her thighs trembled. Juju moaned with abandon. Soon she was screaming loud enough to wake the dead. She hoped his bedroom wall wasn’t connected to a neighboring apartment because there was no way she could be quiet. Her orgasm hit her without warning, wave after wave of unbearable pleasure that she both wanted to run away from and bury herself in.
Didn’t matter either way because Erik kept a grip on her body that made running away impossible. Underneath the roaring fire that was her own pleasure and arousal Juju could feel Erik’s smugness. The man was gifted. He had the tongue of a god. If anyone deserved to be smug it was him.
“God, Erik!” Juju cried out. She was so sensitive and he gave her no breaks. She’d barely come down from her first orgasm before Erik was revving her up for another.
Erik didn’t stop when Juju yelled herself hoarse. He didn’t stop when she couldn’t do anything but twitch and whine under his hands and his mouth. He finally stopped after her third orgasm. Juju lay limp on the bed while Erik retrieved the condom from his discarded pants. His emotions were totally bare to her at this moment. Juju was too worn out from cuming to do anything more than accept every emotion around her.
Juju usually kept a tight hold on her abilities. But Erik wore her out. From the apartment above them, she could feel annoyance, envy, and arousal. The apartment closest to them emitted apathy and boredom. Nothing around them could drown out Erik. The man was a live wire. Aside from arousal, there was pride at the sight of her laying limply on the bed. Animalistic pride and possession were a close second to arousal.
It wasn’t surprising that a man like Erik felt things intensely in the bedroom. What was surprising was how hard it was for her to read him when his hands weren’t on her. The man was guarded. He had to have an amazing control to keep his emotions away from Juju. She’d grown up reading everyone’s emotions like an open book. Erik was like a book in a different language. A book with a rusted lock and a lost key. She’d never wanted to read anyone the way she wants to read him.
“Tilt that ass up, I’m not done.” Erik was back on the bed and tapping her weak legs impatiently.
Juju gave a weak moan and then obediently lifted her legs up for Erik to grab ahold of. She checked to make sure he had the condom on and found herself struck by how pretty his dick was. Long and thick with a curve, the kind of dick she wanted to put her mouth around. The power in his grip took her breath away. Never before had she been able to let go with a man, she usually had to teach them how to please her. With Erik, he took control and knew what he was doing. It was too bad this was a one time only affair, she could see herself enjoying a man like him in her bedroom for a while.
Finals hit the campus like a motherfucker. Chelle was a total mess and monopolized all of Juju’s time so they could study together. This semester she had a fifteen unit load which meant, in addition to her own studies, Juju had to help her memorize anatomy and medical terms she didn’t understand. Thoughts of Erik were shoved to the back of her mind in favor of study sessions with Chelle and the few free moments she had to herself to meditate. Meditation had become a lifesaver what with the whole campus emitting sour feelings of anxiety and dread.
For the first time in her life Juju actually cursed her abilities. Walking around campus gave her a headache and her apartment was filled with four bitches who’d spent most of the semester goofing off for the past two months. Nowhere was safe, not even Chelle’s. Her best friend was an amazing test taker and had better grades than Juju. All of that success came from her grueling cram sessions. Cram sessions she kept roping Juju into when all she wanted was to relax and go over her notes and work on her event design project.
It was a relief once finals ended. Finally, everyone’s fears were realized and then a calm sort of numbness and despair settled over the campus. Juju could deal with that. She sailed through her own tests. Chelle couldn’t stop talking about all the things she did wrong but Juju wasn’t worried. Chelle was the kind of bitch to think she’d failed a test and then get the highest score in the class. Thankfully with finals over she had her friend back. Chelle was still stressed but Juju knew that a reason to beat her face and wear a sickening outfit was all it took to bring back that loud, lovesick, heifer she loved.
There was an accounting major named Chad who had his own apartment off campus. He owed Juju a few favors after she looked the other way when she caught him cheating on the final for the one math class they’d shared the year before. With a few subtle winks and a barrage of flirtatiously threatening texts, she’d secured an agreement from him to throw a party at his place. A sort of “Nigga We Made It!” post-finals party. When Juju approached Chelle about the party her best friend had jumped at the chance to do some outfit shopping and talk to her stylist about her hair.
“Do you think Erik, will go?” Chelle asked not so innocently as they got ready two hours before the party started.
Juju didn’t react in any way that Chelle, who was meticulously applying mascara would notice. Her friend was curious and well-meaning. But god was Juju sick of hearing that man’s name. They’d fucked all night in his apartment. Went through so many condoms they had to stop not because they were tired but because they’d run out. He drove her home shortly after and tried to set up another day for them to meet up again. Juju responded in a vaguely positive way that let him know she’d enjoy spending time with him without actually setting a date to meet.
She was so serious about that night being their one and only time hooking up. Michael had mistakenly thought he had some ownership over her because Juju allowed him to “hang out” with her multiple times. Now he was all salty ‘cause she’d blocked him on social media. After their night together Juju put Erik’s number on DND and put him in the back of her mind. Of course, that didn’t stop Chelle from insisting on bringing him up.
“I don’t see why nor do I care.” Juju was focused on making sure her wig was laying down flat and that the lace wasn’t lifting. She planned on dancing tonight and needed to make sure her glue was properly set or risk making a fool of herself.
The bored nonchalance in her tone didn’t stop Chelle at all. She continued to ask about him while Juju applied her blush for her. Asked about him again when they took their pre-party shots. And then had the nerve to bring him up again when they were getting in the Uber to take them to Chad’s house.
“Chelle why are so pressed over this nigga? I thought you were still thirsting after Rakim?” Juju looked too good tonight to be worried over some guy she’d slept with once. Her body looked banging in the bodycon strapless black dress that made her waist look tiny and her ass look fat. Chelle looked like her twin in a dress just like hers just in blue. They should be talking about all the nigga’s they were gonna kill with these looks, not Erik.
“Bitch, stop being mean,” Chelle pointed at her, “I’m only bringing him up because I’ve never seen you look the way you did after your dick appointment that night.”
Juju rolled her eyes. She’d looked a hot mess after her night with Erik. “Yeah and? You know how annoying Michael got after our brief little time together.”
Chelle snorted, “Bitch, brief? You had his nose wide open for two months and then suddenly decided you were done with his ass. What do you expect?”
Juju shrugged, “I expected him to get the fucking hint and leave me alone. Not my fault he got attached. He knew what it was.”
“Yeah but we bag on Michael all the time,” Chelle pointed out, “You won’t even talk about Erik.” After a beat, Chelle’s eyes narrowed as she looked her up and down, “I’m suspicious.”
Juju groaned. There was nothing to be suspicious about. So what she hadn’t said anything about Erik, it’s not like she told Chelle everything. It’s not like she was actively avoiding talking about him or thinking about him because he’d brought out sensations she’d never felt before. He’d played her body like an instrument and she was helpless under his mastery of the female form. Her senses weren’t still buzzing from the power and intensity of the emotion he kept so carefully hidden away. Juju didn’t understand why it mattered so much.
Before she could once again insist they stop talking about Erik the Uber arrived at the destination and Juju was saved. She could hear music the second she stepped out of the car. If the music wasn’t enough of a sign then the reckless relief and abandon she felt coming from the partiers would have tipped her off. After weeks of studying and a week of tests, everyone was looking to get fucked up and erase everything they’d painstakingly learned. When Juju looked over at Chelle she could feel the anticipation and waning stress coming from her friend. Juju had been right to blackmail Chad, especially if it caused that light in her best friend’s eyes to shine brighter.
Now that they were at the party Chelle shut up for the minutes it took them to take the elevator and find Chad’s front door. They’d been going to parties together long enough to have a game plan. Basically, they kept an eye on one another and let the other one know if they were leaving and with who. During their freshman year, they’d witnessed a girl almost get date raped and promised to never abandon each other like that girl’s friends did.
To the surprise of no-one as soon as they entered the party Chelle was off to find someone to give her attention. Juju said hi to everyone she recognized and then went off in search of Chad. She found him in the main living area surrounded by a group of niggas. And Michael. Because she’d been raised right Juju took it upon herself to greet Chad with a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
“Good idea to throw a party after finals,” Juju didn’t have to look around to know that everyone was doing the most, she could feel it, “Looks like we all needed it.”
Chad stared at her with guarded eyes. He was wary of her. She could sense his suspicion and irritation. Under all that was this begrudging brotherly affection. “Thank you for giving me the idea,” Chad answered.
Chad introduced her to the men around him. She recognized Michael, of course, included in the circle was Danny a political science major and W.D a linebacker for their school’s team. W.D was a tall drink of water. A Super Big Gulp if you will. He had the smooth dark skin of a man who moisturized and a beard Juju wanted to run her fingers through. When Chad introduced them he had this big, cocky smile on his face showing off the gap between his two front teeth. He wore his attraction to her openly, she didn’t need to read his emotions to feel that.
“So you’re the lovely, Juju I’ve been hearing so much about.” W.D’s eyes took a slow journey from Juju’s manicured feet to her face.
“All good things I hope,” Juju sent a look in Chad’s direction. Completely ignoring Michael who was sending nothing but man-baby vibes in her direction. Jealousy, insecurity, and hurt.
“Polarizing, I’d say.” W.D didn’t have to glance over at Michael for Juju to know he’d been talking about her. Everyone who met Juju loved her. She was honest but not hurtful. She minded her business but was also a good listener. Juju was connected to basically everybody on campus and everybody and they mama liked her.
Unless you were Michael and were harboring hurt feelings over nothing.
Juju smiled at W.D, dimples in full force and titties looking truly godsent in her dress, “Well I’m here now, why not get to know me and make your own judgments.”
Interest and arousal shot through W.D, and consequently Juju, before being overshadowed by uncertainty and guilt. The large man shifted, no doubt battling between his attraction to her and his loyalty to Michael. Uncertainty just wouldn’t do. Juju wouldn’t let Michael cockblock her after she’d cockblocked him.
Flipping her hair over her shoulder sent a wave of her perfume at all the men surrounding her. She turned her eyes over to the party, as if distracted and smiled at Chelle across the room dancing to the music. Juju looked back at W.D and caught him staring at her, in fact, all the men were staring at her. Juju kept her eyes focused on the football player and placed one hand on his muscular forearm. With just that touch she was able to send her interest from her to him. She dimpled at him again.
“I see my friend over there, let’s continue this chat later.” Without giving him a chance to respond Juju walked away, making sure to have her hand linger on his skin.
Dancing with Chelle usually meant keeping a tight grip on the other woman’s hips as she grinded and twerked on her. Juju grinded against her friend, laughing and genuinely having a good time as the danced almost in unison to a surprisingly good playlist. One of the best things about being friends with Chelle was how lively and bubbly her emotions felt. Chelle was honestly a romantic, and possibly one of the few truly pure-hearted people Juju had ever met.
So caught up in her dancing and her friend, so distracted with attracting W.D’s attention, Juju didn’t notice when a warm body settled close behind her. It took to large, hot hands to settle on her hips for Juju to realize that Erik had shown up to the party. Juju couldn’t help how easily she settled into his grasp. Through some form of magic, Erik picked up where Chelle left off and then they were grinding. Her back to his oh so warm front. Despite how warm she was from dancing Juju shivered in his grip.
Chelle, the traitor, waggled her fingers at Juju and mouthed, “Bye, sis!” Then she disappeared into the party. The bitch just left her at the mercy of Erik, of all people, and Juju was seriously reconsidering doing anything nice for her ever again.
Juju didn’t dare and glance over at W.D, she could feel his reaction to Erik’s appearance, and her obvious familiarity. Behind her, the blankness that was Erik had dissipated into that familiar heat and want. Only this time there was a darker undercurrent there that Juju didn’t know what to do with. The last thing she wanted to do was analyze it, she’d done enough of that for midterms. So she rolled with it. Juju hadn’t blackmailed Chad to through this party just to let a nigga like Erik throw off her game. She came to have fun and god dammit she was going to have fun.
Juju danced her ass off, singing along to the lyrics and ignored Erik like he was just a prop to make her feel good. Erik wasn’t that good at being ignored. Unlike Michael he didn’t turn into a bitch baby when Juju acted disinterested, instead, he laughed and turned her around so that she had to face him. Amusement and arousal shot through her when Juju locked eyes with Erik. He had his grill in today, gold caps on his bottom canines that glinted when he opened his mouth. She’d already begun to think of him in terms of animalistic pleasure, the gold caps just amplified that effect.
“You’re hard to pin down Miss Juju,” Erik’s voice sounded sexy and deep when he leaned forward to speak into her ear.
Juju shrugged with a smile and tried to dance out of the grip he had on her hips. God his touch felt so good. They were all warmth and kind of rough from callouses like he used them for something beyond rolling blunts and writing essays. He smelled good too, that same cologne Juju was starting to associate with him despite her best efforts.
The song couldn’t end soon enough. During the pause between one song and another Juju did her best to wiggle out of Erik’s grip. He raised an eyebrow, “Where you tryna run off to?”
Juju raised an eyebrow right back, “The bathroom nigga, do I need permission?”
Erik studied her for a second, amusement and arousal still coming off him in waves from their point of contact. Eventually, though he released her and that blankness she’d come to expect from him snapped back into place. The absence of his emotions banging against her senses was a bittersweet relief. Yes, Juju had wanted distance. Distance meant control. But God did she enjoy the way Erik’s skin felt against her’s. She enjoyed the way his emotions didn’t assault her with their presence, they made themselves known but allowed her to coexist with them.
Erik looks like he wanted to say more until his expression suddenly darkened at something over her shoulder. He glowered at somebody Juju couldn’t see. Juju used his lapse in focus to escape to Chad’s bathroom. She shut the door behind her, wishing she could shut the door on her connection to the rest of the people in the room. Juju wanted to deal with her own emotions because for once in her life she didn’t know what to do with her feelings.
It took five minutes for Juju to carefully place whatever misguided attraction she had to Erik in the back of her mind. She had rules for hookups now. She was better than this, more disciplined. Juju loved Chelle but she wasn’t built like her friend. Good dick wasn’t enough for her to trap herself into feelings. Especially feelings for a nigga like Erik.
He was notorious on campus for his love em and leave em lifestyle. They’d had their moment, an all night long mind shattering, thigh quaking moment that Juju liked to think about in the privacy of her bedroom. But that shit was history. It was on to the next.
While Juju washed her hands a knock on the door startled her out of her thoughts. She wouldn’t be able to tell who it was on the other side of the door because of the party but she tried anyway. Juju could feel Chelle out there, her feelings as familiar to her as her own. That was it though, everyone else had morphed into a hive of feelings that centered mostly around excitement and lust.
“One second.” Juju wiped her hands on a hanging towel. She checked over her outfit as she opened the door not looking at the person standing on the other side.
“It’s all y-” Juju’s words caught in her throat when she realized she was standing face to chest with Erik.
Her eyes widened in shock and lust. It was darker in the main room, the light of the bathroom gave Juju a clear view of Erik’s neat beard and deliciously plump mouth. She’d felt that mouth all over her body not even three weeks ago. She knew intimately what his teeth felt like, what his tongue tasted like. When Juju finally met his eyes the heat she found there had her stumbling back into the bathroom on numb feet.
Erik stalked after her like the prime predator he was. His movements so smooth and graceful it was like watching a deadly dance. He shut the door behind him without looking away from her. The party could have been on another planet at this point. They only had eyes for each other.
Erik smirked, enjoying the surprise in her eyes. Juju felt caught, trapped. Erik’s bulk stood between her and the door, blocking her from her only escape. Yet when Erik’s hand came up to play with the silky straight strands of her wig, the last thing Juju thought of was an escape.
“You always have a new look every time I see you,” Erik’s voice had a touch of amusement.
“Erik-” Juju choked the word out.
“You look fine as hell in that dress too.” Erik’s free hand landed on the dip of Juju’s hip. With one tug, he had her stumbling into his chest. Juju’s hands came up to balance herself and without her permission settled on his shoulders. His strong, broad shoulders. The same shoulder’s she’d placed her calves on while Erik bent her in half to hit that sweet spot.
“Fuck you smell good,” Erik groaned against her neck. Juju’s knees almost buckled.
His touch sparked the fire of her arousal. Erik’s lust overwhelmed her senses. Underneath that lust, however, was that dark emotion. Alone, insulated from the rest of the party by the intensity that Erik carried like a second skin, Juju could see that emotion for what it was. Possessiveness. Erik felt like he owned her.
Juju would be disgusted, should be disgusted because that possessiveness is exactly what had gotten Michael’s ass demoted from her roster. Erik’s possessiveness made her panties wet. It made Juju want to lift her skirt up and present herself like a bitch in heat.
Juju tried taking a deep breath for strength because it would take a lot of fucking strength to pull away and reject this man who had her keyed up and ready to fuck with just a few simple touches. But her senses betrayed her. Erik’s cologne, the cologne he’d been wearing when they first met and again during their night together had Juju moaning.
There was nothing better than a man who smelled good. Juju amended that in her head. There was nothing better than a man who smelled good and was pretty much guaranteed to be good in bed.
In the other room, the rhythmic sounds of Doja Cat reached Juju’s ears through the bathroom door. “Blow weed, coke, pop X/Speedin’ up the heartbeat bangin’ in my chest/When you put it on me you relieve my stress”
Without thought Juju moved her hips to the rhythm of the song, eyes caught in the forcefield that was Erik’s dark eyes stare.
The heat that had been building between them didn’t explode, but it intensified. It was with shaking fingers Juju slid her hands down Erik’s chest and began to tug at his belt buckle. Erik’s hands on her body gripped her hips and lifted her like she weighed nothing. Erik placed Juju on the counter at the same time Juju managed to unfasten his belt. Juju couldn’t look away from Erik’s eyes if she wanted to, the man had a way about him that demanded attention. Erik wouldn’t go unnoticed.
“I know you ain't a drug, but you get me so high/You get me so high, you get me so high/You get me so high, you get me so high, high”
Juju worked on Erik’s pants while he drove her wild with his touch. Erik caressed every inch of skin available to him all while maintaining a steadying grip on her waist. When his hands reached her thighs and he gripped the widest part of her and squeezed Juju moaned.
“Need you to fuck me, E,” Juju whispered. She slipped her hand down the front of his briefs and gripped the thick length of him. He felt like steel covered in velvet in her hand, all Juju wanted to do was stroke him. He groaned at her touch and his eyes lowered into slits.
“Fuck,” His grip became punishing but Juju welcomed it. She needed to be punished. Here she was, stroking him and begging him to fuck her after she told herself they were just one and done. Nothing would stop her from touching him though. Juju released him briefly to spit into her palm before returning to stroking and squeezing him. In seconds he was rock hard in her grip and thrusting ever so slightly with every stroke.
While she stroked him Erik’s mouth went to her neck. He kissed and sucked on the skin there driving Juju crazy with the sensations he coaxed from her body. His hands moved to the bit of ass he could grip and he kneaded the plump flesh in his hands. They were both breathing heavy and leaning into one another. Without the strength of Erik’s grip Juju is sure she would fall. Erik was no better, he was putty in her hands and using her body as the support he needed to stand.
It was at that moment that Juju realized she had complete control. Erik may have started this, but Juju was determined to finish it. She pushed at Erik’s chest to get him to step back far enough for her to hop off the counter. When he looked ready to protest Juju twisted her wrist on the upstroke and whispered into his ear.
“Let me take care of you. I didn’t get to do this last time.” Juju punctuated her sentence by gently biting the tip of his ear. The man knees nearly buckled. But he gave her the room to get on her knees in front of him.
Erik pulled himself out of his pants and Juju felt a moment of hesitation. She’d sucked her fair share of dick, but not a single one of them had looked like Erik’s. It was both long and thick with an upward curve. Juju had never put something that size in her mouth before. She didn’t let that stop her from making eye contact with Erik as she took his dick into his mouth and didn’t stop until her nose touched his pelvis.
“Oh, shit shit shit shit….” Erik stared at Juju in awe. He pulsed in her mouth so Juju swallowed around him. Erik’s eyes nearly rolled into the back of his head.
Juju used every trick she’d ever learned including a few she’d seen online and hadn’t thought physically possible. She kept one hand on the base of him at all times and used her free hand to grip his thigh and pump him full of every feeling he brought out in her. The lust, the need. Juju didn’t hang back. Maybe that’s why barely five minutes later Erik was panting like a dog and the grip he had on her head tightened as he neared his release.
“Juju! Juju!” He called her name like a prayer so Juju blessed him. When he came Juju swallowed quickly. She hated the texture and taste of come but spitting always made it worse. Juju kept her eyes on Erik while he came. She kept sucking and stroking at him until he literally pushed her away.
Panting for air Erik slumped onto the toilet, dick still out all slick and shiny. He had a dazed look in his eyes and satisfaction poured off of him and into Juju in waves. Juju watched smugly as Erik tried to catch his breath with one hand on his chest and the other gripping his jeans. She’d done that. Juju had reduced him to this weak state in five minutes and managed to keep her promise to herself. Sort of.
Using water from the sink Juju rinsed her mouth out and washed her hands. With one last glance at Erik, who’d recovered enough to put his dick back into his underwear, Juju left the bathroom and closed the door behind her. Across the room, she spotted Chad and W.D standing together with drinks in their hands. Juju made a beeline for them, plastering a smile on her face and trying to look like she hadn’t just sucked off Erik Stevens off in Chad’s bathroom
“Hey, C. I’m gonna head out.” Juju said as she approached, “I forgot I had something to do tomorrow so I can’t stay out too late. Thank you for this party though.” Juju reached out to hug Chad who returned her hug with suspicion on his face. His eyes flicked from the bathroom back to her. Juju worried he knew exactly what had happened, but Chad said nothing. He just sipped at his drink and eyed her.
“Thank you for coming. Do you have a way to get home?” Chad, ever the gentleman sounded sincere when he asked.
Juju looks up at W.D when she answered, “I came here with my friend but I can’t take her away from the party this early.”
W.D smiled, “I could take you back. I brought my car. Where do you stay?”
Juju dimpled at him. She’d been hoping he would ask that “I stay at Rider Hall, is that on your way?”
W.D shook his head, “Not at all. Let me get my coat. Meet by the door?” Juju agreed and W.D walked off to get his jacket.
When Juju turned back to Chad he was frowning, “What?” Juju asked.
Chad shook his head. Juju could feel his confusion but didn’t know where it was coming from.
“I just don’t get you, man. Michael, Erik, now W.D.” Chad looked like he was getting ready to lecture her. Juju shook her head, she didn’t have time for this. She already had a father, she didn’t need another one.
“They know what this is.” Juju reminded him, and herself.
Chad chuckled and nodded behind her, “Do they?” Juju turned to find Erik and Michael standing close together, deep in conversation. At once, as if sensing she was looking at them they stared at her. Michael and Erik together spelled trouble for Juju. Who knew what a bitch nigga scorned would say about her to someone like Erik? Who knew how Erik would respond?
“They, like you, need to mind y’alls business. I know what I’m doing.” Juju flipped her hair over one shoulder, secretly hoping to hit Chad in the face with it, and walked over to the front door. She could feel that Chad didn’t believe her, but that didn’t bother Juju. He knew nothing about her. And he wasn’t her father, he didn’t get a say in what she did with her life. Or who she did.
His words and their meaning haunted her as she stood near the door waiting for W.D. When she saw Erik scanning the party, Michael no longer at his side, Juju had to physically fight the urge to hide. She had nothing to hide from, she’d done nothing wrong. That said, when Erik’s gaze finally locked on her’s Juju felt a frisson of fear and a shiver went down her spine.
“You all ready to go?” W.D appeared by her side like a bearded six foot four angel.
Juju beamed up at him and grabbed his hand, so aware of Erik that his gaze felt like a was of heat on her skin. “Yep,” Juju trilled, “All ready.”
Chelle as a shield, Juju filled the bowl on her tray with the soup of the day, taking a handful of salt and pepper packets with her as she and her best friend made their way through the line in the cafe. It was pretty late, but the student cafe was open 24/7 and the late hour made Juju feel more protected. For the last week, she’d been ducking and dodging three men at once. It was exhausting, to say the least. She didn’t share any classes with those men, but walking around campus had become harder since W.D was a fixture as a football player and Erik seemed to know everyone and be everywhere.
This cafe was on the far side of campus, away from her apartment and close to where the medical students chain-smoked and chugged energy drinks before class. It had taken a lot to get Chelle to agree to meet her there, and even more to convince her friend to act as a human shield so Juju can stuff her face. But it was worth it. She hadn’t seen hide nor hair of W.D or Erik or Michael.
“Are you even listening to me?” Chelle snapped. The other woman had been talking while the made their way through the line. Juju had been too busy trying to watch all four exists and pile her plate high with some Texas toast to pay attention.
“Yes of course,” Juju lied
Chelle’s brown eyes narrowed, “You lying bitch.” She shook her head and sucked her teeth, “As I was saying before your dramatic ass lost focus. The TA for my anatomy class went to Chad’s party last week and lost our tests. My teacher had to give out A’s to everybody to make up for it.”
“Lucky you,” Juju said. Once she had everything she wanted to eat, Chelle and Juju made their way over to the cashier line.
“Hell yeah lucky me! That final was worth a huge chunk of my grade. Now when my father calls to ask how I’m doing in school I can say I have straight A’s and it won’t be a lie for once.” Chelle did a little wiggle with excitement. Juju couldn’t share her joy. She caught sight of a head filled with locs and instinctively dropped into a crouch to hide behind her friend.
“Uhuh, bitch.” Chelle reached down with one hand and forced Juju to stand.
“Chelle stop it could be-”
“That nigga is not Erik. None of those guys you’re running from are med students and you know it. Stop being paranoid.” Chelle’s words were sharp and unforgiving, but she smiled at the cashier brightly as she handed her student card over to pay for her food.
Juju pouted. She wasn’t paranoid. She felt like she was being just the right amount of cautious after what she went through after Chad’s party. She’d made a lot of bad decisions that night, sucking Erik’s dick going home with W.D are just two that came to mind. But the worst thing she’d done by far was giving all of those niggas her number. Since that night her phone had been blowing up. Michael must have realized she blocked his number because now he was texting from a private number. Erik wanted to see her again to “talk” whatever the hell that meant. And W.D had been insistent that they go on a date so he could “get to know” her.
Juju had been dodging these men, their texts, and calls for a week now. Chelle could call her paranoid, she could call her dramatic, as long as she acted as a shield between Juju and those men she could care less.
After paying for her food Juju led Chelle to a seat furthest from the main entrance to a part of the cafe where half the lights were turned off. Chelle’s nose wrinkled when she took her seat.
“Alright, what’s the game plan sis? You can’t outrun these niggas forever. W.D is literally an athlete, a pretty good one too.” Chelle leveled Juju with a look.
Juju focused on seasoning her soup, “I don’t have to outrun them forever. Just until they lose interest and move on to the next bitch.”
Chelle smirked and started cutting her burger in half, “You want them to lose interest? Should have thought of that before you showed Erik what that mouth do at Chad’s party the other night.”
Juju scowled, “You said if I told you what happened you wouldn’t bring it up again.”
Chelle took a bite of her burger and shrugged, “I lied.”
Juju rolled her eyes. “I have the situation under control.”
Chelle’s eyes flicked over her shoulder and widened, “Great then you can talk to Michael who’s coming this way.”
Juju turned around in her seat so fast the hood she had pulled low over her face slipped off, revealing her silk scarf. There was no one behind her. She turned back to Chelle, who was silently laughing at her through another bite of her burger. Juju pulled her hoodie back over her head with more force than necessary. Chelle must think she’s so funny playing with Juju’s emotions like that.
“You play too much,” Juju grumbled.
“Stop being scary and talk to these men. This sneaking around shit is only going to make things worse,” Chelle’s voice turned serious, all earlier humor gone until all that was left was the concern and love of a best friend.
“Ugh, you’re right.” Juju groaned and let her head fall into her hands.
She could hear Chelle chewing, “I know. What I don’t know is why you’re letting it get this far. You’ve never had trouble cutting a nigga down at the knee. And then kicking his ass while he was down. I’m pretty sure that foreign exchange student changed majors because of you.”
Juju groaned again just to be dramatic. Chelle was right, again. The smug bitch. Juju had no problem putting men in their place and asserting her boundaries. There’d been a German foreign exchange student studying Hospitality when they met. Juju had entertained him for a little while and when he tried to make himself her man Juju was quick to remind him of his place as foreign dick and nothing else.
That had been easy. Juju didn’t do emotional attachment. She lived her life searching for the next emotional high, and going to parties gave her that. If she wanted to feel a rush she watched movies and sat in the most crowded theater, she went to football games, she went to parties. Juju didn’t need a man to bring out emotion in her. She didn’t even need a man to get off, there were toys for stuff like that.
But just like going to a crowded theater or a party or a football game, there was a certain emotional rush that came with having sex. There’s a moment of connection that sparks when the home team wins or when a crowd experiences the same emotion at once, that same moment happens in the bedroom. It was something you couldn’t experience by yourself.
Juju loved that. What she hated was the messiness that came with attaching yourself to someone. Spending a lot of time with a specific flavor of emotions made Juju more attuned to them.Which meant a lot of headaches when meant stopped being sexual objects to her.
In the case of Chelle it meant she knew when her friend needed someone to listen and someone to make her feel better. Juju knew when Chelle would really appreciate space or comfort food and Juju was more than happy to provide her best friend with what she needed. She couldn’t do that for a man. Hadn’t tried to do that for anyone she was attracted to at all. She’d never wanted to. The only man who’d gotten close had been Michael and to be honest Juju had never really liked him. She’d kept him around too long and now had to deal with his stalkerish tendencies.
“I’ll handle the Michael thing. I probably shouldn’t have tried to ghost him considering we go to the same school and run in the same circles.” Juju admitted grudgingly. She stirred her soup mindlessly, still thinking of solutions to her current problem.
Chelle nodded, “Good first step.” She waved a hand, “Keep going.”
Juju scowled, “I’m still interested in W.D, I guess.”
Chelle sighed loudly, her disbelief and annoyance as clear on her face as they were in Juju’s mind, “Really bitch?”
“What?” Juju answered defensively.
“You know damn well you don’t care about W.D. I bet you don’t even know what position he plays.”
“Linebacker, hoe keep testing me.” Juju snapped back triumphantly.
Chelle leaned forward, “Alright. What’s his first name?”
Juju opened her mouth to answer and then stuttered. Did she really not ask the nigga his name? When he drove her home after Chad’s party she hadn’t had much she wanted to say. W.D supplied the conversation. He told her about his major and his teammates. He told her about his plans post-college and his backup plans should football not pan out. Abstractly she knew all of this, but she couldn’t remember a thing. Juju had kind of been occupied with thoughts of Erik and how he’d felt in her mouth.
“Why does it matter what the nigga name is? You know I don’t do relationships.” Juju angrily spooned hot soup in her mouth. It took all she had not to cry out when the liquid burned the roof of her mouth. After taking a sip of her water Juju pointed her spoon at Chelle.
“You all up in my business when we need to be talking about how foul you were to leave me with Erik like that.” Juju hadn’t appreciated that. Chelle may think that Juju had feelings for Erik Stevens but Chelle also fully believed that getting a man and having a relationship was as important as having a career.
Chelle sucked her teeth, “Call me foul all you want but you know you like that nigga. I was just doing you a favor.”
Juju rolled her eyes, “I do not like Erik Stevens, Chelle.” Chelle’s eyes went over her shoulder and widened comically, “Uhuh, bitch. Not again. I ain’t falling for that shit. I told you already I don’t like Erik and I would prefer if you would act like my best friend and support me.”
Chelle didn’t speak after Juju stopped talking, she was still staring over Juju’s shoulder looking like a fish with her eyes all big and her mouth open. It was then that Juju felt warmth at her back. As if someone was standing there, out of sight but close enough that Juju could feel their body heat. She could feel someone behind her, but the only emotions she was picking up was Chelle’s embarrassment, shock, and amusement. Which could only mean one thing.
Juju sighed and closed her eyes, “God he’s right behind me isn’t he?”
Chelle finally let out a giggle as she nodded, “Hi, Erik.” The traitor Juju called her best friend pointed at a chair next to Juju, “Want to join us?”
The sound of metal scraping against linoleum forced Juju to open her eyes. She found Erik, looking delectable in camo shorts and a black hoodie. He sat in the seat next to her but didn’t turn to face table. He faced Juju instead, opening his legs wide and placing a hand on the back of her chair. The weakest part of her, the part controlled by her pussy, wanted Erik to put that hand on her body. Juju curb stomped that feeling and locked it in a box in the back of her mind.
“So you gonna talk all that shit and not look me in the eye?” Erik barked. Juju felt his lust, his possessiveness and, amazingly, his delight at seeing her squirm. He obviously thought it was funny that he’d caught her in the act of denying him. When Juju met his eyes to shoot him an unimpressed look she was horrified to find that she had actually missed looking at him.
His eyes were dark, depthless pools she wanted to swim. When they looked at her they held nothing but warmth, warmth she didn’t feel deserving of. Juju hated that he smelled so good and she hated that she loved it. She wanted to be an ass, snap back at him and put him in his place like she had with Michael and the German student before him. She didn’t.
“Chelle could you give us a minute?” Juju asked quietly. Juju felt her friends annoyance but didn’t look away from Erik’s eyes. Chelle gathered her things and what remained of her food and left.
“You gone talk to me now?” Erik demanded. She didn’t think Erik ever asked for anything. The man had likely never been told no before.
“What is there to talk about?” Juju played dumb.
Erik’s eyebrow cocked up, “All that shit at that nigga Chad’s party? Why you-” He cut himself off and studying Juju with sharp, intelligent eyes, “Ah. I get it.”
“Look,” Juju placed her palms flat on the table. She needed stability, an anchor. She’d gotten lost in his eyes like an idiot. The way Erik looked at her now let her know he’d figured out why she’d been acting so funny and the anger she saw reflected back at her made her stomach knot.
“We had a good time right?” Juju went for a different approach, “I don’t see why we have to make this something it isn’t.”
Erik nodded and rubbed at his jaw, “Yeah I hear you.” He heard her alright but he did not like it. Juju could feel it.
Scrambling Juju doubled down, “We’re not the relationship type. You know?”
Erik fixed her with a hard stare, “Who said that?”
Juju stared back at him, “What do you mean?”
“Who said I ain’t the relationship type? I know I ain’t never said that so if somebody out there speaking for me I want to know who it was.” Somehow Juju knew that was a threat. He spoke so calmly, and nothing in the words he said were actually threatening. It was his tone. The intensity in his eyes when he stared at her.
“Fine. I’m not the relationship type. I didn’t want us to have more than a night together because people have a way of misinterpreting my lust for actual interest.” Juju couldn’t keep the bitterness out of her tone as thoughts of Michael came to the forefront of her mind.
“I ain’t like other people. If you wanted a one and done we coulda had that, but something tells me,” Erik uses the grip he has on her chair to pull her closer to him, closer to the welcoming v of his legs. “You are interested in me. Which is why you’re trying so fucking hard to push me away.”
Juju didn’t know what to say to that. She couldn’t let Erik think he’d won though. “Someone’s full of himself.”
“Baby don’t get it twisted. This isn’t arrogance this is confidence. You and I have chemistry. If you didn’t have any interest in me you wouldn’t have let me in that bathroom.”
“It’s not like you gave me a choice!” Juju hissed.
Erik shook his head, “There’s always a choice. You chose to put my dick in your mouth. Just like you chose to ditch the party with that big brolick lookin’ nigga.”
Juju shook her head, not because he was wrong but because he was right. He pushed his way into the bathroom, yes, but he hadn’t put her hand in his pants. It wasn’t him who put his dick in her mouth. Juju had done it all because she wanted to. Because she wanted more of him than she wanted to admit and a part of her hated herself for it.
“I’m not good at relationships,” Juju said weakly.
Erik shook his head, “I ain’t ask all that. I just want to spend time with you. We don’t have to put a label on it.”
Juju shook her head. He was right. They didn’t have to put a label on it. They could have mind-blowing sex together and as long as Juju stayed emotionally distant they’d be fine. She could get lost in his heat and passion. She could figure out why he was so blank to her unless they were touching. Juju weighed his words in her mind, testing them against what she knew to be true and what she desperately wanted. Maybe the reason she was so attuned to Chelle was because of their closeness, their friendship. Juju knew nothing about Erik, who says spending time with him will affect her the same way Chelle affected her.
Slowly, Juju spoke, “We could…spend time together. But expect Michael to try to butt his way into our situation whenever he can.”
Erik frowned, “You talkin’ about Mike J? Is that nigga buggin you?” The possessive streak Juju in him flared like a flame. Juju nodded, not trusting herself to speak.
“Don’t worry about him. I’ll take care of it.” The finality of his words solidified this new “relationship” they were embarking on. Erik wasn’t her man, and she wasn’t his girl but they were something. It was undefined, but Juju found herself warming up to the idea more and more.
Wake yo’ cute ass up!” Erik slammed his body into the bed, jostling Juju awake in the process. Juju groaned and tried to roll away from Erik’s searching fingers. She knew if he got a hand on the cover he’d yank it away and Juju hated the cold.
“No no no,” Juju rolled the end of the sheet under her. She was not a morning person by any sense of the word. Plus it was cold as hell in her room. She had to be the dumb bitch to insist on taking the largest room with five fucking windows.
A laughing Erik tried to tug the blanket out of her grip, only to received a foot to the chest in the process. With an angry curse, his hand shot out like a snake and grabbed her ankle over the blanket. With a yank, he had Juju sliding halfway down the bed. Juju released her death grip on the blanket in shock. Erik used this to his advantage and yanked her all the way out of the blankets and into his lap.
“Who you kickin’, ah? You think cause you cute I’ma let you get away with that shit-”
“What are you gonna do, punish me?” Juju took advantage of her position in Erik’s lap to arch her back and push her titties to the forefront. Her body was still bare after the workout he’d put her through the night before. He’d told her once that her body was his weakness. Juju wasn’t above exploiting his weaknesses.
Erik’s eyes tracked down her front hungrily. Juju felt his arousal spike and his manhood swelled underneath her. Still, Erik was upset with her for kicking him. No matter how much he wanted her, he couldn’t stop himself from being a dick.
“I should pop yo ass for trying to manipulate me. I ain’t like yo old dude.” Erik’s chest swelled up. Juju’s eyes tracked his impressive physique.
Erik wasn’t a big guy, but something about the way his body carried muscle never failed to set her off. He walked with the confident swagger of a man with a big dick who didn’t have to brag about it. His arms were cut and built not just for show. In the two months since they started their…whatever Juju has had a good time being held up against walls by those arms.
“What old dude?” Juju challenged. He thought he was going to intimidate her. Little did he realize he was seconds away from her putting it on him. There was nothing Juju liked more than morning sex. It was the perfect way to start a cold day. Or any day.
Erik bared his teeth, “Exactly.”
Juju rolled her eyes and began pushing at Erik’s chest so he’d let her go. “If you’re just gonna tease me with the promise of dick you might as well get your stuff and go. I know you have a 10 am class today.”
Reluctantly Erik let Juju escape. Much to his disappointment. His mood dampened further when Juju put on the jade silk kimono that usually signaled it was time for him to go. Juju was fine with him seeing her butt naked. But when the clothes came on the fun was over. They already spent too much time together.
They had spent many weekends at this point laying around in their underwear and watching Netflix between study sessions. Juju hadn’t especially felt like partying lately and Erik was more than happy to monopolize her time for himself. The possessive bastard.
“Is that all I am to you? ‘Dick’?” The words fell out of his mouth like a harsh joke. Juju could feel the anticipation, the prickle of fear in his gut that usually came after a question like that. He had agreed to them being undefined, undefined worked for them. Yet more and more he’d asked leading questions like that. A mixture of anticipation and fear in his gut that Juju could feel so intensely she’d started chugging ginger ales to deal with nausea.
If he were anyone else Juju would have been cut communication. But it was Erik, and Juju has spent months making exceptions for this man. Why not make a few more.
“No, that’s not all you are to me.” Juju knotted her kimono tighter. It felt important that she get the knot tight enough to cut off Erik’s anxiety at the quick.
A rush of relief went through Erik, went through Juju, but he kept his face down while he put on his shoes.
Fear, terror more like, wrapped around her throat and made her add the sentence, “You’re my best friend Erik. Don’t tell Chelle I said that. She knows she’s my sister but she’s always been really jealous when it came to me adding people to our circle.” This was true. It was all true. In a way, Erik was her best friend. If she wasn’t in class she was with him or calling him to come pick her up from class. Or texting him during her sleepovers with Chelle. When Juju woke up she could usually expect Erik to factor in at least one part of her day.
Erik didn’t both to keep his bitterness out of his voice when he said, “Yeah I understand why. You’re one of a kind Juju.” Juju didn’t know what to say to that.
“So,” she tried to swallow but her mouth suddenly felt dry. “What are your plans for Christmas.”
Erik visited family for Thanksgiving. He texted her pictures of his cousins’ sandaled feet because he knew Juju hated the way men’s feet looked in open-toed shoes. Juju had stayed on campus with Chelle and a few other people left behind and had an Orphan Thanksgiving. She’d sent him pictures of the sweet potato pie she made and another pic of her in a pair of boyshorts and nothing else. When he replied with the tongue out emoji Juju couldn’t tell if it was for her or the pie.
“Christmas means a lot to Shuri so I’m going back home until New Years.” Erik reached into her bedside table and produced a stick of deodorant she hadn’t known was stashed there. Suddenly Juju really wanted to get Erik out of her bedroom.
“Guess I’ll see you when you get back then.” Juju grabbed Erik by one hand and attempted to pull him to his feet.
Erik sitting down meant they were eye level with each other, “Nah you gone see me tonight after your Novel writing class. I know that after today you don’t have any classes until we come back from break.” Erik used the grip she had on him to pull her closer. He trapped her in place by putting one hand on her hip and using the other to part her kimono.
“I plan on getting every bit of your juju, Juju.” He kissed the skin between her breast. His strong fingers tightened on her hips causing Juju to moan. Her kimono fell open wider where Erik had parted it.
“I suppose I have a bit of my magic to spear.” Juju moaned and allowed Erik’s strong grip to take over. His the hand on her hip slid behind her to grab her ass. He massaged one cheek and then the other in his strong grip. His fingers grazed her sore pussy every time he moved.
Erik really was an animal in bed. He used Juju’s lady like she was a toy, specifically made to fit the curve of his dick. When Erik was inside her he worshiped her body and sang it’s praises like her pussy truly was magic. What they did with their bodies, Juju could handle. She understood sex better than she knew how to deal with feelings. Ironic as hell considering her life was so affected by them.
Juju felt all her arousal leech out of her at once. Her body felt cold and her feet were freezing without her slippers to protect her. She’d be in her slippers now if Erik wasn’t here. Every time he stayed over he disrupted her schedule.
Juju pushed at Erik’s shoulder and stepped out of his grip, “I’m gonna get in the shower can you lock the door on your way out?” Juju didn’t wait for the flash of anger she felt in Erik’s chest to reach his face. She turned and walked out of her room to the ensuite bathroom, shutting the door in Erik’s face when he tried to follow in after her.
With one fist he banged on the door so hard the medicine cabinet popped open, “Juju what the fuck?” He barked through the wood.
Juju turned her back to the door and turned on the shower.
“Are you gonna fucking talk to me or do I have to guess what caused your shitty attitude?” Erik banged on the door again.
Juju scoffed silently. As if she would let his ass in the bathroom after he said that? Granted, Juju was acting weird. Most mornings they showered together. Most mornings Erik showed up late to his 10 am class because the teacher usually collected assignments, assigned reading and then dismissed the class in thirty minutes. They both knew Erik didn’t give a damn about that class. He just wanted to spend time with her.
“Fine then. Hit me up when you get your attitude in check.” Erik banged on the door once more before retreating.
Juju waited until she could no longer feel his annoyance and worry. She hated when Erik worried. Juju had only experienced the emotion with him twice. Once when his younger cousin Shuri had called him in a panic in the middle of the night. He’d reacted to the call like he expected to hear the worst news possible but it had taken nothing for him to calm his cousin down.
The second time had been when the two of them had gone to the cafe for a late dinner. Juju had a canceled class and Erik had a free day so they’d spent the whole day in his apartment. They smoked weed and watched movies between bouts of intense fucking. The trip to the cafe saw them half-starved and high trying to navigate the hilly path from Erik’s apartment back to campus. Juju slipped and fell on her ankle letting out a noise that had ice water shooting through Erik’s veins. He insisted on carrying her the rest of the way and then called an Uber to take them to the emergency room to make sure she hadn’t actually broken anything.
All in all, not behavior she’d expected from a guy she was sort of hanging out with sort of fucking. If it was just sex it would be easy for her to compartmentalize. Juju’s a big girl. This isn’t her first friend with benefits situation. Nothing she’s experienced has prepared her for a man like Erik. He was an asshole, but he wasn’t cruel. He was intelligent and he knew it and didn’t hesitate to remind you of that fact. Yet some of her favorite memories of him are when they’re in a hot debate about a cartoon of all things. Erik felt so passionately that Juju couldn’t help but mirror everything right back at him.
Juju slid her hands into her hair and squeezed the strands right at the root. She wasn’t supposed to be feeling anything! Erik was supposed to be an outlet, a tool to finally get rid of Michael. They’d had so much sex at this point Juju can’t remember the last time she’d been with someone who wasn’t Erik. Erik had made true on his promise to handle Michael. There was a rumor that somebody threatened him so badly he dropped out for the semester but Juju had never been able to prove Erik had a hand in it.
It was nearing the end of the semester. Juju never let her situations last longer than a semester. She knew she had to let him go, she just didn’t know how to get the words out. He hadn’t done anything wrong. That didn’t change the fact that Juju had promised herself she’d never ask for more. She wouldn’t ask for more. Juju had done what he asked of her two months ago. He’d gotten a chance to know her and spend time with her. No reason they couldn’t go back to being platonic.
Looking at herself in the mirror Juju couldn’t count the number of hickies and Erik shaped bruises that covered her body. Her predator didn’t know his own strength. Juju couldn’t help but ask him to hold her tighter, closer and Erik always gave her what she wanted. He liked marking her up. That possessive streak Juju had felt when they first slept together had only grown darker and stronger.
After their awkward morning, Juju managed to avoid Erik for two days. A record considering the fact that they knew each other’s schedule after spending so much time with each other. He finally cornered her in the library. Juju had let herself get lost in the stacks, trying to look like she was actually looking for a book and not killing time. Erik appeared at the end of one long row of shelves looking positively demonic dressed in all black winter gear.
Juju could feel a dark energy radiating out from him. He’d obviously picked up on the fact that she was avoiding and he was not so obviously pissed. A roiling fire like anger rested underneath an outward veneer of calm. His eyes traveled over her face and Juju could feel his relief and a warmth Juju didn’t want to name. For her part, Juju managed to keep her eyes on the spines of the books on the shelves.
“I thought we were done running away,” Erik’s voice held a note of tension that set Juju on edge.
Stopping in front of him Juju let herself get her first full look at him. Erik looked good. His jacket accentuated how swole his arms were, especially when he crossed his arm. His shoulders were up by his ears and his body looked so tense Juju wanted to place her hand on the back of his neck. It was like the Erik Stevens release button, right where his spine met his neck.
“I’m not running,” Juju whispered.
“Not answering my messages,” Erik grit his teeth.
“Maybe I didn’t want to talk,” Juju whispered even lower. She fiddled with the glove on her left hand. Erik bought the pair for her after Thanksgiving.
“Alright fine. Be like that. There’s something I want to ask you though.” Erik stepped forward, visibly shaking off all the tension his body. He didn’t want to be mad at her, Juju could feel it. He really cared about how she would answer this question. To the point that he was setting aside his usual response so he wouldn’t anger her.
Juju felt sick with knowledge. Erik would hate it if he knew she had access to his emotions like this. For the first time in her life, she hated it.
“I know you had plans to stay on campus for Christmas. But I don’t like the idea of you on campus by yourself. Niggas get weird when the sun goes down early.” Erik continued on about why the campus, all of a sudden, was too dangerous for her to stay on by herself. He had a lot of good points, most of them centering around the fact that he didn’t trust niggas and he’d be too far away to help her if some shit went down.
“Erik,” Juju spoke softly, the tone of her voice shut him up instantly.
“Come back home with me for the break.” Erik’s voice sounded hoarse. Juju could feel his need. Erik needed her to say yes.
Juju closed her eyes, “I don’t think that-”
“Why the fuck not?” Erik barked. He was lucky they were so far back in the stacks. The student librarians couldn’t hear them from the front desk and nobody but the English majors ventured this far back.
Juju struggled to keep her voice even. If Erik even sensed a little bit of weakness he’d pounce on it, “Because we’re not like that and you know it. Your family would get the wrong idea. Plus its rude!”
Erik shook his head, “Fuck that. They would get the right idea if you’d be my-”
“Erik you can’t just force a guest on your family at the last minute.” Juju snapped.
Erik snorted, “Trust me, we have room.”
Juju shook her head. She had to get him to stop. He was asking for too much. He wanted too much of her. “You can’t ask me to do that. We agreed we’d be undefined. Undefined works for us.”
Erik sighed, “So all the shit we do together? You don’t know what that is?”
Juju looks at her hands, “We’re friends. I told you the other day -
“Stop bullshitting, Obianuju. You know damn well I’m not your friend. I don’t treat you like any fucking friend I ever had. And I know for damn sure you’re not treating other niggas the way you treat me. You can’t tell me we don’t mean something to each other.” Erik’s voice shook Juju to her core. His use of her given name made her flinch. He hadn’t stumbled once, not once over a single syllable. Yet he said her name with so much pain. She was causing him pain.
“Erik lets not do this here. Let’s not fuck up our friendship-”
“Look me in my eye and call me your friend. I fucking dare you,” Erik’s eyes blazed with heat that threatened to burn Juju up from the inside out. Juju turned away from him and wrapped her arms around herself. He wanted too much of her. All that anger. Juju shuddered.
“Erik,” she pleaded, “It wouldn’t be right to go in front of your family the way we are.”
A warm hand touched her shoulders. Juju stiffened at once. His touch felt like relief. It was like her body was in so much pain she’d gotten used to it. Erik’s grip was like the absence of pain. When he pulled her into his chest, Juju melted into his grip. Strong arms wrapped her around her like iron bars but Juju could care less. She folded into Erik, melted all the soft parts of her into Erik’s rough edges and rested.
God if she could just have this. Why can’t this be enough?
“Juju, please,” Erik whispered into the top of her head. The words were spoken so lowly Juju thought for a long moment that she’d imagined it. Erik never said please. Erik didn’t have anything he felt like he had to beg for.
Yet he just begged for her.
“I’ll go…”Juju whispered into his chest. “Just for a few days. I already got yo’ big headed ass a gift. Might as well give it to you.” Erik laughed so hard it made his hard, sculpted chest bounce off the side of Juju’s head.
He kissed the side of her head and called her a big baby. Juju allowed the slander because the feeling, the lightness sweeping its way through their chests, had stolen her voice from her throat. God if he felt like this, glowed like this, for her… Juju squeezed herself deeper into his arms and pushed the thought out of her head.
“Now that I’m going are you going to tell me what to pack or should I guess?” Juju pulled back from their embrace to look Erik in the face.
Erik wouldn’t let Juju pack for their trip to see his family. As a rule, Juju was against any man picking her outfit. Yet she relented when Erik revealed he lived in Africa and the climate could be unpredictable. It had taken longer for her to accept the $2,000 he gave her to get her hair done for the trip.
“I know how much you love your hair so I didn’t want there to be a problem when I fuck yo’ shit up the second we land. So don’t get nothing fragile, if the heat doesn’t make you sweat that shit out I will.”
So, yeah. Juju took the $2,000.
In the days leading up to their departure Juju stressed and spent Erik’s money to calm her stress. Heeding Erik’s warning Juju had faux locs installed. Something low maintenance that would get sexier the longer they stayed in. She’d only promised Erik Christmas which was only a week away. It didn’t help that she’d seen a lot less of Erik in the lead up to their departure. After making sure Juju had her passport he’d become scarce. “Wrapping up business,” he told her. Who knew what that meant? Juju took the space between them as a way to get used to her life would be once Erik was out of it.
Chelle, bless her heart, couldn’t understand why Juju looks a woman facing the guillotine.
“You guys fuck and spend all your time together, now he wants to take you to meet his family on his dime and you’re telling me you’re gonna end this shit before next semester?
Chelle was waving Juju’s wrapped up flat iron like a wand as she built her case. Juju had made her promise to come over and help her pack essentials that a man like Erik wouldn’t know to buy. Mostly Chelle picked through Juju’s stuff and asks to borrow it while she’s gone.
Juju snatched the flat iron out of her friend’s hand and placed it in the soon to be locked box holding the rest of her valuables. Her roommates were already out of town for the break but Juju had gotten into the habit of locking her things up as a kid and never saw fit to change it. The box already had her best dresses and shoes carefully packed and stored neatly inside. All there was left to do was pack her toiletries, lock up and meet Erik outside.
He must have seen the fear in her eyes because he had insisted on picking her up. He was out there now, sitting in his expensive ass car and smoking several blunts in succession.
“You know I don’t do relationships,” Juju said the words that had been her mantra for so long the words came to her by rote.
“Yeah yeah yeah bitch. I know.” Chelle rolled her pretty brown eyes. She had carefully applied mascara and liner in anticipation of seeing her parents when she went back home.
Chelle came from a long line of black debutantes and her mother instilled in her only child the utmost importance of appearance. Meeting Mrs. Smith-Freeman in anything less than a full face of makeup and perfume was opening yourself up to that carefully cutting southern hospitality Chelle’s mom was good for. Juju had been at the other end of the hospitality too many times to count.
“What I don’t know is why? It can’t be over that nigga -“
Juju pointed a manicured finger at Chelle, “Say that niggas name and you die.”
“Adonis!” Chelle shouted. She stood up in Juju’s bed and jumped up and down chanting, “Adonis! Adonis! Adonis!”
“Donnie is my past, I don’t even think of that man.” Juju ran at her friend, locs flying because of her speed.
“Admit it that nigga led you on!” Chelle screamed and jumped off Juju’s bed. As soon as she landed she took off running for the main living area. Juju almost hit the door in her haste to chase after her.
“I’m the one who pursued him!” Juju insisted breathlessly. How was this bitch so fast? Juju had never seen Chelle pick her knees up higher than it took to take a step. All this running she was doing was brand new.
“Yeah like he didn’t have a part in all those text messages.” Chelle snorted. She managed to put the couch between them so Juju paused to catch her breath. God, she had no stamina. How had she managed to fuck with Erik for almost three months was beyond her.
“Chelle, he never said we were together. I put that on him.” Juju spoke to the floor
When Chelle spoke Juju could feel her friends heartbreak. Of all people, Chelle knew what Adonis had meant to her. He’d been a few years older than her at the orphanage but Juju had idolized him.
“You loved him. And he used you. You kept his stupid fucking secret and now he’s living his dream. Following in his father’s footsteps.” Chelle spoke of Adonis with nothing but disgust in her voice. When Juju met her eyes her friend stared at her soul.
“Juju you were a kid. He was a twenty-something spoiled brat who took the love you gave him and gave you nothing in return.” Chelle approached Juju, stopping in front of her to say, “You’re right, he’s your past. But I see him affecting every decision you make when you and I both know that ain’t like you.”
Chelle pointed towards the open window, “Erik feels something for you. Although I don’t know why when you do nothing but push him away and act like reciprocating his feelings is a fucking burden on you.”
Juju wouldn’t let her drag Erik into this. Erik and Donnie were nothing alike. How she felt about Erik was nothing like how she used to feel about Adonis. Adonis was a forbidden pleasure. She’d been a teenager and desperate for affection from someone, anyone. He’d fit the bill as a childhood friend and had even managed to get past the strict rules of the Home she was staying in.
Erik electrified Juju from the inside out. He took care of her, in his own gruff way. He hadn’t asked for more than her time from the day they met. Erik had chased after her every time she ran. In her friendship with Donnie, Juju had done all the chasing. She’d served her teenage heart to that man on a platter and he’d dropped as easily as if she’d been no one. After years of friendship, Donnie had broken her heart in a way that Juju suspects she never actually recovered from.
“Erik knows how I feel about him.” Juju raised a hand to stop Chelle in her tracks.
Chelle slapped Juju’s hand out of the air, “Does he, bitch cause I’m your best friend and even I don’t know how you feel about him.”
Juju tried to keep her anger off her face. Chelle had no right to pry. She had no right to throw her past into this when Juju had done such a good job at repressing it.
“Chelle you’re reaching my limit.” Juju stalked around her friend to grab her bags from her bedroom. Why listen to Chelle’s nonsense when she could leave. She had a plane to catch. While Chelle would be stuck with her acidic mother Juju would be going away with a fine ass man who dicked her down and didn’t ask too many questions. She didn’t have to listen to Chelle’s shit.
“Fine. It’s your business. No matter how much I love you and care about your happiness -“
“Subtle,” Juju couldn’t help but chuckle despite her anger. Nobody could lay in the guilt like Chelle.
“I will sit back and let you act dumb over a nigga who obviously cares about your stubborn ass.” Chelle crossed her arms over her chest as she continued.
Juju returned to her scowling best friend and forced her into a hug, “I love you too.” Juju whispered. Chelle walked her to the door and promised to lock her bedroom up before she left. It was as if the chase and the argument never happened as the two women held each other close and promised to call each other as soon as possible.
Erik scowled when he saw the bag Juju was using to hold her toiletries. He radiated a dark energy Juju wasn’t used to feeling from him. She had long since figured out the frequency Erik’s emotions ran on. He was no longer a blank slate to her. This clarity didn’t mean she understood what caused his emotions any more than she used to.
“I thought I told you not to pack shit?” Erik started the car with a grumble.
Juju ignored his tone as she answered, “True but I couldn’t take the chance you bought me nothing but thongs and heels on a trip to meet your family.”
A shining glimmer of humor cracked the darkness coming from Erik, but his face didn’t move. Okay then, he was annoyed by something. Juju wouldn’t let him take whatever was bugging him out on her. She already had a headache after dealing with all that Chelle brought up earlier.
It had been so long since she thought about Donnie. There’d been a time when he was all Juju could think about. This year she’d spent his birthday dodging Michael and couch surfing with Chelle. Thoughts of him had all but ceased since the introduction of Erik to her life. Why couldn’t she have told her best friend that?
For some reason, Chelle had decided that she liked Erik, specifically Erik for Juju. If Juju had mentioned that Erik was all she thought about would that have stopped her from mentioning Adonis?
Erik’s mood darkened even more suddenly, causing Juju to look at him curiously when she felt the shift. Was Chelle right? Was she using her past with Adonis to stop her from accepting whatever future there was with Erik?
“You okay?” Juju reached for the hand he had on the gearshift. Any other day that hand would have made its way to its usual position on her thigh before the first street-light.
Erik moved before she could touch him, “I’m good.” He shifted gears and kept his eyes in his mirrors, ignoring her searching eyes.
First Chelle and now Erik? Was everyone upset with her? Juju sat back in her seat feeling completely rejected. She’d been the one pushing him away for so long Juju felt completely blindsided from receiving the same treatment.
“How long is it gonna take to get to your home,” Juju spoke into the tense silence filling the car.
Erik glanced at her from the driver seat, “A few hours. You’ll sleep through most of it on the plane.”
Juju nodded because there was nothing left to be said. Neither one of them wanted to talk. Well, Juju would love to talk but Erik was unbearable when pushed. In the past, she’d learned it was best to let Erik approach her with what he was feeling. It was invasive enough that she could feel his emotions whether he wanted her to or not.
Erik filled the silence of the car with old-school hip-hop. Haunted by thoughts of Donnie and everything else Chelle wanted her to admit, Juju fell into a restless sleep. When they arrived at the hangar holding Erik’s private jet, he carried her himself into the plane. Juju woke up in the sky, her head on Erik’s chest while he fiddled around with a device above her head. He allowed her to sit up when he noticed she was awake. Whatever sense of affection that had driven him to hold her was spent immediately.
Juju sighed and decided to study the plane. It still hadn’t really hit her how rich Erik really was. His car was expensive and foreign, he had an amazing luxury apartment in an expensive part of their college town, and now a private jet. The interior of the jet was dark yet sleek. The paneling was some kind of shimmering obsidian black flecked with sparkling white and silver veins here and there.
At the front their pilot, a bald-headed queen decked out in red and gold, piloted using strange controls Juju had never seen before. The only time she’d been on a plane she’d been sixteen and on her way to a new family. That was a regular commercial flight and she’d sat nowhere near close enough to the cockpit to see the pilot and the controls.
But, just as Juju had known that Erik’s car was a little too expensive for a college student she knew that this plane was outside the realms of a typical private jet.
“Erik?” Juju turned to find the man in question studying his device with a scowl on his face. The technology was unlike anything she’d seen before. From the beaded bracelet on his wrist came a holographic form displaying text and images. After getting over the wonder of watching an actual holographic device Juju’s eyes focused in on what Erik was studying so hard. Her blood ran cold and she turned to look at him, the beginning of hurt and betrayal creeping up her throat.
“Thought I’d look this nigga up. Chelle made it sound like the nigga was real important to you or something.” Erik’s words were causal, but his tone held an implied threat made the hair stand up on the back Juju’s neck.
For as long as she’d known him Erik had always had this controlled fire going on, a predator at rest that he usual released in their bed. Yet for as sweet as he was with her Juju was aware that Erik could be someone’s nightmare. She hadn’t seen hide nor hair of Michael since that party Chad threw after finals. WD had been just as scarce. It was peak football season at school yet WD had taken a mysterious vacation after finals and disappeared from campus as well.
Aware as she was Juju had never felt the heat of that fire used against her, at her, in anger. Because for as calm as Erik tried to be, he was angry with her. So angry because beneath that anger was hurt. Juju had been hurting him bit by bit for a while now, yet something done recently may have been the final blow. The truth of that took Juju’s breath away. She couldn’t meet Erik’s eyes.
“Adonis Creed, his daddy was one of the greats apparently.” Erik continued much to Juju’s annoyance.
“What do you want me to say?” Juju snapped. She couldn’t take this passive-aggressive assault. “You didn’t get me on this plane to be mad at me. Let’s have it.”
Erik exploded as soon as he had permission, “Who is this nigga!”
“He was my only friend at the orphanage. I was a bossy little girl and I didn’t get along with the other children too well. He got into fights trying to protect me. Eventually, he was adopted and we lost touch but when he graduated from college we started speaking again.” Juju saw no reason not to tell Erik. He was already pissed at her, she’d hurt him. She hated having to open her wounds once again but whatever, right?
This was why she didn’t do relationships.
“So what you love this nigga or something?” Erik seethed with barely restrained aggression.
Juju stared Erik down, “Would it make you any happier if I said yes, here, on your families plane with no way to get home?” She challenged him further, “Would it make you happy to know that for six months I fell in love with a man that had a girlfriend and no intention of ever actually being with me?”
Some of Erik’s anger dissipated. Juju looked away as she continued, “I fell in love with him and the second I asked him to tell me he loved me back he disappeared. Told me I’d made the relationship up since he had a girl. I spent the rest of that year heartbroken, forever doubting if I actually had made something out of nothing.”
“Ju,” Erik pulled Juju into his chest. He radiated warmth and comfort and the sweet musky smell of skin. His touch soothed the familiar ache Juju felt in her chest. It’d been there ever since Donnie and that stupid heartbreaking phone call.
“The nigga played you and you blame yourself.” Erik insisted, “He was a dumbass. He is a dead man.” Juju rubbed the arm Erik had wrapped around her shoulders. Her fighter, her warrior. Always fighting her battles.
“Erik I should have known better.” Juju shook her head once. It had haunted her for years that she’d misinterpreted Donnie’s feelings. So caught up in her teenage crush she’d convinced herself that what they felt was mutual. A mistake she’d never made again.
“How old were you when this shit happened?” Erik asked suddenly.
Juju tensed up immediately, she’d been dreading this part, “Seventeen, barely.”
Erik’s fury reached new heights, “This nigga was fuckin-”
“I pushed him, Erik. You don’t know the situation. I was a different person back then.” Juju patted at Erik’s chest to get him to calm down. When their eyes met, his brown eyes were filled with not just fury but anguish.
“You were a fucking kid, you had no idea-” He cuts himself off and holds Juju closer. Juju welcomes his touch after spending the past few hours feeling and being distant from him.
Erik refuses to let go, even when Juju tries to adjust herself in her seat so the straps aren’t digging into her neck as much. Erik closes the hologram and introduces Juju to his kimoyo beads, promising to get her a pair once they land.
“Shuri invented them,” The proud, loving warmth filled his chest. It felt better than the fury and anger from before. Erik’s hurt was gone as well. It was hard for Juju to believe that the thought of her loving another man had hurt Erik so much. Did he really care about her that much? The last time she’d thought someone had truly felt something for her had ended in the worst heartbreak she’d ever experienced.
One look at Erik and Juju knows that were Erik to break her heart she’d never recover. Her love for Donnie had been a foolish kind of puppy love. It was blind and forgiving. Juju had no voice within her love for Donnie because more often than not he was the one doing all the speaking. Juju’s love for Erik is one born out of his stubborn need to be near and take care of her. Juju had never known her parents and didn’t have any childhood friends she still kept in touch with. Her only tether in life was college and Chelle.
And, somehow, now Erik.
Wakanda was a more beautiful metropolis than Juju had anticipated. Everything on the internet painted it as being the typical rustic and quaint African village of sorts. What Juju sees is a bustling city booming with people, black people, and technology she’s sure even the richest people in the world don’t have access to. When they step off the jet they’re flanked immediately by more of those bald-headed, red and gold bedecked queens. They stand tall and beautiful with spears and stoic expressions.
“Who are they?” Juju asks breathlessly. Mostly because the women truly are beautiful in a fierce, dangerous, majestic way. But also because it’s hot as hell and the air is just humid enough to make her feel like she’s swallowing the atmosphere. Thank god she’d listened to Erik. Her natural hair would have been hell to handle in this climate. A silk press would have been sweated out before Erik could have gotten to her.
“Oh, God are we on the surface of the sun?” Juju looked up at Erik with actual pain in her eyes. She’d grown up moving up and down the west coast. The heat of San Diego had nothing on this Wakandan sear starting up Juju’s back.
Erik rolled his eyes, “California girl. Bring yo’ ass on. It’s cooler in the palace.”
Juju reached for his hand on reflex, “Thank god for that-’ She paused. “Did you say palace?” Juju blinked about ten times in a row, “Palace? Erik!”
Erik beamed and his dimples came out in full force. His chest filled with that lightness Juju had come to recognize as something that only happened with her. Juju let that lightness fill her chest and passed it right back to him when she ran across the landing area to jump in his arms.
“Are you a secret prince? You’re supposed to tell a girl before you have sex with her that you’re a secret prince!” Juju couldn’t decide between squeezing him close so she could kiss his sneaky ass or throttling him with her fists for not telling her she was fucking with literal royalty.
“It ain’t a fuckin’ secret you just ain’t that observant.” Erik snapped back. He held her weight in his arms with ease. When he began walking to the palace with her still attached to him Juju shrieked and scrambled to be let down.
“Nigga are you crazy I can’t meet your family - huh!” Juju gasped, “The royal* family straddling your chest!” Juju attempted to swat at him once more but was quickly held back by the bald-headed goddesses. They moved so swiftly Juju could do nothing but swallow her fear and jump away from the spear used to keep her away from Erik.
“Oh!” Juju yelped and hopped back out of reach.
Erik’s face crumbled into a look of pure fury, “Ey, stop that shit right now. Touch her and I’ll wreck yo’ shit myself. Fuck T’Challa.” Erik stared the warrior woman down until she stepped back into formation and set her spear down.
“Come on let’s get you inside. I don’t want you in all this sun without getting something to eat and drink first.” With a hand on the small of her back, Erik led Juju into the palace from the landing area.
The instant they stepped into the palace walls they were enveloped in a cooler that felt heavenly against Juju’s hot skin. The warrior women were called the Dora Milaje and Erik dismissed them immediately. The women looked like they wanted to protest the order but instead bowed respectfully, still in formation they left Juju and Erik in a cavernous corridor.
“Now what?” Juju looked up to Erik for guidance to find him already staring at her.
“Well, we could take the tour.” Erik began, with one hand he stroked and squeezed the dip of Juju’s waist.
Juju smirked sensing the direction of his thoughts, “Or?”
Erik smiled down at her wolfishly. Juju smiled back as her heart started to race rabbit quick.
“As the not-secret prince, I’m sure you know all the good hiding spots in the palace huh?” Juju tugged at Erik’s belt loop.
Erik smirk widened and without warning, he squatted down and scooped Juju up onto his shoulders. He held her so that her side was balanced on the line of his shoulders and her stomach cupped the back of his head. He kept a grip on her thighs and took off running, leaving Juju to grip on to the hard planes of his body for dear life. Erik ran like her weight was nothing, navigating the twisting and turning corridors until he reached a quiet part of the palace with no foot traffic.
Without warning, Juju found herself on her feet when Erik set her down to open the door into what looks like a huge, multi-story library. The royal library stretched up endless with shelves of artifacts and books lined the walls. Dimly lit and obviously empty it was the perfect place for what the two of them wanted to get up to. Still, Juju couldn’t help but get distracted as she drifted inside the library after Erik.
Books were the very first thing she’d read emotionally as a child. Books had been her way of learning control. It was how she’d put a name to the desperation she’d see on the teenagers at the Home she stayed at. She could feel the fragile hope of a woman who wanted a child so badly and had exhausted every avenue she knew to get one. Those women hadn’t set up a meeting with her. Little Black girls didn’t do well in orphanages. Juju had her books though. She knew how to keep to herself and do her time.
“I wouldn’t have brought you in here if I knew you’d get so distracted.” Erik presses himself against her back, hot and hard the ridge of him presses against the thin fabric of her travel pants. Juju arches into his touch, eyes never leaving the thousands of shelves she can see and the hundreds of thousands more she probably can’t see.
“Be a better distraction then,” Juju teased.
Erik made a noise, something that sounded like, “Bet.” but Juju couldn’t hear anything once the sudden feel of his teeth on her neck snapped her out of a book-induced daze. Juju couldn’t feel anything but the sharp ache of his teeth in her neck and the intense wave of pleasure it sent to her core. Before she could collect her senses and reciprocate Erik had pushed her down roughly onto one table. With two sharp kicks, he had her feet apart. He began massaging the curve of her ass, molding and squeezing the flesh in a way that had Juju arching her back.
“Talk shit,” Erik challenged her. She could hear his fingers on his belt, she moved to pull her own pants down but Erik stopped her before she could.
“Ah ah,” With a sharp smack to one cheek Erik slapped her hands away and pinned them above her head. “Keep that shit up there and don’t move until I tell you.”
Juju moaned and nodded, beyond speech already. Only Erik could make her lose her head like this. All her other lovers had been mediocre at best. Juju usually took control, took her pleasure where she could and gave them theirs as she pleased. Erik was a different sort of lover. He took immense pride in making her cum. It was like a job for him, a duty, he couldn’t stop until she was a puddle of trembling flesh underneath him.
Once Erik had his pants down he placed his already hard cock against the fabric at her core. Juju was soaking through her panties and panting against the table in anticipation. She would take whatever he gave her at this point, already in a different headspace and floating on sensation. Rough fingers rubbed against her clit wrenching a moan out of her throat.
“Gotta be quiet baby,” Erik crooned. His touch turned softer, almost caressing. “We’re in a library.” He whispered against her ear.
Gently, slowly, Erik pulled Juju’s pants down. His other hand was still at her clit, stroking too soft to bring any relief. Juju gnawed on her lip and tried to wiggle against his touch, seeking more. She almost wished for that roughness to come back. At least then she’d get some relief. Without her permission, an impatient noise slipped out of her lips.
Erik’s punishment was instant. He smacked her bare ass cheek hard three times. Juju writhed under his touch, “AH!” She couldn’t help but cry out. Her ass stung smartly from her slaps yet Juju couldn’t focus on anything but the feeling of Erik’s fingers rubbing at her clit. Rough, quick circles from spit-slick fingers had Juju trembling on the top of the desk and shaking in her flats.
“Cum for me!” Erik demanded. Juju was obedient to a fault and fell apart under his touch instantly. Her orgasm crashed into her hard and then lingered on because Erik wouldn’t stop those maddening circles and tugs on the most sensitive part of her body. Juju couldn’t even wriggle away because Erik was now covering her back, the hot tip of his dick teasing at her entrance.
“Tell me your ready for me baby,” Erik whispered brokenly in her ear. Juju was still sobbing through an orgasm. Maybe her second? She doesn’t know she can’t remember the first one ever ending.
Slowly, Erik pressed into her and then pulled out completely. “Come on baby,” Erik kissed the back Juju’s next. He swept her locs to one side so they wouldn’t get caught underneath anything. “Tell me-”
“Please god!” Juju sobbed out, with one hand she reached back and pulled Erik’s hips toward her. Unprepared for the movement Erik can’t do anything but sink into her, to the very base of his dick. They both let out relieved moans at the hot, sweet slide of their bodies. Juju’s completely ready for him and Erik wastes no time in pushing deeper, wringing out their pleasure for as long as he can.
Erik adjusts them so that Juju’s back is flat on the table, her legs in the crook of his arms as he leans over her body so their lips can meet. It’s a position that sends every thrust to the very core of her, it has him hitting that spot every time he sinks in and Juju is a mess. She’s gone from the feel of them, the feel of him. He just fills her so completely. Juju can feel herself squeezing and flexing around him as yet another orgasm hits her.
“Yes, baby. Shit!” Erik buries his face in her neck. Juju wraps her arms around his shoulders for balance. Together they fall into a rhythm without words, punctuated by orgasm after orgasm until it’s all Juju can do to hold onto Erik. He switches the pace from long, deep strokes straight to the core of her to quick deep strokes that have her arching off the table. Her body comes alive with pleasure from his touch.
Through it all Erik speaks to her, “Fuck. Perfect baby, you’re so fucking perfect.” Juju tries once to reciprocate with a roll of her hip but Erik immobilizes her quick.
“This is gonna be over too fast if you keep that shit up,” Erik warns gruffly but not ungently. His face is soft with affection for her and his voice hoarse. In the end, Erik can’t stop her from rolling her hips into his strokes. He loses himself in her and Juju watches it all because she doesn’t want to miss a moment. There may come a time where she won’t have this. This so right meeting of their bodies won’t fucking matter once she’s back in America and once again on her own.
“Obianuju,” Erik cries urgently into Juju’s ear. He uses the grip on her legs to tilt Juju higher, opening her up to somehow deeper strokes. Juju’s eyes cross at the sensation and she cums with a shout into his neck. She clutches him to her chest while she tries to keep herself from screaming.
Erik’s doesn’t last long after that. He sinks into her one, twice, three more times before spilling himself inside her. Juju tries to remember if they used a condom. They’d been moving so fast she hadn’t remembered to ask. Juju could only think about having him inside of her. It was often like that for them back home. They got caught up in one another and moved past a few steps of the process. How had Juju allowed herself to get to this point? Unprotected sex, multiple times with a man she knew she wouldn’t be allowed to keep.
“Ndiyakuthanda, Obianuju,” Erik whispers hoarsely into Juju’s neck. “Ungandishiyi.”
Pushing at his chest Juju started to sit up. The table was hard and uncomfortable. It was slick from their sweat and stuck to her skin. Her back ached too. She felt uncomfortable and ashamed, a lot different from how she usually felt after an encounter with Erik. Worse of all was the feeling of his seed slipping down her thighs. It was the perfect way to end a regretful lack of control on Juju’s part. The uncomfortable feeling in her hips felt earned, deserved. That’s what she gets for fucking a man she planned to leave before the week was out.
“Hey,” Erik tried to tilt her chin up to look at him but Juju jerked away.
“I need to clean up before I meet your family.” Juju hopped off the table and headed towards the exit. Erik trailed after her silent, his emotions muted. They made a sad pair walking through the palace walls. Juju was being distant, Erik sensed it and allowed her space. He took her to her room and left her there with a promise to come back to take her to meet his family.
Without a glance at her surroundings, Juju locates the bed and collapses into it. In a minute she’ll get up and get in the shower. She’ll wash off all evidence of Erik. Afterward, she’ll meet his family, fall hopelessly further in love with the annoying man who’s already changed her life so much, and then go back to America. Even as Juju thinks this she knows it’s not gonna happen. She’ll get up eventually alright, but life seems much simpler swaddled in the silky soft fabric on her bed.
Maybe if she burrows into the sheets deep enough she can escape the inevitable heartbreak waiting for her at the end of this week.
All of Juju’s favorite scents are present in the luxury looking toiletries in the bathroom attached to her room. The bathtub is huge and the shower is a sleek glass and marble-paneled nirvana of water features. Juju pulls her locs into a bun on the top of her head and soaks herself in a honey and winter peach scented bath. Her skin feels soft and supple once she gets out. To seal in all that moisture Juju slathers her body in the sweet-scented lotions left for her.
It takes some time walking around her room in a thick clothed robe but eventually Juju finds what she imagines is meant to be a closet but looked more like somebody’s apartment. The closet is two stories high with a winding staircase navigating between floors. Shoes line a spinning shelf set into the back wall. Some of them even looked like shoes she’d shown Eric while window shopping on her phone.
Juju never had the money to buy everything that caught her eye but she still liked to look. Erik thought it was weird that she teased herself with things she knew she couldn’t have, but Juju didn’t see it that way. She’d spent her whole life wanting and never getting what she wanted. It was okay to want and know you wouldn’t get it.
When you’re an orphan you teach yourself to ignore the want or to embrace it.
Long, loose white linen pants hugged Juju’s curves where she wanted them to and flowed freely around her knees and calves. Royal blue patterned fabric caught her eye and Juju found herself gravitating to it instantly. It was an off the shoulder number that was cut into a short bodice around her middle and flowed into a long train at the back. More fabric in that same brilliant blue color wrapped around her shoulders and fell along her back with the train, creating a regal effect.
As Juju used jewelry to put the finishing touches on her outfit she heard a knock coming from the bedroom. She went to answer the door as quickly as she could yet Juju arrived in her bedroom just in time to see Erik letting himself in. He looked handsome in his traditional clothing. A large reptile skin trench coat hung off of his broad shoulders, showing off the keloid scars patterned on his chest. Long loose pants fell down to reveal Erik’s feet in some grandpa looking sandals.
“Okay, all due respect for your culture but what the fuck are those?” Juju pointed towards his feet with a barely restrained laugh. Her bath and the dressing process had provided the distance Juju needed to have fun in Erik’s presence. These were her final moments with him, she didn’t want the memories left behind to be tainted by her worry.
Erik rolled his eyes but couldn’t keep her favorite of his smiles off his face. This was the one that was all dimples with a hint if that cockiness that had attracted her to him from the beginning, “Yeah, yeah talk shit. My Aunty likes it when I dress traditionally at home. She thinks America is a “corrupting force”.” the love Erik felt for his aunt hit Juju right in the chest. The woman obviously meant a lot to him, Juju couldn’t wait to meet her.
Juju let his outfit pass to focus instead on the sleek looking slim box he held in his hands, “Is that for me?” Juju beamed up at him. He’d already done so much with this trip and that closet. Not to mention the two thousand that got her hair and nails done in one amazing spa-like weekend. Erik had been doing a lot for her lately, Juju couldn’t help but harbor stupid hopes that it might all mean something.
“Yeah, here.” Erik coughed and thrust the box at her before stepping back. He ran a large hand across the back of his neck and looked around Juju’s room.
Juju smile at Erik’s antics. His emotions were all in a tizzy, but she knew this gift made him nervous. She could feel his lust and a warm, almost-love like feeling. Juju absorbed these emotions guiltily before opening her gift. There, in the black box, lay a bracelet almost identical to Erik’s just smaller, meant for a woman’s wrist. The small black beads had the same white markings. When Juju held the box out to him Erik took her cue and held it while she put the bracelet on. He showed her how to voice activate it, how to access her contacts and make calls, and best of, he showed her how to easily get ahold of him.
“This is really advanced,” Juju looked at the beads in awe, “You’re saying your cousin made this?”
Erik nodded proudly, “She’s always upgrading them too. Your’s is newer than mine.” Erik trapped her fingers between his and began tugging her towards the door. “C’mon. I have more to show you before we meet up with my family.”
Erik led Juju out of her room and gave her the best tour she’d ever had. As Prince, he knew not only the historical significance of why a window was shaped a certain way or the placement of the palace garden. He also knew all the fun stuff a tour guide would never show you. It was fun running around a real royal palace, with Erik especially. He was so athletic that when Juju’s slow but started to lag behind he just picked her up and carried her. Her feet didn’t touch the ground for an hour.
Juju knew that, as a prince, Erik was a whole other category of out of her league. But the revelation didn’t change how she felt about him, and it didn’t change how much fun she had with him. After the palace tour, they took a walk through the great market where Erik and his cousin, the future king of Wakanda, would play together instead of going to their lessons.
“So you were a bad little boy too, huh?” Juju poked at Erik’s chest as he finished up a story about the time his Uncle had to save him from the wrath of a young rhino.
“Nah,” Erik lied through his teeth with a dimpled smile, “I was a delight. You’d have loved me.”
“I love you as you are now,” Juju whispered. Her voice was lost in the call of a Dora Milaje from across the market. Perfect fucking timing. Juju gritted her teeth and tried to keep a sour look off her face. Serves her right. She should have known better than to blurt something so dangerous out loud like that.
If Erik knew, if Erik found out how she felt he’d never let her leave. He’d fight her on every reason she gave as to why they couldn’t be together. In the few stories he told Juju about his childhood, he’d told her about his parents twice. Star-crossed lovers, he’d called them with a big sneer on his face. His eyes told Juju a different story. His father had to choose his country or Erik’s mother because Wakanda didn’t let in outsiders. He’d chosen his mother.
How dare Erik be so fucking amazing? Erik believed in true love, she could see it in the way he talked about his parents even though it hurt him since they were both gone. If Erik knew she loved him he’d never let her go, and one day she’d lose him.
“Your Highness,” the warrior greets. It isn’t the same woman who’d defended Erik against Juju in the landing area, but this woman was just as beautiful. “The Queen requests your presence for lunch in the palace.”
Erik sighs, “Can it wait?”
The Dora broke her stoic expression to cock one eyebrow at her prince. It was then that Juju noticed how different her armor was from the other warrior women. She must be an officer or leader. Whatever she was, she and Erik had more of a relationship than just prince and royal warrior. It was platonic, with Erik in the role of the bratty little brother.
“The Queen told me that if lunch didn’t work for you she’d be happy to schedule a breakfast and invite the leaders of the other-“
Erik interrupted the warrior woman, “I can’t do shit I want around here!” Juju tried not to snicker as Erik whined, sounding more like a spoiled little boy than the grown man he actually was. Over his shoulder, the Dora warrior rolled her eyes but Juju could see the woman wanted to laugh. She could feel her amusement tickling around her stomach. Feeling the Dora warrior’s amusement mixed with Juju’s own causing her to giggle before she could stop herself.
Of course, the second sound left her mouth Erik’s focus returned to her. “You cool with heading back?” Such a good host. He didn’t want to ruin her fun. But Juju was eager to meet his family. He loved them so much she could feel it and she wanted to explore it. She wanted to see what it’s like to have a family you loved that way.
Juju shrugs, “I was getting hungry anyway.” She smiled up at Erik’s pouting face. Such a big baby, “You can show me more of Wakanda after lunch right?” When her spoiled prince rolled his eyes and smacked his teeth Juju tugged on Erik’s arm until he fell into step beside her. Together they walked back to the palace with the Dora Milaje trailing behind them.
Lunch required an outfit change, the Dora Milaje insisted on it and Erik explained quickly the reason before Juju could assume the bald-headed beauty was shaming her outfit. They did multiple outfit changes because the younger Royals preferred comfortable, modern clothes while the Queen and other tribe leaders preferred the traditional clothing of their forefathers. It was easier to switch in and out of outfits than have either party feeling uncomfortable.
Juju appreciated the cultural clue-in and didn’t have a problem with anything that allowed her to wear as much as the wardrobe Erik had bought her as possible. It was unlikely she’d ever wear such fine fabric or well-made garments. When she was eventually gone she couldn’t take any of the beautiful clothes with her.
Lunch with the Queen meant traditional Wakandan threads that Juju needed help getting herself into. The Dora Milaje Erik stationed outside her door claimed that adjusting buttons and pulling zippers wasn’t her job. But she did call another servant to come up and help Juju dress. The girl turned out to be pretty good at hair too and helped Juju arrange her locs in a way that hopefully looked good enough for a queen.
By the time Erik and the high ranking Dora from earlier arrived to escort Juju to lunch, she’d been laced up, spritzed, and showered with jewels. Juju thought the jewelry was too much, she wasn’t trying to look better than the queen just impress her. No matter how temporary Juju knew her relationship with Erik was she still wanted the Queen to like her. The servant girl had insisted, since she wore the deep blue of the Merchant Tribe she had to “bling out”, her words, to show respect.
“Damn, baby!” Erik approached Juju in the hallway. A long, deep gold dress like shirt hid the hard muscular angles of his body from her view but no amount of fabric could contain how swole Erik actually was. Those ugly grandpa sandals were back but Juju didn’t mind them as much. His dreads no longer hung free but were instead braided neatly back. The style allowed her to see the beautiful chocolate of his eyes. Juju had the sudden urge to kiss the fine man before her so she stood up on tip-toe and pecked his lips.
The Dora Milaje that had been walking with him cleared her throat quietly and stepped back into a shadow unseen. Wow, talk about royal service.
Erik’s hands found Juju’s hip through all the fabric with ease, “Man if my Aunty wasn’t waiting on us…” He shook his head as his eyes undressed Juju with his hungry brown eyes.
Juju pretended to wipe off a loose thread from his shoulders. The garment was way too well made for loose threads but it was easier to look at imaginary thread than meet Erik’s eyes while he showered her with praise. He did this often, gas her up before they went out. It felt different than what she and Chelle did for a party. His words made her cheeks heat and her face hurt from smiling.
While avoiding Erik’s beautiful eyes Juju locked eyes with one of the Dora Milaje. It was the high ranking one again. The woman stared at them blankly. There wasn’t judgment in her eyes or anything it was like she was looking through them. Yet Juju caught her eye over Erik’s shoulder and it felt like the woman knew her. Juju searched her feelings and came up with nothing of use.
Irrationally Juju worried if the woman saw her for the fraud she was. Impossible of course. Still, the knowing in her distant gaze unnerved her. It was with great relief the Juju followed after Erik and the Dora Milaje as the trio made their way to lunch. At the back of their, group Juju was left to her thoughts.
What would these people think of her when she left? Would they hate her? Would they be happy she was gone, away from their prince and by extension their King?
Erik walked ahead of her chattering along, oblivious to the paranoia that gripped Juju. It was clear to her now, coming here had been a mistake. It was bad enough, coming here with a heart set on leaving. She was already going to hell for that. But Juju hadn’t even thought about his family or the people around Erik. If she left, it wouldn’t just be Erik she left. She’d be leaving his whole family with the memory of her
“Shuri, behave.” A woman’s melodic voice carried to Juju and Erik as they entered the Queen’s own personal garden for lunch.
Queen Ramonda was a sight to behold among the flora and greenery. Atop her head sat a large, ornate headpiece. All of her hair was hidden behind the headpiece allowing an uninterrupted view of the glowing brown skin of her décolletage. She looks regal, like no matter when or where she’d been born she was always born to be a queen.
Next to her sat a reedy girl with intelligent brown eyes and a wide, smiling mouth. Tiny individual braids had been twisted and arranged into an elegant yet simple do. Tiny white jewels glinted among the dark brown braids. When she grinned her face turned into a mess of lines, brown eyes disappeared completely. It was a cheesy grin Juju was more accustomed to seeing on Erik. He didn’t grin often, but when he did his eyes were lost in a sea of lines and dimples.
It made Juju’s heart hurt to see that smile reflected in the young girl before her. The girl was young, a lot younger than Juju had been expecting Erik’s beloved cousin to be. When she and Erik walked into sight the young girl’s eyes lit up like Christmas lights.
“N’Jadaka!” Shuri cried. Ignoring her mother’s restraining look, the young girl threw herself at her cousin.
Erik’s answering smile was identical. With ease, he scooped up his young cousin and spun her around in his arms. “Damn girl you gettin’ big! Gonna have to start picking me up soon.”
As Queen Ramonda watched her daughter and nephew reunited a maternal warmth hit Juju right in the heart. A familial glow of love and contentment connected the three royals. Juju felt like a fourth, unneeded wheel while the cousins reunited but Queen Ramonda didn’t allow that for long.
“Shuri,” the Queen drawled in warning.
With a sigh, the young genius extricated herself from her cousin’s grip and then turned to stare at Juju appraisingly as she walked back to her seat next to her mother. Erik pulled Juju’s chair out for her across from the queen and the moved around the table before he could take his own seat next to her across from Shuri.
“Hey, Aunty.” Erik ducked to kiss the older woman on the cheek. As regally as Juju had ever seen, Queen Ramonda allowed and returned Erik’s greeting. As soon as her nephew was seated her eyes turned hard and her lips turned down.
“‘Hey Aunty’,” the Queen scoffed. Her imitation of Erik’s California accent needed work, but her inflection was dead on. Erik ducked his head sheepishly.
“You don’t write, you don’t call.” Queen Ramonda fixed her nephew with a narrowed stare, “I know you N’Jadaka so I know your studies can’t be so consuming that you cannot call your only Aunty.” Jesus and Juju had thought Chelle was great at guilt. Queen Ramonda had obviously taken royal lessons on laying on guilt as thick as wet cement.
Erik winced, “Aunt-“
“Eh eh.” Queen Ramonda cut him off.
“And you,” her eyes cut to Juju. “Do you not greet your elders when entering a room?”
“Yes, I do ma’am— er Your Highness,” Juju answered as if she were standing in front of Chelle’s mom. Queen Ramonda had the same intense feminine energy. She suspected Erik got his intensity from her.
“N’Jadaka are you not going to introduce the girl?” Queen Ramonda looks up at her nephew expectantly.
“Umama please,” Shuri buried her hands in her face, the picture of teenage misery. The young girl, a preteen at most, looked mortified.
Juju gave her a small smile, she could remember being that embarrassed a lot at that age, but she’d never been embarrassed by a parent or relative before. It showed that Ramonda cared. She wanted to hear from her nephew, the woman worried about him the way she might worry about her own children were they not in the same country as her. After hearing about the loss of his parents Juju was happy Erik had someone who loved him so much.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Your Highness. My name is Obianuju.“
The Queen’s eyes widened, “Your parents must have dearly loved you.” She smiled at Juju warmly, all the early harshness at her nephew already forgotten.
“N’Jadaka won’t you serve the girl? Lunch has been graciously prepared for us it would be a sin to Bast to let it go to waste.” Queen Ramonda clucked at her nephew until he sprung into action. He loaded Juju’s plate full of fresh fruit, warm bread, and a sticky looking rice that smelled amazing to Juju’s nose. He served her first before serving himself. Across from them, the Queen did the same the thing for her and Shuri. Through all this, the Queen never stopped talking to Juju.
“Your name is so lovely.” Queen Ramonda twirled a ring on one long, graceful finger, “Why do you shorten it to something so…” the Queen’s nose wrinkled, “Undignified. You dear are worthy of a name like yours when not many are.”
“Aunty she just likes to be called Juju, it’s not that deep.” Erik, who Juju was going to call N’Jadaka as soon as she could, spoke up from his end of the table with Shuri.
The Queen sighed as if Juju going by a nickname was a great shame. Juju felt guilt, a feeling she was familiar with but not under these circumstances, clog her throat. She wanted the Queen to like her. Juju liked her very much. She wanted that same maternal love and attention she’d felt for Erik and Shuri to be felt for her so desperately.
“You can call my Obianuju, Your Highness. I go by Juju because it’s easier for people to pronounce.” Juju explained.
The Queen shook her royal head from side to side, “You let these people tell you your name?”
Juju had always seen the shortening of her name as inevitable. No one pronounced her name right so it seemed easier to change it to something easier. When the Queen put the situation in a different perspective Juju found it hard to remember why changing her name had been the right thing. Why was she changing her name for other people? Chelle had never had a problem saying her name, neither had Erik. When Queen Ramonda said her name it sounds like music.
Why had she changed her name?
“No, ma’am.” Obianuju finally answered.
Lunch with the royal family was nothing Obianuju had expected. Princess Shuri was hyper-intelligent and silly, a mix that reminded Obianuju that despite Shuri’s intelligence she was still in some ways a child. Queen Ramonda doted on her daughter and nephew. When Prince T’Challa, back from an overseas engagement, joined them at the end of their lunch Obianuju saw that love and concern turned onto him as well.
The royal family was close-knit, the kind of family Juju had yearned for as a little black girl wasting away in an orphanage. T’Challa and Erik had a deep, brotherly affection for one another that they expressed in different ways. Unlike his mother and cousin, T’Challa was cool-headed and soft-spoken. He showed his concern by genuinely asking about you and then listening to you as you spoke. Erik showed his love and concern by picking and annoying you while also helping you out at the same time.
Despite the differences in temperament T’Challa and Erik spoke the same language when they got together.
Shuri and Queen Ramonda brushed off the intense conversation happening between the two men and instead focused on Obianuju. They asked her about her studies, her future plans, past boyfriends. Shuri was disappointed to know that her cousin was as close to a boyfriend Obianuju would ever have. When Obianuju said that Queen Ramonda’s gaze turned assessing.
“My father won’t be able to get away from work today but he wants to see you.”
T’Challa’s words silenced the whole table. Queen Ramonda and Shuri, who’d been debating with Obianuju in the middle over how young was too young to allow a girl access to explosives, shut up and tuned in. Out of curiosity, Obianuju shut up and listened in too.
Tension. Erik’s body was a long, bulky line of tension. Obianuju could see it in his shoulders and the tight clenching of his fists. His feelings were a messy jumble of anger, hurt, and a weak love. As if Erik’s heart was so dominated by the other emotions that he couldn’t feel anything else properly. His family all felt guilty and Obianuju wondered why. What was she missing as the outsider?
“Alright,” Erik spoke blandly. Everyone around the table relaxed in a noticeable way.
T’Challa gave his cousin a long look. If Obianuju had to use any words to describe T’Challa’s eyes she’d start at kind, warm, welcoming, and on and on. Every synonym she could think of. When he looked at Erik those eyes became understanding but stubborn. Obianuju could feel how much the other man loved his cousin. Which is why T’Challa winced as he opened his mouth again. As if he knew Erik’s reaction to his words and didn’t want to say them but he was gonna say them anyway.
“Do you think you can go see him? It’s been a while si-“
“Yeah and who ta’ fucks at fault for that shit? I don’t owe that nigga anything!” Erik stood from the table in a rage, knocking over delicate glass and study wooden plates.
Obianuju’s heart pounded at the sudden movement. The rest of the royal family was less surprised at his outburst but Queen Ramonda shot him a pointed glare. Erik sighed in frustration an ran a hand across the braided locs on his head.
“I’m sorry I talked like that in front of you, Aunty, but if that nigga wants to talk he can come to me.” Erik reached and grabbed Obianuju hand, waiting for her to stand up and leave with him. Obianuju didn’t hesitate, she could feel his hurt, she wanted to be there for him.
As soon as she stood up Erik began tugging down the winding path out of the garden to the palace. Before he could completely tow her away Obianuju turned back to a pitiful looking royal family and offered a weak smile, “It was really nice meeting all of y-” It was all she could get out before Erik pulled her completely out of sight.
That night, Erik fucked Obianuju in a way he’d never done before. Erik had been rough before, but that had nothing to do with the animal he unleashed as soon as they were behind closed doors. There was no tapping out for her, no breaks, and no slowing down. All she could do was hold on to Erik as tight as she could until he fucked them both towards exhaustion.
“I’ve been thinking,” Erik’s hoarse voice sounded quiet in the sudden silence. It had been so loud before with the sound of flesh slapping flesh and Obianuju’s desperate pleas. Now they lay in a sweaty heap, so close together their bodies were one sweat-soaked form on the soft sheets.
“Hmm, that’s not good,” Obianuju spoke with her eyes closed. She wasn’t asleep just yet. But another couple minutes of silence and she’d have been out like a light. Sex with Erik always exhausted her.
Erik reached over and tugged on the tip of her nose for the comment, “Smartass.” Obianuju giggled into his shoulder.
Once she settled he tried again. “I’ve been thinking about what you told me on the plane. I was thinking,” Erik cleared his throat, stalling. Obianuju waited patiently for him to continue. Her fingers found a way to his dreads and she stroked his scalp.
“We were just fucking around before, on campus. I know I said I wanted us to be undefined but…” The silence between them stretched thick like taffy. Obianuju couldn’t even breathe through it. What was Erik saying?*
“I’ve been thinking more and more how you’re like nobody I’ve ever met before. You got me all possessive and shit when I’ve never really cared about women except my Aunty and Shuri.” Erik continued, “Bringing you here, I tried to tell myself it’s because I didn’t want you on your own on a campus filled with crazy niggas but that ain’t the truth.”
Erik shifted so they could look into each other’s eyes. Obianuju couldn’t focus on anything but the pounding of her heartbeat in her ears and the dark brown of Erik’s eyes. He was wide open to her, his emotions laid bare on his face. Obianuju didn’t need to read him and she couldn’t if she tried her focus was shot all to hell.
“Fuck, I’m fuckin bad at this,” Erik growled out in frustration. He ran a hand down his face roughly. “What I’m fucking trying to say is that I want you to be my girl. I want you to stop running away and shit. I want to be official.” Erik got the words out though it looked like it just about killed him. Brown, hopeful eyes stared up at her.
Obianuju couldn’t let him down with those eyes staring up at her like she held his world in her hands. She couldn’t drag this out for another week. Erik didn’t deserve that and neither did his family. Obianuju felt words gather at the back of her throat, cutting off the air in the room and making it extremely hard to swallow. God, she was such a fucking coward. How dare she think she could put this off for a week.
“Let me get something out of my bag,” Obianuju croaked out of dry lips. Erik allowed her to get up reluctantly. Thankfully he’d dragged her back to her own room which meant her bags were nearby. Perfect for what she was about to do.
“So am I gonna get an answer…” Erik drawled like the spoiled prince he was. He’d probably never had to wait for anything in his entire life. Obianuju would make him wait longer if her already shaking hands didn’t make it hard enough to locate what she was looking for.
Obianuju’s hands find the box so she quickly tries to hide it behind her back and return to the bed. Her thighs stick together as she moves, they’d forgotten a condom again. When she got back to the states Obianuju needed to see a doctor as soon as possible. The last thing she wanted was an accident binding her to this man forever. If they decided to be together it would be because he wanted her not because she was carrying his baby.
“Here,” Obianuju thrust the box at Erik with no fanfare. The gift was simple, it would never compare to anything he’d gotten in his life as a prince so Obianuju didn’t try. All she could do was her best. Erik seemed to like her best.
Erik’s eyes widened at the sight of the gift. He even hesitated to take it from her when she held it out to him. When his fingers closed around the box Obianuju tried not to watch him expectantly.
“Two thousand dollars was way more than I needed to get my hair done so I used the rest on this.” Obianuju rambled. Erik moved too slowly for her nerves so without waiting for him she whipped the top off the box, revealing a dark ring inside. Obianuju could feel his confusion although Erik kept the emotion off of his face out of politeness.
“It’s a heartbeat ring,” Obianuju once again couldn’t wait for Erik to move. He was so still, studying her and the ring with dark intelligent eyes that made her feel bare. Yes, she was naked but Obianuju was often naked around Erik. The nakedness his eyes made her feel had more to do with her emotions. It had been a long time since she’d felt something so intensely for a man, the emotions brought up all kinds of awful memories of Donnie and that phone call.
She slid the ring on his ring finger on his right hand, neutral territory in her mind, “I have a similar one. It lets you feel your partners heartbeat and you can even save heartbeats if you want to.” The gift had come to her during one of their late nights together. Erik was an octopus when he slept. He sprawled all over her and then his arms turned into vices if she tried to wiggle away. Without fail though, no matter their position in bed, Erik’s head always found a way to rest on her chest, right above her heart. It was his favorite place to lay and Obianuju could admit she loved it too.
When then her heartbeat started up against Erik’s finger his eyes lit up, “That’s dope!” He laughed excitedly watching the tiny device in awe. He turned to her expectantly, “You said you got yourself one too? Let me see.”
Obianuju let Erik’s excitement fill her with energy as she hopped off the bed to once again search through her bag. She returned to bed with her ring and together she and Erik bowed their heads over the little devices. Erik placed her ring on her ring finger, left hand. Dangerous territory. Immediately Obianuju pulled away. She shut down her emotions, shut down the part of her that yearned to be with this man who’d begun loving her so openly so fast.
Obianuju knew Erik was in love with her. She’d tried to fight it, ignore it even. It was stupid to fall in love, she’d learned that lesson well. Loving Donnie had destroyed her and the way she felt about Erik was ten times stronger than that. Who knew what losing Erik would do to her. Obianuju couldn’t take the risk of giving herself over to this man and losing everything within her in the process.
“Erik…we should talk.” Obianuju started, head down and eyes closed. She could only do this if she didn’t look at him. Against her finger, Erik’s heart skipped a beat. In her own chest, she could feel the storm of his emotions roiling. Anger, frustration, love, that stupid love, and hurt. Erik wasn’t an idiot, he knew what was coming.
“If the next words coming out of your mouth aren’t ‘Erik, I love you.’ You can fucking keep that shit.” His face was a steel wall of blankness. Hard and unreadable. When he looked at her his brown eyes lacked all warmth. It was for the best, if he looked at her lovingly she’d lose her nerve.
“You know you’re my best friend.” Obianuju tried. Erik shook his head violently before pushing his way out of her bed.
“I’ve really enjoyed spending time with you and I don’t want to lose our friendship over some sex.” Obianuju let the poisonous words roll out of her mouth with only one thought in mind. Save him, save him from yourself.
Erik pulled his pants up roughly, “I don’t need to hear that shit from you, Juju.”
“Erik you said you were fine with us being undefined. I made you no promises.” Obianuju felt adrift on the massive bed. Erik might as well have been another country he was so far out of reach. She couldn’t even really feel his emotions anymore as he closed himself off to her.
Erik’s eyes blazed with fire when he turned to look at her, “Stop saying that shit! Stop talking as if all I was to you was some dick.”
“Erik you were my frie-”
“See this is why I don’t do more than one night with niggas. This is exactly why.” Obianuju crossed her arms across her chest.
Erik was still shirtless, still furious. “No Obianuju, you’re wrong. This has nothing to do with sex. This has nothing to do with your stupid rules and whatever reason you can make up to keep yourself from me.” Erik abandoned looking for his shirt, it was lost in the debris of blankets and fabric from their mad dash to the bed early on. Had it really only been two hours ago? The man in front of her was unfamiliar, a stranger compared to the man who had carried her into the room bridal style.
“Erik,” Obianuju called to his retreating back. She should just let him leave. She’d gotten what she wanted he was sick of her. There was no way he’d want to be with her after tonight.
He paused at her door with his back still to her. The silence between them didn’t last for long, “Don’t take it personal. You’re not the first guy to misinterpret my feelings.”
The blow hit them both in the chest. It winded them and created a gaping hole in their hearts. Erik turned to look at her, Obianuju flinched instinctively. Erik had never looked at her that way before. She was an asshole she knew, a bitch, a fucking user. But Erik looked at her as if he’d trusted her to catch him and she’d let him fall. The betrayal was absolute and Obianuju felt as if she’d suffocate under it.
Erik gave her one long, last look and then left without a word. Against her finger, his heartbeat started up a rapid rhythm. She could hear thunderous crashing outside her door. Screams and pounding footsteps as servants hurried to escape Erik’s wrath. Obianuju was left adrift in the aftermath of the hurricane she’d created. She didn’t know what to do, where to go. Erik couldn’t possibly want her to stay around. She needed to get dressed and get out of here.
Life without Erik was colorless, grey. Food lost taste and what Obianuju did eat she couldn’t keep down. She was back in America now, living in her apartment and wandering campus like a ghost. Chelle was still with her parents. New Years had come and gone but classes didn’t start back up for another week. Obianuju was well and truly alone, just like she’d always wanted. The victory felt bittersweet.
When school was back in session the gray never really went away from Obianuju’s vision. She ate lunch with Chelle and went to class but all her energy was sapped. Michael returned to school but gave her a wide berth. He looked skinny and skittish, Erik must have really fucked him up. Chad became a fixture in her life through Chelle. Seems like her best friend was finally letting those light-brite niggas go and focusing on a black man that can actually appreciate her.
Chad and Chelle were cute but it became clear soon enough that Obianuju’s moping was cramping their honeymoon period.
“Okay bitch, you need to get it together.” Chelle greeted Obianuju that morning in the cafeteria. It was the first week of February and everyone had a hard-on for Valentine’s Day. Obianuju wasn’t in the mood for all that lovey-dovey crap but she would be taking advantage of the sale on chocolate the day after the cursed holiday. She’d been craving sweets like crazy lately, it was starting to show around her middle.
“Get what together?” Obianuju answered dryly around a piece of lettuce. She’d made kimchi in bulk after returning from Wakanda. She had two more tubs to get through before the semester ended.
Chelle looked disgusted, “Firstly, ew,” Chelle took a second to flip her hair over her shoulder. The weave was new. Obianuju wondered when her friend stopped wearing wigs, “Second, this moping shit has got to stop. It’s been a month.”
Obianuju shrugged, “I’m not moping. This is just me now.” A piece of fermented lettuce fell from her chopstick and made a red, angry stain on her hoodie. Well, Erik’s hoodie. When returning all his stuff to his apartment she’d accidentally on purpose forgot to include the hoodie with the rest of his things. The sight of the stain sent tears to her eyes. It would come out in the wash, she knew it, but the sight of the stain was like the culmination of her life for the last few weeks. A stain, an unwanted mark on the fabric that was her life.
Chelle saw the tears before they fell, “See, this, this is what I’m talking about. You’re a mess, Juju!” With quick fingers, Chelle produced a napkin to dab away the wetness in Obianuju’s eyes.
Obianuju was a mess. She was a complete and utter mess who missed a man who was never her boyfriend and hated another man for scaring her so completely. She’d been too young when she fell in love with Donnie. The heartbreak had scarred her. Now she was without Erik and life didn’t even feel right. She’d been going through the motions for weeks waiting for the moment that things went back to how they used to be but…that hadn’t happened yet.
Obianuju sniffled, “I don’t know what to do,” She sobbed. Chelle startled at the sound and cast a worried glance around the cafeteria to make sure no one was watching them.
“Can’t you tell me what happened? You left for two days and came back before Christmas. You didn’t tell me anything in your texts.” Chelle rubbed at Obianuju’s hand while the woman tried to get herself together. She wasn’t one for public outbursts, she usually had more control over her emotions than that. Of course, the time she’d had control over her emotions was around the same time she’d had control over her powers.
Obianuju hadn’t felt anyone else’s emotion in weeks. It had started with Erik shutting her out but because of the breakup, Obianuju hadn’t realized she couldn’t read everyone else the way she usually could. It wasn’t until she went to a party, well, until she was forced to go to a party by Chelle.
The room didn’t energize her. She couldn’t feel the hive mind of excitement and bad decisions that usually made up the emotional tone at a party. Instead, she felt lonely as Chelle and Chad danced on one another. And then she’d felt tired from the crush of the bodies the loud music and all the guys trying to talk to her.
Well and truly over dating, Obianuju hadn’t slept with another man but Erik since their split. No one before him had ever made her feel the way he did in bed and Obianuju wasn’t interested in anyone else so it didn’t matter.
“I hurt him, Chelle. I hurt him to protect him from the inevitability of our relationship crashing and burning.” Obianuju tried to stop the tears but they kept coming. She couldn’t stop sobbing brokenly.
Chelle tried her best to protect her from nosy eyes but out in the open in the cafeteria the way they were there was no hiding, no protection. Which is why it shouldn’t have surprised her at all when Chad appeared like a knight in shining armor to escort them to his apartment. Obianuju had stopped sobbing at least, but she still sniffled and wiped away the occasional tear. When they arrived at Chad’s house he sat Obianuju on the couch and then disappeared into the kitchen.
Once they were alone Chelle pointed a finger at Obianuju, “Okay bitch who are you and what did you do with my best friend?”
Obianuju sniffed quietly, “I don’t know what to do Chelle. I thought I was doing the right thing. Why do I feel worse without him?”
Chelle rolled her eyes and then shoved Obianuju out of her way to sit on the couch. Despite her attitude, Chelle quickly pulled Obianuju into a hug and began stroking her hair. She’d taken the locs out as soon as she could justify and hadn’t done much to her hair since. Obianuju didn’t feel like looking good and she had no one she wanted to look good for. Her hair had seen little attention since her return from Wakanda.
Chelle sighed and patted her back. Then, once Obianuju had let her guard down, Chelle thunked her on the forehead with her finger. “You dumb bitch.”
Obianuju smacked her friend in retaliation and rubbed at the sore spot on her head, “Ow! Chelle that was uncalled for.”
“No! It wasn’t!” Chelle countered, “I should pop yo ass again because I told you! I told you. Didn’t I tell you?” Chelle was off the couch now. No longer a source of comfort she was a reality check. She pointed at Obianuju and looked through her eyes straight to her soul.
“I told you to stop actin’ scary and pursue that man.” Chelle counted off two fingers, “I told you to tell him how you felt instead of pushing him away, “ another finger counted, “ And then I told you how dumb it was to go to that man’s country and break up with him in front of his family. Did I not?” Chelle looks down at Obianuju expectantly.
Obianuju sighed. “Yes-”
Chelle plowed on before Obianuju could even finish the word, “Then what do you go do? You go and get your heart broken over a nigga that has shown you he wants you. He showed you Juju. Do you know how jealous I was that you had a fine ass nigga you didn’t even want begging for your time and attention?” Chelle’s voice cracked. Obianuju looked up at her friend in alarm.
Obianuju opened her mouth to apologize but Chelle stopped her with a wave of her hand, “Don’t apologize I’m over that shit but still. You had it good and you ruined it. Only thing you can do now is move forward.”
Obianuju mulled her friends' words over in her head. Chelle was right. She was moping for no reason. Erik had wanted her, all of her, and she’d been the fool to push him away and let all that go. It was gone now, she’d had her time to mourn it was time to focus on getting her shit together. She’d had a life before Erik why was she acting like she couldn’t have a life after him?
After that day Obianuju worked harder to recreate life from the ashes she’d been wallowing in. First things first she turned in her living arrangements paperwork early. She was rooming on her own next year. It was her senior year, perfect time for her to get used to being on her own. Next, she cleaned out all the junk food she’d been snacking on in her misery and replaced it with fruit and vegetables. Time to get rid of her breakup weight.
Obianuju participated in class again. She actually spent time with her roommates where she didn’t refer to them collectively as Jessica and they didn’t ask ignorant questions about her blackness. Life wasn’t good, but she was living it, which is more than Obianuju could say she was doing before.
February came and went. March followed and before Obianuju knew it she was sitting in the doctor’s office in April. Praying that against all odds that her stupidity hadn’t once again, caught up with her. She’d been so stupid. So heartbroken after returning to Wakanda that she didn’t remember to go to the doctor as soon as she got back. Obianuju could have nipped this in the bud then, back in late January where all she wanted to do was shave her head and change her name to Simone.
Taking care of her possible problem would have been easier when all she wanted to do was destroy everything that tied her to Erik. Of course, there was no guarantee she would have taken care of it. She still had the kimoyo beads Erik gave her. They sat right next to the heartbeat ring she still held on to in remembrance of him. It hurt her heart too much to wear it and she couldn’t justify throwing away such an expensive gift just because she no longer wanted to be so connected to the other user.
When the doctor entered, face grim, Obianuju felt as if her heart dropped from underneath her. She wasn’t pregnant. Of course, she wasn’t pregnant. It had just been wishful thinking on her part. Obianuju swallowed her disappointment, of course, she wasn’t pregnant.
“You’re further along than we estimated. Mostly due to the fact that you’re not at an appropriate weight for a woman carrying twins.” The doctor squinted down at his chart, “Ms…Obi-yan-juju?”
Obianuju ignored the butchering of her name, “Are you saying I’m pregnant?”
The doctor squinted at her instead of the page. Pale blue eyes looking almost clear in the fluorescent lighting “Well, of course, I thought you knew. You’re almost past the first trimester. Now usually…”
His words became a dull roar as Obianuju’s mind snagged on the word ‘twins’. She felt so many emotions at once. Mainly, relief. She’d felt off for a few weeks now. At first, she’d chalked it up to her mourning period still lingering. Yet instead of dissipating once she was back into a groove the symptoms worsened. Of course, she was underweight for a pregnant woman, she hadn’t known she was pregnant!
She left the appointment with a prescription for prenatal vitamins and a thick packet of information that rivaled some of her textbooks. Obianuju had nowhere to turn to next, no one she wanted to call. Except for one person that is.
It had been months now, would he even want to see her. Obianuju didn’t let herself dwell on the thought. It didn’t matter if he wanted to see her. She was pregnant with his babies, and whether he wanted to be in their life or not Obianuju didn’t care. She just knew he deserved to know.
With her prescription clutched in one hand and her cell phone clutched in the other, Obianuju plotted the best way to tell Erik she was carrying his babies. She couldn’t bring up their falling out, her feelings for him, or anything that might take away from the fact that they were going to be parents.
Obianuju decided she wanted to keep them almost before she’d had their existence confirmed. She’d always wanted to be a mother. This was significantly fast forwarding the usual timeline of things, but Obianuju didn’t mind.
Her babies were wanted, loved already and she knew nothing about them. Whether their father wanted anything to do with them, or her, was the question.
Erik was a difficult mother fucker to lock down. It baffled her that going to the same school as the man and dating him for almost three months gave her less than zero to go on when it came to finding him. It didn’t help that, with her pregnancy, Obianuju had to make the necessary arrangements to take defer school for a year to take care of her kids. She only had a semester of classes to go to get her degree. She wasn’t due until after summer which meant she could finish out this year, have her babies, and be back for her last semester without having to miss a beat.
She hadn’t told anyone about her pregnancy except Chelle. Which of course meant the whole school knew. If Obianuju didn’t truly love that woman like a sister she would have been dropped her as a friend. As it was Obianuju was cursing the woman’s name when Michael tried to corner her in the quad in early May. He wasn’t as skinny as he’d been when he returned to school. He was still skittish though, would likely remain skittish for the rest of his life. Obianuju wondered what Erik did to him.
“Is it true?” Michael appeared out of nowhere and matched pace with her. His presence surprised her so much she felt a flash surprise go through her.
Obianuju rolled her eyes, “Is what true Michael?”
“You’re pregnant? I heard you’re pregnant and I wanted-”
“It’s not yours so don’t worry.” Obianuju made to walk around him but Michael jogged to get in her way again. She shot him a look that could melt metal when he stopped her. It was buffalo wing day in the cafeteria and he was in her way. There were very few people who could stop her on her pursuit of food and Michael was not one of them.
“If it was you know I’d do the right thing right?” Michael rubbed at the back of his neck. Obianuju stared at him as if he were paint drying on a wall. Is this what he’d stopped her for?
“Michael you don’t have to worry about doing the right thing because it’s not, yours! If it was yours we wouldn’t even be having this conversation right now.” Obianuju tried to circle around him but Michael was quicker. He didn’t block her this time, just kept pace slightly in front of her. He walked backward and a mean part of Obianuju wanted him to trip over his own two feet.
“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Michael asked heatedly.
Obianuju couldn’t read his emotions, she didn’t even bother trying now used to her ability not working. “It means that when we had sex I made sure there was a condom, every time. And if a mistake-”
“Hold up ‘mistake’?” Michael looks genuinely hurt.
“Yes, Michael a ‘mistake’. Because having a baby with you would be a mistake. You’re clingy and needy and you don’t know when ‘no’ means ‘no’. I told you over and over that we weren’t together yet it wasn’t until Erik put the fear of God in you that you left me alone.” Obianuju could see the cafeteria in the distance and didn’t wait for Michael to answer her back as she sidestepped him for good and started down the path to the cafeteria.
She entered the cafeteria, grabbed a plate and tray, and stood in line. It was lunch hour for everyone with a morning class and teachers and students alike filled the queue. Obianuju shifted from foot to foot impatiently. She had to go apartment hunting after this. Then it was to the yoga studio downtown for an interview. Her fingers twisted the kimoyo beads on her wrist distractedly. Obianuju hadn’t been without them since her doctor’s appointment confirming her pregnancy.
The weight of the bracelet soothed her, it made her feel close to him even though she was sure he’d never want to be with her after the way she treated him. The heartbeat ring was back on her finger too. The recording of his heartbeat allowed her to pretend he was with her, with them. The babies inside her may not know they didn’t have a father waiting to meet them once they were born but she did. It probably wasn’t healthy but Obianuju didn’t care. This was how she coped.
The line moved at a glacial pace. Obianuju bit at her bottom lip, worried that by the time she got further up the line there wouldn’t be any wings left for her. A commotion started up behind her but Obianuju ignored it. It wasn’t her business and she was fine to let it stay that way. She hoped enough people did get distracted so that she could slip past them in the line.
The commotion got louder, closer. Curiosity got the better of her and Obianuju looked back to see four Dora Milaje standing at attention in the middle of the cafeteria entrance. They looked bizarre and otherworldly in their armor and traditional clothing. They sneered at the students that passed them with distaste. Obianuju’s heart rate kicked up at the sight of them. If they were here that meant Erik was here too. Or if not Erik then another member of the royal family.
Without a thought, Obianuju stepped out of line and into the eyesight of the Dora Milaje. She recognized one of them, she’d been the high ranking Dora from her stay with Erik’s family in Wakanda. When the warrior woman approached her Obianuju shrank back in fear. What could she possibly want with her other than to avenge the prince’s honor? There was no doubt in Obianuju’s mind that should she and the Dora get into it, the warrior woman would wipe the floor with her.
“Ms. Obianuju, the Royal Family requests your presence.” the Dora says.
Speechless, all Obianuju can do is nod. She allows herself to be escorted out to a huge, flat jet. As she approaches the opening of the jet she’s flanked on all sides by the Dora Milaje. As if they’re protecting her. It’s both surprising and unnerving.
They take off and are in the air second after Obianuju is securely strapped into her seat. None of the Dora warriors sit with her but Obianuju can’t blame them. She’s nauseous and sure she looks it. Her stomach had never been weak but apparently double the babies means double the morning sickness.
Sweaty hands smooth over her stomach in an effort to soothe herself. Obianuju spends the entire trip fighting off nausea. Every surface is sleek and dark and expensive looking. Obianuju couldn’t afford to puke on this stuff. A nearby Dora reached out to take her hand. The small gesture meant a lot to Obianuju. She was able to use that hand as an anchor for her roiling stomach for the rest of the trip.
They landed in the familiar landing area and to her surprise, it was Shuri and Queen Ramonda who greet her. They both looked beautiful in their traditional dress. Shuri’s face visibly brightened up when Obianuju came into view.
“You came!” The young girl cried excitedly. Obianuju didn’t have the heart to tell her she hadn’t realized she’d had a choice.
“Welcome back Obianuju. Are you well?” Queen Ramonda looked happy to see her too. Which was awful because as soon as her feet reached solid land Obianuju doubled over and spewed all over the ground.
The throwing up dehydrated her. She’d missed lunch for the ride over so her stomach was now more empty than before. Standing in the hot Wakandan sun brought all of that to the forefront and suddenly Obianuju felt weak. Her knees buckled but before she could fall the Dora Milaje were there, picking her up and then holding her up when she couldn’t stand on my own.
“Is she gonna be okay? Should I get Baba?” Shuri’s voice sounded frightened which Obianuju felt bad for. She wished she could assure the girl she was alright but Obianuju wasn’t entirely sure that would be telling the truth.
“Quickly, take her inside. We’ll have to miss the ceremony today.” Queen Ramonda’s voice brooked no argument so Obianuju was quickly carried inside the palace by the Dora Milaje.
Obianuju was set in a sleek, white room filled with machines and gadgets way more advanced than anything she’d ever seen in a doctors office. And not just any doctor waited on her either. Shuri had apparently been developing medical technology using the vibranium native to Wakanda and the help of more experienced doctors. Said doctors stood back while the preteen gave Obianuju water and food. While Obianuju ate, Shuri fiddled with holographic screens and Queen Ramonda looked on silently.
The regal woman looked out of place in Shuri’s super modern lab. Her traditional dress and headpiece loomed large and looked bizarre among the sleek modernity of Shuri’s lab. Obianuju focused on her as she ate, looking at all that white made her eyes hurt after a while.
“You should have eaten before you came. It seems the Dora took my orders a little too literally,” The Queen side-eyed a nearby Dora warrior. It was the high ranking woman from before.
“My Queen-” the woman began to apologize but Queen Ramonda waved her off.
“Okoye it is done. She’s with us and eating now. Go to the falls and inform my husband and sons that we had to stay behind to attend to an urgent matter.” Two sets of brown eyes turned to look at where Obianuju lay, obviously listening to their conversation and sucking on a juice box like a four-year-old.
“Don’t mention our guest, if you can help it.” The Queen added lowly. The Dora named Okoye nodded at her queen and then saluted, arms crossed over her chest, before leaving Shuri’s lab.
“I’m guessing Erik doesn’t know I’m here then?” Obianuju finished off her juice box and moved on to the plate of fruit and goat cheese.
Queen Ramonda actually looks uncomfortable when she answered. Elegant hands smoothed down the front of a wrinkle-free dress, “N’Jadaka has been, can be, stubborn when hurt by those he loves.”
Obianuju ducked her head, shamed.
“I thought that today of all days he’d been happy to see you. Unfortunately, I did not count on your pregnancy or I’d have arranged for something better planned.” Queen Ramonda patted Obianuju’s foot. Obianuju was still stumbling over the fact that the queen knew about her pregnancy. Does that mean Erik knows? Obianuju shuddered at the thought.
“How did you-” Obianuju started, only to be interrupted by Shuri who stopped pretending to be studying charts and holograms to approach Obianuju and her mother.
“I can answer that!” the preteen beamed, “The kimoyo beads are not just for communication. There’s also a tracker in there and I added a program that reads and records your vitals in real time.” Here Shuri used her own kimoyo beads to demonstrate with a hologram.
“When you put the kimoyo beads back on it immediately reconnected you to my program and I was able to read your vitals.” Shuri’s smiled turned embarrassed and she couldn’t meet Obianuju’s eyes, “I thought you were dying so I showed Umama the vital signs and she was the one who realized you were pregnant.”
The embarrassed look didn’t last long on the young girl’s face before excitement replaced it, “Do you know the gender yet? Can I name it?”
“Shuri,” Queen Ramonda admonished softly. The preteen shot her mother a contrite look but shut her mouth.
Obianuju fiddled with a grape, “You haven’t told Erik?”
Queen Ramonda gave her a knowing gaze, “I thought it would be best if it came from you.” Brown eyes softened into liquid pools of maternal warmth. Never before had Obianuju been looked at like that. “You didn’t have to leave the way you did.”
Shuri jumped up like she was electrocuted, drawing the attention of the two women, “Umm, if you’re gonna tell Erik you better get ready because he’s headed this way.” Shuri’s eyes widened further. “Baba and my brother are coming as well. That doesn’t look good,” clutching her tablet Shuri looked to her mother for guidance.
The Queen sighed, not seeming scared or rushed at all. Obianuju wished she had her calm, grace, and poise. At the mention that Erik was headed her way, Obianuju felt a cold sweat start up her back that had nothing to do with the heat outside. Her mouth felt dry despite all the liquid she’d just consumed and her stomach roiled angrily like another vomiting session was in the cards for her.
God, she’d been looking for him. Obianuju had wanted to tell him about their babies, preferably to his face. However, now that she was actually going to face him she was scared shitless. She’d been a total bitch to him. He’d given her his heart on a platter and she’d pushed it away. Babies or no babies Erik wouldn’t be happy to see her. Panicking Obianuju tried to look for an escape route.
Outside the thick walls of Shuri’s lab, Obianuju could hear booming as huge door after door was thrown open. Shuri and Obianuju flinched with every boom while Queen Ramonda looked bored, or irritated. It was hard to tell because Obianuju was more focused on not climbing out of her skin. Erik was coming and here she was stuck on a bed, still too weak to run away.
For once in her life, she’d have to face her problems head-on. She didn’t have her powers, she wasn’t wearing any makeup, and her hair was up and away in a bun. Obianuju couldn’t change how she looked, she just hoped that her presence alone would be enough.
Erik burst into the lab with T’Challa and an older man at his heels. T’Challa and Erik were both shirtless and dripping with what could be water or sweat and what was most definitely blood. Seeing him for the first time since December had her heart racing and her stomach flipping. He looked bulkier as if he’d put on more muscle. When they’d been together he’d softened up because he took after her odd eating habits. All that happy weight was gone, in its place was hard muscle and a scowl on Erik’s handsome face.
Forgetting herself Obianuju moved to climb off the table she’d been laying on, “Erik! Your bleeding.”
He had a cut on one cheek and a stab wound in his shoulder that lazily leaked blood with every heartbeat. Behind him, T’Challa looked no better. He had a cut over his left eyebrow that poured blood onto his handsome face. It was a good thing his left eye was swollen shut too or Obianuju was sure he’d be blinded by the blood. The older man, the King, was dressed traditionally as well and was just as wet as Erik and T’Challa although he wasn’t bruised and beaten.
Erik’s face was thunderous and his lips thinned in fury, “What are you doing here?” He didn’t yell or curse but Obianuju flinched back as if struck. He’d never spoken to her that way before. Like she was some annoyance, some pest. His voice dripped with dismissal and disrespect although Obianuju knew Erik would never call her out her name, especially in front of his aunt and uncle.
Casting a look back at the Queen for strength Obianuju set her feet on the ground and stood up, “I wanted to tell you this in person but-“ her legs folded underneath her. Knees weak Obianuju fell forward expecting to hit the ground hard.
Erik’s arms were there, slick with water and hard with flexed muscle. He caught her and righted her and then stopped touching her all at once. He’d moved so fast it made her head spin, although she suspected that had more to do with recovering from puking earlier on. The absence of his arms left her feeling bereft. Obianuju missed the way his arms felt around her. The security and warmth that enveloped her while she was with him was like all of her childhood dreams come true. It was what she had looked for in Donnie.
Funny how it was Erik, the man she’d convinced herself was the love em and leave em type had made her feel forever in a hug. And in the end, Obianuju had left him. God, she was an idiot, wasn’t she?
“I needed to talk to you,” Obianuju spoke to the brick wall that was Erik’s face. He didn’t look pleased to see her or like he wanted anything to do with her. But Obianuju had a duty to let him know about his kids. And, if an opportunity arose, apologize for all the shit she’d put him through.
“Oh, now you want to talk?” He words spat from his mouth like venom.
Obianuju held her back straight, she wouldn’t flinch, “Yes now I want to talk. I wanted to tell you I -“ she hesitated and then glanced over at the Royal family. They were watching Obianuju and Erik with rapt attention.
While she was thankful the Queen and Shuri had brought her out to Wakanda, she’d rather do this next part without an audience. Especially if said audience could very reasonably lock her away in a dungeon for breaking a the princes’ heart. Shuri had a hologram facing them…wait, no it was filming them. The Queen and the King watched as if it were their relationship being discussed. T’Challa was watching too, with his one good eye.
“Can we have some privacy, please?” Obianuju asked the family. T’Challa had the grace to at least look embarrassed but Shuri groaned.
“Of course. You two have much to discuss.” Queen Ramonda gathered her husband and children together so they could all leave the room. The Dora Milaje stationed around the room followed the Royals out. Obianuju had forgotten they were even there.
“I always have to leave the room for adult conversations,” Shuri didn’t pout she came close to it as her parents herded her towards the door. She turned just before they rounded the corner and pointed at Erik.
“Don’t do whatever you did in the library in my lab. This place is sterile.”
“Shuri!” The Queen sounded beyond done with her youngest child.
The interaction brought a smile to Obianuju’s face that dropped when she looked at Erik. He was no longer a tornado trapped in a man’s body, but his anger was an ever-present storm between them. At any moment he could lose it and unleash his anger on her.
“I wanted to start by saying I’m sorry,” Obianuju begins. “I’m sorry I left and I’m sorry that I treated you like you were some random nigga off the street. I recognized early on what you could mean to me, what losing you would do to me, so I set out to make sure I never had to go through that.”
Swallowing was hard all of a sudden. Erik stayed silent while Obianuju tried to gather her thoughts.
“I’m sorry I hurt you. You have been an amazing man to a woman who wouldn’t even let you call her your girlfriend,” Obianuju continued, “You’ve spent I don’t want to know how much money on me without me ever asking you to do a thing. I asked you for nothing and you gave me a piece of the world.”
“I grew up with nobody I could trust. I grew up not knowing if anyone loved me or if I’d ever be loved at all. I gave my heart to someone I wanted to love me and I thought that heartbreak was the was the worst thing to ever happen to me.” Obianuju took in a shaky breath. It was getting harder and harder to keep tears at bay. Thank god her voice hasn’t wobbled yet.
“But God Erik the past few months without you was one hundred times worse than one of the worst things I’ve ever gone through.” A sob broke through as she spoke. Goddamn hormones.
“I missed you. I cried over you and then I essentially gave up on everything. I just went through the motions of a life that felt empty without you. If it wasn’t for these babies I don’t know where I’d be now.”
Erik’s expression didn’t change throughout her apology. She couldn’t read his emotions anymore so Obianuju was in the dark about what might be going through his head. When the word babies slipped out of her mouth his face slackened like he was a puppet with all of his strings cut.
“Babies?” He croaked.
“I’m not expecting you to forgive me or even want me again after all the shit I pulled. I just knew I couldn’t let you go on not knowing you had children out there somewhere” Obianuju searched Erik’s dumbstruck eyes. She’d expected anger, she’d expected yelling. What she hadn’t expected was for Erik to go deathly still and quiet.
“Erik, could you say something? I kind of spilled my cookies all over your lap,” Obianuju chuckled nervously, “Any response is better than no response.”
Erik shook his head dumbly, “The fuck am I supposed to say?” He didn’t sound angry anymore, he sounded dazed.
Obianuju sighed. She understood where he was coming from, this was a lot to take in. Even while at the doctor’s office to get the pregnancy confirmed Obianuju kind of suspected. For Erik, this was coming out of left field.
Hopping back up onto the table she’d been laying on Obianuju watched Erik with wary eyes, “I don’t really know this is my first unplanned pregnancy.”
He snorted and then glanced at her. Erik was so handsome, Obianuju would miss that face if he decided he was done with her for good.
After a moment Erik joined her on the table, sitting at her side but not touching.
“So,” he said, looking straight ahead, “Did you come to Wakanda just to say that?”
Obianuju snorted and shook her head, “Yeah nigga I went to a different continent just to tell you I was pregnant.” Erik rolled his eyes but his mouth tightened to fight off a smile. It was an expression Obianuju was familiar with because Erik was ridiculously easy to amuse. At least, for her he was.
“No, I looked for you on campus. I thought you might have come back after the break.” She let her eyes travel around Shuri’s lab, “It was your mother and sister who brought me here.”
“Yeah, it was Shuri who noticed it and then she went to your mother.”
Erik laughed humorlessly, the sound cut off when he caught sight of the heartbeat ring and kimoyo beads still on her hand and wrist. His head jerked up so that their eyes could meet.
“You kept them?” The unspoken ‘Why?’ sat between them like lead while they both got lost in each other’s eyes.
“Yes. Because I love you, you dumbass. Just because I was scared of being with you doesn’t mean I never loved you.” Obianuju stared into Erik’s eyes, “I would have just left you a message using the kimoyo beads if I didn’t want to see you again.”
Taking a chance, Obianuju lifted her hand to cup Erik’s face. She kept a good distance away from the angry looking cut on one of his cheekbones. He allowed her to touch him and Obianuju felt truly blessed by that.
“Juju,” Erik’s groan was all the warning she got before Erik grabbed her from where she sat and pulled her to sit on his lap so he could squeeze her close. Aside from a surprised exhale, Obianuju didn’t protest the move. To be honest she clutched at him just as tightly as he clutched at her. In his arms she allowed herself to relax. Erik’s smelled like a river and blood. He was still wet in some places but no amount of water would ever make her let him go again.
“You really left me,” Erik mumbled into her shoulder, “When you were gone I turned into a version of myself I’d tried hard to protect you from.”
Obianuju shushed him with kisses. She hated the pain she heard in his voice.
“I would understand if you wanted nothing to-“
“Shut that shit up.” Erik interrupted, he kissed the corner of her mouth to soften the blow of his words, “Juju you know I’ve wanted you since day one. Now that I have you back I’m never letting you, or these babies out of my sight.”
Obianuju’s face split into a radiant grin out of her control. He still wanted her! She felt like there was a sunrise behind her sternum. A lump formed in her throat and tears flooded her eyes. Halfheartedly she swiped them away.
“Fuck I don’t know why I’m crying but I blame you and these babies you put in me.” Obianuju cradled his face in her hands and kissed him sweetly. Erik tried to push for more but Obianuju was too aware of the fact that her man was still injured and Shuri would probably be upset if they fucked in her lab.
“You know…” Erik began, his kisses trailed from her mouth and down to her neck, “We could start practicing for baby number…” he hesitated.
“First off let me give birth to babies one and two before we start talking about practice for another,” Erik’s kiss interrupted her before she could go on and Obianuju let him.
She’d missed his kisses, missed the feel of his warm plump lips moving against hers. They lost themselves in that kiss. Found themselves too. It wasn’t a sexual kiss and it wasn’t chaste. It was passionate, filled with both love and pain and hope. So much fucking hope Obianuju thought it would choke her.
“You’re giving me twins?” Erik’s smile was blinding when they pulled apart. He squeezed her somehow closer and rose to his feet. Obianuju kept expecting her feet to hit the ground but it never happened. Erik wasn’t letting her go.
“It’s the least I could do after everything you’ve given me.” Obianuju softly kissed Erik’s bearded chin.
“And what’s that?” He asked. When Obianuju looked into his eyes she saw warmth. She saw home and happiness. Most of all though, she saw love. She didn’t need her powers to show her that.
“Aside from a kingdom?” Obianuju joked, “Love. You gave me something I’ve been desperate for since I was a little girl. You gave it to me when I didn’t want it and you trusted me with it again after I hurt you.” Obianuju kissed Erik’s forehead, “Ndiyakuthanda, N’Jadaka.” she whispered into the damp skin there.