Family Divide - Chapter One
It was a shame, but Jerome didn't even flinch when the steel door slammed shut behind him. It had become an all too familiar sound. The only sound he could not get used to was his mother crying when the judge handed down the sentence.
He'd asked her not to be there, but, of course, she wasn't hearing that. Cora Jefferson had been at every arraignment and every hearing. Each time Jerome set foot in a courtroom, she was there. That was the only thing he ever felt remorseful about. Trouble had a way of following Jerome like a fly on shit, and even though he'd tried to change his ways, it seemed that he just couldn't avoid it.
"Hey man, nice of you to come back and see us."
Jerome looked around and saw KJ in a cell across the walkway. He gave him a slight head nod as he followed the guard to his new cell. He'd met KJ on a previous stint, and even though they had gotten pretty tight, Jerome knew better than to act as if he was happy to see anybody in the joint. If you did, niggas would want to try you, coz they'd think you'd been punked. Of the few things he had to boast about, not being punked was one of them. The last nigga that had tried to toss his salad was six feet under. Lucky for him they hadn't been able to prove he was involved and tack that on to his sentence.
Once inside his cell, he did a quick inspection. The cell was typical Ardimus State Penitentiary. The paint was peeling on the walls, and the sink was backed up, with about an inch of water, and had a constant drip. A small mirror hanging on the wall was cracked, and Jerome was surprised that it hadn't been removed as a potential weapon. The overpowering stench of urine caused him to wrinkle his nose and blow out several times, as if he could clear it from his head.
He walked the five short paces to the bed. The mattress was shitty, and the springs were poking through it in various places, but he'd slept on worse. He got down on his knees and looked underneath. When he was satisfied that there were no surprises, he grabbed his linen and made his bed.
That night after lights out, while lying across the bed, he replayed the circumstances surrounding his recent incarceration.
It had been three months since he'd met Sheila and things were going great. The finest honey on the south side was his. She had long, soft brown hair that rested on her shoulders. Her smooth, pecan brown skin highlighted those sexy hazel eyes and her five foot six, curvaceous body was definitely the bomb. She had a slow and deliberate southern drawl that came from years of living in Alabama. Brothas were constantly jocking her, wondering how the hell a roughneck like Jerome could have landed such a peach. At times, he wondered himself.
It wasn't as though he was an ugly brotha. At six feet two, Jerome was about two-twenty. He was coal black, but he kept his skin as smooth as a baby's booty, except for a jagged, two-inch scar under his right eye. His teeth were pretty straight and relatively white. It wasn't that he was a bad looking man, he was just a thug at heart and his lifestyle reflected it. With the reputation Jerome had, he usually found himself involved with roughneck hood rats.
Sheila was different from the girls he usually dated. Even his mom liked her. "'Bout time you stopped dealing with those whorish girls and found you a lady!"
Jerome had chuckled to himself. Yeah, Momma was right. Since they'd started dating, he'd even begun to act differently. Jerome was restless by nature, always looking for something to get into, but Sheila had occupied all his time, all his thoughts. He hadn't wanted to rush himself, but he was thinking that maybe she was the one. Hell, he was even thinking of getting a regular job and changing some of his ways.
At least, those had been his plans until one particular Saturday evening.
It was around ten p.m., and they'd stopped at the Rib Shack on 83rd to grab something to eat after coming from the movies. They were sitting at a table, waiting for their order, when a group of brothas walked in. They were the kind of niggas that normally Jerome would have rolled with. Dressed down to the footgear in FUBU and laced with gold. It wasn't hard to figure out that they didn't have a nine to five.
He remembered shaking his head, glad that he wasn't rolling like that anymore. He still stayed fitted down and did a job or two to keep his ends straight, but he was gradually getting up out of the game. He had to keep it real if he was going be with Sheila.
When he looked up and caught one of them staring at her, it touched a nerve. He'd been on the verge of saying something, but the softness of Sheila's voice calling his name regained his attention. It wasn't until one of them started loud talking that he looked up again.
"Hey, ain't she that hooka from the strip last night?"
A short dark, skinned nigga with a skullcap and three gold teeth in the front of his mouth was pointing in their direction.
"Yeah, dog, that's her. Hey, girl," called another skinny cat in an orange turtleneck sweater and sagging jeans, "how 'bout a lap dance!"
They gave each other some dap and laughed loudly.
The veins in Jerome's forearms bulged as he started to get pissed.
"Don't pay them no mind," Sheila drawled as she touched his hand.
He looked from them to her. It wasn't that he was looking for trouble, but he couldn't have niggas disrespecting his woman. Difficult as it was, he remained seated, with his fists clenched, feeling like a punk.
"Hey, Cocoa, how bout letting me tap that ass instead of just letting me touch it like I did last night?" The dark one looked Jerome dead in the eye as he spoke.
"Yeah," piped up another high yella dude in the corner. "How much for all of us? The way you had that pussy wrapped around that pole, I know you could take us on!"
A flash of lightning was slower than the movement that took Jerome out of his seat and onto the back of the gold- toothed brotha. Arms swung, punches landed, and soon they were all a mess on the floor. Sheila was screaming at him to stop, screaming at them to let him up. A security guard appeared from the shadows and broke it up.
Next thing Jerome knew, Sheila had grabbed their order and was pushing him out of the door. The bus was pulling into the stop as they walked up, and they got on. They rode in silence until the bus arrived at her stop. As they were getting off, Jerome finally spoke. "What were they talking 'bout, Sheila?"
During the entire twenty-minute ride, he had struggled with the thoughts darting in and out of his mind. If they'd only been trying to hit on her, what was all the talk about a lap dance?
"Whaddya mean, what were they talking about?" There was attitude in her voice as she stopped and turned towards him with her hands on her hips. They were standing outside, and in the glow of the streetlights on her face, he could see her pouting lips.
"I mean just what I said, Sheila," he said, facing her. "What was that all about?"
"How should I know, Jerome? A bunch of niggas and their stupid trash-talking is what it was about! Why are you asking me? If they'd said they saw your momma swinging on a pole, would you be asking her about it?"
She had a point and he felt a little silly. It had just seemed so personal. "Ok, boo, you win." He flashed a grin, trying to soften her. Though he had a temper, Sheila could be equally hotheaded.
She raised an eyebrow at him, but smiled. "You damn right I win," she laughed. "Now, come on here before my 'que' gets cold and I have to bust your tail!" ~
Two weeks later, it was still on his mind, and as much as he hated to admit it, he was feeling a growing distrust for Sheila. Something just didn't sit well with him. She seemed to begin working more and more hours. He hardly saw her anymore, and sex was becoming non-existent.
Besides that, he'd taken notice of a number of new outfits that she'd sprung on him. He knew damn well that, even with the overtime, she wasn't making enough to support her expensive tastes. Her hair and nails were tight, as usual, but she hadn't asked him for a dime.
Something was definitely not right. It was that thought that had him following her on Saturday night.
After countless parting instructions about what not to do in his car, his older brother Marvin handed him the keys to his green, 1982 Camero. Jerome left the house at eight p.m. and sat parked outside Sheila's house. When she came out around nine, she was dressed in a purple medical assistant's outfit and white Reeboks.
He watched as she headed towards the bus stop and sat down. After about fifteen minutes, she stood up to board the bus. Puzzled, he started the car. The ninety-two was a downtown bus. Providence General Hospital was uptown, so where was she going?
He crept along behind the bus, waiting for her to get off. When they passed the major banks and commercial buildings, and continued down towards the adult district, his heart sank. She'd lied to him. Instinct urged him to turn around. It should have been enough to know that she'd lied.
But the car moved forward, following the bus past the adult bookstores and sex shops. Sheila emerged at the stop on 9th street and walked hurriedly through the crosswalk. He watched as she walked another block and darted inside "The Kit Kat."
Jerome gripped the steering wheel tightly, and willed himself to turn around. Instead, he slid into a parking spot. He shut off the engine, jumped out of the car, shoving the keys in his pocket, and ran across the street.
The scenery inside the Kit Kat was typical titty bar. It was smoky, loud and dark except for the bright lights on the stage. Men in various stages of sobriety were leaning over tables and waving cash. No matter what the year, it seemed as though some sista always re-invented Vanity 6's "Nasty Girl," and it happened to be pumping full blast.
He searched the room quickly, looking for Sheila, hoping against hope that maybe he would find she was only a waitress. He could live with that a little better. But, of course, he didn't see her.
Again, something inside of him said to leave. He turned and was about to head for the door, but then he saw him. It was the nigga from the Rib Shack and he was with his boys. If Jerome had needed any more confirmation, this was certainly it. Oh well, he thought, I might as well see the show. He sat down and ordered a drink.
Jerome had been there for over an hour and was about to leave when the DJ announced that "Cocoa" was coming to the stage. Cocoa. That was what those fools had called Sheila. Even though he knew by now she was a dancer, this pissed him off.
As the room got even darker, it seemed as though the cheers in the room got louder. When the first twangy notes of Prince's "Darling Nikki" blared from the speakers, brothas started getting out of their seats. Jerome looked to the stage and there was Sheila, dressed in a purple, leather, skintight outfit that molded her body like hot wax. It was unzipped midway to reveal just a glimpse of her full round breasts.
She threw herself into her routine, and, like all the others, Jerome found his eyes glued to the stage. Her moves were fluent, sensual, weaving back and forth between graceful and downright raunchy as she rid herself of the suit, and got down to near bare skin.
When it was time for her to mount the pole, Jerome's mouth dropped. It was like looking in his bedroom mirror when they were sexing. No doubt about it, Sheila was a pro, and he'd been a sucka.
As he watched her slither and grind to the edge of the stage, allowing probing hands to place bills in her g-string, it started to sicken him. As the song began to fade, he thought he'd seen it all, but then ol' boy stood up and pulled her down off the stage. He sat back down in his chair, waving a couple of bills in her face, and she lap danced him. From the way that her face contorted and the sweat that covered ol' boy's forehead, Jerome could have sworn she was fucking him. It was too much. He rushed outside.
In the cool night air, he paced back and forth in front of the car instead of getting inside and taking off. The double shots he'd been drinking were pumping in his blood and he couldn't calm down. The bitch had lied to him! I'm a damn sucka! The more he paced, the more the words screamed in his head.
The sound of giggling caught his attention and he looked up. Sheila had come outside and was walking hugged up with the brotha from inside the club. They were walking towards an old Buick.
"Good job tonight, boo. Now, where my cut at?"
The giggling stopped. "Now hold on, Da'ron. I was the one up there working my ass off. Da hell you mean, where's your cut at?"
"You heard me, bitch." He slapped her hard across the face, causing her to stagger. "Now, you not gonna make me ask you again, are you?"
Sheila stood defiantly in front of him. Another slap knocked her down at his feet.
When he began to kick her, Jerome sprang into action. He shot across the street and with a flying leap landed on top of him. They both tumbled to the ground. The element of surprise worked to Jerome's advantage, and he managed to get in several punches to the other man's face. The squish of blood against his fist pumped his adrenaline as he landed swing after swing.
Sheila was doing that stupid screaming again, but Jerome barely heard her. It wasn't until she jumped onto his back, digging her nails into either side of his neck, that he turned his attention to her. He jumped up, throwing her off of him, and turned on her. "What the hell you doing jumping on me? Huh? I guess I was too nice for you. Your sucka! Guess I shoulda been beating you down like this nigga!"
Sheila just stared at him without speaking. Her eyes had narrowed, and he barely recognized her as the girl who, not so long ago, he'd thought about making his wife.
He turned his back on her and was met with a crashing blow to the jaw. Apparently, his victim had not been as knocked out as Jerome had thought. The hit staggered Jerome, throwing him off balance. He tried desperately to remain on his feet. Going down would put him at a disadvantage, and he had no intention of catching a beat down over an ungrateful, two-dollar whore.
As he was righting himself he was smacked by another blow to the nose and then one to his ribs. Jerome doubled over, but forced his body forward, pummeling into his attacker. They tumbled to the ground, exchanging blows for several minutes, each jockeying for position to take the other out.
The sound of gunfire stopped them both short. Sheila was standing a few feet away, holding a nine-millimeter. It was obvious that she didn't know how to use it, which made her that much more dangerous. Both of them kept wary eyes on her.
"Jerome, get up off of him!"
By that time he was past being surprised at anything she did. At this point, he wouldn't have put it past her to pop a cap in his ass. He got up slowly.
"You ok Da'ron?" She glanced quickly over at the mess of blood that still lay on the ground.
Jerome was tempted to kick Da'ron in the stomach, just for good measure, but then again, with a crazy girl on the other end of a nine, his odds didn't look too good.
Then she made a terrible mistake. When Da'ron didn't answer, Sheila looked down at him. As soon as her eyes left him, Jerome sprang at her, grabbing the gun and knocking her down. He pointed the gun directly at her. His eyes were glazed over with hatred. This silly bitch had played him and pulled a gun on him.
"Jerome, look," she began, "baby, I...."
The lone shot crackled through the air and seemed to bounce off of the buildings. The only sound to break the sudden silence was the labored breathing of Jerome's combatant, who was still lying on the ground to the left of him.
Then, like a string of firecrackers going off, shots emptied the nine, ringing out like music in Jerome's ears. It had been so long since he'd shot someone that he had forgotten how much he enjoyed the rush of power that came with extinguishing a life. The spray of blood, the jerk and twitch of the body below, brought back the memories.
It wasn't until he heard a scream of sirens tearing down the street and the slam of several police car doors that Jerome stopped pulling the trigger.
"Freeze! Put the gun down and turn slowly with your hands up."
Jerome laughed quietly at first, but then, as he placed the gun on the ground and began to turn, he threw back his head and let out an ominous cackle.
Officers were on him in seconds, taking him to the ground with their knees in his back. His laughter didn't stop until he was lifted to his feet, and the officer to the left of him began to read him his rights.
"Yeah, yeah, I know the drill," he said. "But the bitch shouldn't have called me baby."