From the Inside Flap
"Sure you don't want a lift?"
With a smile, I back away. "Yes, sure. Thanks for the tip." I turn and run towards the bus, confused as to why he wants to buy me a drink. I mean he waited till 11 PM to talk to me?
I stop and turn around to look at him.
He hitches up his sleeve and touches his tattoos. "They're real," he mouths.
My laugh is nervous. I remember saying to Overdone that their tattoos are fake. "I don't believe you. I think it's a spray on and I think you have a pink love heart somewhere there."
His jaw drops. So does his hand.
"Maybe even a cute butterfly. Goodnight!" I wave and hop onto my bus.
I take a seat and watch him through the window. He lights up another cigarette, looks at me and blows smoke my way. Then we grin at each other.
The moment my bus moves, I conference my peeps.
"One hundred?" Tina gasps.
"Maybe it's counterfeit," Sultana says.
I take out the money and rub it between my fingers. "Feels real." It better not be counterfeit.
"He actually waited till after you finished work?" Laura says. "Maybe he really digs you."
"Loser!" Laura says.
"Yeah right, like I'm gonna go for someone like him. I mean, compared to Brody, he's chalk man."
"Compared to Brody, everyone's chalk," Laura points out.
"How the hell could he possibly think he's got a chance with me? I mean, with all those tattoos and those chains and the thugs he hangs with - so lame."
"Yeah," Sultana says, "he's kinda gross. Scary too."
"And that name? Awful."
"Yeah, sounds like a brand of condoms."
We poke more fun at him and mock him all the way home.
"In a way, I feel sorry for him," Tina says.
My ears prick up.
"Yeah, me too," Laura says. "The fucker hasn't a chance in hell with you."
"I don't feel sorry for him," Sultana says. "He pulled out a gun for Brody, remember? He should spend the rest of his miserable life in the slammer."
"Well, he's gonna spend umpteen years in prison anyway," Laura says. "I mean when PDiddy pulled out a gun for some guy - that time he ran with JLO, he faced something like a hundred years behind bars. So this fucker - he's already been arrested because of that. Probably gonna get his day."
"Yeah, well," Sultana says, "next time you see him, tell him to piss off."
"I will," I say and hang up, conveniently forgetting to tell them that that I promised to keep an open mind.
Everything they say about him may be true, but I remember the night he pulled out the gun - Marcus McGraw started it, calling them 'boy' and asking them to piss off from Marlow's.
I look out of the window in the dark, suddenly feeling bad for him.
The next day when I arrive at the pizzeria, a huge bouquet of flowers with a fluffy white bunny rabbit, is delivered for ...me.
I'm stunned. Everyone congregates around me as I eye the envelope. "Open it!" they chorus.
I tear open the envelope to find a photo of an arm full of tattoos. Among the tattoos is a
hand-drawn pink love heart and a colorful butterfly.
You were right the card says.
That's it. Nothing else. I burst out laughing.
"Is it from Trojan?" Cecilia asks. "I saw you talking to him last night. Is it?"
"Eh ...no," I lie. "Someone else."
Busted "Okay, look, it's from him - but listen, can you not tell anyone that it's from him?"
I shrug. How do I tell her that I am embarrassed to let anyone know that I am having any dealings with him? Not only because of his rep as a thug, but also because I ran him down so much in the past.
Not to mention that he pulled a gun on Brody.
"Okay, so you're embarrassed," she says, reading my mind "He's taken the time to draw a butterfly, draw a love heart, then photograph it, then print it, then drop it off at the florist, then order the flowers, then order the bunny, then have them delivered to you with a message. Means the whole time he was doing all that shit, he was thinking of you. That's a looooot of thinking for a guy like him to do."
I never thought about it that way.
You plan on hooking up with him?"
I nod as I hug the rabbit to me.
"Great! I plan to, then."
"I'm dying to fuck a black guy. It's so Chloe and Lamar. 'Sides, I heard they got humungous dicks."
I spin around to look at her, and for the first time I notice her reddish-brown hair, liquid hazel eyes and white skin. A young Kelly Clarkson. Pretty, confident and determined. Who wouldn't like her?
"It'll be a whole lot of fun getting that ass in the sack."
"Mm!" I say and walk away tight-lipped. Fucking slut!
I throw the bunny into my bag. Chloe and Lamar, my ass.
Wonder if he'll dig her?
Why didn't he give me his number so I could text him a 'thank you' for the flowers and bunny?
Ah, well, I'll express my thanks when I see him this evening.
Keep an open mind, keep an open mind, keep an open mind, keep an open mind.
When I get off work, it's 11 PM. I step outside the restaurant and look into his face.
"Hey!" I say. "Where's the love heart and butterfly?"
He looks at his arm. "Washed it off." He shrugs.
"Ah, told you they were washable."
"Not the others."
I smile. "Thanks for the flowers and the bunny. They are beautiful."
More shrugging on his part.
"What are you doing here?"
"Came to walk you to your bus. I can take you home, but I suspect you're gonna say no to my ride."
"Yeah, sorry, something to do with Stranger-danger and stuff."
We both laugh.
"Well, then, I will walk you to your bus."
"Walk me to my bus? It's like a few feet away from the pizzeria!"
"Doesn't matter. Just wanna make sure you're safe."
Is he serious?
I look at him and smile. When was the last time somebody cared about my safety? After Brody, there has been nobody else.
"That's nice of you." Just then my bus arrives. "Well, that's my bus, so ..."
We hurry to it. "Good night, Trojan," I say.
"Nite, shawty," he says. "Hope you dream of me."
He hands me a card. "Holler if you do, okay? You've got my number."
I take the card and hurry into the bus. Through the window, I wave at him before I take a seat.
This time, I don't conference my peeps. Why? 'Cause I know that they'll run him down, laugh at his flowers and his bunny and I don't want them to. Not today, not anymore.
Strange, I know.
Instead, I take his card and study it.
It says, Hey, Burn, if you'd like to take me to dinner, just smile.
Below that is his cell number and email address.
"What the ...?" I smile. Me take him to dinner? He's nuts.
I get a text. You smiled.
"What the ...?" I peer at my phone in disbelief. Is this Trojan? If it is, he's guessing. He has to be.
Look out ur window
I scramble to the window and see him driving alongside me.
I gasp, then texts fly between us.
Ur nuts. Where u get my fone no from
I got people in lo places. U smiled. I demand my dinner
Lol! I a student. McDonalds happy meal complete with toy.
Ill take it. Nite burn smiley face
Nite Trojan smiley face
He speeds away.
All this effort for me? I look at the card in my hand. It looks professional, not a handwritten one. Then there's the tattoos that he drew, photographed and sent to me. Such a lot of effort. Could I be worth it? I have to see what he sees.
I whip out my phone and open my mirror app. When I see my shiny eyes, my amused smile, my slightly flushed face, I put my hand to my mouth and giggle all the way home.