Twisted

Tracy Brown

St. Martin's Griffin

CHAPTER ONE
The Truth Hurts
Four years later …


Rah-lo walked into his house, and wasn’t surprised to find it empty. He assumed that Asia must be out somewhere with her good-for-nothing friends. Their daughters were older now—fourteen, eleven, and nine. The teenager—Rasheeda—was always out with her friends, and the two younger ones took a dance class three days a week. He went in the kitchen and looked around for something quick to eat. True to form, Asia hadn’t gone shopping, so there was nothing in the fridge for him to snack on. He sighed and shut the refrigerator and wondered what type of mother Asia really thought she was. Did she think she was doing her best and that their daughters were learning good habits from her? This type of shit was the reason he sought shelter in the arms of other women. Although he loved his family and wanted to keep it intact, he wasn’t getting what he needed from his wife. Rah-lo wondered for the thousandth time if he should walk away.
Instinctively, his mind drifted to thoughts of Celeste. Even after four years, his love for her had never waned. And try as he might, Rah-lo couldn’t get over her. He walked over to the bookcase in the living room and pulled out the Bible on the second shelf. It was the only place in the house that he never worried about Asia searching. He pulled out the letter Celeste had left behind when she had walked out of his life four years ago. Rah-lo sat down on the couch and read the worn and folded page.

Raheem,


I love you so much. I always have and I always will. But I can’t live like this anymore. Life is short and I don’t want to look back on mine with any regrets. I don’t wish I had done anything differently. Everything in life is a lesson. You taught me so much, and I want you to know that the love I have for you can never be replaced or duplicated. But it’s time for me to move on and start treating myself the way I deserve to be treated.
I want to get my own mansion, my own diamonds and furs, put myself through college. I want to start a new business for myself. I wish you and Asia all the best and hope that you forgive me for walking away. I had no choice. I was suffocating.
I will never stop loving you. Never.


Celeste

He folded the note once again and put it in his pocket, sighing. When he first discovered that Celeste had left town, Rah-lo had put his heart on the shelf and tried to tough it out. Fuck it, he had told himself. If she could leave him, she wasn’t worth the heartache. He had even tried to put his all into his marriage at that point. One week after Celeste left town, Rah-lo had taken Asia and the girls on vacation to the Disney resort in Florida. His intention was to see if he could reconnect with his wife to salvage what remained of their marriage. Asia had been surprised by this spontaneous gesture and their daughters had been thrilled, surrounded by fun, sun, and their parents. Rah-lo had tried to make his time with his family fun enough to satisfy his longing for Celeste. But throughout their vacation, he and Asia had constantly argued. About the simplest things. They argued over what they would do each day, which rides they would get on, what the girls would wear, what they all would eat for dinner, how they would spend their evenings. It was ridiculous, and both Rah-lo and Asia were disgusted with each other by the end of their vacation.
But the girls had had a blast. Rasheeda, Raleigh, and Raven had been on cloud nine. The trip, to them, had been one big adventure. Granted, their parents were at each other’s throats as usual. The kids were accustomed to the arguing and fighting that went on between Rah-lo and Asia. It was nothing new to them. But they were excited to have the luxury of a hotel suite and a rental car, room service, and the excitement of being someplace new and thrilling. They seemed oblivious to the tension surrounding them, and for that Rah-lo was grateful. At least the trip hadn’t been a total waste. The girls had enjoyed themselves and Rah-lo was satisfied with that.
But it had only highlighted the fact that his relationship with Asia was unsalvageable. Even with the sun and beaches, the absence of Celeste or any other distractions, and the joy of giving their daughters a vacation they would never forget, Rah-lo and Asia failed to reconnect. Even though Asia still looked good, considering her age and the fact that she had had three children, Rah-lo wasn’t attracted to her anymore. Seeing his wife in a revealing bathing suit and watching her ass jiggle as she walked around sweating sexily in the heat and humidity had done nothing to entice him. He had found himself counting the days to when he could get home and get back to the block. It was the first time he genuinely accepted that he no longer loved Asia. In fact, he no longer even liked the woman.
Every day after that had been difficult for him. Staying in his marriage for the sake of his kids was a noble gesture. But it caused him to neglect his own happiness. Each time he came home after a day of grinding in New York City’s mean streets, Rah-lo wished that he could have the love of his daughters and the routine of tucking them in each night, without having to deal with their mother. It was wishful thinking, though. Asia wasn’t going anywhere. He felt like he was stuck with her.
As he sat on the couch lost in thought, Asia came home. She was returning from a smoke session at her friend Kim’s house. High off marijuana, eyes hanging low, Asia walked in the door and looked at Rah-lo. He looked back at his wife, trying to recall if he had ever been more disgusted by her. He was so sick of seeing her this way—coming home twisted with no dinner ready for her family and no intentions of doing anything productive.
“What?” she asked, looking confused.
Rah-lo just kept staring at her. “Where were you?”
She grinned. “You’re jealous? I was just over at Kim’s—”
“What are the kids supposed to eat when they get home?” he demanded. Rah-lo was seething.
Asia looked taken aback but still high. “Well, if you’re so worried about it, why don’t you go cook something for them?”
Rah-lo was amazed. “What’s wrong with you? You think I should do it all—cooking, cleaning up, and the whole nine—and you don’t do shit all day but go out and get high with your friends? What the fuck do I need you for then?”
“Who the fuck are you talking to like that?” Asia was outraged that her husband, whom she was used to having her way with, was challenging her this way as soon as she walked in the door. She looked around and saw no sign of her rambunctious children. “The kids ain’t even home yet!”
“What about me, Asia? Don’t I need to eat, too?”
She sucked her teeth. “You’re a grown-ass man, Rah-lo. And the kids ain’t babies no more. They can make themselves something to eat when they get home.”
“But why should they have to?” Rah-lo was growing increasingly frustrated. “You’re their mother. You don’t work; you don’t go to school; there’s more than enough money for you to go shopping. But instead you sit around here all day and do nothing. I’m tired of that shit. I’m out there working my ass off and—”
“You work, Rah-lo? Is that what they call it now?” The expression on Asia’s face was saying Oh, please!
He stopped talking and looked at her. Asia stared right back at him. She was frowning at him, seemingly amazed by his audacity. Rah-lo tried to reason with her. He figured he would lay it all on the line, stop beating around the bush, and really tell his wife what he was feeling. “I’m your husband, Asia. That’s not just a title. There’s supposed to be benefits that come with that shit. You know how being my wife affords you certain luxuries? Why can’t you take care of me the same way I take care of you?”
“Please!” she shouted. “You always gotta bring up money. So what, you give me money, Rah-lo! I’m tired of you reminding me that you pay for everything. So the fuck what?”
“I’m not just talking about the money. I’m talking about the things I do to make life easier in this house. Not just for you, for everybody. I’m around here cooking, doing laundry, picking the kids up, dropping them off. And where are you?”
“I do all of that shit, too, Rah-lo. And those are things you’re supposed to do. You don’t get a pat on the back or a damn medal of honor because you take care of your kids. That’s what good fathers do. And I never told you I was gonna be a boring fucking housewife. Who wants to sit around all day cleaning and cooking and never having fun? I’m more than just the maid and the cook.”
“What are you then?” he asked.
Asia looked hurt. “Fuck you!”
Rah-lo couldn’t stand it anymore. He hated being in this mockery of a marriage. Neither of them was happy anymore. He and Asia never talked anymore, they rarely had sex, and they seldom even laughed in each other’s presence anymore. Asia turned him off, and Rah-lo was sick of living in an unhappy home. Plus, something she had just said was echoing in his head. “You know what? You’re right. The kids ain’t babies no more. Why should we keep playing games like this is where we want to be?”
Asia put her hands on her hips. “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”
Rah-lo watched her. Even her mannerisms at that moment were typical. Asia looked ready for a confrontation. Her eyes glared right through him. She was impossible to talk to, she had a terrible attitude, and she was in denial about the state of their marriage. “I don’t want to keep fighting with you, Asia. Word. This shit ain’t working out. You got your own life and me and the kids have ours.”
“So what are you, Father of the Year now? Rasheeda’s failing two subjects and I don’t see you going over her homework with her. But I gotta do it?”
Rah-lo shook his head. When he talked to Asia it felt like the two of them were speaking completely different languages. She wasn’t hearing what he was saying, and he was tired of trying to make her hear it.
He walked away, and went to the living room. He sat down on the couch and grabbed the remote. Asia stood there for a few moments, replaying their conversation and becoming more and more pissed that he had ambushed her that way. As she stood there, Rasheeda came in and greeted her mother.
“Hi, Ma. Why are you just standing there like that?” Rasheeda asked.
Asia heard her daughter but ignored the question. Instead of answering, Asia stormed off to the living room and stood in front of the TV
“What the hell is your problem?”
He looked up at Asia and wished he could make her disappear. “I’m fed up.”
Asia laughed mockingly. “You’re fed up, huh? Since when?”
Rah-lo shrugged his shoulders. “I’ve felt that way for years. I don’t blame you, really, because you only did what I allowed you to do. The weed, the liquor, the partying, not taking care of the kids, the house being left a mess, I let you do that. I didn’t complain because I didn’t feel like fighting with you all the time.”
“No, you didn’t complain. You just replaced me with that bitch Celeste!” Asia yelled.
Rah-lo went back to ignoring her. This was part of the reason that he couldn’t forget about Celeste. Asia brought her name up every time they had an argument.
“Now you ain’t got nothing to say, huh? What, did I hit a nerve or something, Raheem?”
He shook his head at her. “You don’t care about me and what makes me happy. You seem like you don’t even care about your kids.”
Asia had heard enough. Just as Rasheeda came into the living room to see what all the fuss was about, Asia let loose with a verbal tirade. “Let me tell you something, Rah-lo,” she began. “I’m sick of some shit, too. You know what I’m sick of?” she asked rhetorically. “I’m fuckin’ sick of you walking around here like King Tut, acting like everybody in here owes you something because you pay the bills. That’s what any man is supposed to do. A man is supposed to pay the bills, and take care of his kids. And a real man is supposed to be faithful to his wife.” Asia’s words lingered in the air and Rasheeda soaked it all up. “Yeah, you ain’t got nothing to say now, right? All these years I put up with you fucking somebody else. Then you went and got arrested with that bitch! Do you know how fuckin’ embarrassing that shit was? All my friends finding out that my man is cheating on me. All that money you took out of this household so you could keep her living the good life, buying hair salons, cars, houses, and all that shit! How do you think that made me feel? But did I come in here accusing you of being a fucked-up father or husband?”
Rah-lo looked over and saw Rasheeda standing in the entranceway and he wished he could slap Asia for being so careless with her mouth. “Rasheeda, go upstairs,” he said calmly.
“No! Why should she go upstairs? You don’t want your daughter to know what kind of man you really are?” Asia’s high was blown. Instead she was completely furious. “You wanted to call me out as a bad mother, but look in the mirror, Rah-lo!”
Rah-lo wanted to wring Asia’s neck. “Why don’t you have some class?” he asked her. “Why would you want to have this conversation in front of your daughter?”
“Why not?” Asia demanded, furious. “I ain’t lying. You cheated on me for years with that bitch Celeste. And now you’re mad because I’m not like her. What did she cook for you, Rah-lo? Did she clean your house and take care of you?”
He shook his head at Asia’s ignorance and looked at Rasheeda seriously. She caught the hint and turned to leave.
Asia stopped her. “Rasheeda, am I a good mother?”
Rasheeda stopped in her tracks and looked at both of her parents. “You’re both good parents,” she answered diplomatically. She was conflicted by what she was hearing. She had no prior knowledge of her father dealing with any woman other than her mother. Rasheeda felt a kind of way about that. She wasn’t sure what the feeling was exactly. But she knew that she felt something. Still, her father had always looked out for her and for her sisters. She wouldn’t dare tell her mother what she really thought about her parenting skills. Not to her face anyway.
“Well, your father thinks I ain’t shit.”
“Asia, let her go upstairs. Don’t put her in the middle of this.” Rah-lo wished that he had never started this discussion.
Asia wasn’t listening to reason. “She just said I’m a good mother. So what gives you the right to come questioning me about where I was or what I’m cooking for dinner?”
Rah-lo was exasperated. Motioning with his fingers as if counting off a list of charges, he yelled, “You’re coming in here later every night, Asia! You’re drinking more and more. You’re lazy. You don’t—”
Rah-lo was letting loose when Asia interrupted. “Fuck you!” She was in his face now. “You got a lot of nerve, you sorry son of a bitch!”
“Ma,” Rasheeda called out, attempting to intervene. She felt like she should leave her parents alone, but she was afraid to leave them at the same time. Things were getting way out of hand. They were a volatile couple at times. But this was way beyond any argument she had ever seen them have.
But Asia was beyond reasoning now. “You backward-ass hustlin’, hood-rich muthafucka! You walk around here like you’re somebody important. Like I’m supposed to bow down to you like you’re royalty. If I never lift another finger in this house, I’m entitled to that. I’ve paid my dues. I sat in court for you, went on trips upstate to visit you, and I had your muthafuckin’ kids.”
“Hey!”
“Hey, my ass, Rah-lo! I did all of that and I put up with you having a whole separate life outside of our marriage. I think I deserve to do what the fuck I want.”
“Drop it,” Rah-lo insisted. He turned to Rasheeda and pointed at the stairs. She took the hint and went up to her room, leaving her parents to battle it out. Rah-lo turned his attention back to Asia. “You got a real fuckin’ psychological problem,” he said. “What type of mother do you think you are? Really? Why would you say all of that in front of her?”
“The truth hurts, huh?” Asia asked, lighting a cigarette.
Rah-lo chuckled, frustrated. “You can’t possibly think you’re doing a good job or that you’re setting a good example. Your daughters have seen you drunk; they’ve seen you high. You don’t cook; you don’t clean up most of the time. You have no job, no goals whatsoever. You have a mouth like a truck driver and you have no fucking class.”
Asia sensed his fury, but she didn’t back down. She wanted to hurt him the way that his words had hurt her. “I may not be the classiest bitch in the world,” she said. “But I deserve more than the bullshit I’ve put up with over the years from you … cheating, lying, going to jail. What kind of fucking role model have you been? What kind of lessons have you taught your daughters about following rules and being loyal and trustworthy? All of a sudden you’re talking like you’re a fucking Boy Scout or something. You’re a drug dealer, Rah-lo. You’re a criminal. A lying, cheating, half-assed hustler. I don’t care if you don’t want me. So the fuck what? Go! Leave! I can replace you in a fucking heartbeat.”
Rah-lo sat there looking at her for a long time. He replayed in his mind the things she had said to him, how she belittled him. After all the years of putting his life on the line for his family, all the years of taking care of Asia’s every want and need, here she was telling him that he was simply a criminal. Nothing more. None of his sacrifices or any of the risks he’d taken had mattered much to her after all. Rah-lo calmly walked away from Asia and out the door.
TWISTED. Copyright © 2008 by Tracy Brown. All rights reserved. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y 10010.