Love and War

Quincy & Tashi

“Damn her.”

I sank further into my recliner, flipping through a magazine. Unable to recall one bit of what I’d just read.

It had been exactly one hour since I drove Natasha’s car back into the garage of the home we shared. The fury I felt before I left the house had now diminished to acute irritation. I didn’t have the energy left to maintain that level of anger without ending up in the emergency room.

Natasha’s childish behavior was seriously wearing me out, and our earlier fight was just a product of my exhaustion. I was usually the mature one in this…whatever this was. But during this round of foolishness, I quickly and carelessly devolved into the petty power struggle that’s always defined our…situation.

And then she stormed out.

I initially refused to go after her ass. Instead, I tried to find something mindless to do and ended up online, simultaneously on Hulu and Facebook while watching the home team beat down the defending Super Bowl Champions. Despite various distractions, all I seemed capable of paying attention to was the fact that time was ticking by and my phone hadn’t made one sound.

That’s when fear replaced the fury.

I started imagining all types of stupid shit.

What if the car stalled? I’d reminded her to schedule an appointment at the dealership weeks ago when the engine light first appeared, but I should have just taken care of it myself and endured her inevitable rants from her soap box about how I never trusted her to handle anything and blah, blah, blah…

Or maybe she had an accident or something? Whenever she was pissed, she drove like a bat out of hell. And that’s never good when the roads are slick after an all-day downpour…

Or maybe she was just out doing what she had better not be doing…

I turned my attention to the wall clock and scowled, liberally cursing myself.

The fact that I was sitting around speculating about where my damn woman was at eleven o’clock at night sent me into a whole different level of rage.

I muted the football game and placed my hand on the keyboard to shut down my laptop when an image on a social media newsfeed caught my attention.

An image of Natasha.

She was at a sports bar.

And based on the check-in location, she was about twenty minutes away.

I clicked and opened the photo, feeling like a stalker. Natasha was in the background, seated at a counter with her head tossed back, a shot glass touching her lips. A shot of bourbon, probably. That had always been my drink of choice, and I noticed her preference for it as of late. The last time we were out together, I almost commented on this sudden shift from her habitual Vodka shots, but I kept it to myself because saying something about it would have sent her into yet another rant, ensuring that bourbon would become yet another thing she would officially ban from her life in her endless attempts to not be influenced or changed by me in any way possible.

I glanced at the time stamp on the photo. It had been posted nearly an hour ago.

What were the odds of her still being there?

Probably no better than the odds of me seeing a picture of her in a photo taken by a person I didn’t even know who happened to point and shoot at just the right angle and tag every person in it, one of which happened to be a colleague of mine.

Either way, the odds were in my favor tonight.

I had a fleeting thought to play the lottery.

After I went to get her ass.

Grabbing my keys, I paused before opening the garage door. Snatching my phone from my pocket, I searched the web for a cab service and dialed. After I gave them my address, I hung up and forced myself to wait. No point in driving my car there. By now, she was probably totally drunk and would need me to drive and I had no intention of making two trips or, worse, leaving either one of our cars in that seedy parking lot overnight.

I checked my watch and exhaled a long, deep breath, using the extra time to calm myself. I wasn’t interested in another fight, but I had no doubt that Natasha would be spoiling for one.

I rushed into the cab as soon as it arrived. By the time the driver pulled in front of the sports bar, I fully expected that she would be gone but, luckily, I spotted her car in the adjacent parking lot.

Yeah. I definitely needed to play Mega Millions  tonight.

Getting out of the cab, I generously tipped the driver and watched him disappear around the corner. The plan had been to get here, but I hadn’t quite thought past that. I had calmed down some but not enough. Clearly, the mature thing to do would be to call and let Natasha know that I was outside the bar, then ask her to come out so we could talk like two rational adults in a normal relationship.

Which was exactly what I did.

But she didn’t answer my call…or the five calls after that.

So, I sunk back into immaturity.

Moving quickly, I walked to the side of the building and took out my spare key to open the driver’s door of her car…which was technically mine since I had paid it off for her.

I sat behind the wheel for several moments, pissed. I knew it was petty and more than foul to leave her stranded, but the thought alone made me feel better so I revved the engine, slammed the door and peeled off without one glance in the rearview mirror.

I called her again.

I imagined some dude in her face, too busy yukking it up with him to acknowledge my calls. Probably scheming up some disrespectful bullshit to piss me off. I let out a harsh breath and stabbed the END button. It was just a matter of time before she would be blowing my phone up because it would be pretty difficult to plan your next move on foot.

Maybe now she would appreciate shit and stop telling me how she didn’t need me every five minutes.

Bet she’ll be needing me now

As much as I always needed her.

So much that I was still checking my phone for missed calls even though it hadn’t rang once.

So much that I was failing to dismiss the regret that gripped me from the moment I left the sports bar without her.

Back at home, I fumbled around in the kitchen before moving into the family room to settle into my recliner. Picking up a magazine, I flipped through the pages, almost ripping them to shreds.

Eventually, I tossed it aside and watched the clock instead.

Waiting. Worrying.

Because despite her colorful language, warped views and inappropriate behavior, I was crazy in love with Natasha’s rotten, disrespectful ass and, more than anything, I just needed to know she was safe.

I closed my eyes, angry at myself.

Then, I heard the alarm rapidly chirp three times.

Relieved, I leaned back, grabbed another magazine and flipped it to a random page. A part of me was still on edge, waiting for her explosive temper to shatter the quiet and escalate the guilt I’d been forced to endure since I had returned home.

Surprisingly, she bypassed the den and strolled into the kitchen instead. Seconds later, I heard cabinet doors slamming and dishes rattling. Over and over.

And then the noise ceased.

I almost chuckled, suspecting that she finally noticed the freshly brewed pot of her favorite coffee I left for her, imagining her pouring it down the sink just to spite me.

But I was surprised again when she walked past me a few minutes later sipping from my favorite mug.

Despite my anger at all of this unnecessary foolishness, it was all I could do not to crack a smile. And just like that, I wanted her to cut the shit and come wrap her body around me while I pretended to finish reading this magazine.

Damn her.

When it was clear that she intended to go upstairs without one word of acknowledgment, never mind a thank you for brewing her favorite blend to sober her ass up, I decided to break the silence. “One of your little boyfriends drop you off?”

I knew it was the wrong thing to say, but I really couldn’t help myself.

Natasha jerked her head around, her façade giving way to her true emotions. “No, but the cabbie was pretty hot. He gave me a card with his direct line so I wouldn’t have to wait as long if I ever needed a ride. My own personal driver…gotta love that.”

I felt the heat rising, but I refused to give her the satisfaction of reacting right away. True, I hit below the belt first so I knew I had it coming, but I still didn’t appreciate her saying that shit to me like I was just her fucking roommate and she hadn’t been riding my  dick less than twenty-four hours ago.

I looked down at my hand and watched as it curled into a fist, almost of its own volition.

Her eyes flashed, a satisfied expression on her face at having rattled me yet again. I took a few shallow breaths, refocusing on my plan to kill the drama. If I didn’t, we’d be right back where we were earlier and she’d be storming out again.

Finding her twice in one night?

I’d never been that  lucky.

“You’re drunk, Elle.” I stood and walked past her. “Just drink the coffee. I’m going to bed.”

“Peace offering, huh?” She twisted her mouth. “Save it, Quincy. I only came back here to get my car. I certainly hope you didn’t believe your little stunt was enough to keep me from going back out.”

I took in the sour expression on her sweet face and released the air from my chest. This whole thing had gone too far. I was done. “No,” I said, laughing to myself. At  myself. “I didn’t believe it for one second.”

I started for the stairs without looking back, fully expecting her smart mouth to deliver something heartless before slamming the door and rattling the house as only she could do.

But she surprised me yet again.

I heard the flat panel television come to life followed by a few loud, angry outbursts. When I looked over the landing, I paused. She was sprawled across the sofa with her phone attached to her left ear, her coat and heels in a pile on the carpet.

I caught a few words of her conversation before I finally heard a familiar name leave her lips in the middle of her ranting.

As usual, Natasha was giving her best friend, Sabrena, yet another earful of our issues, totally dismissing my numerous requests that she not involve other people in our business.

Of course.

Because Natasha lived by doing the exact opposite  of everything I ever said.

I felt compelled to call her out on that fact, but I decided to keep that to myself too. It would be easy to check her ass, but what would that do other than kick-start the bullshit and ruin the rest of my night? At this point, I was more than all right with her incessant yapping…

As long as she didn’t leave.

I cringed at the desperation of that truth. Tuning out her creative storytelling, I tried to map out how I had become the guy who allowed a woman drive him up a wall every hour of every day. Before Natasha, my love life had been much easier. I had no time for nonsense. The women I dated knew what I liked and what I didn’t care for. They acted accordingly with no arguments whatsoever, every one of them truly appreciative of all I did to make them feel special and loved. And they never  hesitated to reciprocate ten-fold.

I was a good-looking guy. Above average by most standards based on the compliments I regularly received. I made a good living and never wanted for much. I was educated and had my opinions, but I usually didn’t take myself too seriously. I definitely knew what a good time looked like, and I often indulged after my business was handled. In my numerous years of dating, I’d never had trouble attracting quality women, and every one on record was as beautiful — if not more so in some cases — as the brat now bad-mouthing me like I owed her money and ate her leftovers or something.

I frowned at that thought.

Why couldn’t Natasha express the sweet words and kind acts of girlfriends past?

Life was too short to be fighting with somebody all the time. A few fights here and there are natural. Growing pains, if you will. It’s nothing new. I’d certainly navigated more than my fair share of arguments in past relationships with some pretty formidable women, but none of them had been half the opponent and total hurricane that was Natasha Elise Gordon.

And now here I was.

Momentarily powerless yet relieved that she was still here and not storming out…again.

Me…Quincy Coleman…trudging around my own damn house, completely exhausted and utterly frustrated by the fact that kind words were not a part of my woman’s vocabulary and that her sweetness was sporadic, seeming to only really surface when I was buried deep inside her body, making her sing my name at ranges most opera singers couldn’t hit…

Noticing me staring at her, Natasha glared up at me and stuck her tongue out of her mouth like a toddler, her middle finger fully extended.

Unable to hide the shadow of a smile I couldn’t prevent, I finally laughed. Damn her.  “Yeah, well you can’t do that and be on the phone so tell Bree goodnight and bring your ass to bed.”

Her eyes flashed with interest before she rolled them and turned away from me to resume her conversation.

Now,” I said, before entering our bedroom and slamming the door.

I had just settled into bed when, eleven minutes later, she burst into the room and climbed on top of me.

As she straddled my lap, I didn’t bother waiting for an apology that would never come. I was much more satisfied by her soft purrs in my ear as soon as my hand swiftly connected with her ass.

She lifted her head and gazed down at me, finally blessing me with a sweet smile, her eyes expressing an emotion she wouldn’t allow her mouth to speak.

One I already knew…

Because I felt it too.

“Yeah,” I said, looking into her eyes before rolling her over so she was trapped beneath me. “I thought so.”