Call it a woman’s intuition. Call it a sixth sense, but instead of driving home after work, Nivea felt an urge to swing by her fiancé’s old apartment.
When she rolled up in front of the building where Eric used to live, she gave the place a smug look. Eric’s former apartment building was a dump. She had no idea why he’d been so resistant to the idea of moving into her upscale townhouse.
But that was water over the bridge. She had introduced Eric to a better lifestyle and she was proud of that fact.
Nivea did a double take when she noticed the Highlander parked at the curb. Her heart rate began to accelerate when she recognized Eric’s license plate. What’s he doing here? He’s supposed to be working overtime.
With the motor running, she jumped out of her Mazda and removed a couple of lawn chairs that were holding someone’s nicely shoveled parking spot. Brows joined together in bafflement, she parallel parked, cut the engine, and then got out.
Nivea peered up at the second floor apartment that Eric had left six months ago when he’d moved in with her. She could see the twinkling colored lights that adorned a Christmas tree. She frowned at the Christmas tree. It was the first day of December, too soon to put up a tree in Nivea’s opinion.
Eric had sublet the place to one of his unmarried friends. Which one? She couldn’t remember. Feeling a rush of uncomfortable heat, she unbuttoned her wool coat, allowing the frigid evening air to cool her.
There had to be a good explanation for Eric being here. Something really innocent. He didn’t have to work overtime after all, and decided to stop by and visit his buddy, she told herself.
Even though moving into Nivea’s townhouse was a step up for Eric, it had been hard convincing him to give up his crappy bachelor’s pad. She was so elated when she’d gotten him to agree to move in, that she hadn’t bothered to question him about the details of his rental transaction.
But she was concerned now.
Carefully, Nivea climbed the icy concrete steps that led to the front door. Inside the vestibule area, another door, this one locked, prevented her from forcing her way to Eric’s old apartment. She read the name that was centered above the doorbell of apartment number two: D. Alston.
Who the hell is D. Alston? She jabbed the doorbell twice, and then pressed the button without letting up.
She heard a door open on the second floor. “Stay right here. Let me handle this,” Eric said gruffly.
Who the hell is Eric talking to?
Eric thumped down the stairs, causing a vibration. At the bottom of the stairs, he looked at Nivea through the large windowpane that separated them. She expected a smile of surprise, but Eric gawked at her, displeasure wrinkling his forehead.
He turned the lock, cracked the door open, and poked his head out. “Whatchu doing here, Niv?”
“I should be asking that question. You’re supposed to be at work!”
“Yeah, um…” He scratched his head.
“Who’s renting the place now?”
Refusing to give him time to gather his thoughts, she pushed the door open, and zipped past Eric.
“You can’t go up there, Niv.”
“Hell if I can’t!” Nivea took the stairs two at a time, the heels of her boots stomping against the wooden stairs. Eric was up to something, and she had to know what the hell was going on.
Eric raced behind her. He roughly grabbed her arm. “You outta pocket.”
She yanked her arm away and spun around. “Let me go, Eric!” Eric was a big, stocky man, but she gave him such a violent shove, he fell backward, stumbling down a couple of steps.
Motivated by a suspicious mind, Nivea bolted for Eric’s apartment, which was at the top of the stairs. The door was slightly ajar. She pushed it open.
A woman, who appeared to be in her early twenties, stood in the kitchen, clutching a baby. One glance told Nivea that the woman was street tough. Hardcore. She was not cute at all. Light-skinned, reed-thin with a narrow, ferret-like face. The Kool Aid red-colored weave she was rocking looked a hot Halloween mess. Anger flickered across the woman’s mean, sharp-featured face.
“Who are you?” Nivea asked, hoping to hear, I’m Eric’s cousin. Hell, she was willing to accept childhood friend, or even long lost sister. She’d happily go along with any relationship, except jumpoff. She stole a glance at the baby that was buried beneath blankets.
The skinny chick looked at Nivea like she had sprouted a second head. “How you gon’ bust in here axin’ me who da hell I am?” Her bad grammar and attitude confirmed Nivea’s suspicion that the chick was a hood rat.
Nivea scanned the kitchen quickly. The appliances were as outdated as Nivea remembered, and the cabinetry was still old and chipped, but the room was spotlessly clean and somewhat better furnished than when Eric had lived there. Nivea took in the rather new, but cheap-looking kitchen set that had replaced Eric’s old one.
The female tenant had tried to brighten up the dismal kitchen. Matching potholders and dishtowels were on display. The former dusty mini blinds that had once hung at the kitchen window had been replaced with ruffled curtains.
What is Eric doing here with this ghettofied heifer and her child?
As if she’d read Nivea’s mind, the thuggish chick turned toward Nivea. Holding the baby upright, she gave Nivea a full view of the infant’s face. Nivea felt her heart stop. The little boy, who looked to be around four or five months old, was a miniature replica of Eric.
“Oh, my God!” Nivea squeaked out. She grimaced at the child who was Eric’s spitting image.
Okay, I’m imagining things. That child can’t possibly be Eric’s baby!
© 2011 Allison Hobbs