Cleveland

Part III: Searching for a new home

Flash Fiction

A black and white image of a Black couple standing back to back.
Photo by 1MilliDollars on Unsplash

We are tasked with finding another temporary residence while my building undergoes renovations. His parents are kind enough to usher us in on such short notice, but I don’t feel welcome here. I know we won’t make it for the next eight months. That’ll be impossible.

I see the look in Cleveland’s eyes — the intensity — the strain. He wants more than anything for us to be in our own place without the looming gazes of others beating down on our backs.

I want that too.


To say that I am blessed to have Ruthann would be an understatement. She’s been by my side for the last three years, and if I had to do them without her, I don’t think I could. My folks whisperin’ behind our backs. I can hear my father wake up in the middle of the night and press on our floorboards with the weight of his body — pacin’ back and forth. Pacin’ . . .

We ain’t causin’ no trouble. We’re just here — just here, tryin’ to make it. Ruthann’s been searching for a place that’ll house us for the next eight to nine months. We are hopeful her place will be done by then. While she searches and works, I work double shifts at my job and save up some money.

Her pops beatin’ down her cellphone with his text messages. Some of them happy. Some of them sad. Some of them angry. Ruthann just shakes her head, sends a simple and respectful response, and keeps it movin’.

Between the two of us, we’re gonna make it. We don’t need them. We got us.


Cleveland hasn’t been himself lately. I know this struggle — the one of us searching for yet another place to stay is overpowering his strength. He hates imbalance. He is always centered. He is the only man I know who meditates before the sun rises and runs two miles before he showers, kisses my head, and rushes off to work.

When we talk, we have meaningful conversations. He is fluent in expressing himself about various artworks; both literary and visual, music, construction and engineering, and the current state of our roller coaster economy.

Being that I spend most of my days conducting research on authors, science, and the best way to make our library stand out in our city, I love delving deeper into things outside of this realm. Cleveland gives me that.

I think I may have found the perfect temporary spot for us. It’s a place not too far from my oldest sister. She sent me the landlord’s information. I’ll meet with him tomorrow after I talk to Cleveland about it tonight.

I am crossing my fingers and toes for this space. It would be a ten-minute walk to the library and about a fifteen-minute drive to Cleveland’s job. Talk about convenience! Wish us luck!


Before I started dating Ruthann, I dated an older woman named Val. She may have been older, but she was not wiser. And her folks loved me! Her pops took one look at me when I first met him and said, “Now, Val, if you can’t stick with this one, what are you going to do? Come on over here, son!”

Her folks instantly accepted me. I didn’t have to jump through any hoops — didn’t have to mourn my dark skin while I’m still livin’ — didn’t have to constantly prove myself.

We didn’t work out. And it had nothing to do with her folks, nah. She had other plans for the future — plans that didn’t include me cuz she started messin’ around with her mechanic.

After I shook the weight of that relationship offa me, seven months later, Ruthann appeared. And here we are.

It’d be my demise if Ruthann dogged me the same way Val did. That’d be the kinda wound I wouldn’t be able to heal from quickly.


I just got a text message from Ruthann. She may have found the perfect spot for us. She sent some photos my way — place looks great! I’m excited to see it. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll be out of my folks’ place soon and into one we can call ours — if only for a little while.

The stink of being unwanted is travelin’ along with us and lemme tell you, it’s not a welcoming stench.


Originally published in Lit Up via Medium.

Part I and Part II

Checking In After Hours (Part IV)

Flash Fiction: Flushed evidence

Photo by Jadon Barnes on Unsplash

“What in the blue haze?! Ask the shadow? What the hell kinda message is this, Dibbs?”

“Your guess is as good as mine, Bends. I’m puzzled by this one. Just puzzled. ‘Ask the shadow.’ What shadow and why would we talk to something that’s not really there?! We’re going to have to call in the calvary for this one, Bends. This is some serious shit.”

Tamara looked at the strange man. He looked curiously at her. The two of them shifted their eyes over to where the “shadow” was and said nothing.


“Bends! Get your hind end over here quickly, my friend. Look what I done found in this here toilet!”

Bends turned slightly toward Tamara and the strange old man, then walked briskly into the bathroom where Office Dibbs had been. He hiccupped, then sneezed, and wiped his nose with the corner of his shirt sleeve.

“Whatchugot, Dibbs?” Something important?”

“ I believe we may have landed ourselves a bit of evidence. Look at this. Dark red clumps of hair. Three of them. Three fine clumps of dark red hair. You thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?”

“I sure am. Someone tried to flush some evidence and looks like it came back to bite them in the ass.”

“Bag it and tag it, Bends!”

“I’m on it, Dibbs! You logged it already on your pad there?”

“I sure as hell did.”


Tamara looked at the strange old man, and he looked back at her. The shadow was nowhere in sight, and the room took on an eerie smell — something in between the depth of loneliness and the reality of divorce. Tamara breathed out a labored sigh and the strange old man folded his short, chubby arms.

“Hey! You, sir? You’re the owner of this place? This your motel?” Dibbs called to the strange old man, finally recognizing him for who he was.

“Name’s Topher. Topher Brocklin. It is my place, yep. Been the owner now for ten years. Place was handed down to me by my uncle Teddy.”

“That’s mighty nice, Topher. Topher Brocklin, you say? Any kin to Macy and Moe Brocklin up there on 55?”

“Yep. My cousins. Distant. But cousins all the same.”

“Okay. Well, it’s nice to meet another Brocklin. Take a look at this, please.” Officer Dibbs held up one clump of hair with his gloved hand and sashayed it in front of Topher Brocklin’s eyes. “Judging by the hair still left on the deceased’s head, this is not hers. Any idea who it belonged to?”

The strange, Oompa Loompa’d man stood back on his heels, tightened his folded chubby arms, and mumbled, “Tess. Tess has dark red hair.”


Tamara looked at the strange old man, then up to Officer Dibbs and Officer Bends, and shook her head in disbelief before saying, “What kind of place are you running here?! Isn’t Tess one of the other maids?!”

Officers Dibbs and Bends were thinking the same thing, but both nodded at the woman’s recollection and noted the disgruntled look on Topher Brocklin’s face after her comment.

“The woman has a point here, Topher. Have you seen Tess at all today? Better yet, have you seen either of the other two maids today?”

Topher Brocklin stood there weary-eyed and unfocused on the serious issue building before him. Had he seen Tess or Daphne earlier at all? Did either of them clock in? He scratched his oily head as if to unearth the answer.

“Well, officer … I — I can’t says I have.”

“You can’t say or you don’t know, Topher. Topher Brocklin? Those are two different things, you know?”

“I mean … I don’t recall. I can’t remember.”

Tamara huffed out an exasperated sigh and just shook her head. The officers stood there, flummoxed by the situation unfolding right before them. And the strange old man cried.

Just as the first tear fell, the shadow reappeared.


Originally published in Hinged.press via Medium.

Part IPart II, and Part III

A Cornered Gurl (via Medium) is Back!

Remember when I talked about bringing my own table because others have refused to let me sit at theirs as a writer/editor/creative thinker? Well, It has been a year and five months, and I am getting the care I need for an eye disease (keratoconus), and I will soon be introduced to scleral contacts that will help sharpen my vision. It was time for me to bring A Cornered Gurl back to amplify the voices of others, so I did.

We are also on Instagram, too. I am sharing this with my WordPress family, just in case, some of you are interested in becoming writers for ACG.


ACG (Reboot) Publication Cover. Created with Canva.

A Cornered Gurl is Back

And I have missed it so much!

Being that I am getting the care I need for keratoconus and will soon be introduced to scleral contacts to enhance my vision, I felt it best to get started again here in A Cornered Gurl. I have truly missed it.

This will be our clean slate. A chance for ACG to move forward for the remainder of 2022, and walk into 2023 with an exhilarating presence and a resounding, WE ARE BACK pumping through our veins and leaving our mouths.

I have had a fair share of writers ask me from time to time if I would ever get ACG up and running again, and I thought (at those times) that I would not be able to do so. This publication is too much of my heart, soul, and mind for me not to pick it back up and lend your words the love and space they need.

It is time.


A few things have changed, but not many. There is a new logo and a new publication cover, but the heart of ACG is still the same.

What is the theme?

A Cornered Gurl: We want the REAL you. A Cornered Gurl is a space for writers to “come as they are” and truly be who they are.

What will I publish?

•Heartwork (to include fiction (1,200 words max), non-fiction (1,200 words max), & poetry) •Tales of the South •Our Story (Stories about who you & and your family are) •Micropoetry •Challenges

When will I publish content?

Mondays, Fridays, and Sundays by 7:00 pm, US ET/EDT. A total of 8–9 pieces will be published on those days.


For those of you who were here for ACG’s start back in 2017 as a standalone publication for my work only to watch it transition to include other writers as well in 2019, I hope you will join me once again.

If you wish to become a writer for A Cornered Gurl, please adhere to the submission guidelines and follow through accordingly.

I cannot wait to begin this journey with you again.


This is your time to “come as you are,” and truly be who you are. At A Cornered Gurl, We want the REAL you. Always.

Submission Guidelines|Follow us on Instagram

At 4 am, She Calls for Comfort (Bisexual Flash Fiction)

Musical Selection: Post Malone featuring Doja Cat|I Like You (A Happier Song)

Part IV: A turn of events Cari had not envisioned

Photo by Gabriel Brito on Unsplash

We stood in silence. Teardrops from her big, bold, and dark eyes fell onto my hands. I danced in a circle as I held her close to me. Our breaths pushed from our chests and forced us to stay in sync with one another. How will we deal with this? I don’t yet know, but what I know is this … we have a chance at a new beginning, and daughter or not, I will stand guard against Sabrina if I have to. I won’t watch her break her mother’s heart for a second time.

Once was enough.


After a few moments of standing, holding Cari in my arms, she finally speaks. I feel her body shake. As she breathes in and out, I feel the heaves of her chest. I don’t want to let her go. Her head lifts up and out of my embrace. She speaks …

“When Sabrina was a little girl, I was her everything. I couldn’t even move from room to room without her attached to my hip or tagging along, cuffing my lower legs. We were inseparable. After her daddy left, I hit that damn pipe harder than ever and lost my baby girl for a few years. I try to go back to those days — try to push my body to that time, and I ain’t moving, Rena. I ain’t moving.”

“Cari, you have done all that you can for Bree. I’ve seen you maneuver through various mood swings of hers and her violent attacks on you just a few years back. You have tried. You are trying, babe. You are. And when you have left these addictions behind, you are going to be so much better. Either she’ll see it or she won’t”

“How can she deny me the happiness I have in you? How can she not invite you? Have you not been around for her the last six years of her life?! Even when we weren’t speaking, the two of you were still connected. I don’t get it!”

I watched Cari as she searched for what would make this make sense. And there is nothing. There will be nothing to make this behavior from Sabrina make any of this fathomable. Sure, she has had to fight for her mom’s attention when Cari was strung out on crack cocaine and every label of liquor under the sun, but she has changed — she is changing.

You only get one mother.


I look at Cari. The tears fill up in her eyes and do not drop. My heart breaks into pieces. She is so much and so little and everything under the sun all at once.

“I am going to call her. I’m not going, Rena. If you can’t come … If she doesn’t want you there with me. I am not going. I’m just not!”

The room fills with intensity, and the silence between us is thick and long. Cari wails at the top of her lungs and I stand helplessly feeling all the years we have endured adding up right before my eyes.

“Cari, you need to be there for Bree. Her high school graduation? She needs to see her mother there. I’ll be okay.”

“NO! If she tells me when and where I can bring my partner now, Rena, it will never end. Do you want to be removed from all other aspects of my life with Bree? Do you?! Who does she think she is?!”

Cari has a point. If I cannot come to the graduation, what next? Her wedding, the birth of her first child, her first child’s christening, etc. It will never end. I wish we weren’t in this predicament. Something happened. Something shifted. Sabrina loves me.

“I’m calling right now, Rena!”


“Sabrina Melanie Janssen, just who do you think you are?! Telling me I can’t bring Rena to your graduation — what kind of shit is this, really?”

“Hi, Mom. I … it isn’t my idea. I … Daddy’s paying for the extra tickets cuz the school only gives me ten and he said he’s not paying for Rena to come.”

“I see. Why didn’t you just say that?! Why would you tell me she couldn’t come?”

“Daddy was standing right next to me. Mom … I don’t know what to do or what to say around him. I love Rena. You know that. He hates it when I talk about her or when I say how happy she makes you. I didn’t want the stress of it all. As soon as I said she couldn’t come, though, he smiled.”

“Okay. I’ll fix your daddy. Don’t worry about him. How much are the tickets, because I’ll just buy one for Rena and that’ll solve that.”

“$15.00. I have three left. I’ll put one to the side for Rena. Mom, tell Rena it wasn’t me, please. Please.”

“We will handle all of this. I’ll send the money to your CashApp for Rena’s ticket, and I’ll come and pick both of them up tomorrow. I’ll deal with your daddy at that time, too. I love you, baby girl.”


A turn of events Cari had not envisioned greets us. The look on her face is enough to turn a frown upside down. I hear the joy in her voice as she tells me what happened — why Bree had said I could not come to the graduation. And I guess some bridges do need burning even if we still have to cross them.

“How dare that son of a bitch put our daughter in the middle like this?! I hated him before, but now?! Rena, I could gut that fool. I’m so angry right now!”

“I know you are. But we have bigger fish to fry now. Bree isn’t mad at you. She isn’t mad at me. She is still open to making amends and being a part of your life again. Cari, that’s big. That’s huge! The universe will deal with Marcus.”

The universe and everything good and beautiful will deal with Marcus.


Part I, Part II, and Part III

Originally published in Prism & Pen via Medium.

Cleveland

Part II: Ruthann

I don’t know why my parents are the way they are — why they think better of themselves when compared to everyone else in our community. Their senseless thinking over the years — impressed upon me and my two sisters and has shaken us in ways I cannot describe.

I have always felt the need to empower myself — to grow outside of the box they fought to pin us in, and I hate that things have taken this turn. But if not now, then when?

I love my father. I idolized him growing up — he was and in some ways is still my everything.

I can’t pinpoint one thing. There are many reasons my love for him is as strong as it is. I attended the most prestigious schools. I am well-versed in using my mental power to gain leverage in situations that require debate or negotiation. He instilled in me the need to be financially stable, so I would not rely on anyone.

The irony of the last statement isn’t lost on me. The bulk of my savings came from him, ensuring I would have “the perfect life” with or without him around.

He has crossed a serious line, though. I doubt we’ll ever be the same again.

I work hard at what I do in order to have the life I envision for myself. I had recently moved back home because the building where my loft is caught fire (electrical issues and the like). The fifth and sixth floors were the most affected. I live on the sixth floor.

Those floors are being gutted and renovated, and rebuilding will take about thirteen months. So my being back at home was a temporary thing.


I met Cleveland three years ago at an outdoor music event two neighborhoods over. A benefit concert. Proceeds were to be distributed to the city’s children’s club and rec center.

Cleveland had been the DJ, and something about the way he looked up and smiled at me was beyond appealing. I think — at that very moment; I yearned to know more, and I pursued him.

Yes, I walked up to him after I noticed him step down for a break from his booth and introduced myself. I had every intention of learning more about him, and I did. So, here we are …

Two young people in love and fighting to stay in love regardless of our parents’ feelings toward it.


Cleveland has his struggles with my parents, and I have my struggles with his. Our families outside of our homes, though, simply want us to be careful, yet they support us.

I know sometimes he looks at me and sees a woman who has it all — one who has never had to bend or break herself for much. But if you walked a mile in my shoes, you would see things differently.

From jump-street and at first glance, I am labeled as a Black woman who can get whatever she wants because of my complexion. No one knows the battles I have fought to do what I do.

I have been called every name in the book as it pertains to light-skinned Black people, many of which, I will not repeat, but a few echo without ceasing: Light bright, red-bone, and high yellow.

I am the Content Researcher for the university’s library and I did not land this job when I first applied and interviewed for it.

I have a dual master’s in history and political science and got my undergraduate degree in marketing when I was 20 years old. It took me three attempts at this career choice to do what I love doing.

The first and second interview processes had been tainted with microaggressions and subtle attempts at belittling my character and accomplishments.

The third time I applied and was called in for the interview, there had been a different director. I wondered why, but as soon as the first few questions during the interview were asked and answered, I knew.

Racism, when in terms of Black people, does not see the complexion of a Black person. It sees a Black person.

I have struggled with the color of my skin, as God has gifted it to me. I had many feeble attempts at getting darker. I would tan for hours on end to appear a light brown color for two weeks to only return to my natural state.

If you hear “You’re passable” enough, it sticks, and trust me, you want more than anything to belong amongst your people, so you do what you can to … gain their approval.


It wasn’t until Cleveland said something to me one day that made me recognize how beautiful I am just the way that I am. I came home from work distracted by an intense argument between me and my co-worker. He stated he was sure I’d climb the hierarchal ladder at the library because of my skin tone.

Not because of my credentials or exemplary work ethic or stellar attendance, but because of my skin tone.

I was seething from the discussion and as I told the story to Cleveland, he said, “Ruthann, he’s jealous. And jealous people use their anger to hurt others. You’re hurt now, aren’t you? So, right now, he’s winning. Don’t you give him that.”

And after I heard him say those words to me, I stopped crying. I looked at him and knew I didn’t want to be with anyone else. I only wanted to be with him. He pulled me into his arms and I stayed there for the night.


We are tasked with finding another temporary residence while my building undergoes renovations. His parents are kind enough to usher us in on such short notice, but I don’t feel welcome here. I know we won’t make it for the next eight months. That’ll be impossible.

I see the look in Cleveland’s eyes — the intensity — the strain. He wants more than anything for us to be in our own place without the looming gazes of others beating down on our backs.

I want that too.


Originally published in Lit Up via Medium.

Part I