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

Cleveland

Flash Fiction Musical Selection|Erykah Badu: Orange Moon

Photo by Julian Myles on Unsplash

Me and her pops had a big fight. I’m talkin’ — the kind that makes a brotha take a step back and think about what’s about to go down before it goes down — that kinda fight. I respect my elders — I got manners, you know. My folks raised me right, but I was just so damn tired of him puttin’ thoughts into Ruthann’s head about me — how she can do better than me.

I mean… Ruthann loves me. She ain’t tryin’ to hear what her pops is sayin’, but I hear him. I see the look on his face when I walk through their door. He hates me — literally hates a brotha.

And listen, I don’t normally feel that intensely about what other folks think of me — but this means something to me. I can’t put my finger on it just yet. But having her pop’s approval is at the top of my list.

Ruthann looks at her pops like he made the damn world. He is the sun, moon, and stars — hell, the entire universe to her. He has her heart and for three years; I cracked at the wall around it and I finally got in. I can’t have him reversing that shit, you know. I’m in there now, and I plan to stay there.

I ain’t stupid. I have my wits about me, and I got plenty of sense. Her folks don’t want her settlin’ down with me — don’t want us intermingling. My people — her people.

They can all pass. You know what I mean, right? They’re light as hell. They are the lightest Black folks I know. Ruthann is sugarcane colored — gently kissed by the morning sunlight. Her eyes are emerald green. Her lips are two finely sliced pieces of sweet flesh added to her face for effect.

When I first met her folks, her mother didn’t even say hello to me. She said, “Boy, you are the color of burnt molasses,” sucked her teeth, and walked off. Her pops looked me up and down — measurin’ me with his eyes. Dude ain’t need no ruler. I knew exactly what he was thinkin’.

I looked around their home — noticed the fine china, the furniture that didn’t come from IKEA, the barely walked-on floors, and the chandelier that dangled above our heads.

Somebody’s blood was royal, and it wasn’t mine.


I never thought I’d fall in love with a girl whose folks hated other Black folks. How much do you have to dislike yourself to look at people of your race like you want to sic the county dogs on them and skin them later just for fun?

Ruthann memorized this quote from Toni Morrison, she tells me sometimes. She tries to get my mind off the drama of her family, but I can’t stop thinkin’ about that shit. It consumes me. She’ll just say it as smooth as her lovely mouth can form the words, and I kid you not — I feel better.

“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”

And she’ll go on further, “Baby, it ain’t racism in our case, it’s colorism. And I don’t give a damn about who’s lighter than who or who’s darker than who. You know what I give a damn about?” And I play into this every single time, like the man in love that I am. “What, Ruthann? What?”

“I care about you. I care about us.”

The anger leaves me just as quickly as it seeped its uninvited self into my bones. I sink into the tightness of her embrace, and I allow her to be my peace.

She is my peace.


Photo by ziphaus on Unsplash

The fight started because I asked Ruthann’s pops for her hand in marriage. Ha! Listen, I was scared shitless! I sat down in their “main room”, across from the old man, and rubbed my sweaty hands together. My breathin’ was off. My heart was racin’ at the speed of light. I kept stutterin’.

He just sat back in his chair, chest all puffed out like he was some damn washed-up Avenger waitin’ for the call back into action.

“The Shield Family is cut from a different cloth, boy. Ruthann will not marry into one as simple as yours. We have standards. I want what’s best for my daughter, and Cleveland Mabry, you are not it.”

I don’t know what happened — I just saw red. And before I could stop myself, I raised up out of that chair, charged toward her pops, and lunged at him with an anger I couldn’t pull back.

He jumped up, took three steps away from me, and looked like the last days were pouncin’ on his heart. I thought the old man had seen a ghost the way he removed himself from my line of sight.

Ruthann had been standin’ on the other side of the room — just outside the doorway. She heard everything. She had tears in her eyes that were streamin’ down, linin’ her dimpled cheeks.

I hated to see her cry. I told her when we first met that I would never do anything to make her cry — not intentionally. The last thing I wanted to do was make her so mad that tears left those beautiful gem-colored eyes.

I walked over to her, placed my hand within her personal space, and she stopped me. She held up one hand, looked at her pops, then looked back at me. What she said next… floored me.

“Daddy, you do not decide who I will marry. You don’t get to approve or disapprove. You don’t get to design your life around mine to further infiltrate your beliefs into what I deem beautiful within this one life I have to live. If Cleveland wants to marry me. Then we will be married.”

There’s something about a woman standin’ up for you without your consent — without your awareness before it takes place. That night, I fell even more in love with Ruthann.

What the hell were two twenty-three-year-olds going to do on their own without her family’s financial support?

We were going to survive.


She moved out of her folks’ place and we carried everything we could to my house. I’d called my mom on the way over. She wasn’t happy, but she wasn’t mad, either.

We have a spacious, fully furnished basement. It was nothin’ to turn the area into Ruthann’s room.

My pops looked at me like the world had landed itself on his shoulders when I got outta the car. It was like he was tellin’ me something without sayin’ nothin’. And after the day I’d had, I just couldn’t play mind reader.

I walked past Pops and into the livin’ room, placed Ruthann’s bags on the floor, and led her downstairs to the basement where she could get herself ready for dinner.

When I came back upstairs, Pops was standin’ right there — arms folded — body language sayin’ a firm, “There’s only one man in this house, boy,” and I heard him loud and clear.

This wasn’t gonna be our home, either.


After dinner, I walked Ruthann down to the basement. I told her exactly what I knew I needed to. I watched her dancin’ eyes, her radiant smile, and her regal presence lean in to give me her full attention. The room smelled like her — like jasmine and fresh rain — like sage and Nag Champa. I choked on my words.

“We… we can’t stay here. Ain’t nobody said anythin’ yet, but it’s comin’. And Ruthann, I’d just rather not be here when it does. I’m tired of runnin’ into storms because we love each other. I’m so damn tired. Tomorrow, I’m gon’ pick up an extra shift at work for however long it’s gonna take to save up and get outta here.”

“So, you think you have to do this on your own? You don’t. We are a team, Cleveland. I’ll pick up a few more hours at the library, and I’ll make a significant withdrawal from my savings account. We are going to be okay.”

At that moment, I knew I’d made the right decision. I knew the woman who stared back at me with eyes of emerald green and skin matched by the glimmer of first light would be with me forever.

Because it felt like the right time, I slid the ring from my pocket and got down on one knee. I looked up at her — a lump formed in my throat — my hands got sweaty. I took a deep breath in and said, “Ruthann, I would like it very much if you chose to stay with me for life. Would you marry me, please?”

I could feel a smile growin’ on my face — one that settled there longer than it probably should have. I was safe. She said, “Yes.” Actually, she said, “Come here, silly! Hell, yes!”

And every time I wonder what will happen to us — who will try to separate us because of where we each come from …

I sink into the tightness of her embrace, and I allow her to be my peace.

She is my peace.


Originally published in Lit Up Magazine via Medium.

Smooth as a Fresh Cup of Pour-Over Coffee

Musical Selection: L.T.D.|Holding On (When Love Is Gone)

Flash Fiction

I didn’t think he’d see me staring at him. I tried to fiddle with the People magazine in my hand — darted my eyes over the cuckoo clock above the Barista’s head.

He spotted me. And I couldn’t backpedal, couldn’t turn away fast enough. He was the color of pre-evening with onyx eyes and a James Earl Jones voice.

My entire body convulsed when he said, “I think you dropped this.” I looked down and he was holding my pen. I had been tackling a crossword puzzle, and the sleek writing tool must’ve escaped my grip when I saw him.

“I, uh … Yes, that’s mine.” I started tripping over my words. What was I doing?! Where was my head? I dragged the pen from his grip.

“I’m Loyal.” He extended his very manicured right hand to me.

“Um … I’m trustworthy.”

He giggled. I heard cherubs singing. I hadn’t caught the humor until he casually said, “No. Loyal is my name. Loyal Manor.”

His hand was still waiting for mine. I slapped it nervously, cupped it, then gave it two quick shakes.

“Oh! Oh! Haha. My apologies. I’m Grace … Grace Baron. It’s nice to meet you, Loyal.”

I glanced over at the Barista, who flawlessly prepares my order daily, and she flashed me a wink.

“Well, I’ll let you get back to your puzzle, Grace. Will you be here tomorrow?”

“WILL I?! I mean … Sure, I’ll be here.”

The dimple in his left cheek made my acquaintance, and I became as giddy as a schoolgirl. Everything about Loyal was smooth as a cup of pour-over coffee, and I wanted to learn more about him.

“Okay, then. I’ll see you tomorrow, Grace Baron.”

“Uh huh. Yes. Yes, you will.”

He turned to exit the building, and I knew it was rude to watch, but I wanted to be sure I wasn’t dreaming.

The Barista tipped her hat in my direction, and flashed me another wink. The server bought me a second cup of coffee and patted my hand. A piece of paper bounced off my knuckles.

There, on a strawberry-scented blueprint piece of stationery, was Loyal’s phone number.


©2022 Tremaine L. Loadholt Originally published in soliloque via Medium.

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

Musical Selection: Doja Cat|Woman

Part III: She’s stretching herself in all directions for her daughter

A woman stretching for legs far away from each other while lying on the floor.
Photo by Oksana Taran on Unsplash

Today, I will give her the space she needs to talk about Bree’s graduation invitation, her current need to want to get clean, and perhaps a future for us. Today, I will learn about this woman a bit more — the one who ripped my heart out almost a year ago but hasn’t left me alone since. There is a reason for all of this. There is always a reason for everything, yes? Today, I will be the listener she needs — the shoulder with everlasting comfort.

Tomorrow will bring whatever it will bring, and I will be ready for it, too


Cari devours her breakfast. She is adamant about consuming delicious, home-cooked meals. We almost never ate out. In the past, she would say, “Rena, whatever you make, I will eat it.” And she did. There had never been a meal of mine I cooked, she did not eat. She had been more than pleased to inflate my culinary ego, and I fell into every compliment as quickly as I could. This woman — the woman I loved and still love, the woman whose body I pressed my palms onto, massaging every ache away … she has returned. What will I do? What can I do?

“I still can’t believe Bree sent me an invitation to her graduation. I haven’t seen her in so long, Rena. God, how will I react when I see her?”

“I don’t know, Cari. The graduation is in, what? A little more than a week? How about you take it day by day, and when we get there, you react however your heart implores you to act.”

I look at her searching my eyes for more answers. The sunlight from one of my windows in the kitchen kisses her right cheek gently. She glows. Even though her beauty shines through undeniably, I recognize the pain in her eyes. The pain of a mother who will go above and beyond for her daughter. An addict reaching out to the heavens to get clean for the possibility of new love in the future. It has only been three days, and she’s stretching herself in all directions for her daughter.

“You’re right, Rena. I mean … You’ve always been right about most shit.”

“I’m not trying to be right, love. I’m just saying what I’m saying. There’s no need to agonize over what you will do when the day isn’t even here yet.”

I slide another cup of coffee in front of her. She grips the mug with a mighty force. I watch her as the hot liquid slips down her throat. We’re going to be okay with this. We are.


Her accent meets my ears in a way I am accustomed to it doing, but this morning, it’s different. I can sense the pain in her voice — the unknowingness that comes with reuniting with one’s daughter — especially for someone who is an addict yearning to become sober. Cari had already contacted one of the addiction and drug rehab centers in our area prior to mentioning it to me. She had an appointment with a licensed professional who would assess her upon their first meeting and go from there.

That she had taken these steps informs me she is serious — truly serious about reconnecting with Sabrina and getting sober. The old Cari would mention getting clean and then five days later, I’d find her strung out in an alley near Shoaf Blvd passed out at 3 in the morning. Cari’s phone rings just as soon as we’re done eating, and it’s Bree. My entire body tenses up because I recall the last real conversation they had and how much it tortured Cari. I listen intently.

The room is silent and each word she utters bounces off the walls and echoes back to us. She ends the call with tears in her eyes and says not to me, but to the air in front of us or around us — she was not looking at me.

“Ze maakt me zo van streek!”

I pause. I walk over to her slowly and gently pull her into my arms. I don’t have a clue what had been said — I don’t speak Dutch, but the tone … the tone showed anger? Sadness? Both?

“She makes me so angry, Rena. So angry. But how? How can she make me so angry and I still love her so much?”

Not being a mother myself, I am perplexed. I do not feel qualified to answer this question. I continue to hold her. I continue to let her vent and cry. I say what I am thinking.

“Please tell me you have not been uninvited to the graduation.”

“No … Worse. She doesn’t want you there.”


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.


Doja Cat, Woman, December 2021

Part I and Part II

©2022 Tremaine L. Loadholt Originally published in Prism & Pen via Medium.

I just realized I had not shared the first two parts with you all. I hope this will help you get caught up here. Part I and Part II are above. Peace and blessings.