Jewel a Novella by Lisa Marbly-Warir
When I walked across the stage to get my Bachelor’s degree I was nervous and elated. The last of my parents’ children to get their college degree-I put off college for a few years while I found myself. The truth-I wanted to make it without a college education. My sisters and parents allowed me to make a few mistakes because they knew I would come to my senses. Which I did, but it cost me valuable years when I should have been reaping the rewards of hard work at this stage of my life. In the audience were my parents, and sisters. Marcus did not come citing another engagement. I gave him ample time to make arrangements and he still disappointed me. When I needed him most he was often missing in action or had a lame excuse to bow out of something important. I called him the night before the graduation asking him again was the other engagement that important?
“Baby, I told you, its work related and, I put in for time off too late.” He said annoyed I was bringing it up again.
“Fine.” I said hanging up the phone.
Before I graduated I ended up with three interviews and two job offers. I was ready to leave my job of five years. It was in retail, long hours, no money and no life and treated badly by customers who thought they were above people who worked in retail. I promised myself that when I made it big, I would remember the sacrifices I made and treat people with respect regardless of where they were in life. When I got to my parents’ house I hoped for a small private dinner with immediate family. Everyone was there from former neighbors I hadn’t seen in forever, cousins, aunts and uncles. As I made my way into the house a pair of strong arms grabbed me and lifted me off the floor startling me. It was Marcus.
“You scared me,” I shoved him. He laughed.
“You told me you had other arrangements,” I said surprised and happy to see him. The old romantic in me forgave him.
“I did, but I made sure I was at your graduation dinner,” he said and kissed my cheek as we walked in the house.
“You had me fooled,” I said. He smiled over confident in himself of the one good deed out of dozens of let downs. I met Marcus one morning on one of my jogs in the park. He was into fitness himself and the one thing we had in common. His body and lovemaking skills were on point and one of the few reasons I kept him in my life.
The party lasted into the night. Everyone left around eleven-thirty. Marcus and I stayed around after most of the guests had left to help my parents clean up the mess. Afterwards I thanked and hugged my parents for the party.
“‘Bout time you finished college Jewel.” My father joked and settled into his favorite chair in front of his wide screen TV.
He meant that remark. Never one to mince words I’m sure it embarrassed him and his well-to-do haughty family members. His baby girl refused to fall in line. Most of my family members who had degrees were living the life I wanted minus working for someone else. I may have been over thirty, but I had an end goal in sight. Marcus and I finished up and when we left he followed me home and came up to my small one-bedroom apartment. At the time I lived in a rundown neighborhood because of my limited salary in retail. Plus, going to school full time and, I didn’t want to borrow or take money from my parents. They might have called me a slacker, but they never fixed their mouths to say I ever took money from them. Around that time I was a thrift shop junky, there was no shame in my game for buying used things for my apartment; painting and revamping them and putting my unique stamp on them. I had to be patient for my eventual day of extravagant shopping. Marcus sat on my old couch with the colorful throw I used to cover a stain. I went to the kitchen to fix refreshments.
“When do you start your new job?” he asked and turned on the TV.
“Next Monday,” I said.
“Are you excited?” he asked and came into the kitchen while I prepared our drinks.
I shrugged my shoulders. There was a different calling on my life I couldn’t ignore, but I was thankful for my job. I wanted to be a boss and retire earlier than sixty-five unlike my parents and most likely my siblings and their spouses. The vision of owning my company loomed in front of me. Working for someone else and making them rich didn’t sit too well with me and it made me all the more determined. Marcus was content working for others and didn’t give me support when I spoke of my dreams. When I went to pursue my bachelor’s I suggested to Marcus to go back to school with me. He always argued with me and threatened to walk if I couldn’t accept him.
Together for over three years; we fought most of those years, only putting our differences aside for sex. Even sex became a chore because I didn’t get from him what I wanted-what I needed. I prepared the drinks, threw chips in a bowl but then he seduced me and coaxed me into the bedroom. We had sex. I decided I would end the relationship in the morning; this time for good and not allow him to draw me in with empty promises. It had been taking up space in my mind for weeks because dealing with his antics was better than being alone. I found I was alone most Friday and Saturday nights and it made no sense. He wasn’t at work every Friday or Saturday as he claimed. A month earlier, I called his job looking for him to prove my hunch was right he wasn’t there.
When I tried to talk to him, he told me it was a misunderstanding, the person didn’t know him and that he was at work. That wasn’t the only time I’d caught him in a lie and I was getting tired of the emotional ups and downs. He was inconsistent with his words and actions. He broke promises time and time again and when I confronted him with,
“Where is this relationship going?” He would get mad and leave the apartment instead of sitting down like an adult and having this discussion. I cried more than I was happy, or second guessed where I stood with him. Mind blowing sex couldn’t heal this relationship. He was good in that department, but I always felt empty afterwards. We lay in bed. While he slept, I lay wide awake determined to end this nightmare called a relationship. When he gets up in the morning I’ll just be blunt and tell him. I thought to myself and fell asleep.
The next morning I awoke to find him gone. That was his M.O. get the booty and leave; but I allowed it. I blamed myself. I got up went about my day before I called him. He didn’t answer so, I ran an errand, paid a few bills and came back home and called again. He picked up the phone. I left him two voice messages and got irritated but I kept my cool as I spoke to him.
“Hi Marcus, I wanted to talk to you this morning,” I said.
That was something else that concerned me, his phone. He guarded his phone, never leaving it to where I could have access to it, not that I would go through it. Would I? I didn’t know but, he gave me plenty of reasons not to trust him. When I expressed to him that I wanted to talk. He said,
“I’m busy; can we talk over dinner this Friday?”
I was reluctant but told him yes; I figured what were another few days after dealing with his crap for years?
Later that week
Marcus and I agreed to meet at the restaurant. Running late, I had a deadline to finish before I could leave the office. I told him to meet me at the restaurant and get a table. Fifteen minutes later I arrived-we embraced, he kissed my lips. I sat down and we looked at our menus. Not wanting to jump right into a break-up speech, I made small talk. When the waitress came over we placed our order and continued to talk until our dinner came.
“What’s on your mind?” he asked sensing something was bothering me.
“What we have is not working for me anymore,” I said.
“What do you mean? What we have is perfect,” he said as he cut his steak.
“How is this perfect? What we have is a ‘friends with benefits’ relationship. I’m surprised we’re even on this date, if that is what you want to call it.” I said.
Marcus and I never had a traditional dating pattern. There was no real courtship, he either crashed at my place or I went to his which was rare. We fell into a sexual relationship and it stagnated from there. He took a deep breath.
“Ok, which one of your miserable single friends has been in your ear? I told you about letting your manless friends in your ear. If you’re looking for me to ask you to marry me, you can forget it. I told you from jump I wasn’t getting married. You’re going to let your jealous, lonely friends get you out of a relationship,” he said in a warning tone.
I exhaled, I didn’t want to get married at least not to him I convinced myself of that anyway. No one was in my head but me and I wasn’t happy. My peace of mind and self-esteem required me to move on and get out of this dead-end situation. For the last couple of years dealing with him made me question my attractiveness, my heart and my senses. No woman should endure this. But I had to face the truth. Marcus was the wrong man. The more I jumped through hoops for a ring, for him to commit wholly chased him further away. It was futile, he wasn’t going to change. He looked at me and cocked his head to one side.
“I know what this is. You got your degree and now a blue collar brotha ain’t good enough for you. I knew this day was coming; only a matter of time.” he said and shook his head.
That was not the case.
“I’m not interested in being a part-time girlfriend,” I said.
Reasoning with him would be impossible. He flipped the script and put the blame on me. Marcus checked out of this relationship many months or even years ago; but we trudged on until I’d had enough. I shook my head.
“Have a good life. Don’t call me again,” I told him.
I couldn’t go on being unhappy in a relationship where the man said he loved you and had your back but his actions said otherwise. I left the table and never looked back-he didn’t stop me either and never contacted me again. We wrote each other off after three years. It proved that our relationship was superficial. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do as I walked away with my head held high. Never admitting this to anyone, I waited by a phone that never rang. Will power kept me from getting on the phone and begging him to take me back. I would never reduce myself to that level again.
As much as I played the-I don’t care card to my sisters; I had to admit to being devastated to learn six months later he married another woman. Turns out she was the real girlfriend. I was the side piece and unaware. My friend Natasha told me to get on the phone and warn his new wife about me. I asked her,
“When is that ever a good idea? She will believe whatever lie he tells her. All Marcus will do is tell her I am a desperate delusional chick who wants him and I’m trying to hate on their relationship. I’d rather cut my losses and move on. Even though I didn’t see the warning signs in the beginning. I’m positive his wife knows the kind of man he is.” I told Natasha.
His wife got pregnant while we dated, so I was dealing with him with a pregnant girlfriend I later found out. I got mad at myself all over again for not listening to my woman’s intuition.
A little investigative work gave me the information I needed. The time Marcus told me he had important business out of town and couldn’t see me for two months; his girlfriend now wife was having his baby. He was spending time with her and the baby. He called me every night during that time. So it was easy to ignore the obvious red flags. I had to be honest with myself. I knew what time it was. A piece of man was better than no man. I didn’t want to be alone. After a while I grew out of that crippling mindset. No man was better than a piece of man. That was where I decided to be until the right one came along-if he came at all. My sisters and mother had been right about Marcus. They never liked him, they considered him to be too hood and street-wise for me and felt he was using me for money. Not that I was supporting him. But I loaned him more money than I should have. When I found out the money I gave him funded his now wife, I felt even worse.
Months turned into years and after the ordeal with Marcus it made me throw myself into my new job as a financial controller and thoughts of my future. I got serious about goals; where I wanted to be in the next five years or even ten. I sat on my king-sized bed one night and laid out all of my plans. With some old school jams on the radio comforting me; it took me back to a simpler time when I didn’t have to worry about shady men and paying bills. My notes were placed in the order of their importance. Start my company, acquire a building, hire people, buy a house, get married, have a baby. I was thirty-five and old enough to be established but young enough to realize my dreams. Since the breakup; I was down but not out. Because of that I always looked forward to hanging out with one of my sisters; Amethyst and two of my friends Natasha and Tamra. They kept my mind off of work and men. It had been two years since I’d seen or talked to Marcus and with it, time did heal my heart. When I broke up with him I second guessed myself, what would have happened had I stuck it out with him? Then I would crash back to reality and think about the woman he married and the fact he had a child with her, now they had two children. He was never mine. And as time went on he was but a memory that came along to haunt me every now and then at my lowest points.