A Necessary Struggle-Episode Ten


Three Little Words 

“She’s plain,” Lela spoke after she heard the front door lock click into place. “I wonder how she landed him.” Lela brushed her hand with the wiry bristles of the crisp new paintbrush.

Lela didn’t have to ask that question about herself. True she wasn’t a fashionista like Safiya. Lela had a default attire of yoga pants, t-shirts, and a fresh pair of kicks; which was what she was wearing now minus the new sneakers. Like really, who would paint in new shoes. She wasn’t a Rhode Scholar like Alyssa. No, Lela had to study extremely hard to get decent grades. British Literature was a bore and Algebra might as well be sorcery because she didn’t understand either. Unlike Harmony, Lela couldn’t eat whatever she liked forgoing calorie counting and missing days at the gym while still holding onto a flat, rubber band tight tummy. No, Lela’s abs were loose and her thighs were thick. Regardless of her imperfections, she knew how she landed Trevor. The answer was present every time the heat of his eyes burned into her mocha skin; when his arms wrapped around her like they were made for that purpose alone; and when his body parted her knees finding home between her thighs extinguishing the fire that raged in her lotus flower. It wasn’t her brain, beauty, or fashion sense. It was her soul. He drank her up like she was the elixir for everlasting life. So, why couldn’t she let him write her that check?

Trevor’s head stayed down as he stirred the wooden stick in the bluish gray paint. “Who’d she land?” He bit down on his bottom lip. His flexing muscles that were hidden under the sleeve of the plain white tee burned like coals. This was his third can and he had two more to go. When Lela told him she was painting a room for $1675 he assumed it was a nursery or an office not a living room that could entertain hundreds with walls that seemed to never end.

“Professor Russell.” Lela stopped brushing her hand. “Fine Ass Carter Russell.” She turned to Trevor. He stopped stirring looking at her blankly. “Harmony’s Poli-Sy Professor.” She tried to clarify.

“Don’t know ‘em.” Trevor shrugged resuming the figure eight motions in the bucket of paint.

“How do you not know this? He’s like sex in a blazer.” Lela laughed at the metaphor Alyssa made as they sat in Russell’s class freshman year. Alyssa. Lela’s mind went back to the hospital watching her friend lying in the bed being medicated to reduce her rising heartbeat. Lela’s laughter died.

“Maybe,” Trevor’s baritone pulled Lela out of her thoughts. “Its because I don’t go around checking out dudes.”

Lela knelt by on of the paint cans Trevor already mixed, “What do you think Fiya’s going to do with the baby?” She watched the wheat bristles soak up the blue-gray paint. “I think she’s going to have an abortion.” Sprinkles of paint splash on the clear plastic that covered the walnut floor, “I can’t see anyone calling her mama.”

“I don’t believe in abortion.” Trevor slowed his stirring motion; this can was finished.

“What do you mean you don’t believe in abortion?” Lela held the paint-covered brush away from her body as she stood up. “You don’t have to believe in abortion. You’re not the one with the uterus.”

“So, just because I don’t have a uterus I don’t get a say in my baby’s life!” Trevor swiped the stirring stick on the rim of the can. “Bullshit!” The stick fell from his hand splattering blue flecks on his square face.

“Men are unpredictable.” She pointed at him like he was the spokesperson for all men. “They leave women behind to pick up the pieces when things get tough or when a hot thot in a mini skirt walks by.”

“So, you’re saying if you got pregnant you’d kill our baby.” He tightly folded his arms glaring at her with a laser-like stare.

“Who says I going to have your baby?” Lela spun around, swiping the paintbrush along the rust wall.

“I am.” Trevor grabbed her by the waist and turned Lela towards him. “You’re going to be my wife, have my babies, and spend my money.” He gently kissed her forehead.

The air he exhaled from his nose tickled her lip. Lela twisted the end of Trevor’s out of shape T-shirt around her hand pulling him into her, “Before you go planning a wedding in that spontaneous head of your’s, we’re gonna have to play it safe. We almost got outed at Jolt the other day.”

He stopped lacing her neck with kisses pulling his head up, “I’m not.” He let her go. He stepped back a pace getting a full look at her, the sparkle in her brown eyes and the calmness hanging on her face. She was serious. “Fuck that! I’m tired of that shit!”

Lela’s chin shot up. She knew he was mad. His cheeks burned scarlet. “Alyssa just went a round and got knocked out the ring. She doesn’t need a gut shot from her friends.” She reached for his hand.

Trevor pushed her hand away, “Bullshit!” He stared at her nodding with narrowed eyes concealing his baby blue irises. “I know what you’re doing. You can’t commit. Your high school sweetheart cheated on you freshman year and your alcoholic father ran out on you and your mom and now you can’t commit.”

“Don’t talk about my dad!” Lela huffed. “Don’t call him an alcoholic.” She knew he had a drinking problem but she didn’t want to label him.

“What do you call someone that drinks vodka like water and inhales bourbon like air?”

“You son of a bitch!” Lela flung the paintbrush at him with fury.

Trevor didn’t move. He let the brush smack against his white tee leaving behind an imprint of blue-gray. He didn’t flinch. He knew Lela had the aim of a marksman but the might of a flea. His eyes followed the paintbrush to the floor. He said the first thing that popped in his mind. He wouldn’t say it to any other girl but she wasn’t any other girl. This was Lela. “Daughter of a bastard.”

“I hate you!” She stormed pass him.

He grabbed her arm stopping her pace. “I love you.” She locked eyes with him. “Say something, now.”

Trevor’s gaze burrowed into her as if he could read her mind, searching for those three words in her psyche; begging for her to say them back. Those three words climbed up her throat as her heartbeats vibrated in her ear and her hands perspired. She swallowed slowly, “ Let’s paint and stop playing around. Unless you want me to get kicked out of school.” She jerked her arm away from him.

Trevor watched as she picked up the paintbrush, “They’re seven reasons why I love you and number one–you’re stubborn as a mule. But Lela Emery you will tell me you love me…because I know you do.”

Lela kept her back towards him painting the wall. Was he right? Would she say those words to him? Can she tell him she loved him? Did she love him?


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