I was disappointed when Jason told me he couldn’t make lunch due to a business appointment, but I fully understood. He had missed a lot of time at work and needed to play catch-up too. I bought a sub, some chips, and a bottled soda and ended up having lunch on a bench in front of the mural Quinton painted at the MARTA station. I missed Quinton, but not in a sexual way. He had always been kind to me, and I missed his friendship—a friendship we could never have because of the sexual nature of our relationship. His loft was directly across the street. I glanced up at it a few times while I picked at my food. I ended up feeding most of it to the birds that gathered around once they picked up on the scent of the turkey breast and cheese on the freshly baked sub roll.

When I got up to head back to the office, I almost strayed over to his building, but I caught myself. I didn’t want to run the risk of bumping into Diamond, the anorexic beanpole bitch who had the audacity to come up in my hospital room with all her drama. Besides, even with Diamond out of the mix, I still couldn’t see Quinton. Not then. Not ever again. Quinton had lived through too many people walking out of his life already. Since I knew I couldn’t walk back into it for good, I decided to leave well enough alone. I already realized I would have to make up one last lie once the Civic Center had its grand opening. I couldn’t possibly attend, even though Jason was the head architect. While Jason knew about the affairs, he didn’t know Quinton was one of them, and Iwanted to keep it that way. There was no way I would disrespect Jason like that, letting him find out he had actually had lunch with my lover, and there was no way I could handle it. It was bad enough he had to confront Tyson. He didn’t need an altercation with Quinton. In another lifetime, Quinton and I could have been the best of friends, but not in this one.

Ironically, I now understood why Quinton’s mother killed herself. It took me trying to do the same thing to comprehend it. When I thought I had lost Jason, my life was over, and I didn’t want to go on. I guess she felt the same way when her husband left her and the kids for a white woman. Luckily, my attempt had failed and I had been given a second chance. I wasn’t about to mess it up. I had a renewed desire and appreciation of life. I also had a new Jason.

“Goodnight, everyone! Have a good evening and see you tomorrow!” I rushed through the outer offices and pressed the button for the elevator to go down to the garage. I was in a hurry, since I was trying to make it to the gun shop about ten blocks away before they closed up for the day.I didn’t tell Jason about being called a bitch on the phone the night before. I was determined not to let anything upset our happy home. I didn’t want to get the police involved either. They were already looking for both Tyson and Dempsey, so there was really nothing more for them to do. On the flip side of the coin, I wasn’t a fucking fool either. I realized getting a gun was not a bad idea, just in case. I would have to take special precautions to make sure it was never left anywhere one of the children could get hold of it.

When I got off the elevator, I spotted my Mercedes,twice vandalized but still hanging in there with me, parked in my assigned space at the far end of the row. There was a security guard stationed in the garage twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I didn’t see him anywhere, but that was no big surprise, since they only had one guard to patrol all three levels.

I got about halfway to my car when I heard some footsteps echoing from somewhere in the garage; I couldn’t pin down the exact location. I don’t know what made me call out—it was almost rush hour, and it could easily have been another building occupant on their way to their car or the guard. I had a very uneasy feeling, though, so I called out, “Who’s there?”

There was no response, and I suddenly realized I had stopped walking and was just standing there, frozen like a sitting duck. If there was indeed a maniac lurking in the garage, the last thing I needed to be doing was waiting for him to attack. I made a mad rush for my car, searching through my purse for my keys along the way. I had seen fifty million tapes on safety and yet didn’t have my keys out before I entered the garage. I guess it’s true what they say about leading a horse to water but not being able to make it drink.

I got to my car and still couldn’t find my damn keys underneath all the other junk in my bag. I sat my briefcase down on the ground and put my purse up on the roof of the car so I could go through it at eye level. I finally found them and unlocked the door, flinging my purse onto the leather passenger seat. I turned around to get my briefcase, which was behind me on the ground, and came face to face with Dempsey.

“You looking for this, bitch?” He had my

briefcase in his hands. Before my reflexes could spring into action, he hit me square in the face with it, knocking me backagainst the open driver’s-side door. The door caught me in the ribs, and I bent over in pain. He threw the briefcase on the ground. “Now, what you got to say, bitch? Where’s your fucking switchblade this time?”

He hit me across the face with his fist, and I could see my blood splatter on my light gray business suit. The left side of my face went numb. I wanted to scream, but no sounds would come out. “You told the fucking police about me, and now your ass is going to pay!”

Dempsey grabbed me around the neck, and that’s when I decided to fight back. I remembered how Tyson had choked me and knew if I didn’t do something fast, he would cut off my airway and I wouldn’t have a prayer. I pulled every ounce of strength left in me together and kneed him in the groin. He squealed out in pain and let go of my neck so he could hold onto his privates.

My first instinct was to get in the car and drive off, run over his crazed ass if need be, but then I realized he had knocked the keys out my hand at some point during the struggle. I did a quick search and couldn’t find them; they must have landed somewhere underneath my car or the one parked beside it. Before Dempsey could fully regain his composure, I took his head in both my hands and kneed him in the face while he was still bent over. I had seen that move in dozens of karate flicks, and I must have administered it right because he started yelping like a dog.

I hauled ass, and my vocal cords finally kicked back in as the polluted city air pumped in and out of my lungs. I had lost one shoe already and paused long enough to pull the other leather pump off. I ran uphill, to the next level of the garage, which was also the entry level, hoping to locate the guard in his booth. I could hear Dempsey yelling out behind me, but if he was running, he didn’tseem to be closing in on me and I was sure as shit happy about that. I reached the guard booth, screaming, “Help me!”

To my dismay, it was empty. I turned around, getting ready to keep hauling ass out onto the busy street to seek help from one of the many strangers on the sidewalk. Instead, I ran straight into the guard, who was coming out the small, and probably filthy, bathroom hidden behind a steel door marked for employees only. He was zipping up his fly when I started screaming at him to call the police. He radioed for help right away, but by the time the police arrived and cornered off the building and garage, Dempsey was nowhere to be found.


By the time Jason arrived, my nerves were completely shot. I couldn’t believe, after all the other shit I had been through, I now had to deal with Dempsey stalking my ass. I began to wonder if the madness would ever end. The homicide detectives assigned to Brina’s murder case were called to the scene, and I finally learned their names—Wilson and Reed. They told me their names and gave me their cards the night of the murder, of course, but I was too out of it and upset to even care.

I told them about the two phone calls from the previous day. Jason looked at me with stunned disbelief that I had yet again not been completely truthful. I explained to him that I didn’t want to ruin my first day back from the hospital and my first night with him since we started therapy, and told him I was on the way to the gun shop when the attack happened. He didn’t appear satisfied with my explanation but didn’t sweat the issue. He was just glad I was alive.

They already had an all-points bulletin out on Dempsey, so there wasn’t much more they could do except offer me around-the-clock protection. After two near-death experiences from strangulation, once by Tyson and now by Dempsey, I gratefully accepted. My lips were swollen, and so was one of my eyes from the hits I took from the briefcase and Dempsey’s fist. I absolutely refused to go to the hospital—I had just got out of that bitch, and there was no way I was going back. They handed me some pain medication, gave my ribs the onceover, and told Jason he could take me home as long as I promised to get plenty of rest and not overexert myself.

That night I told Jason about Tyson’s attempt on my life. He said the doctors at the hospital asked him about some marks on my neck, but he assumed they were somehow from the accident. We mutually decided to stop talking about negative things. Two police officers were stationed out front in a patrol car, and the alarm system was on, so I felt perfectly safe.

I wanted to make love again more than anything in the world, but Jason was quick to inform me, “That would be considered overexerting yourself.”

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