About Love Changes...
Eartha Watts Hicks is heating up the month of March and adding a bit of spice of her own. Love Changes gives us the story of a young mother torn between two men, her baby's father and her best friend. What is a woman to do?
Tell Eartha how you would handle this hot situation. To be entered into her giveaway, simply leave a comment at the end of this post.
Ten years in the making, the debut novel by Eartha Watts Hicks infuses original poetry, song lyrics from 80's and 90s popular music, and prose in the narrative of Mia Love, a twenty-six year old single mother. Mia Love quits college to support her live-in boyfriend, Spider. When she becomes pregnant, her mother, his mother, and Romell, her handsome and flirtatious best friend, all think she has made a bad decision. Now, Mia cares for both her newborn son and Spider. Tethered to a low wage job to pay the bills, she's urging him make a commitment. Spider, himself underemployed, remains resistant. This causes tension between the two, with arguments getting more and more personal. Meanwhile, "good friend" Romell is offering a shoulder (and a lot more) to lean on. What ensues is a love triangle with a unique twist, two men vying for a lady with a baby.
I looked back at the doorway of Pookie’s just as Romell came stepping out, hands in the pockets of his black slacks, two plastic bags hanging at his left. Because he works out a lot, his posture’s erect but his swagger seemed looser than ever. Still, I saw tension in his face. No dimples now, he had lockjaw. He looked at me, cockeyed. “No cab? Or did you just realize you left your keys?”
I didn’t answer that, and I didn’t say a word to him in the cab; I tossed my head, flinging my hair back over my shoulder, twisted my body away from him, and crossed my legs. Romell tried to get my attention by whistling Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You.” When that didn’t work, he started pelting my feet with pellets of used chewing gum wrapped in foil, seven pieces in about ten minutes. I figured he was chewing all that gum and spitting it out just to annoy me, but I kept my back to him the entire ride and walked ahead of him into the building. We rode up to the thirty-seventh floor in separate elevators. As soon as he unlocked his door, I bolted into the living room. Even in my slim skirt and croc pumps, I was Flo Jo. My leg banged into his marble cocktail table, sending it spinning around on its axis until the halves formed a circle. I dented my shin, but I wasn’t rubbing my boo-boo. I jumped right on his Slinky sofa, leaned over it, reaching until I snatched my keys up off the rug. Then I made a beeline for the door, hoping I could run right out, but he blocked my exit. When I stepped to the left, he stepped to that side. When I tried to veer to the right, he kept right in front of me. I knew then he would not let me past; I had no choice but to get in his face, “What?”
“You don’t wanna be with me?”
I shook my head.
“You don’t wanna be with me?”
“No, I do not!”
“You show up in stilettos and a little skirt, and you expect me to believe you don’t want me?”
“I did this for Spider.”
“Well, Spider isn’t here now. Is he? And, what about your poem?”
“What about it? I wanted you to know how I feel.”
“Oh, so you admit you have feelings for me?”
“Pah–leese, Romell! That poem is about your situation.”
“My situation, huh?”
“Yeah, that’s the perfect solution.”
“If you think you and I hookin’ up would be the perfect solution, why don’t you just say you want me?”
“Are you mental?”
“How long have you wanted me, Mia? How long?”
“Now, I know you’ve lost it. What makes you think I want you?”
“Your poem! I’ve got it right here.” He patted himself down, pulled a page out of his back pocket and unfolded it in front of me. “There! You say all through this how you’re gonna melt my fears away and how you’re gonna make me feel.”
I looked, reading aloud halfheartedly, “Chocolate Love every day can melt your fears away and have you feeling new. That’s what Chocolate can do.” Then, I shook my head. “And?”
He smacked his baldhead, paced and then, banged the back of it into the wall. “Chocolate, your last name is Love!”
“So? I wrote this to motivate you to embrace black love.”
“Stop it. The only black Love you want me to embrace is you.”
Now, I read the whole thing through. I could see how he could make that assumption. The words “Chocolate” and “Love” were both capitalized all the way through the poem, but I didn’t do that intentionally. That connection didn’t even occur to me when I jotted the lines down; my mind was in a totally different place. I laughed, but he didn’t see humor in this, at all. His face was as stiff as steel.
I tried to explain. “I know how this looks, Romell, but that wasn’t the meaning behind this. I meant chocolate as opposed to vanilla or any other flavor. Chocolate is a metaphor for black, and Love is just love, the emotion. Not my last name. That’s just a coincidence.”
“This ain’t no coinki-dink! I told you once before. You won’t be happy until I’m with a woman who’s your height, your weight, and your complexion. What I should have said is you won’t be happy, until I’m with you. Why won’t you just admit it?”
“Hello! I am in a relationship with Spider. Remember him? Real tall, kinda goofy, I love him. Seriously, I was not coming on to you.”
He stood, huffing and puffing for a moment, then looked at me hard. “Did you eat any peanuts?”
“No! What the hell kind of question is—”
I didn’t finish my sentence. The next thing I knew, I felt his warm tongue, stroking mine and tickling the roof of my mouth. I heard the crackling of plastic when Romell’s CD bags hit the carpet. Then, my bag dropped to the carpet, and I backed all the way to the wall, but the lower half of me began to wind as if it had a mind of its own. He grabbed my behind, pulled me into him, and boy oh boy. Now, when I walked in on Romell and Jun Ko, and saw him in those see-through drawers, I knew then: he wasn’t packing peanuts there, either. Now that he was fully hard, I knew he could poke a hole in me if I let him, but still something inside me was aching for it.
I was so aroused, but it was as if the backs of my hands were glued to the wall. I couldn’t bring myself to wrap my arms around him. To do so would’ve meant I was causing this to happen. As it stood, Romell initiated this. He was kissing me. Everything I was doing was involuntary. I wasn’t stopping this, but I wasn’t causing this, either. Technically, I wasn’t responding. Kissing him back was only a reflex, a natural reaction to the stroke of his tongue, and the taste of spearmint, so he was kissing me. What I was feeling in my stomach I had no control over. This was my logic, and so by virtue of me keeping my hands to that wall and not “touching” him under any circumstances, I was not guilty.
Then, his hands started creeping their way up under my skirt. His lips left mine, traveled down my neck, and back up to my ear. “Chocolate, I need you,” he whispered. I felt a jolt in my stomach—fear—next, my panties slipping off my behind. I opened one eye and saw Spider’s face for a split second. That sent a chill through me, because in that instant, just like in our earlier staring match, Spider’s hazel eyes bore into me. I shut mine tight now, but in my head, I could still hear his voice accusing, “If Romell is not in your bed, he’s definitely on your mind.”
Romell’s face returned to mine. I felt his warm breath on my lips. He was panting, so was I. There was something in his eyes I’d never seen before. It scared me, because this part of me was supposed to belong to Spider. At Pookie’s Jukebox, between those mirrors, it looked like there was two of me. Now, staring into Romell’s eyes, I wished there were. He closed them and then moved in to kiss again, but I sealed my lips. Still he licked, enticing me to open. He felt so good and smelled so good, but I pressed my lips tighter. I had to. My conscience was taunting me.
Romell backed up. It looked as if his eyes were reading mine. He smirked. I watched his eyes grow wide, him moisten his lips and then, wink. Now, I was totally confused. I had no clue what to expect until I watched his head take a slow descent. I lost my breath and almost suffocated as Romell gave me a gentle nibble where Spider’s mouth had never been. But, if this were to happen, there would be no way I could claim this was involuntary. No, if Romell went down on me, I had to be a willing participant; there was no disputing that. And quite honestly, I was more curious than anything else, especially since I always had this inkling that sexually, Romell would just blow me away. So, deep down inside, there was this secret place in me that always longed for this, even if it were only just once.
This was not Spider, but I always wanted to experience a man’s tongue there. But then again, this wasn’t just any man. This was Romell. He was the one collecting my panties in his teeth. This was Romell dragging them down my thigh. I was already tingling. This was Romell, not Spider. My panties were now at my ankles, and I didn’t know what to do.
Eartha Watts-Hicks is the founder of Earthatone Publishing and Earthatone Books. Former director of publications for Cultivating Our Sisterhood International Association (COSIA). She is a former mentor to Harlem startups through an organization called Project Enterprise. She is a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), and the legendary Harlem Writers Guild. A fiction fellow of the Hurston/Wright Foundation, Center for Black Literature and North Country Institute and Retreat for Writers of Color, Eartha’s writings have appeared in several online publications, including Harlem World Magazine, TheUrbanBookSource.com, and Future Executives.org. Her writing advice has been featured in The Writer’s Guide to 2013. In June of 2013, she received the Just R.E.A.D. “Game Changer” Award in the fiction category from the NYCHA branch of the NAACP and was named New York City literacy ambassador. In 2014, she was featured in the Congressional Black Caucus as part of the Write It Down panel discussion. A PR writer and affiliate of BlackPR.com, she specializes in press releases for entrepreneurs, ministries, and nonprofits. She also leads writing, self-publishing, and publicity workshops for the New York Public Library, The National Writers Union, and The New York City Parks Department. Eartha is now editor-in-chief at Harlem World Magazine.
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