“Good morning,” Cincere gurgled, still half asleep. It was well past noon when he rolled out of bed and staggered into the living room yawning and scratching his chest.
“Hey! It’s about time you got up! The day’s half over!” Kyra danced her way over to him with a big smile on her face. Fresh air filled the room along with a little 90’s R&B. She woke up in such a good mood she’d been busy cleaning all morning.
“Wow babe, the apartment looks great,” Cincere complimented her hard work. His hands rested on her waist as their eyes met. “I hope this means you’re not still mad at me.”
“You know I could never stay mad at you.” Kyra followed up with a kiss to convince him.
“Are you hungry? I can always fix you somethin’ if you want. . .” This time, Kyra offered to make him something to eat. After the way he put it down last night, he didn’t even have to ask.
“Sure.” Cincere found his favorite spot on the couch and resumed flipping through the channels. Meanwhile, Kyra was busy rummaging through all the cabinets, only to discover that minus a couple spices and a stale pack of ramen noodles, they were bare. She opened the fridge only to find that too, was empty.
“Damn. Looks I’ll have to run to the store. I’ll be right back.” Kyra grabbed her keys and blew Cincere a kiss on the way out.
For once, Kyra stepped out into the muggy Caribbean day without thinking twice about her outfit. She was wearing one of Cincere’s old Bob Marley T-shirts, a pair of faded, cut-off jeans, and a bandana to hide her messy bun. Normally, there was no way she would step foot out the house dressed like that, but she figured she was just making a quick trip to the grocery store. It wasn’t that big of a deal. Besides, it wasn’t like she had anyone to impress.
Kyra turned the key in the ignition and the old Jeep Cherokee rumbled to life. It had been passed down to her from her mother a couple years ago, and even though it was used it was still pretty reliable. Other than the fact that the air conditioning stopped working at the beginning of the summer and neither she nor Cincere had the money to fix it, she hadn’t had any major problems. Still, Kyra often had to remind herself that even though her car wasn’t as nice as a Benz or a Lambo it got her from point A to point B.
En route to the nearest convenience store, Kyra decided to take a detour through her old neighborhood. She drove for miles until she spotted the house she was looking for. The bright blue paint made it almost impossible to miss. The white wraparound porch was just as impressive as it was the first time she saw it, and so was the swing that she missed so much.
Kyra couldn’t help but reminisce every time she drove by. So much about her life had changed in the past few years, it seemed like her brain was still trying to process it. When her mother got re-married, Kyra was so focused on the fact that Matthew was going to be her stepfather, she completely overlooked that they would be living under the same roof, let alone who’s roof that would be. It didn’t take long after they said “I do” for them to put a For Sale sign in the yard. Before she knew it, they were moving – again.
But what made it so bad for Kyra this time was that after just having returned from what could only be described as the trip from hell, she was forced to watch them celebrate their love for each other, all while mourning the loss of her own. Kyra wished them the best, but when her mom tossed the bouquet, she didn’t even try to catch it.
Needless to say, Kyra’s last year at home was a real struggle. Adding to her stress, her mother had her under 24-hour surveillance. Kyra was the only 18-year-old she knew who wasn’t allowed to go anywhere or do anything by herself. There were some days it seemed like Kyra couldn’t even breathe without her questioning her or accusing her of lying about something. Years had passed since then, and Kyra felt like she was still working to regain her trust.
Not to mention her friendship with Natasha was strained to the point they barely talked, and Angel wouldn’t talk to her at all. She made it obvious she sided with Quentin and his family, and while Kyra understood her position, she still wished she would’ve at least cared to get her side of the story before making her decision.
The only person Kyra had seen since the shooting was Michael, and they both managed to avoid speaking to each other. It was still much too painful and way too awkward to talk about what happened that night.
And then there was Mercedes. From what Kyra heard, even after losing her daughter, she hadn’t changed. When her name got brought up in a conversation not too long ago, Kyra wasn’t all that surprised to learn she’d been showing off on Worldstar – and she’d seen the videos to prove it.
Whenever Kyra happened to get online, she would try looking Justin up, but out of the thousands of Justin’s that came up none of them were her Justin. Even with sites like Facebook and Twitter, her search proved useless. Kyra couldn’t seem to find him anywhere. After awhile she came to the conclusion that wherever he was he didn’t want to be found.
Kyra continued on her journey in deep thought. She knew it was important that she cherish the good times she shared with Justin, because in the end, that’s all she had left. Sadly, when it came to every man she ever loved all Kyra had left were memories.
Kyra took a moment to admire the tattoo of her father’s initials on her wrist, her fingers tracing the pretty cursive. She had a habit of rubbing it whenever she got too upset about something. Picturing her father with that brilliant smile of his, carrying her on his shoulders, was the only thing that helped her calm down. Kyra missed what little she remembered about her father, and although she’d grown to like Matthew over the years, no one could ever replace him.
As she got older Kyra came to realize that losing her father wasn’t something she would ever get over. It was something she had to learn to live with. Getting a tattoo in his memory was Kyra’s way of keeping him close, especially given the fact that she couldn’t visit his grave like she used to. It also served as a reminder that no matter how hard her life gets, her guardian angel would never abandon her. Her father sacrificed his life for her, and for that Kyra would forever be grateful.
Kyra took solace in the fact her father was in a better place, but that didn’t mean she still didn’t yearn to see someone punished for the crime committed against him. He was gunned down in broad daylight and nothing had been done about it. To the police Marcus Jones was just another drug dealer, but Kyra truly believed he was a good man at heart. She had nothing but love for her father, no matter what anyone said about him.
Compounded by her sorrow, a blind rage was brewing within. Kyra had every right to be angry, yet she didn’t know where to direct her anger. All these years, she wanted someone to blame: her mom, her dad, the system, herself? The betrayal she felt by the authorities cut deep. Her father deserved justice, but after over a decade and no new leads, she doubted they would ever find out who did it. It wasn’t like witnesses were running to the stand to testify, and at times, it seemed like the only person who cared about him anymore was her.
Kyra was frustrated it made her want to scream. She wanted to be able to put a face on the man who took her father’s life, and changed hers forever. She wanted to look him in the eye and tell him exactly what she thought of him. She wanted to finally be able to go to sleep at night knowing he got what he deserved. She wanted someone else to suffer, just as she had. She needed to know they felt an ounce of the pain she felt, day in and day out.
Life was hard growing up without her father. There were days where Kyra got so upset she wanted to lash out at everything in sight, but instead she bottled her feelings when it came to her loss, and she applied the same rule when it came to Justin. It wasn’t something she liked to talk about. No matter how much she loved them there was nothing she could do to bring either one of them back.
Kyra was still trying to get a handle on her emotions when she stepped out of the car. She marched straight up to the convenience store doors and tugged on the handles, only to find them locked. She hadn’t noticed the “Gone to Lunch” sign hanging in the window in her hurry, and the hands on the clock said they weren’t due back for another thirty minutes.
“Ugh! You cannot be serious right now!” Kyra pressed her face against the glass, but it was too dark to see inside.“Hello! Is anybody in there?” She tried pulling on the doors again, but was met with resistance.
“Damn it!” Kyra got back in the Jeep and slammed the door behind her. Her next best option was the farmer’s market. The only problem was it was all the way on the other side of the island.
Overcast blanketed the island of Prince Paul, stripping it of its vibrant colors and replacing them with dull shades of gray as the sun played hide-and-seek amongst the clouds. Still, Kyra took her time admiring all the beauty around her. As she went from stall to stall chatting with each of the different vendors, she filled her basket to the brim, stuffing it full of fresh ingredients.
Kyra knew it was time to go once her basket got so heavy it felt like it was about to break. But as Kyra lugged her purchases back to her car, she spotted a familiar face in the crowd that left her breathless and speechless, all in one. Were her eyes deceiving her? Could it be true? Standing just a few feet away from her was the one and only Justin Hartwell, and needless to say he was looking too good.
Kyra took in every little detail like she was seeing Justin again for the first time from his beautiful brown eyes to his breathtaking smile. She was happy to see him looking so strong and healthy, and judging by the way he kept laughing and smiling let her know he was happy, too. At least she hoped he was.
It was funny because Justin looked exactly the same as he did when Kyra first met him only . . . better. He was slightly taller than she remembered, and the outlines of his muscles were visible beneath his shirt. She caught the glimmer from the diamond in his ear all the way from where she was standing. Always so clean shaven, Kyra was surprised to see Justin had grown a scruffy beard, giving him a more rugged appearance.
Justin must’ve felt her staring at him, because the carefree expression on his face went blank the instant he saw her. The moment they locked eyes was so intense, Kyra thought her heart stopped.
In a crowd full of people, they still managed to find each other, and once they made eye contact, they refused to let go. Their attraction to each other was still so magnetic Justin couldn’t resist making his way over to say hi. But instead of running toward him with arms wide open, Kyra nearly dropped everything trying to get away. One look down at what she was wearing and she panicked. After not seeing him for so long, she knew she had to make a good impression. It didn’t matter if it had been 20 years before she saw him again there was no way she would let him see her looking hit.
“Kyra,” Justin waved to get her attention, but Kyra pretended not to notice him. She threw her stuff in the trunk, got behind the wheel, and hit the gas with the quickness.
Kyra sped away from the marketplace as though she were being chased. She didn’t know where she was going nor did she care, all she knew for sure was she had to get out of there. Her eyes didn’t leave the rearview mirror until she was sure she was far enough that Justin couldn’t catch up.
Kyra was so overcome with emotion she had to pull over on the side of the road. Seeing Justin in person brought up a lot of emotions Kyra wasn’t ready to deal with. They broke up so long ago it didn’t make sense to cry about it, but it was like she didn’t have a choice. Kyra couldn’t stop the tears from coming. Every time she wiped them away more came.
Seeing Justin again only reminded her how much she missed him. It didn’t matter how much time passed, being apart wasn’t getting any easier for her. Each day without Justin seemed longer than the last. Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. Months turned into years, but her love for Justin never waned.
Regret set in right away. Kyra ran through the scenario in her mind a thousand times at least. How did she mess it up? Kyra knew exactly what she wanted to say to Justin the next time she saw him, and now that she finally had her chance to tell him how she felt, she blew it. Justin was right there, and once again, she let him slip away.
Kyra even tried to convince herself that the man she saw at the marketplace wasn’t Justin, just to make herself feel better, although deep down, she knew that wasn’t true. She’d come across several look-a-likes over the years. Every time she got her hopes up, thinking it was him, she wound up disappointed, but something told Kyra this time was different. Something in her heart told her it was Justin. It was almost as if she could sense him.
After a few minutes, Kyra regained her composure. She needed someone she could talk to and Meeka was the only person she thought might even kind of understand what she was going through. Because right now, Kyra didn’t need someone to tell her what she wanted to hear. She needed someone to tell it like it is, and that was Meeka.
Kyra pulled up at her address moments later and the mat at the front door welcomed her company.
“Yo, Meeka open up!” Kyra pounded on the door, hoping she could hear her over the blaring music.
“Hey, girl, what’s up? Is everything okay?” The look on Meeka’s face was one of confusion and concern. Kyra’s bloodshot eyes were a dead giveaway that she’d been crying. The second she opened the door Kyra blew past her and made herself at home in the living room.
“No. Everything is not okay,” Kyra broke down again. One look in her eyes revealed her heartbreak.
“Aw, mama, what’s wrong?” Meeka pouted. She didn’t like to see one of her friend’s hurting.
“Francesca! Stop it!” Meeka scolded Francesca, her beloved Chihuahua for interrupting their conversation with her yapping and scooped her up off the floor. Once she made herself comfortable on her owner’s lap, Francesca finally seemed to calm down. Sadly, the same could not be said for Kyra.
“Kyra, what’s the matter? Why are you crying?” Meeka questioned her again.
“I just ran into Justin. . .” Kyra sniffled. Both her voice and her hands were shaking uncontrollably.
“Hold up. Wait a minute . . . rewind! Justin? As in your ex-boyfriend Justin?” The news was unbelievable, even for Meeka.
“Yes!” Kyra started pacing the room until she worked up a sweat.
“And where was this?”
“At the marketplace. . .”
“So how did it go?” Meeka asked.
“Horrible,” Kyra sobbed.
“What? I’m sure it wasn’t that bad.” Meeka chuckled slightly. “Did you get a chance to speak to him at least?”
“No. . . Not really.” she admitted.
“I don’t know! It’s not like I was expectin’ to see him. . . I wasn’t ready.” Kyra threw herself down on the couch and put her face in her hands. “God Meeka, I can’t tell you how many times I planned what I would do if I ever saw him again. Today I had my chance, and I completely ruined it! I am such an idiot!”
“So then how do you know for sure it was him? For all you know, you could be getting yourself all worked up over nothing,” Meeka pointed out. Still, the look in Kyra’s eyes said she was certain.
“I can’t explain how I know. I just . . . know.”
After a quick touchup on her hair and makeup, Kyra finally made it back home, but knowing Cincere was there waiting for her, made her reluctant to go inside. Kyra took a deep breath to prepare herself for an argument as she turned the key.
“Hey it’s about time you got back. I’m starving.” Cincere met her at the door to take the heavy basket off her hands.
“Sorry I took so long. The store was closed so I had to drive all the way to the farmer’s market,” her explanation came with a heavy sigh.
“I’m just glad you’re home. I was starting to get worried.” Cincere wrapped his arms around her, but Kyra was quick to break free from his embrace.
“Babe, what’s wrong? Are you okay?” Cincere was confused by her sudden change in mood. When she left she was in a good mood, but she went from being loving and affectionate to cold and distant all in the matter of an hour.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.” Kyra concentrated on putting the groceries away to avoid making eye-contact. She didn’t want him to pick up on the fact that she had been crying and start questioning her. Cincere looked at her funny, but he didn’t question her. He let her be.
That same night, just before bed, Kyra dug out an old picture of her and Justin in Jamaica. She knew she probably shouldn’t still have pictures of him now that she was with Cincere, but she just couldn’t bring herself to throw them away. Unlike Makai, Justin was someone she actually wanted to remember.
As Kyra sat there studying his face, she wished there was some way she could re-live that moment. Kyra would never forget their trip to Jamaica or the first night they spent together in that villa. Kyra closed her eyes and let her imagination run wild. She molded her body to her biggest, fluffiest pillow and imagined it was Justin lying between her legs. She squeezed her thighs together fantasizing about some their steamiest encounters, and the last time she shared her body with him, but as soon as she felt tears coming, Kyra quietly placed her memories of Justin back in the shoebox, and slid it back under the bed.
“What you got there?”
Kyra nearly jumped out her skin at the sound of Cincere’s voice. In her trance, she hadn’t noticed him walk in.
“Oh nothin’. . . Just looking at some old photos,” she lied through her sniffling. Cincere cradled her face in his hands, using his thumbs to dry her cheeks. It hurt his heart to see her so unhappy.
“You still miss him don’t you?” he asked in reference to her father. Cincere was one of few people that knew about Kyra’s past. Most guys would’ve been scared off once they heard her story, but Cincere knew the whole truth, and he didn’t judge her for it. He loved her for it. Cincere admired Kyra for her strength, as well as her beauty.
“Every day,” Kyra fought to keep her composure in his presence. A faint smile concealed her pain, but one look in his eyes did nothing to ebb her overwhelming sense of guilt. She wasn’t crying over her father. She was crying because she was still in love with Justin.
No matter how hard she tried, Kyra couldn’t deny her feelings for Justin and they were too strong to bury. Back when they were together, Justin wasn’t just her lover, he was her best friend. No matter what happened, he would always have a special place in her heart. No matter who else came along, she would always have love for him.
“Don’t worry, baby. You’ll always have me.” Cincere lent her his shoulder to cry on and gave her his heart to keep, but when he told her he loved her, this time, Kyra didn’t say it back.