The Morning Paper
by Tameko L. Barnette
Several weeks after Sugar came home from the hospital, her life seemed to back in order again. She found a job at the mall working at a record store called Easy's Listening Record Shop. Emotionally, she didn't worry as much. She actually enjoyed spending time with others. The biggest surprise of all is that she and Constant had become closer than ever.
Sugar stayed up late the night before another part of her past came to visit the next morning. She decided to watch television for the first time in ten years. Yes, Sugar hadn't watched television for ten years! She listened to the radio and some cassette tapes she had bought for the years. She loved good music. She really enjoyed the Motown sound, Little Richard, and especially, Otis Redding.
She sat down on the edge of her bed with her barefeet dangling towards the floor. She bought a TV Guide earlier that day and couldn't believe how television shows had changed over the years. She had isolated herself for so long from the outside world she wasn't sure whether she should be excited or disgusted. She surfed carefully through the channels hoping to find a program she could recognize. She settled on the TV Land channel. She remembered how she used to love watching shows like All In The Family and Sanford and Son. She sat there that night laughing and laughing. She couldn't remember a time when she had laughed as much.
An hour later, she fell asleep while watching television. She slept with a smile on her face for the first time in many years.
Early the next morning, Sugar was awakened by the bright, piercing sunlight that crept through the half-closed curtains. The television was still turned on and showing re-runs of The Sonny and Cher Show. Sugar laughed out loud at the sight of Sonny and Cher; she hadn't seen that show in years. She remembered how much she used to laugh at that show. She slid her tired body off the bed. Sugar dragged her feet along the floor into the bathroom.
Sugar turned the faucet on full-blast. The water was ice cold. Sugar threw a handful of water onto her face to help wake her up. As she reached for the towel to dry her face off, she heard a knock at the door. Sugar ran into her bedroom and looked at the clock. It read: 9:00am. Who would be visiting me at nine in the morning?, she thought.
Sugar walked over to the bedroom window and looked outside peeking through the corner of the curtain. She saw a new model black Toyota Camry perfectly parked in the driveway. She didn't know anyone who drove that car. Now her curiosity was aroused, yet she felt a little frightened at the same time. She swallowed her fear and let her curiosity lead her downstairs to the front door.
Sugar peeked through the small window on the wooden front door in her living room. "Who is it?" She made her voice sound forceful just in case the person on the other side had evil intentions. She waited patiently for a response to her inquiry. Sugar held her ear towards the door; she wouldn't even open the door slightly.
"It's your favorite man in the whole world," the familiar baritone voice responded. Sugar clutched her chest with both hands and let out a deep sigh. She couldn't believe he would show up at her front porch after two years.
Sugar opened the door with a look on her face that was a mixture of happiness, anger, and surprise. "Smokie? Oh my God, is that you, Smokie?" The look on her face was just happiness.
"Hell yeah, it's me, Sugar. Come and give me hug, girl. Lord have mercy, I ain't seen you in two years," Smokie wrapped his arms around her tightly, "Damn! You still look good, too."
"Oh my goodness, I can't believe you're here. Where the hell have you been?" Sugar realized she was standing outside in her pajamas without a robe. "I'm sorry, Smokie. Come on in and make yourself at home." She took Smokie's hand and led him to the kitchen. She was so excited. She pulled the 'good frying pan' from the cabinet and made her way towards the refrigerator to make her friend the best breakfast he'd ever eaten.
"Damn, I see you still like to cook, Sugar. And this is a nice house you have here. Real nice. You must be doing pretty good then."
"Yeah, I'm doing all right, I guess. I was a little sick several weeks ago, but I'm doing fine now. How have you been doing? Two years...that's a long time, Smokie."
"I know, baby. But you know me, I can't stay in the same place for too long. I get bored too quick."
Sugar cracked open four eggs into a Tupperware bowl and began stirring them together with a fork into a frothy mixture. She swirled the frying pan around in circular motions helping the butter melt a little faster. She dumped the egg mixture into the frying pan, stirring them while they cooked on medium heat. "I hope you hungry, Smokie. Cause I'm in the mood to cook this morning. It's so good to see you. How did you find out where I lived? I moved from my old house about a year ago," Sugar turned her attention to Smokie while still stirring the eggs around in the pan.
"Well, I ran into your friend. What's her name? Constance? Content? Damn, what's that girl's name again?"
"You mean, Constant, right?"
"Yeah, yeah. I ran into Miss Constant at the grocery store when I first got back in town last night. I didn't want to come by here then, since it was so late, you know. I didn't want to wake you up. She gave me your address. She said she recognized me from the pictures you have in that shoebox. You still got that thing, Sugar?"
"Uh-huh. I still got the shoebox," Sugar finished cooking the eggs and scooped out equal portions onto each plate. Then, she took the sausage links from their package placing them on a paper plate and put them in the microwave set at four minutes. Sugar sat next to Smokie at the table.
Sugar took Smokie's hand holding it close to her chest. "So, you never told me where you've been for the past two years. I thought we were friends. You haven't called or wrote me any letters or anything."
Smokie smiled. He turned his attention towards the kitchen wall staring at the flower pattern on the wallpaper. "I just been around, Sugar. Nothing important. And you know I'm gonna always keep up with you and check on you from time to time."
"I know that, Smokie. But you still living that same life. You're here one day and gone the next. Doesn't that get kinda old after awhile?"
"Nahhhhh! You know me, Sugar. That's how I am. Always been that way and will always be that way. Ain't no changing me, baby," Smokie gave her that same smile that made her want to strip all her clothes off and jump right into his arms.
Sugar and Smokie had known each other practically all their lives. Their parents lived next door to each other in a town only thirty minutes away from Sugar's house. They went to school together from kindergarten to twelfth grade. They went to their senior prom together. Smokie was Sugar's first sexual experience as well. They've shared many good times over the years. And they've shared a lot of pain, too.
Smokie leaned slowly towards Sugar reaching for her face with his charcoal- colored hand. That's how he got the nickname, Smokie. His skin was so smooth and dark. Most people picked on him because of his darkness, but the women went wild for it. Smooth and flawless. No scars. No blemishes. His lips were a woman's dream. Smokie's lips were full and soft. Sugar remembered how they felt all over her body during their early twenties when they were in a 'serious' relationship together. As Smokie leaned in even closer to Sugar's lips, the microwave beeped loudly and Sugar jumped up from the table towards the kitchen counter.
"Hey Sugar, you remember how we used to race each other to the end of the driveway back home to get the morning paper for our mothers?" Smokie laughed at the thought of them running down their mother's driveway to see which one of them would win the race that particular week.
Sugar threw her head back with her eyes closed as if it had just happened the day before. She smiled and nodded her head in agreement with the memory they were sharing. "Yeah, I remember that. You couldn't pay me enough money to run down my driveway these days. Damn, Smokie, I'd probably fall out and have the neighbors calling the paramedics for my tired, overworked ass."
Smokie laughed. "I know what you mean. I ain't no spring chicken my damn self."
Sugar put equal portions of the sausage links on their plates and handed one of the plates to Smokie. They ate in silence occasionally looking at each other with a mutual look of satisfaction on their faces.
Sugar and Smokie spent the entire day together in the house. He was reluctant to go out somewhere with her like she had suggested earlier that day. They watched television. Of course, she made him watch the TV Land channel all day long. He enjoyed it as much as she did. Watching those old shows brought back memories of their childhood and teenage years. This was the first time in years Sugar spent the entire day in a familiar man's arms, laughing, talking, eating, and loving.
"Do you mind if I stay here tonight, Sugar?"
Those words were like music to Sugar's ears. "Of course, you can stay here tonight, Smokie. I wouldn't have it any other way," Sugar reached for his hand and led him upstairs.
Smokie felt like a dream to Sugar's body. She hadn't been touched like that in years. His hands glowed in the dark as the moonlight shined on them through the window as he caressed the smooth skin of her chest and belly. He leaned upward kissing her neck and face gently.
She sighed in a way that begged him to keep touching her. He understood those sighs and moans. They shared a silent passion that most people wished they had with their mates. The bedroom was quiet and serene. Only the sounds of his kisses on her body could be heard throughout the night. Sugar hugged Smokie so tight. She was afraid to let go. She could feel the muscles in his arms, chest, and back flexing as she caressed his flawless skin. She wrapped her legs around him gently. She leaned forward and whispered, "I've missed you so much." Smokie moaned and held her close.
Sugar woke up to the sound of the door closing behind Smokie. She didn't try to get up and run after him. She knew he would leave the next day. Smokie didn't leave room for surprises when it came to Sugar. He was always upfront and honest.
"You know me, Sugar. I can't stay in one place for too long," she remembered him saying the day before. But Smokie always made sure Sugar would remember him after he'd left. She didn't know where he had gone. And it really didn't matter where. Sugar laid back on the bed and felt something against her skin. She turned laying on her side. There was a note attached to the morning paper. Sugar laughed a little, somewhat reluctant to read the note.
She took a deep breath, opened the note, and read it aloud. "You know I'll be back some day. Much love, Smokie." Sugar held the note and morning paper against her chest. She laid back down with her head nestled on the pillows. Sugar wrapped her arms around the papers thinking about she and Smokie racing down the driveway.