Whoever said that a kiss was just a kiss had never kissed Bobby Johnson.
He had kissed me again. Seven days ago. On Christmas. And, I’m telling you, I saw stars.
Now, maybe it wasn’t that Bobby was all that great a kisser. Maybe it had more to do with him being the love of my life, at least until 2007 when he’d made the stupid mistake of breaking up with me and going back to his wife.
That Christmas kiss had stayed in my heart and on my mind. When I was awake, I thought about it and every time I closed my eyes, I dreamed about it.
Just like now.
My body was trying to wake up, but I was floating in unconsciousness. You know, that place where your eyes are wide shut—you’re half awake, half asleep. I was holding on to the sleep part because I wanted to keep dreaming about that kiss.
My lips were right up against Bobby’s and it was so deliciously good. So good that I started hearing bells—no, not bells, my ears were ringing.
But then . . . the ringing kept on and on and on, messing up my dream flow.
Dang! That was nothin’ but my cell phone, and I was pissed. Who would call somebody so early on New Year’s Day? Not that I knew the exact time, but if I hadn’t already eaten breakfast, then it was too early for somebody to be hitting me up.
My first thought was to let my cell ring. But my eleven-year-old daughter, Angel, had spent the night with Monet, her best friend, so I had to answer . . . just in case.
So right before the call went to my voice mail, I grabbed my cell from the nightstand. Without even opening my eyes, I mumbled, “This had better be good.”
“What’s up, Asia?”
My eyes popped right open.
“Happy New Year!”
I pushed myself up, tugging the sheet along to cover my nakedness. “Uh . . . good morning. Happy New Year to you, too, Bobby,” I said to my ex, my daughter’s daddy, the Adonis of my dreams.
“I guess I woke you up.”
“No.” I ran my fingers through my hair, trying to look decent, though I didn’t know why. It wasn’t like we were Face-Timing or anything. “I’m glad you called.”
“Yeah, I remembered that little superstition you had about a man calling your house first on New Year’s.”
He remembered that?
“So, I hope that I was the first.”
“You are. And now I’ll be blessed for the whole year.”
He chuckled. “That’s what I wish for you.”
Then, a moment of silence. I needed something profound to say that would keep Bobby talking. But before I could come up with anything . . . a moan. And not just a regular moan . . . a loud, long, masculine moan that stretched through time and my bedroom . . . and went right through my cell phone, too.
Dang! I thought, looking down at the body next to me.
“Oh,” Bobby said. “You have company. I should’ve known. Last night being New Year’s Eve . . .”
“No, I don’t,” I said as I kicked through the tangled sheets until I was free and away from Rocco. I had on not a stitch of clothing, but I didn’t care. I jumped out of my bed and jogged straight into the hallway. “That was . . . just the TV,” I said. “Yeah, it was the TV. I had it on last night and must’ve fallen asleep.”
“I’d thought you would’ve been out partying the New Year in.”
“Well, uh . . .” I didn’t want to keep all of this attention on my lie, so I said, “I’m really happy you called.” Now, that was the truth. Like I said, I hadn’t stopped thinking about my ex since I’d spent Christmas Day at his house with his wife, and our daughter.
“Well, I don’t want to keep you. Just wanted you to know how much I care for you and how I wish you nothing but God’s best.”
I sighed and smiled and tingled all over.
He finished with, “And, I wanted to wish you . . .”
“Happy New Year,” we said together, then chuckled together, too.
“Thanks again for being my first, I mean, the first . . .”
“I know what you mean.” Then, after a pause, he added, “Asia, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and in a few days I’d like to come over . . . and talk.”
He said, “After what happened on Christmas . . . we really need to talk.”
“Okay.” My smile was so wide that my cheeks hurt. I’d been wondering how he felt about that, and now I knew. He was in the same place I was. That kiss had brought back all kinds of feelings, all kinds of memories, all kinds of wonder about why we’d ever broken up.
“I’ll call you, okay?”
“Yeah.” What I really wanted to say was, Come over now, but I’d let him lead this dance.
He clicked off and I did the same. That three-minute call was like a shot of caffeine straight into my veins. What a way to begin 2014.
“Baby, what’re you doing out here?”
Before I could even face him, Rocco was on top of me, kissing my neck with his morning breath. I used the heels of my hands to push him off.
“What’s up?” he said, backing away. “I want to start off the New Year right.”
“We did that last night.” As I marched back into my bedroom, I was mad that I’d run out without any clothes on. Because now Rocco was walking right behind my au naturel glory.
Most of the time I liked using my body to turn men on. In fact, if I had to tell the truth, that’s how I made my living. My job was to maintain my size-four figure, be beautiful, and I got paid for keeping rich men company. I mean, not outright paid. It wasn’t like we went out and they gave me money. But after a couple of dates, the gifts started flowing: diamonds, pearls, furs, shopping sprees at Neiman’s, and vacations anywhere there was a beach and a Ritz-Carlton.
As far as Rocco was concerned, my job was done. I hoped Rocco wasn’t turned on because I was so turned off. After hearing Bobby’s voice, I didn’t want Rocco anywhere near me. So when he wrapped his arms around my waist and pushed his full-blown nature against my butt, I wiggled away.
“What’s up?” He held out his arms, beckoning me to come back. “Why you keep doing that?”
“You have to go,” I said, cutting straight to the chase.
He frowned like he no longer understood English. “Go where?”
Did he really want me to answer that? I mean, it wasn’t like Rocco and I had anything going on. It was just that sometime around Labor Day, I realized I didn’t have a guy for the holidays.
Not that there was any kind of shortage of men in my life. I was still on the circuit and still in circulation. Plenty of athletes had my number locked in their phones. It was just that the calls were fewer. After all, no matter how much I maintained, I was thirty-five, which was ancient in the pro basketball/football/baseball/track groupie arena.
Now, don’t get it twisted—I wasn’t a groupie. I was more of a trophy girlfriend, who was working on becoming the trophy wife. No matter what you called it, though, it was my only ticket out of my ratchet life in Compton all those years ago. I needed to marry a rich athlete.
Once I set my mind to it, I’d met Bobby Johnson, the star of the Los Angeles Lakers. He wasn’t my first choice ’cause he was already married. But he’d wooed me so hard that I’d believed he’d leave his wife.
Clearly, I was wrong. ’Cause six years ago, Bobby decided that he was happy with the wife he had, and didn’t want a new one.
“So, what’re you saying, Asia? You really want me to go?” I turned around, almost forgetting that Rocco was still here. I watched the new center for the Lakers pimp-strut toward me.
Now I had the chance to take in all of his naked glory, and boy, was this dude fine. Forget about being ripped in the right places, Rocco was ripped in every place. Everywhere there was a muscle, it was defined. And then, that face. He was Christopher Williams (that old R&B singer from back in the day) dipped in deep, dark chocolate.
When Rocco wrapped his arms around me, I was tempted to jump right back in bed and let this twenty-four-year-old show me what he could do. But the moment our lips touched, Bobby’s lips came to mind, and again, I pushed Rocco back. “You know I would love to.”
He gave me a goofy grin that said, Of course you would, who wouldn’t?
I started to burst his oversize ego bubble, but instead I said, “But you have to go. Angel will be home soon.”
Everything on that man deflated when I mentioned my daughter’s name. “Oh,” he said.
All the guys knew that I didn’t date in front of my child. This wasn’t the example I wanted to set, and not the life I wanted her to have. But I wasn’t going to be one of those do-as-I-say mothers. Angel never saw me with all these men.
Plus these days I never let grown men around my daughter. No way, too many perverts out there and my eleven-year-old daughter, with her sixteen-year-old body, and a face that her agent at Ford Models called the young face of the new millennium, didn’t need to be around testosterone. I did everything to protect Angel Valentine Johnson, the true love of my life.
“I thought you told me that your daughter wasn’t coming home till later,” Rocco said, squinting as if he was studying me to see if I was lying.
I tilted my head. “Is that what you thought? Hmm . . .” I turned around so that my back was to him. “Nope. She’s coming home about”—I glanced at the clock: 7:48—“about eight. Oh, my God!” I exclaimed as if I was just noticing the time. “You’ve got to go. She’ll be here at any moment.”
“Dang!” he said, dashing to gather his clothes that he’d tossed around my bedroom. “Why she coming home so early?”
“Because . . . it’s New Year’s . . . and . . . we always have breakfast together on New Year’s.”
There was a part of me that was proud that I could come up with a good lie on the fly. But really, was that a character trait or a character flaw?
When Rocco started walking toward the bathroom, I said, “Where’re you going? You’ve got to get outta here.”
“I don’t even have time to take a shower?”
I shook my head.
“Well, do I have time to take a leak? A guy’s gotta take a leak first thing in the morning.”
Those words made my eyes roam down his body. Damn! Maybe I could tell him that I made a mistake. That Angel wouldn’t be home till nine, or ten. Or I could tell him the truth . . . that she wouldn’t be home till sometime tonight.
But then . . . Bobby. I’d feel like I was cheating.
So, I let Rocco take his leak, then dress as slowly as any man ever did.
“Okay.” Rocco slipped his suit jacket over shoulders that looked like he should’ve been playing football instead of basketball. “So,” he said, straightening out his collar, “I’m gonna see you tonight?”
“We’ll see.” I led him down the stairs and at the door gave him one of those long, slow tongue kisses so that he wouldn’t forget me. But as soon as he said, “Bye, call me,” and stepped out of that door, I closed it and forgot him.
Taking the stairs two at a time, I dashed back up to my bedroom, grabbed my cell, and clicked on my best friend’s name. Noon’s phone rang and rang, and when her voice mail picked up, I hung up and called back. I didn’t know where she was, and I didn’t care whose bed she was in; I needed to talk to her.
It took four callbacks before she answered with a growl, “This had better be good.”
I laughed. Hadn’t I just said the same thing? We were like sisters, with a bond thicker than blood.
“This is better than good,” I said.
“Wake up, I have to talk to you,” I whined.
“Call me later. I’m sleep.”
“Well, wake up.”
“If you hang up, you know I’m gonna call you back.”
“Ugh!” she growled again. “Hold on a second.”
When she said that, that meant she was with her current man, Brett, and was getting out of bed to talk to me privately.
“Okay, what’s up?” Noon asked with an attitude.
That was okay; she’d be all right after I told her this.
“Well, first, Happy New Year!” I said with glee.
There was a pause, and then, “Chiquita, if that’s why you called me, I swear . . .”
I didn’t even hear the rest of her sentence. Did my girl just call me by the cray-cray birth name my mama had given me? My mother, who abandoned me when I was two and left me to be raised by my grandmother, had named me after a banana. I was still pissed about it, but at least I was smart enough to have changed my name legally.
I wanted to insult Noon back, call her by her birth name. But her birth name was Noon . . . Noon Thursday Jones, given to her by her mama who was as cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs as mine.
So since I couldn’t insult her, I got right to the point. “I’m getting back with Bobby.”
“See, you wanna play. Really, I’m getting back with Bobby.”
A beat, and then, “For real?”
If Noon had been sitting in the room with me, her eyes would be all wide, and she’d be on the edge of the chair. ’Cause if there was one thing that Noon knew, it was that I wasn’t overly dramatic. I accepted whatever situation came my way.
Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration. But for the most part, once I did all that I could and saw that I couldn’t change a situation, I accepted it.
“So, when did this happen?” Noon said, all awake now.
“Can you meet me?”
“Now. Are you with Brett?”
“Yeah, but I can hook up with you for a few hours. Where we gonna go so early on New Year’s Day?”
That was a good question, but then I said, “The malls are open, so meet me at the Beverly Center. Starbucks. In the food court.”
“The Food Court?” Noon said. “Is that the name of some new restaurant, ’cause you know, I’m not pedestrian like that.”
“Pedestrian?” I laughed. “Heffa, have you forgotten that we grew up on the same street in Compton?”
“Shhh . . .” She lowered her voice and chuckled at the same time. “Brett thinks I’m from Kenya.”
“I’m gonna tell that white boy the truth if you don’t meet me in an hour.”
“I’ll be there in thirty minutes,” she said.
We laughed before we both clicked off our phones.
Forever an Ex
Sheridan, Kendall, and Asia first bonded when they met seven years ago at a church prayer support group and now, their friendship has blossomed into a strong sisterhood. They've helped each other through the tragedies of their breakups and together, they've celebrated their triumphs. But now, their exes are back, wreaking havoc on lives they've work so hard to rebuild.
Sheridan has found love again after her ex-husband left her for a man. But old wounds are reopened when her ex-husband appears with his fiancée—a woman! And all of Sheridan's insecurities and doubts come rushing back. Kendall's former husband is now married to Kendall's sister, Sabrina. And though Kendall has refused to interact with either one in the last seven years, she's forced to reunite with Sabrina when their father is diagnosed with cancer. Asia has done her best to move away from her married boyfriend, a former star with the LA Lakers. But when they share a kiss, old desires are rekindled and Asia decides that it's time for her and Bobby Johnson to get back together again.
With her trademark writing that “has the kind of momentum that prompts you to elbow disbelief aside and flip the pages in horrified enjoyment” (The Washington Post), Forever an Ex is Murray's best novel yet.
Victoria Christopher Murray’s FOREVER AN EX
Read an Excerpt
Reading Group Guide
Sheridan, Kendall, and Asia first bonded when they met seven years ago at a church prayer support group and since then their friendship has blossomed into a strong sisterhood.
Sheridan has found love again after her ex-husband left her for a man. But old wounds are reopened when her ex-husband appears with his fiancée—a woman! Kendall’s husband is now married to her sister, Sabrina. And though Kendall has avoided them since this ultimate betrayal, she’s forced to reunite with Sabrina when their father is diagnosed with cancer. Asia has done her best to move away from Bobby, her married boyfriend and father of her eleven-year-old daughter. But when they share a kiss, old desires are rekindled.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. How does Asia reconcile her faith and her relationship with Bobby? Does her faith seem sincere to you?
2. Asia keeps her friend Noon separate from Kendall and Sheridan, yet all three seem equally important to her. H see more