A Free Christmas Story!
It’s been a while since I had a free story for y’all so I decided to write a little somethin’ for the free reads newsletter. This freebie is for newsletter subscribers. The first chapter goes live Christmas Day! Follow this LINK to sign up if you’re not already subscribed.
Kairo McCullough has been crushing on Jerricka Williams since the first time she sat in her barber chair at Cutz & Cocktails.
However, she has a good working relationship with Jerricka. She was the only woman in a fifty-mile radius she trusted to keep her fade tight and knew the exact shade of blonde that worked with her dark brown complexion. Kairo has convinced herself that getting with the pretty barber and single mother isn’t worth the risk.
But this Christmas… Jerricka is sick of waiting for Kairo to make the first move.
When she invites Kairo to the Cutz n’ Cocktails Christmas party, she knows that she’s anticipating an evening of holiday cheer and too much coquito. But with a strategically placed bundle of mistletoe she hopes to make her Christmas wish come true.
Here’s an excerpt from A Taste of Her Own Medicine featuring Kairo and Jerricka from Atlas’ point of view. It’s the barbershop scene. One of my favs scenes in this book!
The bell hanging above the door jingled as I walked into the barbershop behind Kairo for our Friday appointment.
“Hey! If it isn’t our two favorite customers!” Krissy, the cute bartender at the gleaming mirrored bar next to the door, chirped. She passed us our drinks — drinks that she had somehow memorized and had waiting for us when we came through the door.
Cutz ‘n Cocktails was new in The Village, a three-chair shop with an old school vibe. Dark wood barber stations lined both walls with red leather barber chairs. Framed photos of local athletes hung above the comfortable waiting area in the back of the room, which was fitted with two overstuffed leather chairs and a couch.
The owners, Jerricka and Sheba, opened their shop a few months after we closed on the space that became The Coworking Spot.
It was completely unlike our old barbershop, which I counted as a good thing, but abandoning our old barber still felt a little like cheating. I’d thought about going back there, but I couldn’t dismiss the fact that we were treated like valued clients when we walked into Cutz ’n Cocktails and never had to wait for hours to get in the chair. Besides, Jerricka was the best damn barber I’d had in ages. I couldn’t have Kairo’s fade looking tighter than mine. Even though that would probably be impossible because I swear she’s in here on Tuesdays getting an edge up for… reasons. And that reason smiled at her as she emerged from the back office of the shop.
“Hey, you two!” Jerricka said with a grin. “What’s going on? How you doin’?”
“I’m great,” Kairo said, her smile flashing almost bright as Jerricka’s. “My friend here needs some help, though. And I’m not just talking about his fade.”
“You’ve been waiting all day to bring this up,” I groaned.
“Oh! This sounds good! I’m just finishing up with Mr. Kemp, and I’ll be with you two in a second.”
“Don’t be rushing through my cut just because that strapping young man came through the door. My money is just as green as his,” Mr. Kemp groused, and I had to chuckle. If he’d been paying any attention at all, he would have realized that the smile and cheery disposition were for Kairo, the well-dressed stud seated next to me.
“Ain’t no rush, Mr. Kemp. We’re a little early anyway,” Kairo said, giving Jerricka a wink.
And we were, which was also by design. How else was my best friend supposed to creep on the barber that she’d had a mighty crush on for over a year?
Kairo let out a soft groan and bit the corner of her lip as Jerricka moved around the barber chair, giving us an unobstructed view of her fat ass.
I shook my head and laughed at my friend, then leaned in and whispered, “Explain why you’re not asking her out again?”
She flared her nostrils and whacked me in the arm. “Shut the fuck up, Atlas. I already told you why,” she gritted through clenched teeth.
I shrugged and leaned back in my chair. Kairo’s explanation made sense—you don’t fuck your barber because two relationships would end if it didn’t work out. I understood where she was coming from, but damn…I haven’t seen the kid crush this hard since seventh grade.
“Anyway, I would advise you to worry about yourself. Speaking of which…” Her face stretched into another grin, but this one was at my expense.
“Come on,” I groaned, covering my face. “Can you please let this shit go?”
“Let what go? Share with the class,” Jerricka said.
Kairo leaned forward and gleefully recanted my spectacular fail last night. And I couldn’t really blame her. I’d relived that moment over and over in my head. It still sounded just as corny as it did when it came out of my mouth last night. Sonja Watts threw me off my game, and I had no explanation for any of it.
“Y.O.L.O., my dude? Y.O.L.O.?” Sheba laughed, barely glancing up from the head she was cutting. “You have spent way too much time in Cali surfing with white dudes if you thought Y.O.L.O. was an acceptable phrase to use in a conversation with a Black woman in twenty-and-nineteen.”
“Wow…” Jerricka said with a laugh. “What happened? I mean, I know it’s been a minute. Are you just out of practice?”
“Nah… you didn’t see her. This girl—”
“Woman,” Kairo corrected.
“Lady,” I conceded. “She’s bad.”
Kairo grunted in agreement.
“Hold on, now,” Mr. Kemp said. “You can’t leave a man hanging with that penny-ante description. Give an old man something to visualize.”
“Mr. Kemp!” Jerricka gasped in faux-surprise. “Don’t make me run across the street and tell Mrs. Kemp you’re over here talking nasty.”
“Sarah Kemp knows all about my nasty mouth. How do you think I landed her?”
“Whoa, Ernest Kemp!” Sheba, the barber in the next chair, protested. “Lemme find out that you’re some kinda cat-daddy!”
“Some kinda… little girl,” he twisted around in his seat. “You don’t know nothin’ ‘bout me. I swear, y’all younguns think you invented sex. Now hush up and let this man tell us about his woman.”
A surprised laugh came out of me. I swear these old dudes at the barbershop are the best entertainment sometimes.
“Well, excuse me!” Sheba said with a surprised laugh. “I’m sorry I interrupted. Atlas, please continue to objectify women in a barbershop owned and operated by two women.”
“Aww, come on,” a couple of the other guys in the shop complained.
Mr. Kemp grunted and rolled his eyes.
“I got you, Mr. Kemp—” Kairo said eagerly as she scooted to the edge of her seat.
“Excuse me?” Jerricka snapped.
“I mean… I was just gonna say that she look good,” Kairo said with a sheepish grin and a one-shouldered shrug.
I was glad that I wouldn’t have to hear a blow-by-blow of Sonja’s looks from Kairo, but good was an understatement. Good was how you described a lackluster sandwich that filled the hole in your stomach when you were starving. Good was the girl your best friend paired you up with so they could take out the chick they’ve been trying to bag forever. Good was someone you shared a drink and passed the time with, but didn’t bother to call because you just weren’t that interested. Sonja Watts was better than good. She was…
“You know how you hear someone’s voice without seeing their face and reminds you of a song? But then you actually lay eyes on them, and the song feels like it’s already part of a memory that you haven’t even made yet?” I smiled, remembering how she smiled up at me, looking as nervous and shy as standing next to her made me feel. “Yeah, that’s how she looks,” I said confidently.
The room went quiet as a crypt. I glanced around at the few faces I knew—the other Friday regulars — then back at Kairo. “What?”
Then the room exploded with raucous laughter. Loud, raucous laughter, punctuated with pointed fingers and near tear-filled exclamations of, “did you hear this nigga?” And could I really blame them? This whole thing was ridiculous. My reaction to Sonja — this illogical want she inspired in me — all of it was ridiculous.
“I thought it was beautiful,” Jerricka said after the room quieted down.
“Beautiful? How can it be beautiful if it don’t make sense?” Kairo asked.
“I understand what the young man was trying to say,” Mr. Kemp piped up. “He met his wife last night and y’all in here cracking on him because he didn’t describe her using some misogynistic metaphor.”
Met my… “Whoa! Hold on, Mr. Kemp! I mean, she was beautiful and all, but I didn’t mean—”
“Is that what made him act so stupid?” Kairo asked, interrupting me. “Because I swear I have never seen this man make a fool of himself the way he did last night. He turned into a pubescent boy the moment he saw her. I almost wanted to drag him out of the bar so he wouldn’t embarrass himself further.”
“You know… it’s kinda insulting for y’all to keep talking about me like I’m not sitting right here—”
“Wait… it gets worse?” Sheba asked.
I cringed inwardly as Kairo nodded her head.
“We ran into them at the bar next door, right? This dude runs up on her like a big labrador puppy and practically humps her leg.”
“I did not—”
“He came on strong as fuck. Like… it made absolutely no sense. And then, even though this woman is completely into him, he precedes to make her cry and run her out of the bar.”
“Hold on… I did not make her cry. I simply asked what asshole made her believe she wasn’t sexy and desirable, and she just started crying.”
Jerricka dabbed a couple of cotton balls with alcohol and ran them along Mr. Kemp’s hairline, making him draw in a sharp breath. “Sounds to me like she might be a little damaged,” she said, unsnapping the cape.
“Or maybe she’s a mother who just got wrapped up in raising her kids. That happens,” Sheba volunteered.
“True. Does she have kids?” Jerricka asked, handing Mr. Kemp a mirror.
“Yeah, she said she has two.”
Kairo groaned. “You didn’t tell me that.”
“What’s that reaction? So the woman has kids. So what?” I shrugged.
Mr. Kemp settled up with Jerricka, thanked her, and kissed her on the cheek.
“Quit getting fresh, Mr. Kemp!” she exclaimed playfully.
“Oh, you ain’t seen fresh,” he said with a cackle. “Young man!” He pointed a finger at me. “Don’t let these ashy motherfuckers in here talk you out of a good thing.”
“Thank you, Mr. Kemp. I don’t think she’s interested, though.”
“You made that woman’s eyes well with emotion at your first meeting. She’s interested,” he said with a wink.
Gah. I wanted to believe him, but the “L” I took last night had a lot to say on the subject.
“Come on, Atlas,” Jerricka said, waving me over. She let the chair down as low as it would go and laughed as I sat down, making the chair hiss and sink another inch lower. “I swear you’re gonna break the hydraulics on this thing one day,” she teased.
“Hahaha, very funny. Atlas is a big guy who breaks chairs by sitting in them,” I said, my tone as dull and droll as I could muster.
“Oh, are we sensitive now?” she asked, shaking out the cape before snapping it around my neck.
“Not sensitive. It’s just a tired ass joke. Figured someone as smart as you would’ve come up with something better by now.”
“Aww…you are sensitive about your girthiness! Who knew?” Sheba teased.
Kairo scoffed. “Are you kidding me? Everyone knows the big fella has an ooey-gooey, marshmallow center.”
I arched an eyebrow at my friend, and she went quiet. She knew better than to feed into that bullshit. I wasn’t sensitive about my “girthiness” as Sheba called it. I was just sick of hearing it. At six-foot-four and two hundred and eighty-five pounds, it was fairly obvious that I didn’t get this big overnight.
“Not that it mattered to Sonja. She’s all into them broad shoulders,” Kairo snickered. “And them thicc-ass thighs.”
Kairo was the one who overheard Sonja telling Estelle that she would meet her at the bar after class. We went to high school with Estelle, and we’ve been known to have a few drinks from time to time — especially since she graduated from the Academy and opened her yoga studio a couple of blocks away. So it wasn’t uncommon for her and Kairo to post up at the bar, and this time, Sonja had joined them. Before Kairo could introduce herself, Estelle and Sonja launched into some girl talk about me. Kairo’s eavesdropping and covert texting resulted in some uncensored gems from Sonja. Sweet little Sonja, who had presented as quiet and prim in my class, but apparently was anything but. So by the time I’d locked up and joined them, I was sure she was interested. Damn, I really thought I had a chance.
“So you never answered my question,” I said as Jerricka grabbed a pick and a spray bottle.
“About what?” Kairo asked for clarification.
“Dating a woman with kids. You’ve never done that?”
Kairo glanced at Jerricka. “I mean, I did when I was a lot younger, but I probably shouldn’t have.”
“Oh, really? Why do you say that?” Jerricka asked, her tone and body language suddenly combative as she sprayed my hair with detangler.
The corner of Kairo’s mouth quirked into a smile, and I knew it was because this conversation was getting the desired reaction out of Jerricka.
“When I was like twenty-four, I dated a girl with a two-year-old son. It was pretty serious. We even moved in together, which I immediately realized was a mistake. I wasn’t ready for the reality of parenthood. It was a lot more than baby Emmanuels and cute videos of him dancing to the Migos. It was a lot of work, and when it boiled down to it, I wasn’t ready to do that work. Nor did I want to.”
“Hmph,” Jerricka grunted, then went back to picking out my hair…aggressively.
Goddamn, I wish Kairo would ask this girl out already. My scalp couldn’t take this abuse every week when she decided to wind Jerricka up.
“But that was like ten years ago, and I’m a different person now. Back then, I was barely able to commit to a relationship, let alone help someone raise their kid. I’m far better equipped now. More stable and settled. But you, Atlas,” she said, pointing at me. “Dating a woman with children is not for you.”
“What? Come on. She’s a forty-year-old woman who probably has pre-teens or teenagers. Not a twenty-something with a toddler—”
“Oh, wow! So she’s a grown-ass woman? This Sonja most certainly doesn’t have time for your childish games,” Sheba volunteered.
“Damn, that woman is forty years old?” Kairo asked in disbelief.
“I know, right?” I said, echoing that same disbelief.
“But still, Sheba’s right,” Kairo said with a shake of her head. “This woman doesn’t have time for your games.”
“So, it’s good enough for you, but not for me?”
“We’re different people. You’re not the settling down type.”
If Kairo had made that same statement to me a week ago, I probably would have agreed with her. But today, three days after I’d met Sonja Watts, it felt less like the truth and more like an attack on my character. Unfortunately, I couldn’t argue with her because my track record said otherwise. Past behavior was the best predictor of future behavior, right? And my past behavior was... whorish.
I grunted noncommittally and decided to shut the fuck up, and thankfully, the conversation shifted away from me. Jerricka tightened up my fade, trimmed my beard, and I settled up with her.
“Am I picking you up, or are you going to Uber tonight?” Kairo asked as she settled into the barber chair.
“Where are we going again?” I asked with a frown.
Kairo gave me an incredulous look. “We just talked about this at lunch, Atlas.”
I shrugged, still drawing a blank.
“First Friday? We agreed to visit some of the galleries and venues in the Village to connect with more business owners in the area and leave postcards? Spread the word about the courses we’re offering? Is this ringing any bells?”
“Shit…” I grimaced. “My bad, fam. Pick me up around seven, I guess. That’ll give me a chance to check in on my mama and grab something to eat before we head out.”
“Yeah, definitely get something to eat. There’s gonna be nothing but wine and finger food at most of these places. Nothing to feed the likes of you, and we can’t have you getting hangry.”
“Oh, no. We won’t like him when he’s hangry,” Jerricka said, chuckling at her bland Hulk joke.
I huffed and shook my head. “You still got jokes,” I said without the slightest hint of humor. “Text me when you’re on your way, Kairo.”
Once again, this freebie is for newsletter subscribers. The first chapter goes live Christmas Day! Follow this LINK to sign up if you’re not already subscribed.
Don’t say I never gave y’all nuthin!