It’s hard to make a woman your wife when you’ve been sexin’ married women for most of your life, Genesis Styles thought to himself as he lay on his back, breathing hard after an exhausting session with his workout buddy, Sheila. They had been going at it for more than an hour, and now that it was finally over Genesis swore to himself that this was the last time he’d ever see Sheila. But that was a promise he made after all of their workouts. She was too aggressive, too pushy, and did too much yelling.
Genesis pulled his lanky six-foot-four-inch body up from the floor and headed for the shower. As the hot water and Camay cleansed his skin, he looked up into the steamy shaving mirror and smiled at himself. The power that he had over the women he dealt with was invigorating.
He preferred to deal with married women simply because they couldn’t rightfully ask for him to commit to them totally. And, for the most part, they were always easy. It was either/or with them. Either they were happy with their husbands and wouldn’t mess around, or they were unhappy and his for the taking. Every now and then he would run across a selfish one who had a good man at home but didn’t give a damn. Those were the ones he really didn’t respect and he made it a point to dog them out until they felt like their husbands were the best thing since K-Y jelly. But things in his life were changing, and as those changes came into view, his smile turned upside-down. Now the face he saw in the mirror didn’t seem all that grand.
For the last six months Sheila had been grooming Genesis to become a personal trainer, but for the last three, when they got together, exercise was the last thing on either of their minds.
As Genesis stepped out of the shower onto the cold tile floor, he reached for the towel Sheila had placed on the countertop, but stopped in his tracks. As he stared at the towel, he frowned and took a deep breath, but still was unable to bring himself to touch the sheet of cotton. TLG! It was as if the fancy three-letter monogram held venom within its fibers. As Genesis stood naked in the steamy bathroom, dripping water onto the floor, he shook his head to relieve himself of this self-imposed trance, but to no avail. Some- thing was wrong. He had been in this house with Sheila countless times before, but never had he felt like this.
This kind of thing had been happening ever since he got down on one knee and proposed to Terri. He convinced himself then that he was ready to settle down and leave all the other women alone. On the one hand, he loved Terri with all he had to offer, but on the other, he lacked the willpower and discipline to say no to a fat butt and a pretty smile.
Genesis stood there for a moment, still unable to bring himself to touch that towel. Guilt came from both directions. Here he was, in another man’s house, naked. Then there was his fiancée, Terri. In his mind, it seemed the more he messed up, the sweeter she became. Even when he knew she’d had enough of his antics, she would always surprise him with her forgiveness. Every time he cheated on her, he told himself that it was the last time. Then Genesis thought about the possibility of another man standing in his bathroom naked after he’d just finished sexing Terri and his heart skipped a beat.
“Ain’t this a bitch! Gon’ disrespect her husband like that. I should leave my drawers in her hamper so he’ll beat her ass,” Genesis said to himself as he wiped the steam from the mirror with his bare hand. “Sheila,” he called out.
“Yeah, babe!” The tall, bronze beauty appeared in the bathroom doorway wearing only a white silk robe.
“I need another towel,” Genesis said as he pointed at the initials on the towel. “How you gon’ give me your husband’s personal towel to dry off with?”
“What difference does it make?” Sheila said, unaware of her transgression.
“What makes you think I wanna use that man’s towel?” Genesis snapped.
“Who are you yelling at? In here tripping over a damn towel! Whatever, man! Got-damn hypocrite,” Sheila said in disbelief.
“Just get me another towel!”
“Is this more to your liking?” Sheila said sarcastically as she handed Genesis a plain white towel. “And since when did you start caring about my husband’s things? You drive his car, eat his food, and sex me up at least twice a week. You know what you’re full of, don’t you?”
Genesis took the towel without response. He dried himself and threw on his basketball shorts and plain white tank top, slipped his feet into his Adidas flip-flops, and walked out the door without saying good-bye.
Damn, is it just me or are women getting out of hand? Genesis wondered before hopping into his black Chevrolet Blazer.
Life had been a constant roller-coaster ride for Genesis since he asked Terri to marry him. It had been a daily struggle to be faithful. Every time he was faced with a chance to do right by his fiancée, he failed. In the two years they had been dating, the longest he managed to remain faithful was three weeks. And that was torture. After his failed attempt at monogamy he understood how a drug addict felt. He really wanted to kick his sex habit but something stronger than his will kept forcing him to give in to his temptation.
But life as a good-looking brother in Atlanta was unfair, Genesis thought. It seemed like someone had gotten on a loudspeaker and told the female population that one more single man was about to be taken away. Ever since he popped the question, it seemed women were coming out of the woodwork, making his quest to be monogamous an impossible task. The women he was already dealing with became more demanding. Sheila was the worst. She acted like Genesis was her man. He remembered the look on her face and the questions she asked when he informed her of his engagement. The look was one of pure confusion and her questions confused the hell out of him. “How could you do this to me? What about us? What did I do wrong?” I ain’t did a damn thing to you, there is no us, and what you did wrong was get married in the first place if you still had some outside freaking to do. But those answers never left his mouth. Instead he assured her that nothing was going to change between them, kissed her lips, and got ready for a long workout.
Women like Sheila made him nervous. Her type made it hard for him to trust people like Terri, who in his heart he knew deserved his complete trust. But then again, how could he expect Sheila to respect his engagement when she didn’t even respect her own marriage? Sheila’s mentality came into play with most, if not all, of the other married women he had shared a bed with—they played the role of the faithful wife in public, but behind closed doors they were freaks of the week. Now that he was about to jump the broom, his past indiscretions with married women were ever so haunting. Yet something kept telling him it was time to settle down, and after two years of Terri’s unconditional love, he knew she was the one to do it with.
As Genesis strapped himself into his seat he noticed the red message light on his cell phone flashing. He pressed the mailbox icon and found he had two messages. The first one was Terri’s angelic voice.
“Hi, honey. I know you’re probably still at the gym but you promised you’d paint today. It’s Friday. If you have any suggestions for dinner tonight, give me a call ASAP, otherwise it’s pizza. I’m gonna try to get outta this store a little early. Love ya, kiss kiss.”
“Damn,” Genesis said to himself. Hearing Terri’s sweetness only made his unfaithfulness that much harder to bear. This new feeling was totally confusing—he’d been unfaithful from day one. Why all the guilt now? Maybe it was the fact that he had spent damn near all of his savings on her ring.
The second message was from his favorite sister, Grace, who lived in New York. “Hi, sweetie pie. It’s me. Call me when you get a moment. I love ya.”
Genesis smiled at hearing his sister’s voice. He really missed spending time with her and often tried to persuade her to move back home, but he knew he had to respect her decision to live elsewhere, especially when he understood why she’d felt a need to leave. They were always so close. As a matter of fact, there were times when he felt she was the only family he had. Even though he had a mother, a brother, and another sister, it was Grace with whom he shared a special bond.
Genesis pulled himself together and headed to Home Depot to pick up the paint that Terri had preselected. As he waited for the paint to be mixed, he roamed around the huge warehouse looking at all of the things he would use one day to remodel his house. He noticed a sale on the electric drill his nephew had been hinting for him to buy since he started taking wood shop at his junior high school. He decided to spend the forty-nine dollars in hopes of getting the little fellow to loosen up and have some fun. Every time Genesis thought about his nephew, he became sad. Jalen had been through way too much for one so young, so Genesis made it a point to brighten his day whenever possible. He smiled as he thought of how happy Jalen would be when he received his gift.
Jalen was always happy to spend any time with his uncle G. Even though he never came out and said it, when his eyes lit up, that said enough. Genesis had always wanted kids, and since his brother, Grover, was such a horrible dad, Jalen somewhat filled that void. He paid for his items and decided he’d stop by his mother’s house to pick up Jalen and let him help out with the painting. As he placed the bags and cans in the back of his truck, he heard his cell phone ringing. He slammed the back hatch and ran to catch the call.
“Talk to me,” Genesis said after checking the caller ID.
“Yo. What’s the deal, dog?”
“P-man, what’s up? Where you at?” Genesis said to his best friend.
“Headed to your spot. My wife and your future wife got a wedding to plan. I guess I’ll watch you paint. Where are you?”
“Just leaving Home Depot. I’m about to run by my mom’s and pick up Jalen. You got Blake with you?”
“Yeah, he’s here but we’re about to drop him off at basketball practice. So it’s just me and the wifey.”
“Okay, tell him I said what’s up and work on that left hand. Blake got game, P!”
“Come on, dog. Who’s his teacher?”
“I see he’s picking up all your bad habits. Why you teaching him all that nonsense?”
“It ain’t me, it’s them damn And One tapes. But wait a minute, who died and made you Lenny Wilkens? Plus I got drama. I need to holla at you without the kids around.”
“Say no more. I’ll get Jalen tomorrow. Peace.” Genesis hung up the phone wondering what kind of drama Prodigy had.
Genesis jumped in his truck and headed straight to his house. He walked in and smiled at the place he called home. The three- bedroom ranch-style home wasn’t the biggest or fanciest one in the world, but it was his, and since Terri had moved in last month everything had changed. The hardest part was getting used to sharing his space with someone else.
Genesis placed his bags and cans on the living room floor and walked into the kitchen where Terri was sitting at the table reading a wedding magazine. He walked over to her and gave her a peck on her forehead.
“How long you been home?”
“About ten minutes ago. How was your workout?”
“The same as always. Exhausting,” Genesis said as he walked back into his bedroom to check the messages. Grace, Prodigy, and a few bill collectors.
He grabbed a pair of underwear, a T-shirt, and some nylon sweatpants out of the drawer and headed into the bathroom for another shower. He wanted to give the appearance that he had just finished working out.
Terri walked into the bedroom and caught him just as he closed the bathroom door.
“Just a second, baby. I must’ve eaten something bad.”
“Are you okay?”
“My stomach has been killing me. Do we have any of the pink stuff?”
“Let me check,” Terri said as she retreated into the kitchen. She returned and knocked lightly on the bathroom door.
“Come in,” Genesis said as he sat on the toilet making faces like he was really sick. “Just set it on the counter. Thank you, baby.”
Terri held her breath, set the Pepto-Bismol on the counter, and closed the door behind her.
Genesis smiled to himself as he sat on the toilet doing nothing.
A few minutes later he stood and flushed the toilet. He turned the shower on until it reached the temperature that he liked and stepped in. Five minutes later he was dressed and smelling like the soap Terri was used to smelling. Before he walked out of the bathroom, he took a swig of the pink stuff to complete the lie. He walked out into the hallway and was met by Terri’s concerned eyes.
“Is everything okay?” Terri asked.
“Yeah, I’m straight. That Nutrabar didn’t seem to be all that nutritious,” Genesis said, rubbing his stomach.
Terri reached up as far as her five-foot frame would allow her and gave her fiancé an I-missed-you hug. She seemed truly happy with the man who stood before her. He wasn’t perfect, but he was the most gentle and attentive man she’d ever met.
“Other than that tummyache, how was your day, baby?” Terri asked in her soft voice, which still held a hint of her Caribbean accent.
“It was fine. What about yours?” Genesis replied, smiling at the woman who would soon walk down the aisle to meet his smiling face.
“Fine until some little floozy called here asking who I was and demanding to speak with you. Now, I’m not jumping to any conclusions, Genesis, but I suggest that you handle your past before it starts affecting our future,” Terri said softly before walking back into the kitchen.
Terri was a petite woman but she carried herself with such class and dignity that she demanded the respect of a person ten feet tall. She was a true sister who pulled no punches. Her take-no-crap attitude and work ethic was what attracted Genesis to her in the first place. That and the fact that she had more curves than a San Francisco freeway.
Terri wasn’t afraid to take chances. She’d left a good-paying job at a bank to open a small bookstore, even though everyone told her she couldn’t compete with the large chains. She was determined to be successful, so every morning at nine o’clock her doors would open and her customers were greeted by a smiling, cocoa-brown sister with a tiny diamond stud in her nose, saying “Good morning, brother” or “Good morning, sister.”
The African-American Book Nook was the place to be. Her book-of-the-month selections were always the talk of book clubs throughout Atlanta and Terri had this uncanny ability to bring in authors who were mainstays on the best-seller list. Three years after opening the African-American Book Nook for business, she was operating in the black, all because she’d figured out a way to make reading cool. Now she was in the process of adding a coffee and bagel shop to the premises to give her shop a more family-oriented flavor.
Genesis stood there wondering which one of his chicken heads could be threatening his future. More important, what the hell did she say? Terri wasn’t one for drama, so she was known to leave out some details just to keep the peace.
“Who was it?” Genesis asked Terri, following her into the kitchen.
“I don’t know. All she said was, ‘Tell Genesis to call me. He knows the number.’ Then she hung up.”
“Well, baby, you know there are women from my past who don’t wanna see us happy and will do anything to break us up, so don’t pay that any mind.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve heard it all before. It’s already forgotten.” Terri was an eternal optimist, sometimes to a fault, but that was how she’d been raised. She was a very spiritual woman and took people at their word. She was well aware of Genesis’s player lifestyle and trusted him when he said those days were behind him. But she wasn’t stupid or gullible.
Genesis walked over to Terri and brushed his fingers through her soft, short hair. He kissed her forehead, then the tip of her nose, and then he slid his tongue between her mocha-covered lips. Terri’s eyes closed, and her heart seemed to beat a little faster. She loved it when he touched her.
“What are you doing?” Terri moaned.
“I’ll tell you what I’m not doing. I’m not about to let the best thing that ever happened to me slip away,” Genesis said, sliding his hand down the front of Terri’s white stretch pants. Terri took a deep breath. When she exhaled, the doorbell rang.
Terri shook off the erotic trance she was in and smiled at Genesis. She whispered, “Go and wash your hands.”
“I ain’t,” Genesis said as he licked his fingers.
Terri waved him off, laughing, and walked to the front door. She looked through the peephole and saw a tall, baldheaded, dark-skinned man and a fair-skinned lady with jet-black hair and dark eyes. She opened the door, and Prodigy and Nina Banks walked in carrying boxes.
“Girl, you moving in?” Terri asked, jokingly.
“Whew, I didn’t know I had this much wedding stuff. But you’ll need it, trust me,” Nina said, smiling.
“Hi, Prodigy,” Terri said, smiling at the “I can’t believe y’all” expression on her best friend’s husband’s face. “You wanna help us plan the wedding?”
“Terri, I’d rather have a root canal. Where’s ya big head man? And what was y’all doing in here that had us standing outside so long?” Prodigy asked, setting the boxes down on the kitchen table.
“Mind your business. Genesis just ran out back to get some throw covers for the painting. But wait, what do you mean you’d rather have a root canal? Didn’t you have fun helping Nina plan that beautiful wedding extravaganza that y’all had, or did she do all of that on her own?” Terri teased, knowing Prodigy would always playfully take credit for all the good stuff and blame Nina for the bad.
“Oh, I didn’t do that much when we got married. I just picked out her dress, my tux, the bridesmaids’ dresses, the groomsmen’s tuxedos, the church, the pastor, wrote the vows, and sent out all of the invitations—but she did everything else,” Prodigy lied with a straight face.
“Is that all?” Terri played along. “After all that you should still be tired, so why don’t you go on in the living room and rest up. That other liar should be in here in a minute. You want something to drink?”
“What y’all got in here?” Prodigy opened the refrigerator and took a peek inside.
“Will you get out of their refrigerator?” Nina said as she took a seat at the table.
“Oh girl, you know he thinks he lives here. Go on and get what you want,” Terri said, joining her friend at the kitchen table.
“Thank you, Terri, and I would help but y’all need to learn how to function without me.” Prodigy twisted the top off a German beer bottle and tossed it in the trash can. “If y’all get stuck on something I’ll help, but try to handle it on your own.” Prodigy walked over to kiss Nina on the forehead, but she turned around in her chair and gave him the “talk to the hand” sign.
“ ’Bye, Prodigy. We have work to do. I have to try and duplicate all the work you did for our wedding,” Nina said, playing into his game. Everyone was well aware that all Prodigy had done was name his groomsmen and show up at the church thirty minutes late.
Prodigy walked into the living room, took a seat, and picked up an old photo album. The first picture he saw was of their old Philly crew. He chuckled at how corny they once were. Genesis had an Afro and some tight jeans on. The rest of the crew had flat tops and an assortment of colorful Adidas warm-ups.
Prodigy and Genesis were childhood friends. Prodigy grew up in Philadelphia and Genesis was raised in Atlanta, but every summer, Genesis would visit his uncle, who lived right next door to Prodigy in Philly. With a shared love for basketball, the two tall boys became good friends.
Every summer they would play Little League basketball for the Police Athletic League, exchange southern and northern ways of life, and chase girls. Prodigy would tease Genesis about his country accent but use his influence to keep the neighborhood thugs from robbing the country boy named after the first book in the Bible. A few more summers would go by before they would go their separate ways. Not because of any animosity between the two; they just started running with different crews. Prodigy started hanging with the thug element that had once threatened to rob Genesis, while Genesis stayed on the basketball courts and continued chasing girls. His years on the court had paid off, but his appetite for women had him paying.
After two years of college, Genesis signed a lucrative contract to play in the European Basketball League. On the last game of his fourth professional season, he tore his Achilles tendon. Then news came from the States that his mother needed his help with his eight-year-old nephew, Jalen, who was born addicted to cocaine. Genesis had been hearing stories of his older brother’s battle with drugs and how he wasn’t doing anything to help in raising his own son. So Genesis cut his rehabilitation short and returned home to help his mother take care of his nephew.
Prodigy moved to Atlanta from Philadelphia and renewed his criminal ties with an uncle already living in Atlanta. But after a divine encounter with a man he affectionately called Poppa Doc, Prodigy left the criminal faction. He got a legitimate job and finished up his bachelor’s degree in psychology. Now he was passing what he had learned in the streets and in the classroom to the younger generation as executive director of the Atlanta Youth Center.
Genesis had heard through the grapevine that Prodigy was living in Atlanta and looked him up just before he and Nina got married. Genesis was surprised to hear that Prodigy had changed his player ways. Prodigy asked Genesis if he would stand as one of his groomsmen and they had been tighter than dreadlocks ever since.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Married but Still Looking by Travis Hunter. Copyright © 2002 by Travis Hunter. Excerpted by permission of One World/Ballantine, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.