Home > Long Shot (Hoops #1)(19)

Long Shot (Hoops #1)(19)
Kennedy Ryan

“God, you never change, do you?” I ask, feeling more lighthearted than I have since the last time we spoke.

“I do change.” Some of the humor leaves Lo’s voice. “Actually, a lot is changing. That’s why I’m calling.”

“Oh, yeah?” I ask absently, dumping steamed sweet potatoes and green beans into the food processor. “What’s up?”

“I have the opportunity of a lifetime!” The excitement Lo has been holding back bursts across the line, giving me pause.

“What kind of opportunity?”

“You know I hustle, right?” Lo cackles. “Like, take side jobs to make ends meet? Well, I was on this shoot for a friend who was paying me in pizza, and Jean Pierre Louis, that new designer everyone is raving about? You know him?”

I glance around my gilded cage, the walls of Caleb’s house that basically define my existence. My T-shirt is stained from the peaches and peas Sarai had for breakfast. My hair hasn’t been washed in days, and I smell strongly of spoiled milk.

“I haven’t exactly been keeping up with the latest in fashion,” I reply dryly.

“Oh.” Lo sounds deflated for approximately a quarter of a second before bouncing back to full-force enthusiasm. “Well he’s the bomb, and I didn’t realize it was his shoot. I threw some of MiMi’s French on him, followed instructions like a good little minion, and kept him cracking up the whole time. At the end, he offered me a job in his New York atelier. Can you believe that?”

The information zooms through my mind at warp speed, bits of it clinging to the sides of my brain while some of it doesn’t stick at all.

“But . . .” I flounder a little. “But you have one more semester left at Spelman. Is this a summer job?”

“No, it starts right away. I can finish school anytime.” Lo’s energy crackles even over the phone. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“It’s a bit of a risk, isn’t it?” I ask tentatively, not wanting to upset her but feeling like I need to offer a level-headed perspective. “I mean, you spend one afternoon with this guy and you uproot your whole life, all your plans, for him?”

“You mean the way you uprooted your whole life and all your plans to follow Caleb?” Her voice comes sharp and pricks me. It’s quiet for a few moments as I find my way in this foreign land where Lo and I may be at odds.

“It’s not the same,” I say quietly. “Our situations are not the same, and you know it.”

“No, they’re not,” Lo fires back. “Because unlike you, I won’t hand my life over to some man. I’m taking this opportunity by the horns and following my dreams. I would never allow myself to end up trapped in somebody else’s plans for me.”

“Trapped?” I cannon back. “What are you saying? I should have had an abortion?”

“You know I love Sarai.” She pauses. “But I would’ve been more careful about what was going in my lady business and made sure he was wrapped up tight.”

“I’m not the first woman this has happened to, Lo. You know condoms aren’t a hundred percent.”

“I know, but . . .” The quiet on the other end swells with her hesitation.

“But what?”

“I don’t trust Caleb.”

I abandon the vegetables altogether, my hands dropping and falling limply at my side. “Did someone say something to you? You heard something about him?” I ask, dread gathering in my stomach.

“No, nothing like that,” she says quickly. “I saw a shadow.”

My head tilts as I try to discern what the hell this means. “A shadow? I don’t understand.”

“On his . . . soul,” she says, her voice lowered to a whisper. “I think I saw a shadow on his soul.”

“What do you-you . . .” I can’t even stutter right. This is so ridiculous. “What the hell does that even mean? A shadow on his soul? He’s the father of my child, Lo. This is serious. It’s not time for some voodoo shit you caught from MiMi.”

“Maybe if you’d taken the time to learn some of that voodoo shit,” Lotus says, her voice crackling with disapproval, “you wouldn’t be with him right now.”

“Look, you keep that superstitious crap to yourself. I love MiMi just like you do, but—”

“Oh, I doubt that,” Lo scoffs. “You barely know her. Your comments prove that.”

My hurt swells and builds until it makes my eyes wet and my jaw clench. “Just because I didn’t live with her like you did doesn’t mean I don’t love her.”

“Whatever.” A door slams shut between us. We rarely talk about the circumstances which led to Lo leaving New Orleans and living with MiMi. I know it’s a sensitive issue. How could it not be? But all of a sudden, it feels like we should have talked about this more. It feels like something our family swept under the rug for years is about to break us.

“Lo, wait. This whole conversation has gotten out of control. Let’s . . .” I don’t know what.

“Let’s what, Bo? Start over?” Bitterness cracks Lotus’s voice. “Some things don’t get do-overs. Not some forty-year-old man taking your virginity before you even have your first period. Not your own mother choosing him over you and shipping you off to the bayou to live with your great-grandmother.”

That incident will probably haunt us both for the rest of our lives. It was the thing that took Lo away from New Orleans. She’d fight to her last breath for me, and I’d do the same for her, but I can’t form words to soothe her deep wounds. I don’t know what I can say to get us where we were before this awful conversation happened.

“But the joke’s on Mama,” Lo continues with a harsh laugh, “because getting away from her was the best thing that ever happened to me. I learned a lot that I never would have if I’d stayed in the Lower Ninth. Now, I can see when a man has a shadow on his soul, and I’m telling you that I saw a shadow. Do with that whatever you please.”

“It just doesn’t make sense to me, Lo,” I say, pleading for her to understand.

“Something’s off. I don’t know what it is, but it is, and I, for one, am not gonna sit by and watch you barter yourself the way our mamas did.”

I swallow the hot knot of hurt that almost chokes me. “Wow. Is that what you think I’m doing?” I ask, my voice pitched so low I barely hear myself. “What our mothers did? You think I’m like them now?”

“I didn’t mean it that way.” Lo sighs heavily. “I do think you could have done things a little differently, but I get it. It’s hard to think of doing things on your own.”

“That’s not why I’m here, Lo.” My voice assumes a hard edge. “Caleb is Sarai’s father.”

“Yeah, but not yours,” Lo snaps. “So why have you allowed him to dictate everything? To manipulate you into this situation?”

“Manipulate?” An outraged breath puffs from my chest. “I haven’t let him manipulate me. You were there. You know I was on bed rest. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t even leave the house. I had nowhere to go.”

“You don’t see it.” Her words ring bitter. “Just like your mother never saw it. Just like mine never did either.”

“How dare you compare me to them?” Every word lands somewhere it shouldn’t. On my heart. Through my soul.

“How are you different? Living off a man’s wealth to keep a roof over your head and clothes on your back. Fucking some rich man so he’ll provide for you.”

“Everything I’ve done . . . or not done . . . has been for Sarai, and you know it. I had so few choices. I’m doing the best I can.”

“I know, Bo. I wish . . .” Her voice peters out, and I can feel some of the enmity we’ve flung at each other over the last few minutes draining away. “I wish you had gotten away from them, too. I hope they didn’t influence you more than you realized.”

“That’s an awful thing to say.” Hurt cracks my voice.

“I know you would never choose him over Sarai,” Lo rushes to say. “I don’t mean it that way. I meant—”

“I think we should end this,” I interrupt. “This conversation is only getting worse, and we may not be on speaking terms by the end of it. Drop out of school. Move to New York for the atelier or whatever you call it.”

The silence between us is unlike any we’ve shared. It’s a wall of invisible bricks, layered with the mortar of our hurtful words.

“Okay,” Lo finally replies. “Just remember if you need me, if you need anything, hopscotch.”

Tears prick my eyes when she says that word. She could never get hopscotch right for some reason when we were little girls, so I helped her. I’d hop first, and she’d hop behind me, mimicking my steps until she got it herself. Silly as it seemed, it worked, and long after she could fly across the chalked squares by herself, “hopscotch” was our code for when we needed each other.

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