The building was quiet. As she made her way down to the ground floor, the chill seemed to enter Keisha’s very bones. Supposedly, it got slightly warmer once it snowed, but it sure didn’t feel like it.
“Hey, Miss Crawford, what you doin’ up so early?”
Keisha stiffened at the sound of the familiar voice, and the sardonic way in which, ‘Miss Crawford’ had been pronounced.
Marcus lived on the third floor. Tall, and brown-skinned with a trim, slender physique and a suave manner, he’d moved in a few months after Keisha had. All the women in the building, most of them married Moms, had gossiped about how much he looked like Blair Underwood. He looked nothing like Blair Underwood, but Keisha understood the comparison—he had the same kind of cool, that same quiet charm. And he exercised that charm very liberally, though usually not on her. With her, he was sarcastic.
Right now, he was standing at the mailboxes, wearing a suit, jacket in hand, shirt unbuttoned at the neck, tie hanging open. He’d clearly spent the night elsewhere and was just making it back. Smiling at Keisha, he looked her over from head to toe, the way he always did when he saw her, like he could see through her clothes, like he could see through her.
“Good morning,” she said. Glancing at him, she paused at the door to pull on her knit hat.
“Better pull that zipper all the way up to the neck as well,” he cautioned. “That Hudson Hawk is whipping up out there like nobody’s business.”
Keisha looked at him. Her father, Rey, called it that as well—the Hudson Hawk—the wind that came off the Hudson River during the cold months and made New York feel like Little Antarctica on the worst days.
“I’m just going across the street,” she said. “I think I’ll make it.”
“I’m sure you will,” Marcus said. “I got a feeling about you. That you’ve survived a lot worse.”
Marcus said things like this all the time. Like he knew her or something. It was among the many reasons Keisha didn’t like him. He looked at her, talked to her like he knew. Occasionally she wondered whether he’d heard something. But in New York, girls with pasts like hers were a dime a dozen, so she was probably being paranoid. Most of the time, she ignored Marcus’ tone if she couldn’t avoid him altogether.
Janine, who lived on the top floor, told her Marcus was a promoter or something like that. Wasn’t everybody? New York was positively overflowing with people who wanted to sing, dance, act, promote or manage celebrity clients. That was a world Keisha had tasted, and her memories of it were quite bitter.
“I didn’t see your man’s truck out there,” Marcus continued. “Snow kept him away? Wouldn’t keep me away.”
A few times—a few times too many for Keisha’s taste—she’d run into Marcus as she was entering or leaving her building with Jay and the two men had exchanged greetings the way men do. During those exchanges Marcus never looked at her the way he did when he ran into her alone. Probably because he worried that if he did, Jay would kick his ass.
“He’s not my man,” Keisha said.
As much as she didn’t like him, she always allowed herself to be dragged into these little verbal sparring matches with dude for some reason. And the minute she said it, she regretted telling him that she and Jay weren’t involved like that. Her new habit of telling the truth was often inconvenient.
“Is he gay?”
“No,” Keisha almost laughed. “He’s not gay. But he’s just not my …”
“Yeah? Good to know,” Marcus started up the stairs toward his floor. “Y’all look like a couple in a Macy’s ad, so naturally I thought … Anyway, good to know, Miss Crawford.”