Thirty minutes later, Bakari strolled up the steps, surprised to see her sitting outside in the heat.
"You didn't find the key?" he asked.
She jumped up and followed him into the apartment. "Please let them be done," Califia thought to herself as she made herself comfortable on the loveseat facing the balcony.
She had left the balcony door open exactly as she had found it with the balcony screen closed. Bakari went into the kitchen and called out, "You want anything to drink?"
"Water," she responded.
Bakari brought over a small bottled water and handed to her.
"What's wrong with you?" he asked.
"Why are you looking all weird?"
"Nothing, I was just thinking. Got a lot going on, so I'm a little frazzled right now."
Bakari drank from his own bottle of water, and at that moment, Andrea walked out. She was wearing what looked to be her own clothes now, a simple white linen dress, sans any shoes.
"Hey, Bakari," Andrea said, obviously at home in their apartment as she walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge.
"Andrea," Bakari said, and Califia heard that strain in his voice when he was annoyed with someone but still trying to be nice.
Andrea poured herself a glass of juice and when she took a swallow, finally noticed Califia on the loveseat. "Oh, hey there," Andrea said.
"Hi," Califia said.
Califia nodded and then looked over at Bakari. Sipping water had never looked so taxing before, and Califia knew without a doubt Bakari couldn't stand Andrea.
They all heard N'Jobu's bedroom door open and watched him emerge looking refreshed and comfortable in a t-shirt with gray sweatpants.
Califia silently prayed that there wouldn't be a dick print, and God took that moment not to answer prayers.
N'Jobu's eyes landed on hers, and a bright smile played out on his lips when he saw her.
"Califia Stevens," he said.
She waved at him, then felt stupid for waving.
"Hey, N'Jobu," she said, looking away from him lest she drop her gaze down to his sweatpants.
"W'sup Bakari," he said, slapping hands with Bakari and then making his way to where Andrea was standing in the kitchen with the fridge door open.
The furnished graduate apartment wasn't very big, so the room suddenly felt extra full with them all there looking at one another.
Califia gave Bakari another glance. She felt a little confused because she thought they would be alone in the apartment so they could work on their martial art.
Now there appeared to be a potential audience. And she didn't want that.
"What are you two up to?" asked Andrea. Califia felt her left eyebrow shoot up. This woman was coming off a little too familiar.
"Yo, I thought you were going to be ghost for the day, bruh," Bakari said, ignoring Andrea.
"My bad, Bakari. Got my days mixed up," N'Jobu said.
Califia gave Bakari a look of "Wtf?", wondering if they were going to leave or if she and Bakari would have to go to the nearby park.
She didn't want to change spots because she was looking forward to smoking weed in peace and in private with Bakari.
The doorbell rang, and when Bakari went to answer it, Califia hissed under her breath at him. "Get rid of them."
Bakari peeked through the peephole, and a vindictive smile curled his lips. He whispered to her, "Dis gone be good, Cali."
He opened the door, "Hey, w'sup Serah," he said.
N'Jobu's head whiplashed around when he heard the name, and Califia swore she could see his body tense when the woman, Serah, walked in.
With the tall lithe frame of a supermodel, and sporting tiny Nubian knots that looked like a natural crown on her head, Serah entered the apartment like a woman on a mission.
Califia sat up higher on the loveseat.
"Serah," N'Jobu said.
His voice betrayed nothing, and whatever surprise he had when he first heard her name at the door, it was now gone,
replaced with the cool veneer of a man who had experience dealing with two jump-offs appearing at the same time in the same space.
Califia wished she had a bowl of popcorn for this shit. Bakari took a seat next to her on the loveseat and she felt his hand nudging her.
He whispered in Califia's ear, "Harpo, who dis woman?" and Califia just about died trying to keep a bone-deep guffaw from spilling out of her mouth. She kinda felt embarrassed for N'Jobu.
But fuck it. Califia loved a good show.
Andrea closed the fridge door and watched Serah approach.
"Andrea, go on home, I'll check out the Miyamoto doc with you later," N'Jobu said.
"But I thought—"
"Now, Andrea. I'll call you," he said with some added bass in his voice.
His tone conveyed an urgency that was both firm and caressing and Califia found it…seductive.
He was deciding how this narrative would play out, and instead of protesting, or pitching a bitch fit as Califia would probably do in the same situation,
Andrea simply walked out of the kitchen and around Serah and went into N'Jobu's bedroom.
"Can we talk now?" Serah asked, her Cameroonian accent soft like spring rain. Her voice equally as seductive as N'Jobu's.
N'Jobu pointed to the balcony and said "Yiza nama," and Serah walked out ahead of him.
N'Jobu glanced back over at Bakari and Califia, gave them a shrug and a rakish smile, and then closed the sliding balcony door behind him so that they could have some semblance of privacy.
Before Califia could say anything to Bakari, Andrea walked out of N'Jobu's bedroom carrying her purse and wearing kitten heels on her feet.
She said nothing to the pair on the loveseat as she saw herself out the front door. After a minute seemed to pass, Califia turned to Bakari and said, "Who is this nigga?"
Bakari burst out laughing, and Califia poked him in his leg.
"Dude! What the fuck was that?" Califia said.
Bakari stood up and Califia followed him into his bedroom. She sat down on his bed as he rummaged through a dresser drawer and pulled out a cigar box that hid his weed.
He pulled out a joint, lit it and passed it to Califia so she could hit it first. She took two quick puffs and passed it back to Bakari.
"Talk to me, B," Califia said, her hand back out for the joint again.
"I done told you. That man out there is a dick slanger. Serah is like his long-term squeeze. I mean, my dude doesn't really do the whole girlfriend thing.
He's mad respectful about his shit though, but occasionally he slips up with his hoetation schedule—"
"Wild overlap. Is Andrea his new shorty?"
"I can't even tell you for sure. That woman has been here every goddamn day since he met her last week. He fucked her the first night he met her.
I mean, that's not a judgment, but she got sprung on him so fast, she can't leave him alone. He must like her because he keeps letting her come through."
"She looks real comfy around y'all shit for real, B."
"The good thing is, he hasn't cooked for her yet."
"Watchu mean?" Califia asked, her words loosening up as the weed relaxed her.
"N'Jobu can cook his ass off, and when he's really feeling a woman, he starts making her home-cooked meals and shit. I've only seen him and Andrea go out to eat, or they pick up fast food.
When he starts cooking, they usually be around him long term. He's cooked for Serah plenty of times. Serah is cool though. Andrea has those stalker tendencies."
"Is the dick too bomb though, that's the question," Califia said, passing the joint back over to Bakari.
"Must be. You saw Andrea get her shit and get the fuck out when he told her to. When have you ever seen shit like that?"
"Dude when you said that "Color Purple" shit, I almost peed!" Califia said, falling back onto Bakari's bed laughing. Bakari grabbed the joint from her fingers and snuffed it out.
He grabbed his berimbau that leaned against the wall.
"C'mon, let's play, then we can grab something to eat later," Bakari said.
Califia pulled off her shirt, boots, and socks.
"I'm going to rinse my feet," she said walking out of the room.