Jacy was getting ready for her date with the thug. "Where did I put that **** belt?" she asked as she scoured her closet. It seemed as if she had no problem finding things—until she really needed them. "That belt would have gone perfect with this outfit," she sucked her teeth. She finally just gave up looking. Jacy took a look at herself again in the mirror. Her date was with Rich, a construction worker—or so he said—that she met at Flow, one of the hottest clubs in Philly. She was dressed to impress in a brand new gleaming white princess shirt with bell sleeves, a pair of tight fitting blue parasuco jeans and matching white stilleto sandals. Jacy liked designer clothes, but she didn’t sweat them as much as other people did. To her, most of the time no-name brand clothes looked ten times better than the big designers and cost ten times less. With the exception of shoes and purses, Jacy mostly left the designer names to the millionaires. Besides, why would she want to be some rich designer’s billboard, displaying their name across her chest everyday. Her phone rang just as she was about to apply mascara to her other eye. She finished her eye and then walked over to her cellphone, picking it up on the fourth ring. "Hello?" "Sup it’s Rich. I’m about to go down to the restaurant right now. I’ll be there in like… ten minutes, aiight?" "Alright, I’ll see you there then." "How far you live from City Line? You sure you don’t want me to come pick you up?" "Yea I’m sure. I’m only 15 or 20 minutes away from the restaurant. I’ll probably get there a little bit after you so just sit tight." Jacy had learned her lesson about letting men she just met know where she lived on the first date. They all claimed to be decent guys who would never in their life stalk a female. Why would they need to? is what they said. Lies. Jacy had come across her share of crazy, needy men who seemed to be cool enough at first but then showed their true colors in the end. Despite what men said about women being clingy, some of them were overly pressed themselves. "Alright, so I’ll see you in 20 minutes then," he said. "Cool, see you then," Jacy hung up the phone and went back to the bathroom mirror to take one more good look. Jacilyn Thomas was 23 years old, and stood at 5’5, 135 lbs. She had a rich chocolate complexion and straight dark brown hair reaching her mid back. She was not fat, but definitely not skinny. She was small in stature, but thick, and she kept herself toned by lifting weights and running on the treadmill in the gym down the street from her small apartment in Philly from time to time. Her breast size was proportionate to her body size, but her behind was healthy compared to her small frame, inherited from a long line of well shaped women. Jacy was happy with her body and never watched her weight or complained and starved herself when she gained. In fact she welcomed the extra pounds, just as long as she could keep her stomach as flat as it had been since her high school years. She admired women who were even thicker than her and still managed to keep their bodies looking tight and fit. After about ten more minutes of primping in the bathroom mirror she went back into her bedroom and took one more look in her closet for the belt, but didn’t look long because she thought to herself that it would probably be too much for that outfit at a restaurant and the movies anyway. She patted Muffy, her big fluffy cat, on the head as she purred loudly. "You be a good girl OK?" she told Muffy and finally grabbed her denim Gucci bag and walked out the door. The drive to Friday’s was smooth since it was after 8 o’ clock and the rush hour traffic on Route 76 and City line was long gone. Jacy searched for about ten minutes for a parking spot in the eternally packed Fridays and finally pulled into one close to the office building at the back of the lot. She strutted to the entrance of Friday’s and walked in, already becoming annoyed at the crowd of people there. She immediately recognized Rich sitting at the bar wearing a throwback jersey and a fresh new pair of butter-colored tims. He was brown skinned with a low cut and perfect teeth. He wasn’t gorgeous, but he was attractive in his own way. He was definitely a thug. "Hey, what’s up!" she said over the background commotion, walking over to him smiling. "Hey girl, sup wit you?" Rich said grinning wide, looking her up and down with a lustful stare along with three other guys at the bar while their dates stared at her with unadulterated hate written in their expressions. "I’m sorry it took me so long, I couldn’t find a parking space," Over 40 minutes had passed since their earlier conversation. "So how are you?" "I’m aiight," he answered, still slightly mesmerized by what he saw sitting beside him. ****! This girl is fine, he thought as he listened to her comment about how Friday’s on City Line was always packed tight, even on the weekdays. He licked his lips as she continued talking. He hadn’t noticed how smooth and flawless her dark brown skin was when they met in the club. The white blouse she was wearing contrasted perfectly with her complexion—she looked like a black angel. "So what do you do other than ‘construction’ Rich?" Jacy inquired with an emphasis on the word construction. But Jacy knew what was up. Brothas would use a generic profession as a front to females for what they were really doing for money. Barber, construction, mechanic. But she wasn’t mad at them, because as far as she was concerned, a lot of women and people in general just didn’t know how to keep their mouths shut. People she knew were always gossipping, bragging to their friends and saying things over the phone unconsciously. Jacy on the other hand was a very private person. She didn’t advocate what went on in the drug game, but in a world where black men like Rich were usually kept from making decent money any other way, she understood that they were just trying to make a living with the limited skills and opportunities they possessed. Of course people might say that was just an excuse, but she wanted those same people to step in a brotha like Rich’s shoes. From the very beginning, birth. Then back from the hospital to a hovel of a home. Then on to elementary school in the ghetto where kids like him couldn’t bring their books home to study. Then to job interviews where they required a college degree. They would quickly learn that there are only two real hopes for escape—drugs and music. Jacy learned as a young child listening to her relatives talk, that people loved to judge; especially when they had their own skeletons river-dancing in the closet. Having her own bones to hide, she promised herself she wouldn’t dare judge another’s life. "Aaah I do a little bit of this, little of that. I try to stay as busy as possible," he said avoiding eye contact, motioning to the bartender. When the bartender finally came over Jacy ordered an apple martini and Rich got another Corona. They sat, drank and talked until their table was finally ready. As they slid into the booth Rich concentrated his line of vision on the cross resting above Jacy’s cleavage. He definitely wasn’t a church going man, but he did need a girl in his life with a little religion. "You go to church?" he finally asked. Jacy concentrated on him for a minute. "Every other week or so. I found a nice church in West Philly." "Oh yea, that’s good. Real good," Rich thought for a while about if he had ever even dated a woman that got up and went to church on Sunday morning. The rest of the night went by well, conversation flowed and the food was tasty. When the check came Rich pulled out a fat stack of bills confirming Jacy’s earlier suspicions. Afterwards, they went to the movies to see a new flick with John Leguizamo and Fat Joe in it. Nothing that impressed Jacy, just another wannabe Scarface movie about a Puerto Rican drug triangle in the Bronx. After leaving the movie theater, Jacy and Rich hugged their goodbyes, Jacy giving him a peck on the cheek, and parted ways. Rich smirked and watched as Jacy walked to her car before turning to his left and heading for his. * * * * * Jacy enjoyed the date but was only mildy interested. She liked Rich but could already see that even if they did get together it wouldn’t last. Thugs were only short term—they were just good for a little fun as far as Jacy was concerned. She had been there many times before. She quickly got bored of thug types and moved on. Her idea of a real prize was a tall, good looking brown skinned professional man that wore tailored suits to work. Smelling like expensive cologne. Switching effortlessly into professional speak as if it were his first language. Masterful at his chosen skill. She snapped out of her little daydream as the light turned green and she followed the road up to the expressway. As she was getting off her exit her cellphone rang. She heaved a long deep sigh as she read the caller ID. It was Terrell. Again. Jacy had met Terrell that past December at a mutual friends get together at a local bar in Philly. They hit it off and went out a few times before getting semi-serious. Jacy liked him because there was something about him that held her interest. He was charismatic, confident and kept her laughing, but she still wasn’t so sure she wanted to be in a committed relationship with him. Plus, while Terrell seemed to be slightly cultured and intelligent, he was still a straight up thug. He didn’t seem to have much of a goal in life besides running the streets, and he was always doing little dumb things that irked Jacy’s nerves. While Jacy was thinking short-term, Terrell on the other hand was actually thinking "marriage." At 26 he was feeling the pressure from his peers who were getting married and having children all around him and thought that Jacy would make a perfect wife. Their diverting opinions about the relationship, and Terrell’s ‘niggafied’ ways, as Jacy called it, ultimately led Jacy to break it off, only a couple of months prior. "Yea Terrell," Jacy spoke into the phone. "What’s up baby what you doin’?" Terrell said sounding amped like he had just gotten off a roller coaster. "I’m on my way home. What do you want?" "Awww come on. Why you always gotta be like that Jacy." "Like what?" Jacy asked impatiently. "I need to see you." "For what?" "I wanted to give you something." "Mail it to me." This was usually Jacy’s answer when Terrell claimed to have something for her. She knew it couldn’t be too important. "I ain’t mailing you ****. Smart ***. I want to see you and give it to you in person." "Terrell I don’t have time for no games tonight alright? You’re always trying to make up some excuse to see me. I swear you stay on some dumb ****," Jacy fumed. "Dammit Jacy, why are you so ******* mean to me all the time? I’m over here trying to make this thing work and you just want to be nasty all the **** time. You would think you’d at least miss me or something." "Well maybe if you gave me a chance to miss you Terrell!" Jacy was sensing that Terrell was about to go off on a tangent again. She had no intention of ever getting back with him. Cruelty was the only way to get through to him, and even then he usually didn’t respond. She sighed. "We are not ever getting back together like that again ok? Get it out of your mind. Seriously. It’s OVER Terrell. And I’m seeing someone else now," Jacy told a little white lie. She was only dating but not really seeing anyone seriously. She just wanted to say whatever to get Terrell off her back for good. "Who??" Terrell asked like a crazed man. "None of your damned business. Now I gotta go alright??" Jacy said waiting in vain for him to say OK, or to just hang up. "No it ain’t alright. Don’t tell me you been lettin’ some other ***** hit it Jacy?" Terrell said sounding hurt as if he were about to cry or flip out. "Didn’t I just say that’s none of your business! Geez! Look, Imma talk to you some other time Terrell," Jacy said as she clicked the ‘end’ button on her phone. Terrell called three more times before finally giving up and leaving a message. Jacy knew she was being mean to him but sometimes that’s how you gotta be to get someone off your back, she thought. She had always talked to Terrell however she pleased, throughout their entire relationship. And he just took it. As hard and as well respected he was in the streets, Jacy had Terrell on edge behind closed doors. She even thought that Terrell actually liked the verbal abuse, because on several occasions she caught him grinning after she had cursed him out for doing something stupid. And she was right. Terrell was raised by a mother who was regularly lashing out on him and telling him he wasn’t ****. He was always doing stupid things as a child to provoke his mother. It was no wonder why he probably thought the situation with himself and Jacy was normal. Jacy felt bad for him and even comforted him at times when he’d come over her place upset about something his mother said to break his spirit. Unlike his heartless mother, Jacy would encourage him to do more with his life and told him that he had so much potential, which was part of the reason why Terrell loved Jacy so much. Jacy pulled into her apartment building and walked up to her apartment. It was after 12 so she just wrapped up her hair, washed up and got ready for bed. THE NEXT morning at work Jacy sat at her desk, completely fed up with her job. Her boss had just called her into the office to scold her for coming in ten minutes late. "I can’t believe this place, how ungrateful can you be," she thought out loud throwing her pen on the desk. Despite being only 23, Jacy had been at her current job for over seven years, starting out as a copy girl working part time while in high school in New Jersey, then becoming an intern, while in college at Seaton Hall, for the Assistant Director of Corporate Communications, and finally getting hired full time as a Communications Analyst at the firm’s Philadelphia office. After all that time they were still giving her a hard time over little stuff, such as coming in a few minutes late. "I hate this place," she mumbled to herself as she got up to get a cup of coffee from the break room. On her way to the large break room she passed Patricia, Robin, and Felix, the resident gay guy at the office, gossipping as usual at Patricia’s cubicle. Jacy just shook her head and continued on to her destination. On her way back she heard her name mentioned in their conversation, so she moved to the side and listened to what they were saying. "…she probably thinks she is just IT, just because she got an ‘analyst’ position. Big ******* deal that don’t mean nothing. I could even do that job," That was Patricia. She and pretty much all of the black women at Jacy’s job were secretaries. "You know? Ms. Thing, walking around here trying to be all cute and ****. I bet she slept with the director to get that job," Felix said in his gay voice. Jacy could never understand why some gay men talked like that, it was as if they were trying to sound overly female. "Well you know I talked to her a few times, and she seems like a pretty cool person," Robin said in Jacy’s defense. Jacy thought back to the time she had stayed late with Robin to help her fix the printer so that Robin could print out a color version of her report for night school. Everyone else, even her so-called gossipping buddies, had left her high and dry since it was after 5pm. "Well I don’t think so, she seem like a straight up ***** to me," Felix answered rolling his eyes. "Patty did you ever find out who that dude was that came up to the office looking for her that day?" Patty was the office busy body. She knew everything and everybody—even the higher ups at the firm. She was notorious for smiling up in people’s faces and then dishing the dirt about them when they left. Most of the black people and a few whites at Jacy’s job were complete gossips who feened for information about other people’s lives since they didn’t have ones of their own. And Patricia was their pusher. "Oh yea! I forgot to tell you. Girl, he works at the post office down the street. I saw him in there the other day and I was like ‘I knew I recognized that guy from somewhere.’ Poor guy, looking all desperate coming up here with flowers looking for Jacy and she wasn’t even trying to be bothered. I think she probably did some foul **** to him and it’s too bad because he seemed like a pretty nice guy." She couldn’t be further from the truth, Jacy thought. The guy they were talking about, Desmond, from the Post Office, was a complete lunatic. Desmond had always flirted with Jacy when she came into the post office, and one day he finally asked her out to a happy hour after work. Jacy had made the half-way drunk mistake of letting him drop her home after the happy hour since she took the train to work usually, and after that he started popping up to her house unannounced. When she told him off and said she didn’t want to see him anymore, she started to see his car parked to the side of her building occasionally when she left in the morning for work, and sometimes later on at night when she went out. One day he approached her in the parking lot of her building and asked why she didn’t call or answer his messages anymore. She screamed at him to leave her alone and stop stalking her, then power-walked to her car. That was the day he came up to the office looking for her and Jacy was conveniently absent. After that surprise visit she told the security guards in her building to not let him up to see her ever again, and she hadn’t heard from him since. She had recently moved to a new apartment building to start anew. She also went to a different post office, in spite of the fact that it was a longer walk from her job. "**** you see? There ain’t nothin’ nice about that girl Robin. She probably didn’t want to see him when she found out he work at the post office," he snickered with Patty. Jacy shook her head and kept walking on to her desk. AS THE El train hit the daylight again after being under the tunnel, Jacy’s cellphone signal came back and only a few seconds later her cell phone rang. The number came up unavailable. Debating on whether she should pick it up or not, she reluctantly clicked the "talk" button. "Hello?" "Why’d you bang on me like that last night? I swear you be treating me like I ain’t ****!" ****, Jacy thought sighing, I knew I should have just let this **** ring. "Jacy we need to talk," he continued, "I know I’ve done some dumb **** in the past, but I ain’t never cheat on you or laid a hand on you. That’s gotta count for somethin’ right? I promise you, I’ll do whatever it takes for us to be together and to get along," Terrell said trying to sound sincere. "Okay then, what did you have to give me last night?" Jacy asked, setting him up. "Wha?" "You know, you said you have something to give me. I’m on the El right now, three stops from your house. I’ll come pick it up." "Huh, oh, ummmmmm. It’s at my mama’s house, I’ll have to get that for you tomorrow. But I still want you to come by—" "Negro please!" Jacy said laughing. "You never had nothing for me, so stop lying. Ooo. You are always doing that, just saying some **** to get what you want. But I bet you’ve changed right?" she asked sarcastically. "Naw baby listen. I’m telling you—" "Whatever." Jacy laughed again and then flipped down her phone. It was always little things like that that bothered the hell out of her about Terrell. He would say something one day, and then play dumb like he never said it the next, as if it didn’t matter at all that he was lying from the beginning. Jacy didn’t feel that she could really trust Terrell. Jacy got off the train and passed through the West Philly hood to get to her parked car. Where she got off wasn’t far from where they called "the bottom," The bottom was exactly that—the worst kinda hood. You didn’t want to be caught there after the sun set unless you knew somebody there who was well known on the block. The thing about Philly was that it was big on ‘hoods’—everybody knew everybody in each hood, and if they didn’t know you then you’d better rethink your plans to visit. "Ay yo shorti!" some guy with a thick beard yelled out from his permanent spot on the opposite corner as she passed. Jacy just kept walking involved in her own thoughts. Jacy drove home in complete silence thinking about her life and career. What she really wanted to do was to own her own real estate business. But she had little connections in the field, didn’t know any good carpenters that could fix up houses for cheap, and had a hard time finding the time to concentrate or take the actual steps towards her goal. She didn’t know how much longer she could postpone her dream, and only hoped that it wouldn’t leave her behind. When she arrived home Jacy fed Muffy, then plopped in front of the television and started channel surfing. While getting into the episode of Seinfeld where George fights the bubble boy, her cell phone rang. It was Rich from last night. "Sup girl. What you doin’," he asked over background noise from his car stereo. "Nothin’, just watching TV," Jacy said giggling as the townspeople ambushed George for sending the bubble boy to the hospital. "I wanna take you on a ride." "Where?" "Just around, and to run some errands. We can get a bite to eat a little later." "Well…" Jacy hesitated, thinking about whether she felt like riding through the hood today and meeting his friends, which was obviously what he meant. But she kinda liked Rich and was curious to see him in action around his people. Plus she was hungry. "…Yea I guess. I can go for some Houlihan’s shrimp pasta later ok?" "Aiight. Imma come pick you up?" "Naw let me change real quick and meet you at 56th and Chestnut. I’ll park my car up there and jump in with you, okay?" "How come you don’t want me to know where you live?" Rich inquired. "Cuz I don’t know you that well." Jacy said bluntly. "Well, I ain’t crazy or nothin’," he said getting a little defensive. "What you think I’m gonna stalk you or somethin? I ain’t got no time for all that." I bet, Jacy thought. "So I’ll see you in about 30-40 minutes, ok?" Jacy said out loud. "Aiight." WHEN SHE pulled up almost an hour later, Rich was sitting in his car, a ‘92 Pontiac Bonneville, talking on his cellphone. When he saw Jacy’s car he ended the conversation, leaned back in his seat and just stared at her fixedly as she got out the car and strutted over to the passenger side of his car. "****," he said, licking his lips, "I might have to give up my rules on this jawn, she got that model walk and everything." Lost in his thoughts Rich forgot to click the locks on the door for her to get in. When he finally did, Jacy stepped in smelling like fresh flowers, filling his car with her sweet scent. Even though she was dressed casual in a pair of tight fitting jeans and a v-necked pink blouse, she still looked amazing. He continued staring at her not saying a word while Jacy started to fidget in her seat wondering what the hell he was thinking about. She finally broke the silence. "So where are we about to go?" "Ummm, I gotta go see my man for a minute, then run some quick errands. After that we’ll hit Houlihan’s like you said aiight?" he said breaking his stare and turning the ignition. The music immediately started blasting Freeway through the speakers. "Okay," Jacy said smiling. She admired the interior of the car that looked pretty plain and boring from the outside. It was a squatter. Regular on the outside, but nice and comfortable inside. The car was also very powerful and its pick up speed surprised her. He obviously used his money to hook the car up on the inside, while keeping the exterior looking basic yet clean instead of flashy, to avoid drawing unneeded attention to himself. Good, Jacy thought, he’s smart. They drove up a few blocks and finally made a right turn on a small back street lined with row houses. Kids that couldn’t have been more than seven or eight years old played in the street recklessly, screaming and carrying on while grown folks sat on the porch talking or stood by the sidewalk waiting for something, anything to happen. Rich parked his car in front of a line of red brick rowhouses and jumped out, his tims pounding the pavement leading to his boy’s house. "Timbo!!" he yelled mid-jog. His boy came to the door dressed in a wife beater and some shorts and they disappeared into the house. Rich and Timbo came out roughly ten minutes later laughing. Timbo came around to Jacy’s side of the car and opened the door. He looked Jacy from head to toe. **** he’s bold, Jacy thought, with his ugly *** self. She sat still staring up at him waiting for him to say something. "So you Jacy huh? **** Roo wasn’t playin’ when he said yo *** fine! ****!" Jacy smiled and thanked him in her sweetest voice, then looked over at Rich, who was standing beside him by now, with a look on her face that said "So what’s next?" "Come on out baby, I want you to meet some people," Rich said grinning. Jacy stepped out in her baby pink blouse looking completely out of place on that worn down block which of course caused all the people lining the streets and sitting on the porches to turn and look, being nosey. She watched as Timbo shut the car door and then followed Rich around to the house. Timbo was walking behind her of course. She could feel him staring hard at her ***. The door was wide open so they just walked right in. There was always something about Jacy that made people stop and take note. She had a ‘presence.’ Some people could stand in a room for over two hours and nobody would even know that they were there, because they had no presence. But not Jacy. When she stepped into a room she had the uncanny ability to win the attention of everyone in it. They walked into the chilling area near the back of the house where there were about ten brothas and sistas sitting chilling, drinking and watching the Sixers playoff game on TV. They quieted down and all eyes were on Jacy. "Ya’ll meet my girl Jacy," Rich announced. Your girl? Dang, I just went out with you once, Jacy thought. "Jacy these some of my peoples: Don, Petey Pete, Box, Coot, Jimmy, T-dog, Trim…" he said running off their names. Jacy followed his finger with her eyes in the dim light as everybody said ‘what’s up.’ "Whats up ya’ll," Jacy said with a smile and a light wave in the air. "What’s the score," Rich wanted to know. One of the girls sitting on the couch got up as if by habit and Rich pulled Jacy over to the spot sitting her on his lap. Jacy sat down not thinking much of it. Everyone else went back to watching the game. "75-70 my *****. The Sixers playin’ real sloppy right now." "My ***** DC!!" a walnut colored brotha jumped up and screamed as Derrick Coleman slammed the ball in the hoop while everybody else "ohhhhed" in approval. "It’s about time—he been missing all his **** jump shots," a short coal black brotha said from his chair in the corner after settling down. "Naw he just was having a bad run earlier, he be aiight." "Yo that ***** Snow got four fouls already what the hell he doin’??" an annoyed rail thin light skinned brotha they called Trim yelled from the couch as the referee blew his whistle on Eric Snow. "He betta get wit it and start hittin’ those threes if they gonna win this ****, early!" another dark skinned brotha growled out angrily, never taking his eyes from the screen. Just then Terrell busted in the front door with a light skinned girl who had a bad weave complete with pink tips running close behind, trying to catch the door before it closed. The girl had on a matching hot pink belt and shoes with skin tight jeans molded to her figure. "**** Terrell!" she said in her high pitched ‘philly girl’ voice nearly falling back outside from the door slamming back on her hands. "What’s the score!" Terrell yelled running into the living room with his eyes glued to the screen. He bent down with his hand on the top of the TV, still not even noticing that Jacy was in the room. Oh ****! Jacy thought immediately feeling awkward at what would inevitably happen. Terrell was still staring at the screen when Iverson got fouled. "76-72 Detroit up," the thin light skinned guy said leaning into the screen. "What quarter—" Terrell said finally leaning back up quickly and turning towards the crowd. He froze when he saw Jacy sitting on Rich’s lap... The preceding is an excerpt from the wild new book THUGS ARE FOR FUN by J.Gail. Visit www.jazolipublishing.com for more information and a continuation of the story.