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Ulterior Motives

PROLOGUE
I grabbed a seat at the bar in Billy’s Bar and Grill, my favorite restaurant, and ordered a beer
and a shot of whiskey. It was unusually empty for a Friday night, and all of the giant plasma
televisions had the Houston Lightning vs. the Phoenix Rattle rs basketball game on. The
Lightning disposed of my team, the St. Louis Wolves, in seven games, and I couldn’t bear to
watch them play because the wounds of defeat were still fresh. I would always go to Billy’s
when I arrived back in town from college, or when I finished playing pro basketball by summer.
I haven’t taken a drink in five years, but today’s drama gave me a good reason to drink.
“Would you like some hot wings or some other appetizer with your drinks?” the waitress
asked.
“No, thanks,” I said, still in a state of shock from what took place hours ago. I was in a daze,
and I felt no signs of snapping out of it in the immediate future.
“Are you okay?”
“No, I’m not. I just want my drinks, please.”
“What happened, honey?” the waitress inquired. “Do you want to talk about it?”
She was a stunningly attractive young woman who looked at me with eyes like a nurturing
and concerned mother. She also looked familiar, but I couldn’t place her face at first. A lack of
appetite coupled with no sleep equaled a clo uded brain.
“Look, I don’t mean to be rude,” I said, “but I need to get to the embryonic stage of
intoxication right now. If you don’t mind, I rather not talk about it. Thanks for asking though.”
“Very well,” she said, looking very disappointed. “I’ll bring your drinks right away. I’m
sorry I bothered you.”
She had a perplexed look on her face like she knew me and was baffled because I didn’t
recognize her. Maybe she’s from the old neighborhood, or maybe we went to the same church, I
thought. Then it hit meshe was Gabrielle. I had a huge crush on her when we were in college,
but I didn’t act on my feelings because we were both attached to other people. How was I going
to save face now? She had changed her hair color from black to auburn and had gained some
weight, and the once slim model- like beauty was now a curvaceous size 12.
I looked and felt like a train wreck—the kind of feeling you get when you find out that your
best friend is cheating with your girlfriend. But this felt a hundred times worse. I was also angry,
confused and heartbroken all in one instance. What would you do if somebody betrayed you in
the worst possible way imaginable? Moreover, someone I haven’t seen in over twelve years was
responsible for taking from me the most precious thing that can be taken from a person.
I suddenly reflected upon the street life I led when I was a kid and how my father would beat
my ass on a regular basis in an attempt to toughen me up. When I was eight, he showed me how
to cook an eightball and taught me how to jam someone’s nasal bone into his brain before he’d
slap me around for not properly reciting the definitions of words he assigned for me to
memorize. He had groomed me to be an educated thuga carbon copy of himself.
“I want you to give me the definition of a coward,” my father ordered. “If you get it right, I’ll
take you to get some ice cream. But if you answer it incorrectly, I’m gonna beat your ass.”
“Yes, sir,” I said trembling.
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