Excerpt from "The Sidechick Chronicles Vol. 1: Misplaced Love"

Haven Collins

     Life is unpredictable, but love, love is like a game of Russian Roulette. Your heart might survive until the next round or it may be shattered into a million pieces by a ricochet bullet at the hands of the one you love. That was my life in a nutshell. This was the constant game of madness my heart was always playing. My name is Haven Namiko Collins and I am a 37-year-old woman with two kids and half a man. A man that should be mine, but we’ll get into that later. I have never been married, but I know that will change sooner than later. The half of man I'm referring to is Byron. I’ve known Byron Quincy McDaniels since I was sixteen years old.

     I’ve been in love with him for nineteen of the 37 years I've been on this earth. Me and Byron grew up in the Bevo Mill neighborhood on the south side of St. Louis. We were separated by a couple blocks, but we still ended up going to the same school. Initially, we started out as two people who just passed each other in the school hallways, but life changed when he walked into my chemistry class sophomore year. He was a rude boy who toddled the line between student athlete and running the streets. Then somewhere along the way, we became fast friends. He was the high school football star, and I was the good girl/nerd. Even though my head was buried in the books, I still managed to participate in a few school activities. From a physical standpoint, I was the cute, caramel-skinned girl with blueish-gray eyes that all the dope boys wanted.

     I had my daddy’s height and my mother’s complexion and high cheek bones. My hair was long, thick and curly. You could say my body was an exact replica of the line in Kanye West’s verse in Run This Town. I had two bee-stings up top, my waist was snatched, and my hips and booty brought all the boys to the yard. I was a perfect size eight. At that time, I was a virgin, so naturally all the neighborhood boys were gunning to pop my cherry. Because of this my mother was not playing any games with me or my sisters about running the streets. My brother got a little more freedom, but not much. She was strict—and hell bent on us getting out of high school without being killed, locked up, strung out on drugs, or pregnant.

     Since I stayed in the books, and Byron tended not to, I ended up becoming his tutor. By the time we graduated, we were in love and inseparable. In the beginning, my mother wasn’t keen on me being any kind of friends with him. She knew he hung with the neighborhood riff raft and didn’t want me caught up in any street drama. If you were one to believe the rumors were true, he was supposedly involved in a drug activities among other things with some other neighborhood guys. I never saw anything that proved it to be true, but my mother wasn’t buying it. She could always sense trouble, and she felt Byron reeked of it. To keep her from ending all my contact with him, I would always smooth things over by reminding her I was his tutor, and we were just friends, though I think she knew better.

     In hindsight, I should’ve left it that way. But I didn’t, and here we are damn near twenty years later with a cycle of love, drama, a wife I can’t stand, and our beautiful daughter, January. Truth be told, everything was perfect between us until our sophomore year at Clark Atlanta University.

     We had our whole life planned out and without warning, shit just went haywire. During a playoff game, Byron tore his ACL forcing him to be out the rest of the season. This in turn affected his scholarship and obviously his mood as well. On top of that drama, I got pregnant and one of my closest cousins was killed. The trauma from his death took a toll on me and I didn’t make it through my first trimester. The postpartum from the miscarriage eventually spiraled out of control. It got so bad that before I could get it under control, I flunked out. Ashamed, lost and partially heartbroken, I ended up returning home to heal.

     At first, I didn’t realize it, but the stress from my miscarriage had caused a rift between us. Since I wasn’t at school anymore, he started acting different towards me. I wasn’t sure if it was because he felt the miscarriage was my fault, me not being there, or if it was that combined with him not being able to play until next season. Looking back, he wasn’t there for me like I needed him to be and it caused more problems. Before we could get a hold on it, the distance became too much, and we broke up. One year turned into two, and two became four years before I’d seen him again. I honestly never expected to ever see him again.

     I had moved to Lafayette Square and as far as I knew he was still in Atlanta. My parents had moved, and I wasn’t even sure if his mother still lived in their old house. We didn’t keep in touch after the breakup and I never sought out to check up on him. After we parted ways, I was buried so deep in heartbreak I didn’t care anymore. Yet, the moment we saw each other again at Blank Space, it was like old times. I was twenty-three and though I had someone new holding me down, it didn’t matter. Byron had this pull on me I would never be completely free of.

     That night we talked on the phone all night. It reminded me of when we were in high school and I would sneak on the phone to talk to him. One long night of conversation led to a few more and then those led to us hanging out. Soon hanging out led to us dating again. After a few months, we were back together as if four years hadn’t passed us by. Everything was perfect and after a year, I’d gotten pregnant for the second time with our daughter January Quinn McDaniels. We were finally a family. This was the life I had imagined when were in college. The original plan was we would graduate from college, get great jobs, we’d get married, and then start a family. Though I hadn’t finished school yet, and my job was just okay—I knew having Byron and January would make up for it.

     However, all of that vanished the first time I caught him cheating. Like most men, he swore he would never do it again, but that was short lived. We would repeatedly fight, verbally and physically about this chick or the next. It got to the point where I just stopped bringing it up. I would convince myself he was going through a phase and would eventually stop. I knew he loved me and he loved January. We were a family and no outside woman could ever break us up. All of that is what I told myself for a whole year until he broke up with me again. I will never forget the words he said to be when he moved out. I’m just too young to be tied down to one woman right now Haven. I need to explore my options before settling down. I was so hurt and angry with him. He had created this whole family fantasy only to snatch the dream from underneath me.

     Two years flew by and now I was twenty-five and a single mother. He moved on and I found a new form of sexy to slide under. Draco Knight Cross was one of the biggest drug dealers in St. Louis and Byron’s friend turned rival. His family ran the south side when we were younger. At first, Draco was posed to be the next Major League Baseball star, but an injury from a fight his junior year in high school turned him to the streets. For two and a half years, we were a couple. Although I loved him, I was still love struck when it came to Byron. Like a fool, I kept fucking him and Draco. As turns out, luck was not on my side. A few days after my birthday, Draco gets mysteriously locked up and six weeks later I find out I’m pregnant with my second daughter, Karter Simone. My life was a whirlwind at the time and what I didn’t know was that Byron had also been cuddling up to someone new.

     Valentine Cunningham, or puff pooch as I like to call her. She was the bane of my existence when it came to Byron. From the moment I met her I knew she wasn’t his type. She didn’t even look like the women I’d caught him with in the past. Byron wasn’t into BBW’s, so I knew there had to be a catch. I couldn’t figure out how—but she weaseled her way all the way to the altar. She was this big-time celebrity stylist which is the only reason I could think of as to why he married her. He told me the night before he walked down the aisle, she was a convenient business move. He just needed a couple of years to snag some of her clients, and he was out. They’ve been married for eleven years now, and apparently was together two before they jumped the broom. She was living my life and I despised her for it. She doesn’t know him like I do. And she certainly doesn’t love him like I do. Ring or no ring, I had him first and his heart belongs to me. For reasons no one will ever understand—he and I will always belong to one another. We have a family and despite the fact the fact he married her, it will always be what binds us. I have always loved him. Yes, these past twenty years have been a roller coaster ride for us, but that’s what makes our love stronger.

     It’s true some of the drama has been my fault while a lot of it is his. He swore he went forward with marrying her because I got involved with Draco and he felt betrayed. Little did he know Draco and I had been involved for a short while before I saw him in Blank Space and we started dating again. I never mentioned it to Byron because I wasn’t sure how long he and I would be together. After he walked out, six months flew by before I ran into Draco again. When it was all said and done, Byron wasn’t happy about it. All the back and forth drama have led us to this point.  No matter what though, we are soul mates. I’ve broken his heart and he’s broken mine. Still, none of that matters to me. My older sister Hendrix likes to remind me that he turned his back on me when he married her. In an ordinary situation that would be a deal breaker, but it’s not because I know better. This is his real home. Home is where the heart is, and his heart is here with me. I have his child and whether she realizes it, I will always be number one. In the end, she’ll realize the truth. Every love story has a few bumps in the road. I mean who really wants a perfect love story anyway? Battle scars proved you had what it takes to overcome and fight through.

     Unfortunately, the downside to my decision is that my family questions and doesn’t approve of it. So here we are, living in a world of in between and maybe one day’s. Most days, I know I should end it and walk away. But I can’t because he’s embedded within the layers of my soul. He’s my oxygen and breathing without him doesn’t seem plausible. My sisters have screamed about letting go. My best friend has damn near beat me over the head about it.

     The truth is we have twenty years of love and history. I can’t just throw all that time and these emotions away. I can’t give up on a love I know is meant to be. We are a family, and he has my heart and soul. The nights he spends here gives me hope about our future. They constantly remind me we have a strong connection and that we are truly meant to be. Marrying Valentine was an act of convenience. Forever don't last always if there is no real substance within it. When he grows tired of her, and he will—he’ll eventually be mine. Once his business gets straight, we’re going to be a family of four. Maybe then, I’ll give him another child.

     For now, I’ll wait my turn. Because one day soon, I will be Mrs. Byron Quincy McDaniels.