James-Edward was not just light but bright-skinned with curly hair and long eyelashes. He thought very highly of himself and was not shy about sharing his illustrious thoughts. But he was short. Short in height and short on personality.

At least that was my view. Loreen, my best friend since college, loved everything about the man. I figured her infatuation would eventually evaporate. That is until the day I came home to find Loreen on my steps, her tiny frame shaking and eyes swollen from crying. “Eventually” had arrived.

He was two-timing her, she whimpered. Since the man had always presented himself as someone who could, would and did have the willingness and capacity to take on more than one woman, Loreen’s lament was surprising to me. The rumor, which I too had heard, was that he was seeing a woman from Trinidad who was very vocal about James-Edward being “she-man.”

From all accounts her declaration sounded more like a threat to any other woman interested in him than a simple statement of fact. Loreen was hurt and I was angry with him for hurting my friend. My anger was perhaps colored by the fact that I suspected my boyfriend of being unfaithful, too. (The lowlife!) Whenever I asked Renaldo if he was seeing other women, his response was always the same, “Did you see me with someone? Did you touch me?”

While Loreen wept and tried to compose herself over a glass of wine, I was plotting James-Edwards comeuppance. The plan required that Loreen get from hurt to angry. It didn’t take long.

James-Edward spent most Friday evenings at the local bar. After calling the bar to ensure that he and Trinidad were there, Loreen and I went to the home of the deceitful lowlife pimp where I very efficiently used a metal nail file and bobby pin to unlock both the outside door and the one to his studio apartment.

Once inside I took off my clothes, down to my underwear. Loreen scouted out a hiding place near the door. We then planted ourselves at the window to watch for their arrival. Although my heart was beating very loudly in my chest, I couldn’t let Loreen know how nervous I was; she was already a wreck, pacing up and down, questioning the wisdom of my plan.

A taxi pulled up. A smartly dressed man got out and entered the house directly across the street with a key. It was Renaldo! My heart leapt into high gear. I knew just where he was going. It was the home of our friend, affectionately named Slick. He was older than our group, a longshoreman who always had lots of cash, lots of women and lots of parties. But Slick was out of town. So what was Renaldo up to, I wondered.

I was having a hard time remaining calm. And before I could reflect on Renaldo’s arrival, another taxi pulled up. Loreen’s sister, Angela, emerged. Renaldo was at the door in a flash. He wrapped his arm around her and guided her into the building. I was now rocking from foot to foot trying to contain my fury. Loreen kept instructing me to “breathe!”

James-Edward and Trinidad arrived almost at the same time. I peeled off my underwear and climbed into the bed. Loreen got into position near the door.

They entered laughing and talking. It seemed an eternity before he turned on the light. They were still laughing when I eased out of the bed, “Sweetheart what took you so long?”

“What the hell? Who are you?” His eyes bucked, his jaw dropped. He stuttered, closed his mouth and began the process of trying to speak again. Meanwhile, Trinidad spun around, poking him in the chest and demanding to know what kind of game he was playing. As they argued, I quickly retrieved my clothing and sprinted out of the door that Loreen had already exited. By this time Trinidad was no longer talking; she was boxing him like she was a heavyweight and he a featherweight. He kept trying to duck, to hold out his arms to protect himself. “Trying” was the operative word – his arms, like everything about him, were short. Trinidad, being tall and big-boned was introducing “she man” to a new version of hell.

I dressed quickly while enjoying the drama going on inside. But time was of the essence; we had to get out of the building before Trinidad tired of the exchange and looked for a new sparring partner.

Once outside, I suggested Loreen get a taxi and wait for me around the corner.

Nail file and bobby pin in hand I crossed the street to repeat my entry skills. At the door to Slick’s apartment, I listen for a few seconds. They were still talking; soft pre-intimate cooing. I rapped firmly on the door, hoping it sounded like one of the male tenants. Renaldo opened the door in his shorts. He was too stunned to speak. Before he could recover I took a page out of Trinidad’s book and punched him squarely in the eye, hard. He staggered backwards. I reached in, grabbed the doorknob and slammed the door shut. I ran down the stairs and raced to the waiting cab.

At the first telephone booth, I stopped the cab to call Slick’s telephone number. Renaldo answered. “You’ve been seen and touched. I’d suggest you get out of harm’s way before Angela’s old man finds you. Enjoy if you can.”

Loreen and I were giddy with elation in spite of my now painful, swollen hand. We returned to my place to celebrate our double victory, albeit bittersweet, with a bottle of champagne.

Note: This was excerpted from Regina’s collection of short stories, PROMISE, published in 2022.

Regina E. Williams is a founding member of the Metamorphosis Writer’s Collective and the “Ain’t I a Woman” Writers Collective, and a member of New Renaissance Writers Guild, and New Bones, a promotion/production group designed to promote black literature and music. She hails from New York and currently resides near Charleston, South Carolina. Learn more at ReginaEWilliams.com