Chapter 18

      "Michael, are you sure about this? I don't mind speaking with her one on one, but I also don't want her to feel like we're ganging up on her. I think it's best I stay in the car. If I were in her shoes, I'd be hella pissed if the man I had something going on with showed up to my home with some other woman."

        As Michael carefully backed into a narrow parking space, he exhaled loudly and said, "you are not 'some other woman,' you're my girlfriend. Please don't ever say that again. But, if you would like to stay in the car, I understand."

       "I'm sorry, sweetheart. I was just speaking from a woman's point of view. While I don't agree with how she's behaving, I'm still a woman and know she's hurting."

        "You are definitely not like any woman I've dated in the past, he sniffed. "Some of my exes would have been on Raven's doorstep before I even got a chance to park the car."

        Cupping his chin with one hand, Symphony placed a tender kiss on his lips and said, "I'm not one of you're exes, sweetie. Not all women are the same."

       "Thank you for reminding me. I know women are individuals, but because I've been hurt many times before, it's sometimes hard for me not to compare," he spoke softly.

        "I know. Hopefully, with time and my love, you'll let go of that hurt. I love you, Michael."

        "I hope so too. I don't think I'll ever get over--" he spoke sadly while covering his eyes.

        "Get over what, sweetie?" Symphony spoke concernedly as she lowered his hands from his eyes.

       "I'm sorry, baby, but I can't talk about this right now. I need time. Please let me deal with Raven first, ok?"

       "Alright, sweetie. And please. Take your time. You can tell me when you're ready to do so. Just know that I'm here for you, ok?"

       As Michael kissed her softly, he grasped her hands and said, "I will. Thank you for understanding."

         Taking a deep breath, Michael got out of his car and made his way towards Raven's front door. For a brief second, he thought about turning around and heading back to his car, but he knew that wouldn't have solved anything. He needed to make it clear where they stood with each other.

       After ringing Raven's doorbell several times, she finally answered on the fifth ring. "Michael, what are you doing here?" she gasped.

       "We need to talk. We haven't spoken since the night you slapped me. That was well over a month ago."

        "Michael, please, can we talk later? Todrick is upstairs sleeping, and I don't want him to awaken and find you here," she whispered while looking behind her.

        When Raven tried to close the door on him, he held it open with one hand, speaking through clenched teeth. "No, Raven! I'm tired of this shit. We need to talk now. And oh, by the way. I know you're the one that bashed the windows out of my car. I found your earring on the front floor."

       As Michael held up the earring for her to see, she hissed, "I don't know what the fuck you're talking about. That earring could belong to anyone. I doubt I'm the only woman you've ever screwed inside of your car."

       Looking at her as though she had lost her mind, he squinted his eyes and said, "Stop trying to play me for a damn fool, Raven! I get my car vacuum and cleaned weekly. The last time you were in my car was well over two months ago!"

        "Whatever, Michael," she huffed while folding her arms, "what is it that we need to talk about?"

       "We can't keep continuing like this. We have to stop what we've been doing for the past three years. You now have a steady boyfriend, and I'm also in a serious relationship myself. Neither of our partner's heart deserves to be toyed with."

       Raven scoffed. "What do you know about being in a serious relationship?"

       "A lot. A hell of a lot. When we first started hooking up, my heart had been broken so many times before that I didn't want to be in a relationship. I was looking for some companionship. One thing led to another and well... You know what happened next. Sex with no strings attached. It was something we both agreed upon. Look... I think you're a wonderful woman, Raven, but you're not the one for me. I'm so sorry. I never meant to hurt you."

      As Raven pursed her lips together, she looked upwards, avoiding eye contact with him. She had known for quite a while their relationship was over, and that made her furious. So furious, that she vandalized his car as a means to get back at him.

        Though she had tried ending things with Michael, per Todrick's demands, she was still hoping Michael would change his mind and want to be with her. But the more and more she saw Michael and Symphony together, she knew her chances of being with him were over.

       Folding her arms across her chest, Raven rolled her eyes and hissed, "If I'm such a wonderful woman, then why don't you want me? What does your latest conquest have that I don't? What can she possibly do for you? Is her coochie tighter than mine? I know she's not fucking you as good as I did... So what is it?"

      Seething with anger, Michael laughed contemptuously and said, "You know what? I'm not even going to dignify that with a response, but I will say this... What we had is over. I'm moving on. Since we're still co-workers, I'll remain cordial at work, but other than that— I have nothing else to say to you. Take care!"

      Just as Michael was about to leave, Todrick came running down the stairs at lightning speed. "Hey, baby! Is everything alright down here? I heard another man's voice--" he spoke rapidly, stopping mid-sentence when he saw Michael standing there.

       "Sorry, we awoke you, baby. Dr. Black was just leaving. He came by to drop off some student's homework I accidentally dropped in the university's parking lot."

       Wrapping his arms protectively around Raven, Todrick kissed her on the cheek and said, "Thanks for dropping the papers off, Dr. Black. How very noble of you."

      Through a forced smile, Michael played along with Raven's lie. Even though he was extremely pissed, he still had a heart and didn't want Todrick coming down too hard on her. "Oh! Think nothing of it. I know what it feels like to lose homework. I'm glad that I could get it back to Raven safely... Well, I'll be on my way now. My girlfriend is waiting for me in the car. Have a good evening, you two."

      Todrick snickered. "You do the same Mr. Jackson-- Ooops, I mean, Dr. Black. I keep forgetting that the world's once biggest pop star is now a music professor."

       Reaching inside the pocket of his blazer, Michael pulled out a 'cubic zirconia' earring and said, "Oh. Raven. I also meant to give you this. You left it inside of my car."

      As Raven snatched the earring away from him, she glared at him menacingly, never uttering a word.

       Under normal circumstances, Michael would have never been so petty. But because Todrick was a total jerk, and Raven had been acting completely crazy, they both had it coming. The days of disrespecting him, and getting away with it were no more— no matter what name he chose to go by.

      But due to him being a professor, he had to be stealth in his methods. He didn't want to go to jail for punching Todrick square in the face. Though Michael was not a violent person, he also wasn't perfect by any means. He got angry just like anyone else.

       After getting into his car, Michael banged his hand against the steering wheel, causing Symphony to yelp in surprise. "Baby! What happened? Is everything alright? And who was the man that came to the door?"

       "Yes. Everything is fine in terms of me making it crystal-clear to Raven that our 'friends with benefits' relationship is over. But I'm absolutely furious over what she said... And that wasn't a man— that was an asshole. Those two are made for each other."

       Stroking the side of Michael's face tenderly, Symphony kissed his lips and said, "Thank you. I know that must have been a difficult discussion for you, but it needed to be done. And while I trust you completely... It's her I don't. She needed to be told that we are now a couple and has no place in your life."

       "Are you always this sweet and understanding," Michael chuckled lightly.

       "Most times, yes, except for if someone messes with the one I love. Head's up, if she tries anything with you, I go forward with having my woman to woman chat with her."


       "What the fuck was he doing here!" Todrick shouted at the top of his lungs.

        "He already told you. He was returning the homework I dropped."

      "Bullshit! Do you expect me to believe that... You're still fucking him, aren't you?"

       Turning away from him, Raven shouted, "no! I haven't slept with him in a couple of months. Why are you acting this way?"

       "Because I love you, Raven, and I don't want another man fucking you! Is that too much to ask?"

      "Todrick! Please. Stop yelling at me. Dr. Black and I are over. You have nothing to worry about... I love you, baby," Raven spoke softly as she began to cry. While she did love Todrick, she still had feelings for Michael.

      Turning her around to face him, he wiped a tear from her cheek. "I'm sorry, Raven. But what's mine is mine. I don't want a woman that gives it up to every Tom, Dick, and Harry, Or a Michael for that matter."

      "Oh, great! So are you breaking up with me, Todrick?"

       "No. But I need you to promise me something? Promise me, that going forward, I'll be the only man in your life. No more of you going out on dates, and certainly no more of you hooking up with Mr. Jackson, Dr. Black, or whatever the hell his name is. If you can't do that, then I can no longer be with you. So make a choice."

       "I choose you, Todrick. As I've stated for the umpteenth time tonight, Dr. Black and I are over. I love you, baby. But please realize I'll still have to speak with him every now and again... We are co-workers after all."

      "I understand that, but keep those discussions to a minimum if you must. If it were up to me, you wouldn't be working there at all. You know that I have the means to support you, so why won't you let me?"

     "Todrick. Not now... We've had this discussion many times before. I appreciate your offer, but I love teaching chorus. I won't give it up for you or anyone else unless I want to, and right now, I have no desire to stop teaching."

     "Ok, baby. I can respect that. But when you're ready, please let me know. The only reason I'm staying here in Baltimore is for you. "If it were up to me, we move to my hometown in San Francisco and start a family."

         "A family? Oh God. Why do I keep choosing men that want kids?" she thought silently to herself.

       Later that evening, Raven sat at the kitchen table, thinking about what had transpired between her and Michael. While she still had feelings for him, she knew it was time to move on. Todrick seemed to love her, and she loved him as well. She just wasn't 'in love' with him.

       But none the less, he was a decent guy that could give her anything she wanted or could ever need. The only thing that bothered her was his wanting to have children.

       Never at any time in her life did she ever wish to have children nor adopt for that matter. Sure, she liked kids and thought babies were cute and all, but motherhood just wasn't for her. She was perfectly content going the rest of her life childfree. And though she desperately wanted to be in a relationship with Michael, she never saw herself having his baby.

       Having kids was a deal-breaker for her, and now, with Todrick's admission of wanting to start a family, she was utterly confused about what she should do. But the one thing she knew for sure was that she and Michael's three-years of fun had most certainly come to an end.

         If he could move on so easily, then so could she.

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