Winter Toes

"And I'll run miles just to get a taste. And I can't get enough. Must be love on the brain." - love on the brain //; Rihanna

Winter Toes
adj. (1) to have cold feet. (2) the fear of love; both giving and receiving. // slang.

Taylor will pull you into her world where she doesn't even believe love can fit. She believes the world revolves around the pain that love brings and she wants no part of it. However, getting into some mess with her best friend sends her on a journey to Florida, where all her beliefs could possibly be crushed.

Florida brings betrayal, discovery, and what she feared the most; love. Taylor has winter toes... is it possible that her interest can warm them?


1. The "Before" Effect


"What came before never really

mattered all too much until now"


"Love doesn't fade."

How did I get myself into this shit? I mean, really, how did I get here? I don't even remember agreeing to this shit. Oh yeah, I didn't agree.

"Taylor! Hurry up, nigga, pass me the gun." Chris yelled at me, his hand out as I whined.

The air in the predominantly black hood was breezy, making me rub my arms with discomfort as I looked around. The streetlights were on shining down on the middle of the road right in front of the house we were standing in front of, a faint bark from a random dog sounding every now and again as soft laughter could be heard down the street most likely from some drug dealers lurking.

"I really don't want to do this, Chris." I complained, looking around suspiciously as if someone would be watching us at this time of night. He looked back at me and turned his lip up in irritation, his forehead wrinkling up.

"You don't really have a choice. You here now, ain't you? I don't give a fuck what you want to do, you owe me." He said, holding his hand out and lowering his voice. "Now, hand me the fucking gun."

I smacked my lips and handed him the gun from inside my pink Nike duffle bag. If I go to jail for this, man... I thought, looking around again. I was paranoid and agitated. I was really being forced to be a part of this. God, can you hear me? I'm sorry for everything I've done wrong but if you get me out of this I'll turn right over to you, go to church with my sisters, keep my lil' virginity, and all that. Just please, don't let him unlock this door and take that woman's life. She don't deserve that.

I haven't prayed this long since my mother got in the hospital with lupus last month. This was all too much. I watched Chris pick the lock as if that would suddenly make him stop and say "Well! Can't get in, let's go home", but to no avail. Seconds later, the lock clicked and he opened it slowly as he held the gun in his free hand. I looked up at the sky.

"Really?" I groaned to myself before following slowly behind, rubbing my hands up against the back of head, smoothing up to my top bun.

I wanted to leave him, there was that thought, but everyone knew this hood and if shit went left I didn't want my best friend's life on my mental.

It'd be nothing to just run away right now and avoid this whole situation; go home free with no bodies or a guilty consciousness. But this was my best friend and I owed him the world.

It was early, around 1:09am; pitch black and full of opportunities. Typically, I'll be on the phone or scrolling through some social media looking at all the fine men in my Direct Messages I'd never give the time of day to. Instead, here we were breaking into his ex's home seeking revenge. I was just here to look out, my opinions muted.

"Do you really want to do this, Chris?" I whispered in all seriousness, hoping it would change it mind.

He was too busy sneakily climbing the stairs to pay me any attention though. I watched his large body, covered in black fabric, disappear up the stairs towards her bedroom.

Since he was sticking to his decision, I didn't want to witness so I stayed downstairs and looked around the dimly lit living room.

It was nicely decorated with modern furniture and messy paintings, the eggshell wallpaper left perfectly untouched without a trace of marker to signal that no kids lived here. Unlike the outside of the two story home, the inside looked livable and a bit tasteful. The girl had taste for interior design, although not so much fashion like she had been going to school for for the past two years. I couldn't quite understand why she was approaching that lifestyle instead of her obvious calling of room design.

I looked from the fireplace in the middle of the living room to the black China cabinet in the dining room. It was beautiful. Pictures of Chris and her were even scattered here and there as well, painting this image of a happy home and if I hadn't known any better I'd believe it. But I did know better so I didn't believe it.

Five years together and he was finally thinking marriage then she cheated and something snapped in him. Something bad.


I jumped at the sudden sound of his pistol going off. They could've fixed this.


Another shot? I didn't hear a scream or anything. I felt awkward being in the living room of the home owned by the woman Chris was planning on killing. I just wanted to go. I just wanted to get out of here so I could act as if nothing happened.

My heart moved three bits a second, my hands getting sweaty as I anxiously looked around the living room for... something. Anything.

I hurried up the stairs; my mind set on telling him to hurry up and get out of there. But when I got up there... He was laid out on the bed, blood spilling from his head, as well as his ex's as she looked up to the ceiling with a shocked expression glued to her face.

I covered my mouth and the tears felt immediate as if they knew and had just been waiting there all this time.

I felt crushed, devastated. Why? Why, him? Why suicide? Why make me come just to go that route?

I should've stopped him.

I could've fixed this. They could've fixed this.

It was times like those that I believed that love didn't exist the most. Every relationship I witnessed where "love" was evident ended in toxic flames.

It scared me out of love before I could even get in it.

My mother "loved" my father, and I think that went both ways for fifteen years, however my father still cheated and left our family for another, leaving my mother with four kids, birthing scars, and an adopted child she didn't even ask for. My mother blamed it on the distance of their relationship but I knew it was something deeper. I knew it had something to do with him.

My best friend was with Joy for five years, committed to her and only her but she cheated. That was claimed to be love until he wound up killing her and himself. And well, that was a plot twist.

My adopted sister, Terri, claimed she loved every man up until her baby's father, who left her with the child to raise on her own although they both contributed to it— Every man before and after him treated her bad; she blamed it on the wrong timing but my mother blamed it on her attracting the wrong type.

I've never been in love and I didn't plan on it. I've seen what it's done to people. I've been their shoulder to cry on and their ear to listen through all of the pain and struggles. Not once did I see a relationship worth it, not once.

"Miss! You're stop?" The female bus driver asked with her long manicured, red nails pointed towards the open bus door. I looked around until we made eye contact, her lazy eye forcing me to hurry to look away.

"Oh, yeah. I'm sorry." I apologized, grabbing my bag as I stood up and hurried off with my eyes glued to the floor.

"Have a good day." The woman said as I exited. I nodded and waved her off, proceeding to walk down the street towards 23rd Street where Mr. and Mrs. Gunning lived.

They lived in a gated community where, if anyone knew Chris, wouldn't have expected him to be from. It was a fun, loving, family- friendly environment where majority of the kids had middle class income and went to highly rated private schools. That wasn't the case at all for Chris. The only reason his family was making it was because Mr. Gunning worked his ass off to fund their come-up.

It was a year from the incident that was 100% my fault and I haven't been here since that day. I knew I owed his mother an explanation. If anyone it was her, right?

But how do you explain that exactly? How do you explain that your son committed suicide because he was crazy in love with a woman that didn't feel the same? Then on top of that, I did nothing to stop it.

I sighed before knocking softly on the hardwood door, hoping that no one would hear. But seconds later, my hopes were scattered and the door opened.

"Taylor?" His mother– an older African American woman with short, grayed hair and smooth taco shell colored skin that could have gotten her a 10 year age subtraction if she didn't have the gray hair– looked down at me with a saddened face.

"Hi, ma." I said softly as my heart tightened. She extended her arms to hug me and I embraced it, holding her tight around her big body. I hadn't felt this in so long and I've never realized how much I might have needed it.

"Come in, come in. It feels like it's been forever." She exclaimed, wiping a stray tear away and grabbing my hand.

"I know." I huffed before walking inside. I swallowed hard as I saw her husband sitting on the couch, staring blankly at the screen in front of him. Mrs. Gunning held my shoulders, ushering me gently to the kitchen.

"He's been like that since... you know." She whispered into my ear. I nodded, understanding. It had never dawned on me just how bad it might have been hitting them.

"Me too."

"Are you hungry? Want something to drink? Anything?" She asked walking aimlessly around the kitchen. My eyes followed her attentively.

"Is this how you try to... get over it?" I asked, looking around at all the food that wasn't touched or hot.

She blushed, looking down and around. "Yes..." She admitted as she covered her face.

I swallowed hard. "I just wished I had stopped him. It's my fault, mama." I told her, calling her the name that I had titled her since the day I met her years ago. She was truly a second mom to me and seeing her like this hurt.

She was quiet for a bit as if she was letting it register, or maybe she was silently agreeing. Then, she crossed her arms and leaned on the counter.

"Honey, if you didn't pull that trigger... Then it's not your fault. And I know you're hurting just like us, I can't let you blame yourself." She said, shaking her head. I looked down at the table then back to her. I knew she was keeping strong. She had a twelve year old daughter to look after. "I heard you're headed to Florida."

I nodded slowly. "I'm trying to let go, I really am."

She smiled at me. "You deserve it."

And maybe I did but it didn't feel like it.

The visit was cut short due to a message from my sister telling me to get home but I could've stayed all day if I wanted to. We said our goodbyes and gave giant hugs. I'd be off to Florida tomorrow and then what? I'm not sure.

R.I.P. Chris, I'm sorry I didn't attend the funeral.

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