(When you know who you love!)

By Shazzar Kallie

© 1994

      Ashanti and Essence were the best of friends. Even when they first met years ago they were attracted to each other, but they never allowed the romantic blossom of love bloom. Ashanti, tall, handsome with bronze skin and wavy, ebony hair that was styled in a fade, knew he wanted to be someone in life! Some women called him Denzel just to tease him because he was a little on the shy, quiet side, at least that is how he acted around them. He was a student, a track athlete, and aspiring writer who could speak three languages. Ashanti wasn't rich, neither poor, but he came from a background were he was use to working hard for everything he achieved. He also had a faith in God that enriched his life, and a mother who was an inspirational guide for him with wisdom.

      Ashanti always cared for Essence, he thought of her as a sister. He felt he could always be himself around her; not the shy, quiet guy, or the mack daddy, just the "real" him: conscious, creative and confident! Kenya, his girlfriend came from a prosperous family. She liked Ashanti because she felt she had a certain control over him because he had a good heart, plus he had written her enough poems to fill an anthology. Between them there wasn't real love, just romance and togetherness. Around Kenya he always felt he had to be better than what he was. Kenya didn't come from a single parent, lower-middle class family like he did, but being with Kenya allowed him to hide his growing feelings for Essence. At home, Ashanti confided with his mother about Kenya.

      "Mama," Ashanti said as he sat in the living room. "I don't know how longer I can keep Kenya. All these guys are interested in her and she gives them the time, too! She tries to make me feel like she's doing me a favor being my girlfriend because she's so desired. I don't drive a new car, I can only do what I can for her while I'm still in school. Plus, she makes me feel like I'm one of her possessions."

      "Son," Ms. Adeyemi said. "You have to be true to yourself. Her money can't buy your love."

      "I know, mom, but..."

      "So why is she so important? If she doesn't treat you with love and respect after you have shown it to her, you don't need her and she doesn't deserve you. There's other girls, how about Essence?"


      "That girl is my heart. She is so sweet, smart and son, she is so cute. I've always hoped you'd realize that love that has been in front of your face all these years. Some people blindly look for a lifetime for love they only had to open their eyes to find."

      "Mom, she has always been my friend. Plus, I have a girlfriend already."

      "Friends make the best of lovers, she could be your wife for all you know, Ashanti. You should forget about that Kenya and her bourgeoisie family. They act as if you're not good enough for her. You always have to call her, she never calls you, plus you write her all those poems. Does she deserve them?"

      "Not really!"

      "So why do you give them to her after the way she treats you? Does she even care about you at all, Ashanti?"

      "I think so, but I have to give her something the other guys can't. I have to be special to her."

      "Essence cares about you. All these years she has told you to do right, picked you up when you were down, and tried her best to heal the broken heart other women broke. You shouldn't take her kindness for weakness, Ashanti!"

      "I'm not! I'm kind, too. Plus, being with Essence would be kind of scary. I'm not ready for a serious relationship, at least I know Kenya and I are just passing time."

      "You mean wasting time! It's nothing wrong finding true love, Ashanti. If Essence is meant for you, suddenly you'll realize your true love for her. It'll strike you so simple, you'll wonder why you didn't realize it before. It will be an epiphany, a sudden enlightment!"

      "Mom, that's all good and the whole nine, but Essence and I are not that deep! This is reality, not a movie called 'Sleepless in South Central'. If things don't work out between Kenya and I, it'll be cool! Life goes on and there's plenty of fish in the sea of love for me to catch!"

      "Ashanti Alaye Adeyemi, don't let true love pass you by!"

      The essential nature of a thing symbolized Essence. She was natural, beautiful and possessed a caring heart of gold. Her medium size along with her shapely figure, deep, endearing brown eyes, smooth amber skin and natural mahogany hair that hung in a shoulder length layered shag, made her a vivid image of seductive, loveliness for many men, but she was always a one man type of woman. Being two years younger than Ashanti, she was use to his little sister treatment. From her first sight of him as a freshman in high school, she was in love with him. If not a romantic love, she possessed a sisterly and friendship love. She admired him, his poetry, his looks, his mannerisms and way of speech because they were different than most of the guys she knew. She loved a brother who was down with God, respect for women, and education, all of which Ashanti possessed. One thing that kept a place in her heart for Ashanti was his belief in chivalry, which she guessed came about from his many years of being a fan of Babyface the singer.

      Essence's dream was to find Mr. Right, start her own African-American newspaper or magazine, and become the woman she dreamed and always knew she would become of spirituality, importance, independence, charity, and culture. Essence, a sophomore, majored in Journalism with a minor in public administration; tools she felt valuable for her career plans as a writer, publisher and editor of her own publication. She sometimes envisioned Ashanti and herself working together, maybe even as husband and wife, she thought. Ashanti isn't thinking about a romantic relationship with me, at least not yet! She once had a conversation about her ex-boyfriend Finesse with her older sister Imani.

      "I'm done with Finesse," Essence said as she tried to conceal her pain. "I'm tired of these tired brothers, wannabe players, ain't nothing but dogs!"

      "I told you he'd cheat on you, Essence," Imani responded. "Just because he was a BMW with a Beamer didn't make him alright!"

      "What do you mean?"

      "A Black-Man-Working with a BMW!"

      "Whatever! I could care less about what a brother has. I want someone who's blessed, not some baller or banger. Plus, Finesse thought I was his property. He had to learn the hard way not to put his hands on me."

      "The family jewels?"

      "Yeah, a swift kick in the jewels! A size seven Timberland. I left him on his knees crying and cursing. He was cheating on me with at least two girls."

      "I told you when a brother still keeps his black book in his back pocket, and calls himself your man; something is wrong. The fear of being alone makes us gullible allowing trifling and abusive men into our lives. Any relationship that takes away our self-respect, sister, we must end. We must make our own self our priority, because ain't no man worth me losing my identity over. You stand up for yourself, not being afraid to be alone. If Mr. Right is not present at the time, he'll show up, and everything will be yours!"

      "I wish I could have Ashanti. I love that brother, but he just don't know it."

      "Tell him lil' sister, get wit' it! I'm surprised you haven't told him how you feel."

      "I want him to realize it for himself. I'm scared if I come on to him I might lose his friendship."

      "Never fear for nothing! Keep the faith and everything will work out. Doesn't he always call you his very beautiful Black butterfly in French?"

      "Yes, I guessed he just like showing off his language skills."

      "Essence, wake up! The brother says in poetry and foreign language what he's afraid to say in verbal English. Keep on keepin' on and that brother will be yours. There's no reason you two should be apart, searching for something out there will leave two lonely hearts."

      "But, he has Kenya."

      "What does she have that you don't? You're not taking her man, if anything she took yours! You have had great patience."

      "Who I want is important enough for me to wait for."

      "You have, so you know what to do."

      "I'll follow my heart!"

      After track practice, Ashanti met up with Essence to walk her home.

      "How was school today?" Ashanti said. "Mon très beau papillon Noir!"

      "Merci, I'm excelling as usual," Essence responded. "But that Probability for Business if trying to fade me, but I'm not going out like that!"

      "Stay in there sister!"

      "So, how's things between you and Kenya?"

      "Well, not so good. I can't deal with her much longer. It's like I'm hurt and still lonely when I'm with her. At least if I didn't have her I'll be just alone. I don't need her drama. She thinks I'm the one trippin'. I just want someone to love and who would love me in return, unconditionally!"

      Essence stopped him and put her arms around his neck, pulled him close and kissed him softly. It was easy for her because Ashanti was highly attracted to Essence, being hurt by Kenya only made him weaker. Being with Essence brought him peace.

      "I love you, Ashanti!"

      "Why did you kiss me, Essence. We are friends, aren't we?"

      "Friends make the best of lovers. I watched girls dog you out, and play you all these years hoping you would realize me. But you never did. I've always wanted you, Ashanti. I even tried to forget about you by dating other guys, but they could never replace you in my heart. Why didn't you want me? Why didn't you try to get wit' me? I know you're not shy and quiet like you act, be the real you, Ashanti! The real you wants the real me, and I'm the most unquestionable, bona fide woman you could ever find. That boojee Kenya will never love you like I do."

      "I can't deal with this! Where did all this come from? I love you Essence, but I'm not sure if it's that kind of love. I need time to think."

      "Take all the time you want, because I'm not going to lose myself over you, Ashanti. I've told you how I feel, deal wit' it or not. It's up to you now. It seems like the more I want you, the less I'll have you. The best thing for me to do is ignore you. Don't chase you. Don't desire you. I'm not going to let you invade my mind or give any thought about what's between us. Maybe when I least expect it, you'll be in my arms with your love for me. You don't have to walk me home, I'm not afraid to be alone, Ashanti!"

      "Wait, Essence, don't..."

      Essence walked away with tears in her eyes as Ashanti was left standing confused and torn between his true feelings. Two weeks passed. Ashanti knocked on Essence door, she let him in.

      "Long time, no see," Essence said cheerfully, she decided she wasn't going to cry over a man that wasn't hers, at least not yet, again.

      "Je vous aime mon très beau papillon Noir," Ashanti said in French as he put his arms around her. She gently pushed him away.

      "I don't understand you. You have to speak English, Ashanti!"

      "I-I...I love you my very beautiful Black butterfly!"

      "Thank you. So what about Kenya?"

      "I dumped her. Well, to be honest, she dumped me. I told her what happened between us and I how I felt. She told me to get lost, and that she hooked up with a better man named Finesse."

      "Finesse!" Essence laughed.

      "Yeah, what about it?"

      "Oh, nothing! It's a nice name, but I like Ashanti much better. I bet you they deserve each other."

      "Who cares as long as I have you. I didn't realize what I had until after I lost you. All of a sudden I realized I was in love with you. I felt half my heart was gone. It was like an epiphany. My mom told me it would happen."

      "When you know who you love! I'm glad that we're together, finally!"

      "Mieux vaut tard que jamais!"

      "Come Again?"

      "Better late than never, Essence!"

      "You got that right my blessed brother!"

      "I love you, Essence!"

      "I love you, too, Ashanti!"

      They kissed with passion and love, holding each other as if to make up for the lost time. They finally realized who they truly loved!

The End

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