Why Personal Branding Is Great For Your Career

March is a new month for new beginnings, new goals, and new focuses.  I’m challenging myself to focus on one thing this month and that is my personal branding.  To be honest I cringe at that word because it is thrown around so much online and on reality shows that I’m literally confused every time I hear a different person say it.  Nonetheless, my goal this month is to set myself aside and become more identifiable and produce quality work.  That’s what BRANDING is all about right!?!

At one point when I began this writing journey I was on blogspot because I was using my blog as an online journal.  I wasn’t really focusing on the big picture.  All I wanted to do was share my experiences while entertaining the idea of writing a book.  I was second guessing myself!

I switched over to wordpress as I was completing my doctoral program with Nova Southeastern University and my blog then took on a life of its own.  While my education and credentials would have me considered an expert in the field of education: Dr. LaTilya Williams—Doctor of Education: Higher Education Leadership and  Master’s in Public Administration; I find myself coming up short in the blogging/self-published/writing industry.  Oh to be an expert in this field would be a dream come true!

So what must I do?  Yea, you got it! WORK ON MY BRAND!

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I have read so many blogs from the experts and they all have this one tagline or statement in common: “I AM MY BRAND!”

Well there you have it!  But not so fast.

While I sit and read, subscribe to mail listings myself, subscribe and listen to podcasts, and emulate the things I see, I know I am closer to hitting my mark and finding my sweet spot.

This journey has been eye-opening because in my research and studying some of the experts say that there is not definite formula to success and making a big impact.  Others say develop a plan and work the plan.  I still stand my truths about blogging because there are some things you discover.  Go check out my epic blog, What No One Tells You About Blogging.  It is one of my favorite blogs and one that I see lasting for years to come as new trends arise.

Now reexamining all do the Dos for content creation and personalizing your brand, all of us side hustlers are told to FIRST BE CLEAR.  I can’t any clearer about wanting to make an impact on new teachers with my book,

My Fourth Year in Middle School; The Truth About Teaching

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I truly want to help change the narrative about teaching so that the newbies learn that in order to truly be successful in the classroom there must be a complete understanding that what you learn in traditional training is helpful.  But what you do in the classroom from day today is what’s going to shape your approach, career, and style of teaching.  Now if only I could attract the right audience and individuals invested in my book, I could really make gains as an educational expert.

DRAW PEOPLE TO YOU: It is difficult to create a consistent buzz as a newbie blogger and collecting emails is a task.  Build your brand! Create the leads! Magnetize your audience!  That is a lot easier said than done.  As I look at my social media networks…

I have learned that my friends are not my target audience and I actually get more feedback from people that don’t know me personally.  Now I do have some friends that purchased my book, left a review on Amazon, or told me personally what they thought of my work but I’m hungry!  I want to grow in my efforts and reach the masses that I know could benefit from my experiences.

I want to see my follower numbers convert to sales.  Another one of the DOs that we must be mindful of is CONTENT CREATION.

Visiting my blog is rich and full of experiences that I feel provide knowledge and inspiration.  I think about the goals I have set for myself and reflect on my progress over the years.

Content creation is one thing but the focus must shift to…QUALITY CONTENT in the form of books (Check Me Out On Amazon), videos especially if you are on youtube: check my sidebar 🙂 (Subscribe to me @ LaTilya Rashon), and of course while you’re here browse around read my blogs, comment on what you like and most importantly

Subscribe to the LaTilya Rashon mailing list

Brand clarity is an ongoing process!  Content creation takes a lot of work. I have only been serious about this for the past two years because I know I have message of inspiration.  I’m sure my audience will change by the day but I plan to be authentic and transparent in my approach.  I don’t have it all figured out but I’m figuring it out.

March is not the month for stagnation! New goals! New insights! New material!

Stay Tuned!

 

 

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What No One Tells You About Blogging 2018

When I made the choice to write more, work on building my brand (which I’m still sorting through) publishing my book, and networking, I had no clue about the amount of time I would spend obsessing about the details.  Matter of fact I got side-tracked, off track, and overwhelmed by my vision and everything I was trying to do.

For a creative with a fluid stream of thought, bottling up my emotions into multiple blog posts is delicate.  It is also nerve wrecking because you want your audience to believe in your brand.

I have read numerous social media posts about brand building, mail list, and content launching, I begin to ask myself “Am I doing something wrong?”   I have even completed a few email challenges which is why after my last starter kit download I decided to revamp my epic blog… originally posted August 13, 2016.

What No One Tells You About Blogging

So I thought that I had it all figured out then and sadly, I didn’t then and I’m still figuring things out now.  I’m still tackling the same topics of the experts, products, social media, and the effort it takes.  But I’m also adding another component…NETWORKING!

The Experts

The first thing no one tells you is that the blogging industry is full of experts that have been around for YEARS!  They are the gurus, the go-tos, the coaches, and the mold.  They have been building steadily for five or more years and have their niche, audience, and branding down to a science.  They use every technology tool imaginable and create material that us novice bloggers are working hard at some day creating ourselves.  Having had to learn how to pitch ideas, and step out of faith allowed them to establish platforms and connections that further build their credibility.  I could name a few experts but there is no need, if you simply google them they are everywhere.  So now I’m trying to get in where I fit in so that I can grow my audience and build my platform.  To be an influencer you must learn to move and network like one.  Starting can be hard but they too were once where we are.

The Products:  Workbooks/Workshops/Webinars

In information overload keeping up with the trending concepts is overwhelming. Lifestyle, fashion, inspirational, relationships, everyone is offering advice.  There is tons of help being offered at low and high prices.  Some tools are even available as free downloads and starter kits that are helpful.  Others are confusing as shit so I keep what I like and toss what I found useless.  I’ll be honest some things are more complicated inside some of these free email courses.  Since I’m Type-A, I need things to be simple and spelled out.  If I’m stressed out reading these helpful “tidbits”, I wonder what these creators felt like when they were writing.  Oddly, in start-up, investing in books, workshops, webinars, and other online content comes with an expensive price tag.  It is exciting to see gifs dancing all over your screen, then as soon as you decide you are interested, you are hit with costs ranging from free to hundreds of dollars.  Now I admit some of the leadpages and magnets are fire as hell, but my next big investment is going to be a newer laptop before I go all out.  Besides I still teach full-time so blogging has yet to pay my bills.  But I’m working on it. Don’t go broke investing, take it one day at at time (note to self).

Social Media

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It is up to you to separate your personal life and your business life. Presenting your content on various sites is time consuming and intimidating.  Trying to follow a content checklist to be sure to create, share, tweet, stumble, tumble, press, pin and repost across multiple social sites is both beneficial and aggravating.  I’ll be the first to admit that my posts, my blogs, and my images were not that great when I got started but I can definitely see how I have grown.  Graphics really make a big difference, now if I could just get more into some of the other tools like mailchimp to help me with list buiding, I’d be 100% in the game.  In between using the pen name LaTilya Rashon for Amazon but TilyaRealEyes for everything else I can see how everything is starting to come together.  Setting yourself aside is worth it if your followers engage in your content.  But no one tells you that you need to recycle, update, and revise your content continuously to make it more appealing.  Which is why I’m offering this blog update.  Whew!

All I can say is let 2018 be my year for greater GROWTH!  With that being said, next time you see your favorite blogger, note that they aren’t creating new content as often as you thought. So your content should be consistent.  Be impactful! Shared content impresses followers and lasts longer.

It Is Not Easy

In the beginning of the week, your ideas are fresh, your journals are attached to your hand, and your fingers skip along the home row keys on your keyboard as your ideas flow.  In the middle of the week none of your ideas are formulating and you think that your writing needs an overhaul.  By the end of week you are in tears because no one seems to be paying attention to your work.  It is discouraging!  To top it all off you are expected to follow different people each day, leave meaningful comments on others’ post, and respond to the people that write to you.

Establishing your network and doing your research is important. But be reminded that plenty of others have felt this very same way. I am learning that there is no true right or wrong way to create but as a creative you have to be mindful of your voice and the style you create for yourself.  Bloggers write to establish their platforms, create useful products, and produce content driven to keep their audience engaged.

No one is telling your the perfect formula for creation, because you have to do the work!

xoxo

Create Your Vision

I would be remissed to say that the recent release of my second inspirational book, Brown Sugar Magic: Goal Setting and Reflections Journal has been met with lukewarm acceptance and I want to change that reception.  Receiving the “likes” on my social media is okay, but in true entrepreneurial spirit I would like to see those “likes” convert to sales.

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I have been dealing with so much lately over these past six months, between a divorce being finalized, regaining control of my finances now as single mom, and closing out a school year, I’m surprised I got this second book out, but it was something that I HAD to do.

Yesterday after feeling like I had hit a brick wall emotionally and feeling a twinge of being burned out I laid across my bed and began listening to a couple of podcasts by Cara Alwill Leyba.  Her message is clear and distinct and it pushed me to look back at my “do what you love” notebook and really plan out my course of action for these next few months.

I have to remind myself that yes it has only been a year, and my need to be good at everything I do is taking over my thought processes and essentially making me overthink EVERYTHING in my life.  I had taken to Facebook and joined all of these groups and I find that this blogging industry is SATURATED.  Everybody is creating a lot of the same things and the competition is STEEP.  Even though regionally everyone is spread out, and there are some small hubs of creators in the same area, I see why now more than ever I must stake my claim in this creative industry and CREATE MY VISION!

So I see for myself in my vision and my future:

BROWN SUGAR MAGIC

I want Brown Sugar Magic to be my main inspirational platform.  Creating my vision started with setting some realistic and achievable goals for myself.  Through planning a course of action to take and being unafraid to put my words on paper, self-publishing my first book was a personal goal that I accomplished.  My education was not pursued haphazardly, I was deliberate and intentional as I attained higher degrees of education.  I know what it’s like and even sometimes find it overwhelming to want to do one thing but then have to revamp that objective or goal to take care of smaller things first.  God planned my path for me and he innately gave me the ability to aspire for great things and become successful in my own right.

If I can inspire someone to be SMART about their choices in life as they design their future, be in touch with their needs and take care of themselves before they have nothing to offer to the people around them; I take on the role.  Additionally, I want to help African-American women and girls build themselves up to only rely on their independence to see them through life.  That’s not to say that having help in life is not good, but this is to say be able to help yourself so that if you are ever in the position to have to do for yourself, YOU ARE NOT HELPLESS!  As I walk in my purpose, my dream, and define my vision; I will celebrate my setbacks, imperfect moments, and my growth.  I see this as a way to encourage many others.

SPEAKING AND HOSTING

All throughout school I was constantly reminded by my teachers about my continuous talking in class.  I was a fast learner and completed my work often times ahead of my classmates so I was always looking for someone to talk to.  It could have been the fact that I was an only child but that would be an excuse.  I simply just love to talk.  The cheerleader in me wants to be in the limelight spreading inspiration, joy, and motivation.  I have a lot to say about coming from a SINGLE parent home and PERSERVERING through the STEREOTYPES that were placed on me.  I have had to be disciplined, make tough decisions, and show my resiliency to get to this place in my 35 years of life.  I say this time and time again, I DEFY stereotypes and my authentic rawness at times is just the dose of reality people need to know that LIFE
AIN’T FAIR! Put me on a stage…I will rock the party, keep you engaged, but most importantly MOTIVATE!

BOOKS AND BLOGGING

Ever since being told by a teacher my senior year in high school that “MY PEOPLE“ need me, I get tickled at the thought of her saying that often.  I love books and have read what I like over the years and always knew that one day I would write a book of my own.  My flagship book, My Fourth Year in Middle School: The Truth About Teaching chronicles my transition into what was spoke on to me at the age of 18.  If my people need me, whether it be teachers, African-American women and girls, writers, or whomever feels inspired by my words, I’m glad to be of SERVICE.  I have always wanted to write, and the urgency I feel to be great will take time, after all, I teach full-time and pursue my writing when I am not in the classroom.  I blog as much as possible and I am continuing to find inspiration and write what I think people need to read from me.  Writing what I consider to be my first epic blog, What No One Tells You About Blogging, was the tip of the iceberg.  One day my persistence with pay off!  I am establishing my voice.  This creative journey is personal.

THE EXTRAS

If an ebook, writer’s apparel and other products surface as I make my stamp then so be it.  Anybody can make a t-shirt, cup, bag, and other doodads and it will sell, but I want to be as consistent with my message that I anticipate being with these other endeavors. The ones that are selling everything under the moon, make it look easy from books to lip gloss.  However, I’m learning that when you have a concrete audience, it is doable to make those kinds of sales.  Because I’m still new to this I will limit my conversation on that.

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If it takes me a few years to get this entrepreneurial niche down pact, I will do what I have do.

~LaTilya Rashon

 

Why I Created Brown Sugar Magic

Brown Sugar Magic was simply birthed from the thought of me loving to write everything down so that I can see how far I have grown.

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I received my first little brown diary with a gold padlock and accompanying key when I was six years old.  I wrote the traditional, Dear Diary entries but I had no idea that being introduced to reflecting on my day at an early age would become something that I am passionate about now in my mid 30s.  All throughout high school I kept journals and they are the back drop to personality, my emotions, my thoughts, and my drive.  My love for journaling was actually interrupted when I was 20 years old because a boyfriend of mine read my journal and instantly found out that I was not the perfect girlfriend.  Oddly, even though he entertained other girls at the start of that tumultuous relationship, he didn’t like knowing that I had befriended and entertained other guys as well.

My love for creating lists and reflecting on my day came back full force during my first marriage as I kept a 5 subject Mead notebook that I am sure will turn into a bestseller.  I just need the time and energy to relive those emotional situations before I pour all of that drama into a book.  Some day!

However, one good thing about that journal and other notebooks I have doodled in over the years, I find book ideas, random thoughts, and lists for things that I wanted to try to do.  My notebooks and journals now look like bucket lists, accomplishments, and goals as I check things off.

So I was literally sitting on my bed one day and the idea of creating a goal setting book and journal popped into my head and I went to work.  I am often asked, “How do you keep it all together?”  My answer has become, “Because I write it down.  I etch out almost every idea and thought in my mind and I go from there.”  Ironically thought with the amount of things I have accomplished in my life, I still feel that I should be doing more.

My blogging and listing is at an all time high as I dig deep inside of myself each day to press out more encouragement, motivation, and thoughts to share.  So Brown Sugar Magic is a journey of self-realization and I pray will be a source of motivation for my Brown Sugar Sisters that need that extra push to re-prioritize their lives and design the life they want to live.

We all have a little bit of magic inside of us, and I want to help ladies find their spark, set some attainable goals for themselves and begin to understand their worth.  Sometimes we get thrown off course and need to redirect our lives so Brown Sugar Magic is that guide to better goal setting and reflecting on your growth.

Brown Sugar Magic is a 52 week affirmation, goal setting and reflections journal.  In this four part book there is definitely a theme per section and it is written in mind to help women grow beyond their comfort zone and gain a new lease on life.

Part 1

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Stepping into Brown Sugar Magic I help you discover your magic as you set S.M.A.R.T. goals for yourself.  I help you measure your time and attainable objectives that you work over time to accomplish.  We all need a little guidance to get on the right track, so this books help you reclaim your life and work towards your short term objectives until you reach you intended goal.  Once your begin to check things off of your list that you want to attain, you will gain a sense of pride about yourself realizing that YOU are your biggest asset.  Part 1 breaks down what a S.M.A.R.T. goal is while simultaneously requiring a weekly affirmation, reflection, or celebration message to yourself.

Part 2

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As you progress to part two of this book, you will address your needs.  You quickly realize that whatever you feed your body, also fuels your mind.  Your spirit is your internal guiding light and whatever you feed your spirit, it becomes your mindset.  You have to be in touch with your sense of belonging and have self esteem to keep yourself lifted through trying times in your life.  Once you begin to identify your needs, you become more careful where you place your energy.  You cannot be all things to all people if you do not meet the needs of self first.

Part 3

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We all have a particular skill set that propels our productivity.  However, our coping mechanisms are not all the same.  I have relied a lot on the skills my mom taught to pull me through tough times and I take the liberty to share these ideas with you in Brown Sugar Magic.  Establishing your independence is difficulty if you have never had to face adult challenges once you grow past being a child in your parents’ home.  We all stumble at some point in our lives, but it ‘s just a matter of how your pick yourself up.  Self love is the best love.  Once you have made it to this part of the book, you are still affirm-reflecting-and celebrating your growth.  At this stage in the game I am sure your goals have changed and you have outline specific things to work toward and see yourself realistically accomplishing your goals.

Part 4

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The purpose of Brown Sugar Magic in to help you live your best life and reaffirm your happiness.  Since sugar is in it’s purest state when it is brown, I help you unleash your magic.  Part three walks you through the three steps to a better life as you reassess yourself and identify your true strengths, weaknesses, opportunities for growth, and threats to your overall productivity.  The risks you take on this journey of self-discovery will have its ups and its downs but pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and experiencing growth is the ultimate reward.

Take this journey to unleash your magic, prioritize your life, and trust the process.  I challenge all of my Brown Sugar Sisters to take back their control and live the life they have dreamed of living.

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It’s Been A Year Already

So on March 10, 2016 I revamped my blog, switched over to wordpress after leaving blogspot and a stream of creativity has taken over.

A year ago I was living a life that I was pretty sure was pretty content not knowing that in the months to come that that life would be shaken up.

A year ago I was super elated to find out that my Internal Review Board (IRB) had been approved for my dissertation so all I had to do was edit my chapters four and five and be primed and ready to submit my final report roughly around the beginning of May 2016.

A year ago I hunkered down and decided to finish my first writing project.  My chromebook was permanently attached to my hand so everyone around me knew that whatever I was doing had to be serious.

A year ago seems so far away compared to where I am now.  It’s been a year and http://www.tilyarealeyes.com has matured into grown woman status.

I look back at my experimental titles and it is clear that I was working on my niche.  I was inundated by creating email lists (I finally created the right lead in and magnet campaign), and trying to figure out how to make myself standout in the crowd.  I played around with all of my social media and just felt like I was floundering.  I even wrote about it in my epic blog turned free download, What No One Tells You About Blogging.  I tried several things and now I feel like I’m finding my groove.

So what is my niche?

Interestingly enough writing about life and the realities we face as people comes naturally.  There is a lot of experience inside of my compact frame and as I share my perspectives I inadvertently influence streams of consciousness.  Everything I share is based on observation, conversation, and my original spin of the subject matter.

A year later, “tilyarealeyes” has expanded its categorical reach.  The short stories have peeked interest and needs to be revisited.  I’ve just had a lot going on.  The List Series is a major hit and because my Soror/Bestie Karimah encouraged me to do videos last summer, and since then I have made 4 in 2017.  The 7 Things You Should Do in 2017 has been my signature statement because I have found a new lease on life, and I’m happily divorced and simply living.  My soror/lil Tori spoke about seven being the number of completion when I published that blog.  Ironically I met a man whose birthday is the 7th day of January on his birthday.  He is symbolism at it’s finest.

It’s been a year and I have two books out there that I don’t even think that at the time of beginning to blog again, I would have taken that risk.  I play it very safe with my words and my talent.  Because I am so hard on myself the thought of someone else criticizing (unless it’s positive) my words makes me nervous.  I’m a situational perfectionist.  I am very protective of me.  However, I am most proud of Brown Sugar Magic because of the message of affirmation, reflection and celebration that I am trying to have women establish about themselves.

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A year later I have learned through experience the value of being goal oriented.  Had I not established the specific goals I had set for myself, there is no way I could advise my Brown Sugar Sisters on how to be SMART about the things they set out to do.

Writing my second published project I had to be in touch with my needs.  Being happy and having esteem of myself kept me focused.  Sometimes we get lost in the sauce but that does not equate to not addressing your needs.  I had to address the desires of my heart and realize that I needed to safeguard my energy.  I can’t afford to get worked up about situation that have already been worked out beyond my control.

I had to rely on the love I have for myself as I wrote part three of Brown Sugar Magic. Loving myself more made room for me to work through my disappointments.  My life took a hit, but I forgive myself for my bad choices.  I trust that everything happens for a reason.  I revamp and revise my goals on the regular.  I am able to stay the course because of my self-love.

As I closed out Brown Sugar Magic, my key thing was to highlight the fun you should be having.  I am having the time of my life tending to me and not being tied down by titles or expectations.  That does not mean I am closed up and living like a hermit.  That means that I have the liberty to love who I choose without expectation.

A year later my life has changed but I am living a more abundant life than I ever could have imagined.  The things I am experiencing takes me to a different place.  My conversation has changed.  My ambition is in overdrive.  I am focused on building my brand, “LaTilya Rashon”, and being the best “influencer” I can be.

2017 has opened my eyes.  I’m walking this walk with my eyes wide open.  I am not naive to the negativity.  A year later my blog has grown into more mature conversation but so has my mindset as the woman behind the blog.

No subliminal messages.  No hidden agendas.  When you know who you are, you become a target and a threat.  Do the work and reflections in Brown Sugar Magic and you will reclaim your life like never before.

A year ago I was defining marriage.  A year later I am encouraging self-actualization. Unleash your magic!

~LaTilya Rashon

Short Stories-No Strings Attached: Charli and Tristan Part 3

Charli and Tristan: This Is Happening

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When Tristan kissed Charli’s forehead she felt a rush that she had never felt before.  She wanted to understand why his touch on her skin felt different than from her boyfriends in the past.  She had so many thoughts going through her head but she followed his lead.

Tristan knew that taking this step with Charli could complicate things but he wanted her and had prolonged his desire for her for a long time.  The stress of everything going on with his family was starting to get to him, and he broke up with his girlfriend.

He was not with Charli as a buffer, but he respected her and knew that she had feelings for him just as he did for her.  When her shirt hit the floor he proceeded to slide her soffe cheerleading shorts down, leaving her standing completely exposed down to her underwear.  He kissed her forehead again and told her to slide back on the bed.  They could still hear the music playing from the television as all of the late night love songs lingered in the air.

Tristan had a look on his face that said he would be gentle.  He climbed up on the bed, still wearing his jeans, but hovered over Charli kissing her lightly on her lips.  She quivered because there was a chill in the air and she was slightly nervous to be taking this step with Tristan.  She looked in his face and said, “I love you Tristan, please don’t hurt me.”

This was happening.  He inched back off of the bed, pulled his pants down and reached for a condom.  Charli watched his every move just taking it all in because he was not rushed.  He climbed back up to her and slid her panties off.  He looked down at her and said, “Are you sure?”  She nodded her head as he leaned forward and kissed her on the collar bone.  His hands were warm as her body continued to shiver.  Tristan took his time because he could feel her nervous energy.

He planted light kisses on her face, nibbled at her neck, and kissed her breasts as though they were precious gems.  He looked her deep in her eyes as he lifted her legs to position himself comfortably between them.  He felt her body tense.  Tristan knew that Charli was not a virgin, but he could tell that he had a major effect on her by the way her body responded to his touch.

Charli relaxed a little more as she felt Tristan explore her body.  She admired his pecks and his chocolate skin because they were completely naked.  Tristan felt her vagina tighten as he worked himself inside of her.  He found his rhythm.  Not too hard. Not too soft.  Just enough to hear a whimper escape Charli’s lips.

He continued to look deeply into her eyes, not changing positions because for him this was the first time he had made love to girl.  All of the other times he had had sex, he was in and out.  No taking his time, get one off and be done.

It was evident in Tristan’s mind that he had deeper feelings for Charli than he wanted to admit to himself.  Just as he felt himself on the verge of climaxing, he reached under Charli’s hips, grabbed her ass, and stroked deeper inside of her.  The temperature was rising.  Charli was panting and just as Tristan felt himself exploding, the condom broke.

He slid out of Charli with a look of panic on his face.  “Tristan what’s wrong”, she asked feeling the same panic.  He looked at her and said, “I’m sorry, but the condom popped.”

To Be Continue

Short Stories-No Strings Attached: Charli and Tristan Part 2

Charli and Tristan: Things Have Changedhl3

Charli’s mom decided that she was ready to move from the straight back and into a better house.  After looking for a short time, she had found one house but since Charli was not too enthused about it, the search continued.  By the time her mom found another house Charli began to think about all the nights she had spent in her old home with her friends.  The new house was an upgrade because there was a shower in the bathroom, but the memories being left behind is what had her stuck.

She wondered if Tristan would still come to visit her.  She wondered if the late night hellos would stop.  She wondered a lot about the new home, especially her neighbors because that was the one thing she was glad to be escaping from in her old neighborhood.  Living on a newly paved road, where the houses were close enough to hear the conversations carrying on inside was tricky because you were bound to hear something, or see something that you shouldn’t.

Just as they were moving, Charli’s nosey neighbor from across the street began talking shit about her, and on one particular day it all came to a head.  “You just don’t know what I have seen go on at your house”, Maime told Charli’s mom because she noticed how hard they were staring at them from across the street.  Charli’s mom, Cassie, looked at the old woman and said, “Well if you wanted me to know you would have told me by now, so as far as I am concerned you ain’t got shit to say.”  With those few words, Cassie walked inside and resumed packing up her belongings, then looked at her daughter and realized what a beauty she really was.

“Mommy, what was all of that about?” Charli asked walking into her mother’s room.  Even though she had heard most of the exchange, she really was hoping that her mom would talk to her and not treat her like a baby.  She liked being the only child.  She liked being the center of mother’s universe, but she also wanted her mom to see that she did not have to be protected from the many things that people said about her because she had actually grown used to it.  “Oh, Maime was just talking junk as usual, saying that I just don’t know what you be up to when I’m not home.”  Cassie decided to take that chance to have that conversation, phishing for a response from her, trying to see exactly what she would say.

There was an understanding between Charli and her mom that left a lot of people confused.  Cassie was not blind to the many admirers her daughter had, she just hoped that Charli was being smart.  She also knew that Tristan had become a permanent fixture in Charli’s life and wanted to protect her from heartbreak.  Even though Charli was mature for her age, Tristan was no longer in school and was grown in the eyes of the law but she knew how her daughter felt about him.

They had been moved in a few months and Tristan finally made his way over to see Charli.  True to form he called and told her he’d be out and about for a little while but he would definitely come see her because he missed her.  Charli lived a few streets over from Tristan’s aunt’s house, so it was not really a stretch for him to make his way over to see her.

Sitting in the living room one night, Charli heard a car door close then she saw a car out front.  She felt the butterflies in the pit of her stomach as she watched Tristan walk up the driveway.  She opened the door before he could knock.  “Come outside”, he said to her very smoothly and without hesitation she stepped outside.  As they sat on the front steps she could smell the Cool Water cologne, but fidgeted a little because she had heard in the streets that Tristan had a girlfriend.  But remembering they were just friends she couldn’t be mad.

“What brings you by Trist?”  Looking at him, she saw a stress line in the middle of his forehead as he began to speak.  “Man chill out, I just wanted to see you”, Tristan looked at her.  He could hear the hurt in her voice, but he had made up in his mind he would tell the truth about whatever she asked.

“So I hear you have a girlfriend, why you not with her?”  Charli looked at him, searching his face for more answers.  “Look, it ain’t what you think it is” he began to say.  “Yea ole girl my girlfriend but shit ain’t working out anyways; but I ain’t here to talk about her.  I just wanted to see you.”  Then there was awkward silence.  The night air around them was humid and thick.  Crickets chirped as they sat side by side staring up at the stars in the moonlight.  Tristan grabbed Charli hand and said, “I will never lie to you.”

A few weeks went by before they spoke again.  Charli respected his relationship, but wanted to know why he chose someone else to be his girlfriend over her.  It bothered her quite a bit but she knew that no matter who he was with, if he came to see her, she would not turn him away.

Just as she had poured a big glass of sweet tea from the fridge and sat down to watch Midnight Love on BET, there was a knock at the door.  She had felt anxious the whole day wondering what was causing her nervousness.  Her heart had been missing the person who popped up at his own will.  Tristan was at the door again.  He was tired, but he was intense.  He walked on in.  Instead of going into Charli’s room they watched Janet Jackson’s Anytime, Anyplace video and sat on the couch.  He didn’t say anything, he just held her hand.  As Brian McKnight’s Anytime began to play, Tristan leaned into her and kissed her.

This kiss was different.  It was lustful.  It was warm.  It was a longing in his veins that he could no longer deny.  Tristan loved Charli, and even though he never spoke the words to her, he hoped she understood.  He was older.  He knew what to do.  He knew what to say.  He took the lead and pulled Charli from the couch.  He hugged her.  He wrapped his arms around her waist and squeezed her tight.

Tristan looked down at her and kissed her again sliding his tongue between her lips.  His tongue wrestled with hers as he walked her backwards towards her room.  He sat her on the edge of her bed and removed his shirt while standing in front of her.  “Can I?”

Those two words slid off of his lips as he reached for her shirt.  Before Charli could answer, she felt his hands in the small of her back pulling her closer to him.  He lifted her shirt up and over her head, then kissed her on her forehead.  This was happening.

To be continue…