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“I wanna meet this girl who’s been occupying all my baby’s time,” Ricky’s mother, Phyllis, said. Before her son could reply, the waiter returned and deposited their brunch in front of them.

“Things are still new. I don’t wanna chase her away,” Ricky laughed before scooping potatoes into his mouth.

“Tell me all about her.”

“She’s wonderful, really. Smart, funny, gorgeous. She keeps me in check.”

“I love her already.” Time with his mother was precious to Ricky, since he’d so nearly lost her at the beginning of the year. The one thing she wanted was to know her son would be taken care of. He hadn’t told his mother, but he’d already begun falling in love with Alex.

“You should bring her to the barbecue this weekend. I promise, no grilling,” Phyllis said, mimicking the Boy Scouts pledge.

“I’m going to see her tonight so I’ll bring it up. No promises,” Ricky said. He was excited that his mother was excited about his new relationship, especially since she had been so negative about the girls he liked.

“Just promise me you’ll try and make this work. Treat her with all the respect and dignity you show me,” Phyllis said, taking her son’s hand. Ricky smiled and nodded, giving his mother a squeeze back.

“I promise.”

Alex hadn’t been at the party 5 minutes before he swooped in. “What’s up Alex?”

“How you doing?”

“It’s me, @ricky_noBell on instagram.”

“Oh ok,” she said, ready for the conversation to end. She’d never met him, but she’d blocked him on Instagram for repeatedly messaging her.

“I think it’s bold that you blocked me. I was just tryna get to know you better.” Alex didn’t reply, but tried to step away from the looming man, only to be blocked by his side step.

“See, this is why I can’t stand bougie bitches like you.”

“‘Bitch’? Who you calling a bitch?”

“You, bitch! Thinking you can just toss ass and titty pictures all over the internet but want people to ‘respect’ you.”

“Ok, I’m leaving now,” Alex said, turning away from him. Ricky seized her arm and tried to pull her towards he front door. Alex screamed, drawing attention from the patrons around them. A group of security guards appeared from different areas of the club and separated the two.

“This guy is STALKING me,” Alex said, holding her arm where his vice grip had been.

“It’s just a little lover’s quarrel,” Ricky chuckled.

“You’re delusional! I’ve never met this man before in my life!” Alex said. It was enough for the guards to roughly escort him outside.

Alex had nearly forgotten about the incident when she left the bar several hours later. She sighed when she saw a white piece of paper on the windshield of her car, assuming it was a parking ticket. She realized, drawing closer, it was an envelope, beneath a single red rose. She looked around suspiciously before removing the card and the flower. The note was in an elegant writing but the message would chill her to the depths of her.

I still love you.

-Ricky

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