Cashmere Clover is tired of having the middle child blues, and refuses not to make the best of her senior year. Just a few weeks into her last year of high school and things are actually going well – she landed a major contract for her t-shirt line, Cool Cash Tees; she and her best friend, Desiree, have reconnected; and she’s officially D-O-N-E with Robbie. Sure, he’s desperate to win her back, but now she knows he’s not good for her anymore. He never was.
Cashmere’s more focused than ever until she meets Jahlil Wright, a teenage underdog whose two-parent household isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. As he navigates the aftermath of events that led to his best friend’s murder, Jahlil welcomes Cashmere into his world in a way that he’s never done with anyone before. By Christmas, their two-month courtship blossomed into an official relationship – they’ve even met each other’s families.
But something is keeping them from really experiencing true love. They go from using each other’s company as their saving grace to running from the one thing keeping them both grounded. Things take a turn for the worse when Cashmere and Jahlil both realize that they can only slay the demons they’re willing to confront.
Will Cashmere learn to face her past so she can walk boldly into her future or will she keep running from the only confrontation that will set her free? And will Jahlil humble himself in time to realize that he first has to change his mindset before he can escape the troubles that surround him?
Find out in this second installment of the bestselling young adult series, The Clover Chronicles.
The Meet & Greet
Meeting him when I was supposed to be focused on Him… – CC
His face flew to the left. If I wasn’t witnessing it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it. The blood dripping from the boy with the dreads lips definitely made it more real. I’d seen fights before, of course most being in my family’s theater room as we cheered during fight night, but this– this was bad. Yet, no matter how many hits landed on the guy with the dreads, he bounced back up and continued to fight. Like his life depended on it. From the looks of the two guys surrounding his opponent, I’m guessing it did.
I was about to walk away. The energy around the fight was getting more intense and I didn’t get down like this. Seeing young black guys in the street acting a fool burned my soul. That’s what I get for saying ‘yes’ to meeting Robbie down Germantown. We were supposed to meet at the corner of Wayne and Chelten, but he had yet to arrive. I wouldn’t even be seeing this nonsense had I fought the I miss you urges that overpowered my senses whenever I saw a text or call from him. Even after our rash breakup, we both found ourselves still pursuing the dead connection we’d built with one another. Why was I surprised that he’d failed me? Again. I decided not to wait around, especially once I heard the sirens nearing the fight. Stepping a few feet away from the mayhem, I checked my phone. Again.
Nothing. I could feel my blood boiling. I opened my Uber app and requested a ride. Threeminutes away. Perfect. Just as my Uber driver pulled up, the crowd started to disperse. Kids were running left and right, trying to clear the area. I turned my head to look back, just as I opened the door. The guy with the dreads was nowhere to be seen, but there were a few adults talking to the police officers, giving them a description of the perpetrators involved. I didn’t see the guy he was fighting, but the other two guys that were with his opponent stood near the bus stop, nonchalantly, talking as if they had nothing to do with it. I hopped in the car.
“Hey. I’m just going to the regional rail train stop a few blocks down. Near the McDonald’s.”
The driver nodded and pulled off just as the light was about to turn red. I could’ve walked the few blocks to the train station, but with all the chaos that was going on, I didn’t want to get caught up in anything. Even though it was only a few blocks down from Wayne and Chelten, because of the school traffic, the car inched forward slowly. I took in the busy area, notable for its historical train tracks and numerous barbershops and hair salons. Our neighborhood, Lafayette Hill, bordered Chestnut Hill, which bordered Mount Airy, which bordered Germantown.
As the driver pulled over, I watched two little girls chasing a boy around in circles, right by the firehouse. I smiled. I was still young, but to be their age again would help me with a few do-overs I needed. Like Robbie. After handing the driver a five-dollar tip, I hopped out the car. Before I could get my other leg out, someone caught my eye. It’s him. It was the boy that was in the fight. The one with the dreads. He must’ve ran down a few blocks when he was able to get away. Before he could get any further, I yelled out.
“Hey. You okay?”
He kept walking. I turned to the Uber driver. “Please wait.”
I had no idea what made me do this, but I did it. Something I learned about myself over the summer – I was tougher than I gave myself credit for. Once I reached him, I lightly touched his arm.
“Hey. Wait up,” I said, as he finally stopped. “Are you okay?”
He turned around, breathing heavy and looking ready to fight again. He clenched his jaws when he looked at me.
He turned back around and kept walking.
He paused, but didn’t look at me.
“Listen. I saw the fight. I just hopped out of that Uber,” I said, pointing behind me. I caught the driver’s eye. He threw his hands up impatiently. I gave him the one-minute signal. “I’m about to catch a train home, but I’ll pay the driver to get you home.”
He slowly turned around, fury in his eyes. “Why?”
I wanted to yell “because it’s either the back of the Uber or the back of a police car”, but I could sense his fear, even if he was trying to display Mr. Macho.
“Because. I know you didn’t start that fight. Now,” I said, turning back and pointing to the car. “Go. I got five minutes to get to my train and this driver is about to pull off.”
I walked the few feet back to the Uber and handed the driver a $20 bill. “Take him where he needs to go. Is that okay since it won’t be through the app?”
He looked over at the boy. He seemed hesitant. Who could blame him?Here, this kid stood with blood dripping down the side of his lip and a huge gash over his eye. He looked back at me. The breeze moved the twenty. I pulled out another ten and shoved it in the car.
“Please. He’s not dangerous. The guy that hit him is.”
I’m not sure what made me so sure about all of this, but I went with the flow.
He grabbed the money and waved him over. He didn’t move.
“What’s your name?” I asked, walking back over. “I’m Cashmere.”
He smirked. At last, he started walking over to the Uber. “Yeah. The rich chick. I know who you are.”
He got in and rolled down the window. The light was now red. “I guess you’re not so bourgeoisie after all,” he yelled, as he slammed the door shut. “Thanks for the ride. How can I pay you back?”
I don’t know whether I was more stunned that he called me bourgeoisie or the fact that he knew who I was. Yeah, our family was semi-famous, but I never assumed everyoneknew us. “No worries. Just get home safe.”
I turned and started walking away. My phone was ringing. I looked down. Robbie.I hit ignore. I’d had enough drama and excitement for one day.
“Yo. Young jawn.”
I almost ignored him. I wasn’t a jawn. Why is he still sitting here? The cops will be here any second now.
I turned back. “What’s up?”
He smiled. Somehow, behind the blood and the dreads that had been dismantled from their ponytail, I could see his brown eyes and great looks. His face had been easy to miss when he had two fists pounding it in. Our eyes locked. He winked. “Thanks. And just so you know, I didn’t start that fight.”
I smiled. “Yeah. I figured that. Now, go. Now.”
Just then, the light turned green. The driver didn’t move. Neither did the cars behind him. As the sirens grew louder, I realized why traffic on both sides of Chelten Avenue hadn’t moved. My heart started beating faster. It was hard to miss a black guy, with dreads, wearing jeans and a hoodie, even sitting in a car. Not to mention the blood would be a dead giveaway. I turned to walk up the steps. Whatever happened from here was between him and God. I just wanted to be a conduit of His love. I literally had a minute left before the train would come.
Although I tried to resist it, it was like my body had a mind of its own. I quickly turned back around and looked just as three cop cars passed the car I’d just gotten out of. The driver turned right, away from the traffic and away from Chelten Avenue, onto Baynton street and kept going. I watched as my train pulled up, just as I made it to the platform. I checked my phone. It was three minutes late. I knew then, that even though I should’ve said no to Robbie and shouldn’t have met up with him, I had been in the right place at the right time.
It was Saturday morning, just a few days after the fight. The rest of the week flew by. My senior year first week was filled with the same jargon as my junior year – study hard, don’t miss school, pay class dues, create your next business idea and boom – you’re done. I was glad I’d be finished with high school altogether. I didn’t want to rush my last year, because I knew a lot would change. Even the things that I didn’t want to change. Like being able to go down the hall to talk to my baby sister, Brelyn or snuggling up next to Papa while he watched a movie in the family theater. I heard a knock at my door and rolled over to check my clock. 9:30
I knew my parents were away at a business convention, so it had to be one of my siblings. Brelyn would’ve just barged in and smothered me with hugs and kisses. Emé woud’ve barged in as well, but patted me on the butt demanding to know why I was still in bed at 9:30 in the morning when I had a “business to run”. That’s when I realized it was him. My brother. My favorite “him” next to Papa. I stretched as I stood up. I grabbed the first sweatshirt I saw and walked over to the door. As soon as I opened it and saw his open arms, I fell in.
He hugged me tight. I could smell his cologne on his shirt. When I pulled away from him, I smiled even bigger. He had on one of my brand t-shirts.
“What’s up, sis? Why are you still in bed?” he asked, sitting down on the love seat in my room.
“Who said I was still in bed?”
“I knocked twice and I can still see the drool on the side of your face, right,” he lifted a finger and pointed toward my lip, “there.”
I slapped his hand away and laughed. “Whatever, chump. How is it being a big college boy?”
He grabbed a pen and notebook off my desk and started scribbling. That was Desmond’s thing. Drawing. And when he was around you, you needed to understand that’s how he operated. He could be in a business meeting, draw a whole picture from a Marvel movie and still tell you what you said, verbatim. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. I’m sure when he was done, he’d have some masterpiece completed that made no sense to me, but would make Mama hang it up somewhere in her office.
“It’s great. Nothing major has happened yet. Those things that college kids say happen your first few weeks, have yet to happen to me. But, I picked a school I like, so I’m loving it.” He looked up at me. “What about you? How’s the senior year going?”
“It’s good. Same as yours was, I’m sure,” I said, grabbing my phone. I started scrolling through my instagram page, just to see what was going on in the world.
“Been to any fights lately?”
I stopped. What the hell? I slowly looked up at my brother. Jaws clenched, I was ready to be on the defense, but something told me to play this one cool. Clearing my throat, I held up my phone and snapped a quick picture of him, just to buy me a second to answer.
“Nope. Have you?”
“Cashmere, do you really think that because I’m away at school two hours away that I don’t know what’s going on? I have footage,baby girl.”
He pulled his own phone out. After toying around with it, he handed it to me.
Busted.There I was, standing around the fight, just like all the other onlookers. In the video, I was a little bit further away from the crowd, so it must’ve been when I was looking around for Robbie.
“I was waiting for Robbie. I didn’t even know a fight would break out.”
Well, that didn’t help Cashmere.
“Yes. Robbie. My ex. The one you know. The one Papa hates. Him.”
Our eyes locked. I was prepared to go toe-to-toe with him. In the past, my family considered me the over-analyzer, which I can attest to. The strength in me overthinking a lot is that I strategize very quickly in my head. Desmond wasn’t going to bully me. I wouldn’t let him. I’d already shown my family that I was going to live my life.
“You got something to say, Desmond. Say it.”
He jerked his head back. One of uscalling him by his first name was blasphemy. Clearly, I was upset.
“Cash, I’m not here to burn you,” he said, grabbing his phone back from me and patting the seat next to him.
I rolled my eyes in the air, but got up to sit next to him. I rested my head on my hands and was staring straight ahead, refusing to look at him. He grabbed my hand and held it.
“Cash, I’m not here to tell you not to date. I’m not even here to ask you why you still entertain that nut, Robbie. I just want to talk.”
I felt my body relaxing. I slowly turned to him. “Okay. What’s up?”
“Tell me why.”
I frowned. “Why what?”
“Why are you having sex?”
I turned my body so I could look him dead in his face. Was this some kind of a joke? I thought.
“Because it’s what people do,” I responded, sarcastically.
“No. Cashmere. It’s not just what people do andyou’re not even the type to do what everyone else does. So, why are you having sex?”
I’m not sure how much time passed between him asking me that and when I responded, but I knew it was longer than it should’ve been.
“Because I want to. It’s not a big deal.”
“Now, my brilliant little sister can do better than that,” he said, releasing my hand and sitting on the floor in front of me. “I mean, I’m sure you have a reason. Right?”
“That’s what makes me mad, Cash. You’re doing it and you can’t even tell me why. Make it make sense.”
I narrowed my eyes and leaned forward. “It doesn’t need to make sense to anyone but me, because it’s my body.”
He didn’t flinch. “And the person that you had sex with. It belongs to them to. You do know that don’t you?”
I threw my head back and laughed. “Desmond. Please. Are you taking some sort of psychology class that’s teaching you about sex and how people think about it? Do I get an ‘A’ too, for being used like a guinea pig?”
I reached for my phone again. He stopped me. “Cash, you already know I’m not taking a class on this. I don’t need to study health education again, but one thing I do study, is my sisters. I know you more than you think I do.”
He had me there. Desmond knew all of us inside and out. It was why he was able to have a unique bond with each of us. Still, I didn’t like him backing me into a corner like this. I knew he meant well. Hell, he’d had my back on more than one occasion when I snuck out of the house for a date.
“Then tell me something, big brother. Why do you have sex?”
I stopped smiling. I kneeled down in front of him. I looked him dead in his eyes. He didn’t move. I sat back up on the love seat.
“Cash, I haven’t had sex since before prom night.”
I threw my hands up and gasped, faking shock. “Not even on the big night? Oh no.”
He cracked a smile. “Not even, then.”
He was serious. “But I know you’re not a virgin. Ebony.”
“Yes. I lost my virginity to Ebony and I can honestly say, that it hurt her more than it did me.”
I sat back. He had my full attention.
“I’m a guy. A young guy in college, so I’m not going to sit up here and tell you that I’ll never have sex again until I’m married, although I’m sure our parents would appreciate that.”
I nodded. “Ya think?”
“But if you can’t even say why you’re doing it, then maybe you shouldn’t be. Ebony made me realize something after our first year of dating. She’s like us Cash – two parent household, well-off, great mindset and pretty sound thinking when it comes to how she views things.” He stood up and came back to sit down next to me. “My leg was falling asleep. Anyway, she made me realize that what she gave me was a piece of her. It wasn’t about a guilt trip, either. She was coming from a viewpoint I’d never considered. She also said that’s why she waited and I was her first. Each person you have sex with, you carry a piece of them with you forever.”
“Soul tie? Yeah. We hear that a lot in church.”
“True. But nobody our age actually gets it.”
“She made me realize that every time I laid down with someone, I was getting back up with more than just myself.”
I sighed. “So, what was her reason for having sex?”
“She loved me and wanted her first time to be with someone that she knew she could trust. That even if we didn’t work out, I wouldn’t go talking about her all over school and she was right. We haven’t been together in a year and I still don’t mention anything that’s happened between us.”
I sighed. It was a cute story, but I’d heard them all before. And by all I meant whatever stories my family felt they needed to share to get me to magically turn back into a virgin.
“Des, I get it,” I said, forcing a smile. “I’ll be careful.”
I stood up. He stood up with me, but placed himself in front of me with his arms crossed, blocking my way. “I’m not leaving here or moving out of your way until you tell me one reason why you have sex. I don’t care what it is. I’m not going to judge you for it.”
I started chewing on the inside of my lip. He was making me angrier by the minute. I threw my hands on my hips and shook my head. “It makes me feel like I matter.”
He dropped his arms slowly. He looked at me, searching my face for understanding. I knew he wouldn’t get it, which is why the conversation didn’t matter. None of my family understood me. They knew me, but they didn’t understand me.
“Cash, you matter. Where did you get that idea from?”
I moved around him to get to my closet. I started to pick out my outfit for the day. “Des, you asked me for a reason. You didn’t say I had to tell you why I feel that way and honestly, I’m over this Iyanla moment. Drop it.”
I kept going through my closet, trying to decide if the skirt I wanted to wear would work with a new pair of boots I bought. I could feel him staring at my back. I stopped moving and turned back around. He lowered his head. Before he did, I saw the look in his eyes. Pain.I saw in his eyes what I was feeling on a daily basis. It was hard to put into words how I was feeling without anyone in my family wondering what weed I had been smoking to think that I didn’t matter. I mean, the perfect Clover family couldn’t have done anything wrong, right?
“Des, look,” I said, walking over to him. I put my hand on his face, like Mama does when she’s being sincere. “Let it go. Just know that I’m fine and I’m going to be careful. I promise. And that’s allI can promise. That I’ll be careful.”
He grabbed my hand and kissed it. “Cash, don’t just be careful. Be wise.”
I nodded. I understood where he was coming from, even if I didn’t want to say it now. I really did. I grabbed his hands.
“You just worry about making all of us super proud with your bomb grades and taking Bricksto another level.” I turned back to the closet, wiping a tear from the corner of my eye. I took a deep breath, then turned back around, holding up some clothes. “You like this with this?”
“I like the shirt. Ditch the skirt. Go for the jeans,” he said, grabbing the notebook and pen and throwing them back on my desk.
I had to smile. This was what made having a brother a year older than me perfect. He helped with everything, even if I didn’t always ask. I took a good look at him as he walked back over to me. He was a duplicate of our father for sure – broad shoulders, medium-size frame and chiseled cheekbones all tucked under smooth, caramel skin.
“Well, whatever you do, stay away from, Jahlil. You don’t need to be watching fights or going anywhere near them. Don’t give me a reason to have to drive home just to knock somebody out.”
I tried not to show any reaction on my face, but hearing a name had my undivided attention. “Who’s Jahlil?”
He kissed my cheek. “The guy who was fighting. Dreads. Jahlil’s actually a good kid. Just got caught up in some trouble.” He walked to the door to leave, but turned back. “I’m headed to meet, Emé. You coming?”
“What kind of trouble?” I asked, still curious about Jahlil.
“Mind yours. Just stay away from him. And Robbie too. I’m sure Robbie knew something would be going down there. He hangs with one of the guys Jahlil was fighting. Think about it, Cash. What kind of guy would have you meet him somewhere that he knows there’s always something popping off?”
I had no idea what he knew about Robbie and his friends, but I’d never seen Robbie with any of those guys, which I’m sure, was my brother’s point. However, that wasn’t my concern. I wanted to know more about Jahlil, but I remained silent. At least for now.
“You coming or not?” he asked again.
“Yeah. Give me thirty to get ready. Where we going?”
“You never know with, Emé. I’ll hit her and tell her you’re coming,” he said, texting. “We’ll make it a family day. Where’s Bre?”
“I’m sure she’s in her room. Probably on the phone with Saith.”
Desmond clutched his chest jokingly. “My little sisters. Can you guys just give me and Dad a break? Just for a week?”
I had to laugh at that one. “That would be too much like right,” I said, pushing him out of the room. “Go. Ask her to come. It’ll be good hanging out with the sibs this weekend. Now, let me get ready.”
I slammed the door. Leaning my head against it, I paused and thought about what I had possession of before heading to the shower. All I needed was a name. And I had gotten it.