By Akhaji Zakiya | @akhajizakiya
Artist’s Note: The following story excerpt is from the new book “Inside Her”, a sexy collection of fiction and poems about #hotwomenloving. The first in a series, “Inside Her” introduces readers to the lives of Jaka, Nina, Tashi, Sean and their friends. These characters embody a ride-or-die philosophy, each in their own way, as they navigate fun and challenges in relationships, career, family and their own personal transformations.
Follow @akhajizakiya for info on the novel-length and audiobook versions of “Inside Her” in the coming months!
Opening – Jaka Meets Tashi
Jaka was having second thoughts about the whole thing. ‘How smart was it to come all the way across town to this community cookout? By herself?’ she questioned. ‘Dragging Nina along would have been a much better idea.’
There she was, slightly overdressed in a white tank top and white fitted skirt that contrasted sharply against her coffee-bean skin. Feeling nervous about the unfamiliar, she smoothed her hand over the top of her short-haired head and took in the sights around her. Jaka was usually very comfortable in her agile, toned body – even when folks were beholding her on stage. But now, in a crowd of hundreds of gay people, transgendered, bisexual, lesbian, queer people of all kinds, she was not sure she was in the right place.
It was a hot day. The cookout was held on a long stretch of beach. Surrounded by dozens of big, colorful umbrellas pushed into the sand, people were in and out of the water…frolicking, playing beach volleyball, lounging, sipping and loving every minute of it. Most were of African, Asian and South Asian descent, many were chatting in lineups for BBQ and drinks. Everyone seemed excited to be there. Upbeat dance tunes with pulsating bass waved in the afternoon breeze. The sun blazed bodies and bounced off the water. Couples cuddled on large beach towels. Muscle-chested men in tiny, tight swim trunks made friends and long-haired lesbians scoped out the scene behind tinted sunglasses.
It was overwhelming – the same-sex public displays of affection, the loud music, queer folks with strangely-coloured hair, tattoos and multiple piercings. It was especially overwhelming for Jaka who had never been to anything like this before. Well, not since the big street festivals that used to happen in her neighbourhood back in the day. Except those ones were not full of gay people…LBTQ people.
To get to the spot where she could see the beach and the festivities, Jaka had walked through a park. Its huge, thick-rooted, leafy trees provided shade to booths making up the community fair part of the cookout. Now, she wanted to go back to the shade. She was not sure she belonged here with all these folks. Not right now. She could, possibly, see herself freeing up and dancing a bit later if her kind of tunes came on. She was not ready yet.
As Jaka headed back to the comfortable shade of the park, she passed several booths and associated people. Beaming faces and bright-coloured marketing materials reflected messages from dozens of organizations and businesses – everything from breast cancer awareness to the annual Mr. Leather Bear contest to new products from banks and liquor companies. There was also a stage with performers and speakers announcing events relevant to the community. She settled into the crook of one of the large, droopy willow trees and tried to ease into comfort.
Tashi first noticed Jaka while on stage announcing the upcoming human rights rally and encouraging people to sign the circulating petition. She tripped over her words momentarily when she glanced to the left and saw Jaka leaning up against a big tree. ‘A true vision of loveliness,’ Tashi thought to herself. ‘How do I not know that sister?’ She tried to make subtle eye contact to avoid being too obvious to onlookers, but Jaka’s eyes were roaming the bustling crowd as if searching for something.
Realizing Jaka had not seen her yet, Tashi knew exactly where she would be heading when she left the stage. Causally of course, with her fist full of flyers providing a reason for an introduction. After repeating the rally date for the fourth time, she descended the stairs and could barely control her legs as they guided her. Causally still, Tashi floated toward the quiet radiance that called to her from that special willow tree. She felt compelled. Though she was not usually one to approach beautiful women she was not about to pass up this opportunity.
As she got closer, Tashi noticed that the subject of her interest was standing near Sean, a tennis instructor who had dated her ex’s ex a couple of months ago.
‘Leave it to Sean to always be around fineness,’ she thought to herself. ‘At least I can use that as an in…if need be.’ Voices from the crowd blended into the background as Tashi swallowed hard and prepared to spread her message of freedom.
“Here’s a flyer, hope you can come out next week,” she said to the statuesque, long-eyelashed, muscled figure seeking shade under the bushy, sloped branches. The figure turned, hinted a smile and accepted the flyer. Shaking her head while reading, Jaka explained that she would not be able to make it. “Sounds interesting. I actually have a show that evening.”
“Hey, that’s cool,” Tashi replied. “There will be more so I can keep you posted.”
“Okay,” Jaka sensed the come-on, but did not resist it. She was feeling more comfy now. Tashi, at a loss for words, yet wanting to keep the conversation going, said, “So, what show have you got going on?”
“A showcase at East Harbour High as part of an arts education project. I’m dancing with members of the company.”
“That’s awesome! So you’re a dancer dancer…like trained and everything. You know, I was wondering how you keep it so tight,” Tashi blurted.
“Really?” Jaka inquired playfully. “How do you know I’m tight?” Her smile was deeper this time. She was feeling oddly at ease with this person. At least enough to flirt. Just a little bit. It is not often that an attractive girl, gay girl walks right up to her and says, ‘Hi’.
“Um…I meant your muscles. The ones I can see…we can all see.” Tashi stammered trying to recover. “Great physique.”
Jaka looked up fully for the first time, directly into Tashi eyes. She said nothing. Filling the void, Tashi stated with all the cavalier confidence she could muster, “I’d like to see your beautiful self again. We should connect.” As she slipped her phone out of her back pocket and unlocked it, Jaka deliberately took it out of her hand. Her eyes did not leave Tashi’s face until she was ready to enter digits. When she was done, she handed the phone back. Eyes still on lock.
“You really taking me in, huh? It’s like you are looking at my soul with those eyes of yours, girl,” Jaka smiled. Again with no words. Tashi reluctantly broke the gaze to glance down at her phone. “Jaka, huh? Great name. It’s…”
“It’s homemade. Thanks. My pops is Chaka and, you guessed it, my mom was Jackie.”
Tashi smiled back, “Of course. Very nice to meet you. Mine is short for Natasha. Let’s link sometime soon.”
“I gave you the flyer, but that was kind of for me,” Tashi continued, laughing lightly. “You gave me your number…which is for both of us. Let me give you something that’s for you.”
And with that she took a set of plastic love beads from around her neck and placed them around Jaka’s. Jaka immediately fingered the beads and could not help but wonder about the excitement that awaited her.
Akhaji Zakiya is an award-winning writer who has been published in a number of anthologies, including “The Great Black North – Contemporary African Canadian Poetry” and “Does Your Mama Know? – An Anthology of Black Lesbian Coming Out Stories”. “Inside Her”, her first collection of writing, introduces readers to the steamy lives Jaka, Nina, Tashi, Sean and their friends.