The blow to Sam's temple knocked him to the floor. Tameka kicked him hard in the stomach.
"I hate you!" she screamed.
"Why?" Sam muttered as he writhed in pain on the floor.
"I want a real man!"
"What?" Sam breathed as he gasped for air.
"Everything I say, you do! You never argue with me! You're such a wimp!" Tameka spat on Sam and finally stomped out of the apartment.
He was tired of this. So damn tired. He couldn't take this anymore. She beat him and there was nothing he could do. What man was going to go to the police as the victim of domestic violence from his girlfriend?
Sam constantly battled himself. He had overcome many obstacles to become a member of the faculty at the community college. At times, Sam felt like two people were living inside him. One was the brilliant professor; the other was the scared, helpless man who was too insecure and ashamed to defend himself in relationships.
Sam crawled to his feet and sat on the black leather sofa. Hot tears rolled down his cheeks. He was confused. Wasn't a good man supposed to give his partner everything she wanted? Women always complained about wanting a good man. But when they had one, they cheated on him, abused him and called him a wimp.
Sam wanted to leave, but he honestly feared what Tameka would do. This was not the first time she had put her hands on him. He had already been to the emergency room twice in the last six months. To add insult to injury, it was no secret that she regularly had one-night stands during the course of their relationship.
Exercise was Sam's tool for channeling his energy and anxiety. It was his time for himself. On his run, he usually saw the same people because of his routine of running after class and office hours. But the incident with Tameka sparked Sam to run earlier than usual. Around the second mile, a beautiful woman snatched his attention. She was much shorter than Sam, had curly black hair, mahogany skin and emerald green eyes. Her slim, muscular figure drew Sam to her. He knew she was out of his league, but he couldn't stop himself.
"Well hello yourself." Her full lips parted to show two rows of perfect teeth. Her smile encouraged him to continue talking.
"Sam I am," she replied.
"Dr. Seuss would be proud." They both laughed. Her name was Janet. She taught at the local elementary school. The pair talked and ran three miles together. They returned to the spot where they had met.
"Thank you for running with me, Sam."
"When can I see you again?"
"Don't you have a girlfriend?" Sam remembered Tameka and the euphoria he felt with Janet suddenly evaporated.
"Yes. But that doesn't mean I can't have female friends."
"Sam, if it's meant to be, it will happen."
Janet jogged away. Sam ran back in the direction of his apartment. He decided to run an extra mile and headed toward the new housing development. Suddenly he froze. He saw Tameka passionately kissing a man who looked like an offensive lineman for the New York Giants. The lineman's hands tightly gripped her behind.
Oh, you are kidding me. I can't believe this! God forgive me because I'm going to jail!
"What's up, Tameka?"
Tameka turned around to see Sam, whose brown eyes blazed with anger.
"Sam, go home before I have to hurt you again," Tameka said nonchalantly.
"I don't think so. Who is this?" Sam said as he glared openly at Tameka's "friend.".
"I told you I wanted a real man. Now you can see what I'm talking about. This is Lester." Lester stood head and shoulders over Sam and was almost as wide as the front end of the black SUV they were leaning against.
"Your stuff will be in front of the apartment tomorrow. Come get it before someone else does."
"You're breaking up with me? I don't think so!"
"Tell caveman over there to take care of you."
"Who are you calling caveman?," Lester shouted.
"Lester, don't get mad. He's just mad because I whooped his tail before I came to see you," Tameka interjected.
"That won't happen again. I promise you that," Sam stated.
Lester and Sam were now face to face like two boxers at a weigh-in. Sam thought:I am faster, but he's stronger. I can take out his knees and hit him with a couple of shots to the temple. Then, I will knock Tameka out.
Janet jogged around the corner. Within seconds, she assessed the situation and ran over to Sam.
"Sam! You OK? "
Without looking in Janet's direction, Sam said through clenched teeth, "Everything's fine."
"Is this your replacement for me?" asked Tameka.
"None of your damn business!" Sam snapped back.
"Sam, I think you should walk away."
"NO! I am tired of letting things slide and taking abuse. I think it's time for a change." Sam's fists were balled so tight his knuckles appeared white.
Janet firmly gripped Sam's shoulder and he finally looked into her eyes. The concern he saw moved him. He walked away.
Can you believe this? The nerve of that woman! I don't deserve this. Or maybe I do because I allowed it to happen. No more. No more.
Sam reflected on the events of the day after he came home. Tameka had fueled his insecurities and stomped, literally and metaphorically, all over him. Janet was beautiful and he felt a connection to her that he had never felt with anyone.
The next morning, he neatly packed all of Tameka's belongings in cardboard boxes and placed them outside the door. He had the locks changed so she could no longer get in. Sam filed a restraining order against Tameka and Lester. His heart was filled with pride. For the first time in his life, he had stood up for himself and, terminated toxic relationship. He believed he deserved better. He then left for another early run, hoping he might see Janet again.
That night, Sam decided to go to dinner and a movie by himself. The lasagna, garlic bread and cheesecake were delicious. He went to the theater in search of a comedy to lighten his mood. As he studied the posters, a gentle voice addressed him.
"How are you, Sam?"
When Sam turned around, the green eyes and perfect smile mesmerized him.
"Janet! How have you been?"
"I should be asking you that. Are you related to Mike Tyson?"
They both laughed. Sam apologized for the previous day. He noticed that Janet was by herself. He was scared, but he invited her to watch a movie with him anyway.
"What about Tameka?"
"What about her?"
"I know she has moved on, but have you?"
"Janet, it's been hard. But I'm going to be fine. The last two days, really two years, have forced me to deal with my issues. I'm already feeling stronger. I want you to be part of my life and I want to love you. But unlike in the past, I want to love you without destroying myself." Sam was shocked that he had revealed all this to a woman he barely knew.
Janet smiled seductively.
"Well, as friends, we can watch a movie together." After a short discussion, they settled on a Tyler Perry Movie. Sam loved how Mr. Perry developed characters and found humor in serious situations. The friends enjoyed themselves thoroughly.
"That was great. Thanks for joining me," Sam gushed.
"The pleasure was all mine."
"We should do this again."
"Randomly meet at the movie theater?" Again, they shared a genuine laugh. They talked a little while longer and exchanged contact information. As Janet passed Sam her business card, she stood on her tiptoes and gently kissed him on his cheek. While Sam stood speechless, she smiled, walked to her Red Toyota Corolla and left the parking lot.
The following day, Sam walked taller and smiled more than he had in years. When he got to his office, he checked his e-mail. It was an invitation to go running and then watch a movie.