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December 19, 1995

"Dear Lord! What did you two do to each other this time?" said Charlene, placing a cloth on Othello's nose to stop the bleeding. "Oh my God. Janet is going to kill us," she worried. "I got both tubs filled with hot water. Hurry up and go get cleaned up, and I'll see what I got for those wounds."

"Yes, Ma," they responded with their heads down.

Asia stood looking at both of them with her arms crossed and a hand over her mouth in shock.

"Asia . . . I apologize that this went this far. I thought this was going to be quick, and I didn't think it was going to get this serious," said Kojo as Othello ran upstairs to Charlene's master bathroom, holding his ribs.

"Are you ok?" she asked, looking at his swollen and bleeding face.

"I'll be fine," he smiled weakly. "Shorty, don't be upset wit me. Listen, come to my room and I'll explain. I won't be long in the tub."

"Asia, dear, will you help me get these medical supplies together, before O's mother gets here?" Charlene interjected.

"Yes, ma'am," she answered, cutting her eyes to him as she followed his mother into the kitchen.

Kojo solemnly went to his private bath. He knew he had made a big mistake—that it was too soon in their relationship for her to have witnessed that fight. He was also concerned about Othello, praying he was not too hurt to play Saturday. He felt that it was his fault for allowing Othello to push him into this. His eye was starting to swell shut and his head was beating like a bass drum. A few good minutes in the Jacuzzi and a couple of Tylenols would do wonders.

Othello knew the pain he was feeling was nothing compared to what he was going to experience when his mother arrived. The swelling of his lip would go down soon enough, but there was no getting around his broken nose and the pain in his ribs. To top it off, he still did not beat Kojo, after almost eleven years of sparring and training together. Not one victory. Failure had never been a word associated with him, but this was a hurdle he had never been able to jump successfully.

Charlene pulled a medical bag from the cabinets under the sink. She'd put it together several years ago when it became apparent that, at any given moment, her retarded son could come home needing medical attention.

"Baby, don't be so hard on him. He' s a good boy—excuse me—good man," Charlene corrected herself, smiling at Asia. "They grow up so fast. He really likes you. Trust me, I know. I've never met any of his female friends except in passing," she said. "And I can tell you this, he never apologizes or explains anything to anyone, like he just did for you," handing her some peroxide. "Honey, there is no such thing as a perfect man, but outside of this, Kojo and Othello are about as good as it gets. Especially for young Black men," she continued, putting together ice packs and Band-Aids.

"Ms. Hammond, I really like your son and want to get to know him better, but don't you think this is a little crazy? I mean, I couldn't imagine seeing him like this again."

Charlene hesitated, considering. "Do you watch boxing?"

"Yes. I love boxing."

"So are you telling me you wouldn't date Roy Jones Jr.'s fine ass?" They both laughed at the question, breaking the tension.

"You've got a point, but boxing is nowhere near as brutal as what I just witnessed," Asia said, shaking her head.

"That was not normal. I don't know what they had going on, but I don't want to see it again either. Don't trip. Cut him some slack . . . But don't be no punk," she emphasized, surprising Asia. "Tell him how you feel," she nodded, "and you'll be ok."

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