Authors: Daaimah S. Poole
Also by Daaimah S. Poole:
What's His Is Mine
All I Want Is Everything
Somebody Else's Man
Ex-Girl to the Next Girl
Got A Man
Yo Yo Love
Kensington Publishing Corp.
To Allah for making this and all things possible, and giving me the ability to turn words into stories.
Thank you to my children Hamid and Ahsan Poole, my mother Robin Dandridge, father Auzzie Poole, and stepmother Pulcheria Ricks-Poole. My sisters Daaiyah, Najah, and Nadirah Goldstein.
Special thanks to all my family and friends. Keep spreading the word. Thanks to my Uncle Julius for always being supportive and telling people about your niece. Thanks to my two grandmothers Dolores Dandridge and Mary-Ellen Hickson.
My readers: Thank you for reading and purchasing my books. I appreciate your comments and e-mails. Book number six; OMG. Stay in touch! www.DSPbooks.com, myspace.com/DSPbooks, or e-mail me at [email protected]
Many thanks to my agents Karen E. Quinones Miller and Liza Dawson. Thanks to Tamika Wilson, Gina Dellior, Candice Dow, and Karen Thomas for all that you have done and will do.
Special thanks to Nati and Andy of African World Book Distributors, Zina McDowell, Camille Miller, and Aida Allen. Thanks to Rocawear staff Aleesha Smalls, Adaku Okpi, and Jameel Spencer.
Thanks to all of the Kensington Publishing staff, Audrey LeFehr, and Walter Zacharius.
yrone entered our bedroom happy and preparing for our weekly sex. Little did he know that was not going to happen. Our bedroom furniture was a hard oak set with mirrors attached to the back. The television set was on a stand with dozens of DVDs lined up against it. I just stared at them.
“You want to watch a movie?” he asked as he climbed into bed and took off the rest of his clothes. We had just come in from bowling and I was tired of him and his old-ass friends. I looked over at the fat roll on the back of his brown neck and shook my head. I knew tonight was the night I was going to tell him.
“No, Ty. I've been thinking a lot, and I'm just not happy with us anymore. I think you should move out.”
He didn't see it coming at all. He slid back out of the bed, stood up, and stared at me.
“You serious, huh?” he said as he turned to study my face some more.
“I want you to get your own place and you can get Kierra on the weekend.”
“You really leavin' me?”
I nodded my head yes. “I need to grow. I'm tired. This is not working anymore.”
“This is marriage. We supposed to work it out before we talk about wanting a divorce.”
“I don't want to talk about it. I thought about it. I've been thinking about it for years. I don't want to be married anymore. If you don't leave, I will take the kids and I'll leave,” I said as I grabbed a pillow and blanket off the bed and stood by the door. I was prepared to spend the night on the sofa. At that point, I didn't want to even share a bed with him. He couldn't believe what I was saying. I had caught him totally off guard. He put his pants and shirt back on, and took the blanket and pillow from me. He said he would sleep downstairs and he would start looking for a place immediately.
I'm thirty-two years young, and Tyrone, my husband, is forty-three years old. I met Tyrone in the market. My daughter Alexis was crying because I said she couldn't have a Snickers bar. I barely had enough money to pay for our food on the belt. Then, out of nowhere, Tyrone came up to me and paid my entire bill. It was like he was working for God or something really, because I was just praying to God, “Please help me. Please let me have enough,” and all of a sudden, Tyrone appeared.
I was struggling at the time. I had two babies under two before I graduated from high school. My mother went off when I had my first. She kicked me out when I had my second. She was ultrareligious and thought I let the devil take over my body by having sex out of wedlock. So I left home at seventeen and never looked back. I was doing okay at first. I worked a job at a day care, and my children's father helped me out. Then we broke up, and the next thing I knew, I had one foot in a shelter.
That day I was in the market using my electric money to pay for my groceries. After he paid my bill he gave me his number and said, if I ever needed anything, to call him. I called him when I got put out of my place, and he told me I could live with him.
I thought I would live there for only a month or two, but after six months he asked me to marry him and then moved us into a new house. He spoiled me so much I almost forgot about the eleven years that separated our ages. He stepped in as Jamil and Alexis's father, and they always called him “Dad.” We had one daughter together, Kierra, who was four.
And even with all that, I still wanted to leave him. I loved Tyrone, but I hated his age and the way I lived. I didn't have any friends my own age. I didn't even know the last time I just had some fun. I felt like I was missing out on life. He was a truck driver and always came home tired, sweaty, and dirty. He let his gray hair grow in on his sideburns, and that was a constant reminder to me that I was married to an old fucking man. Half of the time he was saying, “Hey, baby, remember this song or television show?”
And I'm thinking,
But it was more about him than his age. There are a lot of men in their forties who are well kept, clean, in shape, and attractive. Tyrone wasn't one of them. He complained about what hurt him, and I wasn't trying to hear that shit no more. When I saw men my age, I got excited. Their muscular bodies made my cooch do flips. The way I saw it, he was almost fifty and not trying to change and didn't have a chance of having a good life. I wanted a young man my age who still wanted to be a part of life, not somebody ready to check out.
I felt like I was wasting my life being with him, and I was tired of it. I knew I wasn't wrong for wanting fun and excitement. I wanted to go to a club and stay out all night long. I wanted to meet somebody and go out on a date. I wanted to have friends and go out for lunch. There was just so much I was missing. I was getting out of this marriage while I still looked like something. I was pushing thirty-three, and I still had eighteen-year-olds trying to talk to me. Ty didn't take advantage of me, but he did help me to miss out on a lot of things. Ty never beat me or cheated on me as far as I knew, but I was just tired. I just wanted out.
t was June, and it was only a quarter to nine and already hot outside. I had just parked my Dodge Stratus and began walking toward my job. I'd worked at the University of Alton Hospital for ten years. We were associated with ten other hospitals in our region. Alton was right in the middle of Center City in West Philadelphia. It was a small hospital that got a lot of traffic. This hospital treated everything from gunshot victims to people who were coming in for heart surgery. I was the billing coordinator and my department made sure insurance companies approved and paid for services the hospital provided. I was a supervisor but only supervised three people. The people in my department were all head cases. Miss Alberta was your nosy aunt who was in everyone's business, Jeremy was the playboy cousin who dated too much, and Reginald was your gay uncle who wasn't even trying to hide his lifestyle. And together, they were my work family who kept me entertained.
I saw Reginald lighting up a cigarette as I entered the building. He had on brown broken glasses with white tape holding the middle together, tan high-water pants, and a tan-and-black-checkered shirt.
“I thought you quit,” I said as I tried to take his pack of Newports from his hand.
“Tomorrow,” he gagged while trying to laugh at himself, knowing tomorrow wasn't ever coming.
I walked through the hospital and spoke to everyone I knew. I bumped into Jeremy. He was carrying a bunch of bags and coffee. I took one of the bags out of his hands.
“I brought you a raisin bagel with cream cheese. They didn't have any croissants. I forgot to get jelly. I'll be right back.”
“Thank you. Appreciated. You must have known I didn't have time to stop this morning,” I said as I took my breakfast from him.
Jeremy was only twenty-six and had new episodes about another stupid woman he was dating every Monday morning. He consulted me about his failed relationships, but never took my good advice. He had dated one in four women in the hospital and their friends. He wasn't even that attractive and didn't make a lot of money either. I just didn't get it.
I walked into our small office. There was just enough room for four cubicles. I approached my messy desk and said hello to Miss Alberta. I had pictures of my children from the beach, a clock radio blinking on twelve o'clock, and piles of paperwork from the week before on my desk. Through the clutter, I spotted a blue envelope.
“What's this for?” I asked Alberta as I opened the envelope.
“They giving Jen a baby shower,” Alberta said.
“Another baby shower? Why are we always taking up a collection for something? Baby showers, bridal showers, weddings, and funerals. I'm tired of this,” I said aloud as I scanned the invitation.
“So you want to get her a gift on your own, or you want to get her one big gift from all of us?” Alberta asked.
“I'm not getting her anything. She used to get smart with me. Please, she's married to a doctor, and now I am supposed to give a portion of my check over to a rich woman,” Reginald said as he entered the office smelling of cigarettes.
I couldn't do anything but laugh.
“You're right, Reginald, but she is still our friend, right?” Alberta asked.
Reginald gave Alberta a look like “speak for yourself.” I was on the borderline and couldn't comment. Jen was a freckle-faced redhead, kind of plump for a white girl, and not that cute, who got real lucky. I say she got lucky because she started in billing less than a year and a half ago, and within a week of working she met Dr. Schmidt. They were engaged in three months, and now she was married and pregnant. If you ask me, I think she had a plan from the very beginning. She came to work always dressed nice and never did any work. She probably only worked at the hospital so she could land herself a doctor husband.
“We will get one big gift. Everybody give twenty dollars, and I'll get a bunch of things from the clearance rack and The Children's Place,” I said.
“I'll let you know,” Reginald said as he pushed his broken glasses back on his nose.
Jeremy entered the office with more bags. He took off his black messenger bag and passed out breakfast. Our day had officially begun.
“What you do this weekend, Jeremy?” Miss Alberta asked.
“Argued with this chick's man. He called my phone on some you-know-my-girl stuff. And I'm sitting there like, âYo, man, check your girl, don't call my phone.' But he kept calling my phone back, so I told him everything he wanted to hear.”
“No, you didn't,” I said.
“Yes, I did. I told him his bed is comfortable and his girl made a real good pot of spaghetti. Like I wouldn't never check my woman's phone. Not even if her phone was right next to me. So she was in the background screaming, âDon't lie on me.' And I was laughing as I heard him slapping the mess out of her.”
“Did you know she had a boyfriend?” Reginald asked.
“I knew she had a man. She tried to tell me she didn't, but then she cut her phone off every night before nine. Her dude must have broke up with her. Because she been trying to call me back and I told you, you only get one time to turn me off and I'm through.”
“Just like that, you through? You just ruined this girl's relationship, and now you won't talk to her?” I asked.
“Yup, it is easy for me to cut a chick off. Plus, I have enough memories of her in my phone. I'm going to miss those lips,” he said as he opened his cell phone and looked at something I'm sure was not appropriate for the workplace.
“You are so wrong. He should have come to your house. You are insane. You'll meet your match eventually,” I said.
“We all will, and when I do, I'll be prepared.” Jeremy smiled.
The rest of the day was filled with Jeremy stories and a meeting with our regional manager, Patrick. He stopped in to my hospital every other week to make sure we were doing everything up to code and collecting the hospital money properly.
I came home from work expecting peace and quiet, but got three teenage boys playing Xbox on my sofa and floors. The boys said, “Hi, Miss Tanisha.”
I spoke back and walked toward my kitchen. I didn't mind my kids having company. I actually was happy when their friends came to our house. I never was able to have company or sleepovers because my mother was so strict and religious. Plus, if they were home, I knew they were safe.
I walked into the kitchen. I wanted to hurry up and get dinner started.
“Jamil, why are there dishes in my sink? I want to cook,” I said looking at the sink full of pots and cups.
“I was about to do them, Mom,” Jamil said as he ran into the kitchen.
Jamil was sixteen, dark brown, and six feet. His body looked like a man's, but I didn't think he was interested in girls yet. He was still addicted to his Xbox and hanging around his friends. He came out of his room to eat and go to school. I gave him condoms just in case he was thinking about having sex, because I knew how fresh little girls could be. Like my daughter Alexis; she was the one I had to worry about. She was seventeen and boy crazy, and too concerned with how she looked. She thought she was supposed to get her hair and nails done every two weeks, and I didn't. She was in the twelfth grade, and I was just trying to get her ready and interested in college.
Ty had been gone for about four months, and our divorce would be official soon. I sat my two oldest down when he moved out and told them I wasn't happy. They understood and weren't too upset about it. Ty assured them that he was still their father, and if they needed anything, they could still call him. So far, everyone had been adjusting well, except for Kierra. She really missed having her father around. I think she just missed her daily treats. He was forever bringing her Sour Patch Kids and M&M's after work. That's why she had a mouthful of cavities now.
I sat down at my white tile kitchen table and began opening my bills. The first one on the top was my Verizon cell bill. It was a bill for seven hundred dollars and three cents. What the hell? It had to be a mistake. I thought we all shared minutes. I looked at all the phone lines and none of the minutes was over. I couldn't understand why the bill was that much. I continued to scan the bill to see what could possibly make my bill so high. Then I spotted the reason and almost passed out.
“Alexis,” I screamed out.
She came down the steps in sky-blue running shorts and a pink tee.
“I'm right here. Why you screaming?” she asked, frowning and cradling her cell phone in her neck.
“You in the house. Get off the damn cell phone.” She shut her phone off and came down the steps.
“Mom, why you always trying to play somebody?”
“Alexis, why do I have a seven-hundred-dollar cell phone bill, and how the hell did you use six thousand text messages in one month?” I said, placing the bill in her hands. She looked at the bill, and said, “I don't know what they talking about. I didn't text six thousand times. It must have been a mistake.”
“This is not a mistake! It is your number right here. Listen, if you can't be responsible with your phone, then you don't need one. I can't afford these high-ass bills. You going to have to get a job,” I yelled.
“I've been looking all summer. I filled out applications everywhere.”
“Alexis, this is your last warning. By the time school is back, you better have a job.”
“All right, Mom. I heard you,” she said as she walked back up the steps.
While Jamil was finishing up the dishes, I went to pick up Kierra from day care. I usually left Kierra at summer camp until two minutes before the summer camp ended. Kierra was a piece of work. She was nothing like Alexis or Jamil. She required so much more attention and time. Or maybe I didn't remember them because I was so young. At almost five years old, this little girl just asked too many questions. She was really smart and had been reading since she was three and had an unbelievable memory. I'd be at the store, asking myself what was I supposed to get, and she would say, “You need to buy eggs to make a cake for Miss Alberta's birthday tomorrow.”
Kierra was already waiting by the door when I walked in. I signed her out, and the first thing she asked was, “Mommy, where my daddy at?”
“He still at his new house,” I said.
“Why he got a new house, Mommy?” she asked, looking up at me with her father's big eyes and fat cheeks. Her complexion was a blend of my mocha skin and her father's honey complexion. Kierra's hair was in a cluster of long braids decorated with barrettes at the tips.
“He needed to have his own space,” I said, grabbing her book bag and opening the car door for her.
“Why he need his own space, Mommy?” she asked as I fastened her in her booster chair.
“He just do, Kierra. I'm going to call him for you.”
I dialed his number and he picked up on the first ring. I passed her the telephone
“Daddy,” she screamed into the telephone.
I heard him say, “Hey, li'l mama. Daddy coming to see you tomorrow. Okay?”
She passed the phone to me.
“Yeah?” I answered.
“Is it okay if I come over tomorrow to see the kids?”
“I don't care.”
“Okay, I'll be there around six. How you doing? You okay?”
“Yeah, I'm fine. Here you go, Kierra,” I said as I gave the phone back to her. I wasn't trying to have a conversation with him.