Authors: Mary Monroe
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Married Women, #African American Women, #Triangles (Interpersonal Relations), #Love Stories, #Adultery, #African American, #Domestic Fiction, #Contemporary Women
God Ain't Through Yet
God Ain't Blind
The Company We Keep
She Had It Coming
In Sheep's Clothing
Red Light Wives
God Don't Play
God Still Don't Like Ugly
Gonna Lay Down my Burdens
The Upper Room
God Don't Like Ugly
(with Victor McGlothin)
Published by Dafina Books
My acknowledgments would be as long as this book if I thanked each person individually for my success. And even then I am sure I'd overlook somebody. The last time everybody except my ex-husband wanted to know why I didn't thank them for something. My mechanic pouted for days.
So to make everybody happy this time (I hope) I'd like to thank all of the following for helping me make it to the
New York Times
bestseller list: My relatives, friends, former co-workers, ex-boyfriends, former bosses, former teachers, neighbors, my dry cleaner, my paperboy, my cellmate during my “visit” to juvenile hall a gazzillion years ago, my former classmates, my eye doctor, my gynecologist, my bartender, my mailman, my pharmacist, the waitresses at Nellie's Soul Food restaurant in Oakland, my writer/sister Debra Phillips, and especially my mechanic.
To Andrew Stuart: You are a super literary agent! Without you I'd probably still be collecting rejection slips.
To Karen Thomas: Thank you for editing my previous books so well. You turned my ugly ducklings into swans.
To EVERYONE at Kensington Books: You all continue to make me feel special and appreciated. In some ways you feel more like family to me than my real family. (I know that a lot of my relatives are going to chastise me for saying this, but it is true.)
To L. Peggy Hicks at Tri-Com and all the wonderful folks who work with you: Thank you for arranging my fun-filled book tours, interviews and public appearances. I hope I don't sound greedy, but a few days in Hawaii on the next tour would be nice (hint, hint â¦).
To the book clubs and bookstores: Your support is sincerely appreciated. On last year's tour my flight from Houston to Dallas was several hours late, making me miss my reading/signing at Black Images Book Bazaarâor so I thought. When my driver took me to the bookstore anyway to sign stock, I was surprised and pleased beyond belief to see that the audience had waited all that time for me anyway. Support like that is priceless.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention some of my local bookstore supporters. Blanche Richardson at MarcusBooks in Oakland is one of the most important people in the business, and if you are lucky enough to have her in your corner, you are truly blessed! Jerry Thompson at Cody's Books in Berkeley is and has always been a very special person in my life. Bernard Henderson at Alexander Books in San Francisco is such a rich and colorful character, I'd like to be the one to write his biography.
Please visit my Web site at
and sign my guestbook and/or send me a personal e-mail at
Peace and blessings,
crude tattoo on his right bicep told the world that his name was Wade. I recognized prison artwork when I saw it, but he didn't look like a thug. At least not like any of the ones I knew. There were no grills of tacky-looking gold teeth decorating his mouth like stale corn. There was no thick gold chain wrapped around his neck like a noose. With his neatly trimmed jet-black hair; smoky gray eyes; sharp, handsome features; and a thin T-shirt and tight jeans hugging his well-developed body, he looked like a low-income Lenny Kravitz.
Between sips from a can of Coors Light, he puffed on a thick blunt. A strong haze swirled around his head like a halo. It was some pretty good shit, too. I welcomed the immediate buzz I got from inhaling the secondhand smoke. I hadn't smelled weed this strong and sweet since I was a teenager, more than ten years ago. But within seconds that halo around his head turned into a dark cloud and was moving in my direction.
I swallowed a huge lump that was threatening to block my throat. Then I held my breath as he dialed the number to the video store that my husband owned and managed.
“Hello â¦ Yes!” Wade said in a loud and gruff voice as soon as he got a response on the other end. It sounded like he had a huge lump in his throat, too. He coughed and cleared his throat, altering his voice this time. “I need to speak to Jesse Ray Thurman.” He talked with the blunt dangling from the corner of his lips. “Put him on the phone. Put him on the phone right now,” he ordered, a grimace on his face. “Dude, I ain't playing!” He even sounded like Lenny Kravitz.
The telephone, sitting in the lap of a wobbly bamboo chair, was so cheap looking, it resembled a child's toy. The Wal-Mart bag that he had removed it from lay on the floor, with the sales receipt peeking out like a white tongue. But the cheap telephone had a speaker feature, so I could hear my husband's response on the other end of the line from where I stood, a few feet away from Wade.
“You've reached Video-Drama located on Alcatraz near downtown Berkeley,” my husband answered, sounding as cheerful and phony as a used-car salesman. “Please hold.”
Wade's mouth dropped open so wide, the blunt fell to the floor, scorching the faded carpet. He immediately ground it out by stomping on it with the heels of his run-over, well-worn shoes, which he had probably picked up from Payless or Goodwill. It must have been hell for such a handsome man to be so broke in this day and age. I wondered where he'd gotten the money to buy the weed.
“This motherfucker put me on hold!” he hollered, looking at me with an incredulous look on his face. “What kind of dumb-ass motherfucker are you married to?” he yelled, shaking the beer can at me like it was a weapon.
“He doesn't know I've been kidnapped,” I whimpered. My eyes were itching, and the insides of my nostrils felt like they were on fire. I held my breath again. I could barely feel my lips when I spoke again. “Give him time â¦. He'll be with you in a minute. Please give him time.”
“Fuck this shit! You better be right! I ain't got all day! They got another line I can call at that damn place?”
“They â¦ they have two lines, but â¦ but if you call the other one, you'll just get put on hold again,” I managed, my words rolling out of my mouth like rocks. “Please give him time,” I begged. The inside of my mouth was so dry, it felt like my tongue had stuck to the roof.
I closed my eyes and prayed that the man who was about to demand a half-millionâdollar ransom for my release was not going to run out of patience. I knew from experience that a caller to my husband's business could be put on hold for one minute or much longer and left listening to an instrumental version of “Strangers in the Night.” That was why when I needed to call him up at work, I usually called him on his cellular phone.
“This is Video-Drama,” my husband said after what seemed like an eternity. “We are locatedâ”
“Shut the fuck up!” Wade roared, cutting my husband off in mid-sentence.
“Excuse me?” Jesse Ray said, still sounding cheerful and phony.
“I need to speak to Jesse Ray Thurman. Right now!” Wade glared at me with such an extreme sneer, it looked like his face had been turned inside out. He looked raw and more menacing than ever. Now he did look like some of the thugs I knew.
There was a pause before Jesse Ray responded. A pause that was long enough to make my blood pressure feel like it was about to go through the roof.
“Speaking. How can I help you today?” Jesse Ray continued, almost singing his words. “We are here to fill all of your video needs. We've got everything from the earliest to the latest Hollywood hits toâ”
“I said shut the fuck up! I got a gun, and I know how to use it!”
My husband let out a gasp that was so loud, it made me jump. “What did you say?”
“You long-eared motherfucker, I know you ain't deaf. I know damn well you heard what I just said. But in case you didn't, I will say it again. I got a gun, and I know how to use it!” I hadn't seen a gun yet, and I hoped I wouldn't.
The hollow silence that followed for a few moments was almost unbearable. It seemed like every sound in the world had come to an end. My body had begun to let me down. It felt like spiders were crawling over every inch of my flesh.
Then there was a muffled hiss. Jesse Ray cleared his throat before he responded. “Who in the world is this?” His voice was almost as hollow as the silence I'd just endured.
Wade leaned his head to the side and sucked in a deep, loud breath. Then he spoke like he was reading a script. “Listen and listen good, motherfucker. Don't you say another goddamn word until I finish. Now, this is the score.
We got your wife!”
He paused, winked at me, and then lowered his voice. “I just wish she wasn't so damn pretty. It's hard to keep my eyes off a woman with such a nice, juicy petite body, such big brown eyes, cinnamon brown skin, and a head full of thick black hair falling across her shoulders. She looks like a film star.” He sighed and moaned, sounding like the same obscene caller who had called me up one night a few years ago.
I didn't think that I was “so damn pretty,” but I was attractive. The rest of his description was quite accurate. This situation was more about my husband's money than my looks, but it didn't matter. I was still nervous and frightened about how it was going to turn out.
Wade increased the volume on the speaker. Now I could even hear Jesse Ray breathing on the other end of the line. My husband was a healthy man, but by the way he was wheezing, coughing, and clearing his throat now, you would have thought that he was struggling to stay alive. And I guess in a way that was probably true. He worshipped the ground I walked on and had once told me that if I died before him, he didn't know how he'd be able to go on living.
There was another pause before Jesse Ray responded again. “You need to tell me who this is, and you need to tell me now,” he said in an impatient and amused tone of voice.
“You'll find out soon enough. Like I just said, we got your wife. And what a fine piece of tail she is! If you want her back with her pussy in one piece, you'll do everything I tell you to do. Now, first thing is, you don't call no cops, and you don't tell nobody else about this. If you do, I'll know about it, and you can forget about ever seeing this sweet little woman of yours again. Any questions?”
Jesse Ray let out an impatient sigh. Then he laughed.
. He cackled long and loud, like a hyena. My mouth dropped open, and I stared at the telephone. My life was at stake, and my husband was laughing!
“Man, what the fuck is wrong with you? Didn't you hear what I just said?”
“I heard you,” Jesse Ray said, still laughing.
“You think I'm playing? You think this is funny?”
“Hell, yeah, this is funny,” Jesse Ray said, mumbling profanities under his breath. “But I got work to do, so you have to call me back at a better time.”
I sat there in slack-jawed amazement. I could not believe what I had just heard.
“Harvey, I know this is you. I've heard you use that same voice when you do your lame-ass impressions. I must say, you are beginning to sound more and more like the Godfather, so keep practicing,” my husband said in a stern voice. “But don't practice on me. I'm a busy man.”
“Shit! Look, I am not playing with you! Damn you to hell!”
The room got so quiet, I could hear the water dripping in the sink in the bathroom across the hall.
“Are you still there, motherfucker?” Wade shouted, kicking over a chair.
“Yes, I'm still here.”
“I told you, I wasn't playing with you! Do you understand what I'm saying?”
“And I am not playing with you, either, Harvey. You are my only brother and I love you, but you are one sick-ass puppy, and you need some serious help! I begged you for years to get some therapy, and you didn't. Now look at what you are up to. Now let me get off this phone so I can get back to work.”
Wade and I looked at each other at the same time. My mouth was hanging open wider than his. My husband had just hung up.