Authors: Nikki Turner
The Glamorous Life
“Though hip-hop began in the music industry, Nikki Turner found a creative way to bring the rhythm to print—in fictional novels that give readers a close-up look at urban life.”
“Turner creates colorful yet emotionally driven characters that captivate. Despite the deceit, cruelty, hatred, and unspeakable wrongs, humanity maintains its presence in this glamorous life.”
“A gritty street tale of a young woman who has to decide which is more important—money or love.”
“One of the premier queens of urban literature presents her latest steamy page-turner!”
Also by Nikki Turner
TALES FROM DA HOOD
(editor, contributing author)
THE GLAMOROUS LIFE
A HUSTLER'S WIFE
A PROJECT CHICK
GIRLS FROM DA HOOD
SHORT STORIES ABOUT
This novel is dedicated to
All the lives and souls lost at the mercy of I-95,
everyone who has ever taken the chance to ride dirty on I-95
The men who put immeasurable time, effort, and devotion
into helping me become the lady I am today: Words can never
express the gratitude I feel for the knowledge and principles
you've given to me. Thank you for giving a girl everything she
could ever need to survive in this cold world.
You have been riding with me for over half of my life,
you've seen me at my best and loved me at my worst.
My three uncles
Sonny, Farrest, and Andre.
You are all so different,
but you all love me so!
My late grandfather
Milton L. Scott.
Thank you for being the father I never had.
You got to know when to hold 'em,
know when to fold 'em, Know when to walk away, know when to run.
—KENNY ROGERS, “THE GAMBLER”
t was the afternoon of my seventh birthday, and I ran around in our backyard, wearing a pretty white dress with my long braids tied with ribbons, while my momma took pictures of me and the other kids. Seemed like the whole neighborhood was there. I had a huge chocolate cake from the best bakery in town, a piñata, a table covered with pizzas, and not one but two clowns who were making crazy-looking things out of balloons. I'd stopped running to get a big cup of lemonade when I heard a tapping on the glass door and turned to see my daddy, crooking his finger at me from inside the house. I glanced around. All the other kids either were watching the clowns or playing tag, and Momma was yelling at my sister Zurri about something, so I slipped away and went to my daddy.
“Come here, sweet stuff,” he said to me. “It's yo' birthday, and I want to have a little heart-to-heart with my favorite girl.”
He sat down in his big leather recliner and patted his lap.
“I know I'm your favorite, Daddy,” I said, climbing into his lap. I put my head on his chest and listened to him as he hummed the gambler's anthem. My daddy had eight kids. If anybody thought I was just another ashy kid from the projects who wasn't going to amount to nothing, at least I knew I was better than seven other mothafuckas. At that moment I felt that if no one else in the world ever made me feel special again, sittin' up on my daddy's knee was enough to last me a lifetime.
Even though he had a boatload of children, three by my momma and the others by four different women. I was next to last and the baby girl, but Daddy always made me feel like I was his only child. No doubt about it, my daddy was a rolling stone, but unlike most men with kids living all over the place from those rolling years, there were no secrets as far as my father was concerned. I knew who my siblings were, and they knew me. We were one big family, playing together, partying together, and celebrating on the holidays together. My siblings were a big part of my life, and most of us were close. Daddy never dealt with the whole “baby momma” drama. He kept all his kids in check like an army colonel kept his soldiers, walking the straight and narrow. Every now and again, one would go sideways, but Daddy would snatch them right back into line.
Momma stuck her head in the door and frowned at me.
“How come you ain't out here at the party?” she asked.
“She'll be out in a minute,” Daddy said. Momma knew there was no use arguing, so she just stood by and waited.
Daddy reached down and pulled a small wrapped box from the floor by the chair.
“Happy birthday, Mercy,” he said with a big grin as I greedily ripped the wrapping off the box and opened it. Inside was a small red leather wallet. My very own wallet! I loved it.
“Look inside,” Daddy said.
I opened it up, and inside I counted seven ten-dollar bills.
“Thank you, Daddy! Thank you!” I screamed. Daddy just laughed. Then he tapped his cheek and motioned with his hand for me to give him a kiss on his jaw, and I happily did. I loved my daddy more than anything else in the world, including my momma, sisters, brothers, even my new Cabbage Patch doll. None had shit on the love I had for my father. My momma knew it, too.
Daddy looked in my eyes and said, “I don't care how big and grown-up you get, don't ever forget the pieces of wisdom I gave you. I want you to know that everything I ever said to you was all from the heart. You can take each and every one of our talks to the bank.” I smiled because this was my daddy and he wasn't like some of my other friends' deadbeat fathers. He never lied to me, ever, not about Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, or even the Easter Bunny. There was none of that when it came to me. He kept it real to the fullest degree. Always knowing what the truth looked like coming out of my daddy's mouth would eventually enable me to be able to recognize the BS that came out of every other nigga's mouth.
“Mercy, I need you to promise me that you will never forget anything I've told you. And I want you to always remember, don't let nothing stand in your way. Nothing.” He looked into my big brown eyes. “You hear me?”
I nodded, “Okay, Daddy, I promise.”
My mother looked on with her arms folded as he hugged and kissed me.
“Now, Daddy got to go and deal with what the world has in store for him,” he said as he motioned for me to hop down off his lap. I jumped down.
Daddy stood up. He was dressed to the nines in a silk shirt and
tailored suit. And he smelled sweet like money. He gave my mother a hug and went out the door. I ran over to the window to watch my gambling father disappear into the mean streets of Richmond, Virginia.
And that was the last time I ever saw him alive.
See, Nathaniel Jiles, my father, was a stone-cold gambler in every aspect of the word. He bet on everything from darts to car races to sports, dice, card games, and horses. He would place a bet on two cockroaches running across the floor. Hell, my daddy even bet people what their next move would be; sometimes he won and sometimes he lost. My mother once told me that when she was pregnant with me he tried to bet her fifty to one that I would be a girl.
Daddy was respected from coast to coast. People trusted him because his word was his bond. If he said it, then it might as well have been written in stone. If he said a rooster could pull a train, best believe niggas lined up around the corner to buy tickets to see that train move. He was a real stand-up guy, but you and I both know that sometimes the thoroughest of the most thorough can be caught slipping. And that's just what happened to Daddy. Just like any other gambler, he was only one shot away from the big one—so he always thought. Ultimately he gambled his own life away. See, when he won he won big, and when he lost he lost big-time.
Even though he was a gambler, family meant everything to my father. My seven sisters and brothers and I were always his priority. He made sure we had the most fashionable clothes, from our leather coats and boomers to every single pair of Air Jordans that ever came out. We always had new toys, the fastest bicycles, and the latest technology. My brothers were the first on our block to get new video games, and I had my own boom box with all my
favorite cassettes. But what looked to be his strength turned out to be a fatal weakness.
That day I sat on my daddy's lap—the last day of his life—was May 5, 1985. Yes, I'm a Taurus, and I am indeed a Taurus in every respect. I'm stubborn, and once my mind is made up, then it's set. My daddy was a Taurus, too, and I think that's one of the reasons we got along so well. Tauruses usually connect well with one another. He was mule-stubborn, and when his mind was set to do something, he did it.
I don't know what was the big deal about turning seven. It had some kind of significance for him. The night before my birthday, he took me and seven of my little girlfriends out for a dinner cruise on the
, the party boat that cruised the James River. Then they all stayed for a sleepover and the big party the next day. It was the best birthday I had in all my years.
But my birthday caused the ghetto assassination of my father, and I will never forget that day as long as I live.
That night after all the guests were gone and we kids were all in bed, I heard a knock at the door:
The noise startled me. I heard Momma shuffling from her room toward the door. The knocking grew louder and louder, until it was a banging sound.
For a minute I thought it was the police until I heard a familiar voice calling my mother's name. “Pearl, open up. Hurry up, Pearl!” I heard my uncle Roland scream over the banging. My brother and sister were fast asleep. I was always the last to fall asleep because I tried to wait up for Daddy to come home from the crap house, and this night wasn't any different. I was wide awake. And I was afraid because I knew the commotion somehow concerned my father. My gut told me so.
At first I had thought my uncle Roland was coming to tell my
momma he needed some money to bail my daddy out of jail, but then I thought again. I don't know if it was because of how close I was to my father, like the close connection they say some twins have or something, or if it was that Uncle Roland almost never moved fast. He was always so mellow and cool, like a spring breeze. When he beat on the door like that, I knew in my heart something was damn sure wrong. Something was more than wrong. I knew my daddy wasn't coming home.
I got out of my bed and stood at the entrance of my room as my momma took the top lock, dead bolt, bottom locks, and the chain off the front door to let Uncle Roland in. Out of breath and almost hysterical, he delivered the news.
“Nate is dead! He dead, Pearl! He dead!”
Momma started sobbing. “No, nooo! Nooo!” she screamed.
Tears couldn't even come out of my eyes, because in my heart my life was over. I wanted to die, too. My father was the only thing that mattered to me. I listened to my mother and shared with my siblings because
told me that's what I was supposed to do. I had manners because
told me every lady does. I made good grades because
said I should.
My mother looked up and noticed me standing in the doorway. “Mercy, go back to
o' room,” she said through sobs, but I couldn't. I couldn't budge. I couldn't move. My feet were in cement blocks. Then my mother came over and put her arms around me, and my uncle embraced us both. After about an hour of crying, my mother had calmed down a little bit. “Go back into your room now, Mercy. Momma will be in there in a little while. I need to talk to Uncle Roland.”
I went into my room, but I listened through the cracked-open door as Uncle Roland talked to Momma. Uncle Roland hadn't smoked in years, but I heard a match strike and smelled cigar smoke creeping into my room. He normally walked around with
a chewed-up cigar hanging out of his mouth. That same old cigar could last him almost a week. But on this evening, he lit it.
“I told dat Nate don't be fucking with that nigga Cat. I told him,” my uncle said.
“What you talking about, Roland?” my mother asked between sniffs.
“I told Nate never to fuck with that nigga from the beginning. I told him to just pay him. He wasn't hearing it, though. He said he had a tip on the Sunday-night game and would have Cat's money by Monday.” He took a pull from his cigar and let the ashes fall on the floor. “Instead of him paying Cat, he went and used the money for Mercy's birthday party.”
I felt as if I had been stabbed in the heart. I wanted to throw up. I had been the reason for my father's death. It was all my fault.
“I had no idea that he owed Cat,” my mother said, putting her hand over her mouth. “I never imagined that Nate would put himself in a position to be in debt to that man. I heard through the grapevine that those dudes are ruthless. Damn, I wish he would have listened to you, Roland.”
“I understood where he was coming from, Pearl. But he slept on Cat and them. He was on niggas' tickets from all over the country.” Uncle Roland shook his head. “I mean, niggas from here all the way out to California let him owe them tens of thousands of dollars, so what was fifteen hundred for a local nigga?”
“Everybody in the city knew where to find him if they needed to. They didn't have to kill him,” Momma added as the reality of it all began to set in. “I mean, Nate had just left here to go and pay his debts and Cat killed him anyway?”
“Cat wants every nigga to be scared of him, but he knew Nate wasn't scared. Nate wasn't scared of no one, 'specially no local thug like Cat,” Uncle Roland said.
Momma put her head down and began to weep. I wondered
who this Cat was, and why he had to go and destroy not just my daddy but me and my whole family.
“Come on, Pearl,” Uncle Roland said to her. “You gotta pull it together for
t rained for two days as Momma and Uncle Roland planned my daddy's funeral. It stopped raining on the day of the funeral, but the air was misty, and a thick fog settled over the hood. Still, the people turned out to pay their respects. The church was laid out with flowers and wreaths everywhere. Each pew was jam-packed with people, some from the hood and others I had never seen before. Later I found out they were Daddy's gambling friends, who came from all over the country to pay their respects. They were all suited and booted. There were so many gators at the funeral it could have been an alligator farm. The women were sharp as cheddar cheese, and my momma was the fiercest of them all. She looked like the black Jackie Onassis, wearing a little black hat with a veil, a tailored black dress, and sling-back pumps.