Authors: Tiffany L. Warren
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2005 by Tiffany Warren
All rights reserved.
Published by Warner Books with Walk Worthy Press(TM)
Hachette Book Group
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First eBook Edition: June 2005
AS SOON AS I SEE THE DISTORTED FIGURE LYING ON THE HOSPITAL BED, TEARS START POURING OUT OF MY EYES.
vonne’s face is swollen so badly that she’s unrecognizable. There are tubes coming out of her nose, and bags holding what looks like blood hover over her bed . . .
Yvonne slowly turns her head in our direction. I think she’s trying to smile but it looks more like a grimace. I wish she would stop . . .
Pam goes over to the bed and holds her hand. Not really knowing what else to do, I follow suit.
Pam’s voice is shaking as she prays. “Lord, we ask You to come into this hospital room right now. Send a healing here for Yvonne. Strengthen our sister. Send Your angels to watch over her day and night. Touch her mind and touch her spirit. Give her peace of mind, Lord. We ask that You bless and keep her. In Your precious and holy name. Amen.”
Deep down, I get the feeling I’m responsible for all this. I’m not the first woman Luke cheated with, but somehow our indiscretion seemed a catalyst for the breakdown of their marriage. How can Yvonne not view me that way?
I would like to dedicate this book to the loving memory of my father in the gospel, District Elder Donnell L. Lipford:
You are greatly missed.
First and foremost, I would like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for blessing me with this opportunity to fulfill my dreams. To my husband, Brent, thank you for your love, leadership and prayers. To Briana, Brittany, Brynn, Brent II and Brooke—thank you for inspiring me and for making me laugh when I want to cry. I want to thank my parents, Libby and Kenneth, for birthing me into this world, and my grandparents Leonzie and Catherine for raising me. To my siblings, Kenny, Tara and Freddie—you have given me a lifetime of things to write about! My prayers are always with you. I would also like to thank the Leonard family for their love and support.
To my publisher, Denise Stinson: Thank you for seeing a diamond in the rough and for your patience and guidance. To my editor, Monica Harris: You brought out the best in my novel and in my writing. To my middle-school English teacher, Mr. Charles Thurman: You inspired me to become a writer! Your passion for the written word was refreshing. (I still remember at least half of “Annabelle Lee”!)
To my pastor Bishop C. Wayne Brantley, First Lady Brantley, Lady Linda Lipford and to all of the family at Zion Pentecostal Church, I love you! I need you to survive. Afrika—the best is yet to come! To Shawana, Tiffany, Robin and Myesha—thank you for being my sista friends and for giving it to me straight!
I love you all, and I hope you enjoy my book!
t’s a shame that I don’t even want to go into my own home. I really don’t, but I can’t sit in the car all night, because I know that my children are probably starving. And I know my home is no doubt in shambles. Plus, on top of everything else, I have to use the bathroom. Most of the time, before I enter my home, I just sit in my driveway like this, for a good half hour, listening to Lauryn, Jill, Erykah or Angie. It’s the only quiet time I get all day.
Compared to my homelife, my job is actually a walk in the park. I work in lovely corporate America. Yes, that’s right. I’m a professional black woman. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? The only thing is, it’s not really all that it’s cracked up to be. I know that I’m blessed to have gainful employment, but corporate America is definitely overrated.
I tell people that I have a job and not a career, because shouldn’t a career be something that you love? I don’t love what I do. I don’t even like it. I keep telling myself that it’s a means to an end, although I’m not exactly sure what the end is. I used to know. At any rate, it keeps my babies’ bellies full (and their father’s too), a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs.
When people ask me what my husband does, I really don’t know how to answer. I say that he’s a record producer/talent scout/songwriter, because that’s what he says he does. But, in the truest sense of the expression, he is a starving artist.
Troy was a musician when I met him. It was one of the things that attracted me to him. I loved his mixture of creativity, rebellion and ambition. Back then it was sexy, but after two kids, two repossessed cars and a Chapter 7 bankruptcy the thrill is gone.
As soon as I open my car door, I hear the loud music coming out of the house. I look to my neighbor’s house. As cold as it is, Miss Betty, our elderly next-door neighbor, is sitting on her porch. Her arms are folded tightly against her ratty-looking wool coat. I can barely see her face peeking over the fur trim, but I don’t need to see her to know that her lips are pursed and her eyes are narrowed to little slits. She’s probably just waiting for someone to give her a reason to dial 911 as Troy has caused her to do on numerous occasions.
“Hi, Miss Betty. How are you doing?”
“I’d be doing a whole lot better if I could have some peace and quiet.”
“I know, Miss Betty. I’ll tell them to turn the music down.”
I place my key in the lock, but I don’t turn it. No one knows I’m here yet, and if I want to, I can still escape. I can sneak off to the library or just walk around Ann Taylor trying on the things that I would buy if I had some extra money.
I guess I take too long deciding, because my daughters are looking at me through the living room window. They are waving and laughing. I can’t help but smile, and I wave back. Cicely is only six years old, but her face, the spitting image of her father’s, is starting to mature. Cicely’s cocoa skin and huge inquisitive eyes are almost the exact opposite of Gretchen’s, her younger sister. Gretchen has my honey coloring and my head full of auburn curls. When she laughs, her eyes just about disappear. I’m not trying to boast, but my children are positively beautiful. They’re the one thing that Troy and I have gotten right. Finally, my husband, wearing an asinine grin, swings the door open.
“Hey, everybody!” he says. “The queen is home.”
Queen? Now, that’s enough to make me laugh, and I’m not talking about a chuckle. I’m talking about a sidesplitting, belly-grabbing, knee-slapping guffaw. How many queens do you know of that are responsible for cooking, cleaning, washing and basically waiting on everybody in the household hand and foot?
There are a grand total of seven people lounging in what should be my living room. Troy has transformed it into a recording studio. Resting atop my peach sofa is a gigantic speaker with a tangled mess of cords hanging from its rear. In the center of the room is a makeshift booth that Troy has crafted from fiberglass and foam rubber. Off in the corner there are four keyboards, a drum machine and a personal computer. It looks like a disaster area, but Troy expects to become the next Berry Gordy.
Troy is working on some sort of hip-hop street compilation to showcase all of his so-called artists. It seems like he’s been doing this forever, although it’s only been more like five months. Before that, he was investing all of his time and all of our money into creating demo tapes for major recording studios. He got discouraged when he didn’t get any responses, so he’s decided to become an independent label. I wonder how long this new venture will last.
I recognize most of the young people crowded into the room, although I must admit, after a while they all start to look similar. There is a young man named Dark Shadow, and that’s exactly what he looks like. Then there is the rap trio, Blades. They consist of two boys and a girl, and they’re still in high school. I asked them once why they picked the name Blades for their group; they told me it was because their rhymes were sharper than knives. I’m sorry, I don’t get it. It just sounds too violent to me. Ethan is tapping on one of the keyboards. He’s supposed to be Troy’s production assistant. Truthfully, Troy just likes the poor boy. Even I can tell that he has absolutely no talent, and less than stellar looks, but he’s determined to be a star. I wish he’d take himself to college.
To be fair, the house isn’t as messy as I thought it would be, but it reeks of cigarette smoke. Troy knows I can’t stand the smell of cigarettes because it gives me a headache. Troy also knows that I don’t want my children inhaling secondhand smoke. We’ve had the conversation more than enough times for it to be a permanent fixture in his memory bank. The most disturbing piece of all this is that the tiny girl that has the cigarette hanging from her mouth doesn’t even look old enough to buy them.
Troy has always been good at anticipating when I’m about to go off. I suppose it’s a skill that he has developed over the years. Just as I’m about to show my ugly side, Troy slides across my hardwood floors and snatches the cigarette out of the young girl’s mouth.
He says, “My wife doesn’t like cigarettes, Lisa. Besides, they’re bad for your voice.”
“Sorry, Troy. I wouldn’t want to upset the wifey,” she smirks.
Okay, Miss Lisa has no idea who she’s dealing with. She better be glad that she looks all of fifteen, because if she were legal, I’d swear I’d knock the taste out of her mouth. Lisa has skin the color of milk, and her eyes are like two perfectly shaped spheres of onyx. The front of her hair is an intricate mass of cornrows, and the back cascades over her shoulders. She’d probably be gorgeous if her attitude didn’t leak through her pores.
“Mommy, I’m hungry.”
I look down at my baby. They should’ve eaten already. Mrs. Franks, Gretchen’s babysitter, is good enough to pick Cicely up from kindergarten and bring both girls home so that Troy doesn’t have to leave the house. The least he could do is fix them a snack if not dinner. I smile at Cicely, because I try not to take my stress out on my girls, but I can’t say that I’m always successful.
“Hi, Hungry. My name is Mommy.”
Cicely laughs at my joke. “No, Mommy! I’m Cicely. My tummy is hungry.”
“Me too!” pipes Gretchen, not to be outdone by her older sister.
“All right. Let Mommy take her shoes off, and then we’ll see what’s in the kitchen. Why don’t you two go in there and wait for me. Okay?”
Cicely and Gretchen race to the kitchen at breakneck speed. I know Gretchen is going to be a track star one day, because she’s fast with her short muscular legs. She outruns her taller sister every time.
“Troy, have the girls eaten anything since they’ve been home?”
“I’m not sure, Pam. I think they had a cookie.”
“A cookie? What do you mean you’re not sure?” I hear myself start to rave, but I can’t stop myself. “Did you give them anything to eat? They are six and four years old, Troy—they are not capable of preparing their own meals. I left you a note that you were supposed to give them a sandwich. Two slices of bread and some peanut butter. You were too busy for that?”