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iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Deborah M. Walker
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Chapter OneHouse Party
By February 2005, I had settled into my newly purchased condo. Unpacked and organized, I had a chance to explore life. I enjoyed being a homeowner. It was a much different experience than being a renter. I felt safer in the knowledge that I couldn't be evicted for any apparent reason, and I had a deep sense of accomplishment.
I was different now—high-class, at least in my own mind. My future looked better than I'd possibly imagined.
I was usually depressed, but in my condo, I felt like a different person. I got dressed up every day. I went to the hair salon every two weeks. I put on makeup most days. I wore high heels.
Yet, I had nowhere to go. Lansing, Michigan, was a small city.
To amuse myself, I sometimes drove down Martin Luther King Boulevard, trying to see who was out. I drove past M9's party store, once a popular hangout for teenagers. The only customers there now were for Metro Music and Paging located next door.
Tired of driving around in a circle, I spent the majority of my time in the condo with my seven-year-old son, Jonathan. Jonathan and I hung out together. We went to the movies and out to eat at our favorite restaurants often. Sometimes we even played video games together, but I was still somewhat lonely. I wanted the company of adult friends.
My youngest brother, Green, came to live with me in the condo, although he never officially moved in and he was gone most of the time so he didn't count as a friend.
Tired of being bored, I decided to throw card parties at my house and invite a few of my friends. My first card party took place in March 2005.
I was twenty-three years old at the time, and so was Alyson, a high school friend of mine. Topaz, a girl I'd met while working at my high school job, was a year behind us. They were excited when I told them about the card party I wanted to have. I even provided the men. I got the hookup on the guys from my son's barber.
I took Jonathan to Constellation's Barber Shop located in the Logan Square on the south side. Constellation's was one of the most popular barber shops in Lansing. People came not only to get their hair cut, but to show off the latest fashions as well. Danny was my son's regular barber. He was tall, slim figured, and had a chestnut complexion. He stayed clean shaven and neat. He was decent-looking but not my type.
"My manz Q's been asking about you," Danny said one day in early March when I brought Jonathan in to get his hair cut.
That sparked my interest. I'd been doing nothing for weeks. I was bored and wanted entertainment.
"For real? What he say?" I asked.
"He said that you're cute. He wanted to know if you had a man."
I tried to get another look at Q. He worked three stations down from Danny. Q's most noticeable feature was his square jaw. Like his jawline, his forehead was a perfect square. Even the back of his head was shaped like a square. His small nose was a small square, and his lips were nothing more than an elongated square when closed. We were nearly the exact same honey brown complexion. Q had potential.
"Does he have a girl?" I asked.
"He said he was single. Give me your number, and I'll give it to him."
I was hesitant. I scarcely dated around town because Lansing was so small. I decided to take a chance. After all, I had nothing to lose. I was single and interested in dating. I wrote my number down on a piece of paper and handed it to Danny before I left.
My first date with Q was the card party I threw at my house. Q said he had a few friends to bring. I called up Alyson and Topaz, and we made plans for that Friday night.
The first card party was fun. Q came over with six of his friends. They brought liquor and a pack of playing cards. Topaz brought her white friend, Kristina. Alyson came alone.
For once, I wasn't bored on a Friday night. I learned how to make my own fun, and we had a good time drinking, playing cards, and listening to music. Most importantly, I had something exciting to talk about throughout the week. I was showing everyone that you could have it all.
We decided to do it again the following weekend with the same people. This time my cousin, Gabby, would be coming along. Gabby had just turned twenty and wanted to hang out.
Gabby didn't have a car, and neither did Alyson. So I picked them up in my new ride. Two days earlier, I'd turned in the lease to my 2001 Ford Explorer and leased a 2005 Cadillac CTS.
I loved my Cadillac. It was gray and a base model, but it was a Cadillac.
I picked Gabby up first and made the quick drive toward the mall to where Alyson stayed.
"Did you tell Topaz about your feelings for James?" Alyson asked me while we were driving back to my house.
I took a deep breath and continued driving. I'ma have to cut her off again. I see now that she's still on the same shit. The bitch ain't changed since high school. You shouldn't have told her you still liked James. She's just mad it ain't her.
I gave Alyson a slighted smile and said in a lighthearted tone, "No, because I think it's nothing more than a crush. Sometimes you just have crushes on people. I've learned to just get over it."
I made eye contact with Alyson in the rearview mirror. I gave her an evil look. She turned away. I knew then that my friendship with Alyson was ending for good. We'd had problems since high school, and I was tired of it. Regardless of how Alyson felt about me having a crush on Topaz's man, she was my friend, and that was our secret. She didn't even know Topaz.
"Your car is fresh," Gabby said to me.
"Thanks. I just got it."
Gabby ran her hands over the dashboard. "Nice," she said.
Alyson remained silent in the back seat.
Topaz, Kristina, Alyson, Gabby, and I had some time to hang out together before Q and his friends arrived. I knew all of the girls separately, but as a group, we were strangers.
We sat in my living room talking and trying to get a feel for each other. I had private conversations with all the girls, and they told me that they wanted to hang out with a group. We had all watched Sex in the City. We were young, single women. We wanted to be just like the TV girls. I brought them all together to give it a try.
"I plan on going to school in the fall. I'm young and don't have any kids, so I feel that right now I can do anything," Gabby said.
Gabby sat to the right of me. I had pulled a chair from the dining room and sat facing the rest of the girls. We sat in a semicircle. I was relaxed and watchful. I didn't trust Alyson around Topaz. I could tell that Alyson was jealous of my life. I got the feeling that she would try and ruin my friendship with Topaz if she got the chance.
"That's good that you don't have any kids," I said to Gabby.
"I know. I love not having any kids," she said.
I knew what Gabby was doing. Topaz and Kristina both had no children. I only had one, but Alyson had two children by two different men, and she had a complex about it. Still pissed about Alyson asking about James, I let Gabby dig.
Not only was Alyson the only girl there with two children, she was also the darkest and the fattest. She was cute, but she had low self-esteem about her look. She wore her hair pulled up with a crinkly drawstring ponytail attached. Her edges looked hard and gelled. She had a large stomach, a flat behind, and dark spots on her hands and arms.
Gabby's complexion was medium brown, light-skinned according to Alyson's standards. She had a small waist and a large behind that she shamelessly flaunted in a pair of tight pants.
"That's so good you don't have any kids. You can do anything when you don't got any kids," I said.
"Ain't that right," Topaz chimed in, and we let out a chuckle.
Alyson remained quiet.
Topaz was pretty. She had long, silky hair and stood about five foot seven. She had smooth, almond skin. Her mother was half white. That's where she got her "mixed" look from.
Topaz was naturally quiet and watchful. Sometimes she could be a loud and mean person, but mostly, she kept to herself. Sometimes she was shy and awkward, and at other times she was bullish and straightforward. I loved her personality. Topaz was a Taurus like Alyson and me. Our birthdays were only days apart.
I glanced over at Kristina. Kristina was abnormally pale. She wore her strawberry blonde hair slicked back into a long ponytail. She was frail and awkwardly built. I hated her and only tolerated her because she was Topaz's best friend. I felt that Kristina had a jealous heart and felt inadequate around pretty black women, especially me.
Kristina sat quietly and listened. She never said a word and never joined in our conversation. The vibe I got from her was that she was there to watch Topaz's back. It was understandable. When black women got together, usually there was drama.
Alyson, feeling trapped, switched the conversation and began talking about marriage. That led to her discussing her parent's marriage. "My dad is such a good father and husband," she said. "Sometimes when I've given up on finding a good man, I think about my dad and what a good man he is, and I know that there are good men still out there."
The look on Topaz's face was blank. I turned to get a look at Gabby. She seemed worried and nervous. I knew Gabby had a complex about her dad. He hadn't been around much when she was growing up.
I knew that both Topaz and Kristina came from dysfunctional families. They were silent. So was I. Alyson was aware of the issues between my dad and me. We had been friends since I was fifteen. She had seen a lot.
Alyson had a slight smirk on her face, as if she had cornered us. I looked at Alyson and with a bland expression on my face said, "Yeah."
Silence followed. Alyson's parents were the last thing we wanted to talk about.
The conversation moved on. Alyson didn't get the gratification she was looking for, so she gave up.
Q and his friends arrived sometime after ten. I watched as the other girls had fun. Topaz and Kristina sat together talking to a couple of guys. Gabby mingled with a guy, and Alyson and I sat at the dining room table playing spades. We were partners. I was glad that she was a strong partner. We won most hands.
The guys danced and joked with each other. They were getting drunk and having a good time. The most interesting of the men was the one they called Uncle. He was big, exceptionally dark, and overweight. He had a missing front tooth and always talked about how broke he was. The other guys gave him money for liquor and cracked jokes on him.
Uncle was loud, and he acted gay even though his friends said he was straight. He was about fifteen years older than Q and his friends. Uncle had come to the first card party, and I was glad he came to the second. He was the entertainment. When I put on music, he got up and danced. However, when he nearly spilled his drink on my living room carpet, the dancing stopped.
Although the card party was fun, there was no time for Q and me to mingle. He sat in one half of the condo, and I entertained in the other. I didn't mind. Then I noticed that Q seemed more interested in talking to Topaz than me. I saw him pull on Topaz's arm. I gave him a look, and he stopped. But it was over from that moment on.
One of Q's friends had brought some weed, and so I busied myself with trying to get high with Alyson. It turned out that the weed was a fake, and I had to spend the rest of the party playing cards pissed about the fake weed.
The card party ended around three in the morning. I went to bed tired. I awoke the next morning to a knock on my door.
"Yes," I said, answering the door.
"I think this is yours," said a white man as he handed me a Heineken bottle.
I took the bottle in silence. It was from Q and his friends. I was embarrassed.
It had taken Q and his friends some time to leave the parking lot. I had to go outside and tell them to leave. I knew that they were loud, and I worried that they might upset my neighbors. But to leave a bottle in the parking lot was obvious disrespect.
I decided that I would have no more card parties; besides, everyone at my party, with the exception of Gabby, had his or her own apartment. If they wanted to continue the card parties, they'd have to find another venue.
As I knew it would happen, Alyson and I soon officially stopped hanging out. This was a result of what I would take to calling the Q incident.
The Q incident happened the week following the second (and last) card party. Q decided that we needed a private date to get to know each other. It just so happened that Alyson had hooked up with Damar, a friend of Q's who also happened to be a distant cousin of mine.
We decided to meet up at Alyson's house. Q and Damar left us waiting over an hour for our date. I didn't mind because it had been years since I was last in Alyson's townhouse. Alyson and I only periodically kept in contact. In January, she had gotten my number from my mom and called me. I had only been back in her life for a few months.
Alyson and I had stopped hanging out after high school. We had a falling out during our senior year, and we were never the same after that. After high school, I'd taken a job at Lear and later had accepted a position at GM. I had no time for friends especially Allsion. I had Jonathan to take care of all by myself; and besides, Alyson was on welfare. We had nothing in common.
My eyes wondered around as my mind drifted back through time. As I sat in Allyson's living room I came to realize how far we had drifted apart, or perhaps we were never close to begin with.
I stared at Allyson silent and in deep thought. It was then that I understood that I was gazing into the eyes of a stranger.
"I'm fixing the place up," Alyson said, interrupting my thoughts. "I'm getting new furniture when I get my income tax check. Allan has been helping me with Danashia. Derrick still doesn't help with Krisha."
At one point in time, we would have talked about my baby daddy and how I felt about being a single mom. Now there was nothing to say about baby daddies. I hadn't dealt with Grey in years. I had no new stories to tell.
I thought about high school when Alyson was my best friend. Back then, we had been just alike—even though her parents helped her out and so she'd had a lot more than me.
Her parents were good people. They even helped me. Because of the help they gave me in high school, I was able to finish and graduate on time. I'd always acknowledged them as part of the reason I would be graduating from Lansing Community College in May.
When everyone, including my family, had turned their backs on me, the Blue family had been there. When I was in eleventh grade, I'd had to drop out of school temporarily because I had no babysitter.
* * *
Because I was on my dad's insurance, he claimed me on his taxes so in order to determine whether to offer assistance the state looked at his GM income. That meant I didn't qualify for any assistance. Without daycare assistance, I couldn't afford daycare. My grandma had offered to watch my baby for twenty-five dollars a week, but Dad wouldn't pay. And I had no income.
When Alyson found out why I wasn't going to school, she told her mom. Mrs. Blue called me. I spoke with Mrs. Blue over the phone. She offered to babysit for free while I went to school. "Just pay me whenever you can," she said.
But I still wasn't going to school. I had no transportation back and forth to the Blues' house so I still was unable to attend school. When Alyson found out why I still wasn't in school, she told her mom. Mrs. Blue once again stepped in and helped. Mrs. Blue picked Jonathan up from me on Monday and brought him back to me on Friday. It was a great help to me, but the truth always remains, if a favor appears to be without fault it's usually guilty of something. And soon I came to realize the Blues' dark side. And they're babysitting for me quickly came to an end when Alyson made a joking threat close to the end of the first semester of my junior year of high school. "I'm gonna drop your baby," she said to me, laughing.
"What!" I looked at her in shock. A couple of girls who were standing around us did the same.
"I'm just kidding."
Alyson tried to convince me she was joking for the rest of the day. I didn't believe her. When I got home from school, I told my older sister Asia what she had said.
"That bitch aint playing. She's gonna throw your baby down. Go get him right now," Asia said.
Excerpted from Finally Unrestricted by Nova Copyright © 2011 by Deborah M. Walker. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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