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"We women are born nurturers," said the speaker. "We tend to let the men in our lives take center stage while we stand behind them, doing all the work."
Danetta Harris rolled her eyes as she received yet another urgent message from Marshall Windham, her business partner, and the poster boy for the message the speaker was delivering to the Women's Empowerment group at that very moment. Marshall invaded Danetta's dreams and he consumed her thoughts when she should have been concentrating on far more important matters. Because Marshall Windham was all wrong for her. The man had a brilliant mind for business and was Idris Elba fine. Not the Idris Elba who worked in a mechanic shop in Daddy's Little Girls but the Idris Elba who was so fine in those gray pants with the black button-down shirt who strutted away from an exploding airplane in Takers. And that was the problem. Marshall was a taker and an unreformed ladies' man.
The speaker said, "It's time to enact your Get Success Now plan and get on with creating the life you were born to live."
Another text from Marshall came in. Why haven't you called me? I need you.
Danetta stood up and walked out from the back of the conference room. She sat down at a table near the bookstore and called Marshall. He thinks he can bug me at any hour of the day or night, she huffed. She understood that they ran a business together and therefore needed to make themselves available, but it was eight o'clock on a Friday night. What could be so urgent?
"Hey, where are you?" Marshall asked the moment he answered his phone.
"I'm at the symposium I told you about," Danetta said, trying to keep the irritation out of her voice.
"Why? What's up?"
Marshall's hearty laugh crossed the phone line and pierced Danetta's heart. "That's why you're still single. I mean, really, Danetta, you take that I-am-woman-hear-me-roar stuff a bit too far and it is a major turn-off to most of the men I know."
Most of the men he knew were Snoop Doggie-dogs. "Your text said urgent. So, what do you want?"
"Hey, no need to get your back up. I'm just looking out for your best interests. You're not getting any younger."
That stung. "Look, Marshall, I know you haven't been blowing up my phone all evening just so we could talk about my love life. Now tell me what you want or I'm hanging up."
"I'm packing for the retreat and I was hoping that you had changed your mind about attending it with me."
The man was impossible. She had signed Marshall up for a business retreat that was notorious for being a "boy's club" event. A few women attended, but unless they were multimillionaire businesswomen like the current CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Meg Whitman, or the former CEO Carly Fiorina, they were pretty much ignored. Danetta wasn't worried; women had business retreats all the time. All Danetta wanted was the business that these companies could bring to their firm and all Marshall wanted was someone else to do the networking for him. "I can't help you mingle and network this time, Marshall. This is a men's thing, remember?"
Born with clout and money, Marshall was in his element around presidents and CEOs. He simply hated networking. He said it just seemed too much like begging to him and Marshall didn't beg anyone for anything. "We both know why you're not going, Danetta, and it has nothing to do with how many men attend the retreat."
He was right. There had been countless times when they'd received invitations that were clearly meant for the head man in charge. Danetta would go anyway; she loved showing those self-important men that her pants fit just as well as theirs. But she also preferred to drive to the events.
"Why don't you just get over your fear of flying and join me at this event?"
"I don't have a fear of flying."
"Then what is it, D, because I'd really like to have you with me this weekend." The conference Marshall was attending was in New York and the flight from Houston, Texas, where they lived was just too long for her to stomach.
"I am not about to trust some pilot with my life just so you don't have to mix and mingle."
"The mix and mingle I have no problem with. I'm just not as good at asking for business as you are. And since when do you trust anybody with your life, let alone a pilot?"
Danetta gave a heavy sigh. "Drop it, Marshall."
"All right D, if you're dead set against going, then maybe I should take a date with me." It was a tease. They had already discussed why he shouldn't take a date.
"I explained to you why that was a bad idea," she reminded him through gritted teeth
"Yeah, but when I told Veronica she couldn't go, she broke up with me."
"Why would she do that?"
"Because she thinks I'm taking another woman."
Marshall was talking, but all Danetta heard was ruff-ruff-ruff. He was a dog and she was a fool. She couldn't believe that she had wasted years of her life waiting for this man to change his ways so that they could finally be together. But she was done hoping and wishing for this man who treated women like accessories picking whichever one matched his mood for the day. She didn't even know who Veronica was. The last she knew, Marshall was dating a woman named Diane. "In case you forgot, the last woman you took on a business outing got drunk and threw up on our client."
He chuckled. "Yeah, but she apologized."
She threw up her hands. "Do what you want, Marshall, but if you make a fool of yourself this weekend, you'll be looking for another business partner next week."
"Calm down, Danetta. I'll go alone."
"Thank you," Danetta said, and then hung up. She was about ready to go tickety-boom. And if the truth was told, she didn't want to go back into that conference room to hear the speaker pronounce her a fool for desiring a man who wanted nothing to do with her. Yet, she had put her career in his hands. She would have left the meeting and gone home much sooner because her conversation with Marshall had drained all of her energy, but she had given her two best friends, Surry McDaniel and Ryla Evans, a ride. She couldn't just abandon them, no matter that she was to the point of foaming at the mouth.
Why had she gone into business with Marshall Windham in the first place? Because he's gorgeous and brilliant and you fell in love with him from the moment he walked into your art class at Howard University, Danetta reminded herself.
Okay, Danetta confessed, I might have been a real good Boo-Boo-the-Fool for Marshall, but even fools stop falling and bumping their heads at some point. Danetta had finally come to terms with the fact that Marshall would never stop chasing after women long enough to notice her.
"Girl, what has gotten into you?" Surry asked, as she and Ryla came out of the conference room and sat down next to Danetta.
"You missed the best part of her speech," Ryla said, sitting down on the opposite side of Danetta.
Danetta smiled as her girls sat down with her. On the surface it appeared that Surry, Ryla and Danetta didn't have enough in common to be as tight as they were. Surry thought that straightening combs were evil and that the relaxer was a diabolical invention by Satan, designed to damage the hair of every black woman in America. Surry wore her hair in an afro or braids, and her wardrobe was strictly Afrocentric. Ryla on the other hand wouldn't walk to her mailbox without a fresh relaxer and a cute hair cut. Ryla was a stylish former beauty queen, prom queen and cheerleader, while Danetta was all business with eyeglasses, knee- or calf-length skirts and turtleneck sweaters.
"And why did you keep checking your cell phone? You normally turn that thing off. What if you were giving the presentation? You wouldn't want people in the audience sending text messages and ignoring you altogether," Ryla said.
They were right. This wasn't the first time Marshall had sent her numerous text messages during a business meeting, lunch with friends or even when she was having dinner with Aunt Sarah. As a matter of fact, Marshall often wrangled an invitation to dinner from Aunt Sarah, so he didn't have to interrupt her during dinner, because he was there, eating it with them.
At that moment she realized that she had made herself too accessible to Marshall, and she was tired of living on his terms.
"Well, I may have walked out early, but I think she said the most important thing before I left."
"And what was that?" Surry asked.
"That we as women need to enact our success plan."
"What are you talking about, Danetta? You're already successful. After all, you are co-owner of a mul-timillion dollar advertising firm," Ryla reminded her.
"I'm not talking about business success. I guess I'm just fed up with being single and feel that it's time to enact my Get Love Now plan," Danetta said with conviction in her voice.
"What did that mongrel do now?" Ryla asked, as she rolled her eyes heavenward.
From the moment Danetta had first spilled her guts about Marshall, Ryla had dubbed him a mongrel. She'd said that he was half human and half dog. Danetta had laughed at the time, but the way she was feeling today, Danetta wondered if Ryla was being too generous. As far as she was concerned, Marshall was a full-bred hound dog.
"Why would my discontent have anything to do with Marshall Windham?"
"Well, let's see," Surry pretended to be thinking. "You have been in love with the man for over a decade, and you bake up a dozen brownies and eat them with a bucketful of vanilla ice cream each time Marshall starts dating someone new," Surry answered.
"I'm done with all of that." Danetta stood up and grabbed her purse. "Come on. I'm going to take you two home, so I can get started on making new plans for my life."
Ryla harrumphed. "You can't plan out every detail of your life, Danetta. Some things just happen and there's nothing you can do about it." Ryla had learned that simple fact all too well. She was a twenty-eight-year-old single mother of an adorable seven-year-old princess.
"I planned out my business life, and if I do say so myself, I have become quite successful." Danetta put her key in the ignition and started the car the moment Ryla and Surry closed their doors. As she drove out of the parking lot, she said, "What hasn't been going so well is my love life, and that's because I've been too busy with business and hanging with a bunch of women"
"Hey," Ryla protested.
"to develop a meaningful relationship with a man," Danetta finished.
"Well, excuse us for inhaling the same air as you," Surry said from the backseat.
"I know you're not objecting to my wanting to find a man, Surry. You seem to have a new man every week."
"That's because I haven't met one that I wanted to keep yet." Surry corrected Danetta, "And it's not every week maybe every other week."
"I've met some of the men you've dated. They seemed perfectly fine to me," Danetta challenged.
"That's until you dig a little deeper," Surry said. "None of them are serious about righting the wrongs of blacks and most don't even know who Marcus Garvey was. And what has really ticked me off lately with some of these so-called brothers is that most of them wanted to take me out, but didn't want to help me canvas the streets for President Obama's reelection campaign."
"Don't expect any tears from me. These men drool all over you, like you're their Nubian queen and all you do is toss them aside." And who could blame them, Danetta thought, even with all her eccentric behavior, Surry can't hide the fact that she looks like the supermodel, Iman.
"Yeah, Surry, don't expect us to feel sorry for you," Ryla chimed in. "I can't date because of all the mess I'm already in with my child who has never seen her father. So, I'm not trying to go down that road again."
"And whose fault is that? You're the one who left that man without so much as a word about your pregnancy," Surry answered back.
"Okay," Danetta held up a hand. "Let's not get started on a subject that will take us someplace we don't want to be."
The three women agreed and then continued discussing Danetta's Get Love Now plan. By the time she had dropped her friends off, she had pretty much convinced herself that a change of plans was exactly what she needed.
She stopped off at the bakery around the corner from her house and purchased two brownies. Yeah, yeah, Danetta mused, Marshall starting up with this Veronica chick does bother me, but I'm not going to spend an entire week eating a whole pan of brownies and a tub of ice cream. I'll drown my sorrows tonight, but tomorrow I' ll learn to swim in a new pond.