Imagine This [NOOK Book]


Imagine This is the sequel to Vickie Stringer's bestselling Let That Be the Reason, her stunning debut novel based on life as she knew it in the shocking underworld of the sex and drug trade.

Vickie Stringer has gained a legion of fans for her portrayal of Pamela, a.k.a. Carmen, a woman who had it all but lost out when the love of her life left her penniless and alone to raise their son. Pamela refuses to remain powerless, though. She pulls ...
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Imagine This

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Imagine This is the sequel to Vickie Stringer's bestselling Let That Be the Reason, her stunning debut novel based on life as she knew it in the shocking underworld of the sex and drug trade.

Vickie Stringer has gained a legion of fans for her portrayal of Pamela, a.k.a. Carmen, a woman who had it all but lost out when the love of her life left her penniless and alone to raise their son. Pamela refuses to remain powerless, though. She pulls herself up, becomes a major hustler in the street game, gains independence, and makes big money -- but the consequences are more dreadful than she ever imagined.

Imagine This continues the saga of Pamela as she does jail time and has to decide who she really is: Pamela, a woman who, more than anything, loves her son and wants to be there to raise him; or Carmen, the ruthless baller, who does the crime, serves the time, and honors, at any expense, the code of the street.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416525141
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 12/1/2009
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 431,794
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Vickie M. Stringer is the author of Essence bestsellers, including Imagine This, Let that Be the Reason, Dirty Red, Still Dirty, and Dirtier Than Ever. She is the publisher of Triple Crown publications, one of the most successful African American book publishers in the U.S. and abroad. She has been featured in such prominent news media as The New York Times, Newsweek, MTV News, Publishers Weekly, Vibe, Millionaire Blueprints, Writer's Newsweek, Black Expressions, and many more. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her two children.
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Read an Excerpt

Month Three

I had a beautiful two-year-old son named Antonio. And I was in the Franklin County Jail being held without bond for federal drug trafficking offenses.

I had been left for dead, abandoned by my so-called peeps. Sad and embarrassed to admit it, even my baby's daddy, Chino, was still getting his hustle on -- slangin' them "thangs." Chino continued to get his grind on for that cheddar even after the feds laid me down like fresh tar on pavement. I was looking at football numbers -- you know, four score and seven years, trying to be true to the code. The street code of don't tell, Chino instilled that in me: Ball 'til you fall, and button-your-lip-type shit. Well, I did ball. I did fall. And my mouth was shut. But something was going on inside my head. A fight was raging between me, Pammy, and my alter ego, Carmen.

Pammy wanted to be with her son and out of this game. Pammy wanted to be free.

Carmen wanted to be in prison. Carmen wanted to be locked. She didn't mind an all-expenses-paid vacation to rest a spell and recoup. She really had no issue that the feds laid a bitch down for a minute.

Carmen was a baller -- a hustler -- a dealer -- a playa. A goin'-for-mine-by-any-means-necessary- type bitch.

To talk, or not to talk, Shakespeare ain't had shit on me. This was my dilemma, for real. I could talk and walk, or shut up and fry 'til I die. On the other hand, talking could mean, well, death. Shit. I was fucked either way and there was no turning back.

There was a city in the Midwest that from outside appearances was a slow, conservative family town. But lurking underneath was an underworld where drugs flowed throughout the city like blood coursing through veins.

This blood kept alive the disposable income that supported the hustlers' lifestyle in the city. Like a shark drawn to the smell of blood in the water, so did it draw the out-of-town ballers from the east coast. Like a pilgrimage to Mecca, they were coming for the expected promise -- wealth by any means necessary. And it was uncommon to encounter anyone who was actually born and raised in Columbus. The majority of the residents were transplanted from other places, seeking opportunity.

In the center of downtown Columbus was a tall, granite building. Gothic looking with mesh-covered windows, it was a city block wide. This was the Franklin County Jail.

From above, inmates pressed their faces close to the paint-tinted windows for a glimpse of freedom. On a sunny day, cars driving by and the hustle and bustle of the downtown working class could be seen.

The business suits and skirts scurried past the building, knowing all too well that the dregs of society lived within the granite walls. Paralegals used the side entrance to clerks' quarters. Attorneys entered through the center tunnel, passing security guards of the underground parking for the legal elite. Commoners circled the block, time after time, in search of a parking meter that allowed limited minutes to go to court in support of a loved one.

The rat race was obvious and apparent and continued day after day, week after week, and eventually month after month for the detained criminal who was assumed guilty until proven innocent.

Sometimes I didn't think that I was going to make it. Shit, death had become a welcome remedy. I saw those like me take deals from the advisement of their lawyers, generally referred to as "lips" by inmates. Some did it because their innocence gave way to ignorance. Others did it because they abandoned the street code: Death before dishonor.

It had been a wonderful surprise to see Delano. He was to me what sunlight is to a withering flower. He had proven himself to be a good man.

Delano had cut his hair close to his head, removing the small ringlets of curls. He was tall, thick and tempting. His skin was sun kissed, and he had full, deep-set eyes hiding behind lashes a girl would truly die for. His dark brows matched a perfectly trimmed mustache and five o'clock shadow beard. Although he had gotten rid of the curls, a defined pattern where they once mingled was left behind on his head. He was also packin' a thick, long and satisfying dick of any girl's dream. Just to smell his dick at this point would be a fulfilling fantasy. When I first laid eyes on him, he was in my living room playing with my son. At the sight of him, there was a flutter in my heart. That was when I knew my heart wasn't frozen and that I could believe again...that I could love again. He came along and put my heart on simmers, bringing back to life a part of me that I seriously thought was dead. The baritone rhythm of his voice sent chills up my spine as his eyes roamed my body from head to toe. I needed more time with Delano. I sure as hell wasn't in no hurry to get back to those bitches who had been my cellmates for the past three months. More importantly, I needed to know if this nigga was really down for me or just on some penitentiary shit -- you know, saying what I want to hear. That "I miss you, Boo" and "You the one for me." That is, until a nigga gets free.

"Come on, CO I just got here," I protested. "CO" is short for correctional officer. It's actually an insult that is often overlooked, considering the long list of other names inmates called them. I was ready to spew all the ones I knew -- security guard, paid robo cop, unarmed Shaft -- and was poised to add a few to the list if she denied me my request for more time.

She flipped through her logbook and began writing as if she never heard a word I'd said. Delano's eyes were telling me to calm down as mine narrowed to match my sharp tongue. Before I could say another word, she said, "Five minutes," without looking up from her logbook. The temperature was chillier than a December morning, so I stretched my long-johns sleeves over my hands for warmth. The temperature was kept low, similar to a hospital, to minimize the germs, I was told.

I turned my attention back to Delano, my composure completely restored, donning a million-dollar smile. "Delano, it was really nice seeing you. Thanks for the visit," I said. As if on cue, he said what I was hoping he would say.

"Carmen, do you need anything?"

Chino began talking about the killings he had committed and how I was his weak link because I had that gun information on him. I knew how he ran with the nine millimeter, unable to wipe his prints off 'cause he was butt naked. Getting into the Good Samaritan white man's car with the gun, he used the change of clothes given to him to remove his fingerprints. When Chino confessed his crime to me, he and I buried the gun together, sealing our secret. Then Chino began to talk about the location of the gun. "Yeah, I went back and got that gun just in case you flipped on me. I can't even trust you no more. I have no more use for you. Pooh, your ass has got to go. Have you said your prayers, love?"

I looked over my shoulder at the overpaid security guard, knowing that the attention she was giving her logbook was a ploy to listen in on our conversation. Thinking fast, I prayed that Delano would understand the Pig Latin that I was about to drop on him. In the seventies, this dialect gave the street hustler the ability to converse in the presence of the police and others of opposition. But as informants infiltrated the crime world, they learned the lingo and exposed it. I was gambling on the youthfulness of my captor, who looked to be only about twenty-one -- tops. The fact that the language had been considered dead, old-school dialogue was an added plus. I brought my index finger to my lips to hush him. I looked into his deep-set eyes, then I rolled the dice.

"No, I don't need anything. Ogay ota rena ina etay burbay ofay nublay. Unday otey boatay ockday eriday isa hedsay tathay usay orfay." This meant: Go to the park out near the suburb of Dublin. Under the boat dock, there is a shed that they use for storing rope for the boats. Walk about twenty grown-man steps going north. There will be a green steel bench next to a water fountain. Beside the fountain, there is a drain that allows for the overflow of water from the fountain. With a crowbar, the grate can be removed. Lift the grate and place your hand inside. You need to wear a glove because it's slimy. Tell me what you find wrapped in a gray bag.

He winked his eye and nodded his head, letting me know that he understood the Pig Latin. All the time growing up in the hood playing around with this as kids had finally paid off.

Delano rubbed his sexy chin and winked his eye. "I'll be here next Saturday. I'll give you an answer then. If I find it, what do you want me to do with it?" Since he presented himself like he was my knight in shining armor, I felt like I was giving him the location to uncover the mysteries of Excalibur. With it, he could protect me from those who sought to harm me. That was the fantasy that played through my mind, but the only thing I asked of him was to keep it in a safe place.

"Cool. There are some things I need to take care of. I'm going Up Top, to New York, this weekend. I'll get back at you when I return."

I studied him, wondering what that entailed. Was it business or pleasure? Going "Up Top" usually meant to re-up on some of them "thangs."

"Xavier! Visit's up!" I heard the stinkin', tobacco-chewing, Inspector Gadget-looking, Ms. Dudley Do-Right action ass announce.

Delano wanted me to put my hand on the glass as if he was Patrick Swayze in Ghost. I did yearn to touch his strong hand and feel his sensational warmth one more time.

I remembered the first time he stroked the side of my face and nape of my neck ever so gently while the sweat from our naked bodies dried in the air-conditioned bedroom. Remembering the last time he made love to me in the Hyatt hotel after dinner and a carriage ride caused goose bumps to surface. Not understanding how the fate of his occupation, that of a drug dealer, brought us together to find love, and hopefully happiness, I felt apprehensive about him going to New York.

New York was the land of opportunity for a baller looking to get paid. The city represented itself as the certified port for drugs into the country. Delano and others like him stood at its shores, waiting to welcome it home: coca. I wanted him to stay clear from that. I wanted him to be safe. Perhaps I was the example. I went to jail so he wouldn't have to. He continued to reassure me that all was well as he spoke calmly into the receiver.

"You'll be all right," Delano said and gazed squarely at me. I sensed that he could feel or see the internal turmoil I was going through. Over the next several weeks I had some hard decisions to make. I could take a plea on the conspiracy to distribute narcotics, money laundering and aiding and abetting charges without cooperation, or I could take a plea with cooperation -- in other words, snitch. I could also simply tell the court to pick twelve and make the government prove their case. My eyes obviously disclosed my dilemma, because Delano leaned closer and spoke directly into the phone. "Baby, you have to do what's best for you and yours. You know what I mean?" he said.

I shook my head slowly. If I was reading Delano right, and I was sure that I was, my baby, my love and my heart, was asking me or telling me that I should flip. If I had learned one thing from Chino, it was to respect the game and to honor its code. Now a nigga that I loved and might one day marry was asking me, no, telling me, to bitch up, snitch and become a fuck for the feds. I was hurt. But more than being hurt, I was disappointed. I had seen Delano as a man's man, a nigga that walked it like he talked it. I was sadly mistaken. Niggas knew, and I am sure Delano did, that you played the game at your own risk. Delano repeated himself. "Do what's best for you, you know what I mean?"

His instructions for me to go for self made me question his integrity. A true baller played the cards he was dealt. Even if the shit was fucked up, he put on his game face like he was holdin' four aces. Also, a true baller knew the most fundamental rule of the game: He knew when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. I knew it was easy to play a good hand well. It was the woman or the man who could play a bad hand well that distinguished the real from the fake, a gangster from a prankster. Delano's advice made me feel sad, for I realized that I was truly out of my league. I loved Delano, but not only didn't he really know me, he had me fucked up. Yeah, I was scared to death and I didn't want to do life, but I wasn't going to be no snitch either.

Delano made a feeble attempt to assure me that things weren't as bad as they seemed. Although I appreciated his comforting words embracing my broken spirit, I could not stop the tears from streaking my face nor feeling faint. He whispered into the receiver. "Carmen, they are not thinking about you." I began to cry tears of pain. "Don't cry, you'll be fine," Delano continued, and I felt the warmth of his words and tasted the salty residue from my tears as it rested upon my top lip. Breaking before his eyes, I had to end the visit. I rushed the words out of my mouth.

"Delano, I gotta go, bye!" I motioned for the turnkey to let her know that I was ready to go back to my housing unit. Delano blew me a kiss, and made the call me sign with his thumb and pinky finger before he got onto the elevator.

I stood in my cage, holding onto the bars for support. I felt like I had consumed a gallon of Absolute vodka, and the box I was in was being twirled like a piñata. I felt nauseous and my legs started to give way. The rent-a-cop's words barely registered when she told me, "Nah, you sit your happy ass down and wait for me, now. I've gotta do this paper work. It's shift change. Second shift will..."

This trick cop had gotten on my last nerve. I wanted to straight wile out on this bitch, but I was too weak. I held onto the bars for dear life. I wasn't about to sit in the filth that covered the once white tiles. But facing double digits only made me sicker and the more I thought about it, the more appealing the floor became. I eventually sat down.

I couldn't believe that I was doing time and facing football numbers. However, God was sustaining me, and I hadn't given up yet. I still had hope. Besides, I had to come home to my son. He was waiting on me. I was living a nightmare. I imagined that all inmates felt this way -- wanting to wake up and resume their previous lives. On the other side of the coin was relief, though, because getting knocked meant having a sense of peace; the demanding lifestyle of a hustler could be very hectic, containing a mixture of all sorts of things that eventually came out smelling like shit. It all ended in bullshit, if you asked me.

Now I was really trippin' 'cause Delano came to see me. I thought he had forgotten all about me, just like the others had. All my so-called friends, where were they now? Three months and counting, and I still hadn't heard from Chino, my baby daddy. I knew I shouldn't have expected more from him. Bastard! My thoughts were tainted with the presumptions that would never prove true.

I don't know how long I sat there on the floor, knees up and head hanging between them as if I was literally trying to kiss my ass good-bye, waiting to be returned to my unit. That's just how jail was. It was always "hurry up" and "wait." In jail you simply went nowhere. Your life came to a halt and became defined as meaningless. None of your concerns mattered. You didn't matter. This withered the spirit and broke the pride.

In my daydreams I was with my son. We were in a flower field with bubbles and laughing as his little finger popped each one. He said, "Momma, look," as beautiful birds took flight and performed an aerial display of loops and turns, then gracefully soared high up into the cotton-candy-shaped clouds. This reminded me of my former life. I went from overcoming the hurdles of dropping out of college ("You can't succeed in this world without a degree") to owning a hair salon ("Pammy, here's fifty thousand, go do your shop, baby") to selling my ass to feed my son ("Hello May I Help You?") to becoming a major figure in the drug game ("Motherfuckas better have my money!") only to end up in this bullshit ("You have the right to remain silent....").

As I sat on the cold floor, somewhat tired, I must have nodded off. The jingling of keys and the turning of the cell lock brought me back to my senses. When I looked up, Deputy Allison Brinkley, the coolest deputy in the county, was smiling down at me. I was pleased to see that she had started her shift. She was cool as hell and constantly hooked a sistah up. Favors such as extended visits, extra food trays, phone calls and extra sheets, towels and blankets in jail made the time easier.

"Xavier, let's go. How long were you sitting in there?" Deputy Brinkley asked. Most deputies have a holier-than-thou, standoffish fuck you attitude. That wasn't the case with Brinkley. If she could do you a favor, and it didn't hurt her, then you could consider it done. At least that was the way it was between her and me. I stretched my legs and answered her question.

"Too long. That pimple-face CO left me in there. I'm glad you're on, though. I had a visit with a man, girl. She was trying to rush me, but I kept straight talking like she didn't exist, so she left me in there until you came on. It's cool, though. She's just jealous because nobody wants to see her ugly ass."

"That's right, keep a positive attitude. There was another article in the newspaper about you and your case," she said as she fidgeted, trying to find the right key to unlock the visiting door. I got more press than the daily weather.

I sucked my teeth and asked, "Really? What did it say? Did you bring it?" Finally she unlocked the visiting door, slid it to the left and escorted me down the hallway.

"Yeah, I got it. The headline said you counted over a million dollars every weekend. Is that true?" Brinkley queried.

"Nah, they trippin'," I replied trying to avoid the hype.

"Also they did a tour through your house in Murifield last night during the news. That newscaster, you know the one, Wendy Williams, was going through your house with her camera crew describing your lavish lifestyle to the viewers. I mean, really. Why did you have all those pairs of unworn shoes and clothes with the price tags still on them? Like, rows and rows of outfits," Brinkley inquired.

"Girl, you know the media be trippin'," I said.

"Xavier, it was your house, your address. Are you saying that they made all that stuff up?" I hated lying to her. I trusted her, but shit, it felt like she wanted a true confession or some shit. I couldn't really tell. The snitch on my case, G-Money, was cool, too, but look where my black ass was now.

"Don't you know the feds will stage shit just to see who comes forward? Nah, they buggin'. It wasn't even like dat. Fa real," I said.

"Wendy was putting on your fur and leather coats and spraying perfumes from what seemed like hundreds of bottles on your dresser. They showed hidden wall safes in your basement laundry room. It was wild. They devoted like a thirty-minute show to the war on drugs and how drug dealers live. They even interviewed the arresting officers in your case that said you had over forty thousand dollars worth of jewelry on at the time of your arrest."

"Girl, where my diamonds at?" I asked her, laughin' it off. Motherfuckers had all my shit.

"Oh, and they found a photo album in one of the extra bedrooms in the house -- held them to the camera. It looked like the pics were taken at that nightclub downtown called the Pulse. You know how they got that rainfall backdrop in the photo booth. It was you in some white hottie shorts along with some other dudes."

"What you know about that spot, miss I-don't-go-nowhere?" Brinkley smiled and continued her endless questions.

"Your hair was really long. Next you'll be asking me for a relaxer, right?"

Damn, I hope I'm not questioned about those photos from that night with Infa and T-Love, I thought to myself. I allowed the silence to hold the air like a secret. My business was still just that, my business.

"I'll show you the article later. I'll bring you into the hall or something so you can read it," Brinkley stated.

"I really appreciate all you do for me." I turned to give her a friendly smile.

"I know you do, that's why I try to help you. I just can't lose my job helping you -- especially since you don't have that money to take care of us," she joked.

"Yeah, right? They should allow us to have newspaper articles in here," I said, slapping my oversized flip-flops on the cold floor.

"They won't because drugs can be smuggled in on the paper, and it would cause lots of confusion. LSD is often laced on paper articles for smuggling." They already have that in here, I thought to myself. But I gave her the act-like-you-know look. "Besides, you know everyone is in everyone's business," Brinkley added. "Well, I've got a surprise for you. You'll see later. Get in your dorm before I get into trouble," she said firmly, inserting her key and pulling my dorm door open.

I mouthed "Thanks" as she walked away.

Deputy Brinkley's personality was definitely nothing short of uplifting. There was a respect in her eyes for me that the other female guards dared not reveal. Her cordiality comforted me. Perhaps, under different circumstances, we would have been friends.

On the walk back to the housing unit, I felt a little better. Unfortunately, when Brinkley let me into the sixteen-woman tank in the belly of the beast where the brilliance of the sun could never be seen, I was assaulted by the hopelessness that I saw in the shadows on the faces of the other women.

I laid on my steel bunk, barely cushioned with a thin, two-inch mattress, its stuffing shifted to the bottom. Its plastic covering was ripped in so many places that it could've been a prop in a Freddy Kruger movie. Many times I woke up with scratches all over me. Today, the busted mattress could have been a Serta with goose down pillows, as tired as I was.

The occupancy number in jail varied because people came and went, went and came. They got bonded out, released, sentenced and shipped. There were seventeen steel bunk beds with extra thin mattresses in the unit. Many inmates slept on the floor because they were old, or pregnant and extra fat and couldn't climb on to the top bunk. Sometimes someone would trade her bunk. This was rare. Oftentimes that someone was me, but not anymore because I had to think of me, my back and my behind. Strange things happened to a person in close quarters. I saw too many fights break out over "Who let out a fart?" "Who's looking at what?" and "Who knew who on the street and got the story straight or not?" In jail people were tried and found guilty from the clink of the handcuff. If you had any idiosyncrasies about feet touching you or stinking-ass breath in the morning, you could hang that shit up at the fingerprint station 'cause jail was just like that -- the slumber party from hell, and nobody was getting picked up in the morning. Only the strong survived in the county jail.

Then there was one toilet behind a little wall, three feet high and five feet wide, for so-called privacy. My first month in, I got constipated so bad that my stomach almost exploded trying to hold in my shit, too ashamed to take a dump in front of people -- hearing inmates yell and scream at other inmates to "Flush the fucking toilet! Your ass is rotten, what crawled up in you and died?" After landing on medical, getting an enema and having to drink a bottle of magnesium stearate, I finally took a shit. I trained myself to take dumps at night in order to avoid the drama ever since.

There was a night side and a day side of the dorm. On the day side of the dorm there was a broken-down TV rigged with aluminum foil antennas. It had two channels, and there were two picnic tables made of steel, which could never be eaten on because they were always covered with clothes. There was one phone and a pencil sharpener. The dorm had about eight narrow windows, but they were all painted shut so that no one could see the light of day. The only time I saw daylight or received fresh air was when I went to court. It had been a while. The feds were so fuckin' slow with their shit! I had not gone to court in three months, and my attorney, Myer Levin, didn't know when I would go again. At least that was what he told me, so I just sat doing county time.

We ate our last meal of the day at about 4:30 P.M. -- way too early, but that's jail. Once the rules of jail were learned, it wasn't hard to figure out which ones could be bent and which ones could be broken. There was only one shower, and although there were a lot of women, there was no line to stand in to freshen up. Now the phone line was something else; for that, the line was never ending. A phone in jail was an entirely different situation. It was our link to the outside. We all used it to compensate for the things we had no control over -- our lives, our men who could care less and our shaky business matters. But the fact was that nothing was run behind the wall but our mouths. And some knew not to even do that. In many ways we were helpless dependents, left only to our consequential fate.

"Who's next on the phone?" I asked.

"I am," answered a fellow inmate named Shorty Rock. She was little, about 4'll" and a hundred pounds soaking wet. Shorty Rock's sidekick was named Cricket. Cricket was a he-she, or should I say, she-he. Cricket had a light complexion, and she was fine in the dyke sense. She-he looked like a dude, and she-he got massive attention and all the commissary she-he could pimp off the ladies. She-he wore her khakis saggin', a low-top fade, and had a pimp walk that would put an ol' G to shame. Shorty Rock and Cricket were an obvious couple and kept the dorm up most nights bumpin' pussies under the covers, lickin' and lappin' each other.

Shorty Rock slapped her dominoes on the table and said, "Xavier, you can go before me since ya just came in from yo' visit."

"Thanks, Shorty Rock," I said cuffing my pants for the fifth time that day. I heard her mumble some sucka shit under her breath but I simply didn't give a fuck. She wore a fake smile and started asking questions.

"Any good news, girl?" she asked, with her nosy ass, as she tapped the sides of her bones on the table.

"It was a personal visit, not a pro visit. But it was interesting. Rock, Vanessa, y'all wanna play some bid whist later on?" I said, nipping any further conversation about my business in the bud.

"Yeah, no doubt," Vanessa replied -- another dude look-alike.

"Cool, let's play after my shower." Before that, though, I decided that I would call my sister. I went over to the phone and wiped off the germs with my shirtsleeve. "Please be home, Sissy," I said as the phone rang.


"You have a collect call from the Franklin county jail. To accept this call, please say yes after the tone." Beeeeeep!

"YES!" My sister Lori screamed into the receiver.

"Hi, Sissy," I said.

"Hi, Pammy, how are you?" Lori asked.

"I'm hanging in there and still alive. What's up with you?" I said twisting the phone cord. I kept the same habit of twisting the phone cord from back in the day.

"Not too much, just the usual, working and worrying about you. Are there any dykes in there? Do they try to get at you?"

"Stop that," I said, not wanting to get into that discussion with my sister as a dyke was staring me down so hard that I had to turn my back to her.

"Have you heard anything about your case or from your brother?" Lori asked, and I turned my back to the card table to whisper into the phone.

"No, I'm still waiting. I wrote Ty and he hasn't written me back. Ty is so slow writing me back. My lawyer is supposed to come see me soon. He said that he filed a discovery motion," I said.

"What is 'motion of discovery' or 'discovery motion'?" Like most people who had only been in court for traffic tickets, my sister knew very little, if anything, about criminal law. Truthfully, that wasn't so surprising, for it seemed as if most supposed lawyers didn't know jack shit either. I certainly wasn't any Johnnie Cochran, but I was learning, albeit the hard way.

"Sis, let me see if I can make it as simple as possible. The courts are supposed to serve as a forum for the judgment process to play itself out. What that means in layman terms is this: Your lawyer and the prosecutor are on opposite sides of the fence. Your lawyer is hired to prove your innocence or make the prosecutor prove your guilt to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. It's a fight. The judge is supposed to be an impartial referee. The prosecutor has two obligations before the battle begins. One is to serve you with an indictment, a fancy word accusing you of whatever it is you are supposed have done. Two, to turn over any information they might have, or have access to, that could potentially prove your innocence. These documents are called Brady, Giglio and Jencks material."

"Say what?"

"Yeah, for instance, if you committed a murder or was charged with committing one, but some witness said that they saw a white woman running away from the murder scene, and the investigators took her statement, that's considered Brady material."

"Why do they call it that?"

"Hell if I know. But anything that the prosecutor has in his files along these lines must be turned over to you before trial. Even statements that people have made implicating you must also be turned over to your defense team. The process that you or your lawyer uses to get this information is called a discovery motion. The shit sounds complicated, Sis, but it really ain't all that mysterious. This will allow us to see where we're at, or shall I say, how much trouble I'm in." I rolled my eyes at a nosy spectator.

"Yes, 'cause you are definitely in trouble," Lori said.

"My lawyer also filed a motion for severance. Basically, it's a motion to the court asking the judge to give me a trial separate from my so-called codefendants. For instance, if I had implicated Chino and Chino implicated me or said that I was the real King Pin or culprit, then we would have what the court calls mutually exclusive and antagonistic defenses. Realistically, we could conceivably get separate trials. But all this motion stuff will help us see and get an idea of how long I might have to do."

"When do you get this motion stuff back?"

"I'm not sure, but my lawyer has sent me copies of all the ones he's filed on my behalf. He even filed one for separate counsel tables, so I can be tried alone and not as a coconspirator -- a lot of mumbo jumbo legal stuff."

"Well, it sounds like you're learning the law."

"I'm trying to stay with this litigation thing. Things are moving slow in one sense and fast in another. It's moving fast because they're trying to send me away for a long time," I said.

"Remember, we're not claiming all that time. Do you want me to call your lawyer?" Lori asked.

"No, let's give him two more weeks."

"All right. Do you need anything? I'll be down there to visit around eight," Lori said.

"Oh, I almost forgot, you can't come because I've had my visit for today. I hate this one-visit-per-day rule."

"Who came to see you?"

"Guess. No, you'll never, ever guess in a million years," I said with a smile on my face.

"Chino?" She couldn't hold back her laughter and I interjected loudly.

"Hell no!" I said with disgust. Just the mention of his name made my blood boil like hot lava. "That sorry-ass motherfucker!" I took the phone from my ear and began to beat it on the wall.

"See, that's why the phone stay broke!" A girl from the card table began to yell at me and say some smart shit out of her mouth.

"Fuck you!" I looked back at her and screamed. I placed the phone back to my ear, trying to respect my sister's phone bill and her time.

"Are you sane in there?" Lori asked.

"Yeah, I am."

"Maybe he will finally one day over the rainbow come through," Lori said into the receiver.

"Anyway, guess who came to visit me?" I said anxious to tell her how Delano came through like a trouper should.

"Hmmm...okay, I give up, who?" Lori asked.


"Delano," she repeated.

"Yes, Delano, and it was a nice visit."

"Where has he been hiding? I hardly hear from him, and his pager number is changed or disconnected or something. Plus, your niece, Kristen, asks about him all the time."

"I didn't ask him where he's been. I imagine surviving all this drama."

"Yeah, much drama. You were in the newspaper again," Lori informed. There was silence. "I know they upset you so much," Lori continued.

"Have you talked to Mom?" I asked

"Yes, this morning. She is having some sort of custody hearing for the baby."

"Why?" I quizzed.

"Somethin' to do with your arrest. It's no big deal. Call her and she'll explain, but she'll be in Columbus, and we both will come see you."

I explained to my sister how and why I didn't want her to bring my son to see me living like an animal in a cage -- how I couldn't bear him feeling rejected due to the fact that I could not touch him and feel the warmth of his body against my face. How would I explain why we couldn't touch? She continued to plead, but my heart was dead set against a noncontact visit with my son. The time ran faster than a marathon athlete as the beeps cut into our conversation.

"Thirty seconds remaining!" and we said our last good-byes with promises of visits and next-time opportunities to see each other.

"I love you, too, Lori." Click! I hung up the phone and went to go lie down in the dorm. The screeching sounds of a rigid-wheeled cart echoed down the hall.

"Trraaaays! Trraaays! Cups up, ladies."

"Does anyone know what they havin' for dinner?" I asked like we were at a restaurant.

A voice from underneath the covers screamed, "Whatever any of y'all don't want, I want it."

"Okay, anything that I don't want, you've got it."

The same routine every day -- trustees ordering trays and cups up for juice or colored water, the county jail's Kool-Aid. The food was cold and the juice was always hot. It was like they had it in reverse or something. The strangest looking officer on staff called us for meal. "Get in line for trays, ladies," the CO yelled.

"Hey, Officer Neal," I yelled from the back of the line trying to get some play. A butch dyke from Chi-Town was beckoning me to the front of the line. I shook my head and said, "Nah, I'm straight," and walked away. I went and stood next to a crackhead that had come in the night before. She was wiping sleep out of her eyes. They called her Diamond. She'd been asleep in a crack coma for two days.

"Whew. C'mon wit' the food!" Diamond said. "We were up in Big Mama's house gettin' higher than a cloud -- blazin! Before the raid, it was like dat!" Diamond said to another addict trying to edge closer to the front of the line.

"Xavier, those people involved in that drug raid got it goin' on." Diamond had been in and out the jail so much that she made my head spin. On each and every return she had something to say about that, tried to pry into my shit or bring back some off-the-streets drama.

"Hold that shit down," said a girl from the front of the line. We tryin' to eat."

"Shit, I know you gon' let me talk, right?" Diamond said. She couldn't have weighed a hundred pounds. "Like I said, that drug bust got everyone wondering, Xavier, if you gon' tell." She played it off as if she was trying to make a statement, but she really wanted it to be a question for the dorm to ponder. Motherfuckers spent their days ear hustlin' about the next man's business. No doubt that she was buying rocks from someone from my past. But I didn't know if she was friend or foe, informant or hoe the way she ran up in the spot and seemingly had a get-out-of-jail-free card. The police used crackheads as snitches. They would have them do a buy and then raid the house afterwards.

"Hi, Xavier, you want an extra tray?" Officer Neal asked, shifting the focus to the food. I told myself the best thing to do was ignore the crackhead, but then again, I wanted to put her in check about my business. I ended up simply letting let it slide. I walked past the Chi-Town butch and she winked her eye at me. Damn, now I gotta sleep with one eye open.

"Sure, thanks," I said and sashayed back to the metal picnic table holding two trays like I had pull. Yep, pull in the joint was still a status symbol, just like on the streets. The meat and the soup on the trays were a mystery. I was hungry, but not that damn hungry. "Anyone want this extra tray?" Now I was about to get mobbed.

"Yes, I do," White Girl Susan said eagerly.

"Here, take this shit. You can have this one, and Yvette, you can have this one," I said to another inmate. I gave the trays away and began to sift through my commissary bag searching for a Nutty Buddy.

"Thanks, Xavier."

"Mmmaaaail call!" The officer yelled and the girls swarmed the door. I stood in the rear of the room waiting to see if my name got blown up.

"Smith, Flowers, Jones, Stringer, Xavier..." I walked to the front and grabbed the letter from the officer's hand. It was from my brother, finally. I plopped down on my bunk, ripped open the letter and pulled out a candy stick. I began sucking on it and read:

What's up Sissy,

Hope you doing all right over there on your end of the jail. I got your letter and want you to know that I am praying for you. I am praying for us. Shit, hopefully this will be over soon. I spoke to Mom and Lori and they seem to be doing fine. I tried to call Carla. I mean, she is the sorriest baby mama I could have ever chose to have. She got a block on her phone, so I don't know how my kids are doing. Mom said she would try to get in touch with her through her fake-ass mother.

Guess who came up in here last night? Okay, you give? That motherfucker they called Tony. You know, the one that sold clothes to G-Money's ass. I'm trying to pick his brain to find out what is up with that snitch. Tony said he still in Columbus, trying to lay low. He also said that the feds got an undercover out in Columbus taking niggas down. Sneaky bastards.

I walked past Diaz's dorm on my way to my pro visit and he was up in the dorm looking like a girl. Them fags done put it down wit' his ass.

So what's up with your attorney? They want you to flip da script? They want me to do the same thing. And I can't speak for you, but I'm going to stay the course and do my time. They ain't got shit on me. Quite frankly, I need a vacation. Tired of all the shit I left out on the streets. I got caught up in your shit, but only God knows what I am really doing time for. I'm looking at aiding and abetting. That runs about twenty-one months, if don't nobody else put no shit in the game.

I heard Chino got a new car and still fucking with them thangs on the streets. Sis, don't even worry, he gon' get his. He lucky that I'm in here. I just sit back on my bunk sometimes and think about how in the hell I got into this shit. It seems like yesterday that you had your salon before you and Chino broke up. It seems like yesterday I was going to my prom and you were outside taking photos of me.

I know you miss your son and I know you wonder how Chino could leave you for dead. Sis, I wonder the same thing myself. But try not to worry about it. Keep your head up and your mouth shut. Let little bro' give you the advice this time. Everyone over here wonders if you gon' tell. I get tired of hearing that shit. I know you a stand-up woman. I tell them to go to hell with that bullshit.

I know this is silly, but this morning I remembered when they arrested me, I had a hamburger in the microwave. I wonder if it's still there?

Take care and when you speak to the fam, give them my love and I will do the same.

Young Ty

Following the evening mail call, they had Visit Package Delivery. Visit Package Delivery was when your visitor left a package for you prior to the visit. The staff inspected the package, and it was later delivered that night. My favorite deputy, Brinkley, came in with a brown paper bag that had my name written across it. She motioned for me to come closer and whispered into my ear, "This was my surprise. You're up to your limit on items, but I let these lovely things get through." I grabbed the bag and walked over to my area. I read the package slip and saw that it was from Delano. I thought, Sweetie lookin' out. Yeah, that's what I'm talkin' 'bout. Doing time wasn't so bad when there was someone loving you from the streets, showing loyalty just because. My ass was up a creek without a paddle, and Delano was still there for me.

My nose was filled with the scent of Delano's cologne as I removed a white chenille bathrobe from the bag along with white footie socks with the little balls on the back, wife beater Polo T-shirts with matching undies and cotton pajamas. Delano's Dolce & Gabana fragrance covered me like a blanket on a winter night.

At the bottom of the bag were Don Diva, Essence and Urban Trendsetters magazines. Lining the last layer of treats were books by my favorite authors: Street Dreams, by K'wan, David Walker's Appeal and Sheisty by T. N. Baker.

It felt like Christmas in the county jail. I held the robe to my face and inhaled, wishing Delano was here, near me, and thankful that he had not left me for dead.

I was so relieved to have the one and only street bible, Don Diva Magazine. I flipped through the pages looking for advice. Don Diva advised me, "Don't tell...." Don Diva knew about the choice. It understood the street code.

I headed for the shower.

There is nothing like a hot shower. In this place, standing under the water was more than invigorating. It provided more than relief to my sore, aching body. It was also a place where I could escape. In here, I didn't have to worry about answering questions that none of us could really answer, nor listening to the stories of grandeur that the women invented to build up their self-esteem. I didn't have to listen to complaints made by women with charges that didn't amount to shit compared to what I faced. My shower was where I could find uninterrupted solitude. And this is where I prayed.

God, I want to thank you for my life, health and strength. Thank you. Oh, God, I miss my baby. Antonio, Mommy is so sorry. I'm sorry, son. Father, thank you for the strength to endure another day. Father protect my family, comfort my son and give me the wisdom and vision needed to go through this. Thank you for your grace and many blessings.


As the water pounded against my skin, washing away the stench and grime that permeated my body, I couldn't help but think about the visit I had with needed. Then I cried.

Sudsing between my legs, making sure that I scrubbed any foul smells away, I heard a voice calling me from just outside the shower curtain.

"Hey, Pam, I got a towel waiting for you when you get out." Rinsing off the last remains of soapsuds, I recognized the voice to be that of the Chi-Town butch.

Copyright © 2004 by Vickie M. Stringer

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 50 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 51 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2005

    'Another hit'

    The follow up to Let That Be The Reason was strong and intact and if you haven't read that yet, pick it up!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2005


    i would have to agree with most of the reviewers, it was good but not great. I was very disapointed at the way it ended. I'm not gonna say the whole book was bad, cuz it wasn't. The end just mess everthing up. DO I RECOMEND IT ? YES i do so that if u read LET THAT BE THE REASON, u could get some closure, sort of. if not don't worry i got no closure. OH by the way i'm glad about what happened to CHINO in the end. He raised the person to step up to the plate and give him what he deserved. Keep on reading don't let this one stop you. Jocelyn(20) BX,NY

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2005

    Not That Into It

    I just finished this book and I agree with most of the reviewers. I was really disappointed with the ending and the book itself. I read Let That Be The Reason and enjoyed it so I ran to get this one. I should have waited. The first book was a page turner but I just couldn't get into this one. I guess telling a life story isn't as easy as we all may think. I'm just going to end this by saying Vickie Stringer better luck next time.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 1, 2011

    good book

    Still feel like I am left hanging and I don't like that.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2006


    It was good, but not as good as the first one.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2005



    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2005



    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2005

    Okay, but not great

    My review can relate to anyone who read 'LET THAT BE THE REASON'. When I purchashed my book I was excited and never thought It would turn out like it did, but it fooled me. Overall I would recommend it to anyone who read the first one, just because.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2004

    Just OK

    This is not what I expected. In comparison to the 1st book I was expecting so much more.. At least info on her getting released

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2004

    Reading is like BrEaThInG

    This book was great I can't wait for her to write more. I hope the story isn't over!!! She was strong!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2004

    This book could've been better!

    This book could've been a lot better!! I enjoy reading but this book was 1 I could've done without. I only bought it because I was disappointed how Let That Be the Reason ended. Theres 2 much missing from this book to even list it all!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2004

    Poorly Written

    Ive Heard So Much About 'The Triple Crown Publishing'& Its Authors, I Throught Id Give It Try. I Read Both Books 'Let That Be The Reason '& Imagine This' Well This Is What I Was 'Imagining', That This Book Was Written Better, And That The Author Had A Lot More To Offer The Readers..I Was Not Impressed At All.The Book Was Slow, And Nothing Was Happening That Held My Attention Accept For When Her Sons Father Was Killed, That Was About It. I Wasted My Money On This Book, Now 'Imagine' That!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2004

    Queen Bee

    I admire Ms. Stringer so very much for her courage and open heart. I loved Imagine This and hate that you had to go through all of this drama. Your story was moving and an excellent follow up to LET tHAT bE The Reason Thanks

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2004

    let's not Imagine This

    This is a very slow paced book. It was very difficult to read at times. There were no thrills and no plot. The story started with her 3rd month in the County jail. There was absolutely no meaning to this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2004

    Pammy/Carmen/Vickie - who cares?

    Imagine this was not good. It was long and boring. It also made me wonder if the author is okay since she kept switching from one personality to the next.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2004

    Very good book

    I think this was a very good book. It was a good continuation to Let That Be The Reason.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2004

    luke warm read.....

    This book is just alright, It is clearly not what I was expecting. I thought that more was going to happen, I waited and waited and then nothing. Where was the climax? Where was the real drama? A sequel is supposed to be hot, but this book was just luke warm. For a much better read check out the new author from Oaktown, her book 'without saying goodbye' is the bomb. Cop that book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2004

    shall i quote

    the book was okay it really didn't answer the question i was looking for. the author should have played carmen more have a twist to it, split personality type thing. Carmen shopuld of came out of jail and start killing people, but that was not the case. instead the book was sought of dull, they should have had a lot more things going on. what about her son, what about her man. who was the chick in the background. carmen should of really brought this book out

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2004

    Book is okay!

    This book is alright, but i like other readers were clearly expecting more. For some reason the author of this book just leaves the reader hungry for more. there were so many unanswered questions. This was not my favorite book, but it is an okay read. to any reader interested in really getting a good story, I would suggest the book, Without Saying Goodbye, written by the new literay princess of oakland, ca. her name is kendra l. willis and this girl has got a drama filled juicy story from start to finish. if you are going to get imagine this, then also get something else that will take your mind off of the simplicity of the story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2004

    Look to read books

    I thought the book was interesting. You have to like reading this genre of books to really enjoy. I haven't read the first book and look forward to reading 'Let that be the reason'

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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