Read an Excerpt
From How the Other Half Lives
by Eileen M. Johnson
Jamellah pulled the heavy Persian rug toward the hallway and off the wall-to-wall carpeting. Grabbing the vacuum cleaner and wrapping the thin cord around her slim brown hand, she turned the power on and began the task of cleaning the carpet. Humming an old Commodores tune, she pushed and pulled the vacuum until beads of perspiration formed above her nut-brown upper lip. Not only was today Friday, her usual cleaning day, but she was expecting company. Not just any company, but that of the sexy black male persuasion. Kenny was thirty-three years old, the owner of a small but profitable construction company, and very married.
The fact that Kenny was married did not disappoint Jamellah. All of her boyfriends were married. As she always told her best friend, Fernecia, the more happily married they were, the better. Married men were low maintenance and that was right up Jamellah's alley. Married men required no commitment, you didnt have to deal with them 24/7, and they were usually extra passionate and extra generous. That's the way she liked her men. She had actually started dating married men at a very young age after quickly growing weary of young, inexperienced boys who were in her face constantly. So at nineteen, she had gone out and met Clarence at an after-work happy hour. Clarence was a twenty-eight-year-old dreamboat who already had his own small investment banking firm, the fabled house on the hill, and his own Benz. He also had a very somber and sexually unresponsive wife. This was a disappointment for Clarence but a blessing for Jamellah. She and Clarence participated in a hot and heavy fling that lasted until she turned twenty-one. In those two years, he managed to give her a used but still fashionable Audi, a pair of stunning two-carat diamond solitaire earrings, and a nearly permanent headache from his complaining about how unhappy his home life was. So after getting him to secure the financing on a snazzy little town house and helping her to set up a small but lucrative stock portfolio, she gave him a well put together story. With well-rehearsed but very persuasive tears rolling down her cheeks, Jamellah told Clarence about how she could no longer sleep at night without him and how she wanted him to leave his wife. As much as Clarence wanted to be with the cute and sexually uninhibited Jamellah, he realized that the state they lived in was a community property state, and under no circumstances was he ready or willing to give his tight-lipped wife half in a divorce. After an Oscar-worthy performance, Jamellah told him that she might be willing to get over him in exchange for a few parting gifts. Relieved that Jamellah withdrew her staunch ultimatum and waved the white flag, he presented her with a nice diamond tennis bracelet, tuition for her last semester of college, a discreet and heavy deposit in her money-market account, and grateful thanks for the two years of her life that shed devoted to him. Amazingly, they parted as friends, and would occasionally meet for a drink and a quickie.
Three months later, feeling pleasantly boosted with her car, town house, stock portfolio, and degree, Jamellah was once again on the prowl. Love could definitely wait a few more years. Right now, she craved more security. After landing a job as an entry-level adjuster for a large insurance agency, she soon began to use her huge office building as a hunting ground.
She paired crisp linen business suits with soft, lacy peekaboo camisoles and tall heels for a look that was professional yet sexy. Each morning, she painstakingly applied her makeup and arranged her extension-enhanced tresses to look like she had just stepped out of a magazine. Her good looks immediately drew the attention of several of her colleagues. Pretty soon, both her looks and her strong work ethic drew the attention of one of the company's VPs. In the first six months that Jamellah worked for Southwestern Life and Casualty, not only did she do desk work but she also did her homework. She knew which of her suitors had the most pull within the company, who earned the most, who drove what, who was married to whom, and who could get her where she wanted to be.
After chatting with Hugh McDonough, vice president of operations, at the Christmas party, Jamellah soon made him her prey. From that point on, she always made it a point to look extra sexy at the Thursday afternoon staff meetings that he presided over. It also helped that she was always full of provocative conversation at all social functions.
Within three months of the Christmas party, Jamellah was taking all of the gifts that Hugh presented her with, and he, in turn, accepted all her free time and talent. From her prior research, she knew that his wife, Meredith McDonough, cared only about the Times-Picayune society page and the city's black bourgeoisie.
Although Hugh was a lusty and insatiable lover and much older than she generally liked them, he was definitely the route that Jamellah needed to take.
By the time Christmas rolled around again, Jamellah had been promoted to a competitive yet promising position as an underwriter. She received this promotion partly because of her hard work but more so because of Hugh's iron influence on the powers that be. With her cushy new job came a cushy new gift from Hugh. Jamellah gladly got rid of her old car for Hugh's gift, a brand-new, shiny black Audi A8 that she drove to her office with pleasure and pride.
No matter how discreet the two attempted to keep their involvement, it was unmistakable. One minute Jamellah was trudging around the city assessing claims and the next she was three floors up in the building, her mind far from flood, fire, and accident damage. Of course, this did not sit well with the other sisters in the office. They had spent years at Dillard, Xavier, Southern, Alcorn, and Grambling, studying and preparing for corporate America. Some graduated magna and even summa cum laude and were shocked to find out that no matter how much education you got, you often wound up in a surplus pool of black college graduates fighting for entry-level jobs not even near your field. The shock went even further when they realized that a simple blow job or two could catapult a 2.5 GPA graduate like Jamellah into a job it would take them years to move up to. This of course led to their extreme dislike of her.
At forty-five, Hugh was handsome, wealthy, and wise beyond his years. However, for a brief time, he felt something for the twenty-three-year-old Jamellah that could have been mistaken for love. She returned the favor of his expensive gifts and favors with practiced sexual skills and unlimited affection, which he never got at home. Of course it would bother Jamellah when she would see Hugh and Meredith at social gatherings and on the society page, but she understood her place in his life and his place in her career. Hugh, in turn, would often get angry when the water-cooler talk by the agencys black male employees was about Jamellah and her fabled sexual escapades. But since no one in the office building knew about his relationship with her, he had to keep his anger to a minimum in public, but when he was alone with her, he lashed out at her with contempt and disgust.
Contempt and disgust soon turned to jealousy and abuse, and that was when Jamellah decided that it was time to end their allegiance. Knowing that he would not agree with her decision, she came up with a surefire plan to keep her newfound prestige and at the same time end the troublesome relationship. With the urine of a hugely pregnant Fernecia and a Fact Plus pregnancy test, Jamellah managed to convince Hugh that she was carrying his baby. Afraid of the scandal the pregnancy would cause in the uppity black community and the jeopardy it would put his job and marriage in, Hugh quickly ended the relationship, but not without pacifying a threatening Jamellah. Not only did he give her three thousand dollars for a false late-term abortion, but Hugh also gave her five times that amount in hush-hush money. Jamellah could not believe her good fortune, while Hugh could not believe his stupidity. He made it a policy long before hed met Jamellah not to get involved with anyone who was connected with his job. Now he was sharing an office building with a walking time bomb who could easily destroy his life. But for some reason, he had actually fallen in love with the young girl who had given him relieving icy rubdowns when he was in physical pain and soothing hot-oil massages when he wanted to feel pleasure.
Sometimes when his heart and his dick overpowered his reasoning, he contacted her and attempted to renew their ties, but his requests were met with firm refusals and idle yet convincing threats. After one of these threats, which sounded more lethal than usual, Hugh decided to wean and save himself from Jamellah. At the same time, he decided to show her that his love for her had not been in vain.
Jamellah was just coming out of the adjustment period in her new position when a corporate headhunter, who happened to be Hugh's fraternity brother, contacted her about a better-paying and more secure position with an old and stable company in the northeastern part of the city. Overjoyed and aware that this was of Hugh's doing, Jamellah promptly turned in her immediate resignation to Southwestern Life and Casualty.
That was a year and a half ago, and now Jamellah's salary was 25 percent larger and her conscience 100 percent smaller. Since then, she had been through three other married men who shed become involved with for material reasons, and a single black attorney who shed been involved with purely for pleasure.
At twenty-four, Jamellah felt that she was on top of the world. She had a great job, an expensive automobile, and a professionally decorated town house that was on its way to being paid for. She was childless, free, and beautiful, which to her were the most important things in the world. Her family marveled at her success and her friends were mystified by how quickly shed climbed the corporate ladder and gained material wealth. They always knew that she'd get out of the New Orleans ghetto that shed grown up in, but they never guessed that she'd come this far. Unbeknownst to her friends, Jamellah was whoring just as they were, only at a much higher price.
Copyright ©2006 by Zane
How the Other Half Lives copyright ©2006 by Eileen M. Johnson