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By Trisha R. Thomas
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2007 Trisha R. Thomas
All rights reserved.
Little Red Corvettes
It's difficult to explain what spurred my little breakdown. I could start at the beginning, but time, as you can tell, is of the essence. I could start from the middle, but then it would never be clear why I wasn't content with my life, the perfect life I'd made for myself. After all, I had everything a girl — a woman — could ask for. A girl because when she's five years old, she only knows the basics of the game. Make him love you. When she becomes a woman, say around thirty, she learns the real rules. Make him stay in love with you. I'd succeeded. Jake Parson had fallen in love with me and would have stayed that way had I not made a terrible mistake.
Jake was completely justified in straying into the arms of another woman. I see it clearly and without bias. His side of the story will make mine look tame in comparison. But if I was watching from across the street, peering into someone else's yard, I'd say, She got what she deserved. Letting a man that fine run around unattended — well, what'd you expect? Right on all counts. I was guilty.
So I'll start, not in the middle, but somewhere closer to the end. I was out drinking with Wendy, I admit, breaking my first rule.
It was the first week of the first month of a brand-new year. Wendy had finally received her divorce papers and felt a celebration was in order. I'd offered something more reasonable, like a trip to the spa where they fed you strawberries dipped in chocolate and champagne in real crystal glasses, but, "No," she'd said, "I want to dance."
So there we were, in a nightclub, for goodness' sake. Gotham Hall in Santa Monica, a full-fledged "get down and shake your booty on the dance floor, neon lighting, and waitresses with their booties flinging around when they walked demanding you fill a two-drink minimum or sit somewhere else" kind of club. I was far too sophisticated to be there. I had principles. I was a mar ried woman of eighteen months, seven days, and a solid twelve hours.
I wasn't supposed to be there while strange men breathed down my face, sniffing for levels of female desperation. The whole scene was far beneath me. Wendy, too, but where else could we dance if we didn't want to dance with each other? (Which by the way was a white thing. Black women, no matter what the alcohol content read on the Breathalyzer, did not turn to each other and say, "Let's dance." In college, I tried to explain this to my white and other roommates. It wasn't that I was a bump on the log; I wanted to party as much as the next guy, but with a guy.)
"Venus, you in here, where you at?" Wendy's voice bounced off the bathroom walls.
"In here! I'll be out in a minute." After five mojitos, getting too-tight jeans off was aerobic exercise. Relief washed over me when I finally won the struggle and squatted in praying yoga position over the commode.
"No hurry. The party will continue. Did you see that guy with the fake tattoo? Oh my gawd, what has the world come to? He must've been forty, easily, looking like a broke Coolio." She snickered to herself. Wendy was only one year away from the big four-oh herself, even though her lean figure and flawless dark skin radiated good health from five days a week at the gym. "I'm going back to the table. Take your time, less competition." She let the door teeter back and forth.
I took my time. I had little choice, struggling to get the too-tight jeans back over my hips and thighs. Let's face it, all my jeans were too tight, not just the ones I was wearing. Being in my late thirties added thirty pounds. Distributed evenly, I thought, until taking a peek down my lowslung halter top. After giving birth to Mya, I'd had voluptuous breasts for an entire month. Once the overstock of hormones cleared, I was left smaller than I'd started, a mouthful or a handful, depending on whose hand or whose mouth. If it was Mya's, yes; if it was Jake's, I fell slightly short.
"Someone in here?" My bathroom door shook. The woman's slurred voice echoed against the tiled walls. "This one's open," she said to the other pair of heels clicking across the floor. "I can't stand this anymore," the slurred voice continued from the stall next to mine.
"Stop worrying about him. The world is full of married men. He's just one more."
"How many times have I told you, he's not just a married man?" The other voice echoed. "I care about him. He's my friend."
"Why do you keep hashing this up? You're either in or you're out. Married men don't need friends. They need extra punanny. They also don't leave their wives for the extra punanny, and the two percent of them that do, end up leaving you, too."
"It's already over. I just want him to stop lying to himself. He's miserable. It breaks my heart to see him so unhappy. I knew it. I knew exactly where his marriage was headed. Failure. He felt sorry for her. That's the only reason he married her in the first place, because her baby's daddy dumped her. Pitiful. He came to her rescue. He was played for a fool."
With a valiant deep breath, I got the button on my jeans to close. I was secure and safe to breathe. I peered past the stall down to the woman's excellent painted red toes. Glossy like shiny new red Corvettes on a lot. Ten of them. And the strappy sandals to match. I owned the same pair, though I hadn't worn them in a while.
"The worst part is that the heffa was running around on him. Seeing her ex behind his back. Dr. Ex-Lova." Slurred laughter matched her slurred words. "I could see if he was like a plastic surgeon or something, but he's just a charity doctor, broke like the rest of us."
I tried to stop the ringing in my ears. Dr. Ex-Lova? Charity doctor? Chills ran up my bare arms. I was hallucinating for sure, hearing things. Had someone dropped something in my drink? C'mon, breathe, I told myself.
Her toilet flushed. "Anyway"— the strappy stilettos moved and the stall door banged open —"things are coming to a head, you mark my words. Jay is not going to stay with her, not when she's messing around on him. She hung herself."
Breathe, damn it! Stay calm. I stood up and touched the latch, then stopped myself. I didn't want the two women to see me, but I needed to see them.
I attempted to step on the toilet seat to peer over the top. The nonflexible fabric of my jeans permitted only an awkward knee prop, then another. I came down and pressed my face in the crack above the hinge. A red dress. A rounded shoulder. Skin, lots of cinnamon brown skin. A flip of streaked blond hair.
"I mean she spends half her time in D.C., the other in Los Angeles, spending up his money like she's Ivana and he's Donald."
"Ivana and Donald aren't married." The voice out of eyeball's reach said.
"Ivana's still spending his money."
"How do you know everything going on in his world anyway?" "He tells me," she snapped. "That's what I mean, if he loved her so much, why is he telling me all their business?"
"Don't get hostile on me, girl. All right. You know him better than I do."
"I do. I know him. Jay is one of the good ones, and we're destined to be together."
By the time I struggled with the latch and freed myself, they were gone. The music lunged at me as I burst into the nightclub. Neon lights coming up from the dance floor bounced with the rhythm. Swaying bodies crowded the dance floor.
"Hey, shorty, want to dance?" A slim white guy with his shirt unbuttoned nearly to his navel blocked my way. I stared into his hairy midsection before making a beeline around him looking for what ... the shoes. Nice ankles and nice calves. Red dress. Blond-streaked hair.
"Venus, over here." Wendy was waving from the dance floor, both her long arms over her head while another pair of arms looped around her waist from behind. She turned around and did a freaknik, going down on her dance partner. I grabbed her by the wrist and pulled.
"Okay, wait, damn. How fine is he?"
"Wendy, I am not trying to show you a man!" I said, unable to keep my focus. There were so many women. Never before had it dawned on me this way: so many women for Jake to choose from.
But I was looking for just one. Red strappy shoes, red dress, long straight hair. The predator planning to steal my husband was getting away.
"What, girl? What's wrong?" Wendy's honey-colored eyes peered deeper into mine.
How could I put it into words? I knew I deserved whatever was coming my way. The way I'd treated Jake, the way I'd totally disrespected him by lying about Clint — now it was my turn.
"I'm sick." I grabbed my stomach to emphasize.
"Oookay," she said suspiciously. "You need some water or something?"
"Wait! Stop," I called out, taking off in the opposite direction. Wendy was right behind me. The mystery woman disappeared into a crowd. I pushed through the various women, unable to see anything but silicone-enhanced cleavage and long legs attached. "Let me through."
"Venus, who are we chasing?"
I reached out and took Wendy by the wrist. "Come on." I pushed and wrangled until reaching a clearing on the other side. We were outside nearly in the street with no hopes of getting back inside. Then I heard the toilet stall voice coming from a short distance in the darkness of the night. Promises to call. Slight laughter.
"This way." I pulled Wendy, knowing I'd need backup.
"What ... is ... going ... on?" Wendy uttered through jiggling jaws while I dragged her to keep up.
The sound of an engine came, then headlights. It was a convertible, but the top was up. When the car came toward us, I was busy staring into the dark reflection of the windshield.
"That's it ... Venus, what is wrong with you? I want an answer right now." Wendy used her long arms to snatch me out of the way. I struggled to get back into view. The car's license plate was out of sight.
"Somebody's ... what?" She stuck her neck out and dropped her chin. "Spit it out!"
"Somebody's trying to steal my husband."
"Oh gawd, what else is new?"
Good question. It's not like I didn't have this problem often. But this was different. I still had hopes the entire scene was a bad hallucination. Maybe that guy with the fake tattoo did drop something in my drink?
"The woman in the bathroom, she called him Jay." I was nearly hyperventilating. "Dr. Ex-Lova, she was talking about Clint."
To Wendy, I was speaking Spanish with a twist of Greek. It didn't make sense, but I couldn't shut myselfup.
"The girl in the bathroom said, 'The heffa is running around on him seeing her Ex behind his back.' Get it? Dr. Ex!" I screamed, "Get it? Clint! How would she know about me and Clint unless Jake was crying on her shoulder?"
"Who is her? And since when are you and Clint something to talk about?"
I blinked twice for guilty.
"This is crazy." Wendy shook her head. "I can't believe you've been seeing Clint ... behind my back." She started toward the car. "If anything, that's what you ought to be ashamed of."CHAPTER 2
Six months earlier, I had a good life. I'd basically become the stay-at-home mom I'd always dreamt of being. In some circles, housewife was the proper term. Being able to stay home with your child and take care of your loving husband was like winning the California lotto. The odds were like a million to one.
I'd won. The battle was over. Jake made it clear he wanted me to be his wifey and put all my energy into taking care of him. A man's greatest honor, he'd said, was knowing you could afford to take care of your family. My greatest honor, in turn, would be to take care of him.
At eighteen months old, Mya was starting to wield her power as the new princess of the house. So on this day, a miraculously clear afternoon in Los Angeles, it felt good to get out of the house. Blue skies in late August just didn't happen. This hot time of the year was considered heavy smog season, when the wind didn't blow hard enough, the rain was nonexistent, and commuters sat in traffic sending out extra exhaust from the exertion of their air conditioners.
I drove along humming to the Disney radio station, the only child-safe listening in the entire Southern California area. Then again, they played a lot of Britney Spears. Little Britney's Mouseketeering days were long over, as she showed off cleavage and thongs. But if Madonna could write children's books for little girls, exalting the virtue of being true to yourself, why not have Britney singing "My Prerogative" as the main play on a children's radio station?
The crystal blue sky and the moderate temperature of the day were fine enough, but that's not why Mya and I were so happy. The excitement came with the new teeth finally breaking through her tired achy gums, offering us both a shimmer of relief. A free get-out-of-jail card from her anguish and mine, too. I'd virtually closed myself up in the house during the difficult teething period, knowing the minute I set foot in a mall, a restaurant, or out for a stroll on the beach, her wails of misery would end all world peace.
The day was crisp and ripe with possibility. No more use for the cold teething rings. Mya hadn't used them for much except to bang me over the head. Worse was the gum-numbing gel that made her face squish, giving a clear impression of, "Mama, that's just nasty."
The only true relief came from my fragile nipples, which despite their lack of stature provided Mya with a full belly and mind-numbing comfort. I knew she was getting too old, but we'd struck a deal that I found hard to break. The second I pried my drained bosom from her suction, her lips arched down, her eyes watered shut, and she sobbed uncontrollably until her lungs bordered on collapse. I secretly feared someone from social services was watching, taking notes, ready to arrest me. I feared a punishment of being chained down while Mya had her way at my tender nipples all day and into the night if she desired.
Those two new pearly nuggets in my baby's mouth became my ticket to freedom. We were out minding our own business, on our way to browse for the little red clearance tags at Target. The thrill of the hunt, finding a good bargain, brought as much joy as coming across a twenty-dollar bill lying on the edge of a sidewalk. Afterwards, I'd planned to lunch at Bolivia's, a nifty little sidewalk café, without the usual fear of Mya pitching a hissy fit and making the patrons stare.
A beautiful day? No. Instead we were cut short. Clear out of nowhere, a clunker of a car rammed us from the right side at full speed, sending my silver SUV spinning out of control. We landed into a streetlight pole sideways wrapped like a half-eaten bun on a hot dog. Blood dripped down the side of my face. My leg twisted awkwardly in the wrong direction. None of that mattered. My only concern was Mya, strapped in her car seat, tipped over on the side, her mouth bent in panic, but no sound leaving her lips. I couldn't reach her. I couldn't move. She stretched her hands out for me to save her, and all I could do was curse and scream. I should have been able to fly, leap out of my seat, lift her up in my arms, and swoop her to the nearest hospital, but I was only human.
I heard voices all around, frantic 911 calls. A woman trapped, bleeding from her head. That woman was me. After a dizzying mix of images, appropriately called my life flashing before my eyes, I saw Clint Fairchild walk away from me at the altar and marry someone else. I saw my mother lying in the hospital with tubes feeding the chemotherapy into her veins. I saw Jake coming toward me like an angel with open wings.
In the hospital I awoke panicked. "Where is she? Where's my baby?" I tried to get out of the bed, ready to scour the hospital.
A nurse pushed through the door and grabbed me. "Relax, now. C'mon."
"Where's my baby? Her name is Mya. She's eighteen months old."
"She's one floor up, resting. She's fine."
I struggled to get out of bed, not realizing my leg was elevated in a cast.
Another nurse came into the room and took a hold of my flailing arms. "What's she screaming about? I heard her all the way down the hall."
Excerpted from Nappily Married by Trisha R. Thomas. Copyright © 2007 Trisha R. Thomas. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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