Read an Excerpt
Tappin' on Thirty
By CANDICE DOW
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2008 Candice Dow
All right reserved.
Toni and I sat on the steps outside my parents' house playing Name That Movie, a silly game that we started when we were kids. One person would say a quote from a movie and the other person would have to shout the title of the movie.
She said, "No good's going to come from what you're thinking about doing."
I laughed. "I don't know that line. What movie is that from?"
"Knucklehead. I'm talking about what you're about to tell Scooter."
"What should I do if I'm not happy?"
She gasped. "Taylor, you need to figure out why you're not happy." Her eyes searched mine for an explanation. "Is it because you're getting so much attention now?"
I snapped, "No."
With an affirmative nod, she said, "You're going to regret it. Watch."
"See, this is why I don't tell you anything. Why you always got to judge me?"
"I'm not. I'm just trying to tell you to think about this."
"I have." An arrogant I-know-what-I'm-doing smirk sat posed on my face momentarily. "I think I'm too young to be in a committed long-distance relationship."
"Young is relative. Maturity is the only thing that matters. Maybe Scooter's just too mature for your wild butt."
I laughed. "Why I got to be wild?"
She rolled her eyes. My family had unofficially adopted Scooter during our five-year relationship. How could I explain to him that I wanted to see other people? After three months of contemplation, I was still uncertain. It just never seemed like the right time to explain that I'd fallen victim to all the fine black men lurking on campus.
As I fretted over what to do, Toni hissed, "That's the problem with you. You don't care about anyone's feelings."
"If I didn't care about his feelings, I would just cheat on him, right?" I paused. "At least I want to break it off first."
When we noticed his car cruising into the cul-de-sac, Toni's eyes pleaded with me. If I'm not being true to myself, how will I ever be true to him? As I provoked my conscience to sympathize with my reason, I nodded. If not today, then when?
He pulled into the driveway and Toni grunted, hating the thought that I would crush Scooter's world. I tapped my knee into hers apologetically, as he stepped out of the car and walked toward us carrying a McDonald's bag. I half-heartedly hugged him. He kissed my cheek. "Hey Tay."
I sighed. "Hey."
When I sat, Toni stood to hug him. "Hey, brother."
Her eyes scolded me as she sat down. He handed me the bag. "I got sundaes for y'all."
Toni giggled. "Yea, Scooter."
He laughed and patted the top of Toni's head. He looked at me. "Are we hanging out here or do you want to go to the movies?"
"It doesn't matter. We can go to the movies."
When I stood, he admired the long, fitted cotton-striped dress that he'd given me as a just-cause gift. "I like that on you," he commented.
He asked Toni if she wanted to tag along, but my expression demanded that she decline. She chuckled, and said, "Y'all go ahead. I'm okay."
I asked her to put my sundae in the freezer, as he opened the passenger side door. When I sat in the car, Toni's expression criticized me. My eyes begged for her empathy. He started the car and pinched my cheek. "I made a tape for you."
He popped the tape in and the first song to play was Tanya Blount's, "Through the Rain". Scooter sang the lyrics as if he meant every word, while he held my hand. "Through the rainy storms together. We can last." He nodded and smiled. "Gonna make it last."
I winced. No, actually we're not. When the song finished, I turned the stereo down. "Scooter, why do you always make stuff for me and ..."
He looked baffled. "I've always made stuff for you. We make stuff for each other."
"What's the last thing I've made for you?"
His eyes questioned my disposition. I said, "Have you noticed I haven't wrote any poems or made any tapes since ..."
He tapped on the brakes. "Since spring break."
I dropped my head and allowed the sting to resonate. We pulled up to the Bowie Movie Theatre. We sat in silence for a minute. My face crumbled into a sympathetic frown, pleading for his understanding.
Finally, he asked, "What's wrong?"
"Scooter, don't you think we're too young?"
His temples popped out. His silence scared me, but I forged on. "I think this long-distance thing is too much for us."
He snapped, "For who? For you?"
"It just seems like I ..."
Tears formed in his eyes. Ooh, this wasn't going so smoothly. My eyes shifted back and forth. What the hell was I supposed to say to make this better? I frowned.
As I studied the expression in his face, I winced. Finally, the tears fell. Not one or two. An endless stream flowed down his strong jaw structure.
"Taylor, I love you."
Dumbfounded, I asked, "Don't you want to explore first?"
He snickered through his sniffles. "I guess that's what this is about. You want to explore."
He banged on the steering wheel. "I'm on campus with a bunch of white girls. I don't want to explore. I want to be with you."
Was this all about our options? He had few. I, on the other hand, was on a campus full of fine-ass black men. My lips curled with confirmation. No one told him to go to Princeton.
"Scooter, I do. I do want to explore."
This six-foot-five boy that I loved so much wailed like a chick in the confines of his small car. Where was his pride? Although I was repulsed by this episode, I asked, "Are you okay?"
He growled, "Do I look okay?"
My eyes danced in my head. I wanted to ask if he didn't mind taking me home and we could talk about this when he was in better shape. Instead, I sat there and endured his begging. Needless to say, my stubborn ass did not surrender. The more he cried, the less I cared. Speed on, Scooter.
The propellers of my ceiling fan played episodes of my immature stupidity. The aroma of a humid summer's eve and an insect symphony outside my patio door contributed to my delusions. My contact lenses blurred as I watched my life play out before me.
In less than three hours, my ten-year class reunion would take place. Anticipation left my restless body fatigued. In the midst of my daydream, the phone resting on the pillow startled me as it rang in my ear. I jumped up. "Hello."
My partner-in-crime sang into the phone, "Make me loose my breath."
I giggled. "Girl, turn that music down."
"Just lying here."
Courtney huffed. "Girl, you better start getting ready."
"What are you doing?"
"What are you doing?" I snapped.
She chuckled. "Trying to get Mark's ass to stay home."
"You're crazy. Here I am, wanting to pay somebody to go with me, just so I don't look desperate and your crazy butt wants to leave your fiancé at home."
"Girl, you never turn down meeting ops."
"I'm honest." She chuckled sneakily, adding, "Hell, I'm single until I tie the knot."
"No, whore. The theory is you're single until you get the ring."
She laughed. "Yeah, whatever. I'll let you know if he's coming or not. Either way, I'll be there at nine."
A piece of me prayed he'd decide not to come. I didn't want to be a part of the threesome strolling into the reunion.
My body peeled up from the bed. No more dress rehearsals. The full stage production approached. The tangerine-and-coral satin dress pinned neatly on the dry cleaner's hanger decorated my closet door. I looked at it for the millionth time. When I first tried it on and when I tried it on an hour ago, it fit perfectly. Still, I hoped it made the impression that the $300 price tag made in my pocket.
After I showered and flat-ironed my ear-length layered flip, I stood in front of my dress once again. Courtney would be here in about thirty minutes, but I was scared to have more time than necessary to critique the finished product. Instead, I played with makeup for twenty-five minutes. Putting on my false eyelashes took longer than expected, but I was still on schedule. Finally, I washed my hands and stepped into my strapless dress. While I zipped up the side, I sucked in my already flat belly and stepped over to the full-length mirror. The subtle sparkles from my lotion glistened on my full cleavage. My makeup added to the striking effect of the dress. The zigzag hem complemented my long get-it-from-my-mama legs. I winked at the five-foot-nine cutie staring back at me.
Courtney rang the doorbell and interrupted my self-absorption. I took a second to slip on my four-inch strappy sandals. Then, I rushed to the door, peeping at anything resembling a mirror. When I opened the door, I was careful not to rub up against it. Standing nearly six inches below me, Courtney reached her arms out for a hug. Midstream in the embrace, she adjusted the straps of her tight black spaghetti-strap dress. Bronze sparkles glistened on her pale skin.
I warned her, "Be careful girl. Don't get any makeup on your dress."
Courtney batted her lashes, obviously proud that she could glue them on as well. "Trust me. I won't."
Simultaneously, we sang, "Damn chica, you look good."
After hanging around someone for fourteen years, it's second nature to speak the same words together. We laughed.
"You look real bronze," I commented.
"It's this Neutrogena Sunless Tanning."
Like galloping horses, we strutted across my hardwood floors. "I guess you made Mark stay home."
"I told him he probably wouldn't enjoy himself."
We laughed. "You are no damn good."
She tossed my clutter around. "When are you ever going to clean this messy room?"
"When I marry Dr. Evans and stop practicing law."
Courtney plopped down on my bed without a response. She kicked her heels up on the wicker trunk at the foot of my bed pretending to admire her reflection. Then, as if she could no longer restrain her thoughts, she jumped up and walked into the bathroom. She stood beside me. Ignoring her inquisitive eyes, I patted my lips together and used my pinky to fix a makeup mistake.
"Taylor, I hope you haven't filled your mind with fantasies of hooking up with Scooter."
Attempting to minimize my obvious anticipation, I chuckled carelessly. "No girl, I'm not stupid."
She folded her chiseled arms, "Yeah, but I know you did your research," she said.
She knew me all too well. From preliminary research, he was no one's daddy or husband. He was in his third year of residency at Yale Medical Center. The big question was, is he still single? And not Courtney's interpretation of single.
"Look, I'm taking all numbers tonight. I'm not tripping about Scooter."
I shrugged my shoulders and flicked my fingers through my hair. Despite my show of aloofness, she continued, "You still feel like there's unfinished business, right?"
I sighed and exited the bathroom. "Not really."
She followed, as I headed into my walk-in closet to get my purse. "Whatever, Taylor. You need to stop faking. Remember I was the one Scooter cried to when you left him. Remember I was the one you cried to when he got over your ass. If you remember, you two never told each other how you felt."
As to confirm the answer to what was supposed to be a question, she proclaimed, "There is unfinished business."
She stood in the doorway with her hand on her hip. I returned the gesture. Face to face, she wanted me to confess. Instead, I brushed past her. "Girl, I'm not trippin'."
As she compiled her case, I checked all the electrical appliances. I turned the light off in the bathroom. "So, how are we going to close this chapter of your life tonight?"
I giggled. "Girl, whatever, we're going to have a good time."
I headed for the stairs. She followed and made her closing argument. "All right chica, don't say I didn't try to help you when you get there and loose your cool."
I giggled again. This time because I knew she was probably more afraid of me loosing my cool than me. For her sake, I reminded her that I would not forget the ground rules we set in tenth grade. Before we walked out the door, I smiled at her and said, "Rule number one: Always be cool."
As if I'd lifted my foot from her chest, she sighed and together we said, "Rule number two: If you think you've lost your cool, refer back to rule number one."
She bumped her side against mine. "All right chica, all eyes are on you."
I kidded. "Lights, cameras, action."
When we pulled up to the Newton White Mansion, cars laced every inch of the parking lot. Courtney had the 5 Series sparkling. I felt like a diamond, even though I didn't have one propped on my finger. Courtney opted to remove her ring. I was tempted to rent a ring so I wouldn't have to endure the sympathetic expressions that I get when people find out that I'm still single.
As we waited in line for the car to be parked, we were trying to recognize people going inside. Courtney pointed. "Ooh girl, that's Yolanda." She winced and added, "Damn. She's huge."
I laughed. "Ooh, look at her. She was in the honors program with us. What's her name?"
Courtney laughed. "I don't know, but she's big too."
We amused ourselves as we pointed out all the people that had fallen off. Somehow a part of me needed to know that others failed in areas that I hadn't.
A muscular white guy, wearing a yellow T-shirt labeled VALET finally found his way to our car. He opened Courtney's door. When I put my hand on the handle, my heart sank. I took a deep breath and stepped out.
As we trudged onto our virtual red carpet, we heard others making similar observations. "Is that Taylor? That's Courtney. They look the same. Do they still hang together?" As my eyes searched for Scooter, the photographer practically shoved us up to the background and snapped the flash.
Scooter's old football teammates guarded the entrance like bouncers. I hoped their quarterback stood in the midst of their huddle. I quickly gravitated toward them. We hugged the guys. Courtney gave unemotional hugs. I gave anticipatory hugs, hoping the next arms to circumvent me would be those of Scooter Evans. As I wrapped my arms around the final guy, I peeped behind him and there was no Scooter. My eyes wandered in circles as the guys shouted flattering praises to us.
"Damn, y'all still fine."
"Y'all still the smartest, finest chicks I know."
"Look at the paid-ass attorneys."
"How y'all still in shape? Everyone else has blown up!"
We walked into the foyer of the mansion and stood in an endless line to get name tags. My eyes scoped every inch of the room. When I glanced up the stairs in the middle of the foyer, he stepped down. Scooter. My heart thumped, and my nerves began to percolate. His black slacks fell neatly on the top of his shoes. I tugged Courtney's arm. With my teeth clenched together, I mumbled, "Oh my God, Courtney. Do you see who I see?"
She nodded nonchalantly. Her expression said, "I told you so."
I sucked my teeth and rolled my eyes, saying, "You make me sick."
She didn't acknowledge my hysteria. My insides were flipped upside down. As if it would help, she mumbled, "Rule number one."
Before she could finish, I gasped. The last thing I could think about were a couple of childish rules.
My heart sank deeper as he neared the bottom of the stairway. My head drooped lower and lower. I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer.
Finally, I lifted my head. His looks startled me. The cute boy was now a handsome man. His tall slim body had transformed into lean bulk. I gasped for air and quickly dropped my head again. I took a deep breath, inhaling a dose of courage. Then, I raised my head. Finally I was ready to face the love of my life. I looked left. I looked right. Scooter was gone.
Courtney shook her head as if she was already disappointed in my actions. I huffed anxiously, hoping the line would hurry. Before I began biting my nails, I stepped out of line. Heck, whomever I wanted to see should know my damn name. Courtney called out for me, as I stormed away.
When I rushed into the dining area, he stood there. I inhaled his presence. Detecting me in his peripheral vision, he turned and smiled. I smiled nervously. He smirked. His facial expression intimidated me. As the space between us disappeared, so did my words.
I stood face-to-face with the only man I have loved in my twenty-eight years on this earth. He grabbed me and hugged me tightly. Momentarily the embrace settled the volcano erupting inside of me. He pulled back, held both of my arms out. He smiled and shook his head as if to grant his approval.
"Taylor, Taylor, Taylor ..."
Still lost for words, I followed his lead. "Scooter, Scooter, Scooter ..."
We burst into laughter as we reminisced on our teenage pet names. He complimented me, "Girl, I'm not surprised that you are still fine as hell."
Excerpted from Tappin' on Thirty by CANDICE DOW Copyright © 2008 by Candice Dow. Excerpted by permission.
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