Chapter One: Photo Finish
"Is it bad luck to be eaten the night before you get married?"
A uniform gasp cut through the room.
"Reesy," Misty said as she rose from the velvet sofa one of three in the bridal chamber. "That's way too much information for you to be sharing."
She smoothed the front of her eggshell-colored dress and checked for wrinkles on the short train that trailed behind. She looked over at her best friend, Reesy, sitting at a small cherry-wood desk, wearing an elaborate ivory wedding gown, getting a manicure.
"It's bad enough you're going out of your way to do everything bass-ackwards," said Reesy's mother, who was uptight because she couldn't dictate the structure of the occasion. "Do you have to defy every convention? You're the only one who's supposed to be in any kind of white. This is your day. A bride should be the centerpiece of everything at her wedding."
Reesy glanced up at her mother, their eyes meeting in a brief standoff. Tyrene Snowden's severe gaze remained fixed upon her daughter. After a moment, Reesy laughed and looked down at her hands.
"Please, Tyrene. We all know it ain't no virgins in this room, but isn't it nice we get to pretend? Be happy and let everybody fake the funk for a minute. When was the last time you got to wear white?"
Tyrene tossed her turbaned head and walked to the window, the hem of her bone-hued African gown making a shuffling sound as her tiny heels clickety-clacked across the floor. The fact that Reesy never addressed her as "Mother" never seemed much more than one of several annoying traits of an insolent only child. Tyrene found herself resenting it now.
"I hope motherhood will finally make you grow up," she said, her back to everyone. "Everything in life is not a joke. Some situations warrant a level of respect."
"Who's laughing?" Reesy asked. "I'm not about to lie to anybody by walking down that aisle like I'm some sort of saint. How stupid is that anyway, wearing white when you're pregnant?"
She wished Tyrene would shut up. The last thing Reesy wanted today was the typical heaping plate of antagonism her mother dished out.
"You're only three and a half months," Tyrene replied. "It's not like your stomach is huge."
Tyrene was right. Reesy wouldn't appear pregnant to someone who didn't know. She was still all long limbs and taut muscle, her body not yet giving over to the softness of maternity. Her breasts were lush, but not stuffed, as was her perfect erstwhile stripper's rear. Reesy's tight, graceful dancer's body was still the envy of her friends.
"I'm pregnant, period," she said, "which means I'm not pure, which everybody, including my fiancé, already knows. Please. If I had a dollar for every man who's seen my naked "
"Reesy." Grandma Tyler's brow was a series of subtle creases. Soft furrows, not the severe folds that come from the familiarity of worry. Her small, delicate frame was tucked in an armchair near the window, enveloped in chiffon. "Don't mess with your mama. Besides the fact that she's been waiting a long time to see this day, she's right. It ain't fit to have everybody dressed like you." She picked an invisible piece of lint from her dress and flicked it away. "You s'posed to stand out. This day is for the bride."
"Bump all that bride business," Reesy answered. "The fact that I'm doing this at all is outrageous enough. And we're not all dressed exactly alike. You've got on ecru, Tyrene's in bone, Misty's in eggshell, they've got on cream." She pointed at Peggy James and Shawnee Warren, bridesmaids who had been in Misty's wedding just four months before. "And I've got on ivory. It's not all the same color. It's more like...variations on a theme."
"What's the difference?" Tyrene countered. "It all looks absurd."
"The difference is, I needed a show of solidarity from my girls, alright? Can I at least have that much on my wedding day?"
Reesy looked around the sumptuous chamber filled with towering vases of long-stemmed white lilies, row upon row of white roses, and endless bouquets of baby's breath. Everything white. The pungent floral scent that permeated the space was as overwhelming as the presence of the color itself.
"Look at all this stuff. Shades of white everywhere. Tyrene, your ability to whip up a last-minute extravaganza never ceases to amaze." Reesy's eyes scanned everyone, her yellow cheeks flushed with color. "Don't you feel like a virgin?" she said to Misty. "Don't y'all feel brand-new?"
Peggy and Shawnee gave each other a quick glance.
Tyrene looked back at her daughter with fire in her eyes. She needed to explode at something. The fact that her Reesy was desecrating such an important event and disregarding everything she had to say about it had her building to a rapid boil.
"Sometimes superstition is based in truth," she said.
"Oh my. Now the super-attorney who never tolerates foolish talk wants to scare me with ancient folklore. Ooooooh." Reesy waved her hands. "I ain't got on nothing old, nothing new, nothing borrowed, or nothing blue." She threw her head back and laughed, an over-the-top move that startled them all. She was deliberately taunting her mother now.
"Tyrene, think about how ridiculous you sound," she said. "If my marriage can be doomed because I wasn't the only one wearing a certain color, then it didn't stand a chance to begin with, now did it?"
The other women were quiet. The air was electric with the tension that hung between mother and daughter.
Tyrene didn't respond, but the sound of sucking teeth could be heard clear across the room.
"I'm only doing this wedding for y'all anyway," Reesy said. "If it was up to me, Dandre and I would be in Vegas right now. This Valentine's Day whooptee-woo is definitely not my style."
Tyrene huffed and clickety-clacked her tiny bone heels out of the room.
Reesy ignored her mother as Vixen Ames, the bridesmaid who had been giving her the manicure, grabbed her fingers so she could finish shaping the nails.
"Not too hard, Vix. These aren't acrylic."
Misty, still standing, walked over to Reesy and touched her braids, which were bound on her head in a topknot. Soft tendrils fell around her face.
"You're beautiful," Misty whispered above her.
She understood what Reesy must have been feeling. They'd been friends for more than twenty-five years, since the second grade. In the past few years, Misty had bounced from Fort Lau-derdale, to Atlanta, and now New York, in search of the next best things in career and love. Reesy followed wherever she went, trying her hand at everything from exotic dancing, a disastrous turn as Misty's administrative assistant, and starring in a popular off-Broadway production.
The two were always side by side, looking out for each other. After what felt like a lifetime of borderline-psychotic, drama-filled relationships, Misty had married the man she considered her soul mate in a touching ceremony just a few months before. The wedding had been a heady moment for her a celebration of life, love, and expanded possibilities. She knew Reesy was just as giddy about Dandre, despite how cool she seemed now.
"I don't know why you're trying to act so hard," said Misty. "You know you're as excited about this as every one of us in here."
Reesy didn't answer. Misty leaned closer.
"If you're scared, say you're scared. I know you, remember? I know how you act when you're nervous about something."
Reesy looked up at her and grinned.
"The only thing that scares me is the thought that I'll never see another dick again."
Misty gave her head a gentle shove and walked away.
"You're never going to change, are you, girl?" Peggy said.
"What for? Just because I'm getting married? It's gonna take more than that to get me to hang up my hat."
The girls all laughed.
"So...who was it that ate your pussy last night?"
The question came from a raspy voice across the room. Grandma Tyler sat in the armchair, poker-faced, waiting. Everyone but Reesy was shocked.
"I'll never tell," she said.
"That means Dandre," Misty replied. "Don't let this old dog make y'all think she's got new tricks. That man has her strung out. Otherwise she wouldn't be here right now."
Reesy looked down, trying to hide the delirious joy squishing its way through every pore of her being. In a few more minutes, she would be Mrs. Dandre LeRon Hilliard.
The thought of it made her feel like she could fly.
Tyrene stood in the hall outside the bridal chamber, her lips pressed tight.
"Unfasten your trap, woman," her husband said, coming up behind her. "Today is a happy day. You've got to relax."
"How can I when our daughter never does anything right?" She was so upset, she was shaking.
"That's not fair," Tyrone replied. He leaned back in surprise when he felt the tremors running through her. "What's wrong with you, woman? Why on earth are you shaking so?"
"Because," she said. "That daughter of yours. Teresa is so contrary, always has been. She has to ruin everything, even her own wedding day."
Tyrone gave her a sympathetic smile.
"You're just angry because she didn't do things your way. That doesn't mean she's wrong. Let go, Tyrene. I have. Let her be free to be the woman she is. Sela."
Sela was his word for "amen." He'd been saying it for years. He'd never meant it as much as he did now.
Tyrone turned her around so she was facing him. Her eyes were glistening as she looked up at the distinguished, stalwart, confident man who had been by her side for more than forty years. His stout, imposing stature perfectly offset her wiry, diminutive figure.
Her gaze drifted to his beard. She knew every hair of it the gray ones, the black ones, and the curve of the follicles that housed them. She knew where his bones were buried because they were her bones too.
They'd been revolutionaries, side by side as Black Panthers in the sixties. They'd even changed their names together; her birth name was Agnes Marie, his was Daavid. He was a man she'd made millions with. She'd built a stronghold with him in South Florida that was admired and unrivaled. There were no other law firms like theirs. They'd turned down judgeships and public office to be together to run their empire. And though she would never admit it, her strength came from him. Without Tyrone, Tyrene was but so much sound and fury, signifying nothing.
"Let our daughter go," he said. "That can be our gift to her."
"I don't know how," she said in a small voice. "I'm afraid to."
Tyrone grabbed her in a tight hug, the full beard brushing a familiar spot along the top of her cheek.
"She's got a good man," he said. "I'm as sure of that as I am of my own name. Relax, dear. We can't hold her anyway. Our baby girl broke loose from us a long time ago."
Tyrene leaned into him, her arms wrapped around his thick waist. She took a deep breath, then released it, letting her tense body go limp against her husband.
The door to the bridal chamber opened as Shawnee stepped out in search of the bathroom.
Tyrene's eyes met Reesy's. Both women's lips turned up in the same soft curve of a smile as the door between them inched itself closed.
The bridal party stood together at the front of the room.
The big-faced pastor beamed, his eyes closed, nodding his head in silent appreciation as the beautiful sounds of chamber music washed over everyone, engulfing them all in a big ball of bliss.
Tyrene held Tyrone's hand. Grandma Tyler clutched her palms together, shaking her head with heartfelt joy.
Dandre's father sat on the other side of the aisle, a flaxen-haired, nubile trinket a mere one-third of his sixty-six years attached to his elbow. One would never guess he was in his sixties. George Hilliard, M.D. Hill to his friends was a handsome man: six-four, fit, athletic, with a thick mane of salt-and-pepper curls trimmed neat and low and a well-manicured goatee that gave him an air of suave mystique and sophistication. He had thick brows and whimsical eyes that danced like he was on his way to a good time, or had just come from one.
He was going through what he called his white-girl phase. Alyssa, the bauble beside him, was ripped straight from the pages of Blondes for Dummies or Tiger Woods's Women 101: she had the requisite fake boobs, the perfect golden salon-induced tan, an ass that had been stair-stepped to life, the bluest eyes, the perkiest nose that money could buy, and hair so sun-streaked, it gave off a glare.
Hill had promised his friends in the know that this phase wouldn't last for long. He was a Howard professor, for goodness's sake, and felt an obligation to uphold the virtues of all things black and historical. He didn't dare sport his ofays, as he called them, anywhere near campus or around D.C. It was pure indoor action when he was on his own turf. But this wedding was in New York, a good-enough distance away, and Alyssa was a road-trip kind of girl. He intended to give her up in time, but she was so much fun. Alyssa was agile and willing, and so were some of her friends, so he was finding her a bit difficult to cut loose. At least for the nonce.
His hand was on her golden upper thigh as his head teetered in an awkward balancing act. He was trying to hold it as straight as he could. The struggle came compliments of a Courvoisier stupor gained at the glorious bachelor bash he'd given his only son the night before.
"That party was one for the books," he said to Alyssa, his voice a mix of gravel and stone.
"Ssssh," the pastor admonished, not bothering to investigate the source of the disruption. Tyrene rolled her eyes and harrumphed at Hill and his white girl. The two of them didn't sit well at all with her former revolutionary spirit.
Hill pinched his lips together and slid his hand a little higher up Alyssa's well-toned quads.
The chamber music played on.
It was a somber, sanctified moment, a tiny window of time slated to occur after the bride's arrival at the altar, just before the vows. The sentiment was one of magical intensity and unmitigated love among family and close friends.
Misty and Rick made eyes at each other, remembering their own recent nuptials. Dandre and Reesy stood close, side by side, the minute space between them tingling with the thrill of imminent merger.
"Wow, what's this?" a loud voice declared, piercing the staid atmosphere like a shark's unexpected fin slicing through shallow water.
It came from a slender woman wearing all black and a delicate black veil. She was sitting at the back of the room. She bent and reached under her pew and came up with a brown manila envelope. She made an elaborate display of tearing it open. A plump lady in an electric blue hat and dress sat beside her. She leaned in for a peek.
Reesy turned, annoyed at the interruption. This euphoric and hallowed period of musical silence was the only other thing she'd requested, besides having all the women wear some form of white.
"What's going on?" she asked no one in particular as she glanced back at the crowd.
"Oh...my...God," the veiled woman screamed, as she dropped a glossy eight-by-ten photo from the envelope into her lap.
The lady in the electric blue hat reached out with her plump little fingers and snatched the picture. She stared, her fat bottom lip hanging open as she turned the photo upside down, left-side-right, cocking her head like a dashboard pup.
"Lawd hammercy," she gasped, showing it to her husband, who was all teeth and grins at what he beheld. The plump lady in electric blue reached beneath her seat and came up with a manila envelope of her own, holding it aloft.
"Does anyone else have one of these?" she shouted.
Heads disappeared and popped up all around the church as everyone went in search of what the screaming woman had seen. Manila envelopes appeared in great number, and the vulgar sound of ripping paper clashed with the pristine melody the oblivious organist continued to play.
Reesy's heart went kerthunkety-plunk as she watched the brouhaha going on around her. She glanced at Dandre, her eyes full of question, but all she saw was confusion and a kind of primal, instinctive fear, something in his face that seemed to border on terror. The energy he gave off was, in an odd way, familiar; it was a feeling she faintly recalled having experienced before. Dandre was uncomfortable under her gaze. He turned to face the crowd behind him, in search of a clue as to what was going on around them.
Tyrene bent with reluctance and felt under the seat, coming up with an envelope of her own. Her narrowed eyes were on Dandre as the well-manicured talon of her right forefinger slid under the flap and sliced it open with an effortless sweep. Dandre's brow was beaded with sweat. He adjusted the tie that now seemed to grip his neck with the boldness of a noose. Tyrene inhaled deep, holding her breath as she removed the glossy photo.
It was her future son-in-law in full naked regalia his wet face and eager red tongue preoccupied, pressed front and center between long cocoa brown legs spread an astonishing width, worthy of the best contortions Universoul Circus had to offer. The gaping legs were attached to a cocoa brown woman with big, meaty breasts and an ass so magnificent, so huge, it loomed beneath her like an unnatural bubble. Dandre's penis was also busy, stuffed deep inside the mouth of a petite yellow girl with fiery-red locks and a raging thicket of black pubic hair.
She dropped the photo with both hands in a grand gesture, as if it were a grenade, raising her palms to the heavens in horrified supplication. The organist froze, his fingers immobile above the keys. Reesy now knew for certain that what was happening was something dreadful. She raced from the altar over to her mother and scooped the picture up from the floor.
"No, Reesy," Dandre said, remaining in place. "Put it down."
Reesy knelt holding the photo, her pupils dilating. She couldn't take her eyes off Dandre's dick, deep, deep, deep in the redhead's mouth. She noticed spit on the shaft and her stomach tilted. She was still kneeling when Tyrene, outraged, grabbed her in a hug, further causing her insides to simmer and churn. The place was abuzz with the sounds of raucous chatter as all eyes darted from Dandre to Reesy and back again.
"All men are muthafuckas," a voice proclaimed with ferocious disgust. It was Julian, the choreographer of Black Barry's Pie. The show was due to open on Broadway in a few months with Dandre as the primary backer, but the pregnant Reesy wouldn't be starring in it.
Julian was so spellbound by the photos, he couldn't look away. "Better to know he ain't shit now, Miss Thang, than to have to find out about it later."
His lover Tonio sat beside him, nodding in agreement. He pried the pictures from Julian's grip.
Someone in the church was crying, wailing and howling like a dying dog.
"This ain't right," whoever it was moaned. "God knows what this boy is doin' in this pitcha with these gals shonuf ain't right."
"It damn shole look like it feel good, though," mumbled the husband of the lady with the electric blue hat. She jabbed him hard in the stomach with her solid, fleshy elbow.
"Ooof," he said with a cough. He was silent after that, the blow knocked the wind out of him for a good five minutes.
"We can sue him, you know," Tyrene whispered to Reesy. She seemed energized with the satisfaction of knowing, had she been in control, things would have been better, different. These were the moments she lived for, the chance to do self-righteous damage control. Her daughter had been publicly wronged and, dammit, there was going to be hell to pay.
"He won't get away with it," she continued. "I told you all of us wearing white was bad luck. It was wrong to make a mockery of something as sacred as marriage."
Reesy glared at her mother.
"Get off me, you bitch," she said, pushing Tyrene out of the way. "You wanted this to happen." Tyrene fell back on her bone-colored African-gowned butt, her bone heels clickety-clacking first on the floor, then kicking in the air. Reesy stumbled forward up the aisle, her stomach toiling and troubling as she headed for the door.
Misty had been standing at the altar in shock. The sight of Reesy running rattled her from her daze. She rushed after her friend. Dandre made a move, but Rick grabbed him by the arm.
"Just stay put, man," he said, shaking his head. "This is a really bad scene. It can't get no worse than this."
Dandre stopped, his cheek twitching as he looked at Rick's hand on his arm.
"What the fuck just happened?" he asked. "I don't understand."
"This had to be one of your women, man," Rick said. "I would have thought by now you had your house in order."
"I did," Dandre said. "I thought I did."
"I'on know, this is some dumb shit. This is like some kind of urban myth that you hear about, but, you know, that kind of stuff doesn't ever happen for real."
They heard a sick, shrill scream outside.
Dandre broke away from Rick and ran out of the church into the brisk February air, followed by everyone else.
They arrived to see Misty in an awkward squat at the top of the church's front steps. Reesy lay at her feet in a heap of ivory chiffon, silk, and taffeta.
"She fell on the steps," Misty said, her faced streaked with mascara and tears. She looked up at Rick and Dandre. "Call 911. I can't get her to come to."
Rick pulled his cell phone from the pocket of his tux and dialed.
"How could you do this?" Misty asked Dandre in a pleading voice. "How could you do something like this to her...today?"
Dandre dropped to his knees, cradling Reesy's head in his arms.
"Get away from my daughter," Tyrone bellowed as he approached. "This is all your fault."
"This isn't my son's fault," a voice behind Tyrone answered. "This is the doing of some crazy bitch who doesn't know how to let go. My son can't control that. How the hell can you expect him to? These chickens are crazy nowadays."
"Oh, you're a fine one to talk," Tyrene said, getting in Hill's face. "We've heard about you, you corrupt son of a "
Tyrone pulled his wife away, her heels clickety-clacking.
Dandre ignored them as he rocked Reesy in his arms with gentle motions. He felt as if he were walking in a fog.
"Lawd Jesus, my baby's bleeding."
It was Grandma Tyler. She pointed at Reesy's waist. The front of the ivory dress was stained with red flecks, and a small pool of blood was gathering beneath it.
Dandre's head was spinning. He could see the hemorrhaging, but it didn't register enough to make sense. The din above him was overpowering as indecipherable words flew around his head, along with random blows and boxes to his ears delivered by anonymous assailants. In the midst of the pandemonium, all he could hear was the clickety-clack of Tyrene's tiny bone shoes as she paced around him.
He focused on her feet as they passed him again, but now they didn't seem so very tiny. And the heels were black. Patent leather. Stiletto. With cocoa brown ankles sprouting out of them. He followed the legs all the way up as they passed.
The woman with the delicate black veil, not Tyrene, was attached to the ankles. His eyes met hers for a brief moment as she looked down at him sitting on the steps, holding the head of his bleeding, unconscious fiancée. Dandre watched the veiled woman as she walked away.
The swaying motion of her magnificent bubble ass was hypnotic.
"Is that who I think it is?" Rick asked as he came up beside him.
Dandre couldn't hear him above the roaring in his head.
Copyright © 2004 by Lolita Files