–Hill Harper, actor and author of Letters to a Young Brother
Investment banker Nicole Lawson is about to marry her romantic equal: a gentle, handsome doctor with whom she has fallen madly in love. And her closest friends–all tight since high school–want to see Nicole go down the aisle in style. They come together to shower her with lavish gifts, good wishes, a hot stripper, humor that pushes the envelope, and plenty of cocktails.
It is shaping up to be a fabulous night–until their friend Tisha, who one of the women believes is being abused by her husband, surprises the group by showing up dressed to kill and ready to party. And soon they’re in for even bigger surprises. The arrival of an uninvited guest suddenly turns the once lively mood into one of somber introspection. In time, everyone is sharing tears and fears, and shocking one another with stories none of them can believe they’ve managed to keep to themselves for so long. But the night doesn’t end there.
Another knock at the door brings the deepest secret of all–one that will test the loyalties and wits of every tough and tender woman in the room.
“This story really grabs you and never lets go until the very last line. Readers will get so involved that they will do everything but get up and testify: ‘Oh yes!’ ”
–Loretta Devine, actress
From the Trade Paperback edition.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||360 KB|
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I Can See Clearly Now
Nicole woke from her dream, her beautiful dream. Rocky was calling from Zenora’s salon. Oh, shit. I overslept, she thought. What time is it?
“It’s ten fifteen, Nicole. Your appointment was—”
Nicole cut Rocky off before he finished, “Ten o’clock. I know. Tell Z I’ll be there in twenty. Okay, gotta go.”
In three moves, Nicole hung up, sprang out of bed, and jumped in the shower. Her head was killing her. What the hell was that dream about? Jesus! Nerves must have gotten the best of me before my wedding day tomorrow, Nicole thought to herself. Is that alarm clock working? As the hot water cascaded down her face and body, she glanced at her feet. “Oh, shit!” she yelled. She forgot to add a pedicure to today’s appointment.
She ran into her large walk-in closet, which housed more than 250 pairs of shoes and enough clothes (some with tags still on them) to open a small boutique. Nicole’s shoes were arranged neatly on wooden racks, and her clothes were hung according to season and color. She quickly grabbed her favorite Gap jeans and paired it with a Roberto Cavalli jacket. She may be late, but she was going to be fierce.
° ° °
The drive to Zenora’s was quick, and all the traffic lights worked in Nicole’s favor. Nicole couldn’t stop analyzing that dream. Why was Tisha late for the ceremony and sitting in the corner of the church? Why was Keisha holding Kimmy? Her mind searched for some type of explanation.
Nicole had almost reached the shop when her cell rang, but she didn’t answer it, because she figured it was probably Zenora ready to curse her out for being late and for not taking her suggestion to make the appointment on Thursday. Going to a black salon on Friday or Saturday, no matter how early you got there, usually turned into an all-day affair.
Luckily, Nicole found a parking space right in front of the shop. She prepared herself to apologize to Z for her lateness and plead with her for a pedicure on the busiest day at the salon, hoping Z would be sympathetic.
Nicole rushed through the front door and was greeted by Marcella, Zenora’s receptionist, who was seated behind a fuchsia-and-white counter that reflected the décor of the salon. Activity was bustling at every station. Marcella smiled and said, “Hello, Nicole.” Nicole returned the greeting as Marcella checked her in by first bringing up her data on the salon’s computer database, including operator, treatment, and appointment. She then handed Nicole a fuchsia-colored smock and escorted her to a changing area.
Nicole looked around, proud of all her girl had accomplished. Everything Zenora touched turned to gold, and this salon was evidence of that. Women were pampered at Zenora’s like you wouldn’t believe. Z’s staff of fourteen attended to their clients’ every need. Weaves, braids, more weaves, shampoos, more weaves, color and tint jobs, perms, manicures, facials, and more weaves!
There were eight stations and a luxurious waiting area near the receptionist’s desk. Each station was adorned with professional artwork. Hardwood floors gave the salon a showroom flourish.
Those scheduled for facials and waxings were escorted to a private room for service. Behind the desk display cases offered top-of-the-line beauty products, from mink eyelashes to luxury foot cream to a new line that Z imported from Italy, which was bringing in even more clients just for the products. Nicole blushed as she thought of the imported lemon bath gel—it drove Alan wild when they showered together with it.
There was only one thing Z didn’t tolerate, and that was lateness. If a client was more than ten minutes late for an appointment, she might as well forget it and reschedule her appointment for a future date, because each stylist was instructed to move on to the next client. No excuses. No exceptions.
The last time Nicole was in, a mother had arrived late with her seventeen-year-old daughter, who needed a hairdo for that evening’s prom. Her appointment with Rocky was scheduled for 9:15 a.m. They arrived at 9:26 a.m. The teenager wanted microbraids, which could take as long as eight to nine hours to complete. Noticing the client had not arrived at 9:25 a.m., Rocky shouted, “Any walk-ins? Next!” Just like that, the chair was occupied. A minute later, the door swung open and the two ladies came rushing in. When the women saw somebody else in Rocky’s chair, the mother screamed like somebody had just died. You’d think that all the activity in the shop would come to a complete halt. Not at Zenora’s. Everyone continued whatever they were doing, knowing full well it was merely some poor soul late for her appointment.
Feeling bad for the teenager, Nicole went over to Rocky to make a plea.
“Rocky, it’s her prom. C’mon, look at her. She’s all upset. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event for a young woman. She’s crying.”
Without even a slight glance at either mother or daughter, Rocky said, “I guess so. It’s cryin’ time! Miss Thing knows that we don’t play that shit in here. I spoke with her yesterday when she stopped by to confirm and reminded her about her appointment and our policy. I told her it would probably be in her best interest to arrive fifteen minutes earlier than her scheduled time. She played it off, waving me down with her hand and rolling her eyes, saying ‘Chile, don’t worry, we’ll be here.’ So I don’t want to hear that crap!”
Defeated, the mother started to attack Rocky, who continued chewing his gum and prepping his next client. She spoke loud enough for Rocky and everyone in the reception area to hear: “We only came here in the first place because he was our last resort. He’s not that good at braiding damn hair anyway.” As she made her exit, she sneered, “Faggot!”
Time stood still: Everything and everyone in the shop came to a complete halt. It even seemed like the Whitney Houston song on the CD player stopped midway.
Rocky excused himself from his client and calmly walked over to the pair. He leaned toward the mother with a hard stare and then whispered something in her ear. When he finished, the woman looked at him with a terrified expression and, without saying a word, shot out the door like a cannon. Rocky smoothed the bottom of his smock and, with the grace of a ballerina, floated back over to his station. The intrusion was over and everything resumed like clockwork: conversations, the sound of hair dryers, running water, even Miss Whitney finished her new song.
Nicole later asked Z what Rocky had said to the woman.
Z laughed and said, “He told her ‘Bitch, I will run this flat iron so far up your ass that the cherry you thought you lost seventeen years ago when you had that ugly-ass daughter of yours will fly out yo’ nose like a red boogie! And furthermore, Mommy, try asking your husband how well I braid hair, because when I was on his back and he was facedown in my pillow whimpering like a newborn kitten, I noticed how masterful my skills were!”
Whew! Rocky didn’t waste words.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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