Authors: Allison Hobbs
appy Hour. Humph! Dayna was none too happy sitting at a bar munching on stale pretzels, but she’d been coerced by her friend Cecily to stop moping around dwelling on her marital problems. “Come on out and have a good time,” Cecily had said. “Forget about Reed for a few hours. I don’t know why you want to rush home; it’s not like he’s gonna be there with flowers, soft music, and a romantic meal. It’s Friday, girl, and you know you won’t be seeing him until well after midnight.”
Dayna sighed in resignation. She gazed in the mirror behind the bar and wasn’t too pleased with her image. Her attire was tailored and immaculate, and the cash she doled out to her beautician every week to keep her hair trimmed and stylish was money well spent, but Dayna lacked pizzazz. She had light brown skin and a roundish face. In the looks department, she was just ordinary. But at that moment, she felt so unattractive, so utterly unglamorous, she could have wept. No wonder she couldn’t keep her husband at home.
Fifteen minutes into Happy Hour and she still wasn’t feeling very happy. In fact, she felt annoyed. Irritable. She shouldn’t have allowed Cecily to drag her to this meat market for the thirty-something and over crowd. Back when she was single, she’d participated in all the singles’ scenes; she knew the routine well. The more she thought about it, the more she regretted her decision to hang out in a club with a bunch of anxious-looking, desperate women.
She didn’t belong here. She had what all the other sisters were looking for: a handsome husband and a beautiful home. Okay, her marriage was falling apart and her husband certainly wasn’t the best in the world, but at least she had one. And she planned on keeping him. She just had to try something new. Lose weight, start wearing sexy lingerie. She’d think of some way to keep her marriage intact.
“Two Silk Panties,” Cecily told the bartender with a wink.
“Silk Panties?” Dayna lifted a brow.
“Top-shelf vodka with a mixture of fruity liqueur. It’s really good. Trust me, you’re gonna love it.”
The bartender returned with two pastel-colored drinks adorned with fruit on a plastic stick. “Drink slowly,” Cecily advised. “It may look harmless, but it’s potent. Two glasses will have you staggering up to Mr. Wrong, slurring your words while you’re getting your flirt on.”
“That won’t be me.” Dayna chuckled, waving her wedding band. She took a sip. “Mmm,” she moaned in approval.
Cecily beamed with pride. “Do I know my drinks or what?”
“You got it going on, girl.” Feeling less ornery, Dayna made a slight swivel on the barstool to observe her environment. It was early. Separated by an imaginary line, the men and women had not yet converged.
The women were clumped together in various groups sipping cocktails and bantering lightheartedly as if they didn’t have a care in the world. But nervous adjustments to hemlines, stealthy glances in the mirror behind the bar, and quick hand pats to fresh hairdos implied that they weren’t really feeling secure.
The men congregated together in various locations talking politics and sports. Enjoying each others company, they appeared confident and oblivious to the presence of the females.
As the evening progressed, echoes of high-pitched laughter intermingled with rich baritone mirth served as the musical prelude to the sensual drama that would soon unfold. The two genders had come to the club under the pretense of having the same goal: to kick back and unwind after a hard day’s work. But each sex had a hidden agenda.
Most of the women in the club were single and desperate to catch an available man. They exuded carefree confidence but their motion detectors were on high alert to track a good-looking…well-dressed…successful man. It wouldn’t be long, however, before they were hit with the realization that the pickings were slim. Then, after having indulged in one drink too many, most of the women would be willing to settle for a man who looked half-ass decent and could show evidence that he held down some type of steady job. Those who were most desperate would resignedly converse with the unattractive and even the “temporarily” unemployed while searching for any redeemable quality—a nice smile, a great sense of humor, or that he was just the right height.
The men, on the other hand, knew it was their world, which was why they remained aloof. Seemingly detached, the men appeared to have no desire for a woman’s company.
An hour and a half into Happy Hour the mating dance commenced. A silent alarm must have sounded because the men began to slowly close in on the women, surrounding them like sharks circling prey. There were no offers to buy the women drinks. They didn’t want to waste time or their good money on a deal that was being negotiated but had not been closed. The only thing a man needed to lure a helpless female was a good opening line and a seemingly earnest smile. Grateful to be chosen, the women smiled back with mouths that twitched slightly from intoxication. Fatigue. Resignation.
After listening to a pack of well-honed lies, the women typically left the club with the sharks. After engaging in meaningless sex, the women soon discovered, they’d lost their only bargaining chip. The next week, they’d return to Happy Hour determined to choose more carefully—to not make the same rash mistake.
Out of the corner of her eye, Dayna spotted a familiar-looking woman who was confidently feeding a good-looking hunk of a man the cherry from her drink. Dayna felt an instant and intense dislike for the woman before her mind could put a name with the face. Instincts alerted her that this person was not someone she’d want to encounter. Dayna swiveled back around, hoping she hadn’t been recognized.
She quickly engaged Cecily in meaningless chatter, hoping to appear involved in a conversation so intense, a polite person wouldn’t interrupt. But the woman who turned out to be Regina, a former classmate of Dayna’s from Howard University, was obviously not a polite person. She tapped Dayna on her shoulder. Dayna turned around, manufactured a look of delighted surprise, and hugged Regina as if she were a long-lost friend.
With the hunk in tow, Regina said, “What a surprise. How are you, Dayna?” Both women shot glances at each other’s ring finger.
“I’m great!” Dayna lied through her smiling teeth.
“I want you to meet my husband.” She said the word
with such pride, Dayna wanted to pimp slap both of them for bringing their happiness into her troubled corner of the world.
“Dayna, this is Roger, my husband and partner. We just opened our law practice on Eighteenth and Pine,” Regina said, practically bursting with pride. Rent was not cheap in that tree-lined area of brownstones and expensive shops. “We’re out celebrating.” She turned to her handsome husband. “Roger, this is Dayna; we attended Howard together.”
Dayna introduced Cecily to the couple, who resembled black Barbie and Ken dolls.
“I see you’re married, Dayna,” Regina said, shifting her gaze to Dayna’s ring finger.
“Yes, three years,” Dayna said with sunshine in her tone.
“Oh, how wonderful. You’re a teacher, correct?”
Dayna nodded and tried to look proud of her career choice.
“What’s your husband do?”
“He runs a brokerage firm. He’s in Chicago. His job requires constant traveling, meeting with all their top clients—you know.” Desperate not to appear pathetic, Dayna lied with ease.
Regina scowled. “Must put a strain on the marriage?”
“Quite the contrary. You know what they say…absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
Not buying Dayna’s fabricated happy life story, Regina scowled again.
“No, not yet; too busy with our careers.”
“Show her the twins, honey,” the Ken doll piped in.
Regina dug into her purse and pulled out a photo of a beautiful boy and girl. “These are our children…Madison and Kyle. Aren’t they perfect?”
And they were. Dayna could have cried with envy.
“We were so lucky to get one of each the first time. They’re twenty-four months, but the term the terrible twos does not apply to our children…right, darling?” She looked up adoringly at her husband.
“Right, sweetie. They’re as well behaved as they are beautiful.”
“And smart!” Regina added gleefully. “They’re learning to speak French. Can you imagine two-year-olds responding, ‘
It’s so darn cute.”
“The twins have Regina’s beauty,” Roger said with a goofy grin that instantly transformed him from a handsome attorney to a nerdy henpecked husband.
Regina bobbed her head in agreement, and then gushed, “And they have Roger’s brains.”
hated, hated, hated
this Stepford couple; she could feel her forced smile begin to twitch as the verbal assault escalated.
“Look, it was really nice seeing you again, Regina. Nice meeting you, Roger,” Dayna said, easing off the barstool. “I have to get to the ladies room. Too many of those.” She nodded her head toward the half-filled glass of the vodka concoction.
Regina and Roger departed gracefully and Dayna dashed to the ladies room.
Her bladder did not demand immediate attention, but her bruised ego did. She pulled her cell out of her purse and speed-dialed Reed’s cell.
“Hello,” Reed said cheerfully.
“Where are you?”
Dayna checked her watch. “Stay there; we need to have a serious discussion. I’ll be home in a half-hour.”
“Whoa! I’ve already made plans; I’m on my way out. Whatever you want to talk about can wait until later tonight.”
“Later tonight? When? Three, four in the morning?”
“Dayna,” Reed said calmly. “I’ve told you a million times to stop trying to keep tabs on me. We’ll talk when I get back. If you’re asleep, then we’ll talk first thing in the morning.”
Dayna’s cell went dead. Her husband hadn’t even asked where she was or if she was all right. Her marriage was such a sham. It was as if Reed used their home only as a place to shower and change clothes. He rarely even ate dinner at home. Too busy with his brothers…or his whores, as Dayna suspected.
Needing a shoulder to cry on, she flipped open her cell and called her mother.
It was only a little past eight in the evening, yet her mother answered with a sleepy “Hello?”
“Hey, Mom, did I wake you?”
“Um, I must have dozed off. Is something wrong?” her mom inquired in a whispery voice.
Dayna could tell the difference between a lustful voice and the voice of someone who had been awakened from sleep. Her mom was obviously in the middle of having sex.
“Get your rest, Mom. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” Dayna snapped her phone closed. In deep thought, she leaned against the sink.
Dayna would have loved to be happy for her mom but all she felt for her was pity. That her mother had been demoted to the role of mistress was absolutely immoral.
Feeling lost and close to tears, Dayna returned to the bar with a prepared excuse. “I have to go, Cecily. My mom’s having some type of crisis.”
“Over your dad? She’s still hasn’t accepted the divorce, his marriage?” Cecily asked in amazement.
“After being married for thirty years; I imagine it’s hard to move on,” Dayna said with defensiveness in her tone.
She left the bar feeling confused and miserable. A daughter experiencing marital trouble should be able to go to her mother for emotional support, but her mother was in worse shape than she was, leaving Dayna without a soul she could turn to.
he bedroom was junky with second-hand furnishings. There was a vast difference between this room and his stylish bedroom at home. In an act of decadent self-indulgence, Reed’s eyes roamed freely as he excitedly took in every nuance of his surroundings. Sitting atop a dusty nightstand was a lipstick-stained glass containing murky brown liquid with a cigarette butt floating inside. Crumbs and other unidentifiable bits of debris dotted a worn carpet. His lustful eyes rested on the unmade bed. The rumpled sheets spoke of uninhibited passion. Hot, satisfying illicit sex.
In a squalid room such as this a man could reveal his darkest secrets. He could act upon carnal desires that would cause a wife to grimace and recoil in horror, and even question his sanity.
A man could unleash the demons that allowed him no peace.
Buttercup was in the bathroom and although Reed could hear the sound of running water, he doubted that she was actually taking a bath; most likely she was in there getting high. He didn’t mind. Buttercup became more agreeable to his freakish requests when she was high. He smiled sardonically as he unzipped his pants, reached inside, and began to soothingly stroke the agitated beast while he waited for Buttercup.
Clutching the long red wig she’d had on earlier at Club Apache, Buttercup came out of the bathroom wrapped in a thin dingy towel. She looked entirely different than she did at work; she smelled different, too. Instead of emitting the scent of musk, which Reed was expecting, she smelled as fresh as morning rain.
Pissed off, Reed pointed an accusing finger at the moisture beads that rolled down her shoulders. “Who told you to take a fucking shower? Shit, if I wanted squeaky-clean sex, I could have gone home to my boring fucking wife and got off without spending a dime.”
Buttercup paid him no mind and carelessly tossed the wig on the bureau; it landed on a tall can of oil sheen. Offering Reed a sidelong sexy glance, she began to peel off the towel.
But Reed didn’t find her sexy at all. Without makeup, Buttercup’s face looked blank, expressionless. Her natural hair was closely cropped, giving her the look of an adolescent boy. And what was even worse was the sight of her naked body—her cadaverously thin naked body. Her raisin-sized tits needed to be camouflaged with a provocative padded bra or a bustier. Without the adornment of glitzy apparel, Buttercup had zero sex appeal. He was so disgusted by the drastic change in her appearance, his dick went limp.
Holding her in a smoldering gaze, he asked, “Why’d you take everything off?”
Buttercup looked at him like he was crazy. “So you can get your freak on and I can get paid.” She extended an open palm.
Reed ignored the greedy gesture. “Stop acting stupid, you know how we do—you know what I like. I’m not with this shit.”
Before speaking, Buttercup grimaced in confusion. “What the fuck did I do?”
“You went in the bathroom looking like a sexy female and came out looking like a skinny-ass dude,” Reed responded, rolling his eyes.
“I’m standing here butt-ass naked, ain’t that sexy enough?”
Scowling, Reed shook his head. “Go put on a thong set or one of those slinky costumes you rock when you’re working at the club.”
“Well, I’m not at the club,” Buttercup grumbled under her breath as she began snatching garments from a bureau drawer. Grudgingly, she slipped into a black negligee. “You ready now?” she asked, brows arched, as she awaited his approval.
Reed shook his head again. “Put that wig back on.” He preferred her face heavily made up, but didn’t feel like waiting around for a full-face paint job. “Just put on some lipstick and some ho shoes.”
“Why you trippin’?” She sucked her teeth and stomped to the bureau. Amidst the clutter, she miraculously retrieved a tube of lipstick and smeared it on without even glancing in the mirror.
What is wrong with this ho?
Reed couldn’t understand why Buttercup was being difficult. An experience that should have been as exciting as a roller coaster ride was threatening to become as boring as the sex he had at home.
The thought of Dayna and her damned biological clock caused his annoyance with Buttercup to escalate into full-blown rage. Yet strangely, at that moment, he could feel a hot flush as his manhood began to rise. By the time Buttercup located a pair of stilettos, Reed had stroked himself into a hard erection.
“It looks like you’re doing all right by yourself. Sure you need me?” she teased.
Grunting as he swiftly worked his hand up and down, he gave her a look that was mixed with both loathing and lust.
“How come you still have your clothes on?” Buttercup wanted to know.
Reed detected exasperation in her tone. She sounded like she regretted having brought him home. But he knew she wasn’t totally stupid. She realized the ball was in his court and if she expected to get paid, she’d have to play according to his rules.
“Need some help?” she asked, attempting to take the edge out of her voice. Reed ignored her; he didn’t even look at her as he continued to manually stimulate himself.
Buttercup stepped into Reed’s direct line of vision, forcing him to look at her. “What do you want? A blow job?” Frustration coated her words.
With his adrenaline pumping and acting on sheer instinct, he stopped masturbating, stood up, unbuckled his belt, and snatched it from around his waist.
Reed yanked Buttercup by her thin arm, flopped down on the bed, and promptly turned her over his knee.
“Let me go! Stop it!” She struggled to free herself from Reed’s grip, but Reed pressed his forearm down hard on her back. “What’s wrong with you—you crazy or something?” Buttercup raged.
The strap landed across her bare buttocks. For a few seconds, her mouth fell open in silent shock. Then she let out a high-pitched wail that should have alerted a neighbor to call the police. In Buttercup’s neighborhood, however, late-night screams were a common sound that competed with the background noise of gunshots and police sirens.
Reed raised his arm high; he held the leather belt as if it were a whip. He came down with another hard smack that delivered high-wattage pain. The pain was beyond anything Buttercup was familiar with. “Ow! Stop it! Oh my God, stop!” she screamed. “I’m not playing, you crazy muthafucker. Stop!”
Twisting around, she managed a flimsy grasp of the arm that was stretched high in preparation of bringing down another stinging assault.
Reed yanked away from her grasp and struck her again. This time he dispensed a flurry of hot lashes that landed in rapid succession.
Fearing for her life and having endured more than enough of this absurd flogging, Buttercup managed to fling herself off his lap and onto the floor where she swiftly slithered under the bed to a safe but dusty haven.
With Buttercup beyond his reach, Reed began to calm down and slowly returned to his rational state of mind. He was shocked by what he’d just done, and felt ashamed of himself. Confused, he sagged onto the bed and buried his head in his hands.
“Get the fuck outta here before I call the cops!” yelled Buttercup, who was still hiding under the bed.
Of course, Reed realized that her threat was empty. In her line of work—exotic dancer, hooker, and a booster, as well as having a drug habit—Buttercup would not bring unnecessary police attention to her own door. Still, he felt bad. He hadn’t meant to hurt her; he didn’t understand what had come over him.
Buttercup was an affordable and easy-going girl and he definitely didn’t want to lose her. She’d been a beacon of light for his carnal yearnings on many a dark night. He held his head in his hands, trying to figure out what the hell had made him go ballistic on Buttercup.
Trying to get his bearings, Reed stood up, tucked in his shirt. He gazed at the leather belt uncomprehendingly, as if it had come to life and acted in such a vicious manner on its on accord. Confused, he quickly threaded the belt through the loops on his pants.
“How much do I owe you, Butter?” He felt completely disgusted with himself, but he spoke in a casual tone. He sounded cheerful, actually, as if he were inquiring about her fee for giving him something as normal as a haircut.
“Yo, nigga, I don’t want shit from you!” she shouted. “You better save your money ’cause after I let the police take pictures of the bruises on my ass, I’m gonna sue you for every cent you got!”
Reed sighed, more in response to his own insane behavior than to Buttercup’s empty threats. He pulled out all the cash in his pockets. “Here you go, Butter. I have eighty-nine dollars, but I’ll give you some more the next time I see you. All right?” He put the money on top of the junky dresser.
“Next time?” Buttercup blurted, still sequestered under the bed. “Ain’t gon’ be no next time, you sick muthafucker!”
“Take it easy, Butter. I’ll see you later,” he said, as he playfully kicked the bed. Then with a lame smile plastered on his face, he put his hand on the doorknob and slowly pulled it open, but before he closed the door behind him, he gave the bed that sheltered Buttercup one last regretful look.