Authors: Allison Hobbs
ressed for work, Dayna looked in the bedroom mirror, then leaned in close as she outlined her lips and applied lip gloss. She could see the reflection of Reed’s form in their bed. He was completely covered from head to toe—cocooned inside the sheets and comforter as if blocking out the world. He stirred. Dayna cleared her throat. “Are you awake?” she said to his form.
“I am now.” Aggravation coated his words.
“We need to talk,” Dayna said calmly.
Reed popped out of the cocoon. He looked fearsome. As attractive as Dayna found her husband, she had to admit, he was an awful sight first thing in the morning.
“You wanna talk about what?” he asked irritably. “Look, I know I came home a little late last night, but you have to understand, I don’t have control over the length of those meetings.” His eyes were dark and scowling.
Dayna was not intimidated. She gazed at him with interest, as if truly seeing him for the first time. “I just said we needed to talk; I didn’t say a word about last night.” It was such a relief to honestly not care where he’d been or what he’d been doing. She gave a little snort. “Reed, your nocturnal activities don’t interest me in the least.”
“Then what’s this about?” He threw off the covers that were gathered around his waist, got out of bed, and charged to the bathroom, inconsiderately leaving the bathroom door open.
The sound of his long pee stream was loud and annoying. Dayna sucked her teeth in disgust. How had she deluded herself into thinking she’d ever loved this self-indulgent creep? It was as if she’d been under some crazy spell that had rendered her love-dazed and retarded. Thankfully the spell had been broken and she was seeing Reed with unclouded, twenty-twenty vision.
Trudging back into the bedroom, Reed plopped down on the bed, sighing heavily as if preparing for a major altercation. “So what’s up? You want a baby…your biological clock’s still ticking?” He shot Dayna a condescending smile. “That’s what you want to talk about, right? Well, I’ve been doing some thinking and until my financial situation is more secure, we’re going to have to put this baby business on hold.”
“Baby business?” she mimicked with a sneer. “It’s good to know your point of view on a topic that should be spoken of with reverence. Bringing a child into the world is sacred, it’s not
. However, that’s not what I want to talk about.”
“Then talk. Dammit! You have my undivided attention for the next…” He paused to look at the bedside clock. “You have exactly ten minutes because I have to get ready for work.”
“Oh, I don’t need ten minutes,” she said coolly, feeling the power of her new-found self-worth and confidence streaming through her.
“I want a divorce.” There, she’d said it, and she hoped her words had the impact of a head-on collision.
Reed gawked at her in amazement and then dropped his head like he’d been hit with a sledgehammer. His reaction gave Dayna deep satisfaction. After a few moments, he looked up. “A divorce? Here you go with the drama.”
“I’m not being dramatic. Listen, this marriage isn’t working and I’m not willing to waste my time staying in this miserable situation a second longer than I have to.” Dayna’s expression was serious; her tone was stern and adamant.
“I stay out a little late and just like that—” He snapped his fingers to punctuate his statement. “You decide you want a divorce.”
She tossed the lip gloss and a compact into her purse and snapped it shut. “My decision was not sudden. But it is final and I don’t intend to argue with you. I’m going to see a divorce attorney today; I suggest you do the same.” She checked her watch. “Oh! Look at the time. Shouldn’t you be getting ready for work?” Dayna threw her husband a coy smile and calmly strolled out the room.
At three-thirty, Cecily rushed into Dayna’s classroom. “Whew. Glad I caught you before you left. Can I get a ride home?” she asked breathlessly.
“Where’s your car?”
“It’s in the repair shop. Getting the works: wheel alignment, brake pads, oil change, the whole nine. My mechanic promised to have it ready for me when I got off work; I just called and he’s not finished. He said it won’t be ready until five.”
“Oh, okay. I can give you a ride.”
As the two women walked to the school’s parking lot, Dayna confided, “I asked Reed for a divorce.”
“What? You’re kidding.” Cecily’s eyes twinkled in delighted astonishment.
“Actually, I didn’t ask. I demanded,” Dayna corrected. She hit the switch that unlocked the doors to her Chrysler.
“So was he.”
“What did he say?” Cecily said, strapping on the seat-belt.
“After getting over his initial shock, he tried to suggest that I was being overly dramatic because he stayed out past midnight—as usual.”
“I don’t know what to say. I think
in shock. I mean despite the fact that Reed is an asshole, I thought you were hopelessly in love with him.”
“How can you just stop loving your husband overnight?”
“I had an awakening,” Dayna said in a matter-of-fact tone. “Anyway, I spoke to an attorney over the phone; she said if Reed cooperates, we can terminate the marriage in ninety days. I have an appointment to see her next week.”
“Will you have to sell the house?”
“I hope not.” Dayna sighed deeply and rubbed her forehead, then backed out of the lot. “My mother tried to talk me out of allowing Reed to be a co-buyer, but I wouldn’t listen. Blame it on stupidity, but the house is in both our names. That’s the only thing that will prevent the divorce from moving along smoothly.”
“Well, your dad’s an attorney; talk to him. Find out what you can do to get Reed’s name off the deed.”
“I don’t think it can be done. Besides, I don’t want to involve my parents at the moment. I’ll be giving them information on a need-to-know basis.” Dayna pursed her lips together in a manner that let Cecily know she did not intend to discuss her parents any further.
“Men! You give them the best part of yourself and all they do is trample on your heart and feelings until you can’t take it anymore,” Cecily declared, wisely taking the focus off the taboo topic of Dayna’s parents.
“The odd thing is I feel like I’ve been playing some sort of role that really isn’t me. I can’t believe I allowed myself to behave like such a wimp. And I could kick myself for putting on all this weight. But believe me, these excess pounds are coming off.”
“I can see a difference already,” Cecily complimented.
“You’re kidding. I’ve only been dieting for a few weeks,” Dayna said, blushing with pride. She’d dropped another two pounds and was thrilled that Cecily could see the difference.
“I don’t know…your face looks smaller. And…” She scrutinized Dayna. “Something’s going on around your collarbone area. Have you been sneaking to the gym?”
“Nope. Just working out with a yoga DVD at home.”
“Yoga? Isn’t that boring?”
“No, I like it. It’s relaxing and you don’t work up a sweat. You know how I am about my hair; I can’t be sweating out my ’do.” Dayna laughed heartily. “I don’t expect to see changes overnight, but I’m trying to get into a lifestyle change as I purge myself of Reed.”
Dayna stopped for a red light and turned toward Cecily. “Reed is good looking; that’s all he has going for himself. He’s totally self-absorbed and honestly, there’s almost something evil about him. Every word he speaks seems to be a lie and if he’s not lying, then he’s criticizing something about me. He’s just not a very nice person and I feel like the wool has been suddenly ripped away from my eyes—like I’m seeing him for the first time.” She paused and looked at Cecily intently. “And I’m repulsed by what I see.”
“Damn. It’s that deep?”
“Yes, it is. I don’t want him sleeping next to me anymore; he actually gives me the creeps.” Dayna shook her head and accelerated when the light turned green.
“How are you gonna kick him out of the bedroom?”
“I don’t know, but I have no intention of ever again sharing the same bed with that man.”
“Let me ask you something?”
“Is Reed…um…does he get physical with you? Is he violent?”
Dayna laughed. “No,” she said, shaking her head for emphasis.
“Well, I don’t understand the comment about him being evil.”
“I can’t explain it. It’s just a feeling.” Dayna shrugged.
“For your information, the police will kick Reed out of the house if he puts his hands on you.”
“Girl, I’m not trying to go there.”
“I’m just putting it out there.”
Dayna pulled up in front of Cecily’s house. “So, how are you going to get your car?”
“The mechanic’s gonna pick me up.”
“Oh yeah? Do I detect some hanky-panky?”
“Oh, hell no. I don’t do greasy mechanics. I like my men to look good, smell good, and have clean fingernails.”
Both women laughed.
“Dayna! I forgot to tell you. Remember Kendrick?”
“Kendrick. The fine brother I met at that club in Manayunk last week?”
“Oh, yeah. I didn’t know you two had kept in touch.”
“We exchanged numbers, but I didn’t call him and he just got around to calling me last night. He invited me to an art exhibit—at his home. Apparently he lives in a big house in north Philly and leases space for various events.”
“Sounds interesting, but with my marital problems, this isn’t a good time for me to purchase art or anything else.”
“I’m not buying anything. I’m just going to have a good time and get to know Kendrick better. I get the impression that we won’t be attending a typical exhibit. He mentioned something about a jazz combo, a caterer who’ll be serving fried catfish, collard greens, candied yams, a whole smorgasbord of soul food.”
“Sounds good. When’s the exhibit?”
“Friday night at seven. Wanna go?”
“Sure. Why not? I guess I can tolerate the artsy crowd,” Dayna said, laughing. Then she groaned, “Aw!”
“My diet! I’ve been doing so well, but I might have to let it go for some fried catfish.”
“I know that’s right,” Cecily said as she exited the car and trotted up the steps to her house.
Dayna watched Cecily enter her house before pulling off. She shook her head, envying the simplicity of Cecily’s life. Dayna knew she wouldn’t be attending the art exhibit with Cecily, but had played along because Cecily would have held her hostage in her own car until she agreed to go.
Her emotions for her husband had suddenly gone from adulation to revulsion and just that morning she had dropped a serious bomb on him—the marriage was over and she wanted out. Something told her that Reed was none too pleased about her announcement and would soon be declaring war. And winning a war against Reed was not going to be easy.
eanna’s Den was billed as a gentleman’s club. It was considered the top strip club in the city—the chill spot for sports figures, entertainers, and all the major players with tons of money to throw around. Since Chanelle was in the market for a man with mucho mullah, she figured Deanna’s Den was where she needed to be. Supposedly, the dancers at Deanna’s Den made ten times what she made at Lizzard’s, so she considered getting kicked out of Lizzard’s a blessing in disguise.
There had been complaints, however, that Deanna’s Den was worse than Lizzard’s with respect to hiring black girls, so Chanelle decided to pay the club an impromptu visit instead of calling in advance. She wanted them to see her pretty black face in person before they even thought about making a prejudiced determination.
Chanelle took a cab and arrived at the strip club bright and early before the club officially opened for business. Certain that her unexpected presence would be perceived by the owner or whoever did the hiring as a gift from above, she boldly rang the bell.
“Yeah?” a male voice crackled over the intercom.
“I’m here to audition,” she said proudly.
There was no response.
“Hello.” She patted her foot in annoyance.
“Do you have an appointment?” the voice asked.
“Wait a minute.”
Chanelle patted her foot for an entire ten minutes before she was buzzed in. Once inside she was hustled to a small room by a swarthy muscular guy who was carrying a clipboard. His T-shirt was extremely tight. So tight, Chanelle expected him to burst out of it like the Hulk.
He ushered her to the dressing room, sat her at a dressing table, and handed her the clipboard. “Here you go. You have to fill out this employment application.”
“Are you serious?” she asked.
“That’s the procedure,” the overly pumped-up man replied. He shook his head and smiled grimly. “The manager will review your application and if she’s interested, she’ll give you a call back to audition.”
“How will she know if she’s interested if she doesn’t even know what I look like?”
“I’ll tell her.” There was nothing in his voice that indicated his impression of Chanelle’s appearance.
Taking a deep breath, Chanelle peered down at the two-page application. Filling out a long-ass application was definitely not a part of her game plan, but if she wanted to keep her apartment and continue her frenzied shopping sprees, she’d need to have a reliable income.
As she labored over the never-ending employment application, the emaciated dancers who worked there began to stream in. They regarded her with bemusement as they began readying themselves for the first shift.
“You’re applying for a job
one of the stick figures asked.
“Uh-huh,” Chanelle responded absently as she thought about her response to a portion of the application that asked her to disclose something about herself that no one else knew.
What the hell kind of question is that?
She looked up and caught a glimpse in the mirror of two women exchanging catty smiles. Realizing that they were amused by her, as if she shouldn’t be taken seriously, Chanelle glared at the women and went back to the application.
Hmmm. Something about myself that no one knows?
Then, hit with a burst of inspiration, she began scrawling:
I’d like to settle down one day and have two or three children…maybe a beautiful set of twins—girls of course
and one little boy. But not until I’m married to a man who can provide a nice comfortable lifestyle for all of us
. She reviewed her words and felt satisfied that what she’d written was impressive. Without spelling it out, she was letting the employer know that she wasn’t about to turn up pregnant. No, her life was well planned and they could depend on her until she was ready to settle down.
Every now and then, Chanelle would gaze up from the application and check out the competition. Never in her life had she seen such scarily skinny women prancing around like they were the shit.
Chanelle was appalled when they wiggled out of their street clothes and were stripped down to their underwear. They were all just skin and bones. Skeletal frames with crazy big tits, high cheekbones, puffed-out lips, and an occasional extra padding in the ass. Fake, fake, fake! Sure, most of the white girls at Lizzard’s had breast implants, but this shit was ridiculous. A pack of stick-thin women with synthetic body parts. She wondered how they could even move on stage without all that silicone and collagen—or whatever—shifting out of place.
No one said another word to her; and she didn’t say shit to any of them. When she finally finished filling out the application, she left the dressing room to search for the Hulk.
She heard snickers when she closed the door. It took all her strength not to yank off her earrings, barge back into the dressing room, and bust somebody in the mouth. But the thought of her knuckles being covered with that nasty mess that was injected in their lips gave her a change of heart.
Three days later when she still hadn’t heard a word from Deanna’s Den, she called the club to find out what was up. The Hulk came to the phone.
“Hey, how ya doin’?”
“How I’m doing depends on what kind of news you have for me.”
“Well…I’m not gonna jerk you around. The schedule’s full right now, but look…I have your number and as soon as there’s an opening, I’ll give you a call.”
“In other words, don’t call us; we’ll call you?” she said sarcastically.
The Hulk gave an uncomfortable snort. “Yeah, something like that.”
“Yeah, well fuck you, too,” she said, and then slammed down the phone.
Fuck all those honky muthafuckers. Humph! Deanna’s Den and Lizzard’s weren’t the only jumpin’ spots in the area. Shit, she’d heard there were plenty of upscale places in Jersey. But damn…How the fuck was she gonna get to Jersey every night? She damn sure couldn’t rely on Malik.
Thinking about Malik made her furious. Where the hell had he been for the past week, anyway? She’d left a zillion urgent messages on his cell, but he hadn’t called her back. It was as if the nigga had his antennae up, knew she was in need of some financial support, and had deliberately gotten ghost. What a punk!
But it was all good. She wouldn’t be down long, and once she was back up, she was definitely going to give Malik her ass to kiss. He couldn’t do shit for her anyway. She needed somebody with their own dough.
And dammit, she couldn’t find her future husband moping around the house. She had to get off her ass, get glamorous, and find herself a gig.