THIS WOMAN'S WORK
I'd sat back an' watched these bitches livin' da life I shoulda been livin', raisin' da family I shoulda been raisin' for too damn long. Patience was not somethin' I was good at but I was learnin' it on a daily basis. Growin' up the old folk used to always say, “when you take things for granted, the things you are granted get taken”; well I was 'bout to do a whole damn lot of takin'. They owed me money, they owed me love, time, and sweat, tears, pain, and they owed me my damn daughter. They took Paris from me an' I'd do anything, an' I mean damn near anything, to get my baby back.
The good thing 'bout bein' deadâor I should say bein' thought of as deadâis you get to learn how people honestly feel. You get to see they actions an' compare all that shit to the words that they'd said to you to keep you faithful or loyal or, in my case, to keep you servin' a sentence for some shit you ain't even deserve to be servin' a sentence for. The whole time I was locked up all I could think 'bout was Rasheed. There was a few times when I called him an' he ain't take my call but I tried to be understanding 'cause he was goin' through so much back then. When I'd finally found a way to get out I almost lost my mind, 'cause the first thing I had to learn when I went lookin' for his ass was that my man's bitch-ass baby momma had done turned 'round an' gotten him locked up! It took e'rething in me to not go after her right then an' there.
Michelle an' Larissa. Michelle an' got-damn Larissa. Larissa, my damn cousin. We s'posed to be blood an' I gotta find out dat she the main reason why I know what the inside of prison walls is like, while she livin' in a fuckin' fairytale castle, pushin' Benzes an' shit. Hell da fuck no. First thing first was to get my money up an' that wasn't hard 'cause Rah had shit stashed in places jus' for shit like this. It was a weird feelin' bein' back in Norfolk without him.
January always reminded me of him. From the crunch and color of the leaves on the ground to the way the wind would blow an' it be so cold it damn near freeze ya skin even through your coat an' jeans. He called it get money weather, 'cause the air smelled crisp like brand new bills. And while lazy niggas was cuffed wit' they boos eatin' and gettin' fat, real niggas was hustlin'âout gettin' what them lazy niggas was passin' up. This weather was made for makin' stupid easy money. I smiled to myself and wished some of that stupid easy money would come to me now.
I went to the house where he stayed wit' his baby momma. It was still empty, thank God. I felt like a ghost; hell I was a ghostâcreepin' through the dead grass in the middle of the night an' shit. My breath was comin' out in white clouds and my fingers burnin' in my gloves. His neighborhood always smelled like hickory 'cause all dem niggas out there got fireplaces an' they burn 'em hard in the winter. E'retime I smelled that smell it reminded me of him.
Police tape was still on all the doors an' windows, an' the Feds took e'rething up out the house down to the damn curtains. But I jus' carried my ass round the side like I remember Rah tellin' me.
“Any shit ever go down, a nigga grabbin' the burner from up unda the mattress, and if I can't get to a safe for some go paper, I gotta jus'-in-case stack up unda the li'l cement rain gutta on the side of the crib. Rainy day shit fo' sho'. Honey, a nigga stay ready so he ain't eva' and I mean so he ain't eva' gotta get ready.”
Smiling, I crouched down as I got closer to the cement rain gutter on the ground. A few beetles ran from up underneath it when I slid it out the way an' it took me a minute to dig 'cause I forgot to bring somethin' to use an' the ground was half damn frozen. After a good thirty minutes I hit a li'l tin box an' uncovered it enough to get the lid off. He had at least seventy Gs in there and I stuffed it inside of the li'l blue duffel bag I had with me. It ain't have much in it, but it held everything I owned. This was more than enough for what I needed to start; the rest would find its way to me. I just needed to find my way out of Virginia until I could come up with a solid plan; it was too risky stayin' here.
They was both so damn stupid; like changin' names an' movin' all the way down the East Coast and whatnot would keep somebody from findin' 'em. I was gonna pay one of Rah's old homeboys to find 'em but I didn't wanna involve anyone else. So I used a pay phone outside the 7-Eleven not too far from Brambleton Street. Called the Norfolk district court one day pretendin' I was Michelle askin' if they could verify the forwardin' address for Paris's birth certificate. Some Latasha chick, or whoeva' she was, was all like, “Oh we mailed that already.” So I said, “Well, ma'am, I ain't get it. Can you please verify where you sent it?” And just like that I knew exactly how to find they asses.
Soon as I knew how to find them, my next move was finding a way to get to Rasheed. I had to be able to pay the guards and COs and still have somewhere to lay my own head at night. I couldn't hang around Virginia to earn money for fear of someone recognizing me. I walked my ass to the Greyhound bus station and bought myself a ticket to Florida.
KINGS AND QUEENS
That had to have been the longest fuckin' bus ride of my life. I was scared to sleep most of the way only 'cause I had so much cash on me an' I ain' want nobody to try to snatch my shit. I spent most the of trip tryin' to figure out how to get Rah out of prison an' the other half tryin' to figure out what to do with Michelle and Larissa in order to get my daughter back. I was stuck sittin' beside Baby Huey the first half of the ride. This fat-ass white corn fedâlookin' mu'fucka. He smelled like mustard and armpit sweat and kept fallin' asleep, snorin' loud as fuck wit' his head back; sounded like he was gonna jus' die. Stuck between his ass and the window was hell, but he got off in North Carolina and it was jus' me after that.
Miami compared to Virginia was a culture shock. It was already damn near sixty-five degrees outside and all over the place everyone looked tan, beautiful, happy. The first thing I did was find a cab to get my ass to the Ritz-Carlton hotel. When I was locked up, we'd see commercials for them hotels and I remembered thinkin' if I ever got up out of there and could do it I'd stay my ass in one of thoseâwell that and I couldn't think of any other fancy places so that was that.
A short, little man with a hat and suit held the door with his white gloves as I walked into the lobby and I was in awe. There was floor-to-ceiling mahogany walls covered in mirrored balls that lit up. Cream-colored leather armchairs were all over the place and everything up in there looked like it cost a damn arm and a leg. There were live exotic flowers and this waterfall and stream with real fish swimmin' in it. The place was like a dream come true and I was only in the damn lobby. I wished Rasheed could've been there with me.
“Welcome to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, South Beach Miami. Um, may I be of service?”
There was a snooty-lookin' older black woman behind the counter lookin' down her nose at me. “Umm. I'd like your biggest suite please.”
“Ma'am, that would be the Ritz-Carlton Suite, it's approximately four thousand dollars per night.”
I didn't see this bitch's fingers movin'. “Okay.” I just stared at her blankly, and her dumb stuck-up ass just kept lookin' at me. Reachin' into my duffle bag I peeled off twenty Gs and laid the cash on the counter with the fake ID I had made before I left Virginia. I didn't think I'd seen strippers snatch up paper fast as that bitch scraped that shit up off the counter. I laughedâmoney always talks. But, shit, that was already twenty that I'd just dropped and it was only for a few days. I was gonna need to hustle that shit back, and fast.
“Here is your key. Brighton, will you show Ms. Lacroix to her room?”
It was weird as fuck hearing someone call me by that name. Kita, the girl who helped get me the ID, said it a few times out loud so I'd know how to pronounce it and I'd guess I'd forgotten since then. The desk clerk snapped her fingers and some redheaded white guy appeared beside me in the same uniform as the guy who held the door. He tried to take my bag but I refused, jerking it closer to my side. Fuck thatâall my money was up in there and I had a death grip on it. Seein' that, he shrugged and led me to the elevator up to the fifteenth floor where he unlocked my door and showed me into my suite. I wasn't gonna tip his ass at first because I ain't have change for a hundred, but then I remembered when mu'fuckas used to say that shit to me when I was dancin' and I'd be thinkin',
you knew you was comin' up in here so why you ain' get change first?
Plus Rah used to always say to take care good care of workin' men and womenâwaitresses, bus boys, bartenders and shitâ'cause you never knew when you'd need 'em.
“Thank you so very much, Ms. Lacroix.” His wrist went up in the air, and he had this cute little singy voice.
Aww, he's fam,
I thought, immediately feelin' homesick. I used to love goin' to the drag shows up in Nutty Buddy's an' watchin' the queens go in on some songs. They'd be on stage in heels, makeup, an' dresses,
“Now look, this is for our exclusive VIP Ritz guests. I usually don't give it out because they worry me to death. Press this little button and talk into the light-up part and tell me what you need and Brighton will be your personal genie.” He handed me the little silver radio and sashayed out of the room.
Lookin' around I'd neva' seen anything like this shit before. To go from the life I lived, basically sellin' myself on stage dancin' and sweatin' my ass off for a bunch of strangers, to bein' locked up an' sittin' in a cell and still having not a damn thing to show for it, to where I was now. Lookin' out a window at white sand an' clear blue ocean wit' more money in my hand than I'd ever seen or made in my entire life was a sign that I was on the right path. This shit was fuckin' bananas. I laughed like I was twelve again and jumped up on the infinity-somethin' cloud bed, sending all the pillows and the blue and gold Egyptian cotton 2,000-thread-count sheets flyin' everywhere. The entire room was decorated in blues and golds and I felt like Cleopatra sittin' in my empire beside the beach.
Tired, I fell out on my back and closed my eyes. Inhaling deep, I took in the smells of the ocean from the large balcony doors, citrus and coconut, and . . .
my funky ass.
After my shower I decided to explore. I took $4,000 wit' me along wit' the
-lookin'-ass communicator Brighton gave me an' locked the rest of the cash up in the safe. The hotel was like a damn mini resort. I stopped and bought myself a cute li'l black an' tan swimsuit outta the gift shop an' went lookin' for the hot tub so I could relax and think. First thing I needed to do was get my ass some clothes. It was a good thing where I was goin' was away from the main lobby and all the guests. The Jacuzzi was in its own area closed off from the main pool. I was crushed when I got in there an' saw the
OUT OF ORDER
sign on the door. Looked like I'd have to settle for either sittin' in the steam room or the sauna that was right behind it. I poked my head into the sauna first and cringed. The heat was so dry it damn near made my nose bleed so, of course, I picked the steam room. I sat down an' the machine scared the fuck outta me when it cut on fillin' the room wit' steam. The smell reminded me of Vicks VapoRub, but it was still relaxing. It was makin' so much noise and there was so much steam in the room I couldn't hear or see outside the glass doors. When the steam finally stopped I froze at the sound of the voices outside.
“So we gonna meet wit' 'em at the bah an' then what?”
“And then you's follow my lead. He shows us the dope, we show 'em the cash but we ain' givin' that Guido fuck nothin'. We gonna take his shit an' dead his bitch ass.”
“What if he don't let it go that easy or he put up a fight?”
“What da ya mean, what if he don't let it go? We make him let it the fuck go. We take this shit tonight and
you an' me, run this shit. This tan, Botox, and tits city will be ours by morning. Bosses don't get made; bosses make themselves. You mark me on that shit.”
I stayed my ass as still as possible in that damn steam room. I felt like I was gonna pass out an' hoped they ain' keep talkin' too much longer, but I'd rather die from the steam than from the hands of whoever those two mu'fuckas was. I waited until it got completely quiet before I felt like it was okay to leave. My head was spinnin' from the heat an' I ain' know if I was even gonna make it back to my room, but damn that shit was crazy. I shook my head.
Who the fuck was them two fools tryin' to set up?
That sounded like some straight up VA-dope-boy bullshit. I tell you whatâain't no sunshine in the damn dope game. The game stay on some shady shit no matta where you think you at or what side you on.
I made it to my room, thankful they had cookies an' shit in the lobby; it gave me just enough energy to stop at a boutique I'd noticed earlier to grab a few outfits so I'd have something to wear for dinner. I changed and went downstairs to one of the hotel restaurants to get a steak or something before my ass passed out and to look an' see what kind of strip clubs they had in the area. Damn, I ain't wanna go back to strippin' but I'd have to start somewhere. I was halfway done with my carne asada fries and jumbo mango margarita when I recognized the voices I'd heard earlier. They were sitting directly behind me, talkin' business at the bar. Turning slightly in my seat I glanced over my shoulder. I couldn't see their faces. I could only see the clean-cut dark-haired white boy they was talkin' to. My heart went out to himâpoor dude, he ain't have no idea what he was in for.
“So you meet us an' you ain' bring shit, mudafucka?”
“Maybe. Right now, you ain't showin' me enough to make a ten dolla' hooka' give you a second glance,
figli di puttana.
I got it, just not here.”
I remembered hearin' those words a few times from the Italian chicks up in prison. This dude jus' sat there an' not only insulted 'em but he called these dudes “motherfuckers” to their faces. I listened for a few seconds; he was a cocky li'l somebody, reminded me of my baby. Damn, that could have been Rahâdoin' some shit tryin' to make money wit' me at home waitin' on his ass an' these bitch-ass mu'fuckas was tryin' to take him for everything he was worth. Dead his ass and walk away with everything he'd worked for.
I had to do something. I pulled out the little radio and put the earpiece in so I could call Brighton.
Damn why didn't this shit come with fuckin' instructions?
It took me a second to figure it out but I finally got that shit.
“How may I help you, Ms. Lacroix?”
“Brighton, enough wit' that Ms. Lacroix shit. Jus' call me HoneyâI need a favor.” I held the earpiece in my ear, tryin' to keep my voice as low as possible. “I'm in the Lapidus Lounge. Come get the guy at the bar. He's wearin' the green an' black striped shirt. The one talkin' to the two guys. Tell him he has a phone call in the main lobby.”
“Okay, Ms. Honey. You talking about the cute li'l thang who came in with them grey eyes. I'm on it. I'll be right there.”
I laid some money on the table an' went up to the front desk an' waited. When he walked out I grabbed his arm an' pulled him over into one of the side hallways.
“Them guys you talkin' to, they gon' take whatever it is you sellin' an' they gonna kill yo' ass. So if I was youâI'd leave now.”
The mu'fucka actually laughed dead in my face. “I'm sorry. Excuse me for bein' so rude, beautiful, and who are you again?”
He was still chucklin', and all I could think was that this fool had to be dumb or straight-up crazy before answerin' him. “I'm nobody. Don't you worry 'bout all that. Did you hear what I jus' said?”
“Yes, gorgeous, I heard you.” He looked around before leanin' down close to my ear like he had a secret. “That's actually the plan. They's been fuckin' wit' my operation since day one, ground zero. My boys is outside and when they make they moveâwe gonna' make ours. Bada boom bada bing,It's finished.”
so much for tryin' to help; men always thinkin' they got they shit together.
“So once again I'm askin' who's this li'l guardian angel who woulda saved my life, if it'd needed savin'?”
I looked up into the clearest grey eyes that I'd ever seen in my life an' all I could think was,
Damn, his eyes is sexy as fuck.
“Once upon a time, my name was Honey.”
And that's how I met King Angelo Testa, the boss of Miami.