In my tequila-sex haze I almost responded until I realized it wasn't Lania saying my name. Someone pounded frantically on the bathroom door.
“Michelle? Are you in there? I think I'm gonna be sick.” Larissa was knocking on the bathroom door.
“Shit.” We both cursed quietly. It was like I was doused with cold water and simultaneously hit over the head. Frustration and disappointment in myself set in all at once. I hopped off the sink and straightened my dress and panties, checking my hair in the mirror. Lania arranged her dress and recomposed herself before walking back over to the chaise longue, looking as if she'd been there all along. I unlocked the door and Ris rushed in, eyeing us both suspiciously.
“What the fuck took you so long? The fuck, Michelle?” She was wobbling back and forth.
I raised my hands as if waiving the white flag. “Larissa, not hereânot now. Nothin' was goin' on, baby, calm down.”
She pointed over in Lania's direction, staggering toward her. “You bitch, I seen you, prissy, Frenchy bitchâlookin' at my bitch.”
Lord, I must have turned five shades of red I was so damn embarrassed. I grabbed Ris by her shoulders and turned her to face me so I could at least lie to her directly in the eyes. “Ris, baby, I promise nothing . . .” Shit, before the words could leave my mouth Larissa did some kinda behind-the-back drunk crossover, goin' around me like fuckin' Jordan back in '93 and was on Lania's ass before I could blink.
“Michelle, get your bitch before I kill her.”
Ris went flyin' back across the room, and I just stood there, eyes wide as fuck, staring in stunned silence. I told y'all that skinny heffa was
She'd pushed Larissa's ass up off of her so damn hard I was in shock.
“Ugh, Chelle, I'm gonna be sick.” Larissa was definitely done as she staggered toward the stall in the corner.
I followed her into the bathroom and held her hair back just as she let go. “Damn, Ris, I think you're ready to go, baby.” She surprised me by shaking her head no in between frame-racking heaves. I looked over at Lania, who surprised me even further by just shruggin' as if this was a normal thing for her ass.
“Well, Risi-cup, I think it's safe to say you definitely can't handle your liquor anymore. Let's go get yo' ass some water so you can sober the fuck up.”
“The hell I can't. I's jus' makin' room fa' more.” She chuckled, and I helped her fix her hair and walked her back out to the table. Keyshawn was right where we left him, looking just as handsome with his two concubines, waiting patiently as ever.
“Y'all good?” Keyshawn asked, barely glancing in my direction.
Lania slid back into her place beside him and gave him an awkward smile. They exchanged a look, or I thought they exchanged a look; it was so brief I could have possibly imagined it. I just didn't want to seem like I was imposing, and I definitely didn't want to be labeled as the woman with the wife who gets drunk and acts a complete mess in public.
“So, my mans is comin' to hang out with us if y'all up for it.”
Ris flopped down into the booth and answered before I could even open up my mouth and come up with an excuse to get us out of there.
“Our asses is up for it. Is he anotha basketball player? Who is it?” She was pouring herself another glass of champagne, but more of it was ending up on the table than in her champagne flute.
“He's the owner of the team. Cool dude. Here, let me pour that for you, you are my guest.” He directed his gaze toward me after filling her glass less than full. “Very good connect to have. You never know when you need to know someone like him.”
With that statement the business part of me kicked in and I sat my ass down. “Key, pour me a glass too, please.”
Never know when you'll need to know an NBA team owner, especially in the housing industry. That's some super official shit right there.
It didn't take long for Curtis Daniels to arrive; he was a tall, older man with greying hair at the temples on either side of his head. I can't lie; he looked like money.
Keyshawn got up to greet him when he came over, and introduced him. It was a damn near buzz kill having him at the table and I was honestly happy for it. Key's playful demeanor immediately went out the window and he was acting like a perfect gentleman. If I weren't mistaken I'd say he was actually uncomfortable, but I guessed I would be a bit out of my element too if my boss wanted to come hang out at a damn club when I was tryin' to let loose and drink.
“Excuse me. Sir Angelo extends his graciousness.” A waiter had appeared at our booth with a bottle of ChÃ¢-teau Lafite Rothschild Pauillac. My eyes widened and we all looked back toward the booth, but the curtains were still drawn.
“Send it back. I've already paid for champagne.” Keyshawn surprised even me, but Lania said what we were all thinking.
“Key, that's a three thousand dollar bottle of champagne. This isn't a dick-measuring contest; are you trying to offend him on purpose?”
Keyshawn acted like he didn't even hear her.
“Tell Angelo we send our appreciation. Keyshawn, that pride will make you lose more than it will ever earn you if you don't get it under control.” Curtis accepted a glass from the waiter and I couldn't help but wonder what Key had against that Angelo guy.
Curtis's sophisticated demeanor was a good balance to the group. It kept Ris from suicide tag-teaming shots and glasses of champagne left and right, giving her a little time to sober up. Once the guys got on the subject of basketball plays and seasons and playoffs, I decided it was a good time to call it a night, and I pulled a reluctant somebody away from the table and out to the limo so we could go home.
Ris pouted the first half of the ride and slept the rest of the way. My phone rang. I didn't recognize the number but figured it must be Keyshawn; I even got excited and dared it to be Curtis.
“Enjoy your time while you still can, bitch.” That's all that was said and the call disconnected. The voice sounded like something out of a horror movie. I knew there were plenty of apps on iPhones and other programs that could mask your voice, make it raspy or deeper, but why would Rasheed want to go through all the trouble? Was scaring me that serious? I dialed the number back and it went to a Google voice service that said the call couldn't be completed. My heart felt like it was doing clumsy flips in my chest. Someone needed to put a stop to this shit. The phone vibrated again, showing yet another number I didn't recognize. I hit answer and didn't say a word. I slid the phone to my ear, my heart beating in my throat, afraid to hear whatever murder, death, kill threat I would get next but ready to cuss someone the fuck out.
“Umm, hello? Michelle?”
It took me a second to place her voice. “Lania? Hey, I'm sorry I . . . I had the phone on mute.” I wasn't in the mood for her cat-and-mouse bullshit right this second, especially not with Ris asleep right here, liable to wake up and ask a million questions.
“So, I honestly don't do this that often and I am in understanding with your situation, but I'd really like to be seeing you again. Soon if that is possible.”
I had to shake my head yet again at her “Frannish” but that low, sultry voice of hers, it was like warm spiced caramel, and I had an instantaneous flashback of what it sounded like when she . . .
I popped that thought bubble before it could float any higher. I had too much going on to entertain this type of bullshit right now. Ris adjusted her head on my shoulder in her sleep and I stiffened.
“Lania, I can't. I'm sorry about what happened tonight too, but I just can't. I've gotta go okay?” I didn't even wait for her to respond. Suddenly I realized that I'd just hung up on one of
's top one hundred.
Actually I think she was numbered as the twenty-eighth most beautiful woman in the world.
I exhaled loudly. My neck was starting to hurt. I needed to be as rational and real about this situation as possible and with the way things were going, Rasheed was probably going to try to kill me. The key word was try, because there was no way I was giving up my life without a damn good fight. That muthafucka had another thing coming if he thought otherwise.
WHAT'S MINE IS YOURS AND WHAT'S YOURS IS STILL YOURS
Boy oh boy. I almost went slam the fuck off and gave away the fact that my ass wasn't for real drunk sleeping on Michelle's shoulder. I'd adjusted my head so I could hear her conversation better. The first one was quick and weird. I couldn't really hear it that well but based on the way she tensed up it wasn't good news. But the second one,
I almost nodded my head right into her lap because I was straining so hard to hear. I just
something was up with that pretty-ass model Frenchy bitch mispronouncing- shit-for-no-damn-reason streetwalking ho.
Oh, I bet Chelle ain't even know all that shit.
Keyshawn was on his phone and Keisha had started talkin' all low to Chanel when they left sayin' some shit 'bout Lania needin' her to escort some nigga somewhere so they needed to ditch our party. An' here I was kissin' her ass thinkin' she on some top model shit and she over here running hoes.
Lania's ass had just hopped up too quick to help out when Michelle needed to go piss at the club. An' when Chanel and Keisha had the nerve to ask if I was okay with them going together, it took everything in my power to keep me at the table for as long as I sat there. It took a helluva lot more for me to embarrass myself and stick my damn finger down my throat when Chelle wasn't paying attention so I could throw up. My ass wasn't gonna be sick. I just needed an excuse to whoop that bitch's ass, and being drunk just seemed like a good enough'a one to me, shit.
My Spidey-muthafuckin'-sense was already on ten; I ain't need Tweedledee and Tweedledum-ass pointin' shit out like my ass stupid. I didn't know if Michelle did or didn't do anything up in that damn bathroom, but just in case, I got my ass whoopin' in just for her or that bitch even thinkin' 'bout doin' that shit. Point blank, that's all the fuck it took. Little Ms. Lania's ass was on my muthafuckin' radar. Period.
I could feel the limo roll to a stop. Michelle kissed me on my forehead and I blinked a few times, trying to adjust my eyes since they'd been closed the entire ride.
“Hey, you lush, we're home.” She gave me one of her fake-ass “I'm trying to act like nothing's wrong” smiles. It was damn obvious she was worried about something. I just hoped she wasn't thinking about that bitch.
“Is somethin' wrong, bae?” I acted like I was still a little hazy from all the liquor, but I was super alert, watching everything.
“Nothin' baby. I'm jus' tired, it's close to four in the morning.”
We climbed out of the car and made our way up to the darkened house, both of us trying to look normal as fuck while secretly eyeballing every tree, shadow, and bush. Most of the main lights were off in the house but the sitter had left the foyer lit. She was sitting in the living room, doing some shit with these long-ass needles.
I guess that's what the fuck knitting looks like. Boring,
I thought. Darla was an older, maybe late-forties white lady with stringy brown hair. Michelle found her through some kind of nanny referral service. She came with this long list of celebrity clients, a resume, a background check, all that shit. The needles clinked together as she dropped them into her little nanny knapsack and walked over to us.
“Hello, misses.” She always called us that like we weren't some damn grown-ass women, always talkin' in her polite little field mouse voice. I bet she had a gazillion cats at home an' shit, or a million of those little white china baby dolls and she be talkin' to 'em and shit like they real kids. That's what the fuck she looked like in her pink and white “Nannies 'R' Us” uniform that the agency made her wear.
“A visitor came by not long after you left. As instructed I did not approach nor open the door. The children are upstairs in bed. They are very well behaved and beautiful little ones. Feel free to reserve my services anytime.”
I didn't hear a damn thing after the word “visitor.”
Who in the hell came by the house?
You would've thought the two of us were wanted fugitives the way we suddenly looked at each other. Both of us asked the same question in our heads without needing to speak it out loud in front of this person who didn't need to know our business.
“Darla, I'll see you out. Thank you so, so much for your time this evening.” Michelle took over and walked Darla toward the front door. She locked and bolted the double front doors, set the alarm, and together we went down the hall into the study that we never used. It wasn't a large study, I guessed. I ain't never had a house with a study so I wouldn't know. Michelle picked all the books that lined all the walls, most of which she'd said she read. I'd skimmed through a few but they were all, “think about this, grow rich that,” a ton of shit I couldn't get into. The only one that I'd actually read was an old voodoo tale that scared the hell out my ass and I ain't touched another one since.
Our entire house minus Chelle's “sanctuary” had hardwood flooring, which I personally hated. Michelle's reasoning was it would not only add value to the house but it'd be easier to keep clean with the kids. When I told her I didn't like hardwood floors because they're cold,
she had them install heaters
in the floors.
Nothing, not a single thing, in the house was mine or had my touch. Everything was Michelle's vision or Michelle's idea or customized to Michelle's liking or her idea of comfort. She'd furnished and picked it all out before we moved from Virginia as a “gift.” She ain't even bother to think that I'd have liked to at least have some say in what color walls I'd want to stare at every damn day, or what kind of couch I'd want my ass on? Hell, I ain't even like the colors or the design on the sheets on the damn bed.
We walked up to the oversized mahogany desk in the center. Michelle plopped down in the leather seat in front of the touchscreen HP and I sat in her lap, since it was the only place to sit.
“You ever even learn how to use that damn camera system?” I was being a smartass on purpose. Since the day it was installed I'd never figured out how to use it and I sure as hell wasn't sure if she had.
“The man said it's twenty-four hours and backed up to a main server, all we have to do is enter the password and we can view the footage.”
I wasn't sure why I never thought of it before. The cameras were all some state-ofâthe-art bullshit, teeny as hell and hidden around the outside of the house. We had one at the front door, one overlooking the garage, and I was pretty sure there was another that looked out over the back toward the pool.
“So why don't you just use the li'l touchscreen pad things that's all over the house?”
We had one in every damn room. They looked like mini TVs on the wall beside the light switches and they controlled damn near everything. You could dim the lights, turn the music on or off in each room, and,
look outside using the cameras.
“Because, Ris, those cameras are real time, we need to access shit that's already passed. So we need to go back a few hours. After a week the files are archived so we can't access them.” She sounded irritated. There was no reason for her to talk to me in such a know-it-all tone.
“Well damn you ain't gotta snap at my ass. I was jus' askin'.”
Shit, I'll keep my suggestions to myself.
She sure did know a lot about all of this, and my ass just felt more and more alienated as she put in her password and pulled up her site, more shit I was oblivious to. It was a wonder she didn't spy on me when I was home with the kids.
She scrolled her finger along the screen and the footage zoomed forward through the day, and I watched us leave in the limo, and a few minutes later a white flower delivery van pulled up, and we watched as a figure got out and walked up to the house with what had to be the largest bouquet of lilies in history. The sun was setting and it was shadowy, so we honestly couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman.
Damn, why hadn't Darla turned on the front light?
We might have been able to see something if she had. He or she had on a huge gardening hat and the lilies completely blocked the side view of their face so watching the video any further was pointless. Michelle groaned and touched stop on the screen.
“What? It's just a damn florist. Probably from one of your fuckin' side hoes.” Jealousy seared through me in an instant, flashed with a mixture of anger and pain. It wasn't anyone sendin' me flowers, that was for damn sure. Climbing off her lap I started to make my way upstairs, intent on thinking my way out of this no-win situation with her lying ass. The thought of being close to her and thinking that once again Rasheed or Lania or whoever the fuck else was touching her or sharing her with me was tearing me up inside.
“Larissa. It doesn't bother you that this florist had on a sun hat and was trying to deliver flowers damn near in the middle of the night? Every house out here has security cameras somewhere. You don't think whoever it was wasn't trying to hide their face on purpose?”
Her words fell on deaf ears. She was pleading her case, trying to cover up her lover's tracks because the flowers probably should've gone to her fuckin' office and not to our damn house.
“And they just happened to know you love lilies. Most deliveries for most normal companies do stop at nine, Michelle.” I couldn't hide the smirk on my face. Oooh my ass was heated. I stormed out to the garage, intent on rolling me a fat one and putting some clouds up in the air because this bitch done straight chased away all of the buzz I had. She had some nerve having niggas sending flowers and shit up here, and then on top of that Lania's ass trying to get at her with me right there just feet away.
I stomped into the garage, the humidity immediately making me break out into a sweat, pissing me off even further. I looked at the layer of dust gathering on my silver Jag and my candy-red Mercedes coupe, both gifts from Michelle. I needed my own got-damn car that I paid for. Not something that was given to me like I was a spoiled brat or someone's child who needed an allowance and permission to do things. At one point in time I thought this was the life I wanted. To have someone just take care of me and just give. She gave me clothes, gave me money. Michelle gave me everything I had. I realized now that the problem with someone doing all the damn giving is that at any moment they could take it all back. I needed to do something, and I needed to do it fast. If our marriage wasn't legal in Florida and she wanted me gone or if I decided I wanted to leave.
The thought of me putting up with so much and walking away with absolutely nothing made my stomach twist into knots. The main reason Michelle even had the nerve to have half of what she had was because of me and did she ever truly show me any appreciation?
I helped pull her up from her knees and now she wanted to just walk away. We only had one solid rule between the two of us and to this day as far as I knew neither of us had ever broken it. We'd both sworn to never lock our phones and to respect each other's privacy by not going through each other's shit. Pacing in the garage, I couldn't help feeling like a caged animal. Like one of those damn dwarf leopards I'd seen in Trey's zoo magazines. Yup, my ass was a damn endangered ocelot and my habitat, my cubs, and everything else was on the verge of being wiped out if I didn't start fighting. My lifestyle, my way of living, was in jeopardy and so was Lataya's. My mind was made up.