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Authors: Karen Williams

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BOOK: The People vs. Cashmere
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Chapter 11
“Fucking Cash! Your ass needs to focus.” I sucked my teeth at Desiree. “I am.”
“No, you not.” She gestured toward the street. “Did you see that damn man make eye contact? No. We need to get rid of this shit.”
I pursed my lips and rubbed my arms to ward off the night chills I had. “You said that crap last week,” I told her. “I don't wanna sell this shit no more.”
“Well, I don't neither, so there, dammit!”
“Whatever.”
“You know stripping gigs been slow. What else we gonna do?”
I shrugged.
Caesar said he would talk to his dad about offering me a job at the café. It wouldn't be much, but it was something. And since I was under the legal age to work, he said he would pay me under the table. But the last time I brought it up to Desiree, she laughed.
“He lying. He just want your pussy, girl. If he want it that bad, then give it to him, but he ain't gonna give you, a stripper, a job in that damn café.”
I started to believe her and didn't want to call his bluff and get my feelings hurt. And even if he was bullshitting about offering me a job, I still wanted to be around him 'cause it felt genuine, even if it wasn't. I didn't want to not have the café to go to, or Caesar to go to.
“And please don't bring up that fool you in love with. He full of shit. He ain't offering you shit, but some dick. You just too dumb to see it, Cash.”
“Yeah, well, fuck you!” Tears started coming out of my eyes.
She laughed and tried to hug me. “Did I hurt your feelings?”
“Get off of me, trick!”
“Trick? She busted up laughing and released me. “Face it, we strippers. Ain't no decent man going to ever want us, and that's the bottom line.”
“Caesar want me—”
“Oh Lord. You know what, Cash? Fuck Caesar! He ain't paying Daddy's rent or rent to our aunt, now is he?”
“But he offers me money all the time.”
She stared at me for a long time before shaking her head and rubbing her hands together. “It comes at a price, Cashmere. Don't you get it?”
She kept babbling, but my eyes slipped away from her as three niggas came out of nowhere and were coming toward us, walking at a brisk pace, the tallest one fumbling in his pockets.
“Desiree, run!” I took off, and she trailed behind me, confused at first, but smart enough to follow my lead, and screaming like a damn fool.
“Stop, bitches, and give us your shit!”
I was too scared to look behind me, but I heard the slamming of their feet on the pavement. They were on our heels. As we turned the corner, I could hear popping sounds like a firecracker and I saw smoke.
Desiree yelled, “Oh my God, Cash, they shooting at us!”
That's when I felt it—Something plunged into me, and a sharp ass pain in my shoulder. Then I fell to the ground, and blood squirted out of me. I closed my eyes, as an ache I had never felt before spread through me.
“Please don't kill me,” Desiree pleaded, hovering her body over mine.
The three dudes surrounded us and bum-rushed De-siree, knocking her to the ground beside me.
“Bitch, like we said, give us y'all shit,” one of them demanded.
Another one said, “She the carrier, man, the one screaming.”
The guy with the gun pointed it at Desiree. “Give it up!”
“Okay! Okay! Just don't kill me, in the name of Jesus.” She fumbled in her pocket and tossed the paper bag their way.
One of them kicked us both. “Next time, don't play.”
Then they ran off into the night.
“Muthafuckas, you didn't have to shoot my sister! Oh my God, my sister gone. You muthafuckas, why the fuck did you do this shit?”
I almost laughed when she tossed her fist at the air. I was in a whole lot of pain, but I damn sure wasn't dead. I thanked God for that. “Desiree.”
She wasn't listening. Instead she pulled my upper body on her and rocked me back and forth.
“Oh Lord, my sister dead. Why me? Why my sister, Lord, why?” She was breathing in pants through her nose as she talked.
Then it occurred to me that I still had some shit on me, and the commotion she was causing could alert the cops to us. “Desiree, will you shut the fuck up!” I whispered. “I'm not dead.”
She froze, placed a hand over my heart, then hugged me tight and said, “Praise God.”
“Shut up! Your ass falls asleep in church.” I winced in pain as blood continued to ooze from my shoulder. “Now you calling on God.”
“Come on, little sister. I thought I lost you there. Let's get you seen at the hospital.”
It turned out that it was just a flesh wound, because the bullet grazed my ass, but it was more than enough for me to make plans to step out of the dope game for good.
Chapter 12
My retiring from the dope game pissed Desiree off, but hell, she had a lot of nerve. I could have been killed. I'd always have the bruise in my shoulder to remind me that wasn't shit good about fast money. Or maybe it was karma, plain and simple, because what we were doing was wrong.
I buried my pride and the doubts she put in my head as I walked to the café.
“You stupid,” she yelled behind me. “He don't want you! Girl, he wants some ass, so be prepared to give that shit up.”
I flipped her the bird and kept on going. Once I reached the café, I took a deep breath. Before Caesar could get out a hello, I said to him, “Look, I need a job. And since you suppose to be my man, and since a while back you offered I need you to offer to hire me again 'cause I don't like asking people for a damn thing.”
I was holding my breath the whole time and didn't release it until he laughed, hugged me, and whispered in my ear, “Now I get to see my girl more. Cool.”
And it was cool from there. I came in after school, and on the weekends when me and Desiree weren't doing stripping gigs. And I loved it, getting paid to spend time with my boyfriend. But don't get me wrong, Caesar worked the hell out of me. I worked the cash register, stocked the inventory, washed dishes, and cleaned the store up at closing time and all. And he always watched me hustle with a smile on his face and a wink at me. Sometimes he would pull me back in the storage for a kiss or pat my behind, and it would make me tingle inside.
I didn't make as much as I wanted, but I managed to pull almost even with what he paid me, my tips, and the extra dough Caesar gave me just because I was his girl. The shortage I did have, Desiree, talking a lot of shit, had to cover.
Caesar even showed me how to make some of the dishes. He said, “One at a time,” so we started with the pound cake. It was early one Saturday morning, and we were in the kitchen. He held a spoon in his hand and asked me with his eyes wide. “Now are you sure I can trust you, Cash? 'Cause this is a family recipe, and my nana would kill me if she knew I was sharing it, even if I'm sharing it with my girl.”
I laughed and shook my head.
“Aye, girl, this ain't a joke.” He pointed the big spoon at me.
I pulled my lips in to keep from laughing and leaned against the countertop. “Sorry.”
He tapped me on my butt with the spoon.
“Ouch.” I whined, pretending it hurt.
“Oh. I'm sorry, baby.”
He kissed the spot on my butt where he hit me, making me tingle, but I acted like it was nothing, like on a regular basis fine-ass men kissed me on my butt.
“It's okay, sweetie,” I said.
He sat the spoon down. “Okay, now get that right hand up, girl.” I sighed and raised my hand as he instructed. He crossed his arms over his sweater.
“Now repeat after me. I, Cashmere Pierce.”
“I, Cashmere Pierce.”
“Do solemnly swear.”
“Do solemnly swear.”
“That I will never ever ever ever ever ever.”
“That I will never ever ever ever ever ever.”
“Ever!”
“Ever.”
I held in my laugh.
“Will repeat any recipe I learned in Sweet Tooth Café.”
“Will repeat any recipe I learned in Sweet Tooth Café.”
He turned serious. “You being honest with me, Cashmere?”
“I'm always honest with you, Caesar, just like you honest with me. Aren't you?”
“Yeah.”
He bit his bottom lip. “But can you keep a promise?”
I nodded. “I'm taking this to the grave, I promise, Caesar. And I'm gonna always keep my promises to you.”
He scooted closer to me and hugged me. Then he packed my face with kiss after kiss.
Even though I didn't want him to stop, I pushed him away. “Okay. Come on, Caesar, we gotta get this stuff baked.”
“Right.” He pulled himself away. “Two and a half cups of flour.” I nodded, measured it off, and poured it into a bowl.
“Two teaspoons of baking soda, a teaspoon of salt.” He cracked six eggs and mixed them in a bowl, while I mixed the dry ingredients.
“Cashmere, you know what I always wanted to ask you?”
I scratched the sides of the bowl with the spoon. “No. What?”
He added some vanilla to the eggs and continued to beat them. “Where is your real mother?”
I paused on the mixing for a moment. Then I shook my head and went back to mixing. “I don't know. Gone”
He gave me a weird look, poured three cups of white sugar in the bowl of eggs, and stirred slowly, so the sugar wouldn't splatter. “What do you mean, she's gone? Gone to where?”
I didn't respond.
He poured in some unsweetened chocolate cocoa. Then he poured a tub of sour cream into his bowl.
The silence was uncomfortable.
He studied me a moment. “You don't want to talk about it, do you?”
I smiled to let him know I wasn't mad that he was being nosy. But, still, I'm sure the hurt in my eyes showed. And my tight lip showed I just didn't want to discuss it with him.
“Now let me just mix the wet with the dry ingredients.” He poured his bowl into mine. “Now just mix those together good, Cashmere.”
I nodded.
See, the thing was, I was mad as hell at my mom. She did us wrong and had been doing us wrong for months. It had been a good seven months, and I still hadn't heard from her. And, deep down, despite the shit I talked about her to Desiree, part of me wanted her to come back. I wanted us to be a family like we used to be. I thought about the old days all of the time, and to be honest, I missed Mama. So my love and my desire to see her seemed to dominate all the anger I had, and the anger I tried to build up against loving and missing her. My damn heart won, I guess.
From the corner of my eye I watched Caesar walk over to the sink and wash his hands. He then stood behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist and kissed me on my cheek. “I didn't mean to make you sad, Cashmere.”
I smiled to show him I was okay and that I wasn't mad at him.
Mama said never to show a man you were a broken woman. When I asked her what a “broken woman” was, she explained patiently, “A broken woman is someone who goes through shit. Maybe she was hurt at a young age. She could have been abused, raped, molested, felt abandoned, which would have made her bitter and angry, and therefore broken. 'Cause the world, including men, could see it and couldn't love her because of it. That's why they can't keep a man. Mable Curtis—broken and single.” Mable was her friend. “Carolyn Porter—broken and single. Can't keep a man for shit.” She was also a friend of Mama's. “But don't worry, Cash, none of those things are gonna happen to you, so you don't have to worry about ever being broken.”
She sure predicted wrong, but I was determined not to let the shit I had already felt because of her break me. I wanted to be able to keep Caesar.
It would kill me to lose him
.
His arms tightened around my waist, pulling me from my thoughts and putting my attention back on him.
“The thing is, I was asking about your mom because, see, my parents are having a dinner party, and I wanted you to attend. It's only right that I ask your mother's permission.”
I turned around and hugged him before he got the rest out, and he laughed and hugged me back.
See, Desiree, you don't know what the hell you talking about. Caesar cares about me
. That shit Desiree was drilling in my head all this time was just bullshit. No man would bring a woman home to his parents that he didn't care about.
This had to mean he was sincere about being with me.
He patted my butt and said, “All right, let's finish up.”
“Right.”
After I unraveled myself out of his arms, he pulled me back into his arms and kissed me, but it was different from the usual kisses. He slipped his tongue in my mouth, and it made my heart rate speed up. I didn't know what to do, and I didn't want to look stupid. I was the girl who backed her damn near naked ass up in clubs and couldn't even French-kiss?
“Relax.”
I tried to follow his lead in the kiss, but in all honesty, I didn't have experience to compare with. But my young intuition told me Caesar either wasn't the best teacher or the best kisser. Maybe he was bad at both, but I still liked him. I ended up with slobber all over my mouth, and his dick poking into my waist.
He pecked me one last time and slid his fingers down to my waist. “You gonna always be my girl.”
I looked up at him with wide eyes and asked in a little girl voice I hated, “You mean that?”
He traced my bottom lip with one of his fingers. “Yeah, I mean that. I'm gonna always take good care of you, Cashmere. I'm not going to ever hurt you ever. And I'm gonna make sure no one else will as well.”
My hold tightened on him, as he stroked up and down my arms.
“Okay,” he said, “let's put that baby in the oven.”
After a tiring day, Caesar drove me home in his new car. He said his dad bought it for him after he had gotten accepted to Grambling. Usually I wanted him to walk me home so we had more time to spend together, but I was so tired from work. And, plus, I was in a hurry to share the news that Caesar had invited me to his parents' house for dinner, and maybe in a bigger hurry to get there just to rub it in her face.
I warned him not to get involved with any of those college chickens.
“Don't worry. As soon as I get into the fraternity, I'm sending you my sweater.
“Fra who?”
“I'm pledging for Gamma. My daddy was one, so he expects me to be one.”
“Do you want to be?” I asked.
He seemed like he was examining the question like he'd never thought about it. Maybe no one had ever asked him before.
“Yeah, I guess.”
I stroked his head.
“I just have to pledge.”
“You'll get in. I know it.”
He turned to me and smiled.
When he pulled up to my aunt's house, I didn't want to leave the comfort of his car.
“Can I have one more kiss?”
“You sure can.” I leaned over and kissed him, my eyes closed. I was really into it, learning how to use my tongue and trying to maneuver my lips so he didn't deliver so much saliva into my mouth.
He abruptly broke the kiss.
“What?”
He was looking behind me. “It's the same house I dropped you off at last time, right? 'Cause if it is, something is happening, baby.”
Through the windows of my aunt's house, I saw her throw something that busted out a window. “Oh shit.” I opened the car door and ran up the steps and into the house.
My auntie was struggling with my uncle, who was buck-ass naked. “Get the fuck off me, you bastard! And get the fuck out of my house!”
I almost laughed at his wrinkled ass. When I heard Caesar's feet behind me, I placed a hand up, telling him silently not to enter.
Aunt Ruby swung at Uncle Byron, knocking him into the coffee table. He hit his head and lay sprawled out, his dick dangling back and forth and a milky liquid leaking from it.
I turned away disgusted. Then a sinking feeling hit me. No, she couldn't have. “Auntie, what happened?'
She spun around quickly. “What happened, Cashmere? I'll show you what happened.” She pulled me by my hand to me and my sister's room.
I looked over my shoulder at Caesar, who looked confused and concerned from the porch. “I'll be back,” I told him. I shrugged 'cause I was just as confused as he was.
Aunt Ruby barged in our room and pulled me with her. “This is what happened! This slut was fucking my husband in my own house. And, bitch, like I said, Get out! Get out! You got five more seconds to pack your shit!”
I looked at Desiree with a shocked expression that asked her silently, “How the fuck could you?”
Desiree gave me a glance that said she was sorry then changed her sorry expression to a malicious one, twisting her mouth to one side and rolling her eyes at our aunt. “Shit, he came after me and he was willing to pay. Shit, I don't want your man. Don't trip.”
“After I give y'all whores a home, this is how you repay me?”
Desiree tossed a bag my way. “Cash, I packed your shit too.”
I shook my head. “What? I'm not leaving, Desiree. I'm staying.”
BOOK: The People vs. Cashmere
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