Tuesday, January 03, 2006

...Ain't Gold (Part Fourteen)

Maxell wanted to choke her. She watched the vein throbbing in his forehead as he rubbed his temples. She knew he was angry but she didn't care. She wanted to hit him like he had hit her, out of the blue.
"You tell me you had him right there and you didn't do anything? You had a loaded gun in your hand and you didn't kill him?" His voice rose with every word.
Her head tilted to one side. "I have my reasons."
"Please, share them."
"I don't have to. You're paying me to do a job and it will be done. But since you're not doing it yourself, I decide the when's and the where's."
"How much longer do I have to wait?"
"I'm not going to do it until it hurts. I want him to leave this world knowing everything he has ever loved has been destroyed. Then I will be satisfied." She turned on her heel and walked out.
There was nothing he could say. She was getting paid a hefty sum to do the deed and she was right. She didn't have to answer a damn thing.

“He’s tall, he’s got hazel eyes.”
“Hazel? Oh, that is so pretty. He’s cute?”
“He is too damn fine.”
“You sure? Cuz the last one I seen really wasn’t all that.”
Nicolepopped her sister upside the head before she greased the last part of Alanis’ scalp. “Lani, I’m tellin you. When you see him, you gone be dyin to be eighteen, you hear me?”
“I’ll take your word for it. So what’s he like?”
Nicole looked away as she made a neat plait in her sister’s hair. “He’s funny. He’s smart, he’s got a big heart, and he’s so fine-"
“You said that already. And that is not a character trait.”
“It is for him.”
“And what big heart mean?”

“Little things. I don't need or ask him to, but he drives me to work; he picks me up. He makes sure I have cash in my pocket, and groceries. He gives me backrubs. He listens when I'm talking. You know something else? He always seems to be thinking about me the same time I’m thinking about him.”
Ironically, her cell phone began to ring as her sentence ended.
“Hey, Nik.”
“Hey! Speak of the freakin Devil.”
He chuckled. “You talkin about me?”
“To anybody who’ll listen.”
“I’m just checkin on you, makin sure we still on for tonight.”
“Of course.”
“Cool. Look good for me, alright?”
“Don’t I always?”
“You damn sure do. I’ll pick you up, so be ready.”
“Okay. Bye.”

“That was him?”
Nicole bounced on the bed like a five year old. “Yes.”
Cora opened Alanis bedroom door. “Oh, the prodigal daughter returns. Where you been?”
Alanis flipped through the fashion magazine in her hand, trying to crane her neck as Nicole braided her hair. “She got a man.”
“You do?” her mother asked. “Since when?”
“Since about a month ago.”
“Hm. And when am I going to meet this man?”
“Soon as you want to,” she’d replied.
“Does he have a job?” her mother asked, leaning against the dresser.
Nicole stuck a bobby pin in her mouth as she made an intricate design with a braid. “Yes mama.”
“What company?”
Nicole looked up, becoming increasingly frustrated. “Mama, I don’t know. I didn’t ask him all of that.”
Cora pursed her lips and glanced down her nose at her child. “When I was being brought up, we knew where he worked if we called him our man?”
“He makes his money, ma. I don’t care about that right now, okay?”
Her mother sighed and gave her a knowing look. “Mmhm,” she said, leaving.
Alanis turned her head to face her sister. “He ain't in construction, is he?”
“Can we please change the subject, Lani?”
“Hey. I ain't mama. Don’t be getting stank wit me. I ain't do nothin.”
“I know. I’m sorry.” Nicole smoothed her sister’s head, admiring her shiny fresh braids. “But if I told mama, you already know what she would say.” Alanis nodded and they simultaneously said, “Them niggas ain't nothin but trouble and all that glitters ain't gold.” They giggled at the predictability of their mother. She had always been the same. Yet for all her crazy prophesies of doom, she was always right.

“Where in the hell you been?” Marie Pryor cut her eyes at Rich, clutching a napkin to her mouth as she coughed hard. He set down some very expensive looking flowers.
“Hi Grandma. How are you?”
“Don’t ‘how are you’ me, boy. I asked you where in the hell you been. I been tellin Simone to get in touch wit you and she said you keep brushin her off.”
“I’m here now, Grandma.” Rich pulled on his pants and sat down, willing this to be over so he could get the hell out.
“Hmm. You know your sister pregnant, right?”
“I know that.”
“She done broke up with that boy too, what was his name?”
“That’s it. Good man, I know he was. She don’t know good from her left foot.”
Rich stared at his grandmother in disbelief. “He was beatin on her, G.” He knew she hated it when he called her that, but he did it out of spite.
“Don’t be callin me that, boy. He hit her once. Leastways, that’s what she said. Shit, she need to get hit. Make sure she don’t turn out like both her brothers.”
Here we go, he thought. “What the hell is that supposed to mean, Grandma?”
Marie waved her bony hand. “You know what I mean, boy. It mean she ain't gone be sellin no dope or sittin in no prison. And she told me bout your little girlfriend.”
“Oh yeah? What she told you G?’
“I know you wit another one of them fast ass lil girls you used to bring round here.”
“She ain't fast G. She’s a nice girl.”
“Ain't none of them nasty girls you brought up in here was nice girls.”
Rich had had enough. He stood to leave. “Whatever.”
But Marie wasn’t finished. “That’s right, boy! Leave. That’s all you good at, just like ya tired ass daddy! That’s why I threw ya ass out.”
Rich turned on her. “Listen to me, Grandma. Listen to me. I am not comin back to see you. Okay? This is exactly why. No matter what I did, or how hard I tried, it was never good enough for you. I thought that’s what a man’s job was back then, to take care of his family. I thought I was doin right.”
“You ain't have no business bringin that shit up in my house.”
He knelt in front of her bed, face contorted in anger. “I was seventeen, G! You kicked me out when I was seventeen! Every time I came home to make sure Nell and Money was taken care of, you asked for cash, and I gave it to you! I took care of this family even after you kicked me out. I was livin in my best friends guest room.”
Marie turned her head, ashamed, but not wanting to her it. “You knew right from wrong boy. Just like your daddy did.”
“Don't bring my father into this.”
“It’s where he belongs.”
Rich stood up, passing his hand over his face. “You know, G, I used to hate mommy and daddy for dyin. Cuz when I was younger, I ain’t understand. But now I hate them for leavin us with you. And I’ll hate you more than you could ever know.” He held her glare for a moment longer, then turned and walked out the door.
When she heard the door slam, Marie let out a wall of tears she had been holding back since the last time she had seen Rich so many years ago. She had never known the world of hurt she had inflicted on her grandson, but now that she did, it hurt her more than ever. Hate was a strong word to use, and he had meant it.

Nicole cradled Rich’s head in her lap, stroking his face as his ears filled with tears. He had gone straight to her house, needing the comfort of his woman as he faced feelings he had stifled since that fateful day so long ago.
“Are you okay?” she asked softly.
He nodded. “I hate her, Nikki, I really do.”

Nicole didn’t understand. She knew this was one of those situations where you have had to experience it to understand, but she tried as hard as she could to be kind. “You know that no matter what happens between you two, I’ll always be here if you need me.” It was a simple sign of empathy to Nicole but to Rich, her words meant so much more. No other woman had ever let him open up to her that way. He didn’t dare telling the many women he slept around with how he was really feeling inside. Her sense of compassion when he needed it proved she would always be there.


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Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take and may this song play all the way, through. And if it skip a beat, hit repeat, this the realest shit I ever wrote, this is me. If it skip a beat, hit repeat, This the realest shit I ever wrote, this is me. -Juelz Sanatana, This Is Me, What The Game's Been Missing