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Excerpt - XinXii

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					                     Chapter Four


    Nubia and Jalani Bishop jogged around the track at
Fox Hills Park, warming up for their morning exercise.
It was March, and an unusual cold spell had crept into
the Los Angeles area. Angelenos had been used to
spring-like weather and the abruptness of a
twenty-degree drop in temperature had shocked even
those who had just recently relocated from New York,
Ohio and Chicago to escape the same chilly weather they
were now experiencing.
    It was too cold to talk so they both concentrated on
keeping up their pace with their individual music of
choice: Jalani was swinging his hips to Whitney
Houston‟s version of „I‟m Every Woman‟ and Nubia‟s
choice of music was Kool and the Gang.
      Nubia‟s mittens and scarf didn‟t seem to be keeping
their bargain in preventing the chill from attacking her
body. She thought that moving her jaws would
contribute to some much needed warmth, so she tried to
sing ‘Get down on it,’ as loud as she could.
    „One more mile to go,‟ she yelled out as she flew by
Jalani, thinking he would be unable to hear her through
the pounding of the drums, the bass and Whitney‟s high
„C‟ notes. Jalani glared at her but didn‟t break a step.
    “Stop yelling!” he shouted at her as she flew by. “I
know how to count.” When Nubia circled around him
again, she grabbed his arm in a mini-hug and laughed.
Jalani shrugged her off and tried to maintain his rhythm
while smiling at his good friend. Nubia was so grateful
for Jalani's company and his friendship. He was funny,
upbeat and was very sure of himself.
    When Nubia had calculated that she had run three
miles, she sat on the grass near the front to the entry of
the park stretching her legs while she waited for Jalani.
He jogged up a few minutes later and wasn't even
sweating.
    "Stretch with me, J," Nubia said to him, while laying
her head on the knee in front of her.
    Jalani rolled his eyes at her. "You can stretch for
both of us, Honey. I have five heads to do today and
then I've got a date tonight." Nubia sat up. Jalani had
the best stories and she loved to hear about his antics
with both the good and bad dates.
    "Is it the guy you met at the Bitten Apple? The
Bookkeeper?" "Mmm hm," Jalani smiled, blushing as he
so often did when he met what he called 'a new fella.'
   "But he's not a bookkeeper, Miss Thang. He's an
Accountant and soon to be a CPA."
     "Whatever," Nubia laughed as he stood over her and
helped her up. They started walking back towards her
car.
    "I need to see him," Nubia teased.
    "Oh, hell no," Jalani replied. "With an ass like the
one you have, that brother may swing back over to your
side. And I'm liking him too much to lose him to you."


    Jalani had just moved from Chicago to Los Angeles
about five months ago. He lived next door to Nubia and
their rear patios were adjoined side by side. Nubia had
seen him around, and they always nodded and smiled at
each other, but they had not been formally introduced
until early one Saturday as she sat outside in the cool
morning air drinking coffee, she saw him: a short,
almost petite, slender, dark-skinned brother with perfect
skin peeking at her from the next door patio.
    "Good morning," Nubia said. She drew her robe
around her so he wouldn't see that she had nothing on
underneath.
    "Good morning," he spoke back, energetic and
spunky. He placed his hand on his chest and introduced
himself, “I'm Jalani. I'm not going to be the kind of
neighbor that gets on your nerves, but Girlfriend, can I
please beg for a cup of coffee? It smells so good, and
my coffee maker is still packed in storage in god knows
what box.”
    "Bring your cup," Nubia smiled at his friendly face,
running through the apartment quickly to slip something
on and open her door to her new neighbor.
    They sat on her patio and spent most of the morning
talking as if they had known each other for years. Jalani
was born and raised in Chicago and was an Esthetician
by trade. He also worked as a hair dresser but his
dream was to become a clothing designer. He told
Nubia the reason he moved to L.A. was because he had
met a football star who played for a professional
California franchise.
    The athlete, who would remain forever unnamed,
was in Chicago on business and came into the health spa
Jalani worked at for a facial, body scrub and massage.
After his treatments with Jalani he tipped him
generously and asked him if he made house calls.
Jalani got the room number to his hotel and visited him
every night, at his request, for the entire week he was
there. He blushed as he recounted his week with the
jock, who insisted that he move to California, and
promised to invest money in a day spa with Jalani as
part-owner.
     A couple of months after Jalani uprooted his life and
moved out west, his benefactor changed his mind about
their arrangement until Jalani threatened to out him. The
ex-lover warily had his accountant hand over a cashier‟s
check for relocation expenses; Jalani put the money
away, got a job at a hair salon in Pasadena and found an
apartment in a neighborhood blacks referred to as the
Jungle, near LaBrea Boulevard, until he decided whether
to stay or go back to Chicago.
    By the time Jalani went back to his apartment next
door, they had each decided to themselves they really
liked one another. Nubia, a runner, and Jalani, a jogger,
both very proud of their bodies, began to share their
morning coffee and exercise five days a week.
    Running had always been an important element of
Nubia's life. She began running track in Junior High
School, joined an extracurricular track team called the
Cheetahs, and between their group, they held or broke
just about every track record in the Golden State of
California. She continued running track during her four
years of high school but decided not to compete in
college. After her debacle with Marcus she took up
running again as a release and an aid to help her escape
from the hurt and humiliation he had caused her and her
family.
     Now that she was exercising regularly, her body was
a perfect display of athletic proportions. She stood at
about 5'5", weighed around 112 with a tiny waist and a
flat stomach. Her breasts, a full „C‟ cup, were firm and
her nipples nearly pointed upward, as if she‟d had them
sculpted that way. Her calves and thighs were toned and
shapely. She had a runner's glutes, shaped like an
upside down heart, luscious and full.
    It had been nearly two years since she graduated
from college, and Nubia had secured a job as an
Assistant Editor for a Video company that edited small
budget movies and taped weddings, private parties and
other special events.
    Though she was the low woman on the totem pole,
she loved her job. She had met the owner of the
company at a job fair, who was impressed that she had
graduated from a UC school in just three and a half years
with a degree in Film.
    He wasn‟t paying as much as she would have liked,
but she knew she had to start somewhere, so John
Seabrook‟s‟ Editing and Special Event Videos was as
good a place to start as anyone else‟s.
     When she started working for him, she was
impressed by his determination to be successful, and that
he allowed no distractions in his life. He was an
independent Film Editor and Director; a single man with
a thriving business; had never married; no kids, early
forties, driving a luxury car and living in a gated area of
Ladera Heights. Nubia wanted exactly what he had: a
successful career in the film industry, and knew if she
didn‟t allow any room for distractions, she could follow
in his footsteps.
    John advertised for business all over the country and
planned to take his business international soon. His
steady source of income came from videotaping private
birthday parties for those who could afford him,
including music and movie celebrities, cotillions, bar
mitzvahs and high-profile weddings.
    In addition to those services, he had an impressive
editing bay and regularly jockeyed for bids to edit
commercials, short films and even major movies in a
converted two-story warehouse in Culver City, a
beautiful city adjacent to Ladera Heights.
    When Nubia started working for him, she learned
very quickly that he was no-nonsense when it came
down to time. About a week after she started working
for him, her car wouldn‟t start. She didn‟t call in, but
grabbed her stuff and ran down several blocks, caught a
bus on Washington then transferred to Slauson Avenue.
She arrived to work almost an hour late.
    John was waiting in the lobby of the building when
she walked in and immediately shuttled her into his
office. He told her he had been a sergeant in the Army,
and he liked to run his business just as he had run his
platoon: Timely, with accuracy, detail and completion.
His tone was direct, yet so sincere and passionate Nubia
could only respect this black man who was doing so well
in this competitive industry. She promised him, and
vowed to herself that she would never be late again.
    John was a black man living in a black community
with a black-owned business and an all black staff. He
had a secretary, April, who was in denial as to the
current fashion trends and was still living in the sixties.
It was 1989 and she refused to let go of her huge afro
hairstyle, huge array of colorful beaded wrist bracelets,
dashikis, tie dyed clothing and white eye shadow. Nubia
thought that years ago she was probably really attractive
and figured maybe the reason she was so dedicated to
the business was that at one time she had a thing for
John.
    Nubia didn‟t know what all April did that warranted
her to work an eight-hour day. She answered phones
and logged in the work requests that came in and placed
them in John‟s box. If John was in town, she would
take an order for his lunch and either have it delivered or
go pick it up herself in an older model gold-colored
Buick that sputtered each time she started it up.
     When he was in his office, she stayed by his side,
coaxing him to eat, drink water, take his vitamins, and
other creative ways to smother him until he shooed her
away. Whenever John was out of town, April kept the
phone glued to her ear, gossiping and cackling with her
girlfriends as she typed, sent out invoices and ordered
supplies.
    Jason Masumi was the son of a silent partner. A
part-time editor, he had gone to film school but dropped
out to tour with a band. A pianist and guitarist, Jason
took the job because his Asian father threatened him if
he didn‟t, but his heart was into writing and playing soul
music, a trait he‟d inherited from his black mother.
    Next were the twins, Aaron and Kevin Park. Aaron
and Kevin were identical, and Nubia thought they were
absolutely gorgeous. They were tall, built and athletic,
with beautiful facial features and skin the color of honey.
     Kevin had recently completed a short stint playing
minor league baseball with the Detroit Tigers until he
injured his arm. He came back home, took a few classes
during the evenings at a vocational training school and
John, a huge baseball fan, had taken him under his wing,
training him how to work the editing bays, use his video
cameras, and how to properly store film, record
inventory and coordinate the shipping of the finished
products.
    Aaron was a videographer who had gone to
Compton College for two years and had received an
Associates degree in Broadcasting. He was currently
working on his bachelor‟s degree in Film. He was the
more playful one of the two, and had met John at the
annual Academy Awards the year before.
    John‟s college roommate happened to be the Unit
Director for this particular production, so John had been
invited as a guest to hang out with his buddy backstage.
Aaron happened to be working as a Production Assistant
for the same event. They first crossed paths when
Aaron nearly collided into him with several cups of
coffee in Styrofoam containers.
     “Watch it, there, Little Brotha,” John had chided
him, and Aaron mumbled an apology, slowed his pace
for about two seconds, gained momentum and took off.
Hours later, they met again, this time in the men‟s
restroom. As John wiped his hands off and turned to
exit the restroom, Aaron walked in.
    John nodded at him and spoke first. “You finally
decided to slow down?” he smiled as he joked with him.
Aaron nodded his head and explained himself excitedly.
   “Yeah, the things a brother have to do to keep a job.
These crackers pop the whip across your ass like they
own you, for nonsense! I have a college degree but to
work my way up just to operate a camera, which I know
how to do, I have to play errand boy, getting these rich
schmucks coffee and donuts.”
    “The privileged white boys, with no degree, mind
you, waltz in here, because their dads know somebody
who knows somebody, and they train them from day one
how to use the cameras, edit and direct.”
John smiled at him and handed him a business card.
    “Call me when you‟re ready to learn how to use the
camera, edit and direct.” He turned around and walked
away, leaving a baffled Aaron staring first at his card,
then at his back.
    The Academy Awards were filmed on a Sunday.
That following Monday when John drove up to his
parking spot directly in front of his building, he looked
up to see the young man he‟d met in the restroom over
the weekend standing at the front door.
    John sat him down, went over his rules, and hired
him that day. Later that year after Kevin moved back
home, Aaron recommended to his brother that he visit
his new employer, a prominent black business man.
Aaron had never disclosed to John that his brother was a
twin, so it was fun to see John‟s expression when Kevin
walked in his office while Aaron was standing next to
John.
     After long minutes of listening to Kevin sell his
qualities, John decided to create a position for Kevin. He
trained him on various tasks that affected different
departments within the film industry. He assigned to
him administrative tasks and projects, teaching Kevin
how to budget, hire additional help if needed with an
upcoming event, and offer their services as consultants
to assist other companies with the financial side of their
projects from start to finish.
    After a few months of training, John taught Kevin to
work with raw footage that he, Aaron and Jason
videotaped. Usually the work consisted of editing out
shadows, adding and balancing music, and minimizing
background noise and voices during a ceremony or
event.
      When Nubia came on board, she initially found it
difficult to take instructions from Kevin after he told her
about his background. The cockiness of possessing a
UC education came streaming out, and she recognized,
after a few weeks of flippant responses, and „I know
that‟ retorts that it was more jealousy than anything else.
He was actually a really smart person who caught on
quickly, and as he patiently showed her around the job,
she was surprised at how polite he was and respectful.


   A few months after Nubia starting working for The
Company, as the employees referred to it with pride, she
started to notice odd exchanges between Kevin and
John. Kevin, usually pleasant and smiling, had started
coming in to work sullen and moody.
    One day Nubia requested to work a half-day because
she had a doctor‟s appointment. John had given her the
entire day off, but when she finished her appointment,
she started thinking about a project she could probably
complete if she worked just a little while longer.
     John took on the big projects to edit for obvious
reasons: he had the license and he worked jointly with
directors and producers who belonged to the production.
Once he assigned Aaron, Nubia or Jason a specific
project, he wanted them to work solely on one task,
complete it to perfection, wait for him to review it, make
any necessary changes; then start the review process
over. A sixty-minute birthday party or bar mitzvah
could take weeks to edit and then re-edit if John didn‟t
like the finished product.
    After her doctor appointment, Nubia drove her
Nissan 260Z back to the production company. It was
nearly five o‟clock but she knew that it was the end of
the month so Kevin should have still been there working
on inventory or closing up shop for the day. She didn‟t
have a key, so she drove to the rear of the building where
he usually parked and, seeing Kevin‟s car, a convertible
Saab, checked the back door, hoping that he would be
willing to work for at least another hour or so.
    When she walked in the door, she saw John leaning
over Kevin‟s shoulder as if he were reviewing something
on the monitor screen in front of him. Kevin seemed to
be shaking his shoulders, and she thought she heard him
in an angry voice repeat several times, “No!”
    The echo of her footsteps silenced both of them and
they turned, as if robots in sync with a remote control.
John immediately straightened up and asked her, “What
are you doing back here? I thought you had a dentist
appointment?”
    Nubia pretended she hadn‟t seen anything as she
bounced right back, “It was a doctor‟s appointment.
I‟m almost finished with the Jackson project and I
wanted to touch it up before you reviewed it.” She
turned to Kevin and said, “How much longer are you
going to be here?” Kevin slid out of the barstool type
chair and grabbed his jacket that was hanging on the
back of another chair.
    “I‟m actually leaving right now.     Can you eat?
You wanna grab something?” Nubia looked at John,
who was walking toward the front door of the lobby
section of the building. He shrugged his shoulders as if
to say, „Whatever‟ and Nubia nodded her head.
    “Good,” Kevin replied to her nod, “Leave your car
here and I‟ll drive.”
    Nubia obeyed and they took off, Kevin silent with
Nubia slightly bewildered. It was hard to ignore what
she had just seen, and she started to wonder if maybe
they were both in the closet and she had just walked in
on them.
     Kevin‟s twin Aaron had a steady girlfriend who was
always coming by the job and dropping off lunch, and
stopping by unannounced when he wasn‟t out of town
shooting an event. Nubia and Jalani agreed that his
girlfriend thought a guy that good looking couldn‟t
possibly be faithful and figured his job would be the next
logical place for him to hook up with another woman.
    Kevin, on the other hand, had never spoken of
anyone. He hardly ever talked about what he did on the
weekends unless he went to go see a movie. He usually
smiled and joked quite a bit about people in the
entertainment industry but never discussed his personal
life. Nubia just thought he was a quiet, private person,
but now she was starting to wonder.


    Los Angeles in May was pleasantly warm, with the
benefit of the Pacific Ocean just a few miles away.
Kevin had a manual convertible top that he had to crank,
so he rolled down the windows on his late model Saab,
and let the top down before they went on their way.
     They traveled east on Slauson Avenue almost in
complete silence until Kevin turned on the radio to the
album world of KUTE 102. This amazing radio station
refused to follow the normalcy of most commercial radio
stations and instead of playing top 40 all the time, it
would feature various selections from albums that
listeners would otherwise not hear unless they bought it.
    He looked over at Nubia, who had closed her eyes
and seemed to be enjoying the wind hitting her in the
face.
     “Hey, Nubia.” He said her name softly, as if he
thought she might be sleep and he didn‟t want to awaken
her.
    “Yes, Kevin,” she responded, eyes still closed.
    “Don‟t you want to know what was going on back
there?” he asked; his voice unusually low in spite of the
noise coming from the streets, the sound of the wind in
their ears, and cars passing by. Nubia opened her eyes
and turned to him.
    “Only if you want to tell me. You seemed a little
upset.”
   “I was, a little. Did you know that Aaron and I
have a younger sister?”
    Nubia nodded. “Yes, I‟ve heard you mention her a
few times. Pilar, right?” Kevin nodded as he pulled up
to Mr. Jims Barbecue.
    “She‟s thirteen going on fourteen.” He smiled when
he said this.
   “That‟s great,” Nubia replied, smiling at him. “But
what does that have to do with John?”
   Kevin got out of the car and walked around to her
door to open it and let her out before he answered.
     “I don‟t think you know this about John, but he likes
really young girls. Aaron and I were out with her at a
festival one Saturday and we ran into John. He had the
audacity to tell me he‟d like to help her out in a couple
of years and contribute to a college fund for her.”
    “What‟s wrong with that?” Nubia asked, looking
over at his scowling expression.
    “He wants something in return. He‟s a dirty old
    man.”
    “Wow, what a pervert!” Nubia exclaimed. “Are
    you kidding me?”
    “No, I‟m not,” Kevin replied. And what really
sucks about that is she could use the money. She might
be eligible for a grant when the time comes, but it won‟t
cover everything she‟ll need to prepare for college.”
Kevin held open the door to the tiny rib joint for Nubia
and followed close behind. Nubia was shaking her
head. With this new revelation she had lost a few
ounces of respect for John.
    “Aren‟t there enough women his age for him to
chase after? And did you remind him that what he‟s
asking for is illegal? What‟s that all about?” Kevin
looked at the menu posted above their heads on the wall.
    “Not sure if you realized this, but John is a control
freak. He wants everything his way, or no way at all.
He is the same with females. He likes young, pretty
women who he can place on his arm like a trophy and he
doesn‟t like them to talk back to him. Now he‟s smart,
mind you: he won‟t fool around with them if they are
underage. But he‟ll „invest‟ in them, as Jason says.
He‟ll help them out in some kind of way, and then when
they come of age, he reminds them what he did for
them.”
    He looked over at Nubia‟s shocked expression.
    “John is an asshole when it comes down to females.
Let‟s order.”
    They both ordered rib sandwiches with a side of
greens and candied yams. Kevin asked if she wanted to
stop by his house and eat while the food was still warm,
and she agreed. It sounded like a good idea and she
was hungry.
    Kevin lived just a few miles from where they were.
He drove west on 64th Street, made a left on LaBrea
Avenue to Overhill Street, hooked another left, and
pulled into a long driveway, passing by a huge
three-story house.
    He continued driving and came upon two smaller
houses in the rear. Kevin drove right up to the front
door of one of the houses and jumped out, grabbing their
bags. Nubia followed him and stepped into a small but
very neat cottage.
    There was a cobblestone fireplace in the living
room, and the traditional style furniture was tasteful,
with everything matching in shades of green and white.
Nubia was surprised and impressed. “Did you decorate
this all yourself?” she asked, as she followed him to a
dining alcove off the kitchen.
    His dining room set consisted of a small white
antique table, two matching padded chairs with
oval-shaped backs and green and white chair cushions.
An orange vase on the table was a stark contrast to the
alcove, and it was filled with live flowers.
     Kevin chuckled. “No, my mother did. And if you
tell anyone, I‟ll deny it.” They both sat down and began
to devour their soul food.
   Nubia asked, “Who lives in the little house next
door?”
   Kevin smiled. “Aaron.”
   Nubia asked another question. “Who lives in the
mansion?”
    Kevin, between bites of rib, replied, “Dang, Girl,
you sure are nosy. My mother live there.”
    Nubia was still curious. “Okay, one last question.
Why are you living out here and your parents are living
in that huge house?” Kevin looked at her smiling and
continuing to chew his food.
    “That‟s two questions. Which one do you want me
to answer?”
    Nubia giggled as she took a bite of her greens.
“Omigod, these greens are heavenly. Actually that‟s a
two-part question but umm, okay, why are you living out
here?”
    Kevin replied, “Aaron has a girlfriend and they like
to do grown up things. My mother said we can stay on
her property as long as we want, but we can‟t do the
nasty in the big house. So when the guest house
became available, Aaron asked, and my mother said she
would rent it to him.”
   Before Nubia could ask, Kevin continued, “And
when I moved back home, I decided to rent this one
when it became available. So I stayed with my mother
until the tenant moved out, then I moved in. So here we
are.”
     Nubia was dying to ask another question and Kevin
just smiled at her, knowing he had invoked her curiosity.
    “One more,” he said, pretending to sigh.
     “If your family has that big house and your mother
is receiving rental property income, how come she can‟t
help your sister through college?”
    Kevin‟s face became solemn.       “Finish your food
and I‟ll tell you in just a bit.”
     They finished eating in silence. Kevin cleaned off
the table and walked back into the living room and sat
on the floor in front of the empty fireplace. Nubia
joined him and thought about how pretty his home was.
It definitely had a woman‟s touch. She also thought a
fire in the fireplace would be so romantic in the winter.
She came back to earth and looked at him expectantly.
     “My father used to work at the Treadrite tire factory
in Lawndale, about twenty miles south of here. Those
tires on your car are probably Treadrites. He started out
in the fifties, working as a custodian. He joined a union
and in a few years, he became a union representative.
The unions were a very powerful organization, and my
father was very outspoken about the unfair treatment of
his peers and especially blacks during that time.”
    “During the civil rights movement, my father‟s voice
became louder. He pushed to insure that every person
of color who worked there and their family members
were registered to vote. That‟s how my parents met,
through a voter registration drive,” he added.
   “Anyway, after President Johnson signed the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, he was approached by several
members of management, who offered him an executive
job. They wanted to train him, send him to school, the
whole ball game.”
     Nubia asked him, “Did he accept it?” Kevin nodded,
his face filled with pride.
     “Yes, he did. He was the first black middle
manager to work for that company. He was hesitant at
first though. He didn‟t want his co-workers to think he
was a sell out. The Cause was still important to him,
but his co-workers encouraged him to accept the training
and the new position. They thought it would give them
a small advantage in the workplace. And the company
paid for him to get his degree at Cal State Los Angeles.”
    “Of course being a member of the management team
meant he could no longer be a union representative, but
this was an opportunity that no black man had ever
received through that company, so he went for it. With
his new salary and dividends from his stock in the
company, in just a few years he was able to buy this
home for my mother. Can you imagine what the white
folks in the neighborhood thought in the early sixties?”
They both laughed.
     Kevin continued. “After he graduated, he was
promoted to Division Manager. That meant that he had
white people reporting to him! Now he had a big office
on the fifth floor, a view of downtown L.A. and a
secretary. A white secretary,” he added. “This is where
is started getting messy. He wanted my mother to quit
her job to stay home so she could raise us. But he also
wanted to know where she was all the time, and wanted
her to call him whenever she left the house. My mother
doesn‟t talk about this much, but when she does, she
says he wanted to be sure she never visited his job when
he was fooling around with his secretary.”
    “She got tired of reporting in all the time, so when
summer rolled around, she announced to him that she
was going to go visit her family in Oklahoma for the
summer and take us, Aaron and me with her. So she
did.”
     Kevin paused as if he were having difficulty with the
next portion of the story. “We were eleven years old and
that was the last time we saw our dad alive.”
    “What happened?” Nubia asked him.
     “He‟d started fooling around with his secretary,”
Kevin replied. “She was married too. They had been
routinely fooling around in his office, as one custodian
later told us. About a month after we left for Oklahoma
my dad suffered a heart attack while he was on top of
her. She didn‟t want to explain to anyone that they‟d
been having sex, so she left him there, cleaned herself up
and went downstairs to the employee cafeteria and had
him paged from the intercom system. When he didn‟t
answer, she called the mail room clerk and asked him to
go see if he could find him.”
    “So of course the mail room clerk walked in his
office and found him on the floor with no pants on. By
now he was barely alive.         The clerk called an
ambulance, but by the time they made it to the hospital,
he was dead.”
   Nubia held her hand to her mouth. “Oh my god,
what a horrible story! Kevin, I‟m so sorry,” she said,
almost regretting she had asked so many questions.
    “So how did they figure out it was her?” she asked.
    “The tramp was pregnant.” Kevin smiled a devious
smile. “When she delivered the baby, her husband took
one look at that tan-colored, curly-headed little girl and
promptly divorced her. Then criminal charges were
filed when a couple of employees and a custodian came
forward and admitted they knew about their affair.”
    “The police put two and two together and figured
out that she pretty much left my father to die. She was
charged with 2nd degree manslaughter so she hired a
white attorney who defended her to the hilt.”
    Nubia interrupted. “Wait a minute. How could they
charge her with manslaughter?”
    Kevin sat back and massaged the back of his head
with both hands.
     “Second degree manslaughter means you
accidentally kill someone without intending to, but your
actions that led to the death may be illegal or slightly
illegal. Without malice. Got it?” Nubia nodded her
head silently.
    Kevin said, “Good, now no more interruptions.
Now remember this was the 60s. She was married and
so was he, so they tried to charge her with adultery as
the slightly illegal crime.”
    “The district attorney had to do something though.
The whole thing, from the job offer, to moving him up in
the ranks, to the white secretary, it all looked like a
setup. The union, his co-workers, friends and activists
were all crying foul.”
    “Her attorney portrayed her as the victim, and she
was actually acquitted, because a jury of her peers
agreed with her attorney she had been exploited,
harassed, and slandered. Can you imagine that? We
lose our dad forever, and she‟s worried about her name
being dragged through the mud.”
    He continued his tragic story. “After the company
found out about the baby, they sued her for indemnity on
behalf of the insurance money they paid out to my
mother. Because it was such an ugly and publicized
trial, my mother didn‟t want anything to do with Pilar.
Aaron and I just started hanging out with her since her
mother died.”
    “How…” Nubia started to ask, but Kevin put up a
finger as if to tell her to wait a minute.
     “Last year her mother died in a car accident. She had
been raising Pilar all these years by herself. Pilar lives
with her aunt now, who is her mother‟s only living
sibling. Her aunt is really poor, lives in a trailer park
and barely has the money to support her, let alone send
her to college.”
    Kevin then pulled out his wallet and showed Nubia a
picture of a beautiful, light-skinned teenager. She had
naturally curly hair worn in spiraled curls. Her glasses
didn‟t hide her almond-shaped eyes, and she had
beautiful, thick pouty lips.
   Nubia looked up at Kevin. “Very pretty girl,” she
remarked. It was quiet once again, and Kevin now
appeared to be in deep thought.
    “Yes,” he finally answered, “and John wants me to
pimp her like she‟s a whore or something. I know what
he does to girls and women. All he wants to do is
parade her around his old-ass friends. I mean, don‟t get
me wrong. He‟s been good to my brother and me in the
past, but sometimes he really gets on my nerves.”
    Thinking it was the perfect moment to show Kevin
that she was sorry about what he had been through
Nubia leaned over towards him and kissed him on the
mouth. She lingered there for a moment, hoping for a
reaction, but he didn‟t kiss her back. She leaned back
and looked at him, embarrassed.
He smiled at her but his face held either pain or pity, she
couldn‟t tell which one.
    He told her, “I‟m sorry. Talking about my dad
made me kind of sad. I better take you back to your
car.”
    They quickly walked out of the cottage, leaving an
awkward few moments behind. Kevin took a deep
breath, as if to drink in the cool evening air and Nubia
sighed as they climbed back into his Saab.
    As Kevin drove back towards Fox Hills, their eyes
followed a setting sun with lavender, orange and yellow
swirls painted across the horizon. It was an incredible
view.
     Nubia was embarrassed that she‟d kissed him after
he had opened up to her, but she felt at the time it had
been an appropriate moment. She wasn‟t sure if she
should apologize, but she received validation that maybe
there was a chance between them when he dropped her
off to her car.
    As she was climbing out, he said, “This was nice.
Maybe next weekend we can do this again or
something.” Nubia nodded, and smiling at him she said,
“Or something.”
    She liked Kevin and after spending this evening with
him and listening to him talk about himself and his
family, she knew she wanted to see him more often
outside of work.
    Kevin nodded at her car and smiled up at her.
“Stop looking at me and get in your car. I‟ll see you at
work tomorrow.” He waited patiently until she started
up her Z, then he placed his gear into reverse, zipped
around the parking lot and roared off down Slauson
Avenue.
                      Chapter Five


    Eva Gaultier and Tina Campbell stood in a line that
wove through customs booths, turn styles, metal
detectors and humans who waved wands, checking
random individuals as the line slowly moved its
participants onto a massive ocean liner for three days
and three nights of lively, wild partying among law
school students, recent graduates, and lawyers.
    Eva and Tina were cousins closer than sisters and
were as tight as an unopened pack of chewing gum.
They attended rival colleges but stayed close through the
years of freshman initiations, football games, marching
bands, pledging, lost virginity, parties, academic
suspension, more parties, finals and finally graduation.
    Four years after graduation, they were newly
recruited members of the Tannie Wiggins Law Students
Association. The organization consisted of a network
of hundreds of black law students across the country that
corresponded, studied for entry level exams and the bar
through an intricate buddy system web created by a
former federal judge.
    Judge Wiggins, one of the first black female
attorneys ever appointed to a federal bench in the state of
Ohio, solicited law schools across the country for
interested students, then connected them according to
their preferred area of law with an attorney who
practiced in that same field.
    The attorneys became 'big brothers' or 'big sisters' to
the students by discussing their briefs, answering
questions on cases they had to study and offering advice
on studying habits. A tax attorney in New Haven,
Connecticut might have a „little sister‟ law student in
San Francisco, California studying for the bar assigned
as a mentor; but their main obligations to their
commitment to this program was that the mentor speak
at least once a month to their mentee, contribute
annually to a selected charity or a Historically Black
University and the mentee in turn, upon graduation and
successful passage of the bar exam, contribute Pro Bono
work to a nonprofit organization or to a needy family.
Their involvement in the mentor/mentee program would
then recycle itself.
    The cruise, an annual event, was the opportunity for
all students, junior lawyers, law clerks, attorneys and
judges to get together and just have a great time. It
brought old friends and new ones together who all had a
similar passion:      practicing law in a variety of
disciplines and meeting others who shared that same
passion.
    Tina was antsy. She was meeting her big sister for
the first time through the program, Juanita Avery, a
deputy district attorney for the city of Seattle, and she
wanted to make a good impression. She had only talked
to Juanita a few times, but she was glad they had been
matched up through the mentorship program.
     There was an air of increased excitement as the
members received their itineraries and read through the
various legal sessions offered and the numerous parties
that would be sponsored by the association.
    Friday night there was a cocktail party planned.
There would be a scavenger hunt that would take place
on Saturday afternoon starting out on the Lido deck.
On Saturday night they were hosting a Leather and Lace
party. On Sunday a jazz brunch has been scheduled to
be set up on the top deck for the four hundred plus
members, then a pool party scheduled for the afternoon
and a final cocktail party on Sunday night.
    Eva had accidentally been assigned a mentor who
was currently a civil court judge. Once a volunteer
discovered the mistake, they called Eva and gave her a
new mentor, another attorney who practiced family and
divorce law, but it was too late.
   Eva smiled to herself as she remembered the last
conversation she‟d had with the judge. She knew that
phone sex hadn't been included on the list of
commitments, but as far as she was concerned, it should
have been.
    She had never thought she would meet him, but the
opportunity arose when news of the cruise was
announced, so they had planned to meet late Friday night
in the ships library. He had a deep, sexy voice, and he
even had a sexy name: Ramsey Wright. She knew he
was married but she couldn‟t wait to meet him.
     When Eva and Tina received their room
assignments, it took them about an hour to find their
stateroom. Their room was a tiny cubby with two
narrow beds, a shower with the toilet built into the same
space and a sink small enough to fit into Tina‟s
oversized hobo purse. There was no window and they
were going have to share this space for the next three
days and three nights.
    Both women looked at each other and began
laughing.     Eva shrugged her shoulders and Tina
dropped down on the bed, shaking her head. They
agreed, by silent assent, to deal with it, then began to
chatter about their plans, the fine men they had seen
downstairs and their plans to snag one, maybe two,
before the trip was over.
     On the advice of their parents, both girls refused a
steady boyfriend; both determined to pass the bar on the
first try with no distractions. It was difficult not to get
involved, however. They were both beautiful young
women and had both had their share of talented,
educated and very eligible bachelors approach them with
the hopes of engaging in a stable relationship.
    Both cousins agreed that a man would have to sweep
them off their feet in order to get a commitment at this
stage in their life. They were both passionate about
graduating from law school and did not plan to let
anyone or anything get in the way.
    Tina was the only person in the world that Eva had
told about her and Ramsey‟s playtime on the phone.
Earlier in the month when Eva revealed their plans to
take it further with an actual tryst, Tina warned her
cousin.
     "Alright, Girl, you know how women act when
another woman messes around with their man. I love
you, but you know I don't approve. Be careful. You
know women are crazy, and it doesn't matter what walk
of life they are from. You're a witness! Look at Auntie
Song!" Eva had been painting her toenails and listening
to her cousin preach on the other end of the phone.
When Tina called her mother‟s nick name, she nodded
sadly at the reference.
    "I know, Girl, but it‟s different. I'm not trying to
get with him, and he's not trying to get with me. We're
just playing around, no harm, no foul," Eva replied.
"Okay, you know I don't tell you how to live your life,
but I don‟t think it‟s a good idea. So there, I said it, now
we won‟t discuss it anymore."
    They had had no further discussions until now on
board the Celebration Cruise Ship, and Eva was dancing
around the tiny room looking through both of their bags
for something to wear. She held up a small, midnight
blue dress made out of spandex that belonged to her
cousin and smiled wickedly.
    "What about this one?" Tina snatched it away from
her and hid it behind her back.
    "I don't think so. I'm wearing this Saturday night to
the Leather and Lace party."
    Eva tried to reach around Tina as she backed away,
smiling.
    Eva said, "That dress has no leather, and no lace on
it. Let me wear it tonight. I have something really cute
you can borrow instead." Eva pulled out a black pair
of leather shorts with a matching black and white
bustier. It had double rows of tiny holes looped with a
tiny black cord.
     After she pulled out a pair of killer black and white
stiletto with a strap around the ankles, Tina finally
relented. Just looking at the outfit she knew the bustier
could be adjusted to accent her breasts and small
waistline.
     Though the cousins were built differently, they were
both nearly the same height, and remarkably, they wore
the same size clothes, a size eight. Eva had inherited a
full size 'C' cup from her mother's side of the family, and
both cousins‟ had inherited their grandmother's hips.
    They spent another hour coordinating jewelry and
outfits for the next two days, and then Eva studied a map
of the ship for her rendezvous later that evening at the
Library with Ramsey Wright.
Their initial plan, sans details, was to attend a cocktail
party planned for the group somewhere on the ship, then
casually mosey away about ten-thirty in the evening and
meet up.
    Both young women took turns showering, fastened
on gold jewelry and slipped on black dresses that hugged
their curves and stopped just above the knee. They
completed their matching ensembles with high heeled
sandals for dinner.
    As they walked towards the dining room, they
nodded at a few good looking young men and attractive
women of color who seemed to be having a good time,
sharing cocktails at different bars they passed by, or just
standing around talking.
    Tina looked at her watch. She was supposed to
meet Juanita. They had agreed to share a table for
dinner and Tina thought of the prospect of possibly
working for the district attorney's office for Seattle one
day, so she wanted to be as conservative and
professional as possible.
    She had shared her feelings with Eva, who laughed
at her. "Girl, please. Juanita is probably a bigger freak
than you are. Just be yourself and do what she does.
Don't eat too much and don't order a drink until she
does."
     When they finally reached the dining room four
floors up and towards the center of the ship, Juanita was
waiting in the foyer area of the hall. A beautiful
pecan-brown woman with large brown eyes and a very
short, curly hairstyle, she wore a smart black suit that
appeared to be tailor made. Her skirt stopped at the
knee and graced muscular calves. She wore black
stilettos and a little too much makeup.
    The women immediately sized each other up. Tina
quickly walked over and offered her hand. Juanita
reached out and gave her a big hug instead. "It's great
to finally meet you Tina," she smiled, then reaching
around her to shake Eva's hand and introduce herself.
    "I took the liberty of securing a table for us so we
can talk, because I know with all of these fine men
around we won‟t be able chat much during the cocktail
party." All three women giggled.
    They all sat down, and Juanita asked them both
questions about school and what they both really wanted
to do. Since she was Tina's mentor, Eva cut her
answers short, responding polite and to the point,
looking around and wondering if any of the men
glancing at her was Ramsey.
    The dining room was decorated tastefully and
beautifully. There were huge framed poster sized
portraits of movie stars from the twenties and thirties, in
various poses, head shots, one reclining on a tufted
chaise; another one standing against a pillar, still another
famous face cupping her chin while smiling at the
camera.
    Between every two portraits were lovely marble
tables with massive arrangements of fresh flowers; birds
of paradise, white and blue hydrangea, peonies, tulips,
daffodils, irises and asters, all encircled by Russian sage
and baby's breath. Small tables were arranged by the
windows that would seat a couple; larger tables sat in the
center of the room that would seat eight guests
comfortably.
     After the women had ordered, they were joined by
another mentor and her mentee whose mutual interest
was also criminal law. Eva excused herself to go to the
restroom and took her time returning, walking through a
tiny art gallery adjacent to the dining room. There was
a couple who appeared to be studying a painting, but the
man was standing behind the woman and nuzzling her
neck.
   After a quick study, Eva thought the woman
appeared to be pregnant. She smiled at the couple, who
nodded in return, and she continued to walk through,
circling back into the dining room. By the time she
reached the table, the waiter had arrived with their meal.
    Juanita had plans to meet up with a former instructor
from her law school, Columbia, who was now a sitting
federal judge. After she excused herself from the table,
the other couple who had joined them filled them in on
Juanita's aspirations and told them she was headed in the
same direction and was hoping to be appointed someday.
     She and Eva exchanged niceties about the weekend
events with their remaining table mates and after
deciding to skip dessert and agreeing to keep on what
they‟d worn to dinner, they walked back towards the
other side of the ship, took the elevator another two
flights up, then headed to the cocktail party. By the time
they arrived at the event an hour after it was scheduled to
start, the party was in full swing.
    Eva looked at her watch. It was almost time for her
to meet Ramsey, and she didn't want to remind Tina,
because she thought she might try to talk her out of
meeting him.
    She had taken the map and folded it in her black
clutch purse, and after Tina started dancing, she ran to
the bathroom, touched up her makeup and then headed
out to her destination.
    As she walked she reflected on how they'd stayed in
contact. Her job as a personnel clerk had become
boring, so she quit with no notice and got a job as a
phone sex operator. It paid more money, she could have
fun without physically dealing with men and it felt like a
date every time she went to work. She had regular
customers who would hold or call back just to talk to
her, and the bonuses, based on the length of time she
kept a client on the phone were generous.
     When her cousin Tina told her about the Big
Brother/Big Sister program through the Tannie Wiggins
Law Students Association, she joined, and was instantly
assigned to Judge Wright from California, her home
state.
    When he asked her what she did to support herself
through law school, she simply replied that she was a
phone sex operator. Judge Wright pretended to be
appalled, and told her he would request another mentee.
A day later he called her back, and told her he had
changed his mind. He would call her and request her
during his lunch breaks, and if she was with another
customer, he would continue to call her back until she
became available.
    Their phone play time went on for about a year; then
the judge asked her if she wanted to meet and play out
their fantasies. He mentioned an upcoming cruise that
the association was sponsoring. He thought it would be
a perfect place for them to finally meet; they could
mingle with their counterparts, meet discreetly, and no
one would ever know the difference.
    Now she was on her way to meet him but she read
the map wrong and ended up on the opposite side of the
ship. She had to ask for directions twice. When she
finally reached the library, it was almost eleven o' clock.
Although it was dark, she hoped he would still be in
there. She pulled on the double doors. One door was
locked; the other one swung open easily.
    She looked around to see if perhaps there was
anyone standing around, but the entire area was empty.
It was starting to appear to be creepy, but she continued
walking towards the back of the library and placing her
hand along the wall as a guide, looking for a light
switch. She walked slowly, trying her best not to
stumble. Just as she made it to the rear of the room, she
felt a light switch.
    “Don‟t turn it on,” a voice in the dark said clearly,
but not too loud. Eva emitted a short scream; startled
that someone else was in there and surprised that the
voice was coming from behind her.
    “Ramsey? Where are you?” She whispered, now
groping around in the dark to find something to hold
onto.
    “Right here.”
    His voice was directly behind her and she turned
around, but he grabbed her by the waist and turned her
right back around so that she was facing the wall, away
from him. There was a table that Eva had bumped into
along the side of the room. He directed her to the table;
bent her over and with his foot, moved her legs apart.
Eva began to resist. She still hadn‟t seen his face.
    “Wait!” she said sharply.
     “Wait for what?” the voice asked. She could feel
him behind her and was surprised at how big he was.
Quickly, he placed both hands on her hips and pulled up
her dress. She tried to turn around so she could see him,
but he pushed her back over the table and stood behind
her.
    When he discovered she had no underwear on, he
wheezed in her ear, “Did you do this just for me?” and
began moving his hands between her legs. Eva was still
trying to resist; she was standing in an awkward position
and he had her at an advantage.
    “Talk dirty to me. You know how to do it,” he said,
spreading her thighs. Eva was speechless. For once
she could think of nothing to say and stood there like a
limp doll while the stranger behind her hesitated, slid on
a condom while pushing against her and entered her
forcefully, stroking her several times in quick, rough
movements.
    „It wasn‟t supposed to happen this way,‟ she
thought. She gasped as an orgasm escaped her, causing
him to moan in her ear.
     “Oh yes, that‟s what I want,” he wheezed. She was
still leaning over the table, legs spread out, and he was
standing behind her, moving even faster and panting like
a thirsty dog.
     About five long minutes had passed, and then the
lights came on. Ramsey stopped immediately and
pulled out of her, turned her around and put his finger to
his lips. She finally got a good look at him. It was the
same guy she had seen with the pregnant woman in the
art gallery.
    He gestured downward, and Eva, taking the hint slid
to the floor as silently as she could while he pulled up
his pants and scrambled to tuck in his shirt.
    A female voice called out, “Ramsey? Ramsey! I
know you‟re in here. A custodian saw you come in.
Where are you? Don‟t be mad at me, Sweetheart. Stop
being silly. I know you‟re in here.”
    Eva stared up at him. “That‟s your wife?”         She
asked, whispering. He nodded, looking desperate.
     He whispered back, “It was the only way I was
going to be able to attend the cruise and I really wanted
to meet you. I started an argument so she would go back
to the room. Can you please slide in that door over there
and hide? I‟ll explain and apologize later, please.”
Eva continued to stare at him, not wanting to believe that
this asshole wanted her to hide from his wife.
   “Please, Eva,” he begged. “I‟ll make it up to you, I
promise.”
    Eva looked across the room and began crawling
across the floor to the door he‟d pointed to that appeared
to be ajar. It was a restroom. Humiliated, she crawled
across the floor and slipped inside, still on her knees as
the footsteps got closer. Once inside, she sat up with
her back against the wall. Hiding, she could hear
Ramsey explaining that he was a little upset about their
fight and not being in a party mood, just wanted to be
alone and meditate for a while.
   As they walked away, his wife asked him, “How did
you find this place? It‟s at the end of a corridor in No
Mans Land.”
    “I know,” Eva heard Ramsey respond. “A friend of
mine told me about it.” And after flicking off the light
switch she had passed earlier, she heard the library door
shut, and then silence.
    She sat on the floor for a while, hating herself. She
turned on the light in the restroom to straighten herself
up. Looking in the full length mirror, she saw that her
clothes were disheveled but her hair was still in place.
     She pulled up her stockings and walked back into
the library, but kept the light off while she tried to decide
what to do. She didn‟t want to run into Ramsey again,
and she didn‟t want to hear Tina fussing, „I told you so,‟
but she needed to be around people so she headed back
to the cocktail party.
    „I can‟t believe what just happened,” Eva thought
angrily to herself as she stormed down the ship‟s
corridor. When she walked back into the club, she
immediately began looking for Tina.
      A short, attractive man who had been drinking a
little too much touched her arm as she walked passed
him. She snatched her arm away and kept on looking.
The room was small, but crowded, and as she began to
focus on what was around her, she noticed just about
everyone was wearing black and was starting to couple
off.
    She finally found her cousin standing off to the side
in a corner alcove with someone. His back was to Eva
and he was holding a microphone in one hand and a
camera on his shoulder. As she walked up to them, he
appeared to be interviewing Tina.
    Eva stepped around him and rudely interrupted the
interview. “Tina, I need to talk to you. Excuse me,” she
said to the man, not looking at him but pulling Tina
away. They stepped a few feet away from the man and
Tina glared at her.
    “What‟s your problem?” she snapped. “I‟m getting
interviewed. The association is creating videotapes of
this event and plan to use the tape as promotional
material……”
   “I don‟t care,” Eva interrupted, in a stage whisper.
“Ramsey is here with his wife or somebody.”
    Tina‟s eyes grew round. “Ooh, that sucks. Did you
guys meet? What happened? Wait a minute.” Tina
grabbed her hand and dragged her back to the patiently
waiting camera man.
     “Aaron, this is my cousin I told you about, Eva.”
Eva gave him a smirk and a tiny wave. “We have a small
crisis we have to deal with right now, but can we finish
this later?” Tina asked him as she smiled sweetly.
    He returned a broad smile. “Sure. Let‟s meet for
breakfast, and then we can finish after that. What‟s
your room number?” He pulled out a pin and jotted the
information down that Tina gave him, then leaned over
and gave her a peck on the cheek.
   “It was nice to meet you,” he said softly, and walked
away.
    Tina turned to face her cousin and appeared to be
blushing. “Wasn‟t he cute?”
   Eva ignored her. “I went to the library and I met
him. And a few minutes later his wife came in and got
him.”
    Tina‟s eyes became big with alarm. “Did she fight
or hit you?”
     Eva shook her head. “She didn‟t even see me.”
She began to tell Tina what happened, even the part she
felt dirty about. “We had sex and then he told me to hide
from his wife so I crawled across the room and hid in a
dirty-ass bathroom,” she lamented.
    Tina looked at her cousin and shook her head.
“Well what did you expect? You thought he was going
to give you a bubble bath with rose petals and
champagne? You set it up. You both agreed to have
anonymous, no strings-attached sex. And yes, it‟s
horrible and ugly the way he treated you,” she began to
sympathize, “Things don‟t always work out the way you
plan them, especially when they involve the dumb and
dirty.
    Eva looked up at her cousin. “The dumb and dirty?”
She asked.
   “That‟s right, the dumb and dirty. You were
engaging in dirty sex and you were dumb for doing it.
    “Oh,” was all that Eva replied, depressed, trying to
decide if she should go back to the room.
    Tina looked up and noticed that Aaron was sitting at
the bar not too far away. He was watching her, and she
hoped he was waiting for her to finish her conversation
with Eva.
   Eva hugged her cousin as she stood up and said
simply, “He screwed up my trip. I‟m getting a drink.”
    She walked away from Tina, still pissed. As soon
as she headed towards the bar, Aaron jumped off his
barstool and walked back to Tina. They both smiled at
each other as he approached. She was glad he came
back, and he was pleased, thanks to her angry cousin, he
had another chance to talk to her.
   He steered her towards the exit door. “I‟ve got
enough material for tonight,” he told her. “Let me put
up my camera, then let‟s take a walk around the ship.”
    “But what about my cousin?” Tina asked in mild
protest.
“She‟s a big girl,” Aaron said, smiling down at her while
pushing her gently with his hand in the middle of her
back.
     Tina looked over her shoulder once more and saw
that Eva had already been approached by a
distinguished-looking older man at the bar.
   “See, I told you,” he said, looking down at her.
“She‟ll be alright.”
    Tina followed Aaron to his room and stood in the
hallway while he locked up his video camera. The
association had supplied the Videographers with a larger
room with a huge safe to accommodate all of their
camera equipment so they could enjoy the trip without
worrying about someone stealing their equipment.
    In the light of the hallway, Tina was able to get a
good look at him. He was tall, built and his navy
sweater accentuated his muscular arms. As she stepped
out of his way so he could step back into the narrow
hallway, he quickly looked her up and down, admiring
the shapely hips and legs attached to a petite, toned body
and pretty face.
     They walked the outer length of ship, laughing and
chatting as if they were old friends. Occasionally they
stole glances at each other, hoping one wouldn‟t catch
the other staring; both liking what they saw. He asked
her about her childhood and she told him how she grew
up in a neighborhood similar to most white
neighborhoods: middle class; raised by both parents,
with their fathers working and mothers staying at home
or just working part-time.
     Aaron told her that his father worked for a company
that allowed him to rise through the ranks through
promotional opportunities. “They gave him stock,
uncommon for a predominantly white company in the
sixties, and it made him rich. He bought a huge house
for us, a three-story Victorian in Los Angeles.
    The grounds had several gardens for my mother and
a couple of guest cottages. My mother told me once
that he wanted her to have more children. There were
just two of us, me and my brother Kevin,” he added.
“Anyways, when we were kids, he had a heart attack at
work and died. For years my brother and I were kept in
the dark about the details surrounding my father‟s death.
My mother hardly ever talked about him and took all of
his pictures down around the house.”
    “But about three years ago I received a letter from
the company he worked for, Treadrite Tires. It was
their seventy-fifth anniversary and they wanted to honor
several employees that had made significant
contributions to the company, my father being one of
them in a ceremony.”
   “My brother and I attended the ceremony. My
mother wasn‟t feeling well and begged us to make her
excuses, which we did. When we were getting ready to
leave the ceremonies, a man, about the age my dad
probably would have been if he were still alive,
approached us and wanted to talk. He told us he
worked with our father and wanted to share his
scrapbook with us. His name was Leo Washington.”
Aaron sighed at this and smiled down at Tina.
     “It wasn‟t what we were expecting. He had
newspaper clippings of union organizers, civil rights
marches, articles surrounding my dad‟s death, a nasty
trial, an accused murderer, a conspiracy theory, the
whole works.” Tina stared at him, fascinated. She
didn‟t say a word.
    “He told us we were old enough to know the truth
and asked if we knew how our father died. Without
waiting for an answer, he told us he had worked by my
father‟s side for years. They started out as custodians
together and then Treadrite encouraged my father to take
a management training position they offered him,
deciding to make him a part of management.
    Leo said he thought it was a great idea that my father
step into that position so that other blacks could one day
follow in his footsteps. He said that all the blacks were
proud of him and that he was their role model, but he
warned my father not to get caught up into office
politics.”
     “Leo told us that when my father was moved to the
fifth floor, he requested that Leo be assigned to work in
his area. Of course they granted his request, and Leo
was my father‟s eyes and ears.”
    Aaron and Tina had stopped walking and he guided
her over to a couple of wooden chaise lounge chairs.
    “Are you cold?” He asked.
   Tina nodded. “Just a little,” she smiled up at him.
Aaron took off his suit coat and put it around her
shoulders as he continued.
    “Leo said my father was doing well until they
decided he needed a secretary. So they hired a white
she-devil, according to Leo, and she was the reason he
met his downfall.” Tina listened intently.
    “What happened?”
      Aaron looked down at his shoes and shook his head.
“According to Leo, they started fooling around right
after she was hired. He tried to warn my father, and my
father would tell him to mind his own business. Leo
said he was worried that another manager would walk
into his office and catch them in a compromising
position so he began to serve as an unofficial lookout for
my father. He says he regrets to this day that he did
that. He said that if he had insisted that my father leave
that woman alone, or perhaps if they had been caught, he
would have only been fired, but probably would have
still been alive.”
     “Late one evening, Leo told us he had gone
downstairs on a smoke break. He‟d been in the outer
office and could hear my dad and his secretary going at
it, so he said he wasn‟t in the mood for all that noise.
Then about ten minutes later he heard my father‟s name
being paged over the intercom. He said my dad being
paged was no big deal, but he knew it was strange,
because he recognized the voice paging him was his
secretary.”
     “So now he was curious. Leo says he walked over
to the closest place where they had a phone, in the mail
room. The phone was ringing and when the mail clerk
answered it, it was the secretary. She had told the
clerk she needed to talk to my father and couldn‟t seem
to find him. Leo said now he knew something was
„stinking in Denmark‟ as he put it. He had just left them
upstairs, and he said he would swear on the soul of his
children that she had been in the office with my father
„fooling around‟ when he went to take his cigarette
break.”
     “Everything in his gut was telling him that
something had happened, so he ran up the stairs, said he
didn‟t want to wait for the elevator. When he got to the
fifth floor, he and the mail clerk got to my father‟s office
at the same time. Leo said he knew he was gone when
he looked at his face.” Aaron looked at Tina‟s face,
smiled at her and pulled her up off the chaise.
    “Come on. Let‟s change the subject. We just met,
and I know you don‟t want to hear a bunch of sad
stories.” Tina accepted his hand and walked alongside
him slowly.
    “It‟s not that at all,” she replied. “A similar story
happened in my family, so I think the shock you see is
just my surprise at how many families suffer from
tragedy and scandal. Was the secretary implicated in
his death?” she asked.
    “Absolutely,” Aaron said, with a look of satisfaction
on his face. “She ended up having a black baby, her
husband sued her for divorce, and the company,
Treadrite, sued her for indemnity. She died a couple of
years ago after living in poverty. I guess that‟s some
revenge for your ass.”
    They walked in silence for a couple of minutes, and
then Aaron asked, “What happened in your family?”
     Tina replied, “You briefly met my cousin Eva
tonight. Her mother and my father are brother and
sister. Eva‟s mother accidentally killed her husband,
Tina‟s dad, with a brick.”
    “Oh dam!” Aaron exclaimed. “I didn‟t see that
coming. I thought you were going to tell me there was
a scandalous affair, someone got caught and there was a
nasty fight.”
    “Oh, no, it was way more than that,” Tina sighed.
“Eva‟s mother caught him fooling around with our
former elementary school teacher, Mrs. Harper. My
aunt and uncle worked different shifts. Eva is an only
child, by the way. Every time there was an event, PTA
meeting or a program at the school, my aunt and uncle
took turns going back and forth to the school, so they
both knew Mrs. Harper.”
    “My mother told me that Aunt Song, that‟s Eva‟s
mother, went to a student conference once and ran into
Mrs. Harper. This was a year after we were both in her
class. She said they stopped and spoke to each other,
and Aunt Song complimented Mrs. Harper on her
perfume. Mrs. Harper told her that she picked it up
from a trip to Barbados she and her husband had taken
one year, and that Barbados was the only place you
could find it. So the perfume had a distinct scent.”
    Now Aaron was the one to be enthralled. “I think I
know where this is heading,” he said, shaking his head.
Tina continued.
    “So a few days later, my aunt gets into her car, and
she smells this perfume. It‟s just a slight smell, but like
I said, it was distinct. So she starts looking around the
seats, on the floor of the car, and finds a handkerchief
under the seat. I guess Mrs. Harper dropped it. But
Aunt Song knew who it belonged to. Nobody had been
in her car except her husband, my uncle, so she knew he
had been riding some other woman in her car! Men
cross the line when they pull a stunt like that,” she
added.
     “She watched him for a few days and nothing
happened. Then she called his job about a week later to
see what he wanted for dinner, and they told her that my
uncle had called in sick. To make matters worse, it was
a school holiday, so my aunt knew he was somewhere he
wasn‟t supposed to be. She drove by the house but
didn‟t see my father‟s car or Mrs. Harpers. But she
knew in her heart he was with her. She told my mother
she could feel it. She called my dad and told them to
help her pack her stuff, she was moving that night to
Texas with my grandmother.”
   “So she left her husband and moved out of state?”
Aaron asked. “I thought you said she killed him.”
    “Slow down Smoky, I haven‟t got to the good part,”
Tina looked at him and smiled sadly. “You have to
understand how mad my aunt was. She and my uncle
both worked two jobs for years and struggled to buy a
nice house, put some money in the bank and purchase
nice cars. This white woman, without realizing it, and
probably not even caring, destroyed all that they worked
for. She destroyed a marriage, a family and because of
her a man lost his life.”
    “Aunt Song drove over to Mrs. Harper‟s house with
Tina in the car and a brick in her hand. She threw the
brick through a plate glass window, not knowing that her
husband was sitting on the couch.”
    “He had parked his car down the street. The impact
of the brick and the thick glass hit him and severed his
neck from his body, killing him instantly.” Tina hung
her head. She hadn‟t shared their family tragedy in a
long time.
    Aaron‟s voice became a whisper. “That's a hell of a
story Tina. What happened to Eva‟s mother?” Tina
looked up at him.
     “What do you think happened? They tracked her
down in Texas, where she was extradited back to
California. The real tragedy is that she didn't know
what happened inside the Harper‟s house until after they
left the state. They charged her with murder, attempted
murder on Mrs. Harper, and committing a crime with a
minor present. That dirty bitch broke up a home, and is
still living her life, teaching somewhere in another state.
My Aunt Song received twenty-five years and she‟s
sitting in Chino's women's prison in a cell the size of a
closet.
    She still has another fifteen years to go,” she said.
“So that is one of the main reasons why I‟m studying
criminal law. I've been researching similar cases to hers
for a couple of years now and as soon as I pass the bar,
I‟m going to appeal her case and try to get her conviction
overturned and the sentence reduced to a lesser degree of
involuntary manslaughter. We are hoping it may knock
off a few years from her sentence.”
    Aaron looked at her sympathetically. “Tina, I‟m
really sorry that happened to your family.” He put his
arm around her and squeezed her shoulders.
    “It happens,” Tina replied. “We learn from ours
and our family's mistakes. I don't allow myself to get
bent out of shape for anyone or anything. I think I‟m a
much calmer person because when I do get upset or
excited about something negative or offensive, I try not
to become confrontational because I think about my
aunt. I don't want to end up like her.”
    By now they had circled the perimeter of the ship at
least once. Aaron suggested that they take the elevator
up to another deck to explore the ship. He noticed that
Tina had become quiet and wasn't as perky as she was
inside the cocktail party.
     “How many brothers and sisters do you have?” He
asked her, trying to get her back into her lively mood.
“I have three brothers,” She replied. “Harrison, James
and Preston. But they all have nicknames, so we never
call them by their first names.”
    “What are their nicknames?” Aaron asked. She
smiled. “Bashful, Happy and Sleepy,” she joked.
Seriously, I love my brothers to pieces. There is
nothing I wouldn't do for them, and they are all good
men. My mother and father raised them right. I'm the
youngest, by the way, so if we stay in contact and you
ever meet them, be prepared to get the third degree."
Aaron laughed at this.
    Tina asked Aaron, "So what about you? You
mentioned you have a brother. Is he older or younger
than you? Do you have any sisters? Children? Crazy
ex-girlfriends?" Aaron, still smiling, nodded his head.
    “No kids, but one half-sister that I've just begun to
get acquainted with over the last couple of years. Her
name is Pilar. She was the product of my father's affair,
but we just met her after her mother died. And the one
brother I mentioned earlier, Kevin, happens to be my
twin.
     Oh, how fun!" Tina exclaimed. Are you identical?"
Aaron smiled. “Yes, we are identical and its fun not
telling people I have a twin. We‟ve played quite a few
practical jokes on people.”
    “You‟ll have to tell me about them someday,” Tina
smiled up at him, “but don‟t play any practical jokes on
me." she warned. "I don‟t have that kind of sense of
humor.”
   “What, no sense of humor?” Aaron asked, looking
down at her. “That‟s too bad, because I like to laugh.”
    “I like to laugh too, just not at my expense,” Tina
replied, matter of fact, raising her eyebrows at him.
     They were approaching a small group of people near
a bar close to the starboard end of the ship. The people
were playing music from a boom box and were slow
dancing to a beautiful jazzy love song. As the crooner
sang from his heart Aaron pulled her close to him and
asked her, “Do you like to dance?” He didn‟t wait for
a response, but took her in his arms and silently they
listened to the music and moved with the rhythm.
     Tina held onto his shoulders and whispered into his
ear, “Who is this singing? This song is beautiful.”
    Aaron looked down at her and smiled. “A very
talented brother named Will Downing.”              They
continued to dance without talking, enjoying the feeling
of each other touching arms and shoulders.
    Holding Tina, he thought briefly about his girlfriend
Denene, and knew she wouldn‟t approve. He and
Denene were practically living together. But this was
his first cruise, and he was now caught up in the
romance of the ocean, the crashing of the waves, and the
breeze of the Pacific winds encircling their bodies.
     He leaned over and kissed her, just a little peck, then
he kissed her again, slowly, passionately, then he drew
her tighter into his arms, and held her close to his heart
as they kissed over and over under the new moon that lit
up the Mexican coast. And for the time being he
pushed Denene from his thoughts and forgot about the
engagement ring he‟d bought on the ship for her earlier
that day.

				
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