The fly ice-skated along the window, launching into The Lutz and Salchows every other second with ease, sometimes landing softly, sometimes landing so hard that CeCe could hear the thump on the window — which she thought was remarkable since although the fly was a huge, Texas fly; it was still a fly.
Cece had to squelch the urge to reach out with one hand and smash the annoyance on the window. She imagined everyone in this two-tablecloth restaurant would instantly stop and look at her when they heard the loud thump of her hand hitting the huge glass window that showed off Promenade Street.
Were she back in Lightpost, Tennessee her aunt would’ve sucked her teeth in disappointment had she let a wayward fly get away. Any respectable Southern woman could catch a fly with one hand, while holding the Bible, rocking, and listening to the sermon, without causing a disturbance. But what you were judged by in L.A. was completely different; so Cece tried to ignore the fly, sat up a little straighter in her chair, and took a sip of her sparkling water and smiled.
Everything felt too tight: her smile, her shoes, her Spanx, her weave. She could only hope that she looked more comfortable than she felt. She needed this job. There was only $316.23 in her checking account and she had run out of favors, and seemingly friends.
Since she and Blake had broken up, her friends had dropped faster than the price of Michael Vick jerseys. After planning multiple fundraisers together, sharing countless dinners, belonging to the same organizations, and even going on a few vacations CeCe considered these women her friends. It wasn’t until that afternoon with them in her living room that she realized that they never really talked about anything personal or of substance. After all these years, she realized that they really didn’t know each other; they only knew what little they had allowed each other to see, which wasn’t much.
She couldn’t be too angry; she certainly hadn’t shared much of her life—only the highlights. Until that Saturday afternoon — after Bloody Mary’s, mimosas and chocolate croissants, Cece blurted, “I’m leaving Blake,” as she passed Charlotte the porcelain jar of creamer with delicate pink roses around the bottom.
Lillian picked up her reading glasses as if they would help her to hear better and looked at CeCe. “What did you say, “ she questioned in the most perfect Southern drawl.
“I’ve got to go. He hits me,” CeCe whispered.
Lillian moved from the antique peach, silk chair to the couch next to CeCe and placed her warm hand on CeCe’s knee. She sat it there for a moment, then gave it a warm comforting squeeze, looked at CeCe and stated, “Honey, he’s the mayor.” Then she picked up her Louie Vuitton bag and started kissing everyone goodbye as if nothing had happened. Kisses, compliments and farewells smothered Cece’s announcement.
But it freed something in her; and she began to plan. She figured that after 16 years with Blake, she could live a decent life with on half of their savings if she got one of the modest 2-bedroom apartments off of Riverside Drive. The number that meant most to her was zero, as in zero more beatings. No more tolerance for a single one.
She decided to tell Blake that she wanted a divorce at the club, their country club where they had been coming for years and everyone knew them. She knew that he would not make a scene there. Image was everything to Blake.
She knew that she wouldn’t come back to that house after their conversation, so she spent the afternoon packing and cooking. She sat in her huge walk-in closet, large gray suitcases surrounding her and packed up her healthy wardrobe. She left all of the long evening gowns, worn to various black tie balls over the years, purchased at fine boutiques across the world because she figured that she would never need them again. Her life was going to be simpler.
The wireless surround sound played Jill Scott’s Pandora station. It was almost as if Jill knew what was going on in her life and in her heart that day. She hummed and sang off key as she made several of Blake’s favorite dishes: turkey meatloaf, 4-meat lasagna, Salisbury steak and packed them up in large Tupperware containers that she had bought at Costco. She knew it would take him some time to hire a proper cook and she wanted to ensure that he was well-fed. Nothing made that man happier than a home-cooked meal, accompanied with a good red wine, she reflected as the tears that had been flowing all day turned into a full scale downpour.
5:45: It was time to go.
“Good evening, Mrs. Johnson” the valet greeted Cece as he opened the door to her Mercedes truck. “You are looking quite lovely tonight.”
Cece smiled. She had carefully dressed for this evening. Somehow she thought that things would go better if she looked better, at least that’s what her momma had always made her think. So, she wore Blake’s favorite color, red, and hoped that he would see beauty instead of hate.
He stood up from the table when she walked in: namely because he had an audience, but the man was well-mannered and well-raised. He walked over, softly touched the side of her neck and gave her such a tender kiss that the vision of him using those same hands to choke that very same neck two weeks ago when he thought that she had been flirting with someone at the Operation Smile Gala, seemed like an hallucination instead of a memory.
They ate. He talked. Cece listened. All was normal. Then Cece reached out her hand and placed it over his, “I’d like to talk to you about something, Blake,” she interjected, her voice cracking a bit.
“Yes,” he questioned seeming distracted.
“I’m leaving,” she announced. Vanished were the words she had practiced saying all day as she packed. Those two were the only two she could come up with.
“Really,” he smirked.
Cece looked down at her hands, her fingers, her wedding set. “I don’t want anything. You can have the house, the boat, the rental properties. I just am requesting half of our savings at Chase—that’s it,” her words rushed together.
Blake laughed, leaned in towards her, which made her stomach drop, and snarled, “Look bitch, leaving me isn’t an option. And thanks for your generous “offer” to just take money from the savings account. If you ever were to leave me, I’ve made it so you wouldn’t get shit. Everything has always been in my mother’s name. That’s how we handle things in the Johnson family. We didn’t get to be the most powerful Black family in Tennessee for over one hundred years by letting pretty, country girls take us down. So, this is what’s going to happen, I’m going to have a cigar with my friends and I’ll see you when I get home. By the time I get there, I expect for you to have had a nice bubble bath in that Jasmine scented soap I like and to have gotten over this little temper-tantrum you are having.”
He stood up and extended his hand. Cece grabbed the oak arms of the chair to help hoist her up, as she didn’t trust her legs, grabbed his hand, and walked out of the dining room and somehow made it into her truck.
She drove. She drove past the Krispy Krème on 49th Street, and past Barth’s Elementary. She drove past Xiang’s Beauty Supply, the shoe repair place. She drove past the Roosevelt Library where she volunteered twice a week and Mercer’s Hospital where she was on the advisory board. She drove until she got to the highway. She didn’t have much, but she had started with nothing. When she left Lightpost 19 years ago, her aunt told her that a smile and common sense could take you anywhere.
She prayed that her aunt was right. She prayed that what was true for a pretty, slightly bow-legged, 21 year old country girl , who had won the State Fair blueberry pie competition three years in a row, was true for a 41 year old, woman who had been beaten, but was not broken. She certainly had plenty of common sense.
So, she looked at the two men, one holding the partially fictionalized resume she had created and printed at Kinkos at 2:00 a.m. that morning, thanked them for the interview and smiled.
[sommaire-chapitres livre=3 affiche_infos=true titre=true]
My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more