Four Women by A. Jarrell Hayes

FOUR WOMEN

By A. Jarrell Hayes

She steps into the beauty salon smiling. Her teeth are polished ceramic gems, her fingernails clear as glass, and her hair flows like an ebony ocean. Her pumps clank to a halt. Her hand falls slightly to the side of her whimsical dress, and she smiles. This is her first day at work.
The parlor’s proprietor verbally greets her and tells her to enter. Introductions are made. “This is Sandy. Over here is Maria. You already know Tonya. Everyone, welcome Christy, our new receptionist.”
Christy had met Tonya her first night in the city. They had shared girl talk over drinks at the club. That was how Christy found out about the position.
Everyone says in sing-song voices: “Hi, Christy!”
Idle chatter ensues; the four women gang up on Christy, trying to pry secrets and dirt from her. Christy’s teeth act as a marble barricade, and not one slip–Freudian or other–passes from her lips. She doesn’t tell them about her six-month old child she abandoned at home with her mother. Or that her purpose for moving into town was to search for her father, who had abandoned her and her mother ten years earlier. It’s none of their business.
Christy likes being in control, that’s why she’s a career receptionist. She’s worked at salons, lawyer firms, high-rises; anywhere you can imagine.
A receptionist knows everything that happens in the office: who comes in, who they see, when they leave. Did they carry anything with them? Did they leave with anything? Are they important enough for one of the prime slots, or are they able to be bumped down or rescheduled if a major client needs the time?
A receptionist knows more than the boss about what’s going on in the office.
Christy can gain all this knowledge from sitting at her desk by the front window, writing in the appointment book and answering phones. She does this while filtering in data from the fluttering conversations and gossip. Nothing passes the ears of a receptionist.
Meagan, the owner, tells Christy her duties and how to perform them. In the interim between the departure of the old receptionist up until that day, Meagan had assumed the role of receptionist. She gives Christy the appointment book, along with a sheet of regular clients and their peculiarities.
“I know this is your first day,” Meagan tells Christy, “but just relax. You’ll do fine. Listen to what the other girls say; you’ll pick up a lot of the customers’ nuances from their gossip.” She smiles and waves at everyone, then disappears into her office.
Christy takes her advice. When she isn’t busy greeting a patron or answering the phone, she strains to hear the conversation between the stylists and clients, all while filing her own nails.

“Girl, let you tell you about the man I met last night.” Tonya’s velvety voice rises above the others. She doesn’t have a client yet, so she’s talking to Maria. “I met him at 5 Senses, at last night’s Grown & Sexy party.”
“Aye, why you ain’t tell me you was going, mami?” Maria has a spicy way of speaking; every word a challenge to the English language. Christy suspects she is pretending to be a Latina; the elementary Spanish Maria uses is probably something she learned off television.
“Slipped my mind,” Tonya says nonchalantly. “Anyways, like I was saying, I met this man there. He was tall and sexy chocolate. He had on nice clothes, too. I think his shoes were Gucci.”
“Eww. Gucci shoes are ugly,” says Sandy, jumping into the conversation from the manicure table. She’s with a client, but focuses more on the conversation than the woman’s nails. Luckily the customer is a regular, a favorite of Sandy’s, and is just as intent on hearing about Tonya’s adventure as her manicurist.
“Nikes and Timbs are the best,” Sandy says. “Gotta love a man that looks sexy when comfortable.”
“You need to leave them thugs alone,” says Tonya, her voice teasing. “Or you’ll end up spending all your tip money on bail.” She and Maria laugh.
Sandy sucks her teeth and rolls her eyes. “Whatever, bish.” She remembers she’s with a client, and says to her, “I’m sorry, Mrs. Johnson.”
“Don’t stress it, child,” says the older woman. A grin forms on her lips and she shakes her head.
“Anyways, back to my man.” Tonya begins to go into greater detail of her encounter at the club. At the same time, the salon receives a call that Christy has to take. She can tell by the broad-lipped grins on the faces of the women that she’s missing a juicy tale.
Christy gets off the phone with the customer just as Tonya wraps up her story. “His name is Tyrone or Tyrese or something with a T. And–mmph–is he a T: tall, thick, and talented.” She sticks her tongue out and briefly mimics cunnilingus.
Maria pushes her playfully. “Mami, you are so nasty. Giving up the coochie and not even knowing papi’s name.”
“I like them thugs but at least I ain’t no ho,” says Sandy. Christy can’t tell if Sandy is joking or not, but everyone else in the shop assumes she is.
Christy would have to rethink her employment status if a fight broke out on her first day.
“What you say?” says Tonya. “At least I can get a man. You always wearing them knock off jeans. You need to get you some style.” She glides her hands down her outfit: a pink blouse and yellow skirt. “You got to learn how to dress sexy. No man gonna want you, dressed in sneaks and caps all the time.”
“As a matter of fact,” Sandy retorts, moving her head upon her neck like it is trying to walk on marbles, “I do got a man. And I know his name, too. It’s T-Bone.”
“T-Bone? Like the steak?” Maria bursts into laughter, and out of her fake accent.
Tonya soon joins in the revelry. “Tells us about steak man. Is he well-done or rare?”
Sandy grunts, rolls her eyes, and concentrates on Mrs. Johnson’s nails. “I got nothing to tell you heifers.”
“Chill out, mami. Wes only playing, damn,” says Maria.
Sandy relents easily, because, honestly, she wants to gloat about this man. “Well, I met him at the bus stop. He was driving this silver Caddy, sitting on 24s. Yeah, it was a fresh ride. He a little older than me, but I like ‘em older. They gots more experience. Know how to treat a lady.”
“Then what is he doing with you?” says Tonya. “You ain’t no lady.” She giggles.
“He drove me home,” Sandy snaps back.
“Did he ‘drive it home,’ too,” asks Maria, cutting her eyes at her coworker.
“No, he did not. I don’t give it up on the first day, like some people. But yeah, he coming by after work to pick me up and take me to dinner.” Sandy looks at the hand she holds, moving her head back to get different angles of her handiwork. “Well, Mrs. Johnson, it looks like you’re all set.”
“Thank you, child,” says Mrs. Johnson as she rises. “See you next week.” She takes out her wallet, retrieves a handful of bills, and leaves them on the table.
“Heifer got nothing better to do than to get her nails done every damn week,” says Sandy once Mrs. Johnson is out the door. She sneers as she counts her tip money. “I need a man that’ll let me spend all his money like that.”
“What does T-Bone do, anyways? Don’t tell me he works at Applebee’s; maybe he’s on the menu.”
Sandy turns to Tonya. “I don’t know for sure what he does. I think he sells dope.” She shrugs. “But he don’t seem like one of those low-level hustlers. He gots paper. What about Mr. T?”
Tonya flips her hair. “He said something bout being an executive or something.”
The conversation lulls at this point. More customers enter and, spurned by the show TMZ playing on the shop’s flat screen TV, the subject changes to celebrity gossip; the supposedly cautionary tales of women with fortune, fame, and beauty still falling prey to no good men.
Christy listens half-heartedly to the television. She’s heard all these yarns before. Instead of Rihanna, Kelis, and Fantasia being the heroines in the stories, she’s witnessed the lives of Trisha, Fatima, and Mercedes: her mother, aunt, and sister. Her mother was abandoned by her husband, her aunt raped by a childhood friend, and her sister was in an abusive relationship. The struggle against men from the women in her family had taught her to depend on no man. But still she feels the urge to find the one man that walked out on her. The one she shares blood and DNA with. If only to ask him, Why?

The end of the work day slithers closer, hiding in the shadows of the sinking sun. Meagan finally re-emerges from her office to tidy things up so her employees can go home at a decent hour. The “open” sign dims. The money in the register gets counted.
As she cleans her chair and work area, Tonya says to Maria, “Have you heard from Tajo yet? Or is he still ditching your child support?”
“No, mami, I haven’t seen his old ass. And that punta is still three months behind on payments. You know how these men be.”
“Dogs, every last one of them.” Tonya shakes her head. “That’s why you gotta use them before they use you. We gotta use the power of the pussy to our advantage.”
“I agree,” says Sandy. “That’s why I don’t give it up on the first night. Make him work for it.” A horn honks outside. “Ooo, that must be my ride.” She wiggles her booty.
Before Sandy can gather her purse and jacket, a man appears at the shop’s door and raps upon it. He is nearly as tall as the door, with skin the color of chocolate. He is handsome and built like a man two decades younger. His salt-and-pepper hair, cut low, betrays his age. He wears an emerald suit specifically tailored to match his frame.
Sandy, Tonya, Maria, and Christy all turn to see who is at the door. They simultaneously say:
“T-Bone!”
“Ty–?”
“Tajo!”
“Daddy?”

Author Bio: A. Jarrell Hayes is a poet and fiction writer. “Four Women” is from his short story collection, Popular Television, coming summer 2012. He invites you to visit his website at http://www.ajhayes.com.

Words = Life.

The StreetLife Series – Kevin M. Weeks

Kevin M. Weeks is an example of everything that is right about America – Opportunity. An author and publisher, Kevin M. Weeks is about more than books. He reaches out to the community and is an advocate for the arts.

Utilizing his skills and network, Kevin Weeks will expand his talent to a higher institution. Let him tell you.

UM: Can you introduce yourself?

Kevin M. Weeks: First, I want to thank you for this interview. I am Kevin M. Weeks, a man with strong convictions about second chances, the will of the human spirit, and the ability to overcome the impossible.

UM: What inspired The Street Life Series?

Kevin M. Weeks: After sharing stories about the street life with a group of young adults, they encouraged me to write a book. Once I finished the first draft of the debut novel, I decided to create a series about the main character, Teco Jackson.

UM: Which of three books in the series was your favorite to write? Why?

Kevin M. Weeks: Even though my literary work as a whole is my favorite, I must say that my third novel (Is It Rags or Riches?) resonates the most with me. One of the supporting characters, Gail Indigo Que (a.k.a. GQ), provides a parallel analysis of the street life and corporate life. I don’t want to give the story away; however, I enjoyed writing about GQ’s experiences of transitioning from the street life over to a legitimate career.

UM: Your book covers have excellent illustrations that set them apart
from other books.

Kevin M. Weeks: Thank you for the kudos. The goal of the illustrated book covers is to show my support and passion for the arts. Along with many others, I am becoming an advocate for bringing the arts back into the mainstream of learning within the state of Georgia public school systems.

UM: Who is the targeted audience for your book? What do you want the reader to take away after reading?

Kevin M. Weeks: The targeted audience is adult readers, who through fiction love to travel to new places and experience life from different perspectives. The take away for the reader is to feel as though he or she is travelling through the streets with main character Teco Jackson and witness how he responds as crime happens all around him.

UM: There has been an ongoing debate about using images of African
Americans on book covers. The argument claims the books will have
little appeal to other ethnicities. One of your book covers
illustrates a white man on the cover. Can you speak on what prompted
your book cover with the white man? Did the demographics of the buying
audience change or did the reader responses?

Kevin M. Weeks: The beauty of art is the observer is the interpreter. The man on the third book cover (Is It Rags or Riches?) can be any nationality. Once I penned my debut novel, I stated that each of the book covers will highlight one of the characters from the story. Life is diverse as well as my characters. Renowned Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat once said, “I don’t think about art when I’m working. I try to think about life.”

UM: In your publishing journey, what has been your biggest disappointment or misconception?

Kevin M. Weeks: To speak of disappointments may be discouraging to a rising author who might need a little boost or a bit of positive encouragement to pen that first novel. My advice is to continually study the publishing industry so that the disappointments are few.

UM: What has been your greatest accomplishment or memory?

Kevin M. Weeks: Currently, I’m collaborating on a nonfiction piece of literary work with a distinguished professor from one of the top 30 national universities as reported by the 2009 U.S. News America’s Best Colleges. To be acknowledged in the sphere of academia is a blessing.

UM: What upcoming projects do you have in 2010?

Kevin M. Weeks: I’m writing the fourth novel titled The Street Life Series: Is It Power or Envy?

In collaboration with a new writer, I’m also working on a spin-off story about the Green family from my third novel titled: The Street Life Series: Is It Rags or Riches?

More information about both of these literary works is forthcoming.

UM: Thank you for interviewing. How can readers contact you and learn
more about your books?

Kevin M. Weeks: Special thanks for the interview. Readers can find out more about me at www.kevinmweeks.com and more about The Street Life Series novels at www.thestreetlifeseries.com. Also, book proceeds benefit the Stay off the Streets Fund, a youth charity to aid teens who age-out of foster care. (www.stayoffthestreets.org). Peace, Kevin.

Interview with Author Seven – The Urban Therapist

Seven is a published author, poet and activist. Her passionate writing has not only transformed her own life, but also transformed the lives of others.

Growing up in the projects of Richmond, Virginia, Seven experienced many difficulties in her childhood including numerous deaths in her family. Through her writing and her outreach, she has drawn on her experiences to help others.

Seven writes on her website, “For some reason, I’ve always been intrigued by the power of words. It may have something to do with the fact that as a child growing up, my Mother used to tell me all the time that I didn’t have to fight (physically). She would always tell me that I could whip a person’s butt with my mouth (my words). She often reminded me that violence wasn’t necessary, unless absolutely necessary!”

Seven has her BA degree in Sociology/Criminal Justice and is currently working towards her Masters in Public Administration. Her books include “Gorilla Black,” a contributor in “Street Chronicles: Tales from Da Hood” and a compilation of poetry and prose called “Broken Flowers.”

During our interview with Seven, we discussed her goals, her writing, and activism.

Urbania: You are now published with Random House, which is fantastic. Was it a difficult path to get to this point? Can you tell us a bit about how this unfolded?

Seven: I had a short story published in Nikki Turner’s first installment of the Street Chronicles Series. My short story, “Big Daddy”, was the lead story in Street Chronicles/Tales from da Hood. After the anthology was published in Jan 2006, I was then asked to submit a story for Nikki’s line of full-length novels. My novel “Gorilla Black” was then also chosen to lead the Nikki Turner Presents line of hard-hitting street fiction.

To have been selected to lead the series of short stories and then later chosen as the lead author in the book line was such a double pleasure. Ironically, I never set out to write urban fiction. I was living and working in the D.C Metro area when an old friend (author LaKesa Cox) heard I was writing poetry. She introduced me to Nikki Turner. Nikki and I spoke over the INTERNET through email. I submitted a short story before the week was out and the rest is history.

Urbania: What advice would you give young writers who are struggling to get started?

Seven: I would encourage young writers to stay true to themselves and to write what’s in their heart. The pen doesn’t have an eraser. There is no right or wrong way to express yourself. Be yourself and do not try to imitate anyone else.

Urbania: Can you tell us more about your activism?

Seven: I am a volunteer member with R.A.I.N.N (Rape, Abuse, Incest, National Network). I am a member of RAINN’S Speaker’s Bureau. As members, we speak out, disseminate information and interview when needed. We attend events like Congressional Hearings, rallies or any affair that speaks or advocates for victims of sexual abuse and assault. I am 100% committed to my activism with the organization and often share my own personal experiences as a survivor. I encourage other survivors both known and silent, to take advantage of our toll free hot line, which is 1-800-656-HOPE.

Urbania: Do you see your writing and your activism being one and the same? Tell us about how they are related.

Seven: Writing is therapeutic for me. It helps me to deal with some of the horror I’ve seen (growing up in the hood, etc) and have also endured. In fact, some of my writing is reflective of my own personal experiences. My poetry/prose compilation entitled Broken Flowers is centered on many of my own personal experiences (sexual abuse, physical abuse, betrayal, etc.) Warning: The language is strong in this poetic bramble as the pain is very real. Broken Flowers can be purchased from paypal through my website at sevenspeaks.com

Urbania: You also go by the name of “Seven, The Urban Therapist.” What exactly does that tag mean?

Seven: I’ve been coined the Urban Mercenary or Urban Therapist by others in my genre because of my therapeutic style of writing. If you noticed on the back side of my novel Gorilla Black, Chunichi, author of the Gangster’s Girl series, is quoted as saying, “Seven is the new urban mercenary stealing hearts. You gotta love her!”

When I read Chunichi’s blurb, I was ecstatic, as I had heard that she was reviewing of the book but had no idea what her thoughts were until the book’s release. Ironically, the tag Urban Therapist had already followed me- so there you have it. Great minds think alike. To have such a tag placed on me by those writing in the same genre is an awesome feeling. Much love and respect to Chunichi (always) for such an appropriate and on point blurb! Chunichi, I’ll take that! (smiling)

Urbania: This question ties into the last one a bit… Have you gotten a lot of direct feedback over the years from people who have felt your work helped them?

Seven: By no means am I claiming to be a licensed therapist. In fact, my undergraduate degree is in Sociology/Criminal Justice. I am currently working towards my MPA (Masters in Public Administration). However, I have worked in the field of counseling as a crisis counselor, in addition to working with at-risk youth. I completed my undergraduate internship at the Richmond City Jail as a Jail Counselor, as well as worked as a volunteer at the Daily Planet Homeless Shelter.

While I have an extensive background both professionally and personally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that my personal experiences, and not my BA degree, make me a subject matter expert. I am an advocate of counseling because it is my belief that so many people are hurting. Men and women, boys and girls from all walks of life have confided deep dark secrets to me. Some after reading my work and or from just having open and honest communication with me.

Make no mistake about it, people are living in shame and fear about things that have happened to them, things that many of them have had absolutely no control over. And, while God is good all the time, it is my opinion that there are times where we need to be strong in our faith. But with faith, many of us still need counseling to go along with prayer. It is through my work that I attempt to reach hearts and save souls, one message at a time.

Based on the amount of feedback that I have received over the years from friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances and readers; the answer to your question is without question, yes. Helping others is part of my make up. I’m often criticized for wanting to help others but quite honestly, this is who I am and I know of no other way to be. However, again, I am not a therapist by profession. I encourage those who need help to seek it and to not depend on family, friends or books that you read to heal you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with going to sit on the “couch.”

Urbania: We read that you are working on something new. Can you tell us more about it?

Seven: Yes, I am writing another novel. I typically do not give out many details, as I like to surprise my readers. What I will say is that it is another meaningful work; one that I hope will steal the hearts of my readers, one chapter at a time!

For more information on Seven, please visit www.sevenspeaks.com or follow her on Facebook under Seven Speaks!

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