Like a Van Gogh painting after an encounter with a destructive teen, abandoned carelessly in some alleyway to be discarded and forgotten, maybe serve as the leaking rooftop to some cardboard transient home.
Like a revered pharaoh’s tomb, left open to be raided by looters looking for a quick fortune, carrying legacy away in broken pieces, sold on the black market for half its worth.
That’s what she’d done to his heart.
That’s how he felt.
He’d never love anyone that way again. Wouldn’t give it the opportunity to rip this kind of hole in him, spill his contents with the jagged-edged shards of glass that were X-chromosomed people.
He swiped at his leaking right eye, the unsavory combination of twenty-four sleepless hours, an inordinate amount of Jack Daniels, and these fucking tears he couldn’t stop, coloring his eyes stop sign red. He swiped again, irritated at the pain he usually hid so well manifesting itself to the outside world.
He stared down at the black Ferragamo wingtips cloaking his feet in comfort, the fine cream pinstripes riding down the Ralph Lauren Purple Label suit coating his body with privilege. The arrogant aroma of perfection emanated from him with the vigor of a freshly cut onion. He was a picture of privilege. A expertly painted canvas of success. He’d spent most of his life aiming to attain, and then doing exactly that: The boarding school education he’d begged his parents for. Carletta Drake’s virginity in the eighth grade. The valedictorian title at his top-ten ranked private high school. A J.D. From Columbia. And after that, any and everything he wanted; women and watches being his most fervent consumptions.
He lived as if no woman was out of his league. Nothing was unattainable.
Yet, reality had proved him as counterfeit as a three-dollar bill. It was a lie.
No one got everything they wanted 100 percent of the time. This, he knew. But he had failed at attaining the one person that made his flesh hum with desire so much, her presence caused sweat glands to erupt, his temperature to rise. She was his cardio; chasing after her, making love to her, then hiding that love so deeply it now resided in a jigsawed corner only she knew the way to. She’d kept his heart strong. And maybe in that lay the very reason she moved him; maybe she only drew him to her with such equatorial force because she was so damn … unattainable. He had her, he lost her. Had her, lost her again. Whoever claimed it is better to have loved and lost than not loved at all, had obviously never encountered the powerful magnet that was Jade.
Defeat forced his head down, shook it back and forth.
The air was dewy, heavy with fresh rain. He inhaled as much as his lungs could hold, blinked Visine drops in through the slight fog, an iridescent haze filling in the sky around the stenciled old buildings in the still morning. The tall building behind him, gleaming and new with big windows chasing towards the heavens, was out of place against the drab fog. If he could’ve avoided work, this office, this entire day completely, he would have. The Breitling resting on his wrist urged him to look, subtract three hours from the early afternoon, and imagine what Jade must be doing at this moment, out there in California. Urged him to calculate if the the content she carried was still a baby, or remains dumped in a plastic grave. This thought splintered, tore into him like sharp nails on delicate skin, but he refused to give his sorrow that satisfaction. He would not look at the damn watch. He would not succumb to that pain.
The hum of two black town cars pulling into valet to the far left of him let him know it was showtime. The day looked like a never-ending road ahead of him. Two senior counselors were awaiting him in their oversized conference room several floors up. A room full of begrudgingly graying hair, shrewd intentions behind placid smiles, and firm handshakes paying homage to Rolex.
A client pitch. Time to go sell more fortune to the fortunate.
Bleached white walls and sterilized metal dipped in despair infiltrated her nostrils ad nauseum.
Happy green plants and blossoms in a various array of colors served to divert the mind from the real reason one would find themselves sitting in this small room, thin white cloth assaulted with an outbreak of blue dots the only reason her bare bottom wasn’t touching the padded cot.
She thought black would be more appropriate.
Abortions weren’t pretty.
They were real. Disturbing. Life-altering. Painful.
Scars that were made but never really seen. Healed but never really healed. She was starring in her very own horror story. A nightmare she couldn’t wake from.
Her plan had been to come to California and get this done and over as quickly and quietly as possible. A simple eraser mark wiping out a small miscalculation. A small mistake. The return ticket to Detroit like the flick of a hand, sweeping the remnants of erased rubber off the clean-sheet life she led as the wife of a prominent Detroit politician. As a mayor’s wife.
Now though, small rips of uncertainty racked her former resolve.
Chatter and laughter in the hall snapped her from the depths of her mind for a moment, brought her back to the bright, inappropriately happy room. The laminated poster in front of her adorned with a bright pink heart, opened just a the bottom, informed her that the right to choose was the right to love oneself. The right to live life how she intended to live it.
She dared not look down at her protruding molehill underneath the drab gown with the depressing blue dots. She wondered what the purpose of the blue dots was. They certainly didn’t serve to deliver any enhancement. No style. She imagined some factory full of below-minimum-wage workers sitting in front of high end sewing machines, wondering the same thing as they churned one-size-fits-all hospital gowns out by the dozen.
Her hand lingered above her belly. At this point, she was scared to even touch the growing mound that had her breasts looking slightly fuller, her appetite haywire. The baby would know. She would smell the deceit and somehow turn on her, create some havoc inside and take Jade with her.
She felt like a traitor to her own body.
The jovial chuckles made their way through the plaster-white painted walls of the room once more. Who could be laughing at a time like this? At a time of mourning?
Nigel’s image had burned its way inside her irises somehow, her face wet with his tears whenever she went to touch it. By now, he was already purging. Creating a new void where her existence had once mattered in his life. He’d forget she ever existed. He’d hate her for years to come.
And how could she blame him. This mess, this pile of dog shit that her life had become, had been all her doing. She just couldn’t say no.
All her life, she’d been trying to learn to say no.
Nigel was the one hurdle, the one obstacle, the one lesson she never learned. She simply couldn’t say no to him. No matter the consequence, she was a puppet, and he was the string. He always told her that he was helplessly, hopelessly, in love with her. That he had no more control over his actions than the leaves did in the wind, when her voice called his name, when her heart reached for his, when her lips grazed his.
But he was wrong. It was him. It was all him that carried that spell. And she could never say no.
More laughter floated in like leftover Christmas carols in the distance. What was so damn funny?
The heavy door crept open, a soft, cold wind ushering itself in.
“Yes.” Jade tried to smile, but the weight of this decision loomed, a heavy cloud shadowing her heart.
She was really about to do this.
With the help of Gina, she’d been able to get an appointment under the name Angela Harris, a completely arbitrary name she’d come up with; her second choice being Angela Davis. Might have been nice, a different feeling, to own a name known for the good, not shrouded in deception. Even for a morning. In the end, she didn’t. Couldn’t mar such a great name with this tragedy.
Pro and cons of the rights and wrongs of this decision barreled through her mind, unsettled her. Thoughts so fierce and loud they drowned the doctor’s voice to a mere murmur in the background.
“I’m sorry. What’d you say?” She shook the guilt off, focused on the woman with shiny chocolate hair and a nose contoured from a multicultural gene pool.
The doctor’s eyes were impassioned, seemed to sense Jade’s uncertainty, but she held the words back. Jade almost wished should would say something, tell her how horrible of a person she was; convince her to get off this table and find another route, another means to this end.
“I said … this should only take about an hour, including recoup. I was informed you have a plane to catch later?”
“Yes, I do.” It suddenly took great effort to form a complete sentence. Doubt was brick placed atop her head, weighing her down tremendously. The headache was killing her.
“Here’s something if you feel any discomfort.”
Jade stared at the small black tag on the white coat in front of her. Dr. Renata, it told her. A tube connected to a small machine above her connected to the plastic face mask the doctor’s thin fingers handed her. Sedation.
She lay down, placed professionally painted mauve toes up in the stirrups, legs relaxed open. She inhaled. Breathed in the sterile air, stared at the huge vacuum, with its intimidating angles. Her eyes searched the room, ran away from that vacuum, stopped on the bright poster with the pink heart, informing her this was her right. She focused her brown eyes on that, tried to soak the words through her pores, convince her body she was doing the right thing.
Eyes closed, she inhaled the gas, shut out the loud death roar of the vacuum with tiny yellow plugs.
“I’m so sorry, baby. I’m sorry, Nigel.” The world was a haze. She wasn’t sure if the words came out, or if they were thoughts running in her mind. She only hoped they reached their intended destination.
She could see how he’d want her. Could see how she’d gotten through.
She was almost spellbinding. A soft, ethereal beauty; as if God had added the lightest Gaussian blur to her image as the last final touch to her creation.
Sea-green eyes looked down at the gray Blackberry clinched tightly in her right hand, pushed the auto-dial for Nigel. Six rings later, she hung up. That had been the wash, rinse, repeat of the week. She called, he didn’t answer. Regardless of time of day, or day of week. He was blatantly ignoring her. She’d become invisible to the man she’d given her heart to, her soul to, for over a year. All because of some barely five-foot, indigent stripper trying to live out a Cinderella story.
That would all be done soon enough. She knew girls like this. She knew what would make them disappear. Men like Nigel, professional black men with steep incomes and nondiscriminatory penises, constantly found themselves flanked with women seeking someone to support their latest beauty/nail shop “business” in exchange for sex. ‘Hair Salon Hoes’ is what she and her friends referred to them as. Someone needed to start a Hood Initiative Program to inform these uneducated, government-assisted girls posing as women, that life was more than weave and acrylic. Oh, the disdain.
Her stomach turned like it’d been assaulted with a bad meal each time she drove through these areas. Two in the afternoon on a Wednesday, and she had counted at least five school-aged children polluting the crater attacked street on her way here. She watched the brisk wind sail in the cinnamon hair covering the white wool of the coat the girl—Joy, apparently—was wearing as she walked toward the entrance to her building. Riverfront Apartments. No doubt Nigel or some other gullible schmuck was affording her this $1000 a month living space.
She pulled her back away from the beige butter leather seat, closer to the rear-view mirror in the Mercedes she sat in, idling quietly in a parking space not too far from the door. She’d given a friend’s name at the gate, had been waiting twenty minutes to match the person with the faint printed cellphone picture lying on her lap. The woman in the mirror studied her, noticed the details she’d seen for the last twenty-five years. Lovely features painted the color of an early morning sunrise. Her beauty was keen, sharp, like a razorblade’s edge. Refined beauty that was a result of good genes and money that afforded an upbringing of afternoon teas, tennis clubs, and Jack & Jill meetings.
After a slight swipe of muted gloss, a smoothing of the auburn tresses pulled back into a low pony, she opened the door to her beige-on-beige status symbol, walked in the direction the girl was headed.
The girl turned around curiously, her dress swaying every so slightly, as though a heavenly wind had caught it. “Yes?”
“Hi, do you … have a second. I think we both know who we are to each other, and I have a proposal I’d like to discuss.” Scrutiny danced in Toni’s eyes as she said this, utter contempt for this harlot with doe eyes and full lips.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re referring to. From my account, you’re some woman in an expensive suit who’s been staking out my apartment in that pretty little Benz out there. Unless you’re the stalker and I’m the stalkee, we aren’t anything to one another.” The girl stepped back, eyes coated with sarcasm.
Instantly, that innocent ethereal quality she’d assumed had entrapped Nigel, vanished. This was not some young dumb girl. But this was her, definitely.
“Look, I know he seems great. A tall, handsome lawyer with a big dick and a certifiable head game. I get that you’ve probably never experienced someone like him before, but let me tell you, all that glitters is not gold, honey.”
“Who exactly are you talking about?”
An irritated rush of air huffed out of Toni. She didn’t have time to play ghetto girl games with this simple cunt. “Joy, you know exactly who I’m speaking of. So why don’t we stop this game and get to the real reason I’m here.”
They stood in front of the elevators in the lobby, modern mahogany décor and big green plants lining the windows offering a scene of comfortable living.
Joys arms folded over her smartly fitted wool coat. Mackage. She recognized the cut right away. Nigel had bought this woman a six-hundred dollar coat. The fucking nerve.
“Listen, whatever issues you’re having with this seemingly great guy of yours, are not mine. I don’t know what or who you’re talking about. And for the record, you can refrain from practicing your ‘homegirl’ slang while you’re talking to me.” Joy jabbed the ‘up’ elevator button, rolled her eyes as it lit up.
Stupid little girls. They never learned. All thought they were more than they were.
“Do you know a man named Nigel? Because he seems to know you pretty well, actually.” Toni reached in her croc leather bag, pulled out a photo of the girl in front of her and her man, hand on her rear, lips on her cheek.
Joy’s eyes deadened. “What do you want. I have somewhere to be.” Her tone was flat, cold as the air on the other side of the heavy lobby doors.
Toni reached in the bag again, pulled out two crisp slats of one-hundred dollar bills, the purple paper binding them displaying a jovial “$5000” in white. “I want you to disappear out of state. Cut all communication with Nigel. Fifty-thousand dollars. The rest wired when I’m sure you’re gone. You utter any part of a word to anyone, deals off.”
At this, Joy’s eyes widened slightly, then filtered with suspicion. “You’re insane.”
“Yes, or no. You have somewhere to be, right?”
“And if I say no?”
“You won’t. And if you give him any inclination that this isn’t your choice, I will ruin your life. Don’t fuck with me.”
Joy looked at her with … pity. “Sixty. Cash only. No wires. And I want half before I leave.” She wasn’t stupid. Anyone with 50k to throw away on an affair would be intent on making her life difficult. This chick was unstable.
A slow, snail-paced smirk crept along Toni’s nude lips. “Deal.”
“You must really love this guy, huh?” Joy’s head fell to the left, cocked in puzzlement.
Toni studied the girl. Judged her immorality and waste of beauty. She turned to walk away, leaving the money resting in Joy’s upturned palm.
“Well, you obviously don’t.”