Writers Wednesday – Chapter 18 – The Women with Blue Eyes

I am only sharing two more chapters of The Women with Blue Eyes as I’ve decided to publish it as a full-length novel. As promised, I am sharing freely the first 20 chapters. Today, we return with Chapter 18. New to this blog? Start at the beginning. 


Chapter 18: “1500”


The women boarded the elevator for the 15th floor. The old buildings didn’t have elevators. There was no need since they were not high risers, but the renovations added several floors, elevators, laundry rooms, and two-bathroom apartments. Altgeld had fresh green paint, new windows, and more cameras. But none of that mattered in the end. Drug dealers and addicts still ran the buildings and poverty prevailed. It was like covering shit with chocolate and hoping it would turn into candy. Many of the more political residents complained about how the city wasted money on glitter and gold but didn’t address the real issues.

Janiyah sighed.

“Come on now, J, don’t start that,” Tabitha scratched at her wig. “We got a new shipment today, and I don’t need you acting all brand new. You know we get paid by the number of bags.”

“You know I hate this stuff, Tab.”

“I know, baby, but you can make that lil bread you owe tonight and be done if you play your cards right. Take that money and never look back.”

“I’ll do half tonight and come back tomorrow. Make that my last night.”

“See you being lazy. Twenty of them lil bags, ain’t nothing. I do that in a couple of hours.”

Janiyah laughed. She couldn’t spend that much time here. She had to relieve Miss Bernice soon. Janiyah had a strict curfew.

“Dang, we gonna miss you J.”

“What about you Tab? Don’t you wanna get outta here?”

Tabitha brushed it off. “And leave all this?” She twirled around and posed, smiling.

“I’m serious. You ever think about something else?”

Tabitha rolled her eyes. “Come on now J. I ain’t for the preaching tonight, aiight?”

Janiyah waved her hand. “Aiight.”

There was silence between them as the elevator climbed and stopped on the thirteenth floor. A mother and her daughter got on.

“Of course, I think about it,” Tab lowered her voice. “But I ain’t got a big house in the suburbs and a fancy-ass detective mama to spoil me to death.”

“She’s not my mother…”

“Okay, whatever. You know what I mean. A detective auntie then who make sure ya’ll don’t want for anything. What do I have? Of course, I think about leaving, but for what J? What’s waiting out there for me?”

Janiyah let the silence fill the air. After getting custody over her and her siblings, Tina moved them into that big house in the suburbs, while people like Tabitha had to stay here. It wasn’t fair, and Janiyah hated having to leave her. She also didn’t want people thinking she’d forgotten where she came from. It was part of why she made frequent visits to Altgeld. Janiyah was angry with Tina for taking them away. She thought about her history class, where Professor Grier referred to them as “The Talented Tenth.”

According to Dubois, the talented tenth was the ten percent of blacks who were skilled and intelligent enough to guide the ninety percent. Grier said they were the leaders of the race. Some bullshit, Janiyah shook her head. If every successful black person moved out of the hood, who would help the hood? Janiyah thought black people abandoned their own when they made it, leaving people like Tabitha feeling like there was no way out. And what did “made it” look like anyway? What did it feel like? They were doing well, but here she was on the same elevator, getting ready to do the same thing as Tab.

The elevator opened to floor fifteen, and the women stepped out, leaving the woman and her daughter. They must live on the sixteenth floor, Janiyah thought. The building only had sixteen floors, and everyone knew what the fifteenth floor was all about. The woman gave a side-eye to Janiyah and Tabitha as they exited.

“What?” Tabitha smacked her lips and rolled her eyes as the elevator doors closed. “Judgmental ass.”

The young women walked toward apartment 1502, stopping at apartment 1500, where many people stood, some of them workers waiting on the door to 1502 to open, and some of them leechers just there for weed and drinks. They could hear the music booming, the conversation roaring, and the drunken laughter as they got closer. Men and women surrounded the doorway. It was like a party every night at 1500.

“What it looking like in there today?” asked Tabitha as they walked up, speaking to one of the women.

“Same shit.”

“I thought we were getting a new shipment tonight?”

Tabitha wondered why the door to 1502 was still closed. It was time to get down to business. She was all about making extra money. It’s how she paid her bills.

“Nah,” said a man standing by, “It ain’t come yet.”

Tabitha laughed when she looked into the man’s glossy eyes. “Yo, you on that trip, huh?”

“Yea,” said a woman, “he tripping hard. The woman turned her attention to Janiyah, “how you doing, lil mama, you good?”

Janiyah forced a smile, “Yea, I’m straight.”

Irritation consumed her as she avoided eye contact with the woman. She couldn’t stand being around these people, especially the women. Most everybody had heard stories of her first job and what she used to do. She had to fight off the women just as well as the men.

They stood around and talked some more, idle conversation to pass the time. The apartment door was wide open, and Janiyah and Tabitha walked into a large living room area where people slumped on the couch, already high. Others argued over a game of dominoes at the card table in the middle of the room. Weed smoke and musk filled the air, and drinks were abundant. A short woman with short blonde hair approached them smoking a cigarette.

“They ain’t ready yet. Said give them ten minutes to finish the last round. Ya’ll eat? Got some wings in the kitchen.”

“Hey Mika, girl,” said Tabitha hugging her. “We just tryna handle this and be out.”

Janiyah and Tabitha had rules too. They never ate at 1500 and never drank unless it was bottled water or made it themselves. Most of the time, they brought their own drinks. Mama ain’t raise no fool.

“I feel you.”

Tabitha and Mika talked and laughed, and Janiyah frowned. Dang, can they hurry up? She turned to look at the door, the group of people still standing around. That meant they weren’t open yet.

“How long they say they gonna be?”

Mika looked Janiyah up and down. “What, you got somewhere else you need to be?” The woman stepped back, her eyes roaming Janiyah’s body.

“Yea, I heard about you,” she smiled wickedly, and Tabitha grabbed Mika’s arm.

“Chil with that lame shit aiight?”

Mika snatched her arm away. “I’m cool. I just think people with histories shouldn’t act, so uppidity is all I’m saying.” Mika laughed and walked off.

Janiyah shook her head. “I can’t stand that bitch.”

The women mingled for a few more minutes until a man called Big Boi, the head watchman made the call. Whenever Big Boi yelled, “we up!” into the apartment and people scattered, they knew apartment 1502 was open, and it was time.


UP NEXT

CHAPTER 19: “TRIP”

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Writers Wednesday – Chapter 17 – The Women with Blue Eyes


Chapter 17: “Altgeld Projects”


Janiyah sat up on the couch, took out her flip phone, and scrolled through her MySpace page.

“Tab girl, come on.”

She didn’t like spending too much time at Tabitha’s house. She just wanted to get her money and go home. Tab lived in the Altgeld Gardens, one of the last remaining housing projects in Chicago, located on the city’s far south side bordering Riverdale. The complex had undergone renovations but had continued to perpetuate the same gun violence and poverty associated with any Chicago housing complex. But that’s not why Janiyah hated it. Before Tina moved them out, she had grown up in the projects, and she was pretty enough to be protected by the gang members who still lusted for her. She knew that it was arrogant to think, but it was true. If the gangbangers thought you were fine, “a dime,” they showed you favor. “Redbones,” were in, and everyone wanted that pretty light-skinned girl named Janiyah. Word on the street was she was a virgin, and they all wanted to be the one to boast they had popped that cherry.

Word on the street was also that her auntie was a detective and ruled with an iron fist. While they wanted Janiyah, they also wanted to stay out of jail. They watched her with lustful eyes, flirted, and hoped to navigate Tina’s iron steel fence with the two pit bulls in front of it. Terms like, “You ready yet?” You eighteen yet?” were common when Janiyah sashayed down the halls. Her footsteps hit the concrete with confidence, kissing the ground like she poured the cement herself or knew who did. Her laughter was a flirtatious innocence, and her hips danced, and her booty bounced made them swear she knew what she was doing, even if she didn’t. She was a Goddess no one had the authority to touch, and she knew it. Janiyah walked the patio like she lived there and never had a problem if she needed to spend the night. Though, she would never let goodie-too-shoes Tina know this is where she kicked it. Janiyah wasn’t ashamed of the projects. Here, she was home. But Tabitha’s apartment also reminded her of Big Sam’s apartment in the building across the street and too much of Ronnie. He was alive then.

“Let me put my wig on,” shouted Tabitha from the back. Janiyah smiled and shook her head.

“You got something to drink in here?”

“I think it’s some Kool-Aid left.”

A phone sang in the back room. Tab always had a busy line. “Hey stranger,” she could be heard saying from the back. “Yea, I’m here, what’s up?”

Janiyah, smiled, shaking her head at her crazy friend.

Tabitha was half Asian and half black, and it drove the men crazy. She was a different kind of beautiful to them and not just because of her looks. Tab was straight hood and didn’t give two shits about her Asian heritage. Her mother tried to convince her to widen her perspective and learn more about her history, but Tab was a wild card with Asian eyes, brown skin, and street in her veins. All of this and she was still a “pretty girl.” Tabitha liked everything cute and yellow, lipstick, foundation, and heels. It didn’t matter what she was doing, Tabitha always dressed up. Janiyah teased her about looking like she was going to the club when she knew they were going to be sitting in the house.

***

Freddy leaned back into the sofa and sighed. It was refreshing to sit back and enjoy the moment: no investigations, no phone calls, and no Juan.

“Ouch.”

He jerked back, pulling his hand away from Tabitha, who was laughing.

“You are such a big baby. Are you gonna let me clip those claws or not?”

“Not,” laughed Freddy.

Tabitha laughed and put her manicure kit on the table in front of them. “Fine.”

The two laughed some more before settling into silence.

“You called,” said Tabitha, smiling.

Freddy smiled back. “I told you I would.”

“Took you long enough. What’s going on?”

Frederick was a cool friend, but he wasn’t Tabitha’s type. The nature of their relationship was platonic, but they still kept it on the low. Tabitha was young, and they both knew no one would understand why such an older man was visiting such a young woman. The two met during an investigation into a drug deal gone wrong at the buildings where Freddy and Tina were both assigned. Tina turned down the job, not wanting to have anyone make the connection that she knew anyone in the buildings where the crime took place. Tabitha struck up a conversation with Freddy about the dirt under his fingernails, and since then, the two have been tight. Freddy made her promise not to tell Janiyah or Tina about their relationship.

“They wouldn’t understand,” he had said.

Tabitha didn’t force it. It wasn’t like he came around a lot anyway, and she always wanted a big brother, which is what Freddy was to her. What she provided for him was an ear.

“I don’t know, man, some crazy shit.”

“Like…”

Like Tina acting weird. Talking to herself.”

“Talking to herself?”

Fred nodded, and Tabitha frowned. “Niyah ain’t said nothing about that. Guess she still grieving.”

“Juan is acting weird too. Damn near cursed me out the other day. Now I gotta chase down this Jason cat.”

“Jason?”

“Yea, some dude Tina had me look into.”

“You said chase down.” Tabitha folded her arms. “What, Juan, got you on a leash again?”

Freddy frowned, “what? Hell no. Ain’t nobody got me hemmed up. Juan thinks they got something to do with the Steakhouse case.”

Tabitha’s body froze, and Freddy noticed.

“What’s up?”

Tabitha hesitated, picking the manicure case back up from the table. Freddy took it from her hands and put it back on the table.

“What’s going on Tab? What do you know?”

“First of all, don’t ever take nothing out my hand,” she said, picking the case back up.

“What you know, fam?”

“I don’t know shit. I heard about the Steakhouse Case is all. You know, people talk. You the detective, what you know?”

“I don’t know shit.”

“Okay, then. Don’t be coming for me. I ain’t Juan.”

Freddy laughed, “whatever, man. Since you ain’t gonna tell me what you know about the Steakhouse case, cause yo ass know something…”

Tabitha clipped her fingernails.

“…what you know about Jason and don’t say you don’t know who that is cause you and Janiyah real tight.”

“Yea, we tight, but I don’t know a Jason. Niyah ain’t mention nothing about Tina having a man.”

“Find out for me.”

Tabitha stopped picking at her nails, “oh, so you want me to spy for you now?”

Freddy laughed, patted Tabitha’s leg, and stood, “naw, ma. Nothing like that. Just see what Niyah knows. Who dude is and all that. I know Tina like an Auntie to you, and she like a sista to me, and I don’t know dude, feel me?”

Tabitha stood, “yea. I feel you. I’ll see what I can do.”

“Aiight friend,” Freddy leaned in for a hug.

“Aiight homie,” said Tabitha, hugging him back and then walking him to the door.

Tabitha locked the door and bit her lip. Something was up. If Fred asked her about the Steakhouse, that meant the Feds was getting close, and a friend or no friend Tab wasn’t saying anything about the operation. Wasn’t nothing or nobody gonna mess up her cash flow. The Feds called the deaths murders, but she knew it was Trip.


Are you new to this series?  Click here to start from chapter one!

*We are getting closer to finding out more about how Paschar and her legion operate in the physical realm. Be sure you are caught up on all the chapters!

Writers Wednesday – Chapter 16 – The Women with Blue Eyes


Chapter 16: “Something’s Not Right”


Tina plugged her phone into the charger and changed into her pajamas. As she changed, she thought about Janiyah. They had their worst fight earlier, and Janiyah’s words had pierced her to the core. It had not occurred to her that she was neglecting the children, something she promised never to do. There used to be a time when Miss Bernice was not allowed to cook for her family. Now it seemed she made dinner for them every night. Dinner was supposed to be their time together.

Tina’s heart sank as she climbed into bed. There was just too much going on, and she didn’t know if she could take much more. Silently, she gave her props to the mothers pulling double duty. She was struggling and had no idea how she would balance it all. Having children was one thing, and being married with children was another thing, but being a single mom to children that weren’t biologically hers was a Goliath, and she was no David. She wanted to call in help, a referee, to lighten the burden that had become her life. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. She was supposed to marry the love of her life and have her own children. Tina cringed. She hated to say it like that. Niyah, Mike, and KK were hers as if they had come from her womb. She had helped Keisha to raise them and became their Aunt. Since Tina and Keisha were besties, any children they had would be a niece and nephew.

But as much as she loved Keisha’s kids, Tina still yearned for seeds of her own flesh. Was this selfish? Tina was sure that it was, but she was also sure that she was human, and that societal, biological clock ingrained in her ticked, and every time it ticked, she hurt from loss. She hurt from a loss that could neither be explained nor understood by anyone, not in her situation. These were supposed to be the days her and Keisha dreamed about as teens. These were those grown-up years where they were supposed to be gazillionaires with huge families and took trips to Dubai just because they could afford it. While Keisha successfully had her dream four, Tina wished she hadn’t had any children. As Tina graduated High School and headed to College, Keisha dropped out of school to raise Janiyah and quickly got pregnant again. This time a boy, Tyrone who everybody called Ronnie. She had hoped to get her GED and attend community college, but then she had Micheal and then Kayla. Keisha gave up hope and started giving that hope to the streets. She was hooked before Tina could walk across the stage.

Tina’s phone pinged from an incoming text.

Freddy: Hey, can we talk? I’m sorry about my behavior lately. I know Ronnie’s death was hard on you. Can you meet me tomorrow?

Tina’s lip curled up. Fred had been her partner for five years now. He had been there for her when Ronnie died and had always been by her side. It was nice to see he had not completely lost his mind.

Tina: Sure.

Tina turned the phone off, turned over, and raised the covers over her head.

***

“Haven’t I always been there for you T?”

Tina sighed and sipped her coffee, closing her eyes and letting the coolness of the wind caress her face. A dog barked, and someone’s child screamed. Tina’s eyes popped open and scanned the park, and then back around to face Freddy. They had met here before heading to the office. It was not unusual, but hindsight is 20/20.

“Of course, Fred, c’mon.”

“You say that, but I’m worried about you T. Seriously. What’s going on?”

Tina sighed and shook her head. She could trust Fred. But, then again, she thought she could trust Jason too, and he snapped on her. Tina looked at him and smiled.

“I’m okay. Really, I am.”

Freddy shrugged, “I’ll never stop worrying about you T, but if you say you’re okay, I believe you.”

Tina smiled and leaned against Freddy’s shoulder, “aww, Fred!”

They both laughed as Fred’s phone rang. He held it up.

“Gotta take this. You good?”

“I’m aiight. Take your call.”

“You sure?”

Tina pushed him, “Go!”

Fred stood and walked off, laughing as he put the phone to his ear. Tina smiled. At least she still had one friend.

***

Fred winced as his phone rang. He knew it was Juan wanting details, but Tina was telling him nothing. He faked a smile and walked off, leaving Tina on the park bench, sipping her coffee.

“I don’t know, man, she ain’t budging.”

“Then make her budge,” said Juan’s voice on the other line.

“Look, I been knowing T a long time. She trusts me. I’d like to keep it that way.”

“What you’d like to keep is your job.”

“Juan? C’mon man. Why you tripping? I can’t make her tell me nothing.”

“You can, and you will.”

The line went dead, and Freddy pulled the phone back and looked at it, startled by the dial tone. Juan was tripping. Everybody was acting crazy. Tina, Juan, Erica. He didn’t know what to think. He was supposed to be spying on Tina, and so far, he was failing. Something ain’t right. He had to dig deeper, and if Tina were not going to talk to him, someone would.

Fred flipped his cell phone back open and dialed a number, raising the phone to his ear.

“What’s up, girl? You at Altgeld tonight? Stay up. I’m coming through.”


Coming Up:

Chapter 17: “Altgeld Projects”

Wed.  8/12/2020

Are you new to this series?

Click here to start from chapter one!

*We are getting closer to finding out more about how Paschar and her legion operate in the physical realm. Be sure you are caught up on all the chapters!

Renaissance: The Nora White Story

Dear Ms. Morrison,

Now that I’ve actually finished the first draft, received some feedback, and am on my way to the next part of the process, I’ve changed the name of my upcoming novel. I am almost brave enough to share some excerpts with you! Time permitting, I’ll be releasing chapters this fall and all that fun stuff.

New Title: Renaissance – The Nora White Story

Log-Line: “A young woman seeks to pursue a writing career in The Harlem Renaissance Movement. Meanwhile, her parents search for their daughter’s disappearance.”

I’ll have a full description of what this book is about at a later date. Stay tuned.

A Story Within a Story – Crafting Chapters

Who knew that this simple realization would come in the middle of the night, as I walked along with McFadden’s Easter on the streets of Harlem and stood shoulder to shoulder under a night sky just as dark as Garvey’s skin, who spoke just a short distance from us. Though I’ve always written in such a way, it was right here on 135th Street and Lenox Avenue when it became a conscious thought and it occurred to me that I can now  implement this revelation into my writing in a much more conscious manner. And as Easter’s future husband approached us, I knew that I had to freeze the moment and write this down. She was smitten anyhow and I doubt she’d notice my absence. Surely I can put the book down for a quick, and anxious writing fix.

The words came quickly and rushed to the tips of my fingers after the sun drifted into a heavy slumber last night and the wind whispered just as calm and peaceful as my husband’s breath heaving in and out of his nostrils. I was up, of course, reading when after thirteen straight chapters of Glorious I stumbled upon a revelation I’d be more than selfish not to share.

girl-book-light-dark-reading-collage-lying-night-grass-giantI’ve personally fallen in love with short stories. It could just be the impatience of the creative mind that’s got me savoring a quick fix, but I love the fragment of writing time as compared to a full fledged novel. It’s not easier, its just the simplicity of it all I suppose. Nonetheless, whatever the urge I’ve found it tasteful to write short and to the point; where the story is over before it’s left your palette. Not in a way that’s disappointing but too delicious not to crave. A refreshing snack of literature if you will that’s got you begging for more and at the same time offended for not having been given enough. Nonetheless, I was up reading this novel when it hit me: chapters are like short stories within a story.

Though my eyes were heavy, my mind was eager and I noticed that in the best of books we are strung along by string from one point to the next in a series of small revelations all leading to one grand finale. I was reminded in that moment that more than the first sentence, the first paragraph, or the first chapter is the need to keep the story moving in a consistent thread of mini stories wrapped into one large fabric by making sure that each chapter ends as if it alone was a short story within itself. Like a cliff hanger carefully composed to force the reader on to the next chapter. That moment right before Gillespie’s cheeks explode into handfuls of balloons.

I realized that writing is like configuring one grand puzzle by crafting the pieces and deciding which shape belongs where. It is a series of steps, body parts if you will, where each member does it’s part and yet contributes to the completion of the whole. By focusing on the purpose of each chapter, what it sets out to achieve alone and how it ties into the story as a whole, I think this may in fact help us writers to make sure that our books too move along with the same grace and elegance of a McFadden, Ellison, or McMillan.