Excerpt from God Don’t Make No Mistakes by Mary Monroe
Chapter One Eight Months Earlier
MY MOTHER HAD TOLD ME YEARS AGO THAT IF I EVER GOT married, I’d better keep a parachute nearby, because I was probably going to have to jump out of the relationship sooner or later. A parachute wouldn’t have done me much good. A trampoline was what I needed. I did a lot of bouncing back and forth with Pee Wee, my estranged husband. Despite our bitter breakup several months ago, he still spent a lot of time in bed with me.
“I guess I still got it, huh?” Pee Wee asked with an anxious look on his dark, still-handsome face. Except for his receding hairline and that spare tire around his waist, he was still attractive for a man of forty-eight.
“Still got what?” I asked, with my eyes on the five crisp $100 bills that he had dropped onto the nightstand next to my bed, just before he dropped his pants. Even though I had a high-paying job and we didn’t have a financial arrangement, he gave me a couple thousand dollars a month for me to spend on myself and our daughter, Charlotte.
Pee Wee’s eyes got wide. “Don’t mess with me, woman. You know what I’m talkin’ about. Judging from the way you was whoopin’ and hollerin’ in that damn bed a few minutes ago, I know I’m still handlin’ my manly job well for a man my age,” he teased.
I rolled my eyes and gave him an exasperated look. “So it’s a job to you now,” I pouted. The last thing I wanted to hear was the implication that sex with me was a “job,” because that’s exactly what it had been to me at one time. I had made my money working as a prostitute during my teens. When my husband pulled out the $500 a few minutes ago, it brought back some painful memories. “You make me feel like a prostitute….”
Pee Wee shook his head, rolled his eyes, and glanced at his watch. “Look, I got to get to my shop and open up. I got a lot of hair to cut today. So if you are tryin’ to tell me somethin’, hurry up and tell me.”
“I did tell you something.”
“So what if I do make you feel like a prostitute? Whores need love too.”
I threw up my hands. “If I were you, I’d stop while I was ahead,” I warned. I rubbed the back of my neck and sucked in some air. We had had conversations similar to this one so many times that I felt like I was rehearsing for a play. “Look, I think we can still work things out and not do … this,” I told him, patting the bed and hoping that he wouldn’t agree with my last statement. “Every time you come over here now, we end up in bed. You don’t have to sleep with me, and you don’t have to pay me to do it. That’s why I suggested we still date other people, until we can decide if we want to reconcile or not.”
Pee Wee gave me a confused look. “Don’t you enjoy these little get-togethers as much as I do?”
“I do, but I don’t want you to think that we have to do it.”
He gave me another confused look, this time blinking so hard and fast I thought something had got caught in his eye. “Why? Do you not want to make love with me? You don’t find me attractive anymore?” he asked.
“Don’t be so sensitive,” I scolded. “You know I enjoy making love with you. I always have.”
“Then why we talkin’ all this crap, baby? You know that the money I give to you is for my daughter. I ain’t payin’ you to make love with me. I ain’t never paid for no pussy before in my life, and I never will. Not even with you.”
I didn’t see any reason to remind Pee Wee about the times he’d told me that when he was in the army, he and every other member of his platoon had paid Vietnamese prostitutes for sex.
“You don’t need to make our situation no messier than it already is,” he reminded.
“I know, I know. It’s just that every time you come over here, we … uh … we end up in bed and you hand me some money. Just like I was still a . . .” Pee Wee knew that I had once worked as a prostitute. Even though that dark episode had occurred more than thirty years ago, I knew that he probably still thought about it as much as I did.
“Let’s not bring up the past. We already have enough to deal with in the present. My mechanic is comin’ by the house next week to take a look under the hood of your car to see why you keep hearin’ that buzzin’ noise. Do you need any yard work or anything else done around the house, baby?”
“No, I don’t need anything like that,” I told him.
“Well,” he yawned as he rubbed his chest and licked his lips. “I’m feelin’ real good. Even better than the last time I was here. Thank you very much!” he exclaimed with a wink. “Is there anything else we need to discuss before I leave?”
“Since you asked, there is just this one other thing.” I locked eyes with Pee Wee. Then the words rolled out of my mouth like marbles. “Will you tell your whore to stop calling my house?”
His jaw dropped so fast I was surprised it didn’t lock in place. “What? I—I ain’t got no whore! You know you are the only woman that I’m involved with these days!” he yelled.
I gasped. “Is that right?” I asked, patting the side of my head. I usually wore my medium-length hair in braids, but lately I’d been getting by with a mild perm and a French twist. It had come undone during my ten-minute romp with Pee Wee. I could feel clumps of my hair standing up on my head, pointing in all directions. I must have looked like Don King.
“But … but … I … I,” Pee Wee stuttered.
“Well, the woman I’m talking about is a straight-up whore! Your whore!”
I could see that my outburst had surprised Pee Wee. It had been a while since I had mentioned the woman whom he left me for last March. He folded his arms and a frightened look appeared on his face. He knew that he had to be careful about what he said to me, unless he wanted to deal with my wrath. The day that he had brought his mistress to my house to tell me that he was leaving me and moving in with her, I’d knocked out one of his teeth. And I had given his mistress a thorough, well-deserved ass whupping with my rolling pin.
“Are you talkin’ about Lizzie Stovall?” he asked dumbly, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
“Who else would I be talking about?” I hollered, giving him an incredulous look. “Lizzie is the only one that I am aware of! Was there another one?”
“No! No, there was no other woman other than Lizzie. You know better. You know I don’t lie to you.”
My eyes got as big as saucers and I gasped. “You’re lying now.”
“Aw, Annette, you know what I mean.”
“Do I?” I barked, giving him a critical look. “Whether I do or not, it doesn’t matter. The thing is, that woman called here last week—several times—and she called again yesterday.”
“She did? Uh, what did she want?”
“She was trying to catch up with you, fool! She claims she’s been trying to reach you for days.”
“Oh. Well, it’s over between me and her, and has been since she left me and moved in with Peabo Boykin. If she calls here again, just hang up on her. That ought to stop her.”
“Don’t you think I’ve already tried that?” I snapped. “But until you talk to her, she’s going to keep calling here.”
“I … I … I’ll look into it,” Pee Wee stammered, waving his hands in the air. I could see that he was nervous and anxious to get away from me now. His hands were shaking so hard that when he squatted down to put his shoes back on, he put them on the wrong feet.
PEE WEE GAVE ME A DRY LOOK AND SHOOK HIS HEAD. THEN with a jerk, he turned and scurried across the floor like a frightened rat. He tripped on the area rug on the floor at the foot of my bed. He didn’t like it when I brought up Lizzie’s name.
“You don’t have anything else to say to me?” I wanted to know, looking at him from the corner of my eye as he was about to flee.
Pee Wee’s hand was on the doorknob, clutching it like it was trying to escape. He didn’t even bother to turn around and look at me. He shook his head again. “I’ll call you,” he yelled over his shoulder, literally running out of my upstairs bedroom. He clip-clopped down the hardwood stairs so fast and hard, you would have thought that the cops were chasing him. This was the first time that he had left without kissing me good-bye.
As soon as I heard Pee Wee shut my front door, I got up and went to the window with the sheet wrapped around me. I raked my fingers through my hair, holding several strands away from my eyes so I could see him better. I watched him scramble into his red Firebird.
It was only seven-thirty. It had rained a few hours earlier, so it was a chilly day for July. Because of the low, dark gray clouds hovering in the sky, it felt and looked like it was much later.
I released a loud breath and eased back down on the bed. I didn’t need to be at work until nine, but I usually went in earlier just so I could be prepared for any unexpected issues. You could expect just about anything to happen at Mizelle’s Collection Agency. A couple of weeks ago, I got caught up in a ruckus between two of the women who reported to me as bill collectors. The night before, Rita Lockett had discovered that Beverly Hawkins was dating her fiancé. Rita had come to work early to confront Beverly. It didn’t take long for things to escalate into a violent physical altercation between the two angry women. They had hurled staplers, paperweights, and other desktop items at one another. I got scared when Beverly picked up a letter opener, but I quickly wrestled it from her hand. Had I not been present at the time, there was no telling how much damage they might have done. I had no choice but to fire both employees. I had been going in an hour early all this week, but two days ago, the temp agency that we worked with sent me a young Asian man. Not only was he extremely personable, he was so efficient that he got us all caught up before noon on his first day. It was because of Daniel Hong that I didn’t think it would be a problem if I took my time going in today.
I was even thinking about taking the day off. I needed to get my nails done, I needed a facial, and I wanted to run a few errands that I had been putting off. I also wanted to treat myself to a nice lunch and a movie. Afterward, I could come back home, put on my robe, and kick back on my couch with a large margarita. I couldn’t get that comfortable at home on the weekend or in the evening because that was when most people dropped in on me unannounced. Another inducement for me to take the day off was that I would not have to rush home to cook dinner today like I usually did. I still had some of the barbecue in the freezer left over from the Fourth of July cookout that I had hosted a couple of weeks ago.
I already regretted the harsh way that I had jumped on Pee Wee about Lizzie calling my house. It wasn’t his fault that she was such a bold-ass bitch. As a matter of fact, I was even thinking about calling him up and offering to take him out to dinner as my way of apologizing. In spite of our separation, we still had one of the strongest relationships in town. I knew people who had never been separated who didn’t have a relationship as strong and hopeful as ours. I couldn’t deny the fact that Pee Wee was the best thing that had ever happened to me, as far as men were concerned. One reason I thought it was in my best interest to get back with him was because despite his cheating, he was still a good man. He was dependable, successful, generous, hardworking, smart, and family oriented. I was all of those same things myself, so I felt that I was just as good of a catch as he was.
I decided that it would be smart for me to wait a couple of hours before I called him. I didn’t want to seem too eager. And I wanted him to cool off a little so that when he heard my voice, he wouldn’t get defensive. In the meantime, I planned to relax in my bed for a few more minutes.
Before I could get comfortable and finish reading the latest edition of Jet magazine, the telephone on the nightstand rang. I looked at the clock next to the telephone. “Now who in the world is calling my house this time of morning?” I asked myself out loud. Unless it was my mother or my best friend Rhoda, the only time my phone rang this early was when somebody dialed my number by mistake.
The telephone in my bedroom didn’t have caller ID, so I had no idea who was calling me at this ungodly hour. It was none of the above. To my everlasting horror, it was Lizzie Stovall again, the woman who had broken up my home.
I was so taken aback, there was only one thing I could think to say. “Well, speak of the devil!” I shrieked.
“Whatever!” Lizzie hissed. She sucked on her teeth before continuing. I didn’t know if that was because she was tuning up her mouth to say something I didn’t want to hear, which would be anything that slid out of her mouth, or because she was nervous. “Annette, I advise you not to hang up on me like you did the last time I called.” This woman had no shame whatsoever!
“What the hell—” I almost choked on my words just as she cut me off.
“Let me speak to Pee Wee. And don’t fix your lips to lie to me like you usually do and tell me he’s not there. I just passed your house a little while ago and I saw his car parked out front,” Lizzie snarled, her words striking my ears like rocks. “Like I told you the last time I called, I’ve been trying to get a hold of him for several days! I am not going to stop until I reach him. You can tell him that. The sooner he talks to me, the sooner I can stop bothering you.”
“Bothering me? Woman, as long as you live in this town you will be bothering me. You didn’t care about bothering me when you were fucking my husband! Well, I’ve got news for you. Just hearing your name bothers me these days!”
Something that I didn’t know and didn’t want to know was the details of Lizzie’s affair with my husband—like exactly when it started or which one of them initiated the affair. But the one thing that I really didn’t want to know was where they’d slept together the first time. The thought of her sleazy ass stretched out in my bed was unbearable. If I ever found out that they had been tacky enough to fuck in my bed, I would not be responsible for my actions. There was just no telling what I would do to Lizzie—and Pee Wee—even though their relationship was over.
Or was it?
“Are you still fucking my husband?” Even if she was, I didn’t expect her to admit it. But I had to ask anyway.
“Annette, you’ve got some nerve asking me that. How dare you!” Lizzie erupted.
I could not believe how calm I managed to sound. “Well, are you?”
“No, I am not still fucking your husband! I wouldn’t let that man touch me again even if he had healing hands!”
My pulse was racing and my eyes were burning. I had balled my free hand into a fist. “Why did you call my house again? Why do you keep calling here? Don’t you have anything better to do with your time these days? Can’t you find another innocent woman to torture?” I jeered.
“You innocent? That’s a joke! You’ve got a lot of nerve to even think of yourself as innocent—”
“Get your ass off this phone, bitch!” I hollered. “You’re about to make my bowels move!”
“I will hang up when I am good and ready. Look, I know you’re still jealous of me, but I can’t help that. It is what it is. I gave your man something that you weren’t giving him, and probably never did. That was some good loving. The very first time he was with me, he realized what he’d been missing.”
These were the last words that a scorned woman—especially a scorned black woman—wanted to hear. If Lizzie had been standing in my room saying that shit to my face, she would be stretched out on the floor by now with my fist mauling the side of her head. I couldn’t imagine what Pee Wee had said to her for her to think that I didn’t give him what he needed in the bedroom before she slid into our lives. I didn’t believe what she had just said for one minute—at least not her version.
“Hmmm. Then tell me, why is he not still with you? Why is he coming over here to be with me whenever I let him? And I can assure you that we do a lot more than just talk when he’s here. Does that sound like I don’t know how to give him what he needs?” I taunted.
“Whatever, Annette. I just need to talk to Pee Wee.”
“Pee Wee is not here, goddammit!” I roared. “And let me tell you again—”
“You’re a damn liar! He is there! Now, you look, girl! I am not in the mood for any of your shit this early in the morning!”
I hated profanity. It was crude. I didn’t like it when people cussed in my presence, and I didn’t like to cuss myself. But under the present circumstances, there was no reason for me to act like a “lady” with Lizzie.
( Continues… )
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Mary Monroe is the national bestselling author of twelve books, some of which include: God Don’t Like Ugly, God Still Don’t Like Ugly, and The Upper Room. Website: http://www.marymonroe.org