Cicely had survived four years of college and was about to get her degree in business and management. In spite of the events that transpired just five years before, she decided to go to Furman University, which was not very far from Ma Geneva’s house. Even though Cicely apologized to Ma Geneva, their grandmother/granddaughter relationship was never quite the same as it was before the big fight. And Cicely was never fully able to get back into her grandmother’s good graces before she passed away the previous year. But if Cicely wasn’t anything else, she was a trooper.
“Please come in and have a seat,” she said to her extremely tall visitor.
His name was Derrick Smalls and his reputation in the bedroom preceded him. But Cicely had a reputation of her own.
“Wow, this room is a whole lot bigger than some of the other girls’ rooms I’ve seen in this dorm,” he said as he lowered his head to enter the room.
“I’m an RA,” Cicely replied while closing the door. “That’s one of the perks we get: a bigger room all to ourselves, privacy.”
Derrick sat on the bed and watched Cicely’s chocolate frame as she sashayed across the room lighting candles and incense. He definitely liked what he saw.
“I can’t believe that we haven’t hooked up yet,” Derrick said, removing his baseball cap.
“Well you’re always surrounded by your little groupies. And I don’t usually kick it with campus guys.”
“So you’re making an exception for me?”
She looked him up and down and replied, “Yes I am, just this once.”
They both laughed as Cicely sat down beside him, wearing nothing but a tank top and Umbro shorts. She moved in closer, measuring her prey, preparing for the kill.
“Can I get a drink, or something?” Derrick asked, clearly stopping Cicely’s seductive advances.
She raised her eyebrows and shifted her mouth to one side.
“I’ve got some wine coolers,” she answered with a half-smile. “Is that cool?”
“Yeah, toss me one of them!”
Cicely filled his request. Then she sat down beside him and began to massage his thigh while kissing him on his neck.
“Um, what kind of music do you have in here?” he asked, lifting himself up from the bed and away from Cicely’s clutches.
Clearly perturbed, she rolled her eyes and went to her CD changer.
“I got some R. Kelly, some Guy, some Luke. What do you want to hear?”
“Put on that R. Kelly,” he answered taking a swig from his bottle and sitting back down. “Yeah that will set the mood off right!”
Cicely once again filled the request. Then she took a deep breath, walked over to Derrick, and began working his wife-beater off of him. But then he took Cicely by the hand and began singing to her, very loudly, and in the wrong key.
Cicely could not take anymore. She took the wine cooler out of his hand and asked, “Are you scared or something?”
“Naw I’m not scared. But you sure are forward.”
Cicely was shocked. She was standing in front of him wearing practically nothing and he wasn’t getting the message. So she decided to be frank with him.
“Look, Derrick! My cousins will be here in an hour to pick me up so we haven’t got much time. You need to stop playing around so I can get mine!”
“I’m here to see Cicely Shaw,” Dawn said to the front desk attendant in the lobby of AD Hall.
She was there to pick up Cicely for a hair show that they were going to with Brook. About five minutes after the attendant called her room, Cicely came around the corner with her tall visitor.
“If you’re ever in the ATL, call me,” she said handing him a piece of paper with her number on it.
“You know I will,” he answered. “No matter where I’m drafted, when we play the Hawks, I will definitely come see you!”
They hugged and he made his exit, walking by Dawn as she turned and looked him up and down.
“Cicely, please tell me that you didn’t just—”
“You know good girls never tell.”
“So you can go ahead and tell me what happened!” Dawn said sarcastically.
“You aren’t funny,” Cicely said, as she playfully punched her cousin in the arm. “You know I’m going to fill you in.”
“We’re going to pick up Brook,” Dawn said.
“Pick her up? How’d you get here?” Cicely asked her cousin, who didn’t know how to drive.
“That’s our ride over there,” Dawn said, pointing to the stretch Hummer that was parked up the street. It rested on twenty-six inch chrome rims. And it was jet black with chrome trim on the door handles, wheel wells, grill and bumpers.
“How in the world did you hook this up, Dawn?” Cicely asked in amazement.
Dawn just shrugged her shoulders as Cicely continued her inspection.
Cicely was so awe struck by the vehicle that she didn’t notice the driver, who had long since gotten out of the Hummer and was standing by the opened back door.
“Let’s roll!” Dawn said as she pulled Cicely into the limo. “You know I’m going to fill you in!”
It didn’t take them long to reach Brook’s apartment off Haywood Road. Brook heard the horn and rushed by the many boxes that were stacked neatly in the living room. She hurried out of the door and ran down the steps to see Cicely and Dawn waiting outside of the stretch Hummer.
“This is nice, how did you hook this up, Cicely?” Brook asked. “Which one of your parents gave you the cash for this limo?”
Both of Cicely’s parents were well off. Cicely’s father was a prominent surgeon in Atlanta, Georgia and her mother was the vice-chair of Ophthalmology-Research at Emory. Both of her parents were easily bringing in six figures and everyone knew that she, being the only child, received anything that she wanted.
Cicely smiled and shook her head no to Brook’s question. Then she pointed at Dawn.
Now Brook and Dawn’s financial situation was nothing like Cicely’s. Their mother worked at a manufacturing plant in Fountain Inn, South Carolina. She often worked double shifts to provide for her girls. Their father didn’t work at all.
“How did you get the money for this limo?” Brook asked her sister.
“Get in the car! We’re late as is!” Dawn responded, hurrying her sister and cousin into the Hummer.
Cicely continued to smile and poured Brook some champagne as they whisked off down the street.
“Whose limo is this?” Brook asked quietly as she received her glass.
“Go on and tell her!” Cicely said to Dawn with a chuckle as Dawn looked ahead, not really wanting to divulge the information.
“Cory Mack,” Dawn answered in a soft tone.
“Cory Mack?” Brook asked in shock. “Cory Mack from Southern Side?”
“The one and only!” Cicely responded as Dawn gave her a cold glare.
Immediately, Brook began banging on the driver’s window.
“Driver! Stop this car immediately!” she screamed as the driver stopped and opened his rear window to see what was going on.
Dawn reached out to her sister to restrain her as Cicely instructed the driver that everything was fine.
“Let me explain!” Dawn said to her sister.
“I’m not going to jail!” Brook exclaimed. “I’m getting married in a week and I’m not going to jail!”
“Nobody’s going to jail, Brook!” Dawn said, trying to comfort her sister.
“Let her explain,” Cicely said.
Dawn began to explain how she met Cory Mack at a club in Greenville one Sunday night.
“He stopped me as I was leaving the club. We talked for a while and after I told him that I was in school for accounting, he offered me a job keeping his books. We went to lunch a couple of times. And the next thing you know, we were a couple.”
“Do you know what he does for a living?” Brook asked.
“He owns Mack Custom Automobiles on Laurens Road,” Dawn answered.
“No that’s the front business!” Brook replied sharply. “Do you know what he really does?”
“Listen, I’ve heard the rumors and I can attest that they are all lies,” Dawn replied.
“So he’s not a drug dealer?” Brook asked, looking Dawn in the eye.
“I have been working with Cory for about three months now, doing all of his accounting, and I haven’t seen one shady thing about his business,” Dawn answered. “But that’s one of the reasons that I haven’t mentioned it to you, Brook!”
“And why is that?” Brook asked.
“Because I knew that you would jump to conclusions.”
“So Cory Mack is not a drug dealer?” Brook asked softly.
“No, he is not,” Dawn replied.
Of course that was a lie and Dawn knew it. Cory Mack was a kingpin and he supplied many of the tri-state dealers with cocaine. Dawn knew that from day one.
“He’s a really cool guy and I want you to meet him,” Dawn said. “When I told him about tonight, he suggested that we use the stretch Hummer. He also got us the VIP passes for the hair show from some connections he has at the radio station. So just kick back, relax, and enjoy one of the last evenings you have left as a single woman.”
“Yeah, relax Brook!” Cicely said, now drinking the champagne straight from the bottle. “Because for a minute, you were starting to sound like—”
Then Cicely paused, and became very quiet.
“Go on and say it!” Brook exclaimed, poking her cousin in the arm. “Say her name. Say Karen. You can’t even say her name, can you? You didn’t even say a word to her at Ma Geneva’s funeral!”
The limo slowed down as the driver pulled into the front of the coliseum.
“There’s the radio station van,” Dawn said as she got out of the limo. “I’m going to go get the passes.”
“What is up with you and Karen?” Brook asked. “Why is there always so much strife between the two of you?”
Cicely took a swig from her champagne bottle and sat back in her seat.
“You know how Karen is,” Cicely responded. “And I just don’t like her, that’s all.”
“How is Karen?” Brook inquired. “Why don’t you like her?”
“She’s a spoiled brat!” Cicely barked. Then she took another swig of champagne.
“If anyone is spoiled, you are. Your parents give you everything you want. You haven’t worked one day in your life! You’re rich!”
“I’m not talking about anything like that,” Cicely said putting her bottle down. “I mean those anxiety attacks. You and I both know that there’s nothing wrong with her!”
“But how would you feel if your mom killed herself and you had to move in with two old people?”
“Her mom overdosed. BIG DEAL! You know what? For some people, that would be a blessing in disguise!”
“What are you talking about?”
“She used to pull that anxiety stuff just to get attention!”
Brook moved closer to Cicely and asked, “Attention from who?”
“I got the passes y’all,” Dawn said after she hopped back into the limo. “Let’s go on inside.”
Dawn saw that Cicely was sitting quietly in her seat and that Brook was staring at her. So she asked, “What’s up?”
A silent moment passed between them.
“I get it,” Brook said. “I honestly don’t know why I never noticed it before.”
“Let’s just go!” Cicely said as she quickly exited the limo.
“What’s with her?” Dawn asked Brook as they followed.
Brook raised her brows and sighed. She had stumbled onto a dark family secret.
The show was over and Brook was satisfied with the connections that she made. It was time to head to the after party at the Embassy Suites.
Brook was startled when the stretch Hummer arrived at Dawn’s apartment.
“What are we doing here?” Brook asked. “I thought we were going to an after party.”
Instead of responding to Brook’s question, Dawn fumbled for her keys and then opened her front door, revealing a room full of young women with drinks in their hands and filth in their eyes.
“Surprise!” they all yelled.
“This is the after party,” Dawn added.
The music of Snoop Dog blared through the house speakers.
“I told you that I didn’t want a bachelorette party!” Brook exclaimed with a smile.
“Brook, I’m your twin sister. I know what you really want even if you deny it. And guess what? I have another surprise for you.”
Dawn took Brook to her guest bedroom.
“Surprise!” Karen screamed as she ran to embrace Brook.
Brook hadn’t seen her since their grandmother’s funeral over a year ago. Dawn smiled and joined in the embrace. Cicely’s reaction was much different.
Who invited her? Cicely thought.
“I can’t believe you made it up here, Karen!” Brook shouted.
“My last exam is not until Tuesday. So I had plenty of time to drive up.”
Brook, Dawn and Karen were catching up while Cicely was drinking Crown Royal straight from the bottle and staring at Karen with contempt.
“You have been down there grinding, cousin!” Dawn exclaimed.
“I have been in school for four years. So I am definitely ready to get out and go to work.”
Karen caught sight of Cicely, who was staring in their direction at first. But she quickly turned away when Karen made eye contact with her.
“How is Cicely doing?” Karen asked.
“She’s still Cicely if you know what I mean,” Dawn answered. “You should go over there and talk to her.”
“No, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Brook said as she tried to grab Karen by her sleeve before she started walking over to Cicely.
“I think I will go and say hello.”
Karen walked over to where Cicely was standing.
“Congratulations on graduating,” Karen said to Cicely over the loud music.
Cicely gave a half smile and said nothing but, “Thanks.”
Karen thought to herself, Be the bigger person. Be the bigger person.
“Look, Cicely, I’m going to get straight to the point. We haven’t really been the same since that incident about five years ago. You didn’t even speak to me at Ma Geneva’s funeral.”
Karen moved closer to Cicely, measuring her words carefully.
“Listen, I know that you and I have some bad blood between us, and at this point I really do not care to know why that is. I want to know if we could just wipe the slate clean and become friends again, maybe even cousins.”
Karen smiled with sincerity as she stretched forth her right hand toward Cicely’s.
“Yeah, we can be friends,” Cicely replied as she loosely shook Karen’s hand.
Then the doorbell rang.
“OH YEAH! It’s time for the festivities!” Dawn shouted as she opened the front door revealing three male strippers. Everyone gathered around Brook, who was smiling from ear to ear.
“Excuse me,” Cicely said coldly as she slid past Karen.
Knowing that nothing had changed between the two of them, Karen watched with a raised brow as Cicely brushed past her as if she wasn’t there and joined the other ladies.
In making her plea to Cicely, Karen was lying about one thing. She did care to know why there was bad blood between them. She desperately wanted to know why Cicely hated her so much.
The alcohol was rapidly disappearing and the party was getting wilder. Laline, one of Brook’s friends from Atlanta, had also called some female strippers to come to the party. Laline worked for a fashion magazine. She was very beautiful, with a caramel complexion and short, silky jet-black hair that bounced on her shoulders when she walked.
Laline and Brook had become close friends while Brook lived in Atlanta in spite of how they met. When they met at a hair show Laline was covering, it wasn’t because Brook wanted some contacts in the hair industry media. It was because Laline wanted to take Brook out for a date.
“My, my, my. Females get just as wild with male strippers as the guys get with us,” said Trixie, one of the female strippers that Laline and her friends had called up.
“Yeah, yeah women are dogs too!” Laline replied. “But never mind that. Get naked for mommy!”
The stripper happily obliged.
Everyone was wild but no one was more untamed than Cicely. She had lifted the hem of her skirt up to her waist. And she was grinding her backside against one of the male strippers as he leaned against the wall.
Cicely was obviously drunk. Her speech was slurred and her eyes were half-closed. Through her eyelashes she must have caught a glimpse at Karen, who was sitting across the room, bopping to the music, but clearly not involved in any of the foolishness that was going on.
Cicely passed the liquor bottle she was holding to the stripper. He was pretty drunk himself because his eyes were also half-closed and bloodshot. Cicely was holding his bikini shorts in her hand. So the stripper was completely naked.
Cicely reached down into her bra, retrieved two one hundred dollar bills, and asked the stripper, “Do you want to make some real money, daddy?”
He nodded yes. Then she whispered into his ear and shortly afterwards they began to make their way over to where Karen was sitting. Karen stared at him dumfounded. She wondered why Cicely was bringing him over to her, him naked, Cicely half-naked. But she would soon find out the answer.
“My friend here says that I’m yours for the rest of the evening,” the stripper said. Then he began dancing in front of Karen and waving his manhood in her face.
“No thank you, I’m fine,” Karen replied.
“Naw, I’m trying to do you a favor,” Cicely said. “I’m going to teach you how to get and keep a man.”
Then Cicely pushed the stripper closer to Karen, spun him around, dropped to her knees, and began performing oral sex on him. Karen was shocked. Both Brook and Dawn, who were across the room, were stunned as well. But Cicely continued with gusto as the rest of the ladies in the room began cheering her on.
Cicely stopped, looked longingly at the stripper, and licked her lips. And then she changed her facial expression into one of a serious instructor.
“And that’s how it’s done,” Cicely said to Karen. “Now you try.”
Cicely pushed the stripper closer to Karen’s face, but Karen quickly moved him out of the way.
“You didn’t get it!” Cicely said sharply. “Now look closely and I will show you again!”
Cicely went back to work, getting oohs and aahs from the crowd. Brook and Dawn couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Again she pushed the stripper close to Karen’s face, but Karen got up this time and backed away.
“Well you’re never going to get it if you keep running away from it!” Cicely shouted with laughter as the stripper smiled and nodded in agreement.
“That’s enough, Cicely!” Brook shouted as she pushed the stripper out of the way and got in her cousins face.
“NOT EVERYBODY IS A WHORE LIKE YOU!” Karen screamed to Cicely, whose face was now red.
She rushed toward Karen and would have gotten to her if Brook, Dawn and Laline hadn’t restrained her.
“LET ME GO SO I CAN KILL HER!” Cicely shouted. “On second thought, I don’t have time for that. I’m late for a bootie call.”
She pulled her car keys from her purse and began stumbling towards the front door. She was very drunk and it was easy for Karen to push her to the floor and take the car keys out of her hands.
“YOU’RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE!” Karen yelled with passion.
“YOU ARE NOT MY MOMMA!” Cicely screamed, her skirt still riding up on her backside.
“I don’t care what beef we have between us! I’m not letting you leave this apartment. You’re too drunk to drive!”
“Leave me alone, Karen! ALONE! You do know what ALONE means, don’t you?”
The music had stopped and the party was clearly over. Karen dropped the keys on the floor and threw up her hands. Then she gathered her things and walked to the front door. But before she opened the door, she turned around to face Cicely.
“What did I do to you?” she cried. “Why do you hate me so much?”
Then Karen dashed out of the door with Brook chasing behind her.
“Karen wait!” Brook yelled, finally catching Karen as she was getting into her car.
“Cicely can’t go anywhere because she rode here with us in the limo,” Brook said as Karen fumbled to put her keys in the ignition.
Karen stopped fighting with the keys. And then with tears streaming down her face, she asked, “Why does she hate me so much, Brook? What did I do to her?”
With tears in their eyes, they stared at each other silently for a few seconds. Then Brook backed away as Karen started her car, closed the door, and sped down the dark street—alone.
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