Stephanie didn’t utter a sound the entire ride. She sat there in the passenger seat looking out the window, trying to convince herself that everything would be okay. However, the constant shaking of her thigh and her hands led me to believe otherwise. The silence between the two of us made me wonder if she felt responsible for our meeting this afternoon with Eric? She never did answer the question as to where she was last night. What in the hell did she do? Did she go see Angela? Awwww hell!! I didn’t want to die this afternoon! I knew if we had any chance of getting out of this mess, the truth needed to be revealed.
“Stephanie, why were you absent from the town hall meeting last night?”
She continued looking out of the window ignoring my question. I knew she heard me! This wasn’t the time or place to have a silent protest! I needed some answers!
“Look Stephanie, nine times out of ten we’re here because you didn’t make the debate! Now if you want to live to see tomorrow, you have to let me in on what happened!”
Her eyes were filled with fear as she turned toward me.
“I’m . . . . . I’m. . . I’m so sorry Princeton! It’s all my fault! Now . . . . . we’re going to die!”
She started sobbing unmercifully as she filled her palms with sorrow. I pulled her hands away and handed her one of my handkerchiefs.
“Stephanie . . . . if we’re going to make it through today, you’ve gotta pull yourself together! Second, you have to tell me what happened last night”
Stephanie wiped her eyes and took a deep breath. She began to tell her version slowly, battling through the uncontrollable tears.
“Princeton . . . . . I’ve been seeing Angela . . . . .”
“Since last night?”
“No . . . for about a month now . . .”
“About a month?? What the hell Steph?!”
“I know . . . I know . . . Maybe we could have found a way together to keep it under wraps”
“You think?! Dammit, why didn’t you tell me?”
“Honestly, I didn’t feel that I could”
“But you were comfortable telling me everything else about you and Angela . . .”
“Looking back on it now, I should have confided in you. But at the beginning, it seemed like you were happy playing the part. You were content doing your music thing for Mr. Houston. You went out and bought anything that your heart desired”
“Have you ever heard of retail therapy? But let’s stay on task here. How in the world were you seeing Angela for over a month?”
“Angela bought me a throw away cell and gave it to me after one of my speeches downtown. Her number was already programmed in and I would call her whenever I went to the bathroom or any time I had alone. She started volunteering at a homeless shelter close to the station”
“We found ways to steal kisses here and there, but we both wanted more. Angela planned a getaway for us to the Tennessee mountains. The locale was far enough to have our fun without paparazzi spying on us. It was also close enough to where I could get back in time for the debate. Needless to say that our romp drained me to the point that I slept through everything!”
“Damn Stephanie. You didn’t hear your phone? I know your team had to be calling you?”
“Yeah, they did, but I turned my ringer off before we reached the cabin”
“Awwww damn! How did you get away from your squad? I know Mr. Houston instructed them to stay close to you?”
“I told them that I needed to go see my father to handle a personal matter, and that I would be back in plenty of time for the debate. I told them that I would meet them at the news station for make up and final prep. Needless to say, I never made it”
“Damn Stephanie . . .”
“I know . . . . damn I know! If this didn’t affect you or my team, I would be fine with whatever Mr. Houston had for my punishment. I could live with it. I couldn’t live without Angela. I tried”
I empathized with Stephanie wholeheartedly. It was torture being without my beloved as well. I tried to conceal my pain with retail therapy and work. However, there was no denying how I felt, which led to this morning’s happenstance. So now that I understood Stephanie’s truth, how could I spin it to save ALL our lives? It wouldn’t surprise me if we walked into his office and he had already whipped Angela like he did that man in the video! I knew I needed to stay calm and pretend that I didn’t know shit! I mean . . . I didn’t know until she told me . . . . . . . .
We took the private elevator from the parking deck to Mr. Houston’s floor. When we got off the platform, one of the security guards was flanking the entrance. In the months that I’ve been working here, I hadn’t seen this bodyguard at the club before. Normally Oz was standing watch, but there was no trace. I announced myself and new guy opened the door. And there, sitting in his trademark black, eating scallops and watching Red Zone, was my employer . . . . . .
“Well, well, well! If it isn’t Will and Jada? Y’all come on in and have a seat while I finish my lunch!”
Stephanie and I took our seats. I was finding it a little hard to swallow as I could feel the tension already in the atmosphere. I was trying to remain calm, but the sweat that started to run down from the side of my face wouldn’t let me be great! I took a few breaths and waited for Mr. Houston to finish his lunch. My spouse, however, had other plans. . . . .
“Eric, why have you summoned us here? I have things to do!”
Now why did she have to go and say that?? Mr. Houston simply smiled as he sipped the last of his Chardonnay.
“Mrs. Stephanie Amir-Paul. What makes you think that you are in position to demand anything of me? Huh? Especially when you went back on our agreement to have a fuck fest with your lover?”
Stephanie sat quiet as Eric stood to his feet and adjusted his sleeves.
“Princeton, she doesn’t know who I am . . does she?”
“I . . . . I believe she does sir”
“No she doesn’t! Because if she did, she wouldn’t have fixed her mouth to say no stupid shit like that! Now let me tell you something Mrs. Mayor, I run this show! You don’t! I told you that if you didn’t follow protocol, that I would kill you and Angela right?”
“ . . . yes . . .”
“So give me a reason why I shouldn’t kill you now? How can we save face after you failed to make the debate? Where were you? Where was your team? I should kill those lazy motherfuckers too!”
Stephanie’s eyes grew big as Eric sat back to his chair and pulled out a cell phone. I quickly interjected.
“Boss, we could do an exclusive with one of the gossip columnist so we can get ahead of this thing”
“Get ahead? Man we’re already a day behind! How are we gonna fix this?”
“We can say that I took her away to the mountains to get away from the campaign and simply lost track of time”
“So she told you where she was? You were in on this too Princeton?”
“No . . . no sir! She told me before we came in”
“So you had no knowledge about her having this affair on you?”
“Well sir, between working here, the church, and working in the studio, I’ve been quite busy”
“That you have. . . . I’ll give you that. You being in charge of the entertainment has almost doubled my revenue! You work hard! But son, I think that’s the problem as well. If she’s cheating on you and you don’t even know it, you’re not fit to be a husband”
“Wait Mr. Houston! I’ll tell you what! How about I be apart of her PR team until the election is over? That way, I can give an account of Stephanie’s whereabouts and we will be present at all of the debates, standing as a united front”
“Hmmmm . . . . sounds good, but how are you gonna juggle that and your responsibilities here?”
“My ace, Ant, can handle the day to day. Another cat I know, Marco, can do the lead vocals in my absence. I can still schedule the big acts for the weekends like I’ve been doing. Does that work?”
“Hmmmm. . . . . okay. We can try that. But Princeton, if you mess up in any way, you and Reverend Alexander die. You understand?”
“Understood. Thank you”
“Well your bride won’t be thanking me. You see, there are always consequences for actions. That little stunt you and your lover pulled last night might lose you the election Stephanie. I have to make you a believer that I can kill you . . . . . . in other ways. . . .”
In that moment, Mr. Houston turned from the Red Zone to a camera where there was a woman, naked, tied to the bed post . . . . . sobbing heavily.
“Seems like we missed all the action! Damn!”
I continued to look . . . then turned away in horror. The woman who was tied to the bed was Angela, who appeared to have bruises on her face and legs. Oz came into view zipping up his pants with two of his goons doing the same.
Stephanie screamed so loud that I was sure that the lunch crowd heard her. Then I remembered that Mr. Houston’s offices were sound proof.
“Yes, Stephanie. There’s more than one way to kill a person. Now as you can see, your lover is still alive. Whether she stays that way is up to you”
“You sick bastard!!!
“I’ve been called worse. Now if you don’t mind, I need to make a few calls so we can set up this exclusive for today. And just so you don’t try anything else, we’re going to keep Angela until you win this election”
“But what if I don’t?”
“Let’s not think about that right now. Pray that you do. . . .”
Written by the Wednesday Gentleman