“Good morning and welcome to the Six, Mrs. Owens. Your party is waiting for you”
The red haired attendant began to usher me to my seat, but my feet refused to follow. Gazing upon this empty, somewhat dark superclub, I was a little more than nervous. Ilias stated that he could never step foot in such an establishment, but we both knew that he couldn’t afford it. As I attempted to free my mind, I could hear my mother preaching in my ear,
“Chile, can’t you see what the Master is doing? That’s your spirit telling you that it’s not too late to turn around! Yassssss, yes! That’s what Paul said there in that Corinthians, mmhmm! That, that, when you are tempted, mmhmm, He will, provide you a way out!”
I could feel the hostess eyeballing me, as if she wanted to say,
“Girl if you don’t bring your ass on here!”
So instead of adhering to Cora Mae’s advice, I clutched my portfolio and made my heels click against the beige brick floor. As we passed by the fireplace, there was a man dressed in black that stopped my approach. I searched for my guide while the armed guard stood right in front of me.
“Mrs. Owens, if you’d be so kind, I need you to hand over your phone, purse, and any other device you may have until your business here is over”
“What happened to the woman that was showing me to my seat?”
Instead of answering my question, this giant of a man invaded my personal space while giving me a cold stare. It was as if he was gonna take my lunch money and I couldn’t do anything about it! Since I wasn’t a fighter, I reluctantly did what the man asked. He placed my items on a table and then took out some sort of wand.
“Mrs. Owens, if you’d be so kind, I need you to take off your jacket and stretch out your arms”
“Seriously? Are you TSA or something? All this wasn’t necessary when Khadijah came to my office yesterday!”
At that moment, three more men emerged with a woman who clearly wasn’t Khadijah. The lady came over and began to explain.
“My apologies Ms. Owens, but this is standard procedure. We have to take every precaution to ensure privacy and security for Mrs. Griffin. Now, if you don’t mind taking off your jacket?”
Again, I did as I was instructed. Mr. Security scanned me over while the mystery lady began to go through my things. My first guess was that this woman was Khadijah’s mother, but the more I examined her, the more I could see that there was no resemblance. She couldn’t possibly be the stylist I was supposed to meet. She dressed way too conservative, and yet, she was reviewing my work. After I was allowed to put back on my coat, the sista motioned me over to the table and offered me a seat.
“I’m Juanita McPherson, Mrs. Griffin’s executive assistant”
“What happened to the stylist that was supposed to say yea or nay to the deal?”
“To my knowledge Ms. Owens, that deal has already been made”
“But I just got here?”
“According to Mrs. Griffin, the deal was made last night when your secretary confirmed that you had completed the task. And from what I’ve reviewed thus far, these designs seem to be legit”
“Well, thank you. But if they, I mean, Mrs. Griffin had already decided to make the deal, why am I here?”
Juanita cleared her throat before she pulled out documents of her own.
“Before I discuss anything else, I will need you to read and sign where it’s indicated”
I began to read and sort through the legal jargon. While the first couple of pages addressed the terms of our partnership, the next pertained to,
“A non-disclosure agreement?”
“Yes. There will be things said in the next hour or so that you can not repeat to anyone. Not your husband. Not your bestie. Not your dog. No one”
“You cannot at any time use what is said here against Alonzo or Khadijah in the future for any reason. You cannot write a tell all book. You cannot blab to any media influencer about what is shared here today”
“So is that why you had me come to the Six instead of the office?”
“No. Mrs. Griffin said that she was hungry and wanted steak rolls”
“But this place doesn’t open until . . .”
“If Mrs. Griffin wants something, her husband will make sure that she gets it. I apologize if the change in venue took you out the way”
“Not too much”
“Good. Now if everything has been explained to your satisfaction, please sign the lines indicated stating that you understand”
I took a quick glance around the restaurant. There was still no sign of Khadijah or Alonzo. I began signing the forms while the assistant went back over my work.
“Ms. Owens, I must say that you are very gifted when it comes to design! I haven’t seen anything like this!”
“Thank you! I know that Khadijah loves to own her sexuality. I thought that some of these looks would make her the talk of Atlanta!”
“Oh they’ll be talking alright! I’m sure our starlight will love it”
“You wouldn’t buy something like this for yourself?”
Juanita looked me up and down before responding.
“Look, I know you are trying to hold on to what you got, but I know my season. These knees are not what they used to be. My stomach hasn’t been flat in over twenty years. I’m good with where I’m at”
“So is there anything in the collection that you would wear?”
“Yeah, the off the shoulders number. That’s elegant, more my speed”
After I signed the last form, I pushed the papers back to Juanita. As I watched her review the paperwork, I started to rethink what my answer would be. I could hear the organ playing in my head as the congregation waited patiently for Cora Mae to give the scripture. Before she could make it to the book board, Juanita interjected and said,
“Thank you for your cooperation, Michelle. Now the hostess will show you to your table”
“What about my phone, my purse? What about my work?”
“You don’t need those things”
“Yeah, but doesn’t Khadijah need to . . .”
“As I stated before, the promotion deal has already been approved. Now if you don’t mind”
I stood up and followed this new waitress a few steps to the circular booth. She gave me a menu as I sat down.
“What would you like to drink ma’am?”
“Is it too early for alcohol?”
“It’s five o’clock somewhere!”
“Good. What would you suggest?”
“Everyone seems to like the Southern Peach. It’s our best seller”
“Great! Give me two of those, will ya?
The waitress laughed as I attempted to pull myself together.
“Here are some rolls and a water to start while I prepare your drinks”
As the hostess left, a vision dressed in white came and sat down directly across from me. Instead of greeting me, Khadijah just sat there while her assistant came running to her side. After Juanita whispered in her ear, she disappeared. I looked around and there was no one to be found. No scary security. No wait staff. Just me and her.
Khadijah stared at me intently as she grabbed one of the rolls.
“So Mrs. Owens, are you ready to discuss the rules to fucking my husband?”
WRITTEN BY THE WEDNESDAY GENTLEMAN