Friday, September 1, 2017

Chapter 3: Sweet Hot Tea

"All done! You know the drill; under the dryer for at least 45 minutes." Kassidy had finished twisting my hair. Normally, I would complain about getting under the dryer and how the settings are set on "fire and brimstone." But the shop was packed that particular day and I didn't want anyone to misunderstand our playful banter. Plus, I was tired.

My work week was the most hectic it had been since I've started. My team was creating the biggest campaign our department has ever had. Think interactive and futuristic all mixed in with geriatric health care. I know it sounds funny but that is the best way I could describe the hell my department head has asked me to lead. We somehow crammed 75 interviews into 5 days. Recording, editing, writing scripts, rewriting scripts, and praying for patience. In the midst of all the work my small team had to produce, we all had to take turns babysitting… I mean training our new intern, Ashley, the department head’s daughter.

“She really needs to gain a sense of direction, Keisha. She seems to learn better with hands-on experience. She is just obsessed with that insta-chat stuff and I thought that Public Relations would be the best department for her. Besides, since I had helped your parents when it came to their daughter, I figured you wouldn't mind helping mine.” Juxtaposed to her phone ringing and vibrating uncontrollably, my department head leans in and whispers, “although she is not a ‘Sister Girl’ like you, I still believe she can learn so much from you. Oh, well now. I have to run. Get on my schedule for a ‘Green Smoothies Brunch’ next week. Just us girls!”

Number One: Who is she calling “Sister Girl?” I’m Black, not a stereotype you think you’re “down” enough to comment on! Number Two: No one has time to watch your spoiled, bratty teenager. Stop acting cheap and hire a nanny! Number Three: Who drinks only greens smoothies for brunch?! It’s BRUNCH! This “Sister Girl” (signal air quotes) wants a BLT with shrimp and grits on the side.

I quickly snapped out if it. I have no idea what story my facial expression told in that moment. However, I am glad the strength of Coretta kept me calm enough not to slap her with the strength of Harriet.

So instead of getting on my sister’s nerves, I decided to be quiet and let the whirls of hot air lull me to sleep. As my eyes went low, the hustle and bustle of the salon began to rise. I could tell it was noon because the music changed from “Open My Heart” to “Beez in the Trap.” I faintly heard the wash girl, Shayla, taking orders of chicken wings, hoagies, and cheesesteaks for her daily papi store run. As the commotion began to subside and I fell deeper into sleep, I was suddenly awakened by a familiar voice.

“KASS!!! Girl, we have to talk. I just stumbled across some serious tea. Put the irons down! Head to the back. Where’s Keesh?!” It was LaChay.

“Keep your voice down, La! Keesh is right there. Are you sure this can’t wait?” As Kassidy snarled at LaChay, she flung her smoky marcels in the air.

“No, it can’t.” As I tried to ignore LaChay and act sleep as if I didn't hear her, she walked over to me and flipped the dryer hood up from over my head. “I said to the back. You heard me!”

As I got up to follow Kassidy & LaChay to the back, I could only imagine what LaChay had to tell us. LaChay always has the tea but it is never a tea too sweet or too hot that she doesn't mind sharing with the whole salon. This had to be serious.

“Ok La, you done ran up in my salon disturbing the peace. Something better be on fire. What is it?!” I could tell Kassidy was annoyed. This was her first day back in the shop after being in LA for three weeks working with one of her celebrity clients. So all of her regulars booked for her first open date, and were in the salon today. Kassidy had no patience for tea.

“Peep this. Reverend Slick Daddy offered Malik the Executive Pastor position.” Kassidy and I turned and looked at each other. I knew the look on Kassidy’s face mirrored my own: pure disgust.

“Wait… are you sure? how do you know?” she had just begun to spill the tea, but I needed more honey in mine.

“So I’m working the front desk in the boutique today, right? Two chicks I don’t recognize walk in. They look hella basic but a sale is a sale, feel me? They basically ignore me because they think I’m just a cashier. Well, that’s fine too. So they get real comfortable and start spilling tea everywhere, honey. As they are talking about everyone they know, I overhear them say Holy Cross Covenant. I realize I do know these bum chicks. Madison introduced them to me last time I was at the church. So I start ear-hustling even harder. Then the manly looking one says, ‘You know Pastor Hamilton asked Elder Malik to be the Executive Pastor. I wonder how his fiancĂ©e is going to feel about that. Hmph, she thinks she is too good for the church because she has her little business. The prices are too high and the food’s not that good anyway. The best thing she got going for her is Malik and her parents having the church. She better stop fronting like she’s some mogul and just be the first lady. There are women who’d love to be in her position and she’s going to throw it away for a business that’s not gonna last. She don’t even deserve Malik.’ As they are walking towards the register the smushed-face one says, ‘She sure doesn't; he can do way better. Girl, they not married yet. Once she sits up on her high horse and tells him not to take the job, he is probably going to take it anyway. All she wants to do is disappoint her parents. She keep on, she’s going to be single and I’m going to be the first lady.’ So they pass me their clothes and I ring them up.”

“You know who she talking about, Keesh?” Kassidy had an epiphany, “Linda and Elaine.” LaChay’s description of them was funnily accurate and identifiable.

“Yo, you are probably so right! Linda does work in the church office. That’s probably how she found out.” I made a discovery of my own that made LaChay and Kassidy delve even deeper into thought. “Well, I’m glad you ended it right there. I’m proud of you for not turning up.”

“Don’t throw me a parade yet. I’m not done. I made sure I rang them up and handed them their receipts first. Then, I ran them my receipts. I said -”


“Girl, no you didn't.” Kassidy and I just shook our heads and placed our faces in our hands as if our disapproval could magically change the ending of LaChay’s spiel.

“I said, in my professional clapback voice, ‘Ladies, this is a classy establishment. You shouldn't be gossiping at all. But if you insist, you should one: keep it quiet so that others can’t hear you. Two: keep my best friend and her man’s names out of your mouths. Lucky for you, I am the owner of this boutique and I value your business. Therefore, I won’t throw these hands and drag you out the doors by your hair. Instead, I’m going to let y’all live. But don’t let me hear you been talking about my friend again. I will meet you outside of HCC in the parking lot and I won’t be so generous. Thank you for shopping Voleur! Have a blessed day.’”

I wasn’t shocked but I was amazed by how this encounter has now spiraled very close to home. “Why did you do that?! Maddie still has to deal with these people on the regular. They are just going to add that to their list of things to talk about. They are definitely going to tell Pastor Hamilton.”

“So, let them tell it! His old behind know better. Always startin’ some mess.” LaChay was officially in her bag now.

“La, I told you about your mouth! You gotta chill out. We are getting too old to be running up on folk, fighting, and carrying-on.” Kassidy was beginning to look anxious as her eyes shifted back and forth from us to the clock on the wall. “I’m not rolling out. I’m not fighting no one for you. I’m not doing nothing. We are grown-ups with businesses and responsibilities.”

LaChay was offended by our reaction. Our rider couldn't believe that she may be riding alone on this one. “And?! And?! Why not?! You always did before. Don’t be giving me that soft stuff, Kass. These birds out here still running their mouths and we still got these hands. I can be blind in a wheelchair rolling to the mailbox to get my social security check. I ain't never gonna let nobody come for y’all.”

Knowing that LaChay was right in her own special way, Kassidy let go a deep breath that instantly relaxed her anxiousness away. “I’m surprised they didn't ask for a refund after you told them that.”

“They were too scared. They ran out of there so fast!” We all laughed together at LaChay. Yet, no amount of laughter could fully distract me from the matter at hand. I quickly circled the conversation back around to the underlying question.

“What are we going to tell Madison?”

“Tell me what? Shayla told me you all were back here. What’s wrong? Why are you all looking at me like that?” Madison urgently busted through the door with a smile plastered on her face. As our glances went from her to each other, with no words at all, we tried to decide who was going to be the one to erase her bright smile. Once again, Kassidy stepped up to jump first.

“Your dad offered Malik the Executive Pastor position.”


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