I remember, I was still trembling when I walked into the doctor’s office that day. Unannounced and seriously on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Although I’d never been to a shrink, if there was ever a day for some psychological intercession that was definitely the day.
I hadn't slept in over 24 hours. Too scared to close my eyes I guess. Didn't want to replay what I’d seen. But I couldn't get the horrific scene out of my head no matter how desperately I wanted to.
Shaken to the core, I had absolutely no clue what to do or where to go, but I needed to get things off my chest before I blurted them out to the wrong person and had my life played out in a tabloid.
Fishing through my wallet on the red eye flight from hell that morning, I ran across Dr. Cartwright's business card. She was - and still is – my best friend Carmen's psychologist.
Carmen had been bothering me to sit on this woman's couch for at least a year, but I wasn't into it. I didn't need it. And I was convinced she was only going because counseling was the new it thing for us rich black folks to do.
And Dr. Cartwright was the new go to counselor for those dreadfully messy socialites on the DC Housewives reality tv show; something that I’m sure influenced Carmen’s decision to seek help for her yet to be disclosed “disorder”.
Anyway, I was desperate that day. I needed to download on someone and the situation at hand was way too sensitive to share with anyone, without assurance of the strictest confidentiality. So, several frantic phone calls later I had an appointment with the celebrity it doctor and I was ready to spill.
My appointment was her last of the day. After business hours and at double her already ridiculous hourly rate, considering she had to cancel a business dinner to accommodate me. But it didn't matter. I would have paid a mint to make some sense out of the foolishness they burned into my brain.
I walked right past the receptionist desk toward the doctor’s office. The skinny blonde receptionist followed me with her clipboard in tow, yelling for me to wait, but by the time she finished instructing me on what I needed to do before I could see the doctor, I’d already gone in to see the doctor. And closed the door behind me.
Dr. Cartwright noticed me and stood, extending her hand and a plastic, albeit friendly smile.
"Hello, Mrs. Coleman?"
I shook her hand, trying to hide my nerves. "Yes Dr. Cartwright. Thank you so much for taking this appointment. I understand your schedule is tight and I really appreciate you accommodating me after business hours."
"Well, after my assistant told me how many times you called, insisting to be seen, I figured this was an appointment I should take."
"Yes, I'm so so sorry about that. It's just...I really needed to see someone."
She noticed my trembling hands and offered some aid. "Please, have a seat. Can I get you a drink of water?"
"No. No thank you, I’m fine."
"Alright, so tell me, what brings you so urgently to my office?"
"Honestly, I'm not even sure where to start."
"Well, let's make it easy. How about we start at the beginning."
"Um. Yeah, ok. Well..."
I can laugh about it now, but my initial response was pretty embarrassing. I started off by telling her when and where I was born. To which she replied, "Ok, well maybe not that far back."
We giggled but my ignorance of proper counseling protocol actually broke the ice a little. After that, I unbuttoned my blazer, unclench by Birkin and got a little more comfortable.
There was much to discuss. Abandonment issues, emotional detachments, inferiority complexes, depression. Plenty of billable hours to accrue. I, Melissa Delores James-Coleman am the product of a torrid affair that my mother had with her very married and very white boss who I’m told, denied me from birth, as if my honey blonde hair and ice blue eyes were some sort of mystic occurence.
I never really fit in, anywhere, so I was often left out. Too white for these and too black for them. So I built up a wall, worked my ass off and designed a perfect life for myself. A high life that I deserve.
I scratched and clawed my way from one of the worst housing projects in DC to one the wealthiest suburbs in America and along that journey I experienced extremes to the likes most could only imagine.
The highs were amazing, monumental even, but the lows were so deeply wretched that at times, I questioned my very existence.
Less than 24 hours before I sat in the good Dr.'s comfy brown leather chair, I was right there, at my lowest. I uncovered a secret that would send my entire world into a tailspin. And it was a good thing Dr. Cartwright was bound by confidentiality because my revelation was truly the stuff the $2.99 tabloids in the grocery stores were made for.
Void of the energy to exorcise all of my demons , I hit the fast forward on my life story and came a little closer to the problem at hand, my loving husband.
I started at the beginning. Gave her the whole sordid history from the cold winter afternoon we met through to the present day, where my nerves were so shot I could barely keep my lunch down.
When I got to the tragic end, all the good doctor could say to me was, "I see." Then she cleared her schedule for the next day and a half. Suddenly I was patient priority number one.
It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye
Today is the day I bury my best friend; the love of my life. I still can’t believe this is really happening. Even with all the shit Melvin was doing in the streets, I just didn’t see this coming. He was nobody’s angel. I know that. But he was a good man and I loved him with my whole heart.
People never saw the Melvin I saw. The kind and sweet, generous man I loved. The man that helped his kids with their homework every evening and put his baby girl in the bathtub every night. No matter where he was and what was going on in the hood he came in every night at 7:00 sharp, ran her a bath and tucked her in. That’s the man they took from me. My best friend. My family.
The day he died I was busy packing suitcases, preparing for our vacation. This year it was the beautiful island of Turks and Caicos.
You know, the island where Lisa Gray’s husband was the King or Bishop or whatever he was.
It was our annual family trip. We’d already done Disney, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. We had the New York City experience a few times, Historical Atlanta, all the best beaches and a few other American tourist traps on the east coast, but this would be our first time leaving US territory.
Melvin was afraid to fly so every year we saddled the kids up and hit the road. We’d drive for hours with kids screaming from the backseat, filthy gas station bathrooms and greasy fast food. Not this time. I fought long and hard for this trip. I had a couple valium and a few miniature bottles of cognac tucked away in my suitcase so he’d be good.
And if not he'd just have to suck it up and deal with. Myrtle Beach was a beautiful place for family vacation but we'd been a dozen times. Miami Beach was fabulous and I really enjoyed the Florida Keys last year but I was ready to see whiter sands and bluer waters. It was going down.
We’d just gotten our passports rushed in the mail and were supposed to leave the next day. The kids were beyond excited because it would be their first time flying. MJ and Brandy were bragging to their friends and Mandy was just excited to get on an airplane with her daddy.
Fast forward to today, I’m struggling to get them dressed so they can go and say good bye to their daddy for the last time.
Looking out the window I see all his boys building a memorial amongst all the other trash on the ground. Champagne bottles and packs of cigarettes. Melvin didn't smoke or drink. Everybody's walking around with my husbands face plastered on their chest. All puffed up like they gon do something. Hmm.
What’s really a trip is that with all that bullshit mourning they’re out there doing, not one of them really liked Melvin. They envied him, some were afraid of him and they all respected him but I can’t say that I knew one dude out there that truly liked him.
They were all there for the money. For what he could do for them. And that was especially true for his right hand man Daye, who was a right maggot if I’d ever seen one.
Daye was Melvin’s best friend and they’d known each other since they were kids. He was the only person in the world – other than myself - that Melvin really trusted and that killed me because as far as I was concerned Daye was the last person Melvin should have ever put his trust in.
I’d heard so many stories over the years. Stories that if true, would make this man one of the most conniving, jealous, cowardly snakes you would ever meet. As far as anyone knew, there were no bodies on him. He wasn’t a killer, but with a mouth as big and a heart as black as his, he was dangerous just the same.
I saw how he looked at Melvin sometimes and the look in his eyes had nothing to do with love or loyalty. There was something dark behind his beady eyes. They were too close together or something. Shifty. The way he talked to Melvin was crazy too.
The smart ass remarks, the sarcastic undertone. I shut his ass down every chance I got and Melvin hated it, but he knew better than to call me on it.
I saw Daye’s ambition even if Melvin chose to ignore it and I knew it was only a matter of time before they’d part ways. Until that day, my antenna was up, my eyes and my ears were wide the hell open on Mr. Daye Mbulango.
Today my sixth sense is on fire. The streets are already talking and the word is some Jamaicans from Silver Spring killed my husband. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that Daye has a sudden affinity for yellow sports cars and Jamaican beef patties.
His new “piece” as he calls her, is a tall Jamaican amazon named Jenny with dirty blonde dreads and a wardrobe full of colorful spandex. Oh and neon pumps.
How could I forget those lime green pumps. Ugh. He brought her to the house a couple times. We chatted. Once. I didn’t like her. She looked just as shifty as he did. And oily.
The real issue; the one that gives me the most pause, is Melvin’s been gone almost three weeks now and I’ve only seen Daye once. In passing. He hasn’t called or stopped by to check on me and the kids. And the one time he saw me he couldn’t even look me in my eye. I know something’s up.
Everybody says he’s just hurting and he doesn’t know how to deal with what happened. But that ain’t it. It’s something more. I feel it in my bones. I know he’s involved in Melvin’s death somehow, someway and I’m damned sure gonna get to the bottom of it. But first thing’s first. I gotta go bury my husband. Lord give me strength...
A Guilty Conscience
The morning of Melvin’s funeral Daye was in a pretty bad headspace. Even though he felt justified in doing what he did, seeing what they did to his man took his mind on a serious trip.
He didn’t know people could really be that cruel. Inhumane. He thought that kinda shit was just in the movies, or maybe in one of those third world countries or some shit like that. But it wasn’t. It was real. It happened and he set it in motion.
Daye couldn’t get the image of his friends mutilated body out of his mind. The nightmares were vivid and he hadn’t gotten more than a couple hours sleep in over two weeks. Every time he closed his eyes he saw his friend. Burned, stabbed and slashed to the bone. They even threw battery acid in his face. He just wanted to forget.
Melvin was barely recognizable lying on the cold concrete floor of the empty warehouse in a puddle of his own blood. He layed there writhing in pain; moaning and oozing blood and puss. Daye’s eyes began to well as he reached behind him and pulled out his nine.
He stood there, holding the gun in his hand so long it began to get heavy. He listened to the moaning for as long as he could. Then he closed his eyes as he squeezed the trigger. The moaning stopped and his friend let out one last gasp. It was the right thing to do.
The next morning the headline in the Washington Post read:
“32 year old unidentified black male found dead in Northeast warehouse. After being brutally beaten and tortured the victim succumbed to a single gunshot wound to the head. There are no suspects at this time.”
It was the hardest thing he’d ever had to read. And today would be the hardest thing he’d ever have to face. He had managed to avoid Brenda since it happened but today he’d have to face her. Look into the faces of Melvin’s children. The thought of it made him nauseous.
The crew pulled up and blew the horn. Daye laid across his bed, still in his underwear, staring out the window. He watched as the whole hood piled up in their cars getting ready to take that long drive to Frederick Maryland for the funeral.
When he saw the hearse roll by it was too much. He began to feel nauseous again, so he just laid back on the bed staring at the ceiling. He needed something to get him through this. Maybe hit a jay. No, he needed something stronger. Something to make him forget. He desperately needed to forget.
It was the beginning of the end.
A Night To Remember
"Missy you have a call on line 2.”
“Thanks Tracey. I got it. This is Melissa James.”
A deep, sultry baritone voice came over her line. “Why yes you are.”
She smiled at the sound of her man’s sexy voice. “And how may I help you Mr. Coleman.”
“You can help me by being ready on time this afternoon Ms. James.”
“Ha ha. Very funny. Don’t worry I’ll be ready.”
“Good. There’s been a change of plans.”
“I won’t be picking you up. I’m sending a car for you. I still need you to be ready to leave at 2:00 though. I have a lot planned for the evening and we really need to stay on schedule."
“Ray, please stop it with the suspense. You know it’s kill-ing me! Where are we going?!”
“Baby I got this. You just get ready to have the best night of your life.”
“Ooh. The best night of my life? That’s a pretty bold statement Mr. Coleman. You sure you up to that challenge? I mean you better be prepared to bring it if you talking to me like that.”
“Ms. James, you have no idea.”
“No, but nice try.”
She laughed. “Dammit! Come on Ray. Please. Just a little hint. You gotta give me something.”
Ray let out a heavy sigh. “You know you’re impossible, right?”
“And don’t forget irresistible.”
“Yes that you are. Ok I will give you one hint, but you have to promise me something in return.”
“Ok, yes! Yes! Anything!”
“Ooh, anything? Now that’s a bold statement. You might wanna take that one back.” They both laughed.
“No Ray I’m serious now! Come on!“
“Alright but if I tell you this one thing, you have to promise me that you’ll just go with the flow.”
“Of course! Are you kidding? Done!”
“I’m serious Missy. That means no more questions. No input or suggestions. Just gooooo with the flooowwww. Do you think you can you handle that?“
“Yeeeeesssss. I caaaaannnnn. Now tell me something.”
“Ok, I really do have to go but I will leave you with this. It’s a beautiful thing when history repeats itself.”
“I’ll see you soon beautiful.” He hung up the phone.
After talking to Ray she was more anxious than ever. And confused. What the hell did he have planned? The suspense was killing her! She smiled to herself as she repeated over and over in her head. “It’s a beautiful thing, when history repeats itself.” What did that mean!
She tried her best to get some work done, but it was a hopeless. Trying to guess what the evening held was a way better use of her time. Again. “It’s a beautiful thing, when history repeats itself.” Hmm.
The next hour went by at a complete snail’s pace and at 1:00 she shut her computer down, wished everyone a lovely weekend and headed for the gym.
After hours and hours of thoughtful consideration, Missy decided on the nude, knee length Herve Leger bandeau dress and her new strappy Jimmy Choo sandals. Simple but sexy.
With carefully orchestrated effortless waves in her long blonde highlighted hair, dark smoky shadows accentuating her emerald green eyes, golds and bronzes highlighting her high cheekbones and a subtle pink gloss over her full pouty lips, Missy was official Hollywood glam for her anniversary.
As she checked the front, side and rear views in the full length mirror, the one word that came to her mind was “Yaaassssss”. Ray’s bottom jaw would definitely hit the floor upon site! She couldn’t wait.
She gave one last glance, folded the expensive clutch under her arm and set off for the evening.
The town car was waiting downstairs for her at 2:00 sharp, but there was a ton of traffic. The 295 interstate on a Friday afternoon was always nightmare.
She used the extra time to primp…and ponder. Missy couldn’t help thinking this Friday night would change her entire life.
She was this close to an engagement to Washington’s number one defensive end, a legend, one of the greatest football players to ever take the field. Soon her wildest dreams would come true. And she was ready.
There was a good hour of stop and go traffic before the driver took the exit off the interstate to the National Harbor. The car pulled into the circular driveway of the Gaylord Hotel and Damon (pronounced De’mone), Ray’s new personal assistant was waiting at the entrance to take her up to her room.
He handed her a glass of champagne and they proceeded to walk through the swanky hotel lobby to the private elevator. Then up to the penthouse suite.
When Damon flung the double doors open she could not believe her eyes. There stood a full on entourage of the most fabulous glam squad any woman could have asked for. There was also a personal chef and wait staff. All there to pamper her and make her ready for her special evening. She knew that Ray had to have spent some serious money and pulled some very serious strings to make this night happen.
Missy stood there in awe as Damon began introducing folks, most of whom needed no introduction.
“On behalf of Mr. Ray Coleman I present to you hairstylist extraordinaire and entrepreneur, Ms. Kim Kindle.”
Kim was in the middle of taping the second season of her reality show surrounding the goings on in her hip Hollywood beauty salon. She leaned in for a hug and ran a hand through Missy’s hair. “Ok, girl you are working that blonde hair but you know I can make that better. Beyonce won’t have nothin on you tonight boo.”
“Next we have fashion stylist to the stars Ms. June Melrose.”
June was fresh off her own reality show where she styled B list celebrities in hopes of reviving their careers. She was one of the most fashionable women in the business and a very highly coveted stylist.
June leaned in for a double air kiss. “Muah. Muah. Darling I am feeling those Jimmy Choo’s but the Herve is so last year. So cliche.
So predictable. Boring. Let’s take a look through my racks and see what fabulousness June can create for you this evening. The fashion blogs will be going crazy for you by tomorrow morning my dear, so do prepare yourself.”
“Next we have up and coming makeup artist and businesswoman Porche Breeden of Breed Beauty Cosmetics.” Porche had just patented and sold her organic skin care line to Sephora and was recently hired as the lead makeup artist on the hottest new modeling competition on television. She extended her hand. “Wonderful to meet you Ms. James. I’m so anxious to put a brush to that beautiful face. You will be beat to the Gods tonight hunny. Trust.”
As Missy walked around the suite to take in the rest of the magnificence she felt almost drunk with euphoria. There were gorgeous views of the Potomac River from every room.
The fragrance of dozens upon dozens of calli lilies was intoxicating. Calla lilies were her favorite flower and she wondered how Ray knew. She didn’t remember telling him. Standing ice buckets with chilled Dom Perignon were scattered about the suite for everyone to enjoy.
In the kitchen her favorite chef Way Garcia was plating all of her favorite hor doervres. Chili lime shrimp, crab imperial and goose liver patte with caramelized onion. For desserts there were her favorite red velvet cupcakes, dark chocolate truffles and assorted fruits for caramel fondue. It was heavenly.
After greeting Way with a hug, Missy grabbed a truffle and a second glass of champagne then she set off to explore the rest of the enormous suite. .
Fittingly, Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite played in the background and everyone was really vibing. The champagne was beginning to take effect. There was way too much fabulousness in the room and Missy was becoming overwhelmed.
The thought that someone would go to this much trouble and expense just for her was truly humbling. It’s not that she didn’t believe she was deserving of the very best that life had to offer, but this was without a doubt, beyond anything she could have imagined. And the best part was this was just the beginning. It was not only the prelude to a wonderful evening to come but it was the start of what she knew would be a wonderful life with a man she adored. The life she always wanted. She felt like the luckiest woman alive.
As the entourage scurried about setting up their respective stations, Missy slid into the massive massaging salon chair to relax and enjoy a mani pedi. Not that she needed one. But when in Rome.
She sat the champagne glass down and summoned one of the servers for an energy drink. Something told her that she had a very long evening ahead of her and she certainly didn’t want to be too tired for it. God only knew where they were going and what he had planned. If the preparation was any indication, it had to be something big. Much bigger than him getting down on one knee in the middle of a nice restaurant.
She allowed her mind to wander for a bit before she relaxed into the promise she made to Ray. It was time for her to just gooooo with the flooooowwww.