This was without a doubt the longest hour of Mila's life. A few customers browsed in and out, but Mila's mind was elsewhere. She tried busying herself around the shop, but it didn't work. "Damn that Novee, falling for two men at tha same time!!," she thought. "Why can't she be content with one like most women, or none, like my ass??? Nooo, she got ta have two! At least I think she only got two. With Novee, there just ain't no tellin what's going on with her from day to day! She say I'm her best girl, yet she friendly with everyone that way. She too smart a girl ta have her life so messed up, yet it is. She got everything I could wish for but it don't seem enough!! Soon as she get herself together, she let her sorry sister, pitiful brother, or begging mama step in and make her feel guilty for not helpin them fast enough!! Yep, Novee should have been my sister--oh who the hell am I foolin??!! The feelins I've had for that girl lately run far deeper than a family thing. Yet I know if I ever let her know how I really feel, it will be all over 'cept the shoutin!!" The chimes over the door let Mila know she was no longer alone with her thoughts.
Lanovia burst into Mila's shop as if she owned it and was mad at the world. Mila knew Novee well enough after a eight year friendship, to know not to question her, but rather let her tell you what she wanted you to know, when she was ready for you to know it. As Novee sat in her chair, Mila draped her as if she were some client she was braiding for the first time. Novee broke the silence between the two friends. "Get these damn things out of my head now girl!! They are killing me and messing with my love life. I don't know why I let you talk me into getting them in the first place. Beauticians don't wear braids!! What kind of damn confidence am I instilling in my customers??? Hell, go see Novee to get your perm, but Novee wears braids,...while you're wearing a hundred dollar perm!!! These damn things have been bad for my business in more ways than one"...Lanovia rambled. Mila knew better than to go there. She knew deep down that her girl was in pain, for whatever reason, and needed to ventilate. Novee went on. "This damn shop is bad for my health. It depresses me to come here. When are you going to fix up this hole?"
"O.K., my girl is havin a really hard time, this time,"
Mila thought, "gots to cut her more slack than usual." Novee pressed on,
"Mila, you oughts to redo your own damn braids you know, they is looking
far funkier than these monstrosities on my head! Better yet, why
don't you bring your Jamaican ass next door and get a perm on me!"
Mila yanked the drape off Novee and whirled her around so fast in that
chair that it seemed to Novee as though she did both actions simultaneously.
"You can walk yo lil mad behind in here an talk bout my braidin girl!!
You can even walk your silly ass in here an dog me shop," Mila continued
in her strongest Jamaican dialect yet, "but girlie, don't ya neva walk
yo wide hips in here and low rate me, ya hear? I don stuck with yo ass
when othas left ya cryin by tha wayside. No, Novee. You can attack every
bit of crap I got in this here shop, but as long as yo ass is Black, don't
cha neva attack me!! As a matta of fact, get yo ass up outta ma chair and
get out ma shop, and come back in here like ya got some brains left in
Mila was truly pissed. "Oops," Novee thought as she slithered out of Mila's chair, "I've done it now. Mila don't play that mess and I really pushed her too far this time. Well, nothing to do but like she says, go out and come back in again."
The chimes once again announced Lanovia's entrance.
As she reentered Mila's shop, she held her head down low with tears streaming
down her cheeks. Mila embraced her the way a mother would and sat her back
down in the chair. "What's the matta Novee?", Mila started. " Tell me what
he done to ya girl? So he found out ya is two-timin him, so what? Ain't
that tha same he is doin to his wife with you? Didn't I always tell ya
that what ya does in the dark will come back in tha light ta haunt cha,
girl? Why ya cryin now? Straighten up and take ya medicin like a woman
now, ya hear?" Lanovia eased up in the chair and thought, "Why does she
always have to be right all the time? She's her own psychic network! What
does she need with Dionne Warwick? Hell, it ain't doing me a bit of good
to be mad at Mila. She's just tellin it like it shonuff is!"
"Can ya answer me girl or not?, Mila pressed.
"You know you're right as usual, Mila", Novee said shakily. "Why do you need me to say it every time?"
"Because I'm hopin that one of them times you will hear what I am sayin, Novee! You can't fool around with two men, hopin one neva finds out about tha otha one!! The stuff is bound ta hit tha fan sometimes and ya knows this!", Mila continued. "Ya ain't slick like a spy and ya can't hold water so this mess was due ta happen. Now how did it happen?"
Lanovia grew uneasy, but hurriedly answered anyway.
"What tha hell are ya tryin ta say, girl??? Ya is talkin jibberish! I can't understand a word!! Say agin!, Mila pressed.
Lanovia spoke slower, her voice quivering, her head again lowered, "I called Clee by David's name."
"SO WHAT!!!", Mila was really angry now cause she was talking loud. "SO WHAT IF YA CALLED HIM DAVID??!! WHY THE HELL DIDN'T YA PLAY IT OFF LIKE YA WAS CRAZEE OR SOMETHIN WOMAN?? WHAT WAS YA THINKIN?"
Novee covered her ears to let Mila know to lower her voice.
"Hell, I know ya don't want ta hear me but ya betta, Novee! He is playin ya for a fool and the other one is just plain playin ya!!"
"Shut up, Mila!" You're getting on my nerves, now. I know I messed up and you don't know the half of what I did to try to make it right, so I need a friend right now, not a mother!"
"Ya need ta realize ya worth, girl. Ya don't need a friend, ya need one decent, single, carin lover, that's all." (Oh, oh, Mila, watch yourself girl. Novee can't handle all this in one day.)
"I have all those qualities, Mila, just not all in the same man. I'm doing the best I know how" Lanovia mumbled.
"You're settlin, Novee. You're lettin them bring the wiener while ya give up all tha bun, and ask how ya want it, all in the same breath!"
"That's a cheap shot, Mila!"
"Well, ya is actin like a cheap woman, Novee. Ya know I calls 'em as I see 'em. Cut 'em both loose, girl."
Lanovia jumped up from the seat, pulled off the drape and threw it to the floor. "You've got a nerve, Mila!! You know better than anybody what Clee means to me!"
"Clee is married!", Mila shouted.
"Clee is unhappy in that marriage and misunderstood!! He loves me and plans to marry me one day!"
"And who is David?", Mila asked, seething through her teeth, "The best man? Do ya plan ta hide him in tha closet on ya honeymoon? Can ya handle two men in twenty minutes??!!"
"I can handle three men in twenty minutes, and if you don't believe me ask Jason!!!" .... Lanovia regretted it no sooner than she'd said it.
"Jason?? Jason, tha cleanin boy???" ( Shit, she's getting loud again. ) "Are ya doin him too, Novee?? Say it ain't so! If it is, I swear, friendship be damned, I'm goin ta talk to ya mama today girl, cause ya was raised betta than that!" Only then did Mila realize that she was clutching her fists in anger.
"Talk to my mama!! What the hell is that supposed to mean? Is that some sort of threat? I come in here to you for a friends love and understanding and this is what I get?? You're gonna talk to my mama??!!... Let me tell you something, Mila. There was a time my mama took care of me and raised me, all by herself, and told me what to do. Now the shoe is on the other damn foot!! I'm taking care of my mama now!! So call her!" Lanovia snatched the phone off the hook and pointed it at Mila. "Here's the phone! Use it!! Call my mama and tell her that her youngest daughter who works like a dog every day so mama can have the finer things in life, is sleeping with three men!! Tell her that I'm so confused, I'm calling them by the wrong name !!! Tell her that one of them is married, and one of them is young, and the other one is using the hell out of me!!!!" By now, both Lanovia and Mila were in tears.
Mila took the phone from Lanovia who lay in a heap on the floor, weeping uncontrollably. As she hung it up, she stared at her friend and wanted to comfort her. " If I try to hold her now, it makes mattas worse," Mila thought. "What a mess we has, Novee", Mila began. "We always think our way through them tho, don't we girl? Ya know I don't wish ya no ill will, Novee. Ya is stronger than any woman I know otha than myself. I'm sorry bout what I said bout goin to ya mama. Hell, I don't even like ya mama!!" Lanovia sat up, wiped her face on her sleeve and laughed out loud. Mila laughed with her and the two friends embraced as the chimes announced another visitor.
"Hey! What did I miss?", the male voice asked. As if by mental telepathy, the brains of both women thought, simultaneously, "DAMN, IT"S DAVID!!"
"How can I help ya David?," Mila asked angrily. "Did
ya come back in for that fragrance Novee loves?
Lanovia's mind raced as she tried to think if David ever bought her any of Mila's perfumes.
"No, no," David responded. I was just passing by when I noticed Novee's car. I need to talk to her if that's all right with you warden."
"Well, if ya ain't buying, take ya talk outside," Mila retorted. "Some of us is tryin ta make a livin today."
Lanovia and David stepped outside. This made Lanovia
uneasy. What if Clee or Jason happened by? " Hell, this is just an innocent
conversation between two friends", she told herself as if already explaining
to one of them. "What is it David? What do you need to see me about?"
David took her hand gently. "Does a man need a reason to see his lady fair? Besides, I tried calling you all night last night. Where were you? You always tell me not to leave a message. It's getting harder and harder to reach you these days. Is everything o.k. baby?" David reached out to stroke her braids. Lanovia jumped back.
"Everything's fine David. I just needed a little space, a little time to myself. I've got a big beauty workshop coming up and I needed to study," Lanovia answered nervously.
"Damn, baby. One excuse will do. My mama didn't raise no fool, so when you're tired of me, just let me know. I can handle it." David stepped away and started off the steps.
"Wait, David! I've had a really rough morning. I could really use a friend to talk to," Lanovia said coyly as she reached for David's hand.
"Your friend's inside," David answered, his feelings bruised. "I thought I was your lover. Call me later when you straighten things out." He turned and walked away and never looked back. Lanovia waved at the car as he backed out, even though she knew he wasn't looking. Then she grew angry. Very angry. "O.K., JASON!!! YOU CAN COME OUT OF THE BUSHES NOW!! I KNOW YOU'RE WAITING THERE TO POUNCE ON ME AND HURT MY FEELINGS THE WAY CLEE AND DAVID HAVE ALREADY DONE THIS MORNING! COME OUT, COME OUT, WHEREEVER YOU ARE!!!"
"Novee, get yo ass in here girl!! Ya makin a spectacle of yourself," Mila whispered angrily. "Get in here and let me tell ya again what to do bout them men!"
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This Page Last Revised: September 2, 1996