Author’s Note: “Mo’s Mix” opens in the year 2022, so “Millennial Diaries,” the prequel, will cover all time before that. The first entry was set in the present-day (2017), but this entry steps back in time.
Millennial Diaries Entry 2
December 19, 2014
“I don’t want a lot for Christmas. There is just one thing I need. I don’t care about the presents underneath the Christmas tree,” Camille belted while she decked the tree in garland. It seemed like endless rows of garland as the tree went from a bland green to a popping emerald. After she finished, Camille stood back to admire her work. “Done,” she said aloud. Then, she started singing Mariah Carey again.
“I just want you for my own, more than you could ever know…” Camille’s voice trailed off as she started cleaning up around her. Suddenly, Camille heard someone whistling the beat of the song. She jumped at the sound. “So, what, you don’t announce yourself anymore?”
“This is my house,” James stated assuredly. Camille made a buzzard sound. “Anh! Wrong. It’s your parent’s house.”
“That’s an oxymoron.”
“Who are you calling a moron?”
Camille rolled her eyes. “That’s not what ‘oxymoron,’ means, bozo.” “Hey, I didn’t insult you.” James threw a stray piece of garland at Camille. Camille picked it up and threw it back at him. “You are so childish.”
James picked the garland up again and, this time, put it on Camille’s nose. She quickly blew it off but noticed something. “You’re standing awfully close.” “Is that not what you want?” I just want you for my own, more than you could ever know, Camille’s inner voice thought.
“James, are you in there?” Mr. Ross asked, interrupting the moment.
He totted several bags into the house. “Oh. Hey, Camille. Charletta didn’t say you’d be here.” “I just came to help with the tree since Mo’s not back yet,” Camille told him. Mr. Ross nodded. “We appreciate it, but while you two are here lollygagging, I’m outside doing the backbreaking work.” “I didn’t know you were outside,” Camille said. “Of course you didn’t,” Mr. Ross directed at James.
“Can I help with something?” She wondered.
Mr. Ross responded, “Yeah. We got a few more bags in the trunk if you can be more useful than your friend here.” Camille inwardly winced at the word “friend” because it was a subtle reminder of her unstable place in James’s life. She tried to hide her emotions as she responded. “Right.” Camille put on her winter clothes and travelled out to the car while Mr. Ross’s eyes travelled to his son.
“Well, are you going to tell her or shall I?”
“It’s not your business to tell, dad.”
Mr. Ross sighed and sat on the leg of the couch. “She’s going to keep hanging around here as long as she thinks there’s still a chance for the two of you.” “I know, but--” “But, what, James? Tell her,” Mr. Ross urged. “It’s not healthy - you two running…”
“…running around like everything’s alright when it’s not,” Camille heard as she came back in with the bags. She made sure to be quiet so she could eavesdrop. “What are you gonna say when Laila comes here on Christmas wearing the ring?” Mr. Ross questioned. James groaned. “Dad, I got this.”
“Son, I don’t believe you - not after what happened with that baby.”
Camille hated the reminder. She reminisced to a hospital room where she sat bawling her eyes out. “I’m here,” James had claimed. “Right by your side.” For the most part, he had been good on his promise, but this new information was bringing back old memories. Thinking about the baby again, Camille dropped a bag on her foot. “Ow!” James and Mr. Ross both looked up and saw that Camille was struggling.
James came over to help. “Are you okay?” “I’m fine,” Camille lied, ignoring the growing pain in her left foot. Mr. Ross watched the two interact and knew they had a lot to work on before the holiday dinner. He told Camille, “I’ll take care of the rest. Thank you, sweetheart.”
Mr. Ross sensed that Camille had heard more than she wanted to, so he gave the kids a moment alone. James took the bags to the kitchen and he hadn’t even put the last bag down before Camille was starting. “What ring?” She demanded.
“What ring, James? What is your father talking about?”
“Hey, calm down. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t tell me to calm down,” Camille hollered. “Tell me what the fuck your father was referring to!” Mrs. Ross started to come out of her room but decided not to when she heard the argument transpiring. Mr. Ross purposely took his time bringing the groceries in and he went around to the back door; he wasn’t in the mood for the drama either.
Camille crossed her arms because James was silent. “Don’t lie to me! You already did that when you went back to her after I gave up my son.” “Our son.”
Camille chortled. “My son. Don’t play like you wanted anything to do with Jalen. I’ll bet you still haven’t told Laila.” James told her, “Camille, it’s complicated.”
“No, it’s not, James. Just tell me truth.”
“I don’t want to upset you any further than I already--”
“Tell. Me. The truth.”
“I don’t think you want to know,” James insisted.
“The truth,” Camille ordered.
James exhaled. “We’re engaged,” He finally admitted.
“Smell this,” Monique requested. Tomas looked up from the football game. “What is that?” “It’s another product I’ve been working on. Dr. Wade let me use the labs to create it. You want to know what I’m going to call…” Monique’s voice trailed off because she saw Tomas wasn’t even listening. “Why’d you stop,” he asked, finishing a text message.
“You know I hate it when you do that.”
Tomas rubbed Monique’s thigh and kissed her. “I’m sorry. What’s it called?” “It’s called being a supportive boyfriend,” Monique noted as she stood up and went to the bathroom. “That’s a weird product name,” Tomas joked, following her. Monique rolled her eyes and started washing her hands. Tomas came behind her. They glared at one another in the mirror.
“I’m sorry, Monique.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
He kissed her cheek. “Why are you so tense right now?” “I always get tense when it’s time to go home.” Tomas massaged her shoulders. “Just relax, okay?”
“Ok. You ready to meet my parents?”
Tomas sighed. “Hell, I don’t know.” He rested his head on Monique’s shoulder. “If they’re as awesome as you, I can’t wait.” “I mean, they are awesome, but they’re also tough - especially my mom.”
“Hey, if you could get through dinner with my sergeant dad badgering you like you were one of his privates, I can get through your mom’s 21 questions.”
Monique scoffed. “Tuh! More like 81. I hope you’re ready for it.” Tomas nodded and rubbed Monique’s arms. “True and I hope I’m ready for is this weather. You know I’ve never seen snow.” Monique smirked. “Oh, that’s right, Mr. ATL.”
“The 404 is where it’s at.”
“Yeah - whatever.”
Tomas kissed Monique’s neck and turned her around so that she was facing him with her legs hanging off the sink. “You think we’ll have a chance to warm up in all that snow?”
Monique stared blankly at Tomas. “We’ll be lucky if we even get to be alone with the door closed. My daddy don’t play that.” “So, where would I sleep?” “Probably in my brother Daniel’s old room,” Monique responded. “He got an apartment after his business started taking off.”
“Oh yeah - the weight loss program on TV.”
Monique gasped dramatically. “So you do listen.” Tomas sighed and took her hand. “I deserved that one. I’m sorry about not paying enough attention to you a minute ago. I was just taking care of some things.” “Take care of those when we’re apart. When I’m here, I want you to focus on me. Is that too much to ask?”
When did she start getting so clingy? Tomas wondered. He was uncomfortable because he hated being put in this position. Luckily, his roommate came in. “Yo, Tom!”
“What up, Rod?”
Rodney and Tomas dapped each other up. “You tryna see me in 2K?” “Maybe later. I’m with my girl right now.” Rodney looked past Tomas and saw Monique. “Oh. Hey. How are you?” “I’m good. How are you?”
“I’m good. You tryna see your man lose in 2K?”
Tomas shook his head. “Nope. She was just going over her business plan with me.” “From the bathroom sink?” Monique and Tomas were both silent, so Rod laughed. “Y’all into that freaky-deeky shit, I see. Y’all got it.” While Rodney closed his door, Tomas offered Monique his hand. “Let’s go back to the room?”
You didn’t answer my question, Monique thought to herself. “Okay.” And there it was : Monique’s passive aggression. Although Monique tried to enjoy the routine Netflix and chill, the routine sex, and the routine conversations about nothing, she felt unsatisfied. It was as if she was missing something.
“Daniel, be nice.”
Monique could feel Daniel’s piercing grimace from a mile away. “I don’t like him,” Daniel chimed. Monique wondered, “How? You don’t even know him.” “Judging by that last phone call, neither do you. Get out before you get hurt, sis,” Daniel advised. Monique hated this. No matter what the situation was, Daniel was always right and it drove her crazy. “Just give him a chance.”
“Mhmm. What’s his major?”
“At least he’ll be making money when he leaves. Good for him.”
Monique shook her head and lugged her suitcase inside. “Yep.” Daniel helped her with it. “Let me get that.” “Thanks. Where’s James?” Daniel sighed. “Shit, I don’t know. He’s been MIA for a little bit.” Monique nodded and walked into the living room.
“Ooh! That looks nice. Who did the tree?”
“Camille did,” Mrs. Ross said, coming from upstairs.
“I love it,” Monique stated. “Where is Camille?” “MIA,” Daniel and Mrs. Ross both declared at once. “I’m curious about something, though,” Mrs. Ross continued. Monique raised her eyebrow. “What’s up, mom?” “How come Camille flew in before you if you all are in the business school together?”
“We had finals on different days.”
“Why didn’t she just leave when you did?”
Monique shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m not Camille’s keeper.” Mrs. Ross studied her daughter. “I bet you hung back so you could have some alone time with that boy.” Monique smirked because her mother was on the ball. “See, I knew it. You can’t fool me.”
“You’re right, mom. I can’t.” Then, something dawned on Monique. “Isn’t it strange that both James and Camille are MIA?” “Strange ain’t the word you’re looking for,” Mrs. Ross mentioned. Before Monique could respond, Tomas lugged his long suitcase into the house. Mrs. Ross held the door open. “Did you bring a body in that bag?”
Tomas laughed. “No. I just wanted to make sure I packed for the weather.” “Are you staying for a week or a year?” Monique looked at her mother and Mrs. Ross realized she was being rude. “You know what, I’m sorry. Where is my hospitality? Welcome to my home. The guest room’s straight to your left. Make yourself comfy and let me know if you need anything.” “Thanks.” Tomas nodded and made his way over.
Mrs. Ross looked at Monique. “He’s facially challenged,” she whispered. “Mom…” Mrs. Ross sighed. “Jeremiah looked better.” “Jeremiah also tried to hook up with me while he had a girlfriend.”
“Tomas is nice and he treats me well.”
“I’m glad,” Mrs. Ross told Monique. She sarcastically added, “Maybe if you’re real good to him, he can make you his wife.” “First of all, who said I wanted to make him my husband?” Mrs. Ross sipped her tea. “Well, let me just sip this tea and keep my comments to myself.”
As Mrs. Ross went to gossip with Mr. Ross, Monique went to settle into her old room then check on Tomas. She was nearing the guest room when she passed James’s old room, which had been completely ransacked. “Did James have a mental breakdown,” Monique wondered aloud. “James was looking for something,” he answered in 3rd person.
Monique nearly punched him in his face. “You can’t be coming behind people like that.” “Boo!” James joked. “Wrong holiday,” Monique told him. She sighed and hugged her brother. “How are you though?” “I’m good. How are you?”
“What were you looking for?” Monique asked urgently. “Why are you so nosy?” James countered. “It’s in the Ross bloodline, so spill.” “I was looking for a picture.”
Monique raised her eyebrow. “What picture?” James was not going to entertain Monique’s endless curiosity. “Don’t worry about all that.” Monique crossed her arms. “Hm. Whatever. What happened with you and Camille?”
“Why are you all in my business?”
“You decided to mess with my best friend, so now it’s my business too.”
“Translation: I’m nosey as hell. But don’t you have a boyfriend to entertain? Why are you worried about me?”
Monique shook her head said, “Stop deflecting.” James replied, “From your tone, I’m sure the little gossip birdies mom and Daniel already told you.” Monique responded, “Actually, they didn’t, which is why I’m coming to the source.” “We had an argument and then she left,” James revealed.
“An argument about what?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
James looked at Monique. “Laila and I got engaged while you two were away at school.” “What?! When? Why didn’t I know about this?” James told Monique, “Mom didn’t want to tell you because she knew you’d go back and tell Camille and we didn’t want there to be any drama.”
“Clearly, there is drama now if Camille left in a haste. Did she say where she was going?”
James shrugged. “I don’t know. Probably back with Donald who’s cuckoo for her cocoa puffs.” Monique cut her eyes at James while she pulled out her phone. “That’s not even funny.” Monique hadn’t been in town but 2 hours and, already, all the tea was spilling. Camille didn’t answer, so Monique left a message. “Hey, Cam. I know you’re probably upset right now, but please call me.”
“Did he hit you?”
Natalie turned her face away. “No.” “Then, what’s that?” “Leave it alone, Dre,” Mrs. Cassells warned. Andre could not ignore it, though. “Mamma, that looks just like when papà used to--” “Leave it alone, I said,” Mrs. Cassells repeated in a sterner tone. “Dio mio,” she said, which meant, “Oh my god.”
“I’m sorry, mamma.”
“You should be. Don’t bring the negativity to my dinner table.”
“I agree,” Nathalie chimed. “All that pessimism is stressful for the baby.” “She’s almost here,” Georgiana, who was 8 at the time, stated excitedly. “I can’t wait to meet my niece.” Nathalie smiled. “Siena can’t wait to meet you either.”
Andre laughed at Georgiana’s excitement. Miguel, who was next to her in age, wondered, “Will she play with dolls or action figures?” Nathalie raised her eyebrow. “Why is that important, Miggy?” “Well, it just is,” Miguel noted. “Everyone says girls are supposed to play with dolls and boys are supposed to play with action figures, but why should it have to be like that? Why do other people get to decide what kinda toy you should like?”
Mrs. Cassells let out a deep breath. “Oh…kay. I think it’s time to eat.” Miguel hung his head in shame. “Too much for the dinner table?” “Yes.” She answered dryly.
“I think it was a fine question,” Andre countered. Mrs. Cassells stared seriously at her eldest son. “I just don’t think we need to be talking about that at this table.” “Dad is gone, but you’re still adhering to his rules,” Andre noticed aloud. This time, Mrs. Cassells wore a very serious look. “Silenzio! Right now.”
“But, why, mamma? Because I’m telling the truth?”
“I got the job at TVA,” Nathalie said before it got too tense. Mrs. Cassells exhaled as her blood pressure came back down. “That’s great. Roberto worked that out?” “Yes. See, Andre? He does good things for me.”
“Incentives so that you’ll keep quiet about his behavior,” Andre murmured.
“What’s an insensitive,” Georgiana asked. Andre laughed again at his little sister. “Not ‘insensitive,’ Georgie. Incentive,” Andre emphasized. “An incentive is something---” “That I don’t want you worrying about,” Mrs. Cassells finished. “Eat your food and ignore your brother’s insolent outbursts.”
“What does ‘in seal ent’ mean, mommy?”
“It means eat, Georgie.”
Georgiana sighed and continued eating her food. Miguel said, “It’s basically like a motivation. For example, mommy gives you candy as an incentive for you to have good behavior.” Mrs. Cassells looked at Miguel. “The conversation is done,” she reminded him. “I was defining it for Georgie,” Miguel explained.
“Andre’s comment is not to be explained any further. Is that understood?”
After this, the table was silent. Once plates were cleared, Karen and Lauren were on dish duty while Andre watched the kids. David, Georgiana’s twin, went upstairs to watch a movie. Miguel and Georgiana were at the table drawing and Miguel saw the time. He gasped.
”It’s almost 6!”
“What’s at 6?”
“Marcus invited me over to play an Xbox tournament with him and Irv. Can you tell mom I went to Marcus’s house?” Miguel asked. “I’ll be back by 8.” Andre asked, “Are you riding your bike over there?”
“I can drive you.”
“Can I ride too?!” Georgiana squealed. Mrs. Cassells walked in from the dining room. “Ride where?” Miguel told her, “Mamma, Marcus invited me over to play video games and Andre said he’d take me.” “Did you finish your homework?”
Miguel nodded. “Yep - for today and tomorrow night.” Mrs. Cassells sighed because she didn’t have any other objections. “Fine. I want you back by 7:30.” “But, mamma, my curfew is 8.”
“7:30 or you don’t leave this house.”
Miguel groaned. “Fine - 7:30.” He started putting his clothes on and Nathalie came by Andre. “I know you think he’s a bad guy, but Roberto is good to me. I promise.” “I know he’s been hitting you.”
Nathalie sighed and tried to avoid the conversation. “What were you saying about incentives?” “He’s a business man - and a shady one at that. He will do what it takes to succeed, which includes getting his wife a nice job so she won’t go around telling reporters that he hits her.”
“I would never do that.”
“So, you admit that he’s hitting you?”
“Dre, it’s almost 6,” Miguel whined. “Let’s go.” Andre grabbed his coat and boots while Nathalie was left thinking on this.
“If I tell you something, do you promise not to tell mom?”
Miguel sighed and looked at the road. “You remember how I said me and Marcus and Irv stopped hanging around Justin?” “Yeah…” “Well, I didn’t tell you why.” “Why did you stop hanging around Justin,” Andre wondered.
“Well, this one time, Marcus, Irv, Justin and I were hanging out and Justin and I were play fighting and we accidentally knocked our heads together. We were laughing about it, but then afterwards we stared at each other for a long time. Marcus and Irv said it looked like Justin wanted to kiss me, but I told them that was crazy.
“But, then, when it was time to go, Justin took my hand and he just held it; he actually squeezed it. His mom came in and saw us holding hands and she got mad and she said Justin couldn’t come out for a long time. When she let Justin start hanging out with us again, he would only want to play with me and he was always trying to play fight with me and Marcus and Irv starting saying he was gay and that we couldn’t hang around him.”
Andre sighed. “How did you feel about that?”
“Am I gay for liking when he held my hand?” Miguel wondered. Andre looked at his brother. “I don’t know. I can’t tell you that.” “Would it be bad if I was?” Andre shook his head. “No. It wouldn’t.” Miguel said, “But, you’re not and David’s not.”
“We may be brothers, but that doesn’t mean we’ll be the same.”
“I feel like I’m abnormal,” Miguel lamented. “Don’t feel like that,” Andre advised. “Whatever you are, God will tell you and we will love you just the same.” They finally made it to Marcus’ house and Andre thought about something. “You were going to try to bike all the way here in the cold?”
“Yeah. I do it all the time.”
Miguel chuckled. “I guess so.” “I’ll be here at 7:15 to take you home.” “Okay. Thanks, Andre! Bye!!” Miguel darted out the car and went into the house.
“What do you plan on doing with that degree?”
“Well, that’s a good question.”
Mrs. Ross raised her eyebrow. “You mean, you don’t know?” Tomas sighed. “I’m deciding between several offers right now. I just want to see which option is right for me.” Mrs. Ross nodded. “Good answer. So, what are your intentions with my daughter if you’re graduating in a few months?”
“I still intend on keeping the relationship.”
“How will that work?” She pestered.
“I plan to work out of Atlanta, which is right up the street from Nia. If I end up getting a job somewhere else, I’ll make the commute.”
Mrs. Ross looked at Tomas. “Is this relationship something you’d want for the long term?” “We’ll see.” “You’ll see. Are you saying it’s not something you want for the long…” Monique’s phone started ringing and she escaped the deadly Q&A.
“Camille! Where are you?”
“My turn, my turn! I’m next!” Monique heard loud music in the background and could already guess where Camille was at. “What’s going on?” “It’s over, Mo.” Monique could hear that Camille was choking back tears. “I’m so stupid.”
“Where are you?”
“I’m hanging out with Donald,” Camille admitted. Monique exhaled because it was just as she suspected. “Cam, that’s not good.” “Where else am I going to go, huh? I can’t stay at your house because I’ll be hit with memories and I don’t have the patience to deal with my mom’s people right now.”
“It’s not safe to be there,” Monique noted.
“It’s not safe for me anywhere,” Camille replied. “I’ll call you back later.” “Wait, Cam, don’t…” Camille was already gone before Monique could finish the sentence. “…hang up.” “I guess you’re the one who’s being rude now,” Tomas said with a smile. Monique raised her eyebrow because she was trying to figure out what was funny. “Huh?”
“Monique, you just left me in there to get obliterated by your parents.”
“I was taking a phone call.”
“Camille?” Tomas guessed. Monique put her hands on her hips. “Yes - Camille. Why is there disapproval in your tone?” “You’re always running to her rescue,” Tomas observed. Monique reminded him,“Tomas, she’s my best friend and she’s been my best friend since the 10th grade. Am I just supposed to let her drown?”
“In this life, it’s sink or swim. You got to let her learn how to swim on her own. She’s grown.”
Monique sighed. “I do let her swim on her own, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get worried about her. She has a lot going on.” “Problems that you adopt like your own,” Tomas pointed out. Monique crossed her arms. “If you had a problem with this…”
“…why are you just now saying something?” Daniel heard from the kitchen. He looked at James. “Merry Christmas?” Daniel lifted a beer and James toasted. Then, they both drank. “Ah, doesn’t it feel good to do that legally?” James took another swig. “Eh, it feels the same to me.”
“You spread the humbug this holiday season. Monique came in here excited to show us her new boo thang and now they’re falling apart.”
James shook his head. “He did that all on his own. He’s not serious about Monique and mom knows it.” “He’ll last about as long as Laila’s tenure at these salons.” Daniel started to laugh, but he realized James wasn’t laughing back. “What? Too soon?”
“It’s not funny, Daniel. She’s been to 3 shops in the past year and I’m still trying to figure out how we’re about to pay bills.”
“Just wait until she starts talking about babies.”
James shook his head. “Don’t even speak that into existence.” The last thing James wanted to think about was a baby. He and Camille’s child was still a gaping wound in his mind. Daniel wrinkled his face. “Damn, it’s too soon for that, too? Is there anything I can joke about?”
“Nope. I am a byproduct of the super sensitive generation.”
Daniel nodded. “Sometimes, though, it is necessary to be ‘sensitive’ because if we become desensitized to craziness, we’ll really be at rock bottom.” James agreed, “Exactly, so let’s not talk about the baby.” He still hadn’t found a way to tell Laila that he had a baby on her before they were even married.
“Why are you on the phone when we’re supposed to be partying?” Gina asked.
Camille looked and saw a crowd of people she didn’t know. Donald was talking to another girl and Camille tried her hardest to look away. Gina, Donald’s cousin, sat next to Camille. “What? Not your kind of party?”
Camille shook her head. “Not really. I’m not really into partying these days.”
“Why? We’re young. This is the time to party.”
Camille nodded. “Yeah true, but there’s more to life than partying, you know? This is fun, but at some point, we have to grow up.” Camille thought she was being intellectual until Gina started laughing. “You need to get some liquor in your system cause you really in them feelings.”
“Liquor does nothing but amplify hidden emotions.”
Gina shook her head. “Ed, can you get this lady a drink? I think she needs it.” Ed mixed something in a cup. Gina presented it to Camille. “Drink this.” “What is it?” “Good - that’s what it is. And it’ll make you stop thinking all those bad thoughts.”
“Only temporarily, though.”
“Drink,” Gina pressured. Camille looked at the cup. Should I take this? Camille knew the kind of partying Donald did, so there was no telling what was in that cup. Still, Camille was ready to take a break from her wandering thoughts, especially the ones about James. She finished the half cup in 30 seconds.
Gina smiled. “Now, that’s what I’m talking about. Ed, why don’t you make another one of those for my friend here?” While Ed mixed the drink, Camille looked at Gina. “You’re a lot cooler than your cousin.”
Gina smirked. “They said I’m the fun one and he’s the mean one.” “Oh, you’re the cousin who was like his sister?” Gina nodded. “I see Donald’s told you about me.”
”Yeah - one of the few things I actually know about him.” Ed was done mixing Camille’s second cup, so she drank it before Gina could think on that comment. Camille was about to start talking to Gina some more, but Gina left to dance with some guy on the floor.
Camille got another few drinks then sighed and stared at her third empty cup. What am I doing? “You want some more,” Ed asked with a laugh. “You killing those cups.”
Camille grinned but shook her head. “No. That’s good for now.” Ed nodded and made himself a cup before he sat down. “Let me ask you something.”
“Why are you with Donald when you could be with a real man?”
Camille chuckled a little. “Last I checked, I wasn’t with Donald.” “Aw, word? Does that mean I have the green light?” Camille raised her eyebrow. “The green light for what? I don’t homie hop.”
“Seeing one dude who’s associates, at best, with your ex dude ain’t homie hopping. It’s exploring your options.”
“It’s a little too much for my taste.”
Although Camille was talking like she was headstrong, Ed was a good-looking guy and the liquor was starting to kick in. “I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you dance with me and see if that will change your mind?”
Camille shook her head. “Whatever. One dance won’t hurt me none.” “Exactly.” Camille and Ed took to the dancefloor, but one dance turned into about 3 before Camille saw Donald in her peripheral. She turned around. “Ed, man, what is you doing?”
“She told me y’all was broken up.”
Donald started cackling hysterically. “I’m playing, man. These hoes are for everybody.” This comment hurt Camille, but Donald didn’t care. He left with a girl he had been talking to most of the night. Ed saw the stupid look on Camille’s face. “Donald just says these things when he’s drunk. Don’t take that to heart.”
Camille scrunched her face. “Don’t mansplain how I’m supposed to interpret Donald’s intentional slut-shaming.” Ed raised his eyebrow. “So, what, you a womanist?” “I’m surprised you didn’t say ‘feminist’.”
“I heard them talking about womanism in my school.”
Camille nodded. “True, but I don’t really like to put a label on myself. Why do I have to be a womanist to demand some human decency?”
Ed nodded. “You’re right.” Camille exhaled and walked away. She figured she’d done enough partying for the night, so she tried calling her estranged brother to see if she could crash wherever he was crashing.
“This is my prototype.”
Tomas inspected the bottle. “It’s cute.” “Thank you. You can take that if you want it and show people.” Tomas sat up straight. “Oh, I got it! ‘Hey, how are you? You look beautiful, you skin looks clear, you smell good, and your hair looks really nice. Would you be interested in buying my girlfriend’s product?’ How’s that for a pitch?”
Monique looked at Tomas. “I don’t know how to feel about all that complimenting.” Tomas sighed and put the bottle down. “We need to talk about that. First your outburst in my apartment and now this. You’re starting to sound insecure.”
“Why do you classify my comment as an ‘outburst’?”
Tomas said, “I looked at my phone for 2 seconds and all of a sudden I wasn’t a supportive boyfriend.”
Monique huffed. “Maybe it’s because you’re always on that damn phone.” “Here you go jumping to extremes. If you talked about things instead of just holding it all in, we could probably get somewhere in this relationship.”
After saying it, Tomas immediately regretted it. Monique sat silently because she didn’t know what to say. “I think we should slow down,” Tomas finally admitted. “. I enjoyed meeting your family and everything, but it seems like it’s moving too fast. We just started dating in October.”
“No one forced you to agree to do this. You chose to come here. You could have said no.”
Tomas groaned. “Why do you always have to get mad at everything? Why can’t we converse like adults?”
Monique was getting really irritated, so she stood. “I’m sorry that this is too much for you,” she said before leaving the room. Tomas sighed and turned on the game. Mrs. Ross was waiting outside the door. She had come downstairs when she heard yelling. “You want to tell me what’s wrong?”
“I put my eggs in a rickety basket and now they’re all cracking.”
This was all Monique said before she went up to her room. Mrs. Ross exhaled. “Those kids are going through it, Earl.” “Monique’s just testing the waters with these relationships,” he replied, “She’s strong and she’ll figure out what she needs to do. Now, James, I’m worried about.”
Mrs. Ross sat on the arm of Mr. Ross’s chair. “Baby, me too. That fight the other day was so awful.” “Yeah, it was.”
James: We’re engaged.
James: You asked for me to tell you, so there. I told you.
Camille: You’re full of shit. I just want you to know that.
James: (sighed) I had to do what I had to do.
Camille: Marry the one who’s more presentable, right?
James: You know it’s not like that.
Camille: Then, why wasn’t that ring placed on my finger? I was the one who had your child.
James: And now you have a future. You’re in college, which is more than I could say for myself. I’m at that shop and it’s swallowing me.
Camille: What if I wanted you to be included in my future? You and Jalen?
James: I thought we agreed not to bring Jalen up.
Camille: I thought we agreed that it was going to be just us; that you were really done with Laila for good. (scoffed) I knew it was too good to be true. (began walking away)
James: I’m sorry.
Camille: Yeah - you are sorry.
Camille had expended so much energy hollering at James in the first half of the argument, she didn’t have the strength to yell at him any longer. After she left, James had gone back home to Laila and he was back to pretending everything was normal. Presently, James and Laila sat on their floor opening gifts. Laila looked around at all the empty space. “This is just ridiculous. We don’t even have a couch.”
“Yeah, but we have each other.”
Laila smiled. “You’re right. Open yours first.” James slowly unwrapped the present and he opened the box. It was a book. “My daddy said he read this when he started the Eminence Empire, so I wanted you to have a copy as you build up Ross Repairs and bring it to glory.”
“We’ll see about that.”
Laila shook her head. “Uh-uh. None of that James. Look how far we’ve come. Back when we were in high school, I used to be worried about if you were fucking with Camille or Alexis or Amber or Yaya. Now, I know you’re serious about me. We’re going to grow together, James.” James looked at Laila. “That’s a good point.”
“Is she still sniffing around like the hurt dog she is?” Laila asked snidely.
“Who?” James wondered.
“Camille. I went over there to discuss the wedding with your mom and I saw her there.”
James shifted uncomfortably. “You didn’t tell me you were going over to my parent’s house.” “Do I need your permission to go there?” James shook his head. “No - of course not. It’s just that if you would’ve told me, I would’ve called my mom to make sure there was no drama.”
“There wasn’t any. She stayed on one side of the house and I stayed on the other.”
James nodded. “That’s good.” “Any way, I’m done talking about her. Moving on, let’s see what you got me.” This was Laila’s bubble and James didn’t want to burst it. He knew how fragile she was, so he wanted to keep her happy. She eyed the tiny box skeptically. “Did you get me socks again?”
“No, I did not get you socks.”
“Then, what is it?”
“Why don’t you open it and see?”
Laila grinned and finished opening the box. Then, she saw. She gasped at it. “James, this is beautiful. How did you even pay for this?” “I told my grandma Etta about the wedding and she passed it down to me. It was her mother’s wedding ring and Etta got it when Great Grandma Lynne died.”
“And you’re giving it to me?”
“I want to give you a proper ring and a proper wedding.” Laila was brought to tears by the gesture. “Thank you.” She immediately put the ring on and started making phone calls to tell people about the James’ gift.
“It’s not even 7:00. Why are you back so early?”
“Nathalie went into labor.”
At this, Miguel was silent; he was silent all the way to the hospital. In the room, Roberto stood by Nathalie’s side and held her hand while she pushed, but Andre couldn’t help but notice the tightness in Roberto’s grip. Still, it was a tender moment forNathalie and Andre didn’t want to ruin that. He left the room.
Once Siena was born, Nathalie was in love. “My baby. Bambino.” Mrs. Cassells beamed at Nathalie’s use of Italian. “She’s so beautiful.” While the mother and daughter eye-goggled the newborn, Andre sat outside with Miguel, who was falling asleep. “If you’re too sleepy, I can take you home and let Lauren watch you.”
“Is that why Karen, Georgie and David aren’t here?”
Andre nodded. “Yeah. Mamma wanted to make sure they got all their sleep for school tomorrow.” “I would go home and go to sleep, but I wanted to meet my niece.” “That’s fine too,” Andre said. “These are the moments you don’t get back.”
While they waited, Andre got a phone call. “Hello?” “Hey, bae. Merry Christmas!” Andre smiled. “Thanks. Merry Christmas to you too.”
“Thanks. What are you doing right now?”
“I’m at the hospital. What about you?”
“Winding down from my family smothering me with questions.”
“I feel it.”
“So why are you at the hospital? You overdid it on the eggnog?”
Andre laughed aloud. “No - that’s not it. My sister went into labor.” Bree gasped. “What? Is she still in labor?” Andre shook his head. “No. She had the baby a few minutes ago.” “She’s probably tired as hell right now.”
“Are you excited to be an uncle?”
Andre sighed. “Yep. I told Nathalie the baby’s going to inherit her 7-head.” Bree chuckled from the other side of the phone. “You’re silly.” Miguel gasped. “Look, Dre! They’re bringing the baby out!” Miguel ran from his seat to meet Siena. “Hey, I gottago. I think they’re discharging her.”
“Alright, well it was good talking to you. Make sure to get some pictures of the baby for me.”
“I will and, yeah, it was good to hear your voice, baby. I’ll try to call you tomorrow once things settle down.”
“Okay. Bye, Dre.”
“Bye, Bree.” Andre hung up and followed Miguel over to the room. As Andre lay eyes on his adorable niece, he wondered when fatherhood would be in the cards for him. He and Bree had discussed kids in passing, but it was never something they talked about in depth. After growing up around so many siblings, Andre knew he wanted a large family.
“Dre, do you want to hold her?”
“Sure.” Andre picked up his niece and it was a beautiful moment.
Contrarily, there were mainly dull moments on the car ride to the airport. Then, Mr. Ross pulled up to arrivals. “Here you are.” Tomas pulled his heavy suitcase from the trunk. Monique walked outside with him. “Let me know when you make it to Atlanta.” “I will.” They kissed, but it lacked passion.
James and Laila shared an equally unexciting kiss. “What’s wrong with you,” Laila asked when James got in the house. He had just gotten off the phone with Camille and the conversation hadn’t lasted a minute before she was crying and hanging up on him. “You’ve been acting different since around Christmas Eve.” “Family drama,” James mentioned. “It’ll be fine.”
These were the same words Raj, Camille’s brother, was saying to console Camille. “It’ll be fine. We’ll say our hellos and goodbyes, then leave, right?” Camille shook her head. “I wish it was that simple. You know her family always tries to suck usback in.”
“Don’t let them. Now, let’s go get this pity money, okay?”
“I suppose.” Camille opened the car door and she felt a familiar sense of vulnerability. She had pulled up to an expensive home when she was meeting with Jalen’s adoptive family, the Armoire’s.
Suddenly, Camille visualized the $15,000 check that had “Evan Armoire” on the bottom - the check she had gotten for her childand the same check that was going to help her float through college. Yet, she still felt an emptiness. You can’t put a price on a human being, she said to herself. She hated prostituting herself to her own family just for money, but they had it and she needed it.
“Camille! Raj!” Camille’s cousin Rae exclaimed. “I didn’t expect to see you two here.” “I didn’t expect to be here,” Camille mumbled. Raj had already disappeared, so Camille stared at the sea of white faces and wondered if she was supposed to call them family. Who are these people?
As they rung in the New Year, Camille thought of the old year when her mother abandoned her; Monique thought of the old year when she wasn’t losing herself in a relationship; James thought of the old year when it was just him and Camille; Andre thought of the old year before he became an uncle. For them, the holidays were almost like a mirage.
The "Rebellious Woman" blog is a periodic scoop on hair, love, race, politics, and everything in between. Stay tuned for reflections the life of a rebel with a cause!