Delia’s eyes bucked as soon as she saw Cami sitting on a green cushioned bench near the long white marble vanity. Her eyes narrowed in suspicion. Her guard instantly went up.
How did Cami know she was in town this week? Had she followed her here to this restaurant in order to beg for more money?
“What are you doing here?” Delia asked, still with that suspicious gleam in her eyes.
Cami wanted to say, ‘Oh, you think I can’t dine in a fancy place like this, too?’ But she wisely kept her mouth shut. She wasn’t about to mess up this opportunity. Not with only two more weeks standing between her and homelessness.
“I’m here having lunch same as you,” Cami replied in a calm tone. “I’ve been job hunting all day. I needed something to lift my spirits from all the rejections I’ve been getting today. It seems nobody wants to hire a felon. Nobody wants to rent an apartment to a felon, either. I’m still staying in a hotel.” Tears filled her eyes even as she spoke those depressing words. Genuine tears, surprisingly. Blame it on her rising desperation.
“I thought you were going to ask Millsap for a job,” Delia said, reminding her of the last conversation they had in an unsympathetic tone. A conversation where Cami outright refused a job at the hotel the Seegers co-owned.
“He’s been out of town a lot lately. No other baller will give me the time of day. It’s like they think I’m some kind of jinx or something on account of that E-Blade situation,” Cami replied, trying to keep from outright bawling now as her desperation level rose even higher.
“I’m running out of options,
Delia’s brows rose, not in surprise of how her cousin had spent her seed money, but at her honest confession. Cami wasn’t usually one to willingly admit to any wrongdoing or acknowledge any mistake. And she was a major grudge holder.
Had all of that suddenly changed?
Delia seriously doubted it. Thus she was about to say, ‘You brought all this on yourself’. Yet something halted those words on her tongue. Or rather Someone halted them as more excellent Words dropped in her spirit from Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV).
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
“Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Delia went on to recall the rest of Matthew 18, where Jesus talks about the parable of the unmerciful servant who, though he was forgiven much from a person he owed, turned around and was unwilling to forgive someone that owed him a lot less.
Forgiveness and mercy, Delia mused, recalling how she’d been shown an abundance of those very two things just yesterday by God and by Royal. In fact, if it hadn’t been for forgiveness and mercy, her marriage would be over now. Especially after she stupidly let Diego kiss her the other day, causing Royal to almost kill the man.
“The offer still stands for you to work at our hotel,” Delia finally told Cami, refusing to behave like the unmerciful servant. “And I’m sure you could probably still get a room at Bonz’s boarding house. I’ll even arrange to pay three months rent in advance for you,” she added, throwing in a bonus for good measure as she sat down on the long bench beside her cousin.
Cami’s eyes filled with even more tears at the mercy she’d just been shown. “Th…thanks,
Cami didn’t think she was too good to be a hotel maid now. Right now scrubbing toilets sounded a lot more respectable than shaking her tail at a strip club. It would definitely sound respectable to Little Man, who was the one person that Cami wanted to please more than anybody else these days.
“You’re welcome, Cami,” Delia replied with glistening eyes of her own. “Everybody needs a second chance in life. Sometimes a third and fourth chance,” she added, speaking from recent experience.
“I’m glad somebody is still willing to give me another chance,” Cami replied, sniffing back a few tears as her selfless cousin patted her on the back in comfort even as tears rolled down Delia’s own cheeks. “I seriously doubt if my own daddy would help me right now. And we both know I can’t count on my mama for the time of day.”
“More people would be willing to help you, Cami, if they saw you helping yourself first.” Delia reached on the vanity with her free hand and retrieved enough tissue for them both. “Matter of fact, having more business about yourself will draw rich men, baller or otherwise, to you quicker than your looks ever could. Very few men like needy desperate women,” she said, handing off half of the tissue in her hand.
“Is that how you got Royal?” Cami asked, having heard that Delia’s husband was wealthy on several fronts. Royal was a doctor twice over, an hotelier, and owned part of a media group now.
“Actually, I believe God hooked me and Royal up. I mean, what are the odds of a woman falling in love with her OB/GYN?” Delia chuckled in memory of how she and Royal met. “But if you want to know some of the things that worked in my favor with Royal once we met, I would have to say my honesty, my willingness to make my own money, and my love for children.” She chuckled again and added, “My Beyonce looks didn’t hurt either, girl.”
Cami laughed, too, starting to feel better already. “How have you kept him?” she asked as she wiped her face with the tissue she’d been given. “Especially since we both know that looks and even sex ain’t always enough to keep a man.” She had learned those things the hard way.
“I have God to thank for that, too,” Delia confessed, using one hand to push her long locks out the way, the other to wipe her own face free of tears. “With my past and with all the stupid mistakes I’ve made lately, there is no way I could have kept a man like Royal on my own.”
“But what if a woman doesn’t have God in her life? How can she keep a rich man then?”
“First of all, I wouldn’t want to even try to keep any man without God in my life. Not anymore. I did that with E-Blade and look how bad that turned out,” Delia replied. “But if you’re not ready for God yet, there are some things you can do in the natural to increase your odds of holding onto a man, rich or otherwise.”
Then Delia began to tell Cami things that she’d learned over the years from personal experience and from watching other strong women in action. She spent quite a bit of time talking about Aisha. About how Cami’s former rival made herself unforgettable to Bonz by focusing on her strengths and nurturing his.
Delia even included examples, some of which Cami had personally witnessed and yet despised at the time because they’ve given Aisha such a competitive advantage over her. Now she embraced those things with open arms. After all, even she couldn’t deny that Aisha’s antics had snagged the cream of the crop.
Bonz was better looking and richer than both E-Blade and Racker. And despite his slight limp from being shot by E-Blade that fateful January night, Bonz was still prime pickings today. In fact, that limp looked more like a cool swagger than evidence of a past injury.
Finally, Delia offered one last piece of advice to her cousin. “Keep in mind that talking and acting like a gold-digger will drive rich men away just as quickly as your looks brought them to you. Meaning, money and material things can’t be all that you talk about when you’re around them. And when you do talk, balance your slang with correct English so that the men will know that you’re versatile, not ignorant. It won’t hurt to read the newspapers and watch a few documentaries on TV so that your conversation will be seasoned with some of the deeper things in life.”
“In other words, trim down the slang and stay out of the shallow end of the pool,” Cami said, putting her cousin’s words in simpler terms.
“Exactly.” Delia chuckled. “And when a man does give you things, be grateful, not greedy by asking for even more stuff. No man, especially a rich man, wants to be around a woman who always got her hand out every time he sees her.”
“I hear you, Dee.” Cami nodded, taking those words to heart. “Thanks for all the great advice…thanks for everything. Especially since I know I don’t deserve any of it,” she said with genuine sincerity, moving to give her cousin a hug that was just as genuine.
“If you’re going to thank anybody, thank God,” Delia replied, returning that warm embrace. “He’s the One that taught me the importance of extending mercy instead of giving people what they really deserve.”
“I—” Before Cami could get out the rest of her response, Aisha suddenly entered the restroom.
© 2008 by Suprina Frazier