"The Mission" by Karen E. Williams
I’m the type of girlfriend who will get up in the middle of the night to go with you to your boyfriend’s mother’s house, where he is hiding, so you can slash his tires. Or you may need someone to do a quick drive-by to your ex’s new girlfriend’s apartment to see if he’s there. As I see it, a woman needs all the encouragement she can get when dealing with these men. I do a reconnaissance mission at least once a month. If you don’t keep on top of his business, somebody else will be all up in yours. You feel me? So, when Kendall called me upset about her man Brian, I rushed right over.
“Hey girl, you okay?” I said, walking into her side door. Kendall had a nice cape cod in Delta Township.
“Hi Nadia.” She had a look of concentration on her face as if she was studying the air.
I went over to her stove and grabbed the teapot. It was white with purple flowers painted on the side. The flowers were worn and looked as if they had wilted from the many uses. Filling the pot with water, I watched the flame flicker at the bottom of it. “You talk to him?” I brushed my hair away from my eyes with my hand.
“He said that I was tripping.” Kendall looked down at her hands as the fingertips of her right hand stroked the knuckles of her left hand.
“Tripping,” I said. Poor Kendall. I really felt for her. Why is it that a man can get comfortable with a woman, then proceed to show his ass? Most of my friends have the same problem. Not me. If my man won’t act right, let the door him hit where the good Lord split him. It’s not that I didn’t want a husband or long-term relationship, but why put up with shit.
“I don’t see him for two straight weekends and I’m the one that’s tripping,” Kendall said.
I could hear pain in her voice that sounded as if it would crack. For a woman who had so much on the ball, this one area of Kendall’s life has always been a stumbling block. It was the same thing seven years ago, after graduate school. The man was different, but not much else.
I gave her a big bear hug. She smiled briefly and tried to stifle a whimper. “Let’s sit down.
Kendall had an eat-in kitchen that featured an antique table. She sat in one of the sturdies chairs and I sat across from her.
Her eyes pleaded. “I trust him.”
“Trust? Are you crazy? Trust is for babies and puppies.”
“He’s a good man.”
To me, a good man was like an endangered species. Hard to find, and there was a penalty for their capture. I looked into the connecting family room and spied a picture of Brian on her coffee table. “Three years is a long time to be dating with no ring, if you ask me,” I leaned in, taking her hands in mine.
“I don’t want to pressure him.”
“You think he’s cheating?” My mind told me he probably was. That was what men did. I should know. My last relationship was with a man who thought he was my daddy. Tried to control me. Half the time he was missing in action and I believe if a man is not having sex with you, you can best believe he is having it with someone else.
“No, it’s just this feeling.”
“What kind of feeling?” I released Kendall’s hands and turned toward the stove to watch as the puffs of stream began to rise from the pot.“I don’t know. It just seems something’s not right with us lately,” Kendall said.
I rose and entered the kitchen, where I opened the cabinet and brought down two mugs, then moved to her canisters near the sink to get the tea bags.
“Follow your first mind or trouble may find you,” I said. “Well, if you go looking for trouble, you’ll find it.”
Looking out the kitchen window, I surveyed the backyard, decorated with colorful leaves. Now that’s a telling sign. What’s the point of having a man if he cannot keep on top of the yard work? “Have you checked his phone?”
“No,” Kendall said and then blurted out, “I saw him riding in a car with another woman yesterday.”
My antenna rose as I slowly turned away from the window. She was holding out on me. I hated to be right. Well actually, I didn’t. “Well now we’re getting somewhere. Who was she?”
“I don’t know,” Kendall said and massaged her head with her hand. “What did he say when you asked him about her?”
“I didn’t ask him.”
“Hmmm,” I poured boiling water into the mugs to let the tea steep. The fragrant smell of orange spice drifted up as I placed the pot back on the stove.
“You think I’m being silly,” Kendall said.
“If it was me, I would confront him and let him know who he’s dealing with.”
“When I try to talk to him lately, he gets so defensive.”
“That’s a tell-tale sign. You need to call him right now,” I pointed to the phone on the counter against the opposite wall.
“Yes, you can. He ain’t got no right to treat you this way,” I said. “He’s not home anyway.”
“Where is he?” I touched the side of the mug to see how warm the tea was. “He left today to go out of town to take care of some business.”
“Lord, my work is never done. Out of town on business,” I said and gave her a look.
“You think maybe.”
“He just throwing it up all in your face.”
“He has had a lot of late-night meetings lately.” Kendall shook her head from side to side.
She looked as if she just realized water was wet. “See what I mean?”
“You really think? I mean. We been together all this time and he won’t even talk to me,” Kendall said.
Pursing my lips, “Girl that’s how it starts. Lack of communication.”
“I don’t believe that he would do this to me.”
When our tea was ready, I moved back to the kitchen table and sat down. Kendall stirred her tea without putting sugar in it and sucked on her bottom lip.
“I’m sorry, girl,” I said. “But I knew this would happen. He too pretty.” I took a sip of the warm liquid.
“I just don’t understand how– I don’t know what to do.”
I rolled my eyes up to the ceiling. My thoughts were to just go over there and set him straight. If he was having fun with someone else, she needed to shut him down.
“We need to go over there,” I said. “What?”
“Go over there and get this figured out.” “I told you he wasn’t home,” Kendall said.
“That’s the perfect time to investigate.” I rubbed the fringes of the table runner between my fingers. It had been a nice addition to the antique table that we found at a garage sale two years ago.
“We can’t do that.”
“Why can’t we?”
“It’s not right,” Kendall said.
“Don’t punk up on me now. Is it right that he’s with another woman?”
“No,” Kendall said.
“Is it right that you are home alone wondering who he with?” “No.”
“You’ve been with the man three years. It is your God-given right to go through his things.”
Kendall paused. She drummed her fingers on the table and appeared to be arguing with herself. “I’ll go get his key.”
“You can’t wear that,” I looked down at her champagne slacks and her multi-colored short sleeved cardigan.
“You need something on that’s black or some nondescript jeans. Dark colors.”
After Kendall changed her clothes, we drove in silence with her staring out the window, lost in her thoughts. I knew she would feel better once she knew what was going on. I parked around the corner and we walked the half block and entered through the back door of the building with Brian’s key.
“Maybe we shouldn’t do this.” Kendall said.
“While you thinking about what you should or should not do, he could be upstairs right now boning this woman.”
We walked up the stairwell instead of taking the elevator to the sixth floor. I peeked down the hall and motioned for Kendall to follow me. As we started walking toward Brian’s apartment at the end of the hall, the elevator opened. A young couple stepped out of the elevator and walked past us. We slowed down until the couple reached their apartment and entered. I kept watch as Kendall opened Brian’s door. My heart quickened as Kendall fumbled with the keys. I hated working with amateurs. Once inside, Kendall went for the light.
“No,” I said.
“What’s wrong?” Kendall reached out and grasped my hand.
“I got flashlights. Here. You take the bedroom and I’ll check around out here. Look for his date book, phone, things that look out of place.”
“You do this often?” Kendall walked down the short hallway to the bedroom.
Scanning the apartment with small bounces of light, I found the mail on the dining room table, where there was a collection of bills and catalogs. A light scent of Chanel No. 5 drifted in the air. It was definitely not Kendall’s fragrance.
“Nadia, I think I have something.”
Using the walls as my guide, I followed Kendall’s voice back to a bedroom where she was listening to the answering machine.
Beep. “Hi Brian. It was so good talking to you, yesterday. I can’t wait to see you again. Call me, Samantha.”
Beep. “Hi Brian. I want to thank you again for the weekend. Love you, Samantha.”
I hugged Kendall’s shoulders as her bottom lip trembled. “You gon’ be okay, girl.”
“I don’t understand. I thought we were happy,” Kendall said. Her eyes looked as if they were pleading with the answering machine to change its message.
“That’s how they fool us. That’s why you have to investigate these things,” I stepped back and opened my arms wide to offer Kendall my shoulder.
“Three years down the drain,” Kendall said, her voice breaking.
I could not let my girl go out like that. I looked around his bedroom for something to destroy. There was no way I was gonna let some man play Kendall and get away with it. I let my flashlight roam around the room. I saw a king size bed that took up a large portion of the room. Kendall had told me that Brian loved his waterbed.
“You can’t take this lying down.” I released Kendall and moved toward the bed.
“I just want to leave.”
Poor Kendall. So dignified. She just didn’t realize when a man messes up, you have to act up.
“He shouldn’t enjoy this water bed with no other woman,” I nodded toward the bed.
“You’ll feel better.”
That’s when I heard a click at the door. “When is Brian due back in town?” I said.
“I thought he was coming back Sunday.”
“Who is that then?” I looked toward the door and then scanned the bedroom to find an appropriate hiding place.
“I don’t know.” Kendall searched my face. She began to inhale and exhale. She grabbed my hand and squeezed.
“Hide,” I said and pushed Kendall toward the bedroom door. I felt Brian would enter the apartment at any moment. There was no need to panic. I looked toward the closet and Kendall met my eyes.
We scrambled around the bed and finally found refuge in Brian’s walk-in closet and crouched in the corner. The door did not close completely, so it began to creep open. We listened as Brian’s and another voice filled the apartment.
“Brian, Thank you again.”
“Oh Baby girl, it’s not a problem. We’ll chill this weekend and straighten things out Monday.”
“You are gonna talk to her.”
“Yeah, I’m gonna put an end to all of this. It’s been going on for much too long,.” Brian said, “You hungry.”
“I’m starved,” the female voice said.
“Let’s put your stuff back in the bedroom then we’ll get a bite to eat. We saw a stream of light as Brian and a woman entered the bedroom. “Ooh, you have a waterbed.”
“You like that?” Brian said. “I bet it’s real comfortable.”
Kendall stood up and lunged toward the door. I yanked her toward me. “Get a hold of yourself,” I whispered.
“No,” Kendall said and broke from me. She charged the door. I dived for her and we tumbled into the light of the bedroom. Brian stood with his mouth open, looking down at us with widened eyes. He loomed larger than I remembered him or maybe it was the distortion on his usually smiling face. When Kendall first introduced me to him, I remember taking in his well-toned physique and his dark curly hair. He was the type of “fine” who could make you forget your name temporarily. I knew then that he was too good looking to act right. It was only a matter of time and the time was now.
Kendall leapt to her feet. “Well, Brian, aren’t you gonna introduce me to your friend?” She folded her arms across her chest.
“Brian, who is this?” the girl said.
I didn’t believe the little trick would have the nerve to speak up. I rose and stood by Kendall’s side. The girl was young, maybe about eighteen or so. I didn’t think Brian was into little girls. She was cute, but comparing her and Kendall was like comparing diamonds and glass. Her weave was dyed auburn to deepen her chestnut skin tone. She had lines drawn where she had tweezed her eyebrows into submission.
“Kendall, Nadia. Why were you in my closet?”
The words began to tumble out of me. “Hey Brian, didn’t hear you come in. Kendall and I was checking out your suit size. I told her, you had to be a 36 long. Well, you just ruined the surprise. Kendall was going to get you a new suit for your birthday.”
Kendall and Brian stared hard at each other.
“My birthday was last month. Kendall, what are you doing here?”
“I can ask you the same thing. That girl looks like she barely out of high school. Can I see some ID?” Kendall wrinkled her nose like she smelled something foul.
The girl rolled her eyes and went to sit on Brian’s bed. The water waved and the girl moved slowly up and then to the side.
“I got your back, girl.” I said. I wanted to be in position to smack the girl down if she wanted to start something.
“What are you talking about?” Brian said. He crossed his arms.
“Brian, I will ask the questions. Thought you were out of town.”
“We’ll talk about this later,” he said and started motioning toward the door. He reached for Kendall’s arm and Kendall moved back out his way.
“No we’ll talk about this now.”
“Look Kendall, take your friend, go home and I’ll call you.”
“I’m not going anywhere until you tell me why you are in the bedroom with this child sitting on the bed,” Kendall said. She looked toward the girl, “Isn’t it after your bed time, honey?”
The girl rose and walked toward Kendall and I like she was gonna do something. If anything, she was gonna get a beat down. She better recognize. She stopped at the chest of drawers behind Brian.
“My name is not honey.”
“Kendall, I don’t want no shit from you,” Brian said.
“Shit from me. I would tell you what I’m thinking but there’s a child in the room.” Kendall pointed to the girl.
“Brian, you need to handle your business. I’ll wait in the living room,” the girl said.
The heifer had a little attitude. These young girls coming up these days did not have a clue. Kendall and I are old school. She don’t know . Snatch that weave out her hair.
“Business, excuse you.” Kendall said. Her voice had raised an octave. “Thanks, Samantha,” Brian said and watched as she walked out of the room.
“Samantha, that’s the girl on the answering machine,” Kendall said. She gripped the flashlight.
“Oh, so now you and friends are listening to my private messages. I think it’s time that you both leave,” Brian said. The muscles in his jaw strained and looked as if they would explode.
“Oh, this is how you gon’ play me,” Kendall said. She took heavy breaths and her nostrils flared, giving ignition to the fire in her eyes.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Girl, he must think you a fool. What you gonna do?” I placed my hand on my hip. How dare he try to play dumb. I wondered why he was perpetrating like he had not been caught.
“This is between Kendall and me and I don’t feel the need to discuss these issues in front of everybody. You need to mind your own business.” Brian glared at me as if I got caught stealing something.
“Don’t talk to Nadia like that.”
“Okay. You want to get into this now. Let’s do it then. That young lady is my little cousin Samantha. She is the daughter of my Aunt Sarah. Want to call my aunt?” Brian pulled out his cell phone. “No wait, maybe you want to talk to my mother.”
“Your cousin,” Kendall said.
“Yes, my cousin. I was gonna call you tonight to see if you wanted to join us for dinner.” He stood with his arms to his sides, clenching his fists. He sure did look angry at Kendall. “Remember I told you about my cousin was going to attend M.S.U. Maybe you want to talk to the college too.”
“Her dorm room was not ready and she is staying with me until we can straighten out her housing Monday.” He said and grabbed the door to his bedroom. “Now I think you better go.”
“I think we should go,” I leaned toward Kendall and patted her on the back
“Baby, I didn’t know. I’m so sorry,” Kendall said. Her eyes started to water.
“Yeah, I see how much you trust me, ” Brian placed his hand on the doorknob of the bedroom.
“It was just that we haven’t spent time together and–”
“I’m real upset with you right now and I’m not in the mood to talk about this.”
“I’ll call you when I get home. I love you,” Kendall said, her voice quaking.
He practically pushed us out the front door and Kendall and I stood there for a moment before we started back to the car.
“Oh my God, what have I done?” Kendall said.
“Well, girl, you know how you overreact.”
“Me? You talked me into coming over here.”
She acted like she was really mad at me. It’s not like we didn’t have a reason to be at his place. But I tried to diffuse the situation. “You know how I am. Since when do you listen to me? You’re supposed to be the sensible one.”
“I could strangle you right now.”
“Don’t worry, he’ll be okay. Drop a little extra booty on him this week.”
“Shut up! I’m through listening to your advice.”
“Now come on, girl,” I gave her a little smile.
“That’s why you ain’t got a man.” Kendall quickened her steps and walked off ahead of me. I had to run just to catch up with her.
“I choose to be single.” I picked imaginary lint off the back of her sweater.
“That’s what I get. I take advice from a woman who hasn’t had a man in two years,” Kendall said. She banged on the down button for the elevator. She stared at the gray elevator doors.
“Ain’t no reason to get personal.”
We rode the elevator in silence and began walking to the car. Kendall stopped, wheeled on me and I saw the fury in her face.
“Nadia, when we get back to my place, I’m going to call and beg my man to forgive me and I’m gonna do whatever I have to do to make him happy. You’re going home and I don’t know when I’ll want to talk to you.”
“I’m sorry. You know you my girl. I only want to see you happy.”
“You crazy heifer.”
“I am really sorry,” I said. We walked in silence a few moments. “But that still doesn’t explain the late night meetings. And I didn’t see no family resemblance.”
“I’m not listening to you.”
“Cousin my ass.”
Kendall stuck her fingers in her ears. “La la la la la la la la la la.”
© Karen E. Williams
About the Author: Karen comes from a long line of storytellers. From her great grandmother speaking of family riches within the house, to her mother entertaining us with funny anecdotes of her childhood. They taught Karen that “Everyone has the power to create and tell your story.” Karen’s short story, “Intuition,” was published as a part of the collection, The Ex-Chronicles, published by Brown Girl Publishing (2016).
A graduate of the University of Michigan, she currently resides in Lansing, Michigan, where she loves to read and plan for her next travel adventure. Find Karen on Facebook at Karen E. Williams.