Jazzy secretly wants to get back together with her ex boyfriend, Curtis, so when he calls and reveals that he’s got something important to tell her, she’s got no idea that he’s about to propose—to her first cousin and bitter rival, Mercedes.
The annual family dinner is coming up, and fearing that she will spend the evening seething while Mercedes flaunts her four-carat engagement ring in her face, Jazzy asks Reggie, an Adonis she met at the mall, to accompany her. As fate would have it, not only did Reggie and Mercedes used to date; that backstabbing, leopard print wearing cow is still carrying a torch for him!
Revenge. It has never been so sweet. But falling for Reggie? Holy crap! That wasn’t part of the plan! She has enough on her plate as it is with a mother who spies on the neighbors and a sister and best friend with men problems that could land them on Jerry Springer.
So when Curtis comes sniffing around again—this time, with an accusation that sends her blood pressure shooting through the roof—the one good nerve that Jazzy’s got left has just about run its course.
I parked on the street and realized that my palms were sweaty, so I wiped them on the seat and took three deep breaths.
When I got out of the car, I tried to remain calm, but by the time, I reached the door, the butterflies in my stomach had turned into bats. I knocked. A few seconds later Curtis answered, and I stood there, shocked. He looked so damn good I had to stop myself from taking a flying leap and wrapping both my legs around his waist.
He had a beard (he was always clean-shaven when we were together) and was actually dressed….well….nicely! He was wearing a white button down shirt with khakis instead of those blue jogging pants with the yellow paint stains and the white muscle shirt with the holes in it. And for once, he smelled like he hadn't bought his cologne from some guy in a beanie on a street corner. He even had the nerve to look like he’d been hitting the weight room, which shocked me because the whole time we were together, the only exercise this man got was running from bill collectors. Before I knew it, I felt a tingle in the part of my body that’s off limits to everyone except my gynecologist. Then, I got pissed. How dare he open the door looking like a chocolate wet dream? I, the dragon slayer, did not get slayed. I did the slaying. I regained my composure.
“How are you, Curtis?
“Fine, Jazzy. You look good.”
I wanted to say, “Chile, this girdle is cuttin’ off my circulation like you wouldn't believe.” But instead, I smiled and said, “Thank you. So do you.” We walked inside the beautiful foyer and, as always, the winding staircase took my breath away. I followed Curtis into the living room and immediately noticed that it had been remodeled. The carpet had been replaced with hardwood floors, the walls painted a deep red, thick curtains were draped over heavy rods, an oil painting hung over the mantel piece, and a glass coffee table stood between two full-length leather sofas. I was so busy marveling at the decorating that it took me a while before I noticed the atmosphere in the room: cake, balloons, and all the children doing cartwheels. For a second, I thought I heard some of the kids singing, “Ding dong the wicked witch is dead.” The adults seemed happy (but maybe the cocktails had something to do with that), and no one, except for me, was wearing black. It didn’t seem like a re-pass. It seemed more like a celebration.
I said, “They seem to be taking it well.”
He shrugged. “I think they’re grieving on the inside. Do you want something to drink?”
“Do you have lemonade?”
I didn’t want any alcohol. When I got even just a little bit tipsy, for whatever reason, I became a rock star in my head. The last time, at karaoke night at some dive bar, I really got down with my bad self. I ended up on stage singing “Shoop” by Salt-n-Pepa. The next day, to my horror, it ended up on YouTube. For weeks, people walked by me singing that damn song and laughing and pointing at me. It even ended up on the six o’clock news in the segment: “Local woman gets down with her bad self”. I was humiliated (they still play it sometimes in a segment called “Dopey clips you might have missed”).
Curtis brought me a glass of lemonade and said, “Let’s go somewhere we can talk.”
We went to the sitting room where a huge picture of Grandma Laney and her shotgun looked down at us. Curtis cleared his throat. “As I told you on the phone, there’s something very important I need to talk to you about.”
He looked me right in the eyes. “I’ve done a lot of growing since we broke up. I finally know what I want to do with my life, and I’m on my way to financial stability for the very first time. I’ve changed, Jazzy.”
“And, well, there’s something I need to ask you.”
At this moment, his mother, Ms. Kay, stuck her head in the room. She was a triathlete and had a body like Angela Basset when she’d done What’s Love Got to Do With It. I knew that even in her fifties, I’d be eating her dust in a footrace. She smiled when she saw me and I hopped up to give her a hug. “Ms. Kay! How are you?”
“I’m fine. Thanks for coming.” She nodded to Curtis. “Can I see you for a second?” They left the room and I walked around looking at all the pictures of Grandma Laney. She was frowning in every single one. Even in her wedding picture where she wore a long, black dress and scowled with a cigar in one hand. I shuddered, thinking what that honeymoon night must have been like for the poor groom. I sat back down and noticed that underneath a lamp sat a light blue box that looked like it might be carrying a set of earrings. Curious, I opened it and was shocked to discover a diamond engagement ring. I sniffed it. Holy shit, a real diamond! It must have been at least four carats! I sat the box back then stood nonchalantly as I heard Curtis saying something to a relative as he walked back towards the room. When he got back inside he said, “Sorry about that.”
“That’s okay. Curtis, what’s this about?” I gasped because it hit me: something to ask me, him looking good enough to eat, and the ring. Sweet Jesus, this man was about to propose! I hopped on a chair and threw my hands in the air.
He looked confused. “What?”
“You have to ask me something very important right?”
“And this could affect both of our lives forever?”
Dragon slayer my ass. I was getting married! “Hold that thought.” I hopped off the chair and ran to the bathroom because I wanted to make sure my breath wasn’t funky and that I looked as stunning as I did when I had left the house. Who’d have thunk it? Me, getting married! How unexpected! I knew that we shared a bond and that there was something still lingering between us, but I had no idea he was thinking about making me his wife! I was proud of myself. All of that tough love I gave him, telling him he needed to get his finances together, refusing to loan him money, drafting a one year plan so that he could get caught up on his student loans; and now, he was financially stable and wanted to thank the woman who had made it all possible. I got teary eyed thinking about how I almost gave up on him. I checked myself one more time, and when I realized that I wasn't going to get any more stunning, I headed back to the sitting room.
I walked over to Curtis and said like a sweet little angel, “Please. Go on.”
He took a deep breath. “I just wanted to be the first to tell you that I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life.”
Enough with the small talk, buddy. Gimme the ring already.
“And well…” He wiped his forehead. “This is harder than I thought!”
I grabbed his hand. “You can tell me anything.” Now stop your yappin’ and give me the damn ring!
Suddenly, I heard the clicking of heels on the wooden floor. Curtis looked up at the same time that I did, and there she was. Decked head to toe in a leopard print dress and donning a hat that you would expect someone to wear to the Kentucky Derby. She was cradling her black Chihuahua, Kee-Kee, and dabbing her eyes with a Kleenex. She sobbed. “Oh, Curtis!” It was my cousin, Mercedes (or, as I sometimes liked to call her behind her back, Broke Ass Pinto).
When she finally noticed me she turned up her nose. “Oh. It’s you.”
“Yes. It’s me. And hello to you too, Daihatsu.”
She sat Kee-Kee down and frowned at me. “Now is not the time for your antics, Jasmine. A woman has died and I will not stoop to your level of commonness. Have you learned nothing since you crawled barefoot out of the bayou and slithered here on your pudgy little belly?”
I scoffed. “There is nothing pudgy about my belly. And don’t act like we’re not from the same place just because you have some job doing…oh, never mind. I forgot; your ass ain’t got no job.”
She took one of those handheld fans out of her purse (with her picture on it) and fanned herself. “I just so happen to be on sabbatical.”
“From what? Finding sugar daddies?”
“Just because a man wants to wine and dine me does not mean he’s a sugar daddy. Can I help it that they just so happen to want to take me to five star restaurants while your dating life consists of sitting across from some gold-toothed fool while scarfing down biscuits at Jack in The Box? Don’t hate the player, honey.”
“First of all, I have never dated a man with a gold tooth. Except for that one time in high school. And second of all, I happen to love Jack in The Box—especially their biscuits. And third, shouldn't you be somewhere, sleeping upside down in a cave or something?”
Kee-Kee became antsy, so Mercedes stooped down and picked her up. Mercedes rubbed noses with her. “Don’t worry. The lady is just being mean to mommy because she’s fat.”
Before I could reach over Curtis’ head and grab her by that goofy looking hat (or trip her while she was walking so that she would go sprawling headfirst into a plant), Curtis said to her, “I didn’t expect you until eight.”
“Should I leave?” She looked at me with more disdain than normal, and then it hit me; what the hell what she doing there? While Curtis and I dated she wouldn't even acknowledge him as my boyfriend. She called him that poor guy Jazzy put roots on.
I said, “What are you even doing here anyway?”
“I’m here for Curtis, you moron.”
“I mean why. Since when are you two friends?”
“Who I’m friends with is none of your business.”
Curtis turned to me. “Jazzy, I hadn't planned on doing this in front of you. But I want to let you know that our relationship is one of the main reasons I had to take a good look in the mirror and say, ‘Curtis, it’s time to grow up.’ And because of you, I was able to find the love of my life, and I just want to say thank you.” He grabbed the blue box and turned to Mercedes. He got on one knee and grabbed her by the hand. “You are the most wonderful woman I’ve ever met and it would make me the happiest man alive if you were my wife. Mercedes, will you marry me?”
She tossed poor Kee-Kee (who yelped) onto the sofa and put a hand on her chest. Then, she covered her mouth and shot one hand in the air and screamed, “Yes! Yes! Eat your heart out, Jazzy!” He put the ring on her finger as tears rushed from her eyes. She waved the ring in my face, then ran out of the room holding her hand in the air and screaming, “Suck it, Peacock!”
Slowly, before my blood pressure spiked any further, I said to Curtis, “Is this why you asked me over here?”
“I didn’t plan for it to happen like this; I just wanted to tell you in person before you heard it from anyone else.”
“When did you start seeing Mercedes?”
“Right before we broke up.” He shook his head. “I mean right after.” He said something else, but in my mind, he sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher. “Jazzy, um, you know, whaa-whaa-whaa-whaa-whaa.” I felt my head nodding even though I wasn’t comprehending a thing he was saying.
I think I blacked out because one moment, I’m in the sitting room with my hands wrapped around Curtis’ neck as Mercedes and Ms. Kay tried to pry my fingers loose, and the next moment, Curtis was running down the street, and I was chasing behind him with a heavy, cast iron skillet in my hand.
"Give me a for example, because I'm not seeing the difference." She sighs and turns away, biting on her thumbnail a little. "OK," she says, turning back. "For example, I'll ask you the first question and you answer, then I'll answer the same question for you."'' I smile. She chews on her bottom lip this time. Clearly she is nervous. "All right, tell me about the best day of your life." I sit up and stare down at her. "The best day of my life?"
Quanie Miller grew up in New Iberia, Louisiana.
She fell in love with reading at an early age and spent most of her time at the Iberia Parish Library discovering new authors like R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike (she was often found walking back home from the library with a stack of books that went up to her chin).
She holds degrees from Louisiana State University and San Jose State University. She has been the recipient of the James Phelan Literary Award, the Louis King Thore Scholarship, the BEA Student Scriptwriting Award, and the Vicki Hudson Emerging Writing Prize.
She loves writing humorous stories about strong willed, sassy women who can’t keep themselves out of trouble. She lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband and is currently, as always, working on another novel.
To find out more about Quanie and her works in progress visit quanietalkswriting.com.