Authors: Nikki Turner
A Woman’s Work
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
A One World Books Trade Paperback Original
Copyright © 2011 by Nikki Turner
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by One World Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
is a registered trademark and the One World colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.
Title-page photograph: iStockphoto
Cover design: Dreu Pennington-McNeil
Cover photographs: © George Kerrigan (women),
© Will Steacy/Getty Images (fence)
I know you’ve got a little life in you yet
I know you’ve got a lot of strength left.
This Woman’s Work
Kate Bush, as sung by Maxwell
Dear Loyal Readers,
Back in the day, James Brown said this is a man’s world, but it wouldn’t be “nothing without a woman or a girl.” Today, Beyoncé makes it known, girls, we run the world. I couldn’t agree with them more.
Today’s woman is juggling a 9-to-5, a part-time job,
selling Avon on the side while being a room mother to her child’s class. She’s the CEO of a multimillion-dollar corporation by day and pumping breast milk from her tired body at night for her newborn baby. She’s the student cramming for finals in the college library (or not) and working the pole after hours in an off-campus bar to pay tuition, and the woman squeezing the most out of the measly handouts the state gives, turning nothing into something. Whether she’s in the office, the classroom, or the boardroom, she’s doing more than her share to make it happen.
Today’s girl is no longer waiting for that dream to come true, where Prince Charming rolls up on his white horse to sweep her off her feet, take her away from all her troubles, and make everything all right. The white horse in this fantasy may have evolved into a white Bentley or white-on-white Air Force Ones, but beyond all that, women have taken their dreams—and realities—to a brand-new level. We aren’t sitting around picking our fingernails waiting for that proverbial knight in shining armor anymore. We’re taking matters into our own hands, tightening our boot straps, rolling up our sleeves, getting creative and paving our own way, blazing trails for other women to follow.
I’ve been one of those women trying to juggle it all, and I know a lot of you know my plight personally: being a single mother of two children, having a larger-than-life nontraditional career, trying to maintain a graceful balance of everything from kids to friendships, relationships, bills, pressing deadlines, and my own sanity. And that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do another Street Chronicles collection for the ladies: because
A Woman’s Work
Another reason for this edition is that although all my Street Chronicles books have been well received—thank you—Girls in the Game was the most popular in the series. Getting together another stellar team of women writers to take my loyal readers to the next level in urban fiction wasn’t hard at all. As a matter of fact, it only took a couple of emails and text messages for my girls to come through. Tysha and LaKesa Cox were natural fits—their work appeared in
Girls in the Game
. I’d met Monique S. Hall at BookExpo America (BEA) a few years back, and the way she told me about some crazy drama she had going on at the time, I knew she could definitely put a fire story on paper. Keisha Starr and I had been trying to work together for a long time, and this was the perfect opportunity. Each story from this colorful and talented cast of writers fit to create this fantabulous collaboration. I enjoyed each and every one of their stories, and I hope you will, too.
Last, I would like to say, from the depths of my heart, thank you to my loyal, do-or-die readers. You all have supported all of my work from day one, and I appreciate you rolling with me one mo’ time for another edition of my original urban lit smorgasbord: Street Chronicles. And if this is your first time—maybe you were referred by a friend, or you’re just curious and trying something new—I thank you and welcome you to a riveting and gritty literary experience.
walked through my front door at 11:15 p.m. and headed straight to my bedroom because I was exhausted and damn near drained from tonight’s performance, but I knew that I wasn’t going to reach my destination before checking in with my parents, who were still up waiting for me to come home. Week after week, it was the same fucking routine: I would come home late, they would be in the living room waiting for me to give them an explanation, and I would tell them the same bullshit!
“Melissa, why didn’t you make curfew tonight? You are supposed to be in the house by ten p.m. sharp, and even that’s too late. I’m getting sick and tired of you strolling through these doors after hours like your name is written on the deed. You know people look up to us, and you’re not setting a good example for the kids in the neighborhood.”
Growing up in a strict Christian household can do some serious damage to a girl’s social life. I never got the chance to go to any parties or social gatherings with other kids my age. As far as my parents were concerned, Bible study, choir rehearsal, and the children’s ministry group were all the social gatherings that a sixteen-year-old needed. You see, my father is Pastor Earl T. Booker James, and trust me, he always said his entire name wherever
he went because it rang bells in our community. He loved the attention and praise that everyone gave him, but my mother, Sister Patricia James, loved it even more. Because my father’s pastor of one of the biggest churches in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, he and my mother always seemed to focus their attention on impressing others, and I for one was becoming very tired of it all.
“Melissa, you live in a Christian household, and you are going to walk in the right path, young lady. How do you think it looks when someone drives past the house and sees the pastor’s daughter living like she doesn’t have any rules to follow? What kind of example are you setting?”
First of all, no one should be driving past here minding my fucking business in the first place, so if they see me doing anything that hurts their precious feelings, then it serves them right
. But of course I wasn’t stupid enough to say that shit. “Ma, you knew that I had a game today in Wilmington, Delaware. It’s not my fault that the bus came back to the school late. The game ran into overtime, and I couldn’t just pick up and leave.”
“When you asked us to join the volleyball team I didn’t know that it was going to cause such a problem. You come home from practice late in the afternoons, and you’ve missed dinner almost every night since we allowed you to join that team. You know how important it is to your father for us to sit and eat dinner together. That’s our special time for ourselves without anyone intervening. You even missed Bible study tonight, and last week you missed choir rehearsal. Now, this can’t continue much longer because the church depends on you to do certain things.”
My mother was making my head hurt to the point that it felt like I had a migraine giving birth to another migraine. Every time the subject of church came up, I could actually feel the tension running through my body. “You can’t serve two masters, you know.”
“I hate it when you say things like that. It’s bad enough that you won’t let me join the school choir but you also stopped me from joining one of the hottest R&B groups out in Pennsylvania. Tiffany and Jasmine have been trying to get me to join their group Pretty in Pink for over a year now but you and Daddy keep shutting down the idea without even listening. I joined the volleyball team and now that’s starting to be a problem as well. I never get to do anything I want to do.”
“Don’t tell me about those fast girls. I can’t tell you the last time Tiffany’s mother was able to get her to come to church, and I won’t even talk about Jasmine’s mother. She wants to live her life through her daughter, and she’s not raising her with morals, might I add. She allows Jasmine to have boyfriends, and I can almost bet my right eye that your friend is far from a virgin, just like her mother, if you know what I mean.”
My mother had some nerve talking about Jasmine’s mother like she’s better than her or something. At least Mrs. Tarsha has enough faith in her daughter to manage her singing career. Jasmine and her mother have an excellent relationship. It’s like they were more sisters than mother and daughter. Shit, sometimes I wish she was my mother; if she was, I would probably be signed to a major label by now.
“You say you want to sing; well, we’ve put you in the choir at church. You have solos every single Sunday. What’s the difference between you singing in that group and you singing for the Lord? Either way, you’re singing, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I’m singing, but not the kind of music I love. Ma, I eat, sleep, and breathe R&B. I want to be the next Mary J. Blige, and you’re trying to turn me into the next Mary Mary. I’m not saying anything is wrong with them but it’s just not right for me. I’m sixteen years old. I should be allowed to make my own decisions.”