Authors: Nikki Turner
Tags: #African American, #Contemporary Women, #Urban, #General, #Fiction
I would like to dedicate this book to all the women around the globe who have had their heart broken by the love of their life.
To the best editor in the world: Melody Guy
For always being so dedicated, passionate, and supportive of me, my career, and my life. You are truly a jewel!
A Special Message from Nikki Turner to Her Readers
Dear beloved reader,
If you are a loyal Nikki Turner reader then you know that the novel
The Black Widow
has been in my heart for a long time—before I ever sat down to pen
Forever a Hustler’s Wife.
Although the story lingered in my spirit, when I tried to write
The Black Widow,
it wouldn’t flow. It’s no secret that I consider my projects my babies and compare the creative process to giving birth. That being said, this was one of the hardest second and third trimesters I’ve EVER experienced.
The Black Widow
had to walk in the shadow of such a hugely successful book:
Forever a Hustler’s Wife
. The overwhelming support for that book also came with an enormous workload—promotions, touring, radio, interviews, appearances, signings, and so forth. (Thank you for making it a three-time #1
bestseller!) And all this had to be done while selecting and editing the debut novels for my Nikki Turner Presents line. In the process,
The Black Widow
was put on hold so that I could care for and nurture the first Nikki Turner Presents novel,
by Seven (You are going to love this one!), and get
out of diapers and walking. I hope it doesn’t sound like I am complaining because believe me, I am not—I feel blessed to do what I do. However, I think that once I was actually ready to sit down and write
The Black Widow,
I was totally burned out. But the clock was ticking and the deadline to turn it in to my publisher was a month away—and as you know time waits for no one.
With so much going on, I never had enough time to sit down and fully get into my zone the way I’m accustomed to doing with my novels. I found my mind and my writing were all over the place. Two weeks before the official deadline, my editor called and asked to read some of the story. I sent it over, knowing that it was rough, but I wasn’t prepared for the way she responded. To make a long story short—SHE HATED IT! And don’t you know she had the NERVE to tell me that my baby was on life support with a faint pulse. How dare she? It was like a dagger going through my heart. How could she have been so brutal toward something that I had longed to bring to life? But after taking a long hard look at what I had sent to her, I realized that she was just being honest and that’s exactly what I needed her to be. I took her comments in stride because as my friend Robert Greene, author of the
48 Laws of Power,
would say, setbacks can lead to greater comebacks.
For the next few days I didn’t even think about my love child—and when I finally did, I made a tough decision without my editor’s blessings. With no regrets, I basically terminated the pregnancy and went back to the drawing board. Taking it from the top, I started banging out an amazing, heart-wrenching story. The applied pressure created another precious jewel. About a week later I sent over the first ten chapters. My editor was astounded at how quickly I had turned the entire situation around; she instantly realized that I had conceived yet another rare diamond.
Now without further ado, I want to formally introduce you to the newest member of the Nikki Turner family. Drum roll, please….
Loyal and new fans alike, meet my Golden Child:
The Black Widow
I was once a young girl with an open and vulnerable heart who gave her love so freely. But time after time, the men in my life deserted me. Most were taken from me, some chose to leave, but they all let me down. And little by little, my heart started to close. With each murder, each betrayal, each death sentence, I found all my relationships unraveling in front of my very eyes.
I stopped being that sweet young girl, and I became someone else.
I became the Black Widow.
My name is Isis Tatum, and this is my story.
Some men don’t understand the great influence that they have on their daughter’s lives, because the reality is, most of the time girls love men just like their daddies. And that’s where this all started—with my father.
Ronald “Ice” Tatum
Baby, you gotta love the one that loves you, you hear me?
Worn down from the day’s activities, Sandy Tatum arrived home from her job at the prestigious private school where she worked as a fourth-grade teacher. She was as beautiful as she was smart, with mocha skin, coal-black hair that grew past her shoulders, and round walnut-brown eyes ringed by long eyelashes. She couldn’t wait to get inside the home she shared with her husband of fifteen years, Ronald “Ice” Tatum, a hardworking truck driver who hauled whatever to wherever to make sure that he could take care of his wife and their thirteen-year-old daughter, Isis.
It had been a long day. The parent of one of her students had come to the school to cuss her out, and then her car had refused to start, so Sandy had had to have it towed. A coworker was kind enough to drop her off. All she wanted was a hot bath and glass of wine, but when she reached her front door, she found an envelope taped to it.
“What now?” Sandy sighed, throwing her arms up in the air and then dropping them to her side.
Surely all of the bills have been paid
, Sandy thought before ripping the envelope off the door.
And nothing is delinquent, not even that raggedy-ass car that I shouldn’t be paying for.
Sandy pulled the contents out of the envelope. She couldn’t believe her eyes as she read the papers. Her lips moved as she read the words:
Ronald Tatum has been summoned to appear in juvenile court for a child support hearing.
she thought to herself.
This has got to be a mistake.
It just had to be. She had been married to the man for over fifteen years. Certainly she would’ve known if he had fathered other children besides their own daughter. Wouldn’t she?
Confused and upset, Sandy went in the house and called the number on the summons.
“Juvenile and Domestic,” the clerk answered. “Mrs. Joplin speaking. How can I help you?”
“Yes. My name is Mrs. Sandy Tatum, and I’m calling in regard to a summons I found taped to my front door,” Sandy explained. “There must be some kind of mistake. It’s for child support and is addressed to my husband, who only has one child. Mine. And I sure haven’t taken him to court for child support. He takes care of home just fine.” Sandy went on and on, trying to convince the clerk that there was indeed an error. But then again, maybe she was really trying to convince herself.
“Well, let’s see, Mrs…. aah…Tatum?”
“Yes, that’s right. T-A-T-U-M.” Sandy enunciated each letter as she heard the clerk beating away at her keyboard.
“I see. Well, let me pull it up so that we can try to solve this problem, or at least get some clarity on the issue,” the clerk offered before a slight pause, as she pulled the file up on her computer screen.
“Thank you very much.” Sandy waited impatiently for only a few seconds, but they seemed like hours.
“Okay. Here we go. Ronald I. Tatum,” the clerk said as she read her computer screen. “The petitioner is a Ms. Brenda B. Cross, and the child in question is named Phoebe Cross.”
Sandy couldn’t breathe. The air had been sucked right out of her lungs and spit into the atmosphere. The phone went silent.
“Mrs. Tatum, are you there?” Mrs. Joplin asked in a sympathetic tone. She had recently divorced a cheating bastard masquerading as a devoted husband, so she knew how Sandy felt. Thankfully, in her case, there were no children involved.
“Yes.” Sandy tried to regain what was left of her composure. “I’m here. Thank you very much. You’ve been a great help.”
“No problem,” Mrs. Joplin said. “I understand. I’ve been there, done that. If—”
Sandy hung up the phone before the nice lady could finish her sentence.
“Somebody got some explaining to do around this here bitch, and it ain’t going to be me,” she fumed to herself.
As Sandy looked at photos of Isis, she thought about how she wasn’t going to let their beautiful daughter be cheated out of the plans they had made for her future. Her daughter wasn’t going to have to go to some community college instead of an Ivy League university so that some illegitimate child could get a higher education too. Isis wasn’t going to have to get a Hyundai for her sweet-sixteen gift instead of a BMW because her husband had to get a car for some bastard of a child. “Oh, hell no!” Sandy raged. She needed some answers, and she needed them now!
She paged her husband about ten times over the next thirty minutes to no avail. She knew that Ice was nearby because his big rig was outside, parked alongside the house, which was a sign that he hadn’t left for work yet.
Sandy waited a few more minutes to see if her husband was going to return her page, but her patience was wearing thin. She was desperate, so she called Mrs. Joplin back.
“Juvenile and Domestic. Mrs. Joplin speaking. How can I help you?”
“Hi. This is Mrs. Tatum again. We just spoke about half an hour ago?” Sandy said into the phone receiver.
“How can I help you?” Mrs. Joplin asked.
“If you don’t mind, I would like to ask you a question or two.”
“Sure, if I can answer them,” she said. “Go ahead.”
Sandy thought about how she could best articulate the question without offending the woman. “Mrs. Joplin, when we last spoke, what did you mean by ‘been there, done that’?”
“Well, honey, I was married to a cheater myself,” Mrs. Joplin admitted. “After I found out what I was dealing with, I divorced that jerk.”
“Well, I know you don’t know me, but we do have something in common. And I don’t know who to turn to because all of my friends think that my husband and I have the picture-perfect life. They would probably just love for me to call and confide in them about this, and I can’t give them that kind of satisfaction.”
“I do understand.”
“So I guess what I want to know from you is: How did you handle your situation? I mean in the beginning. I’m over here going crazy. And you know the saying: Crazy people do crazy things. I need answers. I’ve paged my husband, and he isn’t calling me back fast enough, and I don’t know what to do.”
“Well, I cut out the middleman, which was my husband, and went straight to the source. I knew all he would do was tell me lies. I hightailed it right over to the woman’s house. You might not know about her, but if she knows your address, then surely she knows about you.”
“I don’t know anything about this woman.” Sandy sounded defeated.
Mrs. Joplin lowered her voice. “Well,” she said, “she lives at 1713 Lady Smith Road. And if anyone asks, you didn’t get that information from me. I’ll deny it on my mama’s grave.” This time it was Mrs. Joplin who hung up.
Sandy wrote the address down and headed out the door. When she got to her driveway, she remembered she didn’t have her car. As far as Sandy was concerned, it was a do-or-die situation. She had to do something she had never done before: drive Ice’s rig. She had ridden as a passenger in it plenty of times before Isis had been born, when Ice made his legitimate (and illegitimate) runs across the country. She had watched him operate it. It had to be just like riding a bike.
Sandy went back in the house and grabbed the spare key from the kitchen drawer. She then went back outside, got in that baby, and started it up.
Lord, help me.
She said a silent prayer before backing the rig out of the driveway. It wasn’t exactly like riding a bike, but it was like driving a car. A big one. A very big one.
As Sandy headed to the corner, she saw Isis getting off the school bus for kids who were involved in after-school activities. Isis flagged down the rig. She was shocked when she approached it to see her mother in the driver’s seat and not her father.
“Where’s Dad?” Isis asked. “Why are you driving the truck?”
“I’m going to find him, so go ahead in the house and do your homework,” Sandy answered.
“I want to go with you, Mom.” Isis quickly ran to the passenger side and opened the door before her mother could deny her.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“Please, Mom. Please.” Isis climbed in and closed the door. She couldn’t wait for people to see her rollin’ in the rig with her mother. “Come on, Mom, let’s put girl power in effect. Two ladies at large playing with the big-boy toys.” Isis’s big beautiful eyes gleamed at her mother.
Sandy knew that there was no point in fussing with her daughter about anything concerning her father. She did practically everything for Isis while her father was on the road. But when Ice was around, there was no denying that Isis’s loyalty was to her father. It was Isis and Ice against the world. Isis loved her father, and no one could take that away from her. She was her father’s little princess, and in her eyes, he was the king not only of their castle but of the road and the world too.
Time was wasting. Sandy placed her foot on the gas and proceeded to her destiny.
Sandy pulled the rig up to the house, which was only about a ten-minute drive away from where they lived. It sat between two streets at a fork in the road.
She took off her jewelry and placed it on the console in the front of the rig. “Stay here,” Sandy instructed her daughter.
“’Kay.” Isis nodded as she pulled out her Walkman and began to listen to it and try on her mother’s jewelry. Isis had always loved her mother’s jewelry. Ice always made sure that both his wife and daughter had nice jewelry, but of course Sandy’s was way more elaborate and expensive.
Sandy got out and walked up to the shabby house.
What the hell could my man want with someone who lives in a piece of shit like this? What could she possibly have to offer?
Sandy took a deep breath and knocked on the door. A cocoa-skinned woman with a bright-colored flowered scarf and red lipstick came to the window and spoke through the screen.
“What, bitch?” the woman said in a tone that indicated she knew exactly who Sandy was and that she was even expecting her.
“Is Brenda here? Brenda Cross?” Sandy asked. She wanted to return the obscenity, but decided she could probably get more information with honey than she could with vinegar.
“What the fuck you want?”
“I don’t…I don’t want any trouble. But there must be some kind of mistake. These child-support papers…” Sandy held up the summons after pulling it out of her pocket. “…were on me and my husband’s front door when I got home from work today. It’s a summons for child support, and it has your name on it as the petitioner.”
“And?” Brenda snapped her neck and sucked her teeth.
there must be some kind of mistake,” she said to the woman.
“No, there ain’t no mistake. The motherfucker been falling short of making sure me and my child gets our money.”
“Huh? You and your child?” Sandy swallowed the knot in her throat.
“Yes. Why the fuck you think that motherfucker is over here eating my pussy right now? So that I might change my fucking mind about the child support.”
“Ice is here?” Sandy asked, dumbfounded.
“Yup, as he always is,” Brenda informed Sandy. “And unless you got some motherfucking money for me, you need to get the fuck off of my goddamn property, bitch.”
“Listen, there is no need for you to get mad at me. This is the first time I heard anything of any of this.”
“Didn’t I say leave, bitch? And once I am done with yo husss-band,” she said, moving her head from side to side, “then I will send him on home to you.”
“Shut the window, Brenda!” Sandy heard Ice’s voice in the background. She stood there stunned. She couldn’t believe her ears. Hearing her husband’s voice come from what was probably another woman’s bedroom sent Sandy into a trance.
So she isn’t lying at all. This motherfucker is over here with her and allowing her to disrespect me. And to top it off, he isn’t coming out here to face me. I’ve given this nigga almost twenty years of my life, and this is what I get?
“Fuck this bitch,” Brenda responded to Ice while glaring at Sandy. “It took her long enough to find out about us and our thirteen-year-old daughter. If she wanna—”
That was when Ice snatched Brenda out of the way and reached over and shut the shed right in Sandy’s face.
Thirteen years old. That’s the same age as Isis
, Sandy realized.
This motherfucker has been living a double life for thirteen fucking years. Oh, hell no! I’m not leaving until I get to the bottom of this.
Sandy began banging on the door, not caring if the neighbors heard. She even forgot about her own daughter, who was waiting back in the rig. “Ice! Ice! Come to this door right now!” Sandy yelled in between hits. “You cheating-ass nigga, you need to be man enough to face me!” She kicked the door. “Motherfucker, open up the door and come out here!”
Sandy paused to see if she was going to get any reply. She could hear Brenda inside the house still running off at the mouth.
“Don’t you know he don’t want you, you proper and prim, fake wannabe-model bitch? Bitch, you ain’t no model” were Brenda’s muffled words.
“Ice, get out here now. You owe me that much. I’m not leaving until you come out here, so you’re going to have to face me eventually, coward.” Sandy kicked the door as hard as she could, hoping that somehow the lock would pop and she could get in the door.
“Obviously he don’t want you, or he’d be on the other side of the door out there with you instead of in here with me. Now get away from my door, bitch. What the fuck you going to do? Come in here and get him?”
Just then, Sandy noticed the huge boulders that decorated the little flower bed next to the porch. As she struggled to pick up one of the rocks, she was distracted when she heard Isis call out to her, “Ma, what are you doing?”
“My daughter,” Sandy said, realizing the last thing she wanted was for her baby girl to witness her acting like a daggone fool.
She walked quickly back to the truck. As she hopped in, she said, “Baby, I apologize. I never want you to see me act like that, and I never want you to ever act like I just did. People may envy you, but you can’t let them see you act a damn fool. Even if you feel like one.”
“Was Dad there?”
“How come you ain’t let me go up there to get him?”