Authors: Meesha Mink
No, I gotta do this on my own.
“Yo, Naeema. Check this out, right.”
She released a heavy breath and turned to find Mone, one of the original barbers in the shop, handing her his iPhone 5s. Mone was tall, skinny, and high yellow. When he irked her nerves she was the first to tell him to get his banana-looking ass out of her face. “What's this?' she asked, taking the phone and reaching for a cloth to wipe away some of the sweat marks and crusty residue from the touch screen.
“Me and this little honey dip was tryna to do a little somethin' at her spot, right, and handlin' my BI. I look down and see
foul shit,” he said, tapping his long slender fingers against the screen. “Was I wrong to bust one and jet?”
Naeema frowned and leaned back a little at the sight of her woman's ass covered with spots like she just sat there all day and busted blackheads on it.
-ly,” Mone said at the sight of her face. “Fuck her. I got me and got the hell on.”
The voices rose up. Another debate raged on. Barbershop politicking.
Naeema handed him the phone back. “She wrongÂ .Â .Â . but you dead wrong for posing mid-stroke to take a picture of her ass. That's so disrespectful, Mone,” she chastised him.
“Nah, those spots on her ass is mad disrespectful,” he said, handing the phone to one of the customers sitting in the black leather chairs lining the front wall.
The dude nodded. “Yo, this is some disrespectful shit right here,” he said.
-ly,” Mone emphasized again.
“â'Til Mone saw that shit he was in that nanni like âOohÂ .Â .Â . ooh kill 'em. Ooh,'â” joked Fatz, a heavyset brown-skinned dude who'd just started cutting hair at the shop last year.
Naeema tossed the towel she still held at Fatz as he raised his arm and did the Cousin Terio dance. The entire shop broke out laughing.
“Please leave that shit in 2013,” she said.
Damn near all the fellas jumped to their feet.
“Oooh, kill 'em,” they said in unison as they did the dance.
Naeema started to get on them about it, but on the television she spotted the image of the bank the Make Money Crew robbed yesterday. “Turn that up,” she said, her palms starting to sweat.
One of the customers stood up and turned up the volume.
“Police are still investigating the robbery of a South Orange bank early yesterday morning, but there are currently no leads. If you have any information leading to the identification of the four masked men pictured here, please contact CrimewatchersÂ .Â .Â .”
Naeema's heart was racing like crazy and she felt like she might pee her damn self. There were moments in the last twenty-four hours that she got so comfortable, she forgot she'd helped robbed a bank. She ain't never been a snitch bitch, but the MMC would get no loyalty. The very first time the police rang her bell it was on.
“Yo, the cops always catch bank robbers. That's Fed time. You can't fuck with the Feds, everybody know that.”
Naeema focused on the convo going down about the robbery as her stomach started to bubble with nerves.
“You only hear about the ones they catch. You think they bragging about the ones that got away?” one of the customers said.
“True,” someone agreed.
Bas told them to lay low until he reached out to them but Naeema reached in her purse for her burner cell and called Vivica's phone number as she walked outside.
It went straight to voice mail.
“This Viv. Do what you do.”
Naeema turned her back on the crowd of fellas lounging in front of the liquor store, some with paper bagâcovered bottles of Hennessey and blunts already blazing in their hands.
“Hey, Vivica, this Queen,” she said, changing her voice like she was chewing a piece of gum. “I see you called me
yesterday but IÂ .Â .Â . didn't know my phone was on silent. Hit me up when you get dis.”
Ending the call and making sure her phone was closed, Naeema headed to the liquor store for a bag of pork rinds and a grape soda to feed her hunger before walking back to the shop. She motioned for one of the walk-ins to sit in her chair as she set the phone and her snack on the counter of her station.
Before she could dig into her rinds or even get the drape around her client's shoulders, the cell phone sounded off. She dug it out of her bag and rushed back outside. “Hell-o,” she said.
,” Vivica said.
“Nothin'. Whaddup with you?”
“Bored as hell. Red just left and I'm just sitting around here chillin',” she said with both a loud television and bass-driven music booming in the background. “Ride over here.”
Naeema bit her lip and looked up as she pulled a lie from her ass. “I can't right now. I'm gettin' my hair doneÂ .Â .Â . in Bridgewater,” she added in case Vivica tried to invite herself. She didn't have a car and the hour-long drive was not an option for her.
“Bridgewater?” she said. “Damn, black people really spreadin' out, huh?”
“Yup.” Naeema turned and spotted her customer about to get up from the chair. “I gotta go but let's go out tonight.”
“A'ight, call me when you leave there.”
“A'ight.” She hung up the phone before she rushed inside.
“I'm sorry, I had an emergency, but I'm ready now,” she said, walking over to lightly press her hands against his shoulders and guide him back into the chair.
She forced herself to focus on the dude's fade and not on her schemes to flesh out her son's killer
to make sure no one was acting sheisty like they was about to rat out on the bank robbery. There wasn't a damn thing she could do to Brandon's killer from behind bars.
ueen, I think Red is cheating on me.”
Naeema took a sip of her Crown Royal and Red Bull as she looked at Vivica over the rim of her glass at the bar of Club 973 in Newark. Not knowing what to say, she took another deep sip before she set her glass down. “What makes you think that?” she leaned in to ask as Kirko Bangz's “Drank in My Cup” played loudly around them in the dark club.
“He don't wanna fuck like he used to no more,” Vivica said without any hesitation in telling all of her personal business.
Naeema wasn't a selfish and coldhearted chick but her goal in befriending Vivica was not to be the bearer of all her troubles
.Â .Â . especially
whether Red's crime-ridden ass was dipping out on her or not. She seriously could not give less of a fuck. Fighting not to roll her eyes and say as much, Naeema took another sip. “Girl, you trippin', Red loves your ass,” she said, standing up. “Let's go dance and forget about all that crazy shit you dreamin' up.”
But Vivica didn't rise. Instead she reached into her rhinestone-covered purse and pulled out her cell phone. She flipped her waist-length pink braids back over her shoulder before she pressed the phone to her ear.
Going forward with the eye roll, Naeema smoothed her hands over the skintight jeans she was wearing with
sky-high bright pink heels and a white tank with FUN written in neon colors. Her Pocahontas wig was synthetic and making her scalp sweat and itch. She was more irritated than a motherfucker.
Reaching into her the small heart-shaped neon green chain bag, she pulled out her cell phone and checked the time with a swipe of the thumb across the screen. 12:30 a.m.
Shit, it's still early and she ain't talking 'bout shit I want to hear.
“You wanna leave now and go home to Red?” she asked, motioning for the bartender.
If I'm gonna sit and listen to her ass whine all night, I have got to be fucked up.
“He somewhere with Bas.” Vivica twirled the ends of one of her braids around her finger.
“I thought he say to lay low for a while?” Naeema asked, pretending to still be nonchalant.
“Not them two. They thick as thieves,” Vivica said.
As BeyoncÃ©'s “Drunk in Love” filled the air and women began singing along with the music, Naeema ordered two more Crown Royals and Red Bulls, sliding one in front of Vivica as she sipped from hers. She thought about her next words, trying not to trip up and say the wrong thing. “Bas wouldn't pull him away from you if it wasn't mad important,” she said, meaning to sound gullible.
Vivica just shrugged. “Me, Bas, and Red go way back. He wouldn't do shit to hurt me,” she said, then started to sway to the music as she raised one hand in the air.
Vivica was another loyal soldier in the Bas army.
“We woke up in the kitchen saying, âHow the hell did this shit happen' oh baby,” she sang, motioning with her hands and dancing in her seat.
“You always been the only girl 'round them?” Naeema asked, trying to get her attention back.
Vivica nodded and took a sip of her drink. “Bas ain't fucking shit but that powder and his thug dreamsÂ .Â .Â . Hammer got way too many girlfriends, side-chicks, babymamas, and tricks to even think about picking one to chill. Nelson can't pull shit, let alone a bitch cute enough to bring around and not get clowned on. Brandon died before they even knew 'bout Brianna.”
Naeema's heart pounded in her chest almost as loudly as the bass of the music around them
She didn't remember that name anywhere in the file.
“How come you knew her and nobody else did?” she asked, raising her hand to tap her fingernail against her teeth as her mind worked a dozen different possibilities.
Since she was in high school and first got a set of acrylic tips, she had picked up that habit and hadn't kicked it since. It helped her to think and right then her mind was racing at the new info dropped into her lap.
“She work in a diner over by where we live and I used to see Brandon there with her.”
Naeema decided to back off that, not wanting to scare her by seeming too nosy. Vivica sometimes talked about Brandon and she was always sure never to pry too much. She learned early on in their friendship that Vivica revealed more when she was uninterrupted. And Naeema needed to hearâto knowâmore.
What role did Brianna play in this?
“Bas don't know what to do with you, Queen,” Vivica said, picking up her phone again and tapping a text with her thumb.
“Huh?” Naeema asked, obviously distracted by her thoughts.
“Oh, he wants to fuck youÂ .Â .Â . we all know that, but letting you ride on the job yesterday was all about him seeing if he could trust you,” Vivica said.
And to have something to hold over my head in case he didn't.
Vivica picked up her phone when it lit up. Her whole face changed. Dick-sprung.
Naeema knew it was Red. “Your ass ready to go now,” she teased.
Vivica smiled and stood up. “We'll chill another time,” she said, looking sorry. “You wasn't stayin' wit me tonight, was you?”
“No, I'm carrying my black ass home. You go 'head, I'm'a stay. It's early,” she lied. She just wanted Vivica to leave before she offered her a ride home. Naeema never did and had no plans to let them know where she really lived.
“A'ight. Call me tomorrow.”
Naeema reached out and grabbed her wrist. “Viv.”
“Suck his balls and jack him off when he's about to nut,” she said in her ear.
Vivica made a face and laughed. “Queen, girl, you crazyÂ .Â .Â . but I'll let you know how it go.”
Moments later her thin figure disappeared in the crowdÂ .Â .Â .
â¢Â â¢Â â¢
Naeema squinted her eyes as she sat in a taxi outside the L&B Diner on Fourteenth Avenue and replayed the scene
with Vivica from the club the last night. She had wanted to remember as much of it as she could to make sure she didn't miss shit. The little tip she gave her was in exchange for the one Vivica didn't even know she gave to her.
“You getting out?”
Naeema looked away from the diner to find the cabdriver turned around in his seat eyeing her. “The meter still running, right?” she snapped. “Then chill.”
He mumbled something under his breath as he roughly shifted around in his seat.
She looked back out the window. She didn't even know if Brianna was at work.
And you never will if you don't get your ass out the car.
“Will you wait for me?” she asked as she slid her tote on her arm.
“You pay first,” he said, turning around in his seat again.
Naeema reached into her purse. Her hand brushed the rolled-up money but she pushed that aside and reached for her bright red wallet instead to pull out a twenty-dollar bill. “Please wait. I won't be but a hot second,” she said, pushing the bill into the metal slot of the bulletproof partition dividing them.
“Meter on,” he said.
“Man, fuck you,” Naeema mouthed as she climbed from the cab. She hadn't driven her motorcycle because, like her short hair, it was too big a fact for somebody to remember and she didn't want anything connecting back to her real life. So she was stuck with crabby cabbie and his whackness.