22 - MR. WRIGHT
(CROSSING THE LINE)
“When I get my hands on that stupid bitch, I’m gonna kill her myself.” Kemi did what he always did. He grabbed chairs and threw them around. His next show of just how angry he was came in the form of him punching holes in the wall. Nobody in the room cared at this point because all of his putting on didn’t mean anything since he let their prize getaway.
Since the day he visited Lydia’s office and made a fool of himself, not one of them was successful at getting anywhere near her. She had a full security detail at all times and that they would have to come up with more than twenty people who were willing to go in guns blazing if they wanted to extract her.
That type of setup would cost more money than they were willing to pay. Not to mention the attention it would draw from the cops and others who they weren’t prepared to have to deal with.
“Shut the fuck up. I am so sick and tired of you dumb ass breathing.” With that rebuke, Kemi calmed down. He already knew he was on thin ice with the rest of the crew. If he fell all the way out with Nelda, there wasn’t anyone who could save him from the guys.
Word was making the rounds in the street that he had a target on his back just as soon as his ex’s mother decided she’d had enough.
“I want each of you to find a way to bring her ugly black ass to ME.” The woman who was in charge spoke with authority. As they focused on every word that proceeded from the same mouth that held a long Virginia Slim in the corner as she continued to speak, her demeanor reflected the person they already knew she was.
Nelda was a vision of beauty and poise at the age of fifty-nine, even though she didn’t look a day over forty.
She was “fine as wine in the summertime,” according to the men in hers and many other circles. She was 1990′s Pam Grier thick. Most people referred to her as a real Nubian goddess who was highly equipped to capture men’s hearts including the ones she crushed for fun.
Her perfectly silk-pressed raven black mane was her pride and joy as it flowed past her shoulders stopping right at the center of her back. She never allowed anyone to do more than trim her hair and straighten it out from its 2c coils. Nelda’s light earthy brown satiny skin seemed to be carefully mixed with just the right amount of red clay undertones. The five-foot-eight mother was what men referred to as a “Brickhouse”.
Whenever people saw Lydia and her mother together, they often remarked about how different they were and insisted her daughter must look just like her father until they met her father.
Braxton Malcolm Wright was a fool in love when he first met Nelda Raye Kensington forty-two years ago. After much reflection, he came to the realization that now, he was just an old fool.
When Braxton first laid eyes on Nelda, he believed he had found his one and only true love. He didn’t know a damn thing about the girl his eyes became glued to day in and day out.
It never occurred to him that choosing her would be a bad decision. She was everything he believed a woman should be. They were two shades of red-brown that seemed to naturally complement one another. Her complexion reflected more golden tones and his were more of a ruddy red. Braxton was always amazed that after all this time she still managed to get him worked up whether he was in or out of her presence.
Even though he learned early on that she wasn’t a nice woman and she was hard to deal with, he believed she was the essential piece to make his life somehow better. With her beauty and brains, she was allowed to accomplish so much in such a short period of time.
Braxton was truly ashamed when he learned of all the illegal ventures in which she was involved. Her restaurant was used to promote blackmail, drug transactions, extortion, and money laundering.
The Wright Family had moved away from Los Angeles, California, hoping to find a safer place for their sons to go to college and start their careers.
Mrs. Ernestine Wright was a high school teacher and Mr. Randolph Wright was a tradesman. Of course, when they arrived in the small town of Ansley, which was located in the middle part of northern Arkansas, it took some time for the two hardworking educated professionals to find jobs. Randolph’s brother Thaddeus insisted they would have a better chance if they moved to Little Rock, but his brother insisted he was tired of city life.
As part of their decision to refrain from moving to a more urban environment, the family was forced to live on a meager combined income while settling for positions making less money in exchange for harder work.
They also were forced to quickly learn that they weren’t in California any longer. Black people were often treated okay, but by that day’s standard, it was nothing for a ‘boy’ or ‘gal’ to get put in their place or come up missing altogether if they ran their uppity mouth to the wrong person. The Wright family got the gist of the fact that they had stepped back in time about twenty-five years.
Benjamin and Braxton were nineteen and seventeen respectively when they first arrived in Ansley. Braxton started the eleventh grade at the small high school and his brother went to work with his father at one of the courthouses in Little Rock as a janitor. Their mother found a job as a cafeteria worker at the local Middle School. Even though they were excluded from jobs in their professional field, the family put their collective noses to the grinding stone to make their move work.
On Braxton’s first day of school, the most beautiful girl he had ever seen walked past him in the hall as he and his mother walked into the office to enroll. She held her head up high as if she was a person of importance.
It was at that moment that Braxton insisted she would be his. He didn’t know her name and severely doubted she would show even the slightest bit of interest in him, but her confidence drew to her.
They passed one another daily during their class exchanges, but she continued to treat him as if he were invisible. It wasn’t until he started studying with another girl who was assigned to work on a science project with him that he noticed the girl of his interest starting to spend more time focusing on him.
“Braxton... Braxton... BRAXTON!” She insisted as he zoned out for the thousandth time since they started working on the last part of their project.
“What? What were you saying?” The love-sick young man’s attention was refocused on the girl sitting in front of him.
“Look. If you really like her, you should talk to her.” She pointed out.
“Who... what are you talking about?” He tried to play it off.
“Stop. Just stop it right now. Even a blind could see that you have some for Nelda.” The words hit him so hard, he looked away. It wasn’t his intention of letting someone else know how he felt, but he couldn’t help himself. She was so amazing he was lost.
“I don’t really know what to say,” Braxton admitted. His parents forbade him from getting hooked up with any girl until after he went to college or enlisted in the military. They wanted a good future for both of their sons and they knew it wouldn’t be found in the tiny little town in which they now lived.
“All you have to do is just go up to her and introduce yourself. You’re a good-looking guy after all. It helps that you have muscles and are really tall. Those are all things she likes in a guy.” The girl he had spent every Monday through Saturday afternoon for the last three weeks working with to finish their first nine-week Science project.
Honestly, he never paid any attention to her because his brain and his hormones were locked in an endless struggle to stop focusing on his muse so much. When his project partner began to list his positive attributes, for a brief instant, he realized she was quite breathtaking herself, but he refused to focus on her because she wasn’t the girl he wanted.
“Do you know her?” His innocent question was asked.
“I better know her,” she stated with a smile.
“How?” Braxton inquired a little restlessly.
“Nelda is my first cousin.”
The first half of his eleventh-grade year flew by at the speed of light leaving Braxton with the least amount of time to soak it all in.
He was eventually asked to join the basketball team because he was six-foot-four and he, of course, he really looked the part. At first, Braxton was kind of awkward and nowhere near as coordinated as he needed to be for sports. In order to fast-track his development with the hope of getting better, he spent much of his free time at the local playground where he played basketball non-stop with many of his classmates who were on the team.
After being thrown to the ground, dunked on, and called a bum or a lanky loser, Braxton found himself to be totally discouraged because he was handled in a way that said the other guys didn’t appreciate the fact that he was an outsider.
On one occasion, a group of guys from the school’s basketball team roughed him up just for the fun of it. When they left, he sat at one of the park benches ready to quit the team.
“Hey stretch. Whatcha up to?”
Braxton looked up to find his friend and occasional project partner addressing him.
“Not much. Just sitting here thinking about the best way to tell Coach I want to quit the team.” He admitted.
“Why would you want to do that?” She replied.
“Because I suck and I’m tired of getting my ass handed to me every time I come to this court.” He admitted with his head hung low.
“You just need to learn the basics and practice them until you get them down.” She continued.
“Anja, you have no idea how it feels to step on the court and get run over by everyone. I’m tired of them throwing me around like a bean bag.” His frustration came out.
“See... that’s where you’re wrong.” The girl stood right in front of him and called his bluff.
“What do you know about basketball?” He laughed.
“I know I’m a three-point champ. I know I’ve been playing basketball on the girl’s team since ninth grade.”
“Come on now. You know that’s a load of crap. You can’t be taller than five-two... maybe five-three on a good day.” He laughed at her.
“Okay smart guy. The best way to settle this is on the court.”