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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

Nappily in Bloom

A Novel

Nappily (Volume 4)

Trisha R. Thomas

St. Martin's Griffin


The Bigger They Are

When Satan attacks, he doesn’t sneak or hide. He makes sure you see him coming. His sheer pleasure comes in the terror and fear that spread and eat your spirit, spill acid into your gut, and disease into your body. It is called worry.

I opened my eyes to try to stop the vision. My soul was heavy. I’d already spent half the day worrying about Airic and what his affair with my assistant would do to my reputation. Now it was time to release the burden. He’d caused the pain, and he alone would have to deal with the ramifications.

He’d asked to meet in a public place—as if I were a threat and not him, the very one who’d tried to crush my spirit. I walked into Risou, the upscale restaurant in the Perimeter shopping district of Atlanta, looking impeccable. I’d spent a good thousand dollars between the spa and salon and dropped the ten pounds I’d recently gained, to make sure there was no proof of my stress. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of witnessing my devastation.

He stood up, wearing an aqua blue shirt and tie under a dark suit that made him look respectable, though I knew what kind of treachery he was capable of. He was out to destroy me. What else could explain his behavior?

“Thank you for coming.” He pulled out a chair at the table. The dim lighting of the restaurant made it feel like evening when it was only eleven thirty in the morning. I was grateful the lunch crowd had yet to arrive.

He wasted no time with small talk. “All I’m offering is a compromise. I want what’s fair—that’s all,” he said.

“Fair? I don’t see you on television every night. I don’t hear your voice on the CDs, books, and tapes I’ve sold. How is it fair?”

“I’ve been a substantial part of your life over the last two years. If it wasn’t for me, and the investments I made, you wouldn’t be worth half of what you are now.”

“Money doesn’t define me. Our union was not based on money, so why should this dissolution be based on money?”

“This isn’t a philosophical debate. The math is all we’re dealing with. You have a substantial increase in your net worth since our two-year marriage. It’s a simple, basic fact.” Airic shifted his weight, leaning back in his chair.

The waitress sat two cups down and placed the French press filled with more fresh coffee between us.

I waited until she was gone. “But you forfeited your right to our marriage and its benefits when you decided to sleep with that low-rent whore.” I took a delicate sip of the hot coffee, doing my best to hold the cup steady despite the gentle tremor I felt in my grip. “And of all times, you know I have a new book coming out in a few weeks. I will not be embarrassed like this.”

“You don’t have a choice. I’ve got proof of what you did. I don’t want to have to do it, but I will go public. You could be charged with fraud, a federal offense. Tampering with a court-ordered document. You paid someone to change those DNA results. You won’t bounce back from this like you do from everything else.”

This brought about laughter I didn’t know I was capable of. I laughed until my ribs hurt. “I don’t think it can compare to you and your little girlfriend’s sex tape. Besides, who did I hurt? You still have your precious Mya.”

“Only after putting Mya through another DNA test. You’re spiteful and evil. I don’t think I can ever forgive you.”

Again, I had to try to mask my amusement. “Airic, please, you can’t touch me. However, I will do whatever I have to in order to protect myself.” He’d forgotten who I was, Trevelle Doval. I grew up fast and hard, and the one thing I remembered and would always keep as my mode of operation was to get them before they got you.

“Do you really want to find out?” he asked, shaking his head. “You are some kind of stubborn.”

“I am a survivor. I have worked too hard to let you destroy everything I’ve built because you couldn’t keep your dick in your pants. Whatever you do will only bring about more embarrassment on yourself.” I forced a smile, but I was breaking into a million pieces.

As they say, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. But no one is ever referring to physical size when they make that statement, but rather resolve and circumstance, hopes and dreams. The bigger those dreams, the louder it can be heard around the world when someone knocks them off their stage. One thing for sure, I wasn’t going down easy.

I’d been blessed with a second chance. Not many can make that claim. A daughter I’d thought died at birth was put before me like a gift from God. Only the highly favored received those kinds of blessings. I’d come to accept this honor. Some were ashamed of their good fortune. Not I. My potential was only beginning. I commanded audiences of tens of thousands who wanted to hear me speak. I was God’s vessel. I owed my legion of faithful followers respect by proving His power and grace.

Airic would need more than idle threats to put a period on the end of my sentence. I was in survival mode. “Why do we have to fight, Airic? Why can’t you see the error of your ways and ask for forgiveness?”

He leaned in. “Stop it. All right. You don’t care anything about me. You’re just trying to save face because your new book is coming out. Image is all you care about.” He was silenced by the stares of a few patrons. The restaurant was filling quickly. “You want to stay in a loveless marriage? Is that what you’re saying? Because I can’t do it anymore.”

“Yes. You’re right. That’s exactly what I’m saying. I have an empire to maintain, and I can’t do it as damaged goods. Divorced. Cast out by my own husband. Do you know how it felt to get that DVD in the mail, put it in my player, and see my husband—my husband.” I tried to stop my lip from trembling. “I didn’t do anything to deserve that.”

“I was hurt when I found out what you did. It was my way of lashing out to hurt you back. Chandra didn’t mean anything to me. She sent the DVD after I explained we couldn’t ever see each other again. She thought it would break us up and send me straight into her arms.… Well, she was right about the first part.”

“Are you saying it was only once?” His silence lasted a second too long. My stomach curled into a tight ball. I couldn’t stand the way I sounded—pathetic, weak, powerless. “You two deserve each other. God bless me.” I closed my eyes. “I can’t stay here.” I picked up my clutch, securing it high under my arm.

He took a hold of my hand. “Wait a minute.”

“Don’t touch me. You lost that right.”

Airic followed me out of the restaurant. It took the valet a second before he recognized me.

“Ms. Doval, may I get your car?”

“Not yet.” Airic spoke in my place, putting up a dismissive hand.

“Please, thank you.” I handed my ticket to the young man.

“I think we have to admit this was a long time coming, whether it was Chandra or something else. Chandra is not the reason we’re here.”

The mention of her name one too many times made a surge run through my veins. Before I could stop myself, I slapped his face with one hand and swung at the air with my purse with the other. I struggled while his long fingers managed to clasp around both my wrists like rope.

“Stop making a fool of yourself.”

“I’m the fool—you’re right about that. I’ve been a fool since the day I believed you loved me.”

“I did love you,” he huffed, still trying to catch his breath. He straightened his tie and wiped the sting on his neck where I’d scratched him. “I did. I tried to make it work. You think I want this … what’s happening between us? Did you ever stop and think how it made me feel not being able to sleep in the same bed with my wife? In the world of Trevelle Doval I was trying to fit in, think of how the things you did affected me, for once.”

“You know why we can’t sleep in the same bed, you know my past, how could you throw that back in my face like this?”

“I am willing to go to therapy with you to work through this. Damn, you are so stubborn!”

“God is my therapist, and you need to repent in your heart for betraying my love for you and our marriage. If you are serious about reconciliation, you need to call that … woman and let her know your intentions for her and I mean now.”

“I’ve already told her it’s over. She knows it’s over. You’re the one who doesn’t seem to understand English.”

“I want to hear you say it. I want to hear both of you.” One thing I knew for sure: Voices don’t lie. Words lie. Inflection and tone do not. I would hear her voice on the other end of the phone, and I’d know. I would hear his, and be certain. I needed Airic to be my husband, and for all intents and purposes, I still loved him. So help me God, I wished I didn’t, but I did.

“Call her.” I pulled out my phone and shoved it against his chest.

He shook his head and took his own phone off his belt and dialed. She must’ve answered on the first ring. “Listen, we’re through. Is it clear?”

I snatched the phone from his ear and heard her pretentious innocence. “Okay,” she said gently. “Whatever you say, Airic.”

I couldn’t answer fast enough. “No, you scheming little tramp, it’s whatever I say.”

Airic pried the phone back and pressed the button ending the call. A fleeting moment of happiness beat through my heart. Key word: fleeting. He pushed his hands out to keep me from coming closer. “I want to work this out. I’m trying, but if you can’t be civil, this will be the last time you and I have anything to talk about.”

“Civil? The fact that you’re still standing after what I saw on that video—oh, I’m civil. I should’ve cut your throat.”

“Enough.” He leaned in close. “I’ll stay in the pretense of a marriage for one more year. The price is five million dollars. Between me and you, you’re getting off cheap.” He waited for me to agree, but I couldn’t utter a word.

I felt like such a fool for not having made a prenuptial agreement. At the time, there was love that could fill a fountain and overflow a river. I would’ve given him the shoes off my feet, the shirt off my back, and then went out and worked for more. He knew I’d been abused and prostituted from the time I was twelve years old. He knew my struggle, where I’d come from. It was no mystery that I was a fighter and would never let someone take advantage of me again. I would not pay for his false love.

The valet drove my white Jaguar to the curb. I marched over to the driver’s side, handed him a tip, and slipped inside. Airic remained. I rolled down the window. “You won’t see a dime of my money. In fact, you’ll be lucky to have two nickels to rub together when I’m through with you.”

I could hear his last words. “You don’t want to do this.”

Oh, but I do want to do this. I jammed on the gas and didn’t bother looking back in my rearview mirror. I dialed my producer and told her I was going on hiatus, effective immediately. I couldn’t speak the word until my heart was cleansed. The devil had taken residence in my house, and it was time to get him out.

Copyright © 2009 by Trisha R. Thomas