CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and EIGHTY-SIX
Saturday night — 9:35 P.M. MDT
Tanesha stood just inside the entryway of The Church nightclub. Her ticket and VIP pass had given her entry to the club but not directions to where she was supposed to meet Jeraine or her girls. Her eyes scanned the crowded dance floor and the bars. She didn’t see her girls or Jeraine anywhere. She was turning to leave when she noticed a tall, muscular dark-skinned man walking toward her. Dressed as a bouncer, she recognized him as a Denver Police Officer and a friend of Seth’s.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” the man’s gruff tone made her look more closely at him. “Your party is in the VIP lounge. But…”
He leaned in close to her.
“You sure you want to see that?”
Tanesha smiled. He wasn’t angry. He was worried.
“I’ve seen him worse,” Tanesha said. “This is a show.”
“You’re braver than me,” he said.
He held out his arm and she put her hand on his forearm. He led her through the dancing crowd on the first floor and up the stairs to the second floor. From the second floor, she could feel the entire building vibrate with the beat of Jeraine’s dance music. He led her through the second floor to a secluded section. She smiled when she noticed Blane behind the bar. He nodded his head to the left and her eyes wandered in that direction.
Sitting with Heather on his lap, Jeraine had one hand down Sandy’s top while Ava clung onto him from the left. His head lolled in Ava’s direction and his eyes were half closed. Even though she knew it was for show, Tanesha’s heart skipped a beat. She lost her footing in the stilettos she’d borrowed from Valerie. Her police escort kept her from falling.
“Say the word and I’ll get you out of here,” he said in her ear. “Your papa gave my gangster of a baby brother his first real job. Got through to him and got him off the streets. He hasn’t been high or in prison for two years. Two years. No way, I’m going to let you down.”
Nodding, Tanesha smiled. When she looked back, she saw Jeraine’s eyes scanning the crowd. Still hooded, his eyes moved in practiced motions. He was used to the noise, lights, and fuss of this kind of crowd. She continued toward him. Catching her movement, he looked in her direction and smiled. It was just a flash of a smile, something automatic, but Tanesha knew in that moment that he saw her. She smiled.
“You can leave me here,” Tanesha pointed to a free table. “My friend Tres will be here in a moment.”
“I’m not supposed to leave you alone,” the police officer said.
“I’ll stay with her,” Aden said. “She can join us.”
Aden pointed to a table just behind Jeraine and his posse. Jacob and Tres sat waiting for her.
“That okay with you?” the police officer asked.
“Yes sir.” Tanesha kissed the police officer’s cheek. “Thank you. I couldn’t have done this without you.”
“You need anything, you come find me,” he said. “I can’t take you home. My wife wouldn’t like that much. But I won’t let you down.”
The man gave her a slight nod and disappeared into the crowd. Feeling someone watching her, she looked over to see Jeraine’s eyes. He gave her a quick smile before returning to his charade. Tanesha followed Aden to the table and settled in.
“Do you think he’ll ever remove his hand from Sandy’s breast?”Aden said in her ear.
“Probably not,” Tanesha said. “Would you?”
Saturday night — 10:12 P.M. MDT
Heather stood up off Jeraine’s lap.
“Ok, here we go,” Blane said. “You ready?”
Nelson nodded. Heather said a few words to Jeraine and pointed toward the bathroom. Jeraine said something sexy and she shook her head. He laughed. Sandy got up and Ava followed them. They made a thigh bearing, tight skirted, stiletto walk to the bathroom. Jeraine turned around to talk to his former manager and the other men at the table. They said something about the women and Jeraine gave them a sly smile.
Blane glanced at Tanesha. She looked like she was going to be sick. Aden got up from the table to meet the women at the bathroom. Jacob nodded at Blane. Tres leaned over to say something to Tanesha. She nodded.
Jeraine stretched. His former agent said something and Jeraine looked annoyed. He sneered at the man. The agent nodded to the larger man at the table. He got up and walked to the bar.
“I need another round,” the man said to Blane.
“Yes sir,” Blane said.
“Hey, can you add a couple Red Bulls?” he said. “They’re for Jeraine.”
Blane moved to pour the Red Bull into glasses.
“Nah,” the man said. “He only drinks out of cans. Thinks they’re safer.”
The man sniffed his disapproval. Blane pointed to Nelson and the man went over to order the Red Bull. Nelson bent down and took out two Red Bull cans from the marked section of the refrigerator. He opened the cans and set them on the counter. The man gave Nelson an assessing look then reached in his pocket and took out four glass ampoules filled with a light gold liquid. He broke off the top of two at a time and carefully poured them into the Red Bull.
“What you looking at?” the man sneered at Nelson.
Nelson shook his head.
“Here,” the man gave Nelson the broken glass ampoules. “Put dat in yo garbage and go about yo business. This ain’t got nothin’ to do wit’ you, gay boy.”
Nodding, Nelson took the broken glass from the man and made a show of putting it in his trash.
“Here’s the rest of your order,” Blane held up a tray of drinks.
Nelson slipped the ampoules into an evidence bag tucked next to his trash bin. The man set the Red Bull cans down on the tray.
“It’s on the house,” the man said.
“Of course, sir,” Blane gave him his most effeminate smiled.
Shaking his head, the man gave him a look of disgust, picked up the tray, and walked back to the table. He was half way to the table when Blane began to laugh.
“How can you laugh?” Nelson asked under his breath.
“I don’t need to take on his hate,” Blane said. “Look at the man? He’s intentionally giving someone illegal drugs without their knowledge and he thinks I’m disgusting?”
Blane laughed. Nelson shook his head at Blane. His phone vibrated.
“They got that on video,” Nelson said.
“Good,” Blane said.
Blane and Nelson watched the man return to the table. He passed out the drinks to the posse and the former agent, and then gave Jeraine a Red Bull can. As if to make sure he drank it, the man stood over Jeraine. He made a joke as if the man was going to sit on his lap but he didn’t back away. Jeraine looked at Blane and put the Red Bull to his lips. For some reason, everyone at the table looked away at the same moment and Jeraine set the Red Bull can down next to his left ankle.
“What was that?” Nelson asked.
“My cousin Jake has a way of… catching people’s attention,” Blane said.
Dressed as a cocktail waitress, Fran from Ava’s lab swooped by the table to pick up empty glasses. Jeraine set the Red Bull can on her tray. She chatted with the men for a moment before checking on another table. Jeraine picked up the other Red Bull can.
Heather waved from over by the bathroom. Jeraine gestured toward the women, got up, and walked away from the table.
As he passed the bar, the Denver Police swooped in. After all the fuss and worry of the last few hours, the arrests were over very quickly. Heather went to Blane and they hugged. Aden lifted Sandy from the ground in a hug and kiss. And Seth led Ava away from the mess.
After depositing the Red Bull can with Nelson, Jeraine ran across the VIP lounge to Tanesha. He held his hands out to her and pulled her from his chair. After a brief hug, Bumpy whistled and waved for Jeraine to come up. They began a slow journey through the watching crowd toward the stage. They ran into Jeraine’s handcuffed former agent on the way.
“How could you do this to me?” the former agent said to Jeraine. “I gave you everything!”
“I didn’t do nothing,” Jeraine said. “I was too drugged to plan something like this.”
“I did it to you,” Tanesha’s finger poked his chest. “You fucked with the wrong girl. You better think again before you come after me and the ones I love again.”
“I told you over and over again, you don’t fuck with Miss T,” Jeraine said.
“Misty?” the former agent shook his head. “There is no Misty!”
“I’m Miss T,” Tanesha said.
Jeraine put his arm around her and led her away. They continued toward the stage. Once there, Bumpy leaned down to them.
“You need to say something,” Bumpy said. “These people paid a lot of money to be here. They’re pretty freaked out.”
Jeraine kissed Tanesha’s cheek and hopped up to the stage. Seth said something in his ear. He gave Seth a ‘really’ look. Seth nodded.
“Ok folks,” Jeraine said. “We have a few issues that needed to be resolved. The Denver Police are going to take some folks out of here. Let’s give them some room. In the meantime, my friend Seth here, my father Bumpy Wilson and their band are going to entertain you. But not for too long.”
“I just learned that the Denver Police are allowing us to put up a big screen on the outside so the folks in line can watch. The sound is going to be broadcast on the radio so everyone can listen. These guys are going to play while it’s getting set it up. If you have family or friends, especially the younger folks who can’t get in to the clubs, tell them to come on down. When this fuss is cleared up, we’re going to play until close. And trust me, with these guys around? You never know who’s going to show up to play with us.”
The crowd cheered.
“I, 2, 3, 4…” Seth said and the band began to play.
Jeraine jumped down from the stage to stand by Tanesha.
“You wanna call your little friend Sissy and Noelle?” he asked.
“I’ll call Jill,” Tanesha nodded. “They’re waiting for me to call.”
“There’s a lot you don’t know,” Tanesha said.
“Let’s get something to eat before this starts,” he said. “I’m starving.”
“With the girls?” Tanesha pointed to where Heather, Blane, Sandy and Aden waited for her.
“Sure,” Jeraine smiled.
“You’re buying?” Tanesha asked.
“I’m buying,” Jeraine said.
Smiling, Tanesha followed him out of the club.
Saturday night — 11:12 P.M. MDT
“So why didn’t you let go of Sandy’s breast?” Aden asked.
They were standing at the entrance of Dazzle restaurant waiting for the women. They’d just eaten and Jeraine had to get back to the club. Jeraine smiled at Aden.
“That is a nice breast,” Jeraine needled Aden.
Aden shifted uncomfortably. He glanced at Blane. Shaking his head, Blane shrugged.
“It was leaking,” Sandy punched Jeraine in the chest and he stepped back from Aden. “It started leaking in the car. He was covering for the moisture.”
“Leaking?” Aden raised his eyebrows at Jeraine.
“Never touched or played foul with Miss T’s girls,” Jeraine said. “Never will. Even I’m not that stupid.”
“You?” Jeraine asked.
“Not a chance,” Aden said.
The men laughed.
“What are they laughing at?” Tanesha asked Sandy.
“You don’t want to know,” Sandy said.
Tanesha and Heather walked passed the men. Sandy joined her friends.
“Jill’s waiting for us outside,” Sandy said.
Without looking at the men, the women walked out of the restaurant.
“See what I mean,” Jeraine said. “They’ve been like that since they were ten.”
Blane and Aden’s heads turned to look at Jeraine. He shook his head.
“Never harm nor foul the girlfriends,” Jeraine said. “That rule has kept me alive all these years.”
“Wise man,“Aden laughed and patted Jeraine’s back
Laughing, the men followed the women out of the restaurant.
Sunday early-morning — 1:42 A.M. MDT
The concert was incredible. Every Denver band showed up to play. Many of Seth’s friends from the Denver Symphony arrived. The music was loud, boisterous, and playful. Jeraine acted as master MC while Seth took over as conductor. The musicians and singers were having such a great time playing together that the crowd couldn’t help but enjoy themselves. The clubs owner Regis Christou told anyone who would listen that this was the best night he’d had as a club owner.
Tanesha spent her time with her girls. They laughed, danced with each other, and occasionally with their men. When Charlie, Nash, Teddie, Noelle, and Sissy arrived with Valerie, the small pack of ignored men went to hang outside to give the women time together. It had been a long time, a three weddings, a few surgeries, and two children ago since the women had been out. They were enjoying this chance to be together.
But the night was winding down. They’d already called last call. Unfulfilled from the night of music, the crowd inside and outside of the club chanted “Promises, promises, promises.” They wanted Jeraine to sing the song he’d written for Tanesha. As if he hadn’t planned it all a long, he acquiesced to the demanding crowd. They gave a rousing cheer.
Jeraine jumped down, found Tanesha, and herded her up to the stage. Just before she took the stage, Jill pressed something into Tanesha’s hand. She held up a white T-shirt that said, “I am Miss T” in red on the front with a picture of Tanesha on the back. Her girls put on shirts that said, “I’m with Miss T” with the same picture on the back.
“Put it on,” Jeraine said.
Tanesha pulled the shirt over her head.
“As you know, there is no Misty,” Jeraine said. “At least not one I’ve met.”
The crowd fell silent.
“I want to introduce you to Miss T,” Jeraine said. “Tanesha.”
The crowd roared to life. Tanesha thought she was going to die of embarrassment on the spot. Her eyes cast around for something solid and found her father standing next to the stage with Sam Lipson. He nodded to her. Empowered by his presence, she raised her hand in a wave and the crowd cheered.
“You’re going to hear that I wrote this song for a movie,” Jeraine said. “Which I did. You’re going to hear that the song was stolen from my email account, which it was. But don’t ever doubt who was on my mind when I wrote this song.”
Jeraine pointed to Seth and the sad violin began the soulful prelude. By the time Jeraine sang the first line of the song, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Everyone knew what it was like to not to be the person they wanted to be. Everyone knew what it was like to hurt someone they loved. Men pulled their women close. Women clung to each other. As if they were at a soul revival, people’s sorrow and regret welled up to filled the club. Looking out over the crowd from her perch on the stage, Tanesha was awed by the power of Jeraine’s music. She was so overcome that she could only stare.
When the violin played its last sorrowful note, Jeraine fell to his knees in front of her. Tanesha shook her head at him.
“Get up,” she said.
“Marry me,” he said.
“You know I can’t do that,” Tanesha said.
“Awwww,” went through the crowd.
He grinned. Jumping to his feet, he hugged her.
“Folks, Miss T is right,” Jeraine said. “She can’t marry me.”
“Tell them why,” Tanesha said.
“She already did when we were kids,” Jeraine said.
The crowd erupted in cheers and Jeraine hugged her.
“Stay clean one year,” Tanesha said in his ear. “And I’ll marry you again.”
“Folks, Miss T just told me that in one year’s time she and I are going to do it again,” Jeraine said. “You hold onto your ticket stubs. We’ll have the reception right here in one year’s time. You’re invited.”
The crowd cheered.
The Denver Cereal will continue next week
This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.