I screamed at the top of my lungs, “It’s over!”

Just then, Diamond, who would’ve had to have been plumb deaf not to hear all the shouting, opened her door and came out in the hall. “What the hell’s going on here?”

Quinton was the first to respond. “Zoe’s just out here trying to clear up all her loose ends with her lovers!”

“Lovers?”

“Yes, Diamond, lovers with ans! It seems Miss Zoe has been cheating on me while cheating on her husband, and lawd knows how many other poor bastards are caught up in this game!”

“You know what?” I wastooooooothrough then and just wanted to leave. “I’m sick of this shit, and all I want is for everyone to leave me the fuck alone.” I looked at each one of them individually and then repeated the request.“All of you, leave me the fuck alone!”

That’s when Tyson called me a bitch and started strangling me. He was on top of me, his hands clasped around my neck like a vise. His anger was making his lips and cheeks shake. My airway was cut off, I was fading fast, and he would’ve killed me if Quinton hadn’t pried his hands off my neck.

“Man, you can’t hit a woman!” They struggled for a few moments while Diamond helped me get up off the floor. Quinton got a hold of Tyson long enough for him to calm down and realize he had almost committed homicide.

Tyson stormed off toward the exit door and paused just long enough to glare at me. “You’re not fuckin’ worth it! Not even a bitch like you is worth going back to jail for!”

He kicked the exit door open and disappeared. Diamond asked me, “Do you want to go in my apartment so we can talk?”

I broke away from her hold and screamed, “Hell no!”

She backed off, went back in her place, and shut the door while I pressed the call button for the elevator. When it arrived, I was still struggling to regain complete control over my breathing and didn’t notice Quinton was still standing behind me until I got on and pulled the gatedown. As I pressed the button for the garage, Quinton spoke his final words to me. “Zoe, get some help. If not for you or your husband, do it for your kids.”

He went back into his loft and slammed the door. I went back to my office sick, hurt, and disgusted. At the same time, I was relieved it was all over. Facing off with all three of my lovers in the same hallway at the same time was pure hell, but it was over, and my life could finally get back to normal.

chaptertwenty-four

I sat in my office, looking at the hordes of people on their way to this place or that place on the city streets below. My eyes were bloodshot, my bottom lip was puffy, my shirt was torn, my nylons were ripped to shreds, and I had fingerprints on my neck, but all in all, it had been a good day. My secretary, as well as everyone else, gave me the what-the-hell-happened-to-you look as I made my way to my secluded office. I clicked on the intercom and asked her to come into my office. Shane came running in with a pen and steno pad, ready to take dictation, and was surprised when she found out all I really wanted was to bum a pack of cigarettes. She started trying to get into my business, and I told her to take the rest of the day off with pay. I suggested she go take in a movie or get her nails done— anything, as long as she got the fuck out of my face.

It had been ages since I took a drag off the legally manufactured cancer, but I was so stressed I neededsomething to get me through the rest of the day. It was only a little after noon, and all my walls had come tumbling down in the space of a morning. I called the auto club and told them to tow the car to the garage near the house. They asked a bunch of questions, since this was the second vandalism in such a short time. I tried to explain at first, and then I simply cussed the old battle-ax on the other end of the phone out. According to the contract, there was no limit to the number of times we could use their services, so I told her to send the damn tow truck and then slammed down the phone.

Getting the car taken care of was a start. However, that wasn’t going to help me explain the rest to Jason. Specifically, why I looked like a female version of Rocky after a championship belt fight. I had to make up the lie of all mutha-fuckin’ lies, and I had about five hours to come up with it.

I thought about saying I was mugged in the parking lot and blaming the broken car window on the assailant, stating it all happened during the struggle. I quickly decided against that one since, it meant calling the police and filing a false police report. It never could’ve worked. There wouldn’t be any broken glass on the ground around the car in the

parking garage of my office building, because all of it was in the parking lot at Tyson’s job. Besides, I was already involved with the police because of Brina’s death, and I knew they would assume I had been attacked by Dempsey if I professed I didn’t get a good look at my assailant. Horrible idea, so I scratched it.

I thought about saying I got into a fight over a parking-space on one of the downtown streets on my way to a business meeting with a client. That wouldn’t have worked either; Jason would’ve insisted on knowing whereand with which client and then probably insist on asking them a bunch of questions. So that shit was out too.

There was always the truth of course, but my momma didn’t raise no fool. I started chain smoking and choking, trying to get used to the nicotine in my system after all of those years. I spent a good hour trying to make up a lie and came to the conclusion I was basically ass out.

I stayed locked in my office for the next couple of hours and never did five seconds of actual work. Every time someone knocked on my door after realizing my secretary was gone from her desk, I told them I was in a meeting and to come back later. They bought into it, although I was alone. Even if they didn’t buy it, their asses still weren’t getting through the door.

By the time two o’clock rolled around, I was so overcome with worry about what I was going to tell Jason and stressed out about all the confrontations of the day, I felt like my world had come to an end. I got out the compact mirror from my purse and took a good look at myself. I looked like death warmed over. My cheeks were thinning, and I realized I had allowed my addiction to sex to take priority over every other aspect of my life, including my health.

Even though I couldn’t imagine her ever forgiving me for the way I acted the last time we saw each other, I called Dr. Marcella Spencer’s office and pleaded for an immediate appointment. Her secretary told me, in no uncertain terms, that the doctor was booked for the rest of the day and there was no way an exception could be made. I hung up and started sobbing. I had no clue what to do, and I felt so alone.

Less than fifteen minutes later, Dr. Spencer called me back and told me she had rearranged her schedule so she could see my pathetic ass right away. She sensed mynervousness over the phone and even offered to come to me. I told her I wouldn’t be driving myself there and would prefer coming to her. We hung up, and I rushed past everyone in the outer offices before they could get a good look at me. I waved down a cab, and this man tried to playa hate me and jump in before I could. I told him to get the fuck out of my way and pushed him so I could get in. He had picked the wrong day to mess with me.

Dr. Spencer and I ran into each other as I was getting off the elevator on her floor. She was on her way back to her office from the ladies lounge. “Zoe, you got here quickly!”She seemed more anxious to talk to me than I was to talk to her. The smile on her face changed to horror when she got a good look at me in the hallway lighting. “Oh, my goodness! What happened to you, Zoe?”

I couldn’t say a word. I couldn’t breathe. I just fell into her arms and started wailing. She put her arms around me and helped me make it into the confines and safety of her inner office. For once, she didn’t have to suggest the chaise longue. I crawled up on it into a ball and let it all go.

For a good five minutes, we were both speechless. Marcella just kept handing me tissue after tissue until I had used up the remainder of the box. She broke the silence. “You want something to drink, Zoe? Some coffee? Hot tea? Water? Soft drink?”

I was beginning to wonder whether she was a therapist-or a flight attendant and hoped she didn’t ask me if I wanted some salted peanuts next. I just shook my head, letting her know all I wanted to do was lie there and drown in my own misery.

“Zoe, we have to talk about this. You’re very upset, and you look like you may need medical attention. Do you need me to call an ambulance?”

She rubbed my back, and I could tell her concern for my welfare was genuine. “No, no ambulance. I’ll be fine.”

I turned over and lay on my back while she examined the marks on my neck with her hand. “Are those fingerprints on your neck? Did someone try to choke you, Zoe?”

I laughed—a man blind in one eye could tell that. “More like murder me. Tyson tried to kill me this morning.”

“What?”She had been sitting on the edge of the chaise next to me but jumped up, headed for her desk, and picked up the phone.




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