As promised here's the first sneak peek. Let's take a trip back to the past. Picking up where The Black Magnolia Society Volume I left off. More Than A Woman: The Black Magnolia Society Volume II will be released on July 7th, 2011 in paperback + ebook.
Bring Out The Tough Girl
“You can’t just up and leave your husband without saying a word, Katie. You were only supposed to stay for a week and that was three weeks ago.” Cicely said. Katherine and Cicely were in the midst of setting the dining room table for dinner and waiting for Cicely’s husband Harvey and his brother Ellis to arrive from a gig in Galveston, Texas.
“I know it was supposed to be just for a week. But you didn’t see what I saw. I can’t go back to New York knowing my husband is one of those...”
“One of what? Katie how do you know you even saw what you really think you did? Wait, maybe that didn’t come out right. You know what I mean.” Cicely shook her head.
“So if you saw Harvey sitting on a park bench holding hands with some white man and then he leans in close and kisses him, would you think your eyes were playing tricks on you?”
“Ok, so you have a point.” Cicely said. “My Harvey would never. Not with a man. Now I have caught him getting all googly eyed with some of these tramps at the bar on occasion, but he’s a musician. I know what I signed up for. Deep down I know his heart belongs to me.”
“Seeing Elgin that day let me know that his heart didn’t.” Katherine confessed.
“Katie, you know you can stay as long as you like. You’re more than welcomed but…” A knock on the door cut Cicely off in the middle of her stay with your husband speech.
“I’ll get it.” Katherine said. “Its probably some folks looking to stop for a meal.” Katherine walked to the vestibule to open the door. It was her husband Elgin.
“What are you doing here?” Katherine was furious to see him standing there.
“The question is what are you still doing here. Pack your bags, you’re coming home with me. You’re parents are worried sick and so am I. What’s going on with you Katherine? Ever since you joined that poetry group you’ve been acting strange.”
“I’ve been acting strange?” Katherine shouted. “You need to take a look in the mirror.”
“Look in the mirror? Woman what are you talking about? Forget it. Just get your things so we can be on our way.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you.” Katherine said. “Why don’t you just go on back to New York and leave me be. I want a divorce.”
“Okay, now you’re just talking crazy.”
Cicely came up to the front to see what the commotion was. She was surprised to see Elgin holding Katherine by the arm. Cicely quickly jumped to her friend’s defense.
“Let her go, Elgin. You don’t need to do this.”
“Mind your business Cicely. You and Lucinda have overstepped enough boundaries and its time you learn to stay out of it for once. Get your things Katherine and let’s go.”
“No!” Katherine shouted. “I’m not going anywhere with you. So just go back to New York with your little white boyfriend because that’s who you really want to be with.”
Elgin stood as still as a statue then with a sudden jolt he slapped Katherine in her face and walked off.
Katherine held her face and let the sting sink into her skin. She watched as Elgin walked back the street then she slammed the door. She looked at Cicely, who was ready to hug her, but embarrassed she ran up to the bathroom. Cicely followed right behind her up the stairs.
“Katie open the door.” Cicely could hear Katherine gagging and coughing. “Katie, are you okay? Open up the door.”
The bathroom door opened slowly and Katherine peeked her head out and muttered, “I’m pregnant.”
“What? You’re crazy. It could just be your nerves.”
“No, I’m not crazy. I know my body and I’m pregnant.” She opened the door all the way and sat on the chaise in the hallway.”
“So I guess this means you’ll be going back to New York after all, huh? All of this was for nothing.” Cicely threw her hands up exasperated from what just took place downstairs.
“No, that’s not what this means. I really can’t think straight right now, but I can’t go back to Elgin. Not in his condition.”
“Katie, you know I’ve never been a big fan of Elgin’s, but I know he really loves you and he’s always wanted you to have his child. I don’t see why you can’t work it out and start over. You took vows. You‘re carrying his child.”
“Obviously Cicely you’re still not hearing what I told you. He’s been with another man. How can I even compete with that? I don’t want to compete. I don’t even want to think about it. All I know is, I’m not going back to New York and that’s that. I will have my child and raise my child all by myself here in New Orleans.”
“Now you’re really talking crazy. You can’t raise a child by yourself. How will that look?”
“I’m not thinking about that right now Cicely. I don’t care what anyone has to say about it. The bigger issue is getting away from Elgin and making sure he stays away from me and this child.”
“You shouldn’t keep him away. A child needs their father.” Cicely was trying her hardest to talk sense into the Katherine’s head.
“Cicely, life is not a fairytale. This is real. My husband is gay. He’s queer. He kisses men in the mouth and I don‘t want to imagine what else. There’s nothing left to talk about at this point.” Katherine walked into her room and shut the door.
Cicely stood out in the hallway feeling helpless.
While she was making her way back to the kitchen the phone began ringing. She caught it on the fourth ring. “Hello Magnolia Inn.”
“Cicely, its me. I’m in Shreveport.” Lucinda said on the other end. “I should be there in a few hours.”
“Why didn’t call me ahead of time and tell me you were coming?” Cicely scolded.
“I am calling you ahead of time. I have something really important to talk you about.”
“Okay, well I’ll get a room ready for you.”
“Wonderful. I’ll see you soon.”
Cicely took a moment for herself and sat down on the chair next to the phone. She glanced up at the clock and realized she would have a full house in less than hour. Harvey was on his way back from Europe and she was expecting Oscar Ferguson’s Quartet to arrive around 5pm. It was 2:30 now.
Running a boarding house wasn’t something Cicely planned, it came out of necessity. Black musicians couldn’t stay at most of the hotels in the city, so they would always stay at Harvey London’s house. Cicely was in for quite a surprise when she first arrived in New Orleans with Harvey to a house full of men and loose women.
When Harvey pulled up to his home it appeared to be a quaint tranquil place, that was until he opened the door and the smell of tobacco, booze, fried chicken, and old socks greeted her nose. Harvey immediately apologized and told her all about his open door policy when it came to his fellow musicians who had gigs in Louisiana. He and his older brother Elgin brought the 8 bedroom home just because they could from the family of a slave owner in 1932.
“They all stay here and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Harvey said unapologetically.
Cicely just shot him a look and said, “that’s fine, but if you want me to live here with you some things will have to change. Starting today.”
From that day forward Cicely had run of the house, which had become known as the Magnolia Inn. Cicely would cook, clean, wash clothes, and entertain their guests. She had become the ultimate hostess. One month after settling together in New Orleans, she had officially become Mrs. Harvey London in 1937.
Being Mrs. Harvey London had its trials and tribulations. There was word of Harvey messing around with a new woman every week from the neighborhood gossip queen, Charlotte Weathers, and plenty of lonely nights while Harvey was on tour. It had only been a year and Cicely intended to stick it out until death, just as the vows she took. She loved Harvey and nothing would change that. She knew Harvey was madly in love with her and that he loved her more than she loved him. Getting something extra on the side was a part of the lifestyle, she knew that going into the marriage.
When Katherine arrived in town, Charlotte let her in on a few stories about Harvey that sent her reeling. She confronted Cicely and asked her if any of it was true. Cicely didn’t know nor did she care. After an hour of ranting and raving, mostly about how Elgin was two timing her and a few shots of whiskey between the two of them. Katherine and Cicely went to the house of the latest woman Charlotte had told them about.
Charlotte was hesitant to disclose where the woman lived at first but then she conceded. “Her name is Rebecca she lives about two miles away from here straight up the road in a yellow house. You can’t miss it.” Seeing their condition, Charlotte drove them to Rebecca’s house.
“So what do ya’ll plan to do?” Charlotte asked once they arrived. She was used to dishing the gossip but never partaking in it.
A beautician by trade, Charlotte was a naturally gorgeous young woman. At just 22 years old, she ran a beauty salon out of her home. She was married to Louis Weathers, ten years her senior, who was the bassist in Harvey London’s troupe and several other jazz bands over the years.
“Ask Katherine, she’s the one that dragged us over here.” Cicely shot.
Katherine got out of the car. She stood across the street from Rebecca’s house. “So how long you said this girl‘s been sleeping with my best friend‘s husband?” Katherine asked Charlotte slurring over the words.
Charlotte immediately started backpedaling. “See I’m not really sure if they are actually sleeping together.”
“Well what are you sure of Charlotte?” Cicely asked. “Is she or isn’t she?”
“I overheard her in the salon tell my shampoo girl who came and told me.”
“So you don’t know how long?” Katherine asked.
“No, not exactly. I would say this was two weeks ago.”
“Okay, well two weeks is 14 days.” Katherine said. She looked around in the street see what she could throw. “This will do it.”
“Do what?” Cicely asked still sitting in the car with Charlotte.
“This.” Katherine picked up a brick and threw it into the front window of Rebecca’s house.
“Katie, what are you doing?” Cicely jumped out the car to grab Katherine. She broke lose and went to look for another one. “What are you doing?”
“Here.” Katherine handed a rock to Cicely. “Here, throw it.” Cicely wouldn’t take it.
“Throw it Cicely or I will.” Katherine placed the rock in Cicely hand. “You’re such a scared-y cat. Here give it to me, let me show you.”
“No.” Cicely grabbed a strong hold of the rock. “I got this.” Cicely let the rock go from her hands and into another area of the front window.
Just then the lights in one of the rooms came on and the front door open. Katherine and Cicely were shocked to see what appeared to be a white woman emerge from the front door.
“Is that her?” Katherine shouted back to Charlotte who was bent down in the driver seat.
“Yeah, that’s her.” She yelled without moving from her hiding place.
“Who did this?” Rebecca demanded to know. “Did one of you do this?” She examined the damage on the outside. “I am so sick of this. What’s your husband’s name.” She asked Katherine.
“I’m not here about my husband. I’m here about Mrs. London’s.” Katherine said and nudged Cicely.
“So which Mrs. London are you?” Rebecca asked.
“Ok, well I’ve never slept with your husband. Harvey’s a good man and you’re all he talks about since he married you. You’re a lucky woman.” Rebecca then raised her voice in the direction of Cicely‘s car. “I wish Charlotte and those girls down at the salon would start getting their facts straight, maybe I need to find a new beautician. This is the third window I had to replace in six months!” Rebecca then turned around and went back into her house.
Cicely and Katherine just looked at each other and burst into laughter. “Look at us.” Cicely said. “We’re always getting into some mess.”
“Some crazy mess.” Katherine said. “I guess Elgin’s wife will have to come back and bust the rest of the windows out.”
“Janie will never do that. She’s a good quiet Christian woman. I guess that’s why Elgin moved his family to the other side of town so she wouldn’t run into Charlotte.”
Charlotte was still tucked down in the seat. “You can get up now.” Katherine yelled. “I know now to never to bring you to a fight. I’m surprised you didn’t drive off when Rebecca came out of the house.”
“I would never do anything like that.” Charlotte giggled. “But I didn’t know you were so tough Katherine. I was a bit surprised.”
“Well, we all are. We got to work on the tough girl in you.” Cicely said.
“I don’t think I can be as bold and brash as you ladies.” Charlotte shot back after pulling off from the curb.
“Don’t worry. For those of us not born with it. It takes time. Sometimes we have to go through some rough times to see just how tough we are.” Katherine said.
(c) 2011 Jamillah Y. Johnson P/K/A Anisah True