My second video. I had so much fun with my Sims. The Powers cousins, Marseille and Sapphire pulled off the best NYE party SM has ever seen. See you next 12/31!
I made multiple videos to some of my fave songs, some old school RnB, current rap, and just whatever I like. You can check out many of the pictures in our Facebook group Sims of Color Stories.
(No copyright intended)
So I was messing around this morning retexturing this Cats & Dogs hair and I loved it so much on Colin. So after a year of wearing long beautiful locs, Colin has decided to cut them off and get faded up. This is how he’ll appear in the story in the future.
(Trigger Warning: Discussion and pictures regarding depression/suicide)
Take it from someone who knows. Something I’ve never quite liked about this community is these “asylum challenges” for Sims who are deemed “insane” or otherwise mentally ill. The hospital I was in, wasn’t run down, didn’t have cheap furniture, there was no one holding me against my will, etc. And often the people who were fellow patients were rich, did have aspirations to further their already prominent careers. There were people from all social classes and walks of life. And no one was outwardly would one would think of as “insane”. It could be your kindergarten teacher, a councilperson, a stay at home mother, anyone. Those are some of the people I met.
It’s one thing when you’re looking at it from an entertainment standpoint, not ever truly knowing what mental health/behavioral health hospitals are like, but for those who’ve been in that situation the severity of an illness that incapacitates millions of people every day. May is Mental Health Month. I’ve always tried to inject parts of myself and life experiences into my stories and characters, no truer example of that is when I wrote for Apollonia De-Sai, mother of my protagonist Reagan Leeds in my first Sims story.
Apollonia, like a lot of black women, came from an environment where mental illness was looked as a taboo and not openly discussed within the black community/family. She’s a woman who came of age in the 80s and had her children in the 90s when we still didn’t talk about these issues. Sure, with newer generations, younger people are more open to discussing mental health disorders, but there is still a significant stigma attached to it. A lot of people are ashamed to admit they’ve dealt with depression, suicide attempts, cutting, etc. I have gone through all of that. I’m not incredibly young, I’m an 80s kid and didn’t get proper help until I was 24 years old.
When I wrote Apollonia’s first POV in 2014, I went back in time to her birthplace in Trinidad and Tobago and her journey to the United States in the late 80s. Apollonia had dealt with anger problems and unbeknownst to her, depression for years. But she like a lot of people believed that having depression or anxiety automatically meant one was crazy. She didn’t “seem” depressed. Apollonia didn’t get any help until she overdosed on pain medication and ended up in a mental health hospital; even then it wasn’t easy for her to accept she had an illness. She was already well into her late 30s by then.
I wanted to present that part of Apollonia’s POV from the most honest place I could, from personal experience. Maybe her stay at a behavioral health institution in Queens, NY wasn’t as exciting as being strapped down in a straight jacket. It didn’t contain scenes from ‘One Out of the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ but rather it was more of a serene and therapeutic environment, based on my firsthand account of being an inpatient. I have no shame in telling people that, and I’ve been open about that part of my life for several years now.
Since it is Mental Health Month, I wanted to reshare some of the scenes from chapter 39 of Reagan Leeds: Run The World. Apollonia also “wrote” an article (What No One Told a Lil Black ‘Ting About Depression and Suicide) for S.H.E magazine several months ago about her experience and journey dealing with mental illness. You can check that out here. I’m a mental health advocate, and I have at times consulted with my brother a psychiatrist for his perspective as a professional for my story.
Thank you, as always Happy Simming
Excerpt from chapter 39 ‘Apollonia’
After being in this shitty apartment over the last few years, it became clear, that my career would never get off the ground in the way I hoped. Constantly being turned down for every good part I auditioned for began to take its toll on me. I kept hearing in my head, my mama’s voice: you’re just a little black ‘ting from an island country…you’ll never be famous, Apollonia. I tried shaking my head as hard as I could, unable to get her voice out of there. I watched the heavy dark rain drops fall over New York City. If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere. Well, apparently that wasn’t true for me. I failed miserably.
The last few years seemed to go by in a blur. It was as if only yesterday, I moved to the Bronx. I packed my clothes one night, got a taxi and left my children. Reagan and Kennedey are in college by now. It’s not like I don’t ever think about them, I do. Knowing Reagan, the only thing about college, she was enjoying was the partying. Kennedey, is loving to learn as much as she can and probably taking on way too much for herself at once. An overwhelming sense of shame and guilt came over me. I slumped down to the floor, holding my head.
What kind of person am I? How could I do that? How could I leave my own children behind? I asked myself. For what purpose? My dreams did not turn out the way I envisioned when I got here. Silly and foolish I am to even believe in dreams. For one glimmering moment, I thought I had a small chance to live the life I set out to live when I first came to this country. Never again, Apollonia, never again.
I grabbed a bottle of vodka and stretched out on my bed. I don’t usually go for hard liquor, but wine wasn’t going to cut it tonight. I didn’t bother mixing the vodka with anything, I just took it to the head. I looked up at the peeling paint on the ceiling and the bad speckling job I did when I first moved in. I glanced around the apartment. What a dump. My house in Miami may have not been the biggest or the nicest, but it was clean and I lived in a good neighborhood. I couldn’t say the same now.
This couldn’t be life. Of the three books I took with when I left Miami, Reagan and Kennedey’s baby books, I also brought my Bible with me. I don’t really know why it’s been years since I’ve read it. There was a time I looked to the Scriptures for strength and encouragement, but I began to reject it the more my parents told me to give up everything I loved and focus on the Bible. In many ways, they ruined it for me. Every time I tried reading Matthew chapter 6 or the or Psalms, I kept hearing Daddy say: Prayer and supplication, prayer and supplication, Apollonia. You must pray and do things the way your mama and I tell you.
I sometimes looked in my Bible when my girls were younger and I thought to myself, maybe God doesn’t like me, maybe His word isn’t for people like me. Perhaps He knew my faith was never as strong as it needed to be. He looked inside and could see how selfish I was. ‘I am searching the heart, examining the kidneys, even to give to each one according to his ways.’ I recall thinking, God knows I’m no good. I looked over at the numerous prescriptions on my bedside table. I had muscles relaxers and pain medications from my workouts and auditions. I never liked taking medication, but these days, I could barely get out of bed without popping one because of all the pain I was in.
All of this thinking about my children and how it is a very real possibility that God sees me as wicked made very uneasy and anxious. I felt scared. Scared of what the rest of my life would bring me. Afraid that nothing would ever be right again. I didn’t feel happy. That wasn’t anything new, I couldn’t remember the last time I felt happy. Not when I married Raymond, not even when I gave birth to my children. Anything my family has ever said about me inevitably became true. I wasn’t anything. Nothing Apollonia De-Sai ever did would matter in this world. If I died tomorrow, none of my family would know about it. I go by my Nani’s maiden name, Alexander. No one in New York knew I had children or where I came from.
Reagan and Kennedey were going on with their lives, but there was no doubt in my mind they both hated me. I was their mother, but I wasn’t there for them. I never told them I loved them. I abandoned them to live out some stupid ass fantasy as a famous dancer. What a joke I am. I opened the bottles to my Soma and Oxycontin, popping first just a few of each in my mouth. I took another swig of the vodka to wash the medication down. Within in minutes I began to feel very relaxed.
I grabbed the vodka and the rest of my Oxycontin. I got up from the bed and staggered over to the sofa. I felt hot and thought lying on the floor would cool me off. I opened the bottle back up and spread out a number of pills on the rug. I had every instinct to put every last one in my mouth. I couldn’t think very clearly about anything, except for the pain I felt inside. I reached for the vodka again and accidentally knocked it over. Nothing spilled from it, I didn’t realize I drank it all.
If there was ever a time for me to talk to God, it would be now. I didn’t ask for His forgiveness or the forgiveness of my children, no I simply begged to not wake up. Please just don’t let me wake up. I don’t mean anything by this, I’m just tired. So, so tired.
My stomach lurched and began feeling queasy. I managed to pull myself up from the floor and slowly drag my feet to the bathroom. I’ve never felt so sick in my life. Maybe if I threw up everything, I wouldn’t feel so bad. To this day, I don’t remember what happened when I made it to the bathroom that night.
I didn’t even remember how I got back into the living area. The only reason I know I passed out by the sofa, is because my neighbor, Laura found me. She later told me, she banged on my door before discovering it was unlocked.
Laura immediately called the paramedics and off I went to the ER. I’ve had low points in my life before, but I will always look at that time as the lowest in my life. Seeing how my kids grew up and knowing I have a grandbaby makes me thankful every day I didn’t stay asleep for good. I don’t know, maybe God was watching me and maybe He did hear my cry.
I don’t remember much about the night of my overdose. I barely remember being in the hospital and getting transferred to Flushing Meadows Behavioral Health, which is a mental health hospital out in Queens. My mind was still very foggy the morning I woke up in the hospital.
I set up on my bed and looked across the room. I got in late last night and went straight to sleep. Now, as I looked around the room, I could see that there was another bed in there, but I didn’t have a roommate. Thank goodness, because the last thing I wanted, was for some weirdo invading my privacy. This is such bullshit, I thought. I’m the last person who needed to be in a place like this. I wasn’t some ‘psycho’. I looked down at what I had on. How did I get these clothes? They were mine and then I remembered Laura coming to the ER with a bag of my stuff.
I got up, showered, and brushed my teeth. I had no idea what to expect when I walked outside of my room, but I could imagine it would be very much like ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest’. After I dressed and ate breakfast in my room, I was told to see the nurse at the nurse’s station. I had no idea what the hell she could want, but I needed answers. I needed to know how to get out of this place.
“Good morning, Apollonia. How are you feeling today? Any thoughts of harming yourself?” asked the Nurse, who I referred to as Nurse Ratchet. “Excuse me? What the fuck kind of question is that? You don’t know me,” I replied, completely offended. Nurse Ratchet looked slightly confused. “Uh, I have to ask you if you’re having any thoughts of harming yourself,” she repeated. Again, I had no clue as to why this stupid woman would be asking me that.
“Of course not! Why would you ask me that?” I demanded. “Well, Apollonia, we are required to ask the patients questions about their symptoms, what brought them here. You came in because you tried to harm yourself. Now, again, I need to know if you have any of those thoughts right now. Also, how is your depression and anxiety today?” she asked. I shook my head, still unable to understand what these questions could possibly have to do with me.
“Like, I said before, no I don’t. I didn’t try to “harm” myself for your information. Neither do I have depression and anxiety. Where are you hearing this bullshit?” I asked. “It’s right here in your chart. The doctor in the ER stated you were suffering from both depression and anxiety. The same doctor wrote orders for you to be treated in this facility because you overdosed on pain medications and vodka,” answered Nurse Ratchet, matter-of-factually. “I’m only saying this once again. I am fine. Who the hell do I see about getting out of here?” I asked. “That’s not up to me. You have to see Dr. Parsons first. He’s your assigned doctor and should be making his rounds shortly,” she replied. “Fine,” I said and walked off.
I started to head back to my room, and contemplate what my next move would be, when I was summoned to a small conference room to meet with the inpatient psychiatrist. “Good morning, Apollonia. I’m Dr. Parsons, I’m the doctor you’ll be seeing while you’re here in the hospital. First, let me ask, how are you feeling today?” he asked , staring at me from across the table. “Fine,” I replied, flatly.
“Are you having any self-harm thoughts?” he asked. “No,” I replied, starting to feel more irritated by the second. I watched him jot a couple of things down on his pad. There wasn’t anything remotely interesting about the man. He’s obviously a super boring person leading a mundane life. His questions to me, seemed as if he were just going through the motions, like he’s asked these same questions hundreds of times in the past.
I asked Dr. Parsons when I would be able to go home, to which he could not give me a definite answer. For someone who went to medical school and made good money, he certainly did not have too much to say. All he did was ask me about my personal history and what led to me “wanting to harm myself.” I swear, the next person who makes that assumption is going to get a fist to the face. “Look, like I told that dumb nurse out there, there is nothing wrong with me. I had a backache the other night and I drank a little too much, okay. Don’t assume that you know me, because you don’t,” I snapped. Dr. Parsons didn’t seem to take my combativeness too seriously. He made a couple of more notes and told me of the drugs he was prescribing for me to take while I was here.
I left the conference room as soon as I had finished talking to the doctor. I went out into the common area and grabbed a book to read. I couldn’t tell you what it was about. I just needed to get my mind off the fact that I was in a place like this. I sensed someone watching me and looked up. “Hi, how you doin’? Mind if I sit down?” asked the man. I shrugged, indicating that I didn’t care one way or the other. “I’m Maurice,” he introduced himself. I rolled my eyes and didn’t respond.
“You gotta name?” asked Maurice. “Yes,” I replied, dryly. “Well, what is it?” he asked. I sucked my teeth, it was obvious this foo’ wasn’t going to leave me alone. “Apollonia,” I said. “Like Apollonia from ‘Purple Rain’?” wondered Maurice. Was this guy serious? “I was in high school when that movie came out, so no,” I snapped. “For real? Damn you look, hella young,” responded Maurice, in surprise.
Since I had nothing better to do, I listened as Maurice told me the reason why he was in the hospital. He had a problem with alcohol and checked himself in here a few days ago. He wanted to know if I’d been to any groups, to which I told him and that I didn’t plan to. I admitted the reason these people said I needed to be here. “It’s such crap. I never had any mental problems before. These assholes only want money from me,” I complained. Maurice claimed he knew how I felt, but said I should try one of the groups. Apparently it looks good for you if the staff and doctors know you’re participating in different activities. I had no desire to sit around a room with strangers and share my personal business.
Nevertheless, I took Maurice’s advice and went to the next group therapy session that started. I came in and sat down, half listening to the mumbo jumbo the group therapist was talking about. He talked to the group about common behaviors and self-destructive patterns people tend to have. I looked over at the other patients, who eagerly shared their own experiences. I found it very crazy, pun intended, perfect strangers would talk about various symptoms they have, what mental illness they suffered from, and their experiences with drugs and alcohol.
As silly and close-minded as I was at the time, I didn’t believe I had anything in common with these people. One of the women talked about how she heard voices and saw hallucinations. What the fuck kind of shit was this? Another lady said she’s been a cutter for over ten years and this was her seventh hospitalization. I shook my head, I couldn’t relate to anything these folks were talking about. They’re the kind of people who need to be in the hospital, not me.
The group therapist, whose name was Jon, turned his attention to me and asked what were some patterns I’d seen in my past and how did I deal with my depression in the past. He made himself seem very friendly and like he had the ‘right’ to ask me such intrusive questions. “I don’t have any patterns cause I don’t have depression,” I replied. A sympathetic look spread across Jon’s face. “Apollonia, it’s perfectly fine to be open in group. Anything we say in here is confidential. Don’t be afraid to open up,” urged Jon.
“Look, do you see my face? I don’t give a damn if this is confidential. I don’t know you people. Spare me with this psycho bullshit, okay?” I said. “Apollonia, it’s not bullshit. These groups are designed to help you,” countered Jon.
I hastily stood up. “Fuck out of here with all of that. Where I come from, we don’t stay high on Prozac. You can keep your little American Psych 101. I’m not here for this,” I said angrily and walked out the room.
More than anything, I began to feel very frustrated while I was in the hospital. How the hell did I get here? When I thought about what life would be like for me, I never imagined this. I didn’t think I could get any lower than this. Over the course of the next few days, I continued to be defiant with the hospital staff. Maurice said I only made things worse for myself. He advised me that I needed to tell the doctor and nurses what they wanted to hear. The longer I put off participating in my “therapy”, the longer they would try to make me stay. Even if I petitioned to sign out against medical advice, the hospital could petition the court to make me stay here. I didn’t feel like going through such a hassle. I decided to play nice and be a good girl. I didn’t share in the groups, that I refused to do, but I made myself go to a few and answer the nurses and Dr. Parsons’ questions without an attitude.
After ten days, I was told I could go home. The hospital social worker set me up with a therapist to see as an outpatient. I acted as if I would go, but really had no intention of talking to some stranger about my personal business. I had bigger problems, Laura called me and said I’d been replaced at the bar for missing so many days. When it rains, it pours. Now I had no job and no income. My little savings were just about gone. This couldn’t come at a worse time. Before he left, Maurice gave me his contact information. Desperate, knowing I couldn’t afford to keep my apartment, I took him up on his offer to come and stay with him. If I’d known back then what I knew now, I would’ve stayed under a bridge than live with Maurice. I rue the day I ever met that son of a bitch…
Bash Banks’ POV
I met up with Rico downtown the night before about the “progress” I made on getting Cypher’s technology for him. Tim and I had grown “closer”, and he was very forthcoming with information on what management discussed regarding the issues and bugs with the application and what they were doing to address the problems.
“Do you have what I need?” Rico asked me.
“No, but I’m getting close,” I tried to reassure him.
“Maybe I was wrong about you, Bash. Maybe it’s best if you were to stay on at Jupiter and the let the chips fall where they may,” said Rico. Behind his dark tinted shades, I could see his eyes; it felt as if they were piercing through me.
“No, you weren’t wrong; I need more time.”
“You have seventy-two hours,” replied Rico and walked off.
After my conversation with Rico, I could think of nothing else. I was invited to Tim’s house this weekend; I’d never been there before. If I were going to get a look at Cypher’s full software, I would need access to Tim’s personal computer, which I knew he worked on.
The best-guaranteed means I would get that access was to write sophisticated code for a kernel-mode rootkit. I won’t get into the intricate details, basically, the rootkit I create, I can save to a USB and upload it to Tim’s computer. I would be able to see all his internal files, every system, application, correspondence; in other words everything.
The code I’m writing isn’t the easiest thing in the world, and if I want my kit to go undetected, it had to be darn near perfect. Tim doesn’t have the skills and know-how to find such a sophisticated program within his internal system. It won’t destroy his files, just give me the information I needed.
I had worked around the clock in my home office to make this all happen. I even called out from work to make sure I had the program completed in time. I’d shed too much blood, sweat, and tears over the years to just throw away opportunity after opportunity for people who were less qualified than I was, people who didn’t have my talents. This is where it ends.
Tim had invited GG and me over for a backyard BBQ this weekend. I’m told Kaden and Charles from work were also going to be there as well. While I wasn’t looking forward to breaking bread with them after spending five days a week together, I had to get access to Tim’s home computer to upload the rootkit I created. It was the only way I would be able to get full access to Cypher’s files undetected. I had written some pretty complicated code; even Tim would know nothing about. It’s not anything that would necessarily hurt him, but I had to what I had to do, Rico made no secret of that.
I told GG not to worry; that we would not have to stay too long, but she said she looked forward to meeting more of my coworkers and she liked Cheyanne and Tim. I still don’t understand how or why.
Tim and Cheyanne lived in Jones Landing, a small city halfway between San Myshuno and Willow Creek. Their house sat on a quiet street lined by single-story homes with nicely kept yards and green cut grass. It was a little warmer than usual for this time of year. The neighborhoods kids were running around shooting each other with Bazooka blasters. It was rare you even saw kids outside the home; usually, they were glued to some video game or computer, much different than how I grew up.
Cheyanne swung the front door open only seconds after I rung the bell. “Hey Bash and GG! Thank you for coming!” she exclaimed and leaned over to embrace us in a tight hug.
“It’s so nice to see you too. I brought some dessert, it’s from a Brazilian bakery,” said GG. Cheyanne gasped. “Oh thank you! This was lovely of you. Please come out back; everyone’s outside.”
We walked through the living room which drew on Cheyanne’s artsy aesthetic. The best I can describe it is as bohemium meets shabby chic meets contemporary.
When Tim first told me where he lived, I was surprised it was in Jones Landing. I knew he didn’t live in San Myshuno, but I assumed he had a condo in some high rise in downtown New Crest. What I’ve found out about Tim over the course of the last couple of weeks during our new found “friendship” is that he doesn’t have expensive taste. He’s preppy, and he comes from money, but he’s rather simple, basic, and not very cultured.
We were greeted by Charles and his wife, Jessica, and Kaden and his girlfriend June. I had seen them at a company picnic in the past but never bothered to greet them formally.
“Bash! It’s super of you to come! Did you find the place okay?” asked Tim, turning around from the grill.
“Yes, my GPS found it easily. Uh, nice house. I thought for some reason you lived in the city.” Tim was carefully flipping burgers and what looked like some tofu vegetable kabobs over the coals.
“Nope, I’m afraid not. Maybe you’re thinking of when I first moved out here. I used to live in New Crest, but once I met Cheyanne, we found a nice little place and decided to mover here. I already work in the biggest and busiest city in the region. I don’t like to deal with the hustle and bustle when I’m away from the office,” he laughed.
Personally, I preferred the city life. There was nothing better than living in Art of The City. Uptown, where Rico lived, was the most expensive borough, but my area had the best attractions, and a lot of young professionals lived there. I could do my shopping, visit my tailor, catch a show, grab dinner, all within a five-block radius.
I glanced over at GG conversing with June, Jessica, and Cheyanne. They were just as enamored with her as Cheyanne was on their first meeting. They were all pretty casually dressed in their backyard hipster fashions or tanks and cut off shorts, a vast difference to GG’s designer short length halter dress. It was worthy of a more upscale terrace wine tasting, but that’s how she is. One of the things I loved about GG was her impeccable style.
Cheyanne wasn’t kidding when she said she grew her own food. Their yard was mainly a garden with rows of carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, herbs, wild strawberries, and apple and lemon trees.
I looked around, everyone was engrossed in conversation about the warmer weather, what we’d all be doing on next vacations, and about a thousand other mundane topics.
Now was a good as time as any for me to put my play into action. When I asked Cheyanne where the bathroom was, she directed me down the hall to the first door on the right.
I reentered the house, carefully shutting the glass door behind me. I peered over my shoulder, Tim was occupied on the grill, and Cheyanne was tending to everyone, making sure they had enough lemonade and cucumber water.
I headed down the main toward the backrooms. I stopped at the first room on my right. The door was slightly ajar.
I peeked inside and could see Tim’s backpack he brought with him to work every day, a guitar, and an old camera I knew Tim liked to use for his photography.
I took a deep breath and pulled out the USB flash drive with the rootkit. I quickly walked over to Tim’s computer, which to my benefit was on. There was no screensaver needing a passcode that I could easily crack, just a view of the desktop. I scoffed. Tim sat on multi-million dollar software like Cypher but didn’t take the proper precautions to secure it.
I inserted the drive and waiting for the kit to upload. I wouldn’t be able to see all of Cypher and all of Tim’s files until I went home. I wasn’t interested in any personal files he had on there, but my mission was clear: if I wanted Rico to bring me along, I would have to get Cypher for him. Technically no one was “stealing” the information, for whoever Rico was consulting with on a takeover, everything that belonged to Jupiter would belong to the company who took over. I didn’t know all the details of it, but I’m familiar enough with how takeovers work.
I only had about five minutes for the kernel to install and flush out any trace that it was there in the first place. Waiting for the time to pass, seemed like the longest five minutes of my life.
Finally, the kit installed and I ran another clandestine program to remove any signs that it was on the pc. I designed a program so crafty, that if the kernel was detected, you could not tell where the source generated. There are all kinds of ways one could get a rootkit on their pc, and most people don’t even know about it.
Fucking Rutgers, number 45 on the top schools for computer science. UPenn, number 15, you see the difference? Tim if you can’t even be smart enough to secure your shit, you need to pack it up because you’re not capable of playing this game. Leave it to us grown men, and not little boys.
Mission accomplished. I slipped out of Tim’s office and easily as I slipped in and headed back outside. I could let Tanner know I had what his boss needed. Now, all I had to do was wait on Rico.
There wasn’t a lot I could do once my mom invited GG over a Sunday cookout. She had answered my cell the other day when my mom called. She then struck up a ten-minute conversation with GG and insisted that the family would love to meet her.
I wasn’t quite ready to take GG around my parents and siblings. I hadn’t brought a girl home in quite a few years. GG had asked if my family would have an issue with her not being black. I told her they wouldn’t. My immediate family doesn’t really care about interracial relationships one way or another. The only thing my mom has said to me was never to think women who aren’t black were better for merely being non-black. Yes, I have individual preferences, I like what I like, but I don’t agree with degrading women who looked like my mother, sisters, aunts, and cousins.
GG is from a wealthy family in Brazil; her father was a prominent man in Rio. Her family is well-to-do and educated. A part of me is dreading her seeing where my family lives and the simple lives they have. I don’t believe GG is the type to look down her nose at anyone, even still I’d rather waited to take her to Oasis.
I unlocked the front door to my parent’s house and led GG to the backyard. I could smell greens and hammocks cooking on the stove, the smoke from the coals, and about twenty other aromas simultaneously coming from the kitchen and yard.
“Bash, why were you saying you didn’t like your family’s house? It’s nice. The way you described your neighborhood, you made it seem like a favela, which it is far from,” said GG, looking around the living room and dining area.
I opened the glass doors leading to the backyard. My nephew Drayvari and my niece Daisha were running around and played on the jungle gym my parents had set up for them.
Lorenzo and my dad were over on the grill; my mother was arranging the food on two outdoor foldout tables and bringing dishes over to the picnic tables.
Michelle and Usher were having a dance face-off to the music blasting from the stereo, while Cassie laughed and filmed them on her phone. “I don’t know Usher; I think Chelley got you beat!”
“Uncle Bash!” yelled Daisha as she ran over to and gave me a tight hug. She looked up at GG and blushed.
“Hey short-stuff. GG, this is my niece, Daisha.”
GG smiled, bending down. “Hi, it’s nice to meet you! You’re just as pretty as your uncle told me you were!”
Daisha giggled. “Thank you. I like your outfit,” she replied, shyly.
My mom whirled around, a grin spreading across her face. She crossed the yard and warmly embraced GG. “I finally have a face to a name. Welcome, baby. You sure are a pretty thing!” exclaimed Mom. Now, it was GG’s turn to blush.
“Thank you, Mrs. Banks. Your home is beautiful. I’ve seen pictures of you, and I’ve told Bash his mom looks like she could pass for his sister. I brought dessert, I hope that’s okay. It’s a Brazilian cake called Bolo Frapê da Tia Dorian, or Coconut Frapê Cake,” said GG.
“Hmm, it smells delicious, honey. Thank you so much. Come and meet the rest of the family. Don’t worry; it’s not a big family cookout, just our family, no cousins, aunts, uncles. We didn’t want to scare you!” laughed Mom.
“Oh no, I’m used to having a big family. Brazilians have big family parties,” replied GG. “Good, you’ll fit right in in the future then. Everyone, come and meet, Giavanna, Bash’s new girlfriend. That’s Orvel, Bash’s daddy, Cassie my oldest, Usher my youngest boy, Michelle the baby and my grandkids Dray and Daisha. That’s their daddy Lorenzo,” said Mom. Everyone had stopped what they were doing and approached GG and me.
“Welcome to our home, GG. We’re glad you could come,” said Dad.
“Thank you, Mr. Banks, it’s a pleasure to be here.”
Cassie, Lorenzo, Usher, and Michelle exchanged pleasantries with GG. She asked Mom if she could help her with anything. “No, baby, we’re good. ‘Food’s almost done, just come and sit. Bash, get the girl something to drink,” replied Mom as she ushered us to the sitting area of more foldout lawn furniture.
I realized I had been holding my breath because I wasn’t sure how my family would respond to GG nor her to them. But GG was always gracious and had a way of making people feel welcome and at ease.
I don’t think anyone was more shocked than I was when she struck up a conversation with my father about his career in construction.
How Dad could drone on about the science behind dry-walling and carpentry was beyond me. GG was genuinely interested and kept asking more questions. My father was eating the attention right up.
“It fascinates me to learn how things are built. I’m a lover of architecture. Brazil is home to some of the most beautiful structures in the world like the Real Gabinete Português de Leitura or the Theatro Municipal located in Cinelândia. Many of our famous buildings were constructed during the colonial period,” said GG.
“I just follow the architects and planners designs,” replied Dad. He was trying to appear modest.
“But you’re the one who puts everything together, that’s incredible,” said GG, pointedly. Dad looked very pleased that GG could recognize his “importance” when it came to installing drywall or hammer a nail through a two by four.
A short while later, Mom called us over to eat. Michelle was fascinated by GG’s tales of living in Brazil. Even though she left Rio when she was a kid, she often went back at least two to three times a year.
“I’ve always wanted to visit Rio, especially after watching the Olympics. Once I graduate high school, I want to go all sorts of places before I start college,” said Michelle, excitedly.
“Oh, you would love Rio! It’s the most beautiful place on earth. We can go to Ipanema, Sugar Loaf mountain and a lot of cool non-tourist spots only us locals know about,” winked GG.
The rest of the afternoon went on pretty much the same. Cassie and Lorenzo didn’t have too much to say to GG, but they’re naturally standoffish with people they’ve recently met, but they were cordial. Usher made a point to tell me how fine GG was and he needed to get like me, so he could “bag” a baddie too.
Mom and Michelle were eager to know about South America and GG was interested in Mom’s work as a community outreach worker at the Southeast Springs Youth and Family Center. She detailed some of the plans those in our neighborhood were trying to implement to protect the youth from falling into the gangs that have seen a resurgence in recent years.
As much as GG seemed to like my family, there was a part of me that still felt embarrassed by their lot. When my mom insisted I bring her again, I couldn’t deflect before GG happily accepted the invitation.
Overall, the cookout didn’t go over as badly as I’d thought it would, but that didn’t change the fact that I wasn’t in a rush to bring GG back to my old neighborhood.
I let Rico know I had what he needed, he directed me to meet with this associate, Tanner the following night in Belltown, an upscale downtown neighborhood. I suppose Rico didn’t want to get his hands dirty by accepting any device or correspondence from me himself.
I donned a black hoodie, sweats and hopped in the subway to meet up with Tanner. He was standing on Bell street just as Rico told me he would. I had spoken with Tanner in the past, not never at great lengths. He was the tech whiz at Thomas Global Strategies and would know exactly what to do with the USB device with Cypher’s program on it.
“This is great, Bash. Our partners will be very pleased,” said Tanner.
“What happens next?” I asked.
Tanner looked down at the device in his hand for a moment before glancing back up. “Watch the markets.”
And that was never my intent when I initially wrote for her. This is my author’s note:
Author’s Note: It just should be noted that I am aware, some may not like the representation of Bash’s older sister Cassie (who isn’t a main character) being on gov’t assistance. Often we see these images presented with the face of black women when that is not the case as statistics show others get more gov’t help than blacks. As you can see, while Bash’s family is working class, his parents do own their own home and have jobs. I would never look down on my own people, but I wanted to make a story based on the reality of many people. You will see that there are well to do black people in this story and in my past stories. I have characters from all social classes. The truth of the matter is, when I was very young, my mother had to get assistance for us even though she worked, my father wasn’t around. The fact is a lot of people (White, Black, Latino, Asian) in this country are classified as “working poor” they have jobs, but can’t afford the basic necessities of life. Some characters and storylines will not sit well with all people who read it, and that is fine. I’ve always said there would be things people may not like, but I wanted to write a story that in some ways reflected some of my past experiences and those around me or people I’ve known and those who I come up with in my head. Thanks for reading and I’m always open to feedback.
Hello my dear readers, I hope you are enjoying your holiday. Just wanted to let you know I am working on chapter 11, another POV with Bash. We’ll finally get to see his deceitful deeds be put into action. The Banks family also makes a return. They’ll get to meet GG. Can’t wait to share […]
La Familia Noriega
(Trigger warning: mention of rape/sexual assault)
Carmine Noriega is originally from Ciudad Bolívar a poor and dangerous neighborhood in Bogotá, Colombia. The local cartel severely oppressed and took advantage of the people in the community and held them under a cloud of fear for misstepping out of line. The slightest offense such as not paying “protection tax” could result in losing an arm or giving up one of your children as a potential slave in servitude to Don Mateo, the leader of the cartel.
One night, The Don raped Carmine’s younger sister Fatima who was just sixteen at the time. Don Mateo brought shame on the Noriega family, and people in the neighborhood demanded that Fatima was sent to a brothel in the “Tolerance Zone” as she was now spoiled goods. Carmine’s father had long disappeared from their lives, as head of this family, he was against banishing his sister to work in any brothel or selling herself on the streets.
In the black of night only days after Fatima’s assault, Carmine broke into The Don’s parlor where he knew he smoked cigars and drank brandy late at night and garroted him right there. He then went down the hall and executed the Don’s younger brother and lieutenant, Jose, his brother Chuy, and his bodyguard, Leon. All the men, Carmine knew as personally responsible for holding Fatima down while Don Mateo raped her. Carmine would have taken out more in the household if he had the time.
Carmine had to flee the country and made sure his younger brother Hector hid their family far away in the country to escape retaliation from the Mateos. Once Carmine settled in Miami, and he knew his family was out of immediate danger, Hector smuggled them out of Colombia.
The Noriegas had arrived in Miami and set up their narcotics operation during the height of the cocaine epidemic in south Florida during the early 1980s. The old Don’s family back in Colombia still controlled most of the coca fields in the country, and Carmine needed to own land to produce product and import it. There was no way the remaining Mateos would deal with Carmine, and upon reentry, he would certainly be killed.
After being away in the US for five years, Carmine did something he never thought he’d do, go back to Colombia. But it wasn’t a pilgrimage to his homeland; he had a bigger job to do. Carmine brought along his loyal friend, Sonny Big he grew up with and had been living in Miami to Bogotá. Together, they single-handedly terminated the entire Mateo family. Carmine took control of the coca fields and brought a small portion of his old neighborhood the Mateos once ran, under his control. Now, for the first time in generations, the people who lived there weren’t in constant fear of losing loved ones over the smallest offenses such as being too poor to pay an expensive tax. Carmine left some of his men in charge to run his operation there for him. Surely he ruled with a degree of fear, just enough so people knew not to cross him, but with fairness that made the people love and respect him. Currently, Carmine is locked up in the New Crest Regional Justice Center while he awaits trial on multiple drug-related offenses.
Griselda Reyes-Noriega was born in Miami shortly after the Cuban Revolution. Her family were wealthy sugar plantation owners and prospered under the US puppet dictator Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar. Once, Fidel Castro took power on January 1, 1959, turning the country into a socialist state, the Reyes’ and many other families fled for the United States. Their land and businesses were seized by Castro, forcing them to start over practically.
Griselda’s mother was heavily pregnant with her when they touched down on US shores after fleeing by ship. Within a few years, the Reyes family was able to use the limited amount of financial resources they retained to open a real estate office. Their business grew and became very successful, thus setting off a chain of Reyes Realty offices in the metropolitan Miami area.
The Reyes’ sent their children to prestigious schools, and they were very religious and conservative. Griselda’s parents were always quite strict with her and her siblings, but she’s always had a wild spirit that couldn’t be entirely contained. Shortly before graduating from college, Carmine and Griselda met. He hadn’t been in the States for very long by that time. They fell hard and fast for each other. Carmine was different from all the upper-class Cubans within her social circle and the ones her parents preferred her to date. He was dangerous, and his upbringing was the polar opposite of Griselda’s.
Soon enough, Griselda got pregnant and she and Carmine quickly and quietly married as to not bring shame on her. Griselda was a good woman. She was kind and took care of Carmine’s family when they arrived in Miami. Her own family had practically disowned her for being with him, but they made amends later in life. Griselda had always hoped for Carmine to go legit after many successful years of building his operation. But she never interfered and kept her mouth shut. She held to one innate belief in “family first.” Always and forever.
During a family vacation spent in their home in Costa Rica, assassins sent by enemies in Colombia stormed their home in the middle of the night looking for Carmine, but he wasn’t there. They shot up the living room and master bedroom. Griselda knew what was happening the moment she heard the gunmen and quickly and courageously hid her children away in the panic room. She had gone to look for Lupita, who was just a child at the time and wasn’t in her bed. Lupita often liked to go down to the library late at night and read with her flashlight and often fell asleep on the butter soft leather sofa with a book in her hand. Tonight was no different. As Griselda frantically ran to get little Lupita, she came face to face with the gunmen. Time was up, they shot her dead, leaving her in a pool of blood. Unbeknownst to anyone, Lupita huddled away in a doorway and witnessed her mother’s execution. It was something she would never forget.
Carmine was beyond devastated and heartbroken after his wife’s death. Something changed in him that day. He would not show mercy. Carmine set upon and got revenge on Don Cardoza, the new leader in Bogata. Carmine set up hits and wiped out every last one of the Cardozas in Colombia and the family members who lived in Ft. Lauderdale. This was the second Don from Colombia who lost their life at the hands of Carmine.
Carmine Jr (Junior) Currently runs operations for out of state smaller markets and oversees the Noriega gambling interest in Las Vegas. His power is limited next to his younger sister Lupita’s. Some believe that Carmine should’ve named his oldest son as successor once he was arrested and awaiting trial. Carmine may be an unlettered man, but he’s no fool. Lupita may be a woman, but she was better than any other man when it came to the family business; she’s brilliant, competent, and a natural born leader.
Jr and Lupita have never seen eye to eye as he’s always been insanely jealous that their father favored her over him. He despises Lupita for how he feels she “humiliated” him by taking over for Carmine and shutting down his personal non-family sanctioned operations that used and squandered their father’s resources to fund. The only thing that prevents Jr from sending a bullet Lupita’s way is their blood relation. In the same vein, that relation is the only thing preventing Lupita from doing the same. If anything were to ever happen to her, Carmine would never let Jr get away with it.
Felix spends a reasonable amount of time out of the country, buying and selling high price escorts from all over the world. He’s involved with a secret underground pleasure society that’s rumored to be run by the enigmatic Mr. Joy. Felix makes a lot of money from the women he supplies to this organization. He also runs a legit escort business with ties to Dubai, and he employs illegal call girls locally. Lupita banished Felix from conducting his business operations within the New Crest city limits. She thinks his business his nothing but filthy perversion, and it brings disrespect to the Noriega name. Obviously, Lupita has no issue with women sleeping with men for gain, but only if they get something beneficial out of it, and that’s not necessarily just money. Information is power, leverage over your enemies. Lupita’s Flying Squad of female spies does just that, bed men with the purpose of extracting information. Some of the girls who work for Felix spy for Lupita.
Felix has a bad coke addiction, therefore could never be trusted with working the family business because he was snorting up the product, throwing wild parties and attracting unwanted attention from the wrong people. He’s what is known as a “functioning coke addict.”
Lupita is the oldest daughter. She is second in command to her father and is favored by him over her siblings, including her older more experienced brothers. Since Carmine’s arrest and while he awaits trial, Lupita has been given the task of running The Noriega’s multi-state operations. It’s a demanding task for anyone, but Carmine has full confidence in his daughter’s abilities. Lupita is highly intelligent, speaks multiple languages, and very business savvy.
Born in Miami; she was educated at some of the best European boarding schools. Once she graduated early, she returned to the US and received a bachelor’s in Political Science from Yale University at 20 years old. Lupita is extremely beautiful, charming and witty, but don’t let outward appearances fool you. She is as cutthroat and ruthless as her father and won’t hesitate to cut down anyone who presents as an enemy to the Noriegas. Lupita is known as Bonita Perra, and even men older than her are terrified of what she would do if they were to cross her. She’s fiercely protective of her family, and after witnessing her mother’s execution, it hardened her.
The underworld has been in chaos for some time, ever since the events leading to the execution of San Myshuno boss, D.M. Sanders. Everyone has been eager to take over the city and destroy the newly formed McQueen cartel that has claimed the four boroughs (Uptown, The Spice District, Fashion Row, and Art of the City) of San Myshuno. While the other bosses of Willow Creek, Windenburg, and Oasis Springs are making moves to take out McQueen’s hold on San Myshuno, Lupita knows it’s a delicate time for her father’s operations. He is being charged with multiple federal and state crimes, and he’s wanted in several countries. The other bosses know she’s vulnerable right now.
Lupita walks a fine line between upsetting other outfit leaders and keeping the Noriegas in control of New Crest. Don’t be mistaken, Lupita may not be jumping on the bandwagon to join the ensuing cartel wars yet, but she won’t hesitate to spill blood if her enemies get too close to home. She is waiting for just the right time to make her move on McQueen and his underbosses. She intends to play nice for now, for they won’t see her coming. The stakes are ever high, but Lupita is waiting on the sidelines until it’s time for her take her full position in the arena. All those in the underworld better get prepared because Lupita is a master at playing the game of power and she doesn’t like to lose.
Santiago (Lil’ Sonny) is the youngest son of Carmine and Griselda. He’s an attorney and only works for his father’s business. They have other lawyers, but Sonny mainly handles the legal side of the Noriega Empire. He also handles the moving and transporting of family funds through shell companies and offshore accounts. Lil Sonny considers himself neutral in the feud between Jr and Lupita, but he tended to lean toward his older brothers and sided with Jr once Carmine named Lupita the successor during his incarceration. While Sonny has always handled much of his father’s legal business matters, Lupita shut him out and took away most of his responsibilities, limiting his access because she knows Jr had Lil Sonny spying for him. Lupita prefers to deal with her more trustworthy cousin, Diego whose also a more competent attorney.
Lucrezia (Luc) the youngest of the Noriega children, has no part in her family’s business. She currently attends university in Paris under her mother’s maiden name. She spent much of her life in boarding schools overseas for her protection. Lucrezia loves her family deeply, but she wants nothing to do with the lifestyle. She’s a generous and beautiful soul. Lupita loves her little sister dearly and considers her innocent and good. The last thing she would ever want is for Lucrezia to become apart of the life she leads. Lupita takes good care of Lucrezia and provides her with everything she needs including protection.
It hurts Lucrezia that she’s not able to visit home as often as she’d liked and she was heartbroken when Carmine forbade her to visit him in jail. She knows he did it for her protection, but she loves her father and misses him more than anyone. There’s so much of their mother Lupita sees in her sister, who was just a baby when Griselda was gunned down. Lucrezia has always looked up to Lupita and leaned on her for emotional support in her mother’s absence. Lupita believes that if someone so closely related to her is pure and good like Lucrezia, maybe the Noriegas aren’t doomed for all eternity.
Hector is one of Carmine’s younger brothers. He first came to Miami shortly after his brother executed Don Mateo, the leading drug lord in their old neighborhood. After Carmine relocated his family and fled the country, Hector stayed behind to secure them and eventually get them out of Colombia.
Initially, the Noriega brothers were small-time hustlers on the Miami scene, but Carmine was determined to be king of Miami and assure his family never fell into poverty again. He and Hector quickly made alliances with smaller sellers from the Caribbean who the more prominent lords didn’t deal with, usually, because those sellers were black or non-Colombians.
After a while, more neighborhoods came under Carmine and Hector’s control. Carmine’s reputation grew as someone easy to deal with, paid good money for product and he was loyal to his customers. Eventually, the main importers from Colombia began making exclusive deals with the Noriegas. This left many of the established cartels angry, and the family found themselves in their crosshairs.
Hector has always respected his older brother, even when he’s disagreed with him. But one thing the Noriegas never do is show their discontent with each other to the outside world.
When Carmine moved his young family to New Crest to set up a new operation, he left Hector and their younger brothers in charge of Miami. By this time, the Noriegas had essentially owned most of Miami. Hector is hot-headed and short-tempered, but he’s not stupid. Due to his anger problems and trigger-happy instincts, Carmine has had to get him out of potentially deadly situations on more than one occasion. Hector believed it was a mistake for Carmine to name Lupita acting boss after he was arrested. Hector should be careful, for Lupita has quietly, but efficiently taken note of everyone who spoke out against her appointment as boss. Blood relation or not, Lupita will not be silenced by anyone.
You can check out Lupita’s first POV in chapter 9.1 Sugar & Blood
Hello everyone! I hope all is well. I know it’s been nearly two months since I posted a character bio. I’ve been focused more on the writing side and wanted to introduce more characters before making a new family background post. Now that we’ve met Lupita and her father, cartel boss, Carmine Noriega, I plan on publishing the Noriega bio next.
You can read about the Vegas and Carters in the bio index.
Rico’s family, the Thomas’ will also be reviewed shortly. I plan on formally introducing his parents in his next POV.
I’m currently working on a couple of chapters. We can expect to hear from Bash again as we continue to follow the hostile takeover of Jupiter Works. What lengths will Bash go to to get what he wants? We’ll also get to see the Banks family too!
Thanks for reading,
Bash Banks’ POV:
It’s been two weeks since I met up with Rico at Georgio’s. I had agreed to come on board and be part of whatever plan he was devising for Jupiter. I thought something would’ve happened by now, but I’ve had no indication of the doom and gloom of Jupiter’s demise thus far.
The company status quo continues. The pissy whiny liberal arts brats with their third rate degrees, but just so happened to land a job in tech because daddy was in the same country club with the VP. The insufferable hipsters and neckbeards who spent too many years in their mothers’ basements with delusions that they were worth more than the package of condoms their parents should have used because they can write a few lines of code.
A sea of ass-kissers surrounded me, all lined up with their lips out ready for Timothy to unbutton his dockers and bend over. Lather on the chapstick boys, because all that butt licking you’re doing is going to give you blisters.
What was worse than anything, my team, Tim’s team moved to another level in the building. What I liked about my old space was that our area was small, now we shared a floor with some of the analysts and other developers who were working on Cypher and other applications. Not only was I reporting directly to Tim’s incompetent ass, but I also had to put up with a bunch of imbeciles who greeted me each morning with some word or phrase black people stopped using six months ago, that they just looked up on Urban Dictionary.
Charles Ridley told me one morning when I came in that my blazer/trouser combo was “on fleek.” I guess that was meant to impress me. I don’t even pretend to like these muthafuckas. He knew he messed up by my “get the fuck out my face before I sock you in it” expression and hasn’t tried that shit again.
I was sitting at my desk, not getting much work done. My mind was preoccupied with this Rico deal and how much I utterly loathed coming here each day. On top of that, I’ve been working overtime like crazy, a lot of us has. I’ve barely had a social life over the last couple of weeks.
I noticed it had gotten quiet in my area.
“Hey Bash, we’re waiting on you!” called Charles.
I turned around in my chair and glanced at my watch. Shit, it was time for our weekly meeting with Tim in his new supersized cubicle, complete with a small glass table and four hard plastic Ikea worthy chairs.
I got up and made the short walk to the opposite side of our office where Tim now sits.
I didn’t bother to apologize for my tardiness and plumped down in my seat across from Tim.
“Bash, how’s it going?” asked Tim in his annoying cheerful too early in the morning way. His bright blue eyes crinkled in the corners as his smile stretched from ear to ear.
I nodded. “Fine.” I didn’t offer anything more than that. I was over this already, and I had only been here less than two hours.
I listened for the next fifteen minutes while Tim droned on about how honored he was to be part of such a great team made up of the brightest minds at Jupiter. Charles, Leo, and Adam hung onto every word and vigorously nodded their heads; probably in the same rhythmic motion if Tim were to pull out his tiny pecker and told them to suck it.
Eventually, Tim got out his own ass, and we began to discuss some of the bug issues with the Cypher framework. The more the conversation went on and the questions Tim asked, the more I realized he really didn’t know shit about the barest of essentials when it came to our top application. I looked at Charles, Leo, and Adam and wondered if they were thinking the same thing. From the robotic Pavlovian dogs’ looks of admiration on their faces, it didn’t seem so. If they thought what I was, they were doing an excellent job of covering it up.
I didn’t volunteer anything in the meeting, no input, even when asked. I had nothing to say. Oh, I could definitely say a lot, but it wasn’t worth the hassle. The meeting eventually concluded, and I was the first one up and headed toward my desk. It was still too early for lunch. I thought about calling GG and seeing if she wanted to meet me across the street at noon, but I most likely wouldn’t have time. I would probably end up eating at my desk again while I attempted to get through my bug reports as I had not touched them all day.
All I could do right now was wait and hope on Rico. Once Jupiter goes down like the Titanic, I’ll have my black ass on the first lifeboat out of here.
My communication with Rico had been scarce at best. He advised it was best to limit our communication. I heard my phone ring in the middle of the night. It was after one. I knew Rico kept late hours on the weekend, but his call was most unexpected. I had to pretend that I wasn’t dead to the world just thirty seconds before his call. GG, who was sleeping next to me softly murmured and turned over, but she didn’t completely wake up.
Rico said that the information I had provided him with had been helpful, but it wasn’t enough for the type of “leverage” he needed. Rico hasn’t specified what he needed; he only says “everything.” Well, when it comes to an application like Cypher “everything” is an inclusive term, and that includes a lot. I had a feeling Rico was testing me yet again to see if I would pull through without him having to goad me in the right direction. He indicated that the sensitive information that was most imperative was privy only to those above my pay grade.
Yes, I do have access to internal and protected intellectual property and information, source code, and bugs but it was limited. I didn’t have firsthand knowledge about the more severe bugs and stabilization efforts for the application being addressed by the senior developers and upper management.
What I needed was access to the very foundation of Cypher’s mainframe; not just it’s vulnerabilities. It’s important to know how well it would do once it goes to market, if it will be readily accessible for the majority of users on various operating system platforms and if Cypher could easily be integrated with other applications. Unfortunately, even though I have more education, general knowledge, and I know what the fuck I’m doing, Tim as a senior developer was privy to that information.
The last thing Rico said to me was “I’ll get what I need somewhere, somehow. It would be most beneficial for you if you obtain that information for me. Because if I have to take other avenues, something, I don’t want to do after you agreed to come aboard, well that’s me doing your work for you. Yes, there is a way to get the intel you’ve yet to provide. But I don’t want to go that route, because it means I’ll have to call in a favor and it gives that person a degree of leverage over me, and that’s not how I operate; that’s not how I win.
I hated to admit that Rico’s call had left me a bit restless and I didn’t get much sleep after that. Thankfully it was Saturday. Jupiter wanted everyone to work this weekend, but I’ve already been working sixty hour weeks, and I wasn’t in the mindset to deal with those fuckers on a Saturday. I had to figure something out to get Rico what he needed, and it had to be soon.
I was at New Crest City Center Galleria with GG. After our initial hookup, I wasn’t sure where this “thing” was going to go. I hadn’t been in a committed relationship in years, and I enjoyed the hassle-free lifestyle of not being tied down to one woman. There was something about GG that made me forget all of that and I wanted to explore whatever was between us.
Except for the last two weeks and me working sixty hours, she and I have spent practically every day together. GG either comes over and spends the night, or I stay at her place. We occasionally meet for lunch since our buildings are next to each other downtown. Often we grab drinks together in the same bar we first met. Now those same Bobby Pedigrees get sick when they see her with me. I love seeing the self-righteous, smug look fall off their ugly ass faces. Giavanna was easily the most beautiful woman who worked in the area, and she’s truly the most beautiful woman I’ve met. If I were Bobby and Chad, I would be mad too.
I bemoaned my work dilemma to GG. She agreed that it wasn’t right for me to continue to get passed over for promotion after promotion, but she’s claimed in the past that I should be more open to gaining “work friends.”
GG didn’t know about the deal I made with Rico. She knew I wasn’t happy at Jupiter. I wouldn’t tell her anything about it until it was assured, as of yet, I had no idea where Rico and his partners were at regarding taking the company.
“It’s hard to get ahead in that environment. The guy I report to directly is a complete idiot,” I said. We quietly walked through the gallery. The courtyard of the City Center was full of people at tables, going into the shops and bars, and eating at outside restaurants. GG was quiet and just listened as I went on about my most recent meeting with Tim and our team.
“He doesn’t know some of the basic processes we have implemented, yet he has more access than I do, and he’s getting paid more than me,” I complained.
“I know, it isn’t right. But Bash, we’ve talked about this before. I know how much you hate your co-workers, I could tell you didn’t think too highly of them the first time I saw you with them at the bar. And if I, a stranger could pick up vibes, I’m sure the people you work with every day can pick it up too. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” said GG. She leaned in a bit and stroked my arm. I guided her toward a bench near the water fountain gardens.
“What you have to understand baby, is that I’m a black man. Things work differently for me than they do for you and the men in the positions of power.”
“How so?” she asked. We stopped for a moment, and I turned to look at her. “Look, it doesn’t matter that I have degrees from UPenn and MIT. I already have a strike against me because of the color of my skin,” I replied.
“And what, you don’t think I face discrimination as an ethnically mixed Brazilian? Most of the people I work with, including the women think of me as some exotic beauty from a third world country. Either they think I’m some sex freak who spent her days lying around naked on Ipanema Beach or they think we all live in Favelas. Nevermind that my family was rich in Brazil and my parents still have money and were successful when we moved here,” sighed GG.
I never really thought of her as a victim of discrimination. Misogyny was a given, especially in her line of work as a financial analyst. Even still, GG had the complexion for protection. She wasn’t a blue-blooded blonde hair all-American girl, but she had it easier than women like my mom and sisters.
“Look, Bash, I’m not saying your feelings aren’t validated, I know how intelligent and talented you are. The truth of the matter is, in the corporate world, you have to play by the rules until you’re in a position to change the rules. Don’t burn bridges. Now, from what I’ve seen Tim seems very likable even you said he wasn’t as bad as some of the ass-lickers in the company. He is your lead now, and he likes you. Why not extend an olive branch? What’s the harm in making new friends in higher places? You’re going to have to deal with Tim anyway, might as well get all you can out of what could be a beneficial friendship for you,” advised GG.
I opened my mouth in protest and remembered my brief conversation with Rico. As much as I hated to have to do it, I would have to get close to Tim. He’s very trusting and honest, but naive. He’ll most likely begin revealing things to me I would otherwise not have the privilege of knowing.
Okay, I will do it GG’s way, and I’ll extend that olive branch. I’ll do whatever I have to complete my mission. The Jupiter train was nearing a full stop, and I wanted to make my transition to something of greater importance.
The following weekend, I did something I never thought I’d do; I invited Tim and his girlfriend, Cheyanne out for lunch with GG and I.
It was bad enough I had to deal with Tim’s over the top cheery attitude at work, now I had to spend a portion of my Saturday with him. My weekends were my time to get away from the shit Tim and everyone else at work represented. Me, allowing him into my personal time and space wasn’t something I was eager to do. But I knew I had to get the right kind of leverage for Rico. As he said, he could acquire it without my help, but I realized he was testing me, to see if I was up to the task and worth the risk of bringing me into his inner-fold.
There’s no one in Rico’s circle that doesn’t offer some benefit to him or contributes to his goals in some way. He was helping me out of a situation and giving me the opportunity to step into a better one. Yes, Rico helps people, but you better believe sooner or later, he’ll come to collect the debt.
GG and I met up with Tim and Cheyanne at The Mighty Oyster, a seafood restaurant on the waterfront. I don’t know what I was expecting when I met Tim’s girlfriend, aside from the same shade of blonde hair, their styles were completely different. She was one of those artsy hipsters, while Tim dressed more Abercrombie & Fitch.
“Hey, Bash! This is great, meeting up like this. I want to introduce you to my girlfriend, Cheyanne,” Tim brightly greeted me.
“Hello, Cheyanne, it’s good to meet you,” I said and extended my hand. Cheyanne’s eyes lit up, and instead of taking my hand, she hugged me. “Hi! I’m happy to know you, Bash. Tim has told me so many good things about you,” she gushed.
I was a little surprised to hear that and was taken aback by her forward and warm demeanor. “Tim, Cheyanne, I’d like you to meet GG, my lady,” I said, turning toward GG.
GG graciously smiled and offered her hand, which Tim shook, but Cheyanne hugged her as well.
“Wow, you are drop-dead gorgeous!” exclaimed Cheyanne. GG blushed. “Thank you. It’s nice to meet you both.”
We were shown to our table and browsed our menu. GG decided to go vegetarian and ordered tofu chicken salad platter. “Are you a vegetarian? I am too! But there’s not a lot to choose from on this menu. I think I’ll get the tofu chicken platter too,” said Cheyanne to GG.
“I’m not a complete vegetarian, but I often go without meat several days a week,” she replied.
“So, GG. Bash tells me you’re from Brazil? When did you move to the states?” asked Tim. When I initially extended that olive branch, I gave little details about GG to Tim. He would meet her soon enough, and I knew it would be a painful experience. At least GG had my back and decided to come and support me. She’s much better at putting people at ease within social settings.
“I was ten years old when my family and I moved here from Rio de Janeiro. I went to university in New York, but most of my family lives in Willow Creek,” replied GG.
“That is amazing. I swear every woman I’ve seen from Brazil is beautiful! You’re no exception at all. What part of Rio are you from?” asked Cheyanne. She was hanging onto GG’s every word. She’s made a new fan.
“São Conrado. It’s an old neighborhood in the South Zone.”
Cheyanne’s eyes grew big. “Wow, is that the same area located right next to Favela da Rocinha?” asked.
GG drew a breath. Speaking of the Rocinha Favela isn’t something she often liked to do, and it was part of the reason her family wanted to move from the city. “Yes,” she nodded.
“I can’t imagine. Have you ever been to one? A favela?” asked Tim.
GG took a long swig of her Moscato. “No. Girls like me, where I was raised and based on who my family is, shouldn’t go to the favelas.”
Although she hid it well, I could tell this line of questioning was making GG uncomfortable, but she remained gracious. I decided to switch gears a bit. “So, uh Cheyanne, was is it exactly that you do?” I asked.
“Oh, I am a freelance graphic illustrator. I know, it’s weird that Tim and I are together. I’m the least techy person I know. I know graphics and all that stuff, but I know nothing of programming,” laughed Cheyanne.
GG and I learned through her babbling that Cheyanne graduated from Sarah Lawrence, she composts, collects rainwater for drinking and bathing, and she grows her own food. Typical.
“You know, GG I have such a good team at work, and your guy here is one of the smartest people at the company. Bash is such an asset. I’m fortunate to have him on my team,” Tim enthused.
GG looked at me and smiled. “Yes, he’s like an encyclopedia. I am not very techy either, so if I have questions about computers, I just call Bash and let him handle everything,” she giggled.
Tim and I didn’t discuss work too much, other than him mentioning some of the future projects for Cypher he was eager to start on. He told me he hoped I would be fully on board once we go to launch and build on the application soon. I told Tim he could count on it. Surely, it would be a slower climb than I would want, and I have to play Tim just right. I can’t push anything on him. I seriously doubt I would arouse suspicion from Tim, but others would be watching.
After lunch, we split the bill. I paid for myself, and GG and Tim took care of his and Cheyanne’s portion. They said they would love it we could go hiking with them in a couple of weeks. I saw the look of panic on GG’s face and knew almost certainly it was out of the question. I didn’t commit to anything, but I told Tim that it sounded like a good time and we’ll talk about it soon.
GG and I said goodbye and headed toward the boardwalk near the parking lot where my car was. “Well, that’s two and a half hours of my life I’ll never get back,” I sighed.
“I mean, they were a little Donnie and Marie, but I thought they were cute,” she laughed.
“Cute? Are you serious? Well, I guess you can add Cheyanne to your growing list of fans. She’s mesmerized by you,” I said, dryly.
GG shrugged. “She was adorable. But, now that I have formally met one of your co-workers, and I don’t mean at the bar during happy hour, maybe I’ll meet more people.” GG was hinting at wanting to meet my family in Oasis. As much as I loved being with her, GG was the one bright spot in my life, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to taint that by bringing her to my old neighborhood and introduce her to some of the most unambitious people I knew who thrived on mediocrity. No, I would put that off for a long as I could.