I aint me no more, p.1

I Ain't Me No More, page 1


I Ain't Me No More

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I Ain't Me No More

  I Ain’t Me No More:

  Book One of the Always Divas Series

  E.N. Joy


  All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Other Books by This Author




  Stone Number One

  Stone Number Two

  Stone Number Three

  Stone Number Four

  Stone Number Five

  Stone Number Six

  Stone Number Seven

  Stone Number Eight

  Stone Number Nine

  Stone Number Ten

  Stone Number Eleven

  Stone Number Twelve

  Stone Number Thirteen

  Stone Number Fourteen

  Stone Number Fifteen

  Stone Number Sixteen

  Stone Number Seventeen

  Stone Number Eighteen

  Stone Number Nineteen

  Stone Number Twenty

  Stone Number Twenty-one

  Stone Number Twenty-two

  Stone Number Twenty-three

  Stone Number Twenty-four

  Stone Number Twenty-five

  Stone Number Twenty-six

  Stone Number Twenty-seven

  Stone Number Twenty-eight

  Stone Number Twenty-nine

  Stone Number Thirty

  Stone Number Thirty-one

  Stone Number Thirty-two

  Stone Number Thirty-three

  Stone Number Thirty-four

  Stone Number Thirty-five

  Stone Number Thirty-six

  Stone Number Thirty-seven

  Stone Number Thirty-eight

  Stone Number Thirty-nine

  Stone Number Forty

  Stone Number Forty-one


  Readers’ Group Discussion Questions

  About the Author

  Coming Soon!

  Copyright Page

  Other Books by This Author

  Me, Myself and Him

  She Who Finds a Husband

  Been There, Prayed That

  Love, Honor or Stray

  Trying to Stay Saved

  I Can Do Better All By Myself

  And You Call Yourself a Christian

  The Perfect Christian

  The Sunday Only Christian

  Ordained by the Streets

  A Woman’s Revenge (Anthology; “Best Served Cold”)

  Even Sinners Have Souls (Edited by E.N. Joy)

  Even Sinners Have Souls Too (Edited by E.N. Joy)

  Even Sinners Still Have Souls (Edited by E.N. Joy)

  The Secret Olivia Told Me (N. Joy)

  Operation Get Rid of Mom’s New Boyfriend (N. Joy)


  My thanks go to the Urban Books family, Kensington Publishing Corporation, and Charlton “CP the Artist” Palmer. Each of you bring my product to life in so many different ways. You give me a voice, my characters a voice, and the readers a visual to my words and characters. I wish to extend my thanks to the graphics department, the editorial team, right down to the individual who lists my books on every online book retail Web site there is so that my readers have access to my work. No job is so small that it doesn’t deserve recognition. I come to you as a person with a story to tell; you clean me up and package me so that the story gets told. I thank God for you!

  Dr. Maxine Thompson, the best story development editor in the world, thank you for pulling elements of this story out of me that I didn’t even know existed. Everybody has a book in them, but not everybody can tell a story. Thank you for making sure that I didn’t just write a book, but also told a story—a good story.

  I would like to express my gratitude to you, my readers. If it were not for you, this book would not exist. Those are not just words. In all honesty, if you all had not latched on to the lives of these divas, this “soap opera in print” would have not been renewed for another season. So I thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing these characters to invade your lives and for your continued support of me as a person and what I do.

  To Pastor Maurice Jackson, God gave you a word to deliver during your 11:00 a.m. sermon on Sunday, September 3, 2006. Like you said, people may not know us by our face, but it is up to us to make sure they know us by our story. This is Helen’s story, and I’m leaving no stone unturned....

  To my auntie Lynne Carson, you’d had a few, so you probably won’t even remember the conversation you had with me at Mel’s album release party (God rest his soul). But among so many other jewels you dropped, you told me that no matter how high God elevates me, I should never forget where I came from. You told me that no matter how many Cadillacs God affords me, I should never forget that brown Chevy Chevette I used to have to drive around in to get to school and work. You told me that no matter where God takes me in my travels, I should never forget the neighborhood I came from, never forget who I used to be. You told me that no matter how many big names and famous people I’m allowed to connect and break bread with, I should never forget my family. You spoke volumes. I just want you to know that I won’t forget those things and I won’t forget you. I won’t ever forget my Carson family, who to this day loves and supports me and claims me as if my last name were Carson. That’s love. That’s family!

  I can’t not acknowledge my Davis, Edwards, and Ross family. I am so blessed to have the love and support of you all.

  Breakfast Club members, my sister Jawan, my bestie Angie, Carla, Jeri, and Takeeah, the devil tried to break me into pieces during the process of getting this book complete. Thank you, ladies, for being the glue to put me back together with our monthly get-togethers. I must also thank my sister-in-law, Nicole N. Ross, for her powerful prayers and counsel. And I thank my mother-in-law, Gwen Marsh, and my bestie, Stephanie “Anderson” Davenport.

  Dad, thank you for continuing to instill in me daily the importance of family, and, Uncle Dudi, thank you for all the effort you put into bringing the family together for fun, memorable times. Your efforts are not in vain. The people who God wants to be there show up!

  Elder Price of Power and Glory Ministries International, I don’t know how I would make it through the week without the teachings of your eight o’clock service, in which you have remained steadfast and dedicated to seeing that you share the knowledge and wisdom God has instilled in you with His people. You are an appreciated and a blessed man of God.

  Last but certainly not least, I wish to acknowledge my dynamite children and my husband, Nick “Bang” Ross. Wow! What can I say, Nick, besides the fact that it takes one “bleep” of a guy to love me—all of me? The old me, the new me, and the me that is yet to come. Yep, I’m convinced that God chose the right one to be able to deal with me.

  “O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee.”

  –Psalms 25:20


  Man, I hate the cleaning guy! Why does he have to do his job so well? Can’t he ever leave just one spot, smear, or smudge on this dang stripper pole? Something so that I don’t have to see myself, so that I’m not so painfully visible like this? I mean, I could see if the pole was in some studio that offers pole-dancing classes for women trying to keep their relationships exciting. But this is Club Shake ’Em Up, a hole-in-the-wall strip club in Columbus, Ohio. What makes him think I want to be able to see myself twirling around and sliding down this pole like some skilled monkey, caught up in the powerful grip of the almighty dollar, a grip known to have choked the life out of many, while leaving others gasping for their last breath? If that’s what Mr. Cleaning Man thinks, he’s wrong.
Dead wrong!

  “That’s for you,” Damon says over R. Kelly’s “Your Body’s Callin’.”

  The owner of the club makes sure the DJ plays the music at a level where the patrons don’t have to compete with the music artist. Money talks. The customers are money. Therefore, they have to be heard loud and clear.

  With his chestnut brown bald head and his facial hair that is edged up nice and clean, Damon licks his thumb and uses it to flick a twenty-dollar bill off the stack of money he’s palming. “That’s for you too,” he says. “And this is for your mama.” He flicks another twenty off the pile. “Anybody who helped make something as beautiful as you deserves to get paid, so on that note, here’s a little something for your pops too.” He flicks yet another bill.

  My hips are like a boat, rocking in an open sea of lust disguised as love. I look Damon in the eyes and say, “I thank you, my mama thanks you, and my daddy thanks you too.” I give him a flirty wink and instruct my midsection to do a roll, creating a wave that rocks the boat just that much more.

  “You better go, go-go girl,” Damon says, cheering me on.

  Damon’s a regular at Club Shake ’Em Up. He isn’t one of my regulars. He’s the regular of a fellow dancer named Sky, but she’s been off work the past couple of nights. The unconfirmed rumor is that she got knocked up and is recuperating from an abortion. Whatever the reason, her loss is my gain.

  I swivel my body down to the floor the way the vanilla and chocolate swirl ice cream at DQ makes its way from the machine to the cone. Dropping it like it’s hot is my forte for now, at least until I can learn to work the pole like a pro. Talking smack is quickly becoming another skill I can add to my stripper repertoire.

  “Baby, you know it takes gas to keep a Cadillac like myself going,” I say to Damon. “So as long as you keep filling up the tank, I’ma go-go, all right.” I swivel my body back up to a standing position while adding, “In any direction you want me to go. As a matter of fact, I’ll let you drive.” I lick my lips. “Naw, you look like the type who likes to ride.”

  Damon’s lips part into that sexy signature smile of his, the left side of his upper lip turning upward, revealing the bling of his diamond-studded capped tooth.

  All the girls only wish they had a regular that dropped bills like Damon drops them. And all the girls know that he’s strictly hands-off. He’s Sky’s monthly mortgage on her condo. She’s made this fact known to Damon, as well, as the only time he ever steps foot in the club is during Sky’s shift. If she isn’t there, he keeps it moving, which is what he’d done the past two nights. I guess night number three, tonight, was his breaking point. He’d breached his loyalty to Sky, because this time when he came in and asked for her, only to find that she still hadn’t returned to work, he stayed. It was just my good fortune that I was on deck to hit the stage once he’d gotten settled with a shot of Hennessy.

  “Whatever you want,” Damon says. “It’s your caddie. I’ll drive, ride.... Heck, I’ll even be a backseat passenger. Just know that I got you, Ma.” Damon begins to flick off bills like he’s the dealer in a game of spades.

  I’m very much content with the hand I’m being dealt. So much so that I want to drop to my knees and begin scooping like a kid standing under a piñata that has just been busted open. But I don’t want to appear too desperate. As if dancing half naked in front of a bunch of horny men and a few dykes doesn’t make me seem desperate enough.

  Resolving to strip in the first place was out of desperation. At the time I made the decision, which was just two weeks ago, I felt trapped, like Jonah in the belly of the big fish. I was always trying to make ends meet, but neither of my ends were the least bit interested in getting to know one another. Bills were due. I needed fast cash. Not the natural kind of fast, but the “Marion Jones on steroids” kind of fast. World record breaking fast. I weighed some options on my immoral scale of desperation, and stripping was a lighter load to travel with in my mental carry-on. I mean, at least I’m not selling my whole self—just bartering a piece of me.

  Needless to say, bills are still due. The notice that my gas had been turned off greeted me at my door earlier today like an ex-boyfriend I had never expected to run into. I almost hadn’t noticed it, because of the eviction notice that partially covered it, the new bigger, stronger boyfriend. They were each vying for my attention, wanting to be acknowledged and paid, just like the dancers in the club. I’m sure anyone would agree that would make one act a little desperate.

  I was desperate.

  I’m still desperate.

  Dressed to the nines plus one with my make-up done up like a black Barbie, I’m looking like an angel, so never mind the fact that I’m dancing on the devil’s stage. My white sheer lingerie-like robe trimmed in sparkling rhinestones leaves very little to the imagination. It’s covering up the silver and white two-piece thong costume I’d purchased at an online exotic dance wear store. It’s safe to say not much is being covered up.

  “Go on, go-go girl. You know you wanna bend that thang over and pick up that loot.” Once again, Damon licks his thumb and lightens his pile of money as he flicks a couple more bills onto the stage, at my feet. This time, though, he’d licked his thumb slowly while staring me down. He looks as though he can see right through me, right down to my bare essentials, even though I’m still wearing my cover-up.

  Each dancer in the club does a two-song set. First one slow, then one fast. The cover-ups aren’t shed until the second song. Damon’s wafer-brown eyes, a contrast to his sable-toasted skin, are soliciting me to abandon the cover-up prematurely.

  “Come on. Just show me a li’l sumpin’, sumpin’,” Damon urges. “Move that thong on over to the side and let me get a little peek.” He flicks off another bill. “Surely, that’s worth a five-count peek.” His eyes peruse my body from head to toe, and he wets his thumb in preparation to keep making it rain.

  And this was rain, might I add. Ones being flicked off, that’s a chance of rain. Fives being flicked off; that’s a little drizzle. Tens being flicked off, that’s a scattered shower. Twenties, that’s rain. Benjamins, an all-out thunderstorm!

  “Come on, Damon. You know the rules. You don’t want me to break the rules and get put on punishment, do you?” I ask, making a puppy-dog face.

  “Forget the rules,” Damon barks like the big dawg he is. “And if all that is worthy of just a peek,” he says, referring to all the money he’s laid at my feet, “I can only imagine what this will get me.”

  R. Kelly’s vocals are still playing in the background, but I freeze on the stage, which means the bill Damon is now displaying must be triggering some type of ice storm. Until this very moment, I had never even known that such a bill existed.

  I gather my equanimity and try to play it smooth, still talking slick. “Boy, don’t be bringing no Monopoly money up in here,” I joke, an attempt to play off my ignorance of U.S. currency.

  “What’s the matter, go-go girl? You ain’t never seen a five-hundred-dollar bill before?” He chuckles. “Then all that means is that you ain’t been with no real man before.” He gives me the once-over.” So what do you say you make tonight a first for a lot of things?” This time he licks his lips instead of his thumb, making it evident that he is not about to drop that bill at my feet without some type of commitment that he’s going to get more from me than just a two-song set, with me sitting next to him, talking smack afterward.

  All of a sudden I’m starting to think about church, kicking myself for not having paid my respects or tithes to the house of the Lord in a couple of months. At the same time I’m trying my hardest to recall one of those messages that have to do with temptation, a scripture or something, because to tell the truth and shame the devil, I am beyond tempted to take Damon up on his offer. In my uninhibited imaginings I had never fancied myself standing on stage in a bar, dancing for money, let alone exceeding that act of disgrace.

  “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches. . . .” That isn’t exact
ly the scripture I’m grappling for, but it still seems fitting.

  My name . . . Helen Lannden. How much is it worth today? Twenty-five-year-old Helen Lannden. How much will my name be worth tomorrow, especially if I trick for money?

  “Only you and I would have to know.” Was Damon not only sexy and paid, but he was a mind reader too?

  I can feel sweat establishing a nest on my forehead. The fast song hasn’t even come on yet, so there is no way dancing is the instigator of my perspiration. Who knew the nonphysical act of thinking, contemplating, could make one work up a sweat?

  “You don’t scream, and I won’t holler. As long as we both keep our mouths shut, nobody will ever find out.” Damon sounds convincing as I envision that five-hundred-dollar bill, the husband, trumping both my disconnect and eviction notice, the ex-boyfriend and the new boyfriend.

  “So what do you say?” Damon says, placing the tip of the five-hundred-dollar bill between his lips while caressing the bottom between his index finger and thumb.

  I gawk at the bill rooted between his lips. My mouth waters as I marvel at it, wondering what it might taste like. Not his lips, the money. The money, coupled with the previous tips I’d netted that night, could get me current on my bills, keep a roof over my head.

  Damon slowly removes the bill from between his lips, then suspends it in front of me, which is like waving a fresh-cut sirloin at a pit bull whose master hasn’t fed it in days. “So what’s it gonna be, Ma?”

  Stone Number One

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