As promised, I called Rileigh at her office to fill her in on the meeting with DaVeon. That led to a late lunch with my girl at Cisco’s to dish on the deets. I was still wondering about my attraction to DaVeon La Grange. Of course it had been some time since I was in the dating arena. My brief union to Parker Lawton, had been more of a business merger, border line arranged marriage, thanks to my grandfather, Ford Wilmington. Just thinking about that manipulative man set my teeth on edge!
At least I still had my charity foundation and the plans to redevelop a prime piece of real estate (in my opinion) in Saint Charles. My goals were to demolish the trailer park that existed there and start new construction, replacing the dilapidated trailers with green built homes. In theory I wanted to provide an affordable subdivision, for low to moderate income, working class families. Of course, my grandfather Ford was against it, citing it would serve me better if I built, yet another hotel and casino; since the area was surrounded by affluent residents and lakefront views. In essence catering to the status quo! My grandfather had built his fortune through such real estate ventures, so he felt he was the leading authority. How very snobbish of him. His elitist attitude was the main reason my three sisters remained absent and scattered all over the globe.
Case in point: My sister Lynn, a business mogul in her own right, took over the Di Ricci hotel and casino in Vegas, established by our late mother. My sister Vanessa, is one of the premier models strutting the runway today. She was off doing a photoshoot in Milan and preferred to roam abroad in an effort to keep as much distance between her and our grandfather, and our baby sister Destiny, was busy with her restaurant in New Orleans. I was the only idiot that had remained in Saint Louis, our hometown, still picking up the pieces of my shattered life as best I could.
Oddly enough, part of their estrangement from our grandfather had been over his disdain for our father, Mario Di Ricci. Our grandfather practically had cut ties with his only daughter, Irma, when she had married our father. Not to mention there seemed to be some long standing beef between my parents and Ford—one any of us siblings was never fully clear on. So, the strained relationship between our grandfather and our mother had its own effects on us all.
All that withstanding I was fiercely loyal to my family. The Di Ricci’s had taken me in when my biological father, Alcide Toussaint, had died in the line of duty. Sadly, I never knew my biological mother, and to my knowledge, had no other living relatives, save Irma and Mario, my godparents. Even after they had their own children, they never treated me like an outsider. I was their goddaughter and without hesitation they had solidified our familial bond by legally adopting me. All us Di Ricci girls had grown up in privilege, gone to the best schools and were otherwise spoiled—within reason—by our loving parents.
Grandfather Ford only managed to weasel his way back into our good graces after our parents deaths, claiming as our sole living relative, he had only our best interest at heart. Not long after, however, his true nature and motives became apparent. My sisters and I were nothing but pawns to further his own agenda. I, being the oldest, thought it was my duty to mend the family fences and try to have a relationship with the “old goat”, despite his meddling into mine and my siblings’ affairs. My sisters, however, weren’t so forgiving and resented his intrusion into their lives. They neither welcomed nor wanted his input and therefore put distance between themselves and him. If only I had done the same! My grandfather has mucked up my life with his meddling and continued to be burr in my ass!
I forcibly drew my mind back to the present, listening as Rileigh told me about her current client and the mess he had gotten himself into, marveling at the nonchalant way she recounted her conversation with Radley “Rad-Man Fuller” a professional football player for one of the major teams. My bestie represented some of the biggest and brightest athletic talent and I am always impressed by her roster of clients!
“I don’t know how you do it girl, you pull an Olivia Pope for these clowns every time one of them damn near throws away their careers!” Frowning I pause before launching into my own situation. “Ri, I’m going to need your expertise myself. I want to get back into my community work. I just can’t seem to bring myself to arrange a meeting with my committee chairs, to relaunch the foundation. Most of these heffas have enjoyed my fall from grace. Trying to live that down and maintain a semblance of decorum is an ongoing battle, thanks to all the bad press.”
I tried reaching out to some of the society darlings that had once been my so called “friends.” Most of them were now snubbing me, crossing me off their soiree lists, distancing themselves from me, all the while making plays for my ex, Parker. Like I gave a damn. What bothered me the most was all of the good work that the foundation has done and could still do was now marred by vindictive shrews.
With the annual Easter Egg-stravaganza Event coming up, I needed to know who was still on board with me. Would they really undermine my efforts out of spite? God, I hoped not. I was determined not to disappoint the children who looked forward to the event each year and I am willing to put up with their haughty attitudes so long as the kids are taken care of! Talking things over with Rileigh helped to put things in perspective.
“What do you suggest I do? I really need your advice.”
To say that Mariah’s concerns about the foundation members angers me would be a gross understatement. I do my best to hide it from Meems because I know she is doing her best to feel good about all of this foolishness. I can’t help but to be pissy about the hypocrisy demonstrated by some of those, “church folks.” People like that are the reason people don’t go to church. How can you call yourself a Christian, but demean others and be all in their business? It’s ridiculous.
I lift my eyes to hers and smile. “Girl…you have GOT to ignore those heffas. Most of them are so miserable, they wouldn’t know happiness if it slapped them on the ass and whistled Dixie!” We both lose it in a fit of laughter at my silliness. I gotta say though, I’m so glad to see her smile again. I will crack jokes all day if I can see my bestie belly laugh like this.
When we settle again, I give her a serious look, “I’m serious Meems. You have to live for you, not for who people want you to be.” As soon as the words leave my mouth, I drift back to Italy and the time in my life when I should have taken that same advice. Had I been more willing to free myself from the definitions of other folks, I would have told Quis how I felt about him. But, noooooo! I was too worried about the other dancers, the other players on the team…I was worried about every-damn-body but myself. I was soooo afraid that I’d be labeled a gold-digger or a jersey-chaser, I let him walk out of my life.
I’m so lost in thought, Meems calls my name two or three times to get me back in the present. “Girl…where did you go just then?” I smile, a little embarrassed that I’m still stuck on this man. “Uh…no where. I’m just thinking about how we can make this event so spectacular, they won’t be able to do anything but suck their teeth!” That set us on the path to more laughter.
I sit back in the booth with a wicked gleam in my eye. “Hey…I have some favors to call in with Mr. Burnside. How about we have some players there?” When Meems raises her eyebrows in question, I put my hands up in surrender. “Let’s just say, I helped the owner with a little situation he got involved in.” I lean in and whisper, “Not only did I save his reputation, he didn’t lose not one dollar in sponsorship and hell, he may turn out to be a better person before it’s all said and done. I’m good at getting them out of trouble, but my help costs honey; and not just my fees. If I have to help, you will be doing some charity for the greater good…without the media around to stroke that ego.”
I pull my iPad from my bag and open the calendar app, “Okay. Let’s plan this shindig. We better lock down the location ASAP, because you know people will be snapping up the best spots for Easter events and early spring weddings.” I thumb through my own calendar, looking for the best date to use. “How about Good Friday? My office and the local schools are closed, so we should be able to attract plenty of kids. I’ll make some calls and get us some donations. It will be good. I promise.”
Meems gives me one of those high beam grins of hers and before she answers, I know she’s on board. “Alright. I’ll start things on my end and I can call you later to let you know where we are with it.”
The rest of our lunch is full of girl talk and laughter. Meems is excited to have her vision off the ground and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. For a while, I’m able to push Quis back into the, “Italy” box he inhabits. You know? That mental box you put exes in so they don’t mess with your day-today existence? I have to put Quis there, because if not, visions of his strong arms, those kisses and his sexy-as-sin body would haunt me all the time. Stop it Ri!
I look up to find Mariah looking at me again, “Girl…don’t ask. Let’s get out of here, so I can get to work.”
And stop thinking about Marquis…
Of course I couldn’t say that part out loud.