#4 Cleaning House: Ri Handles Business with the Committee

I was reeling!

Right when I thought things were taking a turn for the better the bottom dropped from beneath me! My whirlwind romance with DaVeon had allowed me to drop some of my defenses. I’ll give him credit: he was pursuing me with purpose, sweeping me off my feet and in no time at all, had carved a solid spot within my heart. I never kidded myself about his lifestyle. He in turn kept me in the loop as much as it was possible without divulging anything that could become damaging to my reputation (such as it was) or put me and those I love at risk. We took long walks at the mall with his staff, in tow. We had dinner at many of my favorite places, most of which I shied away from after my divorce. Now, whenever I ran into the snobby heffahs, I was perfectly happy for them to stop and stare; no doubt they wagged their tongues! And why not? DaVeon was the shit and not a one of those fake iguanas fazed him! The man was unflappable.

With my personal life brightening, I was excited to go forward with my foundation work, as well as the plans for the new sub division.

Rileigh is now the new Co-Director, the appointment coming on the heels of the defection of the previous Co-Director. A few of her cronies were still hanging on if only to be nosy so Ri’s first order of business was to clean house and select a new committee that is about serving the community and not themselves. It would probably piss off a few of the biddies, like Beverly but the move is needed.

As for the subdivision, all the groundwork has been laid. Several town hall meetings with the local civic leaders and members of the community have already taken place, prior to the sale of the property. That was where I pitched my ideas and promised to elevate the landscape from the previous near blight conditions, to one of a more conscientious, environmentally friendly community. My approach would not only add a certain aesthetic to the area but would also help those that were trying to help themselves. My plans to revitalize the area was a far cry from the dilapidated eyesore, I actually purchased!

The former owners were all too willing to take the money and run. The community leaders were even more glad to have them gone as well. Neither side however, had been transparent concerning the disclosure concerning the true condition of most of the properties there, costing me a fortune in removal costs!

Nevertheless, I was determined to forge on. I met with the remaining residents, many of whom were sorely disgruntled and had stopped paying their lot rents, because of the previous owners’ lack of interest in keeping the place up. I gave them a choice to sell out their trailers for a fair price, and with a few phone calls to my remaining associates, found rentals for them to move into, before razing those dilapidated trailers to the ground! With the ground cleared, it was time to layout the community and start building!

A good friend of the family helped me to design the homes, giving each potential resident a choice of one of six facades and floor plans. Now all that was left was to check on the permits and finalize the loan.

I had scheduled a meeting with Arnold Joffrey Jr., the son of a family friend, whose family owned Lindell Bank and Trust. Plus, I was meeting up with Rileigh later to see who had made her cut for the new committee and to finalize the Easter Egg-stravaganza so my time was tight! True enough I had enough money to begin the work but a large endeavor such as what I planned would take most of my working capital. The Di Ricci Foundation was created to oversee a trust left to me by my late parents. However, those funds were earmarked for nonprofit, community endeavors, so getting this loan finalized is paramount!

I sat down with Arnold, eager to hear his news. However, his creased expression was a clear indication that something was amiss. Arnold Joffrey Jr. is a flamboyant queen and thrives off of Botox which is why I was tipped off that something might be amiss; because the veneer to his otherwise marble expression was cracking. “Give it to me straight, no chaser; am I getting the loan Jof?”

He sighed and looked uncomfortable. “Sweetie, there’s been a development…”

I could feel my expression clouding up. I was not feeling his nasally tone! “When you say development, exactly what are you alluding too? Don’t hem and haw around. You know how important this is to me…” I couldn’t help feeling anxious, this project was too dear and I had worked so hard! I kept pleading my case. “We’ve gone through the financials, my credit, my collateral, hell I was pre-approved! Please don’t mess with me right now!”

“Darling I would… you KNOW I would give you the loan if it were still up to me that is…, and you’re right, there isn’t a damn thing wrong with your application. You should have had this loan weeks ago. It’s just…. well daddy had me stall; Mr. Wilmington and he have a business relationship you know.”

I held up my hand, effectively silencing Joffrey’s excuses. Once again, the old goat has blocked me! His reach was long and no doubt he has something over Arnold Joffrey Senior, if the elder man was able to bully his son into denying my loan! The gall! All of this, just to have me crawling back to my ex and his family. My grandfather was constantly thwarting all my endeavors. I suppose this was his way of punishing me for making him look bad but more importantly, denying him the chance to benefit from the marriage association!

“I’ll find another way to raise the money, Jof. Thank you for nothing!”

I stormed out of the office in a tizzy one that didn’t get any better after I arrived at city hall to pick up my permits—that have now conveniently vanished! I can’t believe what I am hearing, the clerk is telling me that there is no record of me ever filing for them! I’m so frustrated I want to cry but all I could do was walk back to my car, stiff backed. I headed home, ready to throw down! The frustration had given in to rage. By the time I got in my driveway, I was trying to get a grip, to forcibly calm down before my meeting at the foundation. I took several calming breaths then headed inside to change and touch up my makeup. When the phone rang I let it go to my answering machine—that is until I heard whose voice it was, leaving the message. I quickly yanked the receiver up from the cradle!

“Grandfather!”

“How did your meeting with the bank go dear?”

Oh no he didn’t…!
“As if you didn’t already know Ford! How could you? Why would you? It’s one thing to bully me but this is a new low even for you! This subdivision is community based! People need a safe place to live, to raise their families! You’re not just tying my hands, you old goat! You are blocking the way for those less fortunate to succeed!”

All he did was chuckle and tsk. Why do I even bother? My words fall on deaf ears and throwing a category five, hissy fit, has never worked on the old goat! No matter what I say, my grandfather will find a way to steer things in his favor. Even if it includes hurting ME in the process!

“Sweetheart, Parker offered to fund your little housing project, why don’t you take him up on his offer? He obviously bears you no ill will, even though you abandoned your marriage…”

I want to SCREAM. His transatlantic accent is contrived, condescending and it kills me to know that once again, I have let him and his Thurston Howell, III impression, get under my skin! But I have neither the time nor patience to go twelve rounds with his ass! If I continued to argue, I would run the risk of being late to the meeting; I couldn’t do that to Rileigh.

“Bye Felicia!” I slam down the phone and head out fuming! Maybe the drive over there will help me to cool my jets!

***GL***

The alert on my phone sounds and I smile. The melody is my calendar app and it signals that my girl will be here soon for our committee meeting. I’ve been praying all morning that it goes well. We hope the committee wants to stay intact with me and Meems at the helm or, at the very least, peacefully move along if they don’t want to. I am pretty low key and I pride myself on being a lady and professional. That said, I can get hood if I need to. My girl has been through alot and I will NOT let someone berate her because she chose her life over a monster and walked away.

The sad part is, the gossip mongers have done their level best to stop me from staying on the board and working with her. One of them had the nerve, gall and audacity to try and threaten me. That bitch has no idea that I work with three hundred pound football players and powerful people every single day, so not much intimidates me. I can mingle with the elite of this city and have, but I can be just as ghetto as I want to be when I need to. I make my own decisions and work with whoever I want to work with. Meems is my girl. She has some great ideas and I am going to be a part of her vision. Besides, in my experience, the hags always bark at people trying to do good. They can’t stand seeing it, so they try and tear it down.

When they arrive, I see immediately they are going to stick together like a hive of honey bees, buzzing around their queen. By queen I mean Beverly, and by Beverly, I mean Queen Bitch. A few seconds after they waltz through the door, Mariah breezes in like a breath of fresh air. I had no idea how stifling them heffas are until Meems comes in. They exchange insincere pleasantries with my friend before launching into an all-out assault, led by Queen B herself. She had the balls to question Mariah about her divorce and the man she’s been seen around town with.

“You know Mariah, it is very unseemly for a newly DIVORCED, Christian woman to be seen gallivanting around town, unescorted with some unknown man. If you are to lead this organization, you must be beyond reproach and have a blameless character.” Then…she looks Mariah over like she’s inspecting a prize cow and continues.

“How do we know you aren’t having sexual relations with this man and could be pregnant with his bastard child right now?”

That last statement sent me over the edge. I’m pretty height challenged, but that has never stopped me from setting folks straight. Before I know it, I’m crossing the expanse of that banquet hall as fast as my short legs can carry me. I cannot believe how these supposed church folks are treating my friend. If the Lord was to come down right now he would pimp slap all of their asses. I chuckle to myself because the Lord and pimp slap probably shouldn’t go in the same sentence. I make sure to hug Meems and turn just enough, so “them” old biddies can hear me.

“I’m looking forward to serving on the committee and all of the good work we will do for the community. Charity always begins at home, so we will endeavor to show our charity to the people of this community first. There are always people in need and those of us with means to do so, should show our Christ like ways in our behavior.” Mariah catches what I’m doing and starts to chuckle. I stand back from her and grin. “Honey, you look amazing. Whatever is going on right now has you glowing like a Christmas tree.”

As soon as the words come out of my mouth Queen B is all over it. “See ladies, I told you. The ink on her divorce papers is barely dry and she’s popping around town with some man that don’t have the decency to marry her before he knocks her up.”

Well that did it. I turn and face Beverly with so much venom on my tongue it’s making my stomach turn. “The drying state of the ink on her divorce papers in none…of…your business. Why don’t you worry about why your husband would rather stay at work for fourteen hours a day than to come home to your evil ass. Could it have anything to do with that new assistant he has? I hear she has legs for days. And furthermore, if she is pregnant, it only proves she’s a grown ass, red-blooded woman that has a good-looking man that wants to see her naked…can you say that Beverly. Has that man of yours touched you in the last ten years?”

Her mouth comes unhinged during my little tirade, making her look like a large mouth bass. “That’s what I thought.” I look at Mariah and offer a wicked grin before I go back to Beverly. “You have two choices. Either you ladies stay and act like ladies, or you are welcome to exit stage left. We are more than happy to continue without your negative presence.” Needless-to-say, they leave in a huff and we gladly watch them go. Meems yells after them, “Don’t let the doorknob hit ya where the good Lord split ya!” I lose it in a fit of laughter as her words speed up their retreat.

I say good riddance to bad rubbish. They are trouble anyway. For months, now, they have been blocking everything that wasn’t Beverly’s idea. I’ve been wanting to cut them loose since forever. They have long outlived their usefulness here!

I look over at Meems, “I swear there’s more air in here now. Let’s sit down, get to work and eat some of this food before it gets cold.”

The few of us left, agree and do just that. We laugh some, eat some and breathe new life back into our group. Each one of us vow to never let women like that on the committee ever again. Getting faithful volunteers is hard enough without subjecting them to abuse from people like that. I look around the table and smile, “Okay. Our ranks are slightly diminished, but we are some awesome sisters and I know we can pull this off. I’ve already got some heavyweight sponsors and a commitment from the Volts and their owner, Mr. Burnside. I grab my wine glass and lift it, “Let’s toast to new beginnings, new endeavors and no more haters!” We touch our glasses together and crack up.

We spend the rest of the meeting planning the perfect Charity Easter Egg Hunt and laughing. The presence of Beverly and her cronies has been swept away by the laughter and good spirits of our remaining members. Yep, we are going to be just fine.

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