PHYLLIS PRICE fell in love, bought what she thought would be a family home, became pregnant, her man ran off, she lost her job and now struggles as a single mother. How much different is her situation from the woman living next door? Not very, because each of the five women living at the end of the cul de sac on Hill Lane is entangled in an enslaving humiliating relationship with the same person, Sam. Through the writings of her memoirs Phyllis employs flashbacks and subtle weaving of conversations with her five friends to explain the presence of Sam as the heavy observance of a jealous lover. It takes the death of one of them to severe the ties and conjures up the ‘fairytale’ happy ending.
RAYNE MOORE 18 and the youngest member of the group, is a mother of a son and living with an older man. FRANKIE DUZ, home schools her children baby sits on the side and JENNY NEEDS is a teacher in the public schools and a parent of four children whose husband left her for a cousin. At four o’clock in the evening on a daily basis the women get together at Phyllis’ house to watch Oprah, eat snacks and discuss the events of their day. They call it their ‘Stress Bashin’ Session’. During one of these sessions, she is coaxed into hooking up with Sam. After filling mounds of paper and waiting for hours in his office, she is rejected. Feeling humiliated and unwanted Phyllis returns home and dauntlessly struggles to keep her finances. Just as she is sinking into the red and the job is about to play out, TONE’YA KNOES a physically abused divorced mother of two daughters, attending college in the hope of starting a nursing career is the group’s know-it-all. She explains the slight deceptions that are necessary to become one of Sam’s privileged and pays the ultimate price when it becomes obvious they must separate.
Whenever my girlfriends and I got together for our daily ‘4:00 Bash the Stress’ sessions (which was really our way of legitimizing watching Oprah everyday), I cried on their shoulders. I’d been doing this so often they began to laugh at me as soon as I opened my mouth to complain. Each one in turn advised me to get in touch with Sam. ‘Sam is the man’ said one. ‘He could solve all of your problems’ said another. I heard them say ‘Sam could do this and Sam could do that’ so often that one day as we sat in my living room chewing on chips and watching Oprah, I found the courage to ask…
“Who is Sam?”
“Girlfriend…” This was Tone’ya Knoes about to answer. Tone’ya is thirty-two years old, the encyclopedia of our group. She’s loud, assertive, and the well-informed mother of two daughters. No truer friend could be found. With a Humph at the end of the word, she stood in front of me with her hands resting on her well-endowed hips and shook her head from side to side like a broken shutter. She snapped her fingers two times in an arch above her head and clicked her tongue to the rhythm of the snapping fingers. “Girl, don’t you know anything? Wake up, girl.” She snapped her fingers under my nose. "Sam is the only person that can help you. He takes care of us.” She swung her arm to include the three women sitting in front of the television. “How do you think we all make it?”
“I thought you all had a ‘man’.”
They all laughed.
“Of course we do. The thing is; can we depend on them?” Tone’ya questioned with a smirk.
“No.” All of the women shouted in unison and laughed even louder. They shared high-fives and fell all over themselves in merriment.
“How many of you here can depend on your
‘man’ to remember that you need your bills paid?” She pounded her fist in her opened palm like a frustrated lawyer making a final statement. “Food on the table, pampers on the baby’s butt and most important…money in your pockets?” Tone’ya did the snap and arch thing again and everybody in the room cheered while laughingly bemoaning the faults of their men.
“Well, I can.”
Skinny Rayne Moore, the youngest woman in the group stood next to the television and put her hands on her hips in imitation of Tone’ya. Whoever this Sam was, I thought. It was obvious it didn’t matter to him how old or young a woman was. Rayne was just making twenty years old. She shook her shoulders, making her breast bounce heavily and gave a very seductive smile. We continued to laugh.
“You laugh, but I know my man takes care of me.”
“Who are you talkin’ about girl?”Jenny Needs questioned. “I know you not talkin’ about that fat, sorry ass, cradle-robbin’ Shamel.”
“Honey, please.” Rayne raised her opened hand, in that talk-to-the-hand fashion, towards Jenny.”You know what Shamel is for and he’s not ‘fat’ he’s muscular.” We all snickered. “I’m talkin’ about ‘Sam’.” Rayne ignored our side comments and continued. “Sam will do me no wrong. Sam is the man. Can I get a witness?”
She raised her arms in the air and danced around as if she had gotten the Holy Spirit. Amen sister and you go girl were repeated over and over as we laughed.
“So all of you get something from Sam, huh?” I asked after the laughter stopped. “Did you all meet him at the same time?”
“No.” They all answered together. “I hate to ask this because you all just don’t seem the type, but do you all sleep with Sam? Cuz I’m gonna let you know right now, I’m not into ‘kinky’.” I quickly added the last so they would know where I stood. Getting help was one thing, selling my butt and odd sexual acts was another story.
“What? Are you kidding?” Jenny giggled. She pressed her hands over her mouth as if she were trying to hold in a secret. “Girl, you don’t know what you’re missing.” She looked around at the other women and began chuckling like an idiot.
“Oh my….” Frankie choked back laughter by making quick fanning motions near her eyes with the fingers of both hands, as she tried to finish her sentence. “Oh, my God we all meet at Tone’ya’s house…” Tears of merriment ran down her face. “Around midnight on the first Wednesday of each month and take turns screwing him on her kitchen table.”
Letting a loud burst of laughter erupt into the room as she finished speaking, Frankie fell backwards on the couch laughing uncontrollably. Her shoulder bumped Jenny who fell on the floor chuckling and snorting. Rayne and Tone’ya stared at me opened mouth before they too started laughing. Rayne, jumped around in small circles in her delight and Tone’ya, in her enjoyment practically skipped around the room. It was a little while before the loud laughter quieted down to giggles, suppressed snickers and one of them could finally answer.
“Girl, I think you need some help.” Tone’ya tapped me on the shoulder in a consoling manner, wiped her eyes and resumed her seat. “I’ll have Sam come over here next Wednesday and we’ll do it in your kitchen.”
The raucous laughter started in the room again. The merriment was contagious and this time I had to join them. Ignorant to what they found so funny, but happy to shed some of my misery.
“Seriously now,” Frankie straightened herself before continuing. “Girl, are you crazy. No one sleeps with Sam.” Stunned, I looked around the room at the smiling women.
“Okay, so none of you go that way. Thank God. So why does he help?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care.” Tone’ya swiveled her neck side to side. “I don’t ask why when someone is giving me something. I just take it.”
“That’s what I’m sayin’.” Rayne agreed. “If I can get me some money and some help and don’t have to give up no coochie…I’m there.”
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