While I was at the mall, on the other side of town Carlton was meeting with his potential client.
“Hello, my name is Carlton Fitzgerald, thanks for coming. Will you have a seat please? I will be with you in a moment. Would you like coffee or pastries while you wait sir?” He shook the Bar Association President’s hand.
“No thank you. I’m fine.” He sat down in the chair positioned next to Carlton’s desk.
When Carlton returned to his desk, they began to talk business. His presentation was perfect and he landed the deal. “Thank you Robert, you will be more than satisfied with my services. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to call me anytime.” He stood up, handed him a card, and they shook hands.
“I feel confident that we will have a long, profitable, relationship,” Robert said, smiling. He glanced down at Carlton’s desk. He focused on a picture of Carlton and Carmen. They were formally dressed, holding hands, and looking into each other’s eyes smiling. “You know Candy?” he asked, amused.
“Candy? Excuse me?” Carlton answered. He was puzzled.
“That’s Caramel Candy, right there. She works for me at the Gold Mine.” Bert replied.
“Who, Carmen?” Carlton picked up the picture Bert was pointing at.
“Yes, she’s one of my top dancers.” He looked at Carlton and saw the pain in his face. It suddenly dawned on him; this man didn’t know. He felt bad, but it was too late.
“Oh my god. I thought…” Carlton lost his composure for a moment. He closed his eyes and grabbed his head. “She said…” “How do I get to your club from here?” He pulled it together and wrote down the directions Bert gave him. “Please, don’t tell her that I’m coming. I’m going to surprise her.”
“I’m sorry man. I wasn’t trying to blow her cover. I thought you knew. I won’t say a word. Thanks again, I guess I’ll see you tonight.” Bert grabbed his suitcase and left the bank. That wasn’t the first time he’d seen a man crushed when he found out his girl was a stripper.
I was in the cage dancing to Sexy Back and having fun. I had been drinking like a fish as usual. Once that song was over I gathered my money from the floor of the cage and climbed out. I was on my way to the dressing room when I saw China over in a booth passing a large wad of money to this thuggish looking guy. He snatched it and put it in his pocket. He got up and left the club. I went over to the table. “Who was that cutie?” I asked, being nosy. I didn’t want her to know that I saw her give that brute her money.
“That was Tre. He just stopped by to see his boo.” She smiled nervously.
I could tell that she wondered if I saw what transpired. “Oh, I would have liked to meet him. He rushed off in a hurry. He got business, huh?” I asked, trying to find out what was going on.
“Maybe you’ll catch him next time. He’s not doing too much business lately. He’s on parole, you know. He doesn’t want to go back to prison any time soon…well, ever.” She relaxed.
“So he’s working?” I asked, still probing.
“Not yet. He’s looking, though. I’m helping him out until he can pull it together. He did take good care of me before he was locked up. This is my chance to take care of him,” she replied with uncertainty.
“Well, don’t lose yourself in the process,” I answered. Worried that she would be giving up more than what she bargained for. Every time I called he was sitting at home. It didn’t seem like he was doing too much job searching.
“Don’t worry, I won’t. Do you mind keeping this to yourself? I don’t want the other girls to be all up in mine. You know they be hatin’.” She thought about Wet-n-Wild’s escapades with Young Hustla. She remembered how Wet-n-Wild listened intently when she talked about vacations and shopping sprees. She knew that if Wet-n-Wild got a chance with Young Hustla she would jump at it. She just didn’t know that Young Hustla would. She hated them with a passion. Now that they were together she didn’t want either one of them to know that she was taking care of a man.
“Of course. Just take care of yourself.” I walked toward the dressing room.
I didn’t see Honey that night. I made a mental note to call her after my next set. I walked onto the main stage with my hot new costume. Underneath I had some new pasties and a sparkling g-string thinner than dental floss. Although, I had been drinking plenty that night, I managed to dance exceptionally well in stilettos. I was swinging around the pole, spiraling down to the floor. Holding on to the pole, I arched my back and bent over backward toward a customer who was standing next to the stage. I came face to face with Carlton. His eyes bore deep into my soul. The pain that was reflected resonated through my body. I quickly sat up and turned around to face him. Tears streamed down his face. I jumped off the stage and grabbed his arm. He broke away and began to walk toward the exit with record speed. “Wait, I can explain. I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry. Listen…please.” I cried as I followed him through the crowd. His head was down and he pushed his way outside the front door. I followed. Frank was at the door and he saw me run outside. He came outside too.
“Candy, you can’t be out here like that. We will get a fine. It’s too cold for you to be out here anyway. What are you doing?” he asked and motioned me to go back inside. Not only did Frank help me to realize that I was undressed, the cold air did too, but I still refused to go back in. I had to talk to Carlton. I had to explain.
“Carlton, please wait,” I pleaded with him. He stopped and turned around to look at me with disdain. When Frank realized I wasn’t going back inside, he took his jacket off and wrapped it around me.
“I don’t even know who you are. I don’t even know who I’ve been dating,” Carlton spat out angrily.
“Yes you do. You know the real me. This isn’t me. I planned to tell you. I just didn’t know how. It wasn’t easy for me to tell you what I do.” I continued to plead my case.
“I know the real you, huh? What is the truth about you? Are you really in nursing school?” he asked.
I lowered my eyes and shook my head.
“I loved you. I could have handled anything, except you being a liar. Goodbye Carmen.” He walked away. I was crushed and I couldn’t speak. He was right. Our relationship was built on lies, except the fact that I loved him dearly, but it was entirely my fault. I went back inside, and handed Frank his jacket. I walked to the bar and asked Millie for another drink. I kept drinking for the rest of the night.