Hate at First Sight
No one could have seen it coming. If there had been a high school poll about who was most likely not to hook up, Desember and Fame would have been the clear winners.
The first time Desember laid eyes on Fame was during recess at Carver Elementary School. She was eight and he was nine. The two instantly took a dislike to each other. She was wearing a yellow and green sundress and a pair of yellow sandals, with matching ribbons in her long pigtails.
She was jumping double Dutch when Fame walked up and called her a black yuppie. Fame was about two inches shorter than her and rail thin.
"What you called me, boy?" she stopped jumping rope to ask.
Fame poked his frail little chest out and repeated himself, "I said, you a black yuppie, that's what."
Desember didn't have any idea what a yuppie was, not to mention a black one, but she didn't think she was one and was willing to fight to prove it. And that's what she did.
First, she kicked Fame in the groin, then commenced to whup up on his lil bony behind. One of the teachers had to pull her off of him. Desember never told that it was Fame who started with her first.
That was just the beginning of their feud. Over the years there were more fights and then as they got older they still managed to make verbal digs at each other whenever possible. But toward the end of their high school careers, everything changed. The animosity gave way to a grudging respect. Fame admired her hustle-Desember had been voted most likely to succeed, best dressed and most likely to be arrested- plus she had filled out nicely. And Desember couldn't help but notice that Fame was now a full five inches taller than her with a swagger to match. Recognizing they were kindred spirits-her mouth more than matched his physical bravado-about a month ago, Fame called Desember, for what she assumed was to cop some weed or something. Desember was in the midst of her day, hustling her numerous products. But he hadn't dialed her up to purchase anything. He wanted a truce, and Fame's version of extending the olive branch was five pounds of exotic and expensive marijuana: Sour Diesel-Cali Kush, which rapper and weed aficionado Snoop Dogg had even endorsed as one of the best.
Over the next month they got to know each other better. She would visit him from time to time at his apartment to blow some trees, or play some Scrabble or Xbox 360 or Wii. They went to the movies, parks, took bike rides and exchanged various gifts; she gave him a few outfits and he gave her a diamond-encrusted heart-shaped pendant. And that was only the beginning.
They had just come from playing laser tag and were sitting in his car in front of her mother's house when Fame asked her: "Move in with me?"
Desember answered with a question of her own: "Why me?"
"Because," he said, looking into her eyes, "I know I can trust you, and I think I may be in love with you." Adding, "Both are rare for me, because I trust only a few and love even fewer."
Desember was feeling Fame as much as he was feeling her, maybe more-if that was possible. And she was ready to get out of the house with her idiot stepfather. She couldn't stand living in the same space.
"If I said yes-and I'm not saying yes yet-when would you want me to move in?"
"Today," he said with a smile. "Or whenever you like?" He obviously didn't want her to feel like he was pressuring her.
"Then, yes, I'm down for it."
Desember went inside the house to get her belongings as Fame sat in the family room watching reruns of Magnum, P.I. with Joe, who ignored him after a cursory greeting.
Angie followed Desember into her room. "What are you doing?" she asked as Desember started packing.
"I'm moving out," Desember said while folding a pair of jeans.
"Where?" Angie calmly asked, trying not to turn this into an argument.
"I'm moving in with Fame, Mom," Desember said, never stopping her packing.
"Where are y'all going to live? In a hotel?"
"No, Mom, Fame has his own apartment." Desember grabbed a handful of underclothes out of her lingerie drawer.
"Look, Desember, I really don't think that's a good idea."
"Really, Mom? I thought you'd be happy. This way you and Joe can have your personal space." She gathered some more things out of her chest of drawers. "It's what you want, isn't it? To be rid of me?"
"That's not true, and you know it," Angie denied.
"Mom, admit it: things are going to be so much better for you if I'm not here. You know Joe hates me-and trust me, I can't stand him either."
Angie paused before she spoke because she knew that what Desember was saying was the truth. When her daughter was gone things seem to go a little smoother between her and Joe. When Desember was home, she and Joe fought like cats and dogs over the littlest things. For years Angie had been searching for the perfect father for Desember and when she finally met Joe, he had a lot of things that she wanted in a man, but there was no denying that Joe wasn't interested in being a part of Desember's life.
"You know that you and I are a package deal. If a man can't accept you then he can't have me," Angie declared. But Desember was getting older and not a baby anymore so maybe it was time to let her go, make her own decisions. To help make herself feel better, Angie kept telling herself this was only temporary and her daughter would be back soon.
"Sounds good but that's not how it really is. Honestly, you shouldn't get all teary-eyed about this. We'll still see each other every day. I'm not moving to Europe, just across town," Desember reasoned. "Plus this gives you time to work on your marriage." She grabbed her mother's hands. "I really want you to be happy and I know you and Joe having the house to yourself will help."
"But I don't want my eighteen-year-old daughter going to live with a gangsta."
"Mom, he's not no gangsta. He's a nice guy and he's good to me." Desember let her mother's hands go.
"Desember, the boy is trouble and I don't want you to get caught up in his mess. He comes from a family of crooks. Their last name is Marauder, for Christ sakes."
"That's just a name, Mom. They didn't choose it."
"God gave them that name for a reason. And I'm telling you, those people have done too much bad for it not to come back around to bite 'em, and when it does I don't want you to get caught in the crossfire."
"I won't. Fame would never let anything happen to me. Plus I'm smart enough to keep myself safe."
"I don't think this is a good idea, and I'm begging you not to move out."
"Then, Mother dear, what are the alternatives? If I knew who my real father was, I could live with him."
"Don't go there," Angie warned.
Desember had touched a nerve with her mother. The truth of the matter was that when Angie was pregnant with Desember she had tried to pin fatherhood on several different guys. Her first husband left when Desember was a toddler after he found out Angie was trying to pull a Maury Povich on him. The following year, Angie married a guy named Stan, who loved Desember as if she were his own, but the two weren't married long when the Feds gave him twenty years for tax evasion and running a lucrative numbers operation. After Stan, Angie ran into a rut when it came to romance, until Joe came along six years ago.
Desember wanted to make sure she had Angie's attention. "How come you never told me who my real father is? Do you know how it is to grow up not knowing if I have real sisters or brothers? Not having the privilege of ever having nieces and nephews? Or just being Daddy's little girl?"
The tears that Angie fought to keep from escaping her eyes showed that this was a delicate subject for her.
"You've always made sure that I had everything I wanted, except for the one thing I wanted the most: I wanted the truth, Mom."
Before Angie could respond, Desember continued as she threw more of her clothes and personal things in bags. "You've denied me the right to have a relationship with my biological father. Even if he was the DC sniper, I would know why if I found myself in the trunk of the car with a rifle one day," she joked. "If he don't accept me, let me see that with my own eyes. Don't revoke that right from me." Desember dropped her own tears. She put her hand up. "Look, I'm not going to force myself to sit through this emotional roller-coaster ride, because it's not going to stop."
Angie stood with her hands on her hips, not knowing what to say as her daughter continued to pack things in suitcases and shopping bags.
"Fame," D called out, "can you put this stuff in the car for me?"
Joe was so happy to see Desember go that he gave Fame a hand with all her bags.
Before she cut the light off in her room, D looked at her mother and said, "Mom, people say that it's bad when you know things, but you know what? It's really worse when you don't."
She gave her mother a kiss. "I love you and I'll call you tomorrow."
Once Desember was settled in and she and Fame had christened the apartment by having sex in every room, they sat in the middle of the living room floor in front of the big flat-screen television watching a reality show. D turned to Fame. "Since we're officially playing house, there are a few house rules that must be put into place if we want this to work."
Fame gave her his attention. "I'm listening."
"First," she said, "no matter what happens throughout the day we can never go to sleep mad."
Fame raised a knowing brow. "I think I read that somewhere."
"Me too, but I like it, and I think we should tag it."
"Okay," Fame agreed, and then asked, "What else?"
"Neither one of us should ever let the sun beat us home."
"Cool," he nodded his head in agreement. "I think I can handle these."
"How about you?"
He looked confused when she tossed the ball into his court. "How about me what?" he asked.
"Do you have any rules you want to implement?"
Fame thought for a second. "Only that we gotta eat dinner at my momma's house every Sunday. It's a family tradition that has been going on as long as I can remember, and since I've been all boo'd up with you, I've missed a few."
"Okay," she said. "I really hope your family likes me." She had never met Fame's folks before but had heard many stories about them-most of them bad.
"They will love you, just like I do. I never took a girl home to meet Ma before, but I'm sure they will love who I love." He leaned in, giving her a hot steamy kiss to punctuate his point.
"Anything else?" she asked seductively. Neither could keep their hands off the other for long. Everything was too new and experimental.
"Well . . . not a rule but more of a . . . precaution."
Desember became confused when he pulled out a big chrome .40-caliber handgun.
"A man like me has a lot to gain, but even more to lose if he gets caught slipping. Everybody knows that the quickest way to get to a man is through the people he loves, especially his woman, so I'm going to show you how to protect yourself with this. Besides, you be dealing with a few shady motherfuckers yo'self."
He emptied it before putting the gun in her hands, showing her how to grip it.
It was big, and heavier than she thought it would be.
"All you have to do is point and shoot," he explained. "All that TV shit where they hold the gun sideways, or close one eye . . . that's all bullshit. Now pull the trigger one time."
She looked at him like maybe that wasn't a good idea.
"Go head. I took the bullets out. You do trust me, don't you?"
She answered by squeezing the trigger like he asked. Click!
"That's it." He continued the lesson. "Now when it's loaded it's going to kick a lil bit. That's call recoil. The more powerful the gun, normally, the more it kicks. That's why you hold it with both hands. That's pretty much it. Whenever you think you need to use one: just point and shoot till you get yo' desired result."
Holding the gun gave Desember a rush of power that she hadn't expected to feel. Later she released the pent-up feeling under the sheets before they called it a night.
Desember was a natural born hustler. There wasn't anything she wouldn't sell-well, except for her body and her loyalty. She got her start at age nine, selling icebergs to kids in the neighborhood because she didn't want to grow up and be at the mercy of a man, like her mother was. Over the years the products changed: clothes, pills, term papers, but not her natural mentality for the grind. It was no secret: the girl was a mobile store, and everybody knew that Desember always had something that was in demand in the trunk of her car. Some days she had so much stuff that she had to rent a U-Haul to make her rounds.
With a team of boosters that she treated like family, and numerous other plugs aquired over time, Desember was never without product, legal or illegal.
Nobody quite understood where the girl got her hustle. Clearly she did not get it from her mother. In fact, some would say that she wanted to be nothing like her mother, who was always depending on a man, wanting to be rescued.
Today, Desember roamed the aisles of the Recalls discount store with a trained eye, looking for items she could buy low and sell high. The outside looked like a barn but it was actually the best-hidden secret in all of North Carolina. It was a discount store that sold some of the best name brands and hard-to-find items for next to nothing. The three hours it took for her to drive there was well worth the trip, and she usually took the ride once a week to look for things she could quickly resell on the street for a profit. This week they had some Michael Kors bags for $29.99, which she knew she could get $100 to $150 for easily. They also had some perfumes and colognes on sale for $7.99 that went for $59.99 retail. She knew she could sell them for at least $25.00. Plus she was due to pick up a shipment from one of her favorite and best suppliers.
Excerpted from Natural Born Hustler by A Nikki Turner Original. Copyright © 2010 by Nikki Turner. Excerpted by permission of One World/Ballantine, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.