She gently pushed open the vine redden gates marked Truth and rested in the garden of Peace. She synchronized with the winds that whispered Harmony throughout this intoxicating land. She floated upon the soft spoken ripples while the sun tenderly kissed her golden brown skin. She inhaled its Love and bathed in the Joy of its virgin seas. This was the place her soul had longed to be. She was home. Protected by the huge iron gates that only allowed the pure hearted to enter. She was free in her man-made serenity…
“Hope…Hope! Earth to Hope!” a high pitched voice screeched out of nowhere. Hope snapped out of her daydream bombarded by reality. “Are you going or not? Cause you now I got to get my freak on!” Tina joked dropping it like it’s hot on her side of the divider. “Tina! Cut that out up in here… you know this is not the place for that!” Hope said leaning outside her cubicle to see if anyone was spying on them. “The Man would have a fit if they caught you acting a fool.” Hope replied slumping down in the chair as she adjusted her extensions in a bun. It stumped Hope every time Tina acted out like she didn’t need this job. The sterling silver frame, pushed in the corner by a boat load of files, housing Nathaniel and Mattie’s Christmas photo reminded her everyday of her obligations. She couldn’t afford to let Tina’s unprofessional behavior get them both fired.
“Nag...nag…nag... I know momma… I’d hata to lose such a portent job like this there so… I’d best be on my best behavior.” Tina teased pulling on her navy blue pin-stripe suit leaning on the divider for a better view. Hope wrestled with her seat tuning out Tina’s blatant disrespect for management while Tina rolled her eyes at that thought of her taking their supervisor seriously. “I don’t know, Tee. I am tired. You know I haven’t been sleeping well and this has been a long week. Nat’s been driving me crazy with this science project due next week and Mattie got some girl scouts thing coming up we’ve been practicing for. You should be trying to get some rest too. We got an even longer day tomorrow. My mom’s going to keep the twins for me tomorrow. So, I can catch up on some of these cases after the unit meeting. Besides, I don’t want any tired fouls all up in my behind.” she sighed looking over at her children’s picture. They were their daddy’s children in matching Santa outfits even if he wasn’t around. “Times flying.” she remembered the kindergarten graduating forms they brought home from school for their moving up ceremony. “It never ends.” she sighed.
“Dang… you took a couple much needed sick days and now you’re bugging.” Tina huffed at Hopes inability to relax a little breaking Hope’s train of thought. “Anyway, I haven’t asked my mother if she’d keep them yet.” Hope finally admitted. “Whew…why not? You’re either going or you’re not?” Tina ran her fingers threw her curls preparing for Hope’s inevitable rant. “I want to go but, I don’t wanna keep dumping the kids on her. Anyway, you know how it is up in the club! We’re having fun, hanging with the girls and here comes Super Cologne or Bad Breath Brotha to the rescue. It never fails, Tina. You know I’m telling the truth! For some reason beyond me, he’s thinking he’s a smooth talker all up in my face. Wait, I know it might be the one too many drinks he guzzled down before hitting the club. Cheap asses!” she said speaking more from experience than hearsay. “They all need man juice to activate their super powers. Don’t they? Clubs should have loser alerts at the door that sound off every time a busta steps into the club. But, then again I guess the clubs would be empty, right!” she giggled tickling herself. Tina nodded in agreement seeing a faint glimpse of the old Hope emerge as Hope preached on. “Anyway, he’s talking so close to my face that I can practically count the number of cavities he has in his raggedy mouth. That’s just nasty but, he doesn’t care. He’s to busy slurring, mispronouncing and stumbling over all of his words because of those extra drinks he downed before he came to the club- remember. Of course!” she shook her head in disbelief. The thought of her own encounters with these types of men made Tina chuckle. Hope continued not fazed by Tina’s outburst, “Basically, using me as a leaning post because his drunken ass can’t hold his liquor. Dang! They act like the club is a meat market and not a place for sophisticated, mature adults to socialize.” Hope began to fidget with her pen agitated again. “Please, Hope! Everyone knows what the club is about….” Tina interjected. “It’s a Booty Bar; you know that! Besides, it’s Thursday so it shouldn’t be that bad.” Tina laughed harder at her friend’s unexpected righteousness. Hope was sounding more condescending with each passing day and this was starting to put a strain their friendship.
For the last month or so, Tina noticed subtle changes in Hope that worried her. The secretiveness, moodiness and snootiness weren’t very becoming for Hope. She liked hanging out with her friend but, something was defiantly different about her even thou Tina couldn’t put her finger on it. Tina understood that Hope had two children and some issues she needed to work out with her mother but, there was something more to it than that. Something that Hope wasn’t talking about was the root to her transforming into someone else. The more Hope changed the fewer things they had in common and this bothered Tina. Lately, instead of hanging out with the girls once in awhile like Hope use too; she wanted to stay home alone with Nathaniel and Mattie. Tina even reached out to her friend on a few occasions. She volunteered to keep Hope company on the weekends. She offered to bring over a nephew and niece so, that Nat and Mattie would have someone to play with. Needless to say, Hope shot her down without hesitation. The last month was baffling to everyone including Hope. Her abrupt changes in attitude were surprising even her.
“What happened to you? You use to be fun… you know – clubbing with the whole enchiladas. Now, you’ve become my mom.” whining Tina made an observation. “I am a mom.” Lisa laughed at her friend’s comparison. “I know that. But, your still young… you’re what? Twenty four – twenty five? Turning into a hermit? You’re too young to be acting like my mother!” Tina said wiggling her fingers in front of Hope’s face hoping to wake her out of the funk she seemed to be stuck in. Hope swished Tina’s hand away and opened a folder. If anyone walked pasted them she would at least look like she was working even if she really wasn’t. Tina continued unamused by Hope’s attempt to look busy. “You done cut off your hair one day looking like Angie Stone. Now, it’s braided up! You’re having an India.Arie moment? Let a sistah know! I don’t know what’s going on… you done threw out some of your badest clothes and now you’re in to all this healthy, Magandi crap. What’s going on? Where is my old Friend?!” she stared Hope in the eyes as much as she could from her side of the divider. “Where is the girl who would scarf down three cheese burgers, an order of fries and would wash it down with a large coke or milk shake?” Tina said slapping the top of the partition. “She is about fifteen pounds lighter and a whole lot healthier…you should try it.” Hope toiled with the truth. Tina smacked her butter round lips at Hope’s reference to her recent weight gain giving Hope the satisfaction she wanted. Tina could dish it out but, didn’t like to eat other people’s subdirectory comments. “Anyway! Maybe I will go with you tonight. I could use some fresh air. Let me call my mother.” Hope said tapping on the desk as she balanced the receiver between her head a shoulder. “You haven’t talk to Ms. Lisa yet?” Tina blurted out. Hope stopped with the pen suspended in the early afternoon’s light snapping her head back. Hope didn’t know why she got irritated asking Lisa to keep the twins even when Lisa volunteered but, she did. Lisa was their grandmother but, there was something melodramatic about the twins and Lisa’s relationship. The irony of Lisa actually being a better grandma than mother in Hope’s eyes bewildered her. It didn’t take away from the love she had for her mother it only unmasked the raw emotions she clung to as a child growing up in a single parent household with a teen parent.
“So, whatcha wearing tonight, Lucy…” Tina grinned diverting another blow out. Tina was on to Hope’s game: argue, catch an attitude than use that as the reason to cancel their plans. “I’m not sure, Ethel” Hope paused before smiling a sly smile at Tina as the phone rang. What was only a few seconds felt like hours as the phone continued to ring dangling in the creases of Hope’s body.
Baffled, Hope checked the clock on the computer screen before she hung up the receiver. “It’s 2:18. I wonder why she's not picking up her cell.” Hope sounded concerned. “Aww…” Tina playfully poked out her bottom lip as a child would if it were sad. “Enough of this… I got at lot of work to finish before I can come out and play.” Hope lightened the truth as she pulled up to her computer screen. She sized up her case files and the sticky notes posted around her workspace once more feeling the weight of it all suffocating her. “All work and no play can make a young girl- old and gray!” Tina recited as she plopped back down in her office chair. Hope began to read the papers in the folder open on the desk disregarding Tina’s last comment. She had to finish at least half the records stacked on the counter before she ran out to pick Nathaniel and Mattie up from their after school programs. If not she would not be able to leave tomorrow night at a deceit hour. Hope had already made preparations with her mother to pick them up so, she wasn’t worried about that. But still, she didn’t like to be the last one to leave out of the office. Especially after it got dark outside, she could end up being the only person on the premises. Surveillance cameras perked on the building scouted the vacuity but, if something went down who would be out there to help her? Intertwined to the female species, Hope was forced to take that into account when she planned to do overtime. But, recently this has been her veracity. Hope switched into “serious” gear at that lingering thought as she pulled up her hunter green silk sleeves preparing to drill thru her load.