Excerpt from the unfinished novel, Leaving September

By Sandra (xanii@aol.com)

continued from previous chapter

Old habits die hard and M'Taii kept reminding herself that she was no exception. Her royal blue, velvet, mock turtle neck hugged her form snugly, leaving a good breadth of her middle showing. She pulled out the box which kept her navel ring hidden and put it in place. She ran a thin filigree chain through it and around her medium waist. The chain rested loosely on her black corduroy hip huggers. She bent down and made sure her old boots were polished, even though you could scarcely see them beneath her wide legged pants. A silver thumb ring matched the navel ring and chain she wore. She gave herself a once over and slid out the door of her bedroom. Going down the stairs, she grabbed her matching corduroy jacket and padded out the front door. The BellHaus awaited.

It had been at the BellHaus that she had initially met Dora and that was incidentally the same place that Dora had forbade her to go once they had decided to become serious. Dora knew that M'Taii had practically lived and breathed the BellHaus before they met and she also knew the kind of influence that place brought with it. Somehow, M'Taii sought to find something of herself or Dora in going back.

She sat backwards on a wooden signature BellHaus chair, with the BH initials carved through the back, and sipped her non alcoholic beer. The action was live tonight. Legs were in motion, backs were bare, hair was teased and curled and permed to submission. A fierce beat lingered in the background as puffs of cigarette smoked hung loosely in the flashing blue and red lights. Individual tables had their stationary white table lamps lit and voiceless lips moved with unheard conversations, propositions, myths.

M'Taii kept close to her table booth in the far end by the bar. She wasn't sure if any of her old "acquaintances" were even on the scene any more. So she hung back ,watching the cliques clack and the out groups move in.

"Ohhhhh no!! Do not tell me that is Ball & Chain M'Taii!!"

M'Taii moved only her eyes up toward the man who was standing before her. Regg had been a regular waiter at BellHaus, the kind that was always in someone else's business. He had been the one to baptize M'Taii into the life of BellHaus: the girls, the drugs, the money. And he had also, coincidentally, been the one to help M'Taii find her way to Dora.

He wore a sequined vest and a tight pair of red leather pants and nothing much else. M'Taii moved her body slightly in tune with the faint music.

"Now how could you even go there Regg?"

He mimicked her and moved along with her lead from his standing position.

"Girl! It has been too long! Stand up and let me get a look at ya!"

He smacked his small lips and placed his broad dark hand beneath his chin. His eyes gave M'Taii the fourth degree as he contemplated how she had changed. He ran his fingers along the edge of his finely taped hair cut and rubbed the back of his neck.

"If I wasn't this ole drag queen, I'd be all over that!" He snapped his fingers at her.

"Well, it's a good thing you still are!" She winked her eye and reached out her hand to squeeze his.

"Let me sit a while with ya. So the Misuses finely let you out huh?" He slid into the unoccupied booth, putting his bent leg up on the seat and propping his elbow on his knee. He produced two cigarettes from his inside vest pocket, lit them both and gave M'Taii one. She took the cigarette gratefully and took a drag on it. She closed her eyes slowly and exhaled.

"No Regg, I lost her almost a year ago, she was murdered."

He stopped short and bought his hand to his forehead.

"Taii honey, I am so sorry. Girl!! Oh my God!!!"

She eyed him through the haze of smoke and sipped some more on her non-al beer.

"Girl... how have you been doing?"

A butch face she didn't quiet remember seeing before, had kept her in view for much of the evening.

"I've been doing. What can I say, always gotta be a fighter."

"Look, I'm not supposed to let this out but you're old school. Melinda's got her hook up in back. All the powder and girls that you're looking for. She owes me one, so I can get you in for nothing. "

Regg had leaned closer to M'Taii and was waiting for her slow nod so he could get his contacts in order.

She turned toward him and noticed how eager he was to help her forget her worries.

"Look Regg, I appreciate you trying to help, but stunts like that are why Dora kept me from this place. The fact that she had found me all over some other woman in a drugged daze didn't help either. I've come a long way, ya know?"

He got his tray and stood to leave.

"Say no more! I'm truly sorry to hear about Dora, but, if you need anything, you know where I'm at."

M'Taii wondered how she ever survived those days and nights. She watched as Regg went to mingle in the crowd. She stood and went to the bar.

"Hey Mario! Hey Mario! What I gotta do around here to get a drink?"

A stocky , red haired woman came from around back and pounded her hand on the counter.

"Hey Guido! Maybe if ya stop bangin my counta I'd be able to hear ya callin me... sheesh!"

She smiled her million dollar smile and adjusted her standard issue BellHaus polo and her white apron. Maria, a.k.a." Mario", had been one of the regulars that ran with M'Taii. Rather, that M'Taii ran with. She had been M'Taii's teacher of all the wrong things. She was now part owner of the club.

M'Taii balled her hand and knocked fists with Maria.

"So where have you been Madam? Scaring up skirts in another part of town? What... you're money ain't good enough for this place no more?" Maria began mixing drinks.

"Remind me to tell ya when I ain't tryin' to have fun."

"Ohh... been that serious eh? Probably got a harem by now."

M'Taii gave a sly smile and sat on a near by barstool

"I should say that about you. What's things been like?"

"Ah... same old stuff Guido. 'Cept, we got some city dwelling Madam, or shall I say Mister, whose trying to move in. Melinda's getting tired of being busted, she's thinking of movin' on."

She threw her chin in the direction of the butch dressed in a too expensive Ralph Lauren three piece, pinstriped suit. Her dark hair was cut shaved at the sides and hung waist length in the back, the front sat spiked with gel. A newly made up girl sat on her lap.

"Mario... I'm a new woman. I don't run the same games like I used to. I'll help you in any other way but this. I can't get my hands caught in this kinda stuff. Four years was enough."

"Guido... don't worry about it!! I know how it is to run a company. You've got enough on your hands and your mind. I heard about Dora, you have my condolences."

"Hey, it's not okay but thanks. Now where's that Screwdriver, minus the screws?"

"Getting pushy ain't we?"

Maria slid a glass of virgin orange juice toward M'Taii.

"That's the way it's gotta be sometimes."

She winked and made her way to the dance floor.

to be continued in future issues...

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