Authors: Shelia M. Goss
We all joined in. “The Joneses.”
My phone chirped alerting me to an incoming text. I glanced at the text. One of my customers needed me. “Mom, Dad. I hate to leave, but I have something I need to attend to.”
“Fine. I'll see you first thing in the morning, right?” my dad asked.
“Sure. I'll be there by ten.”
“Make it nine.”
“Just get there before noon,” my dad finally gave up and said.
My mom walked me out. “See, that wasn't so bad. Now, you'll be in position to implement my other plan.”
I stopped walking. “What plan?”
“Go ahead and handle your business. We got time to talk about my other plan later,” she assured me.
I left, but I was curious to know what else my mom was up to. I pushed those thoughts out of my mind as I rushed to Bottoms Up to meet one of my clients.
I found Slim sitting in the back with his normal entourage of people. Slim was far from slim. He reminded me of the deceased rapper, Big Pun. Slim looked up as I approached his table. “Hey, y'all move out of the way and let my man get in here. In fact, y'all need to bounce. Me and him got some business to discuss.”
The crowd of women and men moved so fast you would have thought the police were in close proximity. “What it do?” I said, as I shook Slim's hand before taking a seat.
“Man, the Feds are on me and I need to make sure some of my money is cleaned. You did take care of that for me, didn't you?”
“That's what this is about? I got you. I don't know about your other dealings, but the money I've been handling has been all legit. You don't have to worry about that.”
“You sure? Because I'm going to need access to those funds to pay my lawyer.”
“I'm a Jones, and all I got is my word. If I don't have my word, I don't have anything,” I said. That's something my grandfather instilled in me before he died.
“My man. Now I can sleep a little easier.” Slim held up his hand to get a waiter's attention. “Bring us over a bottle of your best champagne.”
I held my hand out to signify no. “No, man. I'm on the job. I don't drink while working. Have to keep an eye out on the money, so you know I can't be drunk and do that.”
“I feel you. That's why I like you. You got your head on straight.”
I stood up. “I'm going to be working with my dad for the next few months, so you might not see me here often. You got my number, so if you need me, reach out and touch.”
“It's all good, fam.” Slim shook my hand.
Before I could get to the back office, Slim's table was filled with thirsty women. They all hoped they would be picked to go home with Slim and get access to his funds.
I liked making money, but I liked sleeping well at night too. A job like Slim's came with no peace. You were either worried about the cops or about the next guy who could easily come in and knock you off. Slim could have his money and street celebrity status. I had my peace of mind
his money. My services didn't come cheap.
his was one of those days where I wanted to stay in the bed, but I wasn't the type of woman to wallow in self-pity. I didn't get this far by just allowing things to happen. I was a take-charge type of person, and I wasn't about to change now.
I'm glad Royce agreed to let Lovie work with him. My plans to get up early and cook were spoiled. The stress from the last few days affected me, and I overslept.
I didn't have a regular nine-to-five job, but being Mrs. Jones was a full-time job. There were plenty of things for me to do on a daily basis to keep me busy. With the way things were going at RJ Jones Funeral Home, I needed to work overtime.
The cream-colored pant suit accented my curves. I fastened the clamp on the matching cream pumps and headed out the door. I almost tripped over the paper.
Royce must have been running late himself. He normally read the paper over coffee. I threw the paper in the passenger seat and drove to my destination. The women, who I considered more like frenemies than friends, were already seated around the table at the bistro for our monthly get together.
All of our husbands were prominent businessmen. There was Ruby Williams. Her husband owned several chicken shacks. Ruby and I are the same age, but she looked twenty years older. Time wasn't a friend of hers. If she laid off the booze some, maybe she could regain some of her youth. Then again, I doubt it.
The one wearing the bright orange skirt suit was Jackie Gray. Her husband owned a few car dealerships within the Ark-La-Tex. She's the youngest, and might I add the dumbest, of the group. Everyone, but her, knew about her husband's extramarital affairs. He was the biggest whore this side of the Mississippi River. There's not a woman outside of the nursing home he hadn't tried to sleep with. She's wife number three. Or is it four? So, she shouldn't be so clueless. When God was handing out brains, she got skipped.
Last, but not least, was the Queen B. I don't need to spell out what the “B” stood for. Her husband got his money from owning land. When the oil companies came in and leased his land, they became instant millionaires. The way Mrs. Sylvia Morrison acted, you would think she came from old money. Her nose was always up in the air. She held it up there so much, I'm surprised a few bugs hadn't found their home there.
When they saw me approach the table, they got up and we hugged and air kissed.
“For a moment, we thought you weren't going to make it,” Jackie said.
I leaned back a little and looked at her. “Why wouldn't I be here? I have no reason
to show up.”
Ruby and Sylvia exchanged glances. Sylvia cleared her throat. “Have you read the day's paper?”
Ruby said, “If it's happening to her, she doesn't need to read the paper.”
I looked from one to the other. “What are you talking about?”
Jackie placed her hand on top of mine. “Don't worry about today's meal. I got you.”
I jerked my hand away. “Okay, somebody needs to tell me what's going on.”
Sylvia pulled out an excerpt from the newspaper and handed it
to me. I scanned the page. It didn't take me long to see my name in big, bold letters staring back at me from a gossip column in the Lifestyle section.
The article read:
Rumor has it that life for Lexi Jones might not be all that it's cracked up to be. A source tells me that Mrs. Jones tried to pay with her credit card at said location and it was denied. Is there
trouble in the Jones household? Will she become the ex-Mrs. Jones? Hmm.
To stay in the know, check back next week.
I couldn't believe what I was reading. I knew exactly who leaked this to Ms. Gossip. I looked at the three sets of eyes staring back at me. The women were all quiet, waiting on my response.
“Here, take this trash,” I said to Sylvia. I threw it in her hand.
“Why didn't you tell us you and Royce were having problems?” Ruby asked.
“Because we're not. You would think that you, of all people, wouldn't believe everything you read in Ms. Gossip's column.”
“Jackie said she heard that your credit card declined too,” Sylvia jumped in and said.
I looked at Jackie.
Jackie rolled her eyes at Sylvia. “Lexi, dear, I just happen to come to the country club shortly after you left on that day and heard the attendants talking.”
“Talk.” I placed my hand on top of my heart. “Folks are jealous. Of course they are going to talk.”
Ruby added, “If you are breaking up, just know that we are here for you. Nothing has to change. We can still have our monthly meetings.”
“Read my lips.” I dragged my words as I spoke. “Royce and I are not breaking up. In fact, my marriage is stronger now than it's ever been. So you all can tell whoever is concerned that all is well at the Jones house.”
I looked each one of them in the eyes. They each averted their eyes looking everywhere but at me.
Jackie said, “Nevertheless, lunch is on me today.”
I held my hand up. The waiter stopped at the table. “Can you bring me an apple martini?” No matter how much I protested, these women were going to believe what they wanted to believe. I normally didn't drink this early, but today was an exception.
'm still not convinced it was a good idea to have Lovie come work at the funeral home. He walked in my office as if he didn't have a care in the world.
I glanced at the clock and then at him. “I thought I asked you to be here at nine o' clock? I had a twelve o'clock appointment, but they're running late.”
“Well, I'm right on time then, aren't I?” Lovie responded. He walked up to the chair in front of my desk.
“Don't sit. I got you set up in your own office.”
“I'm going to need access to your computer.”
“There's a computer already set up in the office. I'm going to give you access to whatever you need.”
“Fine with me. By the way, since you're my dad, I'll give you the family discount.”
I burst out laughing. “You got to be kidding.”
“This is business. Not personal. Time is money. You taught me that.”
I threw my hand up in the air. “Fine. Bill me whatever you need to bil me.”
I got up from behind my desk and led him to his office. “I can't believe you're charging me. Shoot, I should make you pay me back for all the money I've given you over the years.”
“I'll take all of that under consideration when I bill you,” Lovie said.
I laughed. “You're definitely my son.”
I unlocked the office door and flipped on the light.
“Nice. Jones men know how to live it up,” Lovie said as we entered the room that mirrored my office, but smaller.
I picked up the notepad off his desk and handed it to him. “This is your login information. I've also included all of my login and passwords to the financial information.”
“Great. Looks like everything's covered.”
“So, you get settled and find me when you need me.”
“Sure thing. Dad, have you told Jason about my new role?”
“No, in fact I was going to tell him today.”
“Don't. I think under the circumstances, until I can find out what's going on, it's best that we keep this information in the family.”
“But he's like family,” I responded.
“Dad, if we're going to work together, you have to trust me. If not, then I'll leave now.”
Lovie and I were the same height so we were eye to eye. “Fine. We'll do it your way, but if it doesn't work out, I'm pulling Jason in on this.”
“Give me some time. I'm going to figure out where things went wrong and how we can start making a profit going further,” Lovie assured me.
“My two favorite men.” Lexi entered the room and gave me a quick hug and peck on the lips.
“I wasn't expecting to see you here,” I said.
“I had to come see how Lovie's first day was going.” Lexi walked over to Lovie and hugged him.
“Mom, you can't be doing that at the office.”
“You'll always be my son and I can hug you whenever I want to.”
“Dad, will you tell her that we have to keep this professional?”
I shook my head. “That's your mom. You know I can't tell her anything.”
We all laughed.
My phone vibrated. I read the text. “I'm going to leave you two alone. My customer's waiting for me in my office.”
I rushed back to my office and greeted the bereaved couple that was seated in front of my desk. “I want to thank you for entrusting RJ's with the burial of your loved one. We promise to make this as easy as we can on the family.”
The grieving daughter spoke and handed me a check and the completed application. “Here's everything your assistant said we needed.”
“Have you decided on what day yet?”
Her husband responded, “Saturday at one.”
I checked the calendar to make sure there wasn't a scheduling conflict. “Saturday at one is fine. Don't worry about a thing.” I glanced over the form. “If we need anything else, someone will give you a call.”
The grieving daughter extended her hand out to mine. “Thank you. My mom spoke highly of you, so I wanted to honor her last wishes.”
“Mrs. Berry was a pillar of the community. She will be missed,” I responded.
I went over a few more preliminary items with the couple, then walked them out.
“I watched you with that couple. You're one of the most compassionate men I know,” Shannon said.
“Shannon, when people come in here, they are already going through something. Remember, it is our job to be a light during a dismal time of their lives.”
“Spoken like a true mortician,” Shannon said.
“No, I'm speaking as a man who's been on the other side of the desk. Losing my mom at an early age and then my father, I know firsthand how grief feels.”
“I admire how you deal with people. Sometimes my patience isn't what it should be.” Shannon sat back behind her desk.
“You'll get there,” I assured her.
I spent the next few hours getting bodies ready for family viewings.
'm still upset about not getting the job at the art gallery. But, my mom didn't raise a quitter. I wasn't going to put myself through the torture of interviewing with anyone else. I'm going to do something I should have done in the first place.
I logged on to the Internet and started researching ways to start my own business.
Hope burst in my room. “Sis, can I borrow your car?”
“You and this bad habit of not knocking are getting old. Respect my space.”
“I respect your space. You're always in here by yourself. When you start having male company, I'll knock.”