Thursday, November 30, 2017

Chapter 19: What If You're Over My Sh*t?

Chris Stanley shared Eva Aiken’s post.
Friday at 10:22 PM * Dallas, TX

This is what women don't get, everything we do is for you! Everything! We make money. We do it for you. We move to make money.  We do it for you. But women ain't NEVER happy with that shit. NEVER. I feel Marc. Look where he is now. Look at the dough he's rolling in. He had to make sacrifices to get this shit. Why his wife still ain't happy?

TO: Rachel Isles
Good morning, Rachel.

TO: Marc Isles
Oh, so you’re having a good morning?
Do you remember our life before The Move? Because that’s what this section of my autobiography has been labeled. The Move. There are two phases in our life: Before Your Move to Seattle and The Move and guess which one I’m pissed off about?

Every morning, before TM (The Move), we didn't even use alarm clocks. We just let the hummingbirds that sing outside our bedroom windows awaken us. Remember that? I always kept the windows open at night in our room because isn't it so much better to be awakened by the singing of birds instead of the buzz of an alarm? Not that you would notice since each morning you were awakened by me on top of you. Can I get some credit for being sexually attentive? I don't like you carrying on with life like I'm not sexually considerate. How many of your friends get head before breakfast? Name them, right HERE and right NOW!

Anyway, you'd always give out a long stretch afterward and pull my body against yours and whisper a sleepy Good morning in my ear. We had good mornings, Marc. We had a good life. What happened to our life? What happened to you hopping in your shower while I made my way to the kitchen to brew a fresh pot of Trader Joe's coffee? Do you see how intimately I know you? I know that you don't like Starbucks coffee and that you only walk around with the cup when you have morning business meetings, and you have to look fashionable. I know that you like our bodies pressed together while the birds sing outside our windows. I know that you like to walk up behind me and kiss my neck as you pour a cup of Trader Joe’s coffee.
So, my only question is this: what are your mornings like now?

TO: Rachel Isles
Rachel. I moved to Seattle because the engineer I need to help me develop my software is here as is his equipment. I had to come here.

I feel like you want me to work for someone. I think you'd be happy if I rolled out of bed, sat up on the side of it, dreading my day ahead. Because that's what I imagine when I think of pulling into the parking lot of another company that another man has created. You knew when you met what my plans were. I make operating systems. I make software. I'm an industrial engineer. I'm an entrepreneur. All that means is that my life isn't neat. It isn't orderly. It changes.

I don’t put in for vacation days. I own the company. There’s no such thing as a vacation. I don’t call in sick to work. I’ve got a team of men who require my presence. I don’t pass over an assignment. When I need something done, I get it done. I needed to come to Seattle.

This is not a permanent move. I keep telling you this. And this isn't just my company; it's our company. And I respect you as a teacher, but that's not going to put food on our table. Not in California. My father has been a science teacher for thirty years, and we could barely afford to eat some nights. And let's face it, baby, you and I have developed some expensive taste. I paid off the mortgage in our condo in San Fran, and I paid off the mortgage on our townhome in L.A. I paid for our cars and trucks. Those furs in your closet and Janie's matching luggage that you insisted our one year old needed. I pay for a private flight from San Fran to L.A. on the weekends because you can't imagine going through two hours of airport security for a one-and-a-half-hour flight. We fly to Toronto because that's where The Real Jerk is, and you can't imagine eating Jamaican food from anywhere else. We've got an expensive lifestyle Rachel.

Now, I'm not saying that I don't enjoy it because I do. I love it. I'm not satisfied with just making ends meet. I've lived that way my entire life. Your father's a psychiatrist; your mother's a prime real estate agent. You lived on a country club. I put us in that condo in San Fran because I know that's how you want to live. I've got us sitting on our own hill. It's not as high as your parents, but it's up there, baby.
I’m in Seattle because this is where I need to be.


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Behind the Book: Red versus Rachel

Dear Elysian Fields,

Just so you know, there has to be something special about you for me to just up and leave my beloved Boston and travel 1,300 miles across the country.

You see, I listen to a woman named Danielle and her husband Malcolm. They tell me their life story. I LOVE these two. In fact, I love their entire crew. So, when Rachel called my office and said she liked the work I did on Danielle Blair, and asked me to tell her story, I was hesitant. I agreed to do it on one condition: her husband Marc would tell me his side too. Both agreed.

I gotta tell you, Elysian Fields, I'm used to Boston's Beacon Hill and all the perks afforded to its residents and visitors: the Starbucks on every corner, the sushi bars, the valet whistling for taxis. Arriving in Elysian Fields was entirely different: the corner stores, the Chinese food spots, the dogs tied to trees, the hookers on 'the block'. Lets just say, I had my doubts. Would my readers want me to report on a couple who were so different from their beloved Red and Mac?

The answer is yes.

The feedback is good, Elysian Fields. And I mean really good. My readers are loving Rachel and Marc. They love their story. They love you, Elysian Fields.

But don't get too excited. I'll give you the FULL report the week of December 5th.


Pre-order What If You're Over My Sh*t? Here!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Chapter 18: What If You're Over My Sh*t?

TO: Marc Isles
FROM: Breanne Lang

Your wife is a bitch. I'm forwarding you this exposé, written by my undisclosed source. This is not out of courtesy to Rachel, but out of courtesy to you. I will not be publishing this exposé. I don't want to be involved in this, any longer.
Breanne Lang
Editor, Views Magazine
Marc, The Man
            This all happened last year:
Karla asked me to drive her to Marc's office in San Francisco. She had been married to Quan at this point for four years and hadn't spoken to Marc since he married Rachel. But Quan was sent to prison on a drug charge, and Karla was feeling all alone. Do you know what happens when you feel alone? You begin to reminisce about the past. Karla and Quan have no children, and so, when he was sent to the pen, she had nothing but time on her hands.
             Marc makes frequent trips back to Elysian Fields. He’s always been loyal to his old stomping grounds. He loves Dodge Challengers. He likes them because they have that ‘70s look that everyone in Cali loves, but there’s a modern edge to it. Marc’s Challenger is black and shiny, fast and clean. He rides back home in the latest version, every year, and parks right outside his parents’ house. When he steps out of it, he’s greeted by smiling faces, hugs, and back slaps. Marc’s the man. If Karla were in the vicinity, he’d give her a small smile and head nod, before moving along. No hug. No small talk. After all those years, Marc doesn’t even have time to say hi to Karla.
 Karla was pining for him one night. It was spring in California, and all the guys were on their parents' front lawn lifting weights, preparing for the summer. All the women were gathered on front porches, talking about the latest weight loss teas endorsed by the latest Instagram star. I guess Karla sat there that night and got depressed. She wouldn't have a man this summer. She wouldn't need weight loss teas. Why had she chosen to marry a dope boy? Especially when rumor had it that he was cheating on her. But all men cheat, right? So that's not a big deal. But Marc doesn't cheat. There had never been a rumor about him being with another woman. In fact, the joke around Elysian Fields was that his nose was wide-open for Rachel. How good would it feel to be married to someone good-looking, well-off, and faithful, who drives a nice car?
 Karla came to me in secret. She asked if I would drive her to San Francisco. She didn't trust anyone. She didn't have the money to fly. She'd pay me twenty dollars for gas money. She begged me. I felt terrible for her. And so, I took her.
 Marc's IT company, Dumbbell, is housed in a big building, with other tech firms. His firm occupies the top floor. The address is public knowledge, and so, Karla looked it up. It was late when we arrived, but we know he'd be there. Everyone knew that Marc lived in those offices. Karla took a chance on going up there, that night, and finding him there. But, if she didn’t, she’d pay for us to stay in a cheap hotel so that we could go back to Marc’s office the next morning. That night, we made it to the front lobby.
 Security wasn't at his post. Karla thought this was fate. We slid through the metal detectors and went straight to the elevator. Why did I accompany her? Because I had heard of the last time she came to see Marc in San Francisco and how Rachel beat her ass. I wanted to make sure Karla didn't have another incident like that. Say what you will, Karla is cool. She's sweet. She talks with a ‘proper' voice. She's always smiling. Yeah, she looks like the rest of the girls in the hood, but she doesn't act like it. She's prissy. She isn't a fighter. She's the kind of woman that would be perfect for a guy like Marc. Sure, she isn't cultivated, but she's got it in her to be. She always aspired to live the kind of life Marc offers Rachel. She wants to be the one who wears the furs, the diamond rock and drives the Benz. Unlike Rachel, Karla is the kind of girl that would be the wife of a baller gracefully. She'd be beyond reproach. She'd lend money out until Marc told her to knock it off. She'd let the kids run up to her and give her hugs, and not worry about their sticky fingers. Karla was meant to be Marc's wife.
 We made it Marc's floor, and the elevators slid opened. It looks like the future in Marc's offices. It seems like Marc works at a space station on Jupiter. Everything's dark, silver and glass. There's computer hardware that I've never seen the likes of, stationed in an organized mess. An average person wouldn't want to touch it, lest an alarm goes off or a system shuts down, causing the universe to stop working. The windows are floor-to-ceiling and showcase San Francisco at its postcard picture best: the Golden Gate Bridge, the water, the lights, and more lights, and more lights. You walk into Marc's office building, and you feel immortal. You are not from Planet Earth. You know things that mere mortals can't even fathom. The solar system runs because of you.
Karla and I just stood there for a moment. This belongs to Marc?
We heard a noise. Karla and I began looking for a place to hide. I noticed a doorway to our left. I pulled her along and rushed to it. We pressed our backs against the door. But I peeked out and saw that it was Marc. He was looking at his cellphone. He was dressed in sweats and a tee. It was after-hours, he wasn't worried about looking professional. There was a vanity to his walk. He's a built guy—not too built so that he looks like a gym head—but built enough to let us all know that he's from a place where weightlifting on your front lawn is entirely normal. The guy's got broad shoulders and a solid chest. Plus he's tall. I can see why Karla's still infatuated with him.
Still looking at his cellphone, Marc opened a door, blasting a ray of light into the hallway. Karla and I pressed our backs firmly against the door again. The blast of light then became a sliver. Karla then tapped me on the arm and put a finger over her mouth, signaling me to shh… She pointed down the hall to the sliver of light.
Let's walk to that door.
We walked towards it slowly. This had to be Marc’s office. We made it to the door and then peeked in. It was a conference room filled with a long glass desk.
The guys bounced out of their chairs, on instinct, as Marc makes his way to an empty seat. Dressed down to look more Banana Republic, than Tom Ford right now, Marc’s air, his presence, probably made them feel like any man would feel when the president walks in. Or a king.
Marc looked up from his cellphone.
             “Sit,” Marc said as he found a seat at the glass conference table. “And stop doing that.”
             “No problem,” all the guys seemed to say in unison.    
“Let me know what you need me to do,” I heard a man say. Trev? Was that Marc’s brother Trev? I couldn’t see his face, but I know his voice. What was Trev doing here?
Trev’s the hood guy; Marc's the polished one. Trev's the one who's covered in oil because he's good at fixing cars and owns a string of tire shops. But we all know these are a front. He's pretending to be out of the drug game. Trev's men say that there's a Cuban guy who bought him out. This Cuban, nicked named Cube, lives in Cuba. He had Trev appoint ‘generals' to watch over Elysian Fields. They're the guys Cube deals with. At least that's the word on the street. It's a load of bull. Trev lives in Calabasas with his wife, Barbie. Rumor has it, they live in a twelve-room mansion, with their three kids. Barbie drives a Porsche truck, wears furs every winter, and always looks photo-op ready on any given day. All of this from marrying a tire shop owner? I don't think so.
I was confident Barbie came to San Francisco with Trev because he never travels without her; she doesn't allow it. Too many women out there for her and Trev is a lot like Marc: they both bow to their women because their father bowed to their mom. Suckers for love is what some guys call the three of them. Barbie and Rachel keep Trev and Marc on a short leash, as Trev and Marc's mother kept their father on one.
I was certain, that night, Trev and Marc would leave together after this meeting and meet up with their wives. Trev and Barbie would have brought along their live-in nanny to watch their children. Barbie’s a hood-classy chick who’s never without her children and nanny at least five feet behind her.
The streets are dangerous, and revenge is real.
After this meeting tonight, Marc, Trev, and Barbie would pretend like nothing is wrong. The three of them do this because of Rachel. If Rachel knew what was really happening in Marc’s life, she’d leave him. Again. The first time she left him for one whole month left a bad taste in his mouth. A bloody taste. She left him and was a no-show for one month. He hired someone to locate her. I bet Rachel doesn’t know that. Can you imagine?
That month, after Karla showed up on Marc’s doorstep, after hearing that he and Rachel were set to marry, Rachel just disappeared. It was the summer, she wasn’t teaching, and she just couldn’t be found. As soon as rumors start going around that Marc may be seeing Karla, Rachel magically appears. You know why? Because she had been there all along. She’s that good. Marc is hers. When she showed up, Marc couldn’t have been happier. Rachel’s the woman of his dreams. With her, he’s living the life of his dreams.
Dark liquor, limo rides, midnight flights, and hush-hush conversations surround them.  They move in secret. They live in secret. They are the urban legends of L.A. People wonder, imagine, what they're up to in San Francisco. 
Rachel helps Marc get business. She calls in her contacts, courtesy of her father, and gets Marc contracts to produce software for their companies. What Rachel doesn’t know is that these companies are a cover-up; they’re something to put on Marc’s tax forms, come April 15, to explain how he has an income. The truth is that Marc and Rachel's income comes from a different source altogether. 
But Rachel doesn’t know this.
The guys who work for Marc don’t know this.
“What have we come up with? What do they want?” Marc asks. Everyone starts talking at once. Marc looks around the table at the same time fingers begin typing onto laptop keyboards. Barbells. That’s the name of their laptops. They were all created by Marc: the hardware, the software, everything. If you work at Marc's company, you must use his equipment. Barbells have a sleek look, with curved edges, and are the color of gunmetal. The government grade software, Dumbbell, was coded straight from Marc’s brain. The CIA. The Feds. The President. The President’s men. Marc. Marc’s employees. Those are the only people who use Barbells and Dumbbells, both the computers and the software. Exclusively. Those are the only people allowed to use them. Having Dumbbell’s software in the hands of us regular people would prove dangerous to the U.S. government. I wonder how the government would feel if they knew that there was another person who uses Dumbbell, and that person is Trev. Trev uses the software to safeguard his drug records. Don’t ask me how I know this.
             That night, the guys continued to rattle off their thoughts about the breach that almost happened in Dumbbell’s software.
             “Easy,” Marc said, his voice relaxed. All conversation ceased. He looked around the table. “Barry,” he pointed to Barry, with his full red beard and torn hoodie on.
             “They’re trying to tap into Rachel’s operating system,” Barry says as he holds up his laptop. “And I’ve got the proof. They’re trying to blast into Rachel’s operating system, but they can’t get past Dumbbell's invisible wall,” he says, referring to the hack-proof software that Marc created. “And to tell you the truth, they almost did. We've gotta come up with another software, something more solid.” Marc appeared to be looking at someone. I assumed it was Trev. If someone can penetrate Dumbbell's software, Trev's business is vulnerable. But here's the question, why were these hackers trying to break into Rachel’s operating system? Why Rachel? Why did they choose Rachel? Rachel had nothing to do with L.A. life at that point. She lived in San Francisco and only came back to L.A. to visit her best friend, Vivian. What was going on in Rachel's life to make someone attempt to attack her operating system? Who was Rachel hanging around with in L.A. that Marc knew nothing about?
             I was sure that Trev was looking at Marc, speaking to him through the silence, It’s the Lock family. Even I knew it was them. The Isles and Lock family hate each other. Who else would it be? And who in the Lock family was becoming interested in Rachel?
Let me be the first to tell you, Marc’s company isn’t a software company. It’s a company that makes software. Marc’s company is actually an extension of his brother’s business. Contacts, money, portfolios, rosters… all information too sensitive to keep on paper and be found by the feds. This is information you store in an airtight database that’s accessible by the creator of this database only. Marc’s the man who made Trev’s database for the dope trade. Marc selling a version of this software to the federal government was his way of not needing to depend on Trev’s dope business to give him a standard of living that he and Rachel want.
I don't care what anyone says, that night, Marc got scared. For so long, he had been able to keep Rachel and his business separate, and now the tide was turning. If his software was infiltrated and Marc's role in his brother's business was revealed, Rachel would leave him. She wants a respected husband with a respectable business. And so Marc had to create software that was airtight for Rachel’s sake.
That night, everyone looked at Marc. He let his eyes drift off. We all waited.
And waited.
And waited.
He looked up.
“I need more information,” he says as he stood up.
“But—” Barry says, attempting to defend himself.
“Be smart,” Marc told a room that was probably filled with Stanford, Harvard and MIT graduates. “Come to me with facts. Indisputable. Don’t jump the gun here, take your time with it.” He stood up. “Call me by six tomorrow morning,” he said with his back to them. Everyone started clanking their fingers against their laptops. Karla and I panicked. I spotted an open door, ten feet away. I grabbed hold of her and dragged her to it. We hid.
And then we left.
But the nerds couldn’t come up with an update for Dumbbell that prevented hacking. They couldn’t come up with software that would prevent Rachel from finding out about Marc and leaving him. So, this is why Marc went to Seattle. He needed to create the software himself.
But this is the thing: Marc was never in Seattle.

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Behind the Book: Book Girls Tend to Live in Book Worlds... And That's the Problem

I have this bad habit of meeting people and then constructing their entire life story in my head. I will base their life story on the following criteria:

1. Choice of perfume/cologne and their aromatic notes.
2. Choice of nail color or lack thereof. That includes all nail art.
3. Whether they said, 'hi' or 'hello,' and the voice inflection used.

These three things are all I need to write The Story of This Person's Life. There will be times when, after I've closed the book on this stranger's life, I'll look to my sister and roll my eyes. (This guy right HERE!) My sister--to my great annoyance--will have no idea what's going on.

I will, in 99.99% of cases, be completely wrong. But that isn't the point. For at least 5 minutes, I had a chance to imagine how things could be.

This is more than a bad habit; it is a curse.

In What If You're Over My Sh*t? Rachel, like many women, chooses to live out most of her marriage inside her head. She answers the questions she should be asking her husband. She assumes what her husband is up to, and then gets mad at her made-up scenarios.

In What If You're Over My Sh*t? Rachel must try to live in the realm of the outside world, and not within the kingdom inside her head.

But this isn't as easy as it sounds.


Pre-order What If You're Over My Sh*t? Here!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Chapter 17: What If You're Over My Sh*t?


I bombed the hell out of that interview!
Tonight, was so exhausting, I can't imagine this being my life. Right now, I just want to open my front door, throw these heels in the garbage, and dive into my bed, without washing my face. Oh, Lord! I so don’t feel like washing my face! I cannot imagine being the Beyoncé of the indie book world one more day. (And to hell with anyone who doesn’t think I’m a Beyoncé.)
I enter the limo and see Marc already inside, looking down at his cellphone, his eyes scanning the screen. All that means is that the cellphone thief has likely released another email, or the other random guy has submitted another exposé to Views Magazine. I'm sure Breanne rushed another exposé to press. But at this point, I'm so tired; I don't care.
It’s four in the morning. I’ve been in heels all night. I’ve given a total of sixteen interviews. Christmas rap has been blaring in my ears. I had to kick a journalist out of the party. And, I was basically told that I’m the lowest piece of trash Pop-Korner Kevin has ever read about.
The chauffeur shuts the door, and I rest my head against the headrest. No more. I'm done. I'm not even sure if I want this life anymore. The thought of publishing this book was more exciting then promoting it. In fact, I no longer want to push this book. I'm happy with what I've done so far: I put it out there, the right people read it, they told other people, and it's become a hit. Story over. I wasn't built for this four-a.m. lifestyle. I'd rather wake up early then go to bed late; I’m a teacher for heaven’s sake. I'd rather be home with Janie than be out with the Kevins and the Breannes of the world. I'm done. I don't have the thick skin for this. I don't have the temperament for this. I want out.
I’m ready to restart my life… again.
Maybe it’s the exhaustion talking, but, perhaps I’ll go back to teaching. I published my book; I carried out my dream. I can feel a sense of accomplishment from doing that, right? I have that feeling of self-satisfaction and the satisfaction that comes when you create something, and people like it. Not only do I have self-satisfaction, but I have gratification. But after Kevin’s interview, I also have humiliation.
I’m not the one Marc should have ended up with.
The chauffeur pulls away, and I see Marc slide his cellphone into his pocket. I guess I'll have to read the latest email or exposé, but not tonight. Tonight, I go home to my townhouse, alone, and rest. Tomorrow, I'll wake up, run to Starbucks, catch a flight to San Fran, get Janie, come back to L.A., and call some contacts for teaching positions in the Calabasas area. Yes, that's what I'll do. I'll move to Calabasas with Janie; Marc can have his penthouse in the city. I'll be the parent that makes sure Janie has a normal childhood filled with front lawns and backyards.
Tomorrow I start my life over. Again. But will I be able to afford it? Without my book career, I’ll be living off a teacher’s salary. I’ll be broke as hell. Great… I have no choice but to write, now that Marc and I are over. I can’t afford not to.
“Einstein,” Marc says out of nowhere. I look at him. “Einstein said, A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.” Damn, is Marc reading my mind? That was weird as hell. “Do you believe this?” He looks me in the eyes. I don't see exhaustion on his face; I see unfulfillment. How is that possible? Marc was the man of the hour tonight. Everyone loves Marc. Breanne showed it, DJ Diaz said it, Kevin implied it. “Weren't we happy before I went to Seattle and you were just a teacher bringing home purple orchids from your kids?”
“Yeah, I was happy in San Fran living a normal life. But I’m making a lot of money living an author’s life. It’s a catch-22.”
“I’m making more money now too but, is it worth it?”
“For me it is. We’re not together. I’m a teacher by trade. If I don’t write, my standard of living goes down to nothing.”
“We’re not leaving each other, Rachel. Whatever my standard of living is, that’s your standard of living. You haven’t paid a bill since the moment we married—even these past three months—and you never will. You never have to worry about money.” Oh, thank God, but…
“Listen, you can't go back, Marc. The government has your software; they're paying you millions for it every year. You can't just ask for it back and return to a normal life. You can't return to a normal tech firm with nine employees and a home office. There's no turning back for you now.
“I'm a different story. I just may turn back to the life I had before: Janie and me, teaching and parent conferences. Friday night ice cream stops, and early morning Starbucks runs; the life I had while you were in Seattle.” I complained so much, while living the life that I wanted, all because Marc wasn't there to live it with me. Why did I need his participation? I was already in my dream life, in a nice condo, in a great neighborhood, with phenomenal views. I worked in a prime school district where kiss-ass parents treated me like I taught William and Kate’s kids. I drove a brand-new truck and drank fresh venti cups of Starbucks. “That life in San Francisco was the life I wanted. After that interview with Kevin, I wonder why I gave it all up because of you. Kevin was right. All I am is the infatuated girl who chases the guy around. Because the fact is that she's chasing the guy around because he’s running away. You ran all the way to Seattle, from San Francisco, and I was still chasing you.”
He didn’t want to be there, Rachel. But that doesn’t mean you had to leave.
“And then you ran to L.A., found the girl you wanted, and I was still chasing you. I just have to realize that you’ve got the girl that you want. Kevin is right, Karla’s the girl you should’ve ended up with, from the very beginning.” The words are almost too much for me to hear, let alone say. My throat has a piercing pain in it, the pain that always comes as you’re trying to hold in a sob.
“Kevin doesn't know shit about me,” Marc says, with a hint of anger. Anger? Marc's showing emotions? “He ended up with his wife, and he never regretted his decision. I'm happy for him. But I'm married to the woman I've always wanted. And I have no regrets. There are no what-ifs.
 “And I don’t want to be famous, Rachel. Whether it’s hood famous or not. I want San Francisco, a year ago, with you talking my head off about those badass kids in your class and me flying Janie in the air as we head into the truck every morning.” He leans his head against the seat. He’s tired too. “I wasn’t ready to give up that life. But I did, and I lost my family in the process.” He looks at me.
“I need you to know that you didn't lose your family because you were pursuing your goals or because you were trying to be the best at what you do. You lost your family because you slept with Karla Watts. We need to put a name on what you did. We can't have San Francisco, not because you moved to Seattle, but because you slept with Karla.”
“Rachel, I thought we were over. I got that last email from you, and I thought, this is it. We're done. It's final. I came to San Francisco to talk to you; you had the locks changed and had moved to L.A. I got on the next flight out of San Fran, to L.A., and came to the townhome. You had the locks changed. You told me you'd go through the courts if I tried to come in. I knew you were mad at me but damn… I didn't think there was anything left for us to do. I read your words, I saw what you did, and I thought, Rachel's gone. She's left me. I went ahead and surrendered; I didn't need the bad press, I just closed the deal with the government. I was exhausted, Rachel. I gave up. And then I did the worse thing I could do.”
“Slept with another woman.”
“Went to another human being for affirmation. I had Pentagon guys slapping me on the back, telling me ‘well done.' I had the vice president of the United States personally calling me, thanking me for my software. I have a letter from the president, thanking me for my contribution to American society, calling me a Good American. But none of that shit came close to you. None of it came close to seeing you happy with me, because your opinion matters. When I gassed up your truck on Sundays, went to Starbucks to grab you your morning cup of coffee, or put Janie to bed after you had a long night of parent-teacher conferences, you gave me your own pat on my back. I value your praise, more than anybody on Capitol Hill. Because, when you think that I’m not shit, that’s exactly how I feel, no matter what everyone else is saying.”
At this point, I want to ask if he thinks this is all my fault. But I'm not a jerk. I understand what he's trying to say. I know that he was looking for something that I wasn't giving him. But…
             “So out of all the things I gave you—taking care of your daughter, checking in with you to see how your day was coming along, conversation, making us homemade pizzas, and hot cocoa from scratch—the one thing I failed to give you, made everything else null and void?”
He drops his eyes from me as though he’s thinking about what I’ve said. He’s thinking about the rationality of my argument. He’s trying to figure out what he can say that will help his case.
             “I hate to say this,” he finally says, “but yes.” He looks back at me. “I wasn’t thinking about all the other things that you do, I was thinking about the one thing that you stopped doing.”
             “And that would be feed your ego?”
Mm-hmm, just what I thought.
“Ya know, Marc, that's what pisses me off. For years, I was the naïve San Fran girl, and you were the experienced guy from the hood. For years, I was the one who cooed over you. You were the one who treated me like I was disposable like I was cute but not a full-fledged woman.”
             “Rachel, if I treated you like that—”
             “Yes, you did. And the one time I say, No, I won’t be your cheerleader, you end up with a woman who will be.” He runs a hand over his face. “Listen, I won’t live like this, Marc. I won’t feel pressured to chase after you with pom-poms like I did when I was a kid.”
             “I’m not asking you to, baby.”
             “Then what are you asking, Marc?”
“For us to listen to the prenup. It says that we can't divorce without going through six months of marriage counseling. I'm asking that we talk to a counselor and try to make us work.”
             “Marc, you and I both know that the only thing I stand to lose with this prenup is money. It was created by my father before you were the Marc Isles. It was financial protection for my trust fund. But now that you’ve sold your software, your check is bigger than my trust fund. So even if I am obligated to give you half of it, I’ll earn it back with half of your income, belongings, and the child support that California will reward me. What incentive do I have to go through with the specifications of this prenup?”
             “Because I’m begging you to.” He leans forward. “I’m not giving us up, Rachel. And I’ve got six months to make this right. Please let me try to make this right.”
No. Kevin was right. Marc doesn't want me; he wants the image of me. He wants the perks of being married to me. But I'm unsatisfying. Who he really wants is Karla.
             The limo stops, and I look out the window. I’m already home. I steal a look at Marc. He’s looking at me hopefully, expectantly.
             Kevin was right. Marc doesn’t want me. I’m not the best fit for him. I’m annoying. I’m a light-weight. Karla’s the bottom-bitch.
             “I’m done, Marc,” I tell him. “I always thought that you didn’t love me and after tonight, I see that I’m not the only person who can see it. I’m going back to the life I had before. No more book parties and no more us.”

             And then I get out.

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Behind the Book: What To Do If You Aren't Oprah or Beyoncé

When I was in college, I naturally assumed I'd be an important writer who made significant contributions to the literary world. This would be done through me writing adult fairy tales. And, while I DO write adult fairy tales, my life isn't as important as I would have hoped. In fact, my life can be downright ordinary.

Shannon Dianne's ordinary life, as she interacts with her children:

Ma, I think broke my ankle really bad, outside just now.
What were you doing outside?

Ma, can we go to grandma's house?
(Me: pressing #1 speed-dial, on my cellphone.)

Ma, can I have some juice? (Always asked as I'm sitting down.)
Yes, after I finish sitting down.

Life is normal. In What If You're Over My Sh*t? Rachel attempts to come to terms with normal life. Because what Rachel doesn't know is this:

Life is absolutely average most of the time but, you can still be happy.


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Monday, November 27, 2017

Chapter 16: What If You're Over My Sh*t?

Views Magazine presents….
Marc and Rachel Isles
Exposé of a Marriage Uncovered

Being Fair About Rachel
In L.A. we drive long shiny cars that are lime green or cranberry red or almond brown. Everybody does. We listen to slow funk music, the kind that sounds like it should be played at night during summer barbeques, right when everyone is full and playing dominoes and deciding who’ll they be going home with. The dope boys ride bikes everywhere. It’s nothing to see seven family members living in a two-bedroom house; we in Elysian Fields don’t need much privacy and space. When you walk around Elysian Fields, every home has its own noise: music playing, people laughing, kids playing, lovers arguing, lovers loving. It's a mess of sound that's natural, expected.
We live in California so, in the fall, after the summer fog has passed, the stars can be seen clustered in the sky, the moon is always high as a kite, the street lights are always on. The sidewalks are always filled with people walking or riding their bikes to a corner store for another Heineken or for Chinese food. Fellas drive their cars down the street in slow motion because the kids like to get dressed in their bathing suits, open up the fire hydrant, and spray the cars that pass by. The fellas don’t get mad when the kids do that, they just ride slow and put their windshield wipers on. Everybody does.
This is where Marc is from. He lived in a two-bedroom home that housed him, his brother, and both his parents. They didn’t have a dog, like a lot of us do, but that’s okay. Marc’s brother Trev was in a gang, like everybody else. Now, Trev runs the gang. Trev is the head dope boy of Elysian Fields. I heard yesterday, after listening to DJ Diaz’s show, that Trev is supposedly retired. Bullshit. Rachel’s lying. Trev’s not retired. Trust me.
Marc and Trev’s father and mother met in Elysian Fields when they were kids. They married while they were both in college. Marc’s mother became a nurse, and his father became a science teacher. It was normal for them to have at least one kid who was good in math and science. Marc was that kid. He has the gift of math. Give him numbers; tell him to add them, and subtract them, then divide them, and then multiply them. In the end, he'll give you the right answer. Always. No matter how long the numbers are. No matter how complicated the equation is.
We called Marc a genius. Then a teacher started calling him one. Then the school board started calling him one. Then the mayor. Then the governor. But even though all these people acknowledged, awarded, and congratulated him, nobody outside of Elysian Fields had even heard of him. But he was a star around here. The girls liked him for the wrong reasons: he’s better looking than most and acted like he didn’t give a shit about them. They didn’t seem to understand that Marc was more than a walking dick. He was brainy. He was a brainy guy from the hood. He was a brainy guy from the hood, and his brother was a gangster. He was a brainy guy from the hood, his brother was a gangster, but Marc never became one. That meant something. None of the girls in Elysian Fields got that. None of them cared about how smart he was. None of them cared that he just may have had a ticket out of the hood. Nobody cared. Not even his girlfriend, Karla.
But she did.
Rachel, that is.
Rachel cared.

Disclaimer: The above views and interpretations are the opinions of the writer only.

It All Makes Sense: One Day, You'll Meet a Man...

Dear 16-Year-Old Shannon,

Bad Boy Entertainment won't be around for much longer. In fact, Puffy won't be Puffy anymore. He'll become P. Diddy. Then he'll become Diddy. In 2017 he'll become Brother Love. (What? What's the face for?)

Beyonce will leave Destiny's Child and become a singer/rapper. (What? In 2017 it happens all the time.) Oh, and she'll marry Jay-Z. (What? There's someone out there for everyone.) Speaking of that...

You'll marry a guy named Marc, and you'll meet him in your college library. (Yes, you ARE going to college. You better cut it out.) Oh, and you'll name a leading character in one of your books after him. (Oh, I didn't mention that you'll become an indie author?)

Yep. You'll live a GRAND life between the ages of 17 and 35, so much so, you'll have to write about it. It'll be filled with caviar in New Jersey and lobsters in New England. You'll eat cheeseburgers in Compton and Chicken and Waffles in Long Beach. (Yes, Snoop Dogg is from there, but no you won't be killed.) (Actually, Snoop Dogg becomes a changed man. In 2017, he and Martha Stewart star in their own cooking show.) (Oh relax, gangster rap is going out of style soon. Rappers are all wearing silk blouses now.)

Back to your guy... Your husband will be the TOTAL opposite of you: he'll come from a place called 'the hood'. He'll know rap songs, even the ones that AREN'T on the radio. He'll be cool and tall (6'7") (I know, right!) and he'll have this really neat job that takes you and him around the country every week. Did you hear me? A different city every week.

And that's what inspires the book. (What book?) What If You're Over My Sh*t? You see, as much fun as you two will have, you'll get on his f*cking nerves acting like, well, Shannon.

But that's not the point. The book is the point. What If You're Over My Sh*t? is the point of it all. Trust me. Keep living and then write the book.

35-Year-Old Shannon

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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Chapter 15: What If You're Over My Sh*t?

I sit in a chair that looks like it was made for established men to drink brandy and smoke cigars in; brown leather and purposely created to look weathered. My interviewer sits across from me in an identical chair, with my book resting on his lap. We're waiting for the cameraman to get settled. My interviewer is spiffed up in a brown sports coat ensemble that can only be described as debonair. The thumping beat of the club has long since disappeared within the soundless room of the nightclub. Adam and Marc stand next to each other, outside the realms of the cameras. I'm the one in the hot seat.
I’m not sure why Adam set me up with this interview right in the middle of my book launch party. I look at the interviewer and smile. He gives me a closed-mouth grin and nothing more. Well that was noncommittal, wasn’t it? I know the closed-mouth smile when I see it. It’s the same smile I gave to parents when they came to teacher’s conferences, expecting the worse, and then became shocked when they actually received it. The wide, open-mouthed smile, is for the parent of an angel: The child who writes all of her letters properly, knows all of her vocabulary words and can look at a number and tell me which number it is without having to count on her fingers. (I never understood how a child can remember what a number looks like by counting invisible numbers on her fingers.) And now, here this interviewer is, giving me a closed-mouthed smile as if I'm a finger counter. 
I know immediately that I don’t have a chance with this man. He doesn’t like So, What If…? He hates the heroine. He can't understand why the heroine wants the hero. The book is boring. After all, this is a man who has read what is mostly a love story. Of course, he hated it. Men like stories about courtrooms, unfolding legal drama, and people stuck on various planets in the solar system. Boring things like that. They know nothing about true literature: girl meets boy, boy is a major douche. (I mean, isn't that what all Jane Austen books are about?) Only women can appreciate true literature. And, by the way, who asked this guy to read my fucking book! I turn around and look at Adam.
I’m angry with you for scheduling this interview.
Adam smiles and waves. I make a mental note to fuck him up later. I turn back around to look at the interviewer.
             “Welcome to Pop-Korner,” (oh what a corny name), “where you get nothing but relevant pop news, from only the baddest motherfuckers in the game,” the interviewer says. Dammit, I forgot his name. “Tonight, live, I have Rachel Isles.” Oh goodness, what is this man’s name? What is his name! I look to Adam with a smile and wide eyes.
What is this man’s name?
Adam gives me wink. Adam! I look at Marc.
“Kevin,” Marc mouths to me. Oh, thank God! Marc is good for something, other than screwing women left and right! Good job, Markie.
“Hi, Kevin,” I say with a smile. “Thanks for dropping by the party.”
“Oh, I wasn’t missing this,” Kevin says. “Trust me. My girl would’ve killed me if I passed up a chance to sit down with you and talk about this book.” He pats my book on his lap.
“And what did you think?” I ask, knowing that if he gives me an honest assessment of my story and my writing, that doesn’t flatter me, I just may put a hit out on him.
“Of course.” Of course not.
“Best book I’ve read.” The comment surprises me. I look at him, waiting for a gotcha! or sike! but he looks at me straight-faced. And though I'm grateful he appreciates the story, something about that saddens me. This book is nothing but my real-life diary entries. These are honest thoughts about college and my internal growth, Vivian, and friendship, Marc and love. To say that you love this book means that you enjoy the story that once was. Because the story inside of that book is over. It's done. There's a new story, and it's not a love story. Marc and my story is over.
“I’m glad you liked it,” I tell Kevin.
“I did. And as a disclaimer for everyone watching live right now, I intend to get into some heavy shit here. Rachel Isles has agreed to dissect this book with me, and I'm taking her up on it. So, if you haven't read it yet because you’re either lame as hell or can’t read, then turn me off right now, pick up the book, have somebody read it to you, and then watch this program. Got it? Good. Now, Rachel, I loved the story but hated the girl.” 
“Which girl,” I ask, though I know he means Vivian’s character. I feel horrible that Vivian will wake up tomorrow, look forward to reading and watching this interview, only to learn that someone hates—
“The main girl,” Kevin says. “Simone.”
The revelation catches me off guard. Kevin hates the character that is me?
“How could you love the book but hate the main character?” I ask.
“Because I liked the dude, Jax. I can relate to him, being from the hood, getting out by using his brain. Plus, I liked his personality: chill, polished, but still hood in a way. I actually couldn’t understand why in the hell he married the main chick, Simone.” And I say nothing. I’m shocked. I’m stunned. The interviewer hates me?
“What was it about Simone that you hated?” I ask. I hear Adam clearing his voice.
Relax, they don’t know this book is real, he’s saying to me.
I clear my throat right back.
No, Adam, I want to know. What is it about me that this son-of-a-bitch doesn’t like?
And now I’m interviewing him. “First of all,” this asshole says, “Simone doesn’t have enough spunk. She runs after Jax for years, shows up at the house he shares with his friends for his barbecues, waves to him on campus every goddamn time she sees him, practically begs the poor guy to sleep with her... I mean, she’s annoying as hell. I’m not too sure why he left his old chick, the one from the hood that he was with—what’s her name?—Rita?” Karla. “But see I have a weakness for women like Rita because my wife is a Rita. We met when we were younger, I went to college, I came up, and I brought her along with me. She gets me. Sure, she had a problem adjusting to my new world, but she’s fine now. She knows when to be hood and when to be chill. If Jax just would have had a mentor, an older dude from the hood, that could’ve told him this, he wouldn’t have ended up with Simone’s annoying and naïve ass. By the way, your characters seem real which proves you’re a gifted writer. What were your inspirations behind Rita: this down-ass-bitch who ended up losing her man to this light-weight bitch? And Simone—this girl who marries a guy she’s only infatuated with. And Jax; a man who clearly doesn’t love Simone. Where did you come up with these characters?”

And I just stare at him.

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Chapter 14: What If You're Over My Sh*t?

“Well, I, for one, can’t believe this person released the Hustle Dick email,” I say to Marc, Sean, and Vivian. And Marc has the nerve to look at me like he’s sick and tired of me. “I mean, that was a total teaser for those who haven’t read the book yet.” Marc stares at me without blinking.
             We’re standing outside the bar, so we can talk in peace, feeling protected under the blinking Showgirls! and bar lights, drunken Santas, and Salvation Army bells. We’re among a crowd of people passing by us, with garland wrapped around their necks like boas, but these are white people. Unless they have tons of street cred, they have no idea who I am, and they can only vaguely place Marc’s face with the media attention around his new software. If he were in the middle of Washington D.C., he’d be shaking hands with The Suits right now. If I were on a busy street in Atlanta, I'd be taking selfies with people by now. Such are the perks of being black famous.
             “Rachel,” Vivian says, “I thought you took that chapter out of the book.”
             “Yes, I did but not before I could taunt Marc with it.”
             “Marc, don’t worry,” Sean says. “Nobody in your world will know about any of this stuff.” And because of the way Sean just said that I think I'm slightly offended. I hear a whole lot of disrespect in that comment, the first one being that my world is a piece of shit.
             “What does that mean, Sean?” I ask.
“I'm not saying it like that,” he says to me. “But come on. What's going on now is hood shit. No one in the Pentagon will hear this story. These are just small exposés circulating in urban magazines and on social media sites. Marc's world is a little different than yours.”
             “So, what I’m hearing is that Marc’s world is better.”
             “He’s not saying that, Rachel,” Marc says.
             “Kinda sounds like it to me,” Vivian says with a wince. “Not that I’m taking sides here, I’m rooting for Rachel and Marc, but I kinda think that you,” she says to her husband Sean, “and Adam are making this worse.”
             “Baby, how am I making this worse?” Sean asks in disbelief. “Not that I’m taking sides here but why didn’t Rachel use the software that locks her phone, so this wouldn’t have happened?”
“Well,” I say to Sean, “not that I'm taking sides here, but I think you need to kiss my ass. I had a lot of things going in my life before I became a famous author—and fuck you for not thinking I'm famous because I am. I was busy organizing my book and raising my child as a single parent—”
             “You were never a single parent,” Marc says.
“I was doing it all, so forgive me for not taking the time to use the software that Marc gave me. Need I remind you, it takes two seconds for a cellphone to sit in your hand, for that software to unlock it. I don't know a single woman alive who can spare two whole seconds in her day.”
             “I agree,” Vivian says. “I think that was asking a lot, Marc.” Marc gives Vivian an exasperated look, almost like what a brother would give a sister. Vivian shrugs.
             “And,” I continue, “forgive me for thinking that Marc already stole eleven years of my life away from me and that I wasn’t about to give him two more seconds of it.”
             “Rachel,” Marc says coolly. “Cut the bull. What happened in the past is done, we need to continue forward, united. We need to get back in that club and smile and answer questions. And we don’t need to fight journalists.”
             “You were fighting a journalist?” Vivian asks me.
             “She’s the editor who keeps publishing the exposés!” I tell her.
“Oh, well, she doesn’t count.”
“And she was focused on Marc! She received an invitation to focus on me! So, I kicked her ass out and told her that I’ll beat her up.”
             “Oh, well that makes sense.”
“Does it?” Marc asks.
             “Alright,” Sean says. “This is the plan. We go back in there and pretend like we don’t notice everyone looking at their cellphones and reading Rachel’s latest email.”
             “Alleged latest email,” I remind Sean.
             “Yes, the email exchange that Marc and Rachel allegedly had.”
             “We need to do more,” Marc says. “We can’t just smile and pretend this isn’t happening. We need to release a statement.”
             “Oh, is this a meeting?” I hear Adam say from a distance. I turn around and see him walking out of a doorway looking both perplexed and annoyed as hell. 
“Another email posted,” I tell him, waving him off. No need to feel insecure.
             “Yes, I noticed. Sean, in the future, I’d like to be a part of all verbal exchanges between you and my client.”
             “Adam,” Sean says, “Fuck off.”
             “My client and your client are going through a divorce and—”
             “Nobody’s going through a divorce,” Marc says. Now he’s annoyed.
             “Oh, look, Marc’s showing emotions,” I tell everyone.
             “If you go through a divorce,” Vivian says, “I think it’s only fair that I get the exclusive on my blog.”
             “Vivian,” I say, “you run a fashion blog.”
             “Fashion and lifestyle.”
             “No one’s divorcing,” Marc says again.
             “And since our clients will be divorced shortly,” Adam says to Sean, “I want to be privy to all meetings that my client has been asked to attend.” He stands by me, shoulder to shoulder.
             “Once again,” Marc says, “no one’s divorcing.”
             “Marc, you slept with another woman!” I scream at him.
             “Inside voice,” Vivian says.
             “We’re divorcing!”
             “There’s more to the story, Rachel,” Marc says with the same calmness that always makes me want to punch him in the face.
             “It doesn’t matter!”
             “Shh!” Vivian says.
             “You slept with another woman!” I whisper violently.
             “Rachel,” Marc says, “I’m not even sure if you know the whole story. Not that you would care to. For the past year, you’ve painted me as a selfish absentee father who’s abandoning his wife. Do you have any idea how this makes me look when people read those damn emails?”
             “And here you go with how you look.”
             “Sean,” Adam says, “once again, don’t have meetings with my client without me.”
             “Adam—” Sean begins.
“Rachel, we need to stick to the plan,” Marc says to me. “We pretend like everything's fine, we call the emails fabricated. Okay?” And that's fine with me but what about real life? What about Marc and me outside of the lenses of the cameras? What happens when we leave this club together, and I go to the townhome we once shared, and he goes to the penthouse he now splurges on? What happens when no one's looking? But, if I'm the only person thinking about this, then forget it. All everyone around here cares about are exclusives and appearances and clients. No one cares about the marriage. My marriage with Marc is over. We're done. I'll need to fall for, fall in love with, and put up with another man. Does anyone know how exhausting it is getting to know someone new, from scratch? Another man? Another human being that I have to study and question and observe, just to see if we'd be good as mates? 
Another man?
The whole idea of it makes me put my face in my hands just to hide the tears that threaten to come. “What did I say now?” I hear Marc ask softly.
             “We may be able to get this guy on copyright infringement,” I hear Adam say.
“Really, Adam?” I hear Vivian say.
“What? He released a portion of the book without Rachel’s consent.”
“That chapter was never included in the book,” Vivian says.
“We’ll call it a bonus chapter.”
“Adam,” I hear Sean say, “we’re pretending that this whole thing is fake. Remember? If we sue for copyright infringement, then it makes the emails real.”

“Rachel,” I hear Marc say. “What did I say wrong, now?”

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Why Are We Afraid To Have It ALL?