The Trouble With Red Lipstick: A Sneak Preview from Karen

Published on October 31st, 2015

December 1—the market release date for The Trouble With Red Lipstick—is just around the corner. Here’s a sneak preview for my beloved readers. I’m super excited! Are you?

Excerpt from Chapter Five, “Truck Drivers.”

The movie Salt with Angelina Jolie is on television. I like this part—it’s when she dyes her hair black in the hotel room and then gets ready to go out and shoot somebody with spider venom. A soon as she hits her target, I make my way into the kitchen. I’m popping some popcorn and listening out for Aunt Camilla to ring the doorbell when I hear my cell phone buzz.
“Surprised to hear from me already, huh? Well, I wanted to holler at you before you try to forget who I am. With looks like yours I think you might have a lot of men who are trying to get to know you.”
“Who is this?” I pretend like I can’t remember meeting him. I hope I sound believable.
“Your future husband.”
“Excuse me?”
He laughs. “Lighten up. It’s Tim from the BP.”
“Oh, okay. Nice to hear from you,” is all I can think of to say.
“So are you in for the night? Or can you come out and see me?”
I’m a little surprised by his forwardness. “It’s a little early for us to do that, wouldn’t you say?”
“It’s not too early for me because I realize you only live once. But you can take your time. I respect that. So tell me, what is a woman like you doing in on a Friday? Oh, no. Don’t tell me. You’re getting ready to go out on a date right now.”
I start to lie and tell him that, yes, I am, but I don’t want to start off by telling untruths. “No dates planned for the evening—unless you count the one I have with two or three stacks of laundry.”
“What’s a woman like you doing without a husband?”
“I’m not in any hurry to get married,” I go on and lie because he’s forcing me to.
“Boyfriend?”
“Not exactly.”
“Does that mean yes or no?”
“I guess it means no, but I do go on dates,” I lie again. “Just none tonight.”
“So you mean to tell me that I’m this lucky?”
“Who says you’re in luck?”
“I do. I mean, I get to meet a smart, educated, beautiful woman like you while she’s still single and actually get her to give me the time of day. I feel privileged.”
I’m flattered. “You should.”
“What do you like to do?”
“Excuse me?”
“Do you have any hobbies?”
For some reason, I’m surprised he asked such a thoughtful question. “I do. I’m on the health committee of the singles ministry in my church. I read—mostly historical fiction. And I’m also learning to play tennis.”
“That’s a lot. And you have time to do all this while being a doctor? I thought all doctors were too busy to have real lives.”
“It does feel like that sometimes, but I’ve learned to find some work-life balance over the past couple years. I don’t see too many obstetric patients anymore, so my hours are pretty much set, unless I’m taking call from someone else.”
“I have no idea what you just said.”
“Sorry. I’m a women’s health doctor. I see female patients but I don’t take many pregnant ones anymore.”
“Got it.”
“Really?”
“Yes, really. You don’t have to have been to medical school to know what an OB/GYN is.”
“Wow, I’m impressed.”
“Why? Because you think you can’t drive trucks and have a brain, too?”
“No. Because even most college-educated men don’t even know what an OB/GYN is. Wait. I didn’t mean to say it like that.”
“That’s okay, darling. I am not offended.”
“I am so glad you’re not. I was trying to say that most men couldn’t tell you what those letters mean unless they actually—well, you know. But I wasn’t trying to discredit you because you drive trucks.”
“Good. Because driving trucks has earned me a pretty good living. In fact, I consider myself to be a multi-faceted business man, with being a professional driver for commercial industries just one of them.”
“You’re not scared to drive those big old things?”
“What’s there to be afraid of, darling?”
“Carrying around all that weight and jackknifing or blowing a tire or falling asleep while on the road.”
“Those are some real possibilities but I don’t think about any of that very often. You’ll see when I take you out on the road with me.”
“And what makes you so sure I’m going to agree to that?”
“I just have a feeling you will.”
“You’re a very confident man, Tim. Now before you ask me anything else, tell me a little bit more about yourself.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Anything. Let’s see—are you from Atlanta originally?”
“I’m originally from Miami but I’ve been here for eight or ten years now.”
“Seems everybody is a transplant these days. Did a Miami hurricane blow you up this way?”
“Huh?”
“I’m sorry,” I say, realizing that he doesn’t find my attempt at a joke to be funny. I’m really not sure I do, either. “What brought you to Atlanta?”
“The music industry.”
I sit up in the bed. “Really?”
“Yep. Why do you keep sounding surprised? I told you I’m multi-faceted, darling.”
I laugh at the way he says the word multi-faceted. I’m not sure he’s using it correctly but it sounds cute.
“I’ve been working on an album off and on for a while now. You remember seeing my homeboy in the car with me when I met you?”
“Yes.”
“He produces tracks for a lot of major artists in the area. I’ve sold quite a few songs, too, but I haven’t been able to really break through like I wanted to until recently.”
“But I thought you drove trucks.”
“I do. That’s my bread and butter. Really, I own three of them. I have drivers that go out for me on contract so I can free up my time and put in some work in the studio.”
“How old are you?” I hear myself ask.
“Forty-two.”
I am immediately impressed at his ambition to become a musician in his forties. I wish that more men were like him.
“I know you’re not supposed to ask a woman her age, so let me put my question this way—would you like to volunteer to tell me how young you are?”
“Thirty-eight.”
“That’s about what I would have guessed.”
I’m not sure how to interpret his comment.
He continues. “Do you live by yourself?”
“Yes, I do own my own home,” I tell him, hoping he’s equally as impressed with my ambition.
My line beeps before I get to hear his response.
“Hello?”
“Come open up the door for me. I’m outside,” says Aunt Camilla.
I click back over. “Tim, I have some company. Can I call you later tonight?”
“You can do more than call me. I’d like for you to consider having dinner with me tonight.”
I pretend like I didn’t just hear him. I hang up and run toward the door.
Aunt Camilla has changed her hair color again. This time it’s firecracker red. I also recognize the blue and white striped sweater dress that she’s wearing—I let her borrow it to wear to a church event back in October. She should have returned it to me weeks ago. She looks pretty leaning up against the side of my house. As usual, she looks like she’s posing for no one in particular.
“Come on in, Auntie. I like your hair.”
“Thank you. I just got my lashes done, too,” she says, while blinking hard. “You must not have noticed those. You know I’m trying to keep up with you young folks. I finally quit smoking, too. Those pills you gave me actually worked. You have to put in a little bit more effort to take care of yourself as you start to get older, you know.”
“I know.” I’m staring at her false eyelashes. I don’t think it’s supposed to be obvious that they’re not real. They remind me of two little spiders perched neatly below her eyebrows.
“You do? Well then why don’t you try coming with me to the salon sometimes? I’m ready to see you spice it up a bit. It’s time for you to look your age instead of mine.”
I touch my weave. “I just got this done. It cost enough money that I think I want to keep it for at least a couple months.”
“A couple months? Are you crazy? You’ll have a bird’s nest or locks by then. Take that shit out in two or three more weeks and then get a new style. Your mama is right. You make too much money to be so damn cheap.”
“Did you bring the cake with you?”
“I did. It’s in the car. Did you hear what I said about your hair? It’s time to cut it into a bob. Get you a style with some movement. Betty can do some pretty cuts. I watch her all the time.”
I nod my head and walk outside past her to her car. I see the cake box in the back seat. I remove it from the car and take a quick peek. My mouth begins to salivate.
“Do you ever water these plants?”
I turn around to see Auntie sticking a finger deep down into the ground next to some pansies.
“Don’t bother to answer that question with a lie because the dirt feels like a desert over here. Go turn on the water hose and let me see if I can bring this yard back to life.”
I take the cake inside, sit it on my kitchen table, taste a little bit of icing with my finger and return back out to my front yard to do as I’m told. She’s already pulled the hose out and has it raised in position over my flower bed. She waits until I cut the water on to continue talking.
“I’m giving you back your twenty dollars. You don’t owe me anything for that cake,” she says, while pointing the hose toward the pansies near my walkway.
“No, Auntie, I gave you that money to help out with the cost of the ingredients. I know you sell those for much more than what I gave you, so I already know you cut me a deal.”
“Girl, get that money out of my pocket book,” she says, pointing to the front seat of her car and almost spraying me with the water hose. “I should have made it for your birthday a few weeks ago like you asked. I’ve just been so busy with Stephanie and all the grandkids—carting them around to school and football and cheerleading practice and whatnot. I can’t wait until she and her husband get it together so they can get the hell up out of my house.”
I open her car door and retrieve the money from her bag. “Are they any closer to getting back together?”
“Don’t get me to lying,” she says with a shrug. “But they need to show me something soon. Calvin and I are ready to get our house back to ourselves. Start living a little. Maybe take some trips. We do still like to have sex, too, but the damn children keep cock-blocking. My period stopped a few months ago, you know.”
I raise my eyebrows. “I’m surprised you’ve been having one for this long. I think Mama’s stopped when she was close to fifty.”
“I’m kind of glad mine hung on as long as it did. I’m not in a hurry to let everything dry up,” she says with a smile. “And speaking of drying up, turn off that water hose and tell me what you’re doing in the house all by yourself on a Friday night.”
“Actually, I was just on the phone getting to know a new male friend when you arrived.”
She wipes her hands dry on the sides of my dress. I think I see a smudge of mud come off but I don’t say anything. She opens the front door to my house and invites herself in.
“It smells good in here. Is that a Glade plug-in? What fragrance is that? It’s nice but it’s too late in the year for your house to be smelling like beaches and flowers. You need something that smells like cinnamon and burning wood. Do you ever turn on your fireplace? I don’t know why not. You ain’t got to do nothing but flip a switch. Why are all the blinds still open? It’s getting dark outside. Do you want the whole neighborhood to see what you’ve got up in here?”
I don’t know which question to answer first. I start closing blinds in the living room.
“Tell me about this man.”
“I just met him, really. He introduced himself to me at the gas station earlier today.”
“Does he work?”
“Yes. He drives trucks and is working toward becoming a musician.”
“Him and everybody else in Atlanta. Did he look well-groomed?”
“Very much so.”
“Teeth straight and white?”
“I don’t remember noticing them. I told you we just met today.”
“That ought to be the first damn thing you look at. A nasty mouth means he’s a nasty man.”
“I’ll let you know.”
“Does he have any children?”
“I didn’t get to that part, yet.”
“Well what part have you gotten to, Karen?”
“Just work stuff, so far.”
“When are the two of you going out?”
“I’m not sure. He invited me over to dinner tonight but I think it’s too soon for that.”
“Like hell it is. You need to get you a life. He invited you to dinner, not down the altar. You should go and see what his living arrangements are like.”
“You think so, Auntie?”
“Yes, I do, unless you plan on eating that carrot cake for supper?”
She does have a point. I shake my head no.
“Go on and enjoy yourself, Karen, just be careful. You’ll be an old lady before you know it. Don’t waste a Friday night while you’re still fine and in your thirties. You will live to regret it.” She walks back over toward the door and puts her hand on the knob before turning around to look at me. “And wear something sexy, not one of those moo-moo shirts that you seem to like so much. Some jeans that fit your butt and some high heels wouldn’t kill you, either.”
“I would wear a certain blue and white sweater dress if my auntie didn’t have it out on loan for two months.”
“I thought you gave me this to keep,” she says with a smile, before going out of the door.
As soon as I hear her car start up, I dial Tim’s number back. When I ask him what he’s doing, he tells me he’s waiting for me. I write down his address. Thirty minutes later, I can hardly believe I’m leaving my house in an eggplant-purple sweater, black leggings and my highest pair of black stiletto boots. I jump in my own car and type his address in my GPS before I lose the nerve.

Excerpt taken from The Trouble With Red Lipstick by K.J. Dixon

Copyright 2015 K.J. Dixon

Booktrope Editions

Available on major online book retailers December 1, 2015

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