Her three- year old daughter, Taylor, snuggles cozily in her bed, while she lathers neck deep in Calgon’s bath bubbles. The only lights on in the house are those of the moving Christmas tree and a few scented candles around the bathroom tub. Brian McKnight’s CD softly lulls Amistad, their black lab to sleep in the foyer.
“This is my time,” she leans her head back to the base of the tub and closes her eyes.
The creamy tan complexion of her skin dances with light brown freckles against the candlelight. Shantel has a natural peach tint on her eyelids and lips. Although her eyes are closed, they are the color of an almost invisible bright brown. Men mouths gape open when they spot this vision of beauty stroll her tiny toddler through Discover Mills Mall.
Yet she does not acknowledge their glances. After the disastrous relationship between Taylor’s father, Maurice, and herself, she questions her ability to maintain a healthy relationship with a man. To her she thinks that she wears enough hats as a person, a mother, a business owner, and a friend.
“brrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiinnnnng!” the phone blasts louder than usual.
“What the heck?” Shantel looks at the clock on the vanity. 11:15 PM. Only one person could call at this hour, crazy Candace. “Good evening, welcome to Hooters. This is Rae Lynn,” she announces in her sweetest southern drawl.
“Uhm. I am sorry. I must have the wrong number”, an unexpected man’s voice replies.
“Oh my goodness!” Shantel jumps up in the tub. Bubbles float every where. “Hello? This is the Moore’s residence.” She blushes.
“Yes. I am so sorry. It was a practical joke. I thought it was someone else. Who’s speaking?”
“This is Pastor Sanders of Oak Grove AME?”
“Pastor? ” Shantel asks herself.
“It is sort of late, but I just left the Christmas social. Anyway, I am calling to find out if you are all right, since you weren’t there.”
“I didn’t think anybody would notice.”
“Well, I did, so I will be seeing you at the tree lighting ceremony tomorrow night?”
“Pastor Sanders, I have another commitment tomorrow night. I won’t be there either.”
“Well. Are you sure everything is fine? After all it is Christmastime and …well, I thought Taylor would have liked the tree lighting. If you need anything,” Pastor Sanders says.
“You will be the first I would call,” Shantel replies. “Bye Pastor”. She hangs up the phone.
“Did he not fizzle out all the bubbles of my bath?” Shantel peers down at her cold waist deep bath water. “I can’t get a break.” She steps out of the tub and covers herself in her white terry cloth spa robe.
“brrng,” a quiet and short ring this time.
“Who is it?’ Shantel is a bit pissed.
“It’s Leigh Ann of 899-HotGirls”, Candace breathes heavily into the phone.
“You, clutz,” Shantel giggles.
“So. Are we on for tomorrow?”
“Yeah. But you are not going to believe what just happened?” She turns on her bed lamp lies down on her burgundy and gold chaise.
“What? Met a man?” Candace always knew how to get drama going. After her breakup with her high school sweetheart, Atlanta Falcon’s Brian Lissimore, she has been on a man- hunting rampage. No. She is not looking for someone to replace him. She is looking for all the men she missed, while she was with him.
“Girl, I feel like a new woman. I meet a new man everyday. (In the grocery store, at the laundromat, at the gas station) It’s crazy and I like it. I like the options,” Candace says like she has unlocked some secret code.
“No, not exactly. It was my singles ministry coordinator. I ditched the Christmas party. He called to see if I was alright, and to invite me to the tree trimming ceremony.”
“Oh really?” Candace purrs.
Shantel sighs. “Don’t start, Candie.”
“P-lease! You should have gone. I would’ve kept Taylor. Heck I could’ve went.”
“I am too old for a social and you are too.”
“I am not. I am twenty-nine, so I still got time,” Candace tries to sound sincere.
“Candie, I like my life the way it is. Besides I don’t have room for a man. At least the kind of man I want.”
“Girlfriend, please. You don’t know what kind of man you want. See ya tomorrow.”
Candace ponders a little while after her conversation with Shantel. A Cheshire-grin forms across her face. She has an idea how to put some pep in her girlfriend’s step and perhaps a well- deserved present under Shantel’s Christmas tree.
* * * *
This Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons meet the Detroit Lions. Although the Falcons are guaranteed into the playoffs, these diehard Michael Vick fans can not stop marveling over the Heisman trophy- winning quarterback from their alma mater, Virgina Tech.
Also this game gives the women of SAC another excuse to hangout. SAC- Single And Complete, is a social club Shantel and her girlfriends form while in college. After reading Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale in Black Feminist Thought class, the women create this sorority-like group as a haven to discuss their countless bad relationships, network and hold events. Chairmans of this illustrious fifty member group are: Shantel Moore-President, Demery Scott-VP, Ashley Blakemore-Treasurer, Natalie Jones-PR and Candace Parker-Events.
Candace is the talent director/event planner of the club. Shantel wants her to invite nice-looking eligible bachelors to the footbal party. Since she is the senior talent auditor for Ernst Van Praag, an auditing/accounting agency for the entertainment industry, Candace knows where the hot men are and what they like to do.
“Invite a lot of men, Candie,” Shantel demands. “This party is a part of our annual membership drive. It has to be hot like fire on Sunday.”
“Hot like fire,” Candace says as she dials the phone number to Oak Grove AME’s office. “Good mornin, is Pastor Sanders available, darlin?”