Until November (Page 3)
“This is so nice. I can’t even tell you how happy I’m,” I say into his shirt, giving him a squeeze. It’s the truth. I have never seen a more perfect space. It’s amazing that this is someplace to call my own.
“Well, I’m gonna go unpack your car while you get some sleep,” he says, kissing me on my forehead. He turns to leave then stops and looks at me over his shoulder. “I’m really happy you’re here, November. I can’t even tell you how happy you this makes me.” With that, he’s gone. Leaving me to think about how different my life could have been.
Waking up in the morning to the smell of coffee and the sound of voices above me, I climb out of bed. After I shower, I put on a pair of my favorite jeans. They are so dark, they’re almost black and look good with an off-the-shoulder lavender sweater and dark brown riding boots. I blow out my hair and tie it into a ponytail that hits the middle of my back. I put on some makeup to try and conceal the bruises that are now starting to turn green. With a little mascara, some bronzer, and blush, I make my way upstairs. Beast is sitting at the island next to a woman with the same hair as my dad. When she sees me, she jumps off the stool and runs to me, pulling me into a tight hug.
“Oh, sweet girl, you’re finally here,” she says while holding me away from her body and putting her hands to my face. “You look so much like your great grandma Ellie. She was a beauty and you have your daddy’s eyes and hair.” Pulling me back into her chest, I want to cry for the little girl who missed out on this.
“Thank you,” I say, trying to control the tears I feel coming.
“Oh, honey, you don’t have to thank me. That is a gift given by God and good genes. Lord, I’m just so happy that you’re here and I can see for myself how beautiful you are. Your daddy has showed us all pictures from his cell phone but that’s not the same. He is very proud of you.” That does it. I start to cry like a baby. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much in my life. The whole situation is surreal. I feel both lucky and scared, wondering if I am going to disappoint them.
“Okay, okay,” Dad says, cutting in. “Enough of the sad stuff. Let’s introduce you to everyone, kiddo.”
Meeting all of my family is a little terrifying. My dad’s brother, Uncle Joe, is a little bit taller than my dad but has the same body type. You can tell that he takes care of himself like my dad does they. They both have bulky muscles my uncles. My uncle’s dark hair is starting to gray and he looks like he could model for a cool biker magazine with his goatee and tattoos. He brought my cousins too. His twin sons are the complete opposite of each other. Chris and Nick are twenty-five years old. Chris looks like a surfer with dirty blond hair and a golden tan. Nick looks like a rock star with dark brown hair and light skin covered with tattoos. My dad’s cousin, Maddy, her husband, Mark, and their two-year-old daughter, Alyssa, are also here. They even have a few other family friends over to meet me.
Breakfast is delicious and I am really enjoying getting to know everyone. They all seemed genuinely nice. We were talking about what I plan on doing after getting settled. I explain about having a degree in business management and that I’m planning on helping my dad at the club. That’s when the vibe changes and all hell breaks loose.
“You’re what?” Uncle Joe asked, yelling so loud his face turned red.
“Um, I’m going to help my dad?” I say, my answer sounding like a question. I look around, wondering what I missed and why he’s so upset.
“Watch it, Joe,” my dad growls.
“No niece of mine is going to work at the strip club…that we own together, I might add.”
“Strip club?” I ask in complete shock.
“She is not going to be working in the club. She’s going to be doing the books and managing the office. She won’t be there during club hours and will never be in the front of the house.”
“I don’t care if she’s working in the front or in the f**king alley, she’s not working there.”
“Last time I checked, she is my daughter and I own half that club. You have no say in what she does or doesn’t do. I want her to work for me and, like I said before, she will never see the front of the f**king club.”
“Do you want to work there?” my uncle asks me. I feel put on the spot and I really don’t want to answer him.
“Um… I… ugh.” I take a deep breath before trying to respond. “I didn’t know that it was that kind of club,” I say in a whisper. Not that I had anything against strip clubs. I mean, to each their own, right?
“Okay, Joe,” Grandma cuts in. “If November wants to work there, that’s her choice. And, Mike, if she doesn’t want to work there after finding out what kind of club it is, that’s also her choice. Now you know that I don’t love that club but I do love you both and I supported you in your decision to open it. But, as for November, it will be her choice and her choice alone if she wants to help you out on the business side of the club. I’m not happy about the look on her face right now and I’m telling you both that you will let her make her own decision.”
After Grandma said her peace, everything went back to normal, but I could still feel the tension between my dad and uncle. I wanted to work with my dad but I also didn’t want to cause a problem between him and his brother. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that my dad owned a strip club. When I imagined a strip club owner, I pictured an evil, fat old guy with beady eyes, tacky suits and a bad comb over. Not someone like my dad. He’s a kind, handsome, put-together, forty-five-year-old man. After pondering this for a few minutes, I realized that I was proud. Knowing my dad and the kind of man he is, I couldn’t help but think of the women who work for him and how lucky they are. I’m sure in the stripper industry, respect is hard to come by. But one thing I know for sure, he respects the women who work for him. I’m sure that’s not always the case in strip clubs. So, with those thoughts floating in my head, I turn and smile at my dad. He smiles back even bigger.
After two weeks of getting settled in and healing, it was time to start living in the real world again. The world where you needed things like a job and money to survive. Me and my dad are going to the club to meet some of his main employees. To say I’m nervous is an understatement. It took me longer than normal to get ready. I mean really! What do you wear to the strip club that your dad owns? After settling on my gray, empire waist sweater dress with black legging and black boots, I curl my hair in large waves down my back. I put on light makeup. Looking at myself in the mirror, I’m happy to see all the bruising is gone and I look like myself again. I go upstairs to give Beast some love before me and Dad take off. I know that Beast is happy here. He has a large backyard and room to run and I take him on a walk every night.
“Okay, Dad, I’m ready,” I yell into the living room while scratching Beast behind his ears.
“Wow, you look beautiful,” he says, kissing my cheek. “Let’s get this shit over with.” I smile at him, knowing that he’s nervous. I think at this point, he’s more nervous than me.
“Dad, it’s going to be okay.” Going with my dad to his club is completely nerve racking for me. I mean, my dad owns a strip club where nak*d girls work. I’m freaking out on the inside but trying to act cool. I don’t want him to feel any more uncomfortable than I know he already does.
"Just so you know, baby girl, the women who work for me are not your friends. There is nothing wrong with what they do but you are not going to be hanging with them."
I raise my eyebrows at him and he shakes his head. “I know that you won’t be there during club hours but I want to make it perfectly clear—there is no reason for you to ever be in the front of the house when you’re in the building. You can come in, sort shit out in the office, but there will be no drinking at the bar and no socializing with the employees. The only reason I’m bringing you here tonight is because I want the people I trust to meet you. That way, you will always have someone to go to in case I’m not around."
“Dad, don’t worry so much. You’re giving yourself grey hair and soon you’re going to look like Uncle Joe.”
“Very funny!” he says, smiling.
The club is pretty much how I pictured it. Not that I’ve been in a strip club but what do you really think of when you imagine a strip club. There’s a long bar on the back wall with stools in front of it. Off to the side, there’s a stage with two poles and a girl dancing. Along the stage, there are four tables with guys of every age watching the show. In the back of the room, the lighting is so dim that you can barely make out the couches. Behind them is a wall of mirrors. Looking around, everything looks new and modern.
"Okay, baby girl.” My dad snaps me out of my perusal. “This is Rex.” He points to the guy behind the bar. "Rex, this is my daughter, November. She’s going to be doing the books and helping me out from behind the scenes. You won’t see her much but I wanted you to meet her so that if I’m not around, she knows who to talk to."
“Hey, girl,” Rex says, wiping his hands on a towel. “Nice to finally meet you.”
“You too,” I say as my dad pulls me into his side.
"Wow, Mike, didn’t think that with your ugly mug you could make such a pretty girl," Rex says and I feel myself turn red.
My dad looks down at me with so much pride. “Yeah, I did good," he says, smiling.
“Oh, geeze, Daddy, stop,” I say while squeezing his middle and rolling my eyes. That’s when I feel like someone’s watching me. I look around but don’t see anyone.
"I’m gonna take her to the office and show her my mess," Dad says.
"Okay, man, but when you’re done, we need to talk about the shit Skittles pulled the other night."
“Once November leaves, I’ll be on the floor," my dad says, pulling me with him.
After meeting a couple other people, we go into his office. He was not joking—the place is a mess. It’s going to take me weeks just to get everything organized. There are papers, books and files everywhere and the computer looks like the first one ever invented. "Well, here you are. You can start tomorrow morning. Just try to be out of here by three. Once you get stuff figured out, you can always move your office to the house if you feel like that works better.”
“Okay, I’ll start tomorrow. It’s gonna take some time just to get things sorted. After that, I should be able to do it from home most of the time.”
"Sounds good," Dad says, looking around. Just then, the phone rings on the desk. He moves some papers around. When he finally finds the handset, he puts it to his ear. "Yeah, okay. I’ll be out. I have to go, baby girl. There’s a problem out front."
“That’s fine, Dad,” I say to his back as he runs from the office. Looking around for a few minutes, I see that I have my work cut out for me. I decide to go home and get some sleep so that I’ll have all my brain cells in the morning when I come back to this disaster.