True friends help you through the consequences of poor judgment when no one else will. Best friends Gabby, Maxine and Joy protect each other at all costs, even if it means keeping secrets that turn their lives upside down. Gabby has no boundaries when it comes to getting what she wants. She pulls out every trick in the book to keep her daughter’s married father out of their lives but keep his money in her bank account…Maxine lives for her family but when her husband’s excessive spending lands them in more debt than they can handle, the stress takes a toll on their perfect marriage…After Joy’s loyalty to her controlling mother causes her to lose the only man she’s ever loved, she marries a man she barely knows. After her wedding, she quickly realizes she made the biggest mistake of her life and it puts everybody she loves in danger. Unfortunately, someone will have to pay the ultimate price with their life.
The bond between girlfriends, best friends, is unbreakable, Joy thought as she zigzagged and weaved through the Beltway traffic. She drove as fast and as calmly as she could with Gabby huffing and puffing through her labor pains in the passenger seat. Her normally light-skinned complexion turned a pale shade of red with each contraction, but she still managed to look beautiful through all her pain.
Joy glanced through her rear-view mirror at Maxine, who had decided to follow Joy and Gabby to the hospital in her minivan, in case she needed to leave to tend to her family. She had already let three cars jump between her minivan and Joy’s car. Since her friend didn’t know how to get to the hospital, Joy thought Maxine would have attempted to follow her more closely. Drivers were definitely taking advantage of her careful driving, with the many “Caution-Baby on Board” stickers plastered to her bumper. She was so far behind, Joy couldn’t see her anymore.
When Joy arrived at the hospital’s emergency room entrance, she jumped out of her Toyota Corolla and ran inside the hospital to get help. Within seconds, she returned to the car with a nurse and an orderly pushing a wheelchair. She assisted Gabby into the hospital and left to find Maxine.
Back in her car, Joy pulled out her cell phone, and called Maxine. “Girl, where are you?” Joy asked, trying to sound calm. She didn’t want to make timid Maxine more nervous than she already was.
“I’m lost. You were driving so fast, I couldn’t keep up,” Maxine whined. Joy shook her head. “What exit are you near?”
“I see a hospital sign. Should I take that exit?” Maxine asked anxiously.
Joy sighed in frustration. “Yeah, follow the signs to the hospital. I’m gonna park my car in the garage and meet you in the lobby.”
“Okay. Bye.” Maxine hit the End Call button on her steering wheel as she took the exit.
Joy hung up and sped toward the parking garage. She turned into the first available spot and ran back to the hospital. She didn’t want Gabby to be alone when she delivered.
Joy, Maxine, and Gabby had met at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. Maxine and Joy were roommates. Gabby stayed alone in the dorm room across the hall because her roommate never showed up. Most nights, Gabby didn’t like being in her room alone, so she bunked with Maxine and Joy. By the end of their first semester, Gabby’s mattress, clothes, and personal belongings were stuffed in Maxine and Joy’s already overcrowded dorm room.
They got along well and became the best of friends. The following semester, they petitioned the Dean of Housing for a larger dorm room so they could stay together. They wouldn’t have it any other way. They became the friends to each other that every woman should have in her life. No matter what they went through, they dealt with it together. They had no idea where they would be without each other. Back in the hospital, after an exam revealed that Gabby had dilated nine centimeters, she was rushed into a delivery room. She grabbed the rails on the bed and squeezed her eyes shut during another contraction. “Ouch! Ouch! It hurts!” Gabby screamed between deep breaths.
After she was prepped for delivery, the private nurse assigned to her used a white cloth to dab at the sweat beads forming on Gabby’s forehead. She smacked the nurse’s hand away. The nurse stepped back and glared at Gabby as she crossed her arms over her chest.
Gabby’s obstetrician, Dr. Fields, entered the delivery room with a comforting smile on his handsome face. He looked like he was fresh out of medical school.
“Hi,” Gabby moaned.
After Dr. Fields examined her, he removed his gloves and went to her bedside. “It looks like you’re ready to deliver. Are you ready to meet your beautiful daughter?”
“I’m ready to get this over with!” Gabby looked around the delivery room. “Where are my birth coaches?” She grabbed the doctor’s arm and squeezed so hard, her nails went through his skin.
“Oh, God! Ouch!”
Dr. Fields removed Gabby’s hand and frowned at the nail imprint she left on his arm. He motioned for the private nurse to come help Gabby while he sat on a stool and rolled himself between Gabby’s open legs. He looked at the door when he heard Joy and
Maxine walk in. “Looks like your coaches finally arrived.”
“Where have you been? It’s time for me to push!” Gabby barked.
“I’m sorry. Maxine got lost, but we’re here now so calm down,” Joy said as she walked to Gabby’s bed side. “Have you been doing your breathing exercises?”
“Oh, no! I need to go to the bathroom,” Gabby cried.
Maxine brushed Gabby’s long hair from her face before she took her place beside Gabby’s leg. “Gabby, it just feels like that because it’s time for you to deliver.”
“Gabrielle, your coach knows what she’s talking about,” Dr. Fields said. “I need you to give me one good push.”
“C’mon, Gabby, push!” Joy put her hand behind Gabby’s back the way she had learned in Lamaze class.
Maxine pulled Gabby’s left leg back while the nurse pulled the right leg. “Don’t forget to breathe, Gabby,” Maxine said in a cheery tone.
Gabby fell back after one push. “How much longer? I’m exhausted! Can’t you just pull her out!”
“Unfortunately, I can’t, Gabrielle. Come on now. It’s time for another push.” Dr. Fields looked up at Gabby from between her legs. “I need you to do your part.”
“No! I can’t!” Gabby shook her head like a defiant child refusing to obey a parent. Joy got as close to Gabby’s face as she could and screamed, “Get it together, Gabby! Your daughter needs you to push her out! Sit your ass up and push! Now!”
Gabby took a deep breath and pushed as hard and as long as she could.
“That was a good one, Gabby. Your daughter’s head is almost crowning.” Dr. Fields looked at the monitor for another contraction.
Maxine turned around to smile at Gabby. “See, Gabby. I knew you could do it.”
“Shut up!” Gabby snapped.
Maxine’s smile disappeared.
“Gabrielle, I need another good push from you,” Dr. Fields said.
Gabby used all her strength to push again. “It’s burning! Why is my vajayjay burning?”
“That’s normal, Gabrielle. Don’t worry, she’s almost out. One more good push and you can meet your daughter.”
Joy helped Gabby push while Maxine and the nurse pulled Gabby’s legs back as far as they could.
“Oh, my God! She’s here!” Maxine exclaimed.
“Is she all right?” Gabby asked as she fell back exhausted.
The delivery room was so quiet. The sound of the nurses suctioning the baby’s nose and mouth echoed in the room. Gabby grabbed Joy’s hand and squeezed it. Maxine rushed to Gabby’s side when she saw the worried look on her friend’s face. She took her other hand and brought it to her chest as she prayed silently.
“Why isn’t she crying?” Gabby asked while trying to stretch her neck to see her baby.
“Give her a minute, Gabrielle,” Dr. Fields said in a calming voice as he pushed the nurses aside to work on the baby.
Seconds later, they looked at each other with tears in their eyes when they heard
Gabby’s baby let out her first whimper.
“That’s my girl!” Gabby shouted.
An hour later, Gabby was resting comfortably in her private maternity suite. She pushed the button on the remote to raise her bed and adjusted her pillow behind her back. “I can’t believe I’m a mother!”
“I can’t believe you get a room like this after giving birth. I had to share a room when I delivered both my boys and it didn’t look anything like this,” Maxine said. She walked around the room touching the draperies, flat-screen television, and fully stocked refrigerator to make sure her eyes weren’t deceiving her.
Joy was sitting in a chair near the door. She stared at Gabby with a straight face and asked, “Did you call him? Because I’m not calling him for you anymore.”
Gabby avoided Joy’s gaze. She took a mirror, comb, and tube of lip gloss out of her purse and began combing through her shoulder-length, chestnut-brown hair. “We worked everything out through our lawyers. He doesn’t want to be her father because of his wife and children. I respect that as long as he takes care of my little girl financially,” Gabby replied.
“What is William’s role in all of this?” Maxine asked.
William had been Gabby’s boyfriend until she broke up with him to start dating Rayshawn Robinson, a quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens. He was better known as R&R in the NFL and to his fans. Gabby knew she hit the jackpot after R&R signed a $75 million-dollar contract with the Ravens. She had one obstacle standing between her and Rayshawn’s millions: his family. She stopped using birth control the day R&R signed his new contract. Gabby knew that the best way to get part of his millions was to have his child. She seduced Rayshawn night and day. He didn’t complain when she told him to stop using condoms because they felt uncomfortable. He enjoyed spending time with her because she was beautiful and she often left him in tears after they had sex. He enjoyed every bit of what she gave him, so now he needed to pay up.
Gabby looked at Joy and Maxine with a serious expression. “William will be her father. He believes she’s his child and that’s how we’re going to keep it.” Gabby placed the mirror, comb, and lip gloss on the tray attached to her bed. She then shook her head in their direction, waiting for them to agree with her.
“This lie is going to come back and bite you in the ass,” Joy snapped and frowned.
“This is not a good idea, Gabby. This one lie can hurt so many people,” Maxine reasoned.
The nurse entered the room with Gabby’s newborn baby girl in a white bassinet.
She was tightly wrapped in a pink blanket with a pink cap over her head. After the nurse placed the baby in Gabby’s arms and left, Maxine and Joy stood on each side of the bed to get a closer look at their new goddaughter.
“She’s beautiful, Gabby,” Maxine whispered with tears in her eyes.
“Of course she is, Maxine. I wouldn’t make an ugly child,” Gabby declared. “Thank God she takes after my side and not Rayshawn’s. I wonder why I even slept with him.” Gabby let out a deep sigh and shook her head.
“Let’s keep it real, Gabby. You slept with him for the money.” Joy looked across the bed at Maxine who was shaking her head and smiling in agreement.
Dr. Fields entered the room. Gabby quickly passed the baby to Maxine and sat straight up in the bed, giving the doctor her full attention. Maxine stood beside the bed gently rocking the baby in her arms. Joy stepped away from the bed and walked over to the large picture window so the doctor could have access to Gabby.
Joy stared out the window overlooking the parking lot. A couple holding hands was walking across the lot kissing each other every few steps. It made her heart ache for Allen. She wasn’t looking forward to calling him and cancelling their plans for the long Memorial Day weekend. She knew he wasn’t going to be happy.
“Dr. Fields, are you listening to me?” Gabby shrilled as her light complexion turned an angry shade of red.
Dr. Fields was staring at Joy’s butt in a pair of tight Guess jeans. Her jet-black curly hair, inherited from her Puerto Rican father, fell down her back, stopping at her narrow waist. He was mesmerized by her caramel complexion and womanly curves. Joy turned around and caught him staring at her. She gave him a polite smile before she stepped out of the room to call Allen.
Dr. Fields kept his eyes glued to Joy’s butt until she was gone. “Sorry, Gabrielle… umm, is your friend single?” he asked.
Gabby rolled her eyes at the doctor and reached for the baby. “No! She’s been with her boyfriend since they were teenagers.” She whined like a spoiled child who couldn’t have her way.
Maxine turned her head and giggled. When the doctor left the room, he saw Joy and smiled at her again. She was having an intense phone conversation so she turned her back to him.
“Allen, baby, I know you’re upset. But I promise I’ll make it up to you,” Joy pleaded.
“I was looking forward to a four-day weekend with you. Now we have to change our plans because Gabby had a fucking baby. Bullshit!” He hung up.
Joy swallowed hard and wiped the tears that were forming in her eyes. She hated disappointing Allen. She loved him too much to hurt him. She took a deep breath and exhaled before she walked back to Gabby’s maternity suite.
“Joy, Dr. Fields couldn’t keep his eyes off your behind,” Maxine said, laughing.
“Most men can’t,” Gabby barked and rolled her eyes. She thought Dr. Fields was going to ask her out after she delivered.
Joy ignored both of them. She sat back in the chair near the front door and massaged her temples with her fingertips. Maxine and Gabby looked at each other with raised eyebrows.
“Gabby, you haven’t told us our goddaughter’s name. Have you decided yet?” Maxine asked.
Gabby looked at her daughter and said, “Yes, I have. Her name is Nadia Rae Roché.”
Joy stopped massaging her temples and looked at Gabby with such hatred; it made Gabby’s eyes bulge. Joy jumped out of her chair with so much force, it fell back and slammed into the wall before it crashed to the floor with a loud thump.
The baby let out a soft cry as if she knew something was wrong.
Maxine gasped and shook her head. “No, Gabby! Ever since we’ve known each other, Joy has always said she wanted to name her daughter Nadia. What you’re doing is unacceptable! Her middle name is Rae after her real father! Unbelievable! What’s William going to say about that?”
Joy walked toward the bed with her index finger pointed at Gabby. “This is crossing the line even for you.”
Gabby ignored her and focused her attention on Maxine. “Everybody can’t have a perfect life like you, Maxine. I would love to have a husband who’s a lawyer and wants me to stay home to care for our two children, but it didn’t happen that way for me. I refuse to be poor and struggling all my life. I’m going to make a good life for us.” She looked at Nadia and smiled.
“Are you serious, Gabby? Do you really think my life is perfect? My husband leaves at seven o’clock every morning and doesn’t get home until after eight o’clock most nights. I’m stuck in the house all day with two young children watching the Disney channel while all my friends are enjoying their lives and careers.” Maxine, with her mocha complexion, short pixie hair-cut, and petite frame, looked more like a high school cheerleader than a married woman with two young sons. She waved her arms in the air and smacked her lips. “While I’m eagerly waiting for my husband to come home for some adult conversation, he’s too tired to talk to me. I lose a little bit of myself every day. The only difference between us, Gabby, is I don’t drag anybody else into my drama. I deal with it myself.” Maxine stopped herself from saying anything else. She didn’t want to burden her friends with what was really happening in her household.
“If it’s that bad, go get a job. You have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in education. I’m sure Prince George’s County Schools will hire you back.” William walked in the room with a grin as wide as the door frame. “Hey, hey! How are my girls?”
Joy finally took her cold stare off Gabby and looked at William. “Hi, William, I was just leaving.”
“Joy, don’t leave because of me.” William hugged Joy and then Maxine. “Aren’t you going to congratulate me on becoming a father? Gabby wouldn’t let me in the delivery room, but I’m here now and ready to meet my daughter.”
Joy felt her temperature rise as she looked at the contented smirk on Gabby’s face. “William, I think there is something you need to know about the baby.” Gabby cleared her throat and said, “Thanks, Joy, but we’re not listening to any unsolicited advice on how to care for our daughter. We’ll figure it out.” Gabby reached her hand out for William. He ignored Joy and ran to Gabby’s side. Maxine held her breath as her eyeballs went back and forth between Joy and Gabby as if she were watching an intense tennis match.
William held Gabby’s hand and said, “We’re new parents, Gabby, so we need to listen to people who’ve already been through this. Maxine has two children; maybe she knows something that can help us out.”
Joy and Gabby stared at each other uncomfortably for a few seconds. William didn’t notice because he was staring at Nadia.
Joy gave in with a sigh, “Let me go so the happy family can spend some time together.”
Gabby looked at Joy with a strained smile and said, “thank you for everything, Joy.” Joy snatched her Gucci handbag off the windowsill and left the room without saying another word. How was she going to pass up her plans to spend a long weekend with her man in Atlanta to play nurse maid to Gabby’s selfish ass? She called Allen, but got his voice mail. “Hi, baby, change of plans, I’m on my way. I’ll text you my flight details.” Joy stepped onto the elevator, smiling ear to ear, knowing that in a few hours she was going to be in Allen’s bed having the best make-up sex they’d ever experienced.
Copyright© Monica Mathis-Stowe. All rights reserved.