Since You Been Away EXCERPT


Shamona relocated from her hometown in Baton Rouge to Houston for a change. She worked as a barmaid at “CHURCH” an underground gentlemen’s club where gambling tables and stripper poles crowded the space along with catty co-workers. There she meets the strikingly handsome hustler Claiyton “Country” Lebrado who just arrived back home from the hot streets of Miami. Shamona isn’t looking for love but she’s allured by Country’s charm and the suspicious activity that keeps him away most times.
Just when she’s settled in with her new job she gets fired, and is forced to step out on faith once again to freelance with her right-hand Opal. The money pile and her love life on the uprising Shamona is gracefully coming into her own. That is, until one of Country’s many skeletons crawl out of the closet causing him to leave town again. While he’s gone Shamona moves on, and just when the odds of getting married are looking to work in her favor she gets a plethora of shocking revelations.


Hot in the Yayo

“You know what it is bwoy!” The baritone voice bounced off the four bare walls of the apartment. Country, however, wasn’t the least bit scared of his assailants, but he knew he should be. His girl Zoe was right beside him, and he heard her gasp at the Choppa aimed at her head. He resented letting her spend the night. Pit Bull was hovering over the King-sized bed with murder in his eyes; Country had never seen Pit in person, but from the stories he heard around Miami about him, this dude is all of Miami. Pit stood at least six four and fat as Buddha, and his hair was in thick dread locks. Looking at him, Country felt disrespected and disgusted; where he’s from, money looked far better than what Pit displayed.
Zoe moved back closer into Country hoping that he could protect her from Pit and his crew named the Fooligans. The SK under the bed was too far to reach without getting holes pumped into him, so, for now, he would play whatever game Pit wanted to play. One thing about Country, he wasn’t afraid of death, but, again, with Zoe by his side, he had to play his cards right. “Get that nigga up!” Pit demanded to one of his Fooligans, and, on beat, they snatched Country from the bed with his dick hanging between his legs. The Fooligans and their boss got a good look at his piece, each turning their heads. Pit pointed his desert eagle in Country’s face, “where the sack, bwoy?” he asked.
“Downstairs in apartment 3B,” Country replied.
“Watch that bitch!” Pit ordered. “Put some fucking pants on,” Pit spat. Country wanted to smirk at Pit’s intimidation but kept it to himself. Two of the Fooligans escorted Country out of the apartment down the stairwell. On his way down, he thought back to a few minutes ago; he didn’t hear his front door open, and he doesn’t sleep hard. Nonetheless, the consequences for his actions in the past had finally met him face to face. They stopped in front of 3B, and Pit lit up a blunt and blew out a thick cloud of smoke. “Open that shit and show me where my money at, ” he told him.
“The key on side the building,” Country told him.
“Take this nigga to get the key, and if he tries anything, kill him. I’ll break this motherfucker down with my bare hands if I have to,” Pit said. Visions of death ran through Country’s mind with his back straight and head up. The karma coming around is well deserved but will never be taken lightly.
When Country touched down in Miami, he ventured off into Opa Locka. For a supposed new cat in the game, they were suspicious of his intent to distribute in their city. After being turned around, Country decided to jack a few of the trap houses that were jumping with the help of some hungry young guns from Liberty City where he met Zoe. From Country’s understanding, Pit Bull ran everything. Nobody sold work without him knowing because, more than likely, they got it from him, but Country begged to differ.
Country made a swift come up selling a little weed. Then he ventured into pills and soon crack. Everybody gravitated to his section; he had the whole spot sewed up like a seamstress. Music blasted from one apartment, Zoe was doing hair in another, and Country’s cook up shop with a distribution window was by the back door. Money rolled through like clockwork, which meant the stoves stayed lit, and it was always hot. Country found Liberty City to be quite the spot; police went about their business, turning their head as long as you paid them a fee. It felt like the good old days back in the city coming up quick.
“You must didn’t get your tax notice, but ‘round here in my city, I’m Uncle muhfucking Sam,” Pit said with malice in his tone. Country’s reminiscing came to a halt and he wondered who he was talking to; he didn’t pay any man unless he put in work, and, so far, Pit didn’t do a thing besides sit on his fat ass. This is probably the most work he’s done in years.
BAP BAP BAP BAP BAP The gunshots rang out at random, and, on instinct, Country ducked. Country didn’t feel an impact of any bullets and turned around swinging on dude who looked away. The young Fooligan backed away, and, before he could pull the trigger, Country took off to the other side of the building, past the fiends who slept on an abandoned sofa, into the backdoor of his cook up spot. Surprisingly, the Fooligan wasn’t behind him. Country shut the door and went for the Mossberg that he kept hidden in the oven and went to the window.
Country noticed Pit ducking behind a Crown Victoria car. It was dark, but he couldn’t miss that gorilla figure. The fire from the guns lit it up like Christmas, and Country quickly thought about Zoe. He opened the front door and got to busting at Pit, holding nothing back, dumping on anyone in his crew. Pit started the car and scurried off. A Chrysler turned around and followed him. Country ran out of the apartment, guns blazing on one of the fooligans. “What you say now bwoy!” Country said, voice dripping with sarcasm.
He ran up the steps quickly and into the apartment, then the room, praying Zoe was alright. The bathroom door was locked. Country turned the knob, “Zoe, it’s me! Open up.” The adrenaline pumped through him.
“AYO,” he heard the code from his crew. Country didn’t get a response from the other side of the door. He walked over to the window and looked out at three of his most trusted young guns. He nodded his head for them to come up.
“Zoe anywhere out there?” Country asked.
“Nah, she not up there,” one of them answered. Country’s hand started shaking and his eye twitched recklessly. He marched back to the bathroom door and kicked it open to find a puddle of blood on the floor.
Turk, Neff, and Q walked in sweating profusely and wearing a look of disgust, shaking their heads. “Let’s roll,” Country ordered leading the way back out. “They got Zoe,” Country informed. Finally, they could hear the squad of police coming in the distance. The night was hot, and still, nobody was outside. Every light was off in the neighboring complexes as they got in Turk’s Suburban.
“That fat motherfucker move like a tom cat. Je got out that car and took off,” Q explained. “Like I told Turk, we gotta find out who he know that shop wit us,” he added.
“Go to the bando,” Country informed, not arguing. He blew out air with the Mossberg resting on his lap as they made way to Overtown.
“But, on some shit though, we been waiting on that Pit Bull to come out his dog house, so we on the hunt tonight,” Turk stated. “I can’t sleep knowing he out the yard.”
“Me either,” Country said. “That’s why we going to the Bando,” Country said. Country sometimes loved the sounds of guns, especially hunting guns, which paid homage to a skill he learned young in the world. Turk parked beside a set of apartments. Q pulled out the pump and tucked the glock in his waist band. Country opened the back door. Q followed suit; Turk pulled off toward the front of the apartment complex. Then, they walked through the foyer.
Country’s left brow had a trickle of sweat lingering. He wiped it away. His trigger finger twitched, aching for a shot with Q on his trail as they made way through the complexes. BAP BAP BAP BAP whomever was letting it ride mercilessly, and tires screeched near the front. The two quickly sprinted towards the action and noticed Pit and his soldiers around Turk’s Suburban. Country fingered the trigger, pumping bullets into Pit’s grizzly figure. A grimacing look plastered his face as he and Q took down five of them.
Pit lay like a log on the ground, twitching, trying to catch his breath before Country put a bullet in his head. Q was at the SUV letting out obscenities. Country, aware of the verdict, rejected the urge to see. He wanted to remember Turk and Neff for the loyal soldiers they were. Lights started to come on in the buildings, “Come on, Q,” Country let out, swiftly moving to the apartment complex when he noticed blood trickling from the foyer they just came from. Zoe laid lifeless on the ground. Country’s heart dropped into his stomach and caused him to vomit.
“Big brah, we gotta get the fuck, man,” Q announced. Country’s feet felt planted but soon moved as he heard the sirens and the sudden movements within the building. The two ran to the parking lot and hopped in a black Impala. Q cranked it and peeled off. Country’s hands tightened together. Then, he pounded the dash.
Q drove to Fort Lauderdale, and Country directed him to set the Impala up in flames. They walked to a set of condos around the corner, and Country used his card to get in. Nobody had ever been inside of his real stash besides himself. Nobody was allowed to know every detail about him, and he preferred it that way. The less, the better. He pressed the button for the elevator and waited until it reached the first floor.
Q was quiet, entrapped in his thoughts. Since Country came to Florida, Q, Neff, and Turk were down with him. They were loyal, honest, and efficient, always one call away. Many wanted to know what sort of lick they hit, but Country had put them on with grace and provided them with weapons to protect him first and then themselves. He learned a lot from the young lads and vice versa. They were indebted beyond repayment to one another. They were blood in and blood out, which, on a late night in Miami, proved to be true.
They entered the plush condo, and Country couldn’t believe how he allowed himself to live in the cusp of chaos when he had luxury at his fingertips. Country headed to the walk-in closet and revealed his safe. He put the code in and revealed stacks of money and jewels, both his and Zoe’s. All of which, he slipped into a medium sized gym bag. “I’m going out of town for a while; you welcome to the crib.”
“Why…what up?”
“Somebody else down here got me cornered, and I have a feeling shit is a little deeper than what I’m thinking,” Country explained. “So, I advise you to lay low here for a while,” Country threw him several bundles of money. “That’s fifty thou…it’ll never be enough…I appreciate you having my back on the gun line. Without you…” he paused and thought about Zoe, “I probably wouldn’t be here. I appreciate all y,all,” Country said.
“It’s all love,” Q told him.
“Salute,” Country said. “Make sure to keep your ears to the streets, and I’mma look out for you in return,” Q gave Country a pound.
“I gotcha, big brah,” Q stated.
Q was eighteen years old with no parents, he was raised in Pork N Beans by his dope smoking aunt and uncle, and he was undereducated. He dropped out in the ninth grade after his cousin was shot and killed in the hot streets of Liberty City in broad daylight. Q started running fearlessly with Turk and Neff. When Country came along, he was skeptical, but the opportunity to make more money bonded them to the fate of this day. He looked up to Country. He came in and got one of the baddest bitches, set up shop in the sweetest, but ugliest, part of the MIA, and, most importantly, showed love. Some hustlers from Miami didn’t care if they didn’t eat, but Country did. His knowledge was powerful, and he always told them, “stay ready, youngsta.” Just when it was getting sweet, it turned shitty. Q knew how it feel to lose somebody close. After all, his whole life, he had taken loses, from parents down to friends. It didn’t faze him; all he could do was move forward.
Miami had taken a lot from him and given him nothing but problems and a cold heart that he wasn’t sure if it beat or not. Looking at Country, he wondered if he’s the same way. Dude was emotionless, obviously tainted. A mystery, to say the least. Q couldn’t get a good read on him because he was all action and less words most of the time. What he did know was Country was loyal to the game and those in his circle. He wasn’t out to feed himself and starve everybody else; it was give and receive.
Country noticed Q’s growth over the last few weeks up until tonight. He appreciated Q’s quick thinking when it came to this gangster shit. “A Beamer is down here in the garage too, but lay low.”
With the press of a button, a pearl black Jaguar woke up. Texas was on the plate. “Hit me up,” Country let out. Q gave him a head nod. Country popped the trunk and threw the bag inside and got in the car. Country never drove anything this nice around them. He was always seen in economy cars or rentals. He checked his mirrors until he was on I-95, putting Florida’s palm trees in the past for now but never the memories.
Shamona toyed with the idea, and after doing as much research as she could on relocating to Texas, decided to step out on faith. Soon as she hit the scene in H-Town, she was given a job on the spot as a barmaid at an underground gambling club with a strip joint upstairs at a place called Church. After all, she possessed all of the natural assets.
She took her time moisturizing her voluptuous body and stood up straight. The grey t-shirt dress she slipped into would make the beast rise the way it clung to every curve that traced her body. She strutted into the spare bedroom and sat at the vanity her ex beau had made at Angola prison for her some odd years ago. She applied a soft beat of MAC and checked herself out once again. Shamona couldn’t get enough of herself because, like every woman should be, she was in love with everything about herself.
It was ten fifteen; Shamona jumped up and slipped on her comfortable black wedges and combed her hair down. She grabbed her purse off of the bed and keys from the kitchen counter on her way out the door. “Fuck,” she let out as she went back inside to grab her brother, Shakir’s, letter off the living room table.
Shamona hopped in her ride, putting the envelope on the passenger seat heading to work. Church was only twenty minutes from her apartment in Camden Midtown. Moving to another state wasn’t easy, especially Texas; apartment complexes and strip malls on the same street, the highways were constantly busy and entirely too damn big. Nonetheless, it was better than being stuck back in Baton Rouge.
The only people she knew were the girls she met at Church; Opal, her shift’s bartender, Ashley and Pink (both dancers), and a few others. The phone buzzed on the passenger seat and she grabbed it and read Mother Love on the screen. She pressed the green button “Hey, ma.”
“Hey, baby, what you doing?” she asked in her normal comforting tone.
“On my way to work,” Shamona replied “How you doing?”
“Girl, doing good. You ain’t call me this morning,” she said. Shamona sighed.
“That’s alright, I know you be needing your rest,” Levette stated. “You talk to your brother yet? He haven’t called me or nothing,” she expressed her disdain for his mood change.
“He just wrote me, but I haven’t gotten the chance to read it, but I will once I get to work and settled in. I’ll let you know what he say because he haven’t called me either.”
“Okay, don’t forget because that’s not like him, and I have to come up there this weekend for my visit,” she said, already worrying about something.
“Okay, ma, I love you,” Shamona said.
“Love you too, Sha, be careful.” They hung up, and Shamona finally grew impatient with the flow of her day and zoomed to work. She was anxious to see what her brother had on his mind. Within record time, Shamona parked in the designated lot and grabbed Shakir’s letter from the passenger seat.
What’s up sista,
I know I haven’t been calling because I had some shit on my mind that I can’t shake. It’s a long journey for me and I can’t believe I only got three, almost four years down. None of this is your fault, and I’m not mad with you or anybody else about anything. I just needed some time to myself, and I promise Imma call you soon. I got your letters and threats too. Nothing’s happened to me, and tell mama I love her. I hate to not be there and provide for y’all like I should. Lord knows if I could get you away from that place, I would.
On another note, I heard yo boy Dro out there in some kind of WPP thang, PSI shit. No wonder I ain’t get a kite or nothing from him. I hate that I let you fall for that nigga, Sha. Make sure mama taken care of. She bent over backwards for us; it’s our turn. I’mma hit you up soon, just be on the lookout for my call. I love you and tell mama she’s my world and I will see her at visiting.
One Love,
Shamona understood exactly how he felt, but she had never shut him out. All the so called homeboys who said they would keep his account straight never came through or wrote him a ‘fuck you’ note, but Shamona was her brother’s keeper, and she would continue to hold him down. She tucked the letter into her console before getting out, remembering to write him back. At the present time, it’s about getting to the money, as she made way to the entrance of Church, the place that created another life change.
Shamona walked into the dressing room placing her purse on the bench to find her lip gloss. “The count up is real,” Pink boasted, strutting into the dressing room wobbling her ample butt and mouth opened wide flicking her tongue around showing off her tongue ring. The red lace garters clinching her thick legs were stuffed with bills, and her bucket was filled to capacity. Shamona smeared her lips together when she heard, “Wassup, Cupcake? I like that dress, girl,” Pink complimented using her club name.
“Thank you, and I see you looking good as always.”
“Gotta get it, ma, gotta get it,” she said twiddling her fingers.
Ashley entered dancing, starting their usual routine before hitting the stage; Pink and Ashley obtained an audience in the dressing room. Some cheered them on, and others got dressed, or had the nerve to turn their nose up. There was a rule at Church, no judging, because there wasn’t any room left for bitches and judgments. It’s needless to say that the rule isn’t strictly enforced. Shamona dug for singles in her purse but instead found a twenty and tipped Pink; that girl could work her ass something vicious. Shakir always said “people pay for good entertainment.”
Ashley stood on the bench and started coaching, “bounce it, Pink, drop it down,” while shaking her round, jiggly butt as well, getting everybody amped up to shake Church down. Shamona laughed and enjoyed the show, partaking in the vibe of get money or get gone.
The ruckus ceased when Leon walked in and gave everybody the eye, landing on Ashley and Pink. Shamona turned and opened her locker that had the number twenty-six on it, grabbing her personal uniform since Leon told her to wear anything sexy. She changed into her red, sleeveless, V-Neck cat suit.
“Do you know I been trying to move up for the last three months and he move this bitch Tastee up?” Ashley explained. The ‘he’ she referred to is the owner, Leon Church. Shamona heard “Up” is the level to be on when working in Church — the tips come in bricks.
“That’s you, me, and everybody in here,” Shamona said, clamping a gold neck piece she bought on her trip to the Galleria. That’s a four-hundred-dollar tip she was hoping to get back this week.
“I got another gig in Atlanta and Miami, if you wanna dance. That’s how Pink went from bartender to dancer,” Ashley rambled, Shamona listened. “If I keep booking like this… fuck Church, fuck Leon, and his wannabe ‘Up’ Club,” Shamona looked in the mirror again and grabbed her purse.
“You better know what you doing, Ashley,” Shamona advised walking out the dressing room towards the bar.
“Cupcake and Diamond,” Leon called out for them to come near. “I’m reworking the operation around here tonight, so be on your shit. Got some big money coming through all sections, and Cupcake, I need to see you work like you been working but a smidge quicker,” Leon warned. Shamona smelled his stink cologne and wanted to throw up. “Diamond, assist your barmaid,” he walked off smoothly to the rear of the club while watching the activity.
“Girl, he saying that because Johnny Boy is here tonight,” Opal informed. Johnny Boy is a Houston businessman who owns a record label, H-Town Smash, with some local artists who push mixtapes out every few weeks and party all over the state of Texas. Shamona heard a few stories about Johnny Boy, and when his crew was in the building how they made the forecast change from rain to a category five hurricane. It was said that many girls fought over the stage when H-Town Smash was in the house, but Leon had fired many of them since the last episode.
“You ever think about dancing?” Shamona asked, grabbing her note pad and tray.
“Oh, trust me, Boo, Johnny Boy tips the bar just as good as the dancers,” Opal informed, while dancing. Her mocha skin glowed thanks to the powder pink tube top she wore, revealing the sleeve of tattoos on her arm, and her hair that she recently died blonde fell to the nape of her neck. She could make a drink that rushed straight to your brain; however you want to feel, she mixed a drink that would take you there. She set two shot glasses on the bar and poured each of them a shot of Jose Cuervo Gold and gave one to her. They toasted and threw the shot back as they always did before starting a shift.
“Let’s do this,” Shamona said, as she took off on her first round to collect drink orders and make the patrons feel good about giving up their money.


KSP (2)Shamona & Country are my third favorite couple to write about. They were complex, yet simple. I hope you all find love and happiness while reading their story. This is suppose to be a standalone, but deep down I feel like some things will be exposed over time so stay tuned. Subscribe to my mailing list through my home screen or email me at thebookofdru@gmail.com.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s