Boss Lady, Page 2Omar Tyree
“You want some gum?” he asked me.
I hadn’t even gotten a chance to open my mouth. Jason was that overzealous about our trip, and for some reason, I didn’t see that as a good thing. I felt like I should have been the one who was extra-excited. Not that Jason couldn’t be, but just not as much as I was. He was supposed to be the more mature one.
I nodded to him and held out my hand for a stick of gum.
I answered, “Yeah, I’m excited. Of course I am. But why are you so excited?” I asked him. I still had my hunch.
Jason smiled it off. He said, “I’m just planning on having a good time out there, that’s all.”
I was betting that he was. I turned away and looked out the window.
“So, you leaving a boyfriend behind or something?” he asked me.
My cousin caught me off guard with that.
“Why?” I asked him.
He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t know. Girls are always leaving guys behind.”
“Who are you leaving behind?” I asked him back. Jason looked good enough to leave a few girls behind. He was tall, dark, and handsome with not a blemish on his smooth brown face. And I’m sure he knew it.
He laughed and turned away.
“I don’t have no ties,” he mumbled.
I smiled in Jason’s direction and told him, “That’s what they all say.”
He just grinned and chuckled at it.
As our plane raced down the runway, lifted up into the air, and started rattling around, I was as nervous as I don’t know what. Jason saw me clenching the armrest and began to tease me.
“We may not make it, Vanessa. Maybe we both should have stayed home.”
I couldn’t believe he said that. He was joking at the wrong damn time. Even some of the other passengers shot looks at him. But Jason didn’t care. It was all a joke to him.
I told him, “Don’t say that, man.”
I was dead serious. I had too much to live for to go down in an airplane crash. Especially on my first plane ride. All I could think about was not landing safely in California on my very first airplane ride. All of my dreams would go up in smoke. So I was a nervous wreck.
Jason nudged my arm and said, “Stop sweatin’ it, girl. Be brave like you was when you clocked your mom.”
Now that was low. I was beginning not to like Jason, and we had a six-hour plane ride before we landed in L.A.
I started to say something, not anything nasty, but just to ask him why he would say something to me like that. I mean, I wasn’t a bad girl. My mom was just . . . she just went too far that day. But I didn’t want to be reminded of that all of the time. Everybody makes mistakes. Then again, fighting my mother didn’t even seem like a mistake to me.
I told Jason, “I just did what I had to do.”
I wasn’t planning on saying that. It just rolled out of my mouth. But I really meant it. I didn’t want anybody to hold me back anymore. I didn’t care who it was.
Jason looked at me and nodded.
He said, “I heard that. You not goin’ for it.”
I didn’t want to talk about it anymore so I let it be. But Jason seemed majorly insensitive to me. I tried my best to ignore him for the rest of the plane ride. When he fell asleep, I looked at it as my good fortune. However, I wasn’t able to sleep at all. I kept thinking that if that plane went down, I would at least want to be prepared instead of having to wake up and find out. I even pictured myself jumping over people to wrestle the last parachute out of the closet if I had to. I was that nervous about it.
* * *
We arrived in L.A. safe and sound, and Jason was after the girls just as I had expected he would be.
“Hey Vanessa, you see that Asian girl I was talking to on the plane?”
“Who?” I was still trying to pop my ears with both hands pressed against my eardrums.
“That Asian girl. Was she good-looking to you?” he asked me.
He was pressed to holler at someone before we even got off the airplane.
I just shook my head and blew it off. I didn’t care about anything he had to say. But Jason wouldn’t let me be.
“Here she go right here,” he whispered to me.
I had to at least take a look at the girl. My cousin was practically forcing me to, and I didn’t want him to make more of a scene if I didn’t look.
Sure enough, I looked, and the girl wasn’t bad. She wore a pink Bebe tank top, blue Giraldi jeans, and pink loop earrings to match her
shirt. I can’t even front, the girl had it popping. She even had a little bit of height and some curves on her. More curves than I had. She looked like a magazine ad on a hip, fashion page. She had her own style about her. I was even ready to warn her not to talk to my lame cousin because I knew he was ready to put something on her. She looked approachable to a black guy. I could see it in her face. She had that “I know you’re feeling me” look about her. I was almost certain that other black guys had tried to talk to her before.
My cousin wasted no time. He strolled right over to her as soon as she walked out of the bridge behind us.
“So hey, Ma’, where you goin’ from here?”
I couldn’t believe it. He sounded like a hip thug. And my cousin was not at all the thug type. He was more like an irritating comedian pretty boy. But there he was trying to use gutter street slang on this girl. He had his head dipped to the side and everything.
I was so embarrassed. Why couldn’t he just say, “Hi, I’d like to talk to you for a minute?” But no, he had to take it all the way to the street corner. Then people wonder why black people get stereotyped so much. To make it worse, the girl responded to it.
She answered, “I have to hook up with my family. But once I do that and settle in, you know, it’s whatever.”
Jason asked her, “It’s whatever?” He seemed as surprised as I was. Maybe he was still joking around, but she was taking him seriously.
She smiled and said, “Well, it’s not just anything, but, I mean, what do you have in mind?”
The girl was game, but she still had a lot of innocence about her. Trust me, I had been around enough hard-core girls to know the difference, and this girl was not giving me those vibes. She was more on the multicultural, MTV side of things. So I sized both of them up. They were both playing the role. She wanted to go for a stereotypical black guy and my cousin was willing to give her one.
Jason said, “Sasha Kim, right?”
She nodded to him and was pleased that he remembered her name. And of course he did. Jason was a smart kid like I was, an Engineering & Science graduate. But she didn’t know that.
She said, “Jason . . .”
“Ellison,” he filled in for her.
She dropped her head a second and said, “Thanks, but I was gonna remember it.”
Jason said, “I don’t think I told you my last name.”
She said, “You told me now.”
I smiled. It was a good answer on her part. Otherwise, she would have looked silly. So I gave her a few cool points.
Anyway, they traded contact information and all that, right down to email addresses. No kidding. Jason asked the girl for her email address.
I asked him, “What made you ask for her email address?”
Jason looked at me and said, “You don’t know? She’s Asian. They probably got like five computers in their house. But if she was black, I would have asked her what her favorite television show is.”
“Oh my God,” I told him. “So black girls watch too much television? Is that it?”
Jason answered, “Yup.”
I couldn’t help but smile at it. The boy was crazy.
I asked him, “And what if she was white or Hispanic?”
“Then I would ask them what they think about Britney Spears or Jennifer Lopez,” he answered. “Oh, my game is tight out here, cousin. Don’t sleep. I’m pullin’ out my A-game for these California girls. I’m just serving them notice. I mean, it’s not like I’m g
onna be out here long. So I’m going for broke, ya’ heard.”
“And what if you end up out here for longer than you think?”
“What do you mean? Like if I stayed out here?”
I know I planned on staying longer.
“Yeah. Then what?” I asked him.
He answered, “Well, like she said, it’s whatever then.”
* * *
We met up with Tracy’s agent, Susan Raskin, at the baggage claim. She was a small, dark-haired white girl holding up a sign with “Jason & Vanessa” printed in large letters. We walked over in her direction.
She noticed us and said, “Hey, how are you guys doing? How was the flight?”
Jason grinned at me and said, “My little cousin thought she wasn’t gonna make it.”
I smirked. “Yeah, he kept talking about the plane going down,” I told her.
“Oh no, that’s the worst,” Susan said.
Jason spotted our luggage and immediately went to grab it. I tried to help him with it, but he kindly asked me to step aside.
“I got this.”
So I backed up and allowed him to be the man.
“So, what’s the plan?” he asked Susan once he gathered our luggage.
She said, “Well, first I’ll take you back to the house to drop off your things. Then we can get a bite to eat if you’d like. I know the airplane food is not always the best. And after that, I’ll take you to the set to see if you can talk to Tracy while she takes a break between scenes.”
Jason said, “I know she didn’t tell you that I gave her a lot of the ideas for this movie, did she?”
Susan smiled while we followed her through the airport terminal toward the parking lots.
“As a matter of fact, she did,” she answered him.
Jason looked surprised. “Get out of here. My sister actually gave me my props?”
“She sure did. And plenty of them.”
Jason smiled wide and said, “Well, I deserve some of the writing credit and a piece of the pie then.”
I grinned and shook my head again. That boy just didn’t quit. It was like he had no conscience about his joking.
“Sounds like you need the right agent,” Susan joked back to him.
“Oh, I’m serious, too,” he told her. “I got a lot of ideas.”
We found Susan’s black BMW in the parking lot and loaded her empty trunk with our things.
Jason rudely jumped into the front seat of the Beamer ahead of me, but I didn’t mind. I liked watching things from a backseat view anyway. From the backseat you were not usually forced to talk as much. I wanted to check out my surroundings and talk later. And that’s what I did.
* * *
We arrived at my cousin Tracy’s house, which was up on a hill in an area called Marina Del Rey that overlooked a nearby shopping center.
Jason climbed out of the car and commented on the scenery.
“Man, I feel like the big dog up here. This hill makes you feel like you’re special.”
Susan grinned at him. But I had to agree with Jason for a change. Overlooking the landscape and the general population of Los Angeles did make you feel important. It was like we were sitting up on a mountaintop.
“Yeah, that’s a major selling point for this area,” Susan told us.
Jason said, “I bet it is.”
Susan took out a key and led us to the double wooden doors that opened Tracy’s half-empty, high-ceiling, three-bedroom home.
Jason walked in and hollered, “HEY, Hey, hey!” like an echo.
Susan started laughing. “That’s exactly what Tracy did when she first moved in.”
I walked in silently and looked around. I was simply glad to be there. I only saw houses like hers on TV and in the movies. I mean, I knew they existed, I just hadn’t been in one.
“You ever been in a crib like this?” Jason asked me on cue.
“Only in my dreams,” I answered him.
“Well, you’re not dreaming anymore, cousin. Wake up and smell the money,” he told me.
Susan said, “Tracy told me to show you guys around and to your rooms.”
To our rooms? I loved even the sound of that. It reminded me of the minor trips I had taken with my family down South to amusement parks and such, where we would stay in low-budget hotel rooms. But those hotels had nothing on the tall flight of stairs that Susan began to lead us up. Tracy’s second floor must have been thirty feet high, or at least it seemed that high to me. It was very impressive. I liked it a whole lot.
“Tracy told me that Vanessa gets the guest room, and Jason, you can have either the computer room or downstairs on the foldout sofa in the living room,” Susan told us with a grin.
Jason took one look inside the small computer room that had a computer station, file cabinets, a black leather office chair, and a futon that was pressed up against the wall, and he headed straight back down the stairs.
“Aw’ight,” he mumbled to us on his way down.
The living room area had a deep, dark brown, leather sofa with a giant-sized, floor-model color television set that sat directly in front of it. The guest room, where I was to stay, had no TV at all. But I wasn’t concerned about a lack of a television in my room. The peace and quiet there was a real godsend. I rarely had any peace and quiet in my house in North Philly. My two younger sisters were constantly getting into something, so I had learned to tune out the extra noise around me.
I stretched out on the burgundy comforter on the queen-sized bed in the guest room and was content with that. I didn’t even feel like getting back up to go meet with Tracy on the movie set. I didn’t even have to eat, really. I was already full with satisfaction.
Susan stuck her head into the room and said, “All right, well, we better get a move on if we want to get something to eat and still meet up with Tracy on the set. She has a pretty tight schedule to keep.”
I understood my cousin’s tight schedule and everything, but we had just gotten off a six-hour flight from Philly, and my body was beat. I hadn’t gotten a chance to sleep much that week, while anticipating the trip. And once I felt the comfort of Tracy’s guest room, my mind and body were ready to shut down for the night.
“How far is the set from here?” I asked Susan. I was stalling. I didn’t want to leave.
She took a look at me relaxing on the bed and read my mind.
“You’re experiencing jet lag, hunh?”
She smiled and shook her head. “Never mind. I’ll just tell Tracy that you guys are a little worn out from the plane ride today. I kind of figured you would be.”
“Yeah, I need a relaxation break for a minute,” I told her.
It was only four o’clock in L.A., but it was seven o’clock for Jason and me. And my body felt as if it was ten o’clock already. I guess that’s what Susan meant by jet lag. I wouldn’t know. Not only had I never flown on an airplane before, I had never traveled out of my time zone. The South had the same time zone as Philly, only it was much hotter.
Susan nodded her head and made a call on her cell phone. That was the last thing I remember before I crashed.
When I woke up, Jason was standing in the doorway laughing at me with a slice of pizza to his mouth.
“Guess what time it is?” he asked me.
I grimaced and said, “God. I’ve been asleep for four hours.”
Jason shook his head and answered, “It seems like two days in one to me. And that just means it’s more time for me to get into things.”
I smiled in my cousin’s direction and closed my eyes again. He was still on track to do what he planned to do.
* * *
We met with Tracy on the set of her new movie the next day. She was all made up in her gear as the character “Alexis,” wearing dark lace, black leather, and plenty of makeup. There she was, my cousin, the nationally known book writer, screenwriter, and actress. I was so proud!
/> Jason and I were chilling in the trailer with her before her next action scene, just eating it all up. Susan had left us there alone while she handled her business.
“You really need to wear all that makeup?” Jason asked his sister. I was thinking the same thing, but I wasn’t going to ask. I was content with just being around her and on an actual movie set.
Tracy answered, “It’s for the hot lights of the camera. You don’t understand.”
“So, I would have to wear that much makeup, too?” he asked her.
“Why, you want a scene in this movie, Jason?” she asked him back.
“I’m just asking.”
Tracy told him, “Well, before you start criticizing something you know nothing about, understand that everything has a purpose here. I’m not just wearing this makeup for the hell of it. Okay?”
She was all business.
Jason was silenced for a hot second before he responded, “Whatever.”
I guess he felt that he had to say something. His big sister knew exactly how to handle him. I sat back and took mental notes for myself.
“So, how are you doing, Vanessa?” she asked me.
“Oh, I’m fine.” I didn’t have much to say. I just wanted to take everything in. It was all a daydream for me. I still couldn’t believe I was there.
Tracy studied me for a second and asked me, “Have you called your mother yet?”
I wasn’t sure how to answer that. I hadn’t looked forward to talking to my mother about my trip to California. I figured it would have been rubbing it in her face, because she was so dead-set on me not going. I didn’t even feel comfortable with calling my sisters about it. I’m sure they would have felt left out. Nevertheless, Tracy had a point, they were still my family.
“I’ll be calling them soon,” I told her.
She watched for my reaction and nodded. She was really studying me. I guess she was still trying to figure me out.
“So what are your plans?” she asked me next.
“For the summer? For your life? For school?”
She was dead on me.
I stumbled and said, “I . . . I mean . . .”
“Well, you need to think about it,” she told me. “And Jason, when we get this car for you, for while you’re out here with Vanessa, I want you to act like you got some damn sense. Because you just can’t act any way you want to out here. L.A. has a different way of doing things, and you can find your smart ass in hot water before you know what hit you.”