Part 2 Sobering Reality

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AFTER A LONG DAY OF SELF-LOATHING, I pull up to my Aunt Stacy's hair salon, 'Chosen' in Santa Monica. She's owned this place for as long as I can remember. Some days I'm grateful for its existence and some days not so much and today—not so much. It takes a minute before I'm able to walk in and take the heat. I know Stacy hates hearing about Freddy, but I need to vent. I walk to the back where Tom, one of Stacy's stylists and best friends, is carrying on about something. They're both sitting in the stylist chairs drinking coffee.

"Yes, he is. Don't question me," Tom says.

Stacy, my business savvy aunt, who is always beautifully put together with her perfectly coiffed silver hair and infectious smile, sees me from the corner of her eye. She turns to me and delivers her ever famous eye roll and smirk. "Oh, honey you just missed it. There was a famous actor in here and..."

"Say no more, Tom said he's gay?"

Tom looks at me with his attitude in hand. "Don't question me." He winks. "We all know I'm never wrong about these things." He looks back to Stacy with a humorous smile. "I'm telling you, the straighter the man the deeper the deception." Tom Haven is a six-foot-one African American and one of the most handsome gay stylists in town. He and my aunt have been friends for years.

I love him like a brother and fight with him like one too. "Leave my aunt alone before I drop you like bad habit," I say.

"Good to see you girl. How's it going? You look a little worn."

I take a seat in one of the styling chairs next to Stacy and spin around. "That's because I am a little worn."

Stacy stops my spinning with her foot. "You know I hate when you do that. What's wrong?"

"What's always wrong with me?"

Stacy drops her chin. "Oh, let me take a wild guess?"

I run my hands through my long highlighted hair. "No need to guess. I don't know why I continue to put myself through this."

Tom stands up and comes behind me in the chair. He grabs a brush and smacks my hands away from my hair. "Because you're in love with him and it's stupid as hell."

I furrow my brow and choose to remain silent.

"Stay in denial all you want," Tom says. "But you wouldn't still be messing with old Undead Fred if you weren't."

I ignore Tom's attempt to get to me and focus on the real reason I'm upset. "I really thought this would be the catalyst to his change. I really did."

"That what would be the catalyst to his change?" Stacy asks.

I sigh. "Me stepping up my game."

"Not following," Tom says.

"Sorry. OC is backing a new artist and I found a great one."

"And?" Stacy asks.

"He had an artist that he wanted to pitch."

"Is he better?" Tom asks.

I shake my head. "No, but his guy is a solid choice. Freddy doesn't pick anything but winners. It's just that he didn't even want to hear my option."

"Oh, girl, please, just stop. You're intelligent and dumb all at the same time." Tom spins me towards the mirror and begins to spray down my hair. "Catalyst to his change? You think you choosing an artist that's better than his is going to make him see you for who you are? You know you can't change a man and it's a fool's game to go into the mindset of thinking you can. Why don't you see this?"

"Because she chooses the drama," Stacy says—her antagonistic tone front and center.

"God. I do not. I came here for support not more berating about Freddy."

"I keep telling you he's going to break your heart and your spirit Brenda. I'm never wrong about these things," Stacy says.

"How long have you and old Undead Fred been secretly flinging it now?" Tom asks.

"About two years and I hate when you say it like that."

Tom stops fidgeting with my hair. "Which part? Why does that bother you?"

"Because that's from his motocross days and I'm sure he was much worse then and I hate the expression Undead Fred. It's so juvenile."

"What exactly do you think has changed?" Tom asks.

The question hits my stomach with a sharp blow. "He older, he's wiser and more mature. He's not Undead Fred anymore."

"Oh, girl," Tom says. "He's still playing off his motocross status. I wish you would just see that and make a wiser decision in the type of man you're looking for. The clock isn't going backwards you know. You're twenty-seven already. You need to figure this out soon."

"You know you sure are throwing a lot of shade for someone who was a big fan of his."

"Sorry girl. This is me being supportive."

"My beautiful niece," Stacy says, dropping her tone to that of the compassionate mother she's come to be. "I understand why you're attracted to Freddy. I really do. But he's not a nice guy. Your mother wouldn't have approved and neither do I."

I hate when she brings up my mother. "Yeah, he thinks you hate him."

"I only hate people I know," Stacy says—her tone not so soft anymore. "I don't know him. He's never around to get to know and what I do know isn't very nice."

Now I'm rolling my eyes. Today is definitely one of those not so much days. "Please let's not do this."

Tom joins in the witch-hunt. "Brenda, I love me some Undead Fred. Hell, he's one of the only men I know taller than me. What's he? Six-two, six-three?"

"Six-three and you don't actually know him. Bring it back now, bring it back." I say.

"Point is," Tom says with his eyes all big and staring at me. "And I understand this honey, trust, I do, but his reputation is bad Brenda. You know what I'm talking about."

"That was never proven. He wasn't brought up on charges. Good lord you love to gossip."

"Everybody knows he killed that racer when he kicked him in mid-air. Just because no one has it on their iPhone doesn't mean it didn't happen."

I take a deep breath and look to Stacy for some help, but I can see by the way she is shaking her head with disgust she's not offering any.

"And," Tom says. "I have it on pretty good authority that the other racer died because of that and not the BS reason given all over the news."

"He didn't die because of that," I say, frustration growing by the second. "The guy had a heart condition he failed to disclose and that's the real reason."

Tom slaps his knees and starts to laugh. "Oh please. Shut up. That's what was put out there because the AMA loved their little golden boy. Don't you find it the least bit coincidental he retired right after that?"

"Nope. This stuff happens all the time."

"Come on girl, wake up a little," Tom says.

I cease all the hair fussing and turn to both my attackers. "First of all, you guys don't know him like I do. He's not like that. He's an ass, but he's never hurt me or threatened me."

Stacy and Tom look at each other just shaking their heads. 

"Second of all, he's good to me—just not out in public."

"Oh, brother," Tom says. "Girl, I have to leave the room before I take this brush and beat you over the head with it." He gives me a kiss. "We love you. You know that."

I take another deep breath and get up to leave. "Thanks for the pep talk." I lean over and give Stacy a big hug.

"I'm sorry about your artist," Stacy says. "Maybe Freddy will change his mind."

"I know you don't mean that," I say.

"No," Stacy says. "But I'm trying. For your sake I'll keep trying."

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