Monday, December 26, 2011

New Year's Eve At Zaire's Place

It’s almost party time! Before I had baby girl, New Year’s Eve used to be my favorite holiday. I would dance and drink until I couldn’t dance and drink no more! (Yes, I used a double negative. LOL)

In honor of NYE, here’s what the ladies at Zaire’s Place are up to. This is an excerpt from Aisha’s chapter.

Happy New Year, everybody, and don’t forget to party like a rock star!

Zaire's Place
(Book Description)

When thirty-four year old Charlene Wilson discovers she is dying, she makes the biggest move of her life and leaves her abusive husband. Not knowing how many days she has left, she is determined to spend them in peace. She turns to Zaire's Place to find comfort.

Aisha Carter can be found at the center of every conflict at Zaire's Place. While she plots disruption, Aisha finds herself on an alternate path that takes her on a course she'd never imagined.

Rebecca Reich was raised in a prejudiced home and has issues with black people. A fish out of water at Zaire's Place, a predominantly African-American shelter for abused women, she is forced to rethink the lessons of her youth.

Zaire's Place explores the relationships among these women as their lives converge, as they make decisions, large and small, that will impact the rest of their lives.


“Amy, can I ask you for a favor?”

I was in Amy’s closet of an office, standing next to her desk. She was suspicious, immediate distrust on her face.

“Well, you know, it’s New Year’s Eve. Do you think me and the girls can stay in the common areas past midnight?"

I wanted to kill the girls for putting me up to this. What if she went to the counselors and snitched on me, saying I was trying to break the rules? But, hell, it was New Year’s Eve. It wasn’t like we had nowhere else to go to get our party on, and Lord knows I wanted to party.

It took her a while to respond. Finally, she said, "I'll turn a blind eye." I knew what that meant. She was gonna stay in her office so we could have a good time.

We mapped things out carefully, deciding who would get the liquor, who would get the snacks, who would bring the music—which all of us looked to Rose to provide. We knew she’d have that base covered, considering all the DVDs and CDs that girl had.

At ten-thirty, after the little ones were put to bed and the older kids were left in their rooms, we made our way down to the Happy Room. When I got there, twelve women were already sitting around chatting and eating chips.

“Let’s get it started in here,” Trina shouted, coming through the door, switching her behind. She walked over to the table and put her bag on it, revealing six large bottles of wine and liquor. The orange juice was already on the table, swiped from the kitchen.

“Girls, we gon have some fun tonight!” I said, picking my glass up and filling it with Peach Schnapps.

“You think the ones who don’t come are gonna tell?” Bianca asked. It didn’t look like she was too concerned, because she was filling her glass to the brim with two kinds of liquor. “You know Debbie won’t approve of what we’re doing.”

“Debbie ain’t gonna say nothin’. Just let her keep saying the prayer over our meals and she’ll be all right,” I said. The ladies laughed. It seemed like their nerves about breaking the rules was easing.

“You know, if I wasn’t in this shelter tonight, I’d be at some club right now with an itty-bitty-titty-top on shaking my ass.”

The women within earshot looked at Bianca, compassion on their faces because she seemed sad. On the surface, they were just words, a way to make conversation, but when you examined the tone of those words, you couldn’t miss what was beneath them. Those words were saying, “I can’t believe I’m stuck in a shelter with a bunch of women on New Year’s Eve.” Sure, I felt the same way, but I wasn’t going to dwell on it.

You ain’t gonna mess up my party with that depressing shit, Bianca, I thought, filling my mouth with chips.

Almost like magic, Rose appeared with her boom box and the women cheered. She couldn’t have come at a better time. We closed the door to the Happy Room and blared the music, Rose our DJ for the night. As the night wore on, more women came and we turned Zaire’s Place into Zaire’s Palace—of dancing.

“Ah, shit. That’s my jam,” I said. “That’s some old school shit right there. Monique, ya’ll younguns don’t know nothin’ about this. It’s time for the percolator. It’s time for the percolator…” I knocked my knees together, getting low, singing as I went down to the floor.

“I’m not that young, Aisha. They still play it in the clubs all the time,” Monique said, setting down her drink, singing as she got up to dance. All of us knew she was under twenty-one, but that didn’t matter: it was New Year’s Eve.

Before I knew it, the Happy Room was packed with dancing women, kicking it like they did in the club. I glanced over at Charlene and saw her dancing in her seat. She probably dance like she got a stick up her ass, I thought, still swaying to the music. It didn’t take long for me to find out. Charlene seemed to mentally say “fuck it” and got up to join us. I got the surprise of my life when I watched her: she could actually dance!

She must have noticed that I was checking out her moves because she danced even harder, her body moving perfectly to the beat. It was like she wanted to show me what she could do because she knew I was thinking she couldn’t get down like that. It was workin’, ’cause homegirl was giving me a run for my money.

“Go, Charlene! Go, Charlene!” Monique chanted, moving her hands in the air while she eyed Charlene’s swaying hips. It was obvious that she had spotted her next target.

“Come on, Becca,” I heard Charlene shout over the music.

Rebecca shook her head, eyes wide, telling Charlene no. But Charlene wasn’t having it. Rebecca gulped down her glass of wine, stood, and moved back and forth to the music, which no one in their right mind would call dancing. Later, once the liquor set in, she loosened up, but her “dancing” still wasn’t even close to what us black folk consider dancing. But she wasn’t making a fool out of herself like I would have expected, so I gave her points for that.

More songs and more liquor passed. By the time midnight rolled in, all of us was raising the roof.

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