Chapter One Jazzlyn and May
In the early nineteen-eighties the Johnsons were living their lives hundreds of miles away in Langston, Michigan and trying to get along for the sake of their son Edward Jr.; while a young woman by the name of Jazzlyn Hart was giving her mother a hard time in Georgia. Jazzlyn was one of those people who mistook having wealth, big houses and expensive cars as a source of happiness and no cares in the world. She daydreamed her time away thinking of the moment when she would be a rich man’s wife-living in a big house and being covered in every jewel of her desire. She was up in her bedroom lying across her bed when her mother called her down to help with dinner. She rolled her eyes.
“I’ll be down in a minute,” she called out.
The past few months had become unbearable living with her mother. Jazzlyn was always headstrong and gave her mother the hardest time of all of her children. After a few months of living with a friend from elementary school, she ended up back home after falling out with her and ending the friendship over a man. Jazzlyn was flighty and couldn’t keep still. She chased after the wrong men, who were like magnets for her. It got her heart broken every time. Her mother vowed she would be the death of her if she didn’t change her ways.
“Mama, please get off my back.” “I’m not like Lena. She’s straitlaced and proper and that is not me and it never will be.” Jazzlyn said, exasperated. Jazzlyn peeled potatoes over the kitchen sink for that night’s dinner.
“Don’t think because you are taller than me that I won’t slap the spit outta your mouth, girl,” her mother said.
“Leave her alone, mama; she’s going to do what she is going to do,” her sister Lena said in her defense. Lena’s support was surprising, Jazzlyn thought, since the two of them never got along, even as children. Jazzlyn always felt Lena was her mother’s favorite, and it caused them to be at odds. Of course their mother loved them the same, but their very different personalities affected the way their mother reacted to them. At the time, Jazzlyn’s mother didn’t know she was planning her escape from their dull and dreary Georgia town. She reconnected with her friend May, who grew up in a neighboring city. May encouraged her to move to Langston.
“Come to Langston if you want a rich man,” “ Girl they are everywhere.”
That was ten months earlier, and enough time for Jazzlyn to get her finances in order. She worked as much overtime as her boss would allow; she saved enough money for a Greyhound bus ticket and to survive on for at least a month. May moved to Langston a year earlier. She got a job and an apartment and informed Jazzlyn, who was eager to leave for a brand new life. Neither of them had family in Langston, so a bond as close as sisters developed between them. Jazzlyn’s mother tried to talk her daughter into staying in Georgia. Her mother told her Langston had a far-reaching reputation for keeping others out and she didn’t like May, who she felt would lead her daughter astray. Jazzlyn didn’t care what her mother thought. She wasn’t interested in staying in Georgia. She wanted a rich man of culture. Both she and May were ambitious women driven by the same goals and desire to be a part of the elite of Langston. Langston would not have been Jazzlyn’s first choice. But she had to admit it was better than where she was living at the time-a three-bedroom house with her nosy mother, her mother’s husband and her straitlaced uppity sister. Her sister refused to live her own life and did everything their mother told her. It was a fate Jazzlyn didn’t want. She had another sister and brother who had left home years earlier because of their mother’s controlling ways.
Two weeks later, she was ready to start a new life. She packed up a few outfits and other necessities and headed for the bus depot. An hour later she was heading for Langston. She had called May from a pay phone earlier in the day and told her when she should arrive. After the sixteen-hour bus ride, Jazzlyn was ready to take a shower and crash onto the nearest bed. She looked at her watch and realized she was still a good thirty minutes away from Langston and hoped May didn’t forget to get her. May lived on the outskirts of Langston. She had a small two-bedroom apartment and told Jazzlyn she could have a bedroom until she could get on her feet.
“I will give you one month to find work, then after that you’re on your own,” May said bluntly.
Jazzlyn promised she would get a job. Finding work was never an issue. The bus turned into the depot. Before getting off the bus, she looked for May. It took another ten or so minutes as the other passengers gathered their belongings and filed their way off the bus. By that time, May had driven up with her boyfriend.
The first week was to be expected adjustment-wise as the two women got comfortable with one another and worked out the rules of the house. It was a little awkward at first when May’s boyfriend came over and she didn’t get the privacy she would have liked; and it didn’t help hearing nightly sex noises coming from May’s bedroom. Jazzlyn wasn’t a prude by any stretch of the imagination, but she still didn’t want to hear it. Week two passed and she finally got a job cleaning up a hair salon in the evening. It wasn’t much money, but it was better than nothing for the time being. Jazzlyn expected rich handsome men to be on every corner; a gross exaggeration by May. But she wasn’t too far off- there were many rich and eligible black men compared to the rest of the country. But most of them were already spoken for. It was like her mother said- Langston closed out people who they felt didn’t belong. Most men and women there picked a spouse within their own class and most importantly, someone who grew up in Langston or some other well-to-do black community. Jazzlyn’s faith was restored however when a friend of May’s by the name of Hope, a newcomer to Langston herself, caught the eye of an up-and-coming college football player right before he turned pro.
May had told Hope she was making a mistake getting tied up with a college student, instead of getting a man who was already established. There might have been a little envy on May’s end to tell her friend to dump Tyrone knowing the potential he had. Hope didn’t listen. She went on to marry Tyrone and left Langston to start her life as a football player’s wife and all that came with it. Needless to say, her friendship with May suffered because she saw that May didn’t have her best interest at heart-especially after she repeatedly tried to sabotage what Hope had. May was no stranger to getting in the face of another woman’s man if it benefited her in some way even going to a woman with a lie about her man in hopes of breaking them up wasn’t beneath her. Destinee was very reminiscent of Hope and the reason why May gave her a hard time. She didn’t like prudes or women who were deemed paragons of virtue when she wanted to be free to do whatever, whenever and to whomever she wanted without society’s judgment.
Jazzlyn and May were one in the same when it came to wanting things simple and handed to them. They were more alike than they both realized and living together was starting to work against them. Truth was, both women had appetites for men and it got complicated when they lived together. Sharing boyfriends was becoming too much for them. It was fun in the beginning until feelings were caught up and somebody got hurt. They had been living together for about four months when May’s boyfriend came over while May was at work. Jazzlyn answered the door in her panties and no bra. She had nothing to lose, he was cute, and judging from the sounds that came from May’s bedroom she had to sample him.
The women remained friends in spite of the drama that had become common-place in their small apartment but the last straw for May was coming home from work one night to moaning and bed-springs squeaking and finding Jazzlyn under her boyfriend. May had no room to talk, since she’d been in the same position with one of Jazzlyn’s old boyfriends. However, she didn’t want that life anymore; though she couldn’t seem to break the habit or cycle. After a huge scene, including crying and a screaming fit, she broke up with her boyfriend that night and told Jazzlyn she was moving. May eventually moved out and in with her new boyfriend once her lease was up, leaving Jazzlyn in the apartment. Jazzlyn had to step up her game and get another job if she wanted to stay in the apartment. May ended up working something out with the landlord for Jazzlyn. Since Jazzlyn refused to give up and go crawling back to Georgia. Her mother knew she was flighty and she wanted to prove her mother and sister wrong. She could make it; and even though she was homesick, she fought the urge to give up.
Jazzlyn and May’s ex-boyfriend broke off their secret trysts soon after. The fun in being found out took the appeal for sneaking around out and they all went their separate ways. Jazzlyn continued to do odd jobs around town until she found an ad for receptionist work for an attorney’s office. The attorney’s name was Edward Johnson, Sr. She needed more money once she no longer had a roommate. The pay was decent- nothing to write home about but it afforded her the necessities of life and she was able to save up enough money for an old car. It was ugly and rusted out, but it was hers and it got her from point A to B.
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