Author: Brandi Janai
Genre: Phycological Thriller
Cover Designer: Clarc.c Design
Publisher: See.Jade.Write., LLC
Publication Date: May 26th, 2018
Hosted by: Lady Amber's PR
CAN A SELF-HELP AUTHOR HELP HERSELF?
An authority figure, Mrs. Dinah Bradley is a tell-it-like-it-is therapist turned self-help author. Her provocative book teaches women how to rediscover the love within. But what lies within Dinah are nightmares and faulty memories.
Dinah chooses to focus on her promising career instead of listening to the little voice telling her something is wrong. Triggered by secret recordings and a stalker threatening to expose her, she is forced to confront the past.
Afraid of the unknown and afraid of the truth, Dinah must choose between who she was and who she wants to be.
Brandi Janai has bachelor’s degree in sociology from California State University, San Bernardino (where she joined Zeta Phi Beta, Sorority, Inc.), and she earned a master’s degree in social work from Clark Atlanta University. She is a charter member and secretary for the Women’s National Book Association – Atlanta Chapter.
She has a slate of books pending: I Am Sin, Sometimes It’s Love, and Jodeco Road. From book to screen is the ultimate goal — Brandi Janai intends to adapt each book into a movie. Additionally, she has two television pilots ready for development: Divorce Me and Hope’s Journey. She has also written webisodes for an Atlanta based web series.
Fake it until you make it. Let’s do this.
Dinah Bradley struts onto the stage with her head high and shoulders back, dripping with preparation. Fresh and impressionable eyes absorb her every move as she makes her way to center stage. The rolling boil of murmurs, giggles, and chatter starts to simmer.
Comfortable with control, she stands in front of the microphone with her fingers interlocked. Mouths close and others shush until absolute attention is on her. Their time belongs to Dinah, and she commands silence before asking a pivotal question.
“When did you realize you were his playground whore?”
The audience gasps.
Even after reading her debut self-help book, How Not to Be His Playground Whore, they didn’t expect her first words to snap at them.
“Any takers?” she asks in her raspy voice and exacting tone.
Intentionally, she disarms them with shock to let them stew in the quiet of their guilt. All her speaking engagements begin with this question. Women need to wake up from their woe-is-me songs of self-pity and concentrate on finding the answer to a possibility many never consider—that they play a starring role in their pain.
As the young women cogitate, she walks the length of the stage and listens to the grating sounds of windblown branches scraping against the windows.
Jeana Green, the founder of the Reading Diva’s Book Club, invited Dinah to speak to the group. An up-and-coming local celebrity and native Atlantan, she is a controversial but fascinating choice for their quarterly selection.
The title of her book may seem hostile to women, but Dinah sees it as practical advice and an opportunity to persuade open minds and broken spirits to view their muddy situation through an unfiltered lens of accountability. There are those who detest the book, but most are willing, although sometimes privately, to concede to her viewpoint.
“There’s no shame in truth and self-awareness.” Dinah continues, “Let’s try again. When did you realize you were his playground whore? I’ll wait.”
Embracing their silence, Dinah takes time to admire the hundred-seat auditorium—home to antique walnut beams and rustic wrought iron & wooden chandeliers. Bronze and black picture lights magnify framed pictures of formidable, courageous, and pioneering women. Their eyes reveal the struggle to retain their essence of strength, life, and hope while fighting to be seen as human. These women championed for healthcare, education, and social justice. They fought for equality as much as they breathed. If only, generations from now, her picture could someday be displayed in a hall like this.
In the front row, women avoid eye contact with the person next to them, fearing any movement will indicate guilt of being “that woman.” That woman—desperate and alone. That woman—desperate and in love but on the brink of divorce. That woman. In the back of the room, women glance around waiting for that woman to expose herself.
One young woman in the front courageously speaks to her twenty-nine counterparts, “Your question is hard to answer, because you assume we buy into your book when some of us don’t.”
“That’s a fair statement,” says Dinah. “Please use one of the microphones in the aisles so we can hear you, thanks. She said maybe no one here buys into my book.” She studies the faces of several women. “But some of you do. Some of you understand exactly what my book is about, and too many of you see yourselves in it. You all are intelligent women, and I assume you read a variety of books. Yet, you chose mine. Not only did you choose my book, but you invited me here. I’ve been told this is the largest gathering this club has had. I’ll ask again, when did you realize you were his playground whore?”
Ready to withstand the pressure, Jeana walks down the aisle. “It was my idea to invite you, so I’ll answer first.” A nervous breath drifts out of her mouth. “Um . . . for me, it was finding out he was married. I felt awful and questioned everything. I gave him so much of my time but ended up with nothing to show for it, and what makes it worse is that every memory feels like a lie. He had a wife. He chose her as his life partner, and me . . . he played with me.”
Dinah tilts her head. Whispers outside move past windowsills. She listens. Awareness heightened, she tastes a mélange of dust and mildew that floats around the building. Ten years ago, this auditorium, before being gutted to its bones, served as the university library. The smell of decay and fossilized thoughts remind her of time spent in New York and the long days and nights in the library.
It’s the wind. Come back. Focus.
Jeana adds, “For the record, he didn’t tell me he was married. I’m not like that, guys!”
The atmosphere lightens with chuckling, and it snaps Dinah into the present.
That’s it. Now smile.
She smiles. “Thank you for your honesty, Jeana.”
Others in the audience nod in agreement with the heaviness, hurt, and damage of loving a lie. The lie is alluring when he’s staring into your eyes and telling you to trust him. And how satiating is the lie when he brings you flowers and a smile? The lie massages your ego, urges patience, tells you things will change, and makes you forget his demons. But, soon enough, the lie becomes dangerous when truth desires to prevail, because a man who lies controls and a man who lies snatches the freedom of choice.
A petite girl squirms in her seat before deciding to raise her finger.
“To the microphone, please,” instructs Dinah.
The fragile-looking girl makes her way amidst snickers.
“What’s your name?”
Voice quivering, she answers, “Erica. I’m not calling myself a whore, and I don’t think my man sees me like that.”
Under their breath, but loud enough to evoke sneers, someone murmurs, “Girl, he’s your man and everybody else’s.”
Dinah sympathizes, “There are several women in here wondering who their man is with right now. Erica, you have our full attention and their apologies.”
“Thank you.” Her once-shaky voice now firm, she continues, “The moment came after reading your book; I thought about my relationship with Chris and forced myself to be honest about the type of man he is. He’s selfish, well not selfish, he says he’s focused on building his career, but eventually he’ll think about us a little more. I just have to wait, and I don’t see anything wrong with waiting.”
“He’s absorbed in himself and you’re focused on ‘us’—an ‘us’ that doesn’t support you. Why not focus on you?” asks Dinah.
Someone else responds, “What’s wrong with being patient? It’s not like we don’t have faults of our own.”
Erica nods in approval.
“Isn’t it true that men mature later in life? Doesn’t that have something to do with how they handle relationships?” questions another woman.
“True, and every couple goes through ups and downs,” adds Erica. “Staying through the down times doesn’t make us their playground whores. It makes us strong to be able to love them through the pain. Do you know how many people would never get married if they waited for perfect?”
Dinah smirks at the barrage of comments and questions. It never fails to surprise her how women defend and excuse the egocentric behavior of men. But not because they love them and desire a relationship—no, that is too simple. What’s not simple is truth. As much as they ask for it, women do not want truth. They do not want to confront themselves, their fears, and the lies that will eventually catch up with them. Those guileful lies transforming themselves into sundry forms of infidelity and divorce. Betrayal creating depression, anger, and resentment. Bitterness baking into unhappiness, self-loathing, separation, and loneliness. The spawn of dishonesty birthing jealousy, self-medication, and, yes, sometimes death. All because of those pretty guileful lies.
She unleashes, “The problem lies within you. The sooner you realize that, the better. Once you acknowledge what’s wrong, it then becomes within your power to correct it. Truth be told, women do not want the power they possess. You fear it. The problem, ladies, is you sit around talking about the changes he needs to make, waiting for him to make them. You. Need. To. Change. You’re trying to convert him while dismissing and ignoring your power because you don’t appreciate what it is or what to do with it. That is a trait of the playground whore.”
Faint smile lines appear at the corners of Dinah’s eyes as she walks toward her car.
You did good, girl.
She laughs out loud. Her hand flies up, suppressing her pleasure while surveying the poorly lit campus for intrusive eyes. The cold autumn evening wind blows her black curls into her face. She shields herself from the brunt of the chill and buries her nose in a beige pashmina. Brisk, long strides carry her across the parking lot.
She pulls out her cell phone. Rolling her eyes, she deletes three unread text messages and two voicemails from her husband, Gerald. Her gait slows when she notices a cracked headlight and dent on the front passenger side of her car.
“You have got to be kidding me,” says Dinah, squatting to get a better look. She takes pictures of the damage with her cell phone and forwards them to her best friend, Shawna. Immediately, Dinah’s phone rings.
“What happened? Are you okay?” asks Shawna.
“Yeah, leaving another book club meeting and I came out to that.”
“Are you in the car?”
“Yeah, I’m okay, really.”
“It could’ve been one of the girls you called a ho.”
“Again? I don’t call them hoes.”
“Keep telling yourself that lie. I’m serious; you can’t go around preaching to women about being men’s playground whores and not expect consequences. You know what you need? You need a stun gun.”
Friends since the fourth grade, Dinah and Shawna were known by everyone in school not as Dinah and Shawna but as one—DinahShawna. Partners-in-crime during hopscotch, double-dutch, and hide-and-go-get-it, they pooled their money to buy candy cigarettes and ice pops. Summers were spent sneaking into each other’s kitchens to make sugar sandwiches and Kool-Aid. During sleepovers, they slept at Shawna’s house in tents made of blankets where they shared secrets and tears. The simplicities of childhood and the trauma of drunken parents kept their friendship strong.
“You’re beyond ridiculous,” says Dinah. “I’m not in danger and no, no stun gun. It was a random hit-and-run idiot, it has nothing to do with my book.”
“Maybe not, but it’s possible. Going on these tours alone makes it easier for something to happen to you. Girl, folks are crazy. You need a stun gun.”
“Can’t do this with you right now. Are you still coming to our family dinner?” Dinah asks, pulling out of the parking lot.
“You mean Thanksgiving?”
“No, I said family dinner.”
“Why are you asking me this again?”
Shawna is a stickler when it comes to managing her three salons; the constant reminders of events, even holidays, irritates the hell out of Dinah.
“You do this all the time,” complains Shawna. “Even though I don’t want to, you know good and damn well I’ll be there. Are you sticking to the no football rule?”
“That’s so dumb. How’s Gerald? I haven’t seen him in a while.”
“He’s okay, a little stressed about work; he’s still under a semester-to-semester contract. Since I’m now a full-time author, he wants something more financially secure.”
“When the money is funny so is the dick. Take care of him. I should flirt with him, take off some of the pressure.”
“Why do you mess with him like that? He doesn’t pay you any attention, but it drives J crazy. You’re bringing J, right?”
“Yes, we’ll be there. Where are you?”
“What did you wear tonight? Did you put any curls in your tired hair like I told you to do? Got on a pop of color? You’re too cute for old ass navy, beige, and black.”
Examining her navy pantsuit, she presses harder on the gas pedal with her black pumps. The silence tells Shawna everything.
“Dee! I sent you pictures, labeling everything down to the damn shapewear.”
“Navy is my color. It’s professional, it makes my champagne shell pop and—”
“Champagne? Girl, who are you tryin’ to fool? That shit is beige. Anyway, how did this ho tour turn out?”
“They’re not ho tours. They’re speaking engagements, and it went well, thank you. But those young ladies,” Dinah shakes her head, “They struggled with reality, but I converted a few.”
“Your truth ain’t always the truth.”
“You asshole!” screams Dinah.
A battle of the horns blares through Shawna’s phone. “Dee, you okay? What happened?”
“This wide ass SUV almost hit me. Damn. Whew. I’m okay, I’m okay.” Deep breaths ensue.
“Yeah, a little rattled, but I’m fine.”
“Did you see who it was?”
“No. The windows were black. No way that tint’s legal. And they had the nerve to honk at me.”
“Another ho. I’m tellin’ you, you need a stun gun.”
“I don’t need a stun gun.”
“You need a stun gun.”
“I’m getting you a stun gun.”
“Goodbye, Sis,” says Dinah.
“Unless you made it ho—”
“I made it home, and I’m going inside to wrap my arms around my husband.”
“I’m being a friend.”
“I know, and I love you for it.”
“I’m getting you a stun gun.” Shawna hangs up before Dinah can object.
Safely home, she chuckles as she pulls the key out of the ignition. Outside of the lowering garage door, an all-black SUV parks, low-beam headlights reflecting off the steel handles.
The door leading into the mudroom cracks opens. Standing in the doorway is her husband with her favorite red slippers in his hand. Mindful of the car damage, she hops out.
Aren’t you tired of hiding things?
“Honey, you’re home,” says Gerald, smiling.
“And how great it is to come home to you.”
“To me or the slippers?”
“You. It’s always you.”
His arm wraps around the small of her back, drawing her near. They slow dance their way through the kitchen and into the den. She rests against him. Etta James plays in the background, gifting Dinah a reprieve from strangulating thoughts. Her smile broadens and her body eases with the music. “That’s my song.”
“I know. ‘A Sunday Kind of Love.’ You’re my kind of love.”
“You spoil me.”
“Because you’re worthy.” Still holding the slippers, he spins her out and draws her back in with a kiss to her forehead. “Take a seat.”
Gerald kneels to take off her shoes, replacing them with slippers. She wiggles her toes against the faux-fur lining.
“I texted and called you,” he says.
“Can’t answer if I’m speaking.”
“Shawna?” Gerald sighs. “I worry about you in this weather and being out there alone. You need to check-in with me. Why do you keep making this hard?”
Dismissive of his question, she closes her eyes and rubs her neck.
Trapped. Everywhere I go.
“Shawna doesn’t protect you. I do. Look at me.” He grabs her chin, “Look at me. We had an agreement.”
“I’m sorry. I should’ve answered. It won’t happen again.”
“Thank you.” He goes into the kitchen.
Is the husband protecting you?
I hope he doesn’t see the dent in the car.
Gerald returns with ginger orange almond biscotti and a marbled brown ceramic mug filled with black coffee for her.
“I appreciate you.”
A subject. Not a wife. He studies her disposition. “How do you feel? Are you relaxed or wound up? What did you eat? Sometimes you forget to eat, did you eat today?”
“How long are you gonna do this?”
“Every time I come home, you ask the same questions. Worded differently, but still the same questions.” She puts down the coffee mug. “What are you trying to get at?”
“I just wanna take care of my wife.” He leans back and places her legs on his lap. “How did the girls behave on the playground tonight?”
“It was an interesting night with one of the better groups. A healthy mix of believers and dissenters, and that always makes for a lively debate.”
“Did you really have to name your book His Playground Whore?”
“Not again!” She attempts to throw a pillow at him, but he is faster and catches her arm before the release.
“Come closer, I wanna play.”
Your book has him randy tonight.
Don’t make fun of my husband.
“Yeah,” he says. “I wanna play. Pretend I’m a seesaw.”
She laughs and climbs on top of him.
“Now give me the ride of my life.”