Mass Confusion

by Jhori Barksdale

"Casanova strikes again." My close friend and business partner Marco appears in my office door just as I finish reading my card. "And Iím sure thatís the loving note of apology that accompanied the arrangement." He nods toward the flowers on my desk.

Before I can tell him to stay our of my business, he holds up his hands as if in surrender. "Thatís all I have to say on the subject. You are a grown woman and donít need your best friend trying to tell you how to handle your man." He turns to walk away, but not before throwing one final comment over his shoulder. "But take it from a man whoís seen it all and done it all-you deserve a hell of a lot more than what youíre getting."

As Iím absorbing his last statement, my private line rings. "Capri Summers."

"Hey baby." His voice seeps through the phone, warming my face and sending chills over my body.

"Hey sweetie-Thanks for the flowers, they are beautiful." I smile into the phone.

"Just like you baby." He says, making me grin even more. "You know how much I love you baby. Iím sorry about the other night." He starts to apologize yet again, like heís been doing for the last 3 days straight. "You know how hard it is for me with my trying to be a young black entrepreneur. I have to work 10 times harder than the white man just to make half the money. Just work with me a little while longer, Ok?" He pleads. "Once I get this thing going, you can quit that job and start making me some babies."

I want to stay mad at him, but when it comes to Trey Davenport it seems like all my resistance goes flying out the window. Sometimes I get so mad at myself because as a Regional Business Manager with a major environmental engineering firm, I am in constant contact with some of the most powerful and successful men in my field. Yet when it comes to my own man, I canít seem to scrape up an ounce of courage to sit his ass on the curb where he belongs. I truly want to believe that he really is spending all his time trying to work on building his business, but my intuition keeps leaning towards the idea that the majority of his clients are female.

"Iím really trying Trey, but youíre starting to wearing me thin with all this business you say that youíre working on and yet you continuously cry broke."

I mentally make a note to check my next Visa statement which I bet will have a florist charge on it for these damn flowers thatís sitting on my desk.

"Thatís because all my money has to be recycled into the business. Baby you know you donít really make any real money for at least the first 2-3 years."

My other line lights up. "Trey, I gotta go, Iíll see you at the house tonight. Donít forget we have reservations at Justinís for 8."

"Ok baby, I wonít. Now blow me one."

I blow him a kiss before we hang up. He always seem to know how to say the right thing to make me feel good, even when I know I should be pissed at him.

"Consultants Engineering, this is Capri Summers."

"Hello Ms. Summers, this is Jared Phelps from Analytical GeoScience. We did a Phase II for your company about 5 months ago and have yet to be paid." The person on the other end comes on in an angry voice and completely shatters my good mood.

I take a small breath before I speak so that I wonít come off sounding defensive. "I apologize Mr. Phelps, have you spoken with our accounting department about this matter?" I ask, which apparently turns out to be the wrong question because he really explodes all over me after that.

"Have I? About 30 times to be exact. Whether you know it or not or even care, I am a very busy man Ms. Summers and I donít have the time to be chasing down my hard earned money. I would think that a major company such as yours would at least pay your damn bills on time. I am a privately owned business, so while $10,000 may not be a lot of money to you, it means a hell of a lot to me." He yells into the phone so loud I have to hold the receiver away from my ear.

"Well when did you invoice us Mr. Phelps? Iím sure your contract stated that there is a 90 day grace period from your invoice date until the time we cut you a check."

"Yes Iím well aware of what my contract says." He speaks in a measured tone. "But what part of 5 months donít you understand? Iím sure as the business manager you have some type of mathematical skills." He snarls, making me cringe even more.

"I understand perfectly and I sincerely apologize once again." I say, trying to be empathetic while recalling how many times I have been on the other end of the telephone myself. "If youíll give me your companyís name once again, along with the invoice number, Iíll be more than happy to look into it and give you a call back." I continue to maintain a calm demeanor in hopes of not agitating this man anymore than he obviously already is.

Taking a deep breath to emphasis to me exactly how pissed off he is, he slowly speaks as if he is talking to a child. Knowing that he is trying to get a rise out of me, I again tell him that I will investigate the matter and get back with him as soon as I find something out. Finally hanging up the phone, I decide to take a much needed break. Grabbing my purse from my desk drawer, I head down the hall to Marcoís office in hopes of snagging him for lunch. Reaching his door, I find him on the phone but he waves me inside and points to the seat in front of his desk. After he finishes his call I ask him if he wants to grab some lunch across the street at Rio Bravo.

Once seated and our orders are taken, I brace myself for what I assume is going to come next. Him telling me how no good Trey is and that I should drop him. But to my surprise he never brings the subject up and so for the next hour we talk about the office and where we are on various projects and future plans and my recent closing on a condo in a new community on the outskirts of town. Before I know it, our lunch hour is up and itís time to get back to the office.

As soon as I hit the door there are 10 different fires to put out and by the time I finish handling all the chaos itís after six and Iíd completely forgotten about the problem with Mr. Phelps. Putting a Post It note on my terminal to remind myself to make that my first priority in the morning, I hurry out the door on my way home to get ready for dinner.

The ride home is awful and itís almost 7 when I walk in the house. Rushing upstairs to jump in the shower, I almost miss seeing the light flashing on my answering machine that indicates I have messages waiting. Starting to get a sick feeling in the bottom of my stomach, I slowly walk over and press the play button while at the same time checking the numbers in my Caller Id unit. The last number confirms what I already know; itís Treyís cell-phone. And then his voice comes through my machine to place the stamp on it and seal my assumption.

"Hi sweetie. Youíre gonna kill me but right now Iím tied up in a meeting with a client and it doesnít look like Iím going to be getting away anytime soon. Iím sorry but hopefully this will be a very lucrative contract. You know Iím doing this for the both of us. Please donít be mad. Iíll call you later so I can come by. Keep it warm for me baby- and you know what Iím talking about. Love you." The machine clicks off. Picking up the unit I hurl it across the room and sends it crashin g against the wall.

I am so tired of this shit. This is it; his ass has truly fucked up this time. I march over to the dresser and begin pulling everything that belongs to him out on the bedroom floor. Then I go into the closet and start snatching down clothes like Angela Bassett in Waiting to Exhale. If I lived in a house instead of a condo, Iíd have the mind to burn his shit up too. Going downstairs I get a few trash bags and throw all things inside and take them out to my car. Getting in I crank it up and head to Riverdale to drop his shit off in the driveway so that it will be waiting for his raggedy ass when he gets home.

Turning onto his street I can see his car parked in the driveway at the end of the cul de sac. "Now ainít this bout a bitch." I say out loud as I slow down. Either this mutha fucka is riding in the car with his client or heís a lying ass bastard. As it stands right now-it seems to me that his mama was a tramp and donít know who his daddy is.

Turning off my lights, I park a few houses away and get out of the car. Walking up his drive, I cut around to the side of the house and peek in the living room window. The lamp near the sofa is on and I hear the faintest sound of music coming from inside. Going around to the back, I lift the planter on the patio and remove the key from its hiding place.

Unlocking the kitchen door, I walk smack dab into the smell of baked Salmon and Linguini Alfredo. Going over to the stove and sink, I find empty dishes and then notice a bottle of Moet laying in the garbage. And now that Iím inside, I can distinctively hear Will Downing sing I Try coming from the living room.

"Yeah asshole, I bet you are trying." I think to myself. "Trying to get some ass."

Peeking around into the dining room I see used empty plates on the table. Patience is not one of my best traits so I waste no time walking into the living room. Expecting to see Trey and some female on the sofa, I only find a trail of clothes leading up the stairs. Feeling my head about to explode off my neck, I take the stairs two at a time and walk directly into catching Trey in mid stroke- seeing nothing but naked black ass in the air. Had I not been in a total state of delirium, the look on his face would have been beyond hilarious.

"You trifling son of a bitch." Is all that I can say in spite of the situation and I turn to walk out the door not wanting to let him see the hurt in my eyes. Before I even reach the bottom landing the tears begin to fall and I can hear him calling my name as I walk out the front door leaving it standing wide open. The fact that he is butt ass naked slows him down and by the time he reaches the outside I have pulled my car up in his drive and strewn his clothes all over the front lawn. He reaches my car just as I am about to get in and I turn on him like a tiger protecting her cubs. "There ainít shit you can tell me to explain what I just saw. I gave you more of me than you ever deserved and you fucked me. I canít believe I wasted my time on you." I get in my car. "Just stay the hell away from me." I say as I pull off.

Riding around for hours, I finally go home and crawl into bed. The next morning I wake up totally disoriented and then remember the scene from the night before and am tempted to call in sick but I know thatíll only make matters worse. Dragging myself out of the bed, I get ready to go to work and act like my world did not shatter into little pieces the night before.

Walking into the office 45 minutes later, I breeze past the receptionist and make a detour for Marcoís office so I can go ahead and get it over with.

"Ok, whatís up with the hang dog face?" He looks up from whatever heís reading.

"You were right." I decide to give it to him straight. "I caught the sorry ass mutha fucka in bed with another girl last night."

Looking at me confused, his mouth opens and closes but nothing comes out.

"Wait." He pauses. "I thought you guys were suppose to be going to dinner last night." Then it seems to register what I just said and he just goes, "Oooooooh. So he canceled on you to be with someone else and you got suspicious and went over there and caught him?"

"Something like that." I look past him out the window hoping to not start another crying spell.

"Are you ok?" He gets up from his desk and pulls up the chair next to me. "Well thatís a stupid questionÖ. of course youíre not ok. You know Iíll go kick his ass if you want me to." He tries to make me smile although I know heís serious about the offer. With him having about 2 inches and a good 20 extra pounds over Trey, he more than likely would end up doing exactly that too.

"Yeah, Iíll be alright." I attempt a smile. "I just wish I had not been so hard headed and had listened to you."

"You had to learn this lesson for yourself babe." He pats my hand. "Iím sure plenty had warned others about me who did not listen."

"Yeah, but you were so smooth with your shit." I laugh in spite of the conversation. "Trey was so obvious with his mess, someone with alzihemers could have figured him out."

Getting up from the chair, I tell him weíll talk later because I have to stop by accounting and see whatís up with Mr. Phelps account.

As Iím walking through the reception area, Jessica stops me.

"Ms. Summers, this is Mr. Phelps with Analytical GeoScience and he says he needs to speak with you immediately," The receptionist says in a strained voice which tells me that either heís been giving her a hard time or sheís inwardly panting over him like most 21 year olds do at the sight of an attractive man.

Upon our introduction he stands up and walks over to where Iím standing. Trying to maintain my composure, I canít help noticing how completely gorgeous he is. The navy suit heís wearing surely has never graced anyoneís rack and had to be custom made, not only because of its expensive look but also because of the expansion of his chest and shoulders. Linebacker material. Looking down at the hand that is extended towards me, my analysis is confirmed by the championship ring on his well manicured right hand. Shamelessly, I notice that there isnít a ring on the left hand nor a tan line. Probably has Ďem lined up like a training camp scrimmage.

"Hello Mr. Phelps." I shake his hand. "I do apologize for not getting back with you on yesterday but things became hectic as soon as we got off the phone. I was just on my way to the accounting department when Jessica stopped me." I try not to be obvious about checking him out as I talk. Mahogany smooth skin, thick jet black eyebrows and lashes that are shadowing onyx colored eyes. Slick and shiny bald head, broad nose and a deep dimple in goatee chin. Damn. There is nothi ng like the sight of a well groomed sexy as black man.

"Chaos must have begun after your lunch at Rio Bravo." He says with a smile that does not reach his eyes although I donít feel as much hostility as I felt coming from him yesterday.

Embarrassment causes heat to rush up my neck yet I refuse to let him get the best of me. "Working 14 hour days should at least afford me a one hour lunch." I look him straight in the eyes without blinking to let him know that I wonít give in to his bullying attitude.

"Nevertheless, Jessica will show you to my office while I run down to accounting to check on your invoice?" I quickly turn and walk away.

Ten minutes later I find Mr. Phelps standing behind my desk looking out of the window. Pausing to take in the full sight of him, I have to admit that I am very impressed with what I see. Itís been a long time since I actually took the time to appreciate the physique of a man other than Trey-especially an obviously powerful strong minded one. Clearing my throat to get his attention, Iím a little perturbed when he does not turn around immediately but chooses to continue standing with his back to me when he speaks. "Were you able to get the information from the accounting department so that I can be paid?"

Pausing before answering his question, I realize just how much of a presence this man has considering Iím feeling like a guest in my own office. "Uh, I just spoke with my accounting manager downstairs and she pulled your file and it shows that we cut you a check back on the 12th of June which would have put you within the 90 day grace period. Have you thoroughly checked with your accounting department?" I raise my eyebrows at him just for the aggravation of it.

"I assure you Ms. Summers that my accounting department is very thorough and have not missed a step in crediting any monies that your company would have sent to us. Itís apparent that there is some kind of problem within your accounting department and it needs to be rectified immediately."

"Well Mr. Phelps, Iíve already requested that a copy of the check be faxed over from the bank. It should take about 15 minutes or so----can I get you anything while we wait?" I ask with confidence in my voice. Iím really looking forward to bringing his swollen ego down a thousand notches. Men like Jared Phelps are so full of themselves and expect everyone and everything to cower in their presence.

"A glass of water with light ice, thank you." He finally steps away from the window and takes a seat in the wingback chair in front of my desk.

Going over to the little wet bar I open the fridge and pull out a bottle of spring water and put some ice in a glass. Walking towards him, he looks up and for a split second our eyes lock and then almost just as quickly he looks away.

"Here you are Mr. Phelps." I hand him his glass and then go take a seat at my desk.

Thankfully thereís a light knock at the door because for the first time in a very long time, I feel intimidated by a manís presence.

"Come in." I call out and Glenna the accounting manager opens the door and walks in. Seeing Mr. Phelps sitting there, I can tell as a woman that his attractiveness does not get past her, but she manages to mask the look on face before stepping into his view.

"Hello Mr. Phelps, my name is Glenna Marshall and Iím the accounting manager here at Consultants Engineering." She extends her hand towards him. "I do apologize for the misunderstanding---I was not notified of there being a problem until Ms. Summers brought it to my attention this morning."

"Well weíve been calling about this for 5 months now and have gotten nothing but the run around from your people." He stands up and buttons the front of his coat. "Will you be cutting me a check today at least, considering I had to take time out of my busy schedule to come down here to resolve this?"

Putting a very condescending smile on her face, Glenna opens the folder in her hand and passes him a piece of paper. "Well Mr. Phelps, as Iím sure Ms. Summers has told you, we cut you a check back on the 12th of June and as this copy of the cancelled check indicates, it was deposited into a Harrison Andrews account four days later on the 16th.

As they say, if looks could kill. "In whoís account?" He snatches the piece of paper out of Glennaís hand, making her drop the folder.

Bending down to pick up the papers that have scattered across the floor, she continues to speak. "There are four other checks that have been deposited into that account over the past 14 months." She passes additional papers to him. "Two checks for $3500, a check for $1500 and then a very large one last month for $25,000."

Taking the rest of the papers, Jared drops down in the chair he was sitting in earlier and lets out a long breath.

"Iím assuming by your reaction that you had no knowledge of this?" I put my hand on his shoulder.

He shakes his head. "No, none what so ever."

"Thanks Glenna, Iíll let you know if we need anything else." I say to let her know she can leave.

"No problem." She turns and walks out the door.

"Jared, I take it that you know this Andrews person?" I turn my attention back to him.

"Yeah," he rubs his hand across his brows seeming to try and erase the creases that have gathered there, "heís my wifeís brother. Until about 8 months ago he was the company CFO."

Finding my heart dropping at the mention of his having a wife, now itís my turn to let out a deep breath. "Oh."

Suddenly popping up from his seat, he unbuttons his jacket again and begins to pace the carpet. "When I get my hands on that sorry bastard-----I wonít be responsible for what happens."

Hearing the rage in his voice, Iím almost afraid for Harrison Andrews. "Jared, this can easily be remedied, donít do something that youíll regret later." I try to reason. "All you need to do is go down to the police station and press charges. Itís not worth the risk."

Clearly not hearing one word Iíve said, he continues to talk aloud to no one in particular. "But what Iím trying to figure out is how did he get access to those checks. He has to have someone in the accounting department working with him."

The phone on my desk rings and I go to answer it. "Capri Summers."

"Capri, baby please donít hang up on me." Treyís voice pleads through the receiver. "Just listen to what I have to say and then make your decision about us."

"Trey Davenport, there ainít shit that you can say to explain what I saw last night. No physical or mental explanation what so ever. Everyone was warning me about your tired ass, but I was too damn in love to see it until it smacked me dead center in the face." I try to maintain my cool but find my voice getting louder. "And you know what boyfriend? I truly appreciate that slap of reality cause had I not seen it with my own two eyes, Iíd probably be sitting in this damn office wit h some roses on my desk with you on the other end of this line easing your way back into the drawers. Well Mr. Man, you have plucked this turkey for the last time." I slam down the receiver.

"Trifling ass son of a bitch. What in the hell does he take me for, Eddie Spaghetti?" I huff to myself and then realize that Iím not in my office alone.

"Oh, Iím sorry." I say, embarrassed about my out burst.

Raising one of those perfectly arched kohl black eyebrows at me, he says, "Not to be offensive but it looks like someone has been screwing you over too."

"Donít even go there." I hold my hand up. "Your situation is because of trust and ignorance, mine was just plain old stupidity." I shake my head.

"Anyway, I apologize for that." I say.

Looking across the desk at him, "Now back to your problem. Unfortunately thereís nothing that Consultants Engineering can do about your situation since the check was correctly made out to your firm and cashed by one of your employees. But is there anything that I can do as a concerned individual to help?"

Shaking his head and holding his hands up in the air. "Not really Ms. Summers, I think Iíve caused you enough trouble with my overbearing and pompous attitude earlier." He stands up and adjusts his coat once again. "This is something that has to be taken care of on a more personal level and I would not want such a beautiful woman around when the shit goes down." He says, making me feel warm and cold at the same time. Trying to keep him on a level where he wonít do something h e may very well regret, I find words flying out of my mouth that are totally out of the norm for me.

Looking at my watch, "Well after all that, I think Iíve worked up an appetite for some Jamaican food, why donít you allow me to treat you to the Jamaican Patti Hut over in Rio Mall?"

Seemingly studying me for a second, he hesitates before replying to my offer. "I think Iíd like to take a raincheck on that until I have taken care of a few things. Can I call you?"

Trying not to show my disappointment I say, "Sure."

As soon as the door closes behind him I want to kick myself in the behind for asking a married man out to lunch. After hearing my conversation with Trey, he must think Iím desperate. "Oh well. It was only lunch. I wasnít trying to sleep with the damn man." I turn back to my computer.

Needless to say, Jared Phelps later found that his wife and brother-in-law had been skimming money off invoices for over two years. Their plans were to save enough money to start their own business while at the same time divorcing Jared and taking him for everything that he had. Of course that didnít happen and as I speak, Mrs. Phelps is officially his ex, and she and her brother are sitting really pretty in state prison doing some serious time.

I on the other hand, am enjoying a new and exciting relationship and look forward to vacationing in Rio next week with my sweetie, Jared. You never know what youíll find lurking around the corner of mass confusion. Me, I found love.

Mass Confusion by Jhori Barksdale

© Copyright 2000. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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