For as long as she could remember, Shayla
Humphries loved Sunday mornings. This
was the day God gave us for rest, a day for worship and for family. Sunday was a day for collard greens and
black-eyed peas and pot roast with potatoes and carrots or a succulent Butterball
ham. Sunday was a day for giving and for
good will towards your fellow man.
Shayla considered these things as she
listened to the voice messages saved on cellphone #3. She kept up with this phone by remembering
the last four digits of the number, which, coincidentally, were 3666.
According to her father, 666 was an evil
number, the number of the beast who would come in the end days. The beast would torture and horrify anyone
who was left behind after the rapture.
Shayla believed in the rapture. She
knew the anti-Christ was real as well, but she didn’t think there was anything particularly
evil about cellphone #3.
Then again, some of the messages she got
last night were anything but Christian:
a nasty wench! A demon spawn. You think you can come up in here and mess up
what me and my husband got? Girl, you
ain’t messed up nothing! I see you for
who you is, and so does Allen. You ain’t
did nothing but make yourself look like a slut!
And if I ever see your ass again, Lord have mercy. My man’s staying right here with me, so poof,
be gone. Dumb ass whore!”
Shayla grinned and shook her head. She pressed seven to delete the crazed
woman’s rant. The next voicemail on her
phone was from Allen himself. She rolled
to her side and closed her eyes as she listened to this one:
hey, Crystal. I – I’m sorry but I had to
give my wife your phone number. She’s,
she say she’s gonna call you. I’m, I
mean, she, she probably is gonna call you.
I didn’t wanna give her the number, but she wouldn’t let it go. She went through all my shit. I’m sorry.
I’m, I’m really sorry. I still want,
to, to see you. I wanna be with you,
Crystal. Send me a message, if you
can. I, I really wanna hear from you. And, I’m sorry about my wife. She’s, I think she’s gonna call you…”
That message made Shayla sick to her
stomach, but her twisted grin remained.
She knew she should leave well-enough alone, but it upset her that
Allen’s wife still wasn’t getting the picture.
Some wives will always blame the other woman. Even if they find evidence of multiple
affairs, it’s always the other woman’s fault.
Allen’s wife thought he was as pure as the
driven snow. In her mind, every time he left
the house, voluptuous vixens accosted him and threw him to the ground and raped
him. They forced him to take them to nice restaurants. They made him go to the jewelry store and buy
them nice things – things Allen would never even consider purchasing for his
These scandalous women were the problem. They were evil and wretched. Some of them were real-live witches. They casted spells that made good husbands
Shayla frowned. She sighed.
She opened her eyes long enough to dial Allen’s home number. It was clear she was going to have to dispose
of cellphone #3 today, so why not burn all of her bridges?
His wife Betty answered after two rings.
“Hi,” Shayla said. “Is, may I speak to Allen?”
“Who is this?”
“This is Crystal – Oh my God. Did I, I meant to call his cellphone…”
“Crystal?” Another pause, this one longer. Betty’s breaths came hot and hard. “Girl, I know
you ain’t calling my house.” Her voice
was low now. Low and mean.
Shayla scratched behind her ear and then
held out her hand so she could examine her fingernails. She needed a manicure, but it could wait a
few more days.
“Who is this, his wife?” she asked.
Betty exhaled loudly, mostly through her
“Ain’t no need for you to be calling me,”
Shayla said, “talking all crazy. Me and
Allen gon’ be together – no matter what you say. You might as well get used to it, ’cause whenever
he ain’t right in your face, he prolly licking on me. When he get home and kiss you, I know you can
smell it. You like the way I taste,
don’t you? That’s why you still with
him, ’cause you like it.”
Betty was so infuriated, she couldn’t speak
right away. “Listen here, you little
“Why don’t we share him?” Shayla
offered. “I don’t mind sharing. Matter of fact, you can have him most of the
time. I just want him one day a week,
“He don’t want you, whore!”
“Why he put hickeys on my thighs then?”
Shayla wondered. “Why he spend your car
payment on a bracelet for me? I don’t
wanna argue with you, lady. Let’s just agree
to disagree.” She laughed. “We gon’ share Allen. We doing it anyway, so you might as well get
with the program.”
The woman barely moved the phone away from her face before yelling. “Get your ass in here right now! I got your whore on the phone! How the hell
you let her call our house?!”
“Daaaang,” Shayla said. “Ain’t you going to church today, Mrs. Archer? You know, God don’t like ugly.”
“You gon’ get yours,” the woman
growled. “I swear before God, you gon’
get yours!” Her voice was so menacing, Shayla felt a
chill roll down her spine.
“Tell Allen I’m sorry for calling his house. Tell him we can meet up at our usual spot
“Allen, get your ass in here now!!”
Shayla disconnected, and then she turned cellphone
#3 off for good. It was a cheap, prepaid
gadget she got from Walmart. She paid
cash and never had to register it before use.
She had absolutely no fear of repercussions.
She was slightly disappointed Allen’s wife
chose to stay, but she didn’t feel bad about her role in their marital dysfunction. Hell, their marriage was a sham way before she
ever hit the scene. She tossed the phone
to the floor and rolled to her other side, hoping to catch a few more Z’s
before she had to get up and get ready for church herself.
She was in a good mood. She loved church Sundays. It was a perfect day for rest and relaxation,
good food and good friends and peace towards your fellow man.
Donna called at nine a.m. sharp. Shayla was up by then. She stepped out of the shower and rushed to
dry herself but didn’t make it in time.
She put on a black robe and found her real phone (cellphone #1) on the
nightstand. She returned to the bathroom
and called her friend back as she opened the medicine cabinet and removed her
deodorant and other essentials.
“Yeah, what’s up?”
“You woke?” Donna asked.
“I just got out the shower.”
“You still coming?”
“Yes, I’m coming. I told you I’d be there.”
“I know,” Donna said. “I was just checking. I’m, never mind.”
“Are you nervous?”
“Yeah, a little.”
“I thought you weren’t coming,” Shayla
“I know,” Donna replied. “But I thought about it, and I think it will
look suspicious, if I’m not there today, you know?”
“It’s not like you think,” Shayla
said. She flinched a little from the
coolness of her antiperspirant.
“Nobody’s gonna know you had anything to do with it, unless you tell
“I’m not telling nobody,” Donna assured her.
“I’m sure you won’t,” Shayla said. “And don’t forget you don’t know me. I won’t say anything if I run into you, and you
shouldn’t speak to me either. Don’t even
look at me. You don’t want them people
coming after you when it’s over.”
“For real,” Shayla insisted. “I done seen it get real ugly, a couple of
times. Some of the same people praying
for you every Sunday will slash your tires if they find out you had something
to do with it. They’ll kick off they
shoes and fight you right there in the church house. I seen it happen.”
“I’m not telling nobody,” Donna said in a hushed voice.
She was spooked now, and that was
good. She needed to understand there
were serious consequences to what they were doing. Shayla never had to see those people again,
but Donna lived on the same street as some of them.
“Thanks again for doing this,” Donna
said. “If there was any other way...”
“If you wanna back out, tell me now,” Shayla
said. “’Cause it might get ugly.”
“No, I don’t wanna back out,” Donna
said. “He deserves it. You’ll, you’ll see when you get there.”
“Alright, well let me get off this phone so
I can get dressed.”
“Service starts at ten.”
“I don’t want to be on time,” Shayla said.
Shayla was tall for a girl, standing nearly
five feet eleven barefoot. If she was
thinner, she would’ve had the perfect build for high fashion modeling, but God
blessed her with shapely breasts and wide hips that couldn’t squeeze into most
outfits from the Marc Jacobs collection.
But she had the perfect build for urban wear. She could rock a pair of jeans like nobody’s
business, and all the men found it hard to stay on task when she wore a pair of
tight, black slacks to work.
Her skin was brown like Cognac. Her lips were full. Her eyes were small, but her lashes were long;
they added depth and volume to her dark brown orbs. She usually wore her shoulder-length hair in
a bun or ponytail. Today it was straight
and layered with no bangs.
She put on lipstick and mascara and then
slipped into a pink bra and panties set.
She put her robe back on and left her bedroom for the first time that
morning. She heard gospel music coming
from her sister’s room two doors down.
Carla had her door open, but Shayla stopped at Lisa’s room first. She knocked softly and then pushed the door
open when she heard her friend say, “Come on in.”
Lisa was 34, the same age as Shayla. They were best friends in high school and
were still inseparable. They got their
first apartment together during their last year of college. Three years later, they were both still
hopelessly single, so they upgraded to a rent house. Shayla’s little sister, Carla, begged to move
in with them when she dropped out of TCU.
Shayla and Lisa welcomed her with open arms.
A lot of their friends assumed there was
constant friction in the household – with three grown women under one roof, but
there were surprisingly few catfights. Everyone
had their own life to live, and the roommates were never stupid enough to go
after the same man.
Lisa was still in bed, cuddled up with a
Zane novel. She looked up at Shayla
briefly, and her eyes quickly returned to a steamy love scene.
“Nothing,” Shayla said. “I see you’re up bright and early, reading your
“It is a good book,” Lisa said and snickered. She lie
on her stomach with her legs bent behind her.
Her colorful toe socks kicked the air casually. Lisa was attractive, but she was Shayla’s
opposite in many ways. She was half a
foot shorter and a lot smaller. She
could still fit into a size zero.
Lisa’s skin was fair like coffee with two
dashes of milk. She had short hair and
large eyes and a wide smile that could barely contain a perfect set of choppers
that were a little too big for her face.
Everyone who loved her commented on how beautiful Lisa’s smile was. Her opponents loved to call her “Big Mouth,”
which was mean, but not as bad as “Crocodile;” the moniker she endured in the
“What you getting dressed for?” Lisa asked,
noticing Shayla’s makeup.
“I’m going to church today. You’re coming with me, right?”
Lisa rolled her eyes. “I don’t wanna.”
“Do it for Jesus.”
“He never did nothing for me.”
Shayla chuckled. “It’s a new church.”
Lisa’s frown intensified. “Hell no, Shay! I don’t wanna go to no Alvarado!”
“Come on,” Shayla said. “You can bring your book with you and pretend
it’s a bible.”
“Those country-ass churches are the worst.”
“I’ll take you to lunch afterwards.”
“Why you going?” Lisa asked. “Who’s acting a fool over there?”
“Joseph Youngblood, the head usher.”
“An usher? Come on, man.
That’s not even worth it.”
“It’s worth it to my friend,” Shayla
said. “She says he’s real blatant. I wanna see for myself.”
“How many times are you going?” Lisa
wondered. “I’ll go today, but that’s
it. I don’t like those hick towns. They make me feel like I’m stuck in Children of the Corn. I be waiting for Malachi to show up with his
eyes glowing and shit.”
Shayla laughed. “It won’t be that bad.”
“They probably got a blind organ player,”
Lisa guessed. “And at least one choir
member with special needs – and he sings the loudest.”
“Girl, stop,” Shayla said, laughing. She turned and exited the room. “We’re leaving in forty minutes.”
still don’t wanna go,” Lisa grumbled.
She threw a pillow that bounced off the doorframe.
Shayla continued down the hallway until she
reached her sister’s room. Carla had her
television tuned in to gospel music. She
emerged from the closet in her typical Sunday morning gear: a knee length
skirt, an unflattering blouse, skin-tone stockings and black pumps. She had her hair pulled back in a ponytail.
She looked her sister up and down and
frowned. “Good morning.”
“Good morning,” Shayla replied. “What’s that look for?”
“What are you getting dressed for?” Carla
wondered. She went to her dresser and
checked her hair in the large mirror affixed to it. She didn’t wear makeup, but she found a pair
of gold earrings that suited her.
“I’m going to church,” Shayla said. She took a seat on her sister’s bed and reached
for Carla’s bible. She opened it and
flipped through the real good book,
not surprised to see her sister’s scribbles on nearly every page.
“Going to church where?” Carla asked, still
looking at her mirror.
“Alvarado,” Shayla said. “Beth Eden,
Carla secured her earrings and turned to
face her big sister. “What are you going
over there for?”
“Same old, same old,” Shayla replied.
“You gonna sleep with him?” Carla asked.
“I don’t do that anymore. At least I try not to.”
“Who told you about this one?” Carla
asked. She leaned with her butt against
the dresser. She folded her arms over
her stomach and looked down at her sister.
Shayla put the bible down and rose to her
feet. Subconsciously, she didn’t like to
be in a position of inferiority. “Donna.”
“One of my sorority sisters. I don’t think you know her.”
“She called you out of the blue and said you
had to come to her church to take care of their problem? Couldn’t nooobody
else do it?”
“She knows I’ve done it before,” Shayla
explained. “She asked if I could check
him out. And I talk to her all the
time. It’s not out of the blue.” She chuckled.
Carla shook her head and turned back to her
“You gotta trip every time?” Shayla wondered.
“I just don’t see why you can’t come with
me to Daddy’s church, if you’re going to church anyway…”
“You know I’m not going to Daddy’s church.”
Carla turned back to her. “It’s not like you really going to church
anyway, Shay. Your body may be there,
but your head’s somewhere totally different.
You starting to act like Lisa. Do
you even believe in God anymore?”
Shayla laughed, but her sister was serious.
“Of course I believe in God. I believe in Jesus and Moses too.”
“It’s not funny.”
“Okay, it’s not funny.” Shayla straightened her face. “But what this guy’s doing at Beth Eden isn’t
funny either. He’s got a wife and six
kids. Six kids, Carla. His wife’s fat,
and he thinks he’s the smoothest thing alive.
Everybody at the church knows what’s going on – except his wife.”
“Why can’t somebody else tell her?”
“They tried,” Shayla insisted. “But they never have enough proof. He keeps talking his way out of it. Even the pastor told some of the women to
leave him alone and stop spreading rumors.
After that, this dude got even more bold. It’s disgusting, Carla. You should hear the way Donna tells it.”
“And you’re drawn to it,” Carla said
knowingly. “You don’t just wanna help
them, you wanna get all in the mix. You
love it. You can’t get enough.”
Shayla opened her mouth and then closed it
because her sister was dead on.
“Well, at least I do something about it,”
she said at length, “instead of just watching and talking behind people’s back,
like everybody else does.”
“You think God respects what you do?” Carla
jabbed. “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
“I think it’s too early to argue with you,”
Shayla said, shaking her head. “I mean,
damn, girl. Can’t I say good morning to
you without getting this speech?”
Carla loosened up. She smiled out of the corner of her mouth. “Good morning, Shay.”
“Good morning!” Shayla said. “Is Jimmy going to church with you?”
Her sister’s smile intensified. Her boyfriend of two years was a bright spot
in her life. “Yeah, he’ll be here in a
“How’s it going with you born-again
virgins?” Shayla asked. “Still standing
“We be having temptations,” Carla
admitted. “But we haven’t done nothing.”
“If I was you, I would’ve ran off to Vegas
by now to hurry up and get the marriage over with.”
“I ain’t gon’ lie, I do feel like that
sometimes. But we only got three months
to go. We can make it.”
Shayla shook her head. When Carla and Jimmy first met, they were
humping like rabbits. Shayla expected a
niece or a nephew to be conceived any minute.
But Carla started taking Jimmy to church with her, and somehow their
father convinced them to become “born-again” virgins and abstain until they
were properly married.
Carla surprised everyone by accepting the
challenge with minimal heartache. Shayla
was surprised to hear Jimmy went along with it as well. It had been seven months since the last time
he got his rocks off (with a girl in the room).
“I need to finish getting ready,” Shayla
said and headed for the door. “Tell Daddy
I said ‘Hi’.”
“I’m sure he’d like it more if you told him
Shayla kept walking. No way was she getting dragged into that
“Just tell him,” she said. “You know, if I could go one week without arguing with you on Sunday morning, I’d take a
purity pledge my damned self.”
Carla’s face lit up. “That would
be cool, Shay! I got these books you can
check out, and...” she trailed off, and
her expression changed. “You not gon’ take
no purity pledge.”
Shayla looked back and laughed. “No, I’m not.
But have fun with yours.”
“I am having fun,” Carla snapped.
“That’s great,” Shayla said. “Enjoy yourself.”
“Could both of y’all shut the hell up?”
Lisa yelled into the hallway. “I’m
trying to masturbate in here!”
Carla’s eyes flashed open wide. She brought a hand over her mouth and backed
into her room.
Shayla laughed and continued down the
hallway with her eyes averted, not daring to see if Lisa was telling the truth
*** Thanks for reading this excerpt. I hope you enjoyed it. If you'd like to read the rest of this book, Harlot is available for pre-order ***
© Keith Thomas Walker