Sheridan Hawkins is a chain-smoking, former high school prom queen, trying to survive a marriage fraught with financial and emotional difficulties. Faye “Dimples” Davis is the first lady of a megachurch who desperately wants to have a baby. Victoria Williams is an elementary school teacher fighting for the love of her estranged husband and children. Danielle Wiley is a powerhouse attorney grappling with her sexual identity. These are the heroines of “Four Ladies Only.” Their friendship began two decades ago in middle school and continued through high school. However, in their senior year, a horrific event took place that destroyed their relationship and belief and trust in one another. Twenty years later, the death of their mutual friend, Sabrina Brown, motivates them to try to reconcile. However, in the process, they are forced to tackle the secrets, lies, deceit, and hypocrisy that underpin each of their lives. But they soon come to realize that their biggest hurdle will be facing and reliving the one night that led to twenty years of separation.
Targeted Age Group:: 18-55
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
One day I was at the gym and I had just gotten out of the shower. I looked around at all the other women who were there, thinking about what a sacrifice we all make each morning, getting up early to stay fit. That thought led to other thoughts about women and friendships and how those friends can go from blissful to baleful over minor and not so minor issues. This let me to writing Four Ladies Only, a story that deals with four women who gave up on a close friendship for twenty years. I was excited about writing this book because for the past several years I’ve been writing a series.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The four women in Four Ladies Only came to me quite easily. I just knew that I wanted them to be very distinct when it came to their various backgrounds and idiosyncracies. They’re not based on anyone in particular, but readers tell me that they see themselves or someone they know in each character.
I hate this part. Let me get the hell out of here. Why in the crap did I come to the cemetery anyway? The service was bad enough with all the sobbing, screaming, and people falling out. I’m just a freakin’ glutton for punishment and I have a black eye to prove it. I shove the sunglasses I bought at the carwash up the bridge of my nose, while Sabrina’s casket is being lowered into the ground. I stand on my long shaky legs, smooth my wrinkled black dress I got from the Swap Meet yesterday, and pray I don’t run into “The Others.” That’s what I call them now—Faye, Victoria, and Danielle. They’re “The Others.” Hell, it’s been twenty years. I probably wouldn’t even recognize them. And I’m damn sure they ain’t gonna recognize me. Truth be told, there are times when I look in the mirror and I scare myself. Time is a mother!
Startled, I turn at the sound of the whiny-sounding voice and give the dimpled-faced woman the once over, wondering how she got the drop on me. The burial ceremony ended thirty minutes ago and the people with good sense have already paid their respects to Sabrina’s family and are headed to the parking lot.
“I think you dropped your cigarettes,” she says, reaching for my Menthol Kools splayed out across a patch of grass. She scoops the two loose ones up and grabs the pack. She thrusts the tobacco my way, while staring at me with bloodshot eyes and smeared makeup. I take my smokes and give her a slight nod. She gives me a faint smile while she rifles through her small black clutch. She pulls out a crumpled handkerchief, covered in dried mascara, and dabs at her face. Must be one of Sabrina’s relatives. She looks like she took it hard. I cried too—inside.
“Thanks,” I say. I pause when my eyes lock on the ring on her finger. I notice 93 and Bradshaw. “Did you go to Bradshaw?” I ask.
She stops wiping her tears, squints and says, “Yeah, I did. I graduated in 93.”
“I did, too,” I say, stuffing my Kools into my purse. “How do you know Sabri—”
“Sheridan!” she screams, cutting me off. “Sheridan Hawkins? Lord, have mercy. Good, Lord Almighty. Is that you?”
I stand there dumbfounded, wondering how I didn’t recognize Faye “Dimples” Johnson. She was known for her big dimples and whiney voice. I’m even more mystified that she’s being so cordial, acting like we’re Bffs, acting like all the ratchet stuff that went down back in the day never happened. “Yeah, it’s me.”
“Sheridan, I’m Faye…Dimples…remember, the preacher’s kid?”
“I know it’s you…I mean I didn’t at first, but how could I have not known. You still have that whin…voice of yours and those pretty dimples. You haven’t aged at all!”
“Well, you know what they say, black don’t crack.”
Bitch please. She just had to go there. “And white ain’t tight?”
“Sheridan, you look good for a—”
“Almost middle-aged white woman?” I ask, snatching off my shades.
“Lordy no…you look good period. Look at your pretty blue eyes. And you still
have all that pretty long blonde hair. You know you were the prettiest girl in high school. Every guy and male teacher wanted a piece of Miss Sheridan. It’s no wonder Gary… ”
We share knowing looks and tension-filled silence sucks up all the oxygen. I clear my dry throat and we both look at the cemetery workers repositioning the large wreath stand near Sabrina’s burial ground.
“Are you going to the repast?” she asks, interrupting the quiet.
“I hadn’t planned to,” I say, now desperate for a cigarette. “What about you?”
“Of course. You know my husband did the eulogy and New Hope is our church,” she says with a look of pride.
“No, I didn’t know that. I didn’t know you were married.”
“Yeah, I am,” she says, glancing at the class ring on her wedding ring finger. I just wore this today in honor of Sabrina. I can’t believe she’s gone. My, Lord, she was such a beautiful person inside and out.”
“I can’t believe it either. I guess I will be going to the repast.”
“Oh…okay, I’ll see you over there. I can’t—” The sound of a horn brings our conversation to a halt. Faye wipes the sweat from her arched brow and swivels her long neck toward the parking lot. “That’s my husband Mark. I better go. I can’t wait to catch-up. It’s been a long time. By the way, do you still paint?”
“Rarely,” I say. “Do you still make those dolls?” I ask.
She nods, the horn sounds again, and she takes off, looking over her shoulder one last time. I watch her sway her narrow hips in her long black dress while she picks up speed. Her shoulder length weave moves like it’s really her hair. I wonder where the other two are. I wonder if they were here and I just didn’t recognize or see them. Not everybody came to the cemetery. Maybe they were no-shows. They were probably at the church and I just missed them. Now I wish I would have let Sabrina give me the 411 on the others. She tried, but I wasn’t hearing it. I didn’t wanna know nothin’ ‘bout Faye, Victoria, or Danielle. They were non-mother…let me chill.
I take one last look at Sabrina’s burial site before I head to my car. Why didn’t she tell me? Why didn’t she tell me she was dying? Two years ago was the last time we had spoken to one another. I called, emailed, sent text messages, and came by a whole bunch of times and I always got the same response. “She’s out of town.” “She’s not home.” “I’ll tell her you called.” Her mother would always be the one to answer her cell phone, her house phone, and her front door. It didn’t take me long to get the message. Sabrina was done. I knew she was pissed that I wouldn’t fix things with the others, but I didn’t know she would go totally left. I wonder did the others know.
I get out of my head and walk toward the parking lot. I can’t wait to get out of this black dress. It’s one of those scorching hot October days in the city of angels. I look up and squint as the sun’s rays stretch over the clear blue sky. Blinded, I look away and zoom in on a large oak tree just in time to see an orange butterfly with specs of gold and green land on a thin branch. I get a kick in my gut. Sabrina loved butterflies. Butterflies are free and now she is, too, from her pain and this hell masquerading as life.
As I near my car, I’m happy I got it washed. It doesn’t look so bad next to the Mercedes in front of it. I remember when I had a Mercedes and a Lexus. And Gary had a Porsche. I remember when we had it all. I stop thinking about what I used to have and get behind the wheel of my silver Honda. I turn and stare at Sabrina’s obituary on the passenger seat. Her cat shaped eyes seem to look right through me. I remember this picture of her when she first opened her clinic. She was complaining about her freckles. I snatch the obituary and scream, “Damn! Damn! Damn!” Now I know how Florida felt on “Good Times” when her husband James died.
I toss the obituary to the side, grab my cigarettes from my purse, and light up. I take a drag, praying that I don’t get cancer, too. I need to quit, but I need something to take the edge off while I try to get through the repast and my life. I don’t know why I told Faye I’d go. I guess because she said she was going. I don’t want it to look like she cared about Sabrina more than I did. She already out cried me. I suck hard and let the smoke calm my nerves. I feel better already. I take another drag, thinking about how beautiful Faye looked. She’s right, black doesn’t crack. That’s probably why I look more like Gary’s mother than his wife. We’re the same age, but his dark chocolate skin looks as smooth as it did when he played football at Bradshaw. Faye’s husband’s not a bad looking guy either and I have to admit he can preach with the best of ‘em. Speaking of husbands, I hope Walter’s okay. He looked like he was about to past out when the pallbearers lifted Sabrina’s casket.
I slip on my shades, put my cigarette out, and start up the car, wondering if Faye has money. That was a big ass church—a mega church. Shoot, there had to be at least a thousand people at the funeral and the church still looked big. Sabrina took care of a lot of people in the hood for free and they came in droves to show their appreciation. In their eyes she’s Saint Sabrina. I have to agree. Out of the five of us, she wasn’t only the smartest, but the sweetest—genuine sweet—not that fake sweet Faye dishes out with her church girl act. No, Sabrina was the real deal. One hundred. It’s no wonder she was so successful. It looks like Faye didn’t do too bad either. That Range Rover she took off in looked new.
I’m not about to be shown up. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve made it, too. I may be driving a Honda, but my other car’s a Lexus! It’s in the shop for repairs and Gary and I aren’t actually living with his mama in Compton, we’re taking care of her—helping her out, while we’re waiting for our Beverly Hills mini-mansion to be built. And our daughter Kimberly’s a junior at USC. Yeah, that’s my story and I sticking to it!
An author and playwright, Alretha Thomas is making her name through her pen. Award winning plays and wanting to help her community, Alretha’s background is as diverse as her personality. She started at the age of ten, when her 5th grade teacher picked and read her short story assignment in front of the class—that simple, loving act empowered a new writer. Continuing in high school, her numerous original oratorical conquests on the Speech Team led her to a journalism concentration at USC.
Upon graduating, Alretha soon realized that her interest in journalism was not heartfelt. While at the taping of a live sitcom, the producer noticed her and encouraged her hand at modeling. Modeling didn’t mean much to her, but it did lead her to acting and a NAACP Theatre Award Nomination (1993) for BEST ACTRESS. Alretha left acting and began to write full time. Her church gave her an outlet to fulfill her writing desires through their Liturgical Fine Arts Department wherein Alretha penned twelve theatre pieces—the community response was overwhelming.
This led to full length plays outside of the church. In 2002, The Stella Adler Theater presented A Shrine to Junior. The play was nominated for an NAACP Theatre Award and in 2004, Alretha’s play, Civil Rites, was the recipient of an NAACP Theatre Award. Her play Grandpa’s Truth ran at the Inglewood Playhouse in Inglewood, California in 2006, and was extended more than once by popular demand. Not only did radio station KJLH support by recommending this production to its listeners, but notables like the Mayor of Inglewood, Roosevelt Dorn, and music legends like Freda Payne and Stevie Wonder had critical acclaim for Grandpa’s Truth. This wonderful piece was featured on Channel 5 (KTLA News) by Entertainment Reporter, Sam Rubin. Additionally, in 2007, Alretha’s play, Sacrificing Simone had a successful run at Stage 52 in Los Angeles and was called “an inspirational crowd pleaser” by the Los Angeles Times and in 2009, Alretha’s ground breaking One, Woman Two Lives, starring Kellita Smith (The Bernie Mac Show), directed by four-time NAACP Image Award Best Director recipient Denise Dowse, garnered rave reviews from critics and audiences.
In between plays, Alretha’s first novel, Daughter Denied, was launched in 2008 and has received glowing reviews from readers and book clubs across the country. Representing her book, Alretha has been the guest on many radio shows and television shows, including San Francisco Public Affairs show Bay Sunday with Barbara Rodgers on KTLA Channel 5. In 2011, Alretha launched her second novel, Dancing Her Dreams Away, and it was also well received. Her third novel, Married in the Nick of Nine, launched in 2012, inspired Alretha to write a standalone series, that in January 2014, was picked up by Soul Mate Publishing in a four-book deal. The first book in the series, “Married in the Nick of Nine” will be rereleased in the summer of 2014. The other books in the series, “The Baby in the Window,” “One Harte, Two Loves,” and “Renee’s Return,” will follow. “Four Ladies Only” is Alretha’s third indie novel.
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