It’s been six months and Ehi still hasn’t felt at home in Queens. For a place so popular she expected more. She thought she would see fancy buildings and restaurants but all she sees everyday are the ramshackle buildings that seem to be the identity of the neighborhood.
The building she lived in had known better days and every night she prayed to wake up in one piece from fear of the building collapsing. The apartment they stayed in was everything but welcoming. The rooms were too small. The only furniture was a shabby couch that she slept on while he stayed in the bedroom and slept on a camp bed.
When Simeon had told her he had an agency, she was thinking he had a lot of clients and knew the right people but lo and behold she was his only client and it was a struggling agency. He told her not to worry, that everything would work out soon but she found that hard to believe.
She couldn’t go back home because her mother had passed a message to Nessa to tell her so. The truth was she didn’t know how she will go back and face everybody. She knew the other kids in school were going to continue bullying her so she decided to stick around and see where this led to. The only person she still communicated with was Nessa and every time they spoke on the phone, she was always happy and felt proud Ehi was doing fine. There were days when she wanted to tell her that everything was not fine over here but the joy she heard in Nessa’s voice anytime they talked stopped her.
For his part, Simeon has been doing a lot she had to admit. In the past six months, he had registered her for walking classes and also in a gym not too far from their house where she workout every morning and evening. He had her visiting a dermatologist from time to time. He bought quality skin care products for her and made sure she ate right. Even though he acted like everything was okay, she could see from his face every time he was counting money from his safe that everything was far from okay. He got a professional photographer to do a portfolio shoot for her and she knew it was damn expensive but he acted like it was nothing. She had earlier done a comp card shoot and sent out but that didn’t really help because no job came out of it.
It was a cool evening and she sat on the couch waiting for Simeon, he had told her earlier to prepare that something good was coming up and he will fill her in when he returned home. There was nothing for her to use to while away time so she just sat there waiting patiently. It was the second week of July and she had turned seventeen on the first of that month. Simeon had given her a wristwatch. Nessa had sent her a gold wristwatch. She wasn’t sure if the gold was real but that didn’t really matter to her. The fact that she remembered the occasion was more than enough.
She got tired of waiting and decided to go downstairs, there was a beauty salon next door and sometimes she sat and chat with the ladies. The salon was owned by Catherine Smalls, she was a black woman and was about five feet tall. She usually called Ehi a giant. She was a very jovial person and a good cook. Ehi could testify to that because she had eaten one too many times at her house which was above the salon. She knew that even though Catherine had never gotten married she had a son who played college basketball at UCLA. Catherine always spoke about her son and she had pictures of him scattered all over her house and the salon. She spoke to Ehi about her son all the time. Their friendship was kind of weird especially with their age difference but that didn’t really matter and most times Catherine treated her like the daughter she never had.
“Oh my goodness, our very own supermodel has decided to grace us with her presence today” she heard as soon as she entered the establishment.
It was coming from Sarah a girl Catherine had picked from the street and trained her to be a manicurist.
“Really Sarah? You know you have been praying all day for me to come here” she said as she walked over and gave hug.
“You better cherish these moments because when I become a superstar you will only see me on you TV screen.” Ehi continued.
“You wish, girl. Me and you, we gonna strut the catwalk on runways together.” Sarah replied loudly.
“Sarah what would you be doing on the runway?” Matilda asked. She was a hairdresser.
“What do people do on the runway that you know? That’s what I will be doing.”
“But you are like three feet tall” Ehi chipped in.
“Girl don’t y’all try to come for me. I’m four feet eight as you all know and don’t you dare tell me height is a barrier. Check out Kate Moss she is just five foot six and she is known globally.” She replied.
“Too bad you are just four feet eight.” Matilda said with a pitiful look on her face and everyone burst into laughter.
“Y’all just wait and see.” Sarah replied and continued working on her client.
“Where is Ms Catherine?” Ehi asked.
“She is upstairs.” Matilda replied.
Once she got upstairs, she gave a soft knock and stepped into Catherine’s room and found a black male in singlet and shorts lying across the bed reading a book. He looked up as she walked in.
“I’m so sorry, I thought Catherine was in here” she heard herself say.
Chuckling he replied “It’s no biggie, she is having her bath and would be out soon. I’m Cicero by the way.”
“Cicero? like the Cicero in UCLA?” She asked.
He looked at her like she was nuts, “I guess.”
“Wow, nice to finally meet you. Your mum talks about you all the time.”
“Good or bad?”
“I mean the things she tells you about me”
“Oh, you know the usual. The mischievous things you did and how she almost went nuts raising you.”
She replied and he starred at her in disbelief.
“Just kidding, she only talked about how adorable you are.”
“Jesus, that woman keep making me sound like a baby” he said laughing. “Believe me when I say adorable is not the word to use for me. Public menace is more like it.” She laughed at that. “Okay, I guess I will have to take your word for it.”
“Sure” he replied and the bathroom door opened and Catherine walked out.
“I heard laughter and I wanted to be sure my son isn’t bringing one of them groupies to my bed” she said.
“Lord! Mama you know I’m not like that!”
“And I will act like I believe that. Ehi this is my son Cicero and here young man, is the woman I want you to marry.”
“Lord! You are embarrassing me Ms Catherine. Don’t mind your mother. I’m just a girl from next door.” Ehi said with a tiny voice.
“For the first time I agree with my mom on something. Mama when would you like the wedding to take place?” he asked laughing.
“Now that the topic is about a girl you are interested huh? Get outta here and let your old woman dress” he rose from the bed and gave her a peck.
“It was nice meeting you Miss Ehi” he said as he strolled out.
“I know you said he plays basketball ball but I didn’t really expect him to be that tall. Now that’s a real giant Ms Catherine.”
“Girl please, he is just 6’9”
“That’s not just ma. I will wait for you downstairs while you dress” she said and left.
When she finally left the salon and returned home she found Simeon eating doughnuts and a drink on the floor.
“Good evening” she said and sat down beside him “How did your day go?”
“It was productive, that I will tell you. Tomorrow you have a job. There is group that have a bunch of shirts and I got in as one of the models. You need to wake up early because the event is in Manhattan and your makeup and hair needs to be done plus you guys are taking a bunch of pictures before the runway itself.”
“Wow, that’s good news. I have been waiting for this moment for a long time and now that you have told me, I’m just shivering inside” she said.
“Don’t be scared, you will do just fine. Now go to bed so you will wake up early. Don’t forget to just breathe and I bet if you stick to everything you have been taught, this will just be the beginning for us. Goodnight dear.” he said as he grabbed his drink and went into the bedroom.