The Rivalry

by Tameko L. Barnette

I knew I recognized her from somewhere. Her eyes, dark brown with a splash of mystery embedded underneath her glare. "Tanisha Parker? I thought that was you," she yelled as she turned towards me. My heart pounding against my chest like a musician beating a drum. The memory of this woman made me want to leave right then, but my curiosity led me towards her. Her arms extended readily awaiting an embrace from an old "friend."

My mind started dwelling into the past. As I hugged this woman, I realized she was the one. The memory was as clear as my mother's kitchen windows during Spring cleaning. On an impulse, I pulled away from her. She stared at me with a deceiving look of confusion on her guilt-ridden face. I could still see the scar on her face from that horrific night.

"Ellie Jones?" I tried to sound confused, but she saw through me. "Now I know you know me, Tanisha. We went to high school together. You remember, don't you?"

"Uh, yeah," a half-smile appeared on my face, "I-I remember, Ellie. How you doing?" She noticed my hesitance to move towards her, so she took a few steps closer to me. "I'm doing just fine, Tanisha. It's so good to see you." I couldn't believe what I was hearing. This pitiful, evil bitch was trying to act like she didn't remember what she did to me. I moved back a few more steps, she would more forward a few steps. This whole episode made me nauseous. "Hey Ellie, it's been real good seeing you, but I have to go now. I have an appointment that I'm already ten minutes late for. See ya!" I ran away from her like Flo Jo.

I drove home doing 60 mph in 35 and 45 zones. The actions of that night ten years before poured over me like a heavy rainstorm in July. Either she didn't remember or chose not to acknowledge the shit she put me through that night out of spite.

It was the 12th of June; the year was 1990. My mom had prepared a wonderful, joy-filled barbecue in our backyard for my graduation from high school, the very next day. All of my friends, favorite family members, and some folks I'd never seen before were in attendance. There was good music, good company, and especially, good food. My mom was a master chef. Sonia and Karla, my soul sisters, and I were doing a cool dance routine we had practiced to show-off to everyone that night. Everyone was clapping and cheering us on as we shook our hips and played on the emotions of handsome admirers while jamming to the latest Run-DMC song blasting from the speakers of my mother's stereo on the back porch. We were having the time of our lives.

Suddenly, Sonia stopped dancing and tapped my shoulder. I was so enthralled by the rhythmic poetic flow of Run-DMC, I didn't even feel her tapping my shoulder. So then, she shook me and I screamed, "What? Can't you see I'm jamming over here?" Sonia pointed towards the side of the house and there she stood watching us dancing, partying, just having a good little time. Sonia took charge of the situation.

"Ellie, what the hell you doing here? You were not invited."

"Well, I heard there was a party going on without me. And I heard my man was here. So, wherever my man is that's where I am."

"Oh really. So, who's your man? 'Cause I don't hear anybody claiming you."

My body started shaking with anger. The music was still blaring, some folks was still talking, some folks stopped eating to check out what was going on, and much to my dismay, some folks started to leave. "He knows who he is and I ain't leaving 'til he come with me."

I stepped into the conversation, unsure of what might happen once I spoke to her. Ellie and I had went head-to-head for many years. She never liked me for reasons that remained a mystery. The truth was I had started dating this guy named Tariq, who was Ellie's ex-boyfriend. He left her after she pulled a knife on him, when he tried to leave her house to go out with his friends to play basketball. Any woman who would do something as psychotic as that was completely unpredictable and not to be trusted. Tariq stepped forward and held my hand. We stood there together alongside Sonia and Karla, who also had my back just in case Ellie decided to go postal in my mom's backyard.

"It's been over between us, Ellie. You need to get over it and get a life while you're at it," Tariq said angrily.

"You belong to me."

"I don't belong to you. Tanisha is my woman. And she's a much better woman than your psycho ass will ever be. Now, get the hell off of her mother's property before we call the police on you!"

My mother ran to the backdoor cutting off the music. "What's going on out here?" Everyone looked at my mother with fear, confusion, and anger. "It's okay, mom. I got it covered. Everything's fine."

"Are you sure, Tanisha?" My mom's voice was accented with concern and the readiness to kick somebody's ass if they messed with her babygirl. She knew about the unspoken rivalry Ellie and I shared and she knew both of us were timebombs waiting to explode and settle the score once and for all.

"So, what's up, Tariq? Are you coming with me or are you gonna keep hanging onto this bitch?" Ellie stared at me with those fiery, dark brown eyes. I snatched my hand from Tariq and walked quickly towards Ellie. She stepped forward just as quickly. "That's it, Ellie. I've had it with your stupid ass." I couldn't believe what I was saying. This wasn't me. It's not a part of my nature to feel hatefulness towards other people, but this bitch had gone too far.

Ellie swung first, I felt a burning sensation on my face and noticed blood dripping onto the grass. She cut me across my right cheek. Damn, she had a knife. All I had were my fists and I prayed I had good reflexes to dodge anymore cuts. Sonia and Karla was about to jump into the fight and Tariq held them back. He was trying to intervene, somehow distract Ellie long enough to get the knife away from her so I could get a good shot at her ass. His plan worked and laid Ellie's behind on the ground with forceful jab across her jaw. I had long fingernails back then and I took advantage of the situation since she cut me. I scratched her face up, leaving a long, jagged scar that went from the bottom of her left eye to her left cheek. Finally, my mom ran outside and pulled me off Ellie. Some of the other folks held Ellie back from me. Sonia stepped in and knocked her back to the ground.

Some of my friends carried Ellie out to her car and watched her drive off. But I could hear her yelling those words that still burned my soul to this day. "This ain't over! I swear to you, this ain't over!"

Ten years later, Ellie and I stood in a parking lot outside of the grocery store and she spoke as if nothing ever happened.

As I pulled into my driveway, I realized I was shaking. Those words stayed with me. "This ain't over!" Before I could get frightened about the past, Tariq knocked on my car window. "Are you gonna get out of the car?"

I managed to get out the car and walk with him towards the front door of our home. Tariq and I have been happily married for nine years. We stepped into the house, I could hear Tariq punching in the code for our security system. A wave of serenity swept through me. And finally, I felt safe. I went to the kitchen and began preparing to make dinner. Tariq sat at the kitchen table and started telling me about his day. It was the same old thing, played basketball, had a few drinks, and played a few games of poker. His usual Saturday afternoon routine with the guys. He sat patiently waiting to hear my response. I looked at him with a smile on my face, then my serious attitude kicked in. He noticed the look on my face. He knew something was wrong. "Tariq, you'll never guess who I saw today?"

From my tone of voice, I think he knew who it could have been. Just then, he handed me a note. "This was on the mailbox, Tanisha."


The Rivalry by Tameko L. Barnette

© Copyright 1999. 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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