Dana L. Davis
Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now
A moment passes before Keelah says, “Got him. Is he related to you or something? He sorta looks like you.”
My head instantly aches. I grab it to dull the pain. “For real? You really think that?” The sound of the doorbell rings loudly, echoing throughout the house. I snatch my cell from the floor and take Keelah off speakerphone. “It’s the doorbell.”
“Oh. Call me back.”
“But my hair? What if it’s somebody important?”
The doorbell rings again.
“Girl, go answer the door! Throw your towel around your head and go. Call me back.” She hangs up.
I toss my cell onto the bed and stand to brush the hair from my Grateful Dead tank and yellow shorts. The doorbell rings again. I grab the towel from the floor and shake off more hair. Gonna have to find a vacuum before everybody gets home. I picture how Margaret would react if she saw her clean wood floors at this very moment. She’d politely tilt her head; her crazy eyes would get crazier. “Tiffany, sweetheart, my dear, my love,” she’d say with eerie calm. “We do not put fake extension hair on hardwood. That’s a bad image for Pumpkin.”
I wrap the towel around my head turban-style and quickly head downstairs.
“Who is it?” I peek through the tiny hole on the door in the foyer and see an eye staring back at me.
“Nevaeh? Heaven? Is that you?”
“No. Sorry. It’s... Can I help you?”
“I got a bunch of your mail by accident again. Can you open the door? Is that London? It’s Jo McKinney from across the street.”
I nervously unlock the door, slowly pulling it open to see a nice-looking black woman with supershort, perfectly styled hair. She’s dressed casually in yoga pants, a loose-fitting shirt that hangs off one shoulder and flip-flops.
“Who are you?” she asks warmly. “Look at that skin. You’re adorable.”
Her skin is dark brown like mine, but made up with lots of perfectly applied makeup: thick foundation, eye shadow, cheeks dusted with pale pink, long lashes and gloss heavily coated on top of her full lips.
“Thanks.” I fidget, uncomfortable. Whenever people call me pretty I honestly wonder why. I’m not like London. The kind of girl guys go out of their way to talk to and compliment. No guys ever compliment or even try to talk to me. Last year a bunch of people of color with first honors and academic excellence had to attend a special dinner with the principal. And one of the boys—I think his name was Devin Doheny or Devin Doohickey—anyway, he declared Alaysia Miller the prettiest girl at the table and all the other boys agreed. Alaysia Miller’s mixed. Light-skinned, with long curly hair. But then Shante Peterson, who’s dark brown like me, told Devin if Alaysia Miller is the prettiest at the table, then he’s the ugliest and should shut the hell up before she punched him in the throat.
“What’s your name, sweetie?”
“Tiffany.” I see the pile of mail she has in her hands. “I can take that.” She reaches out to hand me the mail but somehow during our exchange it all slips, splaying onto the concrete of the front doorstep. “No worries. I’ll get it.” I bend to retrieve the mail and my towel unravels and slides off. Braids tumble loosely around my shoulders. “Omigosh!” I try to grab the towel as quickly as I can but she’s stepping on part of it with her flip-flop.
“You takin’ down braids?”
“Yes. Could you move your foot please?”
She obliges and I snatch up the towel, throwing it back over my head.
“Can I ask why? They look real nice and brand-new.”
I rewrap the towel, tucking it tightly behind my ear, then slowly kneel, with one hand holding the towel, to gather the mail spread in all directions in front of the door. “I’ll be sure to tell them you stopped by.”
“You know, I do hair.”
I look up. “Seriously?”
“Mmm-hmm. I can help you. You look like you could use some help. Can I take a look?”
“Child, I done already seen it.”
I stuff the mail under my arm and stand, removing the towel to reveal my mess of hair.
“Don’t mind if I touch it, do you?”
“Go ahead, I guess. Hopefully it won’t cut you.”
She forces her fingers through my natural hair where I’ve removed the extensions and my head moves from side to side with the motion of her hand. She pulls my head down for a closer examination. “What’s wrong with you?”
“What you got? Alopecia?”
My jaw drops. “You can tell?”
“Honey, I do hair. Now, why you taking brand-new braids out, anyway, when you got alopecia? Braids is the best thing for you.”
“My...dad told me to.”
“What’s wrong with your daddy? He got a problem or something?”
“He doesn’t allow extensions. Anthony Stone... I’m his daughter.” I’m hoping she doesn’t notice how not sure of myself I sounded when I said the words daughter and dad.
“Anthony Stone is your father? Well, damn. How many kids does this man got?”
“Pretty sure I’m the last of them.”
She gives me a once-over as I rewrap my hair with the towel. “You sure are pretty like his other daughters. Man got good genes. Where you been all this time? How come I ain’t never seen you around?”
“I’m from Chicago.”
“Girl, stop. We’re from Chicago.”
“No way! What part?”
“Just outside. Born and raised mostly in Joliet. But went to high school in the city.”
“Omigosh. We lived in Garfield.”
“Garfield?” She smiles. “I guess being here is a big, big change. How you like it?”
“I dunno. I got here yesterday.”
“Well, welcome. Why don’t you come on over to our house. I’ll fix your hair up real nice and neat.”