Sample of Stumbling into a Prayer



Copyright © 2017 Wayne Colley


All rights reserved. No part of the work may be reproduced without the expression written permission of the author. This book is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. All characters, events, and incidents in this book are a product of the author's imagination.




I get paid tomorrow and I can’t wait to finally go back-to-school shopping, Carmen. Your girl ‘bout to be looking cute when I step through the front doors of McKinley High.”

Carmen high-fived Lisa. “Ain't nothing wrong with going back to school looking fly, boo. Nothing wrong with that at all.”

I know that's the truth, girl.” Lisa laughed.

The next day, Lisa was excited when her money from working at a local bakery showed up in her checking account at the credit union. She couldn't afford a cellphone of her own, so she picked her mama’s up from off of the coffee table and used it to go online and check her account. Her mama — Diane — stepped into the living room with Lisa's little brother, Sean, who was only two years old, on her hip.

You seen my cellphone, Lisa?” Diane asked.

Yeah.” Lisa held the phone up so her mother could see it. “I got it right here. I was using it to see whether or not my paycheck had hit the bank yet.”

Lisa's mama frowned. “About that, I been meaning to ask you if you could do me a favor.”

Oh, shit, Lisa thought to herself while wearing an ‘I don't believe this’ look on her face. She bout to ask my ass for some money. I know she is. I just know she is!

Lisa's mother continued speaking. “The power company is about to turn our electricity off if I don't come up with the past due balance in two days. I hate to ask you… Cause I know you was trying to buy yourself some back-to-school clothes and all—”

Lisa shook her head. “How much is it this time, Mama?”

Two hundred and eighty-three dollars.”

Damn… That's almost my whole paycheck. I'm only gonna have thirty-eight dollars left.

Lisa didn't really want to come off of the money, but she loved her mother and her five little brothers and sisters. She didn't want to see them suffering any more than they had to. Lisa's baby brother had asthma. If the electricity was turned off, that would mean that the air conditioner wouldn't work. It was summer and the stifling summer heat always made Shawn’s condition worse.

She sighed. “All right, mama.” She handed her mother the cellphone. “Log into your electricity company account. I'll pay the bill.”

Thank you, Lisa. I’ll pay you back—”

Lisa held out her hand, palm side facing forward, stopping her mother from speaking. “Um, please don’t go there, mama. You still haven’t paid me back from when I paid it three months ago. Don’t even go there… Okay?”

Diana decided to overlook the offense she felt from the way her oldest child was talking to her. She really felt like saying something like: Watch your damn mouth, Lisa. I’m the grown-up round here. But having her seventeen-year-old daughter paying her bills nullified that feeling. It nullified it a whole lot. She wasn’t about to bite the hand that was feeding her....well in this case, the hand that was keeping the lights on. She knew it was in her best interest to put some respect on that.




A Week Later:


Lisa walked into McKinley High School on the first day of her senior year wearing an outfit from last year. In fact, she wore the very same outfit she’d worn the first day of her junior year. She’d almost made it to first period when she heard a pair of familiar female voices behind her — Tiffany Scott and Angela Anderson.

Boo, you see what this trick got on?” That was Tiffany speaking. “It's the very same thing she wore on the first day of school last year. Them ten year old Rock & Republic jeans and them Bobo ass looking sneakers.” Tiffany snickered. “Instead of being Jordans, those atrocities on her feet are Lordans… or some other crazy Chinese made up shit.”

Lisa had had her entire outfit planned everything was supposed to have been brand new and literally on and popping. But of course, since she’d used most of her money on paying her mama's electric bill, that hadn't happened. Her outfit was cute, but it paled in comparison to the brand new designer duds and kicks that Tiffany and Angela we're rocking.

This was Lisa's last year of high school, and she'd been putting up with Angela Anderson and Tiffany Scott ever since the three of them had started sixth grade together. She'd had enough of it. Lisa didn't say a word. She balled up her fist, turned around, and popped Tiffany in the mouth.

Tiffany was an uppity and bougie type of girl — in other words, she wasn't used to fighting, even though she was petty and talked a lot of mess. She dropped to the floor from the blow and her girl Angela was too scared to try to do anything. Angela already knew that Lisa and her bestie, Carmen, could and would wipe both her and Tiffany’s little bougie heinies. Angela wasn’t trying to have anybody’s back that day. She wasn’t crazy.

Lisa narrowed her eyes at Tiffany. “Next time I bet you gonna watch yo mouth, trick.” She got pleasure in insulting Tiffany with the very same name she’d just called her.

Yeah, it sure did feel good taking Tiffany Scott out like that. But it came with a price — Lisa got expelled on her very first day of her senior year.

Lisa didn’t feel like dealing with school anymore that day, so at a little after nine that morning — right after leaving the principal’s office — she left the building and began walking home.

Hey girl, can I talk to you for a minute?"

Lisa stopped in her tracks as she was walking from the school. She'd heard the car roll up on her and stop, but she wasn't scared or anything because she’d seen it coming out of the corner of her eye and she knew who both the car and the voice belonged to. It belonged to no one other than Ronald Tolliver, a.k.a. Big Ron — one of the baddest drug dealers in her Atlanta neighborhood.

Big Ron was twenty-eight or twenty-nine. Lisa wasn’t surprised that he was trying to holler at her because she knew that he liked his women on the young side, he liked keeping it fresh. Word on the street was that his last girlfriend was only sixteen when he’d started dating her. Most normal people would've considered that to be statutory rape — Lisa knew that, she wasn’t stupid. But in the hood that Big Ron and Lisa had grown up in, messiness this like that was an everyday thing. It was a common occurrence and nobody really blinked an eye at it.

Did you hear me, girl?”

Lisa had heard him all right. But acting like she hadn’t was part of the game that she was playing. Niggas want you even more when you pretty and they they think you trying to diss ‘em. It's something about the chase for boss niggas like Big Ron. I seen it go down time and time again with other females out here in these streets.

She looked through Big Ron’s car window at him and gave him a tiny smile. "Um, you talking to me?"

He nodded his head. "Yeah, Shawty. You the only dime out here walking down this sidewalk right now."

"All right. I hear you."

Won't you at the party down on Madison last weekend?”

She looked him dead in the eye. "I might’ve been there… Who wants to know?"

Big Ron was kinda arrogant. He considered himself to be the man around town. In his eyes, everybody who was anybody knew him. He frowned and poked out his muscular chest. "I'm Big Ron. I know you heard that name before. Don't act like you ain't, girl."

Yeah Lisa was only seventeen, but she knew how to play the game. She knew if she pushed it any further, all she was gonna do was end up pissing Big Ron off. And she wasn't trying to do that. She liked the finer things in life — even though right now she was living in poverty — and she was sure that with his dope boy money, Big Ron could give her the Gucci, Prada, and Coach that she wanted.

She smiled and nodded her head. “I heard of you all right. You trying to holler at me or something?"

He grinned. He pressed the button to unlock the door of his custom Benz. "Yeah, girl. Get in."

Lisa became Big Ron’s number one chick on that day, not some side ho or number two. Yeah, she knew that he had other women that he was running around with, but that didn't matter to her. All she cared about was the fact that she was his alpha. She came first and she got all the perks that came with being in that position. Money, cars, nice clothes — she had it all. She was sure that the days of having girls like Tiffany Scott pick on her over her clothes were over with.



Two Years Later:


Lisa had used to live in the projects with her mama, now she was living with Big Ron in his nice penthouse on the other side of town. Big Ron had just finished hitting it. Since Lisa knew that her man liked smoking a blunt right after they had sex, she threw the bed covers off of her naked body and walked across the room and rolled him a fat one.

Big Ron smiled as he peeped Lisa's naked jiggle as she made her way over to the side table to get his smoke straight.

You like taking care of yo’ man… Don’t you, girl?” know it, daddy.”

She fired up the joint and handed it to him. He took a drag and blew out some smoke. “I been thinking ‘bout getting out the dope game.”

Big Ron spinning the dope game was Lisa's bread-and-butter. So she of course didn't feel like hearing him say that. Her caution radar went from zero to ten in less than a second. “What you mean by you about to get out the dope game?”

He chuckled because he knew where she was coming from. “Oh, I'm still gonna be making the big dollars...cause that’s what a boss like myself do. I'm just tired of thugging it out there on them streets. I been talking to Don Caprozzi. He getting too old for the gambling business. He owns himself an upscale gambling joint on the outskirts of town. He said he’d sell it to me for a cool three million.” Big Ron took another drag from his blunt and nodded his head. “I'm taking him up on his offer. That casino brings in at least twenty million in profit per year.”

That sounded okay to Lisa. Big Ron taking care of her was all that really mattered in the end to her. She was sure that the gambling house was probably gonna be an illegal establishment, but she’d turned a blind eye on a whole lot of other sketchy acts that she knew Big Ron had carried out.




Five Years Later:


Lisa had long ago gotten tired of sitting around and doing nothing in the mini-mansion that Big Ron had bought for her to live in, so she’d actually asked him if he could get her a job in his casino. Big Ron liked his women on the younger side, so he’d dropped Lisa as his alpha chick. Now pushing twenty-five years old, she knew she was number two — or maybe even three —  in his hierarchy of women. But that was all right with Lisa. She preferred it that way because she wasn't in love with Big Ron or anything. In fact, she was starting to look forward to the day where she didn't really have to put up with him. She figured that getting a job in his casino which paid her three grand a week to host the gaming tableswould be her first step to becoming independent of Big Ron.

She may not have grown up in the church or anything, but she was tired of being a kept woman. She knew that's exactly what she was, no matter how much she’d tried to convince her younger self that she wasn't. Something deep inside of her was always telling her that it wasn’t good for her to be living like that.

She went into her garage and slid her body into the hundred-grand Mercedes-Benz that Big Ron had bought for her six months ago. She had a special trip planned out today. She was on her way to Metro State Prison to visit her BFF, Carmen.

Lisa and Carmen had been friends ever since kindergarten. Unfortunately, Carmen’s drug dealing boyfriend had tried to attack her seven years ago. Carmen had shot the fool in self defense. Somehow, she had been sentenced to ten years in lock-up on an attempted murder charge for her efforts.

Lisa frowned and shook her head. She hadn’t had enough money back then to get her girl a decent defense attorney. She sure would’ve if she’d had it like that. But good defense attorneys ran into the tens of thousands of dollars.

An hour later, she was at the prison facility hugging her bestie.

Hey, Carmen. You looking good, girl!”

Despite being on lock-down, Carmen gave her bestie a warm smile. “Hey, Lisa.” She pointed at her designer outfit. “You looking good, too.” Then she got to thinking of the first day of their senior year in high school all those years ago the day when TIffany and her best friend, Angela, had made fun of Lisa’s clothes, and Lisa had doled out a beatdown.

Despite herself, Carmen winked her eye. “I’m saved now, so I don’t believe in glorifying violence. But I bet Angela and Tiffany wouldn’t be making fun of you nowadays. You rocking Prada and Gucci. I bet you even have a few pair of red-bottoms.”

Lisa smiled. She actually had several pair of the thousand-dollar heels. “Yep. But I save my Christian Louboutins for special occasions.”

Next month’s gonna be a special occasion for me. I told you the last time you visited that I had applied for early release due to good behavior—”

Lisa didn’t let her girl finish speaking. She jumped up and gave her another hug. Then she pulled back and said, “You got it, didn’t you?! They ‘bout to spring you outta here!”

Carmen nodded her head. “I sure did. God blessed me, boo. Like I said...I’m gonna be walking outta this place the middle of next month.”

Lisa sat back down with Carmen at the table. She sighed. “I just don’t understand how you could stay committed to Jesus through all of this, Carmen. You served seven long years and all you were trying to do was defend yourself. You were trying to not become a statistic of domestic violence. You shot J-Dog in self defense.”

Carmen nodded her head in understanding. “I can see where you're coming from, Lisa, but sometimes God works in mysterious ways. If I hadn't been locked up in this place, I never would’ve found God. It's because of my experience going through here that I finally broke down and cried out to him.”

You acting like you wouldn't give up the time that you spent in this joint.”

Carmen shook her head. “Nope, I wouldn't. I was living a foul lifestyle before I got in here. No telling how that would’ve ended for me.” Her eyes met her bestie’s. “That reminds me of you, boo. I know you have the nice clothes, the nice car, and you're living in a mini mansion, but the way you came about all of that stuff is suspect. It’s the same way I had similar things before I got in here. God can give you an inner peace, a happiness that can surpass material items. I know you,” she patted her chest and looked Lisa in the eye. “I know right in here that you're not really feeling the life you're living. Before meeting Big Ron, you had big dreams for yourself. But him handing you everything on a silver platter in exchange for your company took away all of that. It took away your drive to go out into the world and be a go-getter. A real boss chick.”

An hour later, Lisa had brought her visit with her girl, Carmen, to a close. As she hit the interstate and made her way over to her mama’s house, she couldn’t help but think about everything that Carmen had told her.

I still have my dreams, Carmen,” she whispered under her breath as she sped along the highway. “I just pushed them to the back burner for a little while. But they been coming back up in my mind lately. That’s why I done started to distance myself from Big Ron.”

It took her about thirty minutes to make it to her mom's place. Due to the money that Lisa had been getting from Big Ron, Lisa's mother and siblings no longer lived in the projects. Lisa had given her mother the funds to get herself a nice house on a decent side of town. Her mother even had a car now — which is something that she’d never had when Lisa had been growing up. Whenever they had wanted to go somewhere, they’d had to either walk, take the bus, or count on one of her momma's boyfriends taking them.

She pulled her Mercedes-Benz into the driveway of the modest-sized home located in a nicer side of town. Her ten-year-old sister, Alexis, pulled the door open before she could even ring the doorbell. “Hey, Lexi. where mama at?”

Alexis grinned. “She back there in her room watching TV. You taking me shopping this weekend, sis?”

You know that's up to Mama, boo.”

Alexis and Lisa's mother had been going to church lately. Now that she'd found Jesus, Diana was starting to turn down some of the money that Lisa had been giving her. She kept saying something about not wanting to keep letting dirty dollars into her life.

Lisa was pretty sure that her mama had thirty grand or so holed up in a safe somewhere in her house  — which was leftovers from the money that she'd been giving her over the last five years.

Lisa humphed to herself. I bet her ass ain't trying to come up off of them dollars of mine she been saving. I don’t see her giving that away to charity or nothing. That’s how she paying most of her bills around here.

Lisa made her way to the back of the house and to her mother’s bedroom. She knocked on the door and went inside when she said, “Come in.”

I’m just rolling through to see how you doing, mama. You need some money for anything? Alexis and them ‘bout to go back to school. I was thinking about taking her and the other kids out with me shopping for clothes and whatnot.”

Diana shook her head and frowned. Being complacent in the type of lifestyle her oldest child had been living for the past six or seven years was starting to get to her especially now that she’d found Christ. “I don’t want no more of your money from Big Ron or his casino, Lisa. I been getting along on what I been making from that side job I got and what little I was able to get from Shawn’s daddy for child support.”

I know that child support check ain’t nothing but about a hundred bucks per month, and you’re only making five hundred dollars working part-time at Wally World. Your bills ‘round here are way more than that. How the hell you gonna get along, Mama?”

God got my back, Lisa. Your brother just got a job at Mickey D’s. We gonna make it, you hear?”

Well, at least let me take the kids shopping for back-to-school. After all, I did promise and I don't like breaking my promises to my little brothers and sisters. Family’s all I got.”

It was on the tip of Diane’s tongue to say no. But since she didn't want to break into her savings, she said okay instead. “This the last time though, Lisa,” she warned.

Lisa nodded her head and gave her mother a hug. “Okay. I understand, mama.”

After her oldest child had left her house, with a guilty heart, Diana said a quick prayer for her girl. She prayed that somehow, some way God would bring her out of the life she’d been living. “We both need your grace, Lord. Help my daughter to stumble into my prayer.”









Two months later, Lisa had cut back on the number of hours that she was putting in at the casino. Instead of working thirty hours per week, she was now only doing twenty or so. She was spending most of her time researching her dream which was opening a bakery.

Well, what do you think about these, Shariece?”

Lisa’s girl, Shariece, licked buttercream frosting off of her lips. She grinned and nodded her head. “I’d pay a dollar or two for one of ‘em These here cupcakes are slamming, boo. I guess you really are good at this.” She laughed. “I thought your ass was tryna be funny you know, talking about you could cook real good and all.”

Lisa smiled. “Well, I’m glad you like ‘em. I’m starting to get some recipes ready for when I open up my bakery.”

Shariece laughed. This was her first time hearing anything about any of that. “You?” she asked and laughed again. “You gonna open a bakery, Lisa?”

Yeah, girl. I decided to start squirreling some money away...starting next week. I’m gonna have me a nice place. I’m gonna specialize in cupcakes and cookies...basically desserts. It’s gonna be called The Real Sweet Spot.”

The Real Sweet Spot?”

Yeah.” Lisa frowned. “Why you over there with that crazy smirk on your face?”

Shariece just chuckled, she didn’t say a word.

You think me opening up a bakery is funny, Shariece? Huh? That’s what you think, boo?” Lisa pointed an accusatory finger at her girl and shook her head. “You just tasted my said you liked it...that it was really good.”

It was good, cupcakes I had in a long time. And I really, really, really ain’t trying to hate. I’m really not.” Shariece laughed again. “ It’s just that I’m tryna imagine your ass with a legit gig. That’s all. The last job I remember you having was back in high school at that bakery on First Street. And you quit there soon as you hooked up with Big Ron.” She shook her head. “We ain’t even gonna talk about you hosting tables over there at the casino, cause we both know that that little operation is all the way illegal...he paying you under the table. Big Ron is paying somebody a whole lotta hush money to keep that establishment open. He probably got the mayor and Lord knows who else under his thumb.”

What you're saying doesn't matter to me, Shariece Young. I know I can make this work. I know I can. That's all that really matters.

Smiling, Shariece snapped her fingers and began working her neck like only a Black girl knows how. “Well, I guess you just told my ass. I better leave that alone before I be feeling them hands of yours.”

Lisa finally smiled. “You know I'm not like that anymore, boo. Getting into confrontations is for little girls, not grown ass women like myself.” She paused for a few seconds then added. “But don't get it twisted though. I would definitely go to battle if I had to protect me and mine.”

Shariece chuckled again. “I know that's right.”

Well, I’m about to roll on up outta here. Carmen just got outta prison yesterday. By now, she should be in that halfway house that they’re making her live in for the next six months… You know as part of her probation.”

A’ight, boo. See you later.”




Thirty Minutes Later:


Carmen had always told herself that when she got a little bit of money in her pocket, she was gonna help out the less fortunate. That she was going to do her part to make a difference. She may not have come about her money in the best of manners, but she was following through on her word. She was making good on her long ago promise to herself.

She made a quick stop at Ebenezer Christian Center which was a church that always fed kids afterschool snacks and sandwiches, and it tutored them with their homework. Lisa had good memories of her and her siblings going there plenty of days when she’d been coming up. That center had been right on time for them a whole lot. It wasn’t very often that Lisa’s mother’s foodstamp benefits would last the whole month. Especially the months when she’d have to sell her benefits at the local corner store and get only fifty cents for every dollar worth of stamps. Those were the months that Lisa and her younger siblings would get out of school and go home to nothing but mayonnaise sandwiches or something similar for dinner. She couldn’t help but frown just from thinking about all of that.

She shook her head and forcibly pushed all of those thoughts aside. She dispelled those bad memories like dust on the wind. Then she pulled the money order for five hundred dollars out of her glove box. She nodded her head in satisfaction and proceeded to make her way towards the side of the church.

She came to a stop in front of a foot-long, mailbox-looking contraption that had been nailed onto the side of the building. The box read: Donations. She prompted dropped her contribution inside. Then she smiled. That should help for a couple of weeks.

As she turned around on her heel, a man approached the box with what looked like a check in his hand. Lisa told the fine, brown-skinned brotha good morning and she smiled — even though she didn’t know him. Then she told him, “These people do a good job for the community. They need all the help they can get.”

The man smiled back and told Lisa: “That’s the God knows truth.” Then he dropped his check into the box, just like she’d done with her money order.

That was the end of that little impromptu conversation. Ten minutes later, Lisa was standing in the foyer of a halfway house downtown — it was named Halo House. She gave her girl, Carmen, a warm hug.

"You don't know how good it is to finally be seeing you on the outside, Carmen. It just ain’t been the same out here on these streets without my bestie."

Carmen and Lisa had been so tight growing up that Carmen felt the exact same way. She’d missed Lisa. She was smiling, but she also had the shine of tears of happiness in her eyes. "It's good to see you, too, girl."

Lisa nodded her head. "I gave you a whole day to get yourself settled into this place. Now… Are you ready to head out on the town or something to celebrate you being free? You know we have to have some type of celebration… Right?"

Carmen gave Lisa a look of warning. Then she said, "You know I'm saved, honey. So, I'm not interested in hitting up no clubs and partying like we used to. That's just not the way I roll anymore. And I have a curfew here at Halo House — all the residents do. I have to be back in by ten o’clock. Else the house matron is gonna report it to my probation officer." She frowned. “Truth be told, I kinda think that probation officer of mine is itching for some drama and a reason to get me locked back up.” She shook her head. “But I don’t intend on giving him the opportunity to do that.”

"All right. I understand, boo. I wouldn’t be taking any chances either — not if I was in your situation.” Lisa smiled again. “The least you can do, though, is let me take your butt out to dinner. You can do that right there, can’t you?"

That sounds good to me. Honestly, girl, I been having a hankering for some good ol’ fashioned soul food. You know they don’t have nothing like that in lockup.”

Lisa grinned. “Don’t worry, boo. I got your back. I know the perfect place that we can hit up. You’re gonna enjoy it.”

Lisa frowned as she raked her eyes over Carmen's body. "But we probably need to take you to the mall to get you some decent clothes first." She smiled again. "I would say that you can borrow something of mine, but since you’re saved and all, I think almost everything in my closet might just be a little bit too skanky or scandalous for your liking." She laughed at that and winked her eye. “Plus, we about the same size in the waist, but with them hips that your mama blessed you with, you gonna have all the men’s eyes on the prize...they gonna wanna hit that thang from behind. I don’t reckon a saved and sanctified woman is gonna wanna be drawing that type of attention… Huh?”

Maybe some, but definitely not me.”

Lisa chuckled. “I didn’t think so. Go ahead and get your purse or whatever, Carmen. Let’s go ahead and bounce.”




Carmen had resisted at first, but she ended up agreeing to let Lisa purchase her an outfit or two. After she climbed into Lisa's Mercedes-Benz, Carmen looked over at her girl and said, "I know I been outta the loop for a while, but this is a hundred-grand vehicle, boo. Big Ron must really be making bank to put you into something like this."

Lisa nodded her head. "Yeah, he making bank all right. Like I told you a few years ago, he’s not slinging dope out on the street anymore. He owns a casino. His joint caters to people with money...celebrities and whatnot." She backed out of the driveway and hit the road. Then she glanced over at her girl. "You told me that they were making you find a job as a condition of you living in that halfway house. How about I hook you up with Big Ron? You can host tables in his casino...just like I do. I be pulling in three grand per week. And I only work about twenty hours. I do two ten-hour shifts.” She nodded her head. “As a favor to me — since you’re my bestie and all — I'm sure I can sweet talk Big Ron into paying you the same thing."

Carmen frowned. "I don't like beating this over nobody’s head and keep saying it, but I'm saved, Lisa. A casino ain't exactly the type of environment I need to be working in. Plus, I'm sure my parole officer wouldn't like it. And I'm pretty much sure that Big Ron is paying folks under the table."

Lisa nodded her head. "All of that is true, but maybe you can just work there for a little while.. You know, while you still looking for a regular job? At least you would be making good money. I know you broke. Ain't hardly nobody coming up out of prison with no money in their pocket." Lisa shrugged her shoulders. "At least you can come and take a look at the operation. You might just find that you like it."

Against her better judgment, Carmen nodded her head and said, "Okay. I guess it won't hurt to take a look."

"Good. We'll have dinner and then we'll roll on over and check it out.”




Two and a Half Hours Later:


Lisa pulled her Mercedes-Benz into a parking lot that was located behind a classy stuccoed building. The building was unassuming, but Carmen could tell that that it was nice. It had that type of Mediterranean style going for itself that a person would normally see somewhere like Rodeo Drive in California. It looked like the type of place that would cater to the rich and famous.

Lisa grinnned. “Well, we are.” She unlocked her car doors. “Let’s go ahead and get you inside so you can check everything out.”

After going through what Carmen assumed was a security checkpoint, she followed Lisa down a short hallway. Everything had been quiet in the building up until the point that Lisa pulled open a set of expensive carved solid wood doors. Then they were hit in the face by the noise of people gambling and generally having a good time. It was like Vegas up in that joint.

Carmen looked around the casino and frowned. She’d known from the get-go that the gambling club wasn't gonna be the type of environment that she wanted to be working in. She was trying to live a saved lifestyle and everything that club represented was totally against that. Excessive drinking, drugging, swearing, and some of everything else under the sun…you name it, it was going on in that casino. I want the money, but this isn't the environment for me, Lord.

Lisa was grinning from ear to ear. She was right at home. As several slot machines sounded in the background, she asked Carmen, "What you think, boo?"

Carmen shook her head. "I can't do this, Lisa. Thanks but no thanks, honey."

Lisa was confused. She'd thought for sure that once she got her homegirl up in the club, she'd be changing her mind. "Are you sure, Carmen?"

Carmen nodded her head. "Yeah. I'm ready to go back to the halfway house… I’m ready to go back to Halo House."

"Well, can you hang around for a couple more hours? One of the girls who work the roulette table just went home sick. Big Ron wants me to take her place for a little while. Her replacement should be here in an an hour or so."

This isn't the place for you, boo, Carmen thought to herself. Lisa got you up in here around a lot of mess.

Carmen shook her head. "You don't have to take me back to the halfway house. I can find my way home. Okay?"

"Alright. See you later."

As she left the place on foot, Carmen said a prayer for her girl. She loved Lisa like a sister. She wanted God to move in and work his supernatural power in her life. I want her to accept you into her heart and get herself saved, Lord.




When Lisa got herself situated behind the roulette table, Carmen had been gone for less than two minutes. It took only that long for all hell to break loose in the casino. Police officers and federal agents busted into the place with their guns ablazing. As an officer grabbed her from behind and slapped handcuffs on her wrists, Lisa knew she was in trouble. In the very back of her mind — in the place where she tended to file away things that she really wanted to ignore — in that place, she’d known that there was a possibility of this day coming.

Me and Carmen about to switch positions. I’m in here working in an illegal operation… My ass about to be locked up. She felt the cold metal of the handcuffs on her wrists. Correction, I’m already locked up.

She suspected her mama was finally gonna have to use that money that she’d given her years ago for this specific predicament. My mama ‘bout to have to bail me outta jail tonight. Ain’t that messed up?