It had taken most of four days to cross the country by train and bus, four days for Yvonne to think about what she was really doing here. Lamont was a good man, she knew, but what was she looking at for their future? He'd come to L.A., convinced he was the next big thing by some small producer out East, and he'd flat out failed to even get a demo heard. What was waiting for them in Georgia, the very place Lamont had been running from?
What had she given up, between her walk-on parts for T.V. and her promising work as a commercial actress?
"Thinking too much," Lamont had said, before they even got past the Rockies, when she'd brought up, one last time, that they didn't really have any leads on what to do in Georgia. "It'll work out."
Four days was a long time to weight her emotional reaction against her practical nature. Even as kind and loving as Lamont could be, was it really going to be enough support when they were scratching for a living?
Yvonne kept a polite smile on; who would have thought meeting Lamont's family could help her acting skills? From his dad's blatant dislike of all things 'big city' and Lamont having tried to find his dreams to Lamont's mother all but calling her a fake-looking whore from L.A., Yvonne was fed up.
Killing people with niceness was hard work.
"Just what do you think you're going to do now, Lamont? I will not have you living under my roof, eating my food, and being as lazy as your cousin, especially not with…" and there that damned man pushed beyond her temper, but Lamont was already on his feet.
"Push off, pops! I got this. Ain't going to be living up in your house no ways! As for my cousin, she's got shit together. She might not want a job at the factory or at the damned convenience store, but she's on top of her life! Same way I could have been if you'd just actually given a single damn about what I wanted, to make my life better, to give back to all of you! So screw off, Pops, me and Yvonne got it, and we'll get right back on our feet!"
Yvonne stood too, not even bothering to throw out any words. Maybe it had been foolish to leave all she knew for a world so unlike her own, but right then? Watching Lamont fight back, watching the same spark and flare that had made her fall for him the first time? She didn't think she'd mad a mistake. She just needed to find the right script to use for them both, so they could make it in this backwoods town in the hot-as-hell South. Because what Lamont had was something worth sticking by for life.
Lamont's cousin was a surprise to Yvonne. Not because the woman was … well, yes, because she was the particular kind of woman she was. Out west, Nicolette wouldn't have raised any eyebrows in a lot of neighborhoods Yvonne knew, but here in Georgia, Yvonne worried for her within minutes of meeting her.
"I'm gonna be better at this pretty soon," Nicolette said, having seen something in Yvonne's face. She made a casual gesture to her face and hair. "Beauty school, over in the city."
"I think you're well on your way. Do you mind Nikki, or is it Nicolette?" Yvonne asked while Lamont brought their two suitcases in.
"Nicolette, unless you just gotta make me notice. Nick will work then, but only if the house is on fire, or you see some sheets walking down the street," she answered.
"Alright, Nicolette." Yvonne smiled, then looked around. "I'm sorry that we—"
"Hush. Lamont's the only one ever believed in me, gave me a lot of help over the years, 'specially with dealing with the family. He's got talent, just wasn't the right kind for your city, I suppose," she told Yvonne. "You and him are gonna stay here, get on your feet. Then when I open my own boutique… you do hair or nails?"
Yvonne shook her head, but she was laughing as she did. "Graphic arts? Was trying to make it in acting, but I've got a degree in that. Be glad to make a sign, ads, business cards."
Nicolette was nodding right along. "Alright, sister, you got it. Lamont can charm the station into letting him rap about my place, you can make the fliers, and we will be in business!"
Maybe it could be just that easy, Yvonne thought, but she knew Lamont was going to need something steady, and so would she.
She stayed optimistic for almost three months. Work was hard to find, until Nicolette introduced her to a bartender in the city who wanted a straight girl to sling drinks so he'd quit losing his help over love affairs. Lamont wasn't too sure about picking her up from the bar, but they only had one car, and most of the guys were well gone by the time Yvonne was done.
He was working at a supermarket… and trying to get in the local music scene again. They both thought they were going to make it work, long enough to save up to actually get a place in the city.
Then Lamont came home with a black eye and a bloody nose. He didn't want to talk about it, but Nicolette let her know the story.
"The producer that sent Lamont west? He skipped town owing money, and now everyone thinks Lamont should pay it off."
"We barely have enough to help you with rent, Nicolette," Yvonne said.
"I know, you know, Lamont knows… but they don't. And it's a rough crowd."
Yvonne looked from her man to the woman she'd come to see as her only real friend in this state, and it was all she could do to keep from crying in front of them.
She had wanted to believe, to know that what she and Lamont had was worth it, but now he was being threatened over money he didn't have, and everything was so dismal.
"Babe," Lamont said, looking at her through his good eye. "I'm gonna make it right." He must have seen all her doubt in her face. "Just don't leave me, or I really will have nothing left."
"You'll always have your talent," she said, bolstering her own courage. "We just have to stay strong."
"One thing living in the South teaches us all, Yvonne, is staying strong is all we have," Nicolette told her, squeezing her shoulder and Lamont's.
It wasn't easy, but maybe that train ride had been worth it, as Yvonne held Lamont, listening to him sleeping. Because this man thought she was all he had left… and that was more than she'd really ever been to anyone.