She pushed a few strands of her signature bronze bob from her face as she watched with bemusement the other woman pace the length of rug.  Cammy, or how the rest of the world knows her, Camille/Chameleon, was the nearest thing she had to family. Probably the closest human being she would ever have to daughter, but she was sorely trying her nerves. Talk about role reversal.

 Anjae remembered that late night long ago, when a little kid calmly climbed onto the diner stool next to her.  She raised a brow at the kid, who looked about ten, up that late at night.  When the kid first sat next to her, Anjae cast a quick look around to get an idea of who she was attached to.  It was her coffee break for the evening, so she wasn’t all that concerned about a little kid messing up her pool of dates.  But after time stretched on, she realized that the girl wasn’t attached to anybody, but seemed to be trying to lay some sort of claim on her.

It was a good strategy. Anjae smiled to herself, people on the street was less likely to pick on you if you seemed like you had some protection. But the kid was naive, Anjae worked the corners and prostitutes could offer no protection.  In her business protection laid with pimps and even she wasn’t’ cold hearted enough to steer a child into the path of pimp, even if she knew a few who would pay top dollar for a little girl. The kid sat there and kept her trap shut, pretending that her mouth wasn’t watering with every bite that Anjae took. Finally took Anjae pity on the girl and told the waitress to set her up as well.

 That’s how it went that night. Wherever she moved the kid moved.  When a date picked her up, when she got dropped off, the kid was there.  When she was done for the night, she started walking home in the early morning and damn if that kid wasn’t following a few steps behind.  They never said anything to each other and when she reached home, Anjae didn’t bother with an invitation…she just left the door open. She had to smile to herself when she reached her bedroom door and she heard the front door close softly. It might be nice to have a little company for awhile. It was later when she found out that Cammy was fourteen, it was a given she was a runaway.

  That was how it was with them.  A lot of conversation was never necessary. Cammy was always a self contained little survival capsule.  She did what must be done.  No arguing, no questions, no dithering-just complete commitment to the task at hand. Whatever she had to learn she did it with that scarily, amazing mind of hers.  The kid was pure class.  Someone must have instilled it in her before she found Anjae, but the kid was all about the polish and she sure didn’t find that in Anjae.

 Camille was the authority on all things elegant. She even upgraded Anjae, gone was the spandex and the high heeled Timberlands.  Anjae had to draw the line at the hair.  Her motto had always been, “If it’s was good for Mary J., then it was good enough for me”. She had rocked with MJB since her What’s the 411 days, and she had worked every urban style nuance since then to now.  Just like her idol, stylish shades and platinum hair were always in affect.

Damn she missed the days of some black spandex leggings, combat boots and a Cross Colors Jacket. Doin’ dates had never been so easy.  Anjae took a look at the unreasonably high stilettos she was currently wearing and shook her head with profound regret.

 Her background was strictly John’s, Pimps and Ho’s.  Camille refined their business by renaming everything, clients, date managers and the talent. She even supported it with a high tech computerized system that included intricate checks along the process.  The days of having a car ride up next to you and a girl doing a split second feel for whether he, was a crazies, or worse cop, was long behind them.  That’s her Cammy, turnin’ something as gritty as fucking people for money into something that sounded like they organized debutante fuckin’ cotillions.  It was silly, but the numbers didn’t lie.  Cammy took a thousand dollar a night business to one where Anjae would never have to worry where the rent money was coming from for the rest of her life.  Her girl could give the mafia tips on loyalty. Camille was pure gold.

That’s how the FBI got her.  Not because anything that Cammy did, but because Anjae had a past and Cammy was willing to pay the price.  That was something more that loyalty.  That was some Three Musketeers shit.

Anjae smile wryly to herself. Over the years she had constantly and systematically took Cammy for granted, but she would be damned if she fell into that easy pattern again. She caught her reflection in the huge ornately framed mirror to her right, she was forty and she didn’t mind saying she had held up pretty good. The years hadn’t necessarily been kind, but time and she had more of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” type relationship. Another thing she had thank Camille for. Left to her own devices she would probably be another old, overweight, strung out piece of tail with her best years behind her.  As always, Cammy protected her from that.  Cammy quietly and commandingly protected her from everything. She was really Cammy’s child.

 At this particular moment, Anjae was more than a little freaked out by the call she received earlier that day and by the behavior she was witnessing from her usually calm, cool and collected girl.



 “I need you.”

 “I’ll be right there.”

Yea she had known where Camille was the whole time, but she had struck a deal with Carrick.  If she stayed out the way he would do his best to protect her girl. Everything had a price.

 Camille had never expressed a need for anything from Anjae in all the time together.  She had never asked for the roof over her head that Anjae provided.  They just had a silent gentleman’s handshake. All and all, Cammy seemed to have gotten the short end of the stick in that deal anyhow.
 Anjae let her head fall back and braced herself against the table she was sitting, as if to brace herself against her failures.  Anjae had been neglectful in attempting to pay back the favor. She was here now and that had to count...hopefully.

 Anjae raised her head and looked at her girl.  She had been there for about an hour and half.  Part of that time Cammy had been practicing with her teacher. Anjae didn’t mind waiting while Camille took her lesson, but was shocked when she heard the old lady fussing at Camille about the session. Apparently Cammy had sucked and was inattentive.  Anjae was stunned, Cammy didn’t bother wasting her time on any activity unless she was reasonably sure she would be pitch perfect and her attention to detail was the kind that would make Leonardo da Vinci weep.

Now, for the last thirty minutes she had been watching Cammy do some form of pacing. Cammy was obviously worked up about something.  She positively vibrated with nervous energy. She looked…agitated.

Camille didn’t do agitated.
Camille was usually so still and could be so quiet; that Anjae had often thought it was unnatural. Even when she was smaller, her girl had a pair of eyes that seemed to read others motivation as if they came with a user manual. Her brown irises could be so cold sometimes that it seemed that they had seen so many ugly things that they could only repel light. More times than not she wondered at how Cammy choose her.

Since she been lead into the room, Cammy had barely said two words to her.  Usually Cammy was so far up her ass about the office and her private business she was considering endoscopic surgery to remove her.  This clearly irritated, mumbling, agitated person was so far from her Cammy, she was almost a stranger. Apparently her girl was spinning and now was the time to figure out why.

 Anjae’s eyes continued to follow Camille while she circled the room for yet another lap and muttered something under her breath.

Anjae narrowed her eyes.  Cammy  would never be caught dead muttering.  It wasn’t classy.

As she watched, Cammy abruptly change directions and seemed confused about how to go in a circle in the opposite direction, Anjae heaved a huge sigh.  She had enough of this weird Cammy, it was time to put a stop to her using this gorgeous bedroom as a track field.

 “Cam, you called me.  I came and went through a lot of Mission Impossible gyrations to make it through the front damn door.  Isn’t it about time to tell me whasup?

 Camille suddenly stood still as if she just realized someone was in the room with her.  A crease appeared along her forehead as she turned toward the older woman in the room, and her eyes lowered into slivers. Bad sign.

 Camille crossed her arms against her chest, “You knew I have been here this whole time. Didn’t you? I get into real trouble and you let me rot here?” She accused.

 Anjae her eyes widened at the woman who seemed to be doing an extemporaneous scene from Sixteen Candles. “ Dramatic much?

“Well first of all, you are hardly rotting.” She paused to acknowledge the extravagance around them. The guys at Riker’s Island could give you a little tutorial about what rotting really looks like.

Cammy rolled her eyes at her.  Her Cammy never rolled her eyes. She chose to ignore it.

“Second, Yes I knew where you were.  When you disappeared in Florida I was frantic.  I was used every contact I had to get a lead on what happened.” Anjae knew her next words would get a reaction, “I even called “E”.  Then Carrick Caudwell stepped into my office.”

A sudden stillness descended on the room. “You called Ettore” Camille asked.

Anjae tried to hide her annoyance, she hated that hitch in Camille’s voice whenever Ettore Leonardo Marone was the topic of conversation.  Anjae was also indebted to him, but he was Camille’s other Achilles heel.  He was a snake, with the whole Garden o f Eden at his disposal.  One had to give him credit though; he was smart enough to always have a ripe, red apple to lead anyone into all manner of nonsense. 

She watched Camille turn and head to the enormous windows that framed the room. Anjae knew what Camille was staring at did not exist in the view she was appreciating. Camille was like the Pied Piper when it came to men, they were always instantly intrigued by her. It was great for business and Cammy always worked it to her advantage.  But it was always only Ettore that she had eyes for.

“He knew I was missing?” Camille asked quietly, still staring through the mirror.

Anjae slid off the table she was sitting on and took two steps to her friend.  “Please tell me you are not still hung up on the gangster? Besides being way too old for you,’E’ is incapable of giving you the love you deserve.”

This was an age old argument of theirs.  Camille turned from the window and regarded her old friend with tear filled eyes. “I don’t love him.” Camille pursed her lips at Anjae looks of complete disbelief and tried to be more precise. “I mean not like that.” She smiled at her silliness.  “But I always thought if I was in any real trouble, he would be there.  I thought he would be my fail safe.”

Ettore was worse than a pimp in Anjae’s estimation. Unlike any pimp she ever knew, his nature was camouflaged with a thick layer of patience and calculation.  When Camille came into her life she didn’t know what to do with her, but Ettore did. At the time Anjae was grateful, he did for Camille things that she could not conceive of. As a child, he put Cammy into expensive schools and made sure that she did not suffer any disadvantage.   But years later Anjae understood that he was just designing an intricate web.  A web that was so silken, Camille didn’t understand its durability and strength. Ettore bided the years in his efforts to seduce Camille into the ultimate belief that her best interests were served by satisfying his greed and ambition. But there is a price to be paid for generosity. Camille was still paying, whether she had finally figured it out or not.

Anjae moved so that she could draw Camille into her arms, while she whispered in her ear.  “I’m on to some real estate that’s for sale.  It’s in Brooklyn.  It’s a bridge, but it has possibilities.” She’d waited for this day to dawn, but she didn’t believe it for a moment.

Camille laughed. “No, really, I’m over my crush on Ettore, I managed to find even bigger problems.” She wiped the tears from her face. “You said Carrick came to the office? You knew who he was?”

She must be joking. “Camille I might not read five newspapers a day like you, but you can best believe when one of the richest men in the world walks into my office …I’m going to recognize him.  You can bet cash money on that.” Her blond weave waving in assurance. “He is one that doesn’t play any games.” She gave a wry look as she remembered the intensity he immediately brought to the meeting. His flickering golden eyes seemed to look through her.

Camille stepped out of Anjae arms, snorted and mumbled, “Little do you know, he is a virtual Hasbro factory.”

   Anjae was again startled by the unladylike sound uttered by her friend but continued. “He made a deal, if I would stop calling attention to the situation by calling every low life I knew to figure out what happened to you and stayed away, he would make sure that you were protected. 

She looked at her friend, sister, daughter as a bevy of emotion filled her chest. “Honey, it was pretty obvious he didn’t care for me much, but I made a call…I believed he could keep you safe.  Something in his eyes told me he was invested in making sure you were okay.”  She added a self depreciation laugh as she touched a thin line that skirted the edges of Camille’s hair line. Four weeks ago that scar didn’t exist. “God knows I haven’t had a great track record in protecting you, but maybe that’s the trick.  If I stayed away, someone else could do better.”

Camille smiled, her eyes softening and tearing again. “When I hand no one in the world, you stepped up. I will always be grateful for that.”

“Then you’re a fool.” Anjae replied a bit too sharply.  What kind of woman leads a fourteen old into this life?” the older woman replied.

“How many times do I have to tell you?” Camille asked impatiently. “I made a choice, at the age of consent, I may add.”Camille quickly shook her head as if to dismiss the topic and let her finger run along the line of foot board, finally grasping the bedpost and allowing her head to rest against it. “It wasn’t all bad.  It just got crazy near the end.”

“God, your blind loyalty just doesn’t stop does it?” Anjae continue to argue. “ I knew what was waiting for you on the streets. You probably should have tried your luck at another foster home. You could have found a decent family and you could be a teacher, or playing that piano at Lincoln Center…something other than almost getting killed protecting me.

Camille almost got whiplash trying to turn to Anjae.

“Yea, I know about that.  Carrick made sure I knew that you almost got killed because of me. “It wasn’t just a date gone bad, was it?”

“That son of a bitch!” Camille bit out. Anjae dodged Camille as the young woman began to stalk out another turn around her invisible track.  “Carrick has a bigger mouth than…” Suddenly Camille stopped again and looked around like she was trying to gather inspiration. “You know what, no one has a bigger mouth that Carrick-he’s got a bigger mouth than anybody or anything in this world.”

Uh Oh

Now Anjae could figure out what has been bothering her about Camille. This was more emotion that she had seen Camille show in all the years she had known her. She asked Cammy slowly, “What the hell has been going on?”

She was prepared to wait her girl out. Cammy could stonewall someone better than the Pentagon.  So she was completely taken by surprise when Cammy just let it all spill out, from when she first meet Malcolm, to when to she was introduced to Carrick following with what happened between Cammy and Carrick just a few hours earlier. Well, Damnit! Maybe Camille was actually over Ettore’s old ass.  Anjae smiled wide.