In the wake of a major loss, five sisters agree to meet on the regular to keep it real. But secrets they never saw coming will challenge them and everything they counted on . . .
Savvy and decisive, Burgundy Reeves feels blessed with a good husband and a successful career. She’s the sister everyone envies. Since her beloved mother's death, she's given troubled youngest sister, Elyse, a stable home. And she's taken it on herself to keep her contentious siblings together. Under her guidance, they all meet bi-monthly on “Sister Day,” a time to bond, to receive a challenging “assignment,” and to cope with their many differences . . .
Among the sisters’ most challenging assignments: tell the truth. But truthfulness leads to an unveiling of secrets that may destroy lives. Burgundy is struggling to show Coco the real deal about her unreliable baby daddy. If she and level-headed Drucilla can also convince hard-headed eldest sister Alita to give Coco more love than tough talk, that might heal a longtime rift. But it’s teenage Elyse’s truth that will shatter Burgundy’s perfect world beyond repair. And putting the pieces back together could make the sisters stronger together than ever—or pull them apart for good.
“Rax’s strength in creating terrific female dynamics shines in this dramatic story of loving, if troubled, sisters.” —Booklist
“Clever. Compelling. Captivating.”
—RT Book Reviews
About the Author
CYDNEY RAX became obsessed with becoming a writer after reading Terry McMillan’s Disappearing Acts. Her author dreams were realized through her eyebrow-raising debut novel, My Daughter’s Boyfriend. Her novels include My Husband’s Girlfriend, Scandalous Betrayal, Brothers & Wives, and My Sister’s Ex (cited by Essence® as one of 2009’s best reads). She has also contributed to the anthologies Crush and Reckless.
Born and raised in Detroit, Cydney graduated from Cass Technical High School and earned an undergraduate degree from Eastern Michigan University. She resides in Houston. Visit her online via Facebook, www.cydneyrax.com, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read an Excerpt
Running Her Mouth as Usual
One Saturday morning in early September, the Reeves sisters gathered for their fifth Sister Day of the year. For the past few years, they'd congregated every two months beginning in January. Their meeting was similar to a self-instituted family holiday.
Their mother, Greta Reeves, had passed away nearly four years ago due to complications from surgery. Greta had still been in the hospital trying to recover when she unexpectedly took a turn for the worse. The doctor told the family to get to the hospital as soon as possible. And on that late December morning, all the daughters gathered around Greta's bed, standing together in a circle, clutching each other's hands, praying, crying and trying to hold it together. It hurt to realize their mother was losing her battle with leukemia right before their eyes. They knew they'd be left motherless once she took her last breath. But Greta Reeves was tired of sickness ravishing her frail body. She was ready to meet her Maker.
"Alita, Burgundy, Coco, Dru, Elyse." She struggled to talk with a voice so hoarse it sounded like a whisper.
"Yes, Mama," Burgundy replied, tears wetting her cheeks.
"I want all of you to look out for each other, ya hear?"
"We will," Dru promised and gently squeezed Greta's bony fingers.
"Stay strong, no matter how I look like now. Don't remember me like this. Remember your mom as someone that loved and feared the Lord."
"Okay, Mommy," Coco wailed, barely able to keep herself from crawling onto the bed and lying next to Greta.
"I love you, girls. Don't ever forget it." Her faint scratchy voice was barely audible. "And I want you to love each other like I love you."
Back then Elyse had just nodded. At fifteen, she was too stunned to realize what was actually happening.
Greta's final words were, "His mercy endures forever. See you girls on the other side." Then Jesus or the angels came to escort Greta, and she died in peace.
Since their mother's untimely passing, Burgundy had stepped up to the plate. She could never forget the things that her mother wanted from them as a family even after her death. Burgundy always held a deep passion for Sister Day. She put a lot into planning their special days, and her commitment and enthusiasm quickly spread to her siblings. It grew into the lifeblood and new legacy for the Reeves sisters.
Including herself there were a total of five "Reeves" sisters: Thirty-six-year-old Alita was the eldest, and Burgundy was next in line. Then came Coco, followed by Drucilla. Last of all was Elyse, the youngest at nineteen.
* * *
So it was time for the Reeves sisters to meet again. Alita complained she was low on gas, so Dru agreed to pick her up from her southwest Houston apartment, since she lived about ten minutes away from her. Then she and Alita drove on until they arrived at their favorite nail salon, which was where their meetings were typically held.
Elyse and Burgundy arrived soon thereafter. The sisters warmly greeted one another, glanced at their watches, and walked through the wide aisle of the spacious salon until they reached the pedicure stations.
"Where's Dark Skin?"
"Don't know," Burgundy told Alita, "but we are not on her time schedule, that's for sure."
Fifteen minutes later, Coco raced through the salon door.
The sisters all looked up. They were in the early stages of getting a super-deluxe pedicure.
Alita scowled at Coco, who was gasping for breath. She was breathing hard and holding her hand against her chest. Her thick hair was parted in the middle and flanked by one big Afro puff on each side of her head. She wore dark purple lipstick, and purple rouge had been dusted on her round cheeks.
"'Bout time you got here," Alita said. "Where your kids at?"
"I hired a sitter, Ms. Nosy."
Coco clumsily climbed up on her chair and quickly lowered the armrest. She pressed buttons on the remote control to start the back massager. She reclined and briefly shut her eyes. When she opened them, all the sisters were gaping at her.
"Why you late?" Alita asked.
"Don't start." Coco shot her a warning look.
"Why your forehead all sweaty and shit like you just got through fucking?"
"Maybe I did just get through —"
"Don't. No place now," Elyse murmured and covered her ears. She gave a pained expression as she trembled in her chair.
"I can't believe she spoke two sentences in a row," remarked Alita. "I need her to speak up more so we can know what's going on inside that sneaky little brain of hers."
"Leave her alone," Burgundy ordered Alita. "You know Elyse is shy. She doesn't have to be loud and ghetto like you and Coco." But Burgundy's heart felt heavy as her eyes swept over the baby of the family. Even though the girl had been living with her since their mother died, there were times when dealing with Elyse caused Burgundy's patience to wear thin. She didn't know if her sister acted withdrawn because she was trying to get attention or if she was still mourning the loss of their mother.
Elyse was average height and very thin; when she woke up for the day her breakfast usually consisted of a piece of toast and a tiny apple. She barely had an appetite for the remainder of her day, choosing to pick at her food and sneaking to throw away her dinner when she thought no one was looking.
And today, even though the temperature was high, Elyse's tiny frame was covered by an oversize men's shirt, a pair of baggy cargo pants, and some high-top Chuck Taylors. Her uncombed hair was capped by a baseball hat worn backward.
As Burgundy returned her focus to her other sisters, she noticed that Alita was running her mouth as usual.
"Who you calling loud, B? I am not that loud, and ain't nothing wrong with being ghetto. I'm proud of where I come from. South Side, H-town, all the way. All of us was raised there. But even though you've moved far away to the suburbs, you seem to have forgotten that you started from the bottom like most of us."
"Alita, now is not the time," Burgundy replied. "I am not about to fight with you over nothing. It's going to be all love and peace today. Okay? Can we agree to disagree?"
Alita slouched in her chair and closed her eyes.
"Alita," Burgundy repeated. "I was talking to you. I said, love and peace today, all right?'"
"Alita will behave," Dru spoke up. "Now, what's the new assignment, B?"
Burgundy smiled. "First of all, how did everything go with y'all concerning the last assignment? Did you get anything out of telling each other the truth and confronting someone in a nice way? Do you feel it helped you grow as a person and especially as a sister? Did you have any struggles with this assignment?"
"Well, it wasn't a stretch for me 'cause I always tells the truth," Coco said with attitude. "That's just how I roll. It was no challenge."
"Dark Skin, you a lying ass," Alita hooted and hollered. "You only think that you always keep it real. But I know when you're lying."
The nail attendant looked at Alita then at Dru. She quickly pretended she wasn't listening to their conversation. But Coco knew she had heard Alita's insensitive comments.
"Look, dammit," Coco complained, suddenly feeling self-conscious. "I'm sick of you calling me Dark Skin. Dru is brown skinned and so is Elyse; yet I don't hear you giving them that type of nickname."
"Uh, what?" Alita's face registered pure shock. She was so accustomed to calling Coco "Dark Skin," and seeing her respond to the nickname, that she had never thought twice about how the woman felt about it.
"Uh, nothing," Coco retorted. "I am way more than the color of my skin, and I do not appreciate you calling me that."
"But I've been calling you that since you were in elementary school."
"And now that I'm grown up, I am asking you to stop. That's not my name. My mama told me she named me Coco Chanel Reeves. And she told me that Coco means I'm passionate."
"True that," Alita said with a chuckle.
"And compassionate," Coco added.
"I don't know about that."
Dru nodded in agreement. "Okay, now that's accurate."
"So anyway," Coco continued, "I want to be called by my name. You understand?"
"All right ... Dark and Lovely," Alita said with a smirk.
"Oh, fuck it. You're lame and you're wrong."
"Funny because that's exactly how I feel about you, Coco," Alita replied. "And you just use that nickname shit as an excuse to keep us from facing the more important matters."
"What you talkin' 'bout?"
"I'm still trying to figure out the pregnancy thang."
"We on that again?"
"Yes, we are. Now. Why did you lie? We supposed to tell the truth and here you go, steadily lying."
"W-w-well," Coco sputtered. "Maybe I got good reasons for not wantin' to tell e'rything you feel you need to know."
"That could be true, Coco," Burgundy said. "But still, you should try to be truthful. Or even find a new way of telling us the truth."
The room grew eerily quiet except for the sounds of bubbles splashing inside each girl's pedicure pan. Coco, the ultimate "fronter," was the one who liked to put on a façade. She wanted the sisters to think she was holding life down. Yet her life was frustrating, complex, hard, and exhausting, and she didn't want everyone commenting on it.
"What's not easy, Sis?" Burgundy replied.
Coco loudly exhaled and settled back in her chair, harboring a distant look in her eyes.
"Sometimes I wonder if it's all worth it. I already got two of Calhoun's kids. I love 'em to death. But it don't always keep him at home. So having another mouth to feed ... I already know it won't make him act right."
"Thank you for admitting the truth." Alita sat up straighter in her chair. She loved when she was dead-on right.
"Can't really deny it," Coco shrugged.
"Take it from me," Alita replied in her piercing voice. "No-good men don't make good husbands."
"Nobody's perfect." Coco's voice was light. "Not even me. We all got issues. So I decided to accept Calhoun as he is."
Alita groaned. "Just because people have issues doesn't mean you have to settle, girl."
"Alita, why you think you know everything about my relationship?"
"Anyone with a pair of eyes and common sense can figure out you two."
"Look, you're not with us twenty-four seven!" Coco's voice trembled. "I-I know he's trying. He loves me the best he can."
Alita frowned. "Does he treat you with kindness and respect twenty-four seven?"
Coco paused. "Yes."
"See, now I know you're lying."
"All right then." Coco sighed, growing weary of the conversation. "No, he's not kind every single second."
Alita continued. "Does Calhoun get on you whenever you do something he doesn't like?"
"Yes, he puts me in check, just like I put his ass in check."
"Does he ever tell you that he'd like to seriously marry you?"
Coco said nothing as she glanced down at her feet, which were dipped in the warm, bubbling water. Coco hated being scrutinized, even if the truth was being told. She despised her sister for always getting on her about things in her life that she wanted to remain undetected.
"I could go on, Coco, and you know it," Alita continued.
"Okay! Calhoun has issues, and that's that! But overall he's good to me. My man is young, just in case you forgot. He's got a lot more growing up to do, then he'll be all right." Calhoun was twenty-three and acted every bit of his age.
"And what shocks me is how you're fine with that," Alita remarked. "Yet you still have this obsession about weddings and honeymoons and marriage licenses? Big ole fool."
Coco snapped back, "I took this man's virginity when he was barely legal. We've been together seven years. I ain't checking for no other man. It's 'bout time I be Calhoun's wife. What's wrong with that?"
"Marriage does not work, Dark Skin. Oops, I meant to say Coco. Marriage can't do nothing but fail."
"Alita, your pathetic relationship didn't work. And you're so bitter about it that you're trying to rob me of my happiness."
"What I'm doing may feel like a robbery ... but it's a rescue mission ..."
"Guess what, Alita? If you are my only hope, then I'll pass on being rescued. I'd rather swallow a bottle of pills than be anything like you."
Alita's eyes grew wet with moisture, but Coco was unrepentant and downright savage. "But my beautiful sister Burgundy, she's who I really look up to. Burgundy Taylor should give all of us hope. She found a way to make a marriage do what it's supposed to do. Get over any problems and stay married ... no matter what."
"We try. We're blessed. Thanks, Sis," Burgundy said.
"That's my whole point, Coco." Alita butted in. "Calhoun is nowhere even close to Nathaniel. Nate has a good head on his shoulders. Calhoun doesn't use his head half the time. And it's exactly why you shouldn't be so quick to marry him or any other man."
"Well, whatever. This is my relationship. I want what I want — and that's that," Coco retorted.
"You are a fool," Alita spat. "Word on the street is that he don't even believe this unborn baby is his."
"And that's why I thought about aborting it," Coco finally said, her voice trembling.
"What?" Burgundy and Dru yelled at the same time.
"Hell, yeah. I said I thought about it." Coco sighed. "That's why I didn't want the family to know, 'cause I had to make a decision. I tossed and turned every night and worried myself half to death. Could I have it? Should I abort? But naw. I ain't killing my baby. Plus, I know it's his. Just 'cause he don't know don't mean I don't. It is his."
"Are you absolutely sure?" Dru couldn't help but ask, considering what had occurred last time.
Coco sat, her cheeks flaming hot with shame as she mentally pondered all of her sins. She hated anything that spoke of her dreadful past; not now, when she was ready to move forward. "Am I sure that this new baby is Calhoun's?" Coco repeated the question to her sister. "Yeah, Dru. I'm sure. Hell, yeah."
"Well, I'm glad it's his, and I'm happy that you're keeping it," Dru replied. "Say what you want about the baby daddy, but at least you two make beautiful babies."
"You got that right," Alita said.
"And that's a pretty fancy trick for a woman you think is shaped like an elephant." Coco cheerfully winked at Alita.
Coco's skin was as pretty as an ice cream bar. Her teeth, as white as a movie star's. Her body resembled a hippopotamus's: thighs shaped like plastic toy baseball bats that rubbed together when she walked. But her standout feature? That award would go to her enormous behind. Coco's shapely rump could capture any man's attention. No silicone. No padding. She was blessed with one hundred percent pure ass. And because of that fact, no matter what folks said, no one could label Coco ugly to her face and get away with it.
While growing up, people would say that Dru was the "look-but-don't-touch sister." And Coco was the "touch-but-don't-look sister."
Feeling satisfied that her family now knew the full state of her baby's paternity, Coco settled back to enjoy her pampering session. She hoped they'd lighten up with all their nosy questions.
"Happy. Love new baby," Elyse said in a low voice.
Coco winked at her baby sister and reached over to squeeze her hand.
"Awww, Coco loves her some Elyse," Burgundy said.
"Of course I do. I love all my sisters. Even the evil ones." Coco laughed and winked at Alita.
"Love you too." Alita rolled her eyes. "Even though you're stupid as hell."
Burgundy couldn't help but be amazed. "You are a mess. But I'm happy that we're getting some things off our chests." She sighed in contentment. "This is exactly what our mother wanted. Good job, sisters. Now, before I move on to the new assignment, does anyone have any more comments about the last one?"
Dru cleared her throat. "I have a comment."
"Go on, Pretty Girl," Alita teased.
"Oh, hush with all that. Anyway, I want to say that ... I struggle with truth."
"You do?" Alita sounded stunned. "I thought everything that came out of your mouth was full of truth."
"I want it to be that way, but it doesn't always happen how I want. Especially when it comes to my man."
"How are things with you and Tyrique?" Burgundy said. Tyrique Evans was Dru's devoted boyfriend and they'd been dating exclusively for almost three years.
The moment that question was asked, Dru's cell phone rang. It was as if Tyrique was listening in on their conversation and wanted to make his presence known.
"I wonder if I should I take this?" Dru said.
"Go on and answer, girl. You know how your man acts when he can't get in touch with his boo," Coco laughed.
"Um. No. I won't pick up. It's Sister Day, right?" Dru laid down the phone and continued talking to Burgundy. When the phone rang incessantly, she slid her finger across the screen to power it off. She dropped the phone inside her hobo bag and zipped it shut.
"Wow. No wonder Tyrique be tripping," Coco said, looking at Dru with open envy. "He can't call just one time and give up like some men do. He'll keep trying. I like that."
"There's no need for him to spaz out 'cause I don't answer." Dru responded. "I don't know why he was calling, but unless it's an emergency, he should trust what he's got."
"Hmm," Coco said. "Now that's something I just can't completely do. I'm always scared I might get played."
Excerpted from "A Sister's Secret"
Copyright © 2018 Cydney Rax.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Also by Cydney Rax,
CHAPTER 1 - Running Her Mouth as Usual,
CHAPTER 2 - Out of Bounds,
CHAPTER 3 - Thotsicle,
CHAPTER 4 - Confrontation,
CHAPTER 5 - The Lord's Day,
CHAPTER 6 - Wifey,
CHAPTER 7 - Men Are Men,
CHAPTER 8 - Three-Way,
CHAPTER 9 - You Must Think I'm Psycho,
CHAPTER 10 - New Lovers,
CHAPTER 11 - The Sex He Expects,
CHAPTER 12 - He Maketh Me to Lie Down,
CHAPTER 13 - Sudden Intervention,
CHAPTER 14 - Who Put You in Charge,
CHAPTER 15 - Sometimes We Ate Bologna for Dinner,
CHAPTER 16 - Cupid Strikes Again,
CHAPTER 17 - Tribal Matters,
CHAPTER 18 - I Made a Mistake,
CHAPTER 19 - Pow! Pow!,
CHAPTER 20 - The Treason, the Reason, and the Season,