Y’all want something to drink?” Mr. Toler asked rhetorically.
“No thanks,” Charmayne nervously replied. Ben Toler was an intimidating man. He wasn’t tall by any standards, but he was solid- physically and mentally. He was about 245 lbs of about half muscle and half fat. He had those blackened lips that only a lifetime weed smoker could have. His eyes were the same color as the Hennessey he kept in his glass. He literally looked like somebody’s uncle, who just happened to get filthy fucking rich.
Charmayne followed Matt’s advice. She hired a manager. Her manager proudly sat by her side. His calmness and bravado kept her calm.
“So you’re her manager?” Toler asked him.
“What’s your name?”
“They call me Tae,” he gallantly stated. “Devontae Jefferson, Tae Light Management.” (Charmayne hated the name of his company, by the way)
I guess you figured out that Charmayne forgave Tae for the “Stolen Car Incident”. She figured it was divine intervention, because if she wouldn’t have gotten house arrest, she wouldn’t have worked at Friedman’s. If she wouldn’t have worked at Friedman’s, she wouldn’t have met Matt. If she wouldn’t have met Matt… Well, you get the point. She chalked it up as fate. Besides, she needed Tae. She couldn’t stroll up into Toler’s office solo, and she damn sure wasn’t gonna hire some stranger to go with her. Truthfully, it felt kind of good to have Tae back around. They just made a solemn promise to never talk about that night at Shadow’s studio.
“So what do y’all got for me?” Toler was scrolling through his pager while he talked.
“Well, she’s an extraordinary female MC who has the vocabulary of a scholar and the look of a model. She’s extremely versatile, and has an impeccable work ethic.” Tae was back on his grind. Charmayne was impressed.
“Well, I take it he’s talking about you.” Toler briefly looked up from his pager and made eye contact with Charmayne.
“Yeah,” Charmayne giggled a little and had no idea why.
“What’s your name, sweetie?” Toler asked in a condescending manner.
“My name is Bliss, and I’d prefer to be called Bliss instead of ‘sweetie’.”
Toler was back to staring at his pager. He chuckled, “Okay, pumpkin- put your CD on, let’s see what you got.”
He got under her skin. Deep under her skin. She just closed her eyes and started spitting. She really didn’t know what was coming out of her mouth, but judging from the reaction on Ben Toler’s face- she knew it was dope.
She got an adrenaline rush, as she pictured herself shopping in New York City. In her daydream, she was wearing a scarf- with big sunglasses and fluffy boots- and carrying a small animal in a stylish purse. Her mind flicked through visions of her going back to her mother’s house in a big, expensive car. She smiled as she pictured her mother yelling, “Girl, where’d you get this damn car??” –to which Charmayne would reply by throwing a wad of money in her face. Her mother was just as much a naysayer as she was a motivator. As a matter of fact, her “naysay” was the main reason Charmayne wanted a record deal- just so she could say, “I told you so”.
Her daydream rambled on, as she pictured Bo. Bo was Ms. Alexander’s new boyfriend. They began dating while Charmayne was on House Arrest. He moved in with them after the second date- a fact that sketched Charmayne out royally. She hated the way he tried to be the “man of the house”.
“No phone calls after 11 o’clock,” he told her.
That, coupled with the fact that she had to stay IN THE DAMN HOUSE, basically murdered the little social life Charmayne had.
“No visitors. Especially not boys.”
He was a stickler for this rule. Any boy who walked past their house was prone to being yelled at.
“Boy, why the fuck you lookin’ at my daughter like that?” Charmayne heard him shout- as she gazed out the window one afternoon.
Ms. Alexander loved Bo’s protective nature. She had always wanted to have a man in the house to ward off any intruders, or men attempting to deflower her daughter. She got turned on when she’d hear him scolding Charmayne.
“This ain’t even his daughter, and he cares about her more than her punk ass daddy EVER did,” she’d brag to her friends at the beauty shop.
If only she knew that while she was at the beauty shop, Bo was secretly watching Charmayne get dressed.
Charmayne’s mind recalled the time she walked into the laundry room, and saw Bo sniffing her panties. He didn’t see her, but she caught an unobstructed view of him, with her dirty panties pressed up against his face with one hand- while his other hand was in his pants. She was mortified. She had no idea what he was doing, but she knew that it wasn’t right.
Then there was the time he tried to instill the “Conserve Water” rule.
“No showers longer than two minutes,” he demanded. Sure enough, at the 1 minute 59 second mark, he was barging into the bathroom door- pseudo yelling at Charmayne, forcing her to scramble for her towel. (He took the lock off the bathroom door during his “home improvement” phase).
Of course, Charmayne stood up for herself. She told her mother (on numerous occasions) that Bo ‘freaked her out’. On each of those occasions, Ms. Alexander drowned her out.
“You always trying to make other people miserable- just ‘cus you miserable. That man ain’t did nothing but CARE for you and try to make shit right for you. You just like your damn daddy. Ungrateful, and disrespectful,”
Charmayne’s daddy was frequently the measuring stick for any inept behavior.
To combat Bo’s creepiness, and to try to prove her mother wrong, Charmayne devised an unorthodox scheme. She actually began to dress as provocatively as she could when she was not at work at Friedman’s. She began practicing her raps- in her room- in her panties and a tee shirt. She’d turn the music a little louder than normal, hoping that Bo would come in to her room to yell at her. In her scheme, he’d either come in to her room and attempt to touch her (at which time, she’d have solidified proof that he was a CHESTER)- or her mother would be so uncomfortable with her "man" being in the house with her habitually half nude daughter, that she’d tell him he had to leave.
In her teenaged mind, it seemed like a good plan….
This entire flashback occurred while Charmayne was spitting her verse. She’d gotten so good that she could spit her raps without even thinking about her raps. It had become an “out of body experience” for her. Matt had also taught her to channel her emotions by thinking of people (or places, or events) who made her blood boil. Her mother and Bo were those two people for her.
It’s weird. After years of wishing for a record deal, and dreaming of a record deal, and wondering what it would be like to have a record deal- the actual process of getting a record deal was uneventful. After she rapped, Toler’s punk ass put his pager down and asked her to spit another verse. Then he popped in the CD, called his lawyer, and two days later -BAM! Charmayne was officially offered a contract with BT Records, the biggest rap label in the world.
She was so excited, that she barely listened when Tae talked to her about the terms of the contract.
“How much money do we get?” she blurted.
Tae calmed her down a bit and told her about her responsibilities and obligations.
“Are they gonna move me into an apartment?” Getting away from her Mother was a the top of her ‘to do’ list.
Tae shook his head- and took a deep breath…
They signed the contract.
A couple weeks after that, she received a check for $80,000, of which she had to pay Tae $16,000 for manager’s fee. The contract said the check was for “advance payment on recording costs, promotional support, and any other recoupable monies tendered by the artist.” In Charmayne’s eyes, all that meant was “I got $64,000!” All of the things she’d dreamed about were happening so fast, she didn’t have time to realize they were happening. In one week, the week of March 19,1998- Charmayne Alexander died of natural causes. Bliss was born.