At 43 years old Latoya Smith looked, felt and move as if she were 29. An avid fitness buff, her cocoa cola frame gave these Instagram models a run for their money, having no problem rubbing it in their face every chance, outfit and hairstyle she got.
It wasn't just her looks and physique that gave her unparalleled confidence, it was also her life success, despite a recent divorce.
LaToya was the owner of Toya's Hair and Nail Salon in Chicago, Illinois. Her only child, a bright and modelesque 19-year-old daughter in school for nursing, and managing the shop on the weekends, greeted her as she made her way through the front doors, loaded with bags of hair, saloon equipment and product.
One of the customers sitting in the lobby rushed to hold the door open for her.
"Thank you, Cam." LaToya made it a point to know all of her client's names, even if she wasn't their stylist. It was one of these small details that set her salon apart from any of the other 8 that sat on the very same block, offering similar if not identical services.
The only difference is, LaToya set the standard. Many shops had come and gone over the years while hers continued to thrive and expand. Including her recent purchase, outbidding 3 major investors, to acquire the building directly next door. She opened a nail boutique with barber and saloon services, along with her own line of hair and beauty products.
Things couldn't be better for her. She had met a new man. The go-to Church on Sunday, you CAN'T be a Deacon fine, it also went in his favor that he was much more ambitious and more intelligent than her ex-husband, Paul, who tried to get alimony from her in the divorce.
The nerve of him. It wasn't her fault he chose to stay in construction instead of quitting as she had begged him to do years ago. She wanted them to go into business together. Things turned out differently for them both.
He was in a dead-end job he hated at 47 years old, making $30 an hour, scared to start over at $12, coming in on the ground floor of another company. He took every opportunity he could to bad mouth her in public, on social media and especially in the church of all places.
Winking at her daughter, she headed back to her private suite to drop her things and get ready for her first client. She knew Shania (pronounced sha-nye-ugh) would be shortly behind, to drop off her schedule for the day.
Sitting on top of her bookcase was a beautiful crystal vase full of white and red roses, her favorite. She dropped her bags on the floor and went over to grab the card, a huge smile on her face, as she recalled the steamy date she had with her lover the previous night.
"Let's run that back" XOXOXO
Was all it said.
"I know that's right!" she agreed to the empty room just as Shania appeared in the doorway.
"Who are you talking to?"
Startled, LaToya laughed nervously having been caught in her own naughty thoughts as if her daughter cold read them.
"Just reading the card from my boo." She walked over to give her daughter a hug.
"How was your night? Did you study for your big exam today?"
LaToya took a step back from her daughter to allow her to answer. As she did so, she noticed her shirt a little askew on her shoulder, revealing what looked to be a huge bruise on her shoulder.
"What happened to your shoulder?" LaToya seemed concerned and reached for it out of concern. Sania stepped back.
Now it was Shania's turn to laugh nervously, and it wasn't lost on her mother.
"I was reaching for a book in the library and it fell on my shoulder. It was one of those big medical books. Hurts like hell." She instinctively reached up to rub it.
LaToya decided not to press the issue. Her daughter wasn't seeing anyone that she knew of, too focused on graduation, and she lived alone.
"Be more careful. That looks painful."
"The roses are beautiful. You should take them home and put them on the mantle." LaToya raised her eyebrow at how quickly her daughter changed the subject. Something was up with her, and LaToya was determined to find out. Now, however; was not the time. She had a client due in 30 minutes and was not even halfway prepared to start with a full head sew-in.
Reaching down to start picking up her bags and setting up, LaToya asked Shania where her schedule was. She didn't see anything in her daughter's hand.
"Shit!" Shania scurried away to go print out her mother's client list for the day.
LaToya shook her head as she watched her leave.
That girl definitely has more than school on her mind, she thought to herself. As she was starting to thread the first needle, her phone chimed. It was her ex-husband Paul, asking to meet with her about a financial matter. AKA, he wanted to borrow some more fucking money. She dropped the phone down with a thud and a look of disgust. He never bothered to ask about his daughter. Every time he contacted her it was for selfish reasons.
She picked up her phone and text her lover.
"Thank you for these beautiful flowers. They are amazing. How thoughtful of you. Yes, we definitely need to run that back, and soon!"
The Deacon had "big dick energy" and she was eating it up like an IV in her arm.
Shania returned with her schedule and sat it next to her phone.
"You need help threading?" She reached for a needle and thread answering the question herself.
The two women worked in silence for the next 30 minutes. Each in her own thoughts.