Book ‘Life After Death’ by Sister Souljah

Book 'Life After Death: A Novel' by Sister Souljah
The long-anticipated sequel to Sister Souljah’s million copy New York Times bestseller The Coldest Winter Ever. Winter Santiaga hit time served. Still stunning, still pretty, still bold, still loves her father more than any man in the world, still got her hustle and high fashion flow. She’s eager to pay back her enemies, rebuild her father’s empire, reset his crown, and ultimately to snatch Midnight back into her life no matter which bitch had him while she was locked up...

Book excerpt



Gunshots! Brooklyn born, I know the sound. No matter whose finger is on the trigger, a nigga vs. a nigga, niggas vs. the law, or the law vs. niggas, gunshots fired anywhere in the world means pay attention motherfuckers. But after these three shots, I don’t hear no clap back, running feet, or screeching police sirens. I don’t hear no cops calling out bullshit commands, like freeze! I don’t hear the scream of the ambulance or the swift feet of the curious running to the scene of the incident. I don’t hear the director calling out “Cut!” after first having called out “Action!” I don’t hear the cheers, shout outs, or big ups from the VIP crowd, who I know had gathered, because I am the one who arranged their VIP passes to be the only ones invited to accompany the film crew on my prison release day. I can’t even hear the howl of the wind, which normally is so loud upstate New York where I was locked up, that we could hear it from inside the prison walls, depending on where we were in the building. Fuck hearing, I can’t even see. Everything is deep black. Oh shit! That’s how I know. I, Winter Santiaga, am the one who got shot dead.

I don’t have no big fear of death, never really even thought about it. Fifteen years on lock, I knew chicks who chased death, thought it was the better option over the rough lives they were living. I knew women who cut themselves, beat themselves, begged other inmates for their meds and swallowed a handful of game- changing pills in one gulp. I even knew six chicks who one by one successfully hung themselves within those fifteen years I served.

In the prison dayroom chilling, or on the yard, when the conversation got on that suicide bullshit, I stepped off. Everybody know Winter Santiaga is all about action and hustle, plotting and planning, making it and taking it, and a dead bitch can’t do shit.

* * *

This is fucked up though. Seconds after my prison release, right when I was about to earn a big bag, lights out. I’m dead. When I was first approached to do a reality show that was gonna be so real that it would start with cameras rolling the moment I stepped foot through the prison release door, I was like Ah, hell no! Seated side by side with cellies, I had seen bunches of bitches on reality TV ridiculously playing themselves like crazy. They’d never catch Winter Santiaga on camera, finally easing outside with some Department of Corrections–issued clothing, which was all inmates had to wear other than the clothes they had on their back at the time of their arrest. After that vicious fight me and Simone had on our Brooklyn block fifteen years ago, right before the cops snatched up both of us, my clothes were shredded. Yeah that’s how we do it. It’s not a showbiz on-camera, off-camera thing in the hood. We fight with full fury.

* * *

Thinking over the reality-show offer while speaking on the prison phone with the show creator and executive producer, my brother-in-law Elisha Immanuel, I told myself, Nah Winter, never let them see you sweat. Never let them see you down. Never reveal even one chink in your armor. Keep your game face on!

“Good looking out, Elisha,” I told him. “I thought about it like you asked me to do. But I gotta turn you down for the third time. Let it be the last.”

“Well then, negotiate,” my sister Porsche said, who I didn’t even know was on the call that I made to Elisha, ’cause she remained silent up until the moment I turned him down. “You heard what my husband wants out of the show deal. What does Winter want out of it? There must be something you’re ready to gain. Just let my husband know what that is. Winter, you are the star of this show. Only you can make it happen. Until you sign the contract, you’re in the power position,” Porsche added softly.

My mind started speeding. That’s right! What do I want out of it? But I hated that I didn’t think of it from that angle myself. Caught up in my hustles on the inside, I didn’t consider that I was in the power position in a deal that would go down on the outside even before I get out. This show he’s proposing is not just another prison show. That’s right! This show is about me! And it’s about me for a reason! After all is said and done, there are ’bout five hundred thousand bitches serving mandatory minimums for basically no fucking reason beside being the girlfriend of some low-level or mid-level drug dealer. Elisha chose me because I’m that bad bitch, the royalest of the royal precisely!

* * *

Six days after my sister had said over the phone, “Well then, negotiate,” and after referring to my fashion-magazine library that spanned over fourteen years and was a small source of revenue to me on lockup, I finalized my list of star demands. The first thing was for Elisha to contact the warden and get clearance for me to receive a customized wardrobe and accessories to wear out of the prison on my release day, which coincidentally was in the winter season.

“I got you,” Elisha said calmly. “I already planned to communicate with the warden, and of course the city officials for the license to film in the area.”

“And Elisha, no brand substitutes, nothing generic, everything genuine, top quality no matter what anyone says,” I told him. I knew what I was about to order. I didn’t want to hear him tell me shit about some crazy fucking animal rights protesters.

“I know who you are,” Elisha said, buttering me up.

“Starting with outerwear, since that will get captured on camera first, a hooded white three-quarter-length pure mink coat. Red Python ‘sky-high’ thigh-high boots, a red alligator Birkin bag with an activated iPhone inside in my name. Red Gucci driving gloves. Oh, and if you’re going to continue the film with me being driven home, I want my own house.”

“Porsche said you were going to move in with us. She already decorated a whole wing just for you. It has your own door and driveway; your own bathroom, bedroom, living room, and full kitchen; and even your own mailbox. Once you see it, and since we are all family, I’m sure you’ll want to stay. Besides, it’s located in Brooklyn.”

“Truth is, I want my own house. I plan to have some of my girls move in with me. We plan to build a business together.”

“Okay… how ’bout a compromise? Something that will make you and my wife and your girls straight and satisfied,” Elisha swiftly shifted the convo like someone accustomed to these tough negotiations. I wondered if Porsche was listening in on this call again but I didn’t ask, and if she was, she didn’t say shit and I couldn’t detect any extra breathing noises or movements.

“We will put your girls, up to five of them, in the reality-show cast and pay them a nice appearance fee. This way, they can afford their own apartments. You can live with us like Porsche planned.” I was silent ’cause I was thinking about it. I thought it would play out better if I am the only star of the show. I make all the paper. I invest the paper into the business that I own, and allow my girls to run it so they could earn off of what I have provided. Elisha must’ve sensed something ’cause he interrupted my thoughts and said, “Winter, you’re the star. Your deal is worth fifty thousand per show, sixteen episodes per season. After it hits—and you and I both know it will—you’ll be in position to renegotiate and clear even more than the eight hundred thousand that is generated for you in season one. The five supporting cast members, your handpicked home girls, will only each earn three thousand on the episodes they actually appear on. They’re backstory. You’re on every episode. They’re not. You are the main story. You are the show.”

Elisha’s pimp game is mean, I thought to myself. Eight hundred thousand dollars for me alone, that’s right. Of course I would put my girls on the payroll. That’s not coming from my stacks, but it is being paid out to them based on my say-so. Three thousand per episode was more than enough for them to pay their rent at the goddamn projects or for each of them to move on up into something new. My on-camera supporting cast, sounds good. I could not wait to give them a heads-up and dangle the deal. I did more time than each of them. I would roll out last, but on top and even save the day for each of them, who after their releases still had not managed to cake up. And let’s be serious here. I’m not big on living under the same roof with none of their kids anyway. Now that I am in position to put them on, all of my bitches will bow down.

“I want VIP passes for everybody who I select to see me styling on my release day. I want a red carpet that runs from the prison release door to the black Bentley that I heard Midnight pushes, and of course, Midnight in person waiting on me to walk the red carpet straight to him.”

“You know he’s a married man, right?” Elisha asked smoothly.

“I know, but I knew him first. I saw him first. And this is my show we doing starring me, right?” I reminded him.

“A reality show…” Elisha said.

“You make him show up. I’ll make it a reality,” I told him with full confidence.

“Anything else?” Elisha asked patiently in his cool tone, not huffing or puffing or making it obvious that my demands might be over the top. So I told him, “Have the Bentley fully stocked, from the old shit to the new shit; Moët Rosé Impérial, Hennessy XO, Cîroc Blue Dot, and Ace of Spades, the thirty-liter Midas bottle. Oh, and me and my man must sip our champagne from authentic crystal flutes. So order me a set.”

I gave him full details of the fashions I wanted to wear beneath the mink, even though they wouldn’t show up on camera for my “kiss my ass” walk to freedom. Then I added, “And there’s one serious really big thing I need to happen, although I won’t say it over the phone. Elisha, plan to come up and visit me this week. I’ll tell you face-to-face.”

“No problem, I can do that. It’s all good. We’re in business now,” he said as though my list of demands were all things within his budget, influence, connects, and grasp, and I liked that.

“But the thing is… Elisha, if you can’t do the one big thing that I tell you in person, the whole entire deal is canceled,” I said in a firm but nonthreatening tone even though it was a threat. It was more than a threat. It was a promise, a guarantee.

“We will work it out. See you soon,” he said, unfazed, and hung up. Some next chick was waiting to use the prison phone. Although I had already hung up, I was still blocking it, wondering if I had undersold myself in the deal. Should I have demanded even more? Nah, I knew I would get even more than I demanded anyway. From my young teen years, I saw how entertainers, hustlers, and ballers got all kinds of perks, party passes, food and drinks, kicks and cars, trips and wardrobes and a bunch of other free shit that regular niggas had to grind for a whole year to get one of, or maybe to never get nothing at all. When I was done thinking and blocking I looked at the chicks on the phone line. They dropped their eyes like they suppose to. Not one of ’em dared to even look like they had a complaint. They know who run dis.

* * *

Lights-out on that same night of the deal convo, even though I was on track to get what I wanted out of Elisha, I was tight that now Porsche, my younger middle sister, would be able to say that she convinced me to do the show that I had said I would never do. Porsche would have me living in their place, eating off of her plate, and engulfed in her actively annoying overkill con cern. I don’t hate Porsche. We full blood. However, certain little shit that she does and how she is, I definitely don’t like. For example, starting with the way she always says these two words, my husband, instead of just calling that sexy brown-skinned nigga by his well-known name, Elisha Immanuel, young, rich, black, and famous independent movie director. Also, Porsche is the quiet type. I didn’t mind that. But I hated the way she always let her feelings show. On her one visit upstate New York to where I was serving time, she walked in with her eyes filled with watery tears, her voice and her fingers trembling. The only reason I overlooked it at the time was because other than that, she was picture-perfect. She had the meanest-ass manicure, that matched her haute-couture fashion and thigh-high Fendi boots that hood bitches would murder her for. Slide them right off her legs and feet and onto their own.

Once we were seated at the table in a prison room filled with inmates seated at separate tables, she sat trembling and silent like she was in some weird dreamy phase. When she finally did talk, her voice was all filled with emotion. Then suddenly her watery eyes spilled tears onto her immaculate diamond wedding rings. I was through. I took her off my visitation list, even though she was the only one on there. I blocked her. It was a smart move on my part. I know Porsche. She is annoyingly overconcerned about me. After I cut her off, she’ll send her sexy husband to check up on me instead. He’s a Brooklyn-born Brooklyn nigga, not the hardest moneymaking murderer, but he’s definitely not soft. Me and Elisha could sit and talk at ease. I been locked up for so long with a bunch of bitches that I easily prefer men, and probably preferred men even before prison. I wasn’t trying to lure my sister’s man. No not at all. I don’t get down like that. But I respect Elisha. He’s my nigga ’cause over time he put money on my commissary, but never mentioned it. Most importantly however, Elisha visits Santiaga, my father, who is in prison serving life. That means way more than the world to me.

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