Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Dinner

                Her mother, Elaine, walked in with a magnanimous smile on her face before he finished biting into me.  He looked at me as if I just escaped his mouth.  She walked over to hug her daughter and then headed towards me.  She was the same height as her daughter and outside of her mother’s darker skin, the two were nearly identical.  It was clear where she had gotten her beauty from.  Even in her mid-forties, her body still found a way to retain a bit of its peak from her golden years.
“Ehhis, how have you been?” she said in a voice of warmth.
“Mighty fine, thank you kindly!  How about yourself?”
“Oh, I’ve been quite alright.  Quite alright!”
Her long, sandy brown hair reached the middle of her back.  She turned towards my lady, “I’m just waiting for this daughter of mine to bring some grandbabies into this world.”
“Oh please, the last thing she needs is a baby, especially by this old-”
She cut her husband off, “Oh hush, old man!  This house is too quiet!  It’s time to hear the pitter-patter of tiny feet running through here.”
“Mother, please.  It is not the time.  It is not the time,” my lady said.
“Well”, her mother interjected, “Supper is ready.  Shall we?”  She smiled.  Geoffrey, their butler, came in and directed us to the kitchen.  We walked down long hallways, passing artwork and statues along the way. Our footsteps made unnerving echoes throughout the hallow halls with each steps.  As we walked a few steps behind her parents, my lady whispered to me sternly, “Ehhis, please do not incite my father at the dinner table.”
“What?  I’m not even trying to.  It’s him talking to me with aggression.”
“I know him but I know you too and this is his house, so do your best to keep your tongue in check.”
“I ain’t makin’ no promises.”
Her whisper went slightly above a secretive tone.  Geoffrey and her parents turned towards us.  We smiled as if nothing was being said.  They turned around and we continued,
“Ehhis, I know you.  Do your best to be respectful.”
“Respect is not given, it is earned.”
“How ironic.  Father says the same thing.”
We finally arrived at the table.  Geoffrey pulled out everyone’s chair but I sat down before he could reach mine.
“Ehhis”, her mother said, “its fine.  It’s his duty.”
I turned to her,
“I understand, ma’am.  But I can take care of it myself.”
Geoffrey looked offended, yet, appreciative at the same time.
“Well, would you like to serve the food as well?” her father said.  I began to get up, but my lady restrained me, subtly forbidding me to respond to his sarcasm.  Geoffrey served the food.  Smothered pork chops, steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, hot water cornbread and lemon-aid.  The dinner was filled with the clanging of silverware against plates and nods of approval of the food that was served.  Geoffrey did his job of refilling our glasses with ice cold lemon-aid and providing seconds of whatever we requested.  Out the corner of my eye, I noticed the interactions between Geoffrey and Elaine.  The indirect, flirty smiles that they exchanged when they thought nobody was watching.  They looked like they enjoyed the thrill of almost being caught, like it was something that drove their relationship.  I pretended to take a drink, watching their interaction through the distortion of my glass.  It would take a blind man to not know there was something amiss between those two.  Luckily, she was married to one.  We finished our food.  Her father wiped his mouth with a napkin, then sipped a cup of tea with his pinky finger extended.  I thought of the artwork that hung on his wall and the records that were buried in the drawer.
“So, miss Elaine” I smiled warmly at her.
“Yes, dear?”
“I noticed there were a few paintings and records by Negro artists around the house.  My lady said they were yours.  Why are they tucked away beneath everything else?”
My lady sensed what I was doing.  She tried to interject but I cut her off and directed the question back to her mother.  Her father looked as if I just reviled him, placing his mug gently down on the table.  Elaine looked at him with a thwarted countenance and then turned towards me.  “Well” she said, “there is really not enough room for all of the artwork we have.  So, we just decided to put the ones up that fit the décor of the rooms.  It gives it a better ‘Feng shay’ as father puts it.”  He nodded his head as if she correctly gave the answers they rehearsed for times like this.  He added, “You do know what that means, right?” his hands were folded onto his protruding belly.
“Not really.”
He laughed, “It figures.  You’re not good for my daughter.  You have no class.”
“Charles, that’s enough,” her mother said.
“Why are you defending this fool?  He has nothing to offer our little girl.  He’s not doing a thing but suckin’ her dry” he paused, “well really, suckin’ me dry since I’m the one givin’ her all the money.”
“It ain’t always about money.  If you knew that, then maybe things wouldn’t be the way they are between us.”
“Oh?” he said, looking at Elaine, “and how are they?”
Lady and I looked back and forth between them like siblings watching their parents argue.  Lady took a drink of lemon-aid and I looked towards Elaine.  She had a scowl, mirroring the same face my mother gave my father when she was going to lay into him with her words.  She never cussed at him in front of us but she knew how to give the most sanctified tongue lashing my ears had ever heard.  I wondered if Elaine had the same type of skill.
“Oh trust me” she said, “you don’t want to talk about that now.  Not here.  Not in front of them.”
“Oh come now” he said as if he was just insulted, “the likes of him?  And Lady?  Non-sense.  Speak woman.”
She began tapping her finger nails on the table from right to left, one after the other.  Geoffrey walked back in, refilling glasses with Lemon-aid.  He knew he stepped into a war zone. I could tell he was uncomfortable when he poured the drink into my glass and splashed a few drops onto the table in front of me.  “I’m sorry, sir” he said, wiping up the small accident.  Charles took another sip of tea while his pinky was still erect.  She was hesitating to answer, either searching for the words or trying to figure out how to say them.  She finally spoke up,
“Fine.  Let’s talk about how you can’t even get your little man-man to act right when it’s time for coitus.”
Her father’s eyes bucked open as he slammed his glass on the table.  My Lady’s eyes widened as she gasped.  I looked between all of them at the table.  I didn’t know exactly what she meant but I picked up on the context clues and assumed the rest.  I was right.
He sat up in his chair.  His face was slowing turning beet red.  Geoffrey quickly exited out the room before things got worse.  My lady’s mouth hung wide open.  Elaine continued, “Yeah, I didn’t want to embarrass you in front of them but since you pushed me to do so, there it is!  Hell, you deserve it the way you’ve carried on with Ehhis this night.  It’s completely ridiculous!”
Charles stood up, “Woman, have you lost yo’ mind?  I ought’ to put you back on the first ship back to Africa!”
“Charles, sit your behind down!  You can barely tie your own shoe without me around here to help you!  Had it not been for your parents, you wouldn’t even be in the position you are in now and you’re talking like you’re some big shot.”
I smiled as I drank more of my lemon-aid.  My lady smacked me on the arm and Charles looked towards me, “What are you smiling at, boy?! I’ll put you on the same boat!  You’re the reason she’s fired up right now!”  I smiled wide, completely enjoying the situation he found himself in.  Elaine was much more reckless with her words.  I felt as if she was partly defending me in her responses, “This ain’t about him, Charles!  This is about us!  Sit your wobbly behind down, you know good and well Ehhis ain’t the cause of none of this!”  I knew Lady got her beauty from Elaine but it wasn’t until now that I saw where she got her feistiness from as well.  Elaine was a firecracker.  His face was completely red.  Geoffrey came out of the kitchen and walked towards me.  With a vague smirk, he filled my glass up with water.  The ice clanged on the sides of the glass pitcher as he poured.  Charles interrupted him,
“That’ll be enough, Geoffrey.  Our guest was just leaving!” I stood up and tipped my hat to Elaine.  “No, don’t leave yet” she said, “there is one more thing I need to say and I want you to hear this.”  She stood up at the table.  Her eyes on fire, chest moving up and down at a rapid pace from her breathing.  Geoffrey looked up towards her and subtly shook his head.  I saw their interaction and looked towards my Lady.  We made eye contact, then we both looked at her father as he peered between all of us.  His face was still beet red.  “Well, speak, woman!”
She examined him intensely.  She had something to say and it seemed that she was holding onto it for ages.  I imagined that it was that very thing that was trying to push its way out her chest as she breathed heavily.  “Spit it out!” Charles said impatiently.  She finally exploded, “I cheated on you 24 years ago!”  The room went silent.  My lady and I sat with our mouths hanging wide open, looking around the room at each other, not knowing what to do next.  “And that’s not it!” Elaine added, “I’ve been cheating with the same man since then.”  Our facial expressions didn’t change as she continued, “And Lady is not your daughter!  She is Geoffrey’s!”  I looked at my Lady and she turned to look at Geoffrey as he stood by the door just as uncomfortable as he could have ever been.  The silence in the room was deafening.  I put my head down, wanting to sink under the table and disappear.  Charles sat lifeless at the head of the table.  He passed out and rolled off his chair onto the ground.  The craziest part about that is that nobody went over to check on him.  Not one soul. 

Check the short promo for this upcoming novel!

Strange Fruit in the Concrete Jungle



         The smoke was just beginning to clear.  The buildings were demolished and the once plentiful city they lived in was on the verge of becoming an abandoned wasteland.  People walked around aimlessly, covered in debris still trying to piece together what just happened.  Cars were flipped upside down and metal street signs were bent at the base.  Slabs of concrete were missing from the streets as dead bodies littered patches of land.  In the middle of it all, he stood.  His ears were still ringing from the explosion as he looked around in complete shock.  He breathed heavily, attempting to bring his mind back to the present state the world was currently in.  People ran in every direction, some with their bodies covered in blood while others were maimed in some sort of way, yet, still able to limp their way along.  Smaller explosions were still going off in the distance as he stood in the middle of a once congested busy street, observing his surroundings in a panoramic view.  Another explosion went off 100 feet away from him causing him to flinch.  That’s when she ran up to him and the ringing in his ears were replaced with her words, “come on!  We have to move!  Now!”  Still disoriented, he reached his hand out to hers unconsciously as she pulled him along with her.  She wasn’t a big woman, 5’8 165 pounds but she was still able to pull a willing body along with her.  They ran hand in hand past the screams of people who were in agony and too injured to run for themselves.  He looked at them as they ran past, wanting to help but not able get his body and mind on the same page.  “Pleeease don’t leave me here!” they yelled as the two maneuvered through the rubble.  “Come on, keep up” she said, “We can’t save them. We have to keep moving.”  He slowly became more cognizant of the chaos going on around him, picking up his speed and alertness.  “This way” she said as another explosion went off to their right, “through these doors.”  They turned off the street and headed into a building that somehow was unaffected by the blasts going on around them.  They ran inside and headed to the back.  A few people were already inside the building, ducked down behind some of the overturned desks as if that was enough to shield them from the oncoming danger.  They stood behind a door inside a small office, both bent over with their hands on their knees to catch their breath.  “I haven’t run that much since I was in College” she said.  He looked at her quizzically.  She was unfamiliar to him but he was grateful that she grabbed his hand and led him out of harm’s way.  “Thank you” he said as she finally stood up and began searching through the office for anything of use.  “Don’t mention it” she said, as she frantically opened and closed drawers and cabinets.  “Now, I know there was some type of” she felt around the walls and removed a picture frame, exposing a safe, “yes, yes!  I knew it!”  She threw the picture frame on the ground shattering the glass that held it in place.  She entered the code as he observed her actions in silence.  In her hand there were two 9 millimeter pistols.  She looked at the man, “can I trust you?” she asked solemnly.  He was puzzled, “I’ve… I’ve never even held a gun before.”  She smiled and sat the two pistols on the table.  Moments later, she pulled two more weapons out of the safe and sat them on the desk next to the other two pistols.  There was enough ammo to last them a few rounds.  “I guess I should at least introduce myself to you” she said.  Her British accent was strong.  Her brunette hair was pulled back into a ponytail and it would have appeared that she would not have fit a role such as this.  She was a pretty woman.  Dark shades covered her eyes and added even more mystery to her.  The tips of her fingers were freshly manicured.  He was caught in suspense as he admired her beauty.  Her voice brought him back into reality, “are you just going to ignore me?”  His eyes widened, “I’m… I’m sorry, I was just” she interrupted him, “you were just going to watch me show you how to fire these weapons.”  Now, he looked the part but he could not quite fill the role.  Tall with broad shoulders and a dark skinned complexion.  He resembled the frames of pro athletes and was often times confused with them but he was quite the opposite.  He was not a manly type of man and he would most likely be at a bookstore rather than a gym.  Two more explosions went off just outside of the building, rattling the ceiling above them and causing dust from the cement to fall.  “Now” she said firmly, “you want to hold the pistol in your arms like this.  Keep them straight and firm and then aim.  Line the middle of the barrel up with whatever you are shooting at and then fire.  It’s a crash course, so pay attention.”  She handed him the pistol as he was afraid to take it.  “Come on” she insisted, “now is not the time to be afraid.  We ran through hell to get to this point and it’s clear that we were supposed to.”  She took one of the pistols and placed them inside her pants.  He mirrored her actions attempting to carry his the same way.  “Now this one” she said, “put the base of this one here right into your bicep.  It has a little kick to it so you want to make sure it’s against a strong part of your body.  Pull the trigger and let the bullets go.  It’s an automatic so just keep your hand on the trigger until your target is dead.”  She threw the strap of the gun around her shoulder and let it hang.  She handed the other AK to him, “wait wait wait” he said, “hold on.  Now, what the hell is this!? What in the world is going on?  Literally.  I don’t know you at all then all of a sudden you grab me and pull me to this office handing me guns.  Its explosions going on all around us.  People are screaming.  I mean, what is this!?”  She looked at him confused. “Do you honestly not know what’s going on?  We are under attack right now” she said emphatically, “Yeah, I guess I could’ve left you out there for you to get fried by whatever is coming out the skies but I thought to myself, ‘here is an able-bodied man here, you know, somebody that can help’ so I pulled you along.”  He plopped down in the chair, “so you mean to tell me… it happened?  It really happened?” he said it complete disbelief. 

He was one of the skeptical ones.  He went back to a time before all this happened, replaying it in his mind, “Wait, so you honestly expect me to believe that there are aliens?  And not only that but in their essence, they are really demons?  Seriously?”  His coworker looked back at him solemnly, “absolutely.”  He mocked her incredulously with laughter, “Wow.  Ok, Brittney.  Well, when you come back to the real world, I will show you how Santa Clause, Jesus and God are all just make believe stories that really should be put to bed by your 6th or 7th birthday.  The whole premise of ‘God’ is just ridiculous and then to add to that, you expect me to sit here and listen to you ramble on about ‘Jesus’, some man who is going to ‘float down from the sky on a cloud’ and save a bunch of people and leave the rest to suffer tribulation?”  He picked up his cup of coffee meticulously and shook his head, “you know what Brittney” he said, “I had such high regards for you until now.  Now that I see you still believe in fairy tales and sky daddies.  It just baffles me that a woman as attractive as you are can succumb to such foolishness.”  He ended the conversation with an aura of haughtiness that left the room with a poignant stench. 

   “What really happened?” she said as she loaded a clip into her pistol.  He recollected walking to Britney’s office a few moments after the first explosion and finding nothing but the clothing she wore that day.  He searched around the office more looking for some more coworkers who believed just like Britney but it was the same sight; a pile of clothing with no bodies in sight.  The woman in the office with him became impatient, “look, we don’t have time for you to daydream.  We gotta’ move.  I don’t know what’s going on but I was prepared for it.”  He snapped out of it, “You said something was coming out of the sky?”  She placed the pistol back into her pants and quietly opened the door, “yes” she said, “it was like… a bright light or something of that nature.  People were just vanishing all around me so I figured it had something to do with that thing that was in the sky.  I assume it was just zapping people or something like that.”  She tiptoed out of the room and back into the lobby they ran through.  They hadn’t heard an explosion in the last few minutes so she figured now was the best time to move.  He got up and quickly caught up with her.  The people that hid behind the overturned desks were either gone or dead.  Their bodies laid there freshly covered in blood.  The man turned his head away from the grotesque scene as she moved through it as if it wasn’t there.  They got to the front of the building.  She peeked up at the sky.  It was just as blue as the ocean water she travelled across to get to America.  After the coast was clear she motioned for him to follow her.  He put his pistol in his hand and began walking.  The agonizing screams of men and women trapped inside of wrecked cars could be heard as soon as they stepped outside.  They walked through blocks of a downtown rubble, searching for anybody else who was healthy enough to trek with them.  He walked past a man who laid trapped under a car and coughing up blood.  “Pl..please” he said faintly, “Just kill me.”  With a tear in his eye he allowed his calloused heart to soften.  He pulled the trigger.  “Pow!”  The gunshot echoed off of damaged buildings around them.  She grabbed him by the front of his shirt after he fired the shot.  She was feisty.  Somebody who seemed to have been ready for a time like this since day one.  “Do NOT waste bullets!  They have to die when that time comes!  Firing bullets does nothing but draw more attention to us!  We don’t know what kind of people are out here or what is going on! Don’t be stupid!” she said, pushing him back as she let him go.  She still stood and listened for anything that would indicate commotion coming towards them.  There were three more gunshots that went off in the distance.  She shook her head, “we are not down here alone” she said as she continued walking down the block.  A few buildings down, a car was crashed through the window of a small convenience mart.  She led the way inside and began grabbing the essentials.  Water, bandages, first-aid and nonperishable food items.  He walked over towards her with his hands full of candy and soda.  She smacked it all out of his hands, “do you want to live, or die?  Because you’re behaving as if you want to die.”  He looked down at the candy that was smacked from his hand, “well, excuse me!” he snapped, “I’ve never been in an apocalyptic type of event before!”  Moments later they heard people walk into the convenience mart, stepping on glass and everything else that was on the ground beneath them.  She held a finger over her lips and ducked down behind one of the aisles.  She told him to stay put as she walked around the store with superior agility.  He sat down in the back, clinching the pistol in his hand with his finger around the trigger.  Radio communication went off, “I repeat, if anybody is alive, exterminate them with extreme precedence.  We don’t know who is and who is not infected.”  The radio communication cut off immediately after those words rang throughout the store.  He sat down in the back, his hands shaking the pistol uncontrollably.  Sweat beads formed and dripped down his head relentlessly as he looked up to his right.  He was right below the oval mirror in the back that showed the whole store in a glance.  As soon as he noticed what he sat under, one of the men who entered the store glanced up at the same mirror.  “We got one in the back” he said swiftly as he headed towards the back.  The man’s eyes widened as he aimed the pistol in the direction the other two men were coming from.  Suddenly, there was a gargling noise.  A bone chilling sound of choking on your own blood.  Seconds later, a similar nose followed.  “28, are you ok?” the radio sounded off.  There was no response, “28, speak, are you alright?”  Silence.  The woman appeared, wiping blood from her blade with a rag and then tossing it to the ground.  “We have to save bullets” she said, “only fire when absolutely necessary.” Her bravado was uncanny as he sat on the ground, stock-still from what just happened.  She took the radio off the slain soldier and hooked it onto her belt.  The man stood up, towering over her and glancing over at the soldiers as they lay twitching in their own blood.  “Who are you?” he said in a terrorized voice.  She smiled, pulled her hair tighter in a ponytail and put her items in a small book bag that was in the store.  “Let’s just say, I’m your second chance” she said as her shades remained positioned on her face.  She began walking out of the building but he spoke up in a nervous voice, “wait” he said, “can I at least get a good look at who I will be with?  I mean, I don’t even know your name.”  She stopped in her tracks and turned around.  She hung her head as if she was contemplating revealing herself completely to him.  Who knew how he would react once she did.  She knew of his background in regards to spiritual matters and he may turn away from her and make her job much more difficult, but reluctantly, she gave him what he desired.  “My name is Johanna” she said calmly as she removed her glasses.  His eyes bucked open as she stared back at him.  She was intensely focused on the man who stood in front of her and at the same time, she saw nothing at all.  Eyes full of everything left in the world, yet, as empty as the heart in front of him.  “How?” he said in utter disbelief.  “I walk by faith and not by sight” she said confidently after repositioned her glasses back on.  “Now” she said, “let’s get moving.  Day is gone.”   


She finally made it. She was the first woman of the family to graduate from College. Her two older sisters had gotten pregnant in their last year of High School, so she was the one bag that everybody put their marbles in.  The pressure to succeed was placed on her shoulders but she carried it well.  Almost flawlessly.  She made the Dean’s list, became the President of Student Council, held an RA position and still found time to pledge Delta. “Oooooooooo-ooop”, she heard the call throughout the ceremony as her and some of her Sorors crossed the stage and shook hands with the Dean.  Some of her family followed her back to her Parent’s home. She walked through the door and right into a crowd of balloons and banners. “Congratulations, Shay! We are so proud of you.”  Her older sister, Shanice, walked in a few steps behind her and picked up where she left off at the graduation.  She grabbed her baby sister into her arms and kissed her all over her face. Shay laughed as she tried getting out of her grasp, “Shanice, stop!” She exclaimed joyfully, “you are messing up my make-up!”  Shanice let her go and held her hand over her mouth.  She was choked up, trying to talk as overwhelming tears of joy flooded her eyes, “I’m just… I’m just so proud of you, Shay. You just don’t know.”  Shay’s countenance mirrored hers in a moment’s time as they hugged again.  Their middle sister came in and saw them embracing.  She was just as proud of Shay as anybody else but her sense of humor usually did a good job of hiding her true emotions.  “Oh… My…. God… What are you two crying for now?! I promise Yall are the reason these men think women are crazy! Yall cry at the drop of a dime!” she said as she approached them. They laughed as they wiped their eyes, “Shut up, Seana!” The older sister exclaimed, “let us have our moment!”  Seana walked past them and peered down at the cake that sat on the dining room table.  It was decorated with a picture of all 3 sisters next to each other with the words, “when one succeeds, we all do. Congratulations, Shay!”  Seana covertly wiped a tear from her eye before her sisters joined her by the table.  They all stood by the cake, smiling.
“You did it, girl” the oldest sister said, “I can’t believe you finally did it.”
Shay responded, “I know. Five years of studying and working and it’s finally over.”
“Now what?” she asked.
Shay looked at her older sister, “Girl, I don’t even know. The way people are complaining about not finding a job when they get out of College, shoot, I might just turn my black behind around and go right back.”
The three of them laughed almost identically, matching everything else about them. To a stranger, they could have passed as triplets. They all stood around 5’5″ with long hair, a dark brown complexion and chubby cheeks that sunk in with dimples each time they smiled. “Well” Seana said, “I’ma go in here and make sure these paper plates are out before the everybody else get here and start trying to use the good plates. You know Mama will blow a gasket if these people come here messin’ up her dishes.” She smacked Shay on the behind before she left, “Good job, Shay!” The two older sisters laughed as they walked out of the front room. 

Shay admired the cake and the banners that were hanging around in the front room.  It was bitter sweet for her.  She was heading into a new chapter of her life but she was leaving a few close friends behind.  Her College was only an hour away from home but her closest friends all happened to live out of state and they would be returning home in a few days.  She removed her gown and walked over to the fireplace.  Pictures of her family were spread across the mantle.  Her Mother and Father’s picture sat in the middle.  They were smiling in each other’s arms as if they had just been married for a few months and not 34 years.  She smiled in admiration, “well” she said, “I really thought this would be me and Derrick in a couple of years.”  Her contagious smile slowly begin to fade as somber tears filled her eyes.  One blink would send them all crashing down. 

Derrick is her College sweetheart.  He was from New York but ended up going to a Junior College in Texas on a football scholarship.  “I just wanted a change of scenery” he said when Shay initially asked him how he ended up in going to a junior college in Texas, “New York is so grimy.  Rough.  From what I heard, Texas was laid back” he smiled at her, “and I always wanted to know what it was like to talk to a southern bell.”  She smiled again as she reminisced on the first time the two spoke to each other almost 3 years back.  Derrick told her a few weeks ago that he couldn’t find a job in his field in Texas, so he was heading back to New York right after graduation.  The two spent the last 4 days together before he was scheduled to leave.  She grabbed her phone out of her purse and glared down at her screen saver; a picture of the two of them in each other’s arms, smiling, just like the picture of her Mother and Father on the fireplace mantle.  Seana walked up behind her quietly, “Girl! What you doing?!”  Startled, Shay fumbled her phone and dropped it on the floor.  “Seana!  You play too much!”  Seana reached down to pick the phone up, “I’m sorry” she said, laughing, “I didn’t think you would drop your phone.”  Seana looked at the screen saver, “you two look just like Mom and Dad.”  Shay shook her head in agreement, struggling to find the words to say.  “Awww,” Seana said, “Come here, baby.  I know you’re gonna’ miss your boo-bear.”  She embraced Shay but this time, there were no jokes.  There was nothing funny to be said.  Seana knew when to be serious and when that time came, she was truly a backbone.  “Listen” she said, attempting to console her younger sister, “I mean, there are planes for transportation and you guys can face time whenever you need to see each other.  The way technology is going now, they may even develop a transportation device or something and you two can see each other in the blink of an eye.”
Her younger sister smiled reluctantly and sniffled, “I mean… it’s just not the same.  For the last 3 years, I could see him whenever I wanted to.  He was always only a few minutes away.  He could piss me off and I can hang up on him, then like a minute later, he would come knocking on my window and singing some old school R&B song all off key” she laughed, reminiscing on the moment, “I mean, and it was horrible!  He would sing until I opened the door for him to come in.”
“That boy tried to sing?” Seana asked.
“Girl, yes!” she laughed more as tears rolled down her cheeks, “He sang Jon. B one time… you know, ‘don’t listen to, what people say, they don’t know about you and me’, I mean, he sang the WHOLE song.  I had told him to stop and that I forgave him after like five seconds of him singing but I guess it just got good to him.  Girl, he was out there singing and doing dance moves.  And this was in the middle of the day, but he didn’t care!  People were recording it and everything.  It was on Youtube.”
“Awwww, po’ lil’ tink, tink!” she said, laughing.
“I know girl” Shay said, wiping her eyes, “I don’t know if I can do this long distance thing, you know?  It’s just… I don’t know.”

Shanice eavesdropped on their conversation from the kitchen.  She just wanted to burst in and tell her the good news but she swore to her parents that she wouldn’t spoil the surprise.  She had the reputation of being the blabber mouth of the family.  The one who couldn’t keep a secret if her life depended on it so she was determined to prove everybody wrong.  It was just hard to hear her baby sister cry from a broken heart.  She knew the feeling all too well.  She finally walked into the front room and joined them with paper plates and cups in her hand, “Mama nem’ ain’t made it back yet?” she asked.  Shay looked at her, “Nope.  I’ma go check outside though, I think I hear cars pulling up in the driveway.”  She walked away as Shanice put the paper plates down next to the cake.  “Shay, you been cryin’?” she asked.  “Girl, you know me” she responded, “I’m just a glass case of emotions right now, but I’ll be alright.”  Shanice peered at her youngest sister, beholding the fullness of her face.  “Now, you KNOW I know when you’re not bein’ real.  And this?  This is one of those times.”  Shay put her head down and covered her eyes, “I know… I just… I’ma miss him, Shane, I’ma miss him” she said as she sobbed on her sister’s shoulder.  Just then, the front door opened, “We’re hoooooooome Miss College Graduate!” her mother said as she walked in with presents.  Her Father came in right behind her with a few more in his hands.  Two young grandchildren bumped his knees as they ran past them headed straight for their Auntie.  “Tee-Tee Shay, Tee-Tee Shay!  Can I wear your hat, please!” her youngest niece said.  “No, no” the other one chimed in, “She said I could wear it first!”  Shay wiped her tears quickly before they approached her, “Red Light, Green Light, Stop!” she yelled.  The two girls stumbled to a stop.  Shay taught them some of the finer games of her youth and “Red light, Green Light, stop” was the latest one their eyes were opened to.  The two young girls stood, frozen in their tracks as Shay scanned both of them meticulously for any signs of movement.  Shay’s mother walked past, intentionally bumping the oldest one with one of the gifts.  “Granny!” she said as she was moved from her frozen state, “you made me mess up!”  Her grandmother kept walking and placed the gifts on the table, “oh, did I?” she said smiling.  Shanice spoke up, “Neither one of you are getting that hat.  Yall need to go in that back room and clean up all those Barbies and everything yall left all over the place!”  The two little girls hung their heads, mumbling between each other as they walked into the back room.  Shay’s Father walked to the table, placing the rest of the gifts onto the table.  “Hey baby” he said as he wrapped his arms around her, “Daddy is proud of you.”  Her mother chimed in, “We all are” she said, organizing the gifts her husband lazily placed on the table.  Her Father looked towards the mantle at the pictures.  “So, when is my son touching down in New York?” he asked as he looked at the picture of his daughter and Derrick.  Shay sighed, “Well” she said halfheartedly, “He should be there by 6pm our time, so…. I don’t know and I just don’t want to talk about that, Dad.  I mean, not right now.”  He smiled and looked towards his wife.  She smirked and continued straightening the gifts on the table, avoiding eye contact with Shay.  The two sisters were fidgeting amongst themselves, anxious to tell her the news.  “Seana” her father said as he tossed her the keys, “go and get that last gift out the back seat.”  She took the keys and rushed out the door.  Shay looked confused because of her movement, “Somethin’ is wrong with that girl” she said as the front door shut.  “Well” her mother said, “we just wanted to have a little family time with you before everybody else came.  That’s why we set the party to start a little later.”
“Aww, mom” Shay said, “yall wanted little ol’ me all to yall selves, huh?”
“Absolutely!  So here” she spun her around to the table, “I want you to open this card first.”
Her mother handed her the card.  On the front, the name was sloppily written but she could read it with ease, “Derrick” she said.  She took a deep breath to compose herself and keep the tears from falling.  Behind her, Seana quietly opened the door with the second part of the present.  Derrick.  Shay’s parents planned this weeks ago and convinced him to go along with it.  Truthfully, he found a job in nearly 15 minutes away from the College they attended.  They snuck into the house as Shay’s mother encouraged her to read the card aloud.  She sighed and cleared her throat, “I know you’re sad right now but if I was there with you, I would be singing…” and that’s when Derrick picked up, “Where would I be without my babaaaaaaaaay” Shay spun around as her jaw hung open.  She thought she was dreaming as Derrick kept going with his horrible attempt at singing, “the thought alone might break meeeeeeee, and I don’t wanna go crazaaaaaaay, but every thug needs a ladaaaaaaay, yeah yeaaaaaaaaah” he sang with a smile and a bouquet of roses in his hands.  She slowly shook her head, dropping the card onto the floor.  She looked around at her family, “I’m going… to kill all of you!” she said as she grinned ear to ear and ran towards his open arms.  Derrick had no plans of going back home unless it was just to visit.  It was a cruel joke but there would be no better gift than finding a love you that you thought you were going to lose.  

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