30/30 – 19 | Yes

Jason stood there straightening his perfect Windsor knot yet again as he waited. He couldn’t help but think on the last they were face-to-face in person.

We could have been partners.  You chose adversaries remember that.

That was the very last thing Taylor said to him before she walked out of his life.

No, that was not fair; she did not walk out.  His pride had forced her, forced her out of a six-year romantic relationship.  They had started to butt heads too often in their office lives and the animosity spilled over into their personal lives. He pushed one time too many nearly destroying his career and losing her altogether in the process.

Was that really nine years ago?

Jason slowly rebuilt his career and was now on the fast track to being a global player. When the company he worked finally decided to break into the European markets, they chose Jason to spearhead the project.  His team was weeks into it when the Europe contact for the project changed hands to new group. He blinked when he read the name given and first chalked it up to coincidence. To be sure, he sent an email, just one sentence.

So, we’re going to be partners after all, huh?

Imagine his surprise and delight when that coincidence replied with one line.

It’s better than adversaries, huh?

He had heard she moved to Avignon not too long after their break up.  His pride had got in the way again back then, as he cut off any contact regarding her. He had no clue she had moved to London. Still,, what were the odds?

He sees her as she emerges from customs and his heart clutches.  Hard.

He finds himself slowing gasping for air at the sight of her.  He had not felt anything like that since…

…nine years ago.

Taylor is on her cell phone when she looks up, sees him and stops cold. Jason is sure she had not properly ended the call when the hand holding the cell phone lowers slowly. Her expression unfathomable as she stands there staring as if in a trance, disembarking passengers forced to mill around the both of them. He instinctively knows she feels this, whatever this is, too.

God knows there was so much past was between them; did they have a future?

He takes a couple of steps towards her and the next thing he knows she is in his arms and it feels so, so…

…so right.

He’ll take that as a yes.

30/30 – 18 | Special

Below is a carry over of the characters I created in Rebbie, a 30 Days /30 Stories post from a few days ago. Please read the first entry to further get into the character here.

I was about 11 when my whole life got turned upside down.

One Friday night we girls was staying over with Olivia and Alethia at Miss Jackie’s house.  It was late and I woke up having to go to the bathroom.  As I passed by Miss Jackie and Mr. Hal’s bedroom, I heard the bed squeaking and their voices through the half-opened door. I didn’t know grown folks made so much noise when getting Special Hugs as Papa called it.  I tried not to laugh as I closed the door gentle like and went on about my business.

Saturday morning, Miss Jackie was just a smiling and humming all over herself as she made us breakfast.  It weren’t that unusual, she gots like that every now and again.  This day, she just seemed happier than usual. I was asking Olivia why her mama gets so happy like that every so often.  I thought I was talking low, but apparently Miss Jackie heard me and laughed saying it was because Mr. Hal gave her such a special hug she still felt good.  My mouth must have fell open something fierce ‘cause I ain’t even realize it was open ‘til Miss Jackie told me to close it before a fly went in it and why I was looking at her like that.  I told her how Papa told us we ain’t to never ever ever talk about special hugs in front of no one and that I was surprised she was talking about it all easy like that.

I tells you, there must have been something in them damn pancakes ‘cause my mouth was just a going that morning!  Next thing I know I’m telling her about the time Papa slapped May-May something fierce ’cause she mentioned it in the kitchen once and only us girls was there.  He immediately apologized for hitting her, but we were to NEVER talk our Special Hugs again not even with each other.  Something in Miss Jackie’s face changed, I remember it did looking back on it, but I wasn’t old enough then to get it and like I said my mouth was running on it own accord that morning.

“Special Hugs?”  She asked.

“Yeah” I said, stuffing my face with the pancakes she had just placed in from of Olivia and me. “Like the one you and Mr. Hal had last night when I passed your room as I was going to the bathroom.  I ain’t know grown folks makes so much noise with their special hugs.  I closed your door. Papa says the door should always be closed and locked and we need to be quiet when he’s giving us our Special Hugs.  I guess ya’ll forgot.”

That’s when the bowl holding the next batch of pancakes Miss Jackie was mixing hit the floor.  Olivia and I jumped.  Twice.  First from the bowl dropping then again when Alethia, May-May and Cassie came tearing into the kitchen right behind it.

Miss Jackie was staring at me kind of funny like and I think that be about when I got the first sinking feeling that maybe something wasn’t no where near right.  May-May saw Miss Jackie looking at me and asked me what I done did to her.  I told her I ain’t done anything but ask her about her Special Hugs from Mr. Hal.  Then May-May starts in on me on how Papa says we’ ain’t suppose to talk about it at all and now Miss Jackie’s gonna tell Papa and how we three all gonna get it for sure.  I was trying to tell May-May how Miss Jackie done talked about it first, but all Cassie heard was how Papa gonna whup us and she starts bawling.

Cassie’s bawling starts Olivia bawling and I declare that girl is the most sorry-fullest looking thing on this here green earth when she gots her face all twist up in tears like.  Next thing I know we all up in that kitchen crying, Miss Jackie too.  She apologizing to us, we apologizing to her, Olivia and Alethia were apologizing and they damn sure ain’t had nothing to sorry about! It might have gone on like that for another half-hour at least, but then Mr. Hal walked in.

“What in the blazes…?”

Miss Jackie’s head snapped up at the sound of his voice.  It was years before I understood that unspoken language that grown folks who know each other well can speak, but Miss Jackie and Mr. Hal had to be speaking it that morning.  Ain’t nobody said a word as Mr. Hal washed his hands and took over making the pancakes in another bowl, Miss Jackie and us girls cleaned up the mess from the dropped bowl and soon everything seemed almost right back where they were before the bowl hit the floor.

Almost.

There was this hincky feeling that kinda lay over everything.   Miss Jackie and Mr. Hal joked with us and just did all the things they always do with us girls when we all together.  Still,  every now and then I would see Mr. Hal sneak Miss Jackie a look and they would speak that quiet language of theirs and they would both look at me and my sisters for a short moment with this sad look.

They sent us girls out in the front yard to play after breakfast, which we did.  Olivia and Alethia had snapped-out of their crying spell by then, but May-May and Cassie kept giving me dirty looks.  It felt like everybody was a blaming me for something Miss Jackie done started!  I couldn’t see where, but I knew I had somehow messed up Miss Jackie’s good mood and I felt bad for that. I told May-May I was going round back to the kitchen to get some water.  I actually was fixing to tell Miss Jackie and Mr. Hal to go on back in their room and have another special hug if it would make Miss Jackie happy again.

Heavens, I was young!

I was actually going to say that!  I just felt so bad for messing up her good mood and if that was the thing that made her so happy in the first place I figured it would work again.

“Hal you can’t over there!  My God, Hendricks will kill you over them there girls!” Miss Jackie’s voice was all panicky.
“Dammit Jacqueline!  What am I ‘posed to do?  Wait ‘till he gits here askin’ for them and then tell ‘im he can’t have them?  Woman think! All the hell he’ll cause up in here in front of all the girls.” Mr. Hal was mad about something.  “I gots to take the fight to him. It’s the only way.” It was the first time I had ever seen him like that and I stopped in my tracks too scared to go in and too scared to run for fear they would hear me and think I was listening in grown folks business, which Papa always told us never to do.

“’Sides I ain’t going by myself.  I’m taking Patrick  and Rev Emerson with me.  We jus’ gotta pray he don’t come for the girls  ‘fore I gets back with them.” I could hear Mr. Hal walking, no stomping around in that kitchen.  I think he was trying to keep his voice quiet down, but he was just too upset. That made me feel just that much worse somehow knowing I was the cause of this too.  I had just about decided to go on back to playing when I heard the one thing I shouldn’t have.

“It’ll be all that much harder to take the girls away from him if they back in his house.”

I believe I done mentioned how my mouth was on its own accord that morning, because my head just wouldn’t kick in as I tore into the kitchen.

“Whatchu mean take us girls away from him?  Why you wanna take us from our Papa?” I was loud.  I know I was loud.  I’m constantly being told to bring my voice down; it tends to get a little up there and I wasn’t nowhere near trying to keep it down as I ran into the kitchen and got in Mr. Hal’s face like I was grown. I started hollering for May-May, which was kind of a wasted breath since she was already on her way in from when I started yelling in the first place.  Of course May-May running in brought Cassie, which brought Alethia and Olivia.

In less than a minute we had an even worse crying yelling and hollering about than before.  Miss Jackie crying trying to calm all five of us girls down.  May-May at me and me screaming at the top at top of our lungs about how ain’t nobody going to take us from our Papa, Cassie bawling again just because we were and Olivia and Alethia were just standing there tears running down their face.

Men are rarely any good when women starts to crying their heart out.  The poor man had Miss Jackie and the five of us little ones all at the same time. He just looked from one crying female to another and shook his head.
Somewhere in there I got the notion to just go tell Papa what they was trying to do and took-off.  At least I tried to.  May-May was on the other side of the room from me, but I was back in kitchen so fast standing in exactly the same spot I was in before, if I hadn’t heard the slamming of the screen door I wouldn’t have known I moved at all.  I realized it was May-May who held me back as she stood holding my arms now.

May-May had turned thirteen a few of months before and had her monthly for a while now.  The women folks were all “…youse a young womans now” when they be seeing her and she done gone and let it get to her head .  She started to boss me and Cassie around like she as grown as Miss Jackie. Calling us “dumb little girls who ain’t know nothin’ ‘bout nothin’!”, especially when Papa wasn’t around to hear her. I was so sick of her trying to be all big on me, like she grown too I turned on her.  I was yelling at her for being all mad because Papa just told her a couple of months ago that she be too old for special hugs from him now and she can’t get none no more and how she ain’t wanting me and Cassie to get none either.  Miss Jackie groaned and suddenly sat down like somebody done dropped the heaviest of loads on her shoulders -which looking back on it now is kind of exactly what happened- and started whispering the Lord’s Prayer.  May-May turned on me then and screamed at the top of her lungs.

“Rebecca in Jesus’ name will you just Shut. The.  Fuck.  Up!”

And for the first time in my life I understood what folks meant when they said the words, the earth stood still.

Nobody, but nobody called on the name of the Lord like that! Mr. Hall and Miss Jackie looked at me and May-May with this – this look.  I was some years older before I could fully understand the level of shock they must have been going through at that table to look like that and it had nothing to do with May-May cursing, but at that moment all I could think was: Now what I done did?

“You know don’t you, Myrna-May? That it’s not right?” Mr. Hal’s voice was so soft, barely above a whisper, but we all heard him right clear.  I ain’t realize how quiet it was in the kitchen again until I saw Livvie asleep in his arms at the table. I don’t even know when all of us sat down, but we all were.  May-May just hung her head down with these tears coming down her face.  It was a real quiet kind of cry. I ain’t never known Myrna-May to cry like that.  She always made noise.  She was either really happy, really sad or really mad. Even when she herself didn’t say anything, her face said everything. These quiet tears was something new to me and it scared me to the core. It scared me to the point that I was finally, finally did something I ain’t been able to do up to that point.

I shut-up.

“I hear some of the older girls talking about it. It took me a while to figure out it was the same thing.  It took me even longer to figure out what was supposed to be right and wrong.” Myrna-May’s voice was low.  It sounded like she was talking from way cross the room through some kind of fog, but I was sitting right next to her. She was speaking loud enough though because neither Mr. Hall nor Miss Jackie asked her to speak up.
“They make jokes about doing – it – with someone’s papa, but I could kinda tell by the way they talked that it really wasn’t right somehow.  They made it sound all nasty and everything but…” Myrna-May stopped and looked from Mr. Hal to Miss Jackie who nodded at her for her to keep talking.

”But if it’s supposed to be all bad and nasty, w-why does it feel so-so…good?”

Mr. Hal’s neck actually made a snap like sound when it popped-up.  We all heard it and turned toward the sound. I truly believe the ONLY reason Mr. Hal didn’t completely explode at the moment was his girl asleep in his arms.  Miss Jackie had jumped-up quick like, ready to catch Olivia if he had, but he stayed in his chair.  Even so, the look on his face just before he looked down at the floor again scared Myrna-May and me so bad we grabbed each other’s hands.  Miss Jackie came and put her arms around me and Myrna-May.  Alethia came and rubbed May-May’s arm.  I ain’t quite sure how, but everything clicked at that moment for me.  It all just sort of came together.  I looked up at everything and everyone around me and as usual I said the first things that came out of my heart.

“Our Papa’s not suppose to give us special hugs is he, May-May?”  I asked Myrna-May.

“No, Rebbie honey, not like that.”  She squeezed my hand.  She had stopped crying, but she was still speaking in that far away voice.

“It’s something grown men folk only supposed to do with grown womenfolk only.  Never, ever with children.”  Miss Jackie added and there was something – final – in her voice.

“We ain’t ever going back to our Papa is we?”  I guess there was something final in my voice too because they both looked at me kind of hard, but soft and Mr. Hal sighed real hurt like.

“No, Rebecca honey, you can’t.”  Miss Jackie stroked my face speaking in that that same low across the room sound that Myrna-May had. Miss Jackie ain’t never used my whole name unless it was something really good or really bad.

I ain’t have to ask which one was what .

To this day, I have yet to decide if it was for better or for worse.  Way, way, way down deep, where I don’t want to really even admit it to myself, if I had to do it over again, even knowing all that I know now all these years later, I think I would have made more of an effort to keep my mouth shut.

30/30 – 17 | All Right

Tim had not stepped foot in Big Billy’s Big Bar in nearly a year months. It was in the midst of summer when he had that melt down.  And here it was blazing again.  He sighs for a moment at the memory of when he was last in this place. A part of Tim still couldn’t believe he let her take him that far down into the gutter.

For that is exactly what happened. He let her.

He let her in his life. He let her pull him from his friends. He let her put the needle in his arm, foil to his nose. He let her in his finances. It took almost two years but he had let her turn his whole life on end.  It took the shock of his father dying to see through all the shiny distractions he let blind him with to the dark destruction he had let her make of his life. But not before he crawled into some bar (because he was no longer welcomed to this one), on hands and knees that were scraped near raw from the sidewalks, strung out and covered in filth. Still, the first thing he had asked for was her knowing she used to go there. The owners knew Tim was friends with Big Billy and called here instead. Billy had managed to get Tim to the bar, up right but the moment Big Billy had let got, so had Tim.

Tim glanced at the area where he had purged from every orifice of his body, seemingly all at once. No one knew but Tim, Big Billy and Clarissa but the shame of it had kept him away until tonight.

“Well will ya look at what the cat done drugged up in here! Billy get your ass over and take a look at THIS!  Oh you have just gots to come on ova here and lets me give you a good squeeze!” Clarissa’s booming voice greeted him with delight as she threw down the towel she was wiping a table with and had Tim in a bear hug before the sentence was finished.  Knowing it was coming Tim had braced himself for the impact. Still, he felt his last breath escape out of him in a rush from her heartfelt hug.  Unable to catch a new breath for a moment as his face was trapped between the swells of her ample bosom, he didn’t mind one damn bit as comfort of the familiar took over.  Clarissa has greeted him this way for nearly eighteen years and it was as if the past several months absence had not happened at all.

“Oh good God Clarissa!  It’s a damn miracle you ain’t suffocate some soul to death up in there.” Tim was red in the face, but grinning as she finally let him go.

“They can only hope they be lucky enough to go that way. I know I’m hoping I am.” Big Billy, Clarissa’s husband greeted him with slightly gentler but anywhere near as suffocating hug. “You all right there Tim?”

“No, but I will be.” He answered honestly.

“That’s what I like to hear. The usual?” Big Billy patted him on the shoulder. Billy sees him eying the bar. “Don’t worry the spot will always be yours.”

“And you know it!” Tim sits at his usual seat at the far end of the bar.

Pretty soon it really was as if no time had passed in the bar. Regulars he had not seen in so long, new people who look like potential regulars. Tim was there for over two hours and was having a grand old time when Clarissa dropped a glass.”You’ve got to be shittin’ me!”

Clarissa has thrown a glass or two. Clarissa has juggled several glasses, but Clarissa has never dropped a glass.  All eyes are on Clarissa, except Clarissa and Billy’s eyes are on Tim, and he knew.

Blair.

She looked just as good as he remembered he’d give her that. His heart quicken at the sound of her laughter as Blair breezed through the doorway backwards, laughing up into the face of some new male, some new victim. She turned to take step down and froze at the sight of him. Their eyes locked and for a brief moment his entirely history with er flashed before him. The soaring heights, the devastating fall, all the peaks and valleys in between. When it was good, oh it was so good! But once it went bad…

Tim had not laid eyes on her in nearly a year. He had wondered just what he would he’d feel should they ever cross paths again.  He is surprised by the answer as he slowly lowers the brandy snifter to the bar surface, watching her walk out. He sighs as the door closed behind her.

Billy looked at Tim askance for a moment, trying to read his friend’s expression.

“You all right there, Tim?”

“No, but… ” Tim starts to give his usually response and catches himself.

“Actually, you know what? Yeah, yeah I am.”

30/30 – 16 | Card

The only thing I ever got off my old man was a birthday card when I was like, twelve. He’d run off when I was six. leaving me, Mama and Sis to fend for ourselves. He had stayed in my life just long enough to make memories for me, but not solid ones.  Mama never talks about him, but being a few older than me, my sister remembers him.

“Tell me about Papa.” I remember I asked Sis a few years back.

“Huh?” She looked at me, pushing her dank hair back from her eyes.  She was already small in build, but looked down right emaciated in the wife beater that was way too big for her frame.   The strap slid and I saw a little too much of her breasts as she took the near empty bottle of vodka from between her legs and leaned forward to put it on the table. I move my eyes to look look at her arms instead. The inside of her forearms  by were scabbed from all the scratching she did and I noticed she had two new perfectly mean looking fresh ones to match all the rest.

“I said, what was Papa like?’

She smiled at me, her eyes not really seeing me at all.  I realized then just how drunk she was, again, and should probably ask later if I can catch her sober.

Anyhow, the only thing I ever got from him was a birthday card when I was twelve. I remember it was addressed to me, it was the first piece of mail I received that was not junk. It said “Happy Birthday Son!” on the outside it, with some little boy younger than me wearing a grown man’s suit and carrying a brief case. Printed on the inside of the card was a sad little rhyme:

You were once so small, I know
Now look at you, so big and strong now!
Though you’ve got more growing to go,
until you’re a man, won’t be so long now.

The excitement of my first mail crashed immediately as my first thought was how would he had even known if I’d gotten big or tall.  It’s not like he had ever come by to see me or Sis. But the killer was, at the bottom of the card, below the rhyme, he wrote:

Keep your chin up and your back strong, see you around.
Pops

I studied the card on several occasions, trying to work out the meaning to what he was telling me. To this day, I still didn’t know. I showed it to Mama who looked at the card long enough to verify the writing before she drowned herself in Jack Daniels for the day.

“What was Papa like?’ I asked again a few days later. I

I had caught Sis at the sink washing dishes, trying to be being the dutiful daughter.  That probably meant she must have needed money, again, and was sucking up to our mother.  She looked up a little, thought about my question for a moment and then said, “Strict.”

 

“Strict?” I prompted her when she fell silent.

“Not strict as in mean, just like you know rigid. He had his way and that was it. His way was usually right, but I remember wishing he would at least listen sometimes first you know. Listen to see if I was right because I was right, not because he was.  Come to think of it, it where you get being so headstrong from when you think you’re right.  Only he was better looking.” She winked at me and smiled that lovely smile she only had when she was happy and sober.

Mama had kind of folded in on herself when Papa left. She crawled into her own bottle and never really came out. Only doing just enough to keep a roof over, fridge partially filled and clothes on. Sis was really my my mom and my pops.  All the important things I learned, I learned from her. Sometimes by good example stay in school and get good grades, or by horrible warning, don’t drink, don’t do drugs. I’m still trying to work out how Sis who was once smart enough to be class salutatorian in middle school, was too messed-up to listen to her own advice by sophomore year of high school. Then again she is my mama’s daughter. Sometimes, I see a strange man sitting at the kitchen table and I honestly won’t know from which bed he crawled. And going by age don’t help none. Mama was once dating hah! a guy who wasn’t much older than me and I was all of sixteen then. And hell, if sis is almost twenty-seven now, then she could not have been more than seventeen that time she had to give her man at the time the dentures he left in her bedroom so he could eat breakfast. And me? I’m twenty-two now, transferring to State on scholarships just to get the hell out of this town. I got a good future ahead me, so they say. Though they been saying so for years  now and I haven’t seen this good future yet.  But I digress…

Anyway,  I got that one card from my pop. I found half of it while I was cleaning my room as I was packing. I had forgotten I had ripped it in half in anger when I was fifteen or so I was so angry with this unknown specter that somehow had more a presence in our lives in absentia than he probably would have had were he there.

Keep your chin up and your back strong,

Like this was some sage mystical wisdom passed down through the ages.  I didn’t know who he was, or where he was  or what he did or anything much beyond a name. But he knew where I was to send the card.  Why couldn’t he have actually been a father for one extra minute? Or better yet, had taken one extra to think about it and not send this shit card in the first place.  We don’t hear a thing from him for years, until he sent this shit and I haven’t heard jack shit from him since. So what the fuck was that about anyway? I was twelve years old for fuck’s sake! I was his son! Was it easy for him to just keep going the fuck on like I didn’t exist? I remember raging to Sis just before I let her rip, literally. The riiiiiiiip was loud in the immediate silence following my tirade as I threw the pieces to the floor. Sis took the torn pieces, taped it together and gave it back a couple of days later. I was grateful, then. But that was then.

A nearly full year sober Sis was sitting on the bed helping me pack. She smiled a sad little smile and chuffed me on the arm as I reached for the other half of it, then held the two pieces together to read it once more.  I spoke to the specter one last time.

I spent years, years,  waiting for another sign of your acknowledgement of my existence that never came.  Do you know how long that fucked with me?  No more. 

I let the pieces fall into the garbage bag on the floor.

30/30 – 15 | Rebbie

My mama died about two days after Cassalinda was born. Yeah, I know, but that was Mama’s mama’s name.   My papa hated the name, but ’cause he got to name me and May-May, he promised Mama she could name the next one. I think she done picked Cassalinda just to spite him. He might have convinced her later to change it to something else, but once she passed on, he ain’t have the heart to go ‘gainst it.  We just call her Cassie.  And May-May is short for Myrna May – my Papa’s mama’s name.  I accidentally nicknamed her ‘cause I couldn’t get my tongue working around Myrna right when I was little and always wound up calling her May-May and it stuck. Me? I was named after some woman in a movie Papa saw.  He thought the actress was beautiful – I was told Mama thought the actress was pitiful looking. I ain’t never saw the movie, and don’t know the name of the actress; so I never could form my own opinion on it.  I just know Mama hated that not only was I being named after some homely strange woman but not even a real one at that. All that just to say, I’m Rebbie, short for Rebecca.

Anyway, I was all of three years old and May-May was six when Mama passed.  Papa raised us girls by his lonesome.  Well, not quite lonesome, our neighbor down the road some, Miss Jackie, came over Saturday nights to do our hair for church and whenever else it was needed.  Since Papa had to leave for work before the bus showed up, she also made sure we got off to school on time. Mr. Hal, Miss Jackie’s husband, and Papa was good friends from work.  Miss Jackie was our Godmama.  We spent nearly as much time at her house, playing with her girls, as they spent at ours. Still, I think he tried to make up some for us not having our own mama by spoiling us a little. Okay, a lot.

We got all the pretty dresses we wanted for church and good dresses for school.  We had all the toys we wanted.  And no one would mess with us.  One, because Papa taught us how to hit like the boys so we usually handled our own problems.  And two, most folks didn’t like how it all end up the couple of times Papa did to get in it.  Like when Ray Porter Jr. hit May-May with a glass soda bottle.  He was something mad because she beat the devil out of him when he “accidentally” tried to trip her up three times the day before.  I guess she ain’t beat him enough to keep the devil out, because he then “accidentally” spilled grape soda on her new yellow dress. He knew to run before she got her hands on him. I think he just threw the bottle to slow her down, but it hit right on the head and broke. When it broke, it cut her good. She’ll always have a little scar right on her left temple going just into her hairline because of it. Twixt the soda and the blood, May-May was fuming and when she got her hands on Ray Jr that time he come as bloody as she be. I probably should let you know that May-May was barely nine and Ray Jr. was a good ten or eleven at the time. When Papa saw her cut, I swear he liked to die from the mad of it. Ray Jr.  mayhap just been a boy, but Papa whooped that boy, pants down, not just in front of Ray Jr.’s own mama and papa, but also on their own front porch where everybody else got to see and hear it.  We girls heard about it second hand ’cause Papa ain’t want us to come with him,  but the kids who saw talked all about it come that Monday.

Now, Papa goes to Yarrow Junction every third Saturday of the month for whatever shopping he needs to do. Sometimes we girls get to go; sometimes we don’t.  Miss Norma is our local seamstress. She likes to get her goods from Yarrow Junction because she say they got better quality.  One day she took a stubborn notion to walk to Yarrow, which is nearly an hour’s drive mind you.  And on a hundred-something degree-day to boot!  Woman could have died in all that heat, trying to carry her goods home by foot. Papa and Mr. Hal found her sitting  by the side of the road that Saturday afternoon about nearly ready to pass out.  All because her husband, refused to help her get her own car and refused to take her himself while always zipping around in his own new car. He was always saying the material in our little ol’ hole in world was just fine for “them po’ ass niggas”.

Well, after a bunch of fussing’, Papa and Miss Norma worked out a deal, where he’ll take her to Yarrow Junction when he goes and he get’s one free shirt, dress or whatever, whenever he asks.  They’d been doing this for a couple of years by this point in the story and I believe she still  waiting for Papa to ask for something.  Anyway, this one Saturday, Papa tells her he gotta go to Yarrow Junction a week earlier than planned and if she want her ride she had to go then or wait until the next month.  Of course, she went with him.

This just happened to be the same day that Papa got into it with Big Ray Porter, Ray Jr.’s papa.  Big Ray told Papa, that Ray Jr. should have cut up May-May’s “little spoilt ass” more than what he had and Papa wound up knocking him out. I guess I should also mention that it be in right in front of the James Street Hotel in Yarrow Junction and Ray Porter Sr. was just coming out of the place with a “too friendly type woman that ain’t his wife” as I heard old Mrs. Tenney tell it later. Papa had asked him why he ain’t done nothing about Ray Jr. cutting up May-May’s face when Big Ray done said what he said and Papa hit him.  I’m thinking now that’s probably why Big Ray ain’t had nothing to say when Papa whupped Ray Jr. on own his front porch the next day. Miss Norma is  Mrs. Norma Porter, as in Big Ray’s wife. She had just came out of Brennan’s Drugstore next door, to meet Papa at the agreed upon time to leave, right after Papa done hit Big Ray.  Big Ray’s unconscious head was being cradled by a half-hysterical woman who ain’t know the why Miss Norma woman was suddenly taking a purse upside her head. I later heard Miss Jackie tell old Mrs. Tenney that she thinks Papa went into Yarrow that exact Saturday on purpose, just so she could see.  Looking back on it, I believe that be true too.

I ain’t quite sure if it was May-May’s or Papa’s whupping that eventually did it, but Ray Jr. sure ain’t wanted nothing to do with any of us girls too much after that.  Yes, we was spoilt, I can see that now looking at from this end of the lifeline.  But, what does a little girl-child know about being spoilt?

We just knew our Papa loved us.

30/30 – 14 | Precipice

She stands at the precipice.

The dark blue of the ocean stretches out before her, so calm and deep.  The first whispers of the breaking dawn, in the far off horizon. Even the Baracelanra wind, usually brisk this early in the season of Karisnaan, is gentle on the many cuts and and wounds that mark her.

Far off sounds, hidden in the early morning mists of the Asiv forest, loomed nearer.

She couldn’t decide which was worse.

The nightly terrors of the forest, of which she had never encountered before this waning night, the known dangers of the same untamed, dense forest in the daylight, or the far off sounds which she knew better than her own heartbeat. The heartbeat only now beginning to ease to normal levels.

She breaths deeply of the air, heavily scented of the Marlesh blooms native to the nearby mountains.  Even in the near dark, the presence of the Lanig could be felt.

For centuries, her people had attempted to cross over the near razor sharp edges of the mountain; all who tried have died in the attempt.

For centuries, her people had attempted to pass through the mountain; all who tried have  died in the attempt.

For centuries, her people attempted to till the land at the foot of the mountain; all flora and vegetation except the Marlesh died in the attempt.

For centuries, her people have since learned that the Lanig will not be crossed over, passed through or tilled on.  Yet, the Marlesh thrives.

She listens again to the sounds, breaking the quiet of the dawn.  She has time yet to enjoy this view, and slowly, painfully lowers her achinng body to sit on the still dew damp grass of the precipice.  Her feet mere inches from the sheer drop to the ocean below.

She had been born on this precipice.  She had frightened her family to no end during her early youth, with her constant wandering to this place.  At least until she grew older and they were certain she would not go over its steep edge.    Here in the Second Coming of her Etol N’gavet she still cannot fathom her attraction to this place.  Like the Lanig – it just is so.

The once far off terrors of sound are now fully upon her and she slowly rises to face its source.

No words are spoken between them.

The time for words had long since passed, when she tore through the horrors of the Asiv itself in her attempt to escape the inevitable.  The expressions exchanged between them however spoke volumes.

Submit!
Never!
What choice do you have?!

She glanced at her surrounds.  The ocean, an unnaturally brilliant blue in the rising sun of this new day, is to the right of her.  The Lanig, to her left with it beautiful flowers and fierce jagged edges, glinted in the sunlight. The Asiv behind her? She had barley survived her flight through it is trying to reach this precipice.  She knew she would not make it to the terrors of the forest this time, let alone through it again.  And finally, that which she could not escape, unabashedly enjoying this moment of triumph, waiting patiently to claim her.

What choice did she have? The alternative was equally final and eternal as far as she was concerned.

Sighing deeply, resignedly, she feels her soul depart from her body as she takes the final step towards her fate…

..And leaps.

She relishes in the screams of frustration coming from above her as she sails through the air to the rocks and ocean below.

She couldn’t help but smile.

It was a beautiful place to be born.

And a beautiful place to die.

30/30 – 13 | Rule

The Morgue Makers took over two blocks of Hellraiser territory and are finally seeing a profit in the couriers. It usually takes about two months to see steady profits in the trade, but we managed to pull it off in just over a month.  Little Frankie’s personal cut was over $300 and Frankie is the laziest of our runners. Britch, as Brian is called in the organization, raised an eyebrow when told of Frankie’s take. That meant over $3000 of product passed through kid’s hands that month. Brian shrugged it off as part of the business norm, but when he looked at me, I knew.

Kids.

Frankie’s clients were middle school kids. It was fucked-up and we knew it, but that is the ugly part of the game.  Fuck, it’s how he and I both started out.  Who the hell would’ve guessed two snot-nosed MFers like Britch and I be running the damn show years later? But here we were doing just that and as long as our rules were followed every thing was copacetic.

All organization have their overall commandments. In addition, warlords will have commandments unique to their rule and Britch had his:  you do not deal to anyone 12 years of age and under. Twelve being the unofficial biblical age of accountability for our sins. But that’s Brian, pulling arcane shit like that in the midst of a business like ours.Eventually everything evened out to normal profit levels, but it was hardest on some of the younger runners who lost some serious profit in the beginning.  They learned to work around it, because we all knew anyone caught doing so was going to pay a a nasty price in warning for the first offense and worse for the second.  Anyone who doubted Britch’s rule on that just had to be reminded of one thing…

Mike Bennet.

Britch occasionally sets-up his own stings to keep his people in check. Mike was busted once, had his arm broken, lost a month of runs and warned not to ever do it again.  The asshole was busted again a week after getting his runs back. Britch called a liberty meeting in the back alley behind Kelsey’s restaurant.  Liberty meetings meant you were at liberty to miss the meeting at your own risk.  In other words don’t fucking miss it.

In front of the entire Morguer assembly, Britch called forth Mike and questioned him on his activities.  Of course, Mike denied doing it.  Britch brought forth a video camera and showed it to Mike. He still denied it.  Finally, Britch called in the kid he dealt to who turned out to be one of the Morgue Mama’s son.  After paying the shorty $100 bucks for his service, Britch had Eddie Long, who at thirteen was the most junior person in both groups, was allowed escort the kid home while his mama stayed for liberty.  Then Britch had Mike gagged and tied to a chair.

Britch explained once again to everyone present that no one is to ever, ever deal to anyone under twelve. If you were not sure of your client’s age, don’t fucking sell it to them.  Mike had sold crank to a ten year old, who looked younger.  It was a personal thing with Brian and he did not give a shit if anyone else didn’t like it.  He was Warlord, that was his law and it would be followed or else.  When he reached the word, “else” he was standing directly in front of Mike and held out his hand to me. I gave him the cellophane and watched along with everyone else as Britch simply held the straw and the powder to Mike’s nose.

Mike was gagged so that he could only breathe through his nose.  When he tried turning his head, Britch called Jacks to hold him still. Then he had Tagger hold a straight razor to Mike’s throat.  Every Warlord needs a stone cold killer and Tagger was ours.  He would kill on command for Britch and Mike knew it.

Mike was going to die, it was his choice how.

So he chose.

The disappointment in Tagger’s face was as clear as the fleeting pleasure on Mike’s face as the gag was removed. Before long, the pleasure of the drug was quickly replaced by the demands of that much pure product on the human body.  At least one Morgue Mama lost it as we watched Mike go into seizure, but none of us were crazy enough to leave. Britch stood behind the newly lifeless Mike and looked each Morguer in the face with one final order for the group: to not make him have to do that to anyone else for that reason.

What really made it hit home for the group was we all knew that Brian actually liked Bennet.  We had hung out a lot when we weren’t conducting Morgue Maker business, but a Warlord can allow no one to blatantly disrespect his rule.

No one.

That was the last time Britch had to do such personally to make his point.

It was enough.

30/30 – 12 | Payback

Out of the subway and close to home at last, Danny sighs.

It had been a day.

His good friend Ben is usually a great boss to work for, but not today. Danny spent the morning with Ben in a rare ballistic mood over something that was the FUBAR of another department and Ben knew it. Ben just needed someone to yell at and guess whose office is the closest. Yeah. Add the pigeon that took an overhead crap on right on the table in front of Danny, just catching his food, because obviously he really didn’t want to eat lunch today. Suffice it to say he wanted nothing else to eat after that. He then spent the afternoon playing peacemaker and putting out fires from some of the staff that conveniently  and mysteriously did a disappearing act for the afternoon. Though it had not happened in over a year, this was not the first time that some people just bolted when Ben went all ape. He knew he would have to help Ben put out those fires  as well. Now throw in the overtime he put in getting his own projects back on track and he had truly earned his pay in spades today.

Danny had reached the office at 6:30am hoping to appeal to Ben’s good graces and leave work a little early. It was now 7:45pm. Best laid plans my ass he sighs again, trudging up the hill.  He promises the next place he gets will be not be on a hill. Or at least on an incline where he’s walking up the hill in the mornings when he’s rested and full of energy, not in later in the day, when he’s exhausted like right now.  Ben is so going to be paid back for this, he thinks. At least it was Friday and he didn’t have to come in tomorrow.

What the..?

He sees soft light shining on the trees in the back yard. That can only happen if the kitchen light is on and the curtains are open. Two things he knows he did not touch in his rush to get out to work early this morning were the light and the curtains. Did he leave them on last night and just didn’t notice this morning?   It’s just not like him to do so, though. Being raised by a mother with an unhealthy paranoia regarding home break-is, it was pretty much in his DNA now to double-check every lock and make sure every curtain is closed before leaving. But he was so brain-dead at the moment he couldn’t be sure.

He opens the door slowly, looking around carefully in the semi dark before entering and fully closing the door behind him. The moment the door lock engages he’s grabbed hard from behind.

Danny doesn’t even think about it. He just reacts.

His elbow catches the assailant midsection, the deep grunt letting Danny know it’s a male. Danny kicks out blindly and is rewarded with the sound of wood breaking as a falling body crashes into his coffee table when the living room lights suddenly come on.

The sudden light temporarily blinds Danny as a cacophony of voices rise.

“What the hell, Ella!”  He immediately finds his twin sister, the only other person with the keys to his place besides Ben. He was about to say more when he realizes there are some thirty people in his living room.

“I told him not to grab you in the dark! But Mr. Nah, I Can Take Him insisted, yeah great job of that!” Daniela shakes her head, coming to the side of a very confused Danny.

“Uh…SURPRISE?! I guess I owe you a new coffee table dude.”  Ben says sheepishly as others help him up from the remains. “Good thing we put the cake on the side table.”

Cake?  Danny looks around.

Only then does he notice the Happy Birthday streamer overhead.

Ben had him so warped at work Danny totally forgot his own birthday.  He looks around at a grinning Daniela and Ben and the rest of his friends and family in the room.  Exhaustion flies out of the window as he bursts out in laughter at being so perfectly set up.

“Payback is mother dude – you’ve been warned. Get me some damn beer!”

30/30 – 11 | Three Litte Words

I’ve rehearsed it all in my head for days now. I still wasn’t ready to face her. I mean, it’s not like I didn’t have an idea of what her response would be. It is just three little words to the most important woman in my life.

Carla D’Scalia – the world knew the single mother, put herself through college, achieved her masters and then her doctorate all the while raising two children. Now an ordained minister, she was well loved and respected in her church. But I knew Carla D’Scalia the woman. For instance, I am one of maybe three people maximum who know, reverend or not, she can cuss up a might fine blue streak in the privacy of her own home, to relieve tension on those rare occasions she gets majorly upset. My love for her and all that she has done for herself, her children and her community, knows no bounds, yet I’ve been ducking her for a while now and considering how close we were she’s understandably confused and upset by the distance I inexplicably put between us.

But I can’t do this any more. I need her in my life. I had to be honest with myself, with her, that this is the path I wanted / needed to take. She knows how I feel, I know she knows, but I still need to say the words aloud. And once I do – well, that’s on her. After nearly six weeks of being chicken shit, I finally called her up for dinner at my place. Ate some serious crow to get her here, but I had it coming.

So here we are sitting on my couch face-to-face. The only sign of her nervousness of the moment is the rapid tapping of her pinky against the stem of her wine glass as she patiently waits for me to get on with it.

It’s just three little words I had to say right? So I take a deep breath and say them…

“Mama I’m gay.”

30/30 – 10 | Picture

He stares at the spot on the wall.

All around it, empty geometric shapes, where the sun had faded the wallpaper, marked where photos, plaques and knick-knacks once were.

He stares at the spot on the wall.

Somewhere subconsciously, he acknowledges movement around him as the remaining odds and ends of their life are carted out of the house. He knows he should be helping; doing something constructive. Hell, doing anything other than what he was doing at the moment.

He stares at the spot on the wall.

His sister, passing by the doorway at the time, thought she may have seen it, but the now familiar melancholy that had become his normal expression of late was back in place so fast she was sure she was mistaken. She let him have a quiet moment alone and walked away.

He stares at the spot on the wall.

When she returned twenty minutes later, he still had not moved. She entered the room and stood next to him as he stared at the spot on the wall or more precisely at the sole remaining picture on any wall in the house.

The framed oil landscape, not more than a few inches square, was in that exact spot when he and his wife first moved into the house. He thought it was the most hideous thing paint was ever wasted on. She, of course, loved it. She joked about it being removed over her dead body. In the beginning he felt she kept it just to spite him. After a while it became just a part of the décor. They occasionally forgot neither had purchased it in the first place when asked about it. Since both liked the wallpaper that was there when they moved it, neither had touched the walls in five years. It dawned on him that it was highly possible that neither of them had ever touched the painting except to dust around it.

His sister shook her head in confusion and made a move to take it down. He grabbed her by the shoulder, a little more forcefully than he intended. It all showed in his expression as she backed away from it.

She watched as he gently took the painting down. He felt something unexpected on the back of it, turned it over and burst out first in laughter, then in quiet tears. He peeled the yellow paper from the back of it before handing the painting to her. She returned the picture to its spot on the wall. Let the new owners decide. With a long deep sigh, he handed her the note he had removed from the painting.

I had better be so dead if you’re taking this down babe! read the Post-It Note.

She smiled a bittersweet smile; it was so like her sister-in-law to leave such a note.

She gestured towards the front door and he nodded, picking up the box with the last of the belongings as they stepped out. For the minutest span of time it felt like the very first time they opened the door as the new homeowners and the first thing he saw was the painting on the wall. He took one final sad look around, the painting being the last thing he saw before closing the door and stepping over the yellow and black tape of the police line.
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